by Jane Sehrn-Ta

Title -- Changes.
Author -- Jane Sehrn-Ta (jane.sehrnta at googlemail dot com).
Archive -- Master-Apprentice and my livejournal ( only.
Category -- Alternate-Universe, Qui/Obi, Obi/Other, Angst, Chan, Drama, First-Time, Non-Consensual, Romance.
Rating -- Adult. See warnings.
Warnings -- Rape, self-harm (cutting). Please do not read if these are triggering subjects for you.
Summary -- Obi-Wan Kenobi is a male born into a female body. He takes steps to correct this.
Feedback -- Is greatly valued, on or off-list.
Disclaimer -- The Star Wars universe belongs to George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd. I make no money from it.
Thanks -- My heartfelt thanks to a dear friend and beta, the lovely Claude. Any remaining mistakes are mine alone.
Notes -- // // indicates telepathy. Novella-length fic.
Further Notes -- This fic was inspired by a challenge submitted for the September 2004 Star Wars Prequels Fic-A-Thon, which read as follows: Write a story in which Obi-Wan is a female-to-male transgender person. An introductory note: I've read a few Q/O stories with one of our boys undergoing a sex change. But mainly these have been male-to-female and the more or less reversible result of some "supra-natural" outward influence. What I haven't read anywhere yet: a story in which Obi transitions from female to male as a transgender person according to the concept of "a male identity trapped in a female body". There are countless aspects the story could dwell upon: Padawan Obi's frustrations on being regarded as a girl by other Jedi, Obi's transgender coming-out in the Temple and the reactions of other Jedi, Obi's battling his fears of discrimination while transitioning, the actual process of transitioning, Obi realizing that he is not only a man but also a gay man, his search for a new male identity ... just to mention a few. Ah yes, and do feel free to write any sex scene possible within this context. ;-) Anyone willing to take up this challenge and searching for background info may find the following websites helpful:,,

He returned to awareness as he had done so often lately, staring at the mirror. Upon seeing his reflection, his distant expression transformed into a scowl. Despite Master Yoda's frequent admonitions that hate led to suffering, and set one on the path to the Dark Side, hate was all he could feel for his body. It was an object to be reviled

Of course, that's not how he, or rather she, had been trained to think about it. She prodded the beginnings of her breasts. A Jedi's body was supposed to be an instrument of the Force, and deserving of respect and care. These days, however, all it inspired in her was self-loathing. Menstruation had been the final insult. She'd been a late starter at fifteen but, dear Force, what did that disgusting function have to do with someone who would one day be a Jedi Knight?

The only redeeming features of the body were its strong jaw and cleft chin. Those features alone helped her to feel more like her true self. She traced her jaw idly with her fingers, wondering what it would look like with a beard of the same colour as her copper-blonde hair.

"Abi-Wan?" Qui-Gon Jinn's voice came through the 'fresher door. "Where is your focus? We have lightsaber drills after firstmeal."

"Coming, Master," she replied with the cultured and damnably feminine voice she was often complimented on. Working quickly, she wrapped the binding around her breasts to flatten them and pulled an undershirt over her head, before dressing in leggings and long over-tunics. Girls were even expected to dress differently -- it wasn't fair!

Qui-Gon was sitting at the small kitchen counter when Abi-Wan came out of the 'fresher. He regarded her speculatively. "I sense much frustration in you today, Abi-Wan."

Abi-Wan shrugged and tried to draw a calming breath but he -- she -- it, she thought drolly -- was having trouble finding any serenity about the matter. "Master," she said at last, "does the Force have a sense of humour?"

Qui-Gon's eyebrow rose as he sipped at his tea and regarded her mildly. "There are some who might agree with you. Why do you ask?"

Abi-Wan swallowed her frustration and sat down at the counter opposite him. She tied her shoulder-length hair into a tail, drawing the longer piece for her Padawan braid forward, plaiting it deftly. She stared at the countertop.

"I suggest you meditate on the matter, Abi-Wan. When you can articulate what's troubling you, we can talk."

"I'd like to get my hair cut short like Garen's, Master," she said suddenly, grasping at something concrete to do about the situation. She heard Qui-Gon exhale the soft sigh she'd heard so often since she'd reached puberty a few months ago.

Reached, she snorted inwardly. It was more like puberty had been inflicted upon her. Any other disease that mutated what had been vaguely acceptable into her present body would have been set upon by the Healers and attacked aggressively. She'd been all but ignored when she had expressed disgust at her last physical exam. What was worse, Qui-Gon must have been apprised of the situation, and had been walking as if on seela eggshells ever since. Things had settled down somewhat, but she was still unhappy and she figured that Qui-Gon didn't have to be a Jedi Master to know it.

"That's a strange request," Qui-Gon began. "Why do you--"

"That's just it! It's not strange!" Abi-Wan interjected, jumping to her feet. "Why is it strange? Why must the Jedi treat women..." She realized that she had overstepped herself, and the words faltered on her lips.

"Abi-Wan, you will control your temper," Qui-Gon said, gesturing for her to sit down. "I appreciate that this is a difficult time for you, but--"

Abi-Wan sank back onto the stool, but wasn't listening anymore. That's just it, she thought. None of her male peers were inflicted with a disease that wasn't considered a disease. Being female was the disease; being female meant that she was having a 'difficult time'. This body was wrong. She felt it with every fibre of his -- her -- being. Once she could have ignored it but with the changes of the last few months, it was now impossible.

"Several females sit on the Council, and--"

Abi-Wan tuned out the lecture again. The other Intermediate Padawans seemed to be so confident lately. Her best friend, Bant, was worried about her and tried to make her laugh, but it wasn't something she could relax about. When the others talked and joked about sexual matters, try as she might, she never felt at ease with the conversation. The only time she had managed an orgasm was when she'd fantasized that she had a cock, and had imagined it growing longer and harder as Garen's had done when she'd once watched him -- when he had thought himself alone. She quickly understood that she didn't want him. She wanted a body like his. She sighed inwardly, wondering why she had more than her fair share of Dark Side emotions.

"I'm wondering why you brought something up, Abi-Wan, when it's clear you have no intention of listening or discussing--"

Abi-Wan's attempt at composure dissolved. She scowled at the tremulous pitch of her voice as she retorted. "Master, I am not female. Don't you understand? That's the joke. I'm not meant to be like this, and I am!"

Qui-Gon looked at her cautiously as if expecting her to transmogrify before his eyes.

Abi-Wan could see him summoning the next round of his argument and added quickly, "Master, I am male. I know it. I want to have a male body."

Qui-Gon's jaw dropped and for the first time since she'd become his apprentice, Abi-Wan knew she'd rendered her Master, one of the Order's finest negotiators, totally speechless.

Abi-Wan stood with her hands clenched within her sleeves, concealing her anxiety as her Master conferred with Master Healer T'nar Lacilla and Master Yoda behind the transparisteel wall of an observation room. Qui-Gon's expression was serene, but she could read the tension in his body as though, within his sleeves, his hands were as tightly clenched as hers.

It had been two months since her fateful announcement. Between the routine of classes, diplomatic missions and socialization with her friends, she had been in intensive counselling with Master Lacilla. At last, her superiors were deliberating on the outcome. Her hands tightened into fists, nails biting her palms, as the Masters finished talking and looked at her.

//Join us, Padawan,// Qui-Gon prompted through the telepathic training bond between them, which had been more tenuous than ever since her announcement.

//Yes, Master,// she responded, trying to gather a calmness about her that she did not feel.

Abi-Wan felt Qui-Gon reinforcing her shielding and, grateful for the reminder, she focussed on centering her thoughts and breathing as she joined them. Master Yoda, sitting on his floater at waist height, stared inscrutably at her. Master Lacilla, an Aurelian with slender articulated limbs and silver-blue hair piled up on the crown of her head, turned to nod kindly at her.

"Abi-Wan," Qui-Gon began, concern in his voice and expression. "Master Lacilla has done many tests and deems that physically, you are predominantly female with some exceptions at the genetic level."

Abi-Wan began to voice a retort when Master Lacilla cut her off. "However, those exceptional genetic markers indicate a gender amorphism that is belied by your physical self, Abi-Wan. Moreover, your psychological profile indicates that you not only perceive yourself as male but also mentally project yourself as one, despite the physical evidence. We," here she nodded first at Qui-Gon and then at Master Yoda, "agree that you may begin the process of gender reassignment, if you wish."

"Really?" Abi-Wan asked, letting go of all her planned arguments at once.

"Interfere with your training, this can," Master Yoda warned. "Mindful you must be of all you have learned."

"You must stay in the Moment, Abi-Wan," Qui-Gon added, his smile crinkling the corners of his eyes as Abi-Wan's happiness thrummed across the bond between them. "This is a transformation that will not happen overnight. It could take years. I must have your guarantee that your training will continue to be your primary focus."

"Then, you'll still be my Master?" Abi-Wan asked cautiously.

"Of course. This changes nothing about my commitment to you. I agreed to be your Master, and it is not a commitment I take lightly."

"Yes, Master," Abi-Wan replied. In her joy, she had straightened and thrust her chest forward. Self-consciously, she drew it back in.

"You need to realize that this will not be an easy process. I must be able to count on you to support me in your duties as a Jedi Padawan."

"I know, Master." She nodded. "So, I am... I can...?" Abi-Wan was aware that the question was nonsensical, but his mind -- his mind -- was racing away. I can think of myself as male?

"You must listen to the guidance of the Force, Abi-Wan," Qui-Gon replied to the unspoken question. "It will help you to navigate the challenges before you. Master Lacilla needs to talk to you for a while longer. Then you must get ready. We leave for our mission to Carzael in two hours."

"I'll be ready," Abi-Wan replied. "I won't let you down, Master." She bowed to Qui-Gon and Master Yoda as they took their leave. She turned in surprise as the Master Healer gently pried her arms open, taking each hand in turn and uncurling the fingers. She flashed a grin. "I guess I was a little anxious."

T'nar Lacilla smiled, holding Abi-Wan's hands, and projected warmth through her long, delicate fingers. "We shall start with a low-level hormone therapy, Abi-Wan, just as we discussed. You must give me your word that you will follow the regimen exactly as I prescribe."

"I will, Master Lacilla. I promise."

Less than an hour later, with a medkit and instructions in hand, Abi-Wan set off briskly to the quarters she shared with her Master to help complete their mission preparations.

Abi-Wan examined the fine stubble along her jaw and smiled as she administered her next hormone shot. After two months, she already shaved to hide the evidence of increased facial hair, although she was able to leave the downy hair emerging on her chest and legs. Her vocal chords were thickening -- the pitch of her voice was dropping -- and her Master had remarked on the change positively. It was not dramatic enough that anyone would think she had anything more than a persistent throat irritation, but soon it would be noticeable and she would have to think about coming out to other Jedi.

This evening, she planned to start with her best friend, Bant. She finished shaving, dressed, and then went into the kitchen to prepare snacks for their study time. Her Master was in a Senate committee meeting all evening, and had approved of her decision to tell Bant.

When the young Mon Calamari girl arrived and dumped all her datapads over the low table in the common room, Abi-Wan couldn't help but giggle.

"What?" Bant asked with a grin, helping herself to the snacks set out there as Abi-Wan brought her a drink.

"My Master is right," Abi-Wan replied in kind. "You are messy."

Bant giggled and tossed a datapad at Abi-Wan, who caught it deftly and tossed it back. "The trouble is, Abi, you're too orderly."

Abi-Wan flopped down with a grin on the sofa beside her friend.

"So, come clean," Bant said, scooting closer. "You promised to tell me why you've been so happy the past two months."

Abi-Wan nodded and regarded her long-time friend soberly. "I have something pretty big to tell you. I have to admit, I'm scared."

"Fear leads to the Dark Side," Bant smirked but schooled her expression into solemnity, her large yellow eyes focussing on her friend. "You can trust me. You know I don't break confidences."

"I know," Abi-Wan said. "This is really important to me, but I can't let anyone else know yet."

"What?" Bant asked breathlessly.

Abi-Wan straightened, drawing back from her friend a little as though that would give her some protection from rejection. "There's no easy way to say this. I have started going through... a gender reassignment."

Bant's eyes widened, her mouth also opening in surprise.

Abi-Wan kept her expression guarded, but felt sure that both her fear and determination were evident in her eyes.

After a while, it seemed that Bant had finished processed Abi-Wan's words and was able to work her mouth into action. "So, your voice... that's why it's changing?"

"Yes," Abi-Wan replied as strongly as she could.

"All that time we were complaining about the boys, it's because you wanted..."

"Yes," Abi-Wan replied again, her voice breaking.

"Ohhh," Bant said, considering this and looking at her more closely.

Abi-Wan forced herself to sit quietly through Bant's scrutiny, her stomach clenching painfully. Finally Bant shifted closer and pulled her into a hug. Abi-Wan returned the embrace tentatively and then more confidently as she sensed Bant's acceptance.

"I'm happy for you, really I am."

"Do you still want to be my friend?" Abi-Wan asked quietly.

"Are you crazy?" Bant pulled back and looked at Abi-Wan's uncertain mien. "Who else am I going to inflict myself on, the way I do with you?" A mischievous expression passed over her face. "So, does this mean that you like girls?"

Although she didn't think it possible, Abi-Wan blushed further and ducked her head for a moment, before looking up. "Well, actually... I think I still like boys."

Bant grinned then and pulled on her friend's hand, conspiratorially drawing her closer. "Great, because I have to tell you all about this new Padawan who transferred here with his Master from Dantooine. He is sooo hot!"

Abi-Wan grinned and gladly let Bant take her into her confidence.

After Bant had left and Abi-Wan had cleaned up the evidence of their evening, she sat reading as she waited for her Master to return. When Qui-Gon arrived, she went to the door to help him out of his robe and his boots, before proceeding to make him some tea.

"So, how did it go?" Qui-Gon asked, seemingly reassured by the energy Abi-Wan projected as she handed him a mug and sat down again.

"Bant was wonderful, Master," Abi-Wan replied with a smile. "We talked about lots of things, and she is going to support me all the way."

"I'm so glad, Padawan," Qui-Gon said, sipping at his tea and closing his eyes.

"How was the committee meeting, Master?"

"Long," Qui-Gon replied in a tone that spoke volumes. He opened his eyes and got up, going to his robe and fetching a datapad from the pocket. "During the break I went to the Senate Archives, Abi-Wan. I found something for you."

"Yes, Master?" Abi-Wan waited as Qui-Gon returned to sit beside her, handing her the datapad. She looked at it and her expression altered to one of pure wonder.

"I did research on the origins of your name, and found that the masculine variant is Obi-Wan. It means 'One who is chosen'. I thought that when you were ready, you might want to consider a new name."

Abi-Wan stared at him, mouth working futilely as she wondered how she could thank her Master for his acceptance and the gift of his new name. "It's perfect!" was all she could say, before burrowing into her Master's arms.

Qui-Gon chuckled and affectionately stroked the head that rested against his chest, reflecting on his Padawan's aura. It had already evolved into something stronger, singing with Force energy. In his mind's eye, he examined the ribbons of sky-blue and vibrant green energy entwined in the bond between them and smiled.

//Thank you, Master,// Abi-Wan sighed. //I love you.//

//And I, you.// The longstanding affection between them still flowed easily, even as he reflected on the challenges ahead. He had no doubt that one day he would be calling his apprentice Obi-Wan. The Force resonated around them, reassuring him that he had helped Abi-Wan to embark on the right path.

//Master, I need to show you something,// Abi-Wan announced, hesitating in the doorway from her room.

"What is it, Padawan?" Qui-Gon was sitting on the couch of the common room. He looked up from the report he was working on.

Abi-Wan held her inner tunic protectively around herself. //Remember what we talked about with Master Lacilla last week?// she asked, not trusting her voice with the question.

Qui-Gon mouthed an 'ohhh' and managed to keep his gaze from travelling down as he placed the datapad on the low table before him. "Yes -- the padding we discussed. So you can train with your future physique in mind." He affected a casual tone, but she recognized the slight tension in it.

"Ummm, yes," Abi-Wan replied, beginning to feel self-conscious. It wasn't real, and it would be nearly two years before she could complete the surgery to become a male, but she wanted to share this beginning with her mentor.

"Master Yoda is correct when he tells us to consider our bodies as crude matter, Abi-Wan," Qui-Gon said, lapsing comfortably into teacher mode. "What is apparent is not who we are. You understand that better than most. This is the first step toward aligning your physical reality with what you feel inside. It is also vitally important from now on that your training compensates for what will in the future become your reality."

"But you've always told me to stay in the Moment, Master," Abi-Wan quipped, put at ease by his response.

"Indeed, the Moment is what we must work with right now." Qui-Gon smiled.

Abi-Wan slipped off her tunic to reveal a fitted undershirt and leggings, which outlined the prosthetic bulge beneath her underclothes. It had been at least six months, she realized, since she had shown so much bare skin to anyone but Master Lacilla: a necessity of the binding she had wrapped around her breasts since they started developing. Now that muscle mass was evolving in their place, she felt confident enough to abandon the practice.

Qui-Gon glanced over her in the same measured way as he did when observing her in the training salle. "Your growth is impressive, Abi-Wan."

Not yet, Master, Abi-Wan thought speculatively and then blushed, shocked by his -- definitely his -- thoughts.

Sensing Abi-Wan's discomfort, although not realizing the source of it, Qui-Gon went on smoothly. "I would very much like for you to enter the Intermediate Padawan competition this year." Abi-Wan wrapped her tunic back into place as he spoke. "That will give us a few months to work on refining your style with these changes."

"Do you think I'd be ready?" Abi-Wan asked, frozen as she considered the ramifications of appearing before the entire Temple in workout clothes.

"I know you will be. You are a fine swords... man, and will represent yourself and the Force well."

"Yes, Master," Abi-Wan's smile returned, but Qui-Gon sensed the concern hovering behind it.

"We have much work to do, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said gently.

Abi-Wan -- Obi-Wan -- smiled beatifically. At that moment, he was sure that everything was going to be all right. The look of confidence and affection in his Master's eyes assured him that it would be.

"What's going on, Kenobi?"

Abi-Wan turned to meet the challenge in Bruck Chun's voice. She glanced at Bant, who rolled her eyes in response. She regarded the other teenager, still flushed from the exertion of their sparring match, his shock of white hair spiked with sweat. "What do you mean?" she asked, drawing upon the Force for calm.

"That!" Bruck said, gesturing back toward the training salle. "You've never beaten me before."

"Perhaps actually training for the competition instead of bragging about it makes all the difference," Bant said dryly.

Ignoring Bant, Bruck stepped closer and squeezed Abi-Wan's arm through her tunic.

"Back off, Chun!" Abi-Wan wrenched her arm away.

