Redemption on Bandomeer

by TJ

Archive: M-A, yes

Category: Angst, First Time, Hurt/Comfort

Rating: NC-17

Warnings: None, so far.

Spoilers: Takes place after TPM, but Qui-Gon lived.

Summary: Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are sent to Bandomeer to find out why people are dying. Can they mend their shattered relationship along the way?

Obi-Wan sighed as he walked into his quarters. He was tired. More tired than he could remember being in a very long time. And for the life of him, he could not seem to make these sterile rooms feel like home. Home was his master's quarters. Or at least it was when the man had still been his master. Now, he was a Knight with quarters of his own. And his master had a new padawan staying in the room that used to be his.

The young Knight sighed again and pitched his robe over the back of the chair. He was too damn tired for this right now. As soon as Qui-Gon had been released from the infirmary he had sought out his former padawan. Not really feeling up to a confrontation at the time, Obi-Wan had done his best to avoid the man. In his weakened condition, it had taken Qui-Gon three days to track down his elusive apprentice. And the only reason he had managed it then was due to Yoda's intervention.

So there, in the middle of the Council Chambers, in front of both his master and his padawan, Qui-Gon apologized. He said how sorry he was for both his ill-timed words and callous disregard. He even went so far as to get down on one knee and beg for Obi-Wan's forgiveness.

What else could the young Knight do? Had they been in private, perhaps he would have spoken of his pain, but not here, not with these others looking on. Best to preserve as much of his former master's dignity as possible. So he had said that yes, of course he forgave him. And Qui-Gon had accepted that, even if the tips of Yoda's ears did turn down just a bit.

With a growl, Obi-Wan forced those thoughts to the back of his mind. Dwelling on them served no useful purpose. Best to just let it go and get on with his life. Such that it was. The young man moved into the kitchen area intending to prepare a late meal when the message waiting light caught his eye. He groaned as he wondered who he could possibly have a message from. Well, the only way to find out was to read it, he supposed.

Qui-Gon Jinn entered the Council Chamber with his padawan in tow. He was surprised to find Obi-Wan already there and deep in discussion. All conversation stopped as he and his padawan stepped forward. Qui-Gon could feel the nervousness coming off of his young padawan and sent a wave of reassurance to the boy.

"Council Members," Qui-Gon greeted with a slight bow before turning to his former apprentice and repeating the gesture. "Obi-Wan."

"Master Jinn," Obi-Wan responded formally. Qui-Gon stiffened as the overly formal address sent a wave of pain through him, but said nothing. This was neither the time nor place to discuss such things.

"Come to us, Knight Kenobi has," Yoda broke in. "Problem there is on Bandomeer. Specifically requested, you both were."

"I received a message from Si Treemba," Obi-Wan began when Yoda motioned for him to continue the brief. "It seems there's some kind of trouble at one of the mines."

"What kind of trouble?" Qui-Gon asked.

"Apparently the miners have stumbled across something buried in one of the shafts," Obi-Wan answered. "Some people have died rather mysteriously and quite a few more have gone missing. He's asked for us to come and see if we can find out what's going on."

"Does he think Offworld could be involved somehow?" Qui-Gon asked. Perhaps Xanatos had decided to come back.

"He's not sure, but he thinks it's a possibility," the young Knight answered.

"Go there you will," Yoda said.

"Find out what the cause of the disturbance is and see if you can put a stop to it," Mace Windu instructed as the other Council Members nodded their agreement. "Innocent lives are at stake."

"Leave in the morning, you will," Yoda said.

"Yes, Master," both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan replied causing Anakin to smile to himself.

"Knight Kenobi, take Padawan Skywalker back to his quarters, you will," Yoda said. "Talk to Master Jinn, we wish to."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan said again before reaching out a hand to Anakin. "Come, Ani. You can show me what improvements you've made on the place."

"Yes, Sir," the boy replied enthusiastically. He bowed quickly to his master then took Obi-Wan's hand. Together they left the Council Chambers and a very concerned Jedi master behind.

"He still does not forgive me," Qui-Gon said softly, knowing why they had asked him to remain behind.

"Hurt him badly, you did," Yoda admonished.

"Yet he is kind to the boy," the Jedi master replied.

"Kind, Obi-Wan has always been. Taught well, he was," Yoda said. He could see that his padawan was in pain but there was little he could do about it. The only one who could soothe this pain was a rather stubborn young knight with a pain of his own.

"You have tonight, Qui-Gon," Mace said. "Try to talk to him. See if you can put some of this behind you."

"On Bandomeer, your bond was forged," Yoda intoned. "Perhaps on Bandomeer, it can be healed."

"Were the lives of others not at stake..." Master Windu began.

"I understand," Qui-Gon replied. "And I thank you for the time you've given me. I will make the best of it."

"See that you do," was Yoda's only reply.

"I had thought the meeting would last longer," Obi-Wan said when Qui-Gon walked through the door. Qui-Gon got the idea that the young man would not have been here had he known the master would return so quickly.

"I'm glad you're still here," he said. "We need to talk."

"Can't it wait, Master Jinn?" Obi-Wan asked as he stood to leave. "We both have a mission to prepare for and you have a padawan to attend to as well."

"Please, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said softly, imploringly. "Please, let me just talk to you."

Obi-Wan paused for long moments and Qui-Gon thought the young man was going to leave despite his pleading. But again the knight surprised him.

"Ani, why don't you take that comp pad into your room," Obi-Wan said quietly. "Master Jinn and I need to talk."

"Yes, Sir," Anakin replied and moved swiftly to obey.

"Thank you."

"Oh, Obi-Wan?" the young boy called out as he entered his room.

"Yes, Ani?"

"Remember what we talked about. Okay?" Fierce blue eyes met sad green ones. The boy was compelled to look away, but he refused to. This was too important to them all. Obi-Wan nodded once and that was good enough for Ani. He walked into his room and let the door slide shut behind him.

Obi-Wan sighed and walked back into the kitchen. He sat back down in front of his cooling tea and took deep calming breaths. Qui-Gon followed mutely behind. He sat down in Ani's vacated seat and stared at the man who had stood by his side for over a decade. A man who no longer wished to even know his name.

"How do I make amends to you, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon blurted out, not knowing what else to say. "How do I show you how sorry I am for the way I treated you? I was a blind, stupid fool and I'm paying for my folly now. I pay for it every time I look at you and you refuse to look back. I pay for it every time I try to reach out to you only to be turned away. Please, Obi-Wan, tell me what I can do?"

"Does it really matter, Qui-Gon?" Obi-Wan asked back after a moment. "You have the Chosen One now. What difference could my presence possibly make?"

"I see, " Qui-Gon said, his voice brittle. "I will request that the Council find another master for Anakin. For if you truly believe that, then I am more of a failure as a master than even I suspected."


"Do you know what it's been like?" the master went on. "I woke up in that damn infirmary and everything was different. My padawan was now a knight. I had a new padawan waiting for me. And you. You who once cared so much for me, enough to anchor me to this world, no longer seemed to care if I was in it or not."

"I care if you are in the world or not, Qui-Gon," Obi-Wan shot back, his anger peaking. "If I had not, I would have left you to rot on Naboo."

Qui-Gon stood then and rounded the table to stand before Obi-Wan. His heart ached to reach out to the younger man, but he could not. Slowly, he sank to his knees before his former padawan and bent forward until his head rested against Obi-Wan's boots.

"Forgive me," he whispered. "There was a time, not too long ago when I had your respect. We trusted each other completely. We were far more than master and apprentice. We were friends. I believe I would rather have died on Naboo than to lose what we once shared."

"Don't say that!" Obi-Wan shouted as he reached down and grasped the trembling shoulders. He pulled Qui-Gon up until he was resting on his knees and able to look him in the face. "Don't you ever say that again! I once believed we were far more than master and apprentice, too."

"And now?" Qui-Gon asked, steeling himself for the worst.

"Now? Now I no longer know what we are," Obi-Wan replied truthfully. "I want to trust you. I want to believe you. Everything inside me is screaming at me to. But I keep wondering if you'll find someone better and caste me aside again."

"I will not, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said quickly. "I swear it on my honor."

Obi-Wan sat back and regarded the man before him. He could sense no deception, no lies coming from him. The man radiated pain, misery, and a sincere desire to make things right again. Oh, how easy it would be to just let it all go. But at what cost to him?

"I had been planning on giving you something special for your naming day next month," Obi-Wan said suddenly. "But after all that's happened, I don't think it's something you would want."

"I would cherish anything you chose to give me," Qui-Gon replied. He did not understand the sudden change of subject, especially not to something as trivial as a naming day present. But he had trained his padawan well, so maybe this was not so trivial after all.

"Are you certain?" Obi-Wan asked, his eyes going hard and calculating as he spoke.

"Ye... yes," Qui-Gon answered, dismayed at the lack of strength in his reply.

"Perhaps," came the non-committal reply.

"You could give it to me now, if you like," Qui-Gon suggested.

"Are you sure you want me to, Master?" Obi-Wan prompted. "Because I'm fairly certain this will make or break us, one way or the other."

"Yes," Qui-Gon said, more firmly this time. He could not for the life of him imagine how a simple gift could be so important, but he trusted his padawan's judgement.

"Very well," Obi-Wan whispered.

He reached out then and grasped the back of Qui-Gon's head. His master started at the sudden movement but made no move to pull away. Very slowly, Obi-Wan leaned forward until his face was mere inches from the other man's. He paused for a second as if gripped by indecision, then leaned forward the rest of the way and lay his lips gently on those of his master.

Qui-Gon froze at the sudden feel of those soft, lush lips on his own. He had fantasized for years about just what those succulent lips would taste like. Never in his wildest dreams did he think he would ever find out. For what in all the worlds would his beautiful, vibrant, sexy padawan want with a dusty old relic like him.

Obi-Wan felt his master's shock and held them where they were. He would give the man time enough to recover before making any movements. Let him be the one to decide to pull away or not. Long seconds ticked by when suddenly Qui-Gon's mouth flowered open with a groan and he pulled his beautiful padawan forward.

Tongues met and dueled as each gave in to the fire inside. At last, Obi-Wan pulled back. Qui-Gon let him go with a reluctant moan. Both men knelt staring at each other and panting on the kitchen floor. But long years of Jedi training served them well and their run away emotions were quickly brought to heel.

"That was... that was my gift?" Qui-Gon asked in amazed wonder.

"Yes, Qui-Gon," Obi-Wan replied. "I was also going to tell you that I loved you. That I had been in love with you for some time."

"Had, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon questioned, not wanting to hear the answer.

"I... I'm not sure anymore," the young knight answered honestly. "I need some time to think. To adjust to everything."

"To get over the hurt I put you through," Qui-Gon supplied. Obi-Wan simply nodded. "Please, love, don't throw us away before giving us a chance. I..."

"I know," Obi-Wan cut him off. "Just give me a little time."

"I will give you all the time you need, Obi-Wan. This is too important to risk a mistake."

They arrived at the transport just before dawn the next morning. Yoda and Mace were waiting to send them off. Both masters could tell by the aura surrounding Qui-Gon that things were better, if not altogether resolved. They hoped Bandomeer would bring both men the peace they sought.

"Greetings, Masters," Qui-Gon said as he and his padawan bowed to the two Council members. "Good morning, Obi-Wan."

"Good morning, Qui-Gon," Obi-Wan said. He could see that Qui-Gon was both relieved and pleased to no longer be addressed as Master Jinn. "Good morning, Anakin."

"Come to see you off, we have," Yoda said.

"Be wary on Bandomeer," Mace cautioned. "We do not know what the problem might be."

"We will watch out for one another," Qui-Gon said, his eyes darting to the knight beside him.

"Count on it," Obi-Wan said firmly. He and his former master may be a bit estranged at the moment, but there was no way he was going to let anything happen to the man.

"Off with you then," Yoda said. "And may the Force be with you."

For once the transport was a rather large one with each Jedi having a room to himself. As soon as Qui-Gon let him, Anakin ensconced himself in the cockpit. Luckily for the young boy, the captain was a tolerant man and never tired of his seemingly endless questions.

