Snow and Cinder

by HiperBunny and MrsHamill


Fandom: SW: The Phantom Menace/Highlander

Paring: Obi-Wan/ Methos (and Q/O. us. Yeah, we know how hard that is.)

Rating: NC-17

Category: Slash, First Time, AU, Angst

Warnings: M/M sex, AU, Crossover

Status: New; Complete

Date: Dec 13,1999

Archive: M_A yes. Others yes by link to

If you won't or can't archive by link, talk to me.

Witnesslist Category: Inadmissible in Court


Summary: Qui-Gon gently turns Obi-Wan down. Obi-Wan fails to turn down a rather nice substitute.

Disclaimers: Not mine, no money. please don't hurt us.

Notes from Bunny: I started this story after reading for PadaWan kriski's series. What can I say? She inspires me to think obtusely. Knight Fi provided the pairing and MrsHamill encouraged me to keep on trying. She encouraged me to the point of writing the bits I couldn't write for myself, hence the co-author status. And also hence a story many folk told me 'couldn't be written'. Or was that 'shouldn't be'?

Notes from the Olde Broad: This is soooo Bunny's fault it's not even funny. Just see if I get involved in any of her shit again any time soon (OW! Don't twist my arm so dang hard!). It was her baby, really; I just held the head, cut the cord and removed the caul. Don't hurt me. I have a low pain threshold.

The cliffs of San Michele are dangerous this time of year, snow and ice turning serene contemplation into possible suicide. I can't find it in myself to care - about that, anyway. The distance between us makes me feel like a dead thing-I can't sense you in my mind.

And you are not in my heart.

I left Naboo and your bedside in anger, in a childlike snit, a fit of despair at your gentle rebuff. You were so calm, so poised, though you breath rattled in your chest like the gasps of a dying man. You are not dying-modern medicine and my own will pulled you back from the Force's eternal embrace. My will and my strength in the Force, the skill you taught me, but mostly my love.

So, yes, you are healing instead of dying. If anyone is dying here, it's me.

I don't know what I expected. We've saved one anther's lives before, countless times. Why this time would be any different I can't imagine. Only my foolish schoolboy dreaming made me think it might be. Just this once, just this last time...

The wind cuts through the many layers of clothes I wear, whips my braid across my eyes, cheek, lips, lashes in rapid succession. It stings, I guess. The sting seems to say 'This is what you are. This is all you are.' I sniffle, battling tears and winning. I don't really want them freezing to my cheeks, but if they did I'm not sure I could bring myself to do anything about it.

A ripple in the Force brings my head around, hand going to my 'saber with automatic caution. But the ripple fades and there is nothing but a single figure, a man, to be seen. Dressed in winter white, cloak, tunics, pants and heavy black boots, his hand raises in acknowledgment of me as he continues up the hill. I turn back towards the sea, not wishing for company but also not willing to run from just a man.

His boots crunch on the thin layers of snow as he takes a place beside me. I glance his way; black hair, tall, lean frame under the cloaks, brown eyes. No, green... no, blue... finally all three and none of them. And that nose! It's a wonder it doesn't tip him over when he walks. He is silent, watching the waves fling themselves against the rocks below him, not returning my scrutiny. When finally he does speak, the tones remind me of my own accent. I wonder where he is from, to speak that way. My own voice was carefully schooled to be of all lands and of none. His words are simple, but mystifying.

"You'll not want to stay past sunset. The cold will kill you in an hour and I'll tell you: freezing is not the most pleasant way a man can die."

I frown at that. Who is this, a man who had come to look after the little lost Jedi? He must be from the fishing village not far from where I landed. Odd that it took the locals this long to come find me, question me. Odder still that someone would even want to. Or is that my own despair talking?

"Come on then," he invites. "The cliffs will still be here in the morning, as will the sea. As will be your questions and your sorrow. For now, let's eat, have a beer - or two or three - together. Mine ekel esata vren ekel."

I should refuse. I came here to be alone, to marinate in my own anguish, not to be succored by a stranger. But almost automatically (after all, you did drill manners into me), I nod once and he sets off at an easy pace, the stride of a man with somewhere to go and all the time in the world to get there. We descend from the cliffs in silence, traverse the village proper and go beyond it somewhat. His house is a low, stone structure snug against the winds, proof against the weather. Inside is warmth. A kettle hangs over a cheerful fire, whistling merrily.

While I shed my outer garments, my supposed benefactor busies himself with tea-making, leaving me to my own devices. I look around the little house, taking in the small workbench, dataset, incongruous fireplace, and a large, comfortable looking bed in the shadows. One room holding all the comforts a single man might want in this lonely place.

"So, how long have you been at the Temple?" he inquires, stripping his own winter warmth off.

I chuckle shortly, unsurprised at having been rumbled so quickly. "Twenty-three years."

"Your whole life, then? Good. Best not to waste time if you're going to be a Jedi," he smiles in approval and hands me a steaming cup of tea.

"You seem to know much of it, " I reply, sipping at the minty brew.

"I make it my business to know what kind of warriors I'm likely to meet, wherever I am," he smirks. "Have you a name?"


After a moment he continues, rambling on as he gathers things from cupboards, making a meal. I settle down onto the floor, not wanting to let myself be too comfortable. Not sure why I'm here at all.

"They call me the Malkavian, though I doubt they really believe I'm a bloodsucking deamon. They're probably down at the pub making up songs about the Jedi and the Witch anyway, just to keep up appearances. My own fault, really. I let them see too much," the Malkavian shrugs. "I, too, have a name."

I hold my peace and he his. He gives me a plate of bread, fruit and cheese, fare I am long-tired of but most accustomed to. It goes down well with tea and I find myself comfortably filled when the meal was done. I begin to rise, to make my goodbyes when he pins me in place it a hard stare. "Beer," he reminds me. "There is much to speak of, yet."

I subside, accepting the nut-brown drink when it arrives. It is rich and good, warming places the fire couldn't touch and I wonder if perhaps the local brew has been improved upon by some outside influence. At that moment, in that place, I find I do not care if it has not been. Perhaps if I drink enough of the brew, I won't need to listen to my host for very long. Or to myself. Or to you.

"Ever seen a fire before?" he asks

It seems a safe enough subject, so I reply honestly. "Rarely."

"I've always thought it quite a shame that so many civilizations have gotten away from the hearthfire. Oh well. I expect we'll come back to it sooner or later. The fire, you know, is life."

I consider those words, studying the flame almost reflexively, as I would have considered a new lesson. The fire snaps and crackles, licking upwards towards the chimney, giving light and warmth to the room. It is very pretty, but I can not see that it is life. The Force is life, though not half so attractive at times.

"Methinks the Jedi doubts my words," my host grins. "Have another beer."

I look down, surprised to see that my glass is empty. He takes it to the small keg next to the workbench and refills it. "So, well, you're wearing a braid, so you're still a Learner. Don't get too many of your sort around here. More often than not, I go drag some Knight off the cliffs and smack some sense into him," the man lounges on the rug before the fire, sipping from his own cup. "Yoda doesn't pay me enough for this crap."

I jump at the name, then let my shoulders sag in resignation. I should have known that little green...Master hadn't suggested this place on a whim. "You know Master Yoda?" I inquire glumly.

"But of course, mon cher. He was the first Knight I hauled off the cliffs, lo these many moons ago. Though to be honest, I think he was more here for the beer than the company. At first I thought he was your garden variety lunatic, muttering about the Force and Passion and Anger for hours on end. I finally worked out that the Force, whatever that is, led him here so he wouldn't be a danger to other Jedi. Well, eventually we worked everything out for him and he went on home. Sent me a little gift, he did, sort of as a thank-you, I suppose. Anyway, ever since then I've been hanging around here, off and on, keeping a Jedi jump watch. Fast forward several years and here you are." He tips his glass back, swallowing rapidly. "So what's your sin? Hate? Anger? Fear? Passion?"

I must have made some show of surprise at that, because he chuckles low in his throat.

"Passion. Ah, the poison of youth, to have their hearts run away with their head. Now what is it you're so passionate about that you nearly turned yourself into a Jedicicle trying to get away from it? Money? Power? Freedom? No, nothing so ethereal for one so young... ah. A lover." He smiles as though pleased he has figured out a tricky puzzle.

"Are you a mindreader or just a very good guesser?" I inquire archly. The bitterness in my voice actually surprises me.

"Sorry kid. After a while the mysteries of the human soul just aren't all that darn mysterious. There are only three real motivations in this Universe: love, sex and death. Since you're not out there doing katas as if your life depended on it, I know you are neither the hunter or the hunted. So that leaves two things, which at your age, probably don't seem all that far removed one from another," he smirks again. "Another?"

I sigh with resignation and hand the glass over to him. "That's very good brew you have here."

