Forgotten: Roles Reversed

by Trudy West (

Title: Forgotten: Roles Reversed
Author: Trudy West,
Archive: MA, BIC, others probably OK, email to ask
Categories: Q/O, POV, Angst, AU
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: multiple references to past abuse, including rape and injury
Summary: A failed pleasure slave is bought by one of his previous masters
Author's Comments: This is a companion piece. Some very kind people emailed me and said they liked the first Forgotten story, and asked for a sequel, so the inspiration for this next story belongs to them. The original plot bunny may have expired for good, but this sibling popped up full-blown like Athena from the brow of Zeus. I started wondering how the same basic plot would have played out with Obi-wan and Qui-gon in reversed roles: how Obi's experience as a slave would logically be different from Qui's, how that would influence his mindset, etc. This is the result. If you're read Forgotten, you know what to expect: familiar plot elements scrambled in a slightly new way. If you haven't, this can be read stand-alone. This one was cranked out a little faster, so there may be more boo-boos, for which I take full responsibility.

My sense of hearing is excellent. That's not always desirable. I've heard things that I very much wish I had never heard. Right now my sharp ears meant that I could hear the conversation between Grieg and the buyer when they were still far down the corridor.

The buyer's voice was one I didn't recognize. "I appreciate your taking the time. All the ones you've shown me are good quality, they just aren't quite right."

Grieg's voice had that cheerful, disarming timbre that he uses with buyers whom he thinks are patsies. "I completely understand. Why spend money unless you can get exactly what you want? But I have an intuition that this next may be the one."

The voices were getting closer.

Grieg continued, "Now, I wouldn't show this next one to just anybody because, frankly, between you and me, most owners don't know how to handle a rare type like this. That's what led to his current situation: his previous owners mismanaged him, so he comes with a history, but for a discerning buyer who appreciates this type and doesn't mind a few minor cosmetic issues, he's a real bargain."

The other voice said, "It depends on what you mean by history and minor cosmetic issues. But let's have a look at him."

By this time, I knew where they were headed. Straight to my cell. That description could only apply to me.

Grieg appeared at the bars, followed by another man. My first impression was size -- he was tall, a head above Grieg, which meant a head above me as well. He towered behind Grieg like a bodyguard behind a potbellied rich merchant, which was what Grieg was, if you overlooked the fact that his merchandise was sentient.

"Come over here, boy, and let our guest have a look at you," said Grieg with an amiable wave, but with a glint in his eye that said if I didn't cooperate, I'd regret it, later if not immediately.

I approached to a couple of paces from the bars, close enough to be examined, but far enough away for them to get a full view.

The tall man, the buyer, stepped close to the bars, grasping one as he looked in at me. He looked me straight in the face and held my eyes. That was unusual. Most buyers are more interested in other body parts, but he didn't even browse me up and down. I took a good look back. He was obviously patrician class, although his clothing was rough and simple. A noble House fallen on hard times. Or maybe he was from a strongly traditionalist House, like some I'd heard of, that shunned the decadence of the cities and had an austere lifestyle. That might explain his long hair and trimmed beard, quite different from the current urban fashion.

It was hard to read his character from his appearance and the little he'd said so far. He seemed intelligent, educated and refined without being fussy. His expression was shuttered, although I sensed a heat and interest behind it. There could be a stern disciplinarian or a soft heart behind that face. Impossible to tell.

I had to decide within seconds what I was going to do. If he seemed a relatively safe mark, a chance to get out of here and then escape, then I could be very charming in order to get myself bought. If he seemed a worse option than Grieg and the pens, then I'd act up and scare him away. I'd run buyers off before, much to Grieg's annoyance, but he couldn't punish me so severely that it affected my looks, or it would lower my price point. He'd zap me with the pain collar a few times, skip a few meals, but nothing so serious that it would show in my physical condition. We both knew that I was in control of this game, not him.

Grieg gave me a warning glare and a little gesture that I should be agreeable.  I ignored him.

The buyer said, "So what do you mean, he has a history and cosmetic defects?"

Grieg waved at me to strip while he kept talking, and I obeyed, shrugging out of the vest and peeling the tight pants down my legs. "I wouldn't call them defects, really, just part of his very interesting package. Adds to his appeal, really. He's mindwiped, of course. Can't remember a thing. My personal theory is that he was kidnapped from a patrician's retinue and then scrubbed -- he's too high quality to come from a regular slave mill, or from off the street somewhere. As you can see, he's wearing a standard pain collar and a not-so-standard psi-suppressor -- which means he has some psi talents. I'm sorry but I don't know exactly what. He was bought a few months back by an adult entertainment syndicate. We warned them that he probably wasn't the brothel type, and that he was too much for the average fellow to master, but they loved his looks and said some of their customers liked whores with fire and spirit, so they bought him. They gave him the full set of piercings as you can see, put him to work, and that first night he was cracking heads and breaking arms. We told him he was a trained fighter, but they didn't listen -- see that scar on his shoulder, you don't get a cut like that from falling down the stairs. So they gave him a shunt, and that helped, but not enough."

"What's a shunt?" asked the buyer.

"Hmm, you don't buy slaves very often, do you? They're very common now. You implant a reservoir, usually in the neck, so it feeds into the big vein, and that's how you give them their drug mix. See that small circle near his collarbone? That's the insert. It's so convenient, you fill the reservoir, it adapts the dosage based on their metabolism, health, etc. It's an investment, but it's worth it. The mechanism is very reliable, never breaks down, so you just put it in and forget about it. These newer models, like he's got, are full feature, with the finder beacon, proximity limit and detonator all in one. Now where was I? Oh yes, so they shunted him and tried various calmative blends on him, but none of them really worked. Like now, we have him on strong stuff because we don't have time to train him properly here, but it only makes him groggy, not docile. Again, he's a special type, and you have to appreciate the costs and benefits of that, and not rely on the approaches that work with the common slave mentality."

The buyer asked, "What about those bracelets? And the scarring on his chest and hip?"

"He was returned with those on him, the numbcuffs. His previous owners thought he was too clever by half, he even tried to tear out the shunt one time when he was really upset. The numbcuffs interfere with the nerves into his hands, so his dexterity is reduced and he can't do any harm with his grip. If you remove the cuffs, the effect wears off after awhile, with no lasting impairment. Numbcuffs aren't not used much, most slaves need full use of their hands to do their jobs, but he obviously didn't need his hands for what he was doing. I would assume that after he settles in with a new master, his owner will take those off." Grieg glanced significantly at the buyer, but the man didn't take the bait. "The scars are where they burned off his previous ownership tattoos. If you take the time to lift the ink it doesn't have to leave a mark, but they were annoyed with him, so they just branded them off, with a hot knife blade, looks like. Stupid of them, but their loss is someone else's gain, because now that he's not top grade aesthetic, he's discount price."

The tall man hadn't turned away, so he hadn't heard anything from Grieg that put him off me too much yet. Grieg wound up for the clincher. "In short, he's a unique property. He's strong, healthy, smart, fighting trained. If you want him for breeding, he's intact, fertile and of course beautiful. He's bedtrained enough to be used, but still tight and fresh. I checked that myself. You can try him out if you like, free of charge. High-strung and a handful, but the best thoroughbreds always are. A real collector's item for a buyer who's looking for challenging but rewarding project."

The buyer's mouth was tight, and he was frowning. His knuckles were white against the bar. I wondered what had come to his mind to upset him. Perhaps he didn't like such a direct sales pitch.

I had made my decision. This tall man was the best choice for an owner that I'd seen so far, either here in the pens or back at the brothel. This was my chance, I knew it, I could sense it. I came close to him, separated only by the bars, and reached up to touch his hand. "Please, sir, take me. I want to go with you," I said.

His eyes widened fractionally, and he glanced at Grieg. "What's the matter with his voice? It sounds like he's got a lung infection."

"Ah, that low husky bedroom voice?" Grieg imitated it, and laughed. "Some of our buyers really favor that and pay extra for it. But it's an accident. Sometimes when they cut to put the implant in the neck, they damage the nerves that control the vocal cords. That's what happened to him. His lungs are perfectly healthy. He can talk, but he'll always be soft-voiced. Talk for him, boy. Say that little poem you like so much."

I recited the litany that I remembered imperfectly. "There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no death...there is no death..." That was where I always got stuck.  This fragment was one of the few things I remembered from before the wipe. I didn't know what it meant.

The buyer didn't seem to be listening. He was staring back into my cell, his brow knitted. I glanced over my shoulder. Uh oh, my cot with the manacles.

With my most sincere, wide-eyed expression, I said, "Master, we won't need those. I won't resist unless you want me to." Grieg rolled his eyes. He knew me well enough not to believe that. But the tall man didn't.

The buyer said, "I've seen enough. How much?"

Grieg beamed. "I've been quoting five thousand, but I want him to go to the right home, and he likes you, so I'll do four thousand five hundred, just for you. And I'll throw in three months' supply of his drug mix, and all the clothes and toys his previous owners left with him."

"Done," said the tall man. "I'll take him now."

"With the price, you get clean-up included -- wash, full body shave, the works, if you can wait a few minutes."

"No," said the buyer, "I'll take him as is."

"Wonderful," Grieg effused, and retracted the bars of my cage. "Bring your things, boy, and come along."

"And put your clothes back on," said my new owner. He must be from one of the traditional puritanical Houses. Most owners preferred to keep their pleasure slaves naked at least to the waist, to admire and show off. If he was a traditionalist, that was encouraging, because I might reserved for his personal use alone, rather than handed around as part of an evening's festivities, as tended to happen here in the city.

Carrying the duffel, I followed the two of them a respectful several steps behind. I would go along peaceably until I could find out what my options were, outside.

