Bonds of Choice 9.99:
Left Hand of the Light: Jedi Light and Dark

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

*Way to go, Kenobi. Qui-Gon offers to take you on for the rest of your natural life and the best you can come up with is a smart-assed remark.* He started to pull his shirt off, planning to begin with some moving meditations.

"Stop."

Obi-Wan froze at the command. He held perfectly still, as if he expected Qui-Gon to correct him on his dressing technique. Indeed, the instinct to pause and hold came directly from their long hours of physical training.

"When was the last time anyone touched you? Besides me, I mean."

Obi-Wan's heart leapt to his throat. "Wh-what?" he choked.

"Not just in a sexual sense, I mean a hug, anything."

Obi-Wan was grateful that his head was obscured by his shirt. Qui-Gon would not see the utter confusion on his face. "I-uh, well, Corubia hugs me a lot. Jenji and Swed did today. Like that, you mean?"

"I mean like that. And before that?"

"Well, Jenji and I, we, you know ... we were together for a little while."

"You were just turned twenty then."

"Yes, Master. You said not in a sexual sense. I've had lovers since then, but none that wanted anything ... more."

He heard Qui-Gon's breath as his master came closer. "And no one has ever touched you the way I did today, have they?"

"What? Well, yes, I mean, massage is a basic therapy ... " Obi-Wan began.

"No, no, no. I mean just to relax you, to make you feel good. The way you do for me after Council meetings and the like. You've never had that before, have you?"

"Of course not."

"And when you train a Padawan, you won't expect it of them will you?"

"I don't think so. I never thought about it. Have I been doing something wrong, Master? Why didn't you tell me before?" Obi-Wan heard his voice crack. His arms were getting tired of being above his head and were starting to protest. He pushed that thought out of his mind.

Just then, Qui-Gon wrapped his arms around Obi-Wan's chest. The scent of rose oil filtered in, bringing back every sensual thought Obi-Wan had ever entertained about his master.

Qui-Gon lifted the shirt from Obi-Wan's arms. "Relax. I should have been more patient before and I shouldn't have ordered you away from me just now. I thought to see to your physical hurts. Why can't I make myself see to your emotional ones?" Qui-Gon sounded upset with himself.

"Master? I don't know what you mean."

"Shh, don't worry about it," and Qui-Gon's mouth closed over the back of Obi-Wan's neck. His breath left him in a rush and he struggled to regain it. Things between him and his master changed so quickly! One moment he was feeling like a kicked dog, the next he ... well, he wasn't entirely sure gravity was working at the moment. Qui-Gon's exploring fingers tangled up in the necklace Obi-Wan wore. He tugged the stone-and-crystal charm up to where he could see it. "What IS this thing, Obi-Wan? You haven't taken it off since we left Renal Sejon."

"And I won't until I'm sure I know what to do with it. I told you, it's just hope. Everyone needs a little, you know." Obi-Wan tilted his head to the side, exposing his neck to more kisses.

"Mmm you taste so good. I don't ever want to taste anyone but you again," Qui-Gon murmured.

"Wait, wait ... what is this all about?" he pulled away from Qui-Gon's lips with an effort and cast about for his shirt.

Qui-Gon tugged his apprentice towards his bed. "Please let me do this. Please. I just want to make you feel good, Koatel."

Obi-Wan had absolutely no defenses against a direct request from his master, so he lay down, whispering "as it pleases you."

"No, Koateleu, as it pleases YOU," and Qui-Gon's mouth was on him again. He traced a line of fire across Obi-Wan's brow, down his cheek and in for a lingering embrace of lips. Then he was off again, working bites and licks along inner arm, curve of elbow, sensitive wrist and into Obi-Wan's palm. He drew Obi-Wan's arm up off the bed, giving long sucks to each finger, laving gently along them. He spent a special moment caressing the pad of flesh at the base of the thumb, having discovered a tiny erogenous zone just above the wrist.

"Master, please, I ... " But Obi-Wan didn't even know what he meant to ask for.

"What? What is it that you want, Koatel? I'll give you anything you desire."

Obi-Wan took his courage in both hands and spoke the first thought that came to mind. "Why do you keep doing these things with me?"

Qui-Gon stared down into his partner's eyes, searching, hoping to find some clue as to where Obi-Wan was going with this. "Do you remember what we spoke of the other day, on Renal Sejon? And later, on the Fortnight Gannet? "

"Yes, Master. You want me to be thinking on what I want to have with you. I have not had much time to think on it."

"I know, Obi-Wan. I simply had some words to add. You are very dear to me, Obi-Wan. I desire you, wish to share pleasure with you."

Something tiny in Obi-Wan was crushed under these words. "Oh."

"You asked me something on Renal Sejon that I've been meaning to ask you. What is this to you?"

Obi-Wan forced himself to say the words. "Just sex. As I said before: There can't be anything else between us. I ... " a harsh laugh escaped him. "Corubia and I once got into an argument about this. She said she thought you were in love with me. I ... We talked about it again on the Gannet the other day. I said ... " that was as far as he could make himself go.

"Tell me, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon whispered. //Or show me, if you can not say it.//

** I told her I thought you might be starting to like me. I ... suppose I was mistaken. I KNOW it is not my place to love you, to be in love with you, to want you to be in love with me. No more than it is my place to question or disobey you.** Here, random memories of their life together flicked across his mind. ** Foolish. I was ... I'm sorry, my Master. I wished for more in this than there is. Please, will you continue?** He touched his fingers to Qui-Gon's lips.

//No, Obi-Wan. Not until we have finished this conversation.//

**Consider it finished. There is nothing more to say.** Obi-Wan stroked his master's hair, reached down to undo Qui-Gon's tunics. ** This isn't fair, you know. You dressed, me half nude.**

//Quite right you are. And I think this is a discussion best had without barriers, don't you?// Qui-Gon stood, divested himself of tunics and lay back down beside Obi-Wan. This was done with not a moment of seductive intent or sensual display. More like readying himself for battle.

"Master, stop it. I made a mistake and apologized for it. Now either punish me, fuck me or both, but stop this ... whatever it is." Obi-Wan wrapped his arms around Qui-Gon's neck, pulled him close and kissed him hard.

//You stop it. Stop assuming you're wrong or deserve to be punished and corrected at every turn. I'm so sick and tired of watching you shy away from this as if you don't know what it is. You DO know. Now what is it that has you so spooked? Something I've said or done? Something I've taught you? What?// Qui-Gon planted his hands on Obi-Wan's chest and gently pushed him away. The bed was too small to push him very far, but his point was made.

"Please don't do this. Please, Master. If we don't talk about it, maybe I can live without it ... please Master Jinn, if you ever cared for me at all, have some mercy on me now," Obi-Wan was well pleased at how steady his voice remained. The formal address felt right in his mouth just now.

"I see pain in every glance, with every breath you take. I hear hope dying inside you and you ask me to leave you like this out of mercy? What do you think I am, Padawan?"

"You are above me, Master Jinn, and soon this will be an attachment you can no longer afford."

"Who told you that?" Qui-Gon demanded.

"No one had to tell me. I know my place. If I'm too much of a burden on a Knight, how could I be anything else to you, Master Jinn?"

"You're talking about that Obream ass, aren't you? How he broke with you all those years ago? Do you know why he's never seen at the Temple when we are here?"

Obi-Wan shook his head. "I assumed he wished to spare himself the sight of me."

"We had a loud and very public conversation on the subject of my Padawan's feelings. You do remember who my Padawan is, don't you?" At Obi-Wan's nod, Qui-Gon continued. "He hurt you needlessly and that after he'd given me his word that he would be careful of you. He made a liar of me, because I had permitted the relationship and advised you that he was worthy of your attentions. I have not forgiven him for his callous treatment of you. I have no intention of doing so."

Obi-Wan blushed. "I was a fool then to believe he would truly care for me, just as I am a fool now to hope you ever will. You may love me now, or be infatuated, but it can not last. You should not blame him for my failings, Master. If I had kept my heart to myself, no one would have been hurt."

"And that's what you're doing now, isn't it? Crushing your feelings for me so that you do not 'inconvenience' me. Trying to deny your emotions that everyone can see, just to prevent my turning you away. And you're making excuses for those who have hurt you. I thought I gave you very specific instructions to that quarter," Qui-Gon was starting to feel a shade worked up about the whole thing.

Obi-Wan considered the assertion. "Yes. It is better to be alone."

"And hurting inside?"

"Better I hurt, or even died, than cause you a moment's care or worry. A little pain here and there for me is nothing if it spares you the embarrassment of my unwanted affection." Obi-Wan said this with utter conviction.

Qui-Gon's fingers closed around Obi-Wan's biceps, fingers digging in, demanding attention. "Your affection is not unwanted. It is very much desired, in fact. Do you think even for a second that I would have accepted a physical relationship with you if I did not wish something more? Something real? I do not enter into these things lightly."

Obi-Wan lay stunned. After a moment he regained the ability to speak. "Do you mean that?"

"Yes, I mean that." Strong hands smoothed away the pale marks they had left on his arms.

"And do I need to answer for myself right now? Because I don't know what to say."

"Think on it. Think on what you might wish to have with me. Make an informed decision. You know me well enough, know that I am not overly thoughtful, nor perfect in most ways that matter. But I do care for you, and deeply. Please believe that, despite the fact that you 'Never believe anything anyone tells you in bed.' I know you do not want me saying this, but I love you. Not that fleeting stuff you have seen before, but the kind that is patient and willing to wait. The kind that hopes to woo and win you, despite the odds against you ever accepting me as I wish to offer myself to you." Qui-Gon raised Obi-Wan's palm to his lips. "The kind I believe you could have for me, if only you would find your own worth."