"Not mine. This is the stuff Yoda sends me. He tells me it has rather odd properties on Force-users. Tends to make them...receptive, which is good because I don't play well to a hostile audience. Drink up and we'll get to the object lessons. So, who is it you want to screw?"

I nearly choke on a mouthful of beer, manage to get it down before delivering a glare.

"Ooooh. One of those." An eyebrow lifts sardonically. "Okay, who are you so *in love* with that you absolutely have to go to bed with them?"

I sigh. "Did you ever hear that bit about 'Be wary of rousing a wizard's wrath?'"

"No, but probably because only a Jedi could say that without tripping over his own tongue. Look, I'm sorry if I don't seem all that sympathetic to your pain, but I godda tell you, you're not giving me a lot to work with here. So spill. You can't just keep it bottled up forever. I promise I'll never tell a soul. Scout's honor." He holds up his hand in a sort of salute, seemingly amused by his own actions.

My glare cannot hold. Against my better judgment, perhaps helped by the brew coursing through my veins, I relax enough to speak. "Oh very well, though I've no doubt you've heard it all before, o wise and revered one. My master and I were in a battle about two weeks ago. He nearly died."

Abruptly I paused to push down that overwhelming panic that surged up my gullet at the memory of you being impaled. After a deep breath, I continued. "I loved him so much I was able to use the Force in a much greater quantity than would be my normal capacity. I saved his life. Later, in the hospital I told him I loved him and he...patted me on the head and said thank you." I downed the rest of my beer, not looking at him. "The end."

He gets up to fetch another round. "But that's not really the end, is it?"

"Of course not. I got angry, hurt at being rejected, asked to be given some time away from the Temple. Master Yoda suggested I come here, which, eventually, I did. Now 'The End'. Satisfied?"

"Well, again, no. Not the end. Just the beginning, in fact, if you assume Yoda sent you here with a purpose, which I assure you he did. Tell me about this Master of yours. Tell me how he makes you feel."

I sigh, knowing I am too far into my cups by now and not caring much at all. "Oh, he's wise and good and pure and Jedi to the bone. Beautiful, of course, all lean muscle and feline grace. His hair...his eyes...those hands..." I sigh again, realizing with a start what a lovesick fool I sound like.

"But that's not why you love him," he prompts.

"No, of course not. I love him because..." my hand wanders up from my lap, making an eloquent gesture of futility. How can I explain something that lies so deep inside me that it throbs with every heartbeat? How can I possibly explain, even to me? Obviously, I could not explain to you.

"I see," my companion smiles. No, he grins. It's rather infectious, actually, and I almost grin back before stopping myself with a reminder of how despairing I actually am. "Then there is some hope for you, my friend. Regard this simple fire. Regard this simple trivet."

"What trivet?" I inquire, for there is none to be seen.

"Heh. Got ahead of myself there, didn't I? Well, that's what happens when you get old."

He goes about the room gathering up various items. An iron trivet, a roll of bandages, another round of beer. The latter I understand and drink. "Regard the fire, there. It is life."

I turn my gaze upon the fire once more, trying to see what he is telling me. The fire did seem to be alive, dancing and twisting. But I knew it to be a simple chemical reaction rather than some mystical resource. Luckily my companion is ready to elaborate.

"Life," he said "is not the act of living. You can live forever and never really be alive, trust me on that one. Life is experience, and what those experiences do to you. Life is the act of change."

I keep my gaze on the fire, trying to see change. "I don't get it," I finally admit.

He snorts, unsurprised. "There you see the fire of wood. Wood burning. It burns long and warm, makes water ready for tea, makes the room livable, provides cheerful atmosphere. That is fire on wood. Eventually, the fire will burn the wood away and it will be no more."

I nod once, to show that I am following him. It's not good enough, because he again snorts through that beak of his. "So you put wood into the fire and the wood gets changed to heat and light and soot."

I nod again.

He unrolls some of the cloth bandages. "If you put something else into the fire, you get a different result." He tosses a wad of rag into the fire. "There, you see? Hotter, brighter, more flashy, but quicker, of shorter duration."

I keep still, waiting.

He doesn't disappoint. Whoever he is, he's had students before and knows the thickheaded properties of the Learner. "Fire doesn't change all things immediately."

He picks up a long metal rod from beside the fireplace, holds it up to illustrate, says "Poker," so I know the thing's name, and places it on the fire. After a moment he pulls it out again, showing me that it was not burned.

"Okay, so some things burn and some things don't. What's your point?" I finally ask, losing patience.

He doesn't lose his. "The fire, my Jedi friend, is life. The flame is living. The wood? What is that? Is that the time you have with your master, comfortable, useful, but destined to end? Yes, I think that fits. Good analogy that, glad to see I haven't lost my touch. And the iron? Let's call that love. True love unyeilding. And the cloth? How about lust? Yes, quick, hot, ephemeral."

He picks up the iron trivet and begins twisting the bandages through it. "Here's how it always looks. Love and lust all bound up in each other. It LOOKS like you can't have one without the other. It LOOKS like they are two things making up a whole. But is that true? Go ahead, throw a little lust and love into your life," my companion grins.

I accept his offer and toss the package in. The cloth burns away quickly. Life, experience, burning the lust away, leaving the... "Oh." I take a big gulp of my beer to push the lump back in my throat. "You're good at that."

"I'm not a wise man, you understand. Just bored."

"So what do you suggest? I ravish my Master and see if I still love him afterwards? I don't think he'd go for that," I chuckle, but it sounds rather desperate to my ears.

He yawns and stretches. "Dunno. That's the end of my spiel. I'm for bed."

I stay there by the fire, watching the trivet grow hotter and hotter, changing color in the embers. Eventually I use the poker to drag it back out of the fire and onto the hearth. The sounds of my host disrobing behind me are momentarily distracting, but I push them firmly from my mind.

So what now, Kenobi? What do YOU want? I know what you want, my Master, you want a good little Padawan that you can be proud of, that you can teach and train and raise to be a good little Knight. You don't want that good little Padawan to love you with a passion that burns... like that fire. But I do. Oh, how I do. Fuck serenity, I love you passionately my Master, and your rejection hurt damned bad.

Both rejections, actually. Against my will my mind drifts back to that awful moment before the Council when you slammed your shields down against me the first time. You and your damned Chosen One. How I wish I was your chosen one.

My beer has long since vanished and my eyes swim from looking at the fire too long. The pain in my chest grows instead of fading like I hoped it would, and I feel cold.

There's a presence behind me and a hand on my shoulder. "There's only one bed but I'm willing to share, Jedi. C'mon. Don't be alone, it's not worth it."

I look up at him and realize I'm crying, damn. His face is a blur as he squats next to me and gently wipes away the tears. "Bed, Jedi. Everyone needs sleep. Even people who live forever."

Managing to get to my feet, I let him help me take off my tunics, then sit on the bed to take off my boots. He crawls in first and pulls me down next to him and just holds me while I sob. I hate being this needy, this hurt, in this much pain, but I just can't stop. Finally I fall asleep.

I wake up the next morning and immediately know it is a 'morning after'. The pain in my head is that of a thousand Gungans pontificating. My mouth feels like it has been coated in raw sewage. Perhaps the Malkavian has done me a service. This hangover is so bad I can't even feel the hurt in my heart. But someone is touching me, so I gather up my Jedi courage and crack one eye open. The Malkavian is kneeling beside the bed holding a glass of water. "Drink this," he says. "It will help the worst to pass."

I close my eye and nod my assent, which was a mistake. He helps me to lean up enough to drink, then places a cool, damp cloth over my eyes and forehead. The water does help, and the headache begins to recede. My eyes and throat ache from the weeping, but that too has begun to fade. It feels good to simply lie in this warm bed and be cared for. I can hear my host puttering around the room, making ready for his day's work. Whatever that is.

A knock on the door interrupts him. I hear him go to admit the petitioner. A woman's voice fills the room, too loudly, before he shushes her. "I've a patient, Murra. He's not well this morning."

A low chuckle follows this information. "You could start a Jedi petting zoo with all those you've put back together. Too bad your healing doesn't work on normal folk, Methos. We could use another pair of hands when the flu season hits."

Methos. I wonder if this is his name or some kind of title. He's laughing, a surprising sound. "I do what I can, Murra. But they don't come here to have their bodies healed. You know that."

"This one looks to need some body-healing. Or less of your brew, either one. I'll let the wives know you're keeping company. Will you still be gathering at the north woods today?" Murra sets something down near the hearth and turns her steps towards the door.

"Aye. He'll be well enough to walk along, once I've gotten something solid in his stomach," the Malkavian assures her.

"Then we'll expect you at the boiling-off house this afternoon. Mind you get done before it hits. Good day, Methos."

"Good day, Murra," my host replies. I decide that must be his name and file the information away, in case it comes in handy later. And before 'what' hits?

