The Jedi Temple Murders

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Darkness cloaks many things, hides secrets and blurs the line between imagination and reality. Shadows can seem strangers, stretching and snapping into forms and shapes that only the mind can make threatening. I feel most at home at night. Empowered by the illusions of nighttime.

He is sleeping. Most everyone is now. The double moons are down, lending the texture of pure, smooth onyx to the air. I can feel the errant mind of a temple guard here and there, nervous, watchful. They have been warned there is a monster on the grounds. I smile to myself at the thought.

He is restless. Perhaps anxious after the sharp exchange of words earlier with his 'friend'. My fingers quake slightly in anticipation as I stretch myself out to him, tugging gently and inexorably on his mind, twisting in amongst his thoughts. His disquiet is helpful to me, making it easier to lure him, to move his sleep-leadened limbs. To bring him to me.

The waters of the pool are quiet, glittering only faintly with the light of the massive city that stretches across the planet's surface. Light that even the size of the Jedi Temple Compound cannot keep out. I wait silently in the shadows at the end of the wide oblong swimming area, stilling myself, calming my rattling heart. I can hardly wait.

When he appears at the edge of the pool area, cloaked in shadows, lit faintly from the pale-washed night sky, I let myself smile.

It was happening again. He could feel those hands on him, bruising, twisting. The horrible pain at his temple where a cruel hand had wrapped itself around his braid, yanking his head back, exposing his throat. Fingers sliding up his neck, burning into his flesh with their intentions. Harsh, hot breath on the side of his tear-dampened cheek, and the searing agony between his legs....

He woke with a gasp, trembling like a leaf, drenched in sweat. Almost without thinking, he folded his shaking frame upon itself, wrapping his arms around upraised knees and bowing his head, rocking gently and trying to calm himself. His body burned all over, as if he had just been there. Just been....

He hadn't had that dream in almost 9 months. He'd thought he'd banished it. The sensations still stroked up and down his skin like pale, rotting fingertips. Green eyes, dark hair, laughing mouth....body falling, swallowed by white foam, pounded mercilessly under the surface by thousands of tons of falling water.

Obi Wan stifled a sob and pressed his eye sockets against his knees hard enough that starbursts of light strobed behind closed lids. It was Sandor's death that had resurrected that hated nightmare. And the argument with Bacco hadn't helped.

Grimacing to himself, he wiped at his wet eyes almost angrily, swinging his legs off the bed and letting his eyes drift around the moonlit room.

He paused for a long moment, listening, straining to see if his nightmare had woken his Master in the next room. He heard nothing but the slow, heavy sound of Qui Gon's breathing coming faintly through the thin wall.

Qui Gon. Swallowing, he let himself press his cheek against the cool sheetrock, one hand flat against the slightly textured surface, his eyes closed. He imagined that he could feel his Master's calming presence through the barrier and he suddenly wished with all his heart that he was young enough to have an excuse to climb into bed with that tall, strong body. To let those arms curl around him and comfort him, to feel lips in his hair and on his face, kissing away the pain that pounded so ruthlessly in his heart.

He had never been able to do that. By the time he'd been taken as apprentice, he was already too old to show such weakness. His few nightmares had been trials he'd borne alone. After last year, they'd been more violent, more frequent, but he'd kept them secret from Qui Gon, knowing that if his Master knew, he would delve deeper and see. See everything.

He pushed away from the wall then, forcing himself to cease wandering down paths that could never be. There was no way that Qui Gon could ever find out. Not about Geen and not about his secret fantasies. His face colored slightly at the very thought. His hidden desire was not something he wanted out in the light. He would be taken from his Master, or, even worse, Qui Gon would simply be disgusted.

He walked as far from the wall as possible, going instead to the window and looking out across the moonlit scape of the garden below. Swinging open the casement, he leaned out, taking a deep breath of the rain-cooled night air.

And then it hit him like a club to the back of the head.

Fear The sensation of water filling his lungs, his nose, strong hands at his throat, holding him down. Panic Mind-numbing, heart-pounding panic. Gasping, reeling slightly, he clutched at the sill and closed his eyes, thinking for a moment that it was merely a subset of his dream, a lingering strand of his own fear. But it was not.

It was Bacco.

He didn't even throw a shirt on. He simply grabbed his lightsaber and ran, barefoot and bare chested, through the deserted halls of the Temple. He forewent the lift, instead taking the stairs, flipping his body lithely over each turn in the stairwell. The panic was flooding his senses, aimed, he knew, at him. A burst of terrible, gagging, was hampering his own breathing, clutching at his heart with tight fingers.

And then it just stopped.

Almost sobbing, he flung open the doors into the main gardens, noting dimly that there were no Temple Guards on duty, bolting as fast as he could down the rain-wet gravel of the path, rounding the wide corner towards the pool....

Only to find a dark, underlit figure floating face down in the sapphire water, arms spread gently to each side, feet drifting softly along the bottom of the shallow end.

Bacco. The pool was crystal still, only a gentle slapping sound filled the silence, smooth ripples generated from the unmoving form lapping against the sides. Without breaking stride, he flung his lightsaber to one side and dove into the pool.

Oddly enough, as he dragged his friend's body to the steps of the shallow end, the only thing he could think of was the fact that the last words between them had been poisoned with fear and suspicion.

He sank to an upper step, turning Bacco face up, staring dazedly down into the empty face. Wide, sightless brown eyes met his....a complete lack of expression on a face so often vibrant with emotion. With a trembling hand, he brushed the thin lids closed, swallowing through a throat thick with guilt and grief. Obi Wan pulled the dark head into his lap, smoothing the sleek wet hair back from skin already turning bone white in death.

Bacco's right wrist floated on the surface away from his body, the dark stain of the tattoo burning in Obi Wan's line of sight like a mark of death. There were only two of them left now. Who was doing this? Was he next? Or Elspeth?

The sound of a shout startled him and he jerked his head up to see two stunned Temple Guards standing at the opposite end of the pool, their hands dropping to their weapons.

Obi Wan frowned at them, opening his mouth to ask for some help getting his friend from the pool, when Elspeth's shriek cut through the air.


"The boy will have to be tested, Qui Gon." Mace's deep, modulated tones echoed throughout the Moot Hall, seeming to mock Qui Gon's seething anger.

Qui Gon did not ask what Mace meant by 'tested'. He knew.

"I forbid it," Qui Gon stated, clamping his jaw around the words so hard that they were almost hissed between his teeth.

"Then you must do it yourself," was Mace's unequivocal reply. Master Windu seemed unruffled, unmoved. Qui Gon knew he would have better luck persuading a stone to turn to water than to change Mace's mind once he had decided on a course of action.

"I will not," Qui Gon argued, willing his voice to soften, loosening the muscles in his jaw. "My apprentice's word is good enough...."

"For you," Mace finished the thought. "Qui Gon, you cannot deny the evidence. Obi Wan was found with Bacco's dead body in his arms. He admits to being sexually involved with Sandor, and then there is the matter of the Padawan Elspeth. Her accusations are made under stress, but they cannot be ignored."

Qui Gon could almost believe he was sorry.

"Obi Wan is the prime suspect," Mace said. "And since his knowledge and control of the Force allows him to conceal his emotions and thoughts from us - a skill we taught him, by the way- for that reason this method is only used on Jedi."

"It's abominable," Qui Gon said, his arm unconsciously stealing around Obi Wan's shoulders, feeling the slight tremble there. "It's like asking him to give consent to his own rape. And asking me to allow it is...." Qui Gon broke off, unable to express how deeply he was outraged.

"He is innocent," he repeated.

"Deny that, we do not," Yoda spoke from his seated alcove. The other masters nodded their agreement, some murmuring assent.

"No?" Qui Gon said heatedly.

"For his own good, this is," Yoda said placidly. "Prove his innocence, it could. And what of Master Erdu?" The tiny Jedi gestured towards the bent, grieving form of Bacco's Master. "What of his need to know? Thought of that, have you?"

Qui Gon had no answer. He felt his resolve weakening under Yoda's calm reason.

"You must leave," Mace said.

Now that he would not do. "No." His eyes dared any of them to gainsay him.

Yoda signaled his acquiescence with a wave of his small, green hand. "Remain, you may. Right, it is, your wish to protect your padawan's mind. But.... do not interfere."

Mace nodded, satisfied. He took a deep breath and visibly composed himself. Qui Gon observed that Mace's eyes softened noticeably when he looked down at Obi Wan.

"Very well, then. Obi Wan Kenobi, clear your mind."

Mace folded his arms in his long sleeves and approached Obi Wan. The young man took an involuntary step back, suddenly more afraid of this than he had been of anything before in his short life, ever-- and found himself in his master's embrace.

"Easy," Qui Gon spoke lowly into his ear. "Calm. Be at peace. None shall harm you," Qui Gon looked over the top of Obi Wan's head to lock eyes with Mace. "I promise."

Obi Wan felt Qui Gon's solid mental assurance that his apprentice had nothing to hide, and was heartbroken afresh at the depth of his master's trust. However, he was not at all reassured. It was more than a shallow mind-touch Master Windu was proposing. What the Jedi Master wanted to do was probe his innermost self, a secret place that belonged to him alone, never before touched. He had thought never to share it, except perhaps with one other, and that was only in his fondest dreams.

Too, there were secrets there. Things he wanted no one to know, least of all Qui Gon Jinn. Obi Wan's eyes and posture and mind radiated his fear.

Mace sensed it and was unable to hide the flash of sad hurt that chased across his features. "I will not harm you, young padawan. What do you think me?"

Obi Wan cast his eyes to the floor, ashamed. "I know that, Master Windu."

"Then," Mace strove for a gentle tone. "Clear your thoughts and allow me to lead your mind to what I must see."

Obi Wan nodded, trying to swallow in a throat suddenly gone dry. He felt a tickle in his ear and reached up to scratch, only to realize that it was neither a tickle nor really there. More like an itch. And it wasn't on the outside. The maddening little itch was inside his brain. It was Mace Windu's probe.

Over, under, and around. Obi Wan closed his eyes, feeling the solidity- the realness - of Qui Gon arms around him as Mace sifted through his thoughts and memories like fingers through sand, discarding event after event in his life, milestones, achievements, great joys; all were cast aside. They were not what Mace was looking for.

Obi- Wan knew it was only the Master's efficiency and his way of being respectfully distant of what he was witnessing, but still it felt as if he'd been catalogued, processed, and ultimately labeled as worthless. Even the events of Bandomeer - the great turning ground of his life- were glanced at and ignored. He felt used and useless. Inconsequential. A niggling little worm in a vast, quiet hall full of greatness.

He heard a persistent, mourning sound in all that silence, and was mortified to realize he was crying.Qui Gon's arms tightened around his chest so hard he could barely draw air into his lungs. He was about to open his mouth to protest- Master I can't breathe!- when Mace found what he was looking for.

Obi Wan gave a silent cry of alarm and slammed down a mental shield that would have done Master Yoda proud. Mace, not to be thwarted, tentatively probed the shield, and found it to be made of adamantine will. Mace withdrew immediately.

"What are you concealing from me, Obi Wan?" he asked. The amicability of his voice was gone, replaced by cold distrust and disappointment.

