Bonds of Choice 6:
Duets and Duality: Renal Sejon

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/M
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Obi-Wan awoke to his master shaking him gently. It was dark in their shared tent, still well into the night.

"Come with me to the Fortnight Gannet, Padawan. I need your help." Qui-Gon turned to exit.

Obi-Wan was in his boots and clothes a moment later, hands tying back the braids he still had not found time to remove since their little foray into the crystal purchasing business. "What's wrong, Master?"

"I don't know that anything is wrong. I'm receiving a very strange transmission from Coruscant. I was hoping you could explain it."

The nights on Renal Sejon were cool and surprisingly bug-free. Silence hung over the city of tents as the Jedi made their way to the starship Fortnight Gannet. The total quiet of the Kurasians had taken a while for Obi-Wan to get accustomed to in the weeks since his taking the Semsha Rite. Qui-Gon and the perimeter guards were the only beings to break the unofficial curfew. Qui-Gon led Obi-Wan aboard the Fortnight Gannet and directed him into the conference room, where the holocam was projecting a live feed.

Obi-Wan approached the comm unit, surprised to see the blue holo was of Corubia. She was wearing a ridiculous costume and an even more outrageous wig, but he paused when he heard the transmission. She was singing a single line over and over

Prempt chaptel aun lue
Prempt chaptel aun lue

"Do you know ..." Qui-Gon began. Obi-Wan waved to him for quiet and turned the volume up. He took his place before the comm unit and sang on the counterpoint.

L'haum shanj
Le'ihaum shanj

Corubia looked relieved and continued with her song.

Cren shektel aun lue
Frena tain aun lue
Aoum bol
El'oum bol

She held the last note, crystal clear and aching. Qui-Gon had heard the two friends sing before, but had never heard a performance quite like this. He was totally unfamiliar with the language, but got the feeling that she sang of lost love, hopeless, unrequited affection and a cruel universe that spared no thought for the hopes of the young. When Obi-Wan's strong voice joined hers, Qui-Gon felt a lump form in his throat.

Pre'nt-al-sen aun lue
Fret-pashef aun lue
Haum'et fren
Haum es fren

The melody was haunting, filled with a longing, an ache of emotion that left Qui-Gon breathless. They sang then in chorus, voices joined as vine to branch. Obi-Wan raised one hand towards the holo, as if he would try to touch Corubia. She did the same.

Kenra mejha en sua
Prectalat enghe sua
Uhm laun hoyd
Hoyd shanpt sheran
Nuei shan-shen-dreanji!

Obi-Wan ended the transmission. "Corubia says that Cord Random found out where those crystals ended up. The Council is taking no chances. They feel two Masters will fare better where one failed, so Master Torlamin has been assigned to come help us. She and Corubia are bringing the information we need. They'll be arriving on a supply freighter tomorrow afternoon."

"And what language was that, exactly?" Qui-Gon wanted to know.

"Oh, that wasn't a language, really. See, when we were little, Cor and I were convinced we'd end up partners when we grew up. We made up this code, I guess you'd call it a secret language. Kid stuff, really. It's a tonal variation on the Synergetic poems," he took up a lightslate from the console and wrote out the key.

"See, you just take the 'sheptelsou' and the 'louivesou' and modify the tense forms, like so ... then alter the poem-lines. Mispronounce everything, sing it, then all you need is the code of meanings for the poems." He pulled up the file, years old now, that cataloged the secret meanings to certain lines of poetry. "Anyway, the Council needed a really secure way to get this message to us. What better to use than a code only two kids know?" Obi-Wan was blushing.

"And you always sing it? Amazing. When did you do all this?"

"I was, um, like, nine or ten, I think. It sort of built over time. We were kids playing Jedi Master. Besides, we sound okay together. Well, I used to think we did." Obi-Wan stopped, embarrassed. A huge yawn took this opportunity to assert itself. "Master, may I go back to bed? I'm supposed to be on the hunt tomorrow."

"Yes, of course. Sleep well, Padawan. I'll be there shortly," Qui-Gon lied.

The hills beyond the encampment provided a beautiful view of the night sky. Qui-Gon stood, slowly turning, trying to find a certain pattern in the stars above him. It was doubtful that the one he sought would come clear to him. He had searched for it every night since Obi-Wan's passing of the Semsha. *Where are you, Warrior, when I really need you? You plague my dreams and will not show yourself. *

It was becoming more and more obvious to him that things could not go on as they were. Obi-Wan's emotional stability was getting better, but was still at an alarming negative. *If only I could be sure I know what I'm doing here. If only I had some sign that I can guide him in the way he should go. If only I knew the lessons I teach him are the right ones, that I am not ignoring the true path out of overblown self-assurance.*

But such assurances were not forthcoming. Doubt hung heavily in Qui-Gon's mind as he struggled to find truth, peace, confidence in himself that was rooted in fact rather than his own perception. *Maybe this whole thing was a mistake. I begin to think I should have waited to take up with him, waited to show him my feelings. There is no turning back now. To break with him, or put him off would utterly destroy what little progress I've made. I can't do that to him. It is a cruelty even I am not capable of. *

But perhaps Obi-Wan would be better off without the affection Qui-Gon had for him. The love. He seemed so loath to even think on it, much less accept it. For himself, Qui-Gon was hurt, and deeply, knowing his Koateleu refused to accept his love. *Or is that your Pride again, Jinn? How do you know you're such a prize?* Qui-Gon sighed. *Is my regard so worthless? Am I so flawed and despicable as to be completely unacceptable to him?*

One thing that kept him going was the fact that Obi-Wan wore a particular ribbon twined about his left ankle. Some weeks before a hair ribbon had disappeared from Qui-Gon's bedside table, undoubtedly in the hands of his Padawan. Some days after that Qui-Gon had spied a similar ribbon on his Koateleu's person. He was certain his student was wearing it as a sign, a mark of some sort. Of what, Qui-Gon knew not, but he hoped with every fiber of his being that it was an indicator that Obi-Wan had not completely rejected his love for all time. Hoped, endlessly.

Nights were becoming especially hard for the Master. Obi-Wan continued to sleep apart from him, clearly defining their relationship, or lack of one. Marking his space, his time, his withdrawal from Qui-Gon. Even after they had made love, Obi-Wan removed himself from Qui-Gon's embrace before surrendering to sleep. No explanation had been offered and he could not bring himself to ask.

Soft footfalls alerted him that he was no longer alone. He called "Obi-Wan?" though he already knew it was not he.

"No, it is Murana. I came to see if you needed anything," the Nurian was little more than a shadow figure on this moonless night.

"I am fine," he lied.

"You stand here, alone, for hours every night. The guards worry for you. Share your concerns with me, Qui-Gon Jinn. Your burden will be lighter for it."

Qui-Gon considered the offer. Many hours he had wished for nothing more than Arjet Paje to come and speak with him. Perhaps his wish had been partially granted ... "I'm lost," he heard himself say. "I am broken. I can not find my way home."

