GROUNDED BY LIGHTNING
"The thunderbolt strikes on an inch of ground,
but the light of it fills the horizon."
--Emerson, Journals, 1865
"He strikes fire, I breathe his flame.
I am his, and he is mine."
His name was Knight Dagan Sharat. For three long and glorious years, he was my companion and lover. Unintimidated by the fact that I am a Jedi Master, his conversation and his passion were the most challenging that I have ever known.
He was a beautiful man, tall and slender and sleek; well put together with a quiet voice and austere features. His hair was well past his shoulders, the color of the sun and as full of light as he was. His mind challenged my own to dissect all topics with the best that was in me. And I craved him.
Two weeks ago, Dagan came to me with shadows in his eyes and hesitation in his voice. He didn't want to hurt me, he said, but he'd found someone. Someone else who made his heart sing, someone else who made him dance on the knife-edge of ecstasy in lovemaking. Made him feel all of the things that he had said he'd felt with no one but me. He didn't want to hurt me, but he'd found someone else.
Someone better? Younger?
"It has nothing to do with your age," Dagan protested, but he would neither meet my eyes nor let me touch him. He stood halfway across the room from me in his quarters. It may as well have been a universe away, with his stance and his distance saying what his words denied.
"It's just that my feelings have changed," he continued softly, in the voice that I'd come to love so well -- the voice that I had made grow rough with passion for too many and not nearly enough nights. Nights that I remembered far too clearly, whose memories seared my heart and made breathing difficult. "I love you, Qui-Gon, but...."
"But you've found someone else to love now," I said, thinking, I have given him everything, but it is not enough. I am not enough. I was amazed at how calm, how steady my voice sounded.
"I can't explain it, I didn't go looking for it." Dagan's brown eyes met mine, pleading, but without tears. Without regret. All that remained for him to be set free to enjoy his new lover was for this messy, albeit necessary, scene to conclude. "Please... at least try to understand. Being with him feels like being inside a supernova."
He smiled, his gaze distant, his mind back in the exploding stars with his new lover.
"Supernovas often burn out," I commented mildly. "In their wake, they leave nothing but cold and darkness."
He refocused his gaze. His expression grew cool, almost pitying, and his smile was thin. I clenched my teeth so hard that my jaw ached.
"We shared a peaceful passion, Qui. In the end, there was just..." He chose his words carefully. "We shared too many cups of tea. I need something more."
"I suppose you do."
I left him then, bowing and letting myself out of his quarters, smoothing my robes and lifting my hood in a silent bid for privacy as I traversed the temple halls back up to my own level. Dagan did not change his mind and follow me. I didn't expect that he would. It was a large temple; I imagined that we'd never see each other again once word had spread that we were no longer welcome in each other's arms, much less in each other's lives.
Ashes of memory were all that remained of the permanent bond I had hoped might be forming between our hearts and minds. Ashes and a depressing aloneness that I knew all too well from past experience; the sort of insurmountable distance between two former lovers that say, "I don't care about you anymore; you're just someone that I used to know."
Bowing my head, I surrendered to an all-encompassing feeling of despair that was far too familiar from past goodbyes. Xanatos... Mace... Tahl.... Lymahl... and now Dagan. Dead specters of past lovers rose in my mind, mocking my deep desire to be part of someone else. To love and to be loved in return.
Again and again I had fallen into goodbyes only to rise -- sometimes unsteadily and with far too many layers of sadness for me to penetrate them through simple meditation. I rose because I had to. I was a Jedi Master with duties to perform outside the walls of my own hurts, after all. I had missions to fulfill, a Padawan to train. And so, I ignored the layers and set them aside. I told myself a fairy-tale of hope, certain that my next lover would heal me of all sadness and shadows. My next lover would stay.
Such a small word. So simple and stark when it is whispered into a barren room in the middle of the night, yet filled with depths of longing.
None of my lovers have ever stayed. I have tried for hours, on my knees, to make peace with the distinct possibility that none of them will ever stay.
Turning off the water, I groped for a towel from the stack that always waited outside the common showers and wiped my eyes. The hard saber workout I'd just completed with a couple of other senior Padawans had left me feeling relaxed and contented, not to mention just a little cocky. I'd managed to best both of them. Given that I was apprenticed to the man some considered the best swordsman the Order had seen in 800 years, I'd better at least come close to besting them. Otherwise, I'd surely suffer the wrath of Jinn when word of my incompetence reached him. At the moment, I had absolutely no worries about what the temple grapevine would carry.
My companions were long gone from the showers, eager to reach evening meal before the best dishes were gone, still I lingered. Chances were that my Master's and my next mission would be lacking in the basic comforts of home, but I was good at making a decent meal out of practically nothing. My luxury of choice was hot water and lots of it. Evening meal could therefore wait while I savored the endless supply of heated luxury available right here.
Tucking my wet braid behind my ear, I rubbed hard at my hair and padded down the long line of deserted lockers toward the one that, years ago, I'd claimed as my own. I was just climbing into my leggings when an unfamiliar male voice drifted over the bank of lockers.
"Have you heard about Jinn and Sharat?"
"No. What?" asked an unseen companion.
"He dumped him."
"Jinn dumped Sharat?" The second voice was incredulous.
"No. Sharat dumped Jinn."
A snort. "Bad luck, that. But it leaves the field open for the rest of us. I've had my eye on Dagan for quite some time."
"Too late, he's taken up with Knight Zabet, who's been mooning after him for months. The Council assigned them to a mission together a few weeks ago, and I guess that was it. Knight Sharat came home and broke off all relations with Qui-Gon Jinn."
Locker doors slammed. I didn't move, scarcely dared to breathe. /Keep talking,/ I thought.
"It's obvious what happened," the first voice obliged me. "Dagan wanted a younger lover. That, or he got to know Jinn and realized that the man simply doesn't live up to his legends. No Jedi could, after all. We've seen it happen before, and it'll happen again with some stripling knight who's looking for romance and decides to cut his teeth on Qui-Gon."
"That's hardly fair to Master Jinn."
The voices were moving now, away and out of the changing room. Too far away for me to hear any additional commentary. But that was all right, I'd heard enough.
/So that's what's been wrong with him over the past two weeks,/ I thought, throwing my towel into a nearby receptacle and staring after it without seeing a thing. /My Master and Dagan Sharat have been lovers for what... three years? And he just dumps him? That's rotten./
I finally thought to pull my leggings up the rest of the way and finished dressing with all haste. Dressing chambers weren't the best meditation chambers, and I wanted to get somewhere where I could really think about what I'd overheard. Pulling my tunic over my head, I yanked my braid free and absentmindedly noted that it was scruffy and fuzzy and needed refraining.
Diving into my boots, I clipped on my belt and lightsaber and gave a quick glance in the mirror to make sure I was presentable before I left. Weaving my way through the Padawans and knights warming up on the edge of the still-busy training salle outside of the dressing chamber, I thought back to when I'd discovered I was in love with my Master, back when I had just turned eighteen and about the time he'd taken up with Knight Sharat.
I knew he'd had affairs before that -- most notably with Knight Tahl and Master Windu. Windu had come into the picture months after Tahl had died, when Qui-Gon had finally managed to climb out of the chasm of pain her loss had caused. I remembered the resentment I'd felt when my Master had chosen to let another help him leave his mourning behind and rejoin the world of the living. He'd chosen Windu as a lover then, and while I'd known that I was being unreasonable at fifteen, wishing he'd turned to me, that didn't help the indignation and bitterness I'd felt.
I'd spent hours in meditation while my Master had been with Windu. The probable reasons why Qui-Gon would never want me as a lover still burned in my mind:
1. I was his Padawan.
2. I was too young, he saw me as a child, a surrogate son. He'd never see me as a lover.
3. He was far ahead of me in sheer life experience. In my inexperience -- I refused to call myself innocent even at fifteen... regardless I was -- I couldn't please him as a lover even if he had wanted me.
4. He liked two types, and I was neither one of them. First came the warrior type, strongly built and dark and overwhelmingly physical as was Mace Windu. Second came the Elven type, tall and slender, blond and poised and beautiful. I couldn't compete on either level.
Tahl had died when I was fifteen; Mace came after that until he had joined the Council. A boisterous knight named Lymahl competed for and claimed my Master's attention after that. Another warrior-type and constantly looking for battles emotional or physical, Lymahl seemed an exhausting companion. I noticed that he didn't last very long with my Master, who craved peace as much as passion. Lymahl's energy level probably proved too much. In any case, he had volunteered for a mission to the outer rim, met and took up with a civilian lover, resigned from the Order and never returned to Coruscant. A short time later had come the radiant Dagan Sharat, newly knighted and disgustingly perfect, twenty-five to my eighteen.
To Qui-Gon's credit, he pretty much kept Dagan and their lovemaking away from me. They'd meet occasionally in our quarters, but Dagan had never stayed the night from what I'd observed. I was grateful for my Master's discretion, which I felt had more to do with him than with Dagan. My over-active and fast-maturing imagination had provided enough torture over the past three years without the additional stimulus of seeing them together in our quarters.
Additional torture had been provided by my wanting to observe my Master and his lover outside of our quarters at every opportunity. I flattered myself that the jealousy I felt made my observations all the more sneaky and keen, but the fact is that I was only fooling myself. Instead of seeking them out, I actively avoided them whenever possible. When we did cross paths, it was usually when I was out with a group of my own friends at the private club frequented by most of the Jedi, or when we happened to attend the same lecture at the temple's cultural center. A glancing nod, a slight bow was all my Master and I exchanged then, while Dagan ignored me, tugged on Qui-Gon's sleeve, and quickly took him elsewhere. In short, I knew next to nothing about my Master's love life and preferred it that way as long as Knight Sharat was in that life. Obviously, Qui-Gon agreed.
One thing I had learned along the way: my Master did not take lovers lightly, nor did he take more than one at a time. Even as I filed this information in the back of my mind, my heart cried out that I wish he'd take me. Dream on, Kenobi.
Taking my cue from my Master, I offered him the same respect he offered me and did not use our rooms as a point of rendezvous with my own lovers. From the start of my apprenticeship, Qui-Gon had insisted that I stay in quarters with him, but the quartermaster had still assigned me a Padawan suite well away from the Masters' Tower. That bare, sterile suite served nicely for my early assignations. I was never so grateful for the privacy those rooms afforded as I was on the afternoon that my teenaged hormones decided that I simply had take to bed two other male Padawans and begin my sexual experimentation in earnest. We'd laughed and groped one another more than we'd made love, but it was the start of a pattern: at home, I was the chaste, dutiful Padawan, attentive to my Master's every need and focused on my lessons. Once off of the Master's leash, however, I usually headed first for the local club, and then back to my quarters with a willing partner.
Qui-Gon had come home damp from a morning shower a few times, but I'd never known him to come home smelling of sex. Always, his dignity and his privacy were intact. I made sure that mine were as well. Of a consequence, I knew next to nothing about his preferences, his habits, his deepest desires, or how to satisfy them. I came to know well enough how to satisfy others, however -- knights and even a couple of obscure Masters, as well as numerous Padawans. If the opportunity ever arose, I told myself, I'd know how to please Qui-Gon Jinn.
Who was I kidding? Only myself. After all, he was out of reach, unattainable. Far out of my league, no matter how experienced I might delude myself into believing I'd become.
In the end, my fantasies made me miserable. Crying for the too-distant moon that was Qui-Gon Jinn only gave me headaches. Years spent at his side had taught me nothing so well as to face reality, it seemed. So it was that, somewhere around my twentieth birthday, I set aside my hopeless desires, released my yearnings to the Force, and counted myself lucky that I was allowed to be his Padawan and serve missions with him. After all, I spent far more time with him than any lover ever would. I settled for loving him as best I could, rather than wishing I could reveal that I was in love with him.
Upon reflection, I realized that only our sexual lives were private from each other. In all other ways, I knew him intimately. How could I not? I knew which side of the bed he preferred and how he fell asleep. The weather he hated, his previous injuries that still ached whenever it rained. I knew how he wanted to be massaged and where his hair snarled the fastest. I knew his foibles and his faults, what angered him, saddened him or made him smile. What made him weep, what wounds he could tolerate and those he dreaded. I knew his favorite foods and how quickly his feelings could be revealed by the barest tension in his stance, regardless his voice remained steady and smooth. I could predict his reaction in any given situation, knew which direction he'd go in a fight. I could even quote, almost word for word, the serene, decorous refusal he would make whenever a stranger tried to seduce him. I knew his impatience and his interests. The books he chose to read and those he only pretended to like. I could predict perfectly when he'd rebel against the Council, the things he'd compromise on and those he would not.
I knew the temperature at which he liked his tea, what to put into it, and how enthusiastically he wiggled his toes whenever he let them escape his boots. I knew what a sybarite he really was at heart and how much he loved to savor comfortable textures -- like flannel blankets on his bare skin and a cool breeze in his hair -- and beautiful things, like beautiful men.
I knew all of these things far better than Mace Windu or Tahl had ever known, for I was the one who had lived with him through every rotation of Coruscant and its moon from the time I was thirteen. Others may have known Qui-Gon all of his life, but I had been with him far longer in terms of trials and missions, living with him day in and day out.
Long ago, I had convinced myself that I loved him better than they did, because I took better care of him. I didn't reveal those thoughts or feelings to anyone because I felt a superstitious fear that if my Master ever found out how I felt, he'd somehow put an end to my taking care of him. I realized that I'd have to leave him once I'd passed my trials and attained my knighthood, but I also harbored the hope that, by then, I'd find a way that we would stay together. I'd find a way to make him want to keep me around. Somehow.
Dagan had come into our lives when I'd learned all that Qui-Gon had to teach me about aerial gymnastics. At that point, he went looking for a new instructor for me, "Someone that you can't fly into the ground, Padawan," as I had him... poor gravity-bound, landlocked Master that he was, given his sheer size. Dagan had been the senior Padawan Qui-Gon had come up with. Elegant and fast, Padawan Sharat was obviously not bound by the same laws of gravity as the rest of us mere mortals. So advanced was he in the defiant aerials that I wanted to do, I felt like a short, stubby Dagobahn after watching him perform.
To his credit, Dagan soon dissuaded me of that image. I craved the lessons he shared with me twice a week whenever we were in temple, and Qui-Gon always accompanied me to our sessions. In hindsight, I think he came so that he could watch Padawan Sharat more than me. Even then, I think he had his eye on him and waited only for his knighting to make his move.
And yes, the thought makes me jealous. I suppose that the novelty wears off once a Master has watched his Padawan for a few years. Perhaps the Master stops seeing his apprentice as anything other than an apprentice. I understood Qui-Gon's attraction to him; I wasn't immune to Sharat's beauty, either.
"Force, but I want to fly like that," I murmured softly, the first time I saw him practicing on the second catwalk in the senior dojo, taking the aerials in a routine that seemed this side of suicidal.
"You will, Padawan," had been Qui-Gon's quiet, confident answer. When it came to my training, he seemed to think that I could do anything.
Dagan had flown to the ground then, nailing a landing on the mat that made me think he was indeed Elven; no human could land that lightly. My Master stepped back with an nod. I stepped forward and bowed. I am certain that my face reflected all of the slack-jawed awe and craving that I was feeling in that moment.
"Teach me, please?" I managed to choke out.
Even then, Dagan's smile was for my Master. Even then, Qui-Gon may have been echoing me in a hungry mental variation, 'Touch me, please.'
There's no doubt about it: Dagan taught me and he certainly touched my Master. And then, he left. But not before I had left Dagan.
It took only sixteen months for me to Master the then-knighted Sharat's techniques and surpass him. I was then handed over to his former Master, who offered new challenges and truly taught me how to fly. But never, not once, did I see the light shine in Qui-Gon's eyes when he watched me, as I saw it shine in his eyes when Dagan simply walked into the room.
Dagan's Master told me once that his Padawan had been light, whereas I was fire. It was meant as a compliment, but it wasn't a comfort, since I knew all too well that Qui-Gon craved the exquisite shining soul he had in his bed. My Master wanted nothing to do on a sexual level with the flame that I was learning to be.
Too young, too late, not enough. Not nearly enough.
It was then that I realized it wasn't enough for me to be in love with him; the simple truth of it was that I was not his type, and he'd never give me a glance. How could a small, steady and far too young fire compete with the blinding light of a beautiful blond knight, after all?
That light had hurt Qui-Gon now. My devoted, devotional and totally committed, very much in love Master had been thrown aside, rejected and abandoned by the magnificent beauty he'd found.
Once, I would have been ecstatic to hear that news. Now, I was only stunned. My hands trembled and I didn't seem able to wrap my mind around the idea that Dagan had the unmitigated gall to hurt the man who loved him so deeply.