Qui-Gon settled himself into his room quickly. There was really very little to do. They would reach Bandomeer in a few days. Until then, his time was basically his own. His mind turned back to the gift Obi-Wan had given him last night. He tried once again to reach out along their old training bond, but found the path as barricaded as ever. It hurt to know his former padawan was blocking him out, refusing to let him in. Well, Mace and Yoda had told him to make the most of their time together. And what better place to corner his padawan than on a starship.

His mind made up, Qui-Gon made his way to Obi-Wan's quarters. They were along the same corridor as his own, with only Anakin's room between them. The Jedi master had been hoping for closer quarters, but maybe it was best if Obi-Wan had his own space right now. Sometimes it was best not to tempt fate. With that thought firmly in his mind, Qui-Gon knocked on the door and waited for Obi-Wan to admit him.

"Enter," Obi-Wan called out after a moment. He had checked to make sure it was Qui-Gon at his door, then hastily shed his tunic leaving him bare chested.

"I hope I'm not dist..." Qui-Gon began only to falter in mid sentence as his eyes fell on the man before him.

To say Obi-Wan was beautiful was to say the ocean was wet. Golden skin glistened over lean, sculpted muscle. The light dusting of fair curls covering the dusty nipples only added to the picture of male virility he presented. And while they had each been naked in the presence of the other before, it seemed to Qui-Gon that he had never seen this man before. At least not like this.

"Qui-Gon?" Obi-Wan said, concern in his voice as the man just stopped talking and stared at him. "Are you unwell?"

"I... I am fine, Pad... Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon managed to reply. "Forgive me. I found myself suddenly lost in thought."

"That's alright," he assured him. "It happens."

"What I started to say was that I hoped I wasn't disturbing you," Qui-Gon said, trying desperately to tear his eyes away from the site of the half naked knight.

"Not at all. I was just going to relax for a bit," Obi-Wan said. He stretched then, bringing his arms high above his head and rippling his torso. From the look on Qui-Gon's face, he was making a rather wanton display. That was fine by him.

"Um... perhaps I should come back later then," Qui-Gon said hastily.

"Nonsense," came the quick reply. There was no way Obi-Wan was going to let him get away that quickly. "Sit down. Have some tea with me."

"Tea, um... tea would be lovely," he managed to say as he sat down and watched Obi-Wan prepare their tea.

The Jedi master wondered if the young man was ever going to put on a tunic as he continued to watch the play of muscles under the golden skin. What he would not give right now to be able to reach out and touch that skin. But he knew he could not. Obi-Wan had asked for time and he would get it. He would not take a chance on losing him due to his own impatience.

In almost no time, the tea was ready. Obi-Wan served them both then sat down beside him. The two men sipped their tea in silence. The knight knew there was something his master wanted to say, but the man seemed afraid to speak. Obi-Wan found he did not like that at all.

"Was there something you wished to say, Master?" he asked softly, his voice far kinder than it had been since Qui-Gon was injured.

"Only that I am sorry," he said. "Very rarely in my life have I wished to redo something. I have been taught to live in the moment. To accept what is. I find I am having a rather difficult time where you are concerned."

Obi-Wan started to speak but Qui-Gon quickly cut him off. "I know. You asked for time and I intend to give it to you. But that does not make the waiting any easier."

They finished their tea in silence. Qui-Gon was happy just to be able to sit beside the man again and not feel those incredible waves of anger and pain from him. He wanted to test their bond again, but knew Obi-Wan would feel it if he did. He took strength in knowing that the bond was still there. Perhaps on Bandomeer...

"Thank you for the tea, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said as he stood to leave. "I had better go and corral my padawan before he wears out his welcome."

"A good idea," Obi-Wan said with a soft smile. "I think I shall take a nap before dinner."

"Would you care to share evening meal with Anakin and I?" Qui-Gon asked. Obi-Wan thought about declining but the look of hope in the man's eyes was too much for him.

"That would be nice," he said instead. "I really do hate to eat alone."

"Until dinner then."

Obi-Wan smiled as the door closed behind Qui-Gon. He knew revenge was beneath a Jedi, but he could not help himself. He planned on making his master pay for what he did. And if this encounter was any indication, it would be easier than he thought.

The young knight flopped down unceremoniously on the small bed. He knew he still loved Qui-Gon. He even knew he still wanted to have a relationship with the man. But Sith take him before he would let Qui-Gon know it. At least not yet. He wanted his master to feel just a bit of what he had felt. Let him be the one to think himself unwanted for once.

He was not surprised to find his own cock was hard from teasing the other man. He knew the stretching bit was a bit much, but it had worked well. He had felt the arousal coming off the older man. He had particularly enjoyed the way Qui-Gon's eyes had roamed his body, taking in every curve and dimple. It helped to assuage some of his pain, this knowledge that he really was wanted, really was desired.

With thoughts of an aroused and begging Qui-Gon Jinn dancing in his head, Obi-Wan drifted off to sleep. The smile on his face one of absolute devilment.

Qui-Gon went to check on his padawan, glad to escape from Obi-Wan's room. There was no way the man had not noticed his arousal. As he walked down the narrow corridor, that very arousal pressed maddeningly against the fabric of his leggings. He let despair settle over him for a moment before quickly feeding it to the Force. He well and truly did not know how he would go on if Obi-Wan decided he did not want him any longer. To see what he might have had only to have it thrown away would be unbearable.

When the Jedi master entered the cockpit he was pleased to see his padawan diligently going over his lessons from the co-pilot's chair. Qui-Gon smiled his thanks to the captain before calling Anakin to his side. Together, master and padawan walked down the hall to Qui-Gon's room. He ushered the boy inside and they sat down to go over his lessons. As Qui-Gon looked over the work, Anakin grew restless until he could no longer contain himself.

"Did your talk with Obi-Wan go alright?" the boy asked carefully. He knew how badly his master was hurting over all that had happened. Anakin had tried to tell Obi-Wan how upset his master was. He only hoped he had been able to make the knight understand.

"It went... well..." Qui-Gon said, gauging his answer with care. "Why do you ask, Padawan?"

"Well, I know how much you miss him," Anakin said. "I know you wish you hadn't taken me as padawan."

"Never think that, Anakin," Qui-Gon said fiercely. He had damaged one padawan by letting him think he did not want him. He would not do so again. "I do not, nor will I ever, regret taking you as my padawan. My only regret is the way I went about it. I should have spoken with Obi-Wan first. I should have made sure my padawan understood. Instead, I disregarded his feelings and in doing so, hurt him badly. And Force alone knows if he'll ever forgive me."

"You really want me for your padawan?" Anakin asked, hopeful and ashamed at the same time.

"Yes, Padawan," Qui-Gon said as he held out his arms to his apprentice. "I really want you."

Anakin practically flew to his master's arms. He had needed this reassurance but had been afraid to ask. His master had enough weighing him down right now without his padawan's silly insecurities.

"Your feelings are not silly, Padawan," Qui-Gon said softly causing the boy to blush.

"Master, I have to tell you something," Anakin began.

"What is it, Padawan?"

"I told Obi-Wan that you missed him," he whispered. "I told him that you were real sad."

"Padawan..." Qui-Gon hesitated. "Come, we have lessons to finish."

"Yes, Master," Anakin replied, relieved.

It was almost time for evening meal when Qui-Gon heard a soft knock at his door. He opened it to find Obi-Wan standing outside. He was wearing an emerald green shirt that made his eyes seem to glow and tight black leggings. Qui-Gon stared at him for a moment before stepping back to allow him to enter.

"You look very nice tonight, Obi-Wan," he managed to say and he wondered to himself if the man was trying to drive him insane.

"Thank you, Qui-Gon," he replied politely. "I thought a change would be nice and I hoped you would like it."

Qui-Gon was a bit surprised by the remark. He sent a tendril of Force along their bond and felt the shields still firmly in place. Obi-Wan quirked an eyebrow at the gentle probe but said nothing.

"My apologies..." he began, but Obi-Wan held up a hand and cut him off.

"None needed," he said amicably as if it did not matter to him one way or the other.

Before Qui-Gon could say anything else, the door slid open and Anakin walked in. He looked at the two Jedi and wondered if he should have knocked first. Obi-Wan could tell that the boy was concerned that he had interrupted something important and reached down to lay a calming hand on the young shoulders.

"You have excellent timing, Padawan," he said as he smiled down at the boy. "We were just coming to find you for evening meal."

The trio made their way to the galley and set about preparing their dinner. The rest of the crew had already eaten so they had the room to themselves. Qui-Gon felt his heart constrict as he watched the kindness Obi-Wan showered on Anakin. He was proving himself to be the Jedi Qui-Gon always knew he would be. But how he wished just a bit of that warmth would be directed his way.

Qui-Gon watched as they two chatted about Anakin's day. He told Obi-Wan all about helping the captain fly the ship and how the captain had explained some of the controls to him that he had never seen before. Obi-Wan even took the time to ask after his lessons and offer to help the boy with any he had problems with.

For his part, Qui-Gon remained silent throughout much of the meal. Only when a question was asked him directly did he enter into the conversation. He was content to watch his padawans, present and former, as they got to know one another better.

Once dinner was done, Anakin asked to be excused to rejoin the captain in the cockpit. It seemed the man had promised to let him fly some more this evening. With his master's permission, of course. Qui-Gon agreed, happy to see the look of delight on the young boy's face.

"You're awfully quiet tonight, Qui-Gon," Obi-Wan observed once they were alone.

"Just thinking," he said after a moment.

"Perhaps I should leave you to your contemplation then," Obi-Wan said as he stood to leave.

"No!" Qui-Gon blurted hastily. "I enjoy your company. I would not see you leave."

"Then let us take this someplace more comfortable," Obi-Wan said. Qui-Gon's slight flinch at the innuendo made him smile. "My quarters or yours?"

"Um... yours."

They walked to Obi-Wan's quarters without speaking. Obi-Wan kept his shields firmly locked in place, not allowing any of his emotions to slip through. Qui-Gon, on the other hand, was still open to him and he could feel the man's confusion.

Inside his quarters, Obi-Wan motioned for Qui-Gon to sit, then moved behind him. He grasped the older man's shoulders and squeezed. He could feel the tension in the big body. Qui-Gon tried not to groan at the touch, but the young man's hands felt so good on his tight muscles.

"I see I shall need to teach Anakin how to massage you properly," Obi-Wan said as he continued to knead the man's shoulders. "Take off your tunic and go lay on my bed."

Qui-Gon froze at the softly whispered command. When Obi-Wan turned to retrieve something from his pack he realized what the young man had in mind. As he began to undress, he wondered how he was going to explain to Yoda that he was driven insane by an upper body massage.

Obi-Wan turned back around and was greeted by one of his favorite sights. Qui-Gon Jinn lay face down in the center of his bed. The young man ruthlessly clamped down on his own arousal at the image. There was no way he was letting Qui-Gon know how much he affected him. Not yet, anyway.

"Beautiful as ever, Master," Obi-Wan sighed as he knelt beside the man.

Qui-Gon tensed as he felt warm oil-slick hands on his shoulders. He had to bite his lip to stifle a groan as the young man began to knead and caress the tight muscles. Slowly, Qui-Gon began to relax. As the tightness left his muscles, his heart began to ease a bit as well.

Obi-Wan concentrated on the task at hand, making sure to keep his rampaging libido in check. He silently berated himself as he worked for letting Qui-Gon get this tense. He knew the majority of the man's stress was directly related to him. He would have to show Anakin how to do this. It would be some time before the boy would be strong enough to do it properly, but he would know how anyway.

As Obi-Wan continued the massage he could feel the emotions coming from his former master. Guilt, admiration, respect, regret and finally resignation came one after the other. So Qui-Gon was resigning himself to whatever fate decreed. Well, Obi-Wan would see about that.