Obi-Wan closed his eyes, focused on himself, his master, his *lover*, if he was honest with himself. Lover. Obi-Wan let his anxieties go and allowed his feelings and instincts choose his words. "I think that what we want from life are very different things."

"Really? I thought we were very much alike in our desires. Jedi first, and to the core," Qui-Gon grinned.

"Yes, Jedi first and always. But Master, there are several very different ways of being Jedi. Have you never noticed just how uncomfortable I am with fieldwork? I'm very good at it, do well on missions ... but I don't think I want that to be my primary function in the Order." Obi-Wan offered this confession tentatively, hoping Qui-Gon understood.

"Oh," Qui-Gon whispered.

"That's what I meant by a Padawan not being a fit partner for you. I have a lot to learn yet, about life, about what I want, what I need. There's too much that I haven't done yet to know what I can offer you. But I do know this. Once I get a voice in the decision, I won't be going out to skies-be-damned backwater worlds to negotiate treaties that won't last a year. I won't be doing political gruntwork for Senators who can't or won't do it for themselves. I'll be doing something that I find personally rewarding, if I can." Obi-Wan crawled over Qui-Gon and went to stand by the window.

"What is it you want to do, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon came to join him.

"I'm trying to figure it out. I know I want to work with the Trainees. I know I want a Padawan eventually. But what I'm really sure of, down in my bones, is that my true calling isn't out there in the field. It's here, in the Temple. Maybe with the philosophers and teachers I can find out what I'm supposed to be doing," Obi-Wan shrugged.

Qui-Gon wrapped his arms around his student. "Maybe with the philosophers and the teachers is where you belong. Obi-Wan, listen to me. Hear these words with an open heart. I would defy the Council to be with you. I would give up the Order to be with you. I would fight and kill and cheat and steal to be with you. I love you. I have no problem whatsoever with giving up fieldwork for you."

"But I don't want you to, Qui-Gon. That kind of work is what you love. I would hate myself for taking you from it. I won't allow you to martyr yourself like that. Please don't," Obi-Wan turned in his lover's arms, kissed his neck gently.

"Then what are we to do, my Obi-Wan?"

"Well, there are any number of options, really. I'm sure you've already thought of a few yourself. But for now? We wait. We see what the Force brings to us. If you are willing, just wait and hope. And I will continue to think on what it is I want with you. You will give me time to consider?"

"All that you need and more." Qui-Gon swore.

"And you will accept my decision, whatever it might be?"

"Could you think I would treat you otherwise?"

"And this? The physical? Must it cease until I know the answer?"

"No. We can do this any way you're comfortable with. There are few rules in these matters. Few that work, anyway." Qui-Gon pulled Obi-Wan closer. "But I will do anything you want, here in this place. This is our time, when we do not need to be Jedi, nor do we need to be Master and Padawan. Here, if you will let it be so, we can be just Qui-Gon. Just Obi-Wan."

Obi-Wan considered this. "Just Koateleu. Just Pantreti."

Qui-Gon's jaw hit his chest. "Just what?"

Obi-Wan smirked. "If you can give me an inappropriate nickname, then I can give one to you. And I leave it to your Jedi ingenuity to discover it's meaning. There is something I want to ask you about. It is something I have wondered and worried over for some time now."

"Ask and I will answer if I know," Qui-Gon swore.

"How do you like your syrup? I can never work out what you're doing with it."

Qui-Gon smiled, then chuckled, then let his head fall back as he abandoned himself to laughter. "My syrup? Like on hotcakes? You WORRIED about that?"

Obi-Wan sniffed defensively. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm a better-than-passing cook. I like to know how things should taste, how to make them. Now, having eaten your cooking on more than one occasion, I can see how this interest might be lost on you. But you did promise, so tell." Obi-Wan cocked his head to one side and fixed his teacher with a steady gaze.

"I'll do better than that. I'll show you." Qui-Gon crushed Obi-Wan's lips in a smoldering kiss. "Strip."

"Why do I get the feeling I'm going to hear complaints from the laundry room?" Obi-Wan mused aloud as he wriggled out of his pants.

"Fine, we'll move this to my room and muss my sheets, if that suits you better," Qui-Gon rose to collect supplies from the kitchen.

"It does, oh Master mine. At least I'll have someplace to sleep that won't be glazed."

Obi-Wan made his way to Qui-Gon's bedroom, trying to still his thoughts. *Do not focus on your anxieties, Kenobi,* he chided himself with his master's oft-repeated advice. And that was the core of it, really. He was taking off his pants and crawling into his master's bed. His MASTER'S bed. HIS master's bed. The phrase echoed in his thoughts, trying to find some kind of logic to connect with. He lay back and closed his eyes, trying to obey his lifetime of training. To live in the moment and let the future take care of itself. When he opened his eyes Qui-Gon was standing over him with two bottles of syrup and not a stitch of clothes upon him. Suddenly, the moment seemed a very friendly place.

Qui-Gon set the bottles aside and joined Obi-Wan on the bed. "I'm not sure this is going to be the revelation you are looking for, but I'll do me best," he chuckled.

Obi-Wan wrinkled his nose, "As long as I get an answer of some sort ... "

"You may be the only man I know who can fret about breakfast condiments, Koatel. Now, first thing is to put those worries aside and listen to a little story. Once upon a time, I was a child," Qui-Gon began.

"Ah. A fairy tale," Obi-Wan smirked.

"Hush and listen, Padawan," Qui-Gon insisted. "Yes, back when Coruscant was a lush and verdant forest world, I was a Padawan. My master, whom you have not met, took great pleasure in trying to drive me insane. One of the ploys used was a flat, thick, hard square of bread that found its way to my plate every morning. It was called journey-bread, one of the least loved bits of unleavened hardtack known to exist. Once consumed, it sits in the belly like a stone, for hours, preventing hunger pains but providing little or no satisfaction to the palate. Every day for a year, I had journey-bread for breakfast. Then, one fine morning, I woke to discover a plate of hot egg-toast and a tall glass of petala juice waiting for me. With the egg-toast was a selection of syrups, two of which you now see here on the bedside table. My master suggested that these two went best with egg-toast, so I had them both. I loved them both. I have, ever since, eaten them whenever an opportunity presents itself. The end."

"That's it?" Obi-Wan demanded, incredulous.

"That's it. Not everything is a grand mystery, Obi-Wan. Some things are just darn tasty." Qui-Gon shrugged.

"And you never found out what the whole breakfast thing was about?" Obi-Wan pestered.

"Of course I did. I had the good sense to eat my breakfast before asking, but I did ask," Qui-Gon smiled. "Turns out my master liked journey-bread. Must have had something to do with her subspecies. Anyway, since I had never complained, she never knew I didn't like it."

"So you had to eat something you didn't like, just because you didn't say you wanted something else?" Obi-Wan was aghast.

Qui-Gon smiled. "That kind of sounds like someone else I know, doesn't it?"

Obi-Wan let that pass. "Why didn't you ever say anything?"

Qui-Gon shrugged again. "Why didn't you ever say you'd like to stay in your master's quarters? We all try to be perfect when we're Padawans, try to hide our desires and needs from our masters because we think being Jedi is ... cold and esthetic."

"I didn't want to move in with you," Obi-Wan pointed out.

"And I didn't want to make you. I'm sorry you're stuck here with me, Obi-Wan. I'll do my best to keep out of your way until your knighting," Qui-Gon took Obi-Wan's hand and squeezed it once. "I always wanted you to have your freedom and independence."

A thought suddenly occurred to Obi-Wan. "Master, do you want me living here with you?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"You are what makes this place a home to me. Your presence is a comfort to me in my old age," Qui-Gon sighed. "I know you aren't happy with this situation, Koateleu, but the fact that you are here makes me ... happy."

Obi-Wan turned over and lay his head on Qui-Gon's chest, considering the words carefully. "And the fact that I don't want to be here hurts, doesn't it?"

"Yes, Padawan. I wish I knew what to do, so that you would like it here and think of it as your home. I wish ... " Qui-Gon trailed off.

"You wish your presence made this place a home for me, right?" Obi-Wan nuzzled at the soft skin. "You do. I should have told you this. I didn't want to lose my own place, but ... I'm glad I had a place to go. I'm glad there was someone to shelter and care for me. I'm very glad it was you."

Qui-Gon tilted Obi-Wan's chin upwards and planted a kiss on the end of his nose. "Thank you, Obi-Wan. That, too, makes me very happy. Now, lessons in syrup. Sit up."

Obi-Wan obeyed and Qui-Gon sat up as well, pulling his partner to lean back against his chest, between outspread legs. "Okay, let's try an experiment in stickiness."

"Sounds like fun," Obi-Wan tried to sound enthusiastic.

"Trust me, you'll like this. And I promise not to make a total mess of you," Qui-Gon leaned in to nuzzle and suckle along Obi-Wan's shoulders. "Hold your arms out."

Obi-Wan held his arms out, palms up and settled back against Qui-Gon's chest. "This had better be good."