"I thought so," Bruck crowed. "Your voice gave it away. You're on some kind of hormone treatment."

"What if I was?" Abi-Wan replied.

"It's none of your business, Chun," Bant said, pushing between them. "Abi told you to back off."

Bruck glanced at Bant dismissively, before regarding Abi-Wan once more. He uttered a parting insult as he turned away. "Freak!"

Abi-Wan stiffened at the word, but guarded the expression on her face.

Bant turned and rubbed Abi-Wan's arm after Bruck had left. "He's just jealous, Abi. Pay him no mind."

Abi-Wan sighed. "I'm afraid what he'll say when I go public."

"By then you will have whipped your way through the Intermediate competition. People like Bruck will be too humbled to say anything."

Abi-Wan regarded her friend sceptically, but smiled. "I guess you're right."

On the day of the Intermediate competition, Abi-Wan glanced across the crowd nervously as she stood at her Master's side. She forced herself to stillness whilst the names of the competing Padawans were announced. Having recently passed her sixteenth name day, she was one of the youngest in the competition. She glanced along the line of Padawans flanking her, catching Bruck's gaze and the mild sneer he shot toward her. Without reacting, she turned back to face the assembled Jedi seated in the stands of the formal competition salle. As they were dismissed to begin their preparations, Abi-Wan felt her Master's hand come to rest on her shoulder.

"I know I should not admit it, Padawan, but I am proud of you," Qui-Gon said as the other competitors and their Masters milled around them.

"Thank you, Master," Abi-Wan said. "Although I'm not sure I belong here."

//You do, Obi-Wan,// Qui-Gon projected affectionately. //Remain in the Moment. Be open to the Force, and you will do well.//

//Yes, Master.// Abi-Wan smiled at the address, as Qui-Gon moved to take his place in the stands amongst the other Masters. She hurried to the girls' changing room, bypassing the other competitors, to join Bant. She gave Bant a look that echoed all her fears as she peeled off her tunics, stripping down to a body suit and deliberately loose-fitting leggings.

Bant nodded encouragement as she turned deliberately from the other girls, some of whom were glancing at her.

Sensing Bant's annoyance, Abi-Wan reached into her bag to grab a towel, which she pulled into her lap as she sat on a bench and waited.

"Let's go," Bant said as she finished dressing, ignoring the others as she steered Abi-Wan back into the salle.

Abi-Wan draped the towel over her arm in front of her as the thirty-two competitors were directed to their starting bouts. The first round of the competition consisted of each Padawan taking part in two bouts. Their initial ranking was determined by the combined number of hits made with their practice 'saber in the first round. She was relieved to find that her initial arena was far removed from the spectators as she threw down her towel and joined her first bout.

It wasn't until the second round that Abi-Wan faced Bruck in a bout. She sensed his cool regard as she closed her eyes and drew on the Force for guidance. When the chime rang, she stepped into the arena. Time seemed to slow for a few moments, as she focussed on defence. Having re-assessed the weaknesses in his style, she turned swiftly to offense. By the time the final chime sounded, she had scored several more hits than Bruck, according to the count of the supervising Senior Padawan, and had won the bout.

Bruck hissed, "Freak!", as he strode away to meet his next opponent.

Abi-Wan won her next bout, and made the final eight for the third round comfortably. She went to sit beside Bant who had been eliminated in the second round.

The interval between the second and third rounds was occupied by demonstration duels between several of the Masters. Abi-Wan had hoped that Qui-Gon would take part, but as she glanced at him in the stands and recognized his look of concentration, she was glad that he had saved his focus for her. After the demonstrations, she took to the floor again, this time in an arena closer to the centre of the salle. The distant arenas were now empty due to the reduced competition in the third round. The eliminated competitors watched from the sidelines.

There were a further two bouts in the third round. Abi-Wan found the competition more challenging, but scored well enough to make the top four on points. As her name was announced she heard a soft hiss beside her and glanced at Bruck, startled by the anger spiking through his aura. Recovering her composure, she looked away as the eliminated competitors were dismissed. Bruck peeled away from the others as they left the salle floor, moving deliberately towards an exit.

As Abi-Wan watched, Bruck's Master accosted him near the door, but Bruck apparently gave sufficient excuse to be allowed to leave. She sank onto the benches near the front arena -- closest to the stands and the setting for the last two rounds. She glanced back at her Master, to see Qui-Gon's reassuring smile. She smiled back, before turning to watch the first two competitors in the fourth round. After their fifteen-minute bout, she was called to the floor with the remaining competitor.

Abi-Wan left her towel on the bench reluctantly. Gripping the practice 'saber, she stepped to the edge of the arena, aware of the soft murmurs rippling around her now that the crowd's attention was turned nearly exclusively on her. She closed her eyes and took a calming breath, drawing the Force to her before bowing to her opponent in ritual greeting. They both stepped into the arena and activated their 'sabers on the chime. Within the allotted fifteen minutes, her Mekterian opponent -- having three years experience over her -- had gained a distinct lead. When the final chime sounded, she conceded graciously and bowed to her opponent, who echoed the gesture with genuine admiration.

At that moment, Abi-Wan realized that she -- he -- had never felt so at ease, even under the scrutiny of the assembled Jedi, within a body that was still undeniably female.

Overwhelmed by the realization, she watched the final round as if in a daze. It was only on the bout's conclusion, as the top four competitors were announced, that she regained her focus and joined the others waiting on the salle floor. She had garnered enough points to place third. Looking across to her Master, she saw the pride in Qui-Gon's eyes and the smile that graced his lips. She dismissed her earlier concerns as Master Yoda came forward to congratulate the four Padawans in turn.

Abi-Wan went down onto both knees and bowed as Master Yoda stopped before her.

"Well you have done, Padawan Kenobi," Master Yoda said, touching Abi-Wan's forehead. "Strong with the Force you are."

"Thank you, Master," Abi-Wan replied, warmed by the gleam in the diminutive Master's eyes, before he moved on to congratulate the last of the winning competitors. She resumed her feet as the assembled Jedi spilled onto the floor. Her smile broadened as Qui-Gon approached and enveloped her in a hug.

"Well done, Padawan," Qui-Gon said. "You showed great maturity today." He squeezed Abi-Wan's shoulder affectionately. "Will you let me make you a celebratory meal, or will you meet with your friends?"

Abi-Wan didn't need much time to consider. "Give me time to wash up, Master. I'll join you soon."

Qui-Gon nodded and moved away through the crowd milling around them.

"You did it!" Bant squealed, emerging beside Abi-Wan to embrace her friend. She threaded her arm into Abi-Wan's as they moved through the throng toward the changing rooms.

Abi-Wan ignored the speculative looks shot her way. "Thanks for the support, Bant. It means a lot to me."

Bant sensed the change in her friend and squeezed Abi-Wan's arm. "Did you see Bruck's face?" she laughed as they collected their belongings from the bench. "He can't help but make an idiot of himself in front of the whole Temple."

Abi-Wan nodded uneasily at the memory of Bruck's departure and saw Bant's expression change to concern.

"Hey, don't worry about him. Do you want to get together for latemeal?"

"My Master promised to cook for me," Abi-Wan replied apologetically.

"Of course," Bant grinned. "Will you survive that?"

Abi-Wan laughed then. "Yes, he's not that bad a cook." She shouldered her bag and nodded toward the private 'freshers further along the corridor from the girls' changing room. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Firstmeal, if you can get your lazy self out of bed," Bant snickered.

Abi-Wan gave her a long-suffering look and headed on to the private cubicles. Once inside, she stripped down and stood under the spray, releasing her hair and letting cool rivulets of water soak the heat and sweat from her skin. She soaped up absently, the receptacle that was her body somehow disconnected from the place of memory she occupied. She lingered in her connection to the Force, feeling it sing around her changing body. There was no doubt that many of the assembled Jedi had sensed the difference in her, and that some of them had remarked on it. Her Master had warned her that would happen but, nonetheless, she felt ready to face their scrutiny.

She remembered the muted pride in her Master's eyes and the way he had privately called her Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon had shown complete faith in her during the last four months and had done so publicly today by supporting her participation in the Intermediate competition.

Smiling, she towelled off and dressed swiftly, not wanting to keep her Master waiting. Grabbing up her bag, she opened the door only to be assailed by a sense of wrongness in the Force. She was winded as Bruck charged into her, his momentum and rage carrying her hard into the 'fresher wall.

"Did you think no one noticed, Kenobi?" Bruck hissed, grabbing at Abi-Wan's crotch, his lips curling in distaste at the sensation of the prosthetic under his hand. "You really are a sick little freak!"

Abi-Wan slammed the shielding down across the bond between her and her Master automatically, her mind screaming. Her body, however, froze with shock as Bruck jerked her leggings and underclothes down to her knees.

"What's the matter?" Bruck leant in, pressing his lips close against her ear. "You don't want to play? Why pretend to have what you don't have? You're only ever going to be good for one thing, Abi: to be fucked." As he said this, he plunged a finger roughly inside her.

Abi-Wan's throat was paralysed with shock: only a tiny sound of pain left her.

"If you're lucky, some time I'll show you what can be done with the real thing." Bruck withdrew his finger most of the way, only to slam it home again, grinding his groin against her hip.

"No!" Abi-Wan breathed, horrified.

"It's a promise, Kenobi," Bruck said, violently twisting his finger inside her before withdrawing it. Not glancing back, he sauntered from the room. The door hushed to a close behind him.

Abi-Wan sagged to the ground, pulling her knees close and huddling into herself. She sensed the dark hole that had been ripped open in her psyche -- a gaping wound that threatened to pull her apart.

"I am not this body," Abi-Wan gasped, trying to reconcile the stabbing pain in the groin, something that was a part of her, with his new sense of identity. It hurt. Force, it hurt. She drew in a deep breath and squeezed her eyes closed. Your Master is waiting for you, Kenobi. Get control of yourself.

Finally, Abi-Wan managed to make it to her knees and then her feet, wiping away the trickle of blood running down the inside of her thigh and straightening her clothes. Darkness swirled around her. For several moments, thoughts of escape filled her mind: running away from the Temple, her friends, her life.

"No," she said aloud, and was glad to find conviction in her voice. Bundling her things together, she hefted her bag onto her shoulder. Cautiously sensing out her surroundings this time and finding it safe, she slipped from the 'fresher and set out at a steady pace for the quarters she shared with her Master.

Something had changed in Abi-Wan's demeanour in the scant time that had elapsed since the end of the competition, but Qui-Gon could not divine its source as Abi-Wan joined him for dinner. She kept her manner pleasant but guarded as she sat opposite him at the low table, engaging him in light conversation. Testing their bond carefully, he encountered a barrier that had risen between them. After dinner, Abi-Wan had pleaded for the necessity of a long bath and then sleep. He had acquiesced, albeit reluctantly.

It was probably too much for him, after all, Qui-Gon thought. He seemed happy after the competition, but now -- perhaps the reassignment is going too fast. In reality, he didn't truly know what Abi-Wan was feeling. He opened himself to the Force and sensed the presence of something dark in his Padawan's aura. He glanced at the 'fresher door and sighed.

Abi-Wan sank into the bath, scrubbing at the body as though she could remove the betraying genitalia if she cleansed herself enough. Taking a Force-assisted breath, she sank beneath the surface of the water and let it enclose her. A couple of minutes later, she broke the surface and absently lathered her chin, taking up a razor.

Bruck had always been controlled by his emotions, but to go so far as rape? No, it wasn't that, it couldn't have been. Not this body, not like that. Bruck had wanted to teach him a lesson and humiliate him, that was all. Bruck didn't have the power to... Suddenly the ball of pain in his groin separated and blossomed into a raw fire in his forearm. The new pain soothed him, drawing out the deeper hurt, and focussed it into something more fundamentally explainable.

Abi-Wan's eyes shot open. He was shocked to realize that he had dragged the blade several times across his forearm. Blood welled in fine lines across the skin and he dropped the blade. The pain sang, drawing his attention away from the void inside. Force, no! Getting out of the bath, he cleaned and applied a bacta film to the cuts, which swiftly clotted and closed up.

This body can be hurt, Master, he thought, keeping himself shielded. If Qui-Gon had any inkling of what had just happened he would have broken into the 'fresher in an instant. It did hurt. It wasn't really my body, but it still hurt.

Abi-Wan looked at the fine cuts on his arm, where only thin pink lines remained. By morning, they would be pale and nearly invisible. Sighing, he dried himself roughly with a towel and changed into a sleep tunic. He straightened things in the 'fresher and took a moment to empty the body's bladder, feeling a sting of pain. Not allowing himself to think about it, he cleaned his teeth and stepped back into the common room.

Qui-Gon was seated there, eyes closed, apparently submerged in meditation.

Abi-Wan slipped to the door of his room, halting and turning around as Qui-Gon addressed him.

"Goodnight, Abi-Wan,"

"Goodnight, Master," Abi-Wan replied automatically, adding, "I'll be joining Bant for firstmeal."

"That's good. Is anything--"

"I'm just tired, Master," Abi-Wan said, managing a smile.

"Very well, Padawan," Qui-Gon appeared to accept this and nodded.

Abi-Wan retreated to his room and closed the door. In moments, she was huddled beneath the blanket on her sleep couch, feeling suddenly cold in the dim room.

Qui-Gon's sense of unease increased the next morning as Padawan Eerin came to their quarters, seeking Abi-Wan.

"Abi-Wan told me she was meeting you for firstmeal," Qui-Gon said, feeling a cold stirring in his gut.

"Ohhh," Bant stopped, looking unsure. "I was waiting in our usual meeting place. I must have missed her."

Qui-Gon signalled Bant to come in and closed the door. "Padawan Eerin, did Abi-Wan seem all right after the competition?"

Bant regarded the Jedi Master with surprise and nodded. "Yes, Master Jinn."

"Think carefully," Qui-Gon continued. "Was she upset about anything?"

Bant considered in silence before replying. "I think she was upset about what happened with Bruck Chun."

Qui-Gon nodded, considering this and remembering the look of concern he had seen on Abi-Wan's face when Bruck had abruptly left the competition salle. He reached out along his connection with Abi-Wan and was stunned to find that she had completely shielded herself from him. He couldn't gain any sense of her location within the Force. Distracted, he smiled at Bant. "If you see Abi-Wan, please tell her I'm looking for her."

Bant nodded, clearly surprised that he didn't use the training bond to find Abi-Wan. She bowed and took her leave, looking concerned by what she had seen in his eyes.

Qui-Gon paused to consider the situation and then went to the data terminal, hoping that his typically conscientious Padawan had flagged her location in the Temple. Sure enough, he found Abi-Wan's name recorded at one of the private training salles, as was required by the Training Wing Master. He thanked the Force in this instance for Abi-Wan's fastidious attention to regulation. Pulling on his robe, he set out at a fast pace for the Training Wing.

Due to her tight shielding, Abi-Wan did not sense her Master's arrival in the training salle at first. She was intent on countering the aggressive attacks of the small training remote that hovered before her, looking for an opening in her lightsaber guard. She blocked the stinging bolts it unleashed in quick succession.

"Abi-Wan," Qui-Gon said, breaking gently into her concentration as he gestured at the remote, immobilizing it.

A startled expression flickered across Abi-Wan's face but disappeared as she turned, deactivated her 'saber and bowed to him. "Good morning, Master."

"Bant was looking for you. She said you'd agreed to meet her for firstmeal."

"I wasn't hungry," Abi-Wan replied casually. "I felt like getting in some extra 'saber practice."

"Would you like some competition?" Qui-Gon asked, answering the question as he gestured for the remote to return to its docking station.

"Yes, Master."

Qui-Gon shrugged off his robe and picked up a practice 'saber, joining her on the mat. She exchanged hers for the same and bowed in ritual greeting. At that moment, he performed an intricate acrobatic and somersaulted over her head, his 'saber whistling as he struck a killing blow to her neck. Having spun in mid-air, Qui-Gon faced her when he landed. Abi-Wan nearly dropped her 'saber as she turned toward him, her mouth open, working unsuccessfully to say something.

"Sometimes, although we feel prepared for what we may face, we are not yet ready, Abi-Wan. I wonder if you've considered that such a thing might be happening with you."

Qui-Gon had cut straight to the heart of the matter, but Abi-Wan couldn't find it in herself to respond. She stared back at him and schooled her expression carefully.

"Perhaps you could join me in meditation this morning," Qui-Gon continued softly.

Abi-Wan nodded and sensed that although framed as a request, his words were a command.

"The competition... was it too much for you, Padawan? I wanted you to develop confidence in yourself, but I am left to wonder if the gender reassignment process is taking place too rapidly."

"No!" Abi-Wan protested. "The competition was wonderful, Master. I felt... more like myself than I ever have in my whole life." She relaxed her shielding to allow Qui-Gon to experience the moment of revelation that she had felt after her fourth round bout.

Qui-Gon's expression softened. "Then what is it, Abi-Wan? What caused you to become closed to me and to your friends, after such a successful competition? Was it something that Padawan Chun said?"

Said. Abi-Wan seized the word. She could not bring herself to lie to her Master, but he had given her a grain of the truth to work with. She nodded.

Qui-Gon relaxed as he placed a hand on her shoulder, regarding her downcast face. "I'm sorry, Abi-Wan. You knew that there would be prejudices going into this. What did he say?"

"He called me a freak," Abi-Wan whispered. Her tightly shielded thoughts became a soft litany of bitter reminder, self-recrimination and need. Only good to be fucked... Don't let him see the darkness in me... Please, call me Obi-Wan, Master. I am Obi-Wan. This is right, you know it. The Force has shown us that this is right...

Qui-Gon appeared to sense the whirling currents in her aura and continued, "You need to spend extra time with Master Lacilla."

"I will," Abi-Wan promised. "I'm sorry, Master. I guess I didn't take it as well as I said I would."

"It's all right," Qui-Gon replied, enfolding her into a hug. "These things take time and," he drew back to look searchingly into her face, "we must be certain at every step that we are following the will of the Force."

"Yes, Master."

"Shall we spar, or have you released your negative feelings?"

"I'm feeling better," Abi-Wan admitted. "You surprised me with your manoeuvre," she added, a grin tugging at her lips as she looked up at him.

"Surprise can be a powerful weapon, Abi-Wan," Qui-Gon replied fondly, "as well as a potent teaching ally."

Abi-Wan nodded. "Would you teach me?"

Qui-Gon considered her request. "Beginning senior acrobatics this early is unusual, but with your increasing strength in the Force..." He nodded. "Yes, we could include it in your training schedule."

"Thank you, Master. I will work harder."

Qui-Gon chuckled softly. "Something the last few months have shown me is that you have no fear of hard work. Indeed, I would like you to meet Bant for firstmeal as you originally planned."

Abi-Wan nodded. "Master?"


"Would I be able to cut my hair?"