I lay still and listen to him fiddling with something near the fire. When he returns to the bedside he has another glass of water with him. "Come have some breakfast."

I drink the water and stretch, slowly, calling on the Force to pour energy back into my system, speed the fluids where they need to be, stir my blood for working. After a long moment of concentration my headache has receded completely. I go and join my host beside the fire.

He is dishing up some sort of hot cereal, adds dried fruit and hands me the bowl. This is accompanied by a mug of cool milk and all of it feels wonderful once I get it inside me. He watches me eat, amusement - and something else - shining in his eyes. "Well, you're welcome to spend the day shivering on the cliffs, but I'm going to the north woods to gather sap. Care to join me?"

I nod once. I've always preferred productive work to brooding. We bundle up in our cold-weather gear and he leads me to a small shed behind his home. After some rummaging about he presents me with a wooden yolk with a large bucket hanging from each end. He shoulders his own and leads the way along a tiny footpath and into the woods north of the village.

I keep my peace on the trek, and my companion also seems disinclined to break the silence. The world is frozen and still around me, the snow and cold making a beautiful still-life artwork of the woods. Before we have gone very far, the Malkavian leaves the broken path and approaches one of the large trees nearby. A sheltered bucket is hanging from the trunk, the handle hooked over a little tube that is driven into the side of the forest giant. He sets his yolk down and pours from it a thin fluid, and ice. "The sap run was good this year in the southern wood. I'm not sure what that means, except I'm about the only one foolish enough to be out here gathering the north. I'm glad to have some help," he smiles.

I nod and look around me, notice that many of the trees also have buckets hanging from them, like odd fruit. Without need for instruction, I begin to collect the slushy sap into the larger buckets I have carried here.

Before long my hands are numb and the yolk is growing heavy on my shoulders. When we clear the area of its harvest, my host leads me to the other side of the footpath to collect from the trees there. The snow is not very deep, barely reaching my boot tops, but walking in it with the weight of my yolk pulling at me is difficult. My thoughts wander as I work, over the conversation of the night before, of the events between you and I, my Master, of the reasons I am here this day, doing this common work beside this strangely uncommon man. When we have finished collecting from this grove, we return to the footpath and journey deeper into the woods. A question has formed in my mind, one I finally give voice to.

"If the fire is life, what is the snow?" I ask my companion.

He chuckles. "Snow is patience, Jedi. The willing sleep of rest, the natural cycle of 'wait and see'. Many would think these woods dead this time of year. They're only waiting in this snow, for the time when sun-fire makes them live again."

I nod at that and ask nothing more, concentrating on the work at hand once again. Eventually my load is such that I begin to cheat, using the Force to make the buckets seem less weighty. It is for the best. It takes some long time to fill our yolks completely. The sun, what we can see of it behind the cloud cover, is working its way towards lunch time before we head back. We make our way past his house and back into the village to a large home that seems to have been constructed from whole logs. There are children running in the yard, and here the snow and dirt have been churned to an icy mud. I smell the smoke of a wood fire. When we round the corner I see the source for myself. An enormous pot is being heated on a large fire. Villagers run to and fro, bringing wood to fuel the flames, bringing more sap from a large reservoir and pouring it into the cookpot, bringing refreshments to one another as they work. The atmosphere is rather festive and gay, and I feel totally, helplessly out of place.

I follow my host to the reservoirs and empty my sap where he shows me. A woman is standing there, taking note of what we bring. "Who do I credit his to?" she demands of the Malkavian.

"To me. He'll not be here long enough to see the profits. I'll be sure it is made right," he tells her.

"Four then, for Methos. Are you going back out to gather, or will you work here?" She looks around the yard. "We need woodsplitting, at least until lunch. I can credit you the work-hours..."

He nods and gestures for me to follow him. I make so bold as to ask "Is your name Methos?"

He nods again but makes no comment. I sigh and try again. "What are they doing?"

"Sugaring off. They're not a wealthy people. They have to use up every resource they can lay their hands on, just to survive most years. There'll be sugar and syrup for the next year, but only through hard work now. Sweetener is too expensive to import when it can be made from the woods." He leads me into an enclosure, where boys and men are chopping wood. Some raise their hands in greeting when they see him, but look at me askance. I'm used to that. Jedi are rarely looked at in the same way folk look at other people. Only in the Temple are we not considered to be outsiders of one stripe or another.

Methos snorts at the villagers and grabs my arm. "Ever chop wood?"

I shake my head no.

"Let me see your hands," he directs. I turn my palms up and he feels them. "Your calluses are in the wrong places. Do you want to go back out to the woods by yourself?"

I think about it for a long moment, trying to decide whether or not I want to be alone. I know I'll just be stuck with my own depressing thoughts, even if I am getting something done. "Show me what to do," I request.

He nods and sets to work. I watch as he sets a log-chunk on a chopping block and splits it with an ax he has procured from a supply kept nearby. He splits the chunk again, so that he has four more-or-less even pieces. "Like that. Not exactly saving the world, but..."

I nod and turn towards the waiting wood. I clear my mind and close my eyes, getting a solid grip on a log with the Force. A bit of pressure here, a tug just so and it falls into four pieces. "Will that do?"

His lips compress into a thin line of displeasure. "Can you not be quite so conspicuous with that? Stand on the other side of me. I don't want you frightening anyone."

I nod, abashed, and do as I'm told. I work beside him, trying to appear as if I'm just lounging against the fence while he works. In fact, I do my best to keep up with him, focusing all my thoughts on the work before me. Even though I do no physical labor, it's strangely tiring. I don't know how long we work before a bell begins to ring, but the next thing I know he is to shaking me by the shoulder and telling me to stop. "Lunch," he explains.

I follow him inside the log house and take a seat beside him at a long trestle table. I copy his motions, taking only what he takes, eating as he eats, and still the strange looks come my way. I hate this, hate feeling so isolated from everyone and everything, so far from the home I wish I was still welcome in. I release my disgust to the Force, but the discomfort is acute. I berate myself mentally, *You're here to figure out what to do with your life, not fuel conversations in this little town for the next decade!* Luckily Methos eats quickly and I am able to follow him from the table before anyone can work up the nerve to address either one of us.

He says nothing but goes to collect his yolk once more. I follow him, happy to be away from stranger's eyes but miserable to be so vulnerable to their stares. I should be beyond this by now. Of course, before now there has always been the calming presence of a venerated Jedi Master standing as my shield between those eyes and myself. Where is your protection now, my Master?

The snow is pulling at my boots again as we work our way through the trees. Snow is falling now as well, collecting on my cloak, falling into the buckets, clinging to my hair and ears. I pause to pull my hood up and glance up towards the thickly clouded sky. The woods are still and silent, only the vague form of Methos in his winter whites letting me know I am not alone. I've never known such quiet or such stillness. For a moment I fancy even the Force has stilled, here in this quiet, slumbering place. It may not be a smile, but I feel my face relax for the first time in days as I realize I've gone almost a whole day without meditating. This may be the first time in my life such a thing has happened. I sink to my knees, folding myself into the familiar posture.

The posture I learned from you, my Master.

The last time I saw you in this posture, you were showing off for that Sith creature. Pushing your Jedi serenity in his face, jeering him to rush, to make an error in judgment, to show weakness as the insult of your calm was thrown at him. I remember my thoughts, trapped just a few feet away from you. I wanted to scream, to cram your own lessons down your throat. Never Lose Focus. Watch Your Opponent. Do Not Rest Until Resolution Is Achieved. Assume NOTHING.

That last one was in the forefront of my mind as you knelt there, nothing but a gate of energy protecting you from a demonic warrior. So insolent, my Master, kneeling in meditation, deactivating your saber, spurring him into a mistake made in haste.

Well, Master... who ended up making the mistake?

I saw it all, you know. The angle wasn't good, but I could still see it. You are so fond of telling me how old you are, my decrepit Master, only the best 'saber fighter in the galaxy ... second best now, eh Master? You over-extended. I saw it quite clearly ... he had worn you down, you aged Jedi you, and then managed to pull you into overextending on an overhead parry. It was like slow motion. The butt of that double 'saber coming up to your chin, and the surprised, shocked even, expression on your face as he ran... you... through...

The snow feels good. It is good to kneel and rest, to pause my labors with no eyes on me. Who made the mistake, Master? You, in your confidence? He in his aggression? I in my compassion and desire to save you? Perhaps it is this last that was the mistake. Perhaps that day was the time selected for you by the Force. My actions may have thrown the way of things into a flux, for which I am now being punished. It certainly feels that way. To be sobbing over your form as you asked me to promise to train that boy... I didn't want to hear that! Why couldn't you have said anything else, any word of apology, of - of love...

A sharp slap brings my attention back to my surroundings. "What?" I demand, shocked.