"That, of course, depends on the both of us," Qui-Gon picked up one of the syrups and poured a thin trickle along the insides of Obi-Wan's forearms. He repeated the process on his own arms with the other syrup then pressed his arms down on Obi-Wan's, mixing the two. He lifted them away and nuzzled along Obi-Wan's earlobe. "Now, of course, we have but to determine which blend is the best. I believe I'll begin by sampling some of yours."

He drew Obi-Wan's left arm up and back, within easy reach of his mouth, then began the long process of cleaning the syrup away. He savored the warm flesh beneath the sweet liquid, chewing gently to sensitize the skin, then laving along the teeth marks to soothe away any sting. Obi-Wan's head fell back onto Qui-Gon's shoulder and he breathed little sighs of pleasure into Qui-Gon's hair. There was a pool of syrup in the crook of Obi-Wan's elbow, one which took considerable care and patience to clear away. As this area was slowly and delicately licked clean, Obi-Wan began twisting ever so slightly against Qui-Gon's ministrations, once more surprised at his master's ability to draw intense pleasure from the most unlikely of places. Qui-Gon dropped a final kiss upon Obi-Wan's tattoo and let his partner's arm fall away from his lips. "Care to try some?" Qui-Gon suggested, offering an arm to Obi-Wan.

"Hmmm? Oh! Yes, definitely," Obi-Wan snuggled more firmly against Qui-Gon's chest and drew his arm around for cleaning. He applied his teeth to skin a shade more firmly than was strictly necessary and chuckled when Qui-Gon growled against his ear. Obi-Wan chewed and sucked the flesh from wrist to elbow, leaving a rather conspicuous trail of red and purple markings in his wake. As his tongue dipped into bend of elbow, he couldn't help but notice the Qui-Gon's firm erection nudging him in the small of his back, a calm but insistent suggestion. Obi-Wan released Qui-Gon's arms and twisted around to face his partner, draped his legs over Qui-Gon's thighs and wiggled closer until their cocks nestled between them in sensuous contact.

Qui-Gon took Obi-Wan's right arm and cleaned it quickly with long, lapping strokes of his tongue then continued the treatment up biceps, across shoulder, into hollow of throat, along jaw and onto earlobe. Here he nibbled delicately, reached up to stroke Obi-Wan's hair only to find his wrist captured and immobilized.

"You're still sticky," Obi-Wan informed him. Again those sharp, even teeth assaulted sensitive flesh. Again the love-bites were hard enough to leave a pattern of bruises. This time, Qui-Gon moaned aloud, dropping his free hand between their bodies to encircle Obi-Wan's cock. He squeezed and stroked in rhythm with Obi-Wan's bites and suckles, drawing a moan or two from the younger man as he caressed and teased the aching flesh.

Obi-Wan released Qui-Gon's arm and began a secondary assault of his own. Clever fingers claimed the master's turgid member, pulling roughly, slowly, almost cruelly taunting his partner with the idea of release. In response, Qui-Gon's touches became even more gentle, a careful exploration of pleasures and need. He leaned forward, kissing Obi-Wan's mouth slowly, allowing the tip of his tongue between lips just barely, just a hint, a whisper of taste, then forged a path of fire between mouth and temple, kisses of intimate tenderness. He slid an arm around Obi-Wan's back, rocking them gently in slow unison, whispered "This is a blessing, my Koateleu."

Obi-Wan twisted his fingers into a handful of hair, pulling Qui-Gon more firmly to him. He wrapped his legs tight around the larger man's waist, bringing their cocks together in a glittering instant of contact. Qui-Gon's fingers closed around them both, now, and Obi-Wan hastened to copy his intent. They thrust together, rocking more urgently as pleasure cascaded through their senses. Obi-Wan gasped out "Pantreti, strong Pan, wait for me," and claimed Qui-Gon's mouth in a bruising kiss.

//Always and forever, my Obi-Wan.// Qui-Gon sighed into his mind.

They curled together, heads resting on shoulders, arms and legs pulling and binding them together as muscles strained to rock, thrust, press closer, seeking more, wanting and needing more. Obi-Wan groaned as Qui-Gon's beard teased the ultra-sensitive skin below his ear, bucked his hips, once, twice and let his head fall back as he shouted completion to his lover. Qui-Gon's arm tightened around his back as he stroked their cocks for a moment longer, then came whispering "Obi-Wan, Koatel, Obi-Wan, love you." A tremor of shuddering release from the elder man and they fell, side by side, onto the pillows.

Obi-Wan took a long moment to re-exert control over his breathing before turning over to kiss Qui-Gon once more. "Your sheets are sticky."

"Mmm," Qui-Gon agreed. "And you're adding to it even as we speak."

"I'll just go get cleaned up, then," Obi-Wan smiled, hugging his lover to him one last time.

"Mmm," Qui-Gon sighed, resigned.

Obi-Wan hurried through a quick shower and came out of the bath to find Qui-Gon sitting at the dataset, researching. "I'm for sleep," he said, dropping a kiss onto Qui-Gon's head.

"Sweet dreams, Padawan," Qui-Gon returned, pulling Obi-Wan down for a deeper embrace.

"All of them on you, Master," Obi-Wan promised.

As he snuggled down between the sheets, Obi-Wan let his mind wander over the path of conversation he and Qui-Gon had taken this night. *Would it be so bad, Kenobi? I mean, living like this is just about killing you. How much worse could it be to let yourself love and be loved? Especially with someone you know you can trust ...*

But the day had been long and sleep was quick in arriving. Soon he left all conscious thought, escaping into a dreamtime of blue eyes and soft hair.


Morning came with sunlight again. Somehow it didn't seem odd anymore. Obi-Wan crawled out of bed, did morning stretches and set about his morning chores and exercises. Obi-Wan meant to meditate. He really did. But he had been feeding Dauhge, just watching the little guy paddle around and something had occurred to him. He'd grabbed his lightslate, then needed the dataset on his desk, then opted to go for the whole shebang and moved to Qui-Gon's better-equipped desk in the other room. Then snatched Qui-Gon's lightslate just to keep the notes in order. He was cross-referencing at quite a clip, pulling records, matching timelines and researching reports when Qui-Gon arose bed. The elder Jedi was walking normally once again, with no evident loss of function. "What are you doing, Obi-Wan?"

"I remembered something. Well, no. I thought about something I remembered and it reminded me of something that happened which I had forgotten about," Obi-Wan rattled. His fingers were almost a blur over the dataset, his eyes appeared to be twitching, so fast did he file and scan. Qui-Gon looked away. It was mildly creepy to watch anyone, even his Obi-Wan, in one of these information feeding frenzies. Luckily they hadn't happened often.

But when they did ... Qui-Gon went to the catering unit, prepared to settle in for the long haul. Usually Obi-Wan saw to the upkeep of them both, but now that was for Qui-Gon's part. He knew that Obi-Wan wouldn't leave the desk until his body forced him to. He would not eat unless the food was put before him. He might not eat unless Qui-Gon put the food in his hand and ordered him to. This little bout would last until Obi-Wan had the answer he was looking for and references to back it up. "Obi-Wan, does this have to do with our last mission?"

"Yes. Sort of. It does, but it also has to do with what's going on now, and something I think happened and something I did and something you didn't know and something we might have to do pretty quickly. But I'm not sure yet, so I just have to find a few more things. Why?"

"Just wondering how long you'd be. Is there a free commline out of here?"

Obi-Wan patted himself down and came up with his comm link, which he threw to Qui-Gon. "Here." He never broke his rhythm at the dataset.

Qui-Gon caught the link, chimed for Arjet Paje and puttered around in the kitchen waiting on the caterer. The trick here was to get answers without breaking Obi-Wan's stride. The pattern of thought was very important at this stage. Sometimes Qui-Gon found himself wishing Obi-Wan's potential would hurry up and manifest already, so he could stop with the tiptoeing around. He chuckled, caught off guard by the mental image of himself at Obi-Wan's age, hunched over a dataset, purely driven to find the information that would bring some mystery clear in his mind. *Patience, Qui-Gon. Handle with care.*

"Obi-Wan, answer me in as few words as possible. Does this have to do with the Sith or Torlamin?"

"Yes. Both. Separately"

"Do you think this might be more important than the testing we're scheduled to do, given the bigger picture?"

"Yes."

"Fine. Let me know when you're done."

Qui-Gon set a plate of sweet rolls and slices of selthuri melon within Obi-Wan's reach and stepped out of the room. There was a small solarium at the end of the hall where he and Arjet usually met when they needed to talk. Arjet was already there, seated calmly in a wicker chair, watching the Coruscant air traffic shift and speed.

"How far did you have to run to beat me here?" Qui-Gon asked, taking a seat next to his friend.

"Half a wing and two levels. Now the rumor mill will churn for days on who's body will turn up missing. I hope you're satisfied." Arjet grinned, tugging at his topknot. "What's going on?"

"Obi-Wan's in an Accessing phase. I can't bloody well stop him just for some test that would be easily as valid a couple of days from now. And possibly more valuable then. He's working on the Torlamin question, which you must agree is something we could use a little help on. Especially now." Qui-Gon sounded vexed.

"Yes, especially now. Not that I think he'll find anything to save her."

"I don't think he's trying to save her. Right offhand, I'd say he's trying to explain her."

Arjet tugged a lock thoughtfully. "That is far more valuable than foregone test results. Keep an eye on him. If he goes longer than twelve hours, let me know. I'll pick the mother of all protocol arguments with Windu and we'll tie the Council up for as long as it takes."

"You take more chances than even I do, old friend."