Qui-Gon regarded her again, surely noting the hint of desperation in the request. "Not yet, Abi-Wan. I would like us to take time to meditate on your changes, and talk further with Master Lacilla."

Abi-Wan accepted this with quiet resignation.

"We have a number of missions coming up over the next few months. It's not an appropriate time to undertake such a large transition. On our return, we will be based on Coruscant for a time to allow you to catch up with your studies. At that time, we should consider it."

"Yes, Master. Thank you."

Qui-Gon squeezed her shoulder gently, and Abi-Wan gave into a genuine smile.

"So when can we start the acrobatic work?"

"Patience, Padawan," Qui-Gon reminded her. "Eat first, then join me for meditation. We shall see where the Force guides us from there."

Abi-Wan nodded, glad for a distraction from the pain welling up inside her.

It had been relatively easy for Abi-Wan to avoid Bruck after the competition. True to her Master's word, they had embarked on a series of simple diplomatic missions off-planet. In the scant time they did spend on Coruscant, she passed many hours in counselling with Master Lacilla and the remainder in the company of her friends, especially Bant, finding out what she'd missed in classes. As Padawan to one of the Order's most requested negotiators, she spent more time in the field than most of her peers.

Abi-Wan also shunned the regular sparring sessions with her age mates. Once her current mission rotation was over she would be expected to rejoin them, but for the time being she continued to practise with her Master and, when he was occupied, a remote. Only a month had passed since the competition, but she'd already progressed into senior level katas designed to enhance her aerial work. Taking advantage of a quiet evening when her Master was occupied with a late-running Senate committee meeting, she booked herself into a private salle and began running through the introductory aerial katas to warm up.

She had already worked up a light sweat when the door to the salle opened and closed with a hush. Expecting to see Bant, she turned around and froze at the sight of the white-haired Padawan leaning against the door.

"I haven't seen you in a while, Freak," Bruck said, walking across to her.

Abi-Wan said nothing, meeting his gaze in silence.

"I've done a bit of digging around since last we met," Bruck said, circling her. "You're spending a lot of time with the Healers. Strange, because on the outside you don't look sick."

Abi-Wan's breath caught as his hand ran down her slim hip, and his lips pressed close to her ear.

"Of course, on the inside it's another matter isn't it, Kenobi? You do know that no one will ever want to be with you, don't you? You don't even know what you are."

Abi-Wan bit her lip.

"Really, I'm doing you a favour," Bruck continued conversationally. "After all, you'd have no experience at all. No one else would want to touch you. You're ugly and screwed up. I'm doing you a favour."

Abi-Wan squeezed her eyes closed. She drew in a sharp breath as her leggings and underclothes were yanked down. Her legs felt chilled as sweat contacted the still air. Then she was being touched in that place that was a part of her but wasn't. Darkness swallowed her. When next she opened her eyes, she was lying on her back with Bruck on top of her, her legs pushed open as a sharp pain speared through her groin. It seemed to go on forever, but perhaps it was only a minute or two. Bruck grunted as he thrust to completion inside her. Sticky heat ran between her thighs. She didn't move as Bruck stood up, straightened his clothes and walked away.

Bruck paused at the door and glanced back at her. "Until next time, Kenobi." Then he was gone.

Abi-Wan rolled onto her side, drawing her knees up and huddling into herself. Not my body, this is not my body. Crude matter... Only good to be fucked. She moaned, making her first sound since Bruck had entered the salle. She pulled her leggings back on and crawled to her robe, slipping into it. Making sure that she was still tightly shielded, she slipped into the corridor and returned to her Master's quarters.

Abi-Wan was relieved to find that Qui-Gon had not yet returned from the Senate. She went into the 'fresher and methodically washed all trace of Bruck Chun from her body. She needed the pain to be elsewhere; he needed to disconnect from that dark place. In moments, he had drawn more fine lines with a razor across his forearm, focussing his attention and his breathing on the tiny beads of blood singing with pain. His awareness sank into his arm and his blood, avoiding the darkness. For a time, he blacked out as he lost himself in the thrum of the pain, his blood, his breathing, and the Force. He separated himself from the body.

Time passed. He came to, sitting cross-legged on the 'fresher floor with his arm cradled in his lap and a chill upon his bare skin. Finally, he felt grounded again. He had released the pain to the Force. Wasn't that what he was supposed to do? He tried to release his shame over his part in that pain. He hadn't fought Bruck. He had let him do that to him, to the body. No, only to the body, he reminded himself. The body was not a part of him. He was aware of the dichotomy in his thinking, but even as it fluttered against the logical part of his mind, he scratched at one of the clotted cuts on his skin, bringing the pain back to life.

Focus, Kenobi. Your Master is counting on you to keep focussed. Abi-Wan remembered his promise to Qui-Gon that his changes would not interfere with his training. So be it: he would give this pain to the Force. Feeling a semblance of calm settle over him, he cleaned and healed the fresh cuts, applying a bacta film to his forearm before getting dressed.

He cleaned up the 'fresher, then tidied the common room and set out tea for his Master to brew on his return. They were due to leave Coruscant in the morning. He packed what they would need, setting their bags by the door. Seeing that all was ready, he retired to his room and huddled under the blankets. Sleep did not come easily.

Sometime later, he was aware of his Master's presence in his room. Had he cried out? He realized that the tail of a whimper was on his lips. He pretended to settle again, firming his shielding as the Jedi Master crossed quietly to his side.

"Be at peace." Qui-Gon's warm voice filled the silence. "Thank you, Padawan."

Abi-Wan wondered why Qui-Gon was thanking him -- for packing for tomorrow's mission? Even as he wondered, a mantle of sleep settled upon him as Qui-Gon's hand moved above his head.

"Sleep, Abi-Wan. Get some rest."

The rest of the night disappeared into a dreamless slumber.

Abi-Wan stood dutifully at her Master's side, waiting to greet the delegation that had arrived for the coronation of Eithne's Crown Prince. She kept her breathing steady, aware of her Master's warning to be especially vigilant as the delegation passed them. Security on Eithne was heightened amidst terrorist threats to the soon-to-be sovereign. She stood at attention, watching the stream of dignitaries and security stream past her.

Abi-Wan suddenly gasped aloud and took a step back as spiky white hair wove into her field of vision. Within moments, security guards had surrounded her, and a blaster was levelled at her head. She blinked in shock. Time seemed to have frozen around her. Then she sensed the steady presence of her Master at her side and heard his voice as if from a great distance. Waves of Force calm rolled away from him like an ebb tide, capturing everyone in its wake.

"My Padawan meant no harm to the delegation, Captain," Qui-Gon explained with the smallest gesture of his hand. "She recently suffered an injury that makes standing for long periods difficult. She poses no threat. Please continue."

Abi-Wan blinked as the blaster dropped away from her forehead. Her Master slipped an arm around her waist to steady her, as though sensing that at any time her legs would give way. The guards accompanying the delegation fell back into formation and Abi-Wan watched as the young friend of the Crown Prince was enfolded back into their midst. He was a Suiterian: a slender humanoid species with bleached skin and a shock of white hair crowning his elongated head.

//Padawan?// Qui-Gon broadcast to her softly, rightly sensing that she was still startled.

//I'm sorry, Master,// Abi-Wan responded, drawing calm from the arm around her waist.

//Are you well enough to continue?//

//Yes, Master,// Abi-Wan responded, as she eased her weight back to her feet and away from his support. //I'm sorry, Master. I'm ready.//

Qui-Gon nodded slightly as the tail of the delegation passed them and the greeting party began to filter through security and into the throne room.

Abi-Wan followed him, grateful for the way her Master had covered her lapse and spared her the embarrassment of discussing it publicly. That would come later. She drew a calming breath and wondered how it had come to pass that her Master needed to construct a lie about existing injuries to smooth the reputation of the Jedi. She was determined to keep her focus in the hours ahead and would face the consequences later.

Abi-Wan stood in silence as her Master finished their farewells to the Eithnean Prime Minister. As Qui-Gon nodded to her, she picked up her bag and followed him onto the cargo transport and into their cabin for the return flight to Coruscant.

"Sit with me, Padawan," Qui-Gon instructed her softly.

Abi-Wan nodded and came to sit cross-legged on the floor before her Master. This is it, she thought. The part where I get disciplined for losing focus during a routine mission and nearly creating a diplomatic incident.

"I am concerned about you," Qui-Gon said finally.

Abi-Wan hadn't quite expected that opening and looked up at him.

"Do you think I have not noticed your suffering, Abi-Wan?" Qui-Gon continued. "I've spent many hours in meditation, seeking the guidance of the Force on how to help you. Ever since the Intermediate competition, I have sensed the conflict in you. You've done an admirable job of shielding from me, but you have not been able to conceal certain things. You are having nightmares. You startle more easily. Even our connection within the Force is dimming. The last time we were on Coruscant, I asked my Master for help with what I might be doing wrong."

Abi-Wan looked at him in surprise. She hadn't realized that Qui-Gon had consulted with Master Yoda, much less that he considered her withdrawal as a failure on his part. She hadn't done as good a job as she hoped of shielding the darkness within her.

"Master Yoda advised me to consider the evidence before me. You have been working harder than ever to fulfil your obligations to the Jedi and your training. However, every time we return to Coruscant, you withdraw further from contact with your fellow Padawans and me, and you only find calm once we've cleared planet. I must conclude that your reluctance to share what is troubling you is either a result of prejudice you have experienced in the Temple, or how you think I might react to your having difficulties with your transition. I assure you, I am not in the business of judging the most dedicated Padawan I've ever known."

"Master, I..." Abi-Wan's voice trailed away. She ducked her head and turned her thoughts inward, questing for an explanation of how the last four months had telescoped into an arduous trial of hiding the pain of the repeated assaults by Bruck whenever they were on Coruscant. Her shame was palpable as she realized her naivete in thinking that a Jedi Master would not notice her efforts to shield from him to the point where their bond had been affected.

Qui-Gon placed a steadying hand on her shoulder. "I have spoken to Master Lacilla and she has kept me apprised of your progress in counselling. She tells me that your commitment to the gender reassignment strengthens daily: is that correct?"

"Yes, Master," Abi-Wan looked up, meeting his gaze earnestly. "I want it more than ever."

"In fact," Qui-Gon continued, "she mentioned something about your desire to 'cut out that black hole' as soon as possible."

Abi-Wan blushed on hearing his words repeated verbatim by Qui-Gon.

"I'm sorry, Abi-Wan, but where there is a threat of bodily harm, it is vital for Master Lacilla to keep me informed."

"I understand," Abi-Wan nodded gravely. "I didn't mean it, Master."


Did I mean it? Abi-Wan wondered, thinking of the place where the body had been violated and of the darkness left behind.

"I realize that you are still young, but you are old enough to understand that this process takes time, and to understand my responsibilities as your guardian."

"I do understand, Master," Abi-Wan replied. "I promise to meditate on my lack of patience."

"So," Qui-Gon hesitated, squeezing Abi-Wan's shoulder gently before drawing back to regard him. "Why then, this distance between us? I had hoped that the initial strengthening of our bond would continue."

So had I, Abi-Wan thought, regarding Qui-Gon and feeling an ache in the pit of his stomach. I can't show you this darkness, Master. You would know everything and then you wouldn't want me as your Padawan anymore. Abi-Wan closed his eyes, willing his separation from the darkness roiling in his groin. He next heard his voice as though from a distance. "Master, could I have some time to use the 'fresher?"

Qui-Gon sighed gently. "Yes, Padawan. Then we shall continue our talk."

Abi-Wan nodded gratefully and grabbed his toiletries, hurrying into the tiny 'fresher and closing the door. He reinforced his shielding as he pulled back the sleeve of his tunic and settled onto the floor. He needed to distract himself from the pain inside in the quickest way he knew. He took a razor from his toiletry bag and raked the blade across his forearm. He let out a sigh, closing his eyes and letting his focus drift into the pain in his arm. He looked down and was shocked to see how deep the wounds were although, this time, they generated surprisingly little blood. He sank through the skin, into the layers of tissue that were laid open, and was thus shocked when Qui-Gon's voice penetrated the haze of his pain.

"Abi-Wan!" Qui-Gon cried, sinking to the floor beside him and using a tendril of Force to remove the razor safely from his hand.

"Master?" Abi-Wan looked up, stunned to realize that Qui-Gon was by his side.

"Padawan..." Qui-Gon enfolded Abi-Wan into his arms and held him tightly. "Force, how have I failed you?"

"No, Master, you didn't... it wasn't you..." Abi-Wan sobbed quietly, absorbing the raw energy of his Master's anguish as it flooded their bond. He let Qui-Gon hold him and drifted in the feeling of safety. If only for now, Master -- before you see the darkness, before you have to let me go...

A semblance of calm returned to Qui-Gon as he drew back and examined Abi-Wan's arm. Abi-Wan saw the pain in his eyes as he gently tended to the cuts, applying healing energy to them and covering them with a thin film of bacta. He noticed how closely Qui-Gon scrutinized his arm.

"How many times?" Qui-Gon asked at last, obviously having seen the faint evidence of other abuses of her skin.

For a moment, Abi-Wan became lost in the number of times the body had been violated -- six -- seven times? Maybe it was more. He tended to black out and lose track of what happened to the body, disconnected as it had become from his mind. Finally, he needed to confirm the realization of his greatest fear. "Master, I understand that I can't be your Padawan any--"

"Hush," Qui-Gon said softly. He helped Abi-Wan up from the floor and took him into the small cabin, drawing Abi-Wan to sit on one of the berths within the safety of his arms.

Abi-Wan sighed and leaned into him. Please see me, Master. See me as Obi-Wan. Please don't ask me; I can't tell you. You mustn't see the darkness in me. Please...

As though Qui-Gon could sense the rushing of Abi-Wan's thoughts, he made another gentle hushing noise in the back of his throat and touched his lips to the top of Abi-Wan's head. "Enough of these missions," Qui-Gon said aloud.

Abi-Wan heard the resolve in his voice and began, "Master, it's all right. I won't let you down."

Qui-Gon held up a hand to silence him, and drew back to look at him. "You have never let me down, Abi-Wan. Not since the beginning -- not since Bandomeer. Not now -- not ever. Indeed, it would appear that I have let you down." He silenced Abi-Wan with a look. "I let the Council send us out on mission after mission for over a month longer than promised. And it has happened at the expense of your needs."

"The needs of the Order come first, Master," Abi-Wan objected.

"The Order be damned!" Qui-Gon replied. "Not before my responsibility to you. Why did you do this?"

Abi-Wan's mind swirled with answers but grasped for the only one he dare utter. "I hate this body, Master. I hate it!"

"By the Force..." Qui-Gon shook his head sadly. "Don't you know how beautiful you are? Obi-Wan..."

A sob left Obi-Wan's lips as he heard his name, joy flooding his soul like a thirsting man granted an ocean of drinking water.

"Are you ready for your new name, Padawan?" Qui-Gon asked seriously.

"I thought Master Lacilla had to approve--"

"She will. Are you ready, Padawan?"

"Yes, Master. Yes, I'm ready. Please..."

"Fetch some scissors, Obi-Wan."

"Yes, Master." In a daze of joy, Obi-Wan hurried to fetch the scissors from his toiletry bag, bringing them reverently to his Master and kneeling before Qui-Gon. He looked up and saw the shine of unshed tears in his Master's eyes.

"Will you, Obi-Wan Kenobi, be my Padawan Learner?"

"Yes, Master."

"Will you serve the Jedi; will you commit to your training; will you serve the Light?"

"I will, Master," Obi-Wan whispered.

"I take you as my Padawan Learner, Obi-Wan Kenobi," Qui-Gon pronounced gently as he began cutting his Padawan's hair. He shaped it into the traditional style, leaving enough length to gather into a small tail, with the existing braid trailing over Obi-Wan's shoulder. When he was done, Qui-Gon put the scissors aside and kissed Obi-Wan's forehead.

"I love you, Master," Obi-Wan whispered.

"I love you, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon replied, drawing back and smiling. "May you always walk in Light."

Obi-Wan recognized the ancient Jedi blessing and basked in the feeling of the Force singing around them. Looking up into his Master's face, feelings of love overwhelmed him. Was it returned? His mind, heart, and the body he longed to possess, yearned to merge with his Master's: to love him and to be loved. To cleanse him of... His gaze dipped abruptly. He could not let his Master see the darkness inside him.

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said softly, tipping Obi-Wan's face up and brushing the pad of a thumb across the cleft of his chin. "I see you. Be patient: all will be well."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan whispered, not wanting to sully the value his Master saw in him in that perfect moment.

"Let's clean up here," Qui-Gon said. "Then we'll meditate before getting some rest. It's been a very long day."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan replied, managing a genuine smile for the first time in months.

"Bant?" Obi-Wan asked in surprise, upon seeing the Mon Calamari girl waiting on the landing pad. "What are you doing here?"

"Wow, Obi-Wan -- you're gorgeous!" Bant effused as he reached the bottom of the transport's ramp, throwing her arms around him and squeezing him tight. "Your Master told me you were returning, but he didn't mention how sexy you looked!"

Obi-Wan laughed awkwardly and turned around to see Qui-Gon walking toward them, features schooled to hide amusement at Bant's statement.

"Thank you for meeting us, Padawan Eerin," Qui-Gon said, bowing in greeting.

"I wouldn't miss it," Bant said, returning the bow. "It's not every day that a hot Padawan shows up at Temple."

"Please," Obi-Wan groaned.

"You'll break all the girls' hearts when they find out you're not interested in them."

"Bant!" Obi-Wan hissed, grabbing her arm and pulling her ahead, out of earshot of Qui-Gon.

"It's okay," Bant said, recognizing the flush that had crept to the tips of his ears. "I'm only having fun."

"My Master doesn't know that I'm, ummm..." Obi-Wan spluttered, making sure that he increased the distance between them and Qui-Gon as they crossed the landing pad back to the Temple.

"Ummm, gay?" Bant suggested helpfully.

"Yes. I mean, no. I mean, he doesn't know." Obi-Wan shot her a familiar long-suffering look.

"Doesn't know that you've got a thing for him?"

"Bant, I love you, but sometimes I want to strangle you."

"I love you too, Obi-Wan," Bant giggled, taking his arm.

Walking far behind them, Qui-Gon withdrew into his thoughts, still processing Bant's startling revelation. Suddenly, navigating the complex, hormonal-driven world of a teenage Padawan in the middle of a gender reassignment had become infinitely more complicated.

"I must disagree with your methods, Qui-Gon," T'nar Lacilla said.

Qui-Gon suppressed a smile. "You would not be the first to do so, T'nar." His expression became serious. "But with all due respect, you did not find your Padawan sitting on the 'fresher floor slicing his arm open."