Grieg and my buyer went over the terms of purchase. Grieg fished a supply of my meds from the storage cabinet. "Here, I'll top off his tank and show you how to do it," he said to the tall man. "Looks a bit like a small blaster, doesn't it. Full vial in the hilt, eject when it's empty and put in another. The gun reads his implant and knows how much to add." Grieg placed the pressuregun against my shunt intake and squeezed the trigger. The reservoir hadn't run empty, so I didn't feel any increase of the drug into my system; when they fill the tank after it's run dry, I get an initial burn as the meds restart the flow into my vein. My new owner watched sharply; he must be nervous about this technology that was new to him. Grieg put the gun in my bag along with the extra vials and said, "It's foolproof, really. You can't overdose him with the gun, only by changing the absorption parameters with his control bar. If you'd rather not do that yourself, have a medtech do it for you." 

Grieg showed my owner the control bar. "It's self explanatory, just read the menu and select your option. You'll need to adjust the distance alarm and the autodestruct to fit your requirements. His health and prior ownership records are in there too, you can upload them to your own files. Otherwise, that's it. Have fun with him, you've made an excellent purchase. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions." Grieg gave the tall man a hearty slap on the shoulder, then took my chin in his hand. "Goodbye, handsome boy. You behave yourself."

"Goodbye, Master Grieg," I rasped in my hoarse voice. Goodbye, you miserable slaver, you profiteer from people's misery. I hope you rot in the lowest of the seven hells. Then I felt guilty for my anger. Anger is a negative emotion and can easily turn towards evil deeds.  I didn't remember who taught me that, but I remembered the lesson.

"Come with me," said my new owner, and I followed him out of the pens.

The sky was a pretty pink-and-red as the sun set through the clouds. My owner walked quickly in the direction of the spaceport, and I had a warning twinge. I realized that I didn't want to leave the city. This was the only place I knew or remembered, and even though I didn't know it very well, it was better trying to escape and hide here than to escape in a totally foreign place, a space station or another planet. Gods forbid, if he was a traditionalist, he might live out in a remote backwater, where I'd have no chance at all to escape and get lost in an urban slum. If it looked like we were getting on a ship, I'd have to think fast.

Unfortunately, we entered the port. We headed towards the freight section, so he must have his own ship and crew, rather than relying on commercial passenger transports. I needed to make a break for it, soon.

Along the corridor there were open doors that revealed ships at dock or cluttered warehouses. The warehouses were a good place to hide until I could find a way out of the port. I needed to have my control with me, though, otherwise he'd track me or even trigger my implanted detonator. The tall man was still holding the bar in his hand from when Grieg gave it to him.

When we were a few steps past one open door, I cried out, stumbled, and crouched down, holding my ankle as if in pain. He swiftly knelt down next to me, asking "What is it?" and reaching for my foot, bending down to look. To free both hands, he placed the control on the floor next to us.

I smashed my forehead into his face as hard as I could, and he fell back. I grabbed the control, threw the bag at him, and bolted. In an instant I was through the door and inside the warehouse, dodging among the containers and equipment. I saw a stairway leading to a catwalk that ended in a closed door. That was my best route.  Up the stairs, one two three four flights, along the catwalk at full speed.

The door was locked. 

I dashed back along the walkway but then saw my owner rushing towards the foot of the stairs.

I spun around to try the door again, but my weak numbcuffed grip on the control bar slipped, and I dropped it. It skittered along the mesh of the catwalk and over the edge. I watched it fall, tumbling, until it hit the floor with a loud metallic pop.

I couldn't run, not without that control bar.  I had to get it back. But the only way down was past my owner, who was climbing the stairs, blood pouring from his nose, a thunderous expression on his face.

He saw me watching his approach, and I must have looked desperate, because he started to talk to me. "Calm down," he said, projecting his voice across the distance between us. "I won't hurt you. You can't stay here, it's not safe. Don't fight. Come with me. We'll go to my ship, and we'll talk."

I had to time it until the last possible second. I waited until he reached the top of the stairs and advanced along the catwalk.

There was another way down.

The four-story drop was too much to fall all at once, but there was a stack of containers a short distance across from the catwalk. It was about two stories high. I might break a bone, or more than one, but it was worth trying.

I put a foot up on the railing and lunged over. I heard my owner's shout behind me as I flew through the air.

I landed successfully on the container stack, rolled to absorb the impact, bounced up and off again, down to the floor. Nothing broken, at least nothing that I noticed right away. I hit close to the control bar, snatched it, and ran for the door. 

My feet flew out from under me inexplicably, and I fell flat on my face, hard. That hurt worse than the jumps. I knocked the breath out of myself, and as I scrambled to get up, two big hands clamped on my shoulders. My owner. I swung to hit him across the face with the control bar, but he blocked the blow, seized my wrist and twisted it. I barked at the pain and dropped the control, which he deftly caught and tucked away into his clothing. I tried to strike him again and suddenly he had both my arms twisted up behind my back.

"That's enough of that," my owner said in my ear, or rather to my scalp, since he overtopped me by a full head. "I didn't go to all this trouble to have you get away from me now."

He frog-marched me through the corridor. I didn't know how he had caught me. I couldn't imagine that he jumped down after me, but there was no other way he could have reached the ground that fast.

We walked into a dock, where sat a small battered freighter. I didn't see any crew around, perhaps they were already on board. As we approached the ship, there was a call from behind us. "Excuse me, is this yours?" It was a dockworker with the bag, which we had both abandoned in the hallway.

"Yes, thanks," said my owner. "Just put it around his neck, if you please." The worker did, not meeting my eyes. No one interferes with a master disciplining a slave.

With the bag bumping against my belly, he hustled me up into the ship. He closed the ramp, then released me, ripped the bag from around my neck, spun me around and shoved me against the wall. Here it comes, I thought, and braced myself for the strike or the pain collar. I knew when to quit. I wouldn't fight back. I would take my punishment and just hope that he didn't do something permanent in his fury. Like put out my eyes, or cut off my hands or my balls.

He didn't hit. Instead he held me against the wall and glared at me. The lower half of his face and his shirt were covered with blood from his wounded nose, which by the look of it had been broken before.

"You will never do anything like that again," he ordered.

"No, Master," I gasped, wishing my voice were louder so it would sound more fervent. "I'm sorry, Master."

"No, you're not," he informed me. "You'd do it again in a second if you thought you could escape. But you listen to me, pa-" He broke off and started again. "I've spent a great deal of time and trouble finding you, and I won't lose you again just because you're eager to shake me off. No matter what happens, I will track you, and I will find you, and I will bring you back. Count on it."

"Yes, Master," I wheezed. I went for pathetic, since in my experience, owners usually tired quicker of beating slaves who are groveling and whining. "I'm sorry, Master, Master, I was afraid, please Master, don't hurt me, don't hurt me."

That got to him. He stilled and softened his grip on my shoulders. "I'm not going to hurt you. I don't inflict pain as punishment. I'll restrain you if I must, but I won't beat you. But you're headstrong and willful and too clever by half, as that slaver said, and we can't have you causing trouble like this."

"I won't, Master," I said, "I'll be good. Let me make it up to you, Master, I'll show you I can be good," and I reached out and touched his waist and his hip. Sliding my hand to his crotch, I fondled him.  Even though he wasn't hard, his size was impressive. A match to his height.

"Now stop that," he roared, slapping my hand away. That's a first. Most of the freemen who show any interest in me can't wait to turn me over and give me a try. But he's clearly too annoyed or too repressed for that.

"I'm sorry, Master," I said again. "It's what most people want from me. I meant to show you I was willing."

His eyes flashed. "Well it's not what I want. I didn't bring you here for that. I brought you here because a lot of people have been looking for you, and I'm going to take you home."

"Home?" I asked, and a stab of hope went through me. Did I truly have a home that I was stolen from? Did they truly want me back, wiped and damaged as I was?

"Yes, home," he said. He released my shoulders and took my elbow to guide me through the cargo hold, which seemed to be the main space in this small ship. "You went missing, and we've been looking for you ever since."

"Then who am I, Master? Where is home? And who are you?" I was ecstatic. If he had only told me this before, I wouldn't have tried to run.

He shook his head. "I can't tell you any of that. They recommended that we tell you nothing of your past, until the healers are able to review the effects of the mindwipe. They should be able to reverse it, but there are serious risks if we do things or talk about things that could cause a resurgence of your blocked memories. Just be assured that you have a home and people who care for you. Be patient until we get back and you can receive proper treatment."

I was thrilled. I had heard stories about stolen slaves or even freeborns who were wiped and then found and brought back to their original owners or families. But he was wrong about one thing: wipes couldn't be reverse. Wiped people didn't remember anything or anyone, but they could learn anew. Perhaps I would be one of those who could learn again what I needed to know. 

"I have to launch the ship and get us on course," my master said. "Will you be all right? You won't do anything foolish? Or do you want to come with me and watch?"

"Come with you, please, Master," I said. "I won't do anything foolish."

I followed him to a small flight deck, where he took the pilot's seat. I didn't presume to sit next to him, so I sat in one of the observer's chairs against the back wall. He gave me a faint smile, the warmest expression I'd seen on his face so far, and then attended to the ship.

If he was piloting, and I hadn't seen any other crew, then this ship must be his private property, just as I was now. Perhaps he was the slavemaster for our House, sent to retrieve the property that he was ultimately responsible for misplacing. The ship looked dingy but functional. I settled in to watch my master busy himself with the controls. The ship lifted from its perch and sailed up into the sky. Goodbye, I thought to the planet below. I'm going home.