"I've always been more of a gambler than you, Quigs." Arjet grinned. "Besides, this is too delicate a situation to allow them a hand in. They might think they understand, but really ... Mace might think he understands, but he's as stiff and stodgy now as someone three times his age."

"It's not as if he doesn't do everything he can for us. He, at least, is sympathetic to our methods. Maybe the ones who have trained the middle potential students would understand ... " Qui-Gon began.

"And they are far outnumbered by those of a philosophical bent, or of purely diplomatic background, who are unsuited to giving this kind of training, so never have. Remember the weakness and the strength of the High Potentials: few and far between."

"And yet there are two of them living in my quarters," Qui-Gon groused. "I swear, the boy has no sense of timing! Do you know where he was when he saw the Moment for the first time? In the shower, of all places. Luckily, he also figured out to project his thoughts through the Force at the same time. I say 'luckily'. Anyone could have heard him! Not that this is a bad thing from a developmental point of view ... "

"Topic, Quigs."

"Right. Sorry. What I mean to say is that I was able to hear him and realized what was happening. Then that mess with Cord and that Anakin boy happened the next day and he shut up tighter than a clam. It took a major trauma event to open him up again. He just can't handle shocks at this point. We need to let this run its course." Qui-Gon tugged on his own hair, wrapping it around his index finger and yanking to some inner rhythm.

"I agree with you totally. And it is a serious matter. I will help you all I can, which includes me running interference with the Council. Now go keep an eye on him. And help him this time. Let him see what the two of you can do together. It'll build his confidence," Arjet instructed.

"He knows he is up to the task," Qui-Gon began.

"Yes, Quigs," Arjet interrupted. "He knows his own abilities and he knows yours. Show him what you can accomplish as a pure team. Show yourself, too. It's time for that to begin anyway. I'm sure he's willing to accept you as a mission partner. I saw it in him at the lab."

Qui-Gon looked at the floor, frowning. *Work partner. Well, at least I might get that to start from.*

Arjet took one of Qui-Gon's hands. "It's like that, is it?" he asked softly.

"Did you ever doubt that it would be?"

"No. Never. Let him learn of it his own way, though. Painful as that may be for you in this moment. Be as the birdcatchers."

"Sit still and wait for him to come to me? I'm trying. That IS my intention. But it is so difficult, being so calm and wise when ... "

"When you want to wed, bed and keep him, now, and not necessarily in that order?" Arjet squeezed once. "I know."

"Well, we already did the bedding part. But that was his idea, rest assured. He came to me first. I truly thought all would naturally follow after, but ... well, we hit a few snags. It's coming along nicely, though. I think we'll be all right." Qui-Gon swiped at his eyes. "I have to get back."

"Jedi first, then Master, only after that an individual. You knew that when you first began having these feelings. If he does not love you, you must continue as was planned. If he does love you, you must continue as planned. It is what you must do. You know you will do what you must."

"Yes. I will. And my heart will break for it. But Arjet! If he is as we believe, just think! Get that stupid prophecy fulfilled and I'll have the rest of my life to just fool around. Perhaps my saga will have a happy ending after all. You know, there's room for a lot of happiness, after Jedi and Master."

"I know. Patience, Quigs."

"If you tell me to have patience with that skies-be-damned verse again, I may do you a harm," Qui-Gon growled.

"Well, you wouldn't be so upset if I was wrong about it. Just think how long others have been patient, waiting for you to come along and be ready. You are the Teacher, Qui-Gon. That comes as naturally as breathing to you. I'd recommend showing him the Library as soon as you can. He's probably ready to start the Grande Readings, which will put us one step closer to fulfilling your work," Arjet suggested.

"I know. Discovery, then Teaching, Learning, Reading, Enlightenment and Instruction. Are you sure we translated the prophecy correctly, because if not, we're going to be in big trouble," Qui-Gon replied. "I'm not sure the time is right yet, for the books. He's had the Teaching, more or less, but there's learning yet to be done. I want to wait a little longer."

"Are you sure?"

Qui-Gon sighed. "Unfortunately, yes. You've always told me to follow my feelings on this, let everything come naturally, and my feelings say wait. He needs to learn something else, something ... elusive ... before he's ready for the Grande Reading. Maybe I'll show them to him and see if it sparks anything interesting. Whatever it is he's supposed to teach us had better be worth it, is all I can say."

"Just hang on long enough for Obi-Wan to do his works, then he's all yours." Arjet tugged a curl. "At least you won't have to take another Padawan unless you really want to."

"At least. I don't think I could take much more of this. Speaking of trying Padawans, how is Corubia doing?" Qui-Gon turned the conversation back on his friend.

"As well as can be expected. No worse than what I thought would happen. I took her to see Torlamin. She puked her guts up again and I put her to bed. I really should get back, in case she wakes up." Arjet tugged at his topknot again. "She made me put my hair back."

Qui-Gon laughed. "Good. Watching you always makes me yank mine out by the roots. Or pluck my beard all scraggly. Get back now. You to yours, me to mine."

Arjet stood. "Thank you, Quigs."

"Thank you, Arjet."


Obi-Wan was still at the desk when Qui-Gon entered. He didn't even look up from the screens. Arjet was right. Qui-Gon should help his Padawan in this. The Torlamin problem spanned over four decades, far too long for Obi-Wan to research alone in the time they had. Especially when most of the pieces were there in Qui-Gon's head already. So he reached out to Obi-Wan, asking entrance through the bond between them, which was granted.

//What are you looking for?//

**Where was Torlamin when her first master died? It says she had two Masters during her apprenticeship, but doesn't give the name of her first master. How did he or she die? And how long have the Kurasians been passing themselves off as primitives?**

Qui-Gon took a moment to match his thoughtflow to the pattern Obi-Wan was working from. In moments they were meshed, focused on the same goal with two razor-sharp minds attacking the problem together rather than separately. //Oh, I see what you mean. Let me access that for you.//

Qui-Gon's fingers tapped out a higher-level security code on the dataset and a long file scrolled past.

**We'll never get anywhere like this, it's too slow,** Obi-Wan complained, reading the last bit of the file. **We need the dermal units in the library.**

Qui-Gon considered his student for a long moment, then chose his course of action. //I can teach you something that will be faster and less painful than the dermals. More portable, too.// Qui-Gon took out his chime bell and settled his thoughts once more. //Get that file on Torlamin's first Kurasian mission.//

Obi-Wan obeyed, watching his master closely, both internally and externally. Qui-Gon struck the chime and hit the fastscroll command at the same time. Obi-Wan saw his eyes flicking back and forth, reading at lightening speed. Inwardly, he could see how the trick was done. By focusing on the single tone, Qui-Gon entered a sort of meditative state in which his mind could accept large pieces of information at once, without consciously reading it. The information lay in his mind like a shining ember. A moment passed, and it blended in with the other knowledge already there. "That's amazing."

"Do you think you can do that?" Qui-Gon asked.

"Now that I see how it's done, yes."

It took a few tries, but Obi-Wan could indeed swallow information as Qui-Gon did. It was much less painful than the dermal feeds and he didn't have to wait to sleep the information in. Pictures, graphs, text, audio files, all the chunks and scraps of information fed into Obi-Wan's mind as fast as he could find them.

Then he discovered something VERY interesting. If he and Qui-Gon tried at the same time, they could cross-feed one another. Which lead to a curious thought. **Master, do you think I could access the information you already have?**

Qui-Gon did not answer immediately. //You must be very careful to touch only what I give you. Erasing knowledge is much more difficult than Accessing it.//

**Let's not try that just yet, then. Wait, I have another idea. What if we combined this with my trick with Dauhge?**

//You mean, I'll do an information feed while you jack up your logical processes?//

**Yes. We shouldn't need to go much deeper into each other's minds than we are now ...**

//Let's try it.//

Moments later Obi-Wan was settled on his pillow in front of Dauhge's tank. He let his eyes relax, following the turtle's movements. ** This doesn't always work, you know.**

// I know. And we're working with pretty spotty information here. Just do your best.//

**See if you can do anything with this stuff I found on Torlamin's master, while I give some thought to Torlamin's situation.**

They passed information back and forth, occasionally pausing while Obi-Wan pieced things together. **I'm going to have to learn how to do this without the turtle, you know.**

//Just go with what works for now. Let's look at what we've got.//

** It's pretty ugly. And it doesn't give us any real answers, just more questions.**

// We'll need to double-check everything before we can take this to anyone else.//

**I hadn't thought about that. We have to tell someone what we found?**

//Eventually. Not this morning. Come here, Koatel.//

Obi-Wan came and sat down next to Qui-Gon on the sofa. Qui-Gon had compiled their research into one long file which told a frightening story indeed. Obi-Wan struck the chime, ate the information and shut the lightslate down. He closed his eyes and curled up on the sofa, waiting for his mind to catch up. Qui-Gon pulled him closer, cradling his head in his lap. Strong fingers caressed his hair and face.

//You've got a fever.//

**I think I earned it.**

// I think we'd better get some rest. They'll be doing that test this evening, so we'll need to be ready for that.//


Obi-Wan was awake before Qui-Gon, a habit long ingrained from his life of rooming far away from his master's quarters. He had plenty of time to shower and lay out a lunch that wouldn't give them both a bellyache during the tests.

He got dressed in short order, pulling on his boots and struggling with his cuffs for a long moment before giving up. Qui-Gon was just sitting up in bed when Obi-Wan came in. "Master? Would you do my sleeves for me? I can't seem to get them to behave."