Obi Wan struggled to speak, sniffling, knowing that his face was tear-streaked and his eyes red, knowing how it must seem. "It is nothing to do with the murders, Master Windu. You must believe me."

"I want to believe you, Obi Wan, but you are hiding something from me." Mace was deftly admonishing and fond at the same time. He was, in the Jedi manner, skillfully manipulating Obi Wan, and the worst part of it was that Obi Wan knew all that was being done to him.

Obi Wan shook his head. "I am, yes. But....please believe me! I would show you if I could. I would."

"I ask you, as a Master and as a fellow Jedi, to tell me what it is you feel you must hide."

"I'm sorry, Master Windu. I can't."

Mace's eyes went hard and flinty, marbled with regret. There was no trace of gentleness in him now as he chose the path he had to follow to the truth.

"I'm sorry too, Obi Wan."

Obi Wan felt Mace's probe returning with renewed force. Pushing. Pushing. In another moment he would have that shield down and the door open and his mind would spill out like sweets from a ripped bag, exposing his soul to be picked clean like gulls through garbage. It was all walled up behind that shield; his nightmarish experience in the cave, Geen's love for him, his forbidden desire for --

No! I won't let you see that!

Unconsciously, his body twisted in pain against Qui Gon, his smaller hands gripping the arms that held him and tearing the skin with his nails. A small, helpless whimper escaped his throat, shaming him deeply, then a stronger cry of protest and pain as Mace pushed harder against his mind, battering his will, pulling down the wall, opening his secret self....

Oh gods, it is a rape, it is. Master, help me! Make him stop!

And then, quite suddenly, it was gone. Obi Wan opened his eyes to see Qui Gon's arm shoot out to physically shove Mace several feet back.

"I said ENOUGH!" Qui Gon thundered.

Through eyes puffed with tears, Obi Wan could almost see the Force-enhanced tension between the two Jedi, the blues wisps of energy leaking from their auras and pooling about their feet in clouded shadows. He felt weak and drained as he sagged in his master's arms.

Mace straightened and brushed his robes with his palms, recovering his dignity. Around the chamber came muttered coughs of unease and disapproval at Qui Gon's use of physical force, Yoda's among them.

"Your padawan leaves us with little choice, Master Jinn," Mace said.

"You're going to lock him up," Qui Gon said tightly.

"It's a Force-sealed room only, Qui Gon. Not a prison. He will not be mistreated."

"Like he has not been mistreated here!?" Qui Gon shouted. "You think he's guilty. You thought it the first day. You've got your mind twisted around his guilt and you won't consider anything else. I never thought you capable of such pettiness, Mace."

Mace shook his head sadly and turned away in grave rebuke. "You wrong me, Qui Gon Jinn. I would not harm your Padawan. You have no idea how much this pains me." Mace's eyes lingered on the distraught apprentice being supported by his master.

"Qui Gon." It was Master Yoda's voice, a note of firm reason reaching through his anger. "I, it was, that allowed this, should your apprentice prove to be concealing knowledge from us. Not Master Windu. Defy me in this, will you?"

Qui Gon hugged Obi Wan to him, briefly pressing his cheek to the soft hair at the crown of his head. His eyes closed on a spasm of grief. "No."

Through a fog of disbelief, Obi Wan heard Yoda signal to the Temple guards who were waiting at the door. Felt, in a daze, his Master releasing him. The guards caught him as he fell and bore him up between them. He managed one despairing glance at Qui Gon.

"Master," he whispered.

"Go with them, Obi Wan," Qui Gon said lowly. His broad shoulders were slumped in defeat, and he would not look at him.

He thinks I did it, Obi Wan thought. Devastation swept through him. "Master, I didn't.... I swear to you--"

"I said go!"

Obi Wan flinched, hearing the pain and anguish in his master's voice, believing it was because of his presumed guilt.

With nothing more to lose, Obi Wan Kenobi struggled to get his feet under him. He straightened, arching his spine proudly, and contemptuously shook off the guard clinging to his arm.

"I can walk," he said, unable to keep his voice from shaking, but taking satisfaction in his ability to stand and walk out of here with some shred of dignity. His eyes, still washed with unshed tears, raked the assembled masters.

"I didn't do it," he stated clearly. "I am innocent. Just because I won't let you fuck my mind doesn't make me a murderer."

He turned and strode from the Moot Hall, leaving the guards to hurry after him to direct him to his place of confinement. If he would have turned to look back, in that last instant before the great doors closed, Obi- Wan would have seen Qui Gon staring after him with a profound and bitter pride.

I said go! Go before I make them leave you here with me. Go before I do something I'll regret to keep you here.

Qui Gon had not said these things, but now he wished he had.

He had returned to his empty quarters and had tried to meditate, but had failed miserably. He had brewed tea, read a book, and tried to exercise. Nothing had drowned out the silence of the unoccupied room that gaped like a dark wound against the wall.

No less than two hours after sunset, he found himself unable to pretend any longer. There were things that Obi Wan was hiding from him, but one thing he was certain of was that his apprentice was scared and alone.

Although they had taken Obi Wan almost to the edge of the Jedi compound, Qui Gon needed no guide to find his apprentice. He pursued the trail by sense alone, by listening to his instinct and letting it set the direction, by following where it tugged him here, nudged him there, until after a prolonged distance, he came to the curved archway that entered into a long and narrow hall. Qui Gon peered into the gloom before him, his heart heavy. It was such a dark and lonely wing of the Temple. No place at all for his Padawan to be in his state of mind. He needed sunlight and air, and the company of those who cared about him.

What he had not needed was the assault upon his mind that Mace had perpetrated on him in the Moot Hall.

I allowed that, Qui Gon thought in shame. I let them do that to him, because I was so sure they would find nothing. Oh, Padawan what did you hide from them? From me?

There was no glimmer of doubt in him; Obi Wan had not killed his classmates. But there was something he was hiding, and - no matter what Obi Wan tearfully claimed in the Moot Hall - it did have something to do with the murders.

No, he corrected himself. With those that were murdered. Obi Wan is not concealing knowledge of the killer.

Qui Gon folded his arms in his sleeves and began traversing the distance to Obi Wan's cell, steeling himself for what he intended to do. When it was known, there would be hell to pay in the Council chambers.

He came to a sharp turn in the hall and was suddenly confronted by two Temple guards in black livery, the winged crest of the Jedi emblazoned on their shoulders. They were both young, and Qui Gon knew their names. They were Temple children who had failed to find a master before they grew too old to become Padawans, and now this was their vocation. Not every Force-sensitive who entered the Temple became a Jedi.

Obi Wan still occasionally gazed at these two with a mild pity in his eyes whenever they chanced to meet, perhaps remembering his own precarious state when he was younger, just nearing the age when the opportunity to become Jedi would pass him by forever. Pity, and a sort of hunted fear.

One of the guards lifted up her hand. "I'm sorry, Master Jinn, we have orders not to let -- "

Qui Gon waved his hand gently. "Those orders do not apply to me."

"But that doesn't apply to you," the young woman said dazedly. Her companion nodded his agreement vigorously.

"You've been working very hard guarding my Padawan for me," Qui Gon said. "Now you feel like taking a nap."

Both were already swaying on their feet, eyes drooping. Qui Gon took each of the young people by their hands and led them to the nearby wall, pushing down on their shoulders until they sat. They immediately leaned on each other and fell asleep, leaving Qui Gon free to go to the door and knock upon it softly.


"Master?" Obi Wan's response was immediate, distress sharp in his tone. He had obviously not been sleeping.

"I'm here, Obi Wan." Qui Gon put all the reassurance he could summon into his voice. "I will not leave you."

"Master...." Qui Gon sensed his apprentice laying his cheek to the cold surface of the door between them. "I didn't do it."

Qui Gon wanted to fling open the door and embrace his Padawan, to wipe the distress from that fair brow and assure him that he thought him no murderer. But he knew that if he did so it would alert those who were listening along the Force. They would believe his apprentice was escaping.

Qui Gon laid his hand on the wood where he thought Obi Wan's cheek might be. "I know, Obi Wan."

Suddenly, Qui Gon felt Obi Wan withdraw, away from the door. "Master, you shouldn't be here. Master Windu gave explicit instructions.... the guards --"

"Your guards are asleep, Padawan. Sloppy work, very negligent of them." Was that a snort he heard? Qui Gon smiled. "Are you alright Obi Wan? Have they questioned you again?" His hands clenched unconsciously into fists. "If Mace--"

"No, Master," Obi Wan was quick to supply. "I have not been asked anything further."

"Do you need anything?"

"I have all I that I require." There was a long pause, and then a note of shy uncertainty. "Are you alright?"

"All I lack is you." Qui Gon repressed a sigh as Obi Wan's flushed pleasure transferred itself to him though the Force. "Obi Wan, we all know there is something you're trying to hide from us. Even those of us who question what Elspeth accuses."

The whispered "Yes, master," was barely audible.

"It's something you don't want me or anyone to know, but I also know that you had nothing to do with harming any of the young Jedi. However, I think that at this moment I'm the only one who knows that."

Obi Wan was silent, but through the quiet Qui Gon felt his apprentice relent ever so slightly in his determination.

"Obi Wan," he pressed. "Don't you think it's time you told me what you've been carrying inside you? It's a heavy burden, whatever it is. Let me help you, Padawan. Please."

Qui Gon heard a scrabbling sound over his head. He glanced up and saw Obi Wan's pale fingers reaching to him through the small, squared ventilation grate. "Master?"

Wordless with relief, Qui Gon offered him his touch, and was surprised when Obi Wan gripped his fingers tight enough to bruise.

"It happened on Kithurrin," Obi Wan began. Qui Gon heard the tears begin, and a seed of dread began to bloom in his heart.

"Everything happened on Kithurrin...."

Perhaps more wide than tall, this particular waterfall was but one of many on the surface of the jungle world the Training Temple was situated on, just another place that the river poured down the massive dolomite shelves of rock on its way to the ocean. And so, while it was a place of magic and beauty to the 5 triumphant Padawans, it was just another waterfall on a planet full of them to everyone else. It was therefore completely deserted, even with its vague proximity to the Padawan Learner dorms.

It had been an idyllic afternoon, almost surreal in its beauty. They had purchased several bottles of the harsh Kithurr Ale and followed the directions of a local to the secluded spot. Birds and insects chorused in the late golden sun, nearly drowned out by laughter that was already well on its way to being a drunken revelry. Two whole days off before they would all head back to Coruscant.

"What?" Obi Wan gasped, trying to bite back a choked laugh as Geen passed the slender bottle of Kithurr Ale over to him, a mischievious glint in green eyes that he trusted not at all.

"I said, haven't you ever wanted to fuck your Master?" His friend wiped the back of his mouth, and bent his knees, dipping and bobbing down in the warm water so that he peered at Obi Wan from just above the surface, his dark braid floating on the top of the lagoon next to his pretty face, his teeth flashing white under the water as he grinned.