Very slowly, the knight began to change the nature of the massage. Strokes became lighter, bordering on caresses. He returned again and again to the small of Qui-Gon's back, even slipping his fingers under the top of his leggings a time or two. Oh what he would not give to strip those leggings from him and knead those firm cheeks. But he schooled himself to patience. Now was not the time for that. Now was the time for driving Qui-Gon insane with desire.

Qui-Gon felt the nature of the massaging touches change and stiffened as much as his very relaxed body would allow. A small tremor passed through him as the man caressed him thoroughly. He could not stop a startled gasping sound from escaping as Obi-Wan's fingers delved under his leggings.

"Feeling better, Qui-Gon?" Obi-Wan leaned down and purred into his ear.

"Ye... yes," he stammered as he sat up. "Thank you."

"You are most welcome," the knight replied. "Tomorrow I will begin showing Anakin how to do that."

"That is not necessary," Qui-Gon tried to protest, but Obi-Wan was not having it.

"Come now, Qui-Gon," he said. "I'm sure you won't object to another massage. After all, you appear to have enjoyed this one immensely."

Obi-Wan cast his eyes downward, toward Qui-Gon's straining erection. The Jedi master felt his face go red as his obvious arousal was pointed out. He tried to shift away, to remove himself from Obi-Wan's gaze, but he was stopped.

"Leaving so soon?" he asked, his voice soft and seductive. It made Qui-Gon's cock twitch to hear it.

"I should... should go and... um... check on Anakin," Qui-Gon stammered, desperate to leave before things went too far.

"Ah, yes, your Chosen One," Obi-Wan said. Qui-Gon cringed at the title, once again feeling the knight's pain at his rejection. "I'm surprised you let him out of your sight at all."

"I should leave," Qui-Gon said again, not sure what else he could say. How many times could one apologize for the same thing?

"Yes, perhaps you should," Obi-Wan agreed as he stood to show him out. "I think I'll meditate for awhile. Goodnight, Qui-Gon."

"Goodnight, Obi-Wan."

Qui-Gon heard the door slide shut behind him and sighed. They had been on this ship less than a day and he was already so off balance he did not know what to do. He had no idea how he was going to make it through the remainder of the voyage without going stark raving mad.

The next day was much the same as the first, with Obi-Wan seeming to touch him at every given opportunity. As frustrating as it was, Qui-Gon would not change it. It was better than the cold silence of before even if he was taking a cold shower at least twice a day.

True to his word, Obi-Wan starting teaching Anakin the art of massage. He decided to begin slowly, starting with Qui-Gon's hands. The two had spent a good hour simply massaging the master's hands. Qui-Gon had never felt more relaxed, or more cherished, in his life.

With Anakin there, Obi-Wan was the model of proper Jedi behavior. There were no inadvertent touches, no sexual innuendo, no risque teasing. The Jedi master was surprised to find that, while he was grateful for the respite, he missed the flirting.

As Qui-Gon watched his padawans, past and present, he was awed by Obi-Wan's kindness toward the boy. He went out of his way to make sure Anakin felt nothing but loved and wanted whenever he could. Where there could have been, even should have been, jealousy, there was none. Only deep affection and understanding of a boy whose circumstances were beyond his control.

They were just finishing evening meal on their second night when the ship suddenly lurched, throwing them about the small room. Obi-Wan leapt toward Anakin, coming between him and the metal wall. As hard as the boy had been thrown, he could have been badly hurt.

In a few seconds it was over. Obi-Wan hugged the boy to him for a moment before turning to Qui-Gon. His former master was picking himself up off the floor where he landed. Bright red blood stained his tunic at the shoulder.

Obi-Wan rushed to his side, his face etched with worry. Qui-Gon tried to turn away from him, but the knight would have none of it. He could read what the other man was thinking quite clearly and it surprised him.

The knowledge that there was a time when Obi-Wan would have moved to shield him first flashed through the master's mind. Even as he thought it, he berated himself for it. And when he looked into the younger man's eyes, he knew Obi-Wan had read the thought as well.

"You are a master. More than capable of cushioning your fall with the Force," Obi-Wan whispered fiercely so Anakin could not hear. "The boy was in danger. Had I thought you were in danger as well, I would have come to you."

"I..." Qui-Gon began, but Obi-Wan cut him off.

"Anakin, why don't you clean this mess up for us," Obi-Wan instructed gently. "I'll take Qui-Gon to my quarters and see to his injury. Acceptable?"

"Acceptable," Anakin replied. He could tell something was going on between them right now and knew they probably wanted to be alone to talk about it.

"When you are finished, you may rejoin the Captain if you like, Padawan," Qui-Gon said softly. "But first, come here."

Anakin came to his master readily. Qui-Gon knelt down beside the boy and pulled him into his arms. He held him for a moment as the realization that his padawan could have been badly hurt if not for Obi-Wan's intervention washed over him.

Anakin returned the hug. He could feel his master's worry and sense of relief that he was unharmed over their bond. Anakin let his own feelings of concern and understanding flow back. They stayed like that for a few moments then Qui-Gon stood to follow Obi-Wan to his quarters yet again.

"Get that tunic off so I can get a look at that wound," Obi-Wan said once they were alone in his room again. Qui-Gon did as he was told, sensing the man's need to assure himself that he was not badly hurt.

Obi-Wan brought out his med-pack and quickly cleaned the small wound. It was not much, really. A good cleaning and bandaging would suffice until a healer could be found. Before Qui-Gon could stop him, Obi-Wan reached out with the Force and gently healed the wound. While all Jedi could heal, one not trained in the arts found it very draining. By the time he was finished, Obi-Wan was barely on his feet.

Qui-Gon reached out to steady the man and helped him sit down. He did not know whether he wanted to kiss him or kill him for that little stunt. He had no business trying something like that.

"Why?" Qui-Gon asked as he looked into a very tired pair of green eyes.

"I never did like to see you hurting," Obi-Wan replied softly. His features softened and he reached out to gently touch Qui-Gon's face. The master could not help but lean into the touch, nestling his face into the man's hand.

"You should rest," he murmured as they touched.

"I expect you are right," Obi-Wan replied. "And Ani will worry himself to death about you until he knows you are healed."

Reluctantly, they broke the contact and Qui-Gon stood to leave. "Then I shall leave you to rest. If you need anything..."

"I know, Master," was the quiet reply and Qui-Gon had to stop himself from pulling the man into his arms and kissing him unconscious. Using every bit of control he could muster, he walked from the room, leaving Obi-Wan to rest.

They managed to reach Bandomeer without further incident. In their short time together, Anakin and Obi-Wan had become almost inseparable. Qui-Gon was more than pleased. Now all he had to do was get Obi-Wan to show him as much affection as he showed the boy.

The two Jedi were not surprised to find Si Treemba waiting from them when they arrived. The Jedi Council had gotten word to the Arconian as to when the ship would arrive. Even from a distance, they could read the gratitude and relief that shown on their friend's face.

"We are pleased to see you, friend Obi-Wan," Si said as the two men hugged. It was indeed good to see his old friend, no matter the circumstances.

"It's good to see you, too, my friend," Obi-Wan replied sincerely.

"We are pleased to see you also, Master Qui-Gon," Si said as he stepped back from Obi-Wan. "Who is your friend?"

"It is good to see you, as well," Qui-Gon replied politely. "This is my Padawan, Anakin Skywalker."

"I am a Knight now," Obi-Wan said as Si looked at him in confusion.

"Ah. Then we are pleased to meet you as well, Padawan Skywalker." Anakin bowed his head politely. Obi-Wan had explained the fact that Arconians did not see themselves as individuals, hence the constant use of 'we' rather than 'I'. The young boy could not help but be a little bit shy, this was, after all, his first mission.

"Come," Si continued. "We have arranged guestrooms for you. We know you must be tired from your trip."

The three Jedi followed the Arconian to the rooms he had reserved for them. He offered to arrange another for Anakin but Qui-Gon assured him that the boy could stay with him. Anakin was relieved that he would not have to spend his nights alone. Sometimes being a Jedi could be a bit overwhelming.

Si excused himself to let the Jedi settle in. Obi-Wan said they would meet him at the mining office in an hour. That would give them more than enough time to unpack and get something to eat.

It only took a few minutes for Obi-Wan to unpack. He was used to unpacking for both himself and Qui-Gon on their missions. With nothing better to do, he walked across the hall to Qui-Gon's room. He and Anakin were still quietly unpacking. He ruthlessly quashed the instinct to help his master for it was no longer his responsibility. He would make it a point to let Anakin know that it was, however, his.

"I felt much the same way on my first few missions, Ani," Obi-Wan said quietly from the doorway. He could tell the boy was dumbfounded by everything. "Don't let it get you down. You just follow your master's lead and you'll do just fine."

"Is that what you did?" the boy asked, looking up at him with trusting eyes.

"Yes," Obi-Wan replied, then decided to amend that just a bit. "Well, as much as I could, anyway. I was a good deal older than you before I finally got lucky so I was expected to pull more weight. Andí... it wasn't exactly an ideal situationí..."

"You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to, Obi," Anakin said softly. He could see the man's distress.

"Nobody's called me Obi in a very long time," he laughed. "It's something my friends used to call me."

"Would you rather Ií..." the young boy began, afraid he had overstepped his boundaries with the knight.

"It would be an honor to have you within that circle," Obi-Wan said as he knelt down to come face to face with the boy. "I would be proud to be your friend." He opened his arms and Anakin flew to him. If nothing else came of things, Obi-Wan realized he had gained the friendship of a very special boy. And in some small way, that eased a little more of the hurt.

Qui-Gon had stopped packing to watch the interaction between the two. He could not remember the last time he referred to Obi-Wan simply as Obi. Now, he doubted if he had the right to. But Anakin did. The Jedi master quickly took himself in hand. He would not allow himself to be jealous of his own padawan. He should be grateful that Obi-Wan, with his generous heart, was taking the time to make the boy feel better, not wishing for things he had no right to.

"Now, lesson number one about being Master Qui-Gon's padawan," Obi-Wan said as he pulled back from the boy. Anakin's eyes lit up as he waited for Obi-Wan's instructions. "YOU unpack the bags."

"Why didn't you say something?" Anakin asked, turning to Qui-Gon.

"It is not important, Padawan," Qui-Gon began only to have a determined Anakin come and take the bag he was unpacking from him.

"Obi-Wan thought it was important," Anakin countered, knowing full well the master would not contradict his former padawan. "It's my job to take care of you now. But I can't if you won't let me."

"If it's any consolation, he tried to tell me the same thing," Obi-Wan put in. "And while taking care of your master does not mean waiting on him hand and foot, it does mean unpacking from a long voyage so he can rest."

Qui-Gon sighed. It was no use. There was no way he could out argue the both of them. Obi-Wan was nothing, if not terribly stubborn when it can to his master's well being. It looked like Anakin was going to be even worse.

"Obi, will you tell me how you came to be Master's padawan sometime?" Anakin asked as he unpacked the bag.

"Would you like me to?" Obi-Wan asked, trying to decide if he really wanted to put himself through that.

"Yes, very much," the young boy said. "But you can skip the sad parts if you want."

"I promise, sometime very soon I will sit down and tell you all of it," Obi-Wan said. "Even the sad parts. They are rather important."

"They have to do with what we talked about before, don't they?" Anakin asked, being as vague as he could. Obi-Wan nodded and the boy let it drop. He would find out soon enough, then maybe he would understand better.

"Are you two hiding something from me?" Qui-Gon asked, not liking what he had heard. Anakin opened his mouth to answer, but Obi-Wan beat him to it.

"It's a personal matter concerning a private conversation between Anakin and I," Obi-Wan answered.

"I see," Qui-Gon replied. He did not like the answer but he would respect Obi-Wan's silent request to let it lie.

"Lesson number two, Anakin," Obi-Wan began. "Never, ever lie to your master. You may evade like a Sith was on your tail. But you do not lie to him. Understood?"

"Understood," Anakin replied seriously. He could tell from his friend's tone of voice that he was deadly serious about that. He had no doubt that if Obi-Wan ever found out he lied to Master, he would be eating standing up for a very long time.