"Wake up! If you're tired, we'll take a break. If you need to meditate, we'll go back to my place. DO NOT REST OUT HERE! It's way below freezing and getting worse as the... oh never mind. Come on, we're going back." My host kicks my yolk towards me. "Get up."

I stand and lift the yolk to my shoulders, abashed. I know better than to do something like this. What's wrong with me?

It seems we're done for the day then. Silently I help put away the yokes and buckets. The snow is swirling strongly now, and the day has almost turned to night from the deep cloud cover. We go back inside his house and shed our boots, coats, gloves and scarves, creating little puddles on the floor from melted snow.

He is quite obviously a bit peeved at me still and I find his continued silence maddening. As he starts to putter around his house, obviously preparing to clean up and change, I realize I've overstayed any welcome I might have had. I've warmed up enough so I reach for my coat.

"Where do you think you're going?" he asks harshly, removing his shirt before the fire.

I struggle for calm. Deep, clear water. "I'm returning to my ship. I wouldn't want to burden you any longer, I've stayed enough as it is. I thank you for your hospitality."

He just stands there and grins devilishly and I realize he's quite a handsome man, even with that nose. Lean and whipcord strong, about my height and build, actually. His hair is spiky short and if he'd had a braid he could have passed for a Padawan. He's still grinning, not saying a word, and I frown.

"What?" I finally ask, for obviously he knows something I do not.

"You know, for a Jedi, you are pretty stupid. Don't you hear that?"

Now I'm pissed and I don't bother trying to release it into the Force. "Hear what? What are you talking about?"

He shakes his head in mock sadness. "The wind, Jedi. It's a storm. Hit a little early, but within the next few minutes it'll be a white-out. No one's going anywhere for at least a day, maybe two. Why do you think we were working so hard to gather the sap today?"

As soon as he says it I can hear it... I can feel it. My despair has been such that I couldn't even hear the Force tell me about this storm, and because of that I feel even worse. What a fool I am ...for loving you, for coming here, for...

It must show on my face for his grin turns into a frown and he shakes his head. "You Jedi. You need a whole new line in your damned code about guilt. You take on the whole fucking universe of guilt. I'm gonna go get a shower."

Saying that he quickly finishes stripping off his clothes and saunters to the back of the house where his small, primitive 'fresher is. I can't help but follow him with my eyes and immediately blush for doing so. Yes, he is an attractive man.

But he's not YOU! I let myself slide to the floor next to the tightly shuttered window and just wallow in it. Guilt, yes, and anger, and frustration and a whole host of other negative emotions. As I have been taught, as YOU taught me, I fold up into a meditative posture and try to examine all my feelings, try to release them into the Force. Is my host right? Am I taking on the entire universe of guilt?

Needless to say, a meditative trance doesn't come to me and eventually I sigh and stand up. Methos comes out of the back room at that moment, a towel low around his hips, his hair still wet. He rummages around in a bureau and throws me some clothing.

"You and I are close enough in size, you should be able to wear my stuff. Here. You'll want to go get cleaned up. There's a clean towel next to the shower. Sorry the water's not very water heater works on solar power which you might have noticed isn't particularly abundant at the moment."

I nod my thanks and strip. He's right, my clothes are grimy from sweat and slush. Clean clothes would be a blessing, as would a clean body. I put my dirty tunics in a pile by the fireplace and turn to walk to the 'fresher - and I feel eyes on me. I turn, but he's doing something at the sink. Maybe I imagined it.

A little shower cubicle and nothing but tepid water - luxury compared to what we've had to deal with in the past, eh, Master? I wash hurriedly and dry, then realize I've left my borrowed pants in the main room, so wrap my towel around myself and return.

There's warmth and good smells now, a dinner of some kind that Methos has put together. As I don the borrowed pants, I realize the wind is really howling now, battering at the windows and door. None of it gets through the sturdy stone walls though, this place was made to last against just this kind of storm. Suddenly I realize that I'm thinking of you, of how much you'd like this place, this house, even this storm, and I shove these thoughts away again and swallow against the lump in my throat.

We eat mostly in silence, but not strained silence. He apparently respects my need for quiet, either that or he's just a very uncommunicative man. Maybe both. After dinner, I help him clean up and we sit by the fire with more of his brew. After some time, I hear a voice talking, as if from far away. What a shock to realize it's mine.

"...didn't want a Padawan. But I convinced him, finally, and he took me on. I thought, I thought we had a good bond, I've loved him since I figured out what love is. Every time I find out about another kind of love, I find that I already feel it for him. And then we got sent to that little mudball, to those damned Trade flunkies ...but it was the kid that really got me. He stood there, just stood there before the whole be-damned Council and took the kid as his Padawan learner! I wanted to yell, to scream at him, and he just shut himself away from me. Told me where to go and what to do which I did like the good little Padawan he wants me to be...

There's something in my eyes. It burns and stings and it's causing my nose to fill up too.

"You know, what we fought, it was a Sith. Ugly bastard too. Looked a bit Zabrakian but who the Hell knows? I cut the thing in half and watched it fall into the melting pit and felt nothing but glee, until I remembered what it did to my Master." Damn. I wish I could clear my eyes. "And when I went to him, he thought he was dying. Well, I did too. And you know what he said to me? Promise me you'll train the boy! Fuck the boy! And fuck him, too! Why couldn't... oh, why..."

Oh shit, oh shit, I'm crying, that's what's in my eyes, that's why I can't go on. I'm shaking too, and I feel hot, maybe I'm sick, I don't know, Master, where are you, why aren't you here to help me?

Someone is holding me now, tightly, rubbing my back and my head just the way you always used to do when I felt bad or was sick. Warm skin under my fingers that I hold on to, as I wail out my anguish and desperation. There's a soft voice in my ear, and warm breath on my hair.

"That's it, kid, just let it out. Sometimes you godda just scream, you can't let it ALL go into the Force, whatever the hell that is..."

So I do. After a while, though, you run out of tears I guess. I cough a bit against the crap in my throat and I'm handed a tissue. I realize I'm laying on the floor in front of the fire, and there's a warm, comforting body holding me tightly. Methos. He must be getting tired of having a sobbing Jedi around.

I wipe my face off and blow my nose and realize I really should pull away, but it feels so nice. I want to be comforted, and he's apparently willing to comfort. "Thanks," I murmur into his chest.

He shrugs a bit, but doesn't let go and for that I'm thankful. "All in a day's work, Jedi. I don't mind, you needed help, I can help. I guess Duncan's been rubbing off on me."

I pull back enough to look into his face. "Who's Duncan?"

"Heh. Somebody you'll never meet," he replies, then looks into my eyes.

Big mistake. How can someone so young have such old eyes? They look right through me, see right into my brain and my breath hitches in my chest. I've only seen one pair of eyes that intense, and they're deep, dark blue.

But Methos' eyes aren't. And he doesn't have a beard either, so touching his face is far different than touching yours, Master. And kissing him would feel different than I would expect kissing you would be like. If you ever would kiss me. Which apparently you're not willing to do. But Methos is.

His lips are very soft.

And his body is hard, tough, and curiously smooth at the same time. No scars, not like me. He traces every scar on my upper body, and I have quite a few; he kisses several of them too, before looking back into my eyes.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asks me, very quietly.

I take a deep breath and do something I haven't done since Naboo. I consult the Force, check within myself to see if I am on the right course. Much to my surprise, the Force responds to me at once, and the answer is 'yes'. I reach up and pull his lips back down to mine.

The fire is close at my back, but is nothing compared to the heat that pours out of his kisses and into me, into my mouth, pooling in my groin. Where that molten desire gathers my body grows taunt with need, nipples into rough pebbles, cock into needy stone. I'm moaning, all this emotion of want and desire and, yes, passion, flooding me, my senses. I'm not channeling it out into the Force, not releasing it or stepping away. It's filling me up, filling the aching, empty place where you usually are. This is a fire of linen, of silk and satin, so hot, so quick and I've been so, so cold without you, Master.

And he's being careful with me, for some reason. As if I were an unblooded child in his arms, as if he is deflowering something sacred. I groan into his mouth, try to say I'm not a virgin but he's shushing me, saying the time for words has passed and he is right, so right that I push over on top of him, wordlessly expressing all the craving he has sparked within me.

His hair is soft in my hands as I cradle his head, holding him for kisses. His fingers are making long treks up and down my spine, teasing groans and pleas as he draws circles in the small of my back. I'm undulating, pressing into him, seeking the right touch, the sweet caress, knowing it isn't best like this but not wanting to stop and make it better.

Finally it is Methos who makes things right, gently turning me onto my side and stilling my thrusting. "Here, or would you prefer the bed, Jedi?" he smiles at me.

"Here, here, I need..." but he is gone away and I fall onto my stomach, face buried in my arms, eyes itching, cock so hard I'm near screaming for release. "Don't do this to me, please..." I am appalled to hear myself whimper.