I watched the back of my master's head as he monitored our progress. His long hair draped over his shoulderblades and was held back with two small braids from his temples. I'd never seen long hair on a freeman; it's the fashion for freemen to wear their hair short, and slaves to wear it long. My own hair was down to my shoulders. I wondered what that long hair would feel like when we were in bed together. But no, he said he didn't want sex from me. That was strange. All masters I had ever heard of availed themselves of their slaves, especially reasonably young and attractive ones like me, even if bedservice wasn't the slave's primary function. Perhaps he meant that he didn't want sex just right then. Or perhaps I belonged to someone else in his House, and he didn't want to trespass on someone else's property.

It's his choice to use me or not, I thought, but I had a nagging concern. One ingredient of my meds was a sexual stimulant. If he didn't use me regularly, I'd have to find a way to satisfy the drive myself. And that wasn't easy, since the drug was designed to trigger off of another's body chemistry, rather than solo masturbation. Oh well. I'd deal with it if and when it became a problem.

Speaking of the drugs, my recent exertions must have made the implant kick into overdrive, because I became very tired.

I must have dozed off.

"Hey there, wake up," I heard from a long distance away. Someone was lifting my head. I forced my eyes open and saw my new master, wearing a concerned expression.  "You've been asleep for hours," he informed me. I blinked and squinted and tried to concentrate on what he was saying. "It must be the drugs they have you on," he said, more to himself than to me. "The slaver said they made you groggy."

"Umm," I muttered, unable to say anything more coherent. I was so sleepy I couldn't raise my head, my neck as limp as a cooked noodle.

"All right, I'll let you rest," my master said, "but not here. You'll wake up full of cricks. I'll take you to bed," and he was sliding his arms around and under me. He picked me up and carried me like a child. I couldn't remember anyone doing that to me before. I'd been carried, yes, but usually like a sack of trash when they were hauling my dead weight out from wherever I'd been paincollared into submission after fighting with someone. I shouldn't be bothering my master with carrying me, but I was too dopey to resist.

He laid me down on a bed and pulled the covers up. I reached out and clenched my fingers in his clothes like a kitten flexing its claws. "Stay," I begged. I wanted him with me, but I was too sleepy to think why.

"All right," I thought I heard him say, and the bed sunk under his weight as he lay down next to me. I threw an arm over him and fell deeply asleep.

I woke up later, I'm not sure how much later, but it seemed like a long time. My owner was asleep next to me, snoring softly. I could see his chest rise and fall in the dim light.

I realized what woke me. I was fully aroused, hard and pinched inside my tight-fitting pants. The massive dose of meds in response to my escape attempt had made me sleepy initially, and now the stimulant effect was kicking in. I had to get relief. I didn't dare bother my master with this. He had shown discomfort and even annoyance at sex and nudity -- or at least, sex and nudity when it related to me. It clearly violated his sense of propriety, in a way I didn't understand yet but didn't want to offend against. There wasn't anyone else on the ship that I could ask my master's permission to service. I had to take care of this on my own.

I crept out of bed and went looking for a quiet place. The ship was small. After opening one door to a small kitchen and common room, and one door to a medlab, the last door led to the refresher. I closed the door behind me and ripped off my clothes in haste. My skin felt electrified. My nipples were itching from the slight rubbing of the rings, and my cockhead was hypersensitive around the amphallang. Even my tongue piercing felt larger than usual, and I rubbed the stud against the roof of my mouth.

A frantic search around the fresher yielded nothing that could be used as lube, other than soap (which burns inside-- I know from experience). I had lube in my bag but didn't dare to creep around the ship naked looking for it. I'd have to do this dry. I knelt on the floor, legs apart. I gripped my penis and pumped it hard, stopping only to pinch the crown and rub the top and bottom studs of the amphallang, which rotated the bar on its path through my cockhead. With the other hand, I scratched my nipples, one and the other, before moving my fingers to my hole and pressing in. I was dry so it rasped a bit, but I had had much worse, so it barely registered.

The masturbation was frustrating rather than satisfying. The meds were designed to drive me to get someone else off, preferably a paying customer, not to get myself off. Without the chemical inputs from another body, scent and sweat and semen, the drugs were reluctant to let me get release. I worked myself mercilessly, knowing I was going to be sore afterwards.

Suddenly the door slid open. "Are you all --" my master bit his sentence off in shock at the sight. On the floor, I froze and looked guiltily back at him. He was shirtless, and I noted distractedly the expanse of chest, dark nipples surrounded by a scattering of silvered hair. I waited for a disgusted sign from him that I should desist. Instead, he stepped back and shut the door.

Taking his withdrawal as permission, I roughly yanked and probed, trying to finish. Unbidden, the image of my new master appeared in my mind. I liked his looks -- fit and athletic -- but I liked his character more, what little I knew of it. He said he didn't like to inflict pain. That would make him better in bed than most of the men who'd used me. He could be gentle, I knew that from when he had carried me. I imagined his big hands on me, wrapped around my cock and filling my ass, and I came.

I took the opportunity to take a shower, using first the sonics and then the water. Actual water shower, in a ship of this size. I bathed quickly and dried. My clothes weren't exactly fresh after running, sweating and sleeping in them, so I wrapped a towel around my waist, picked up my soiled clothes, and went in search of my bag.

I peeked into the bedroom. It was empty. My satchel was there on the floor. I dug out a change of clothes, floorlength pants and long-sleeved shirt in a thick, soft, dark green fabric with a nice drape. It was enticing but in a subtle rather than blatant style, and it was the most modest thing I owned, or I should say, that I had ever been given to wear, since as a slave I didn't own anything. It was my favorite set of clothes, but I chose it in the hopes that my attempt to dress modestly would assuage some of my master's irritation at my behavior. I had to go barefoot as usual. I didn't have any shoes. I prayed that naked feet were not improper.

I had delayed enough. Time to confront the draigon. I went looking for my owner

He was standing in the small kitchen area, making tea. He had put on a shirt, and his back was to me. I went towards him but stopped before I got too close. I knelt, a chaste imitation of my earlier posture in the fresher, and recited the little speech that I had composed. I spoke as loudly as I could in my hoarse voice. "Master, I beg your indulgence and forgiveness. The mindwipe took my memories. I know nothing of the House and clan to whom we owe allegiance, nothing of their morals, customs and taboos. All I know are the rules of the pens and the brothel. Master, I understand that you can't tell me details of who I used to be. But please Master, have pity on me, instruct me in some way, so I may know what I am permitted to do, how I may please you and avoid offending you. I need guidance, Master."  I bent and touched my forehead to the floor.

Footsteps and a touch on my back. "Get up please. Come, sit at the table with me."

I waited an instant after he sat to take my own seat, to show respect, and looked down at the tabletop subserviently. He placed a cup of tea in front of me.

"You may look at me. I would prefer it."

I looked up and met his eyes. His expression was sympathetic, not displeased. I let out a breath of relief that I didn't realize I was holding.

"We should have had this conversation earlier," he said, "but at first I was distracted and then you were indisposed."

"I'm sorry, Master," I said again.

"Don't be. I suspect it's the drugs behind both your sleep and -- what you were doing when I found you in the fresher.  It's not your choice or your fault. Drink your tea."

I drank my tea. 

"What is your name?" he asked. "You know I can't call you by your correct name until we return."

"Give me a name that pleases you, Master," I said.

"What were you called before? You must have had a name."

"Nothing of importance. You heard, in the pens Master Grieg called me 'boy', and in the brothel, they called me, um, they called me Kayren."

"Kayren," he said. "That's a nice sounding name. You could keep that for now."

"Yes, Master," I said, but he must have noticed something in my tone.

"What is it?" he asked. "You don't like Kayren."

"No, Master, it's a fine name. Forgive me."

"I don't want to call you a name that you dislike. I understand. You wouldn't want to be called by your brothel name."

"Yes, Master, and also it's, you wouldn't like it, Master, it has indecent connotations. You don't like indecent things."

"An indecent thing is enslaving people and forcing them to work in brothels," he said. "But that's not what you meant. What did you mean?"

I stammered, "Kayren, Kayren is the name of an animal, an animal that you ride, you straddle and ride. It's supposed to have a strong sexual appetite as well. I don't know if it's true, Master, I've never seen one, but it's a common butt of jokes. I'm told most brothels have at least one whore called Kayren."

"Ah," said my master distastefully. "That's wrong, then. We all have our sexual appetites, but we don't need to let them define us. How about this: why don't we call you Ben, for the time being. Ben is a respectable name."

"Thank you, Master," I said. I wondered what his name was, but I knew he wouldn't tell me, and I didn't need to know. A slave should only call his owner "Master," anyway.

"Now Ben, we need to talk. We have several tendays before we arrive at home. We should discuss how that time will be spent."

"I will spend my time in any way that pleases you, Master."

"And hopefully in ways that please you, too, Ben. There isn't much to do on this ship, and we won't be stopping unless we have to. We can exercise, we can meditate, we can work on the ship, and perhaps I can find something for you to read that I'm sure you haven't read before, to keep your mind occupied without risking exposure to something from your earlier life."

"Thank you, Master." All those tasks sounded wonderful. I rarely had enough to do in the pens or the brothel, and was often bored or twitchy with inactivity. I had invented whole sets of physical routines that I could perform in my cell or any other tiny room where I might be confined. Perhaps I could show him those. No, surely he had no interest in my trivial hobbies.