"Of course, Koatel." Qui-Gon rubbed sleep from his eyes with one hand and directed Obi-Wan to sit on the bed with the other. He was warmed that Obi-Wan had come to him for help, even on such a small thing. It spoke of growth where much strength was yet needed. It was a comfortable thing, a ritual they did not engage in very often any more. Qui-Gon pulled the stiff fencing cuff down, smoothing it from just below Obi-Wan's elbow and began tugging the laces tight. The cloth molded around Obi-Wan's strong forearm, providing protection and support. Above the elbow, the shirt puffed and hung loose, leaving him unrestricted movement. Qui-Gon tied the laces off and tucked them out of Obi-Wan's way. The process was repeated on the other arm.

"Thank you, Master. Lunch will be ready when you are." Obi-Wan stood and bowed to Qui-Gon before removing himself from the room.

That little bow set the mood for the afternoon. They ate and meditated in formal silence. When they left their quarters to seek out their testing site, they were the picture of Jedi serenity and propriety. Both wore their formal robes rather than the field cowls more often associated with the Jedi. Under that they wore workout clothing more suited to a competition than a test. Obi-Wan had even taken the few extra moments to ensure their boots were polished to a high mirror shine and that Qui-Gon's hair was neatly secured in a smooth braid. Qui-Gon had returned the favor by re-working Obi-Wan's Padawan braid and tail.

It took a moment for Obi-Wan to recognize the section of the Temple they had entered. He hadn't visited it in ten years. Qui-Gon paused a few steps from the door, turned to face his apprentice. He gave Obi-Wan a penetrating stare, assessed him from head to toe before tucking his hands inside his sleeves with a satisfied nod. Obi-Wan imitated the gesture and followed Qui-Gon into the testing center, the proper step and a half behind his left shoulder.

They walked down a long ramp and into an arena. The floor was covered in mats, and a large obstacle tower had been arranged. Obi-Wan followed Qui-Gon to a pair of mats and settled into a kneeling posture. Moments later, Corubia entered and took a seat on a mat across the arena from them.

Soon after, the sound of many boots echoed down the ramp. Obi-Wan turned his head to look. Masters Paje and Ar'thapa were approaching, Rue Torlamin held tight between them. She looked tired, haggard, but radiated hate and anger. Obi-Wan reached for Qui-Gon's thoughts, relieved by the calm and serenity he found there. He sent a wave of contentment towards his master, just to let him know he was well. Qui-Gon turned towards him and smiled. They both observed as Torlamin was seated beside Corubia. The wayward Master stared at Obi-Wan, pouring her ire upon him. He sighed with regret that she could not find it within herself to do better than that and turned his attention to the sound of beings filling in the observation tier.

The whole of the Jedi Council had taken their places before a word was uttered in the chamber. Then Master Gallia spoke. "The test is physical. Beginning with Master Jinn and his Padawan. Attain the red platform."

Obi-Wan looked at the obstacle course. There were several raised platforms of varying colors. A different path would need to be taken for each one. The trick in a physical test was to use the Force as little as possible. He devised a plan, then scrapped it in favor of one that would take advantage of the teamwork he and Qui-Gon shared. **Like so, Master?**

//Almost. Thusly.// Qui-Gon made an alteration in the route as they stood and shed their robes.

**Yes, Master.**

The first step to their route was up graduated posts about one handspan wide. Stepping from one to the next, they soon attained the height of a trapeze bar. As Qui-Gon was leading the way, he first swung across to a gray platform, arching his body to full length to make a safe landing. As Obi-Wan observed this, he realized his height was not quite sufficient to that technique. He swung back and forth once to gain momentum for a tight forward flip. More strenuous, somewhat flashy, but the quickest way to his goal.

//Good. Mind your balance.// Qui-Gon admonished. They walked across a thin rail that ended at a blank wall. A tiny ledge, not quite wide enough for both feet, jutted from the base. //Hmm. We both miscalculated this one, Koatel.//

The wall was just a bit too high for either one to reach singly, and there was no room even for a Force-jump. **Let me past, Master.** Obi-Wan requested.

Qui-Gon dropped off the bar, swinging beneath it. Obi-Wan stepped between his hands and onto the ledge. He pressed his back against the wall, bending one knee to make a step. Qui-Gon swung back on top of the bar and stepped onto his Padawan's knee, swarmed up his shoulders and reached the top of the wall. He lay on his stomach and extended down to Obi-Wan, pulling him up safely.

The next path was a row of rungs that ended some five feet out and cut off in midair. The rungs were mirrored beyond a five-foot break, ending at the red platform. Obi-Wan started out first, reaching the last rung before Qui-Gon began. Obi-Wan swung up, hooked his knees over the last bar and dangled down, reaching for Qui-Gon's hands. Qui-Gon transferred his grip with the surety of long practice, swung out and twisted in midair, turning gracefully to grip the opposite rung. He positioned himself similarly to Obi-Wan while the younger man twisted and stood on top of the bars. Obi-Wan centered himself and dove gracefully into the air, extending and twisting with all confidence that his master would be exactly where he needed him.

Strong hands closed over his forearms just as he fell past, swinging him up and under the rungs, high enough to hook his legs through. Obi-Wan curled forward, caught the next rung in his hands and pulled his legs free, traveling hand over hand to the red platform. Qui-Gon was just a few steps behind him, having walked from rung-to-rung on top of the bars. When Qui-Gon was safely beside him, a bell sounded. They had passed the test.

Master and Padawan leapt to the ground and resumed their seat on the mats, unconsciously breathing in unison, reflexively checking one another for injury or muscle strain as they went. Satisfied in one another's safety, they turned their attention back to the arena.

They could not replenish their energy from the Force. Part of the Physical test involved assessment of recovery time or healing, so Obi-Wan was glad to simply sit and breath while waiting to see what would happen with Corubia. Why was Torlamin there?

Again Master Gallia spoke. "Master Torlamin and Padawan Nall. Attain the Blue platform."

Obi-Wan looked up. The designated platform would have been no challenge whatsoever for Qui-Gon and himself. It required little physical ability, just ... teamwork. *Oh. They want to see if there is any possible way she will stand by her student.* Obi-Wan reached for his master's thoughts, but not through their bond. He let his thoughts filter through the Force, so that they were doubly connected.

**She will fail this test, Master. Torlamin will bring her down.**

//We will not let that happen, Padawan. This is mere formality. Torlamin must publicly fail in her duty before she can be properly set to trial.//

**That sounds like nonsense to me, Master.**

//Better we go through a lot of nonsense and prove our point about her than assume we are correct from the outset and make a grave error.//

**Yes, Master.**

Arjet and Teril let go their bonds on Torlamin. She started out well enough, approaching a hammock-like net-ladder. She began scaling it with ease with Corubia was right behind her. The trick, though, was that the pair needed to be in synch, so as to keep the net from tipping over. At first, there was no problem. Then a serious miscalculation caused the net to twist, turning upside down in a split second of motion. If Obi-Wan had been up there, he would have simply clung, waited for the swaying to stop and continued on the inversion. What happened was a betrayal of everything Obi-Wan had ever known in his own Master.

Torlamin kicked Corubia in the face, tumbling her off the apparatus.
Obi-Wan reached through the Force to catch her, only to find at least two people there before him. He diverted his attentions to Torlamin and was not at all surprised to find the entire Council had beaten him to it. He let go the Force and turned to his master. "Why did she do that?"

"Corubia presented a threat to her own ends. It is the way of the Dark Side to cut down anyone who hinders you. She can not help what she is now. She can only be prevented from harming others." Qui-Gon replied.

"What will happen to her?"

"Focus on the Moment, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon admonished.

"Yes, Master." Obi-Wan discovered it was not very difficult to obey. Much simpler to consider only the here and now than to fret over the future, which he could not affect anyway.

Master Ar'thapa had Torlamin by the arm and was trying to lead her from the arena and back to wherever she was being held. After a short struggle, Teril managed to knock her out. Obi-Wan turned away, disconcerted at the sight of even an ex-Jedi Master being carried off like so much baggage.

Master Paje was helping Corubia off the net-ladder. They spoke some quiet words while Master Paje placed gentle fingers over the place where Corubia had been kicked. Then together they walked to stand before the observing Council. Paje stood behind Corubia, hands resting lightly on her shoulders. "I take Corubia Nall as my Padawan Learner."

"What say you, Corubia?" Master Windu asked.

"I accept my place most humbly, Masters." Corubia spoke these words with absolute confidence.

"Who will stand as witness?" Master Gallia asked.

Obi-Wan was not surprised when Qui-Gon stood, saying "I will witness this bond." After all, Master Paje had done as much for Qui-Gon when the Council had asked this of him and Obi-Wan. //Come along, Obi-Wan. You'll need to see how this is done.//

Obi-Wan stood and followed his master. He had only fuzzy memories of his own bonding. The only clear image was that of seeing Qui-Gon arguing with the Council, hearing Qui-Gon say he would take Obi-Wan and the first, light-and-static sensations between them when Master Paje had sealed their bond. He didn't even recall speaking the words of the Apprentice Litany, though surely he must have.