Murana searched the stars for a long moment before replying. "Forgive me if what I say is offensive. It is possible that I misunderstand what I see. But to my eyes, your home lies sleeping in your tent."

Qui-Gon laughed humorlessly, turning from her. "He does not know me. He turns me away at every instant. I know not how to make myself acceptable in his eyes." Once more he searched the skies for a Warrior constellation.

"What do you seek?" she asked.

"A pattern of stars, one in the shape of a humanoid. I have always found comfort, inspiration in them. Of course, there is not one in these skies that I can find. Not in this season." Qui-Gon sat down, wrapped his arms around his legs and kept searching.

"Why is that? Is it your ... belief?" Murana did not seem sure of the word.

"Not in a religious sense, no. But my Master once told me a story about the Uraen constellation of Coruscant. She said that we Jedi were as that Constellation, warriors who watch over all, ever protecting and ever apart from those we protect. I have a great deal of pride in knowing I can protect those who can not protect themselves. It is the only thing I have ever known. It is one of the few things I can still feel honest pride in." Qui-Gon explained.

"Obi-Wan has been your student for ten years or more, yes? You take no pride in him?" she asked.

"I dare not. I have taken great care to protect him from all harm that I could. " Qui-Gon sighed and lay back in the grass. "Murana, I am ... a failed Master. By rights I should have been cast from the Jedi some thirteen years ago. My pride, my belief that everyone was lost except me ... I destroyed my student, the one I had before Obi-Wan. It was my pride that destroyed him. I can not protect Obi-Wan from that, just as I could not protect Xanatos."

"Indeed, you can not. He must protect himself. I have seen him on the training field. He is more than up to the task."

"It isn't physical danger I fear for him, but something more ... elusive. I must seem absolutely schizophrenic to him as I am now. On the one hand, the driving, relentless Master, ever correcting, ever teaching, ever judging, never satisfied. On the other, just a man trying to love him and failing utterly. He does not seem to know that he is all I could hope for in a companion. There are few who could keep up with me, you understand, even in the Order. Yet he does. He keeps up with me, outdistances me if I don't pay attention. I want to show him how deeply pleased I am at all he does. But how to be proud of what he is, without being proud of myself for having a hand in it? I can not allow myself to be controlled by pride. Yet without my approval, how is he to know he does well? I can not tell him. I dare not, except in small ways, petty words. And now there are dreams ... " Qui-Gon shuddered, recalling the latest addition to his night time worries.

"Tell me of your vision," Murana encouraged.

Qui-Gon smiled at how smoothly she fell into the role of councilor. It was comforting to be listened to. He chose to accept that comfort. "I dreamed I was a being of stars, the Warrior. I looked down and saw my student at the bottom of a deep pit. He was trapped, hurt, hungry but still fighting, still trying to find his way free. I knelt down to help him and found myself just as powerless as he was. And then he wept over me as the life drained from my body. I died because I could not help him." Qui-Gon felt foolish saying all this out loud.

"You say you knelt to help him?" Murana pressed.

"Yes, I stepped from the sky to be nearer to him, knelt down to help him from the place that had caught him."

Murana stroked her lip. "I can give you the meaning I see, in the Kho. You are not of the People, yet you have shared our tents and our hospitality. Perhaps what I see can help you, though you are none of ours. It may not be so ... we share none of your blood."

"I understand."

"Obi-Wan is as you are. In what way, I know not. But you are strong, powerful, you would be a great leader if you were not Jedi. There are those folk, both individual and whole races who would accept you as their ruler simply because of what you hold within you. But that is not your path, nor is it Obi-Wan's." She paused to think.

During her silence, Qui-Gon considered a nearly-forgotten conversation with Lrakin Jackee Rilka. She had shown signs of worry that he might take her clan, though he was not of her people. It seemed obvious to her that he could do so if he chose. Only his word of honor that he had no desire to do so had calmed her worry. He wondered what other cultures saw him thusly.

Murana broke his train of thought. "I would say that you are what your dream says. You are a being of the Stars, a Master, a Warrior, a protector of the helpless with much pride to see you along your path. I would also say that Obi-Wan is in a pit, made of his belief that he is unworthy of any love or kindness. You stand at poles, at extremes." she paused, cast about for the proper word. "What is it, those meditations you do, that makes you both fair gleam with energy?"

"Centering. We find our place in the Force and within ourselves where we feel most balanced," Qui-Gon simplified.

"Yes. You are not in your center. He is in despair, crushed by self-loathing and knowledge of his own flaws. You are crippled by a surfeit of pride, which you struggle to contain, control, prevent from blinding you to your own faults. You surely must know what is to be done. I suppose you'll need your peace to do so." Murana bowed and retraced her steps towards the camp, whistling the signal for 'all safe.'

*A being of stars,* Qui-Gon mused. Indeed, Obi-Wan was such a one. His Potential was ... awe-inspiring to say the least. His personal abilities often left Qui-Gon amazed. There had never been one so capable of matching Qui-Gon strength for strength. None had stood beside him so and never faltered or failed. Even Arjet Paje had eventually left his side to find a simpler path.

*What is the answer? I kneel to help ... no. That is the problem right there, you old fool. *

And the puzzle came clear to him, mesmerizing in it's simplicity. *I can not pretend that what I have done matters not. It matters everything in the world. It can not be changed, only learned from and let go. I must find the balance, the strength that would make up for my weakness.*

Again Qui-Gon looked into the night sky, searching, searching for an arrangement that would fall together in a particular way. As he watched, one of the thousand lights twinkled, drawing his eye to it just so. *There.*

The Warrior shone above him, shoulders, belt, feet, just barely recognizable. Only acceptable to the eyes that needed so much to see it. And then he realized why he'd had such a difficult time finding it.

A duplicate stood beside it.

*What better remedy for my pride than the humble soul within my Koateleu? What better remedy for his feelings of unworthiness than the pride for him that burns within me?*

Qui-Gon stopped off at the Gannet to send one last message off for Coruscant. When finally he arrived the tent was filled with the soft glow of a single lightchip and Obi-Wan's lightslate. He paused to admire the way the long auburn braids hung about the younger man's face. *I just might miss those when they're gone.* "I thought you were going to sleep, Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon shrugged out of cloak and sat to remove his boots.

"I waited for you," Obi-Wan shrugged and shut down the slate. "Now that I know you are safe, I'll to dreams."

"Thought you I was in danger?" Qui-Gon asked, surprised.

"No, my Master. But it did not keep me from worrying that you might be. It is my duty to protect you and be with you should need arise. I am uncomfortable when I can not see to my duty," Obi-Wan explained.

"Tonight it was your duty to rest for training tomorrow," Qui-Gon reminded him.

"Then I have failed you doubly, my Master. Good night." Obi-Wan's voice wavered slightly as he spoke.

"No, my Koateleu, you have not failed me. You have honored me deeply with your care." Qui-Gon moved to kneel beside Obi-Wan's bedding. He paused, biting his bottom lip, considering. Obi-Wan was rather particular about what would be allowed to happen in his bed. Never had Qui-Gon been invited to share it and only occasionally would their sexual explorations end in a night of sleep together. Care was called for. "May I kiss you, Obi-Wan?"