"Obi-Wan does seem more grounded now than he was before you left on this mission," she conceded, brushing absently at her hair. "However, I've done a thorough physical exam. It turns out that Obi-Wan has become sexually active in the four months since my last full exam."

Qui-Gon held his breath for a moment before releasing it. "I must say I'm surprised."

"No more than me, Qui-Gon. You see, Obi-Wan denies it."

"Denies it?" Qui-Gon arched an eyebrow.

"There's something else happening here. Obi-Wan agreed with the physical findings when presented with my results. However, he denies that he has had sex."

Qui-Gon stared at her, trying to reconcile the incongruence of her conflicting statements.

"What also surprised me is that he has engaged in vaginal sex," T'nar said, "given his apparent hatred of his female genitalia. There was some evidence of tearing and bruising, although nothing out of the ordinary. I did a survey of genetic residue in the uterus. It appears his partner is Padawan Chun."

"Chun?" Qui-Gon drew upright on his chair. "T'nar, you know that Obi-Wan was subject to verbal abuse by Chun. I can't imagine that he would want to engage in a sexual relationship with him."

"I know," T'nar replied. "I have not yet confronted Obi-Wan with the facts of the genetic survey. I wanted to talk to you first. As his Master, I wondered if you had noticed anything..."

"As far as I know, Obi-Wan has had nothing to do with Padawan Chun since the Intermediate competition." He hesitated, his stomach roiling suddenly. "Eithne..."

"What is it?"

"Our mission to Eithne. You don't have my report yet. There was an incident with Obi-Wan whilst we were waiting to attend the Crown Prince's coronation. In the delegation there was a Suiterian..."

"A Suiterian?" T'nar mused. "With white hair like Padawan Chun's. What happened?"

"I would have said that Obi-Wan suffered an anxiety attack."

"This is serious."

"I know. I must talk to Obi-Wan right away."

"Gently," T'nar warned him. "I'm coming with you."

"If what I fear has happened, he won't want an audience."

"I'll wait outside until you call for me."

Qui-Gon nodded grimly, getting to his feet and hurrying towards the quarters he shared with Obi-Wan, aware of T'nar shadowing his stride to keep up. Hesitating at the door, he nodded for her to remain outside as he entered the common room.

Obi-Wan stood in the small kitchen preparing latemeal. He smiled as Qui-Gon entered and, crossing to the door, helped him slip out of his robe. He bent down to remove his Master's boots and was surprised when Qui-Gon waved him to stop.

"Obi-Wan, we must talk," Qui-Gon said, nodding toward the couch.

Obi-Wan straightened and moved to the couch to sit down. His wooden posture indicated that he was anything but at ease. "How did your talk with Master Lacilla go?" he asked with false bravado.

"I was rather surprised to hear about you and Padawan Chun."

"What do you mean?" Obi-Wan asked, his throat tightening.

"I understand that you have begun an intimate relationship."

"No," Obi-Wan said, shaking his head. "That's not so, Master."

"There's no need to be ashamed, Padawan. It's just that this is a rather delicate stage of your development, and it's important that you keep either Master Lacilla or me -- whoever makes you more comfortable -- apprised of developments of this nature."

"I'm not ashamed, Master. I'm not having a relationship with Bruck."

"Padawan," Qui-Gon began softly. "Master Lacilla has found evidence that Bruck and you have been involved sexually."

"It was just the body, Master," Obi-Wan replied innocently. "I'm not involved with Bruck."

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon tried again, "your body is part of you."

"No," Obi-Wan repeated. "It was just the body. It has nothing to do with me."

"Help me to understand what happened," Qui-Gon said, moving toward him.

"No," Obi-Wan stood up and backed away. "Nothing happened."

"Please, talk to me."

Obi-Wan retreated again. "There's nothing to talk about, Master."

Qui-Gon hesitated, as Obi-Wan shrank back against the nearest wall. "You must bring logic into this, Obi-Wan. You inhabit your body, even if it does not yet match your psychological gender. Either you consented to sex with Padawan Chun or you did not."

"Logic has nothing to do with it!" Obi-Wan hissed.

"Sometimes it's all we have to make sense of things," Qui-Gon replied. He felt the stirring in the Force currents between them: urging him to act or to risk losing his Padawan to the break that had already breached Obi-Wan's mind. He stepped forward and pulled Obi-Wan into his arms.

Obi-Wan cried out and struggled against him.

T'nar responded to the turbulence in the Force, hurrying into the room to intervene. She hesitated as Qui-Gon shot her a fierce look. At that moment, she wasn't sure who was producing the Dark Side energies she sensed in the room: the Padawan or the Master. She closed the door and waited.

"Either you consented or you did not," Qui-Gon repeated loudly as Obi-Wan flailed within his arms.

Finally, Obi-Wan sagged, sliding to his knees as Qui-Gon sank down with him, still holding him. "I didn't stop him," was all he could gasp between painful breaths.

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon continued, his tone becoming soothing. "Did you consent?"

"No, it wasn't like that. He never asked... but I didn't stop him..."

"Be at peace," Qui-Gon hushed him, exchanging meaningful looks with T'nar. He knew on the basis of their long friendship that he was going to get another lecture about his methods. However, he was left with no doubt of the horror that the Master Healer also felt at Obi-Wan's violation. "I'm so sorry," he whispered, gentling his hold and allowing Obi-Wan space to retreat.

Obi-Wan remained in his arms, however, face turned toward and fingers locked within the folds of Qui-Gon's tunics. "Please don't leave me, Master," he murmured, as though sensing what he feared most would happen.

"Never, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon reassured him. "I will always be with you, Force willing." At a small gesture from T'nar, he directed Obi-Wan into a Force-assisted sleep. He carried him into Obi-Wan's room, settling him on the sleep couch and covering him with a blanket. He gently stroked Obi-Wan's forehead before returning to T'nar in the common room.

"He should be brought to the Healing Wing," T'nar began.

"I will have him here with me where he can be safe," Qui-Gon objected.

"You can't be here all the time, Qui-Gon."

"I'll lock him in here if I need to. I must go speak to Chun's Master."

"Wait." With delicate-looking fingers that belied their great strength and dexterity, T'nar's hand closed around his wrist. "You carry too much anger."

Qui-Gon nodded. "I will meditate on my return."

"This must be left to the Council, Qui-Gon. You cannot possibly negotiate for Obi-Wan with a clear mind right now."

Qui-Gon sighed and some of the tension drained from him; however, his fists were still clenched. He drew a deep breath and forced them open. "Will you request for my Master to visit us as soon as he can, T'nar?"

"I will," T'nar promised. "I will bring this matter immediately to the attention of the Council."

"Then I will stay here and care for Obi-Wan."

"He needs you," T'nar agreed, touching his hand. "I will petition the Council for special leave for you both."

"No," Qui-Gon said wearily.


"Obi-Wan will see that as evidence that he is not able to handle the transition without special circumstances. We are due to stay on Coruscant soon anyway, so that Obi-Wan can catch up with his Temple classes. I will speak to the Council about bringing that time forward."

"Very well. I shall let them know that you wish to see them, and I will stay with Obi-Wan when you go."

"His friend, Bant Eerin," Qui-Gon added, "needs to be brought in on this. She remarked on his lack of interest in girls and it would appear from his reaction that Obi-Wan has confided in her that he is homosexual. I dare say that Bant is the one he trusts most in all of this."

"That will have ramifications for what will happen to Chun."

"It shouldn't. It was rape."

"Be very careful what you say to Obi-Wan."

"I know -- influencing a victim's statement before an inquiry can take place." Qui-Gon sighed. "Be glad I don't go out there and deal with Chun myself, Jedi Master or no."

"I am glad," T'nar said. "Obi-Wan needs you to be calm for him. Meditate, Qui-Gon."

Qui-Gon nodded and returned to Obi-Wan's room as the Master Healer left. He sank down to the floor, propping his back against the wall, and closed his eyes.

Obi-Wan stood at his Master's right, his face hidden beneath the hood of his robe as Masters Yoda, Windu and Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi took their seats in the circular chamber of the Jedi Council to mediate over the inquiry. Bruck and his Master, Eer-Anth Sekara, stood to their left: the latter reaching out a hand to still Bruck's agitated movements. Wary of facing the other Jedi apprentice, Obi-Wan stared through the window above Master Windu's head, wishing he was anywhere on Coruscant than where he was right now.

"It's unfortunate that we must meet under these circumstances," Mace Windu began, leaning forward to rest his forearms on his knees. He shot a brief look at Obi-Wan's shadowed face.

//Obi-Wan,// Qui-Gon prompted gently. //Remove your hood.//

Obi-Wan shifted awkwardly, pulling his hood back and knotting his hands back into the sleeves of his robe.

"This is a grave matter," Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi agreed. "Abuse of a Padawan is a severe violation of the Code."

Master Windu nodded. "These proceedings will determine the truth of Master Jinn's allegations that Padawan Bruck Chun repeatedly sexually assaulted Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, and find a remedy to this situation."

Obi-Wan closed his eyes. He didn't want to be here, but Qui-Gon had insisted it necessary for his healing and Master Lacilla had concurred. Even using the centering meditation that he had been practising for the last two days since Qui-Gon's discovery of the abuse, he felt adrift in the anger flowing away from Bruck in waves. From the lack of reaction of the Masters present, either they did not sense what was directed at him alone or they chose not to remark on it.

"Here to find the truth we are," Master Yoda commented for the first time, gesturing to Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan responded to the summons slowly and knelt before the diminutive Master. He looked down, despite Master Yoda's expectant gaze. Leaning toward the outstretched hand he knew waited there, he took a breath as he let his shielding down and permitted the connection.

Master Yoda's probe was gentle but pervasive, examining Obi-Wan's recollections of the previous four months and taking him through memories he didn't want to recall. "Much pain you hold here, young Kenobi," Master Yoda murmured. "Much you hide, even from yourself. The truth here I find." He addressed his next words to those assembled in the chamber. "Evidence of the alleged violation of the Code, there is." He turned his focus back to Obi-Wan and sent calming energy through his fingertips. "Calm... yes. Good, Obi-Wan. Return to your Master."

Obi-Wan nodded, still not looking up as he returned to stand by Qui-Gon. Warmth flooded across their bond, steadying him as he knotted his hands back into his sleeves.

"Padawan Chun," Master Yoda said, watching as the accused Padawan came to kneel before him. "Much anger there is in you. Control you must learn." He probed Bruck's mind, clearly finding resistance to his examination. After some minutes had passed, the diminutive Master pulled his hand away and nodded curtly for Bruck to resume his place.

Master Windu and Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi both communed silently with Master Yoda before they turned their gaze to Obi-Wan. He fought the desire to look away, shivering with the effort it required. A moment later, his Master's hand came to rest on his shoulder. He nodded slightly to acknowledge the support.

"We find that there has been a grievous injury to Padawan Kenobi, inflicted by Padawan Chun," Master Windu announced, drawing back in his seat and regarding Bruck over his steepled fingers. His warm, dark eyes turned towards Obi-Wan, who studiously examined the floor in front of his feet.

Master Sekara nodded stiffly, accepting the judgement of the inquiry. "I accept my failure as Padawan Chun's Master in averting this tragedy. On behalf of both of us, I accept the judgement of the Council."

"We are agreed," Master Windu began, acknowledging the other Councillors beside him before returning his steady gaze to Obi-Wan, "that Padawan Kenobi should decide a suitable judgement, being the victim of the offences."

Obi-Wan started, looking at them with wide eyes, his mouth agape. Were it not for the steadying hand of his Master on his shoulder, he would have broken and run.

"Take your time, Padawan Kenobi," Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi said kindly. "Let the Force guide you. We shall wait."

//Calm, Padawan,// Qui-Gon soothed. //What will make you feel safe? What will give you the confidence to get past this?//

Obi-Wan looked at his Master's face and saw the concern and love reflected there, feeling it stabilize him. He took a steady breath and faced forward again. He closed his eyes and felt the currents of the past and future as they whirled around him. Only the presence of his Master grounded him in the Moment, in safety.

To always have you with me, Master, Obi-Wan thought hopelessly behind tight shielding, before turning to the problem at hand. One day I hope to be a Knight. I must be able to survive on my own. This happened because I didn't defend myself. Isn't that what a Jedi is supposed to do? I'm supposed to use the Force for defence. So, why didn't I? Why? I must have wanted it to happen... No! I never wanted this!

A sigh escaped his lips and the sound startled him, bringing his awareness back to the quiet chamber. The sound of Bruck's breathing and the remembered smell of his abuser's arousal seemed to hit Obi-Wan for the first time. He shivered.

Obi-Wan stepped forward and let his Master's hand drop away as he steeled himself to face the seated Councillors. He spoke in the firmest voice he could muster. "Nothing -- I have no judgement to make." Drawing a breath, he turned to look at Bruck and forced himself to make eye contact with the other Jedi Padawan at last. "There's nothing that could make Bruck understand what he's done to me. He wanted to hurt and humiliate me. He succeeded." He turned back to face the Councillors. "I just want the chance to become who I am, in peace. I don't want to jump at every shadow."

Master Yoda nodded gravely, exchanging meaningful looks with Master Windu and Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi. "Thought we did that decide this, you would."

Master Windu nodded. "Yours is a fair request, Padawan Kenobi. For our part, the Council supports you in achieving that goal. And to that end, we must impose a condition upon your judgement."

Obi-Wan felt his stomach turn.

//Steady your breathing, Obi-Wan,// Qui-Gon's mind touched his softly. Obi-Wan drew strength from the reminder, and drew his focus back to counting through each breath.

Master Windu nodded at Master Sekara and Bruck in turn. "If further harm befalls Padawan Kenobi, we shall have no choice but to reassign you to another Temple. If that does not remedy the behaviour, Padawan Chun will be considered beyond rehabilitation and will be expelled from the Order. What do you say, Padawan Chun?"

"I will comply," Bruck said contritely, bowing to the Jedi Councillors.

"Leave us," Master Yoda said, gesturing to Master Sekara and Bruck. Both bowed and left the Council chamber. He turned his attention to Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. "Completed your latest mission rotation you have," he said. "Attend to Obi-Wan's training you shall."

"Thank you, Master," Qui-Gon said with apparent relief.

"Who do you most trust in Temple?" Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi asked Obi-Wan.

"My Master," Obi-Wan replied without hesitation.

Master Windu nodded gravely. "Master Jinn is here for you, as are we." He nodded toward the other two Jedi Councillors. "Remember that the Code exists for your protection. Do not hesitate to bring further problems to our attention."

"Yes, Masters," Obi-Wan nodded.

"May the Force be with you," Master Yoda said, ending the session.

Qui-Gon nodded, ensuring that Obi-Wan stayed close as they left the chamber and entered the elevator. Obi-Wan drew his hood up into place, and silence settled between them. It wasn't until they had returned to their common room with the door closed behind them, that Qui-Gon turned and took Obi-Wan's shoulders in his hands.

"Do you really trust me, Obi-Wan?"

"With my life," Obi-Wan replied with certainty.

"Then believe me when I tell you that you are Obi-Wan Kenobi. You will become a fine Jedi Knight. No one has power over you or your body."

Except you, Obi-Wan thought with longing. He replied, "Yes, Master. Thank you."

Qui-Gon smiled. "Shall we start on noonmeal?"

"I'd like to go to the dining hall."

"Are you sure?" Qui-Gon studied his apprentice with concern, aware that Obi-Wan had not appeared publicly in the Temple with his new Padawan haircut. Since their return and the discovery of Obi-Wan's abuse, Obi-Wan had spent the last two days sequestered in their quarters at Qui-Gon's discretion.

"Yes. It's time. I need to do this," Obi-Wan said, squaring his shoulders.

"Very well, Padawan," Qui-Gon replied.

Obi-Wan drew a steadying breath as he entered the dining hall a step behind his Master. As they selected a meal from the warmers, Obi-Wan was aware of the speculative looks directed his way.

Before Qui-Gon could invite Obi-Wan to join him at one of the private tables, Bant, Garen, Reeft and several other Padawans arrived.

"Obi-Wan!" Bant greeted him brightly. She squeezed past the plate in his hand to give him a hug.

"Hi, Obi-Wan," Garen said, testing out the new name. He smiled rakishly. "Are you going to join us?"

"Join us, please," Reeft said earnestly. "Perhaps you would share some lunch with me?"

Obi-Wan smiled and gave his Master a questioning look.

"Go right ahead," Qui-Gon said, as he moved away towards the Masters' tables. He sat down alone, watching as the Intermediate Padawans congregated around one of the tables on the other side of the hall. Unable to hear the conversation, he was still able to watch the light spirits that prevailed as they always did amongst Obi-Wan's peers.

Qui-Gon looked up as Mace slid down on the bench opposite, taking care not to obscure his view.

"How's it going?" Mace asked.

Qui-Gon smiled, sensing out the general currents in the room surrounding his Padawan. Although there were still curious looks, for the most part the other Jedi had settled down to their noonmeal. "I think it's going to be all right," he murmured, turning to look at his long-time friend.

Mace nodded and raised his mug in a silent toast.

Obi-Wan was tired. Bant had been the perfect ambassador, smoothing the way for his re-entry to Temple life in his new gender. He didn't deceive himself that it would be easy: the memory of the morning's inquiry in the Council chamber was still painfully fresh. He decided to spend the afternoon planning his study time for the work he had yet to catch up on, as well as doing some 'saber practice. His Master had promised to join him so he wouldn't have to attend the Training Wing alone, where all of the assaults had taken place. It was still going to be difficult.

Noonmeal had offered a pleasant distraction, however. He had spent most of it in a lengthy conversation with Tereln Kantha: the Mekterian who had defeated him in the final round of the Intermediate competition. Although on friendly terms with Tereln, he had never found the studious Padawan easily drawn out in conversation. Noonmeal had been a different matter. When Tereln had discovered that Obi-Wan was back in Temple and had much work to catch up on, the older Padawan had immediately volunteered to become his study partner, even though he was engaged in more advanced classes than Obi-Wan.

As Obi-Wan entered the quarters he shared with his Master, he found himself smiling and wondered at it. On reflection, it didn't take much examination to realize why Tereln had opened up to him. As a Mekterian, Tereln possessed both male and female genitalia, but lived as a male for most purposes. Although Tereln was respected, the difference set him apart. It made sense that he would find an ally in Obi-Wan -- at least, that's what Obi-Wan hoped.

Checking that the door was locked, Obi-Wan went into the 'fresher. His Master had encouraged him to take time to ease back into Temple life. A hot, leisurely shower would surely fit into that edict, before he turned to study and physical practice.

He closed his eyes as he soaped up under the spray, hands wandering over his chest, exploring his muscles and teasing his nipples to hardness. He stroked his fingers along the contours of his stomach, and then forced them to move lower, between his legs. Somehow, Master Lacilla's gentle encouragement to become comfortable with the body once more, to feel it as part of him, made the effort no easier. The brush of his fingers against the sensitive folds of flesh brought him no pleasure. He rinsed off clinically. He soaped his fingers again and reached behind him, shivering as he caressed the sensitive entrance to his body.