Something soft hits my head and I look up. A pillow. Methos is kneeling beside me again, a bottle of oil in one hand. "Turn over," he invites, and I'm all to happy to obey, settling the pillow under my head, tucking my arms under it, watching what he does to me. His eyes promise that it will be something worth remembering.

The fire has died down somewhat, making the light a warm, red glow that tints his pale skin, an amazingly erotic effect. His long fingers are touching me, shoulders, chest, tease the navel, quick journey back up to stroke and pinch my nipples. I have the odd sensation that I can now accurately imagine what a harp feels like in the hands of a master player, for he is surely a master in this. I don't know if the sounds I'm making could be construed as music, but they are heartfelt and joyous. I should be touching, reciprocating, but he seems to enjoy what he does. I make no move to interrupt. He leans down to kiss my mouth, jaw, throat, traveling all over the scarred and uncherished planes that are my body. His kisses make me holy.

Soon he is pulling my pants off of me, freeing my body to his observation and exploration. My breath is harsh and my heartbeat is loud in my ears. The snap and hiss upon the hearth make me feel like a willing participant in some pagan rite. When he touches the insides of my thighs, I loose the civilized part of my brain, the better portion of my Jedi reserve and howl like an animal, arching up towards him. My skin is burning, which is not strange considering that a red-skinned firesprite is making love to me. His mouth is on my cock, kissing and lapping, an insolent smirk indicating he well knows the madness his touches are creating within me. When he swallows me, letting his throat constrict around my shaft, I lose all memory of peace. This is nothing like the tender pettings and reserved couplings I have known with my partners at the Temple. This is Passion and for the life of me I don't know how I've lived so long without it.

I've lost control of myself. I'm babbling my need and desire to Methos, the Malkavian, my deamon-lover who has stripped me of all serenity and calm. No, not stripped, I've thrown it away quite joyfully and have no plans to hunt for it anytime soon. He has let me slip from his mouth and is coating me with oil. I can't still my hips, I'm thrusting towards his slick fingers. That smile is still on his lips, he knows what is happening within me and he's guiding me, protecting me along this journey. My face is wet, no one is telling me to hold back, control myself, be serene. There is no frozen pond of Jedi reserve hanging like a stone, an accusation in my mind because you are not here, Master. It is I, your Padawan, alone, careening on this dangerous course. I wouldn't have it any other way.

He's naked now, straddling my hips, guiding me towards that tight, hot channel. It is a baptism of sorts, a cleansing and renewal as I am drawn upwards, my hips rising up to meet what he so willingly offers. Now he is not smiling. His mouth is open, his eyes are closed, and his panting breath makes his chest rise and fall, quickly. I reach to touch, find his hands, arms, chest, try to catalog and memorize this experience. It is happening too fast, too fast. Quick, flashy, ephemeral, inexplicable as most miracles are. I am proud that I am not trying to run away from it. I am exultant that I am embracing it, turning to it, holding it to me tightly and am not afraid. I think I say this out loud because he is whispering 'I know I know I know' and I really think he does.

Now he is moving above me and I move below him, pushing and striving, making good use of the gift I have been given. The light is glinting on our sweat-gilded flesh, tiny rubies glittering upon us. I trail my fingers down his flat belly, trailing paths down his moist skin, seizing upon his tumescent penis, stroking with all the eager will that he displays in his use of my own shaft in that hot, tight channel. He's so beautiful, Master, all narrow lines and wild cries, hips bucking, claiming and offering all at once. Too beautiful, I can't hold back and have no will to try. My orgasm spills out of me as do my gasping words as I call him the fire, my flame.

The Malkavian sleeps well into the morning, a warm comfort beside me in his bed. I am restless, though, and pent up by the howling storm outside. The little room we share is far too small for proper exercise, even if it were unfurnished. As it is, there is little for me to do as I wait for my de facto lover to arise. Eventually I drift towards the dataset and decide to see if anyone has attempted to contact me in the last couple of days.

I manage a patch through to my shipboard computer, despite the weather's attempt to thwart me. To my surprise, there are two messages, both from Coruscant. One is from Master Yoda, under the heading of 'Urgent', a word I have never associated with that venerated master. The other is from the Council and post-marked some few hours before Master Yoda's. My hand trembles as I consider what lies before me.

Master, you obviously did not consider what an awful position you put your Padawan into these last weeks. You cast me aside before my Trials, an action that, by tradition, should have cast me from the Jedi for all time. The only thing that saved me was the fact that you were acting in defiance of the Council when you put me aside. That, and the fact that you were mortally wounded before the Council could take your actions under advisement.

Then, my beloved Master, you did not die.

It is one thing for a Padawan to be without a master, if the case is one where said master has passed on. Quite another for a Padawan to be unmastered while his 'master' yet lives. None will take a student on under those circumstances. At least, no one has in all the years the Jedi have existed. When I was a child you nearly destroyed my life by putting me aside, by shoving me away at every turn. Then, it was a painful letdown. Now, again, you have nearly destroyed me by your actions. It is nothing less than the basest betrayal on your part, o my beloved Master. Here, on the very razor's edge of my lifetime's fulfillment, you have come near to denying me the only thing I ever strove for, other than your love. You have nearly denied me my rightful place as a Jedi Knight.

I left your bedside full of hurt and anger, a deep, dark bitterness in my soul that I could not come to terms with. Finally, all that has been burned away from me through weeping, through pain and through passion. Now there is within me the peace and serenity I have long sought, the balance I had lost. I did not find it in meditation or contemplation. I found it in the arms of a willing, caring lover. Does that surprise you, Master, that I could find peace and serenity in something other than the Force? You should try it sometime. It is an amazing catharsis. Now, there is only one thing left in me, of all the things I carried away from Naboo when I left you there. The knowledge that I have been done a grave injustice.

It is the work of the Jedi to see that justice is done.

My lover is stirring in his bed. I look at my messages but do not open them. Something in me does not want to face this news alone, whatever it may be. But now there is another upon who's strength I may safely draw, if only for this little time. Whatever is in these letters, there is one I may go to, where comfort can be had without a price. That gives me the strength of will to continue.

I open Yoda's letter first, out of sheer perversity.



Try to explain, I shall, what the Council has done. Qui-Gon's petition was deemed to be sincere and heartfelt. His plea has been granted. For all that I fear the training of young Skywalker, the Council, his training will arrange. Decided we have not, who's Padawan you will be. Your feelings on this first must be known, before decisions can be made. For a certainty, and by the declaration of the Jedi Council, Anakin Skywalker, Qui-Gon Jinn's Padawan is NOT.

Qui-Gon asks after you every day. I assure him you are well, as the Force tells me you are. Words from you, a comfort to him would be. Though reasons for withholding your comfort from him, surely would be understood by all.

Of your location he is unaware. Preventing him from hunting you is made possible by the will of the Council and a constant guard on his person only. Your assistance in this matter I request. Best to be resolved, this is, before lasting damage is done to you both.

May the Force be with you,
Master Yoda
Jedi Temple at Coruscant


I close my eyes, trying to understand what this means. If Anakin is not to be your Padawan, something must have happened while I was away. Something important. Something monumental.

The Force shifts around and through me as I read through the message from the Council. It is, for the most part, a transcription of a Council session, in which you had the starring role. As the realization of what you have done begins to sink in, a sense of overwhelming disbelief takes root in my heart. It is impossible to believe that you would have done such a thing, so publicly, so irrefutably. Smiling without humor to myself, I recognize that by now I should be accustomed to you doing the impossibly unlikely. You are infuriating at times, Master.

I close the dataset down and return to bed. My mind is whirling with the knowledge of what you have done. This is a wondrous and powerful thing you have done, and apparently done for me. For my benefit. Out of your caring for me. I am stunned beyond belief, in need of contact with something real, something alive, to ground me. I wrap myself around the bundle of life that is Methos the Malkavian, drinking his presence through the Force, even as I snuggle against him for warmth and comfort.

"Mornin'," he mumbles. "You're up early."

"I just read the most amazing thing," I tell him.

"What's that?"

"My mail. There was a letter from the Council," I tell him.

"Poor you. Is there anything I can do to help?" He smiles, but I sense real concern and compassion from him. He's a good man, Master, and I have grown to care for him in these few hours we've spent together.

"My master has done something quite ...unexpected. Something that..." I sigh. The truth is, I don't really know what your actions mean. You are so far away from me.

"What has he done?" Methos prompts.

"He apologized."

I do not try to explain what a formal apology to the Council entails. Since he does not know you, it is impossible to make him understand how incredible this is. In my mind I can see you clearly, kneeling before them all, those men and women you have so often defied and stood against. I see your long, powerful form bowing, forehead touching the floor as you enumerate the trespasses for which you repent. I wonder which of your past defiances they wished they could get such an apology for from you. I wonder how close Master Windu came to a coronary at seeing you so abase yourself before them.