"Now I would like us to go to the medlab, Ben, so we can check your health." A chill ran through me. A visit to medlab when you were in the brothels or the pen was dire. It meant you either had a serious injury or illness, such as a nasty sexually transmitted disease, or that they were going to pierce you, or drug you, or, gods forbid, castrate you, do a penile implant, or some other body modification that the customers might like.  Of course that wasn't what my master intended. I hoped not. But some customers had sexual fantasies about medlabs and liked to act them out. I had had once been cut open from ribcage to groin by a customer who wanted to enact a sexual encounter with a surgical patient. Luckily the brothel staff had seen it on the vid and come rushing in before he cut past the outer skin and into my viscera. Customers weren't permitted to damage the goods, unless they had paid for it in advance, and I was fairly expensive. Of course I could have prevented it if I hadn't been restrained, but restraints were the only way they'd let customers near me, so I paid the price that night. Surely my master wasn't one of those twisted individuals.

My mind returned from wandering, and I saw my master looking at me with a curious frown. "I'm sorry, Master," I said, bowing my head. "Shall we go now?"

"Yes, lets," he said, rising from his chair. I followed him a proper three steps behind, to the cramped medlab that I had seen earlier, when I was searching for the fresher.

"Take your clothes off, please," he said. He was very polite. Patrician class manners. They would say "please" and "thank you" at a massacre. No reason to let a little blood and mess compromise good manners.

I removed my shirt and pants, folded them neatly, placed them on the floor out of the way, and stood to be examined. My master picked up a medical device and waved it around a handbreadth away from my body, front and back, circling around me. He gave a running commentary: "Pain collar, force suppressor, we know about those...numbcuffs, don't like the look of that inflammation of the nerve sheath... residual subdermal microtraumas, probably from the beatings, nothing serious...drug and controller implant, nasty piece of work ...your blood chemistry is way off, I've never seen anything like it...have to message a sample back to the, back home for full analysis...piercings, well, enough said...overall, you are in better health than you have any right to be. In some ways in better health than you probably were back at the -- back home. That slaver knew how to take care of his livestock." He snorted.

My master fiddled with another device and said, "Ben, please do me the favor of finding those drug vials and injector, I need them." I obediently padded back to the bedroom and brought the items back to the medlab. He took a sample from one of the vials, started running tests of some kind. Then he inspected the pressuregun, what he called the injector. "Do you know how to use this?" he asked.

"Yes, Master," I said, "but Master Grieg showed you as well, it's very simple."

"Yes, I remember," he replied, "but there's no reason why you shouldn't be in charge of your own supply. The implant regulates the uptake, and I'm not going to tinker with that until I hear back from our healers at home. My limited analysis says that it's addictive, on top of its other effects. Why don't we leave the drugs and the injector here in the medlab, and you can give yourself a dose at need, or I will do it, if you prefer."

"Thank you, Master." He trusted me with this responsibility, and he didn't even know me, not really. Perhaps he was forgetting that I'd been mindwiped, that I'm not the person he remembered from before.

My owner continued, "I will risk taking off the numbcuffs. They seem to be completely localized, and despite that Grieg's smarmy assurances, I suspect that they're the cause of that inflammation I found. Do your hands or wrists hurt or tingle?"

"Yes, Master," I said, "but they're supposed to. That's the point of the cuffs."

"No, actually, the cuffs are doing damage that they're not supposed to do. That, and the fact that they're only affecting your wrists, is the reason that we're going to take them off. I can't remove any of the other devices or change your drug dosage until I am advised to do so by our healers. You've stabilized on the current set of neurological and pharmacological inputs, and I don't dare tamper with them and do something that might give you permanent mental damage."

"Beyond what I already have," I said, forgetting to add the "Master."

"What?" he asked.

"I'm already mentally damaged, Master, by the wipe."

"Yes, but only for the moment, they can reverse that." He didn't sound confident. I, however, was sure that it wasn't possible. He was ignorant about mindwipes, as he had been about the shunt, but it wasn't my place to correct him.

He removed the numbcuffs from my wrists. I couldn't tell the difference immediately, but he said it probably takes some time for the hands to unthaw.

He was looking at my piercings, and trying not to look as if he were looking. If he -- we -- are from a conservative House, then he might never have seen anything like them before. "You may look, Master," I said, trying to be helpful, and hoping he wouldn't see it as flaunting my body. "All of this belongs to you."

"No," he said, looking into my eyes now. "You don't belong to me, Ben, you belong to yourself. I was just --" his gaze dropped lower again, and lower still -- "I was just wondering if they hurt you."

I wasn't sure what he meant about belonging to myself. Perhaps that was one of the precepts of our House that I had forgotten the meaning of. Or perhaps he meant I was really a freeman, not a slave? But he let me call him Master. I didn't want to admit my ignorance. "Hurt? Not now. They hurt when they were put in, Master, the tongue worse than the nipples or even the penis. But they don't hurt at all now."

"Do you favor them? Do you want to keep them?" He doesn't give any sign one way or the other of what he prefers.

"As you like, Master."

"No, as you like, Ben. These piercings were inflicted against your will, but you have them now. Sometimes things that are initially unwanted become part of you over time." He smiled slightly, as if he were thinking of something else, then returned to the topic. "However you got them, the question is, do you want to keep them?"

I didn't know the correct choice to make. Should I get rid of them, because they are for sex and he seemed to have a poor opinion of sex? Or should I keep them, because they were a warrior's badge of pain endured, like a scar? I had no doubt he was a warrior, I had seen the scars on his torso, and he had bested me without much effort, and I was a good fighter. Perhaps I used to be a warrior too. Was this a test? What if I made the wrong decision? Would it show that I was even more damaged that he already knew I was?

He must have seen the struggle in me, because he said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pressure you. There's no need to decide now. Why don't you keep them for the moment. What are they like?" he asked, as if trying to change the subject. Then he flushed -- barely, but I saw it, a reddening across his cheekbones. Amazing, that he blushed at talking about this, considering the things that other men had done to me without a thought.

"I've been told they work well," I answered. "The nipple rings are for play, they aren't much use to the customers otherwise, but the tongue stud and amphallang are very effective for, for genital stimulation and penetration, or so they say. I don't know, I've never received attention from another slave who was similarly pierced."

"But how do they feel for you? They don't hurt?" he asked. His flush had disappeared, he must have conquered his embarrassment.

"No, Master, they feel, I suppose if I think on it, they can feel good. It's just that I was not supposed to focus on my own pleasure, but on the pleasure of others." Not that I ever did that willingly.

"No. Not anymore. Your pleasure is important now. What about that business in the fresher?" he asked. Apparently we are going to get all the sexual topics out of the way at one time.

"I'm sorry, Master, I know you disapprove, but I can't, the drugs, they make me need release. I'll try to resist and do it as little as possible." I wasn't sure how I would manage that, but I would try.

"No, you don't understand, or rather I haven't been clear. I don't disapprove of any sexual activity that you choose to participate in. Sex is a part of who we are, and it can be a great joy. But like everything else, it can be misused. I just want to determine that you're not using sex for the wrong purposes. No, what am I thinking, that's ridiculous, considering your current mental and physical state, I shouldn't be making these kinds of distinctions, it's not appropriate to your condition right now."

"Master?" I asked confusedly. He was talking more to himself than to me.

"Ben...our, um, House does not require its members to be celibate, but we do require that they do things with full awareness and for the right reasons. That usually means that we do not look with approval upon promiscuity. We believe that sexual activity is most pleasurable and beneficial when done within the framework of a relationship where the partners respect and love each other."

"Yes, Master," I said faintly. If that was what our House expected, then me with my brothel experience would be repulsive to them. I wondered if all the members of my House knew what I had become, or if it were possible to conceal it.

He continued, "Pleasuring yourself is permitted, so what you were doing earlier was fine. But like all sexual acts, it's best done in private or with a valued partner. I apologize for violating your privacy in this." He had taken on a didactic tone. Perhaps he was a teacher or instructor. He had a lecturing style.

"Yes, Master," I said. That was good to know. At least I wouldn't be violating a basic precept when I had to relieve the drug-induced pressures in my groin.

My master glanced at me again. "You're cold, you should put your clothes back on," he said. "I'm sorry, we got sidetracked."

My nipples had indeed hardened in the chill, but I had been unaware of it. Body slaves soon learned to tolerate minor physical discomforts. I pulled my clothes back on quickly.

"We should eat," my master said. "You must be hungry. You slept through several meals."

We moved back to the kitchen, where he proceeded to prepare several varieties of food. I hovered and watched carefully, memorizing what he was doing. I didn't know how to cook, at least I didn't remember, but I was a quick study. I could learn, and that would be one way that I could serve him.

The meal was delicious. I was fed the necessary nutrients at the pens and brothel, in order to keep my looks and muscle tone, skin clear, hair shiny. As my master had said, I was prize stock, not to be underfed with cheap inadequate food. But the food had been a repetitive and tasteless few varieties, all of it commercially prepared and cold. It didn't make sense to waste good cooking on slaves.

My master said, "You're welcome to help yourself to any food at any time, Ben. Just be careful of the equipment, some of it gets hot, or has sharp edges. Ask me if you have any questions."

"Yes, Master." How wonderful. As much food as I wanted, of any kind I liked. Emboldened, I asked, "Master, what can you tell me about our House? Not the specifics, I know you can't tell my anything from my own history. But is there anything in general that you could tell me?"

Pondering for a moment, my master said, "A little hope, and a little structure, might be a large inspiration. All right, then. Let's put it this way. Our House, as you call it, is a renowned one, with a long and honorable past, and current responsibilities equal with that past. We are diplomats, negotiators, protectors when need be. We provide unbiased advice and assistance to all, and we advocate for justice and peace."

I realized that my mouth was open. Such a high calling, and I was once part of it. Would be part of it again. "What was my small role there, Master?"