I knew now why my Master had been so sad recently. I'd recognized the signs and knew that another cycle of mourning, most resembling depression, was beginning. The first I'd witnessed had come with Tahl's death; it had lasted for months, to the point that I feared my Master would never recover. Though I'd been only fourteen, I'd known instinctively not to confess my fears or Qui-Gon's state of mind to anyone. With Mace Windu's help and affection, Qui-Gon had eventually worked through his pain.
My Master's second bout with depression -- though not nearly as deep nor as lengthy as the one he'd suffered after Tahl's death -- had come when Master Windu accepted a Council seat. Almost overnight, their relationship shifted from private and sexual to public and intellectual, because a Council member can't be suspected of having any close emotional ties, and therefore bias regarding anyone in the Order. Windu had chosen ambition and isolation over love. To this day, I don't think Qui-Gon understands why. I certainly don't.
And now, Dagan had chosen someone else over my Master. However blessed my Master has been as a Jedi, it seems that he is incredibly unlucky in love. I have wondered if this pattern began before Xanatos entered his life, but have no way of finding out. From what I've observed, from the puzzle pieces I've managed to put together over the past few years of his relationships, he always ends up walking alone.
I know that he has been feeling distant, aloof and melancholy -- the training bond we share has been telling me that much. Very recently, he's taken to slipping out of our quarters alone, without a word to me as to when he'll be back. It isn't long before he returns, his hair damp and his leggings stained at the knees from meditating at night in the gardens. The signs of aloneness and his trying to come to terms with that aloneness again have been there, but I thought it had to do with some of our more harrowing missions. There are always decisions made that he needs to make peace with, things he wishes he'd done differently. Always, he's meditated afterward, to find peace in the Force and reassurance that he did the best that he could do, without insertion of his personal ego or will.
From what I've observed as a Padawan, all Jedi Masters are alone somewhere inside of themselves, even those with a bondmate. The Force as well as the Council -- not to mention we Padawans -- can ask too much of them. The constant mantle of responsibility is more than the rest of us can understand. Until I went looking for it, I hadn't a clue that it was there.
My Master's loneliness was one of the first things I sensed about him after he established our training bond. It's strongest when his shielding is less than normal, most often just before he falls asleep. He's never spoken of it to me; I just know it's there, as I know how he likes his tea. It's been a part of him for as long as I've known him, perhaps the result of his life's events and his reactions to them.
I still can't believe that Sharat has just thrown him aside. that. If Qui-Gon had shared himself with me like that... Gods, but I'd never let him go. My Master is all that I've ever wanted, all that I think I'll ever need. I'm at peace only when I'm with him, and I've never felt that with any lover, before or after sex. I'm sure it wouldn't make sense if I told Qui-Gon so, but that's all right; I can deal with our not being lovers as long as he's somewhere in my life.
Every time I've let a man touch me, I've known that it's only been because my Master won't. If Qui-Gon would, just once, I don't think I could stand anyone else touching me after that.
Force, but how could Dagan leave him behind?
It's been two months since Dagan left him, and I can't stand it anymore. I can't stand just sitting here, watching him close himself off further and further, day by day. I can't just watch him be miserable and not want to do something about it. Part of me wishes he'd find another lover, while part of me dreads the moment when he does, as he certainly will. He always has before, why should this time be any different?
It's different because I've heard him refuse two offers of companionship already, from a knight and from a Master. I've seen the looks he's getting in the corridors -- the wistful craving looks as well as the speculative, sly ones. Strategies are being planned, perhaps even implemented when I'm not around.
I find myself holding my breath each time I come in the door; will someone else be here? Will it be another knight filled with light, with that long-legged, easy way of going that Knight Sharat had? Will the newest lover be all angular lines and elegant beauty, too? How long will this new dance last with my Master? Will he and his new lover form a soul-bond so that he's lost to me forever?
Sith, but I'm torturing myself again. So much for releasing all of this to the Force when I was twenty. Kenobi, you need to either bury this so deep that it never comes up again, or you need to act on what you're feeling once and for all.
Do I dare?
If I told him of my feelings for him, what would he say? What would he do? What are the consequences if he rejects me?
I could lose him as my Master. More than that, I could lose him as my friend. He could go so far as to say that my unrequited feelings will interfere with my training. He could resign and the Council could assign me another Master. I don't want that. I don't want anything near it to happen, so it's better if I stay silent.
But he deserves to be loved. And by someone better than Dagan or Windu or... or the next inquisitive Jedi who wonders what it's like to have Qui-Gon Jinn in his bed, and who will throw him aside once his curiosity's been satisfied.
Force, but I don't know what to do.
Hey, perhaps I don't have to speak of my love to act on it. Maybe I could keep just loving Qui-Gon as I have been, only take that love to the next level? Hope springs eternal in the heart of a foolish, idiotic Padawan. I might be risking all here, but the Force seems to be whispering that I need to at least give this a shot. Else I'll never know, someone else will get in there, and he'll be gone to me again.
I thought my Master was out of reach, but perhaps he's not. He can't throw me out if he doesn't know how I really feel, right? And if I don't tell him, he can't know how I feel to throw me out.
All right, decision made. I'm going to court him, fuss over him, make much of him. I'm going to love him and stick to him like Wydgin adhesive in the best ways that I know how.
Step One: Research my prey. My very tall prey.
Step Two: Plan my strategy carefully, cleverly, according to my findings.
Step Three: Implement my plans.
Force, just don't let him acquire another lover in the meantime. I've already wasted too much time dithering around with this.
I tackled my research as though I was preparing for a mission, which I suppose I was. My first item of research was Qui-Gon's memories, hopefully straight from the Master's mouth.
It wasn't hard to begin. We were officially on a rest cycle between missions and Qui-Gon was home nights, ensconced in his favorite chair in the common area or holed up in his sleeping chamber with a book. Always he was with a book, and no new lover had darkened our doorstep.
In addition to catching up on my classes and exams, I'd been assigned to teach a beginning Padawan class on droid and draigon battle techniques. I supposed I was qualified -- we'd certainly met enough of both on our missions, to the point that neither enemy held much fear for me anymore, but I resented the necessity of leaving Qui-Gon behind in the morning.
I invited him into my class a couple of times, but he didn't imitate a very good droid or a draigon. I then asked him to tell my charges his impressions of our battles.
"I'd rather not do that, Obi-Wan," came the reluctant refusal. "You were a unique young Padawan, absolutely fearless and full of confidence when we met our first enemies. Any memories I shared of those battles and my Padawan's efforts in them would likely frighten your young students, they'd feel they had your reputation to live up to, and then we'd have their Masters' complaints to deal with. Why don't arrange to have the weapons Master provide a few retrofitted battle droids for a more productive session?"
"Will you help me demonstrate how to take them apart?" I pursued.
"If you wish it."
I wished it. Any opportunity to dance with him, I wished it. He seemed to let go his sadness when we danced. I begged that we continue our sparring sessions every other afternoon, regardless we'd honed our skills to the point that Qui-Gon pointed out that such sessions were scarcely needed.
"I need them," I'd said fiercely, pulling back on my possessive feelings at the last moment, lest my Master sense them through the bond.
I'd noticed another reason to be concerned: my Master seemed to be turning into a hermit, not leaving our quarters unless he accompanied me. I was uneasy, rather than flattered at that development, for it seemed he was coming with me for all of the wrong reasons. My classes and our sparring sessions provided welcome distractions, being two of the few times when he could forget his loneliness for a time. The bond sang between us when we taught or sparred together; I dropped my shields as far as I dared and let him inside of me during those times. He didn't reach back across the bond or comment on it, but I could sense that he was grateful for the contact. I was happy when I was with him, while he was distracted. I wished that he didn't have to use my distractions as... well, just distractions.
I made it a point to check his messages at the comm twice a day and was greatly encouraged to find no communications except from the Council and their half-dozen mission scheduling minions. There was no one new in his life as of yet, and if I accommodated his staying close to home and close to me, it wasn't likely that anyone would get under his skin anytime soon.
I set a kind of rhythm with our days, leaving him to himself when I was in taking my own lessons and coming home to share mid- and evening-meal with him. The stack of books on his desk grew higher, as did the one next to his chair. He was reading, burrowing into yet another distraction and adding to his already considerable knowledge on only-the-Force-knew-what. More than once, his extensive, eclectic reading had come in handy, to the extent of saving our butts and our lives.
/That's fine, Master,/ I thought, setting the table and drawing him from his solitary researches for evening-meal. /You read while I plot. Just a few more days, and I'll be able to implement my basic strategy./
He researched his material while I researched mine. Our casual conversation at meals had taken on a new purpose for me. Gently, subtly I hoped, I probed his distant past. He answered willingly enough, never suspecting that his Padawan was filing away detail after detail for use in a multi-layered plan of sweet seduction.
After meals, I came to sit close to him or at his feet, leaning against his chair or his thigh, wanting him to "tell me more stories."
"You haven't wanted this many stories since you were ill with Denuban fever at thirteen," he protested, frowning and sliding his hand across my forehead. I shivered slightly at the touch of his warm, dry hand, hoped he didn't notice. "You're not sick now, are you?"
"No, Master." I offered a disarming grin. "I'm just interested. I've always enjoyed your stories. Please go on?"
"You'll have to stop and ask me about parts you find particularly interesting," he said dryly, settling back in his chair and flicking a hand at the lights to lower them. I was glad he did; I had wanted to, but didn't dare. Any shift I made to the atmosphere might create a suspicion that I didn't want created. Qui-Gon Jinn was a tired, sleeping draigon on these nights. I needed smoky details without the fire.
"I will ask," I assured him, settling in for a good, long reminiscence.
He obliged, perhaps as another helpful distraction. Anything, after all, to keep his mind off of Dagan's absence and the wounds left behind. Qui-Gon told me willingly enough about the knight he used to be. "The early days," he called them. "Before Xanatos."
I was startled that he said the words. More than that, he gave me a small, resigned smile as he spoke his former Padawan's name. Resignation wasn't an emotion I had ever seen my Master associate with Xanatos. /Perhaps he's making peace with his other demons, even as Sharat's demon has laid hold of him?/ After all, Xanatos was dead, unable to inflict further pain, while Dagan was still around. There was no telling when they might pass each other in the halls, when the gossip chain might inform my Master of some newsy tidbit or other in relation to his lover that might hurt him further.
Qui-Gon gave me names and mission dates, things I could easily use to look up logs in the archives later, which I did. I'd never heard him speak like this, so freely and with so much detail. It was unfortunate that he had to be in pain before he'd do it.
"You've never let me see inside your mind like this before," I commented on impulse.
"All too soon, you'll be a knight off on your own. If one of my memories triggers something in the future that helps you manage a mission.... more power to it." And he continued talking.
The bond told me that Qui-Gon wasn't looking ahead to the time when I'd be off on my own as a knight, but that he was more conscious now that the time would come when he would be totally alone. I picked up his thoughts, not because his shielding was sloppy this night, but because he seemed to think that those particular thoughts would be of no consequence to me.
His pain ran even deeper than I had previously realized. Sliding closer, I dared to lean my arm on his thigh and braced my chin on my wrist. Giving a small, oblivious smile, he continued talking. A few minutes later, though, he was carding his fingers through my hair. Sighing, I leaned into the touch, wishing that I had the power to make him feel more contented and less dismal this night.
He talked and talked, lost in the past to escape his present. I did my best to see through his eyes, to use his words and throw myself back to understand the man I loved.
I meditated daily on the things he'd told me the night before, seeking my private, shady corner of the meditation garden. Sinking down into a trance, I gathered my Master's vibrations around me, immersed myself in them and tried, for the duration of the meditation, to be and think and feel as Qui-Gon Jinn. The Force supported my efforts. Images and emotions swirled together, became a more cohesive whole with every session. I came to see that all of us Jedi, but especially Qui-Gon, invest half of our lifetimes cultivating three separate personal images, or masks.
First came the public mask, sabered and solemn and robed -- the one we show to those we meet and serve during missions. Second came the Jedi's mask, also sabered and solemn and robed, but with varied layers of presentation and much higher personal stakes; this is the one we exhibit before the Council and while moving among our peers at the Temple. The third image is the one seen behind closed doors when we're home, and it can be multifaceted.
If a Jedi is lucky, he or she sheds saber and robes and all of the masks when they're home, alone, or with a Padawan. If a Jedi is not so lucky, he or she sheds one or two masks, but still keeps one intact for interacting with their Padawan... or their lover.
I suspected that the latter applied to Qui-Gon. He'd never been able to shed all of the masks and simply be himself. At heart, he was just a man, not a Jedi. What sort of pressure built up inside of a man who could not, dared not, be himself?
"From the creche, my friends were Mace and the others currently on the Council," he'd told me. "In the early years, they saw me a certain way, with no room for change. I was too tall and gangly, terribly shy, most-times uncoordinated. All arms and legs and clumsiness, I was also someone they defeated easily in the salle and in the debating chamber until I grew into myself, which took far too long for my personal comfort and still influences how some of them see me to this day, I think.
"I didn't finish growing physically until close to the time I was knighted. My body then allowed me the luxury of being able to know where I ended and things began, and the Force seems to have taken pity on me and began shouting louder. In any event, it became easier for me to hear its prompting." He offered a crooked smile. "Physical maturation ended with a vengeance, and I was finally allowed to use the gifts I had been given, not to mention my mind which finally seemed to engage, albeit a bit late."
"My swordsmanship improved drastically the last two years of my apprenticeship. I beat the leggings off of Mace and others, initially because they assumed that my skills were as they'd always been, and I knew all of their openings and arrogance from fighting them unsuccessfully for so long. Once knighted, I took my Master's advice and accepted a two-year assignment on a remote rim planet to study the living Force and offer spiritual assistance to the gentle inhabitants of a small ring of planets orbiting a weak sun.
"There, I grew up. I also grew the beard you see now," he gestured at his jaw, "let my hair lengthen, and put himself through a regimen that created a more pleasing physical foundation."
/He let the formidable, austere Jedi emerge,/ I thought, amazed at the sculpting that had been done.
"That man eventually became the Master you know now," Qui-Gon said, skipping a couple of decades with one sentence. No matter; perhaps he'd let us come back to the details later. "When I returned to the Temple here on Coruscant, no one knew me."
"Literally," Qui-Gon agreed. "I didn't look a thing like the wet-behind-the-ears knight who'd left two years before. I discovered that, for some reason which I still don't fully understand, my peers were stunned and intimidated by my presence alone."
"I can understand that," I muttered.
"Then perhaps you would explain it to me?"
I grinned. "I think your mystique is best left a mystery, even to you, Master. Let's just say that the shy knight who left had returned to turn everyone's expectations upside down."
The conversation drifted into other subjects then -- my lesson plan for the next day and when we'd meet to spar.
I looked up early the next morning to see Mk'zil slipping inside the study room I'd commandeered at the library. Giving a sly smile, she slunk up to the table I'd covered with my musings on Qui-Gon. Her green-gold eyes flicked over the papers, dismissing them entirely -- no doubt due to my erratic penmanship -- before she hopped up to sit on them. I didn't have to worry about anyone, including Qui-Gon, reading my notes; my messy writing was an unsolvable code all by itself.
"Obiii-Wannnn," she purred, flicking her hair out of her eyes and twining her long tail around my wrist in a caress that made me shiver. "You have abandoned the chasing of me?"
She was a beautiful spotted tabby from Trixta, and I'd been enchanted with her for months. We shared an on-again, off-again intimacy, with her arching approvingly beneath my touch, purring and petting me in return, but nothing had really ever come of it. Mostly, we just talked about what might happen between us. I wasn't certain that I wanted those sharp, furry claws wrapped around my most tender parts, while she wasn't certain that she wanted such a bald lover inside of her.
"You wish not to make me scream-come now?" she pursued.
Running a hand over her flank, I gave a small smile. "As we've discussed before, I'm not sure that I could make you scream, Mk'Zil. You're a little too wild, even for my tastes."
Leaning over, she sniffed me thoroughly, nuzzled my hair and licked my nose.
"Excited you are, but not for me." She gave her best effort at pouting, but her narrow muzzle and whiskers wouldn't really allow it. The best she could manage was to lift one lip in a sort of sneer. She ruined the effect by sneezing politely, which cleared her scent-palate. "Smell like the silver-haired one, you do."
"I've.... er... I've been spending a lot of time with my Master lately."
Her pupils expanded, she narrowed her eyes. A sharp claw traced my jaw. "Honest you can be with meeee, Obiiii-Wannnn. Peaceful you are when you speak of him. Peaceful you are when you be with him. Lie to me, don't about him. Part we will with some respect and memories of soft pettings, hmmrrw?"