I wonder if you realized the words you spoke were being recorded for all time, that I would eventually know of them, if not hear them spoken. You are far to cagey to have forgotten that particular point. I think, Master, you were speaking to me as much as you were speaking to the Council.

Master, are you aware that you used the word 'beautiful' four times in your apology? Do you know you said 'beloved' on two different occasions, in reference to myself? I know you know. It is a rare and dangerous thing for you to speak without thought.

A very dangerous thing. That I know all too well.

I decide to write to you, to tell you where I am; that, and the fact that I am well, and nothing more. That sense of injustice is still a cold stone in my heart, but I find, on this cold winter morning, there is something else beginning to grow there. I curl up into Methos' arms, begin teasing his shoulders with light kisses, joyful nips and light touches on his ribcage. My heart is filled with too many things this day and I will need his help to further purge myself, to find clarity. One thing I will protect from his fire, my master. One thing I will pack in the snow of patience and keep ready, should I find I am in need of it.


I am no better than the Council, o my beloved master. You have but to ask.

"Tell me exactly what happened, Jedi," the Malkavian encourages me. He's been 'encouraging' me for the better part of the day, plying me with beer and backrubs and mind-blowing sex. He seems amused at the turn my mood has taken, but I can not begrudge him his smile. The Order is so bound up in its traditions and customs that it is a strange path to lead the uninitiated upon. I have often thought one could discover whether or not one faced a Jedi by asking him or her a straightforward question. If the response is one bound up in obfuscation and riddle - and apparently guilt - you've got yourself a Jedi.

The beer is doing its job, as is the backrub and I finally relent. We haven't much moved from bed today, nowhere to go and nothing to do but each other. Not that it hasn't been pleasant, mind, but even a Jedi needs to catch his breath and recharge eventually. My lover is asking me about my true love, an odd arrangement by anyone's standards.

I turn over and lay back against the pillows. I want to explain all the traditions involved in the apprenticing of a potential Jedi, but have no idea where to start. Finally I settle for "The Jedi Order is a hidebound, restrictive and anal retentive collection of traditionalists keeping traditions that no one can really recall agreeing on, but everyone abides by. Everyone, except my Master, that is."

Methos nods and settles down on my chest, waiting for me to continue.

"You'll hear the phrase 'the Code forbids it' on just about every subject from what colors we wear to how long we should sleep to whom we should - and shouldn't - fuck. But you know the real irony? It isn't the Code that forbids. It's tradition. Jedi are very big on tradition," I reach for my beer and find it is just a little too far to reach. Instead of shifting Methos to get it, I levitate it into my hand.

"Do you know that's the second time I've seen someone use the Force to do something that's actually productive?" Methos asked.

"Doesn't surprise me," I laugh.

He looks up, surprised. I realize it is my laughter that got his attention.

"So, tell me about this apology tradition," he nudges me.

I sigh again. I'm still not sure what I think about all this. I'm still not sure if I'm ready to see you again, or if you'll even come to me. When I wrote to you, informing you of my whereabouts, the Force sang with the rightness of it. That much is a comfort. "It might not happen," I hedge. "If Anakin isn't my Master's Padawan, he never was. That means my Master never broke with me. That means he can just show up here, and if he orders me to come with him, I obey."

"What makes you think that will happen?" Methos presses.

I flick my braid down over his nose. "I was left unshorn. He didn't cut the braid, so technically he didn't cut me off."


I shift away from him, not wanting to admit how well and truly you have been cut off from me, since that moment in the Chamber. I don't think you meant to seal our bond off. I think you were hiding, ashamed of what you'd done to me. Well. I hope you were. If you aren't ashamed of your actions, Master, you're not half the man I thought you were. "Yes, technically," I finally say. It's not a thing he could ever understand anyway.

"Hmm. So, say he does come and apologizes? On his hands and knees no less. What then?"

I shrug, with a snort over the incongruity of that picture. "Then it all falls to me. I can choose to accept and return to his side. I can choose to forgive, but leave the Order. I can choose to withhold forgiveness and seek another master. I can choose to leave the order without forgiving. This may be the one time in my life where the choice is entirely up to me. Assuming he apologizes. I really don't think he will."

"You'd like it if he would, though?"

And that's the thing, Master. I really don't know. I've seen you as unshakable and unstoppable. For you to ask my forgiveness would be for the mountain to bow unto the stone. I wonder what takes more strength, though. Standing tall, feigning pride in a choice you know to be incorrect. Or accepting your fault and trying to make it right. I suppose I'll just have to listen to the Force and follow where it goes.


"When do you think this storm will be over? I need to do a bit of training. I need to focus." Yes, it is blatantly shifting the subject away from you. Too many areas of uncertainty. Too many pitfalls yet. I feel the energy of the winds, the wetness of the snow in the air outside, echoing though the energy that binds all things together. I could estimate the end of this storm to the hour. The very minute if I chose. It's better to speak with another person, make conversation just now.

"Tonight sometime. Will you be out under the stars, swinging that glostick of yours around in the dark?" he grins up at me.

"Well, if I'm not swinging something around here in the dark," I smirk back.

"There is something you have not yet addressed, Jedi."

I groan at his words. He's been at me all day, in one way or another. When we're not fucking we're arguing. About you, Master. Make no mistake, you are never far from my mind, no matter how wrapped up I am in this magnificent body currently beside me. "What, O wisest of the wise?"

"You're still in love with him."

"Well obviously. And what do you expect me to do about that, Revered Deamon? It happens all the time, a student falling for their master. I'll get over it, I'm sure." We both know I'm lying. Tell me, Master, why is it often less painful to face a truth with a lie?

Oh, my. Is that what you did to me?

"Sublimate it, ignore it, push it aside until you no longer feel it, maybe. Get over it? Ha. I'll be gray and wrinkled before that happens," caught up in my own revelation, I finally notice he's back to snorting his displeasure at me again.

"Not all of us can be filled with fire, Methos. It would seem that a few of us need a heart of snow to survive. Let's not go on like this. It's better left alone," I try to kiss him but he evades me, easily flips me to my back and pins me there with his hands on my shoulders.

"Are you really willing to accept all this, on these terms? Because I sort of thought you weren't quite that stupid," he says, looking at me with those damned intense eyes of his.

"Don't push it, Malkavian. There are only two things in this universe I've ever wanted. I'm not about to give them both up just because one of them has been denied me. I may be stupid, but I'm not crazy." I push him aside and get up out of the bed and go to tend the fire as I have seen him do over the last few hours. We're nearly out of wood, I note, and start dressing to go fetch some from the pile near the door.

I hear him sigh and I hope he's going to let it slide. I can't think about what it would feel like to spend the next few years at your side, aching for you like I do, knowing you know and knowing you don't care. My eyes fall on my 'saber where it rests on the workbench. Worth it. Worth any price. My braid swings down from my hood, and I tenderly tuck it back inside, protecting that lock of hair as if it were my life. With a jolt, I suddenly realize - it is. There is nothing else I can hope for, now that you are not even a wistful dream.

The light shards and splits, making rainbows through the tears that begin pooling in my eyes. Ruthlessly I clamp down on the body functions that produce this reaction. You can't cry about everything all the time. Sometimes you just have to let it go to the Force. This time I let it go to the storm as I walk outside to get more wood.

When I come back in, Methos is sitting at the dataset. He looks up at me, his eyes unfathomable. "You have more mail, Jedi."

I take a deep breath and release the panic those words bring me into the Force. Carefully, methodically, I set down my load of wood, then take off my outer clothes until I'm once again clad in simple, light pants. As I sit at the dataset, Methos presses his hand to my shoulder reassuringly, then lets me alone.

Of course, it's from you, Master.


My Dearest Padawan:

You have no idea how hard it was to start this letter. You have every right to refute me as your Master and every reason to do so.

I ask; no, I beg, that you do not. I can't pretend to be anything other than what I am, and apparently that is very flawed. I've hurt you, Obi-Wan, and in doing so, I've hurt us both and damaged something very precious.

I don't ask for your forgiveness. I have no right to do that, especially via such a clumsy medium as this letter. I do ask, however, that you consent to see me. We have, I think, much to say to each other, and I have much to make amends for. Even if it takes my whole lifetime, and any other lifetime I may have, I swear I will somehow manage to atone for what I have done to you. I only hope that you can grant it in your heart to give me that time.

You are, and have been, the best Padawan, the best friend, any person, Jedi or not, could have asked for. Please, please let me come to you, if only to see you one last time. I ask this not as your Master, but as a person who cares, who loves you, more than you can imagine.

Please say yes.



Well. There it is then.

I don't know how long I sit at the dataset, looking at your signature, numb pretty much from the neck up. I'm so numb, in fact that Methos actually has to pick up my hand to tuck a cold glass of his beer into it, then has to hold it to my lips before I wake up. I take a long sip, then lower the glass and look into his eyes.