"Do you think I would turn you away?" Obi-Wan reached up to pull his partner in for an embrace.

Qui-Gon murmured against parted lips, "Better I ask than assume, my Koatel. And so much the sweeter that you choose to gift me with your permission."

They kissed slowly and deeply, Qui-Gon not quite daring to lay down with Obi-Wan. After a long moment Obi-Wan pushed him away. "Sleep, my Master. I've an early morning tomorrow."

"Yes, Obi-Wan. Would you care to sleep a little warmer tonight?" Qui-Gon was well aware that he was pushing his luck.

"If it please you, Master, I'd rather sleep less crowded."

Qui-Gon gave one last peck before retreating to his own bed. They had fallen into the habit of speaking formally with one another. It seemed the Kurasians were far more touchy, more formal than even the most hidebound Jedi. When folk of differing rank mixed, they entered into a ballet of propriety that grated on Qui-Gon's nerves. Inferiors gave over to their superiors in all things at all times as a matter of course. Obi-Wan could have been tucked into Qui-Gon's robes and taken before the skies and everyone, and not a word said by anyone if Qui-Gon so ordered it. It was not the sort of atmosphere Qui-Gon would have wished for his student even at the best of times.


Qui-Gon settled himself to sleep, trying to swallow the bitter taste that they brought to his mouth. He and Obi-Wan would have long quit this planet if there had been any other suitable hidey-hole nearby. This culture had slowly revealed itself to be ... not one the younger Jedi should be long near.

Qui-Gon's like of them had begun to waver the night before the Semsha rite, at dinner. The Nes'Nurians were far too subservient, too cowed for folk their age. They SEEMED happy enough, or at least were not showing any outward evidence of long abuse ... but inwardly they were a mixed lot. They lived in fear of their teachers and with good reason. Harsh words and gestures abounded when there was not physical punishment. When, as so often happened, physical punishment was deemed appropriate, it was swift, cruel and without mercy of any sort. That was enough to turn Qui-Gon's stomach, but he did not attempt to intervene. In many cultures apprentices were treated so and there was nothing to be done for it. He did make his displeasure known to the Nurians, informing them that a report would be made when he returned to Coruscant, but he doubted the Republic would do much about the situation. The truth of this made him sick at heart as well.

Then he discovered why he and Obi-Wan were constantly in the company of a Nurian or Nes'Nurian. He had been walking through the weaver's part of camp when he heard a child's cries. He had gone to investigate.

One of the master weavers had been shouting at a boy of about eleven years, castigating him for some mistake or another. The weaver had paused long enough to bid Qui-Gon good day before returning to his diatribe. Then he had raised his hand to strike the boy and Qui-Gon had seen enough. He had scooped the boy up and carried him off to Obi-Wan for safekeeping. A pitched battle had been fought over the incident, the weaver demanding Justice and Qui-Gon calmly informing him that justice had already been served. Eventually the Nurians had broken the conflict up, citing the fact that a Jedi probably knew more about justice and order than a weaver. Still, Qui-Gon heard the anger in their voices, knew they wished he had left it alone.

Apologies had been made all round, but the point was clear. No violence or degradation had occurred amongst the 'civilians' since. At least, not that Qui-Gon had been able to discover. He had kept an eye out. But the Nurians seemed to think themselves above or beyond his influence and continued as they had before. The Jedi Master had begun to idly wonder what measures would have been necessary to rescue the children only and leave the adults in the hands of slavers all those long weeks ago. He wondered, often and with much care, if rescuing them had been kindness or cruelty. No answers were forthcoming. Nor were solutions for the current situation, beyond getting himself and his Padawan out of their company and on with their mission.

Only Murana Nurian stood out from the group. She was often excluded from Nurian activities, as was her student. Jenka seemed more confused than anything at her teacher's failure to use harsh discipline with her. Qui-Gon felt for the girl, knew she must feel the difference between herself and the other Nes'Nurians, but could only applaud Murana's actions. He only hoped they would not alter when Jenka was more fully healed from her time of enslavement. It was this pair alone that kept him from giving up on the Kurasians in total disgust.

Not that the Nurians had been without their uses. He had spent much time exploring the Moment and speaking with them on what they knew of La'Karata's vision of the Sith that he and Obi-Wan sought. Everything he learned from them and the Force pointed to only one conclusion. Battle. Hard, dangerous battle between his Obi-Wan and the Sith. Once this had been accepted, he had pared Obi-Wan's training routine down to an almost exclusive routine of combat, combat, combat. The Nurians had offered to help in Obi-Wan's training, threw themselves into it, really. The Jedi suffered no lack of sparring partners, ones with whom Obi-Wan could cross Kho'la'bo or mind. Now that his telepathy was strong and under his total control, Qui-Gon had begun teaching him how it might be used in a battle situation.

Obi-Wan had mastered the technique as swiftly as he had ever mastered any weapon. His mind was capable of cutting through shields, weaving false thoughts to confuse an attacker, ransacking an opponent's mind for information with the delicacy of a pickpocket or the brutality of a barbarian. He had also lost some of his discomfort for speaking mind-to-mind with Qui-Gon, but had closed up tighter than a clam to anyone else on-planet.

It seemed his distaste for Kurasian ways was as strong as Qui-Gon's. He took no small amount of pleasure at defeating them on the training field, whatever the manner be. He did not grant them the courtesy of withholding his Force capabilities, either. Rather, he drew on those abilities almost constantly, strengthening himself and sometimes his Master as well. In single combat Obi-Wan was more than formidable. When the Jedi fought as a team, they were unstoppable.

Time was short, of that Qui-Gon was certain. They had just a scant handful of days, three weeks had been his best estimate, and that time was nearly gone. He sincerely hoped that when the time came, he and Obi-Wan would face the Sith together, side-by-side as was meant to be.

But the Force and all reports from the Nurians said otherwise. All signs pointed towards a conflict in which Obi-Wan would be forced to stand alone and rely on his own abilities to succeed. Qui-Gon had thrown himself in preparing his student to do just that. He dare not hope that he would be there to defend and protect when the time came.

He closed his eyes with a sigh, releasing his misgivings into the Force. Torlamin and Corubia would be here on the morrow. At last he could be free of this place.

The next morning found Obi-Wan heading out of the camp with Jenka Nes'Nurian and Ru'path Nes'Nurian. As apprentices to the Jedi and Nurians, respectively, they were technically exempt from life-threatening duty such as hunting and scouting. With the ranks of the Nurians decimated by the recent sacking of the Kurasians' home planet, the Nes'Nurians were considered too precious a commodity to risk loosing to a stray shot or an angry beast. The Nes'Nurians felt pretty bad about this, as did Obi-Wan. They had taken the Semsha Rite, which gave them the responsibility to provide for themselves, even if the gesture was largely token. Ru'path had discovered a little critter on Renal Sejon that appeared to be the answer to their problem.

The animal had been dubbed a 'sand slug'.