"Well, if you are finished with your lessons, Obi-Wan, I believe Si Treemba is waiting for us," Qui-Gon said when he saw Anakin was finished unpacking.

"If you feel I am overstepping myself in instructing your padawaní..." Obi-Wan began, but Qui-Gon raised a hand to cut him off.

"Not at all," he said gently. "I am grateful that you care enough to take the time. Many would not."

"He is worth it."

They got something to eat and met Si at the mining office right on time. He was talking with another man when they walked in. The man appeared to be about Obi-Wan's age with coal black hair that flowed down his shoulders and rich brown eyes. He was closer to Qui-Gon's height than Obi-Wan's with broad shoulders and large, strong hands. In a word, he was gorgeous. Qui-Gon felt his insides clench as the man smiled at them then settled his eyes on Obi-Wan.

"Welcome," he said. "I'm Devan Haleen. Si told me you were coming. I hope you can help us."

Qui-Gon introduced them all and Obi-Wan could not help but notice the way the man's nostrils flared when Devan shook his hand. An idea began to take shape in Obi-Wan's head. He wondered if his master knew what it felt like to be replaced.

"Si can show you the mine shaft where the deaths occurred," Devan apologized. "I'm afraid I have an appointment this afternoon. I have some arrangements to make to ensure that the families of the deceased are taken care of. Perhaps you could join me for dinner this evening. We could go over any questions you might come up with."

"We'll look forward to it," Obi-Wan said before Qui-Gon could speak.

He smiled at the man as he did so and he could almost feel Qui-Gon's hackles raise. Devan smiled back at the handsome young Jedi. He could tell Master Jinn was less than pleased and wondered what their exact relationship was. Devan watched the young Jedi as he and his companions departed. Perhaps the young knight would be interested in a little extra curricular activity.

Si took them to the mine where the workers had died. Along the way he gave what details he could to the Jedi. It seemed that some days ago the miners had stumbled across something in the mine. A few days later the three who had found the objects all died most horribly. The mining colony healers examined the bodies and determined that the men died due to their stomachs exploding, but were unable to find a cause.

"I almost died here," Obi-Wan said absently as Si led them deep into the mine. Qui-Gon faltered at the softly spoken words as that old pain washed over him again.

At last, Si stopped and pointed down the tunnel. Nodding, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan continued on with Anakin following behind them. Obi-Wan's hand rested lightly on his saber, ready to defend. They neared the end of the tunnel and cautiously approached the three objects that jutted up from the floor.

They were leathery, almost egg-like, except that the tops had pealed back like petals on a blooming flower. There was a thick mucus-like substance on the inside and Obi-Wan carefully took a sample to analyze. It was clear that something had been inside these casings. But what it was and where it had gotten to was a mystery.

"Stay back, Padawan," Qui-Gon cautioned when Anakin moved to investigate. As Anakin moved back, something in the corner of the tunnel caught his eye.

"Masterí..." he said and pointed to the corner.

Both Jedi saw and moved carefully forward. Obi-Wan ignited his saber as Qui-Gon crept closer. Whatever it was, it was not moving, but the Jedi would take no chance. The closer Qui-Gon got to it, the more sure he became that it was dead. Picking up a discarded pick, he hooked one end around what looked to be a tail of some sort and drug the carcass out.

The desiccated corpse looked like some sort of headless spider with a long tail. It was milky white with eight long, barbed legs. Apparently the mouth was held on the creature's underbelly as there was no head to speak of. There appeared to be no ocular cavities of any sort, so whatever it was, it did not hunt by sight. The long tail lay coiled and ended in a heavy barb.

"Get me something to put it in," Qui-Gon instructed and Anakin hurried to comply.

Obi-Wan doused his saber and moved closer to get a good look at the thing. The creature was less than a meter in diameter even with its legs extended. How did such a small creature kill three grown miners? And how did it make their bodies explode from the inside out?

Anakin returned quickly with a cloth sack and the Jedi master carefully placed the carcass inside. It was not much but at least it was something. The fact that there was no blood or signs of a struggle near the 'eggs' themselves was also confusing. Perhaps the discovery and the deaths were just coincidence, but Qui-Gon did not think so.

Qui-Gon and Anakin took the carcass to the lab to begin an analysis on it. Obi-Wan and Si went to talk to some of the other miners, hoping to get some insight into how the men were acting just prior to their deaths.

Devan waited until the three Jedi were gone before calling his employer. He needed to report that the Jedi had arrived and apprise his boss of the situation. As he waited for his employer to answer, he smiled at the thought of getting close to the handsome young man. Maybe, just maybe, he could add a Jedi knight to his list of conquests.

He was brought back to reality as the image of Xanatos came into view. Xanatos had expected Jinn and Kenobi to be the Jedi dispatched to Bandomeer. The news of the boy was surprising, as was the apparent rift between the two men. When Devan told him of Kenobi's apparent interest he burst out laughing.

"I take it you wouldn't mind if I did my best to seduce Kenobi?" he asked when the worse of Xanatos' laughter had subsided.

"By all means, do so!" he exclaimed. "And make sure to keep me up to date."

With that the image winked out and Devan began to plan.

They all met back at Qui-Gon's quarters late that day. Obi-Wan had talked to the friends and co-workers of the dead men and discovered very little. Each of the three men had seemed fine the day of their deaths. It was frightening to think that such violent deaths could have no precursor.

Qui-Gon had been equally unsuccessful with the carcass. He managed to determine that the creature was not indigenous to Bandomeer, but had no idea as to how it could have gotten here. The condition of the thing left little they could discover. Apparently the barbed tail served as some sort of poisoned stinger. There was a shaft that ran down the center of the tail, ending in the barb. The Jedi master could see no other use for it, save poison. The only flaw with that theory was the distinct lack of any sort of poison sac.

They went over the data again, looking for anything they might have missed. They discussed the possibility that the creature, the egg sacs, and the deaths may not even be related, though both men doubted that. Something was definitely going on here. Now all they had to do was figure out what it was.

Obi-Wan excused himself a short while later. He wanted to get cleaned up before dinner. Qui-Gon said nothing as he left, but he had felt the small ripple of unease. Knowing he was playing with fire, Obi-Wan dressed in his best tunic and tightest leggings. He even took the time to redo his braid, weaving small glass beads into it. Pleased with the outcome, he returned to Qui-Gon's quarters to see if he and Ani were ready.

"Dressing for the occasion?" Qui-Gon asked almost serenely.

"I thought it might behoove us to make a good impression on our host," Obi-Wan replied indifferently. "His cooperation would be most helpful."

"Indeed," Qui-Gon replied dryly.

Devan met them at the mining office along with Si Treemba. He shook hands with the Jedi, his hand lingering on Obi-Wan's a bit longer than necessary. Qui-Gon felt his stomach knot as he watched this man openly flirting with his former padawan. What hurt most of all, though, was Obi-Wan's reactions to it. The young man seemed to bask in the attention, leaving Qui-Gon to wonder if he had neglected his padawan so much that any bit of attention was craved no matter who it was from.

"Have you discovered anything?" Devan asked as they approached his lodgings.

"Woefully little so far, Mr. Haleen," Obi-Wan replied.

"Please, call me Devan," he said as he led them inside.

"Is this your home, Devan?" Qui-Gon asked, purposely using the man's name.

"Yes," Devan replied. "I thought it would be a bit more cozy. I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all," Obi-Wan said. "Thank you for inviting us into your home like this."

Green eyes met brown and everyone in the room could feel the current flow between the two men. Only through an extreme act of will did Qui-Gon manage to look away from the spectacle before him. It was easy to see how the two men would be attracted to each other. Devan was quite handsome. And Obi-Wan was everything Qui-Gon had ever wanted.

Obi-Wan pulled his gaze away reluctantly, a bit surprised by the sudden desire he had felt. He stole a glance at Qui-Gon and knew that what had passed between him and Devan had not gone unnoticed by the master. He felt a brief twinge of guilt at the look on Qui-Gon's face. Obi-Wan quickly pushed it aside. He had done nothing except dress nicely and be polite to their host. He had nothing to feel guilty about.

Dinner progressed nicely and Obi-Wan was not surprised to find he enjoyed Devan's company. Qui-Gon was a bit more aloof than normal, but only Obi-Wan and Anakin were able to tell. To anyone else, Qui-Gon looked the part of the reserved Jedi master. But his padawans knew something was wrong.

It came as no shock when Devan asked Obi-Wan if he would like to stay for a while when the Jedi made to leave. While he would have loved to continue the conversation they had been having, one glance at Qui-Gon and the knight graciously declined.

Qui-Gon remained silent all the way back to their rooms. Anakin and Obi-Wan both decided to let him be. When the man wanted to talk, he would talk. No amount of prompting on their parts would make one bit of difference if Qui-Gon did not want it to.

"You could have stayed," Qui-Gon said softly as Obi-Wan opened the door to his room. "I could tell you wanted to."

"The conversation was stimulating," Obi-Wan offered.

"As was he man?" Qui-Gon said, he may be old but he was not blind nor was he stupid. At least not usually.

"I suppose to some he might seem that way," Obi-Wan hedged. He had found Devan quite stimulating, much more stimulating than he thought he would. He would definitely have to meditate on that tonight.

"To you?" Qui-Gon asked bluntly. He needed to know.

"Why do you ask?" Obi-Wan came back, not wanting to answer one way or the other right now. Let his master know what it felt like to wonder what place he still held in the heart of another.

"I think it's pretty clear why I'm asking. What do you want from me Obi-Wan?" The anguish in the man's voice was plain to hear. As was the rising anger.

"I think it would be best if we did not discuss this in the hall," came the clipped reply. He stood back and held the door for Qui-Gon, motioning for the man to enter the room. The Jedi master did so and stood waiting in the middle of the room. As soon as the door shut behind Obi-Wan, he turned.

"What do you want from me?" he demanded. "I've said I'm sorry. I am more sorry than you can imagine for my treatment of you. What can I do to make amends? Do you truly wish to see me beg?"

"I am sorry if my friendship with Devan bothers you," Obi-Wan said tightly. "You have nothing to feel threatened about."

"Because he holds no interest for you?" Qui-Gon asked. "Or because I stand no chance?"

"I told you I needed time, Qui-Gon. If you can't give me that tií..."

Obi-Wan's words were cut off as he was suddenly pinned to the wall by his much larger companion. The breath left his lungs as his back was slammed against hard metal. Before he could begin to recover from Qui-Gon's unexpected attack, an insistent mouth was covering his own, demanding entrance.

Obi-Wan's mouth opened under the kiss due to his shock. Qui-Gon's tongue thrust inside, invading him. The feel of that hot tongue stroking his own was all it took to break him out of his stupor. Summoning the Force, Obi-Wan pushed Qui-Gon hard, sending the man sprawling backward from the unexpected resistance.

"I think you should leave." Obi-Wan said as calmly as he could manage. His breath was coming in harsh gulps as he stared at his former master.

"Obi-Waní..." Qui-Gon began, horrified at what he had done.

"Get. Out!" the younger man hissed at him and Qui-Gon hastened to obey, lest he destroy things beyond all repair.

The knight sank slowly down the wall and drew his knees up tightly. He ached inside. While Qui-Gon had not frightened him with his uncharacteristic attack, he had hurt him. Even masters had limits, he supposed. But would they never regain the trust they once shared?

Sleep was a long time in coming for both men that night.

Qui-Gon started at the soft knock upon his door. He and Anakin were just finishing breakfast, or rather Ani was eating while Qui-Gon pushed his food around trying to think of a way to apologize to Obi-Wan. Bitterly he wondered if apologizing to his former padawan for being an ass was going to become a habit. He seemed to be doing enough of it of late.

Anakin glanced at his master then went to answer the door. He knew as well as his master did who was on the other side of it. He wondered what happened last night to put this distance between them again. He had thought they were finally closing it, but now it loomed wider than ever.