Obi-Wan reached through the Force, seeking a way to observe, as his master had instructed him. After a moment, he felt the guiding 'hand' of Qui-Gon's mind show him how to perceive the occurrences between Corubia and Paje. Master Paje sent a thought-strand out towards Corubia, reaching for her mind. At first it skittered along shields and surface defenses. Then Qui-Gon touched her as well, making one spot 'sticky'. That was the only way Obi-Wan could describe it. A patch of Corubia's being was made available to Paje's being and the bond sealed firmly between them. Obi-Wan took a closer look and saw how Qui-Gon had made that 'sticky' place. He filed the information away for future reference.

Corubia and Arjet were clinging together, swaying slowly back and forth, humming some low note between them. Obi-Wan wondered if that is what happened between himself and his master all those years ago, was saddened to find he simply could not recall. Then strong arms reached around his chest, pulling him firmly back against Qui-Gon's solid form. A soft whisper reached his ear. "Koateleu. Padawan."

He turned, slipping his arms around waist, rubbing cheek against chest. "Pantreti. Master." It did not matter what he could not remember. Not any more.

He heard Arjet Paje begin his part of the Oath-making. He spoke the Master's Litany with far more conviction that Obi-Wan would have expected. An odd thing, that. Most apprentices his age, most of the younger knights, too, put a lot of time into studying and interpreting the Litanies. For some reason, though, they were not much considered by the Order as a whole. Still, it seemed Master Paje believed in the words he was speaking.

"To you I pledge myself
In all things possible
For the time we are together

Making myself available to you, I
Open my heart and my life.

Asking only that you trust me,
I swear to be your protector, your kindred, your friend."

Obi-Wan felt the warm breath against his ear as Qui-Gon spoke the vow softly. A warmth gathered in his belly as he listened and believed.

"I make this oath
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.

I make this oath
To teach thee all that I know
To train thee in the Light
To guide thee from the Dark
To protect thee from all harm
To shelter thee with my own body
To sacrifice all for thee
To maintain and keep thee all the days of our Bond

For what else is there, in this world
But to be generous, one to another?"

There was a long moment of silence before Corubia began her oath. Obi-Wan lifted his master's hand up, placed his lips upon his wrist and re-made his Oath as well, putting every ounce of conviction into each word he spoke.

To you I pledge myself
In all things possible
For the time we are together

Making myself available to you, I
Open my heart and my life.

Asking only that I may trust you
I swear to be your loyal, constant apprentice

I make this oath
To be obedient with a willing heart
To be grateful for all I am given
To be content within your comfort
To accept protection from your hand
To be honored by your love

I make this oath
To learn all that you teach
To follow the path of the Light
To shun the pull of the Dark
To avoid all harm
To shelter myself in your strength
To sacrifice all for thee
To maintain and keep thee all the days of our Bond

For what else is there, in this world
But to be generous, one to another?"

Obi-Wan sighed, calm and at peace. Those words had guided him through the most important work of his life. It was a comfort to speak them now, with his master so close and listening. He turned his eyes back to Master Paje and Corubia to see her kneeling before him. Arjet was taking items out of his belt pouches and she was arranging them on the floor. Scissors, comb, thread, a long brown curl of hair, protein binder ... "Oh," he breathed, twisting his braid around his fist in a reflexively protective manner.

Corubia carefully snipped the thread wraps away from her braid and began unplaiting it. Though her hair was electric blue, the bottom inches of her braid were the white-blonde of Torlamin's hair. Obi-Wan looked down at his own braid, noticing for the first time that the end of it was a rich, chestnut brown, not a strand of gray to be found. He smiled, wondering if it had been colored or was simply left over from his master's youth.

Arjet took up the scissors and neatly snipped the blonde lock away. Corubia watched his actions intently, as if memorizing his every move. Next came Arjet's hair and a heavy coating of binder. They waited for it to dry and strand, fusing the blue to brown. Then Arjet combed, separated and re-plaited the braid, wrapped the imped-together ends in rich violet thread and trimmed the end to approximate the braid's previous length. Corubia took the braid in her hands, stroking the new addition with a bemused smile. Then Master Paje was asking permission to be excused, which the Council graciously granted, circumstances being what they were.

Gallia spoke once more. "We will remove to the Council Chamber for further discussion."

"May we be excused?" Qui-Gon spoke up unexpectedly. "I must see to my Padawan's needs. This has not been easy on him."

"Yes, Master Jinn. We have no mission for you just now. You will remain at the Temple and work with Master Paje for the nonce. And perhaps it would be better if your Padawan did not cut his hair any time soon. May the Force be with you." Master Gallia issued this order.

They bowed and exited, but questions careened through Obi-Wan's mind. He simply fixed his eyes on the dark-robed back and followed where it led. Not cut his hair? He fingered the already-too-long locks, but could think of no reason to issue such an order. Perhaps they meant later to send him on some mission where his regulation style would be inappropriate? But that made no sense.

The Trials? But no, he had never heard of a Padawan being ordered to grow his hair out for the Trials.

The door to their rooms slid open. Obi-Wan looked around, at the space that he had finally begun to think of as home. The connection he felt to his surroundings hit him hard, so hard as to make him do what the test could not. He stumbled, fell, reaching out towards Qui-Gon's shoulder for support.

Strong arms caught him. "Obi-Wan! Are you all right? No, obviously not. Come on, sit down."

Obi-Wan was maneuvered onto the sofa. "What is this about my hair? They aren't planning to send me away while you stay here are they?"

"I don't know what they mean to do with your hair, but no, they can not send you away. Not now, with what you can do for all of us, for them. They will not." Qui-Gon took Obi-Wan's face in his hands. "It will not happen. It will not. Where you go, I go."


The next morning brought a wake-up call of sorts from Arjet. Qui-Gon heard the chirping of his comm link from his shelves and levitated the object to himself. //That's SO handy!// "Jinn."

"Mornin', Quigs. I didn't wake you guys up, did I?" Arjet was so chipper Qui-Gon was certain the other Master hadn't been to bed yet.

"Um, I don't think I heard Obi-Wan get up yet. Why?" Qui-Gon stretched his awareness towards his apprentice. Obi-Wan was still fast asleep.

"Oh." Arjet paused as if rethinking something. "Anyway, I thought we might as well give the kids 'the talk'."

Qui-Gon laughed, "I assure you, my Padawan got 'the talk' some few years ago."

"Quigs, that's not what I mean and you know it. As if I'd volunteer for that anyway. I mean they need to know about the Group. You'd think after this long I'd get used to it, but NOOOO. I always get stuck with the job and it never gets any easier."

"Well, you do tell the story best. I'll get Obi-Wan up to cook and you can come join us for breakfast. Say, half an hour?"

"You're only going to give him thirty minutes to be up and serve breakfast for four?"

"Arjet, I know you don't know him that well, but I bet my Obi-Wan could plan and serve a formal state dinner in little more than two hours. And I know for a solid fact that he only needs forty-five minutes to learn, lay out and properly offer the Deregalian Teth Ceremony, so hotcakes and fruit juice aren't going to be much of a challenge. Besides, he refuses to eat my cooking. And I can't recommend that he try to eat yours." Qui-Gon snapped his comm link off and resolved not to answer if Arjet chimed back. He'd gotten the last word in fair and square.

Obi-Wan grumbled a bit about the extra guests and short notice but rose to the occasion with all excellence. Qui-Gon was given dominion over setting the table and arranging of flowers but was firmly discouraged from putting a hand in the actual cooking. The whole apartment was soon filled with the most delicious smells which quite distracted Qui-Gon from any thoughts of meditation. Instead he found a convenient spot and helped by tasting everything Obi-Wan produced.

"Cheese sauce is excellent, of course," he pronounced. "Especially with the potatoes. I'm not sure about that maize mush stuff, though. It's a little bland."

Obi-Wan turned from his griddle full of hotcakes. "If I fix you some the way you're supposed to eat it, will you get out of my way?"

"Yes. I promise," Qui-Gon said, fetching a bowl.

Obi-Wan dished up a generous scoop of mush, added cheese sauce, sausage chunks, grilled onions, slices of a red, tangy vegetable and handed it over to Qui-Gon. "Get a biscuit to go with it and go AWAY," he ordered.

Qui-Gon was just finishing up his appetizer when the doorchime rang. Corubia bowed politely, staying just behind Arjet. Qui-Gon saw the glitter of a plain gold ring on her little finger and glanced down at his own. He'd put it on this morning, for the first time in years. Corubia didn't seem to be paying any more mind to her own than Obi-Wan paid to his. She was bouncing on her toes, though, trying to see what Obi-Wan was up to.

Arjet smiled at her amusedly. "I take it this is one of the best-kept secrets of the Temple? A Padawan Kenobi Breakfast?"

"Go have a look for yourself," Qui-Gon advised. "Table's through the kitchen, try not to get bruised."

If that last comment confused him, Arjet soon found out what the warning was for. Obi-Wan stood over the food with a wooden spoon, prepared to crack the knuckles of any passers-by. "Corubia, please tell me you taught him how to cook like this."

"Sorry, Master. I'm passable fair, but he's tempted whole planetary governments into capitulation with his desserts alone. Now CANDY, that I can dish circles around him."

"But I'm such a fast learner, Cor. Wait 'till you taste my new recipe for sweet muffins," Obi-Wan grinned.

The little dining table was hardly large enough to hold everything. Obi-Wan served hotcakes and potatoes off the griddle while the others prepared bowls of mush and started in on what would fit there. There were biscuits, sweet muffins and soft rolls served with jellies and preserves. Two pots of tea and three juices finished the service. Obi-Wan was just about to take his seat when Qui-Gon asked "Padawan, where's the syrup for the hotcakes?"