"He wants to come here. To talk."

Methos just nods, then squats by the chair in which I'm sitting. "Did he ask you or did he tell you?"

It takes me a minute to realize what he means by that... and I realize that yes, you could have just sent me a message that said 'I am coming' instead of asking my leave to join me. You would have been within your rights, Master, and I suspect you thought about that well before you sent your letter.

But the Force tells me there is no guile in your letter, that everything was heartfelt and sincere.

Methos has given me the time to think, just sitting by my side and looking up at me. Finally, I sigh. "He asked. And I'm going to say yes."

So I do. One word. For I dare not say more until I see you.

The storm has finally stopped and we are dressed and fed. The quiet has come again between us, a calm peace that I enjoy. The dishes are washed and put away and I reach for my cloak. "Come with me, Malkavian, and I'll show you a thing," I smile, holding my hand to him.

He gives me a bemused look but fetches his coat and follows me outside. The village is quiet, we are the only ones about. I am a little unhappy with myself, with what I am about to do. It is a trick we Jedi can play on those with innocence in them yet. He needs to be protected from what games the Force moves us to play. "Did you ever have a dream that you were flying?"

He smiles and nods.

"And did you ever think you'd trade your arms for wings?" I press.

Again, he nods.

"Then jump for the moon, Methos. And trust in me."

He turns away, ready to play. I can see this is a game he's maybe heard about, or seen before. The sense of it is that he has not been given this gift, so I am made happy to give it.

He leaps high, with a shout and I catch him up in my gentlest embrace, raising him high along the trajectory he has chosen. My arms slip into my sleeves, crossed over my chest. The snow is above my boots now and the cold is sharp and aggressive. But it will not take long, I know, and I want to somehow repay him for the kindness and love he has shown me.

He spreads his arms above me, a man-eagle shadow against the starry night. I provide the safest support as he twists and tumbles easily, accepting the brushes with death as I subtly guide his flight. He is all grace and coordination as he tumbles. His laughter is a blessing. "Jedi!" he cries. "It would seem there are some things yet new to me!"

I know not how long I held him there, myself at a calm center, he at a joyous rapture in the heights. I only know when his body begins to grow weary, when his twists are an effort and the swoops not under his control entirely. At last I let him fall, drifting down. I catch his long frame in my arms, and hold him as tightly as he holds me. His beak of a nose is red and cold on my face, as are his cheeks, but his eyes are dancing with pleasure and happiness over this little thing I have done for him.

We return to his house, and he goes inside while I fetch more wood. When I come back, he is laying before the fire, naked, his head propped in his hands a smile still on his face. I quickly set down the wood and disrobe, joining him. "We're going to need to split more wood at this rate," he murmurs, after I throw another log on.

"I'll do it for you tomorrow," I promise, kissing and nipping my way along his collarbone. He grins in reply and sinks to his back.

Who is this man, Master, to allow me such access to his beautiful self? He asks for nothing in return, not even my name, and yet... and yet...

Once again I taste the heat of his penis and the salt of his come, once again I enter that tight, hot channel and claim his sweet body until I feel like I'm going to explode, until I do. He rises to meet every one of my thrusts, and howls along with me in completion at our shared climax, and then holds me tightly as I sob in the agony of our ecstasy. No matter what happens tomorrow, Master, I will have tonight, I will have this. No one, not even you, can take that away from me.

You are closer to me now, my Master. I know not your intent, but your proximity is changing. That bond we share is not stretched so thin as to be strained now. There are lessons to be taught and learned between us still.

Methos had appointments to keep in the village, and has left me to split more wood for him. I tried to use the axe but give up quickly before I manage to chop off my foot. It is apparently a learned behavior. So I use the Force in a way I never would have expected before coming to this cold place. It seems I still have things to learn, and in that, you were right, my Master.

I'm not sure how long I've been at this, but there's a right large pile of split wood now, and I actually feel weary from the effort of holding my concentration in the Force. And I hear voices, from inside the house, Methos' of course, and another that I recognize with an ice cold hand around my heart. How could you have managed to be here without my knowing?

"...and I thank you for sheltering Obi-Wan," you are saying. Yes, I shamelessly eavesdrop; I'm too shaky to face you yet.

"Ah." A laugh and I can see his eyes sparkling in my mind. "So that's his name." When he continues, I can imagine it's because of an expression on your face. "He never offered, I never asked. Sometimes it's better that way. He was hurting pretty bad when I found him."

"I-I know. It was my fault ..." your voice sounds different, my Master. Softer, less sure of yourself than usual. And in feeling you through the Force, I can tell, you're not done healing. Why would you have come here so soon after being so close to death?

But Methos is still talking.

"Yes, I know. He told me all about it. And I have to tell you, if you're here just to hurt him more, you're going to have to go through me to do it." Methos' voice sounds almost rueful in that, and I smile. Who would have thought my deamon lover could be so possessive and sheltering?

Why aren't you answering that, Master? For you haven't. There's just silence and the wind blowing stinging snow crystals into my eyes. Slowly I begin moving around the side of the house to the front door, drawn against my will to the tableau inside.

I move inside, quickly closing the door against the chill as I have learned to do over these last few days. I turn towards the wall and remove my cloak, hood, scarves and gloves, leaving me in just my roughly cleaned tunics. Only then do I turn around to face the two people in the room.

Methos stands with his back to the sink, leaning on it, his arms crossed. He looks ...enigmatic. I can't figure out how he looks. But his eyes as they stare at me are kind and comforting.

Sitting at the table is a figure I never hoped to see again. It's you, my Master, only suddenly you don't look as large as you used to. You seem ...shrunken, somehow, hunched over as though protecting yourself against something. Protecting your heart. Against physical or emotional injury are you trying to protect yourself, Master? And your eyes are shadowed; just as with Methos, I cannot read anything into your posture.

"Hello, Qui-Gon," I say, and I'm quite proud of how my voice doesn't tremble in the least.

"Pad-Obi-Wan," you acknowledge, never taking your eyes from mine. I can tell you want to move. But tell me, do you want to move towards me or away from me?

Silence falls for a time, then Methos clears his throat. "I'm going to be outside stacking all the wood you cut for me, Jedi. If you need anything ..." and as he brushes past me on his way to his coat, he squeezes my shoulder, tightly. I pat his hand, once, then on impulse take it and kiss his palm.

"Thank-you, my Malkavian," I whisper. He just grins and leaves me alone to face my fate.

I realize my legs are trembling so I nonchalantly pull out a chair and sit, facing you across the corner of the table. We look at each other for a while, and isn't that interesting, you are the first to look away. You are pale, my Master, and your hands shake until you tuck them into the sleeves of your robe. When you do speak, your voice sounds rusty and unused.

"Master Yoda sends his greetings," is your opener, and I shrug noncommittally. "He was... less than happy at your leaving, at my behavior." You rub your knees and hazard a weak grin. "At least this I inferred from the times he whacked me."

There's nothing to say to that either, so I don't. "After you... left... he came to me and we... talked. He did, anyway." You look around the room, obviously trying to avoid looking at me. I, on the other hand, can look no where but at you, drinking in your beloved face, and I realize just exactly how much our separation - your separation from me - has cost me.

"Obi-Wan, I didn't remember much of the fight until recently," you say in a rush, and this surprises me. But I don't reply and you go on eventually. "Oh, I remembered very clearly that... thing... kicking you off the walkway above the powerplant, my anger at that and my satisfaction at smacking him off as well. Mostly, mostly I remember trying to protect you."

Wha...? "Protect ME? From what?"

You look at me and smile sadly. "Why, from that creature, of course. Obi-Wan, the two of us together could barely hold it. I was certain that... if you had to face it without me, it would kill you. And I couldn't have borne that."

Suddenly, all the puzzle pieces fall into place. Why I was unable to use Force-enhanced speed to catch up to you. Why you were meditating in the force-fields. Even why I was able to use your lightsaber, something I shouldn't have been able to do. My mind just shuts down, stunned.

"When I awoke, I had no immediate memory of my injury. I could vaguely remember the fight, but not the outcome. It wasn't until you... until after you left that my Master came to me and told me the whole story, helped me regain all my suppressed memories. Memories of you almost killing yourself to save me." You swallow and look down at the table, tracing the grain of the wood with your eyes. I'm still too stunned to speak.

"Oh, Obi-Wan, what I said must have hurt you so terribly. I didn't realize... I just didn't... oh, no matter what I say, it won't be enough. I can't ask you for forgiveness. But I do ask that we start again. I swear, somehow, some way, I'll make it right to you."

My brain is frozen in ice and is completely non-functional. I simply cannot reconcile what I've just been told with the last few weeks of my life. I cannot believe that everything I have gone through, all of it, the anguish, the pain, the despair, is due to a fucking misunderstanding! That simply isn't possible, Master. You are holding back from me, even now.