He eased a finger just inside and paused, testing the sensation. It felt different, but not unpleasant. Adding more pressure, he gasped as his finger slipped deeper, and he moaned at the feeling of fullness. It felt good! As part of his gender reassignment surgeries, the absent prostate gland would be simulated by increased neural sensitivity, so that he would feel the same pleasure as if he had been born physically male. If penetration already felt this good, he speculated on how good it would feel with the surgical enhancements. He shuddered and experimentally glided his finger in and out. He moaned again. Force! What would it be like with another body pressed against his, with a cock thrusting into him?

Checking that his shielding was intact, he fantasized that Qui-Gon was standing behind him with arms wrapped around him, water running through the mane of his Master's hair and entwining their bodies as Qui-Gon drove into him. He imagined himself pressed against the 'fresher wall, turning his head so that he could seek his Master's kiss and feeling Qui-Gon's tongue exploring his mouth. He imagined the sensation of being physically complete: of coming as his Master filled him, of gasping Qui-Gon's name into the confined space. His muscles suddenly convulsed in orgasm. He moaned, collapsing against the 'fresher wall and withdrawing his finger, the slight burn overruled by the haze of pleasure.

He sighed and leaned back into the water, shuddering from the intensity of the unexpected orgasm. Once he was finished in the shower, he was going to need to meditate to ground himself for the afternoon's work.

//Padawan,// Qui-Gon said, gently projecting his presence into Obi-Wan's disturbed sleep.

Obi-Wan's eyes flickered open. His heart remained shot through with pain as the dim light filtered through from the common room, grounding him. "Master?" he whispered, his voice breaking.

"I'm here," Qui-Gon said, sitting on the side of Obi-Wan's sleep couch.

"Thank the Force," Obi-Wan murmured in a broken voice.

"What is it?" Qui-Gon asked.

"I dreamt that we were fighting this creature, Master. And you were... killed."

"It was just a dream, Padawan."

"Master Yoda says I should be mindful of my dreams."

"He also says, 'always in motion, is the future'," Qui-Gon added, a wry smile touching his lips.

"I don't want to lose you," Obi-Wan persisted softly.

"You won't," Qui-Gon said, hushing him gently. "The Force will be with you, always. When it is time, I shall join with the Force. I shall always be with you."

Obi-Wan sat up, despite Qui-Gon's efforts to settle him. "I'm sorry, Master, I--"

Qui-Gon shushed him again. "You have nothing to be sorry for, Obi-Wan. You did nothing wrong."

"Master?" Obi-Wan's fingers brushed tentatively against Qui-Gon's beard.

Qui-Gon drew back so that Obi-Wan's fingers fell away. He sighed. "I'm just glad it wasn't a nightmare about..."

Obi-Wan shook his head, not needing the name to be vocalized. For months, his Master had been instrumental in helping him overcome flashbacks of Bruck's abuse. However, he would have welcomed such night terrors compared to the vision of cradling his dying Master in his arms. He reached out again and touched his Master's shoulder.

A hint of light from the common room touched the darkness in Qui-Gon's eyes. "I'm sorry, Padawan, that I did not protect you."

Obi-Wan felt the struggle within the Jedi Master and the now familiar pull to become one with his Master, to lose himself in Qui-Gon. He leant forward, tentatively moving his face closer to Qui-Gon's.

Qui-Gon, however, looked uncharacteristically vulnerable and stood up. "Rest," he urged gently.

"Yes, Master. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Obi-Wan."

I love you, Obi-Wan added wistfully. Although the words held a different import for him now, such that he dare only speak them in his mind, he noticed how Qui-Gon stopped and turned at the threshold before closing the door.

Obi-Wan had come to look forward to studying with Tereln as much as with Bant. Indeed, he had learned to put up with fresh teasing from her about all the extra study sessions with Tereln, but she was always the first to ask for details of how things were going with his new friend.

Obi-Wan had showered before Tereln's visit. His hair was still damp and fragrant by the time the other Padawan appeared at his door, a bunch of datapads in hand. He smiled as he noticed that Tereln had also showered, his golden hair glistening and a pink glow touching his pale skin.

Tereln eased himself down on the couch, arranging his long legs beneath him as Obi-Wan fetched him a mug of his favourite mikta tea. "How was the astrophysics exam?"

"Fine, thanks to you," Obi-Wan grinned. "My Master says I will owe you a large debt by the time I'm Knighted."

"You're my friend," Tereln objected. "There's no debt. Besides, your engineering skills helped me in my neuromechanics class last week" He smiled and took the mug that Obi-Wan handed to him, his slender fingers brushing against Obi-Wan's in the process.

Obi-Wan hesitated and sank onto the couch, trying to read the signals from Tereln. The older Mekterian was apparently as inexperienced as he was. Their hands had touched the last time they were together also, but this contact seemed more deliberate and the energy between them more palpable. He looked up into fine amber eyes that sparkled as Tereln took a sip of his tea and put the mug aside. Suddenly, Tereln leaned forward and kissed him, thin but sensual lips covering his. He responded slowly at first, before parting his lips and tasting the delicately bitter flavour in Tereln's mouth.

Emboldened by the response, Tereln pulled Obi-Wan closer and began a more thorough exploration, worrying at Obi-Wan's lips and neck, teasing with his tongue and following through with soft grazes of his teeth. His long fingers mapped Obi-Wan's body. Even through layers of tunics, the responsiveness of the younger Padawan appeared to delight him. However, as his hands moved further down Obi-Wan's body, Obi-Wan stiffened.

"I'm sorry," Tereln breathed, pulling back and looking earnestly into Obi-Wan's eyes. "I didn't mean to make you remember."

"No -- no!" Obi-Wan countered softly, realizing that Tereln had interpreted his tension as fear, having recently shared with him the horror of Bruck's abuse. "You're nothing like Bruck. It's just... this body."

"Yes," Tereln said, his hands returning and slipping down Obi-Wan's flanks. "Your body." He whispered huskily. "I want you. I've wanted you for months now."

Feeling the heat and genuine desire from Tereln, Obi-Wan released his concerns and melted back against him for a searing kiss. "Force!" he murmured when their lips parted. "I never knew that studying could be so much fun."

Tereln gave him a suggestive smile. "I think we have a lot more to do."

"Yes." Obi-Wan agreed breathlessly as Tereln's fingers insinuated themselves inside his tunics. In return, he buried his hands in soft golden hair and pulled Tereln's mouth down to his again.

Later, they lay spooned together on Obi-Wan's sleep couch, stripped down to the waist as Tereln nuzzled his face into Obi-Wan's hair. They had made out in a limited way, neither ready to go further in this first encounter, but were nonetheless sated and content. Obi-Wan turned partly towards Tereln as the older Padawan speculatively ran his hand across Obi-Wan's abdomen, just above the waistband of his leggings.

"I'm going to miss facing you in the competition next month," Tereln said softly, referring to the Intermediate competition that Obi-Wan would miss due to the first of his gender reassignment surgeries.

"So will I," Obi-Wan said regretfully. "At least I should be well enough to watch from the stands. And we can keep training until my surgery." In the last month, they had trained together frequently and had exchanged skills with each other. "Just so you know," Obi-Wan said confidentially, "I think this year I would have beaten you."

Tereln was surprised by the cockiness in Obi-Wan's voice until he saw the self-deprecating grin on the other Padawan's face. He appeared to consider protesting, but gave in and nuzzled into Obi-Wan's neck. "You're probably right. You're a better aerialist than I am. However, I'm better on the ground than you." He pressed his hips forward, letting Obi-Wan feel the length of his erection through the fabric of their leggings.

Obi-Wan moaned. "Yes, you are..."

Tereln glanced at the chrono and sighed. "I better get going. Your Master is due back soon."

At the mention of Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan nodded guiltily.

"Obi-Wan," Tereln said gently, turning the other Padawan's face and running his lips over the cleft in his chin. "We work hard. A little time off won't hurt."

"It's not that, it's..."

Tereln studied his face for a long moment. "Force, but you're even more beautiful when you're concerned." He smiled and tasted Obi-Wan's lips. "I do know of your feelings for Master Jinn."

"W-- What-- how--?" Obi-Wan stuttered.

"It doesn't take much Force sensitivity to know it," Tereln said. "Sure, most people wouldn't know it for what it is, but I know you. I know that what we have is different and maybe it won't last long, but -- I want to be with you for what time you'll give me."

"That's not fair--"

Tereln shushed him. "It is if I want it."

"You are wrong about something." Obi-Wan looked up into the room-darkened amber of Tereln's eyes. "I will always care about you, no matter what."

"That makes me very happy." Tereln indulged in a longer kiss, his tongue teasing for entrance, as Obi-Wan arched against him. He drew back and smiled reluctantly. "I better go..."

They dressed in their tunics once more and Obi-Wan accompanied Tereln to the common room, gathering up the datapads before seeing him out. He straightened the room and set out things for tea for Qui-Gon's return. He tentatively explored the bond with his Master and was surprised to find Qui-Gon heavily shielded against him. Concerned, he picked up a datapad to review for the morning's classes, but felt too distracted.

Qui-Gon returned just before midnight. Obi-Wan uncurled from the couch and went to his Master, helping him out of his robe and boots. As he worked, he felt their bond opening to him and Qui-Gon's affection washing over him.

//Thank you, Obi-Wan.//

//Master?// Obi-Wan looked up as he placed the boots aside.

Qui-Gon waited, saying nothing in return.

"Why were you shielded from me?"

Qui-Gon smiled enigmatically and stooped, placing a hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder. His blue eyes sparkled. "Let's just say that I had to make up for gaps in your shielding, Padawan."

Obi-Wan flushed to the tips of his ears, stumbling to his feet and stepping back. He stared at the floor, recalling that his Master had been in a Senate committee all evening. "I'm so sorry, Master. I didn't mean to distract you."

Qui-Gon smiled. "It was a pleasant distraction in the midst of wrangling over trading lanes to Malastaire," he confessed, "although it took me a moment to realize that you were with Tereln."

Obi-Wan stared harder at the spot at his feet. He had been with Tereln, although a part of his mind had been focussed on Qui-Gon before he had remembered to stay in the Moment.

"I shielded against you immediately," Qui-Gon assured him. "I didn't intrude on your privacy."

"Thank you, Master," Obi-Wan replied quietly. "Perhaps you can teach me some more advanced shielding techniques."

"That would be appropriate," Qui-Gon nodded, clasping his shoulder fondly. "I am happy that things are going so well with Tereln. Although," he added, "it would help if you did some focussing meditations. Master Yoda would remind you to keep your mind on where you were and what you were doing."

"Master," Obi-Wan began, seizing the opportunity, "I was thinking about you..."

Qui-Gon stepped back and held his hand up. With that simple gesture, he seemingly created an immovable barrier between them.

Obi-Wan's heart thudded, recognizing the intense vulnerability on Qui-Gon's face as the Jedi Master averted his gaze. Boldly, he stepped closer. "Master," he persisted. "I want to tell you how I feel about you." He stopped as Qui-Gon's eyes turned on him, blazing intently as the reflection of pain disappeared into their depths.

"You know how well I love you." Qui-Gon lapsed into a patient teaching voice.

"I love you too, Master," Obi-Wan replied, hoping that despite Qui-Gon's efforts to the contrary, he'd injected the right amount of non-platonic sentiment into his own declaration.

"You understand my responsibility to you in all matters of your training. We have a lot of work ahead of us with the approach of your first surgery. We must keep focussed."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan nodded, recognizing Qui-Gon's insistence that the intent behind his words remain unspoken. He bit his lip and glanced down self-consciously.

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon began gently, waiting for Obi-Wan's eyes to meet his. "Let's stay in the Moment. It's not for us to know where the Force will lead us in a few years." He bowed respectfully. "I cherish you."

"And I, you, Master," Obi-Wan replied as Qui-Gon disappeared into the 'fresher. A few years, Obi-Wan thought, both defeated and excited at once. Then he had not been rejected outright. He would stay in the Moment, even if that meant not listening to the sound of running water in the 'fresher and imagining what might be going on in his Master's mind, heart and -- yes -- body. Instead, he returned to his room and turned in for the night. Sleep eluded him for a long time.

Qui-Gon's attention was loosely focussed on the Intermediate competition taking place in the formal salle. He was centered inside his own meditation, aware of a similar dedication to focus from his Padawan. Obi-Wan was at his side, legs slightly opened and hands on his knees, sitting straight-backed and looking more serious than Qui-Gon could remember having seen him for a long time.

//Are you well, Obi-Wan?//

//Yes, Master,// Obi-Wan replied, a smile tugging at his lips. //Just doing the meditations that Master Lacilla set for me.//

Qui-Gon was glad for his Padawan's growing maturity. The awkwardness that had arisen between them had been put aside and their bond had recovered to what it had been before Bruck's interference in Obi-Wan's life. //Let me know if there is undue pain. We shall retire.//

//I shall, Master, thank you.// Obi-Wan turned to watch Tereln's progress on the salle floor, but part of his concentration turned inward on a light healing trance as he integrated the changes to his physical self. It had only been a week since the first stage of his gender reassignment surgery and the interminable early hours spent healing in a bacta tank. Due to the magnitude of the constructive surgery, he had spent the first few days mired in considerable pain, due to the need to keep track of problems as he recovered. Thankfully, Qui-Gon had guided him frequently in a healing trance and Obi-Wan was certain that his Master was somehow taking on a share of his pain in their joint meditations. Already the swelling and bruising had subsided and, true to the surgeon's word, sensation was returning in its place. He was glad that he had heeded Master Lacilla's advice to wear a shield at his groin for a time, not only to reduce the stimulation to the healing tissue but for the psychological protection it afforded him.

Although the prosthetic he had worn for well over a year had prepared him for the physicality of the changes, his awareness that those changes were no longer cosmetic was profound. The surgical team had removed the female reproductive organs and closed the vagina -- which nonetheless persisted in his darkest memories. Furthermore, the labia had been reconstructed to form the scrotal sac, complete with prosthetic testicles. The most profound change had been formation of the hormonally enhanced clitoris and urethra into the head of a proto-penis, which would later be lengthened and enhanced with skin, soft tissue, and blood vessels cloned from genetic material removed during the surgery. He moved slightly to check the sensation, feeling the shift of his scrotum behind the shield.

Obi-Wan's focus returned to Tereln as his lover paused to smile at him between bouts. He was glad that the competition had not yet paired Tereln with Bruck, who seemed like an almost ghostly figure, even compared to his pale, golden-haired lover. He swallowed tightly and looked away from Bruck.

The recent months had seen a strict distance form between himself and his abuser, despite the fact that as contemporaries they shared many classes. It seemed that careful monitoring had been in place since the discovery of the abuse. Although he often occupied close quarters with Bruck, they scarcely exchanged more than a few polite words in the course of their lessons. The careful shielding of the other Padawan meant that he remained alert, despite their apparent professional camaraderie. As Bruck was once more eliminated in the third round, Obi-Wan noticed that the Jedi Padawan moved to sit on the bench with the other eliminated competitors.

Tereln advanced again to the fourth round and, occupying the central arena, faced off against last year's winner. Obi-Wan watched Tereln use the techniques he had come to know intimately from their sparring matches, including some of the new aerial skills that he had passed on to his lover. He glimpsed Qui-Gon's questioning expression and acknowledged it with a smile.

//You make a formidable teacher,// Qui-Gon remarked

//I learned from my own,// Obi-Wan said, enjoying the gentle chuckle along their bond. His smile broadened as Tereln won his bout and advanced to the last round. The final bout saw Tereln declared the winner of the competition. As Master Yoda congratulated the four winning Padawans, Obi-Wan shot an inquiring look at his Master.

Qui-Gon nodded and watched as Obi-Wan made his way through the throng. He noted the slightly raised chin, the squared shoulders, and the notable sway in his Padawan's walk. Chastising himself for staring -- yet noticing he was not alone in observing Obi-Wan's new flush of confidence -- he looked away and got to his feet.

Obi-Wan joined Bant and his peers in congratulating Tereln, who gave him a private look that suggested more than cordial congratulations. He grinned to himself and stood aside as the other Padawans milled around them. Unexpectedly, a raw blast of hatred flooded his aura as Bruck's voice hissed close to his ear. He whirled around to find that Bruck had already moved away, his shielding once more intact. As if in response to the brief panic that had flooded their bond, he looked up shakily to find that Qui-Gon had appeared at his side.

//What did he say, Padawan?// Qui-Gon demanded, his hand descending on Obi-Wan's shoulder to ground and soothe his disquiet.

Obi-Wan, although dazed, looked up at his Master and shook his head. //Nothing, Master, I think I imagined it. I just haven't had him that close to me since...//

Qui-Gon nodded gravely, although his expression contained doubt.

//I'm all right,// Obi-Wan persisted, turning around as Tereln joined them. He sensed the concern in his lover's gaze and smiled reassuringly.

Qui-Gon bowed to Tereln. "Congratulations, Padawan Kantha. That was remarkable."

"Thank you, Master Jinn." Tereln bowed in return.

Qui-Gon excused himself and retreated, allowing Tereln to get closer to Obi-Wan under the camouflage of the conversations unfolding around them.

"Did something happen with Chun?" Tereln demanded.

"No," Obi-Wan assured him. "He just startled me."

Tereln regarded him sceptically but did not pressure him. As they retreated to a private celebration, the words that had assailed him -- words that Obi-Wan could not in truth be sure he had heard -- haunted him.

Watch your back, Kenobi.

Real or not, Obi-Wan filed the warning away, and decided that it was time to start watching the shadows with increased vigilance.

Qui-Gon sat in a comfortable cross-legged position beside the lily pond of the Jaybirr Garden, his favourite meditation spot in the Temple Gardens. Strong as it was in the Living Force, he needed to feel the familiar urgency of the garden's call and become grounded in the present -- for he was not at peace with his past.

Obi-Wan's surgery had caused a resurgence of the nightmares of Bruck's abuse, and he was torn between the desire to ease his apprentice's pain and the need to maintain a healthy distance between them, before he became overwhelmed by his own buried feelings.

Projection, Jinn, he accosted himself silently. It was common to relive one's own painful experiences as one's Padawan encountered difficulties. It had been clear -- hadn't it? -- that Obi-Wan had intended to declare feelings for him that went beyond their training relationship. He was relieved that Obi-Wan had given up any attempt to make such a declaration. It was too fresh and too close to the truth buried in his own subconscious.