"Oh yes, I thought I was forgetting something." Obi-Wan went into Qui-Gon's bedroom and returned with the two syrups in question. Arjet and Corubia exchanged shocked glances but decided they really DIDN'T want to know.

"You did that on purpose, Obi-Wan. I KNOW I brought those back to the kitchen," Qui-Gon asserted.

"As you say, Master," Obi-Wan replied, starting in on his food.

Qui-Gon harrumphed but soon forgave the younger man. *You just can't hold a grudge against someone who will cook like this and never expect so much as a thank you.*

They ate in silence for some long moments before Arjet introduced the subject for the morning. "Well, much as I wish we could simply be here together and enjoy this fine meal, there is something I wish to tell you, Padawans. It is a secret. It is a secret not entirely safe to know, one I hope you will keep."

Obi-Wan and Corubia nodded their understanding and assent before he continued.

"My name was not always Arjet Paje. In fact, my true name is not something many could understand, much less pronounce. And this is not the face I have always worn, though it is the one I have lived behind most often. The story begins with one like myself. But first, let me tell you something about yourselves, your Potential," Arjet poured himself a fresh cup of tea and settled back into his chair.

"For centuries and generations the Jedi have tried to understand why one individual is stronger in the Force than another, why one being can learn and do more than most others. It is a complicated riddle, the answer to which has not yet fully been discovered. There are patterns, profiles that can now be used to determine, in general terms, what an individual might hope to achieve in their lifetime."

Qui-Gon interrupted. "Not with total accuracy, mind you. Mistakes have been made, misdiagnosis and so on. But for the most part, the profiles have held true."

"Correct. For example, your friends Jenji and Swed were thought to be as high in potential as the pair of you and were trained accordingly. And you two were thought to be on equal footing, which has proven to be not quite true. Additionally, life has a way of affecting how or indeed IF the potential manifests itself. And always, there are flaws in those that do manifest fully." Arjet turned towards Obi-Wan. "You know your flaw and from what I can see, you are learning to deal with it. Understand, you may never fully overcome it, that weakness. Corubia, you are flawed in a different way, but the same goes for you."

Corubia spoke, asking "But what is it that we are supposed to be? I know we are called 'High Potential' and that you are not, so how does this relate to you and some secret?"

"Both have to do with my species. Of the intelligent beings who have, over the millennia, been Jedi there are those who have greater and lesser strength in the Force. For example, the Gungans of Naboo have produced Jedi, but they were consistently low in strength and longevity as these things are measured. Master Yoda's people do not produce many who would qualify as Trainees, yet those who have posses the combined advantages of extreme longevity and powerful insight. These things seem to be genetic traits. But Potential supersedes all that. A Gungan of fully-manifested High Potential would eventually outstrip even Yoda himself in most, if not all areas of importance. And if the two of you continue to develop as you have, you will soon outstrip the whole of the Council, myself, perhaps everyone but Qui-Gon here and one or two others." Arjet smiled across the table at his ex-partner.

"Jenji and Swed will not, is what you're saying. They will be strong, but not as strong as us," Obi-Wan said.

"Correct. And they will not be able to learn the things that only one of my species can teach you. Your Potential affects all things. Your memory, your physical ability, your lifespan, health, mental stability, intelligence, Force control, telepathy, precognition and your ability to see and interpret the Moment and it's myriad bits of information. There are dozens of things you can learn and excel at. Language, music, art, diplomacy, math and sciences, as well as the meditations, mental disciplines and crafts that make the Jedi what we are. And you can do them well, far beyond what those of your species should be able to do. Which is where my species comes into play." Arjet stood and made his way into the sitting room. The others followed after a moment.

"You mean you're not a standard humanoid?" Corubia asked.

"No. Not by a long shot, though I choose to appear as one more often than not," Arjet replied.

"A shapeshifter of some sort, then?" Obi-Wan surmised.

"Yes, though not a species you're likely to know much about, outside of near-legend. My people are in the Republic of course, but are not much OF the Republic. And to be honest, they're only really interested in the Jedi. We come from the Saracen system. I was ... born ... on the planet of Crecaria." Arjet turned away from them to let this information settle in.

Corubia spoke up first with an objection. "But there are no Crecarians in the Order. The last time they were admitted for training was over two hundred years ago!"

"Correct, my Padawan. A clutch of six siblings were sent here for Jedi training. It was felt by their parents and the ruling body of Crecaria that they were ... weaklings. Unsuited to the social order there. In short, they were considered to be brain damaged. Retarded. They were also physically weak, destined to live no more than a few years, two decades at the very outside was the estimate, but my people have difficulty in calculating in timespans that short. And so those parents faced a choice: let the children die then, within days of being hatched ... or send them here, where, should they survive, they might find some life in which they could be happy. I am relieved to report my parents sent us here." At this point Arjet turned back to face them all.

Obi-Wan considered the man before him. Not as tall as Qui-Gon, more stocky and of a weathered but pale skin tone. His hair a thick, strawberry blond cascade of flat planes falling down his back. Eyes full of merriment, mouth full and appealing. Youthful, in action and appearance. Obi-Wan would have given him no more than thirty standard years if he hadn't already known of his long-standing friendship with Qui-Gon. Though there were several Jedi Masters who could claim hundreds of years, they tended to be rather ... stuffy and reserved. Arjet was anything but, instead being rather playful and relaxed, as Jedi went. Obi-Wan shook his head, trying to make this revelation fit.

"Two hundred," Corubia murmured.

"And to my people I am still but a child. A mentally deficient child, but getting better. The only of those poor, lost hatchlings that survived. So as such things are measured, I am not High Potential, although I was raised as one and am glad of it. I'm off the scale, an aberration, not subject to that sort of measurement. And yet there are things I can teach those who are, secrets my people have devised as gifts to you, the Jedi, the High Potentials, on which those gifts would not be wasted. Some are simple mental exercises, like the Imprinting and Healing you may have already learned. Others are things you will have to travel to Crecaria to learn. Things like memory enhancement and a sort of biological slowing that will expand your lifetime ... incredibly. Show them, Qui-Gon." Arjet instructed.

Qui-Gon got up and knelt between Corubia and Obi-Wan. He undid his hair tie and pulled the graying locks apart, exposing the roots. "I haven't had time to dye them since we got back from Renal Sejon," he explained.

The first quarter inch was a rich, dark brown, unbroken by silver of any sort. Now that Obi-Wan looked closely, it was even more noticeable in his master's beard.

"How old, Master?" he could barely get the question out.

"Sixty-five standards, Obi-Wan. I never misled you about that. But I don't foresee a time when I will age physically much past thirty or so. This is all just to keep uncomfortable questions from being asked by those who knew me in my childhood. After a time, I'll abandon the artifice and no one will remember a time when I was not so," Qui-Gon explained.

"And will I be expected to do so as well?" Corubia asked.

"No, my Padawan. Your people are just far enough off the Standard Humanoid attributes that it is likely no one will notice about you for some time yet. Obi-Wan ... well, he's doubly blessed. His age will almost always be assessed by those he is surrounded by. That is, beside other Padawans he looks older, more mature, adult because he is so calm and poised. By Qui-Gon he looks like a very young man. This skewed perception will protect him for some time yet. Not forever, but for a while," Arjet replied.

"And you? What do you do, change your appearance every now and again, disappear and come back as someone else?" Obi-Wan was surprised at the bitterness in his voice.

"No. If you check the records, I'm still wearing the same body I took on when I was twenty-five standards. I simply do nothing to cause comment, take the time to do work that inspires caution in others and refuse to answer questions if they are asked. In truth, I haven't been asked since Qui-Gon took on his first apprentice. Those who would remember me, I simply avoid. I work with the Council and the younger set. Anyone who needs to know, such as those with whom I study the Dark Side, are wise enough to understand and keep this from becoming common knowledge. There are others who would be ... exposed if the truth of my origin and age were well known, so I hope you will do the same," he finished.

"So that's it. You want to teach us to live forever if we promise not to tell how old you are. Sounds like a fair deal to me," Corubia grinned.

"There is much more you need to learn, Padawan. Both of you. All of you, really, but I'll keep my council for Qui-Gon between us. You have far to go in your Potential yet, but the more specialized lessons will not begin until you have passed your Trials. You should have been told all this years ago, so that you would have time to accept and consider. Now time will be short before learning is upon you. Then time will never be short for you again, barring heinous accident. There are, of course, deeper reasons to all this secrecy." Arjet leaned back in his chair, tugging on his hair for a long moment.

"Arjet, shall I?" Qui-Gon finally asked, settling onto the sofa next to Obi-Wan.

"Well, yes. If you would please," Arjet shrugged. "I never know where to start."

Qui-Gon smiled, "At the beginning, of course. Well, Corubia, you seem to know something about the Crecarians. You can perhaps confirm the idea that few have ever made it through initial training and less than a handful into knighthood."

Corubia nodded.

"Well, this story begins with a Crecarian who entered the Temple a bare thirty years before the Sith wars." Qui-Gon said.

Corubia blinked at that. "Okay, five thousand years ago, give or take thirty."