They approached the hunting site for the day. A wide, shaded, sandy section of field that had been set aside as pastureland for herds yet to be delivered. The sand slugs would have to be cleared out anyway, it was just pure luck that they were edible and easy to catch.

Well, relatively easy.

There were little cone-shaped divots in the sand, about two paces across. When the 'hunting party' got close, they stretched out on the ground and wiggled forward, so as not to alert the slugs that a pack of large predators were approaching. That would only make the slugs burrow deep into the ground. They wanted them close to the surface. Obi-Wan reached the first hole and opened a cloth bag. Then he ran his finger around the top of the divot, knocking a small amount of sand down into the bottom. He lay very still and waited.


A little puff of sand popped up from the bottom.

Flip flipflip flip.

Obi-Wan just barely saw the head of the creature surface. He plunged his hand down into the sand, seized the fat and unattractive beast and popped it into the waiting bag. He drew the string shut tight and handed it back to Ru'path, who was already teasing another slug to the surface. Obi-Wan's small bag went into the larger game sack. The Padawan wiggled over to another divot.

The slugs were not at all happy to be imprisoned. They usually tried to attack and eat one another if not kept apart in the sack. A sand slug would basically eat anything that got in its hole, which was why they had to be cleared from the livestock lands. At half a meter long and ravenous, they would spread and consume any herd kept here. No other suitable grasslands were close enough, so the slugs were rounded up, fed scraps for two days to clear any nasties from their system then served up for supper. Sometimes the resulting scraps were fed to the next day's batch of slugs.

Obi-Wan tried not to think about that. It seemed rather ... cannibal.

He spent two hours wrangling slugs before heading back to the camps. He had a long day of training ahead of him before Corubia and her Master arrived. The Nurians had spent a long, angry afternoon debating what should be done with him, now that it was confirmed that he would slay the Demon they had foreseen. Confirmed in what way, they had not seen fit to inform Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon knew and that was good enough for him. His Master had approved the course of training, took part in it, and drove himself just as relentlessly as he drove his Padawan. He was that confident in whatever it was that told him Obi-Wan's destiny.

Obi-Wan had gathered some interesting hints during his meditations, which were now coming fewer and farther between. In the two and a half weeks since the Semsha Rite, Obi-Wan's training had been stripped down to just two subjects: Control of his telepathy and use of the Kho'la'bo. The Kurasians had assigned their best fighters, every Nes'Nurian and most of the Nurians to spar and train with him. The plan was to train him for a worst-case scenario. Say, facing the Sith after a long day's fighting when there was more than one opponent to deal with. This amounted to long hours of bouts with between four and seven opponents, most of them fresher than he. Obi-Wan had quickly learned how to work through the mental defenses of the warriors and distract them with their own thoughts and fears. He had also learned how to pick out thoughts and information from their minds, snatching targeted ideas from specific opponents.

That way, if he did face the Sith, he could discover who he was, Master or Apprentice, and where the other was hiding.

So Obi-Wan stopped by his tent to grab his Kho'la'bo and set out for the practice field. He had never wanted time to meditate so much in his life. He would not get it, he was sure. Outwardly, he had never been in better shape. His body was even more fit than when he arrived, working at highest efficiency around the clock. He was more agile, coordinated, could replenish his energy levels from the Force without a second thought, could run for days without sleep or food ... he was a paragon of Jedi readiness. He felt closer to the living Force than he ever had before. He had even gained a basic control of the Kho and could use his Kho'la'bo in the proper manner.

He was being transformed into the perfect killing machine.

He was hoping, almost praying that the arrival of the other Jedi would bring some stability to the madness around him. Upon awakening this morning, Obi-Wan had sensed a ... warning ... in the Force. It had been there, at a low level, for several days now. For the past hours he had sensed it rising, but chose to simply monitor it as he continued the hunt. Now it was a high-pitched gibbering at the base of his skull and could no longer be ignored. Something was wrong, desperately wrong and it had to change. Now. He would have to speak with Qui-Gon about it.

Obi-Wan didn't think calm reason would have much effect. The Jedi Master was difficult to pin down, recently. On edge, as if he was worrying over something and all this training was the only thing he had to distract himself. Obi-Wan found it difficult to speak with him, even in the best of circumstances. And these were hardly the best of times. The Kurasians seemed always nearby, always listening to every word between them. Constantly looking for an excuse to call for Obi-Wan's immediate punishment. Qui-Gon had been vigilant in protecting Obi-Wan from further 'discipline' they called for. Still, Obi-Wan hoped Corubia and her master would arrive swiftly before this got out of hand. Before time for training would have been perfect. Since that was not to be so, he would have to use a tactic he had been holding in reserve and never mind the time he lost on the field. At this point, time on the training field was pretty much review anyway.

Over the course of his training Obi-Wan had discovered that he would have one major advantage over the Sith, assuming the Sith still used the double-bladed lightsaber. Obi-Wan was more than confident that he could win, no matter which of his weapons he used. It was a confidence hard-won and still uncomfortable. Still, should the Sith use the saber-staff, Obi-Wan would face him with the Kho'la'bo. The Sith would be forced to use only the middle grip for maneuvering. Obi-Wan could use the Kho'la'bo's full length in any manner he chose, and he had many deadly manners to choose from, thanks to the Kurasians.

The moment Obi-Wan stepped onto the training field he came under attack. He defended himself easily as he made his way over to his master. Something like seven opponents fell to his defenses before he reached Qui-Gon. They would need time away from the Kurasians to speak plainly. It was a difficult thing to get away from observing eyes in camp, and for some reason, the Nurians were often lurking about when the Jedi left camp for any destination other than the Gannet. The attacks continued as Obi-Wan spoke. "Master, I intend to take some time off for meditation today, with your permission." **The Conflict Gambit.** To all appearances, Obi-Wan was about to pick a fight with his master.

"No, Obi-Wan. I want you here, training." Qui-Gon threw a force-blow at his student, which was easily deflected. //Make it look good.//

"I'm afraid that won't be possible, Master. I sense a disturbance in the Force, centered on our activities here. I can not continue this path until I understand the cause of this disturbance." Obi-Wan had to wrench his body to the side to avoid a blow and dispatched his attacker with a kick. **Truth.**

"I sense no such disturbance," Qui-Gon replied. //It was there when I woke.//

"I believe that is because you have not been looking for one, Master. I think it would be for the best if we both went up into the low hills and meditated. We should be away from any who are not Jedi." Obi-Wan was very sure of this. ** I can't take another second among them.**

"I think you're upset over nothing, my Padawan. Stay here and practice. I will go down to our tent to meditate and see if I can sense this disturbance of yours." Qui-Gon turned from his student. //Same here.//

"Master, please! If you will not listen, I must defy you and I do not wish to do so." **That should get their attention.**

For the first time in days the attacks stopped. Every Kurasian in the vicinity turned their back on Obi-Wan.