"Hmmrrrw," I agreed as best I could. Rising half out of my chair, I bumped heads and rubbed against her in simple affection. "And here I thought that I was hiding my feelings so well."
She chuckled, a deep vibration I'd always found alluring. "Feelings you hide wellllll. Scents you cannot hide from me. Smell like him you do always, but it is stronger now." Her paw wafted over the papers. "Clings here." She wiped a paw down my face, in chastisement as well as caress. "...and here. Soaked with him you arrrrre."
She licked her paw clean, then leaned even closer so that her wet nose was touching mine. "Nowherrrre else you'd rather be," Mk'Zil purred. "Comfy Obiii-Wannnn with silvered Masterrr."
"True," I admitted, knowing that if I didn't she'd most likely bite me.
She showed her fangs in what passed for a pleased smile. "Good this is to say, Obiiii-Wannn."
"You're right, I'm at peace when I'm with him," I said. "There's nothing else I'd rather be doing."
Her eyes widened. "Bonding you are?"
"Of course we're bonded," I said with some confusion. "He's my Master."
"No, silliness Obi. Bond-mated in scent, bond-mated and mated you want to be with him?" She made a gesture which, in her native language meant two halves of a whole, joined. Her ears swivelled.
"Gods, I hope so." It was the first time I'd admitted it aloud to anyone. It felt good and terrifying to have done it now. Reaching up, I scratched behind her ears. She purred in delight and leaned in to increase the pressure of my touch. "That's a secret, 'Zil."
"Ssssecretive, yes. Keep the secret I willlll if you keep sssscratching, just therrrrre."
I did, and knew that she would. As I petted her, I wished that my Master was as easy to touch and to please.
Mk'Zil left shortly after, while I stacked my papers and toggled the lever to bring the datacomp up from its hidden bed inside the table. Physiology was on my mind, anatomy and other boring things that I needed to know next.
How old was Qui-Gon Jinn, in terms of his own race and in relation to mine? I asked the question and sought the answer, only to discover that age was no issue between us. There: he was not too old for me; one possible argument shot down. I was a third of the way through my life, while my Master was halfway through his. If we actually were to bond, we'd die at about the same time, barring an early death from injury or battle on some mission or other. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, I scanned the other data on his race and found that we were entirely compatible.
So far, aside from the physiological worries I'd just laid to rest, Qui-Gon's words and my own meditations had made me understand the public Jedi Master. I'd been allowed more glimpses of him than anyone else had in his life, including Mace and Tahl, but perhaps not Xanatos. That in itself meant something, but I wasn't certain what just then. I did know that the private Qui-Gon was different. I knew that he had let me see glimpses of himself. His lovers had seen more, and I wanted to as well. I wanted in.
Leaning back in my chair, I closed my eyes and considered matters for a moment. In public, my Master took charge and exerted control. I sensed that he'd react defensively to any threat to that image in public.
In private was another matter entirely. He easily relinquished control to me already, letting me tend his hair, give him backrubs, and even pamper him on occasion.
That was significant, right? I knew that it's wasn't traditional for a Padawan to serve a Master so completely; a few that I'd talked to had even been startled that the great Qui-Gon Jinn allowed me such liberties. I guess they thought that he was made of stone and didn't taken care of. Maybe that's why some of the knights dreamed of getting him into bed -- they wanted want to rock that aura of austere control that he'd cultivated for years.
I guessed that maybe I wanted to rock him, too. But the difference was that those knights didn't need him, while I do. I hoped that, at some point, he'd decide he needed me, too. But that was for him to decide, I couldn't force him to feel anything.
That was the rub, wasn't it? That he might never feel for me what I felt for him? That he might love me, but never be in love with me?
Gods, the thought was heartbreaking. But we must take what we're given. If Qui-Gon could love me only as a father loves his son, as a Master cares for his apprentice, then I would have to settle for that, wouldn't I?
On the other end of the spectrum, maybe he did desire me on some level? Maybe he just needed a bit of encouragement to acknowledge and act on it?
And if he did act on it? What then? What sort of lover would he be? Would he take control in our bed, or would he let me lead the dance?
I couldn't think about that now. Right now, I had to look for ways to love him in public and in private that didn't threaten him. Ways that wouldn't alert him to the fact that his Padawan was trying to court him.
Good luck, Kenobi. I think you'll need it.
Progress was being made. I thought. This week, anyway.
My classes ended -- both the teaching and the learning -- and we were returned to the mission roster's last rotation. We drew some light duty -- treaty observations and helping to build a few towns -- so that I was been able to be with my Master much of the time. We spent the last two weeks played carpenter side by side, helping to build roofs for the Glanishc who just joined the Republic. They were exchanging peat roofs for real roofs, and we'd been helping the Republic builders because otherwise we'd just be in the way. I fetched planks and nails and learned to drive a mean nail or ten myself into the roofing.
"Gods, but you're easy to be with," I told him impulsively when we took a xenith break.
He looked startled and laughed, pulling off his bandana and wiping the sweat from his forehead. "What made you say that?"
I poured out a deep cup of water and offered it to him first. "We're hot and sweaty, working our butts off, and you've just spent the morning teaching me how to build a roof. Not once did you get impatient or complain that I'm not learning fast enough. You've never done that, but other Masters have. I just... I guess I just want to say thank you, Master, only it came out sideways."
He gave me a sweaty hug before retrieving his tools. "For what it's worth, Obi-Wan, I think you're easy to be with as well."
We returned to work then, with a warm glow effusing the training bond that hadn't been there before. A few clicks later, and my Master began to hum -- a sound that I hadn't heard in a long time. Casting me a sly glance, he then began singing a bawdy song that we'd heard some time ago on a distant planet.
"I can't remember all of the words, Padawan. Do you?"
"Um... give me a minute. Yes, Master, I think I do."
He prompted me when I forgot a line, and I prompted him. In no time at all, we had all of the lyrics together and were teaching the other workers. It wasn't quite the help the Council had in mind when they'd sent us here, and the men's wives wouldn't thank us, but we had a good time.
Yes, I think that was progress.
I've noticed that it seems easier for my Master to set aside his sadness when we're off-planet, when he can bury himself in the moment and not be haunted by the past. He takes pleasure in the little things, like our having to bathe that night in a local swimming hole fed by a hot spring. We were handed rough, scratchy towels and promised privacy by the natives, so that we headed off with a single bar of soap and no worries. He soaped my back and I soaped his, sharing a naked togetherness. Of course I had an erection; he was oblivious or polite in not noticing it, I'm not certain which. I was neither oblivious or polite; I noticed his. A damn fine one it was, too, large and thick and inviting. I looked forward to becoming better acquainted with it one day.
We sat cross-legged on the bank, towels draped across our laps while we watched the sun go down. He repaired my braid, and I returned the compliment by combing out his wet hair.
"It's getting long. It will need to be cut it when we return home," he remarked idly, tossing a pebble into the pool and watching the rings ripple outward.
"I wish you'd let it grow longer," I remarked, going up on my knees behind him to pull the usual portion back and fasten the small leather thong. Leaning down, I pulled the knot tight with my teeth, as both of my hands were needed elsewhere to secure the damp hair that seemed determined to fight me this night.
He looked across at me when I thumped down beside him. "How much longer do you think it needs to be?"
This was new. Usually, he just pointed out that longer hair could be dangerous in a fight, and we left it at that.
"As long as I could get you to grow it." It seemed a day for honesty.
My Master looked away and fell into thoughtful silence, and I knew not to push the issue. He hadn't refused, and I chose to take that as assent. When I trimmed his hair upon our return to Coruscant, I planned to snick off only a minimum of hair. With a bit of luck and a lot of silence regarding the matter, I thought he'd let it grow for me.
I was starting to learn that the silences between us were telling. Over and over again, experience seemed to have taught my Master that words simply didn't cut it in an intimate relationship. On the other hand, just living might. If I stayed as close as he'd let me, consistently and gladly for a very long time... if I took care of him and dominated his time as a companion as much as possible, perhaps he'd be immune to any knights who came along when we got home, wanting to intrude on the intimate relationship I was trying to build with him.
We were sent from Glanishc to Koolinara, where we found ourselves officiating at the coronation of their boy-king. It wasn't a difficult mission, but it was wearying in terms of standing at attention through a series of boring ceremonies conducted in an ancient ceremonial language that neither we nor the populace understood. Still, it pleased the priests who would support this king.
As the day of the coronation drew nearer, we were asked to take turns helping to guard the king's chamber, to use our Force senses against any hint of dark thought or an assassination attempt. Of a consequence, this meant that Qui-Gon and I were unable to sleep together the entire time we were there.
"I'm exhausted," I confessed to him while we broke our fast one morning; I was just coming off duty, while he was going on.
"As am I." I was startled to hear him admit it. His next words startled me even more. "Given the many hosts who see fit to furnish us with only one bed, it seems that you and I have grown used to each other's company in ways we have never realized. Numerous times in the night, I find myself waking up and reaching for you. I'm disturbed that you're not there." He sounded vaguely bewildered, but accepting.
"I feel it too, Master."
Taking my braid between his fingers, he caressed the length of it. "Only a few more days, Obi-Wan. Then we can go home, where sleep is never a disturbance."
Home. Not just back to Coruscant, but home. To our quarters, where our vibrations had obviously mingled in such a way that we were always together, sensed that togetherness, and could sleep soundly. My Master had realized it first and seemed to be taking it in stride. I wondered if there were any unrealized bonding implications in our resting uneasily when we were too far apart.
I hoped so.
The coronation festivities concluded, and my Master told me to book passage home at the Council's orders. Quite deliberately, I booked us onto a ship that I knew had a five-cycle layover on a distant moon. I also knew that Qui-Gon wouldn't inquire as to the details of the passage before we got on board. The two of us were seated comfortably in the guest lounge when the transport docked against the moon. Looking up from his datapad, Qui-Gon arched an elegant eyebrow.
"Where are we?"
I rose to my feet and gathered my cloak. "Do you trust me?"
"Implicitly, but what has that to do with where we are, Obi-Wan? What have you planned?"
I pulled a scrappy flyer from my pocket, unfolded it and handed it to him. "I thought you might enjoy attending this."
His eyes scanned the words. "An antiquarian book exhibit and sale? Obi-Wan, we haven't time--"
"We have five cycles before the ship leaves." Scooping up his cloak, I set it on his shoulders and circled around to tug on his hand. "Come on, before all of the books are gone."
He shook his head, still staring down at the flyer even as he got up and let me lead him off of the ship. "How did you learn of this?"
"One of the guests at the ceremonies is exhibiting here. He mentioned it, that's all."
"That's all?" Waving the flyer before him, my Master caught up and walked beside me down the gangway. "Obi-Wan, this took a bit of deliberate planning, didn't it? You booked us on a ship that you knew would stop here."
"The Council won't mind," I defended. "The rates were a little lower than a non-stop transport. Will the Order begrudge us five cycles of freedom?"
"No, but my credit account might, given the books advertised at this gathering. Obi-Wan...."
"Yes, Master?" I bit my lip in uncertainty. "Have I done something wrong? You don't want to go?"
He loomed closer, invading my private space in a way he'd never done before to drape a companionable arm around my shoulders and settle me against him. "Not want to go? Of course I want to go. It's just.... It was a very thoughtful thing for you to have done, Obi-Wan, and totally unexpected. Thank you."
I was squeezed so hard, I thought my collarbones might crack. The anticipation and happiness in my Master's eyes was unmistakable.
"Then what's the problem, Master?"
"The problem is that you shall be bored stiff."
"No, I won't."
"Yes, you will."
"Fine, Master. If you sense that I am, you can teach me about books the way you taught me about roofing and saber drills."
"It's not the same thing at all."
"I'm eager to learn, Master. Teach me."
He laughed then -- a full-bodied, deep and joy-filled sound that I had heard only a few times during my entire apprenticeship. I shivered to think that I'd been the one to inspire it this time. Sliding my hand boldly around his waist, I nestled closer and looked up at him. He smiled down at me, his blue eyes crinkling at the corners.
"I'll teach you what ever you wish to learn, Padawan. Just see if I don't."
/Then teach me how to love you./ It was on the tip of my tongue, but I dared not say it.
The book show didn't bore me. My Master was contented, and I was basking in the blissful feelings vibrating across our training bond. I didn't understand quite why ancient tomes enraptured him so, but that didn't matter. Qui-Gon was happy; that's what was important.
"Are you sure you're not bored?" he asked on an average of once every ten clicks.
"I'm sure, Master."
He found a number of volumes to purchase, and I willingly volunteered to carry them while he searched for more.
"Are you sure you're not--"
"Master," I said soothingly, "why don't you explain to me why you find brittle paper encased in leather-bound boards so enticing?"
He gave me a strange look. "Ah... so that's it. You don't understand."
"Right. But I'm not bored." I waited expectantly for the lesson that was surely to come.
He seemed to gather his thoughts before speaking. "Your holovid collection... what is the name of one of those mindless, escapist adventure serials you like so well?"
"Mindless?" I laughed. "Escapist? They serve their purpose, Master. They're relaxing."
"And addictive, I've noticed. Well? Come now, Padawan: a name."
"Crimson Pirates of Corellia," I reported obediently, if a little embarrassed.
"Hmmm," my Master said, turning away to wander further down the aisle and letting his hand hover over the nearest bookstall's offering. "And here we are." He thrust a medium-sized volume at me, almost under my nose. "Smell this."
I sniffed. "Um... it's musty and moldy. A bit nasty, really."
"It's old. Older than both of us put together." He took the book from me and laid it in the palm of his hand. "You already know this book, Padawan. I believe it's the first in your HV series."
He tilted the cover and revealed the title page. An illustration opposite was revealed in vibrant blues and greens. "High adventure and treachery on the outer rim," read the caption. A bountifully bosomed lady pirate had the scowling, black-haired hero lashed to the bulkhead of a scarred starcruiser. Her blaster was fully trained on his temple, his trusty first officer lay bleeding and unconscious at his feet.
Qui-Gon didn't linger over the illustration. Instead, he turned to the first page and began reading. "'I was but ten years of age when my father sold me as a cabin boy to the captain of the 'Rogue Warrior'. My place was at the captain's side, which I never left except briefly and at his order, and I slept in a corner of his cabin on the floor. Over the next two years, I was initiated into a life of blood, hidden treasure, murder and black intrigue on the outer rim. The Rogue was a fine old ship, for all that she's gone now....'"
I closed my eyes, the better to listen as my Master's voice drew me into one of the fantasy worlds that I'd loved since I was a boy. The ship was described in vivid detail, as was the captain -- a bold, strong man, determined to protect his crew and his ship at all costs. Qui-Gon's voice died away and it took me a minute to realize that he didn't intend to continue past the few paragraphs he'd shared. My eyes shot open.
"Why did you stop? There are details in there that the HV's don't show!"
My Master all but smirked. "That, my Padawan, is why I find brittle paper encased in leather-bound boards so enticing." Snapping closed the book, he offered it to me. "It's twenty credits, a bargain for a third imprint. Do you want it?"
I practically snatched it from him and couldn't hand over my credit chip fast enough to the amused female Dug weaving behind the table.
"Stay and read at my stall," she urged my Master with a glint and a grunt, while running my credit chip through her machine with alacrity. "More books we'd sell."
"Alas, I am already employed." He refused her with a smile and a bow, and put a hand to my elbow to urge me along after my purchase was returned in a solid, protective little wrapping. It was only then that I noticed the crowd that had gathered around us, presumably to listen to my Master read.
"Jedi," The whispers surrounded us. "They're Jedi."
Qui-Gon waved his hand before us slightly. I felt the Force ripple a bit at the manipulation. "Our presence is of no consequence. Be at peace, and continue to enjoy your day."
The crowd dispersed. I went on ahead to look for more pirates in other bins. "Master, I've found three more! This one hasn't even been made into a vid!"
He stood close to look over my shoulder in the crowded aisle. "How much are they?"
"Um... this one's twenty. And these... are twenty-five each. I can't afford all of them!"
"That's the joy of books, Obi-Wan. They wait patiently somewhere until such time as you can afford them."
"But I want them all."
He squeezed my shoulder and gestured with his other hand, indicating the entire room full of books on display. "Now you know how I feel."
My Master continued on his amused way. Replacing my good finds in the bins, I shook my head sadly at the dealer behind the table.
"Not enough credits, not even to haggle," I apologized before hurrying to catch up with Qui-Gon. "So what do you do when you want something you can't afford?"
"I save my credits until I can afford it."