The young boy cast a questioning glance at Obi-Wan when the door slid open but a quick shake of the knight's head let him know he would find no answers there. At least not yet, anyway. Well, being a slave had taught him to be patient. He would wait and watch and see if there was something he could do to bring these two together again.

"I thought I might check out the mine again," Obi-Wan said cautiously. Qui-Gon sat statue still, his breakfast uneaten in front of him. Last night's harsh words hung in the air between them and neither seemed to know how to get past them.

"Obi-Wan..." Qui-Gon began, only to falter.

"Yes, Master?" he said gently, giving the man an opening. All he had to do was choose to take it.

"I am sorry about last night," he said quietly. "I did not mean..."

"I know," Obi-Wan replied. "I am sorry, too. Perhaps we should just consider it a misstep on both our parts and begin again."

"Agreed," Qui-Gon said, relieved that the man was willing to brush off what happened. "Anakin and I will accompany you. Then I think it best if we examine the bodies of the workers ourselves. We might be able to find something others may have missed."

"Good idea," Obi-Wan replied. "It would be faster if we split up. You could examine the bodies while Anakin and I recheck the mine."

Qui-Gon paused. He smiled his thanks to the man. He knew Obi-Wan suggested Anakin accompany him to spare the boy from having to peer over dead bodies, even though it would slow his own investigation down. Qui-Gon, however, shook his head.

"It would be faster, yes," he said. "But I would prefer if we did not split up. We do not as yet know what has happened here. And Anakin would be no help to you in a fight."

"Tell me the truth, Qui-Gon. Is this simply because you do not wish to let me out of your sight?" Obi-Wan stared at his master. The man had never lied to him before. He might evade like a Sith was on his tail, but he would not lie.

"No," he said simply. The hard look from Obi-Wan pushed him to explain. "That is not the only reason. But it is a part of it. I sense all is not as it seems here. We would be wise to be cautious."

"Very well, Master," the knight replied. "I thank you for your honesty. Now actually eat your breakfast so we may leave."

"Obi-Wan..." Qui-Gon began but the young man turned from him to face Anakin. Qui-Gon knew a dismissal when he was slapped in the face with one. Hiding his grin, he began to eat, knowing Obi-Wan would not allow him to leave until he did.

"Another of your duties, young Padawan, is to see to it that your master eats," Obi-Wan said to Anakin as he knelt down beside the boy. "He is very bad about that sometimes. Especially if something is weighing on his mind. But you must do your best to coax him to."

"You mean I get to order Master Qui-Gon to finish his vegetables?" Anakin asked, disbelieving such a thing could be true.

"Well, perhaps not order. But you may use other mean." Obi-Wan leaned closer and whispered so only Anakin could hear. "Just let him know that his failure to eat is causing you worry. He is loath to have his padawan worried about him. And if that fails, tears have been known to work. This is a grave responsibility, Anakin. This is your master's well-being we are talking about."

"I'll make sure he takes care of himself," Anakin said seriously. "And I won't abuse it. I promise."

"I know you won't, Ani," Obi-Wan said as he ruffled the boy's hair. "If I had thought you would, I would never have told you. You, my young friend, I trust."

The boy beamed at the knight. To have Obi-Wan say that he trusted him, and trusted him with Master Qui-Gon of all things, made the boy's heart swell. He vowed to himself it was a trust he would live up to. He would not let Obi-Wan down.

Qui-Gon watched the by-play between the two as he ate. He could only imagine what Obi-Wan had whispered to the boy. But he had not missed the very serious tone of voice the child had used in reply. Nor had he missed the way the boy reacted to the knight's words of trust and assurance. He and Anakin were lucky indeed.

They went to the mine first. Obi-Wan wanted to delay the examination of the bodies as long as possible. He had serious misgivings about Anakin being present, but he had worse ones about leaving the boy unguarded. Qui-Gon was right. There was something going on here. And until they found out what, he would not leave the young boy alone.

They found nothing new in the mine. Even when examined with the Force, the only thing they knew for certain was that three men had come into contact with the eggs. Until they examined the bodies they could only assume they were the three dead men.

Their next stop was the morgue. The bodies of the three miners were being held in stasis, thanks to Si Treemba's intervention. The Jedi were glad for this. It would have been extremely difficult, as well as horrific, to examine the remains otherwise.

Obi-Wan said nothing as Anakin approached the bodies with them. It was not his place to direct the boy here. He was Qui-Gon's padawan. If Qui-Gon wanted him to watch, Obi-Wan would remain silent. Though he planned on having a long talk with his master about what is and is not appropriate for a young boy to witness.

The knight focused the majority of his attention on the body in front of him. A small sliver he reserved to monitor Anakin. He watched as the boy silently paled, then began to tremble. All the while, Qui-Gon remained silent. When the color was almost completely gone from the boy, Obi-Wan spoke up.

"Anakin, come here," he said as he moved away from the body and opened his arms. The young padawan practically flew into his arms. Obi-Wan cast a scathing glance at Qui-Gon as he held the trembling boy in his arms.

As gently as he could, Obi-Wan carried the boy to the far corner of the room. With is back to Qui-Gon, he knelt down and deposited him in the corner. He reached into his robe and pulled out a data pad. Anakin took the pad with hands that shook only slightly now and Obi-Wan smiled.

"This is the information we have on all of the people who have gone missing," he said. "I want you to go over this carefully and see if you can find any possible connections. This is what we will be focusing on after we finish here."

"Yes, Sir," Anakin said, his voice firming.

"If you find anything or need one of us, you are to call out," Obi-Wan instructed. "You are not to go back over there under any circumstances. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Sir," Anakin replied. "But what if Master calls me?"

"I will deal with your master," Obi-Wan said, more than a little upset at what had happened.

"I'm sorry," Anakin whispered.

"You have nothing to be sorry about," Obi-Wan whispered back. "I should have stopped that long ago. Will you forgive me?"

"That's alright," Anakin replied, but Obi-Wan would not have it.

"No, Ani, it's not alright," the knight countered softly. "You are still young and had no business being made to observe that. I should not have allowed it. Will you forgive me?"

"Yes," Anakin answered, knowing it was not really Obi-Wan's fault. He knew the knight had been waiting for his master to say something. Anakin wondered why the man did not, but let it go. He would ask his master tonight.

"Thank you, my friend," Obi-Wan said and bowed his head slightly. With a brief hug, he stood and walked back over to where Qui-Gon was still examining the dead.

They continued to examine the bodies, piecing together what information they could. Both men worked in silence, but there was no mistaking Obi-Wan's anger. Finally Qui-Gon spoke. A soft caress of words along their old training bond. It was enough to push Obi-Wan over the edge.

//You handled that well.// Qui-Gon sent.

//Do you enjoy torturing your padawans?// Obi-Wan asked, the vehemence of the thought making Qui-Gon flinch.

//I knew you were monitoring the boy. I knew you would make sure he was fine.//

//He is YOUR padawan. YOU should have been the one to send him away. In fact, YOU should never have allowed him near in the first place.//

//I knew you would ensure...//

//He is not MY PADAWAN!// Obi-Wan was shouting along their bond. He knew his words had to be hurting the man, but could not seem to get his anger under control.

//He could be.// Came Qui-Gon's quiet thought and Obi-Wan had to restrain himself from slapping the other man across the face.

//Don't you dare. Don't you fucking dare! I will not stand by and let you do that to him, let you hurt him like that. Do you know how much that hurts? Do you?//

"Obi-Wan..." Qui-Gon said out loud.

He could feel the anguish pouring off of the other man. He had not meant it like that. He had not meant that he would reject the boy. He had not realized Obi-Wan still carried such pain with him. He had not realized how much his rejections hurt the younger man. Apparently he had not realized a great many things about his padawan.

"We have work to do," Obi-Wan said as he fought for control.

"Please, Obi-Wan, talk to me," Qui-Gon implored, the task before him forgotten. "I did not mean it as you think. I only meant that we might share the duty. I would not... I would not make the same mistakes I made with you. I would not cause that hurt to another."

"You owe your padawan an apology," the said, calming himself.

"As well as an explanation," Qui-Gon agreed. "And he will get both from me this evening."

"I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions," Obi-Wan offered.

"Looking back I see that the jump was a short one," the Jedi master said ruefully.

"I should have known better," Obi-Wan argued. "I should have trusted you."

"Ah, yes. I have given you so many reasons to trust me. Have I not, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon came back. And that was one of the things that troubled him the most. That he had given his own padawan such good reason to doubt him.

"Is that not what this mission together is about? Rebuilding that trust? Regaining that which we have lost?"

"Indeed, it is," came Qui-Gon's soft reply.

In the end, they discovered that the dead men were the three that discovered the eggs. They also discovered that the men's abdomens had not simply exploded. Something had fought its way out of them. They could only guess as to what that something was or where it had gone.

They ordered the bodies put back into stasis. They also arranged for some tests to be run to determine if the foreign cells found in the bodies could be matched to any of those found on the carcass they had discovered. Both Jedi felt sure they would, but they wanted the confirmation none the less.

They decided to have lunch in Qui-Gon's room so they could go over the information about the missing. Anakin had found some rather disturbing connections. They would see what they could piece together. They still had no proof that the missing people had any connections with the three deaths. They set out to change that.

Si Treemba met them at Devan's office to go over their latest findings, or lack thereof. Qui-Gon vowed not to let the man's obvious interest in Obi-Wan get to him this time. Schooling his features to neutrality, he let Obi-Wan do the talking.

Obi-Wan reported what they had discovered about the deaths. Devan listened intently, only interrupting to ask a question here or there. His eyes, however, raked over the young knight's body. The close scrutiny coupled with the leering tone made Obi-Wan shudder inwardly. Qui-Gon noticed that Obi-Wan failed to mention what their plans were from there. Perhaps the knight was not as trusting of Haleen as he thought.

"So what are your plans?" Devan asked, noticing that the Jedi had made no mention of them.

"We're going to run a few more tests on the bodies," Obi-Wan lied smoothly, puzzling both Qui-Gon and Anakin.

"Of course," Devan smiled. "Perhaps you could join me for dinner again this evening. We could go over anything else you might have found."

"Thank you for the invitation," Obi-Wan said. "But I'm afraid we'll have to decline. Master Jinn and I have some lessons we need to prepare for Anakin."

"Surely that would not require the both of you," Devan said, hoping to persuade the young knight into joining him. An evening alone with the man could prove most enjoyable.

"I am sorry," Obi-Wan repeated. "Another time perhaps."

"Very well," Devan relented. "I shall leave you to your investigations."

They took their leave and quickly left the building. Obi-Wan asked Si to meet them at their rooms later. The Arconian agreed, unsure what was happening but trusting his friend. Qui-Gon looked at Obi-Wan questioningly but a sharp glare told him this was not the time. Nodding his understanding and willingness to follow the other man's lead, Qui-Gon remained silent and cautioned his padawan to as well.

Devan activated the comm link that would connect him to Xanatos. He knew his employer was anxious to find out what the Jedi had discovered. He was also anxious to see how the seduction of one Jedi knight was coming along.

Devan reported that they had connected the bodies with the eggs in the mine. Xanatos had been expecting that. He would have been surprised if Qui-Gon missed it. So far, everything was going according to plan. Now all they had to do was lure the Jedi into position and they would have an excellent test of their new pet's abilities.

"And how is the seduction going?" Xanatos asked.

"Not very well," Devan replied. "I tried to get them to come to dinner again, but Kenobi refused. Said something about lessons for the kid. I think he doesn't trust me."

"Well then, we need to change that," Xanatos said. "Perhaps a little accident could be arranged. Something to spark his protective streak. How did things seem between him and Jinn?"

"Strained, I think. Jinn let him do all the talking."

"Interesting," Xanatos replied thoughtfully. "Master normally likes to run things. It's strange that he's letting the whelp do it."

"Maybe he's trying to get back into Kenobi's good graces?" Devan offered.

"Perhaps. In any event, keep me informed."

The transmission ended abruptly and Devan leaned back in his chair to think. He needed to up the stakes in this little drama. Maybe he would pay Kenobi a visit this evening. If nothing else, he could find out if he had been truthful about lessons for the brat. And if he managed to catch the Jedi alone, who knows what might... arise.