He smiled, and it warmed me to my toes. "Not such a small role, Ben. You were -- are -- a full member of the House. We worked together for long time, and you had only recently been awarded to the rank of -- of being allowed to work independently. In a desperate situation, you saved my life, as well as did other fine things, and for that, it was decided that you were ready to be elevated. Unfortunately, on one of your first missions on your own, you disappeared. That was some months ago, and we've been looking for you ever since."

I was so excited, I could scarcely keep from bouncing in my chair. This felt true, I knew it was. "Yes, yes, we were together for a long time, Master? You trained me?"

"I and others, yes. You and I worked together for over ten years. And I think that's enough talk about the past."

My master excused himself to see to the ship and to make a private communication with our House. I insisted on cleaning the kitchen without his help. I set to work to make that kitchen so spotless that one could eat from the floor. As I scrubbed, I thought of what my master had told me. I reveled in my excitement. I had a home and a role of importance, doing valuable work. My heart was singing.

But as I continued to clean, moving from the kitchen to the fresher, other thoughts began to surface. The skills that it took to become a contributor in our House took a long time to learn. Over ten years, my master said. Difficult skills -- to be an effective diplomat, a wise advisor, an impartial negotiator, and a protector, a warrior. I had just been trained to sufficiency, then I had lost all of that in the mindwipe. My Master said he thought the wipe could be reversed, but he was wrong. My master and my Houser were clearly from a faraway place and were unfamiliar with wipes. He and the House were acting on incorrect information. 

As I scrubbed, the more worried I became. I would have to begin all over again. And would it make sense to spend another ten years training someone as old as myself, when you could begin the training with a younger person, and benefit from their full adult life's work? I was already well into my adulthood. Would the teachers be so patient as to teach the same individual the same things, all over again? And what if I couldn't learn the skills? Many mindwiped people lost basic abilities and talents as well as knowledge. Some couldn't speak, some couldn't read, some couldn't retain new information. Had I lost abilities or talents that were crucial to my role in our House? I had no way of knowing. I had forgotten everything.

Perhaps it made more sense for me to aspire to a lower place in our House. Surely they had need of lesser-trained personnel to tend to the House's resources, or to assist the more valued members of the clan. Perhaps that was a better role for me now. Maybe I could even stay with this master, as his personal servant or assistant.

I resolved not to ask my master about this. It would probably depress him. It was certainly depressing me. And there was nothing either of us could do about it, until we got back, and the House healers discovered that they couldn't treat me.

He must have seen something in my face when he appeared, for he said, "What is it, Ben? Something is troubling you."

I had to invent a likely problem. "Master, does everyone in our House know what happened to me? What I was forced to do?"

"No. Everyone knows that you disappeared, but few people know any details."

"Could we keep it that way, Master?"

"Our healers have to know so they can help you, and our Council has to know so they can prevent what happened to you from happening to any more of our people. Other than that, no one need know."

"Good. Thank you."

My master nodded and said, "I'm going to do -- going to exercise for awhile. You're welcome to join me."

I obediently changed into a pair of older and loose pants, and went to him in the cargo bay. He was executing a series of movements. It looked like some type of martial art, but done at a very slow speed.

"Would you like to participate?" he asked.

"I don't remember how, Master, but I'm willing to learn again," I said.

"Then come over here and face me. This would be new for you regardless of the mindwipe. You know, used to know, many of these, ah, forms, but there are many thousands of them, and you never learned this one. Not that I know of. We'll take the chance. Let me know, though, if you start having flashes in your vision, or feel sick or nauseous, and we'll stop."

I did my best to imitate his movements. It was harder than it looked, yet easy in a way. Something about the motion seemed familiar, and I had the flexibility and strength to do the exercise. He stopped at certain points and gave advice, or adjusted my stance. I liked the feel of his hands on me, reassuring and firm.

"Excellent," he said, when we finished. "You were always quick to pick those up, Ob -- Ben that is, Ben."

He had almost slipped and said my real name. I tried not to care that I missed a chance to hear it, to hear my real name.

Our days fell into a pattern. We slept together, chastely, but he permitted me lie against him, and sometimes he would even embrace me, especially when my nightmares were bad. I gave myself the drugs when my implant needed refilling, and I spilled my seed when the need was unbearable, thinking of him more often than not. We exercised. I showed him the routines that I had invented myself, and he seemed inordinately pleased with me. I learned how to cook a few items. He even found me reading material, no history or science or any practical topic, but literature and poetry. He said that the texts he was sharing with me were among his favorites, but were not on the curriculum for trainees in our House, and he didn't think I had any previous exposure to them. I loved reading them, for they brought me closer to him, to a knowledge of who he was. They weren't warriors' epics or tales of glory. They were stories and poems of simple, everyday situations, and they all celebrated the wonder and pain of the sentient condition.

I had the most important realization of my life -- my post-wiped life -- after one of our exercise sessions.

We were sitting quietly, meditating as he called it. I had cracked my eyelids to watch him as he sat across from me, knees to knees. His eyes were closed and he seemed peaceful, focused elsewhere. He had taken off his shirt to cool down, and his hair, wet at the brow with his sweat, trailed down his shoulders and to teasing distance from his nipples. I thought of how handsome he was, how kind, how gentle, how insightful. How altogether noble, the paragon of a good man. I felt a great wave swelling up in my chest, my soul expanding outside my own skin.

That was when I realized that I loved him.

Unfortunately, discovering that I loved him opened the gate for my body to respond to him even more than before. I became acutely aware of his presence. I could feel him across a room, as if a thousand little invisible whiskers from my body were brushing against him.

I hid my emotions and my physical responses successfully. A pleasure slave learns early to bury sincere emotions and feign false ones, and to make his or her body conform. I was sure that my Master had no clue of how my feelings towards him had evolved.

It was becoming more and more difficult to give myself an orgasm and buy release from the drugs. But I had to manage for a while longer. When I was aroused, I thought of my master constantly. If he appeared during that time, I had to immediately leave the room, lest he discover my state. I took to putting myself behind closed doors, the fresher, the medlab, wherever I could be out of the way for a while. Eventually I would always masturbate, but for most of that private time I just thought of him. His kindness and consideration to me. His body, little gods, that fine body that he treated so casually. The idea of his sharing that beautiful body with me was overwhelming. And not very likely. But in my fantasies I enjoyed him, and he enjoyed me.

One day I was in the bedroom, the door closed, holding his wrinkled shirt from the day prior. It smelled of him, and I rubbed it over my face, my chest, my crotch. The fabric caught on the rings in my nipples and pulled, and it felt so good to think of his fingers teasing me there. Or his mouth. I stroked my aching length and began moaning, just to hear his name in my ears, "Master, Master, please, yes, Master --"

The door snapped open. "Ben, wake up, you're having --" My Master stood framed in the doorway, staring at me holding his shirt and calling his name while I touched myself.

He pulled back out of the door, and I was on my feet following him. I had to make him understand. "Please, Master, I mean no disrespect. I'm not acting inappropriately, Master, I'm not being promiscuous. I love you, Master, I do."

My master's eyes widened, and his mouth twisted. "Love me? How can you love me? You don't even know who I am, or what the word means. You're not in your right mind."

"No, Master," I said, defying him. "With respect, a mindwipe destroys the memories, but the basic personality is left intact. I know I'm not the person you knew. I'm much less than I was. But I do love you. I know you don't love me. That's all right. I just wanted you to know that my, my thinking on you when I -- that I wasn't doing it just out of lust. I worship you, my Master, and I would not profane you in any way. Please forgive my weakness. The drugs, Master, the drugs --"

My master gestured for me to stop speaking. I threw myself down on my knees in contrition. After a few moments of silence, then he said, "I'm sorry, Ben. I understand. I'm sorry for what I said before, it was cruel. Despite what happened to you, you're still the same person I knew, in many important ways. You're honest and brave, and an altogether valuable person. But love is not something we should consider. Not now. Not until we --"

"Get back to the House and the healers have a go at me, yes, I know," I said, interrupting him without using his title, a double breach of etiquette, but he let it go. "I understand. I won't disturb you with this again, Master. I'm sorry."

I fled back to the bedroom, and he let me go. We didn't speak of it again.

A few days later, I heard the drone of conversation. Wondering what it was, I traced it to the ship's bridge. This ship's components were not of the most reliable quality, and my master had inadvertently left the door partway open. He was talking to someone -- probably someone from our House. I shouldn't have listened, but I did. I told myself that if I began to have the symptoms that my Master had described for memory upsurge, I would walk away. Even with my above-average hearing, I could only catch pieces of it.

A strange voice was saying, "...why his tests show...imbalance the scale, he's put up with it so far...can't go on...toxic to his....recommend that you go him take care...needs."

Then my master's voice. I could hear his words more clearly than those of the other person. "You can't be serious, Mace. There must be another answer."

The strange voice took on an exasperated tone. "The best biochem experts we have didn't spend a tenday on this to have you...other answer. This is what's needed, key. Don't make it harder..."

My master again: "But by the Force, after what he's been through, what they did to him, plus the drugs, it won't be anything but rape."

Strange voice: "Don't think of it that way, key, or you'll just project it to anything for him, we all know...what he needs right now. So stop agonizing and...of it this way, key, if he could choose any of the jedi to be in your position...choose you. He loves you and your best for him. I know it's not...Force can be unpredictable. Keep us ..."

My master: "All right. I don't want him to suffer any more than he already has, and if you say it's going to get much worse, he deserves to be spared that. I'll be in touch, Mace."

The conversation ceased, and I snuck away from the door, back to the bedroom, where I lay down and pretended to take a nap. I thought about the conversation. It finally clicked for me that "Key" must be my master's name, or nickname, as he had called the other person "Mace." They had been talking about me, of course, and it didn't sound good. Something was wrong and it was going to get worse. My master sounded like he would do something to help me, but unfortunately, whatever he was going to do was distasteful to him, and he thought it would be a violation of me. Perhaps it meant sex, perhaps something else. I would have to wait until he brought it up. I couldn't mention it. I didn't want to admit that I had been eavesdropping.