He couldn't prevent the deep flush that suffused his cheeks at the question and quickly lifted the bottle to his lips to keep Geen from seeing how the playful question affected him. He felt more than a little light-headed from all the alcohol they had already imbibed. It was a rarity, perhaps the only time since he'd been chosen as Qui Gon Jinn's Padawan Learner, that he had had this much to drink. That he had had this kind of liberty from the discipline of the Jedi Temple. It felt exhilarating and a little strange.

"Oh leave him alone," Elspeth admonished, her words sounding loud in his ear as she hung off his shoulder. She was the lightweigher splashing the others.

"Look at him, he's blushing!" Sandor chuckled, snatching the bottle from Obi Wan's fingers and swimming backwards with his prize clutched aloft. Geen was only smiling, his eyes never leaving Obi Wan's, his expression unreadable.

"I'm not blushing," Obi Wan protested, forcing a grin, "I'm just sunburned from our Trial."

Bringing up the Trial always distracted Sandor, and this time was no exception. His brown-haired friend threw back his head, raising the bottle as he howled out their triumph once more. Their team, the five of them, had passed the week long jungle-survival test with the best score that the Masters of Kithurrin Temple had ever seen. They had been given the two days off as a reward.

Geen was not as easily led. His best friend simply continued to stare at him with lidded green eyes, almost knowingly. There was something else in that gaze too. Something that was always there beneath Geen's easy-going, playful exterior. Something that seemed disquieting in a way that Obi Wan could never determine. Something terribly sad.

Bacco and Elspeth had taken their boisterous play to the side of the lagoon where they parked themself under a tree in the warm sand and cracked open a new bottle.

"You boys amuse yourselves!" Bacco called out across the water, saluting them with the new bottle. "I've got business with the little woman!" Another laughing shriek from Elspeth was the last thing that the remaining three got out of the couple.

Sandor snorted. He plugged the top of the bottle with his thumb and disappeared under the surface, coming up a moment later behind Geen. He twined his arms around his lover and whispered something in the younger man's ear. Something that made Geen grin. And then both of his friends' eyes were on him, and he could feel a heat sparking in his belly for no reason he could name.

And there was jealousy too. He and Geen had been close for a long time, but never as close as Geen was able to be with Sandor. Sandor, who slept with anything that walked upright and happened to have the right equipment. He didn't have time to analyze what Sandor had whispered to Geen, because a moment later Sandor was pressing the bottle into Geen's hand and peeling away like a fish in the water.

"I'm heading out to the waterfall." he stated, before he vanished with a splash and a kick.

"What did he say?" Obi Wan asked outright, his eyebrows arching. Geen grinned again, saying nothing, and he felt his temper, usually so even-keel, start to flare with impatience. It was that damned question about his Master. Did they know? Did they know that he spent most of his nights jerking at his stiff penis under the thin sheets of his cot, fantasizing that it was his Master's hands on his body, his Master's mouth on his cock....that his desire for those dreams to become reality was growing almost daily? He had never even been with a man in that way, and yet somehow, it was these fantasies that occupied his mind.

Geen seemed to be able to read his temperament easily. He always had. His friend found his feet on the sandy bottom and finally stood up, water sleeking away from his chest and shoulders, his dark hair nearly black with the wet. He took the last swig from the bottle, emptying it into his mouth, and then cast it aside into the lagoon with a small splash, moving the few short feet towards his friend.

Obi Wan had been expecting any number of different things. A joke, a push, a splash of water in his face....even a word or two. What he hadn't expected was the kiss. Geen pressed those perfect lips to his and Obi Wan felt the burn of the Kithurr Ale bleed into his mouth with the invasion of an agile tongue.

It was nothing like anything he'd ever experienced with a woman. Geen's mouth was hard on his, aggressive in a way that tripped his heart. Not teasing, but deliberately arousing. It shook him to his bones and sent a strong shock-wave of pure need straight into his groin. He swallowed the alcohol, adding to the trembling buzz that already lent a tingling warmth to his body, and he let his own tongue take up a languid dance with the other's almost naturally.

There were hands on his waist, not roving, only lightly stroking his flesh along the inside of the waistband of his trunks. Long and long it went, until Obi Wan was sure his insides had turned to liquid and he would no longer be able to stand upright in the lapping warmth of the lagoon.

It was Sandor's voice that broke them apart. A yell from the waterfall, strained and faint against the roar of the water.

"Hey guys! Come and see this! It's a cave!"

The two of them stood there, staring at each other for a long moment, Obi Wan shocked and flushed with the sudden, intense surge of arousal - and Geen with a blazing need mixed with something else. Something that he had lowered the veil on.

He loved Obi Wan.

It stunned him to the core, deep down, and it inspired a terrible sadness in him. A sadness it was impossible to hide and that he knew his friend could feel.

"I know," Geen whispered, reaching up to touch Obi Wan's cheek lightly with a small accepting nod. "I know you can never return it. I know who your heart belongs to."

It almost brought tears to his eyes. Not that his secret was somehow known by his friend, but that the reality of it would cause Geen so much pain. He knew how it felt to love what you could never have.

Obi Wan brought one of Geen's hands up off his own waist and kissed the inside of his wrist where the newly inscribed tattoo, a match to his own, branded the ivory skin.

"I'm sorry," he breathed, the pain visible in his eyes.

"I know you are." He grinned, leaning forward to kiss him again. Obi Wan kissed him back, his hands sliding up the wet arms to cup Geen's face. It wasn't fair, he thought. None of it. There was no way that Qui Gon would ever be able to return his love, the same way that Obi Wan would never be able to return Geen's. It would have been so much easier to simply love this sweet, beautiful man. So much easier.

Elspeth and Bacco swam past them, Bacco staring a little curiously at them.

"Come on, you two. A cave!" he called out.

"What did Sandor say to you?" Obi Wan asked as they broke away from each other and moved to follow in the wake of their friends. Geen chuckled.

"He told me to just kiss you already."

Obi Wan laughed.

"Do you always do what Sandor says?"

"I do if I ever want to have any peace. Besides, it seemed like a good thing to do." Geen slanted a shy glance at him suddenly, an expression strangely out of place on his usually confident face. "Was it, Obi?"

Obi Wan let an honest grin spread across his face as another wave of heat swept through his body. He thought he knew what they would be doing tonight.

"Oh, yes."

The cell was cold and dark, the walls featureless and somehow oppressive when he opened his eyes. He could feel his Master's warm fingers entwined with his, grounding him, keeping him from losing himself in the past. For a moment there he almost felt the warmth of the tropical sun, the silk of the warm water on his skin, the beauty of Geen's green eyes sparkling with the reflections of the lagoon.

It was hard to recount it, but it was made even more painful by the fact that he had to carefully edit the tale to protect his secret. He made no mention of Geen's unrequited love, not wanting to put himself into the position of explaining why he could never love Geen.

"The Cave?" his master's deep, beautiful voice prompted him through the door and he realized that he had stopped talking. He swallowed and went on. It was starting to get harder to bring the memories forth. He tightened his fingers around Qui Gon's, oddly comforted to feel them squeeze back.

The Cave. Right.

Water dripped from every rock surface, painting the interior with a glistening light, green moss spongy and sopped with moisture under their bare feet as they walked into the deep cavern. Water roared and echoed in the deceptively large space, curtaining the entrance with a sheet of white, falling fury. How Sandor had found the thing was a mystery. It was almost 100 feet up and behind the fall, invisible unless you stood in just the right spot.

"It's beautiful," Elspeth breathed as they walked deeper inside. It was. And it was a cool refuge from the tropical heat outside. There were scattered pools of collected water glistening like emeralds in the deep moss and there was a chorus of musical drips chiming an unceasing melody as they splashed down.

Bacco had brought the last bottle of Ale with him and he cracked the seal as they sat near the largest interior pool, watching several tiny, silver fish dart in and out of the shadows.

Obi Wan tilted his head back and swallowed a large mouthful of Ale, letting the burn stoke the simmering heat that had been started by Geen's kiss. He was almost afraid to look at his friend lest his half-hard penis spring to full life in front of the others.

Not like they would mind. El and Bacco were already going back to what they'd been doing before they'd been summoned to Sandor's find - making out against the wall, El's feet dangling in a crystal pool of gathered water.

"You never answered the question about whether you wanted to fuck your Master, Obi," Sandor grinned, not willing to give up on teasing the younger Padawan. Obi Wan fought a surge of annoyance back. It was Geen who came to his rescue this time.

"What about you, Sandor? You want to do the deed with yours?" The brown-haired youth choked on the mouthful of Ale at the question, his eyes watering as he hacked the burning liquid down the wrong tube.

Obi Wan and Geen laughed at his reaction. Master Conn was a very old woman. Almost 200 years old. Ancient for a human. She was as tiny and venerable as Master Yoda, paper thin and brittle as a bird.

It was enough to distract Sandor from his teasing and to break Obi Wan of his frustrated irritation. They all laughed for a long time, passing the bottle around and cracking jokes again and again as the sun sank lower in the sky.

It was only once the shadows lengthened and the light grew dimmer that Obi Wan began to notice that there was something about the cave. Something strange. He didn't know if it was the alcohol or his rather anxious state of arousal, but there seemed to be an energy thrumming in the very rocks, setting the air itself to sparking with energy.

"You feel that?" Geen asked no one in particular, his fair brow crinkling slightly as he took another swig of the ale and passed the bottle to Sandor. Obi Wan nodded, sending out a curious tendril into the Force, trying to discover the nature of it.

"Something..." Sandor said. None of them were distressed by it. It seemed benign enough, and they had all run into places and objects that seemed to be soaked in power. It seemed the nature of the Force to collect in certain areas, much like water collected in natural hollows.

"Check that out...." Geen breathed suddenly, his lips thinning as he stared at Elspeth and Bacco. Both the other Padawans turned to look, their eyes widening. The energy seemed to be intensifying around the pair as they kissed and stroked each other. It was almost visible now. The force-blind might see nothing, but the three young men could almost make out a shimmering in the air itself.

Obi Wan had never seen anything like it, and he could tell his friends hadn't either. Bacco and Elspeth seemed oblivious. If anything, they were becoming more heated, less conscious of privacy. Bacco's hand had found its way underneath her swimclothes and she had freed his erection, stroking it upwards in her small, pale green hand. Both were panting softly against each others' mouths.

The effect of their rapidly growing passion was not lost on any of the three young men.

It was, of course, Sandor who gave in to it first.

"By The Force!' he whispered suddenly, "Open yourself to it." His face was becoming flushed, his eyes half-lidded. "Its....incredible."

In retrospect, perhaps he should have been more cautious. They all should have. But they didn't know. How could any of them have known? They were out of the heat, cradled in soft moss, pleasantly drunk, horny....and they were young.

Obi Wan could never have said who moved first, but Geen's mouth was finally on his and there were two sets of hands on his body, stroking the skin of his back and sides, cupping his ass and pinching his nipples. He felt his trucks gently tugged off, his already hard penis bobbing as it was freed.

Geen kissed a trailing path down his chest, making a straight line for the nest of light curls at his groin. He stopped at Obi Wan's navel, dipping his tongue in to taste the moisture gathered there. Sandor held his arms firmly but gently from behind, nibbling now on one white shoulder as Geen tortured him from the front. Gasping, Obi Wan looked down, seeing the top of Geen's head, black hair wet and sleek as a seal, descending on him hungrily.