Three very frustrated Jedi returned to their rooms that night. They had been able to discover very little about the disappearances. It seemed every direction they turned they were thwarted in one way or another. And Qui-Gon had yet to talk to Obi-Wan about their meeting with Haleen. Something was not right and he wanted to know what it was.

Obi-Wan knocked once before walking into Qui-Gon's quarters. Qui-Gon said nothing, only watched as the brooding knight sat down. Anakin looked back and forth between the two men. He could feel the tension in the air but did not understand what had caused it.

"You lied to Haleen," Qui-Gon said at last.

"No, I didn't," Obi-Wan defended tiredly.

"You told him we had lessons to give Anakin," Qui-Gon insisted calmly. "I am unaware of any lessons that require two Jedi to administer."

"I thought I might give him another lesson in massage," Obi-Wan said. The excuse sounded lame to his own ears. He doubted if his master was going to fall for it.

"You lied about our investigation, as well," Qui-Gon reminded him. "Tell me why."

"I don't know, Master," he said after a long pause. "But something's not right. I don't altogether trust him. And I really did not want to spend an entire evening fending off the man's advances."

"Ah, I wondered if you had noticed his interest," Qui-Gon smiled. It reassured him to know that Obi-Wan was not taken in by the other man's obvious charms.

"How could I not notice?" Obi-Wan remarked. "The man was practically undressing me with his eyes. It was... disconcerting."

Anakin relaxed visibly as the two Jedi talked. He had picked up on Haleen's interest in Obi-Wan, too. He had even started to say something once, but his master stopped him. The boy was glad Obi-Wan wanted nothing to do with the man. He could only imagine what it would do to his master to see Obi-Wan give his affections to another.

"You have something you would like to add, Ani?" Obi-Wan asked, sensing the boy's emotions.

"No, Sir," Anakin replied quickly.

"Are we friends, Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked suddenly.

"Yes, Sir," the boy replied, confused.

"Then speak what's on your mind," the knight instructed.

"I... I'm glad you don't like Mr. Haleen," Anakin said shyly.

"It's not that I don't like him, Ani," Obi-Wan began to explain.

"I know that," Anakin cut him off impatiently. "I'm glad you don't like him... that... way."

"Why is that?" Obi-Wan pressed. He knew Qui-Gon had grown decidedly uncomfortable with the conversation but the Jedi master held his tongue.

"Because it would hurt Master," the boy replied truthfully. Qui-Gon flinched at the bald statement. It was one thing for all concerned to know his feelings in the matter, it was quite another for them to be so bluntly stated.

"And you don't like your master to hurt, I take it," Obi-Wan said, his calm voice belaying none of the emotions he felt.

"No, Sir," Anakin replied. "And I don't think you do either."

"No, Anakin, I do not," Obi-Wan agreed. "Now, I believe we have a lesson to attend to. Go and get the oils and I shall teach you the next step in giving Master Jinn a proper massage."

The boy hurried to comply but took his time about returning. He sensed that the two men would like a few moments alone together so he took his time selecting just the right oil to use on his master. Even if he could not ease the ache in his master's heart, there was something he could do about the body.

Qui-Gon breathed a sigh of relief that the conversation was over. He felt raw and open after having his pain discussed in front of him. He cast a glance at Obi-Wan and was surprised by the gentle concern he saw in the knight's eyes.

"I am sorry if the conversation pained you, Qui-Gon," Obi-Wan said softly. "I want him to feel he can speak freely with me. However, I could have accomplished that with a less personal topic. I'm sorry."

"That's all right, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon replied. "I am just unused to being so openly discussed. You know I am a very private man. To have my feelings talked of so bluntly... But you accomplished your goal. I see that Anakin is almost completely at ease with you. You have done well by him."

"Thank you," the knight responded. "He is easy to do well by."

Anakin chose that moment to return, carrying two different types of oil and a bowl of warm water to heat them in. Obi-Wan looked over his selection and nodded his agreement. Qui-Gon groaned inwardly at the thought of another lesson in massage. Obi-Wan's hands on his body was both a torture and a delight. At least with Anakin present, the knight would keep things as platonic as possible.

The next two hours were spent with a bare-chested Qui-Gon having his arms massaged. Anakin took one and Obi-Wan took the other. Together they massaged him in tandem. Obi-Wan kept the pressure light to match Anakin's so that the master would feel as if four equal hands were caressing him.

A knock at the door broke the almost meditative serenity that had encompassed the three Jedi. With a look of mild annoyance, Anakin went to greet Devan Haleen. As the boy moved back to Qui-Gon's side, Devan took in the sight before him and silently wondered if all Jedi were given such "lessons".

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Devan said.

"Just a few lessons," Obi-Wan replied in a smooth voice. "I was just instructing Anakin on proper massage technique for his master."

"Quite an enjoyable lesson, it would seem," Devan came back. There was a clear challenge in his voice. Obi-Wan answered it quickly.

"Quite," he replied. "And a very necessary one."

"So how to massage a man was taught to you when you were a boy?" Devan goaded. There was no mistaking the meaning of his words.

"No," Obi-Wan replied coolly. "I regret I was almost ten and seven before I found someone to instruct me as to the proper way to take care of my master."

"I can imagine that you've taken care of him quite well."

"Yes, he has," Qui-Gon said quietly. He rested a hand on each of his padawan's shoulders. He could feel the anger simmering in both of them and sent a wave of peace to calm them. It would not do to get into an altercation with this man. Not yet anyway.

"Very well," Devan said. He knew when to back off and the look in the Jedi master's eyes told him it was definitely time. "I shall leave you to your lessons."

The door closed with a hiss behind him, leaving one very angry knight and rather confused padawan in its wake. Qui-Gon continued to sooth the other two. He knew Obi-Wan had good reason to be upset. What the man had insinuated was reprehensible. But he trusted the knight to reign in his anger. Anakin's confusion, on the other hand, would have to be dealt with.

"You have a question, Ani," Qui-Gon said. Obi-Wan turned around to regard the boy. He quickly pushed his own anger aside to help deal with Anakin.


"Speak freely, Padawan," Obi-Wan said, a bit harshly. The boy merely nodded and took a deep breath to begin.

"Was that man saying that this... that there was something... sexual... in this?" he finally managed.

"Yes," Obi-Wan answered. "That is exactly what he was implying. As well as that both you and I provide sexual favors to Master Jinn because we are his padawans."

"That's disgusting!" Anakin cried out. "And wrong! Master would never..."

"No, he would not," Obi-Wan agreed vehemently.

"Obi-Wan..." Qui-Gon called softly. He could feel the anger rolling off the knight in waves. More than that, he knew Anakin could feel it as well.

"If you will excuse me," he said as he got to his feet. "I believe I will return to my room and meditate. Ani, stay with Master."

"Yes, Sir," the boy replied.

Qui-Gon watched silently as Obi-Wan left. He could not help but smile to himself at the knight's curt order and his own padawan's immediate response. He would speak to Yoda as soon as possible about Obi-Wan sharing in young Anakin's training. He laughed out loud as the realization sank in that he was not the only one the Force needed to hit over the head with something to get him to see it.

"Well I think we can scratch the seduction idea," Devan said into the comm unit. He went on to explain what had just transpired between he and the Jedi. Xanatos' booming laughter surprised him, halting his explanation.

"I would've given anything to see Qui-Gon's face when you insinuated he was fucking two of his padawans," Xanatos said through his laughter.

"He just sat there, all calm and serene," Devan said. "But you could tell Kenobi was pissed."

"I can imagine," Xanatos replied dryly.

"So now what?" Devan asked, not sure what to do to get to the master now that seducing the knight was no longer an option.

"Now we up the stakes." Xanatos' eyes almost glowed as he contemplated his next move. "I take it you still have one of our friends on stand-by?"

"A few of them, actually."

"Excellent," the former Jedi said. "Can you manage to slip one into Kenobi's room without his notice?"

"Not a problem," Devan assured him. "I can do it when they go out again."

"Then I want you to have a little surprise waiting for the good knight," came the reply over the comm. There was more than one way to take Jinn's precious padawan from him. And he vowed to himself that he would do just that.

"Will Obi-Wan be alright, Master?" Anakin asked as he stared at the door his friend had just walked out of.

"Yes, Padawan," Qui-Gon answered. "Obi-Wan will be fine. He just needs to, um, vent... a bit before releasing his anger and didn't want you to see it."

"Why not?" Anakin asked with a frown. He turned to face his master then. Qui-Gon merely smiled and opened his arms. Anakin hesitated a second then rushed into the offered embrace.

"As a Jedi, one is expected to let such petty emotions as anger pass through them," Qui-Gon began to explain. "Obi-Wan has a hard time with that sometimes. Especially if it has anything to do with me. For him to give into his anger, even minimally, would set a very bad example for you."

"But I thought friends were supposed to share things," Anakin argued. He understood what his master was saying, but he did not like his friend hiding his feelings just because it was expected of him.

"They are," Qui-Gon agreed. "I know you and Obi-Wan have gotten rather close these last few days. I think that is a very good thing. But he is a Jedi knight as well as your friend. That makes him want to set the best example possible for you. He cares about you very much."

"I care about him, too," Anakin said, his voice a bit shaky from the strong emotions surging within him. "So I guess that means I let him be alone when he needs to, huh?"

"Something like that," Qui-Gon said with a smile, pleased his padawan had understood the rather complex issue. "I would like to talk to you about something else, Padawan. If that is alright with you."

"Of course, Master," Anakin replied, confused by his master asking permission.

"I want to apologize for what happened in the morgue," he said softly. "I did not mean to hurt you. I knew Obi-Wan was monitoring you. However, as he so correctly pointed out, I am your master. I should have never let you near there in the first place. Can you forgive me?"

Anakin looked long and hard at his master. Qui-Gon kept his eye contact with the boy, although the steady gaze made him want to fidget. But this was his padawan and he deserved better than he had been treated.

"I forgive you, Master," Anakin said softly. Qui-Gon smiled at the generous boy on his lap and hugged him tightly. "You were testing Obi-Wan, weren't you?"

"A bit," Qui-Gon answered, surprised by the boy's insight. He had indeed been testing Obi-Wan's reaction to Anakin's discomfort.

"That's okay," Anakin said. "Just let me know next time."

"I will, my Padawan," Qui-Gon promised. "But I doubt if there will be a next time."

"Master," Anakin began then hesitated. "Can I ask you something?"

"Of course, Padawan."

"Do you want Obi-Wan to take over being my master?" The blunt question caught the Jedi master by surprise.

"Absolutely not, Padawan!" Qui-Gon replied vehemently. "I -want- to be your master, Anakin. I was, however, entertaining the possibility of Obi-Wan and I sharing the duty."

"Really?" Anakin asked, astonished that he might get to have two masters.

"Really," Qui-Gon confirmed. "But I am not sure if Obi-Wan would want to. Not that he would not want you for a padawan. Believe me when I say that is as far from the truth as you could get. But he may not want to work that closely with me anymore."

The sadness in the Jedi master's voice hurt the boy to hear. Wrapping his small arms as far around his master as he could, Anakin sent a wave of love and support along their link. Come what may, he would do his best to see these two together again.

"That fucking bastard!" Obi-Wan seethed as he paced in his room.

The young knight was livid. How dare that man stand there and accuse Qui-Gon to his face. And in front of Anakin! His hands clenched, unclenched, then clenched again as he fought for control. It was all he had been able to do to hold his tongue but it would not do for the boy to see him lose control. He must set a proper example, after all.

He forced himself to stop his relentless pacing and take a deep breath. Slowly, he unclenched his fists and brought his arms up and out. He let his head roll back and closed his eyes. Taking a deep breath once more, he released his anger to the Force. Well, as much of it as he could, anyway. He could feel a tiny spark of it still deep inside himself but studiously ignored it, knowing it could turn into a raging blaze in a heartbeat if he let it.