"Is it as bad as all that, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon looked at his Padawan. Dusty and sweat-streaked, panting but firm of footing, the younger Jedi did not look away. //Skies, you're beautiful.//

"It is, my Master. You have taught me long and well when I should defy the Council and do what I must. There is no Council here, Master, but I will defy the authority that tries to keep me from doing what must be done. You know I am right in what I say. Tell me why you will not listen to your own council or mine." Obi-Wan hoped he didn't crack up in front of everyone. Qui-Gon was playing at 'fully outraged Master' and looked ready to chew steel.

"Padawan, we will go to the low hills and discuss this. Much." Qui-Gon turned to go. His tone implied that the discussion would involve a lot of physical demonstration on his own part, and much begging for mercy on his student's part. Obi-Wan did his best to look properly cowed and slung his Koh'le'bo across his back. He followed Qui-Gon, hands folded at the base of his neck, head down, showing his submission in the manner he had seen all too often around the tents. It would probably be the only thing to keep the Nurians from calling for public punishment at this point. They didn't have time to deal with denying a flogging now. They barely had time to breathe.

They had walked as far as the first hill before they spoke again. It was Qui-Gon who broke the silence. "Tell me what you sense, Padawan."

"It is a feeling that has been building for several days now. It hit the hardest as I went to the field today, Master."

"I see. And do you know what it is wrong?" Qui-Gon asked, his voice the essence of calm and control.

"There is only one thing I believe it could be, Master. La'Karata Nurian was very specific on this point. I must be trained in love. Today I felt like nothing more than an instrument of destruction. It can not be right. It is not right. I know not what must be done to make it right." Obi-Wan let his hands fall from his neck but did not look up. He bumped into Qui-Gon's back.

Qui-Gon turned and gathered Obi-Wan up in his arms. "Of course. Of course. We must seek the Will of the Force, my Padawan. You have done well. Again."

Obi-Wan turned his face away from his master's chest. Qui-Gon caught him by the chin and pulled him back.

"Say it."

Obi-Wan sighed. "I have done well."

Qui-Gon let him go. "Let us seek a quiet place."

Qui-Gon found a suitable area and settled down into a lotus pose. Obi-Wan knelt and opened himself to the Force. He was alarmed at how foreign this felt to him. Although he had been in touch with the Force, using it almost every moment of the past weeks, he had had next to no time to sit and listen to it within himself. This simply proved to him that he was right in what he had done on the practice field. He centered himself and cast his mind onto tides of the Living Force.

He sought only confirmation. Assurance that he should trust Qui-Gon's judgment. He could not tell if they would succeed, or if they would get out alive. Perhaps Qui-Gon could find that out, through his greater skill in the Moment. He just wanted to know that his master was well and truly prepared to guide him through the ordeal ahead. He opened himself, made his soul and mind a vessel to be filled with the answer of the Force. Waited, ready to accept whatever it should tell him.

The wind soughed through his hair, twisting the braids back and forth. He pushed himself farther away from his body and felt the answer fill him to the brim of his being.


Obi-Wan opened his eyes, relieved. His Master would guide him. That would be his protection. Obi-Wan drew a deep breath and began working through himself, seeking weakness and obstacles, pulling them down. Some of the training techniques had made him wary, suspicious in places where distrust should not be. He began breaking down all the barriers he had built up, reaffirming his trust in Qui-Gon. Finally, at long last and not a moment too soon, he knew absolutely that Qui-Gon was a safe and worthy recipient for his complete and total trust. Beginning the process of handing that trust over once more made Obi-Wan feel as though he was laying down a great burden.

Obi-Wan was lying back in the grass, perfectly still, watching his master when Qui-Gon opened his eyes. "Padawan?"

"Yes, Master?"

"I seem to have made a miscalculation in your training. Thank you for keeping me from letting it go too far." Qui-Gon stretched out next to Obi-Wan. "You really are a most amazing person."

"Can we not do this right now?" Obi-Wan reached out to stroke his master's hair.

"Do what?"

"Play little 'build Kenobi's self-esteem' games. I'm not really up to it," Obi-Wan explained.

"Is that what you think I'm doing?" Qui-Gon's eyes went dark and piercing.

*Concern* Obi-Wan reminded himself. "Yes, Master."

"We shall speak on this later, when you're ready to hear it. For now, though, we have a little time to ourselves ..." Qui-Gon slid his arm around his Padawan's shoulders and rolled him on top.

"My, my, whatever shall we do?" Obi-Wan smiled, leaning in for a kiss.

"Not what we're both thinking," Qui-Gon said as they broke apart. "At least, not just now. I need to better understand what you think is going on here, not just in your training, but between ... us. Surely you must realize that our physical involvement changes our other relationship."

Obi-Wan grinned crookedly at his master. "To be perfectly honest, I hadn't made that assumption at all. I know what I am to you, what I am not and can not be. I know that this is temporary. Never fear, I am still the proper and dutiful Padawan you raised me to be, my Master."

"Nothing more than that? Just a little extra add-on between us?" Qui-Gon had the look of a man ready to spring a trap.

Obi-Wan delivered his best mild look. "Should I be aware of something else, Master?"

"Take off your left boot, Padawan."

*Oh fuck.* Obi-Wan's heart turned to ice, but he obeyed.

"Stocking too, Koateleu."

Obi-Wan obeyed, exposing the brown ribbon knotted around his ankle. With shaking fingers he reached to untie it. Finally he had found the thing that would give him the strength to remove the stolen token. Shame.

"Obi-Wan, you can keep it. I want you to keep it, if you like having it. I just need to know you understand that things are ... different between us." Qui-Gon reached to stop Obi-Wan, but he found himself with nothing more than a tangle of silk ribbon in his fingers.

"There is nothing between us, my Master. There can not be, until we are both able to choose for there to be. I am not yet able to make that choice and you can not make it for me." Obi-Wan lost no time pulling his sock and boot back on.

"Then tell me why you took this? Why did you keep it if there is nothing between us?" Qui-Gon's voice was choked.

"I was dreaming. I was wishing. That's all a Padawan can do. Dream and hope and work hard every day. Try to earn some kind of right to their own life back from the Council and their Master and whoever else has a piece of them. I was dreaming that one day it might mean something real." Obi-Wan stood up and stamped into his boot.

"And now you think there can not be?" Qui-Gon murmured.

"You're not paying attention, Master! I always KNEW there couldn't be! I'm never going to make it to Knighthood and a Padawan isn't a fit partner for a Master. Certainly not a failed Padawan! There's a high possibility that I won't make it through this mission, or had that reality escaped your notice?" Obi-Wan clamped his mouth shut and turned away. "No, I suppose it didn't."

"That's why I've been pushing so hard, Koatel." Qui-Gon came up behind Obi-Wan and put one hand on his shoulder. "I want us both alive on the other side of this and everything indicates that I won't be able to help you in this fight."