We continued cruising the wares until I hit on the brilliant -- if belated -- plan to write down the titles to my series that I was finding but couldn't afford. The Master and I split up for awhile, with me lagging behind to scribble my notes while he went on ahead to in search of his own treasures. In time, I found a crumbling pulp edition of another one in the series, but nothing else I could afford. Circling back to the original Dug dealer whose books I'd coveted, I was dismayed to discover that the three volumes I'd found were gone.
I searched again, just to make sure, but without luck. Yes, they were definitely gone. Sadly, I went in search of my Master, who was seated close to the door and already absorbed in one of the tomes he'd purchased. Sinking down cross-legged beside him, I added my two small purchases to the hefty stack he'd accumulated in my absence.
"Did you find anything good?" Qui-Gon asked.
"Not really, no." I showed him my second, sorry purchase.
"Obi-Wan, this won't do at all," he said. "Look, some of the pages are loose and here, you're missing two. Not only that, this corner looks like it's been gnawed on by a previous owner."
"It's all I could afford."
"Then it's best to wait until you've the credits to afford what you want, rather than what you feel you must settle for." He handed the sorry little book back to me. "This volume won't last; it will disintegrate in your hands as you read it, and you'll not have the pleasure of reading it again."
"You're right. There's much I have to learn about book collecting."
Rising, Qui-Gon handed me half of his purchases and took the other half to carry himself. "I'll be happy to teach you, Padawan. The first rule is to be patient and to never buy in haste. There's always a better book."
Nodding, I trudged along behind him out of the sale. Thankfully, my first lesson hadn't been too expensive. "There's one other thing, Master."
Turning, he waited for me to catch up, then strolled along beside me on our way back to the waiting ship. "What's that, Padawan?"
"I wanted to make a list of the books that I found, so that I could keep track of what I had gotten and what I was missing. But when I backtracked to one of the stalls, the books I'd found were all gone."
"Yes, they can be snatched up in your absence."
"It's most disappointing. All I wanted to do was to list them."
"The temple library should be able to furnish that information. There will be other volumes at other sales, Obi-Wan. Half of the fun is in the hunt."
"But the other half of the fun is in the reading," I said petulantly. "If I can't find them or afford them, how am I to read them?"
He slid his arm around my shoulders again, hugging me tightly against him and not letting go. I very much liked the feeling of his solidity against me. "You must trust that you'll find them again when you can afford them. For now, would you like a snack to take the edge off of your disappointment before we reboard?"
"Yes, Master. I think I would. Even if I can't afford a book, I can still afford to eat."
"Well said, Padawan, though some philosophers would argue that literature is just another form of necessary nourishment."
"I have something for you," said Qui-Gon when we'd returned home and were ready to retire to our separate chambers in hopes of getting some long-needed and much anticipated rest. Digging into his hold-all, he emerged to hand me three books.
I stared, incredulous, at the spines. In my hands were the three volumes I'd lost to an unknown buyer only a few cycles ago. "These are.... You bought these for me? Master!"
He stood there grinning in a gleeful, open a way I'd never seen before, all teeth and satisfaction. "And that, gentlebeings, is how one renders a Padawan speechless."
Speechless perhaps, but not non-responsive. On impulse and carefully, so as not to injure the books I still held, I slid my arms around him and hugged tight. My cheek went against his chest, my hands burrowed into his robes. "Even if you were sneaky about it, thank you so much, Master."
He hugged me fiercely in return, molding our bodies together and even seeming to rest his chin on the top of my head. His hands were warm where they caressed my back, and his chuckle reverberated deep in my own chest.
"You're most welcome, Obi-Wan. I hope that they bring you many hours of pleasure. I give them to you in celebration of my converting you to the fine art of collecting musty old volumes."
"I have something for you as well," I murmured, not wanting to leave his embrace, but knowing that if I stayed and clung, it would most likely wreck the moment. At the very least it would spark some confusion on Qui-Gon's part. Drawing away, I went to my duffle and retrieved a flat, slender box. Handing it over, I stood with my hands behind my back and awaited his reaction.
Opening the box, he unrolled its contents and stared.
"Parchment, Obi-Wan? And a fountain pen?" He laid the writing materials carefully on his desk, ran a finger over both. "These aren't gifts, Padawan, they are priceless treasures. Where did you find them?"
"There was a little booth in the back, lurking in the shadows," I said, pleased with his reaction and knowing that he was pleased as well. "The paper is handmade, and I've a bottle of ink to give you as well, once I unpack and make sure it hasn't spilled on itself."
"Obi-Wan...." He stood there for a moment, as if at a loss as to what to do. And then, giving a crooked smile and looking rather sheepish, he opened his arms to me.
I'm no fool: I dove in for another hug. This time, I was almost certain that he pressed a kiss to the top of my head. Force, but he felt so good to be near. If Mk'Zil was right and I did smell like my Master, then I smelled of heaven.
Closing my eyes, I took a good, deep breath to fill my senses with him. I was hardening fast, growing aroused just by the scent of him, by the firm muscles of his back that I could feel shifting beneath my hands, and the delicious knowledge that I'd made him happy. He might fall back into depression the moment he entered his chambers and went to bed, he might miss Dagan's lovemaking something fierce, but I felt certain that Dagan hadn't ever taken the time to give his lover a gift like that.
"I will cherish these things always," he rumbled against me, not showing any signs of wanting to let go. "I'm most hesitant to use the paper, it seems so precious."
"There's always more paper, as there are always more books, Master," I said into his tunic, wishing I dared nuzzle my way in to press my lips against his bare chest. "We'll have to haunt galactic book sales until we find that vendor again. Or perhaps there's one closer to home?"
"Perhaps. Coruscant has many surprises in its shops." My Master's fingers sifted gently through my hair, and then he was stepping back, letting me go. I felt bereft of his body heat, but the contentment smoldering in those blue eyes warmed me all over again. "Thank you, Obi-Wan."
"You're welcome, Master."
I think we both slept well that night, and not just because we were home again.
Stepping back, I extinguished my lightsaber and swept a damp arm across my brow. The motion only served to relocate the hair plastered there. Sweat ran in rivulets down my back; I craved leaving the hot salle and escaping into a cool shower. "Well-fought, Obi-Wan. You've won your freedom for the evening."
Dousing his own weapon, my Padawan looked confused. "Master?"
"I thought you might want a night off, to spend time with your friends."
"Oh. Right. Yes, that would be most welcome."
He didn't look nearly as enthused as I thought he should. Falling into step with me, he stared at the floor as we exited the salle on our way to our quarters.
"Master, have you any plans for tonight?"
"Not really, no."
His expression brightened as he looked up at me. "Then would you consider coming with me? To Indiscretions?"
"I've not been there in years." Indiscretions was a private dance club for the senior Padawan set, not strictly off-limits to Masters, but very close. I never would have invited my own Master there. Why in the world would Obi-Wan invite me to go with him? "Padawan, we've been thrown together quite a lot on the last three back-to-back missions. Wouldn't you rather go out with your friends?"
"You are a friend, Master. I enjoy being with you." His answer was calm and sounded serious. I detected no sense of humor through the bond; the statement seemed sincere enough, as did the gray-green eyes staring so intently up at me. "Will you come, then?"
"I think that I will," I replied slowly, at the same time wondering what I was getting myself into. It wasn't that I wanted to go to a dance club; it was that I enjoyed being with Obi-Wan as well. And if he was determined to ask his old Master out, either in sincerity or as experiment, we'd have to see how the night went. /If it doesn't work out,/ I thought to myself, /there are other clubs... or I could simply return home to my books./
Of course I'd been to dance clubs with Mace and Dagan, but not recently. Recently, I had been living as a hermit except for the time spent with my Padawan. /Jinn, you must get over it, get a life of your own. Obi-Wan is being patient -- far more patient than he was when Tahl died. But then, he's older. Older, needing company his own age. You can't cling to him forever, no matter how enjoyable the clinging is, or how he seems to understand exactly what you need when you need it./
I promised myself that I'd let him go back to his own friends soon. It might be as soon as tonight, if I made a total ass of myself at Indiscretions.
"Great!" Before I knew it, a muscular arm was sliding around my waist and hugging me tightly. Obi-Wan's delight was unmistakable through the bond. "Let's go home and get showered, dressed, and get out of here. Tonight, no more Master and Padawan; we're just two men out to have a good time, agreed?"
I wore black, as I usually do to informal affairs. Ready before Obi-Wan as he'd insisted that I use the 'fresher first, I sipped a glass of wine to give myself false courage, suddenly nervous about this entire affair.
I knew that I looked good, knew that the black tended to make my eyes more blue and brought out the silver highlights in my hair. On impulse, I'd released my hair from its usual thonged confines. I did not, however, surrender my boots. Those were too much a part of me to leave behind, ever. As always, my lightsaber was secured at my waist. Obi-Wan would take his own weapon as well, honoring an unwritten part of the Jedi code that seemed to state a Jedi and his 'saber were never to be parted. Certainly, every one of us felt more secure with it at our side.
Obi-Wan emerged from his room only to pause at the door and stare at me. His eyes flashed, his glance raked down to my toes and back up to meet my gaze. For a moment, I thought that I saw a familiar kind of hunger in his expression, but it was gone before I was certain. The bond, however, did not lie: naked desire flashed across the expanse before Obi-Wan slammed up his shields. Startled, I could do little more than stare back.
Obi-Wan... desired me? Surely, I'd misread that emotion. I hadn't time to ponder the possibilities, as he stood before me dressed in the tightest shirt and pants that I'd ever seen him wear. There was no break in the line between the top of his Order-issue boots and the tight black leather pants he was wearing. The form-fitting blue shimmer-cloth shirt he'd found molded to and accentuated every muscle he owned. A dusting of hair was revealed in the deep V-neck; even his nipples were outlined beneath that shirt. His muscles shifted as he breathed, a shining delight to my sight and senses, one that I longed to touch. The leather accentuated every curve, glowing in the dim light and highlighting the bulge at his crotch. It left little to question; from the look of it, my Padawan was well-endowed.
When had he become such a beautiful man? When had the boyish, mischievous glances he threw me from time to time been layered with a smoldering sensuousness? Had the transformation taken place tonight, between salle and shower, or had he been this way for months but I'd never noticed?
He stalked toward me with an easy-going, self-confident stride that spoke of a man who was very much aware of his body, his obvious masculinity, and the affect it could have on a lover. His Padawan braid swung from side to side, reminding me of the claim I had already staked on his training, his position in the Order, his life. I wanted to tell him we were not going to the club. We were not going out at all tonight, because I wanted to touch him. I wanted to pick him up and carry him to my bed, toss him onto it and caress and claim what that shirt so teasingly covered. I wanted my mouth on every inch of his bare flesh, wanted to know his taste and the noises he would make for me. Wanted to bring him to writhing ecstacy with his fingers tangled in my hair as he shouted my name in climax to the Coruscant night. I wanted to feel his every muscle stretch toward me in a rigor of passion. I wanted to know if the auburn flame of his hair matched the intensity of any flame I might kindle between his legs. If I touched him, would the flame within him burn long and pure for me, and only me?
His eyes were bright as they locked into mine. The half-smile he wore was a torment all by itself, and I could feel his eagerness to be off. With me. /Tonight, this is mine,/ I realized, all but purring at the thought.
Suddenly, with an intensity I'd not felt in years, I wanted him to be mine. Not just tonight, but forever. I wanted us to be connected by more than a training bond, more than through the vows we'd spoken as Master and apprentice. I wanted to taste him on my tongue and know that he was tasting me as well. I wanted to look out at our world through his eyes, and know that we were entwined, heart and soul, through the sort of a soul bond that I'd only ever read about. I wanted him, all of him, in my arms, in my bed, arching beneath my hands, belonging to me as I wanted to belong to him. I wanted to bury myself in his beauty, inside and out, and never let go. Never be let go.
My heart pounded in my ears, and my mouth grew dry. I stared down at him, wondering why so beautiful a creature would want to be with me, if only for the evening. I was suddenly, achingly erect, and knew that I'd probably remain so for most of the evening. He was remarkable, exquisite. How was it that I'd never seen this before?
He stalked toward me and passed me. Passed me. I turned with him, ensnared by his every movement. Pausing at the door, he palmed it open and then looked over his shoulder. Arching an eyebrow, he asked, "Are you ready, Master?"
His voice had dropped at least three notes. Smoky and sultry, it was a blatant verbal invitation and a reassurance that he wanted me to share his company. I ached even more for him. I was not having trouble breathing... was I?
Obi-Wan glided through the door. Having the presence of mind to grab both of our cloaks, I followed him.
He was hailed the moment we entered the club and summoned to a table with four of his peers who eyed me cautiously and with no little curiosity. That doubtful, curious gaze was then turned on my Padawan, who urged me into a chair at his right before grabbing his own chair. I was startled the next moment by his scrapping that chair as close beside me as he could without climbing into my lap.
"Everybody here knows my Master, I'm sure. Qui-Gon, this is Bant, Garen, Reeft and his mate, Singura."
"Hello, Master Jinn." The chorus rippled around the table. I didn't need to be Force sensitive to sense their growing puzzlement and confusion. I could almost hear their thoughts: doesn't he see enough of Obi-Wan on missions? Doesn't his Master trust him enough to let him out alone?
"My Master and I are looking forward to some great dancing tonight," Obi-Wan ploughed on, "especially after the boring missions we drew this past week. Hey, which appetizers are the best? We left the Temple without eating."
He snatched a menu and shoved it between us. Leaning against me, he slid one arm behind me, across the back of my chair. His body language was saying, all too clearly, 'I'm with him tonight, and I like it.' Or was I misreading?
"Everything's good," Garen and Reeft said in unison.
"How would you know?" he teased. "You'll eat anything." The droid attendant waited patiently while Obi-Wan and I consulted about the snacks.
"Shall we get enough for the entire table, with drinks?" I asked, fishing out my credit chip and handing it to the attendant. "Open an account for the night," I told it. " All right, what would all of you like?"
"Well, if you're going to be like that...." Obi-Wan grinned and ordered the most expensive appetizer on the menu, not to mention a drink that was, this side of the Sith-hells, usually off-limits due to the amount of alcohol it contained. "What do you want, Bant?"
I didn't blink or frown at Obi-Wan's choice. In fact, my own choice echoed it, and he grinned at me conspiratorially. Taking courage from his example, Bant ordered what I thought was probably her usual conservative choice. Garen followed eagerly on her heels, his attitude thawing a little when he realized that I wasn't going to behave like the tradition-bound bastard of a Master I was reputed to be. Tonight, anyway. His drink choice followed Obi-Wan's, while Reeft and his mate ordered something else.
The next cycle or so was spent nibbling on a variety of appetizers and sampling our libations while regaling one another with stories from past missions. Obi-Wan's and my narratives involved our telling the story together, each of us interrupting the other to fill in details and learning in the process how we'd seen things differently. Or had even seen different things. Twice, we got into arguments that made the others howl with laughter, Obi-Wan taking the conservative side of the argument while I argued on behalf of a more extreme solution. A few minutes later, we took the opposite sides in relation to yet another mission.
"I can see now why you're both rumored to spark chaos in the Council chamber," said Garen, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes while Obi-Wan scowled at him. "You're two sides of the same coin, the Council never knows which way you'll jump. Either of you."
I shared a startled look with Obi-Wan. "You know, he's right?"
"Of course he's right. We make a great team, Master." Pushing back in his chair, he gained his feet and laid a hand on my shoulder. "Let's see what kind of teamwork we can do on the dance floor?"
The table went totally silent, watching. I eyed the couples out on the floor now. They moved in ways that I didn't, except in battle. Suddenly feeling more than a little old and very insecure, I tugged on Obi-Wan's braid where it dangled beside me. He bent over so that I could murmur into his ear.
"I don't think I can do this, Padawan. Why don't you ask Bant, instead?"
He turned his head, and his mouth was so close to mine, we were breathing the same air. "I don't want to dance with Bant," came the patient answer. Sliding a hand down my arm, he snagged my fingers. "I want to dance with you."
"Obi-Wan, I don't know how."
"Yes, you do. We'll adapt the twelfth level, fifth form battle kata. You take the offensive and I'll take the defensive. But whenever you advance, instead of retreating, I'll submit." His eyes sparkled with mischief and anticipation. "If we keep the bond open between us, we can do this, Master. It might even start a trend."
"It will most likely provoke hilarity."
His eyes grew serious. "Our dancing has never provoked hilarity, Master. I don't see any reason why it should tonight."
"Dancing... is that how you think of our training sessions? Our sparring?"
His gaze was locked into mine. I couldn't look away. In that moment, I think I saw for the first time what our sessions meant to him. My fingers closed around his. "Adapting that kata just might work, Padawan. Shall we?"