A soft knock at his door brought his attention back around to the here and now. A small extension of Force identified his guest as Anakin. Obi-Wan quickly moved to the door and ushered the boy inside. Neither spoke as Ani walked in and perched upon the big bed. Taking a last, calming breath, Obi-Wan joined him there.

"I was worried about you," Anakin said once Obi-Wan was seated.

"I'm sorry," the knight replied. "I didn't mean to make you worry."

"Master explained why you left," he said. "I don't like it though."


"I understand," the boy broke in before Obi-Wan could get started. "You have to set the right example for me. And you knew Master was there to talk to me so you didn't have to worry about me. But who worries about you?"

"I am a padawan no longer, Ani," Obi-Wan said thoughtfully. "I guess that means I look out for myself now."

"Master worries for you," the boy countered. "He worries for you something awful."

"I know," Obi-Wan said, shame creeping into his voice. "I don't mean to make him worry any more than I mean to make you."

"He thinks he's lost you," Anakin blurted out, no longer able to hold it in. "He thinks you don't want to be with him anymore."


Obi-Wan's eyes grew large as he took in Anakin's words. Qui-Gon thought he did not want him? Did not want to be with him? Obi-Wan realized he should not be shocked at the boy's revelation. When had he given the man any reason to think otherwise?

"I know he hurt you," Anakin went on. "But he's hurting, too. You need to make up your mind. You keep getting his hopes up then stomping on them and it's not right."

"No, Anakin, it's not right," Obi-Wan said sadly. "We, however, should not be talking about your master behind his back like this."

"Why not?" the boy asked. "It's not like we're being mean or anything."

"No," Obi-Wan agreed. "But we still shouldn't. He wouldn't like it."

"I guess he wouldn't," Anakin agreed reluctantly. Obi-Wan smiled at him and the boy could not help but smile back. Reaching out, he pulled the child close and held him for a moment. Anakin snuggled into the embrace, returning all the affection he could.

"Come," Obi-Wan said. "Let us go and keep your master company for awhile."

Qui-Gon looked up when the door opened. He had expected Anakin to be gone a bit longer. Perhaps Obi-Wan was more wound up than he thought. His speculations ended abruptly when the knight in question walked in behind his padawan. He still looked a bit tense, but the underlying anger was no longer present.

"Did you need something, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon asked. He was puzzled by the younger man's return. He let a small tendril of concern ghost along their old bond and was surprised when it was openly acknowledged and gentle reassurance was sent in it's place.

"I believe I have a lesson to complete," Obi-Wan said. He looked down at Ani and the boy quickly moved to fetch the needed items. "If that is all right with you?"

"Are you sure now is the proper time?" Qui-Gon asked.

"I can think of no more appropriate time," Obi-Wan replied as he walked forward and knelt down before him. "I will not allow that... man's... heinous insinuations to color what has always been something very special between us. Nor will I allow him to rob Anakin of the same experience."

"Obi-Wan..." Qui-Gon began and reached forward to gently cup the knight's face. His breath caught when that same face nuzzled his hand lovingly.

"I've come to realize something through all of this," Obi-Wan murmured as Qui-Gon continued to caress his face.

"And what is that?" The Jedi master did not need to ask what "all of this" encompassed.

"That you, Qui-Gon Jinn, are a man. You are not a god. You are not a hero. You are not omnipotent. You are a man, same as any other," he said.

"And..." the master replied, knowing there was more.

"And men make mistakes," Obi-Wan said softly.

"Yes, we do," Qui-Gon said softly, the old pain ghosting through him.

"Forgive me for not see that before," Obi-Wan said. "You hurt me. For all my confidence, some small part of me is still the 12-year-old boy you rejected."

"I am sorry, Obi-Wan. I did not know you still carried this pain with you."

"I know," he laughed. "I am very good at hiding things. But I think the time for hiding is over. I think it has to be if we are ever to settle this between us. Ever to move forward."

"I would like that," Qui-Gon admitted. "This discord I feel with you tears at my soul."

"There is much we still need to do," Obi-Wan said ruefully. "Much we still need to talk about. But here and now I would have you know this. I love you, Qui-Gon. I want to be with you. Not just when time and duty permit. Not just in passing. I want to build a life together. I realize it will not be the life we had, but I would have us try."

"Please, Obi-Wan. Please be certain this is what you want," Qui-Gon pleaded. "If we began this and you changed your mind, it would destroy me."

"I can make you no guarantees, Qui-Gon," the knight replied. "But this is what I want. What say you?"

"I say yes," Qui-Gon whispered as he leaned forward to brush a chaste kiss over trembling lips. Apparently he was not the only one with run away emotions right now. The sound of a small voice brought him back to reality. He turned to see his rather embarrassed padawan standing in the fresher doorway.

"I, um, could go stay in Obi's room... if you want," the boy offered with a blush.

"Nonsense," Obi-Wan said turning his full attention to the child. "First of all, your place is here, at your master's side. Regardless of where I am, this is your place. Second, I believe we have a lesson to finish and I recall some promise on my part of the story of how I became Master Jinn's padawan."

"Yes, Sir!" Anakin said as he rushed over to the two men. Each man held out an arm and gathered the boy between them. He could feel the love pouring off of them both for each other and for himself. It was a very nice feeling.

With a sigh, the two men released their young charge and Qui-Gon quickly removed his tunic once more. He could not help but smile at the very serious way his padawans went about their task. They seemed to put as much concentration in teaching and learning how to give him a massage as each of them put in constructing their first light sabers. That thought alone was enough to bring tears to his eyes as he marveled at the care these two special beings took with him.

Obi-Wan decided to wait until they were finished before beginning his tale. He knew the memories would be unpleasant for all concerned but he had promised Anakin. And maybe it was time to lay the specter of Bandomeer to rest, once and for all.

He waited until Qui-Gon had re-donned his robe before sitting back in the opposite chair. He held his arms open for Ani and the boy practically flew into them. Once he had the child ensconced on his lap, he closed his eyes and began to talk.

"I was 12-years-old," Obi-Wan began. "It was only a few weeks until my thirteenth birthday. I knew if I hadn't found a master by then that I would be sent to the Agri-Corps. As luck would have it, or Master Yoda, Qui-Gon came to the Temple about that time."

Obi-Wan's mind drifted back to that painful time so many years ago. He told Anakin how he had fought Bruck and won. But the Jedi master had not been impressed. In fact, Qui-Gon had admonished him for his recklessness. Obi-Wan had been heart-broken. He knew this was his last chance and he had failed.

"We ended up being sent to Bandomeer together, though we had different missions," Obi-Wan explained. During his tale, Anakin had snuggled close and now rested his head against the knight's chest. "I was to report to the Agri-Corp while Qui-Gon had his own agenda."

"You were really gonna let him go?" Anakin asked in shock.

"I was a fool," Qui-Gon replied.

In the end, the whole story came out. Obi-Wan told Anakin of how he fought the draigons, knowing he was going to die. He had not been afraid, merely glad that his life might buy the Jedi more time.

Qui-Gon's face paled as he finally understood the sacrifice a boy had been willing to make for a man he did not really know. And it had nearly come to that. He remembered getting there just in time to help fight the creatures. Even then, his Obi-Wan had been willing to give his life to protect him. The knowledge was humbling.

"He hurt you pretty bad back then, didn't he?" Anakin asked when Obi-Wan finally fell silent.

"Yes," the knight replied. "He rejected me. No matter what I did, it wasn't good enough. I wasn't good enough."

"That's why you got so upset when he said he'd take me as his padawan, right?" Anakin pushed.

"Yes," Obi-Wan replied again. "It was the same thing all over again. He didn't want me. I wasn't good enough anymore. Maybe I never was."

"NO!" Qui-Gon cut in rather loudly. "That was never what I meant. You were good enough, Obi-Wan. You were always good enough. It was me. It was never you."

Qui-Gon moved forward then to kneel in front of Obi-Wan. Reaching out, he pulled his padawans into his arms and held them. Pulses of love, understanding and reassurance flooded their bonds as each tried to comfort the others. It was well into the night before the three Jedi fell into fitful slumber.

Obi-Wan awoke slowly. With wakefulness came the realization that he lay on his side facing Qui-Gon with Anakin nestled between them. The fingers of his left hand interwoven with those of his master. Obi-Wan sighed. This was not good. While he finally admitted he did want a relationship with Qui-Gon, he had no intention of just falling into bed with the man. He hoped Qui-Gon would understand that while this past evening had been pleasant, he had no plans to repeat it any time soon.

"I understand," Qui-Gon said quietly, eyes still closed against the harsh reality of day. He began to unravel his fingers from those of his apparently unwilling padawan and tried hard not to let his hurt show.

Obi-Wan could feel the pain of perceived rejection from Qui-Gon and gripped the man's hand tightly. He knew all too well what that felt like and no longer had any sadistic desire to ensure that his master did as well.

"No, you do not," Obi-Wan whispered. "You think I wish to take things slowly from fear? Because I do not trust you?"

"Why should you expect anything other than rejection from me?" Qui-Gon reasoned, damning himself.

"I want to take things slowly because I do not wish to rush this," Obi-Wan explained, ignoring Qui-Gon's self-aimed barb. "I want to get to know the man as I know the master. I want the memories of first kisses, first touches. I want to relish the first time you cry out my name in release, not have it turned into just another aspect of a fevered union."

"Oh, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon breathed. "What have I ever done to deserve a man such as you? As you honor me, my Padawan, so shall I honor you. We shall do this as you wish."

"Thank you," Obi-Wan said. "I do not mean to be difficult..."

"To know you are willing to try, that you no longer hate me, is more than I thought I would ever have," Qui-Gon said.

"I never hated you," the knight replied. "Not when I was a boy of thirteen or man of twenty-five. Not ever."

"Are you guys about done yet?" a small voice said, jerking the two men back to the here and now.

"Just how much of that did you hear, Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked and blushed.

"Probably more than you wanted me to," the boy replied. "But don't worry about it. If you guys are gonna be sleeping together I'll probably hear a lot more."

Both Jedi stared at the boy lying between them, not sure what to say in the face of such innocent honesty. Obi-Wan could not help the blush that tinged his face and was relieved to see his master faired no better.

"Anakin..." Qui-Gon began, then faltered only to have Obi-Wan take the lead.

"Ani, why don't you get some breakfast together for us while Qui-Gon and I shower," the knight suggested as he began to extricate himself from the bed.

"Together?" the boy asked, all wide-eyed innocence. It took a moment for Obi-Wan to realize the little brat was teasing them.

"Anakin Skywalker!" he thundered in mock anger. "I'll have you know that, while Qui-Gon and I have bathed together on numerous occasions, this will not be one of them. I have a perfectly good shower in my quarters and plan to use it."

Anakin decided to err on the side of caution and quickly left the bed before his master could recover his ability to speak. He knew he would get a good talking to about his little comment, but it was worth it to see the look on the two men's faces. With a smile, the boy hurried off to get breakfast for the three of them.

"I believe you need to have a talk with that padawan of yours, Master Jinn," Obi-Wan said as he got up from the bed.

"I believe you might be right, Knight Kenobi," Qui-Gon replied, still a bit stupefied by the young boy's comments. He supposed growing up as a slave leant the boy more maturity than most his age, but still. They were going to have a long talk about what was and was not appropriate to tease one's master about.

"Well, if you will excuse me, Qui-Gon, I'm going to go clean up before Ani gets back with breakfast."

"Of course," Qui-Gon said as he, too, rose. He was reluctant to part company, even for a short while, but kept his feelings to himself. "I believe I shall do the same."

He should not have bothered. Obi-Wan could read the reluctance in his eyes with ease. He gently pulled the older man toward him and wrapped his arms around him tightly. The kiss they shared was slow and sweet and both men were smiling when they pulled away.

"I will hurry," Obi-Wan said as he released his love and walked to the door.