Obi Wan could not repress a startled moan as Geen opened his mouth and took just the very tip of his hardened member inside him, lips firmly closing on him and sucking. Sandor took the opportunity to slide his hands around Obi Wan's chest and pinch and stroke his nipples, creating a circuit of contact that seized his nerves like a current of electricity.

He arched his hips, thrusting them outward, his meaning implicit to Geen, who chuckled softly and drew back to blow softly on the head of Obi Wan's cock, hot green eyes smiling up at him mischievously. He was begging silently and Geen obliged him by reaching up and cupping the tight, heavy balls in his hand, fondling him gently, a slick finger sliding back to tease in places Obi Wan had never imagined could feel so good.

Kneeling on the mossy ground of the cave, with Sandor tonguing Obi Wan's ear as he rubbed his own stiff erection against the rounded buttocks before him, Geen grinned up at the young man captured between the two of them as he probed and teased and waited for Obi Wan to beg.

It didn't take long.

Pleading, Obi Wan spread his legs wider and let his head loll back as Sandor suckled his neck and Geen thrust the tip of a finger into him experimentally. Obi Wan gave a small, shocked cry, and Sandor deftly moved his ankles apart with his feet, angling to rub himself between the cleft of Obi Wan's ass as Geen again took him in his mouth. Sandor moved one hand off his hip to pinch and stroke his chest and nipples.

Obi Wan began to thrash between his tormentors, mouth round and gasping for air, instinctively reaching out with the Force to draw the strange energy of the cave more fully around them, drunk on how it seemed to amplify every sensation and feeling.

They fell into the trap so easily. It was normal that they would seek to use the unknown energy as they normally did with the Force itself, their young bodies trembling in the throes of new and intense experiences. Obi Wan using it to support him as he leaned back against Sandor, and Geen using it to relieve the pressure on his knees on the rocky ground. All of them drawing at it greedily to enhance their pleasure.

And it was growing and growing and growing.

Sandor's cock slid in and up, filling him, stretching him painfully. The energy fed off the pain, increasing it even as it made the sensation of Geen's tongue and teeth on his own erection intensify. He thrust almost roughly into his friend's mouth as Sandor clutched his hips, bending him over slightly and moaning against the damp flesh of his back.

Up and up they urged their pleasure, riding wave after wave, feeling it could only increase exponentially into infinitum. But their very earthly bodies could not handle such a weighty concept. The end had to come, Sandor actually passing out with the sheer magnitude of an orgasm amplified to 10 times its normal intensity.

And they collapsed together in a limp heap, slipping off into sleep effortlessly and with no thought that night had fallen and they were still in the cave.

It was the next part that he truly balked at.

He could speak of the sex almost easily. It had been unreal, as if it had happened to someone else. He could not even remember the actual sensation of Geen's mouth on him, nor of Sandor's cock between his legs. It was as if he were reading a sex scene in a book. He knew exactly what had happened, but it was as if the entity, or whatever they had awoken and fed in that cave had feasted not only on their sexual energy, but on their memories as well.

But he remembered what came next all too well. He had been fully, shamefully, wide awake.

A tear slipped down his cheek and he scrubbed at it angrily with his free hand. He had been crying entirely too much lately. But the tears would not stop.

He missed Geen.

And he still wanted Qui Gon.

The light of the rising sun was lighting the cave in a peach hue when he woke from a deep sleep straight into a thick, tingling daze. Tired. Sore. He found he could barely move his limbs he was so weak. It took the feeling of skin under his cheek to help him remember what had happened. Blinking and looking upwards, he saw the sleeping face of Sandor, mouth open, shadows painted under his eyes, skin pale as whey.

The sound of stones rattling echoed in the cavern, standing out from the din of the roaring waterfall. He was lying alone with Sandor, curled against the taller boy's body, still naked. El and Bacco were gone, and he vaguely remembered them leaving the cave at some point during the.... he blushed as he recalled exactly what had happened and he looked back down at Sandor abruptly, as if proving to himself that he was awake.

And Geen was nowhere to be seen.

Swallowing, he sat up with a little groan as muscles that he'd never used quite so vigorously before suddenly protested painfully. There was something stirring in his stomach, something that told him to be afraid. Perhaps it was Sandor's pallor, or the fact that everything had happened the night before had seemed out of his control. He wrapped his arms around himself, suddenly cold in the dawn air. There was nothing to wrap around himself but his still-damp, long discarded trunks. Sandor himself seemed to be giving off little heat, his long body chill and pale.

And then It touched him. Brushing his mind, testing him. He almost cried out with the sheer helplessness the thing instilled in him as long tendrils sank into his consciousness, scraping ruthlessly through his blood, searching for something. His fingers curled into claws as his body went rigid. It held him tightly with no effort on its part and then, suddenly, it was gone. He crumpled to the damp moss, sobbing with the terror that had filled him. What was that? Why had it felt familiar?

And where had it gone?

"Geen?" he called out harshly, fighting back tremors. He had no doubt now that they were all in terrible danger. Whatever had touched him had let him go, he had not fought it off. And it was the Dark Side, however it might have manifested itself. That much he was certain of. His mind was spinning with fear and verging on panic. It was strong, and he was starting to think it had used them all the night before.

He felt sick and tainted as he pushed himself up to his wobbly feet.

"Geen?!" His voice rose a decibel or two, and he didn't care that he sounded panicked. This was way over their heads. They had to get out. At least El and Bacco seemed to have already gotten out. He nudged Sandor with his foot as he scanned the dim interior for his best friend. Sandor did not move. He swallowed and kicked him again, harder. "Sandor, wake up!" he hissed. Nothing.

"You were calling for me, Obi?" The words seemed silky, insinuating.

Geen stood at the entrance of the cave, his body silhouetted against the carmine dawn. And there was something unbalanced in his voice, his carriage, that set Obi Wan's blood running cold. He swallowed again, the hollow click of his throat lost in the unceasing roar of the waterfall.

"We have to get out of here, Geen. There's something in here with us, and Sandor won't wake up." Was that his voice that quavered so? He nudged his sleeping friend a third time, more anxiously now.

Geen chuckled softly and sauntered towards him, his feet splashing though the shallow mossy pools. He was still nude.

"No. He won't. He already had his turn." Obi Wan could see Geen's face now, the closer that he got, and it only served to set his panic up a few more notches. It was Geen, but there was something hard in his face. Something terrible.

"Wh-what do you mean?" Obi Wan asked, backing away instinctively from the youth he had trusted almost as much as he trusted his Master. Geen did not stop advancing and Obi Wan stumbled weakly, his drained limbs still made of loose putty as he retreated still more. He could see with an almost sick horror that his friend's penis was hardening as he moved closer.

"I mean that it's my turn to have you now."

Qui Gon gasped, his eyes closing at his apprentice's words. "A Dark Energy cave? I've heard of such places," he got out, his voice a bare whisper.

"I didn't know what it was Master, but it wasn't my friend. I mean, it was. It was still Geen, but he was different." Obi Wan's fingers twisted and curled around his. "I tried to fight him, master, but he was so much stronger than me. We were.... close, Geen and I. I knew his strengths, but I was so weak. I think It had drained us the night before...."

Qui Gon nodded sadly, ignoring the barb of jealousy that pierced him when Obi Wan said Geen's name with that inflection.

"It was a foe beyond any of you. There was nothing you could have done. There are places here and there that collect Force-energy.... and sometimes strong emotions can give it substance. It becomes almost a living thing. Pure hunger, forcing things like love, hate, fear, pain....things for it to feed off of. To become stronger. These ...things.... tend to manifest in times of war, or passion." He swallowed again, his voice trying to attain a cool, distance lecturing tone, and failing. "There hasn't been record of one in hundreds of years." There was an icy cold knot in his heart as he tried not to think of his Padawan in that cave, facing such a manifestation. Facing it in his own friend. Alone.

He didn't want to hear the rest of the story. He wanted to shut his ears and pretend that it had never happened, that he didn't already know what Obi Wan was going to tell him next.

But he stayed. And he listened. It was all he could do.

Obi Wan fell hard on his back, scraping one shoulder-blade raw, his breath exiting his lungs in a rush.

"Come on, Obi," his friend grinned down at him slyly, a strange mockery of Geen's usual playful smirk, "You wanted it before when I was sucking your cock. Why are you running from me now?"

Even through his horror and fear, he could tell that part of Geen wanted him to run, to be afraid, but he could do nothing else. His limbs would not work properly, and Geen seemed to be moving with an almost uncanny speed and agility.

Obi Wan scrabbled back, crablike, gasping, shouting out involuntarily when his attacker's hand clamped around his ankle and dragged him effortlessly back.

"You want to play rough? Is that what you like?" The words were intoned as if Geen had memorized lines, as if he were aping someone else's voice. "Beautiful boy, you know you want me. Everyone wants me." Why did the last words sound so sharp, so self-deprecating?

Both hands had his ankles now, spreading his legs wide as he was pulled through the soaked moss towards the man who was his best friend. The fingers were tight enough to bruise, but he barely felt it. He stretched out with the force, not caring that he was acting in panic and fear, and found the nearest rock to hurl with his mind. He was barely able to lift it at all.

Geen didn't even notice his pathetic attempts, fixated as he was on the young man lying helplessly below him.

"Geen...." he gasped, his voice trembling as hard as his limbs, "what are you doing? Why-?"

"Shhhh. No talking now. You know I love you, don't you?"

The words tore into Obi Wan, a cruel mirror of the same feelings revealed in the lagoon... but with a foul taint to them now. A hand came down and took hold of Obi Wan's braid, yanking it painfully forward until he sat upright, his mouth even with Geen's straining erection. Swallowing, he looked up at his friend's face in the growing light and then gave a weak cry when hard fingers suddenly dug into the pressure points at the joint of his jaw, forcing his mouth open. Before he could plead once more, the hot, hard shaft was thrust into his mouth so deeply he gagged.

His hands came up to grasp at the forearms that held his head, fingers digging into the muscles as hard as he could, searching for nerves as he struggled futilely. Four deep thrusts were forced brutally down his throat before he found the tiny nerve bundles at the inner wrist, oddly in just the place they had gotten the tattoos that bound them all together as friends for life. The hands released his head with a snapped curse and for a moment, he was free.

Almost sobbing, he twisted to one side and began to crawl away as fast as he could, softly urging Sandor to wake up, praying for Bacco and El to return from wherever they had gone.

He made it perhaps two feet before Geen grabbed him by the legs and jerked him forward, capturing his limbs easily and pressing his face down into the moss as he wrenched his arms back.

Obi Wan squirmed and pled beneath the heavier body as it straddled his thighs and began to probe in the very same places where Geen had gently and ably teased him the night before. No tenderness now. His friend was growling softly with lust as Obi Wan's legs were spread forcefully apart. Obscenely enough, Geen was whispering a gross parody of reassurances as he positioned himself.

Hands dug under his hips and lifted him, spreading him, and then there was one stark, seemingly endless, moment of pain as the maddened youth opened him with one brutal thrust.