I can't bear to look at you any more so I bury my head in my hands. The next thing I know is your arms around me, rocking me, murmuring into my hair. "Oh, Padawan, my Obi, I do love you, I never understood, beloved, please..."

Well, that managed to get through, at least. I grab your arms with my hands and jerk you up to my face. "You WHAT?" I hiss, suddenly furious. "You LOVE me? How is that possible, my Master? I'm just a PADAWAN, remember?"

I know I'm clenching your biceps hard enough to bruise, but to your credit you don't flinch away, either from that or from my anger. You swallow and meet my eyes... oh, the pain, the tears in your eyes are enough to unman me.

"I-I do, Obi-Wan. I do. I thought... I thought what you said was just, you know, a filial love... that you didn't... but you SAVED me, Padawan, you almost killed yourself to save my life! Once I realized that, once I remembered your tears, and your pain... oh I caused you such pain, my love, and now I know. How could you not truly have feelings for me and do something like that... and-and I'm telling you right now that if you EVER try something stupid like that again I'm going to..."

I put my hand to your lips, just to make you stop. I can't bear to hear this, not now, not after all this. It is too much. It is too little. Your lips go still under my fingers and I finally have the silence I need to speak. "You came all this way, just to tell me that?" I whisper. The numbness is spreading from my brain, down through me, into my heart. Into my soul.

You sit back on your heels and look up at me, obviously confused. An odd situation to say the least. I can't imagine what must be going on in your mind, but there is plenty in my own to keep me occupied. I have had enough of silent suffering.

"You turn me away, claim another, break my heart and steal my hope, then come here and say it was just a mistake? And I'm supposed to accept that?" I'm growling now, and the fire pops behind me, punctuating the words. "Why didn't you stay in your Temple and send a messenger? Why did you even bother? I was safe here, Qui-Gon. No one trying to kill me, no one hunting or hurting or rejecting me... Damn it, I've been HAPPY here..." and now my voice is cracking with emotion.

My words have fallen on you like a torrent. You are yet the mountain, too strong for the rain to weary. I pause, try to bring myself under control. You raise your hands, slowly, so slowly, to cover your heart. I find myself suddenly, utterly calm with the unreality of it all. You are speaking words too strong for my poor mind to immediately comprehend.

"In my words and deeds, injustice have I done to you." You place your palms on the floor, on either side of my feet. You are bowing low to me now, until your brow is pressed to my boots. Breath will not come to me, and time has slowed around us.

"I, Qui-Gon Jinn do solemnly apologize for the wrongs I have done to you, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Before the Light of the Force I beg forgiveness for these acts of injustice. I failed to accept you as my Padawan when first I knew it was our destiny to be Master and Apprentice. I caused you emotional pain with this rejection. I denied you as my Padawan before the Council and blocked our bond to prevent you from knowing my shame. And..."

Even in my stunned stupor I realize you are not done yet and I wait. I have no idea what you could possibly be thinking, no way of stopping what has happened, is happening here. Finally, you speak once more.

"...and I denied my true feelings and withheld the love I feel for you, out of nothing more than fear and selfishness. My soul is darkened with these sins. Only you can cleanse me once more. I have a debt to you, that I freely acknowledge. Please, Obi-Wan Kenobi, take mercy upon me and help me to gain your forgiveness."

There is absolutely nothing else I can do in response to this, nothing. So I lean down and slip my hands into your hair. It is a blessing, a sacred act, what is happening between us. I can feel the Force sparking with our purity, Master. Can you feel us, as we were meant to be? We are on the edge of it, here in this moment. I can make all things right between us, if only I have the courage. If only I can make the words right.

"Forgiveness is freely given you, Qui-Gon Jinn. As is my love."

You look up at me and I slip my hands down to cup your face. You are close, so close I can taste your breath a moment before I press my mouth to yours. Your lips taste of salt, Master, from your tears and mine, but they are just as soft, if not softer than Methos' lips. And they are yours.

I kiss you hard, and your lips yield to mine freely, granting access to my tongue so that I can taste you, and replying in turn. When we break the kiss I bury my head in your neck and just hold on, tightly, as if my life depended on it and maybe it does, I don't know for sure. But finally you take my head in your hands and gently pull me back to look at me.

"In my letter," you say, "I told you I have no right to ask forgiveness. Thank you for permitting me this privilege. What I said to you... before... was hurtful and hateful and just heaped injury upon insult. I will always, eternally, be regretful for my words, and not only the words in the infirmary, but also the words before the Council, before we left for Naboo again with the Queen, even for my initial rejection of you at Bandomeer. You would think an old man like me would learn from his mistakes eventually, but I guess I probably won't. I'm sure I'll do something else some day to hurt you again, too, but I'm going to try very, very hard to do better from now on, if you give me the chance to.

"But please, Obi-Wan, my love, my beloved, no matter what I say, no matter how I hurt you, know that I love you now and I will love you forever. Nothing I say can change that. Nothing you do, even if you leave, even if you request another Master, which is in your rights, none of that can change how I feel..."

Now we're both sobbing, and I'm trying to get a word in edgewise and I don't even know what it is, and you're shifting to sit on the floor and pulling me down on to your lap and just holding me and I know I'm home. I'm home.

Methos is gone when I finally go to look for him. Qui-Gon has returned to our ships to prepare for our return home. We can't leave one of them behind, nor do we wish to be separated during our journey back to the Temple. He promises to work something out and I'm sure he will. My Master is a very resourceful man, given proper inspiration. There is something yet to do before I leave.

I follow the new-broken path through the snow and down to the beach, where tiny fishing boats are upturned for the winter wait. I must step carefully along the icy shoreline, be careful not to slip and fall upon the slick, wet rocks strewn about. Methos is standing down by the waterline, watching the waves break, giving me all the space I need, to do what I must to do. That is done now. This is done now. All except one word.

I stop and look at him, all alone in his winter whites. That spiky black hair is being molested by the sea breezes, making him look like the wild sprite I have come to call him. As I watch, he begins to move and I am transfixed by what I see. He steps forward, then back, arms coming up into a most familiar Form, twisting himself through leaps, immobilizing his body to block, surefooted and confident, even on this treacherous ground. His boots kiss the stones like dancing shoes.

His movements are not perfect, for he can not touch the Force, bring extension and line to completion, nor does he wield a lightsaber in the parry and strike. Instead, he moves a sword about him, floating it through the salty air, as confident and easy with its weight as I am with the near-weightlessness of my energy blade. Without a word I step in beside him, power my 'saber and join the Form at his side. I am not perfect in this form, either. It is an art made for and by a taller man and I choose not to reinforce my technique beyond what my body can do on its own. The sweep and glide of defense, attack, rest and movement take us far down the beach, away from the boats and breakers. When finally our dissimilar blades rest in the final position, I turn to him. "Where did you learn my Master's Form?" I demand.

"From your Master, of course," and that devilish smirk is back. He quickly puts it away. "There was a time when he, too, needed the cleansing fire."

I look out over the ocean, up the shoreline. From here I can still make out the cliffs Yoda had recommended to me. "Xanatos?" I ask.

I don't need to look to know he has nodded. His hand falls on my shoulder. His sword has apparently disappeared and I wonder at his magic. Then his long arms slip down around me, bringing his strong body up against mine once more. One last time he holds me. I keep my eyes on the cliffs.

"I'm glad you didn't go back up there," he says. "The ones who do, well, they usually don't need their ships again."

I shrug. "So you really do keep a jump watch out here?"

I feel his nod against my hair. "Very few go up twice, that ever breathe the air again. Your Master was not a strong swimmer. Luckily, I am."

I twist around in his arms, meet his eyes and know the truth of what he says. After a long moment, I tuck my head down on his shoulder and accept what he has entrusted to me. After a long moment, he steps back, holding me at arm's length, as he has not done since I arrived. "Take care of him, Jedi. You've both had too much pain to bear. Be comfort and pleasure to one another."

I nod dumbly, not knowing how to thank him for all he has done and given me.

"Send me some beer, if you think of me again," he smiles. "I'm not the sort of man who can have too much."

I nod again, and in my heart promise to do at least that, if not more. Finally, there is only one thing to say to him, to my Malkavian, my deamon lover, Methos, and that is what I came to tell him anyway. So I say it, hands clenched tight around his, remembering the cold, remembering the cliffs, remembering the fire. "Goodbye."

He takes his hands back and tucks them in his pockets, turns from me and walks away down the beach. To my eyes he looks timeless, as if this could be any stretch of beach on any world, at any point in history. I hope, when the universe is crumbling and the saviors of the world are in need of good council, one like him will be there to save men from themselves. Force will it shall be so. I raise my hand in salute, though he can not see me. Goodbye, Methos.

May the Force be with you.