The wind picked up, cutting through Obi-Wan's workout clothes. He shivered, stiffened and shivered again. The smell of smoke, from fires in the camp below filled Obi-Wan's nostrils, reminding him of a funeral pyre. *Dying. I'm dying inside, afraid of dying for real and I can't even say so,* he shivered harder, the knowledge of mortality laying a cold hand on his heart. The cold was shut out as Qui-Gon drew him into his cloak, wrapping him in its protective layers, sharing his own body warmth with his student. Unbidden, a snippet of the Master's Litany sprang into Obi-Wan's mind.

To warm thee before I am warmed.
To feed thee before I am fed.
To comfort thee before I am comforted.
To protect thee before I am protected.
To love thee before I am loved.

*He always has. Though I prepare a meal for him, he does not eat before me. Though he builds a fire on a cold night, I am nearest to it, with him at my back to protect me. And now ... perhaps ... he has loved before I can return it.*

"What is this to you, Master? Between us, I mean," Obi-Wan asked. The pain of his shame and grief finally forced the question out of him. He wasn't really interested in the answer, but he felt the question should be asked.

"A beginning. A hope. I don't want to be alone any more than you do, Obi-Wan. I won't try to push you into something you don't want, but I did hope ... "

A sob caught in Obi-Wan's throat. "The Order won't let it happen, Qui-Gon. It could never happen. You're one of the best field operatives they've got. They're not going to tie you down to me for any longer than they have to."

"The Council could probably care less about my personal life, but they would have to put forth an effort to do so. Even if they did, do you think I would not defy the Council to stay with you? I was willing to do that and more to train you, back when all I saw in you was the potential to be a great Jedi Knight someday. What do you think I would do to keep you now that I see ..."

"Don't say it! Don't you dare even breathe it! It's one thing to say that when we're all tangled up in bed, but if you start saying it while we're both dressed I'm going to ..." Obi-Wan bit the threat off. "Just don't. Please."

Qui-Gon withdrew. "I won't if it upsets you that much. When Master Torlamin arrives, I expect she'll have something I very much want to show you. But put the emotional side of it away and think on this question: Would you want to be my work partner after you take the Trials? Just on the basis of a Knight-Master team working together?"

Obi-Wan tried not to hear all the implications there. "It was always supposed to be Corubia and me."

"Please think about this, Obi-Wan. I will not try to coerce you, but the Council may not be so gentle." Qui-Gon's breath was warm in Obi-Wan's hair as he rested his lips there.

"What do they have to do with this?" Obi-Wan asked.

"Do you think it has escaped their notice that you and I have some of the best records of any operatives of any rank? They're thinking on that, you know. I'm fairly certain I know what they're thinking. They might not care about our private lives, but our professional lives interest them very much. Stay here and meditate until you see the freighter come in. Then I'll want to speak to you again." Qui-Gon stepped back, slipped his robe off and wrapped his student in it's too-large bulk before heading back towards camp.

Obi-Wan sighed and folded himself into Sitting Lion pose, still swaddled in his Master's robe. He brought the sleeve up to his nose, memorizing the scent before stilling his body and mind once more. There was much to think on. Much to consider and make peace with. But he had the answer to the question that had been most pressing. He could trust Qui-Gon. The rest was superfluous. Whatever Corubia brought could not change the truth. It could not change who Obi-Wan Kenobi really was.

The arrival of the freighter was met with great rejoicing in the camps, an enthusiasm Qui-Gon took part in. He met Corubia and Master Torlamin as they exited. "Good day, Rue, Corubia. I hope you had a pleasant journey."

"We did not, Master Jinn, as well you may know. Loaded up with a bunch of livestock. Is that any way to treat a Jedi, I ask you!?" Torlamin was near livid with affront. Her narrow features were flushed red, up to the blonde hairline. Her sharp features looked even more angular as her emotions displayed themselves there.

"Oh, Rue, you know there's no offense in it. Nothing a field operative doesn't deal with almost every day," Qui-Gon soothed.

"Well, you runabouts might get used to it, but I assure you I am more accustomed to better treatment. And just where has that boy you call a Padawan gotten off to? He should have been here to greet us properly." Torlamin cast about for the absent Obi-Wan.

"Up in the hills, meditating. I told him to come down when he saw the ship arrive, but likely he's down so deep he hasn't noticed it yet," Qui-Gon excused his student.

"Well that shows a fine lot of obedience. You should take him in hand now, before it's too late, Jinn." Torlamin straightened her field cowl as if unused to the garment. She flapped her sleeves about, trying to reach her belt to adjust the hang of it. When she was finally settled, she said. "Best take me to meet these primitives so we can get out of here. Corubia. Go get that boy and get our things onto the transport."

Corubia bowed, murmured "Yes, Master," and made good her escape.

Once the Padawan was out of earshot Qui-Gon turned on his fellow Master. "Rue, if you speak like that before Corubia again, I'm going to have to take YOU in hand. I know you've no liking for my learner, but that's no reason to badmouth him in front of others. It does not speak well of your dignity."

"I don't need you to tell me how to behave, Master Jinn. You're only still in the Order by the power of some unknown miracle. Not as if the scapegrace of the Jedi needs deference from ME, much less his little Padawan." Torlamin set off for the tents, leaving Qui-Gon to follow.

*Bloody lot you know, Rue Torlamin. Your dismissal has been discussed far more often than mine has. And by those more serious about making it a reality.* He kept himself a careful two paces behind her and spoke quietly. "I saw Arjet Paje before I left Coruscant. I believe he is thinking of expanding the research group." *Come on, little fishy. Bite.*

"Really?" Torlamin slowed to pace next to him. "And did any particular names come up?"

"Oh, the usual. Cord Random's being instructed, now that he's learned about it. Fought a Sith on Naboo, you know." A little dig, there, to get the juices flowing. Torlamin usually spoke too much when she had a target to aim for.

"Oh, that Cord fellow. I hadn't really heard about him before all this," Torlamin replied breezily. "Like as not, he'll fair no better than I did in Arjet's little band."

"And you didn't fair at all. But we've got to be thinking of the Skywalker child. We still don't know what kind of effects might come of his illness." Qui-Gon led her easily down the path he wished to pursue.

"I'd do better with him than Cord any day of the week. If I didn't have a learner already, that is." Torlamin amended herself quickly. "Perhaps I could recommend Corubia for the trials. It's a little early yet, but ..."

"Why Rue Torlamin! Surely you're not suggesting that you would put your student aside just to deal with little Anikin! I mean, yes, the child has greater potential than any I've seen in a long while. Obi-Wan excluded, of course. But it's just Potential ... and poorly tended potential at that." *Come on, say it. I dare you. I double DOG dare you.*

"Of course I'd put her aside for a student like that. A chance like that comes once in a lifetime," Torlamin stopped in her tracks, then continued as if she hadn't just said the most dangerous words a training Master can utter.

Qui-Gon let it pass, for the moment. "You think Corubia's ready for the Trials? I thought her training was still a year or so behind Obi-Wan's. He's close to being ready, but not quite yet."

"Well, really ... how can we be sure who's ready and who isn't? The trials are hardly standardized, Qui-Gon." Torlamin tried to lead the conversation onto less dangerous ground.