Obi Wan shrieked hoarsely as Geen lunged and slammed into him, grinding his body down onto the moss-covered floor of the cave, pressing his face into the moist vegetation, filling his senses with pain and the pungent odor of lichen. And he could feel that very agony siphoned from him along with each drop of terror and betrayal that his mind swam in. Geen only grew more violent in response.

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught movement. Sandor had awoken and he was staggering weakly towards his friends, reaching out to try and haul Geen off Obi Wan. It came as no surprise to young Kenobi when his friend suddenly went flying backwards as if an invisible fist had picked him up and hurled him into a wall. He didn't move.

Obi Wan closed his eyes and bit his lip to keep from screaming, trying not to listen to the deep crawling horror of his friend's false endearments between grunts.

Sandor made no second attempt, unconscious as he was. And it seemed to go on forever, until with a roar, Geen plunged into him one last time and spent himself inside Obi Wan's body. The pain was so intense that black dots swam before his eyes, and for a moment the nightmare faded as he skirted the edges of unconsciousness. Then Geen collapsed across Obi Wan's back, breathing heavily.

Obi Wan stirred, boneless from the assault and trembling violently. "Geen?" he whispered, his voice hoarse with tears and shame.

"Obi.... " Geen croaked. Obi Wan turned his head to look at his friend, seeing the barest bit of his classmate peering out at him from reddened, horrified eyes. "What did I....I wanted....I'm so sorry..." The last was a raw whisper, his friends face filled a self-loathing that was al reeked of obsessions and secrets and hidden shame. Of all that was warped and twisted. The by-products of the traumas that life brings. It was like looking into an evil reflection, a dark mirror of a self that you never wanted brought into the light.

Apparently, Geen knew it too, and Obi Wan could do nothing but weep in torn denial as Geen ran to the entrance of the cave and flung himself from the top of the cliff, his body vanishing into the pounding foam.

Qui Gon's fingers had gone numb from Obi Wan's desperate grip. He closed his eyes and listened to the sound of Obi Wan's grief pouring through the barrier that separated them. He felt numb all over. Kithurrin had been the first time he had been apart from his Padawan since he had taken him as apprentice. He had twisted and turned each night for the full month that their shared quarters had remained silent, hating the thought that Obi Wan was not within arms reach.

He could remember now, when Obi Wan had returned from Kithurrin with the edited tale of Geen's suicide. He had taken the pallor and the silence to mean his Padawan was grieving, and indeed, he had been. But he'd also been....

Qui Gon eyes flew open. He found he could barely say the word in his mind, let alone speak of it with Obi Wan. That he had endured something so brutal. And from one of his own friends!

He took a deep breath and sternly reminded himself that Geen had been under an outside influence during the act, and thus not truly responsible. Even so, he found it shamefully hard to feel regret for Geen's death. The dark-side energy had to work off of existing emotions and hidden flaws. It was probably why it had skipped over his Padawan.

"Obi Wan," he said, "Let go of my hand." The fingers gripping his only tightened, slight panic trembling through the touch. Qui Gon sent soothing impulses to his Padawan through their bond. "I'm going to open the door, Obi Wan."

He quickly broadcast a loud telepathic summons to every master on the Council that must have clashed inside their skulls like a gong. Still, Qui Gon heard no protest raised, for they were all too focused on the unspoken words he had includved in his beckoning:

New evidence.

Obi Wan opened his eyes to see Mace Windu's earth-brown orbs staring down into his. Mace lowered his hands from their place on Obi Wan's temples and folded them in his sleeves. He nodded in quiet satisfaction. Obi Wan shivered from the newly reopened wound, but the second time had been far less painful than the first. Mace had known exactly where to strike, and had gone for the target unerringly. The rest of his psyche had been left virtually untouched.

And yet, only Qui Gon's comforting hand on his shoulder kept him from breaking down. He would have to work long and hard to overcome his resentment and fear of Master Windu. Which, he thought as he watched Mace Windu's impassive gaze rake him, might take some time.

"It is true," Mace's deep voice flowed out into the Moot Hall, echoed by the gasps of a dozen Jedi Masters.

"Dark Energy!" someone hissed. "Near one of our Training Temples!"

Yoda held up a gnarled green paw, calling for silence. "Inform the masters at Kithurrin," he ordered solemnly. "Close all training sessions, we must."

"Kithurrin should be sealed and off-limits to Jedi, until we can determine the extent of the danger," Mace added. "And the energy would have exited Geen's body at his death. We will need to discover if it found a new host. It could have been anyone who was on Kithurrin at the time."

The other Masters all nodded emphatically, some with fear in their eyes.

"You found no trace of it in Padawan Kenobi?" another Master spoke from the depths of the room. Obi Wan jolted slightly at the thought, his wide eyes going back to Mace as if bracing for another mental assault. He felt his Master's arms tighten around his shoulders protectively.

Mace did not move towards him, apparently already satisfied as he shook his head to the question, but the next words from the Jedi Master stunned him.

"Padawan Kenobi, you must report to the Healers, who will take you to off Coruscant to Aralin, there to recover from what has happened to you."

Mace did not see Yoda's sudden frown, nor the quick glances exchanged between the other masters at this presumption. He was occupied watching the apprentice's reactions, and Obi Wan could have sworn the resentment he saw mirrored in Master Windu's eyes smacked of jealousy.

Jealous of who? he wondered. Me? Obi Wan recalled with a sudden jolt that Master Windu's history with Qui Gon Jinn went much farther back than his own.

"I.... I can't leave," Obi Wan strove for words, drawing courage from Qui Gon's hand on his shoulder, which tightened convulsively. He turned to look up at him. "Don't make me leave, Master," he asked, striving to keep the pleading out of his voice, knowing he was failing. "Please don't," he implored.

Qui Gon shook his head slightly. "Of a certainty, no one will force you to leave," he said, his eyes on Mace. "I am your master. I will decide the course of treatment for your healing. It is my right."

"It would be the best thing for the boy to be sent away, Qui Gon," Mace's voice cut at him. "He will heal faster, and it would remove him from certain.... influences that perhaps are not wise for him to be experiencing at his age."

Obi Wan breath froze in his lungs as Mace locked a long hard gaze with his master. So Master Windu had seen it after all. He sent a quick prayer to all the Fates that the venerable master was not heartless enough to spill it to the Council right in front of Qui Gon.

No one could have missed the blazing look Qui Gon returned Mace's way, nor the cold anger that the raw insinuation raised in him.

"Influences," Qui Gon said flatly, uttering the word as a challenge. Obi Wan saw that Qui Gon fully comprehended the thrust of Mace's argument, but also knew all too well that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

Only Obi Wan knew just how innocent he was, how scrupulously ethical he had maintained his relationship with his padawan.

Ethical to the point of torture, Obi Wan thought. Master Windu must know this. Why does he persist?

"Explain yourself," Qui Gon demanded, his voice hard.

No! Obi Wan took a step forward, out of Qui Gon's touch. "Someone is killing my friends, Master Windu," Obi Wan protested. "I can't just run away."

"From all the indications, you might be next to be killed, Obi Wan," Mace said almost kindly, and Obi Wan felt his master stiffen behind him as that fear wound its way around his heart.

"Peace," Yoda tapped his cane on the floor for silence. "A old wound it is, that Kenobi bears, and unnecessary these measures."

"Master Yoda," Mace began.

"The padawan shall remain with his master," Yoda stated in a voice that would brook no opposition, and Mace fell silent, defeated and resentful.

Yoda turned to Obi Wan. "Your wounds have healed, young Kenobi. Left deep scars, they have."

Obi Wan bowed his head. That much was true. "Yes, Master Yoda."

"Talk we will," Yoda promised. "At another time. Now," Yoda rose, and the body of Jedi Masters with him. "Decide we must, our own actions to take." Silently, they filed out of the ancient hall. With a formidable final glance at Qui Gon, Mace left with them.

They were alone in the vastness of the Moot Hall.

Obi Wan was wondering what he could say to fill the void of fracturing silence left by the departed Council, when his master's regretful voice echoed quietly around him.

"There is still something you have not shown me, Obi Wan," he said softly. No pressure. Just a stated fact, with so much hurt concealed behind it.

He almost did it then. Master Windu knew. It was almost unfair now not to tell him, to reveal his secrets. All of them. In all their lurid glory.

And his mouth even opened, the confession on the tip of his tongue.

But he had only to look at his master, to see the trust and the respect that had not wavered, even as tested as it had been in the past day. He could not lay this last thing on shoulders that already shook with the strain of having him for an apprentice. Qui Gon deserved many things in his life, but having to deal with a lovestruck fool was not one of them. He had humiliated this man enough for one day.

So he only shook his head and pasted the best look of innocence on his fact that he could muster under the circumstances. The small pain his master felt now by his silence was a minor price to pay and far better than the only other option.

"Nothing important, Master." He said, his voice low with his shame. Qui Gon's eyes hardened and Obi Wan's heart nearly broke with the pain he read there at this latest lie. "I....I'm tired. May I return to our quarters now?" He couldn't stand up under the disappointment that he read in that beloved face. He couldn't even meet his Master's gaze.

"Go then."

Choking back sudden tears and fighting the urge to simply fall at his master's feet and tell him everything, every last sordid wish and fantasy, he turned and stumbled out of the Moot, down the wide steps....

....right into the wild-eyed form of Elspeth.

Her greenish face was pale and streaked with tears as she emerged from the shadows of a column, her entire posture radiating complete loss of control. Obi Wan gasped softly at the sight of blood dripping from her wrist. Not much, just enough to cover the area where a small blue tattoo might have sat at the junction of her forearm and her palm.

And she was clasping her lightsaber in one crimson-stained hand.

"El?" his voice was little more than a whisper in the face of the rage and hate that was painted on her normally sweet features.

"You bastard." her voice trembled unevenly, " I'm going to tell them. I'm going to tell them how you killed Geen. And Sandor....and Bac...." she trailed off into a gulping sob, lifting her lightsaber up with a buzz and a hum of energized motion. He didn't want to remind her that she had already told the council her suspicions. She wasn't lucid. But even through her obvious distress, the weapon was steady. He could read her intent clearly. Her need for revenge.

"I didn't...." he was shaking his head. Even after being exonerated by the Council, he couldn't dismiss the guilt that her accusations stirred up. He felt like an exposed wound. Reliving the rape, Geen's death.... lying to his Master; he was fully aware that he was crying yet again, tears streaking indiscriminately down his cheeks.

She took another step towards him, her eyes narrowing.

"You killed him. I knew he talked to you yesterday. I warned him. He didn't listen." Another step and Obi Wan could feel the heat of the blade on his skin. He made no move for his own weapon, instead standing still before her. Praying that she come to her senses before she killed him. He would take no action against her.

"No." It seemed all he could say. He was all out of words, all out of wits....all out of spirit. He was only defeated and broken. She lifted her saber as if to bring it down on him ....only to have the weapon wrenched from her grasp by an unseen hand and flung violently against the stone wall of the hallway.

Blinking, Obi Wan suddenly noticed that there were Temple guards surrounding the both of them, hemming Elspeth in, and his Master was half-running down the stairs of the Moot, robes flapping around his ankles.