As an Intermediate Padawan, Qui-Gon had not ignored the interest of his own Master, Count Dooku. The disastrous result had been six years of a covertly abusive relationship that had burned the light out of his soul. He had only been saved at the age of twenty-three by Dooku's defection from the Jedi Order, at which time he had come under Master Yoda's tutelage. Even beloved Master Yoda did not know why his then Senior Padawan awoke at night in terror. And still did on occasion, Qui-Gon thought, if he was honest with himself.

I will never do that to you, Obi-Wan, he thought. I am no longer helpless, as I was then. I shall be a good Master to you. I will stay in the Moment and I will not abuse your trust in me.

Qui-Gon was fully aware of Temple speculation concerning his relationship with his former Padawan, Xanatos, and his role in sending his second apprentice over to the Dark Side. He had loved the brilliant and volatile Xanatos, but never in the way that he was privately accused of. In the face of Xanatos' demanding nature, he had deflected the young man's interest onto his peers. The speculators knew nothing of his own history, which ensured that he maintained distance from his apprentices, often at the expense of appearing aloof. He never attempted to remedy this image of himself. Distance gave him protection and saved him from having to face his own history.

In beginning again with Abi-Wan, Qui-Gon had thought that he would avoid this spectre of his past. It seemed that the Force had other ideas. Although he was involved with his apprentice's well-being, he was aware that he held himself remote from the physicality of Obi-Wan's changes. Could it happen again, as it had with Xanatos? There was no doubt in his heart that Obi-Wan was pure Light, yet was there some defect in the Master that would always make the apprentice turn? He often speculated that his initial success had been due to the gender of his first apprentice, and now that Abi-Wan had become Obi-Wan, would it be proved beyond doubt?

You're a fool, Qui-Gon Jinn. Listen to your own teachings and stay in the Moment. He sighed.

"Trust yourself, you do not," Yoda remarked, gently breaking into the concentration of his former apprentice.

Qui-Gon nodded to his Master, his expression masked, as the tiny Jedi walked to stand before him.

"Asked me recently your Padawan did," Yoda observed, "if hurt you he had."

"That's ridiculous," Qui-Gon replied mildly. "This is not about me. This is about a hurt done to my Padawan: something I should have seen and prevented."

"About you it is, I think," Yoda commented, scrutinizing Qui-Gon.

Qui-Gon said nothing, shifting his concentration toward the song of the water tumbling over the rocks at the far edge of the pond before him.

"Stubborn you are," Yoda accused fondly, "but stubborn you always were, Padawan."

Qui-Gon smiled then. Yoda always found a way to centre him, often with gently deprecating humour. "Thank you, Master." He leaned forward at Yoda's gesture, letting his Master's clawed hand rest against his temple as it had so often over the years. He gratefully absorbed the light and calm flowing from the Jedi Master.

"Good, yes," Yoda soothed. "Calm."

"Master," Qui-Gon began, opening his eyes and looking into the warm brown eyes regarding him. "I am concerned about Obi-Wan."

"Hmmm, concerned about you also is he. It seems that mindful of each other, you are."

"Obi-Wan needs to focus on his own reality, not mine."

"Part of his reality you are, Qui-Gon. Know you do of the importance of a Master to his Padawan."

Qui-Gon nodded absently and then rallied his thoughts, giving Yoda his full attention.

"Know you do also, that talk to me you can."

"I know, Master. This is something I have to work out for myself."

"Wills it does the Force, hmmm?" Yoda asked with amusement.

"Yes," Qui-Gon nodded, accepting the gentle jibe. "I think so, Master."

"When wills it for you to talk to me, find me you shall, hmmm?"

Qui-Gon chuckled then. "I shall, Master. Thank you." He watched the small Jedi move away with a patience born of hundreds of years of life. He unfolded his body and began to stretch. He knew himself well enough to know that he had reached his limit of introspection and endless Senate committees. He decided to head down to the Training Wing and get in some physical practice.

Obi-Wan lay beside Tereln, languorous and pliant in the older Padawan's arms, enjoying the sensation of being touched and kissed. He responded tentatively. They were both naked, although Obi-Wan had insisted on dimming the lights and slipping under a sheet. Although it had been weeks since the surgery, he had refused to let Tereln see him, despite his wish to lie with his lover.

"I want you," Tereln whispered, nuzzling against Obi-Wan's ear and pressing himself against Obi-Wan. Their early explorations had been cut short by Obi-Wan's surgery and the subsequent recovery time, but both were eager to take up where they had left off. He let his hand slip down Obi-Wan's flank beneath the sheet, moving over his hip to cup his scrotum. The subsequent moan from Obi-Wan encouraged him to continue as he let his fingers glide up to lightly brush over Obi-Wan's partially-formed cock.

"Stop!" Obi-Wan hissed.

Tereln stiffened, drawing his hand back in concern. "Did I hurt you?"

"Force, no," Obi-Wan breathed, "but I think I'm going to die."

Tereln caught the grin on Obi-Wan's face and laughed, pulling Obi-Wan close against him.

Obi-Wan fumbled on the bedside cabinet for the lubricant he had placed there, and passed the open jar to Tereln.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I want you too..." He rolled onto his side and propped a pillow under his upper leg, pushing back towards Tereln.

Tereln took some lubricant on his fingers. Exploring by touch alone, his fingers stroked down Obi-Wan's cleft and teased for entrance. Despite some initial resistance, he alternately sucked and nibbled at the back of Obi-Wan's neck. The muscle gave way, and his finger slipped inside.

"Oh, Force," Obi-Wan moaned. He writhed as Tereln began to stroke inside him, carefully adding another finger and stretching him with a careful rhythm. As he rocked his hips back, he became aware of Tereln's erection pressing against him and gasped, "Enough. Do it!"

Obi-Wan hissed softly as Tereln withdrew his fingers and stroked more lubricant onto his cock. Shifting closer to Obi-Wan, Tereln murmured soft endearments as he entered. As a Mekterian, he was not particularly well endowed, but he took his time, clearly wanting them both to enjoy this first experience.

Obi-Wan breathed in, his eyes flickering closed as he took Tereln into his body. Finally, he felt Tereln's groin pressed against him and the fullness of his lover buried inside him. He moaned as Tereln began to move. Once he was used to Tereln's rhythm, he thrust his hips back, speeding up the pace and groaning as Tereln followed suit. Tereln was the first to orgasm, surging inside him. He shuddered as he followed, although his cry of pleasure turned into a yelp of pain.

Tereln pulled back in concern. "Force, that hurt you!"

"S'okay," Obi-Wan murmured. "They warned me that it might for a few months while things heal." He nuzzled back, soothing Tereln. "It felt great too," he sighed, "better than I dreamed. You?"

Tereln kissed his brow and leaned in against him, relaxing a little. "Mind-blowing," he murmured. "I never thought I'd..."

"What?" Obi-Wan asked, turning over and draping an arm around Tereln.

"Well, being Mekterian: you know," Tereln paused, and Obi-Wan knew he was considering his multiple genitalia: the female organs nestled beneath the more obvious male ones. "I never thought I'd get anyone to touch me."

Obi-Wan smiled brightly. "I'm glad you were wrong."

Tereln smiled back and pulled his lover into a hungry kiss. He moaned with surprise as Obi-Wan took command of the kiss, rolling over on top of him. Blood surged back to his groin as Obi-Wan leaned up and canted his hips down, glancing down between them. Beneath Tereln's renewed erection, the protective labia had contracted from his vagina, and Obi-Wan settled against him, the head of his proto-penis dipping inside the folds of muscle and tissue, brushing against the exposed clitoris.

Tereln swiftly became non-verbal as Obi-Wan let more of his weight down and set a slightly firmer rhythm, Tereln's erection rubbing between them. Given the multiple stimulation, Tereln shouted and climaxed again.

Obi-Wan bit back a cry of pain as his second orgasm hit hard, and collapsed against Tereln. His breath came in short, jerky exhalations.

"Force, I love you," Tereln breathed. He became immediately apologetic. "Obi-Wan, I'm sorry. I--"

"Shhh," Obi-Wan whispered, lying back on the bed and not attempting to hide his body anymore. "You honour me, Tereln. I love you too."

Tereln was touched by the declaration, even though he recognized the gulf between their feelings for each other. He rested a hand on Obi-Wan's hip and ran his gaze along the younger Padawan's body. He decided not to let logic or the future ruin the moment. He drifted off to sleep with Obi-Wan spooned against him and was content.

Qui-Gon stood before the bacta tank, watching the suspended figure of his apprentice drift, much like his mind did, at the edge of consciousness. He had spent much of the last two days standing in the same place, occasionally retiring to a cot alongside the wall to meditate or grab some sleep. At all times, he kept his mind close to consciousness, ready to hear his apprentice's call should Obi-Wan wake and need him.

T'nar Lacilla was a frequent visitor to Obi-Wan's chamber, as was Tereln, Bant, and even members of the Council. All of the visits had been brief by necessity, but Qui-Gon had begun to suspect that the support was as much for his benefit as Obi-Wan's. The surgery, performed by a team led by a colleague of T'nar's who specialized in neurosurgery, had taken approximately ten hours and involved more complex construction than the first stage of three months before. This stage had required the teasing out and splicing of nerves, tissues and blood supplies, such that Obi-Wan would have full sensation and function in the constructed penis once the healing was complete.

Qui-Gon's eyes closed as he reached across their bond to test Obi-Wan's level of consciousness. He was surprised to encounter a weak response from his apprentice's mental voice.

//Force help me, I'm dying.//


Pain. Obi-Wan's first thought was of pain. Spiking into consciousness, he recognized the bacta suspension and didn't try to open his eyes. The small stab of an injection at his neck responded to the momentary panic in his heart rate. He tried to relax and not fight the regulator feeding him air, but pain speared through his lungs.

//Obi-Wan, it's all right.//

Obi-Wan recognized his Master's mental voice and reached for his presence. //Master, I'm dying.//

//No -- no, Padawan. All is well. Trust me, release your pain into the Force.//

//It hurts, Master.//

//I know. It will pass. Release your pain to me. Let me help.//

Obi-Wan felt something warm spreading through him, beyond the sedative that had entered his veins. The rich green that was his Master's aura filled his mind's eye as it surrounded him, taking away the worst of the pain. He became dizzy, fighting against the sedative in his attempt to hold on to consciousness.

//Let go, Padawan. I'm here with you. You're safe.//

//Master? Love you, Master.//

//And I love you, Obi-Wan. All will be well.//

When Obi-Wan returned to full consciousness, he was lying on a cot in a recovery room. His eyes opened and took in the sight of his Master sitting beside him, eyes closed in meditation. Tuned as Qui-Gon was to his recovery -- he still sensed his Master's aura enclosing him -- Qui-Gon's eyes opened shortly after his.


//Welcome back, Padawan.//

The surgery was complete and so was he. He could not sense the changes fully, with his lower body encased in a mixture of numbness and tingling healing energy, but he felt all was well as his Master had promised. Although there was the possibility of other minor surgery, the main work was done.

Obi-Wan regarded his Master carefully and saw the lines of weariness around the Jedi Master's eyes, although they shone with obvious relief. //Master, have you rested?//

//I am quite well,// Qui-Gon evaded the question. //Tereln was here not long ago. He had to join his Master for 'saber practice, but wanted me to let you know that he would be back soon.//

Obi-Wan nodded and smiled shyly. The moment's awkwardness was broken as Master Lacilla entered the room, responding to the change in his Force signature.

"Good evening, Obi-Wan," she began warmly. "We have to wait to see how you heal, but the neurosurgery was very successful. You should have retained all the sensation of the clitoral nerves in the constructed penis and with the neural shunts in place, you should be able to achieve a normal erection."

Obi-Wan blushed to the tips of his ears and noticed that Qui-Gon was studiously examining a spot on the wall in front of him.

T'nar professionally ignored their embarrassment and checked Obi-Wan's vital signs, before sensing him out through the Force. "I see your Master is taking good care of you, Obi-Wan," she commented at last. "Perhaps you can convince him to get some rest."

"I will do my best, Master Lacilla," Obi-Wan said, smiling. "Although my Master is a stubborn man."

Qui-Gon sighed and murmured under his breath.

To Obi-Wan, the words sounded like: "Not only my Master, but my Padawan too." He smiled.

"You most certainly need more rest," T'nar added firmly to Obi-Wan. "If you don't I may have to send you back for more bacta treatment."

"I'll be good," Obi-Wan promised. He heard the mental chuckle from his Master and gave him an affronted look in return.

T'nar smiled and shook her head at them in mock exasperation, her hand drifting up to brush back a few strands that had fallen forward from the silver-blue sweep of her hairstyle. "Just be still, Obi-Wan, that's all I ask." She dimmed the lights and left them alone.

"When will we be back on mission rotation?" Obi-Wan broke the ensuing silence.

"When you are fully healed, not before," Qui-Gon replied. "Fortunately, you have worked so well in your classes that you will be well ahead by the time we go back to active duty."

"Do you miss being on missions, Master?"

"Padawan, if I have to sit on many more Senate committees, you will find that your Master has turned to the Dark Side."

"Then I better heal quickly," Obi-Wan said, his lips tugging up into a grin. His expression became more serious. "Thank you, Master, for being with me through all this. I know I'm not what you expected when you took me as a Padawan."

"No, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon replied fondly, "you are so much more. I thank the Force daily that it was strong enough to overrule the will of this stubborn old man."

"Not old, Master," Obi-Wan corrected him playfully before continuing. "I'm feeling all right. Will you get some rest?"

"For a time," Qui-Gon relented. "I know that Tereln will be here as soon as his practice is done." He rested his hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder and squeezed it gently, before leaving his apprentice in silence.

Obi-Wan watched him go, but felt the energy through their connection still bolstering and soothing him. He soon gave in to his body's need for more rest.

In the recovery room, Obi-Wan stood before the mirror that Master Lacilla had provided for him. He knew that others waited beyond the door to hear his verdict, but in this Moment, he was to see himself for the first time. Closing his eyes, he slipped the tunic from his shoulders and let it fall to the floor, feeling the cool whisper of air against his bare skin. Taking a steady breath, he prepared himself for the bruising and swelling that Master Lacilla had warned him to expect. He opened his eyes and gasped.

By the Force... Obi-Wan looked at his body with a critical eye. "It's me!" Although he prided himself on being in control of his emotions, he let them have domain. Tears streaked down his face, and sobs broke from his chest.

He was still overwhelmed as he dressed and emerged from the room to meet those waiting for him: Master Lacilla, his Master, Tereln and Bant. Seeing their reaction to his flushed face and shining eyes, he gave them a reassuring grin. Spontaneously he hugged Master Lacilla, mindful of his healing body.

"Thank you," he whispered. "They did it." He felt her hands glowing with energy as she caressed his hair, her joy for him palpable. He drew back and smiled, then hugged the others in quick succession.

Bant pulled back from the embrace and eyed him seductively. "If you ever change your mind about girls..." She laughed, and he joined in with her.

Tereln impulsively drew Bant under his arm and squeezed her tight.

Bant was taken by surprise, used to the Mekterian's typical reserve in dealing with others. Recovering, she looked at him and then at Obi-Wan. "Looks like there's been a few transformations around here."

Obi-Wan grinned at Tereln, then at Bant. "Of course, some people never change."

"You wouldn't like me if I did," Bant replied with mock hurt, but she was unable to stop smiling.

"All right," T'nar said. "I'm sorry to delay the celebrations, but Obi-Wan has some more work to do before I can discharge him."

Bant and Tereln nodded and bade Obi-Wan farewell. T'nar turned back to her office, leaving Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan alone. Before Qui-Gon could speak, Obi-Wan moved into his Master's arms again.

//What is it, Obi-Wan?// Qui-Gon prompted, aware of the tumult behind his Padawan's shielding as he returned the embrace.

Obi-Wan drew away and looked up into Qui-Gon's patient blue eyes. //I know how much of the pain you took on, Master. Thank you.//

//You would have done the same for me,// Qui-Gon replied, in turn captivated by the gaze meeting his. A moment of raw longing passed over Obi-Wan's face, before he smiled and turned to follow T'nar Lacilla.

Qui-Gon folded his arms into his sleeves and closed his eyes momentarily. Sighing, he turned away.

Obi-Wan awoke to a strange heat, and sensitized flesh pressing at the cloth of his leggings. He turned onto his back in the darkness -- fingers drifting down to tentatively touch his cock. His heart began beating rapidly. It had been almost six weeks since the surgery and this was progress. That the spliced blood vessels, nerves and muscles had healed and cooperated enough to reach this stage was a victory. He drew a calming breath and explored his erection with fascination, feeling it respond to the extra stimulation. It was becoming a little painful -- something he'd been told to expect when it happened -- so he focussed on relaxing the muscles that would release it and allow the blood flow to reverse. Nothing happened.

A light sweat broke out on his forehead as he tried once more to no avail. He closed his eyes, attempting to find his centre, but was distracted by the dizzying blend of pleasure and pain blossoming in his groin. Perhaps he could bring himself to orgasm and the muscles would release of their own accord. Tenderly, he stroked his hand along the length of his erection, his fingers brushing over the sensitive head and back down along the sheath. Within a minute, the pain had doubled and he was no closer to relief. He began to panic.

He was down to two choices: Master Lacilla or his own Master. Neither promised an encounter free of embarrassment. A sharp stab of pain in his groin made the decision for him.

//Master!// He reached along the bond, finding his Master's mind slumbering there, and gave him the mental equivalent of a shake. He sensed his Master's mind rapidly awakening.

//I'll be right there.//

What would he say? This was totally different to when he'd been an Initiate with Yanga fever, scared and delirious. He was scared all right, but he was not delirious. If anything, the pain was all too grounded in reality. He pulled the sheet over him. The light from the common room filtered through the door as it opened and Qui-Gon came to his side.

He struggled for the words to explain his dilemma, but the pain spiked along their bond and Qui-Gon immediately understood.

"Don't be ashamed, Obi-Wan. It's your first nocturnal erection. Have you tried to release it?"

Obi-Wan nodded, glad that it was sufficiently dark that he could not see Qui-Gon's face easily. That would have made the effort of explaining his predicament even more telling. "It's not working, Master. Something must be wrong with the neural shunts." He suddenly groaned with pain.

"Be at peace," Qui-Gon directed gently, reinforcing his words with a Force suggestion as he carefully sat down on the side of Obi-Wan's sleep couch. He hesitated. "Obi-Wan... I want to help. I've been briefed on what to do. I'll have to use the Force. It shall feel a bit invasive."

"Please," Obi-Wan breathed harshly, no longer caring about pride or shame, only about the release of the pain. After a moment's fluctuation in his Master's aura he felt a faint tingling near the base of his cock, a fluttering of energy that relaxed the faulty shunts and muscles, letting blood flow and relief come. The manipulation was subtle, but Obi-Wan's mind traitorously conjured up an image of his Master's fingers doing this to him and as the muscles released with a spasm, he bit his lip hard as an orgasm shuddered through his body.