His grin could have lit Coruscant. From the opening bow symbolizing, "I respect you, my enemy, even unto death," to the final aerial maneuver over my head that ended with Obi-Wan landing squarely in front of me -- symbolizing, I suppose, that you can teach a Master a new dance -- the kata was easily adapted and a joy to dance. Obi-Wan never faltered, and with both of our shields at a minimum I saw just how easily we flowed together. As he'd predicted, there was no hilarity, no awkward moments. The trance music with a fast, driving beat was perfect for us to lose ourselves in the connection that let us flow mentally and move physically as one.
"That was vulnerability and strength in one of the purest forms I've ever encountered," I remarked to Obi-Wan as we returned to the table, eager to catch our breaths and try it again with another kata.
We earned a round of applause from a few watchers, and Obi-Wan's friends at the table. He bowed with mock humility and called for the attendant to bring some cold water.
"That was amazing," burbled Bant.
"That was probably something Qui-Gon will incorporate into my training next week." He winked, poured out a glass, and handed it to me. "Not that I have any objections. That was... exhilarating."
"It was," I agreed. "And yes, I think it would fit nicely with the free-form sparring tutorials." /But only if other Master and Padawan teams have reached the deep and comfortable level that ours have./
/Is that why it was so easy?/
I'd forgotten that my shields were down to him. Startled, I realized that Obi-Wan hadn't bothered to raise his own shields after the dance.
/Why should I raise them?/ he ventured, sensing my surprise. /That's not the only dance we'll do tonight, is it?"
"No," I whispered, mentally as well as out loud. "I'm sure that there are numerous other katas ready for adaptation."
"I want to try them all," Obi-Wan said expansively.
"No." He grinned. "We have the rest of our lives for that, don't we, Master?"
My heart nearly stopped at his words. Surely, he couldn't mean what he seemed to be implying. My thoughts raced, I dared not reach through the bond to feel whatever he was feeling. To find my hopes were wrong would have been too much disappointment, impossible to hide in this newly naked mental contact. Carefully, I replied.
"If you wish it, Obi-Wan." I held out my hand. "Shall we dance again?"
We did, and a few other Jedi at the club even tried that night, as well. In the weeks to come, I was told by other Masters that their Padawans had come and told them of this night, of the experimentations Jinn and Kenobi had made to adapt lessons to dances. Could they practice with their Masters? came the shy questions. Would the Masters consider going with them to Indiscretions and trying out the floor there, as Master Jinn had?
They could, and they did. As Obi-Wan had predicted, it became a Temple trend. The club itself evolved to welcome Masters in the coming months; another miracle, possible through Obi-Wan's curious determination to dance with his Master.
Not all of the dances were trance or techno. Close to closing, the electronics slowed the beat and the melody. The theme was retro, and so it was that I found myself with a very warm, very solid Obi-Wan in my arms, dancing to an instrumental piece that I'd first heard as an apprentice.
"You lead," Obi-Wan urged, stepping close and entwining his hand around my neck.
Who was I to argue with an armful of Padawan? I said nothing but gave a nod and slid my arm around his waist. Tucking his free hand into my own, I began moving gently to the music. Sighing, he leaned his cheek against my chest and closed his eyes. I felt him relax against me as his heartbeat, his breathing steadied. I felt his solid thighs moving against my own, and my body responded to his nearness, just as it had earlier in the evening when I saw him just outside his chamber door. His response was immediate; his desire seemed to echo my own. And then, Obi-Wan began to sing very softly against my chest, filling in the words that the music left out.
"The story of my life is very plain to read; it starts the day you came and ends the day you leave. The story of my life begins and ends with you. The names are still the same, and the story's still the truth. I was alone. You found me waiting and made me your own. I was afraid that somehow I never could be a man that you wanted of me. "
I listened, barely daring to breathe, for his shields were still down and the lyrics seemed more than words, at least to me. Did he mean this, or was it just a song?
"You're the story of my life, and every word is true; each chapter sings your name, each page begins with you. It's the story of our times and never letting go." He snuggled closer under my chin, his fingers tangling most deliberately in my hair. His arousal against me was unmistakable, rubbing against my own, create a sweet, sweet longing.
"Obi-Wan.... " I whispered, daring to press a kiss to the top of his head. /Gods, but I love you, And if this moment is all that we ever have... I don't know if I can bear it, now that I've realized how much you mean to me./
"If I die today, I wanted you to know...stay with me, here with me. Share with me, care with me," he continued against me, so softly that only I could hear. My eyes filled with tears, wishing that he meant it. "Stay and be near... and when it began, I'd lie awake every night just knowing, somewhere deep inside, that our affair just might write...."
He shivered against me and tightened his grip on my hand. I felt a dampness through the material against my chest. Rather than singing, Obi-Wan was murmuring roughly.
"The story of my life is very plain to read; it starts the day you came, it ends the day you leave."
The music continued on for a few more measures. I guided us slowly to the edge of the floor, far away from the table that his friends had claimed until it faded entirely.
He hugged me tightly, then raised his head. I wanted so much to kiss him in that moment, for I felt that he'd meant every word of it. Still, I hesitated, settled for running the braid between my fingers.
"It's been a good time, tonight," I murmured. "Thank you for inviting me."
That mischievous grin was back. Leaning against me, Obi-Wan raised his head and pressed his lips against mine. "Thank you for coming."
Those words against my mouth were both kiss and caress, deliberately provocative. Obi-Wan deepened the kiss, his lips moving firmly against mine with his fingers still tangled in my hair. My arms went around him reflexively, and then I was pulling him closer, uncaring that he could sense my demanding need as I could sense his. Lightning jumped across the bond, insisting that I open my mouth. I did, wanting to devour him, wanting to hear him moan. He did moan, almost as if he had heard the thought. And then we were breaking apart as the next song began and couples began moving past us, onto the floor.
"There will...." I cleared my throat and licked my lips, tasting him there and wanting more. "There will be rumors about this kiss, Padawan."
His grin was unrepentant, and he didn't let go my hand. "I certainly hope so, Master."
In the harsh light of a new day, waking up to the usual duties and responsibilities, I felt that the events of the night weren't nearly so important as I'd made them. Surely, it was the liquor making me remember the sweetness of Obi-Wan in my arms, not to mention his willingness to be there? Surely it had been the lighting of the club that made me think that he desired me?
In the harsh light of day, nothing had changed. I was his Master, an object of respect rather than desire, and not just for Obi-Wan. I rose, dressed, and greeted my Padawan at our breakfast table as I had a thousand other times. He greeted me warmly and bestowed one of his heart stopping grins as he passed me the toast, but he did not discuss our adventure of the night before, other than to comment softly, "I enjoyed our evening, Master." And then he was off, grabbing a piece of fruit for a late-morning snack and tossing it into the air as he left our quarters on his way to meet the day.
I would meet him after morning classes and noon meal. We would spar, I would offer pointers on the kata he was currently working on. We would discuss whatever studying he had to do that afternoon, and then we would part ways. This evening, we might find that a mission summons had arrived from the Council. Tomorrow morning, we might be on our way to that mission. If we were not, another day would dawn here at the Temple and our life as Master and Padawan, but nothing more, would continue.
Once, that life contented me. Now, after only one night out with Obi-Wan, such contentment was a thing of the past. I had much meditation work ahead of me if I was to purge the yearnings I was feeling for something different, something more, with my Padawan.
I could feel Qui-Gon's disappointment and near misery through our bond. He seemed to think that we would never share another night out together, much less another dance outside of the salle.
Over the next few months, I deliberately and systematically coaxed him out, sometimes to meet the same group we'd shared company with at Indiscretions and sometimes by ourselves. We shared lectures and gallery openings, more book sales and visits to the nature dome. To our Coruscant explorations I added every bit of stolen time I could squeeze for us at the ends of missions. We had swims and walks on distant beaches, we invaded bazaars, we attended cultural events. I was at Qui-Gon's side for hours and days on end; my interest never flagged, while his caught fire. After awhile, it became a game between us to see which one of us could think of more things to cram into the spare time we had. Fairly soon, my Master stopped asking, "Wouldn't you rather be doing something different with...." In its place came the question, "Obi-Wan, would you like to...."
I never said no. As I came to know him better as a man and less as my Master, I knew that I would never say no. As long as it was with him, I'd do anything.
Of course his taste in art and events was more mature than mine. Of course we didn't always see eye to eye when it came to forms of entertainment. But he body surfed for hours on Lavio, getting sunburned and growling about it with me, but continuing to challenge the waves. In return, I did my best to study up on and appreciate the ancient ruins of Rorpelk with him. Moldy history wasn't my forte, any more than fighting the sea for a day was his. Yet we enjoyed it because we enjoyed each other.
As the weeks passed, I was encouraged by the fact that no new romantic interest darkened our doorway or claimed my Master's time when we returned from missions. I was dominating his life certainly, but I couldn't be with him every waking moment while we were at home, and I knew all too well that the 'come hither' looks and invitations from knights and other Masters hadn't stopped just because a few rumors had begun that Kenobi and Jinn were seeing a great deal of each other outside of the training salle and their missions.
Those rumors came compliments of the other Padawans who shared the dance floor with us at Indiscretions, not to mention my own circle of friends who confirmed the rumor that Qui-Gon and I were very much together these days. The gossip was strong enough that my Master must have heard it, perhaps he was even questioned about it. When he didn't mention it to me or ask me to spend more time with others, I realized that the first part of my plan had succeeded: we had developed an intimacy to our relationship that was not the norm between Masters and their Padawans. My Master was enjoying being with me. If he'd become bored, or if the rumors of our sharing time together hadn't been to his liking, I was certain that he'd have gone elsewhere by this time to look for company.
I wanted everything with my Master, and knew that while intimacy was a feeling, love was an action. Almost, it was time to implement part two of my plan.
"Has anyone complained about my bringing my Master to Indiscretions?" I asked Garen one afternoon while we shared a table in the commissary. Qui-Gon was seated nearby, but not within earshot as he discussed some matter of consequence with Adi Gallia and another Master.
"No one's complained that I've heard," Garen assured me. "Qui-Gon tells some good stories and he's great company. Is he uncomfortable around us?"
"Not that he's mentioned. I was just wondering." I smiled to myself, seeing that my Master seemed to have bridged the timeless chasm between Padawans and Masters without even half trying. I supposed that after negotiating compromises between diverse races across the galaxy, winning over a few apprentices couldn't be all that difficult. The point was, he'd wanted to do it, else he wouldn't have returned with me to the club and put some effort into it.
"He's not the only Master there now," Garen pointed out. "At first, after you two adapted that kata, everybody wanted to dance with Qui-Gon. Now, they bring their own Masters."
"They still want to dance with mine," I mock grumbled, stabbing my lunch for emphasis.
"He arrives and leaves with you. Only with you" He grinned at me. "Seems you two have become a couple, Obi-Wan. Congrats."
"What are you congratulating me for?"
Garen leaned over his plate, the better to whisper conspiratorially as other, possibly curious, Padawans filled the tables nearby. "I remember that even when you were thirteen, you didn't want to share him. Nothing's changed that I can see, except that now it looks like Qui-Gon doesn't mind being possessed by you."
I rocked back in my seat. "I'm not possessive where he's concerned, Garen. I wouldn't presume--"
"Yeah, right. You walk into that club, all cocky and self-confident with that walk that says you own the world called Master Jinn, and it's good, too. He glides along behind you and watches you with that smug half-smile that shouts, 'Taken.' Whether that means he owns you or that you own him...." Garen shrugged. "Depends on the night and the kata you're dancing. And have you noticed that no matter you two have become regulars, everybody still defers to you and asks you for permission to dance with him? He's a Master for crying out loud and he's sitting right there, all silvered calm and majesty, but you're the one they ask, 'Do you mind if I?...' You nod your consent like some grand pasha granting leave for them to touch your minion. Only then do they turn to your Master and ask him to dance. Sith-spit, Obi, you're just his Padawan, but everybody senses that he belongs to you. 'Look all you want,' your attitude says, 'dance or spar, but don't touch him or I'll have to cut off something important."
I widened my eyes. "I'm that obvious?"
I glanced across at my Master. "Do you think he's noticed?"
"Noticed? Sith hells, Obi-Wan, he condones it. Goes along and seems perfectly comfortable with it. It's been the talk of the Temple for weeks now, and nobody's seen him doing anything to change it."
I knew from experience that if the corridors were talking about something Qui-Gon wanted quashed, it was quashed. One clipped word of disapproval, one cold blue-eyed glower, and the subject died. Clearly, the subject was alive and well and basking beneath his... beneficence?
I watched Qui-Gon surreptitiously the next evening we attended Indiscretions. Sure enough, he did seem to be somewhat amused and defer to me when the other Padawans approached, regardless the purpose of their approach was clear; to spend a bit of time with my Master. Lounging back in the chair at the table we had come to claim as our usual, with his shoulder rubbing against mine, Qui-Gon silently watched them come. His eyes were dark, smoldering as they assessed each petitioner. He did not shift his position to welcome them; he sat like some insouciant savannah cat waiting for me to endorse their dance. Only after that did he shift his weight forward, nod, and rise to accept the invitation.
There seemed to be other, unwritten rules to this game, as well. Qui-Gon maintained a minimum of a half-meter between himself and the other person; he never touched anyone but me on that floor. He shared only one dance per evening with each petitioner, and he always returned to my side immediately after the dance was done. Returning to his chair, he settled back until his shoulder was once more touching mine. Retrieving his drink, he calmly resumed our conversation and was ever the cool, tranquil Jedi.
We had definitely settled into a life beyond what he had offered me after Bandomeer as Master and Padawan. I continued making it clear that I enjoyed being with him every chance he would allow. In return, he began almost courting me.
Covering my hand with his own while we ate together one morning -- in full view of everyone in the commissary, no less -- he stroked my skin and commented softly, "You have beautiful fingers, Obi-Wan."
"S-so do you," was all I could stammer as a jolt of desire shot through me. His touch was so unexpected and so welcome, for a moment I didn't know how to react. After he'd withdrawn his hand, I wished that I'd had the presence of mind to clutch his fingers with mine and not let go.
Smiling so that his blue eyes danced, he nodded and returned his attention to his meal. Less than an hour later, we were waiting serenely atop a landing pad for our mission transport to arrive. Reaching over, my Master ran his fingers through my hair and seemed lost in thought for a long moment.
"I've always enjoyed the color of your hair. I find that I'm looking forward to your knighting, when you can grow it out. Then, there will be more of it for me to enjoy."
I'd been the subject of Qui-Gon's intense focus before -- in the training salle or while he drilled me on some military strategy or historical ruckus -- but it had never felt like this. It had never created a delicious coiling within me. I realized that the blue eyes boring into mine were studying me intently, watching for my reaction, perhaps. /Might you welcome my touch, Obi-Wan?/
I felt the question as clearly as if he'd sent it singing across the bond. My answer was gods, yes. He didn't catch me off-guard this time: bowing with all solemnity, I said,"I will enjoy your enjoyment then, Master."
Reaching up, I dared to slide a hand up his chest and beneath his heavy hair to sift my fingers through it.
"You know, I've been able to indulge myself a little more than you have over the years," I murmured, deliberately speaking so softly that he had to lean down to hear me. "You've let me tend your hair since I became your Padawan." Just so there would be no mistake as to my meaning, I opened my side of the bond and sent feelings of contentment and near-awe his way. /I love touching you any way you'll let me./
I had no way of knowing if he'd pick up the thought along with the emotions, but I thought there was a good chance he might. Laying a hand on my shoulder, Qui-Gon pulled me in for a hug and caressed my cheek with his beard. He seemed about to say something more when our transport descended, it's repulsors thrumming, and all chance for conversation was lost in the noise. Stepping back, he slid his hands back into his robes and was once more the visual epitome of the austere Jedi Master. The bond between us thrummed with his pleasure, though -- a quiet sort of passion and promise, all for me.
He wasn't trying to seduce me; what he was seeking was far more important than simple seduction. This was my Master starting to explore the possibility of touching between us. 'You know that I love you. I want you to know that I have also noticed and am enjoying your body,' he seemed to be telling me, man to man rather than Master to Padawan.
Outwardly, I was the picture of the perfect Padawan with my hands tucked into my sleeves and my gaze cast downward as I followed Qui-Gon onto the transport and bowed at his side to greet our host. Inwardly, I was counting up the months and making the realization that it had been almost a year since Dagan had left my Master's life. Our relationship had been growing slowly, steadily for nearly twelve months. I was eager to move that relationship forward; so was my Master, it appeared.