"Well, it's pretty easy to tell, actually. Just wait for them to serve the Order as your equal rather than your subordinate. I learned that years ago, before I even took my first learner. Didn't you?" Qui-Gon smiled to himself.

"Well, yes, of course," she replied faintly. "My last Padawan passed the Trials, you know." As yours did NOT her tone said.

"Yes, he did, didn't he? And with your expert training for all of, what, ten months? Well done, Master Torlamin." Qui-Gon didn't give the barb time to sink in. "But Corubia, now. She's been your student for ... oh, eleven years now? She's a year older than Obi-Wan ... but I was given to understand in the Rate and Rank that she's fallen behind him in her studies, if not in rating."

"Well, rank ... that's only a measure of experience. It's the rate that really matters ... how well they use their resources to serve the Order. In that sense, she's lost nothing," Torlamin explained.

"And a good thing, too. If someone of her Potential lost footing on both fronts, the Council would have to take a hard look at their training, don't you think? And at the Master who trained her. Or him. I mean, Swederantari's almost on par with the both of them, but the Council has Arjet near leading Knight Jayden about by the nose. Not that Jayden doesn't need a little guidance, what with this being his first Padawan and all. Perhaps if you asked nicely, Arjet would give you a hand here and there ... but he is awfully busy of late. Near unreachable at times." Qui-Gon watched the ideas he planted take root in Torlamin's mind.

After a moment, he peeked, just barely, into her thoughts. Nothing overt, nothing he could really note or call her down for ... just a sneaky edge to get a hint of her mindset. Her thoughts were to commit a sin of omission. Withhold training from Corubia until Arjet and ... others came to her rescue.

*Stupid. As if that'll get you anything but stripped of your student. Oh, I REALLY got you that time, Torlamin. The Group's getting this the second I get back to Coruscant. And the Council's getting it next.* "Well, that's not really what I wanted to speak to you about, anyway." He continued. "I'm to be allowed to make a recommendation on the next initiates. I was thinking of inviting Obi-Wan. It would make the most sense. He's got all the qualifications except one. Trained by a High Potential, exemplary service record, quick mind, astonishing abilities in the area of research ... but you know all that."

"He's far too young yet. You know that as well as I do," Torlamin put in quickly. "You'd need someone with far more experience in these matters."

"Someone older? With more interest in the subject, perhaps?" Qui-Gon hinted.

"At least. Researching the Dark Side isn't the work of youth, Master Jinn."

"Nor is the training of High Potentials, Master Torlamin. That's the real purpose of the Group. It's just that the Dark Side is so ... perilous to us. The Dark attracts those who come to such power so early. We still know so little about what makes us what we are." Qui-Gon tugged at his beard for a moment. "It is as yet undetermined what makes one of us successful and another ..."

"A stark-raving Darkside loony? I had noticed that about you all." Torlamin gave a poisonous smile. "I thought perhaps High Potential was brought about by a combination of emotional weaknesses, nervous tics and hyperactive cognitive skills. I mean, those are the hallmarks of your so-called 'manifestations'."

"And those misconceptions right there are what keep you from understanding us. What are you going to do when Corubia begins to manifest her abilities? How will you know when to call one of us for help?" Qui-Gon asked.

"I don't need you or anyone else to help me with my Padawan. The Council thought well enough of my abilities when they let me take her. You should have more faith in your betters and less pride in your own attributes," Torlamin snapped.

"The COUNCIL had no inkling that you would so fully disregard their wishes, ignore our assistance, the precedents and protocols set forth for a student like yours. If they knew how badly you've gone astray I don't think it would be that far a leap towards your student finding herself in the care of a new Master," Qui-Gon informed her.

"I've done nothing to be reprimanded for! Everything I've done falls well within the range of the norm ... "

"Yes, the NORM, Torlamin. When your student falls so clearly outside the norm that she was trained up from the age of FIVE to expect better. To deserve better. I'm sure you've not done anything unmentionable. But I also believe it would be short work to condemn you by the things you HAVEN'T done for her. Mind what you do, Torlamin. She's at a critical stage. Your actions do not go unobserved."

"And who do you think could observe me without my notice, Jinn? I AM a Jedi Master."

Qui-Gon focused his thoughts carefully, wove himself through the minuscule chinks in her mental armor and whispered directly into her mind. //We are. All of us. All the way down the line. We're better and smarter and faster and you'll never EVER be allowed to hurt one of ours.//

Torlamin's face was pale with shock.

//That's right, Torlamin. You can't even figure out how I got in here, much less how to throw me out. Don't make the mistake of underestimating us again. You'll only be warned this one time.// Qui-Gon withdrew.

After a moment Torlamin regained her composure. "You're not the only ones who could teach me, Qui-Gon. There are other options available to those who choose to seek them." Her eyes were cold and hard.

Qui-Gon stepped in until they were nose-to-nose. "You will not make that insinuation in my presence or the presence of any other ever again, Rue Torlamin. What you speak of is forbidden, always will be. I will watch you all the closer for having said it, mark my words."

He stepped back, waited a long moment before he spoke again. "Say NOTHING about this before our students. If you do, you force my hand."

"What is it you are all so afraid of? What is it you're finding out in this little project? That the Dark Side is nothing more than another aspect of the Force? I think it could be used, harnessed to serve us as the Light does ... " Torlamin hissed.

A fist of the Force closed around her throat. "The Force does not serve us, we serve IT. THAT is the difference, Torlamin, even if you can not grasp it." Qui-Gon let her go. She sank to her knees, gasping. "The Dark Side enslaves those who touch it. The Light Side sets us free. Hold that first in your thoughts, Rue, lest you destroy yourself and your student with you."

"You call this life freedom? Scraping and serving the Republic, the Council? We could be the rulers, the decision makers, not the messengers of the powerful. Haven't you ever wondered what that would be like? Haven't you ever wanted MORE?" Torlamin's voice was strident, if rasping.

"No. Never."

Pren chaptel, en lue
Vrecha tel an oue

"In this place between us / We were meant to be together." Obi-Wan held out his arms to Corubia for a hug. They both disappeared in the folds of Qui-Gon's robe. The freighter was being unloaded down in the camp. Corubia had come to find him when he had not been there to meet her. "I'm sorry. I was meditating and did not notice your ship come in."

"Qui-Gon said it might be something like that. That doesn't mean I forgive you. Please tell me this isn't yours," she teased, stepping out of his embrace and tugging at his sleeves.

"Don't you know Jedi Master castoffs are all the rage this season?" Obi-Wan stood and delivered a low, courtly bow. "Did you bring it?"

"All this and more, my brother." Corubia reached into her shirt and pulled out a stone bauble on a cord. "I told you you'd need it some day."

"I can't believe you saved it after all these years." Obi-Wan held the stone ring up to the light. Within the circle, three clear crystals stood in a cluster set in gold. They clung to the inside of the pale gray ring, glittering and pure. "Too bad I can't use it now."

"Your life is such a soap opera. Last night you take up airtime on a secured transmission to ask for it, now you say you can't use it. I swear, Kenobi, you're gonna be the death of us all." Corubia rolled her eyes. "What did you want it for, anyway?"