He was empty. Empty of pride, of energy, of feeling. And like the broken shell he was, he simply crumpled to the stone flags beneath his feet.

Qui Gon was feeling more than a little shaky himself as he laid his apprentice into his bed, stripping the pale, slender body of clothing and pulling several blankets up to the tip of the cleft chin. After staring down at the still form for a moment, he collapsed into a chair next to the narrow bunk and closed his eyes.

He had never felt so exhausted in all his life. The emotional drain of the past days was starting to bleed away even the reserves of energy he maintained. There was a trembling starting up in his limbs that he refused to acknowledge. The horror of his Padawan's trial with Mace, his subsequent imprisonment and then....Force help him, the rape. How could the youth have never confided in him before? He thought he already knew the answer to that one. Though Obi Wan was normally the picture of self-confidence, the humiliation of a rape could not have been something he wanted to share with anyone, much less his Master. Geen's subsequent death and the blame that he must have felt from the suicide had likely not made it any easier.

One hand came up to rub at his face, noting the ragged texture of his rather unkempt beard and cheeks.

And what are you still hiding from me, my Padawan? It hurt. It hurt that he had given the boy his trust and unswerving support and there was still something that his apprentice did not trust him to share with.

He finally, finally, let his eyes slide over to where Obi Wan lay, pale and too thin, beneath the covers. Outside the window the sun lit a new set of incoming storm clouds in gold as it set. He let one finger stroke down the side of his Padawan's face, still remembering the utter look of defeat and despair he had seen painted there when Elspeth had come forward to cut him down with her lightsaber. There had been no doubt in his mind that Obi Wan would have let her kill him on the spot. He wondered if he might have left his heart back on the Moot Hall steps from seeing that tableau.

Obi Wan had had the look, not of someone who wanted to see it all end, but of someone who just didn't care if it did or not. It had been all he could do not to crush the youth in his arms as he'd carried him away from the hubbub surrounding the crazed Elspeth. Already there was talk that it was she who had killed both Sandor and Bacco. And though they could find no evidence of the murders in her memories as yet, her state of mind was not something that any Jedi could claim as stable, even her own master. No matter the excuses.

His finger found its way along the elegant jawline, tracing the lips almost unthinkingly before he realized what he was doing and pulled back. He tucked his traitorous hands under his armpits and returned to the safer passtime of just looking.

There had been a moment in the Moot earlier when he had thought that Obi Wan might have been ready to tell him whatever it was that he was hiding still. A moment that had passed. He wondered if his Padawan somehow thought he was protecting him. It would be very like him.

The sky was almost completely dark and he was having a hard time seeing the sleeping features of his apprentice, but he did not turn on a light. Instead he let himself stare, let himself drift and think and wait. He refused to imagine this slender youth, this boisterous, cheerful young man being raped. He wanted to gather him up and soothe his soul, stroke his hair, kiss his wounds. He wanted to erase all the memories on that skin of brutality or force.

But that was never going to happen.

A distant rumble of thunder rattled the open window casement. Obi Wan was whimpering softly in his sleep, his body shifting imperceptibly under the sheets. Qui Gon reached out and laid a gentle hand on his apprentice's forehead, trying to soothe the stirrings of nightmare. He could feel the dark dream gathering even as the storm outside did. His efforts were not helping, and Obi Wan twisted under his hand, sweat beading on his brow. Gritting his teeth, Qui Gon wondered how often this happened. How many times in the past year had his Padawan woken with a shout that his Master had not heard?

Another whimper, verging on a scream. A sound of such despair and helplessness that Qui Gon could not control himself. He leaned over the bed to wake his apprentice.

Obi Wan's entire body jumped under his touch and Qui Gon jerked back slightly as his Padawan suddenly flung himself upright with a gasp. He watched as Obi Wan took in his surroundings, the half light of the gathering night, the shadowed form of his Master sitting at his bedside....his own trembling hands.

And he began to sob in earnest. Right there, in front of his Master with no seeming care for his own pride.

It felt like someone had settled a clamp around his throat, it hurt so badly. He leaned forward and pulled Obi Wan into his arms, holding the trembling limbs against him, cradling the sweat-damp head under the shelf of his chin.

Qui Gon tried to remember how he had comforted Obi Wan as a child, what words he had used and in what tone, but the memories were few and dim. Obi Wan had been thirteen when he came to him as a Padawan, proud as only a very young man can be, and reluctant to show weakness. His seemed to have few fears back then, and even fewer nightmares.

Or at least, Qui Gon thought, if he did have them, he kept them to himself. That wounded him unaccountably, the idea that Obi Wan would endure pain and hide it from him out of simple pride. He always felt he had to be so strong, to be deserving of the title of Padawan, to be worthy of him.

He stroked the young man's hair, pushing the damp braid off a shaking shoulder, fingers tracing the curve of his ear as he whispered nonsense syllables. He rocked slightly, holding his apprentice in the shelter of his arms, feeling woefully inadequate.

At last, the tremors subsided and Obi Wan lay quiet in his arms, his face pressed against his robe.

"Obi Wan?" Qui Gon ventured, voice soft as silk in the darkness. "Can we talk now? Elspeth has been taken into custody. It's all over."

The young Jedi made a sound that may have been an affirmative. He sighed reflexively as he pulled away, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand. "Forgive me, Master."

"For crying?" Qui Gon asked gently. He heard the first raindrops begin to patter on the casement and roof, and suddenly the sharp scent of rain was in the room. He inhaled deeply, registering a sudden feeling of contentment. Despite all the trials behind and ahead of them, for the moment, just to be smelling the rain and holding this beautiful young man was enough.

Obi Wan shook his head. "For keeping so much from you. I.... I had to, Master. Please believe that. I truly did not think...."

He trailed off and Qui Gon's eyes narrowed. Did not think what? That he could trust his master with his secrets? That he would be disappointed in him?

"Did not think what, my Padawan?" he prompted. "There is yet something you've withheld from me."

Obi Wan nodded sadly, and Qui Gon's throat tightened as he saw the trapped look in his eyes.

"Yes. There is more. Master Windu.... I don't know why he didn't tell the Council. Pity, I suppose." He did not see Qui Gon's small start in reaction to his words. "I also suppose that's why he wants me to leave you now, not to recover, but to keep me from you."

"Obi Wan," Qui Gon sought for words, finding them difficult. Mace had seen something? He thought he knew what it was. Obi Wan had discovered that his own Master lusted after him and he didn't know how to bring it up. So many pitfalls to carefully skirt, such staggering depths to evade.

"We must trust each other," he said plainly. "Whatever this is, we will face it together. I promise you I will do what I can to help you."

Obi Wan cast his eyes down at his lap, where his hands twisted helplessly. He took a deep breath and looked up, then clasped Qui Gon's broad hand and brought it to his face. Obi Wan laid the callused palm against his cheek and closed his eyes.

"Look then," he whispered. "And don't hate me."

Qui Gon felt the very soft stubble of his Padawan's cheek under his hand, the warmth of his skin. The tendrils of the living Force that dwelled in his apprentice seeking him as they always did whenever they touched. He was glad Obi Wan had finally invited him in, but now that the moment had come, he discovered he was afraid.

What will I find? he thought. What could possibly destroy the confidence of such a self-possessed young Jedi? He prayed it wasn't what he thought it was.

Nothing to be gained from delay. Qui Gon steeled himself and sank his consciousness into the younger man's mind, feeling it part for him, giving way sweetly to his questing intellect. He looked, and found....


Qui Gon's mouth formed a soundless 'o' of astonishment and the breath went out of him in a shaking sigh. A hundred fantasies, all with him in a starring role. The irony was almost laughable.

Obi Wan behind him, kissing his neck as his hands worked their way down his flat stomach. Obi Wan lying on his bed, legs parted and head thrown back to revel in the feel of Qui Gon's lips on his chest, sucking hard on one pink nub and then the other, torturing him with pleasure.

Obi Wan kneeling before him and taking him hungrily into his mouth.

A furious blush crept up Qui Gon's neck as he absorbed the mental image of his Padawan on his knees, his own stiffened cock clasped firmly between his lips.

And then, bizarrely, after the erotic display, there was one image that was snatched away before he could see it.

Obi Wan, he pleaded tenderly, silently. Obi Wan, let me see....

Peeling the reluctant layers off the vision, like flower petals unfolding from a blossom, until Qui Gon was amazed.

This is your most cherished fantasy? It was almost tame.

"It's the one I had most as a child," Obi Wan opened his eyes and looked warily at Qui Gon.

The Jedi Master felt another blush, tinged with shame, flood his face with color at the word 'child'.

"Before I really knew what it was I wanted, I imagined us like that," Obi Wan went on doggedly. "Together, in your bed, laying side by side, with your hands on me, touching me."

"Of course," Obi Wan laughed nervously, trying to withdraw. "I didn't know exactly what you were touching or how that worked, I just.... knew. Even then."

Qui Gon slid his hands to the younger man's shoulders, unwilling to release him. Obi Wan looked amazed, and Qui Gon realized that he had expected his master to withdraw from him in dismay, banish him back to the Padawan dorms, or perhaps off Coruscant. At the least severely reprimand him. At the worst.... rejection.

But here they were, and Qui Gon was not pulling away. As if he could.

Qui Gon breathed as if he were fighting a war on the inside. He saw puzzlement flash across Obi Wan's fine features, and then a small seed of hope. He reached for Qui Gon's hand and pried it off his shoulder, then brought it again to his cheek, nuzzling it against him, watching the Jedi Master's eyes carefully.

Qui Gon held himself supremely still. Still not pulling away. Showing Obi Wan that he had no intention of retreating.

Qui Gon shuddered. His nerves felt tight as a bowstring. He would snap if that mouth came one inch closer....

Emboldened, Obi Wan turned the large hand that had been the center of so many of his fantasies and pressed a kiss to the palm.

His lips touched the lined skin of his master's hand, only to have that hand snatched away as Qui Gon hissed and drew him into a quick embrace, exactly as he had a thousand times before. Only this time he tipped the pointed chin softly up and looked down on him wonderingly.

They remained like that, Qui Gon drinking him with his eyes, warm breath tickling his lips.

Qui Gon stared fixedly at the young man in his arms, so near that he could smell the fresh scent of his hair, and those full lips, pink as a flower, the tongue darting out to moisten them, sharing the same breath....

So wonderfully made. So beautiful, he thought, and for once did not chide himself for it. So very beautiful, and so in love with me.

The truth humbled him to nothingness. Obi Wan was in love with him.

A thousand small incidences became clear. It had been so obvious. Why had he not seen it? Even now, Obi Wan was straining forward, mouth only a fraction of an inch from his, trembling, his eyes filling with tears. "Master.... please,"

Even faced with irrefutable evidence, he must be sure. He must be certain that it was not merely his aging, repressed longing and desire. There was that in Qui Gon which rejected all uncertainties.

"Yes, Obi Wan?" His mouth hovered above his. A dim flash of light illuminated his apprentice's pretty, upturned features for a split second. Thunder rumbled in the distance.

"Kiss me," Obi Wan begged raggedly. "Kiss me, please!"