I didn't have long to wait. After our next meal, my master busied himself making tea, showing more fidget than I had seen him exhibit before. I surmised that it was The Topic before he broached it. "Ben, we need to talk about something."

"Of course, Master," I said. "I trust you."

He looked at me oddly, brought our tea to the table, and sat down. "Our healers completed an analysis of your drugs and blood chemistry, and there's a problem. Don't worry, because it is manageable."

"I trust you," I said again. "I know you'll help me, whatever it is."

"Yes, I will, and that's what we have to talk about. The sexual stimulant that's in the drug mix you're taking isn't purging from your blood the way it should. It's building up in your liver and kidneys -- those are the organs that clean the blood, remove waste products. If it keeps accumulating, it will reach toxic levels, and you'll have damage to your internal organs. They may stop functioning. Now again, don't panic, this is all correctable. They can wean you from the drug at home, and they can even replace the organs if they're already damaged. But we need to do what we can to prevent further problems."

"Of course, Master," I said. I knew where this conversation was going.

"Ben, you need to have sex with someone in order for the stimulant levels to decline. Solo masturbation won't do it, sexual aids won't do it. Unfortunately, the only other person on this ship is me. I know this is very awkward. But you do have another choice. We can stop at several systems along our way home, and you can seek out an encounter with someone there. Now I know you worry about violating our House's codes, but this is an exception, and everyone agrees. You need to protect your health."

I knew my master didn't want to have sex with me. He was offering out of kindness. It would be better to spare him the obligation. "As it pleases you, Master, whatever you would prefer."

He said irritably, "It's not what I would prefer, it's what you prefer. I don't want you to feel that you are stuck having sex with me, without a choice. You do have a choice."

I said, "If I choose, I would choose you, Master, over some stranger. I've had enough of strangers. But you don't want to, Master, and it's as wrong for me to force you as it was for them to force me. Even if you are willing to make the sacrifice, for my health. I'm used to sex with strangers, I can do it a few more times. We should stop at a system."

"No, no. Are you saying you would prefer me? Because if so, I won't send you to someone else. I didn't like that idea at all anyway, but I wanted to give you a choice."

"You are my choice, Master," I said, my voice even hoarser than usual, from emotion. "I told you before that I loved you. I never had a choice before, and never wanted anyone as I want you. But I don't want to be a burden to you, any more than I already am."

He took my hand and kissed it. "You're not a burden, dear one, never think so. And don't think that I don't want you either. For a, that's not relevant right now. This isn't the way I thought we'd be having this conversation. But the ways of the Force are mysterious, as Mace -- as a friend pointed out to me recently." He released my hand, sighed, and reached over to touch my cheek. "Let me know when you're ready, when you want this," he said, "and we'll explore this new territory together."

I wanted to say let's start exploring right now, but I didn't want him to believe that I had no self-control. I didn't know how to feel about this. Part of me was cheering that I would finally get what I'd wanted from him for so long. Another part of me was cringing. He didn't want this, not really. He did it because it was his responsibility to care for me, and he wouldn't let me come to harm. Even if he had feelings for the earlier me, the one that existed before I was wiped, in my current condition I could only be a pale shadow of that person. I wished I could spare him this -- no, I didn't. Yes, I did. No, I didn't. I decided to stop thinking about it.

"I'd like to exercise now, Master," I said.

"Excellent idea," he said. "I'll join you."

We did a warm-up routine and then started hand-to-hand combat. We had begun this a couple of days before, when he decided that I was fit enough to fight safely. We traded a smattering of blows and kicks.

Our fighting got faster, more dangerous. I pushed him further than I had dared before, and he responded more aggressively than he had previously. We both had energy and emotion to expend. I managed to get a solid hit on his torso, then he caught my striking leg and tossed me to the floor. I bounced up and we continued. We were sweating and bruising and gasping.

At last he caught me in a grapple, which I never had any chance of winning, due to his superior size. He pinned me to the ground, and I felt his erection pressing against my thigh. Instantly I was hard, springing up through my workout pants as if pulled by a string. My master looked down our parallel bodies, and my cock responded to that invisible touch of his eyes, lifting upwards, restless like a live thing in my tented crotch.  I was humiliated.

"I'm sorry, Master," I said, "I know it must seem like I have no self control, and the House --"

He put his hand over my mouth to stop my talking. "No more about the House and its high-minded morality. I damn the impulse that led me to babble about the propriety of sexual relationships, and you just hours out of the pens. I know it's given you a complex about your sexuality, because it's a complete mismatch to your remembered experience. That speech was more for me than for you, Ben. Finding you in that slaver's cell, witnessing what they'd done to you, put me in a rage. A master's protectiveness towards an ex-apprentice takes a long time to fade. But you were damned tempting, all bare skin and serious eyes, and I hated myself for having any impulses in common with those who'd abused you. So I ranted about the importance of sex within meaningful relationships, because that's what I was obsessed about, not because you needed to hear it. I'm sorry."

"It's all right, Master."

He was kissing my eyebrows, my cheekbones, my jaw. "You don't have to call me Master when we're doing this. You don't have to call me Master any more at all, you know, because even though you don't remember, you did gain your knighthood."

So that cleared that question up. I was a freeman, not a slave, and Master was his title, not an indicator of slaveholding status. I hadn't been sure, because some Houses have slaves in high-ranking positions. "I don't know what else to call you, sir, since I'm not supposed to learn your name."

"Yes, unfortunately, that's an obstacle, ah the hell with it, call me anything you like," he muttered incoherently into my neck.

"Key," I said.

His head snapped up. "What?"

"Key," I said again. "That's your name, isn't it? Or a nickname?"

"Yes," he said, "but it's pronounced more like Qui. And I don't want to know how you know that. Just tell me if you start having flashes and headaches." He went back to biting my neck.

My erection was becoming painful. I gripped myself through my pants, trying to calm down. He pulled back, knelt over me, and took the waistband of my pants. "All right?" he asked, and I nodded, and he pulled my pants down and off. My skin of my cock was stretched tight, dark with pooled blood, the golden stud of the amphallang glinting. He gave me a feral grin, gripped the root of my penis, and took the whole organ in his mouth.

I screamed as loudly as my weakened voice would allow. He was sucking avidly, hungrily, alternating between working the amphallang studs with his tongue, and sliding my length down his throat, pumping me in and out of his hot slick mouth.

I shouted, "Master, I can't, I'm close, I'm going to -- ah!" and I came, hard. He swallowed, his throat closing around me. 

He sat up to look at me, and I panted, "I'm sorry, I came first and too fast. You can't have enjoyed it."

"Oh I enjoyed it all right," he smiled, a fully open happy expression, the first I'd ever seen on his face. "And I expect we'll both enjoy each other more in the next few minutes. We should move this agenda to bed, Ben."

"No," I said. He blinked at me, surprised. "My turn first," I continued, pulling at his pants. He lifted his hips and I freed his erection, hard and leaking. I couldn't count how many of these things I'd seen before in the brothel, but this is the first one that I wanted to touch. I took an instant to remember everything I knew about oral sex. I licked him root to crown, then took him in my mouth up to the balls, deep throated him, sucked hard. Then I stroked my tongue against his underside.

He jerked and I just barely refrained from biting down in reflex. "Force preserve us, what is that?" he gasped.

That was why the brothels give their whores tongue studs, I thought, but my mouth was full and I couldn't answer him. He figured it out himself.

"Little gods, it's that damned piercing -- ah! More, there!"  I obliged, and it didn't take long before he came as explosively as I had.

I wiped my mouth, smiled at him and said, "We can move to the bed now, Qui."

We spent the next few hours having sex. I wanted him to mount me after we both recovered, which was immediately. He resisted, concerned that it would revive bad memories, but he gave in when I made it very clear how much I wanted it, wanted him. His cock was thick and long, no more so than the largest I'd taken before, but the difference in the experience was like day to night. He prepared me and fucked me so well, I came twice before he finished. So much for my thinking that he was repressed.

We lay side by side in bed, too overheated to embrace more than our hands, and I said, "That was wonderful, it's never been like that."

"I'm glad, but surely you must have come sometimes, before, when..." he trailed off.

"Yes, but it felt completely different. The orgasm -- when I came in the brothel, it's like when I beat off with the drugs. It's hard to get to climax, and when I do, it's more a release of tension. Like emptying a full bladder. I'm sorry, that's indelicate, but that's what it feels like then. Not like this was. This is, it's like our souls are joining through our bodies, like a star going nova."

He rolled over and hugged me, overheated or not, and we started again.  

This following period was the happiest time of my life. We ate, slept, exercised, talked, read, all as we had before, only now we also had sex, and plenty of it. My fears that he would find sex, or my sex drive specifically, to be improper turned out to be false. He said he loved everything we did, and he acted as if it were true.  I was glad I had decided to leave my piercings in, because he liked them, and through him I came to like them too. I finally dared show him some of the items from my previous owners, things from the brothel -- the chains, leather restraints and clothing, the whip. I had been indifferent to them but thought they would feel different with him, since everything else did. He pondered them without saying anything for a time, then suggested that we put them away and wait to use them until after my mindwipe was corrected. He said our current relationship was tricky enough without introducing role-play, and I agreed that he had a point. I certainly didn't feel like we were missing anything in our sexual encounters.

It was a few days before we got around to my mounting him. I had been greedily insistent to take penetration from him repeatedly, and honestly it hadn't occurred to me that he might like to receive. But one day, I overheard a familiar voice, and walked into the bridge where he already was, without even asking permission.