Obi-Wan and I share everything but sex. This includes the physical attraction and the accompanying tension, the slow, steady, nerve-wracking anticipation of touching, along with the soul-searing sensitivity whenever we happen to brush up against each other.
He is twenty-three now, and while I acknowledge my Padawan's adulthood I am still uncertain and very insecure. I do not want to wreck what we have for something we yearn to have. I do not want to reach for him, only to discover that my touching disappoints him and hurts us. I want to wait until he is knighted, until we can meet as equals. Then, if he finds our lovemaking is unsatisfactory, Obi-Wan can escape my company easily and move on with his life.
The Council sent me on a solitary mission to Rhialta's distant moon a few days ago. Obi-Wan stayed behind at the Temple in order complete two finals and finally be caught up with his peers who spend more time at the Temple. As accommodating and conscious as the Council has been to my Padawan's academic progress, I suspect that they are gearing up to send us on either a very long, difficult mission, or a series of small, physically and mentally exhausting ones. They never do things by halves, and they never indulge a Master/Padawan team without exacting payment later in some diabolical form.
It felt strange, not having him at my side. For months, he has been nowhere else, and I've liked having him there. Very much. I was only two days away, lecturing on "From Creche to Death: A Jedi's Life" at a civilian conference on comparative religion. It was a lecture I'd given a few times before, one that required little preparation beyond digging out my old notes and tailoring same to the time allotted to me.
I arrived late the night before, wrapped in my robes from the moment I exited the luxurious transport, saying as few words as possible to the nervous assistant who met me and disappearing into the suite of rooms they'd secured for me. It was all part of playing the mysterious Jedi -- a role that the organizers much expected me to fulfill. The rules demanded that I not appear until the function began, and then I was expected to be strictly.... well, Jedi. Not a difficult assignment, but one made fifty times more boring without Obi-Wan at my side and his sardonic commentary running across the bond.
I retreated to my rooms, took a short shower, and sank into a meditative trance. Not much was left of the night; they would require my presence in only a few hours, so that sleep was out of the question. Sunlight was spilling in through the blinds, and a service droid was asking permission to enter when next I opened my eyes. Breakfast was wheeled in, and I stared at the offerings. No ordinary fare this; every one of my favorites was there, things no convention organizer could have known.
"Who ordered this for me?"
Wheeling away from the cart, the droid whistled and directed a blue column of light onto the carpeting.
"Good morning, Master." There, in adorable miniature, stood my Obi-Wan. Bowing formally, he locked his holographic gaze into mine and grinned. "I hope that you'll forgive my boldness this morning, and also that you'll find the food to your liking. They assured me that everything would be as I ordered, right down to the tea brewed to your exacting standards. If it is not, please let me know and we'll have the service droid beheaded."
That grin again, so self-confident and cocky that I laughed out loud. "I miss you, Obi-Wan. I wished you were here with me, to share all of this."
"I miss you, too, Master."
Gods, but he was transmitting live. No wonder he was so small, it was the cheapest medium available, I was sure. Going down on one knee, I stretched out my hand and looked at him intently. "You can't afford the credits to pay for this, Padawan."
"I pulled in a few favors, Master. Don't worry about it. I didn't want you going into battle ungirded by a decent meal, and I knew you wouldn't bother to eat if I wasn't there with you."
"How well you know me."
He offered another bow and reached out to me. His blue hand swept through mine in miniature; his mind-touch no less strong for the distance between us.
"Enjoy, Master. I'll be waiting when you get back."
And he was gone. The tantalizing scent from the jaqua cakes was not, however, and I rose to dismiss the droid and savor them. Obi-Wan had planned well; the tea was perfect, as was the rest of the meal. I felt less lonely, less alone while I dressed, knowing that back on Coruscant Obi-Wan was going about his duties and looking forward to my return. I was amused and touched by all the trouble he'd gone to. I was also hungry. He satisfied that hunger quite nicely, as I was certain he'd satisfy any need I cared to place before him. I wasn't certain what I'd done to deserve such a Padawan, much less the gentle care of such a beautiful man. Whatever it was, I hoped to the Force that I'd continue doing it.
I arrived back at the Temple late at night, a good five cycles before Obi-Wan was expecting me, but didn't want to contact him, either through our bond or through the comlink. I wanted my homecoming to be a surprise, so that, before anything else distracted us, I could thank him face-to-face for the generous and caring gesture he'd made while I'd been on the Rhialtan moon. Reaching surreptitiously through the bond and looking through my Padawan's eyes, I was somewhat disappointed to find that he wasn't in our quarters. Rather, he appeared to be headed for one of the training salles.
I followed and arrived a few clicks later only to find the salle deserted, with most of the Padawans having gone back to their quarters or out of Temple for a bit of entertainment if their Masters permitted. Obi-Wan had probably stayed in Temple during the two days I'd been gone, and I didn't know whether to smile or shake my head at his devotion. My Padawan's vibration called to me from the dressing room beyond the training area. Pushing through the doors, I headed through the maze of narrow corridors and lockers in time to hear a snatch of conversation wafting over one bank.
"I want him back, Obi-Wan."
I knew that irritated voice: it was Dagan. All but lurching to a halt, I skulked up against the lockers and shielded my presence in the Force as best I could. Dagan certainly wouldn't sense me -- we'd never been close enough for that -- but Obi-Wan's sensitivity was such that it was a definite possibility.
"So you want him back." Obi-Wan's tone was sardonic silk. "You sound as if you're expecting me to gift-wrap and deposit him at your door. I think that you're forgetting Qui-Gon gets a vote. I don't seem to recall hearing him cry out your name lately when he's climaxed. You threw him away, remember? Thought you'd found someone better. Things didn't work out and so now you're back, trying reclaim him?"
"The entire Temple knows that he doesn't really want you, Kenobi. He's just licking his wounds until I come to my senses -- which I have."
"Talked to the entire Temple, have you? Or maybe you took a survey. I used to look up to you, Dagan. Now, all I can see is a pathetic bastard who dropped his shiny toy and now he wants to pick back up." Obi-Wan laughed, a bitter sound. "You think that I'm a shite-shy little first-year Padawan who will shrink back and just let you have him? In your dreams, Sharat, because that's the only place you're going to screw Qui-Gon again as long as I'm around. Shall we spar?"
Obi-Wan slammed his locker door, and Dagan growled something I didn't catch. I waited until the two had cleared the changing room before heading with all haste up the back stairs and onto the Masters deck. The small room was dark-screened and Force-shielded; Masters could watch their Padawans in privacy here, exchange covert conversation and criticism and learn how their apprentice's progress looked to others. The room was as empty as the salle tonight, and I was in time to see Dagan and my Padawan finish their warm-ups on opposite ends of the matt. I felt Obi-Wan ground properly within the Force and release his anger before walking to the center of the room.
Adjusting the salle's amplifier controls, I was able to pick up sounds inside the room just as Dagan approached my Padawan. Foregoing the traditional words to be uttered at the beginning of every practice engagement, the two men barely saluted each other before igniting their sabers. If there had been sharp teeth in their prior conversation, I could tell that there were to be poisoned fangs in this sparring session.
Dagan launched himself at Obi-Wan, who easily parried and then repelled the Jedi with a Force shove at his forehead. Knight Sharat had no choice but to stumble backward or risk serious injury to his neck. Dagan next turned to the hit-and-run technique for which he was famous; his hitting was hard and fast, while his running consisted of extensive aerial gymnastics. Obi-Wan shook his head, gave an ironic smile, and burrowed into defending himself, waiting for Sharat's energy to run out. Such was my former lover's ego and impatience to show off that I knew he'd exhaust his resources sooner rather than later.
While watching Obi-Wan keep up with the knight, but not challenge him quite yet, I reflected that Dagan reminded me of Xanatos in several ways, none of them pleasant. Uppermost was his seeming tendency to blame others for situations he'd inspired all by himself. If I was any judge of Obi-Wan's abilities, I predicted that, in Dagan's arrogance and apparent desperation, he had already underestimated my Padawan's abilities and knew it. Xanatos had made the same mistake in our last, fatal encounter a few years back.
It didn't take very long for Dagan to decide that his aerials were wasted on this upstart Padawan. Grounding himself, he began the attack in earnest, only to discover that Obi-Wan had been holding back. After spending years with me, my Padawan could easily best a taller, stronger opponent, as Dagan fast found out. More than that, the knight now found his own techniques being used against him, as Obi-Wan leaped into the air and slashed downward with his lightsaber in a fierce offensive that had the knight ducking and rolling to evade serious injury. /I sent him to you learn aerials,/ I thought smugly, /there's nothing else you could teach him; there never was./
Dagan came up dancing on the balls of his feet, only to discover that he'd miscalculated: Obi-Wan was now behind him. Rather than mime taking the Jedi's head and end the sparring session, Obi-Wan chose to slap the Dagan's butt with his lightsaber. Shouting a laugh as Dagan yelped his outrage, Obi-Wan gave a feral grin and danced backward. The knight's control shredded completely with that very personal attack, and I thought perhaps Dagan's Master had done him a disservice to have seen him knighted without rooting out that particular childish reaction.
"You little bastard," the speakers in the room provided -- the only conversation thus far in the room.
Obi-Wan arched an elegant eyebrow and nodded. I knew that look, that acknowledgment. It said, 'This bastard is having a good time at your expense, and he plans to keep doing so. Not much you can do about it.'
Dagan roared into another offensive, but Obi-Wan riposted and drove him back to the point that the knight nearly lost his saber as well as his balance. Centering over his own point of gravity, Obi-Wan sobered abruptly and gathered the Force inward. Narrowing his gaze and his focus, he pushed his advantage, advancing and slamming Dagan's blade once, twice, three times until the knight went down on one knee with his blade raised in a desperate attempt to ward off further blows.
It didn't work. Obi-Wan continued to pound him. Dagan continued to yield until he was leaning back awkwardly, with the back of his head almost touching the mat.
"Yield," Obi-Wan growled.
"I... yield," came the unwilling, gasped words, forced through gritted teeth.
Obi-Wan checked his next blow, stepping back and bowing slightly, but not extinguishing his lightsaber. He'd learned all too often in other battles to never turn his back on an opponent unless it was well and truly finished. This one was not, and probably never would be.
"I acknowledge your defeat, Knight Sharat, and look forward to our next session."
The usual words were said softly, but with the same bite as I'd heard in the changing room. Stalking around Dagan, my Padawan left the knight panting. Foregoing the changing room, he exited the salle and headed for our rooms. I stood in the darkness a few minutes more, pondering what I'd just witnessed and my churning emotions regarding it. Obi-Wan's own feelings were all too clear to me through the bond.
My Padawan had thought me far away from Coruscant. He had thought himself and the bond to be very much alone this night at the Temple. As a consequence, he hadn't bothered to shield as tightly as he normally did when I was around. Through that open bond had come a fury of thoughts and emotions that left me in absolutely no doubt of how important I was to my Padawan.
In a matter of ten clicks, I'd seen Obi-Wan wipe the floor with one of the most capable knights in the Order. The protective ferocity thrumming still thrumming through the bond told me that, rather than fighting on his own behalf, Obi-Wan had fought to defend and claim me. More than that, he'd taken great pride in being able to do so. /That one was for you, Master,/ was uppermost in his mind now, and he knew all too well and took great pride in the fact that his technique had been grounded in what I'd taught him.
He had learned well. Very well.
Now, on his way through the Temple, Obi-Wan continued to think, while I continued to eavesdrop. /How dare he just waltz in and expect me to curl up and die where Qui-Gon's concerned? So we're not lovers? Fine. So Qui-Gon's not interested in making love with me? Fine. Dagan doesn't know that, doesn't need to know that. Sharat was my Master's lover, and look what that did. Not sharing a bed with him sure as hell doesn't mean that I love Qui-Gon any less, or that I want him any less, or....
/Damn, but I can't help feeling that he's mine! I love him so fucking much, it's bad enough thinking that he's going to find someone new eventually, but I really can't stand the thought of him going back to that little shite. If Qui-Gon wants to do that, I'll have to suck it up and accept it, but... but... dammit, NO, he's not going back to him! If I have to fight Sharat again and again, if I have to follow my Master around every minute of every day to keep those two apart, I'll bloody well do it. Even if Qui-Gon doesn't want me, he doesn't have to put up that particular arrogant bastard who will never love anybody but himself./
Vaguely, I was aware of Dagan shuffling his humiliated way into the changing room. Still awash with Obi-Wan's emotions, as well as my own stunned amazement, I stood in the empty room and debated whether to reach through the open bond and assure my Padawan that his battle had not been in vain; Dagan Sharat would be seeing nothing of me.
Obi-Wan was in love with me. I had known that we shared a tight training bond and that we were intimate friends. In hindsight, I could see that he'd nursemaided me carefully through my breakup with Dagan. I had also been well aware that Obi-Wan enjoyed being with me and didn't appear to be seeing anyone else. Nor had he seemed interested in expanding his social horizons for a number of months, not since Dagan had left my life and we'd shared a kiss at Indiscretions.
Obi-Wan was in love with me, but what was I permitted -- what did I dare -- to feel for him? Bowing my head, and opened myself to the Force. It shone like a beacon of dancing light across our bond, showing the way. This was where I was meant to be. This was why all of my past relationships had never quite worked out, and why it had always felt so good to just be with my Padawan.
Yes, he was young. But not too young. He'd been the one constant in my life since Xanatos had left, the one to help me heal then, and again when Dagan had left. He had been patient and loving for years, meeting my needs and setting his own aside for how long? How was it that I'd been so blind to the belonging that was already between us? How was it that Obi-Wan had never told me how he felt?
I was stunned to realize that I shared Obi-Wan's feelings of possessiveness and defensiveness. We'd fought side-by-side more often than I could count, and part of me had risen up in every battle to insist that the will of the Force should do whatever it wished with me, but Obi-Wan should not be injured. Events hadn't always listened to me, but I'd always assumed that my insistence was merely evidence of a Master's natural protectiveness for a Padawan. Now, with the Force pointing the way, I could see our mutual feelings for what they were: the foundation of a soul-bond wherein we loved each other so deeply that we would each guard the other's life with our own. Were one of us to die tomorrow, one's death would affect the other for life. Should that bond be acknowledged by both of us and allowed to expand and strengthen, we would become so entwined that neither one of us be able to outlive the other.
I had no objection to that, for a life without Obi-Wan was not a life I wished to live. My Padawan's actions over the past years and his words this night had made me see that he felt the same.
Possessiveness and defense... when had that pattern between us been established, I wondered? Did its roots go back to the first time he'd called out to me, when he was not yet my Padawan and we did not share a conventional bond, but I'd heard him nonetheless? Had the Force used that first fight we had shared, against a murder of draigons, to begin the link that had grown into so much more over the years without either of us being the wiser?
We'd shared but one kiss since then, and I hadn't known that Obi-Wan had wanted me. Or perhaps, to be more truthful, I hadn't believed that a man as beautiful and perfect as Obi-Wan had become could ever want someone as scarred as I was and as scared as I could be on occasion. He'd never allowed me to see his possessiveness before; always, he'd acted the dutiful Padawan, subject to my whims and needs and entirely focused on his lessons.
Except when he had insisted that I dance with him on private excursions out of the Temple. Except when he insisted that we continue sharing time together beyond that which was required of a Master and his Padawan. Except when he had manipulated things so that there was no one else of any consequence in our lives, that we live as monks if my lovers were going to keep hurting me.
I could see it all so clearly now. I could see, too, that I had accepted and condoned my Padawans machinations without fully realizing what was behind them. Bowing my head, I admitted to myself that I'd taken advantage of Obi-Wan's possessiveness and his defending me, even as I'd closed my eyes to it. For many months, now, I'd been contented to let the Temple rumors grow: Obi-Wan and I were lovers, those rumors said, and we'd already established a lover's bond: only my sense of privacy or Obi-Wan's impending knighthood -- choose your debate -- had prevented us from approaching the Council and requesting official sanction. I'd been proud and secure behind that rumor, never questioning my own motivations, much less my Padawan's.
Only Dagan had seen through those rumors. Only Dagan had sensed that, as close as Obi-Wan and I were, sexual sharing was not part of that intimacy. Not yet. Dagan knew all too well how I behaved toward a lover; apparently, I had offered him clues by not living up to my part of the bargain in public.
Rising from my meditation, I realized that my oversight was one which could be corrected just as soon as the Force revealed the proper way to do so. Obi-Wan needed me as a man needs another man, and he would have me. I would also have him. The bond would grow between us, uniting us more closely than either of us probably imagined two people could be united. And then, Force help the next knight who tried to come between us.