But Qui Gon tore his eyes away from that willing mouth, shaking his head. Pulling away.

"No," he managed to get out. "No, Padawan. Not now. Not after what you've been through. It would not be fair to you."

Obi Wan groaned, dropping his head into his hands. "Fair?" he asked. "Fair? By the Force, Master, I'm going insane!"

"You're distraught," Qui Gon said lamely.

"Don't you want me?" Obi Wan burst out miserably.

"Want you?" Qui Gon echoed in a whisper. "Constantly."

Obi Wan looked up, his eyes wild. "Then how can you.... how can you...." His hands fanned the air abstractly, obscure gestures mirroring his emotional state.

Qui Gon closed his eyes, struggling for control. He inhaled deeply and let it out in slow, measured breaths. When he felt calmer, he opened his eyes and regarded his distressed apprentice.

"How can I resist?" he asked, smiling wryly at Obi Wan's disheartened expression. He touched the young man's cheek with the tips of his fingers. "It has not been easy, Padawan."

He took Obi Wan in his arms and held him, massaging his back, until he felt the tension ease slightly out of his muscles. Obi Wan managed a wan smile as Qui Gon pushed his shoulders down. He allowed the older man to pull the covers up to his chin and even suffered the platonic kiss to his temple and the commanding hand across his forehead, reinforcing the deep voice that ordered him down into sleep.

"Sleep," he said, feeling Obi Wan's consciousness quickly drift down into exhausted slumber. "And dream of only of beautiful things."

Obi Wan's mouth twitched even as he fell asleep, and Qui Gon's breath caught as the mental caress slid against his mind;

Then I'll be dreaming of you....

There were no forests left on Coruscant. There were, however, a great many gardens. Some majestic and imposing, some small and exquisite. One of the most beautiful of the small gardens was the Garden of Wings in the Jedi Temple, named so because of the cobalt-winged butterflies that inhabited it by the thousands.

Tonight, there were no butterflies. Only one Jedi master who knelt on the stone flags, his eyes closed, his hands posed in an attitude of reflection as the rain poured down from the black sky, plastering his hair to his skull and dripping from his beard.

Inwardly he was not composed. Not at all. Obi Wan wanted him. Wanted him, not as his master, not as a friend, but as a man. As a lover. He sat there, not in reflection or penance, but in almost abased gratitude. All of his deepest desires, wrapped in a sandy-haired, roughly Padawan-sized package, and no longer unattainable. A blazing star that was suddenly no longer too distant to reach for.

What have I done to deserve this?

He discarded the thought even as it was formed. Many die that deserve life, many live that deserve death, and in between were the billions of small imbalances that form a whole and somehow convince the universe to keep turning. He might not deserve it, but would not refuse this gift. Be damned if he would.

Qui Gon felt the corners of his mouth turning up into a smile he could not suppress. The rain had never felt so fine.

The gate latch clicked open and Qui Gon banished the smile. A familiar tread drew near.

The Jedi Master watched Mace Windu's approach from the corner of his eye, and the light streaming from the Temple was not so dim that he did not see the determined set of Mace's mouth, nor the angry glint in his eye.

"He told you, I suppose?" Mace asked, hands on his hips and feet splayed apart. He threw his hood back and let the rain pelt down on his head and neck.

"He did," Qui Gon intoned.

Mace made a frustrated sound. "I saw this coming long ago. The boy must be disabused of this infatuation with you. Immediately. Do you not see, now, how sending Obi Wan away would have been the best thing for him?"

"No, Mace. I do not see." He almost laughed out loud. Even Mace had seen it before him.

Mace stared, too shocked even to speak as his worst fears were confirmed. "You return his feelings," he accused. "You are in love with your Padawan!"

Qui Gon shrugged carelessly. "What of it? Obi Wan is ready for Knighthood. He is a man, capable of making his own decisions. It is not unknown for a newly-made Knight and his master to come together in this way. Few will be surprised."

"He is not a Knight yet!"

Qui Gon shrugged again, refusing to share Mace's concerns, knowing in his heart the rightness of his decision. "Near as makes no difference."

"Passion leads to--"

"The Dark Side, yes, I know," Qui Gon said impatiently, head snapping up to meet Mace's eyes for the first time. "But is love forbidden among the Jedi? You were always too concerned with who slept where and with whom and how often. Unnaturally so. Great is your influence upon the Jedi, Master Windu. If you had your will, the great Jedi Council would be reduced to nothing more than peeping old maids and suspicious voyeurs, peering into windows and taking names!"

Mace's jaw dropped, anger and hurt flashed across his dark features, and Qui Gon clamped his lips shut. For a moment he did not trust himself to speak.

"We live to serve," Qui Gon began in a more reasonable tone. "To keep the peace and protect the galaxy. Well, what good does that do if we forget what it is we're protecting? There has to be something to save the galaxy for. Like love. The Jedi should be examples of that love, Mace. Not statues."

Mace said not a word, only stood with his hands loose at his side, regarding Qui Gon with a fallen expression.

Qui Gon took a deep breath and stared at the rain streaming across the flagstones, refusing to feel guilty. Someone should have said this to Mace a long time ago he thought.

"I would ask that you withdraw, Master Windu," Qui Gon said formally. "This night is special to me." Yes, special. It's the last night I'll ever spend alone.

Mace's shoulders slumped further, and Qui Gon realized that his last thought had been heard.

"You will take him, then," Mace said dully. "Of course. I knew you would."

Qui Gon returned to his meditation as the gate snapped shut and Mace's heavy footfalls faded away.

A brass chime sent low, pealing tones throughout the sunlit garden as Obi Wan opened the gate to the Garden of Wings. The rain had stopped and the wind blew lazily through the tops of the short, broad yannun trees, their silver-backed green leaves scintillating with the breeze, colors alternating like a field of green wheat set in the sky.

He found his master deep in the secluded garden. Obi Wan had awakened in his room, thinking himself alone and fighting back a suddenly feeling of panic, but calming when he saw the Temple guard smiling at him from the doorway. Qui Gon had made sure he was protected while he slept. Then the warm mental caress had enfolded him.

In the gardens, Padawan.

For a moment he wondered if this were the dream his master had ordered him to have, if he were really awake and walking through the lovely garden. Muddy Green shoots of fragrant liliria with their lavender clusters released gentle scent into the air, attracting swirling blue clouds of butterflies that swarmed upon the flowers, feeding upon them. The scent was irresistible to them. Even against their will or in the presence of a clear danger, butterflies would flock to a lilirai bush. I know how those butterflies feel, Obi Wan thought as he followed Qui Gon's Force-signature to the center of the garden.

He found him kneeling in meditation under a latticed roof wherein golden dappled sun filtered down through the open squares. The sun had not yet burned away the evening rain, and every leaf was endowed with a diamond sparkle of moisture. The light was behind Qui Gon, haloing his damp hair in sparkling light, and as he rose and slowly slipped his arms around his apprentice's waist and drew him close with a reassuring smile, Obi Wan thought to himself that he had never seen anything so beautiful in all his life.

"Mas--" he began, only to feel Qui Gon fingers move swiftly to his lips, silencing him.

How long have you been here? he asked silently through their bond.

All night, since you went to sleep.

In the rain?!

Obi Wan saw his master smile at the tint of outrage in his mental voice.

"Do you think I'm too old to meditate all night in the rain, Padawan? Well, you're right. I'm too old for a lot of things, including waiting any longer to do this."

A cool breeze caressed his hair, teasing his padawan braid out from his collar and flipping it up to brush against his cheek. Qui Gon caught it in his hand and, closing his eyes, pressed a kiss to the plaited length. Obi Wan's eyes closed on a jolt of sharp desire, and before he could open them he felt the most wondrous thing.

Qui Gon was brushing his lips with his own. A dry, light kiss, barely making contact, yet sending sizzling lines of heat through his nerves. He groaned and his penis twitched as that heat seemed to flow down the length of him and center in his groin.

All this from a mere not-kiss. Good gods, at this rate sex with the man would kill him.

Sex. With Qui Gon.

Qui Gon's breath hitched in his lungs with a swiftly indrawn gasp, and Obi Wan realized that he had picked up his thoughts.

Obi Wan moaned again as Qui Gon bent his neck and increased the pressure on his lips, a true kiss, mouth firmly sealed against his, tongue stealing out to lick along his teeth, wandering bravely in for a deeper taste. He shuddered as Qui Gon abandoned all misgiving and crushed him to his body, form molding along his, pressing together, that hot tongue stabbing down into him.

He twisted and whimpered in the embrace as Qui Gon took his mouth, laying him open completely, arousing a trembling need in him so great that his knees threatened to collapse. At last Qui Gon pulled back.

Obi Wan stared at him fuzzily, lust hazing his vision, his throat tight. "Master?" he murmured.

Blue eyes, blue as the butterflies that flickered in his periphery, blazed hotly only inches away, filled with a hunger that made his bones weak. But Qui Gon made no further move towards him. Even though his hands tightened around his Padawan's shoulders, and he could feel the pounding of the other man's heart under his hands. The passion between them was almost palpable.

Qui Gon's lips parted slightly, as if he were going to speak. Obi Wan waited tautly, wondering if this was when his Master was going to come to his senses, if this was when this whole damn dream was going to come crashing down around his ears. He could not break eye contact and he could not move. He was caught in a limbo of anticipation. Waiting for his Master to move. To speak. Had there been a time that he hadn't wanted this so badly he could taste it?

Everything, every uncertainty, every fear. Sandor's body in the cistern, Bacco's body in the pool, Elspeth's accusations and Geen's body disappearing into the hammer of the falls.... it was all pounding in his veins, feeding the flood of emotion, drowning him. A trembling was starting up in him, a mix of panic and lust. Fear and need.

The longer that Qui Gon stared.

And suddenly he was being lifted, lifted up, hands curling under his ass, pressing the length of Obi Wan's torso against the flat muscles of the broad chest. There were lips at his throat, covering his pulse, sucking at the soft flesh there, sending ripples of sensation up and down his body. His legs came up automatically as he was pushed back against the walled trellis, curling agilely around the lean hips, ankles hooking behind his master's buttocks. The rock-hard length that pressed almost painfully into his groin forced a whimper from his lips, his fingers digging into Qui Gon's shoulders.

He felt the uneven roughness of the trellis at his back, the prickle of vegetation against his scalp as he let his head fall back. The blatant lust that his Master was emoting was only driving his own desires into a frenzy. He wanted nothing more than to feel the cock that pressed so hungrily into him between his lips, tasting it with his tongue and nibbling with his teeth.

The sharp gasp against his neck told him that he had been heard and suddenly he felt himself sliding down the long body, hands on his shoulders urging him downwards until he rested on his knees before his Master. He fought back a shaky grin, looking up into the beloved face and letting his hands trail up the backs of the strong thighs, curling over the muscular ass and then finding their way to the clasp of the belt, carefully avoiding the blatant bulge that sat level with his lips.