On the comm was a recorded transmission from Grieg. The pens, reaching out from my past into my present. "...usual post-purchase courtesy call, ser, to make sure you're happy with your merchandise. You should have had plenty of time to try him out, eh? Such a sweet tight ass he has, doesn't he? Trained up just enough to take hard use, but not so much to make him loose or desensitized. I'm sure his mouth is sweet too, but watch out for those fine white teeth! Ha ha ha! Just kidding!"

Qui began talking in some language I didn't understand, full of harsh growling sounds and spitting consonants, drowning out Grieg's voice. He wasn't talking to Grieg, because it was a recording. He must have been talking to himself, or swearing.

He heard me behind him, and reached to pull me over and into his lap. It seemed odd for a grown man to sit in another's lap, but our size differential made it possible.  Grieg's voice stopped, message over.

"By all the power of the Force, Ben, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he said, rubbing my back.

"It's all right," I said, "we'll never see him again."

He said contemplatively, "I could go back there and kill him. I'm sure a lot of people would thank me."

"You said our House stood for justice, and you are a Master of the House. Would that be justice?"

He sighed. "Yes and no, my wise pa-- young friend. And you are perfectly correct, we don't kill for revenge, or in anger, or for any reason other than to protect. But I will see to it that the powers-that-be keep an eye on that individual and his slave dealings. The fact that you were there means that he has connections that we should be aware of."

We sat, running our hands over each other. He said, "There's something I want to do, if you're willing."

"Anything, you know that, Qui."  I didn't say Master all the time any more. It didn't seem necessary.

"We'll need the lube." Humming with anticipation, I fetched it and upon returning to the bridge, got a shock similar to what he must have experienced the couple of times that he walked in on me.

Qui had stripped and was kneeling, one arm leaning on the seat of the pilot's chair, the other back behind him, fingers tucked in between his cheeks. My eyes must have bulged because he said, "My turn to startle you, eh?" I stood glued to where I was standing. "Please get over here. I think I need some help with this."

Bemused, I went to kneel behind him, wetted my hand with lube, and traced down the length of his split from tailbone to balls and back. He pushed back at me. I pressed into his hole with one finger. He twitched as I slid in only to the first knuckle.  He was very tight and more than that, hypersensitive. It didn't seem like he was familiar with this.

"Are you all right?" I asked. "When was the last time you did this?"

"Back before you were born," he said distractedly, "and it's not like I did it much then anyway. Don't worry though. All that body control training won't go to waste. I can relax myself enough to take you without tearing. Just go slow at first."

So little use, and so long ago, made him practically a virgin. I wanted to be inside him, but the mention of tearing him made me queasy. If I ever saw blood running down the backs of those muscular thighs from anything I had done, I'd open the airlock and throw myself off the ship. "We don't have to do this," I said.

"Yes we do, I do," he said. "So open me up and when you think I'm ready, take me."

I took my time getting him ready. I used tongue, fingers and lube, petting and teasing his cock and balls, touching the hidden creases and soft folds of his groin. He thought he was ready long before I did, but finally I took his penis in a firm grip and bore down into his anus with my cock. I entered him about halfway. His erection wilted in my hand. "More," he said. "All of it. I want you in me to the hilt." I eased the rest of the way in until I was flush with his ass.

"Breathe," I told him. "Deep breaths." It hit me as wildly funny that this was one thing that I, the mindwiped one, knew more about than he did. I resolved to make this the best experience that I could for him. I had so little opportunity to give him anything that mattered, to help him in any significant way. I would take great care with this one thing.

When he was breathing steadily and was more accustomed to the fullness, his erection revived. I moved slowly inside of him, more of a caress than a thrust. I was entranced by the sight of my cock going into him. I hadn't done this act much in the brothels. I had taken a couple of other slaves as a performance for the customers, but that was it. So I was almost as much a virgin to this as he was. It touched me that this was one thing that we could share, that I could give him something of me that other people hadn't stolen already.

I changed my angle inside of him and hit him right where I intended. He jolted and cried out. "Force! Argh!"

"We found your prostate," I murmured, continuing the same stroke.

"How observant," he gasped, "I can feel that damned stud on the crown of your cock, gods! It's, gods! Gods! Yes, again, again, again!"

He came with a shout, rolling his neck, that long hair flying, brushing across my face, across his shoulders. I dug my nails into his hips and thrust hard, knowing he could take it now, drowning in his orgasm, and I came, long pulses deep into his ass.

After we both calmed, I pulled out of him. There was no blood, and I thanked whatever gods I used to worship. I watched for a moment just to be sure, but there was nothing but clear clean semen and lube dripping from his opening. I had done it. We had done it. And hopefully would do it again.

He flopped back onto the floor. "I think I've stained the chair," he panted. His ejaculate was puddling on the chair seat.

"I'll get a towel," I said, making as if to rise, but he grabbed my arm and pulled me down on top of him.

"Later," he said. "Stay with your lover while he recuperates."

Lover. I liked the sound of that. My lover. Ben's lover, Qui.

But paradise doesn't last, not in this universe. I began to worry again, about the future, about my mindwipe, about my place in our House. Now that we were sexually involved, it made everything more complicated, more emotionally laden. He had been right, sex within a caring relationship was the way it should be, and it was wonderful, but there was no guarantee that our relationship would survive. He was an honorable man and wouldn't abandon me, I didn't think, but I dreaded the day when I would first see the regret in his eyes that he was tied to a mindwiped person, to a person who struggled to regain the smallest pieces of what he had been before. I promised myself that I would end it before that day came to pass. He was too important to me, and to the House, to have him leashed to an incompetent.

Then the day came when I had to make good on that promise.

I was indulging in my bad habit of eavesdropping on his conversations with the House. The first thing I heard was Qui's voice saying, "Force, Mace, I can't stand this much longer."

The other voice, distorted from its long trip through hyperspace, said, "...sound like...suffering that much...can't get enough..."

"You should see him, Mace, talk to him. That maimed voice will break your heart. What's difficult is that he's himself, but he's not. Sometimes I forget, he seems perfectly fine, then he does something that reminds me of what's happened, and I just want to curse the randomness of the universe for taking him from us and doing this to him."

"...fairly lasting impairment...sure...see him."

"I know, there are no guarantees. I'll stay with him, Mace, for as long as it takes."

"...promises you can't keep...feasible...even want to...not fit for field duty...give that'd regret...Council would too."

"Council be damned," said Qui. "I have to do what I think is best, for him and for me."

"Of course, but...compromise...sacrifice...anyway, no point...conclusions. It's only a few more days...together until then...sake, don't alarm...psychological structure is fragile, you can't predict...surprise you...don't want to be surprised."

"On those happy thoughts, let's end this conversation," said Qui sarcastically. "Session terminated."

I crept away and sat in meditation pose in a corner of the cargo bay. That way I knew he wouldn't interrupt me.

It was what I had feared. I was badly damaged, physically and mentally, and it was haunting Qui, my previous teacher, who had spent over ten years of his life building me up only to see me fallen down. It was distracting him from his duties, and worrying our clan leaders. He was ready to renounce his responsibilities to take care of me, and they were displeased with him for that. And it was worse than any of them knew, because I alone was aware that the mindwipe couldn't be reversed, while they still hoped.

I knew what I had to do.

The thought of dying for our House didn't sadden me. Perhaps it was my forgotten warrior training that had prepared me to die for a good cause. There was no better cause than this. I should have died out there, lost in battle, rather than have permitted myself to be enslaved and wiped. The fact that the House was willing to rescue me, to nursemaid me in my disability, was due to their greatness of heart, and was not deserved by me. My postponed death was just the delayed but inevitable ending.

I couldn't do it now. I had to wait until he was asleep, so he wouldn't know, wouldn't be able to stop me.

In all of it, the thing that hurt the worst, ridiculously, was that he said it broke his heart to hear my voice. I had foolishly thought he favored my voice. Just one more thing that my forgotten memories made it difficult for me to understand: that he couldn't look at me, hear me, touch me, without seeing the man I used to be, and would never be again.

I was subdued at our meal, but put him off by saying that the drugs were weighing on me. He offered to help me with that, a term that was now a joke between us, and we had sex. Then he fell asleep.

Well into our sleep cycle, I got up and composed a message on a datapad. It said:

"Qui, don't be angry at me for this. We both know that this is the right solution. I should have died out there, not returned as a useless mindwiped invalid to the House that had already spent so much time, effort and care in training me for a role I can no longer fulfill. Believe me when I say: the wipe cannot be reversed. No one has that ability. You had hoped, and I let us both hope, but it is time to put false hope aside. Please speak of me fondly to the people in our House whom I have forgotten, but who remember me as I used to be. I will stand by the gate in the next world and wait for them, especially for you, Qui, whom I loved best of all. Give my loyalty to our clan leaders, and one day when the sun is setting on our House, on whatever planet it is on, go up on the highest rooftop and scatter my ashes to the winds. Asking your forgiveness for these last burdens I put upon you, knowing you are strong enough to bear them, I go to perform my last duty as a warrior of our House. Signed, the man you call Ben."

I left it on my side of our bed.

In the medlab, I took out the pressuregun and the remaining drug vials. There were more than enough. Qui had asked me if I knew how to work the gun. I knew more than he did. The mechanism was designed to push drugs into a shunt or straight into tissue, so it could be used on slaves without shunts as well. I overrode the safety mechanism that adjusted the dose to the recipient's blood level, and set the gun to give a full dose. I needed access to the best injection points, so I took off my clothes.

My hand was shaking, but my will was firm. I set the gun against my upper thigh, near the big vein in the leg, and pulled the trigger.