"As if you didn't know. I was going to ask Qui-Gon to wear it, but ... " Obi-Wan turned away.

"What happened?" Corubia came up behind him and began rubbing little circles along his shoulders. "On my oath, I'll never tell a soul."

Obi-Wan reached up and clenched thumbs with her on that. "I ... he ... we were up here talking about the mission. Out of nowhere he tells me to take my boot off. He knew about the ribbon, Cor. He probably knew all along."

"And ..."

"I took it off, of course. Gave it back. You don't think I would try to keep something I stole from him, do you? Besides, the whole thing was just stupid. Kid stuff." Obi-Wan reached up and stilled her hands.

"Did he ask for it back, or did you just get all flustered and throw it at him?" she demanded, stepping around to face him.

"Well, I mean ... no. He didn't ask for it. I just took it off and gave it back," Obi-Wan admitted.

"And now you don't want to give him this necklace, because he found out about your ribbon. I should have known it was something planet-shaking," Cor tried to make it sound like a joke, but a tone of scolding slipped in. "Like I said before, you're gonna be the death of us."

"If we're not careful on this assignment, you might be right. So, how may I serve you?" He pulled the cord over his head and tucked the charm under his tunic.

"Come down and help me. You'll never believe what I brought for you. But no, it's a surprise. We have to leave soon, so I need your help getting our gear onto the Fortnight Gannet." She hooked her arm through his and tugged him towards the camp.

"Qui-Gon said your master was bringing something he wanted to show me. Do you have any idea what it is?" Obi-Wan asked.

"Of course I know what it is! But I'm under orders not to tell you. Sorry." Corubia shrugged. Things were often like that among the Padawans, and nothing to be done for it. "I think they're about to give you a life lesson."

"I hate that. They always spend hours deconstructing my every motivation, then tell me what a good boy I am. How am I supposed to take any of it seriously?" Obi-Wan kicked a tuft of grass. "So where are we going next?"

Corubia sighed. "Into the pits of hell, of course. Some tiny little iceworld or something. Might be a desert world. Cord thinks there's some kind of stronghold there. Anyway, the Chendry crystals were positively traced to it, called Repta. It looks creepy as hell. Too close to the outer rim for my taste."

"Yeah, but everything further out than Naboo is too close for you. The outer rim is where we are needed most." Obi-Wan settled into their oldest argument. "You can't just say the Jedi only protect the Republic. We're bigger than that."

"You're bigger than that, you mean. You shouldn't expect so much out of us mere mortals. Come on, if we don't get this stuff moved, we'll be scrubbing the decks with toothbrushes. Again." Corubia tugged him up the side ramp and into the freighter. The Kurasians were offloading livestock, supplies, foodstuff and the like at a fast clip all around them. It took some long moments to gather the Jedi's cargo crates and clear out.

Corubia used the Force to tug on Obi-Wan's braids. "Ready to get rid of these?"

"Yeah, I was about to yank them out myself. What a mess that would have been," Obi-Wan laughed.

"I brought my clippers in case you still needed that haircut."

"I just want to get these braids out and never mind the haircut until we know what else I might have to dress up for on this mission." They dumped the packs on the gangplank of the Fortnight Gannet and headed back into camp. They found Qui-Gon and Torlamin packing up there. Obi-Wan and Corubia quickly stepped in and took over.

Qui-Gon stood back and watched for a moment, then turned to Torlamin. "Are you sure these two aren't twins? Look at them! I've never seen anything like it."

"Are you complaining? The other masters would gladly beat you senseless if they heard you." Torlamin muttered.

"Why? Just because we have the two best Padawans in the Order?" Qui-Gon knelt down to fold his clothes.

Obi-Wan nudged Corubia's shields. She threw him a startled glance then grinned crookedly and opened to him. ::Finally got the ol' brain in gear?::

**Finally! What are they talking about? **

::The rate and ranks came out last week. Didn't you see them?::

**I saw them come down. What does that have to do with us?**

::You didn't even check your placement, did you?::

**Have I ever? **

::Vain thing. I don't think you're going to get away with it this time, though.::

**What?** Obi-Wan was totally confused. The rate and rank showed where everyone stood in the Order, from the Council to the newest trainee. Like a roll-call. Only the Masters were supposed to see it, but an army of curious Padawans could not be held down or kept in the dark for long, so the rankings were pretty much public knowledge. And useless knowledge at that, to Obi-Wan's thinking. What did it matter where his name was on a readout? The training Masters used the knowledge at their own discretion, of course. Qui-Gon had never brought the subject up and Obi-Wan hadn't been all that curious, beyond keeping tabs on Qui-Gon's rank. He'd had plenty of that for himself the two months before he was taken as a Padawan. He shivered slightly at the memory.

Qui-Gon had already made their good-byes to the Nurians, and Jenka wasn't back from hunting yet, so there was no one for Obi-Wan to bid farewell. The Jedi were on the Gannet and ready to go within hours of their rendezvous.

Go to Part 1         Part 2         Part 3         Part 4         Part 5         Part 6         Part 7         Part 8         Part 9         Part 10         Part 11         Part 12         Part 13         Part 14         Part 15         Part 16         Part 17         Part 18         Part 19         Part 20         Part 21         Part 22         Part 23         Part 24        

Bonds of Choice 6: Duets and Duality: Renal Sejon

NC-17 for M/M
Het Level is None
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Low
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

68 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written October 20, 1999 by HiperBunny

Setting: Star Wars Episode 1

Primary Races: Human

Contents: Slash (M/M). Alternate Universe, Angst, Violence

Pairings: Obi-Wan/ Qui-Gon

Notes: Herein resides a snippet of the poem "Oath" by Jody Marie, bastardized for use with her permission.


To Rauhnee: Well, you keep saying you like it, so I keep writing it. Thanks for all the assistance with this evil, evil story. And also thanks with teaching me about snow. This poor little Floridian had no way of knowing any of that stuff. A hip-deep slushy? Are you SURE?

To Padawan kriski: You fed me some of the best lines in this story, whether you meant to or not. The clarity of narrative owes a debt of gratitude to your polite demands to be TOLD what I MEANT, rather than being forced to guess. And the 'cloak' bit only survived because you liked it. Your critiques reclaimed this story from re-write hell and got me back on the path to redemption. Hallelujah. Oh, and thank you for giving me a proper invective count for the fight scene. I needed that. Fortune Cookie Writers of the Galaxy Unite!

To PadaWhine Mre: Darling, if you hadn't told me where to drill the hole and let out the sap, our poor, darling Quigs would STILL be schizophrenic. He's feeling much better now, I do assure you. Gave up sucking scum as a hobby. Took up needlework. And I went to visit the doctor. He says that case of panache is clearing up now.

// is Qui-Gon telepathy //
** is Obi-Wan telepathy **
:: is Corubia telepathy::
* is thought *

Blurb: The Boys get some help on their mission, Obi-Wan makes a plan and Torlamin makes an error.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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