Just one of his fantasies, but perhaps one of the most titillating, he let his hands fumble at the belt even as he leaned forward and pressed an open-mouthed kiss to the nubby cloth covering Qui Gon's impressive erection. A groan from above him was his only warning before his own hands were snatched away from the belt, and short work was made of the clasp. The tunic dropped open and long fingers tugged open the lacings of the breeches in front of him. His own trembling hands returned to rest on his master's ass as the heavy, engorged weight of Qui Gon's erection bobbed before him, freed.

Obi Wan caught his breath at the sight, the proof that his master wanted him. So very badly. His own cock was throbbing almost painfully between his legs, and he shifted uncomfortably as he leaned forward to curl his tongue underneath the purpling crown, breathing the musky scent of arousal, trailing the point of it under and up over the leaking tip. There were tremors beneath his palms as he cupped Qui Gon's buttocks, holding him still. The trellis creaked in protest when the Jedi Master suddenly braced both arms on it, leaning forward into Obi Wan's mouth.

Lips closed, a suction forming just over the tip, tongue still licking eagerly, suckling the sensitive glans. Slowly, he pushed the O of his mouth down the thick shaft, his jaws opening wide to take in the girth of his Master's cock, relaxing his throat to suck him in as deeply as possible before pulling back. He let his bottom teeth scrape gently along the underside, holding Qui Gon still as he began to shake.

A cry shattered the stillness of the garden as he began move back and forth, sliding the thick cock in and out of his mouth, fingers digging into the material of Qui Gon's breeches. He heard his master's desperate moans as he moved to cup the heavy balls in one hand and rub his thumb across the thick, textured skin, drawing back to suckle just on the tip of the stiff member in his mouth. Only when he pulled back completely to dip his head, tongue flicking out to taste the weighty flesh in his palm, did he find himself suddenly taken by the shoulders and jerked away, back from Qui Gon's body.

Obi Wan stared, startled, as his master knelt with him, intense blue gaze rendering him speechless and scattering his thoughts into a jumble of incoherent images. Caught suddenly again in that strong embrace, mouth being claimed by that demanding tongue as he was pressed back, down to the ground, lean, muscled body covering him completely, hot groin pushing against him.

A knee wedged between his legs, spreading him, as fingers tugged at his waist, loosening his trousers and stripping them away, pulling his own hardened penis out and stroking it.

Obi Wan gave a single cry of distress against Qui Gon's mouth and came as soon as he was touched, hips jerking helplessly, eyes squeezed shut and a moan of denial forcing its way past his throat as the bright world spun away for a long moment....

When he could think again, he noticed that Qui Gon was holding him close, one hand massaging his slippery, still-hard cock, the other curled around his nape, lips to his ear and whispering reassurance.

Obi Wan cursed foully and repeatedly under his breath, his cheeks coloring with shame, and sagged against his master, his breath shaky and uneven.

"Don't worry about it," Qui Gon said into his ear, making him shiver.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled pressing his face into Qui Gon's shoulder, the rough tunic against his mouth. "I can't believe I did that."

Qui Gon chuckled, and Obi Wan felt the heat rising in his face again before Qui Gon's mouth sought his in a deep kiss.

"I'm not laughing at you," Qui Gon whispered, kissing the corner of his mouth, his chin, lips sliding across his cheek. "I'm flattered."

Obi Wan relaxed, inhaling the scent of his master's skin and luxuriating in the feel of the beloved body against his own. He gasped as Qui Gon's fingers tightened on his cock, stepping up the rhythm. Incredibly, he felt himself grow hard again.

Qui Gon smiled into his neck. "You're young. You can do this many times."

"Now?" Obi Wan blurted, immediately dismayed at hearing his own hopeful tones. Gee, beg him, why don't you? Arf arf arf....

But Qui Gon was nodding enthusiastically. "Absolutely now."

He watched as Qui Gon's fingers gathered the slippery seed on his belly and from around his cock and then drew away.

A shock of desire went through Obi Wan and he gasped as Qui Gon hand, coated with his sperm, went to his own cock and began stroking it. The young apprentice moaned involuntarily as a painful thrum of desire centered in on his groin and stabbed at him. The sight of Qui Gon touching himself with a hand made slippery by his own cum was incredibly erotic. It stirred him more than his fantasies ever could, shaking his soul with the reality of where he was and what he was doing. Finally, finally doing.

Qui Gon kissed his mouth lingeringly as he stroked himself, then pulled back with a smile and urged Obi Wan onto his side. Gentle hands stripped his trousers down his thighs and his tunic upwards, leaving him bare from chest to knees as the older man settled his large body beside him, curling around him lovingly and hugging him close, kissing the back of his neck.

Obi Wan shivered again, his eyes wide open, drinking in the beauty of the garden, the golden bars of sunlight striking over the wall, the dappled light moving and dancing across the flowers, heavy. languid air scented with pollen

"Am I dreaming, master?" he asked, and whimpered as he felt the strong, sure hands lifting his buttocks and settling them firmly against the erection that seemed to fit naturally into curve of his ass.

"No dream, my love."

Thumbs slid down the cleft, massaging him intimately before the cum-slicked cock was pressed against his opening, nudging gently for entrance.

It was so very slow. Obi Wan trembled and shook in Qui Gon's arms as he was taken bit by bit, claimed with such devastating skill that he thought he might actually scream. Easing inside him with astounding gentleness, a fraction of an inch at a time, never more than he could handle, one hand pulling at his cock while the other delicately pinched his nipples, mouth busy at his neck and shoulders.

Blue butterflies flitting in front of his face, the solid feel of the earth beneath him, the fragrance of the ferns and blossoms. Obi Wan inhaled deeply, wanting to commit it to memory, to hold it inside him forever.

Then Qui Gon pushed forward a final time, sheathing himself fully inside his apprentice, and Obi- Wan could not repress the cry that forced its way out of him, not of pain, but of incredible joy, too much to be contained.

Tears of happiness streamed from his eyes as he reached around and pulled his master's arms around him, thrusting his body back against to take more of him, wanting all of it, wanting everything

Never had he been so tested as he was at that moment, lying there in the criss-crossed bands of shadow among the butterflies and the lavender liliria. He walked the edge of pain in his restraint, his need to simply give in to the overwhelming lust that blazed through his every nerve in a throbbing, consuming rush --his need to just let go as the young man in his feverish embrace had done only a short time before. He was surrounded by the tight heat of his Padawan's body, a clenching, squeezing furnace that milked every last ounce of control from him, held him as tightly as he held the youth in his arms. Slow, he urged himself in a chanting inner mantra.

Slowly. He wanted to last, to stretch this moment into infinity. He wanted to relish the sensation of his love's body sheathing his own, to luxuriate in the fact that there was nothing but the purest trust and joy vibrating from his beloved apprentice.

One hand came up to stroke Obi Wan's unseen mouth, letting his finger slip between the soft lips, stroking along the swell of the lower one, feeling a tight, wet suction engulf the tip of it even as the young man began to thrust sensually against him, inching on and off of his erection. Qui Gon bit down on the inside of his cheek almost viciously, his other hand moving to clamp down on one wanton hip, stilling it before the last of his fragile control shattered like so much cheap glass.

He considered himself an able lover. He had gathered a fair amount of experience over the years. Unlike many Jedi Masters, he had always believed that a healthy sex life was just as important as feeding the body or the mind. But nothing could have ever prepared him for how it felt to have the object of his passion, the man who had become the center of his world, writhing and gasping --and oh-so-willing-- in his arms. It was enough to deeply humble him.

The whipcord of his apprentice's body arched against him, fighting the tight hand that confined his hips.

"Please...." the whisper, so laced with passion, was more than he could fight against. Slowly. So slowly he began to thrust. Just millimeters at a time at first, his hand moving to cover the slender fingers that already engulfed Obi Wan's throbbing cock, guiding the hand, squeezing around it, caressing both fingers and the sensitive flesh they grasped, teasing the slippery tip gently. His other arm curled around underneath the youth, clutching him tightly against his chest as he moved, thrilling to the feeling of flesh against flesh.

His breath was harsh against the softness of Obi Wan's damp nape and he couldn't resist biting the skin gently, lapping at the salty sweat that misted in a sheen on the perfect young body.

"Please, more....harder...." The breathy moans were becoming more demanding, the quivering limbs against his more insistent. Closing his eyes, he clenched his teeth together and let himself thrust deep and hard into the willing heat, feeling the electric shock of pleasure thrum through their bond like an explosion as he scraped against that secret spot deep inside his Padawan.

The cry that lifted into the air was an animal blend of both voices, fairly vibrating with delicious need, and he almost came then and there.

Qui Gon gave up then. Gave up any pretense of prolonging something so overwhelming and he quickly pulled out of the tight, burning fire of his apprentice's body and flipped the unresisting youth onto his back. He yanked Obi Wan's breeches off the rest of the way almost frantically and hooked the long, sculpted legs over his forearms as he grasped his Padawan's slender hips in his hands.

He took the moment to pause, even with the haze of lust that had come down upon him like a madness, to truly see the youth that was spread out so perfectly before him. So beautiful. Beautiful enough to tempt a stone. Flushed face, lips pink and parted, glittering jewel-toned eyes half hidden by eyelashes that were far too thick by half. A whipcord body, toned to perfection from a lifetime of physical training was mostly exposed, trembling slightly with its need, the ecru tunic pushed up just over the taut nipples. His posture itself was nothing but sensuality as he begged with his very body language for completion.

"Qui Gon...." the breathy voice was half pleading, half reproving as he twisted his body almost petulantly. His apprentice was getting impatient with the lack of attention to his state of arousal. He hid a grin and bent over Obi Wan, sliding his big hands up the slender body until he cradled him in his arms. Then he pulled the youth up, up until they were eye to eye, Obi Wan clutched tightly to his chest, legs well-spread and still hooked over the joint of his elbows. Poised over impalement.

He knew what would happen as soon as he set his apprentice down into his lap, and so he paused to pull a long, hot, honeyed kiss from those perfect lips, shivering at the sensation of Obi Wan's arms snaking tightly around his neck, rubbing the rock-hard heat of his cock against Qui Gon's belly.

It was too much to bear. Without removing his mouth from his Padawan's, he pushed him down, sliding back inside the slick heat with a single thrust.

The howl that ripped from Obi Wan's mouth was echoed by his Master and his chest felt tight as he began to thrust up into the youth, barely remembering to breathe. Harder and harder, the older man's head falling back to expose his throat, his hands tight and merciless on his apprentice's hips, Obi Wan's cock grinding between the friction of their sweat slick bodies.

Even with his lust driving him to distraction, it was still Obi Wan who exploded first in a hot, throbbing spasm that smeared thickly against both heaving torsos. But it was the almost painful clenching of the muscles that clamped around his cock as his lover came that was the final straw.

The last vestige of his control was ripped from him effortlessly and he let it go, starbursts of light exploding behind his tightly shuttered eyes as he thrust and thrust and thrust......

They stayed like that for a long, long moment. Qui Gon cradling his Padawan to him, unmoving, his face buried in the youth's neck, feeling the scratch of stubble against his collarbone and the damp heat of soft breath puffing against his skin.

And then he tumbled them bonelessly back to the ground, pulling Obi Wan with him, wrapping his arms tightly around his lover and simply glorying in the reality of the moment.

Padawan. Lover. Obi Wan.

Go on to Part 3.