"Oh Force, Master, I'm so sorry," he gasped, his mind racing as he tried to think of an excuse for his body's response.

"It is I who am sorry, Padawan," Qui-Gon replied, his voice quiet. "I must confess: I've never had to use that skill on someone else and I don't understand the complexities of your anatomy. My manipulation was clumsy. It was not your fault."

Obi-Wan's mind swam with the confession. His Master had used this skill -- on himself? There was something strange about his Master's aura. His shame felt small compared to the turmoil he sensed from Qui-Gon. "It's all right, Master. I needed your help. I will learn how to do this for myself."

Qui-Gon gave a barely audible sigh and nodded. "You are all right now?"

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan replied.

"I suggest we consult with Master Lacilla tomorrow. She will be able to help resolve this."

"Yes, Master. I'm sorry that it's taking so long."

"You will be healed when it is time, not before." Qui-Gon stood up suddenly. "Rest."

"Yes, Master." Before Obi-Wan could say more, Qui-Gon had already retreated, closing the door behind him.

Obi-Wan collapsed back, staring at the ceiling. He sought his Master's presence and found Qui-Gon shielded from him. He tried to enter a centering meditation designed to empty his mind of turmoil, but emotions took control of him and sleep was all but impossible.

Qui-Gon sat in the Jaybirr Garden, attempting to find release from his guilt. A week had passed and he had been unable to forget the look of shame on Obi-Wan's face. Master Lacilla had commended him for his quick assistance, but he felt anything but reassured that he had done the right thing. In the Moment, he had responded to his apprentice's pain, but had it been the right thing to do?

Obi-Wan had been professional and courteous since that night, attending several sessions with Master Lacilla including undergoing a minor procedure to correct the faulty shunts. T'nar had been continuing to teach Obi-Wan guided meditations to integrate control of his new genitalia into his Jedi faculties. He had received word from her that it was going well and that Obi-Wan had since independently dealt with another such episode.

Qui-Gon didn't need T'nar's reports to know of this. Since the first incident, he slept lightly and was aware when heavy shielding fell across their bond one night, when Obi-Wan assumed him to be asleep. He waited to see if he was needed, but was relieved when he wasn't called. However, avoidance wasn't resolving his loss of focus. He had been meditating more frequently than usual, trying to find balance. 'Feel, don't think' was his personal mantra, but he had gone to great lengths not to feel anything and constant self-doubt was destroying his serenity. His intuitive connection with the Force was strong as always, but where his apprentice was concerned, he was cast adrift.

He opened his eyes and sighed, staring at the large golden-green pads on the surface of the pond. He sensed out Obi-Wan's presence across their bond and was surprised to sense a disturbance in the Force, one that settled heavily in his gut. Concern drew him out of his musings and to his feet.

Obi-Wan had been training with Tereln before latemeal. There was no reason for the disruption he sensed. Indeed, Qui-Gon had come to recognize a brightening in the energy broadcast when Obi-Wan sparred with his partner: a reassuring light that seeped across their training bond.

Qui-Gon headed for the Training Wing and was surprised as he nearly collided with Tereln, hurrying from the main exit.

"Forgive me, Master Jinn." Tereln bowed.

Qui-Gon waved the need for apology aside peremptorily. "I thought you and Obi-Wan were training?" he asked.

"Yes, Master Jinn," Tereln replied. "However, my Master called me for an emergency mission briefing."

"Where is Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon asked, the feeling of discomfort increasing with proximity to his apprentice.

"In Private Salle Fourteen." Tereln dismissed the urgency of his Master's summons and looked at Qui-Gon afresh. "Do you sense something?"

"I think so, Padawan Kantha," Qui-Gon replied, nodding to excuse himself as he hurried along the corridors to the named salle, barely aware that Tereln was close behind him.

Focussed as he was on his workout, Obi-Wan initially ignored the sound of the door opening. He assumed that Tereln had returned to collect something he'd left behind. When the silence persisted, he glanced around. His senses were overcome by projected anger as Bruck charged at him, the impact slamming him into the wall. Winded, he gasped for air as Bruck pressed up against him and pinned him in place, breath heavy with arousal.

Obi-Wan found his voice in the depths of his shock. "Leave me alone," he gasped.

"Not an option, Freak," Bruck hissed in reply, grinding his erection against Obi-Wan. He reached down and stroked Obi-Wan's cock through his leggings.

The rough caress was deliberately painful and Obi-Wan turned his face away. "No!" He gagged as Bruck's other hand came up to close around his throat, forcing him to look forward. He felt his body lock up, becoming lifeless, even as his mind screamed for it to push away his attacker.

Qui-Gon and Tereln entered the salle and the Moment. Qui-Gon ignited his 'saber as he rushed towards them. His fluid Force-guided movements were stayed by Obi-Wan's voice piercing the air of the salle.

"No, Master!"

Qui-Gon and Tereln froze as Obi-Wan wrenched himself free and Force-pushed Bruck away. He suddenly seemed free of paralysis, although he was shaking.

He stared Bruck down. "I told you to leave me alone."

"You have violated the terms of your judgement, Chun," Qui-Gon remarked coldly, drawing focus from Obi-Wan's declaration. He deactivated but held his weapon securely. "Surrender your lightsaber."

Bruck made no effort to hand over his weapon, but didn't resist when Qui-Gon used the Force to obtain it. He stood with his stance wide, his pale eyes insolent, as he faced Qui-Gon and Tereln.

Tereln suddenly lurched at him, but Qui-Gon's arm shot out and stopped him.

Obi-Wan looked at his Master with a mixture of shock and awe. He had sensed the dark currents surrounding his Master from the moment Qui-Gon's presence had filled the salle. The intensity of it had scared him out of his shock and into self-defence. He saw now that Qui-Gon was in control and was restraining Tereln from acting rashly.

"Padawan Kantha, you will stay here with Obi-Wan until I personally direct otherwise. I shall notify your Master and the Council of your delay."

"Yes, Master Jinn," Tereln said, his voice trembling with repressed anger.

"Perform a calming meditation with Obi-Wan while I am gone," Qui-Gon continued, turning to look at Obi-Wan and injecting reassurance into his gaze.

"Or fuck him," Bruck added, half under his breath. "That's all he's good for."

A thunderhead gathered and dissipated across Qui-Gon's brow. He drew a breath and released it. "You will not trouble yourself to speak until we are before the Council, Chun."

"Just another one of Jinn's fuck toys and Dark Side rejects," Bruck added deliberately.

Qui-Gon, however, had calmed himself. He looked at Bruck dismissively. "If you wish to make it to tomorrow and your new assignment, Chun, you will be silent." He gestured with the hilt of his lightsaber to point the way.

With a sneer, Bruck stepped clear of the salle.

Obi-Wan watched them go. The door closed behind his Master and he was concerned that Qui-Gon didn't look back. In moments, he was in Tereln's arms. The warmth of his lover's embrace soothed his shivering and settled the adrenaline rush that had overcome him.

"Force, Obi-Wan! I'm sorry I left you when I did. He must have been waiting for the opportunity."

Obi-Wan nodded, remembering the warning of months ago: 'Watch your back'. He looked into Tereln's aggrieved eyes. "Please don't apologize for leaving. Our duty is to the Jedi, Tereln. Your Master needed you."

Tereln looked like he was going to retort, but bit back a response and nodded. He studied Obi-Wan. "Did he hurt you?"


"You stood up to him, Obi-Wan. I'm proud of you."

"It's only because you and my Master arrived."

"Whatever gave you the strength, it's the first step. You must learn that your body is your own, and that you have the right to protect it."

Obi-Wan nodded, deep in thought, replaying the scene of a few minutes ago. The raw anger present in his Master's aura had struck him as extending beyond his Master's usual focus on the Moment. That shock had prompted him to turn on his attacker. Were it not for the intervention of the others, would he once again have been paralysed by Bruck's assault? He blinked and focussed himself to find Tereln watching him, his lover's anger dissipated by concern.

"What are you thinking?" Tereln asked gently.

Obi-Wan allowed himself to be comforted, but closed his eyes and remained silent.

"I'm so glad that Master Jinn sensed you were in trouble," Tereln murmured.

Obi-Wan nodded wordlessly. His Master had been withdrawn for the past week. The depth of Qui-Gon's anger, contrasted with his recent silence, troubled him. He thought back to the confrontation and Bruck's bitter insult: Jinn's fuck toys and Dark Side rejects. He knew it all led back to one thing.

"Tereln," Obi-Wan murmured, drawing back to look at him. "What do the Senior Padawans say about my Master's former Padawans?"

Tereln considered his answer. "I know they speak often of his last Padawan. The one that turned to the Dark Side."

"Xanatos," Obi-Wan said.

"Yes. There was a lot of speculation that your Master abused him, which caused him to turn."

"Do you believe that?"

"No," Tereln said.

"Neither do I."

Obi-Wan moved to his Master's side as Qui-Gon entered their common room. He hung up his Master's robe and helped to remove his boots. He then brewed some tea as Qui-Gon settled wearily on the couch. He brought a mug to his Master and deliberately sat at a distance from him.

"Padawan Chun and Master Sekara leave in the morning for Yavin," Qui-Gon said finally.

Obi-Wan nodded.

"I'm sorry this happened, Padawan. I'd hoped you could continue in peace."

"I know, Master. At least you and Tereln helped me to finally stand up to him."

Qui-Gon nodded, his expression distant.


"Yes, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon looked at him.

"I know we haven't talked about it before, but I just wanted you to know that I don't believe what has been said about what happened between you and Xanatos."

"I appreciate your candour," Qui-Gon said, although he was clearly disturbed by the change of topic.

"I know you would never harm an apprentice like that, Master."

"Why do you need to say this?" Qui-Gon asked.

"I just know that since that night of a week ago when you helped me, you have been disturbed, Master. You told me that I should not be ashamed of my body. You should not ashamed of me either."

"Of course I'm not, Obi-Wan."

"Then you need not punish yourself for having helped me, the same way you have helped me for the last five years, Master. By all accounts, I am an adult now. I understand our responsibilities as Jedi and our need to remain focussed for a few years. I just want you to know that I trust you with my life. I know that you never abused anyone."

"You know this?" Qui-Gon asked mildly.

"I do. I trust you, Master. I want you to trust yourself. You must release your feelings of guilt into the Force."

Qui-Gon finally smiled. "You are a wise young man, Obi-Wan. Wiser than your Master, it would seem. Thank you." He stood up and opened his arms, enfolding Obi-Wan into a hug.

Obi-Wan buried himself in the embrace for a long moment, before drawing back. "Let me start latemeal, Master."

Qui-Gon nodded. Before he could move, Obi-Wan turned back to him and met his gaze calmly.

"By the way, Master, I know you think that in a few years I'll feel differently about you. I just want you to know that will not be so." He grinned disarmingly, before turning away and moving to the kitchen.

Qui-Gon stood still in the wake of Obi-Wan's pronouncement. He finally let go of a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. Stay in the Moment, Jinn, he reminded himself as he moved to help Obi-Wan in the kitchen.

Obi-Wan unconsciously mimicked Qui-Gon's posture as he stood beside his Master, arms folded inside the sleeves of his robe. They were waiting for the platform to dock with their ship, so that they could greet the Kailean Prime Minister waiting on the other side of the hatch.

Obi-Wan wasn't far past his eighteenth name day. Six months had seen them settle into a regular mission rotation again, following a set of simpler missions close to Coruscant. Now that they travelled further afield, Obi-Wan needed only weekly contact with Master Lacilla, primarily to reassure her that all was well.

The mission to Kailea was notable in that they were returning to a diplomatic posting where Obi-Wan had been known as Abi-Wan. The response of the Kailean bureaucracy to his changes was an unknown, but the Council had decided that Obi-Wan was ready for the experience. He glanced at his Master, trading a smile before schooling his expression into the epitome of Jedi serenity.

The door opened and the Kailean Prime Minister, Al-Ureen, and two of his aides stepped forward to greet them.

"Welcome again to Kailea, Master Jinn," Al-Ureen bowed before him and turned to greet his apprentice perfunctorily. "You have a new apprentice?" he began and then recognition dawned on his face.

"This is my apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi," Qui-Gon introduced him formally. "He has changed his name, Prime Minister."

"But weren't you a..." Al-Ureen faltered.

"Yes, Prime Minister," Obi-Wan replied in a polite, cultured tone. "I was female, but I underwent a gender reassignment."

"Will that be a problem?" Qui-Gon asked mildly.

Obi-Wan recognized the defensive tone in his Master's voice and projected softly. //It's all right, Master.//

"Ummm, well, I don't know. I'm sure the Senator will be surprised. Perhaps if your apprentice could wait with the ship--"

"That is not acceptable," Qui-Gon replied. "You requested our presence specifically, Prime Minister."

"Of course, Master Jinn, but I didn't realize..."

"As I recall, Prime Minister," Qui-Gon went on smoothly, "during our last visit you commended my apprentice's role in negotiations. I do not see why your opinion should have changed. Obi-Wan has only grown in skill since then."

"Of course, Master Jinn. Perhaps your apprentice could wait here, merely while we consult with the Senator."

"Then I will wait here also," Qui-Gon said, nodding to indicate dismissal of the reception team.

//Master!// Obi-Wan prompted him quickly. //We mustn't insult our hosts.//

//As I see it, they have insulted us,// Qui-Gon replied, watching as the Prime Minister retreated hastily from the docking platform with his aides in tow.

//I don't mind staying with the ship if that is what they want, Master.//

//No, Obi-Wan. I will not accept prejudice. They requested our help, and they will get it once they have shown us basic respect.//

//Yes, Master,// Obi-Wan replied, recognizing the stubborn determination in his Master's mental voice. He wondered how much of this experience was intended to test them as a team.

After ten minutes, they became aware of the four figures stepping from the elevator onto the platform: the Senator for Kailea, a young woman in formal gown and two security guards. They remained silent until the small party stopped before them. The Senator's face was wrought with worry as he bowed to each of them.

"I'm so sorry for your poor welcome," the Senator apologized. "Prime Minister Al-Ureen is sometimes little better than a simple provincial official, unused to Inner Rim society. I do hope you were not offended."

"It is good to see you again, Senator," Qui-Gon replied graciously. "I confess I was concerned by the Prime Minister's reaction, given that we were specifically requested." He nodded towards Obi-Wan and began his introduction again. "This is my Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi."

"It is a pleasure," the Senator effused, stepping aside to introduce the young woman beside him. "This is my daughter, Nem'nara. It has been a few years since you last met, but perhaps you remember each other."

"Indeed, I do," Obi-Wan said, bowing and smiling.

Nem'nara curtseyed, examining Obi-Wan raptly. "I do look forward to reacquainting ourselves, Padawan Kenobi." She held out her hand

Obi-Wan stepped forward and offered her his arm. He glanced back to see Qui-Gon fall into step beside the Senator, amusement in his eyes, as they moved from the docking platform.

At latemeal, Obi-Wan strode as quickly as Jedi dignity would allow to the private garden he had booked on his return to the Temple. He already knew from the response to his comm that Tereln would meet him there. It had been two months since he had been in Temple, and four since they had been in Temple at the same time.

When he arrived, he found Tereln's name already entered in the data terminal near the door. Smiling, he engaged the privacy lock and went in search of his lover. The small space was overgrown with ferns and gave the illusion of a much larger space, concealing as it did the perimeters of the garden. He parted the fronds of a fern and stepped into the clearing beyond. He was treated to the sight of his lover lying sensually on his robe spread on some bracken, dressed only in the leggings of his uniform. Tereln's face was calm and if not asleep, he was close to it.

Obi-Wan lost no time in removing his clothes. He knelt beside Tereln, noticing and kissing a new scar on Tereln's shoulder. It was already fine and pale from repeated bacta treatment, but Obi-Wan gently tended it with his tongue. Tereln's hand ran lazily through his hair as the older Padawan lay back and enjoyed the attention.

"Missed you," Tereln murmured, moaning as Obi-Wan leaned up to cover his mouth and plundered it with his tongue before moving down his body again, gently biting and teasing his skin. He arched as Obi-Wan sucked at his nipples, and pulled his leggings down from his hips. His moan transformed to a soft cry as Obi-Wan's hand slipped down the length of his cock to enclose it at the base, tongue working long, lazy strokes along its length.

Obi-Wan tasted the slight bitterness of his lover and closed his mouth over the head, sucking gently. Feeling Tereln stiffening against him, he slipped his fingers down to part Tereln's labia, finding them already slick with lubrication. His fingers slipped inside, finding a rhythm to match the one he set with his lips and tongue. Within a minute, Tereln shuddered beneath him, muscles clenching around his fingers and semen bursting thick on his tongue. Tereln pulled on his braid gently and he obeyed the prompt to move back up to share some languorous kisses.

"Force, I love you," Tereln whispered. "It's been too long, Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan sighed and nuzzled his head against Tereln's shoulder.

Tereln felt Obi-Wan's erection nudge his thigh, and reached down to reciprocate.

"Soon," Obi-Wan murmured, intercepting his hand and surprising Tereln. "I just want to be with you for a moment."

"Your control is becoming impressive," Tereln said, teasing his lips with his tongue. "I dare say you could give one of Master Keiroth's lectures on Jedi control and sexuality." He smiled as Obi-Wan gave into a bright laugh.

"You forget one thing," Obi-Wan whispered, nuzzling against his ear. "Master Keiroth is a believer in celibacy. And I clearly, am not." To emphasize his statement, he writhed sensually against his lover.

"Point taken," Tereln agreed.

"I simply have taken your wisdom to heart."

"What particular wisdom is that, my love?"

"One of the first things you told me was how you managed to thrive in Temple -- despite the difference you felt between yourself and the other Padawans -- by developing advanced skills for self, strength and serenity."

"Yes," Tereln said fondly, "although I told you that Master Yoda imparted that wisdom to me originally."

"Hmmm," Obi-Wan agreed, "but you shared it with me freely, as you have so many things."

"As you have shared so much with me," Tereln said, stroking his lover's face as Obi-Wan moved to settle between his legs. This time an unhurried hunger overtook them.

Obi-Wan tasted his lover's mouth, thrusting his tongue in time with the slow rhythm of their hips, feeling Tereln's long hands curving around his flank and a finger dipping inside him. He moaned and angled his body to increase the penetration, having already prepared himself for their encounter.

"What do you want?" Tereln asked huskily.

"Force... everything. How long have we got?"

"All night, my love. All night."

"Then I want you," Obi-Wan whispered, nibbling at his ear, "to be in you and then to have you in me. Soft, hard, and everything in between."

"So, let's begin," Tereln murmured, hooking his ankles around Obi-Wan and pulling him closer.