The drug stung, venom going in at a vulnerable spot. It felt like it was burning a hole in my thigh, blistering my skin like the red-hot knife they had used to burn my brothel tattoos off my pectoral and hip. I ejected the spent vial, inserted another one, and shot myself again. And again. And again.

That was the last of the vials. I put the gun down, somewhere, and held on the cabinet to lower myself to the floor. I had thought since the first reaction to a drug surge was sleepiness, that I would just fall asleep and never wake up. I was wrong. The pain was incredible. It seemed there was one more warrior's test for me to pass. I clenched my teeth so as not to cry out. If I screamed, I would wake Qui, and he would try to save me, and would have the horror of watching while I died. I didn't want him to go through that. Better he find me tomorrow morning, flesh cooled and spirit departed.

I was weak, I couldn't keep myself from whimpering. But it was a quiet sound. I thanked the gods for my broken voice that was incapable of making loud noises. That way I wouldn't wake Qui. The decking beneath me was hot as fire. I could feel my skin blacken where I lay touching it. My vision was fading.

Far in the distance, I heard sounds, running steps, Qui's voice shouting, "Ben, wait, Ben, don't do anything -- ah, damn you to a Sith hell, Obi-wan, no!" Hands were on me, they had to be his hands, and they hurt for the first time in all the times he had touched me, and I cried out. "Stay with me, Obi-wan, stay with me. Don't do this to me. You're wrong, the wipe can be reversed, we know how, the healers know how. We've done it before. Gods, they warned me you might do something unexpected, but I never thought, ah Obi-wan, where's my stubborn boy, my stubborn boy from Bandomeer who wouldn't be sent away, who followed me even when I didn't want him, and you'd refuse me now, Obi-wan, after all this? Don't..." but the darkness closed around me, and my hearing gave out, and I died with the regret that I had failed yet again in my last act, by not succumbing before Qui found me, and forcing him to watch as I left this world and went to the next.

My final thought was that, at last, I knew my real name. Obi-wan. I was Obi-wan.

I woke with a terrible aching throughout my entire body. Gods, last night must have been a group service, for me to hurt so badly. Perhaps I bested my previous personal record for number of customers in one evening.

I looked at the ceiling. This wasn't my room at the brothel. Or my cage in the pens. This was...this was on the ship. Qui's ship.

"You're finally awake." I turned my head, barely, with a million needles in my spine, and there he was, by my bedside. He didn't look well. I wondered if he had been ill while I was away.

"Thank the Force," he said. "Do you remember that I told you once that I don't inflict pain for punishment?"

I did remember that. Rather than risk nodding, I blinked my eyes for yes.

"I'll make an exception in this case. After you're well, I'm going to beat you black and blue, and then I'm going to fuck you until neither of us can walk. Or perhaps I'll do it the other way round. Remember what I told you, when we first spoke, and when you came on board the ship?"

I closed my eyelids, trying to remember. I could remember. I tried to wet my lips with my dry tongue and whispered, "On the stairs, you said, 'Calm down, I won't hurt you, you can't stay here, it isn't safe, don't fight, come with me.' And on the ship you said, 'Never do anything like that again.'"

"Say that last sentence one more time like you mean it," he commanded, but his hand on my forehead was gentle.

"Never do anything like that again."

"And you obeyed me," he said. "You never did anything like that again, like attacking me and trying to escape, instead you do something worse. As the Light preserves us, Obi-wan, when the Council finds out all the things I've been thinking, from the time I found you in that slaver's dungeon to now, they'll kick me out of the Order. Or at least demote my rank. Or worst of all, have me take a lecture from Yoda and then make me go talk to the soulhealers. And if they do, I'm dragging you with me through all of it. And you have to sit next to that little green swamp dwarf and get whacked with his gimer stick."

"Uh," I grunted, at a loss for conversation.

"Rest," he said. "We're almost home."

Some time later, I got up and showered. My body looked all right, but I had seen healthier-looking faces in the mirror. The whites of my eyes were so bloodshot, anyone would notice from across the room. My lip was swollen where I must have bitten it, and there were black circles under my eyes and broken capillaries in my skin, so that from up close, it looked as if someone had drawn on me with a fine-tipped red pen. 

Still, considering the fact that I had thought I was dead, this could be considered a vast improvement. Or my most recent failure.

I dressed in my favorite clothes, the long sleeves and pants of dark green, and picked up the datapad that was still lying on my side of the bed. I saw my suicide letter, which seemed redundant now, and deleted it. There were sections of poetry that Qui had given me, still on the pad, that I hadn't read yet.

Qui appeared in the doorway. "We're there," he said. "Coruscant. Home."

I wished fleetingly that we had the chance to have sex one last time, but I supposed as a warrior of our House, I should be happy that I was alive, and not peevishly complain about being insufficiently laid. I left the datapad and followed him to the bridge for the last time.

The skies above the planet were crowded with ships.  Qui paid close attention to the proximity scan as he followed the landing instructions. The land below seemed craggy and sharp-edged yet laid out in a pattern, and as we continued to lose altitude the features resolved themselves into buildings and other man-made structures of gigantic scale.

We slowed as we approached a massive complex crowned with spires. This must be our House. I had never seen any building so large. Given the important work that our House did, this was a fitting place for it to reside.

Qui landed us neatly on a large platform. "We're here," he said unnecessarily. He was smiling, happy to be back.  No sense in delaying the inevitable. If they can fix the wipe, they can. If they can't, they can't. I wouldn't find out here on the ship. I followed him without looking back.

He lowered the ramp and walked down into the daylight. I descended slowly. A breeze met me as I stepped down onto the platform.

Qui was talking with a small group of people near a door into the building complex. I stood a deferential distance away until he waved me to approach. I stepped up to the group and bowed my head in respect.

"Welcome back, Knight Kenobi." The voice was familiar -- this was the House voice from the comm. It belonged to a tall, dark, bald man who fixed me with a stern, almost angry expression. "No more nonsense like what you tried recently. In your current mental condition, you're not fit to make such decisions. You're a knight of the Order and you'll take guidance from the Council, at least until your memories are restored and you can argue with us from an informed position, as you've seen so many examples of in the past." The dark man quirked an eyebrow at Qui.

"Yes, Master," I said obediently. I had no doubt that this man was another Master of our House. He was fierce. I was afraid to even slouch in front of him, and I pushed my shoulders back a notch.

There were two other people, a man of about my age, and a strange fishlike being. "Hello Obi, welcome back Obi," they chorused.

The fish person -- woman? -- burbled, "We know you don't remember us yet, but they gave the two of us permission to come see you when you arrived. We were lucky, there were lots and lots of people who wanted to come. We've all missed you, Obi."   

There was one more person present. I had missed it because it was so small. A short wrinkled green creature hobbled forward, leaning on a stick.  The others respectfully moved aside. It peered up at me, its long ears twining above its head.

"So returned to us at last you are, my padawan's padawan," the small person croaked. "Glad we are to see you back with us."

"Thank you, Master -- Yoda?" I guessed, remembering Qui's comment about a green swamp dwarf with a stick.

The creature cackled. "Yoda, hee hee, Yoda it is, young knight. Memory resurgence, comes soon it will. To the healers should you go."

I nodded and glanced around to see who would show me the way to the healers.

"Qui-gon shows you, he will," said the green creature. "Good for Qui-gon, you are."

The creature's strange sentence structure had gotten it backwards, he must have meant that Qui-gon was good for me, but it got tangled up in his word order.

"Yes Master, I know," I said. "Master Qui has been very good to me, he rescued me and helped me. I will owe him a debt for the rest of my life."

The creature snorted and poked me carefully with his stick. "Already owned him a debt you did, and owes you debts too, he does. Among friends there is no talk of owing."

"Your pardon, Master, but I owe him my life. And he has made many other sacrifices as well."

"Hee hee hee hee hee," this Master Yoda laughed. "Sacrifices? Think you should on sacrifices and life-debts later, eh? Naboo, you don't remember Naboo, eh, young one? Think you an accident it was, that it was Qui-gon who found you, Qui-gon who brought you back? Forgotten, you have. But remember you will. You will. Go you should."

I halted before the door and seized Qui's arm. I had only a moment. I had to say this before we went inside, into our House, into the obligations that bound us both. What happened in the future, would happen, but I needed to say this. "Thank you for saving me, Master, and for your care on the ship. Whatever happens now, I'm grateful for that. And whatever happens with me, you mustn't let it shake your duties to the House. They need you, the universe needs you. Promise me." 

"I promise," he said, and surprised me by kissing me quickly in front of all of them.

"Will you stay with me, while they try to erase the wipe?" I asked.

"Of course. Obi-wan, I didn't track you all the way to a remote slaver's pen and back, and go through what we've gone through, to abandon you at the healers' doorstep. I'll go with you and I'll be waiting when you're well. Afterwards, we'll have some talking to do. I'm not completely sure if you'll be pleased or displeased with the way things have gone, after you regain your memories. Pleased, I'm hoping. But if not, remember that I care for you no matter what, regardless of what you feel for me, and I'll always be a part of your life. Never doubt that."

"I'll love you always," I said in perplexity.

"I'm sure of that, Obi-wan, I'm just not sure what form that love will take, and neither can you be, not until you go through the restoration process to erase the mindwipe. You may feel differently then. And if you do, that's all right. I cherish what we had together, even if that's all it ever is."

He laughed at the expression on my face. "Cheer up, Obi-wan. You're home, you're safe, you'll soon be well, and all the choices are in your hands. This is a time to be happy."

My two nameless friends walked through the doorway. The dark man gestured for us to proceed. Qui took my hand, and we followed my friends into the building, back to face my previous life.