Leaving the salle, I wound my way through the endless corridors to return to our quarters. Reaching through the bond, I alerted Obi-Wan to my presence, but found myself now blocked by a soft wall of mental static. Entering our rooms, I found my Padawan kneeling on the balcony, in deep meditation. No doubt he was working to release the thunderclouds of emotion Dagan had inspired. Hanging up my cloak, I joined Obi-Wan. Kneeling in front of him, I braced my palms on my thighs and waited for him to complete his meditation.
He sat there, all sculpted beauty within and without, glowing in the Coruscant night, and I thanked the Force for sending him to me. I'd been slow to realize how precious he was and how much I needed him, but no more.
His shields gradually lowered and his focus returned to the moment. Rolling his shoulders, he stretched to release the last bit of tension before opening his eyes and looking back at me.
"Welcome home, Master. Would you care for some tea?" His manner was calm, but love and a far-too-eager welcome was revealed in his eyes.
"Other Padawans are never so happy to see their Masters," I observed. "Indeed, I believe that other Padawans are all to eager to get rid of their Masters."
"You're not another Master. You're my Master."
Those grey-green eyes were indeed windows to his soul. If I ever wanted to know how Obi-Wan truly felt, I had only to lock gazes with him. If he had been a puppy, he would have been wriggling all over. I wondered what that wriggling would feel like, were it to take physical form against me. For a moment, I simply looked at him, until the moment lengthened to the point that Obi-Wan began to tense under my scrutiny.
"Um... How was the conference, Master?"
"Your breakfast was its highlight, and I thank you. I went well-fortified into battle." Catching his Padawan braid just below his ear, I caressed down its length, marking each tie and remembering its meaning. "You've come a very long way since Bandomeer, and you must know that I'm very proud of you. I've come to another conclusion as well, Obi-Wan."
"What might that be?"
"That I love you."
His eyes widened. I heard him stop breathing. Releasing the braid, I caressed down his arm to capture his hand. Turning it palm up, I brought it to my mouth and kissed each fingerpad.
"'These limbs, these eyes and hands which here I find; this panting heart wherewith my life begins, where have you been?'" I murmured.
I licked his forefinger, new-loving the taste of him. Drawing it into my mouth, I sucked slowly and gently and dropped my shields so that my Padawan could feel all that I was feeling.
He jolted at the contact; I felt his arousal leap into being. "Master!"
Releasing his finger, I went up on my knees and cradled his skull to sift my fingers through his short hair. Pulling at the tie binding his Padawan tail, I carded through the longer hair it contained, lowered my head and kissed my way up his jaw to just in front of his ear. His arms went around me, his fists clutching at my tunics. Rising to meet me, he arched in my arms and rubbed against me.
Lapping at his earlobe, I worried the soft skin and continued. "Where have you been, Obi-Wan? Behind what curtain where you hid from me so long?"
My fingers found his mouth. "No thinking, just feel right now."
Obi-Wan kissed my fingers and rubbed his cheek almost frantically against them. "Gods, Master! One touch, and I feel--"
"Undone, as do I. But hush. Let me speak."
He whimpered but obeyed, and in his eyes I saw all of the trust, the love, and the need that had built in his heart since he had been a boy of twelve. I knelt in wonder of all that had been given to me in this lithe, strong body; mine to mold, mine to teach, mine now to love.
Kissing him gently, I breathed into his mouth and felt him shudder. "Force grant me the time to give back all that you've given me. 'Yours are the smiles, the tears, the lips and hands and eyes... Treasures which I now receive.'"
I kissed his eyelids and nibbled his eyebrows. Brushing my mouth against his lips once more, I felt his breath mingle with mine. Rocking back on my heels, I pulled Obi-Wan along with me and settled him across my lap, for once grateful to be such a big man so that my Obi-Wan fit so well against me. He settled in my arms, giving a sigh and scratching his fingers lightly through my beard before setting in and bracing his hand against my chest.
"Treasures," he echoed, pressing a kiss to the underside of my chin. "I can feel your heart beating."
We stayed like that for a long time, with my hands caressing his back and his delving beneath my tunics to explore my chest hair and nipples and collarbones, learning the feel of me as I learned his small noises of joy and desire. The bond thrummed between us, wrapping us in a cocoon of love and desire that we were both contented to savor. The moon rose eventually, telling us that it was very late. So late that I urged Obi-Wan on his feet, only to rise with him and issue an invitation.
"Sleep with me."
Again, the sardonic eyebrow. "Master, are you asking me to--"
"Not yet, though the temptation is great." I caressed his jaw and lowered my head to steal another warm kiss. The heat of his body was intense; I knew that his desire was no less than my own. "Tonight we shall only sleep. For the future, we shall go slowly and deliberately. I will not rush you, and I will take nothing for granted. You will be courted thoroughly; I owe you nothing less, my Obi-Wan."
Standing there on the balcony, he considered my words. I felt his thoughts flow, felt him compare my behavior to that which he'd witnessed in my treatment of other lovers. I was doing him no disservice by going slowly. Rather, I was respecting his wishes and building a foundation that, Force grant us, would last the rest of our lives and beyond.
Taking his hand, I led him into my chambers. In a matter of moments, we'd prepared for bed and were lying beneath the covers with our legs entwined and his head on my shoulder. Obi-Wan's body was warm and sleepy against mine, if still aroused.
"All of this has come about because I sent you breakfast?" he asked from the edge of relaxation, basking in the love between us.
"It was a fine breakfast, Obi-Wan."
He thought about that for so long, I thought he'd fallen asleep. "Isn't that going to make the rest of our lives a bit intense?" came the next question.
"So..." Obi-Wan asked, falsely casual, "what do you think you'd like for dinner?"
I've decided that some dreams are meant to come true. So many of my dreams came true on that balcony that night; a few others were put on hold. Always, my Master enjoyed taking his time. When I was younger and more impatient than I am now, I hated that tendency. I saw no reason to go slowly in anything; I wanted to know and learn and be everything right now. It took years for me to understand that time was a great teacher, and a great friend. Time let me progress, moment by moment, until I left the impatient, headstrong child behind and become someone worthy to stand with my Master. More time had allowed me to fall in love with him, while even more time had made him realize that he was in love with me as well.
Time rolled forward from that point to let us learn what being in love would mean to both of us. While I'd dated a few Masters -- a very few Masters -- I'd never been courted by one before, and certainly not like this. Not with such small attention to detail, loomed over, fussed over, touched constantly in small ways, leaned against, focused on and treated as someone very special to Qui-Gon Jinn, someone who mattered in his life. If this was what Dagan Sharat had experienced with him, along with his passion, no wonder he wanted my Master back. What I didn't understand was how any lover could have thrown Qui-Gon aside in the first place.
Far from interfering with my training, our expanded intimacy intensified it. The bond between us deepened; I saw more easily and more clearly what skills would be required of me as a knight. It made my Master's job just a bit easier, I think; he didn't have to point out every little thing any longer, and I worked hard on my own to acquire the skills, with my Master offering encouragement and welcome criticism. Every day brought me closer to the day of my trials, but I had no fear now that Qui-Gon and I would be separated. My Master was a very devotional man; he had never left any lover, they had all left him. I had no intentions of leaving, and, given the strength of our working bond, I was relatively certain that the Council wouldn't drive me away from him.
For now, however, I was still his Padawan, and he was still my Master. I deferred to him and took orders from him in all of the same things, on missions and during battles, while training and during other lessons. But when it came to our private time together, we were equals. And gods, how he loved me, even without making love to me. I didn't know what he was waiting for until we made love, but I trusted him enough to let him lead our dance.
He had given me a rock for every one of my naming days. My next naming day was no different, but the rock definitely was.
I'll never know if the Council offered us some down time that coincided with my naming day, or if Qui-Gon used his substantial influence and petitioned them first. In any event, the result was the same: my Master announced that my naming day would fall when we were on leave. Would I allow him to make arrangements for a special, off-planet celebration? I had no idea what he had in mind, but of course I was agreeable. Hell, as long as it meant spending time with him, I'd agree to anything.
He asked that I wear my Jedi robes for departure, but to pack only civilian clothing and take nothing else by way of entertainment but one of the Corellian pirate novels he knew that I liked. All right, I could do that. I packed a few other things in a small carryall that fit into our larger duffle; a few cooking supplies just in case of emergency, and another little item I hoped might be necessary some day: a tube of sweet oil used by lovers the galaxy over.
The cruiser Qui-Gon booked passage on was nothing special, and he looked like the epitome of the peaceful warrior as he boarded. I did my best to echo his presentation, even if I was dying of curiosity as to where we were going. Almost immediately, we retired to our cabin for the night flight, where the bunk we shared was narrow and uncomfortable.
"Perhaps I should take the floor?" I murmured, shifting away as he tried for the tenth time to get comfortable in the small space allotted.
"You most certainly will not."
Next thing I knew, he was wrapping his arm around my waist and pulling me back hard against him.
"You should have enough room now, if you don't squirm," he said into my ear.
The situation seemed to be causing him a great deal of amusement. He even let me use his arm as a pillow, which confused the Sith out of me; at home and abroad, Qui-Gon had always hated being restricted in sleep, so that he usually negotiated for pillow and arm space.
"Where, exactly, are we going?" I asked, willing my all-to-eager body to ignore the fact that I could feel him right up against me from my shoulder-blades to the backs of my knee caps.
My Master inhaled and his chest moved against my back. Rather than remove his arm from around my waist, he draped his fingers comfortably across my hip. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why this casual touching should mean more to me than any other man's full body embrace ever had.
"We are going to Dorsia," he answered my question.
"What's on Dorsia?"
I found out soon enough. The next morning, we landed on an off-planet transport platform and took a shuttle down to the surface. The pilot dumped us on the sun-drenched bank of a pristine lake before soaring back up into the clouds and leaving us and nature totally alone.
Dropping our duffle, I stared in disbelief at the peaceful sanctuary around us. Places like this were few and far between in out technology-drenched-sometimes-ruined galaxy. Qui-Gon stood serenely at the edge of the lake with his hands tucked into his sleeves and a smile curving his mouth. His cloak trailed slightly over the grass, and his blue eyes were watchful, assessing my reaction. I tried hard to concentrate on the scenery, as he no doubt meant me to do, and ignored the fact that the mostly-cloudless blue sky matched the color of his eyes.
"Well, my Padawan?"
"There has to be a catch somewhere," I muttered, turning in place. "Are there large carnivores in the woods?"
"Fire-breathing draigons in the mountains to descend after dark and carry us off or shriek all night?"
I eyed the water with great suspicion. "Water serpents, no dabbling in the pond?"
He laughed outright at my expression. "No, Obi-Wan."
I listened for a moment to the silence, broken only by the intermittent song of a bird. "It's too quiet."
"I could sing for you."
"If it gets any more quiet, I might just ask you to do that." I stared expectantly at him. "So what's the catch?"
"The catch," he replied, strolling up to me and taking me by the shoulders, "is that for the next few tens you must forget that we are Jedi and just enjoy yourself with me."
Taking my face in his hands, he kissed me deeply, until my toes curled and I slid my arms beneath his cloak and clung to him. His muscles were hard and warm beneath my hands, and the sound he made as he released my lips made me want to make love to him right there, on the grassy bank.
"Happy naming day, Obi-Wan."
"It can't be my naming day," I murmured, grabbing handfuls of his hair to pull him down into another kiss. "There's no rock."
My tongue caressed his upper lip, seeking permission and getting it. He opened his mouth, and I touched my tongue tentatively to his. He nipped my lip and groaned deep in his throat before sliding his hands over my shoulders and down my back. Cupping my buttocks, he ground me against him until I could feel his substantial need. I rubbed against him sensuously, seeking to increase the contact. He'd never let me get this close before; I intended to take full advantage if this was part of my naming day gift.
Breaking the kiss, Qui-Gon rested his forehead against mine and set up a gentle rocking motion. I matched it, enjoying the friction and knowing by the way his breathing was accelerating that he was enjoying it, too. We stayed that way for a long time, each of us enjoying the mutual need pulsing and intensifying between us, until my Master lifted his head and rasped.
"A rock. You were asking...."
"...about my rock. Yes." I had just discovered that I enjoyed making him all but incoherent. If this was his response to me standing up, what would our actual lovemaking be like?
"Over there, Obi-Wan."
Turning his head, Qui-Gon directed my gaze across the lake. There, in the middle of the water, sat one of the biggest granite boulders that I had ever seen. If I wanted to examine it, I'd have to swim out to it.
"That's quite a rock," I managed, resisting the urge to thrust and rub harder against him.
Shuddering, Qui-Gon set me away from him and gave a crooked smile. Drawing a deep breath, he said, "There's a cabin down the way. Shall we?"
"It had better have a bed. A very big bed," I growled, grabbing the duffle and following him. I had learned patience at my Master's side, but even I had limits, and they were fast approaching.
I only hoped that Qui-Gon felt the same way.
This trip may have been for my benefit, but there were still certain tasks we both had to complete before the Jedi masks could be shed completely. The cabin hadn't been used in a long time, and certain corners of it had been claimed by a family of mice. Using a Force suggestion, I drove them into the small barn nearby for the duration of our visit before cleaning up after them.
Locating the mattress to the bed rolled up in a sealed closet, I tossed it on the floor before the fire, then retrieved fresh linen from the same closet and made the bed. Thick fur rugs were also in that closet, kept safe from gnawing little teeth; I spread those over the mattress before the fireplace, where we'd likely be sleeping, as the bedroom was far too cold and narrow. Not only that, I'd arbitrarily decided the bed was too small, never mind we'd put the mattress to good use.
Qui-Gon chopped wood while I worked, preparing for the thunderstorms he told me had been forecast for our five-cycle stay. So much for dabbling in the pond.
I had begun dinner when Qui-Gon came through the doorway, ducking his head to avoid hitting it on the low frame and carrying an armful of wood to the fireplace in the common room.
There was no light available except the fire and a couple of wall sconces in the bedroom and small bath. I relished the lack of technology, even going so far as to appreciate the challenge of preparing our meals in the fireplace using a primitive Dutsch oven. I knew how to use it; I'd done so often enough over fires built on prairies on ten different worlds, but had never had occasion to test my skills indoors. It wasn't that great of a challenge, with canned stew and homemade dumplings cooking over the fire. A few greens gathered from the surrounding woods completed the meal, along with a favorite tea, which I'd learned years ago to never travel without.
"Supper will be ready after your shower, Master."
"Thank you, Obi-Wan."
We were being formal, just bit stiff with each other and not quite meeting each others' eyes -- like new lovers who didn't quite know where to put their words. We had shared plain quarters before on missions, but this wasn't a mission. By my Master's decree earlier in the day, we weren't here to behave like Jedi, we were here to be just men.
I wondered how long the awkwardness would last between us. Could we relate to each other without ancient-prescribed roles and assigned modes of behavior? Would our touching be made easier or impossible by the removal of our masks? I suspected that my Master was way ahead of me, having asked himself these same questions before deciding that Dorsia was the place to go.
Taking the oven from the fire, I set it on the stone hearth and stacked two plates beside it. Much to my relief, I'd discovered utensils and mugs in a nearby wooden chest. The tea was ready, steeped and steaming in its pot.
Leaving my preparations, I padded down the hallway in time to see Qui-Gon emerge, naked and dripping, from the shower. Tossing aside a towel, he smiled when I grabbed another towel and gestured that he should sit on the bed. I took advantage of the view before me while I towel-dried his hair; a big Master sitting in the nude and very relaxed before me. I found his manhood flaccid but still of considerable size and definitely beautiful, as was the rest of the long-legged, broad-shouldered, lean body.
Qui-Gon's hair was down to his waist now, a concession from my request months ago that he let it grow. I trimmed it from time to time, but cutting it short had never been discussed between us again. It was pulled well back in battle, and had never been a threat to either of our lives.
I combed it out now, knowing the snags and tangles that would result if I didn't, and that Qui-Gon would have no patience and likely simply rip them out, rather than coax them out.
"No hair-tie tonight?" I asked as I finished.
"If you wish it."
Qui-Gon dressed in casual sweats that matched my own and pulled the long mass of heavy hair free to let it flow down his back. I followed him out to the common area, enjoying the way his shoulders moved beneath the material as he walked, the way his long legs ate up the space. Settling cross-legged opposite him, I offered him a plate and settled back with my own meal.
Dinner was a companionable time, with the firelight and the silence offering an ambiance that could have been matched only by the silence of our own quarters. This felt different, however, for no mission summons would call us away from our peace this time, no signal from the comp would interfere with our solitude, no irritations from Council or fellow Jedi would intrude.