Obi-Wan was soon encased in moist heat, the delicious friction sending sparks of fire throughout his groin as he thrust inside his lover, letting his body brush against Tereln's renewed erection as they moved together. This time it was Obi-Wan who climaxed first, as Tereln's muscles clenched around him, shuddering in orgasm. He rained hard kisses on the lips beneath his before falling sated onto the robe beside Tereln, their limbs entwined.

They drifted into sleep for a while before stirring to love again.

Obi-Wan woke some time later to find Tereln seated beside him, setting out the makings of a small meal of fruit, cheese, and bread. He opened his mouth indulgently as Tereln fed him small pieces of food. Once their appetites were satisfied, they moved into each other's arms again.

"How long are you in Temple this time?" Tereln asked

"Just two days," Obi-Wan sighed.

"You'll miss the Intermediate competition again this year?"

"You won't be in it," Obi-Wan said, a small grin tugging at his lips. "It won't be as exciting."

A wistful longing settled over Tereln's features.

Obi-Wan brushed his lips against Tereln's lightly. "Let's just stay in the Moment. I don't want to think about leaving just yet."

"Speaking of staying in the moment," Tereln prompted softly. "How is your Master?"

"He is well. As supportive as ever... perhaps even overprotective." Obi-Wan recounted the incident on Kailea.

Tereln smiled and brushed his fingers against Obi-Wan's cheek. "Why are you here with me?"

Obi-Wan looked at him with confusion.

"Have you ever wondered why we haven't formed a bond, Obi-Wan?"

The gentle resignation in Tereln's question settled heavily in Obi-Wan's stomach. He nodded.

Tereln sat up beside him and took his hands. "I love you so much, and I know you love me but it is not the same love. Your love is for him: for Master Jinn."

Obi-Wan's cheeks coloured and he looked down. He let Tereln lift his face, despite the tears that had welled in his eyes. Tereln's fingers ghosted over his eyelids.

"I knew what we had wasn't going to last. I won't lie. I will miss you, and it will be hard for me to let you go, but that is what I must do. You need to be free to approach your Master."

"He's indicated that it isn't time: that it won't be for years yet."

"Let me share some other wisdom with you, my love," Tereln said, kissing the hands he held in his.

Obi-Wan remained silent.

"In some things," Tereln continued softly, "the Padawan is wiser than the Master. You must follow the guidance of the Force and your heart."

"Tereln, I--" Obi-Wan was suddenly choked by emotion.

"Shhh," Tereln hushed him. "Lie with me." He lay back on the robe, pulling Obi-Wan down into his arms.

Obi-Wan melded his body with Tereln's, wanting no further words spoken between them. They exchanged subdued yet passionate kisses. He rolled onto his back, pulling Tereln on top of him.

Following the non-verbal prompt, Tereln rocked against him and drew Obi-Wan's legs up over his thighs, guiding himself inside his young lover. He thrust slowly, his hand stroking Obi-Wan's erection as they moved together. Finally they came, one after the other, and collapsed again, wrapped in each other's arms. They kissed for a time, until sleep overcame them.

Obi-Wan jerked awake from the nightmare, red and black fading into the shadows of his awareness and taking with them the horror of holding his dying Master in his arms. He sat up and calmed his breathing, anchoring himself in his surroundings: his small room in their quarters on Coruscant. His Master rested nearby in the main stateroom. He tentatively checked their bond and found the calming rhythms of his Master in sleep.

Obi-Wan climbed from his bed and padded to the 'fresher. It was early and outside the Coruscant night held domain. They had a free day tomorrow, having just returned from an intense six months on their latest mission rotation. He washed up and went to the kitchen to make some tea. He absently selected his Master's favourite, a spicy blend called erkta'an, finding the aroma grounding and reassuring.

As he sat at the kitchen counter, cradling his mug, he was surprised to see his Master's door open.

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon asked softly, "did you have a nightmare?"

Obi-Wan nodded, unwittingly remembering the devastating image of cradling Qui-Gon in his arms, of seeing the mortal wound through his Master's chest.

Qui-Gon excused himself and went into the 'fresher. On his return, he placed a hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder. "May I join you?"

Obi-Wan nodded again, his eyes focussed on the countertop as Qui-Gon poured himself some tea and sat at the counter beside him.

"Would you like to talk about it?"

Obi-Wan thought about how this nightmare had recurred twice in the last year and twice in the two years before that. He knew that recurrent dreams usually had prescient implications, but he could not countenance this future. He refocussed his mind to find his Master still waiting for a response. He shook his head.

Qui-Gon looked thoughtfully into his own mug, sipping at the tea and noting Obi-Wan's choice without comment. "It's been a busy time for us, Padawan," he remarked. "I hope you have the opportunity to visit with your friends."

"Bant's in Temple," Obi-Wan agreed amiably. "I'm sure we will be able to visit."

"What of Tereln?"

"He's on a mission rotation at the moment."

Qui-Gon suspected that his Padawan's relationship with the young Mekterian had ended months ago, at which time Obi-Wan had begun steering discussion away from Tereln. On the last occasion that they'd met, their embrace remained warm and caring, but it was clear that something had changed between them. He studied his tea once more and changed the subject. "I thought you disliked this tea."

"No... It... reminds me of you, Master," Obi-Wan admitted.

"This nightmare," Qui-Gon ventured. "Does it concern me?"

Obi-Wan nodded.

"It distresses you."

"You die in my arms." Obi-Wan looked away from him, trying to suppress the emotion in his voice.

"You've dreamt this before."

"Yes, Master."

"One day I shall join with the Force, Obi-Wan. Whether or not it is how you've dreamt, it will happen."

"That doesn't mean I have to like it," Obi-Wan replied tersely, putting his mug down and getting up from the counter. He stopped as Qui-Gon caught his arm and prevented his retreat.

"Padawan," Qui-Gon stood beside him, gently directing Obi-Wan's face upwards to be surprised by the shine of restrained tears in Obi-Wan's eyes. "Master Yoda tells us that the future is always in motion. Why do you let this dream disturb you so?"

"Because," Obi-Wan replied, "in the dream I am still a Padawan, and I haven't yet told you how I feel about you. By the time I do, it's too late."

Qui-Gon regarded him solemnly. "How do you feel about me?"

"Do you really want to hear?" Obi-Wan replied, surprised at the tinge of bitterness in his voice. "Perhaps we should just wait to see where the Force leads us?"

"Perhaps I want to stop running and live in the Moment, Obi-Wan." His heart ached at the conflict between desire and control in Obi-Wan's expression. He brushed the pad of his thumb across Obi-Wan's chin.

Obi-Wan drew a soft breath and shuddered, his eyes flickering shut. He opened them again as his hands moved up to capture Qui-Gon's hand, and pressed his lips reverently to its palm. The apparent pain in Qui-Gon's eyes made him release his Master's hand in confusion.

Before Obi-Wan could back away, Qui-Gon took Obi-Wan's chin in his hand. This time his thumb drifted against his Padawan's lips. "Tell me."

"I love you, Master," Obi-Wan murmured, caressing Qui-Gon's thumb with his lips as he spoke. "I have loved you for over three years now. The need for you is a place in me that can be filled by no one else."

"What of Tereln?" Qui-Gon asked, his voice roughened with emotion.

"Tereln and I separated because I could not form a bond with him. He needed that from me, yet the Force did not grant us one because of my love for you. He freed me to be with you."

A long silence existed between them. Finally, Obi-Wan leant up, touching his lips tentatively to Qui-Gon's. He sighed, lips parted, as Qui-Gon capitulated. A warm breath of the erkta'an tea filled his senses as Qui-Gon's tongue stroked against his. In moments, he was crushed against Qui-Gon's chest in a tight embrace, his Master's lips against his ear.

"How can you be sure, Obi-Wan? Do you really want this? I will not be content with a mere casual liaison with you."

"I am an adult, Master. I know my own heart. I want this. I want you. Beyond this life, with all my soul."

"And would you agree to have our relationship examined by the Council?"

"Yes!" Obi-Wan cried softly. "I'll submit to questioning by the entire Jedi Order if I must." He saw the doubt fighting for supremacy in Qui-Gon's eyes as the Jedi Master drew back to look at him. "How can I prove myself to you, Master?"

"It's not you. It's quite the reverse."

"What do you need to prove, Master? Why do you need to run? Tell me."

Qui-Gon nodded absently, yet remained silent.

//Tell me,// Obi-Wan pleaded.

He gasped as Qui-Gon took his face in his hands, their foreheads touching. //Because I know what it means to be abused by someone.// Qui-Gon's fingers stroked his face as he spoke, as if excusing the bluntness of his words. //Master... Count Dooku... initiated something that he would not... allow to end. So it did not end, until he defected...// Qui-Gon's emotions flooded their bond.

Obi-Wan saw ample evidence in that jangled rush of fear and anger to know that Qui-Gon's first Master, Count Dooku, had abused their training bond and their master-apprentice relationship, leaving Qui-Gon shattered in its wake. He reeled in the horror of it, even as he projected warmth into their bond. //Did you tell Master Yoda?//

//No -- he must not find out.//

//Have you been alone with this all these years, Master?// Obi-Wan kissed Qui-Gon's face, shivering with the vulnerability between them now that his Master had let his shielding down.

//I have had lovers,// Qui-Gon admitted, //but over the years, the memories became harder to ignore. I began to avoid relationships. I have remained close to the Force: I have not been alone.//

//Master, how could you believe that this could happen between us?//

Qui-Gon gave him a look that suggested the answer was self-evident.

//No, Master, this is not the same. Not the same,// Obi-Wan soothed, stroking his Master's face, his fingers lovingly caressing beard, temple and brow.

"How so?" Qui-Gon demanded.

"Because," Obi-Wan said, replacing his fingers with his lips, "if I said no to you, you would stop. You would go no further." His lips wandered, tasting his Master's skin and brushing against Qui-Gon's beard. Sensing the uncertainty in his Master's aura, he whispered. "Be in the Moment with me, Qui-Gon. I need you. You won't hurt me, and I won't hurt you. Please. I trust you with my life. Trust me."

"The Council," Qui-Gon murmured, wavering in his need to keep distance, exposed as he was before the one he trusted as much as his connection to the Force.

"We shall see them. We will seek their sanction, but not today. We are going to stay in the Moment, Master. Today, we are going to be with each other and love each other."

Qui-Gon could no longer maintain his facade of control and distance. A sigh upon his lips, he took Obi-Wan's face in his hands and kissed him. He quickly deepened the kiss, reassured by the wash of passion feeding back across their bond.

"Yes," Obi-Wan murmured, opening his lips and accepting the exploration of his mouth: his mind and body dizzy with sensation. He pressed himself closer to Qui-Gon's body.

"Will you join me in my bed?" Qui-Gon whispered.

"Yes. Yes, I want to. Please."

Obi-Wan let Qui-Gon lead him into the dimly lit stateroom, where he proceeded to kiss his Master again. He began to remove Qui-Gon's sleep tunic, covering his Master's skin as it was exposed with kisses and tasting him with long, lazy strokes of his tongue.

Qui-Gon reached for Obi-Wan also, running his fingers through the younger man's hair and pulling at the ties of Obi-Wan's sleep tunic. He watched raptly as Obi-Wan slipped out of reach for a moment to remove his own tunic, a grin on his face. //Ohhh, I have missed your smile, Padawan,// Qui-Gon said with longing and contentment.

//I have reason to smile now,// Obi-Wan replied, pulling Qui-Gon to follow him onto the bed. They both sighed at the contact of skin against skin as their bodies merged. He sensed residual concern in his Master's aura and tugged his Master's head down towards his, meeting him in a hungry kiss. //Feel, don't think, Qui-Gon.// Sensing Qui-Gon's surrender to the Moment, he lay back and writhed as large hands and his Master's lips explored his torso. He moaned aloud as Qui-Gon teased his nipples to hardness, enclosing each in the moist heat of his mouth in turn. His skin was explored, teased, caressed, kissed and sucked. Blood flooded to his groin. Feeling Qui-Gon's cock pressed against his thigh, he arched toward him and tried to maximize the contact.

Qui-Gon knelt up and met Obi-Wan's eyes, flushed as they were with desire, as he pulled Obi-Wan's leggings down over his hips and to his ankles. He maintained eye contact as Obi-Wan kicked his feet out of the restraining fabric.

//It would seem, Master, that you have too many clothes on,// Obi-Wan teased.

//I shall have to remedy that,// Qui-Gon smiled, easing his leggings down and climbing out of them. He let his eyes wander appraisingly over Obi-Wan's body, sensing insecurity flow through the younger man, aware that this was the first time they had seen each other naked. //By the Force, you're beautiful,// he murmured appreciatively, his hand grazing across stomach and flank, running along the inside of a thigh and coming up to cup Obi-Wan's scrotum, gently toying with its weight in his hand.

Obi-Wan writhed on the bed. As Qui-Gon's hand moved up to enclose his erection, he tipped over the edge, the speed of his orgasm taking him by surprise. He drifted close to unconsciousness, opening his eyes to see Qui-Gon's face hovering over him as his Master teased the last sensation out of his body, thumb brushing lightly over the head of his cock. //Master!// he gasped, //you're going to...// Then he was coming again, much to Qui-Gon's delight.

//It seems I have much to learn about you, Beloved,// Qui-Gon smiled, looking satisfied with himself.

Obi-Wan wriggled out of his grasp and without preface, reached to enclose his Master's cock in his hand. //I could say the same,// he remarked, stroking his fingers back and forth in a rhythmic fashion. He smiled as Qui-Gon swiftly became non-verbal. Making full use of his advantage, Obi-Wan straddled his Master's hips, pushing him back onto the bed and replacing the rhythmic motion of his hand with his body.

//Obi-Wan!// Within a minute, Qui-Gon shuddered as his orgasm hit hard, warm semen splashing between their bodies.

Obi-Wan collapsed beside his Master and was pulled into a fierce embrace. He sighed and nuzzled his lips close to Qui-Gon's ear. "I love you."

"And I love you, Obi-Wan... Beloved."

Obi-Wan grabbed his leggings and cleaned them up, before pulling a sheet across them and settling down in his Master's arms.

Qui-Gon stroked Obi-Wan's face with the pads of his fingertips, before pulling Obi-Wan close. In minutes, they were asleep, exhausted from the emotions and the passions of their minds and bodies.

When Obi-Wan next woke, the day was filtering through the high, narrow window. His Master's arm was around his waist, a thigh draped across his leg, and a morning erection pressed against him. He fidgeted until Qui-Gon's eyelids shot open, blue eyes regarding him muzzily at first before igniting with passion.

//Master, I dare say this is the first time in years I've woken up before you,// he teased.

//That might have something to do with the workout you put this old man through last night.//

//Luminous beings, we are, Master,// Obi-Wan lectured him mischievously, //not this crude matter.// To prove his point he wriggled, nudging Qui-Gon's cock with his thigh. He stretched out sensually as Qui-Gon's hands wandered over his body. //Want you...// he projected, turning so that he pressed back against Qui-Gon to reinforce his meaning.

//Can you?// Qui-Gon asked, new as he was to the intimacy of Obi-Wan's body.

//Oh, yes,// Obi-Wan said, his eyes bright as he looked back at his Master. //You'll be amazed what I can do with this body.//

Qui-Gon chuckled then and pressed a kiss to Obi-Wan's brow. //I don't doubt it. However, we'll need some lubricant...// Before he could finish the thought, Obi-Wan was out of the bed and hurrying to his room to fetch a jar.

Obi-Wan slipped back in beside him, offering the lubricant to Qui-Gon.

Qui-Gon took a generous amount on his fingers and reached down, gently working a broad finger into the entrance to Obi-Wan's body. The resulting moan made him bolder, as he pushed inside. It didn't take much exploration to find the place where the missing prostate had been simulated with enhanced neural sensation.

"Force!" Obi-Wan groaned.

Qui-Gon experimentally teased his finger in and out, stroking the sensitized flesh.

Obi-Wan hissed, "I'm not going to last too long if you do that."

"Hmmm. From what I've seen, Padawan, you recover quickly."

Obi-Wan twisted his head around, stealing a kiss. "I do have limits, Master." He thrust back against Qui-Gon.

"I hope to find them all," Qui-Gon murmured.

//Start with inside me -- now!// Obi-Wan shot back.

Qui-Gon took more of the lubricant on his fingers, spreading it over his cock and guiding himself into Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan thrust back, impaling himself further and drawing a hiss from Qui-Gon's lips.

"Are you all right?" Qui-Gon asked, his voice thick with the effort of controlling the desire to thrust deeper.

"Hmmm," Obi-Wan murmured. "More."

Qui-Gon continued to push in slowly, until he was fully sheathed. He paused, running his hand along Obi-Wan's flank, and then enclosed Obi-Wan's cock. The bond surged between them and he gasped.

"Master, can you feel it?" Obi-Wan breathed in awe, reaching back to touch Qui-Gon's face.

"Yes," Qui-Gon whispered, letting his mind open to the bond between them: sky-blue and green ribbons of light enfolding each other in a dance that matched their bodies. He was momentarily overwhelmed as Obi-Wan began to move his hips forward and back, the younger man's pleasure feeding into his, energy strumming between them.

//The Force is singing, Master,// Obi-Wan projected, caught in the tide of their pleasure and feeling the dual sensations of entering his lover and being entered.

//As are we,// Qui-Gon replied -- the brilliance of the bond growing between them as they joined in body and mind.

Finally they stilled, nuzzling close, their minds connected in a new and intimate way. After a long time, drifting in and out of sleep, Obi-Wan touched his Master's mind affectionately.


//Yes, my Beloved?//

//When we go before the Council, you can be the first to explain how our training bond became a soul bond.//

Qui-Gon caught the cheeky grin on his face and chuckled softly, pulling Obi-Wan against him. //You do realize that they will want to hear it from you first. They must satisfy themselves that I did not coerce you in any way.//

//Oh, I think it was quite the opposite, Master,// Obi-Wan remarked, rolling over and swinging himself up to straddle Qui-Gon's hips.

Qui-Gon looked up into his Padawan's eyes. He raised a questioning eyebrow at the mischief flickering there.

//Master, would you still love me if I were female?//

Qui-Gon paused, pretending to take time to consider.

Obi-Wan cut short the hesitation, covering his Master's body, and rocking against him.

//Please,// Qui-Gon gasped. //I am not as young as you.//

Obi-Wan grinned then, leaning down to gently nip at Qui-Gon's chest. //Hmmm. I guess it doesn't matter now. You'll see the advantages of having a hormonally-driven male for a lover.//

//I don't doubt it,// Qui-Gon returned affectionately, leaning up for a kiss.

Obi-Wan poured all his love into the shimmering bond between them, returning his Master's kiss with all the promise of the Moment: the future and the past put aside, for now.