Qui-Gon watched as the door slid shut behind the other man. He let out a sigh as he walked into the fresher. At least with Anakin gone he could relieve himself of the rather impressive hard-on kissing Obi-Wan had produced. As he stepped into the shower, he wondered idly if the other man was doing the same. The thought of the beautiful knight touching himself, stroking his own excited flesh made Qui-Gon moan. Reaching one soapy hand down, he began to stroke his own hardness. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to imagine it was Obi-Wan's hand touching him, teasing him, bringing him pleasure.

As his orgasm began to crest, a sudden searing pain rocked the Jedi master. His hand shot out to steady himself as agony flooded his nerves. He was moving before he realized it, grabbing only his robe and saber before dashing out the door.

He palmed the door to Obi-Wan's room, but it refused to open. He tried both manual override and using the Force to open the door, but it remained stubbornly closed. Someone had obviously sealed the door deliberately. Brandishing his weapon, the Jedi master began to cut through the metal door separating him from the man on the other side.

It was slow work with each second stretching to infinity as he fought his growing panic. He sent a tendril of Force along their bond but received no answer. He knew Obi-Wan still lived and drew comfort from that knowledge.

Anakin had felt both his master's fear and Obi-Wan's pain along their bonds. He dropped the tray he had been carrying and hurried back as fast as his young legs would carry him. He froze at the sight that greeted him when he rounded the corner. His master, clad only in his robe was slicing through the door to Obi-Wan's room.

The boy approached him slowly, not wanting to disturb the obvious concentration his master was exerting. Qui-Gon glanced at him briefly in acknowledgement then returned his full attention to the task at hand. Showing more outward patience than he truly felt, he slowly breached the door.

Since he was unsure of Obi-Wan's position within the room, Qui-Gon used the Force to pull the section of door outward rather than let it fall into the room. Motioning his padawan to follow closely behind, Qui-Gon stepped through the hole he had cut.

The Jedi master's heart leapt to his throat at the sight of Obi-Wan lying unconscious on the floor. One of those creatures they had found in the mine was lying beside him. Fresh bruises ringed the young man's throat and a small stream of thick, dark fluid trailed from his mouth. He allowed the steady rise and fall of the knight's chest reassure him then bent to carefully pick him up.

Qui-Gon glanced at the creature next to his beloved's head making sure that it was dead. As gently as he could, he lifted Obi-Wan into his arms. Even without examining the younger man, he could tell something was terribly wrong. The man's entire life force felt different, wrong somehow.

"Anakin, stuff that... thing... in a bag and bring it," Qui-Gon instructed, hoping to give the frightened young boy something constructive to do. "I need to get Obi-Wan to the infirmary."

"Yes, Sir," Anakin replied quickly. He rushed to do as his master bid and tried hard not to think about what that thing might have done to his friend. Visions of the morgue kept running through his mind even as fought not to see Obi-Wan's face as one of those desecrated bodies.

It was long hours later before the healers were able to tell them much of anything. And what they did have to say made Qui-Gon's insides turn cold. Whatever that thing was it had apparently laid some sort of embryo inside of Obi-Wan. An embryo that was growing rather quickly. He realized this must have been what happened to the three miners. He wondered how long they had before whatever was inside Obi-Wan came bursting out taking the young man's life in the process.

It was Anakin that spoke up, asking why the healers did not simply cut he thing out of the stricken knight. They gently explained that they had tried and the creature had nearly killed the knight. There would be no removal of the parasite without killing the host.

Knowing there was little else they could do save make the knight comfortable, the healers left the three Jedi alone. Qui-Gon sat down beside his former padawan and reached out to gently cover his hand with his own. He thought he should be angry or upset that he was losing his love before they had even had a chance, but all he felt was an aching emptiness that threatened to consume him.

"He's going to die, isn't he?" Anakin said softly, tears filling his eyes and spilling down his cheeks.

"Not if we can help it, Padawan," Qui-Gon answered, his own voice just as soft.

"But the healers said..."

"I know what they said," Qui-Gon interrupted. "But they are not Jedi. They can not remove this thing but there is a chance that we can."

"How much of a chance?" Anakin asked as he resolutely dried his tears. His friend was not dead yet.

"Not much, I am afraid," Qui-Gon replied honestly. "But we must try. If we do nothing, Obi-Wan will die."

"What do you need me to do?" the boy asked. Qui-Gon turned to look at his apprentice then. There was fierceness in the small boy's eyes that heartened him. Perhaps, if they both wanted it badly enough, they could save the man they loved.

"First, Padawan, we will meditate," Qui-Gon instructed as he released Obi-Wan's hand and stood. "Then we will attempt to heal him using the Force. That thing inside him does not belong there. His body will know that. I am hoping we can help his body to fight it."

"Like in biology class?" Anakin asked. "When your body's been invaded by a virus it attacks it until it's all gone."

"Exactly," Qui-Gon said. He held out his hand to his padawan and Anakin took it gratefully. He walked them to the corner of the room and knelt down. Anakin did the same and both Jedi began their meditations. They would need their minds clear and focused for the coming battle and they knew it.

Both man and boy knew they did not have the luxury of long hours to spend in meditation. With every passing second, the creature inside of Obi-Wan grew and their chances of defeating it waned. The centered themselves as quickly as they could, each pulling the Force around them tightly. Master and padawan opened their eyes together. They could feel the Force singing between them. If they were lucky, it would be enough.

Rising as one, they walked over to the bed Obi-Wan lay upon and sat down on either side of him. They reached out and took his hands in theirs and began. For his part, Anakin pulled the Force to him and channeled it through his body and into that of his friend while Qui-Gon went about the more delicate work of directing the flow of Force energy to attack the creature.

It was tedious work. Qui-Gon gently send healing Force into Obi-Wan's body and directed it, causing it to attack the invader. Anakin sent as much positive energy as he could into both of them. The creature, however, was not giving up without a fight.

Obi-Wan began to moan as he was gripped in a nightmare. He was back in the Council chamber and his master was saying he did not want him any more. The dream Qui-Gon stood before the Council and declared his padawan unfit to be a Jedi. Obi-Wan watched in horror as each Council member nodded their agreement and Master Yoda calmly asked him to relinquish is saber.

Qui-Gon began to shake as the dream surged along their bond. Not daring to break contact, lest they lose the precious ground they had gained, both Qui-Gon and Anakin were given front row seats to Obi-Wan's worst fears. Tears made their way in silent tracks down Anakin's young face. He wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around his friend and hold him until all the bad things went away. But that would not help, at least not right now. Right now he had to concentrate on sending Master Qui-Gon the energy he needed to heal Obi-Wan. They would deal with the rest later.

Scene after scene played out in the young knight's mind, as the creature fought to survive. The scene in the hanger on Naboo played over and over again. But in the nightmares Qui-Gon not only died, but died blaming his padawan, cursing his own student as a failure. The worst were the nightmare of Bandomeer. Each rejection was replayed for Qui-Gon to see. It tore at his heart to watch the light go out in the young boy's eyes. He had been such a blind fool and it had cost his Obi-Wan so very much.

Hours turned into days as man and boy struggled to save the life of the one neither thought they could live without. The healers watched with calm detachment, having long since given the man up for dead. They marveled at the Jedi's dedication but thought the effort a waste. They were, however, wise enough to keep those sentiments to themselves.

Three days later, Obi-Wan opened his eyes to see a very exhausted master and padawan. In an instant healers besieged him, clucking and fussing and running all sorts of tests. Through it all, Anakin and Qui-Gon remained by his sides, refusing to let the healers remove them. One look from the Jedi master was enough to stop them from even trying.

The two Jedi breathed an exhausted sigh of relief when the scans showed all traces of the creature were gone. Once all the commotion died down, Obi-Wan fell back into a healing sleep. Anakin looked to his master for permission, then carefully climbed onto the bed beside the knight. Laying his head down next to Obi-Wan's, the boy was asleep almost instantly.

Qui-Gon smiled at the sight the two of them made. Pulling his chair closer to the bio-bed, he took Obi-Wan's hand in his own again, determined to watch over his padawans as they slept. The young aide smiled to herself as she took in the sight of the three sleeping Jedi, the eldest having fallen asleep in his chair. As quietly as she could, she covered him with a blanket then went to make sure they would not be disturbed.

The healer moved toward the sleeping Jedi. The older one had finally left, going to bring back some dinner for them all, leaving only the young man and the boy. It was now or never. All she had to do was get close enough to administer the hypo spray. The poison would be more than the debilitated Jedi could counter. He would be dead before the other returned. All she had to do was get close enough.

She crept forward warily. Though both occupants of the bed had fallen into an exhausted slumber, they were still Jedi. She knew a single wrong step would give her away and she could not fail. The price would be too high.

Her thoughts drifted to her son. Her beautiful little boy, who had never been a moment's trouble, ripped from her. And for what! To guarantee that the Jedi did not survive. Well, Jedi were supposed to protect the innocent and her son was definitely an innocent in this. It was, in her mind, the Jedi's duty to give his life.

She reached the foot of the bed and paused. She took in the scene before her - the boy wrapped tightly around the young man, clinging to him. She wished she could move the boy, spare him the pain of waking next to a corpse, but she did not dare. She told herself he would get over it. He still had the other one, after all.

She inched forward again until she reached Obi-Wan's side. She chose the side opposite the child, not wanting to have to reach past him to perform her grisly deed. The hypo spray held firmly in hand, she bent down.

And came face to face with a pair of sad green eyes.

Obi-Wan stared at the woman before him, the woman who clutched the poison that would end his life. He had been laying awake trying to figure out just where he was. Her thoughts had come to him easily. He lay perfectly still as she grew closer, knowing he was too weak to fight. He could feel the small body snuggled next to him, but did not know who it was. And he was loathe to put a child at risk just to save himself.

"I am sorry," she whispered as she looked into his eyes. She moved the hypo spray to rest against his neck, never breaking eye contact. She could see the sad resignation in his eyes, but there was something else there as well, some small spark that seemed to welcome the oblivion she offered.

She smiled tenderly at the young Jedi and was about to release the injection when she suddenly found herself flung against the far wall. All eyes turned to the enraged Jedi master standing in the doorway. He had returned with dinner to find the healer holding a spray syringe to his love's throat. His reaction had been instinctive.

Qui-Gon set the tray down as quickly as his shaking hands could manage. He used the Force to hold the woman against the wall. Even knowing it was no use, she fought her bonds as if determination alone could free her. By this time, Anakin had come awake and was holding Obi-Wan tightly. Qui-Gon could not tell if it was to protect the knight or hide behind him.

It was some time before things settled down again. Qui-Gon stayed by Obi-Wan's side as the other healers came in and the woman was led away. He would need to question her, find out who sent her, but for now he needed to be with Obi-Wan.

For his part, Obi-Wan took in everything around him but reacted very little. He did not know where they were or why they were no longer on Coruscant. He also did not know why Anakin Skywalker was practically hanging on him. But the thing that baffled him the most, was his former master. The man was sitting beside his bed, holding his hand. Too tired to puzzle it out right now, Obi-Wan let himself drift back to sleep. Whatever was going on, he was sure someone would tell him in the morning.

Qui-Gon was dead on his feet when he made it back to Obi-Wan's side. The Bandomeer officials had spent hours questioning the young healer. In the end, they found out very little. Devan Haleen was behind this latest attempt on Obi-Wan's life, using the healer's child to force her to comply. Qui-Gon had sympathized with the woman's plight and had done his best to let go his anger. It was not an easy task.

Anakin was waiting for him when he got back. The boy was sitting up at the foot of Obi-Wan's bed. The look on his face could only be called troubled, deeply troubled. He did not even look up when his master entered, his mind lost in his own thoughts.

"What is it, Padawan?" Qui-Gon asked softly, not wanting to wake the sleeping knight. He needed all the rest he could get right now.

"He doesn't remember," Anakin replied just as quietly.

"It is not uncommon for a person to forget a traumatic event," Qui-Gon began, but Anakin was shaking his head.

"He doesn't remember anything," the boy said. "The last thing he remembers is you telling the Council that you wanted me for your Padawan Learner. He doesn't remember Naboo, or you getting... hurt... or anything."

Go on to the next part..