Setting his empty plate aside, Qui-Gon leaned back and regarded me with a look that was almost predatory. His blue eyes turned dark in the firelight, and they seemed to smolder as I finished eating. Leaning forward, he took the plate and set it aside before going up on his knees as he had on the balcony and taking my lips in a feathery kiss.
"You want me." he murmured against my mouth, his fingers caressing my cheek. "You've always wanted me."
"From the time I figured out what I was meant to do with... it, yes."
"Yet you never told me. Why not?"
His cool, dry hands stole beneath the edge of my sweatshirt. One played at the edge of my pants, the fingers of the other hand found my nipple and was rubbing, rubbing, until the nub responded.
"Yes, you want me," he purred to feel my response. "But why never tell me?"
I'd never known my nipples could be so sensitive, or that my Master could be so direct about what he wanted. Slapping my hand over his outside of the cloth, I breathed deeply and tried to answer coherently. Qui-Gon had done nothing but kiss me, nothing but touch me and I felt heavy, with my heart thudding painfully against my ribs, just under his hand.
"I didn't believe you'd ever want me," I answered. "Not like this, as I think you want me tonight."
Leaning down, he licked my wrist, then up to the base of my fingers. His beard rasped slightly, while his mouth nuzzled and sucked at my skin, seeming to just... taste me. I'd never known that a beard could feel so good.
"Obi-Wan." My name was a growl coming from deep within him. "Never doubt that I want you."
Retreating from the sweatshirt, his hands curled around its hem and tugged. Raising my arms, I let him pull the shirt off of me. It was cast aside, and then he reached for my arm. Just my arm. I watched, fascinated, when Qui-Gon stretched it out before him, turned it palm up, and nuzzled his way from my wrist to the inside of my elbow.
Scratching his beard back down the way he had come, he lapped at my skin all the way like some great cat. Reaching my elbow once more, he nipped higher only to close his teeth carefully over my biceps. Tightening by increments, he waited until pressure became pain and I shifted restlessly. Releasing the skin, he licked and sucked at the teeth marks he had made with his experiment.
Nosing his way beneath my arm and into my armpit, he moaned softly. "You taste exquisite. You smell even better."
Did he plan on tasting every inch of me? The other arm was treated to the same ministrations, until I noticed that my Master's hand were trembling. This exploration wasn't seduction; it seemed closer to veneration, even worship when he urged me to remove my sweat pants and lie down. Kneeling between my legs, Qui-Gon ghosted his fingers up my thighs, only to slide his hand beneath one and urge me to lift my leg. Bending forward on a low growl, he tasted and nuzzled his way upward until I was shaking harder than he was.
"Let me love you, my Obi-Wan."
The words came softly past his lips. Words that I would hear echoing forever in the empty places inside of me, places my Master now seemed determined to fill. There was nowhere, within or without, that he could not reach. I was surrounded and penetrated by him even now, and I craved it with my entire soul.
"Gods... don't stop, Master." I shivered. "Just don't stop."
I cried out when he found my testicles. He sucked one of them into the wet sanctuary of his mouth, and I bucked. Yelled something incomprehensible, even to me. Drawing back with a hummed inquiry, he lifted his head and considered my panting desperation. Smiling, he spread his long fingers across my hips and then lowered his head to invite my testicle back into his hot sanctuary behind his teeth.
I bucked again, but Qui-Gon held me down, his fingers digging into my hips so hard that I knew there would be bruising. I didn't care; I wanted more of that wet, eager suction that was holding me captive. I wanted him to swarm over me, into me, to thrust hard and home and never let go. I never wanted to know a moment when he wasn't filling me, and he knew it. Could feel every bit of it through the open bond.
His mouth took the other testicle and I cried out, my fingers digging into the furs. It wasn't enough, it wasn't nearly enough, and yet it was too much. Aeons later, when I'd filled to capacity and was throbbing with need, Qui-Gon stopped sucking and raised his head once more. My erection stood tall and proud, pulsing with the need he'd created, and he looked every bit as proud as he'd looked when I come in first at last spring's Padawan lightsaber competition.
"Sith," I breathed, wanting to ground out the word and add a few more colorful ones in Huttese to the mix. But I was a quivering, incoherent mess of desire, with nowhere to go except into Qui-Gon's arms. I was shaking so hard, my teeth were chattering. So were his. And still, he would drag this out. Even in our lovemaking, as in all other things, my Master would be thorough.
He shifted over and lay beside me before rolling me into the circle of his arms. He then pulled me against him with an inexorable strength that I could not have refused even if I'd wanted to. I knew my Master to be a powerful man, but I'd never felt him like this, as if all of his usual barriers had been forsaken and I was left with the essential Qui-Gon Jinn, a creature of intense cravings for his Padawan and the need to devour me in ways that I'd never experienced from any partner before.
There was something spellbinding about him tonight, in the way he held me, touched me. A slow, steady beat began between us, foundationed in the bond and echoed in the pit of my stomach as well as in my arousal. Kissing me, Qui-Gon slipped his tongue between my lips briefly, only to withdraw. Over and over again, he did this, while his hips made the same movement against me. His seeping wetness trailed down my thigh, only to mingle with my own wetness.
Wrapping my arms around Qui-Gon's neck, I felt the beat of his heart, swift and hard against my own chest. My fingers tangled in his long hair and tightened convulsively as he kissed me again, the soft growth of his beard caressing my skin. His breath was warm against my face, his hand was moving inexorably to my erection. His eyes were half-lidded, he looked like a man who was very certain of himself, and very much in control.
His hand wrapped around me and I moaned, burrowed against him, and thrust. To be touched, just so, and by my Master... I nearly lost the moment right there as I felt my testicles tighten. Immediately, Qui-Gon's fingers were below, just so, pressing where they needed to deny the inevitable.
"Not yet, Padawan."
Groaning and sucking at his throat, I felt my arousal back off just a bit. Sliding my own hand down Qui-Gon's flank, I found his substantial need and wrapped my fingers around it. Moving in slow, languid strokes, I pressed rhythmically against large erection and relished the moment when he began pressing into the strokes, when his hips began arching in a smooth, rolling motion. The fire cast flickering shadows on his face, emphasizing the outline of his broken nose, the high cheekbones and deepening laugh lines around his eyes as he groaned deep and long, and all for me.
I measured the length of him in a slow, careful massage, marveling at it and cherishing that I could affect him so. His hips moved forward, seeking mine as I stroked him. The throbbing pulse of him matched my own heartbeat -- rapid and strong.
"You need me," he rasped.
"I need you," I agreed.
Easing out of his embrace, I rolled over and snagged a small tube of oil from my utility belt -- oil that I'd taken to carrying with me after Qui-Gon had first kissed me in that club. Rolling back again, I poured the oil out over his erection, an act which elicited a hiss on his part, as the liquid was not warmed.
"That's all right," I whispered, "It will slow things down a little."
"Nothing will slow me down now, Obi-Wan."
Oh, yes, he was arrogant, and I'd not have him any other way. Rolling onto my back, I spread my legs in blatant offering. Qui-Gon raked his eyes over me before moving between my legs and placing my feet to either side of his hips.
"You are sure, Obi-Wan?"
"Hell of a position to get into if I wasn't sure." My fingers trailed over the length of him, played in the natural lubricant that was seeping from his shaft. "I love you. And yes, I'm sure."
He breathed in a hiss and held my gaze as he positioned his heaviness between my legs. "I love you as well, my Obi-Wan."
Shivering, I held myself open. His hands on my buttocks, spreading me, his rapid breathing, the pulsing of his need, all combined to overwhelm me; my Master's touch was a drug that I craved, had no wish to live without.
Leaning in, he kissed me deeply and slid a finger inside of me at the same time. I nearly bit off his tongue at the intimate intrusion, and he raised his head slightly, chuckled at the impatience he felt streaking across the bond to greet him. Setting up a rhythm, that finger moved against the secret place inside me that made my own erection jump up and take extra notice.
He kissed me again, and his need strained against mine. Tension rose between us, our tongues dueling and my hips trying to encourage his invasion in what had become an extremely tight space. Blindly, I reached for him, found him, and pumped in harmony with the blood pulsing between my legs. He returned my kiss fiercely and caressed deeper, adding another finger to the first. And then, his hand moved mine away from him, and another invader took the place of his fingers.
His organ was hot and rigid, larger and more insistent than any other of my lovers had ever been. Qui-Gon's need brooked no refusal and promised total possession. I was hungry to know it. He slipped on the oil just there, an erotic stroking that brought another mindless moan from me. Reconditioning my hips and lifting me slightly, he set himself and drove forward to slide home in a blaze of blunt fire and need. I caught at his arms, which were braced now on either side of me, and tried to surge upward to drive him more deeply into me.
His body shifted to slide further inside of me, with a hard, stinging pressure that made me catch my breath. And then he was filling every inch of me with his thickness, stretching me to the point of pain in the most erotic dance of my life.
Holding my breath, I stared up at him. His silvered hair was a tangled mane cascading about his broad shoulders. Those shoulders were taut even as his face was filled with a glorious, dignified need. He paused with his fullness heavy inside me, letting me adjust to his size as though he knew full well the burden it created for his partner. The look in my Master's eyes was so loving and intense that it left me shattered.
His blue eyes bore into mine with fierce intensity, his lashes shadowed on his cheeks in the firelight. I tightened my muscles, instinctively, gripping him harder and saw a shudder run through him. Lowering his head, he slid further forward with his hardness stretching me even more. His heat was intense, his presence in my mind all-encompassing. I dared to arch my hips upward, desperately seeking completion and release.
"Gods, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon breathed, bracing his forehead against mine.
The next moment, he lunged forward in a move that was as unyielding as it was unexpected, for he was already deep inside of me, as far as he could go. I cried out, welcoming the renewed possession, but Qui-Gon covered my mouth with his own, stealing and swallowing the cry.
His body dragged within me, and a flood of sensations overrode both of us as he continued to move, in and out, in and out, in a drive of shuddering force. My body struggled to accommodate his need and my own, while the clean, musky scent of him filled my senses. Sweat trickled from his hair to drip onto my own cheek. It slid down to the corner of my mouth and I tasted it with my tongue, took it into myself and possessed that part of my Master as he possessed me. His deep growls filled my ears, his fervent kisses were bruising. He was my world and he filled it completely, his power and potent sensuality eclipsing everything else.
He thrust deeply again and again with a ruthless, burning friction, and I wrapped my legs around him, feeling my own erection rub against his stomach. The first tremor of release rocked me and I wailed a warning. Clenching him deep within me, I screamed his name as I came, with Qui-Gon keening loud and long as wave after wave of my release washed through us. And then he was captured by his own release, was thrusting deep in long, sustained strokes that burst within me. Harsh tremors held him captive before he fell half on top of me and went still. Gradually, our ragged breathing began to slow, and when my Master finally moved he withdrew ever so slowly. I gasped at the raw friction that was left between us.
Sated and spent, we lay deeply entangled and barely conscious until the fire had burned down to embers. I came back to the moment to find that Qui-Gon had slid down until he could rest his head on my chest. He slept deeply from the look of it, with my arms wrapped possessively around him. Smiling, I began stroking his hair. After awhile, I too slept. When next I awoke, it was to find my Master lying beside me, watching me. He had stoked the fire and stolen a blanket from the bed for us.
Qui-Gon handed me a mug of tea before kissing me good morning. I sipped the tea and stretched -- a long, languorous stretch that informed me that I would be feeling the results of this very big man's presence inside of me for a few days, a fact that did not displease me.
"Good morning, Master."
"Good morning, Obi-Wan." He kissed me again, and yet again. I decided that I could get used to waking up like this. "Do you mind if I ask you something?"
"It's not the questions I worry about," I quipped, only to sober at the worried look in his eyes. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"How long?" Two little words, holding layers of inquiry.
I thought a moment, and then answered honestly. "At times, it's felt like forever. But I think that it's only been since I was about sixteen."
His fingers smoothed the braid falling over my shoulder. "Then why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you say anything?"
"You were the great Qui-Gon Jinn, I was very young, and you had other lovers. I knew that I didn't stand a chance."
"You could have said something." My Master looked quietly inward for a moment. "Then again, I suppose that you have been saying something, every day over the past half a decade."
I nodded, then rolled over onto my side so that I could look him in the eye more easily. "I've been loving you for a very long time, Master. But you were hurt, sometimes deeply by more than one person, and I knew it. I had twenty different fears regarding it. I didn't want to wreck or put at risk what we already shared. I was afraid that if I told you how I felt, you'd push me away. What if I told you and you didn't feel the same, or if you felt that sex would wreck what we had? Or if you wanted to put me off until I was knighted? Any number of things could have driven us apart, so I thought it best to not begin at all, rather than to be refused."
I shrugged and set aside the tea mug. "In the end, I decided to just loved you the best way I knew how to and trusted that if we were meant, things would naturally happen." I gave a cocky grin and ran a finger down his throat. "Now, it looks like they have."
He rumbled long and low in his throat, stretching like a big cat until my body remembered just how well we fit and craved a repeat of what we'd shared the night before. Understanding, Qui-Gon drew me into the circle of his arms, so warm and so welcome.
"Most of the Temple believes that we're already sleeping together," he observed. "We've just been slow to catch up with the gossip."
"The gossip hasn't bothered me all that much," I confessed. "I thought that if you minded you'd put a stop to it. Since you didn't, I took it as a hopeful sign that the thought of being with me didn't totally repulse you."
He began carding his fingers through my hair, a habit of old that Qui-Gon returned to whenever he was pondering things deeply.
"It's always been you that I've wanted, Master," I continued, seeking to reassure him. "It's never been about just having sex with you. This touching that's so new between us is icing on the cake."
"And very nice icing it is, too," he purred, sliding a hand down my flank and across to cup my testicles in his broad palm.
I raised my head in time to see my Master offer a wolf-grin, the sort that I'd never seen before. Laughing, I burrowed in for another all-consuming kiss. About a half-cycle later, when the kisses had ended yet again and we'd made each other boneless, I finally got up my nerve to ask.
"Master, how long?"
"In some respects, forever," he answered carefully. "In others, only a few cycles. I wasn't certain, even after you dared to kiss me in public, at Indiscretions. It took me far too long to see this, and even longer to believe in it. Not because of you, Padawan, but because of past hurts. Perhaps I was deliberately blind, trying to stay in the safe places with you."
"Aren't you the one who says that things happen in their own time as they're meant to happen, and not always in the time we wish them to happen? We've been together, even when we haven't been making love. That's the part that's always mattered to me."
Kisses again on the top of my head. Fingers sifting through my hair, and a wash of love through the bond that took my breath away.
"You're a very generous lover, my Obi-Wan. May we always be together."
We returned to Coruscant in good time to announce our lifebonding to the Council, which collectively didn't do much more than make them arch an eyebrow. They were more interested in sending us out immediately on another messy mission. We had time enough to unpack, pack, and catch a quick meal at the commissary. Sleep would come on the ship, after we'd once again made love, of course. Now that the touching had started, it seemed that we wouldn't be stopping for some time.
I handed over our meal trays to the service droid and stopped to talk to my old friend, Garen, who was waiting in the food-line while Qui-Gon stood some distance away, confirming a few last-minute details with Master Windu. A sniffy, eavesdropping Knight Sharat was seated nearby.
"Something's different," Garen was poking. "You and Master Jinn have been all but glowing since you got back from Dorsia."
"We had a good time, Garen. That's all."
Garen snorted. "In a bantha's eye."
Qui-Gon walked up close behind me in that moment and wrapped an arm around me. Purring low, he bent to nibble my ear and share a kiss. "Our ship awaits, Padawan. Are you ready?"
He took the time to smooth my braid before sketching a bow to Garen. "It's good to see you, Padawan. Perhaps you and Obi-Wan will have some time to catch up on matters when we return."
"I hope so, Master Jinn."
Sliding a hand down my arm, my Master captured my hand in his own and began leading the way out of the vast room. Catching sight of Dagan, Qui-Gon paused at his table and gazed down at the scowling knight.
"Knight Sharat, how is your relationship with Zachrat coming along?"
Dagan mumbled something unintelligible into his cup.
"I'm sorry to hear that, but you must be very happy for him. And you're looking well, so independent missions must agree with you. The Force be with you, Dagan." Bowing slightly, Qui-Gon led me away from his erstwhile lover.
Upon our return from Dorsia, Qui-Gon had insisted upon a small change in our Master/Padawan presentation: there was to be no more of my walking three subservient steps behind his left shoulder. I had been ordered to walk beside him where, more often than not, I found myself tucked beneath his broad shoulder or tugged along with my hand in his.
Tightening my grip on that hand, I decided that being held by Qui-Gon was a very nice thing to be.