"Indeed. She is the oldest living Jedi, actually. Her name in that time is lost to us for various reasons, most of them to do with her continuing longevity. We know that she still lives, but not where or who she is. It was she who, towards the end of those wars, began the group Arjet heads. At the time, the Jedi were in a state of near-terror. Though history will not admit it, the Order resorted to the 'less than honorable' tactics that we try not to use anymore. It was discovered that, for many Jedi, killing in cold blood was so traumatic that we were loosing them left and right. Some turned to the Dark and were hunted and killed. Others simply took their own lives, unable to reconcile their actions and their training. She, whatever she called herself then, realized that the best rate of success came from those operatives who, like herself, had been trained as High Potentials. Our training puts us in a position such that philosophical and moral dilemmas don't stop us cold. Well, not immediately, anyway." Qui-Gon smiled ruefully.

"What he means is that we understand, really, truly, down in our guts that the Code is just a guideline. We know the difference between intent and effect and can live with the inconsistencies that arise from them. Most Jedi are so bound up in strict interpretation that they'd sooner lay down and die than break any of those rules. They obey the Council, adhere to orders and hold themselves in constant reserve, never wondering why it must be so. For most, this is the best path. They represent all that is Light and good about the Jedi, an unswerving devotion to our ideals and laws without which our Republic could not continue to function. This government needs us to be steady, resolute, unshakable, wise, and utterly reliable. If all Jedi were as maverick and wishy-washy as dear Qui-Gon here, no one would trust us any further than they could throw us," Arjet grinned.

"Topic, Arjet," Qui-Gon chided. "It was then decided that, since we had the lifespan, the intelligence and the inclination to handle the grittier side of the Order's works, it would be left to us to do so. Our foremother gathered up some of the High Potentials, laid out guidelines for their operations and, as a side project, started the study of the Dark. That byproduct was the key to ending the Sith wars, by the way. Not long after, the Council wanted to put a stop to her operation, saying it was unnecessary, the Sith were gone and the threat was passed."

"Then she showed up in a Council meeting with a Sith," Arjet stood and went to the kitchen for a knife.

"Ex-Sith," Qui-Gon corrected. "She had captured and un-turned one Sith. Just one, out of countless hundreds who had been slaughtered in the wars. Out of hundreds of Jedi who had turned and been killed as a matter of course. He was very young, his contact with the Dark had been minimal, but until that day the idea of bringing someone back was literally unthought-of. She believed she could have saved a full Sith, had one been captured."

"Of course, there were none left to be captured at that point. But the theories were sound, and much-needed in the case of Jedi who embraced the Dark. There is nothing more difficult for us than to cut down one of our own, no matter how evil he or she or it may have become. So they continued their study on the strict understanding that, should even one turn, the whole lot of us would be killed out of hand. That understanding is still in place, though I doubt the Council has the stomach to take care of the problem, should it happen. Luckily for them, it never has." Arjet picked up an apple from the bowl on the coffee table and started peeling it carefully. "Though, unluckily for us, a stranger thing happened."

Obi-Wan spoke up "The Sith weren't really destroyed."

"Correct. And they'd caught wind of our little operation. I suppose, to them, the answer to this problem seemed obvious. Catch one of us, turn just one of us, and we'd be gone forever. They would be back to dealing with just the Light Jedi, a considerably less difficult challenge, without us and our understanding. At the end of the war, the Shadow stood between the Dark and the Light. Remove the shield, and ... " Arjet's knife snicked through the apple peel, letting it fall in a limp coil on his knee. "The fruit is ripe for the picking."

"Our Foremother hadn't kept her operation a secret. Everyone knew who was working for her, with her, and what she had done. They were living targets for the Sith, as were their students and partners. Over the next few thousand years, they lived by hiding, running, keeping their heads down, moving from Temple to Temple, changing their names and identities as often as they changed clothes. The Sith focused on them, ignoring the Order proper to the point that they became near-mythical. And the hunted died, one by one. Their Padawans and partners were hunted by agents of the Sith, bounty hunters and mercenaries, assassins and greedy bastards, none of them capable of taking a Jedi on their own, but they bided their time, waited to corner an individual on some lonely mission or hideout, then killed by sheer force of numbers. Research came to a near-standstill, survival and preservation of what was known became the sole focus of the Shadow for thousands of years. Destruction of the Shadow was the sole focus of the Sith at the same time. Foolish of them, really. While they've been out hunting us, the Order proper has been gathering strength, organizing to the Nth degree, preparing for the day when it all comes to a head once more." Qui-Gon tugged at his beard. "And then, about three hundred years ago, the hunting stopped."

"For lack of prey more than anything else," Arjet whispered. "Nearly everyone involved had died, as had their students and their student's students ... the High Potentials had long been excluded from the Shadow's recruiting grounds. They were needed elsewhere, not in the meat grinder of preserving our knowledge of the Dark. But reports became more steady, the deaths dropped off and it seems that the Sith have lost interest in us at last. At long last. The Shadow Knights and Masters came into the Coruscant Temple, one at a time, using our secret paths and caches, to test the theory. A gathering of the Shadow occurred for the first time in millennia. There were a dozen left, none young, none in good health, all risking their lives to meet. Nothing happened. Not even the Council noticed they were all here until they came up to the Chamber to report."

"Whereas a decade before the Temple would have been firebombed at the mere hint that one or two of them might be here," Qui-Gon explained. "At least, that was the belief. The fact is, we don't know when we stopped being hunted. We only know when the killing slowed enough for our numbers to stabilize. Six Padawans were taken, trained and Knighted. They were not brought into the Shadow, but rather were trained up as your standard-issue Jedi. Nothing happened. The way was, apparently, clear. Another six students were taken, trained and this time, brought into the Group. Then, one by one, the Shadow elders began to disappear. Perhaps the habit of being hunted made it impossible for them to settle into life with the Order again. Perhaps they simply wished for some time off. Not even their students know where they go when they go, but go they do. Every now and then one will show up and take a Padawan, go through the motions of training, being a Field Operative, the Knighting, shepherd the student into the Shadow, then off they go again."

Arjet stood up and began slowly pacing the room. "That is what happened with everyone in the Group, except for you Padawans. Qui-Gon came up with this plan when his Master disappeared. It is clear to us now, what is happening. The Elders are keeping enough new people trained to keep the study going. Every now and then, the eldest of us will disappear and a Shadow Elder will show up and train a new Padawan. Well, we'd like to have a word with them, if we may. I was given control of the Group almost a hundred and fifty years ago. For a hundred and thirty, I accepted into the Group any student the Elders brought to me. Our rings were our only mark, the only assurance that I could successfully shepherd an individual into the Group. Then my master brought Qui-Gon to me. I didn't even know Sara had taken a Padawan."

"And I didn't know anything about him, other than that he was to teach me new and interesting ways to not die, and to kill," Qui-Gon murmured.

"So we thought about this. Qui-Gon suggested that we move towards autonomy. I agreed, did the research on the early days and targeted your training group of High Potentials for our next generation. Between there and here some complications came up. Xanatos nearly screwed the whole setup beyond repair for you, young Kenobi. And Torlamin did screw up our plans for Corubia, though I have definite ideas on how to straighten that out. Jenji and Swed are doing well, coming along at a fast clip. The lack of disruption in their training have put them ahead of the two of you, as far as the Group is concerned. Now, hopefully, we'll be able to grow, flourish, find a way to bring the Light into the Dark ... maybe smack the Sith a good one for all time. That might be fun. Well, then. Any questions?" Arjet boosted himself up on the desk and crossed his legs.

"Yes," Corubia said. "Tell me why Torlamin did what she did, if I'm supposed to be so special. Did she really think she'd get away with it?"

Arjet frowned. "To be honest, she did nothing in your training that she could be reprimanded for. Heavy-handed, yes. Narrow-minded and possibly dangerous in the long run, yes. Against the Code or Protocol? Not really, much to my ever-voiced chagrin."

"But why did she ... why?" Corubia's lips were trembling, breath shortening as she fought a battle with tears.

"Cor, Master and I, we found some things out about Torlamin. It doesn't explain everything, but it sparks some good questions," Obi-Wan offered.

Qui-Gon nodded in agreement. "It had nothing to do with you or your potential. In fact, I don't think she ever really understood what all of that meant. When Rue Torlamin was 16 she and her master were on a mission to the home planet of the Kurasians. Her master was murdered and she was kidnapped. Months went by before she was rescued. The kidnapper was never apprehended. When she returned to the Temple her training was given over Master Trevial."

"I never knew," Corubia whispered.

Obi-Wan moved to sit closer to her. "Most didn't, or forgot. It's just one little event among so many. Anyway, when she got back, she evidenced some serious curiosities about the Dark Side, studying it carefully. It was through this 'curiosity' that she learned about Arjet's research on the Dark Side."

"She was firmly discouraged from trying to join the Group. In fact, we hid from her. She was only seventeen, far too young to be involved in that sort of research," Arjet explained.

"Her abductor was a Nurian who wanted to be a Jedi but couldn't. No Force sensitivity at all. He kidnapped the closest thing to a Jedi that he could find and badgered her for information while he had her. He was not of the Dark Side, just an evil, sadistic bastard. Darth Maul had no memory of him, so he's not a Sith. But he got Torlamin thinking along some very dangerous lines. He also got her thinking along the lines of Nes'Nurian training, which I have personally seen. It's pretty harsh," Obi-Wan explained. "She tried some of those training techniques out on us when we were Trainees. Her program included constant degradation and ridicule, as well as physical displays of subservience. I reacted badly to it, which brought the whole thing to the Council's attention."

"That's putting it rather mildly, Padawan. You scared the spit out of the higher-ups around here. And you're stretching the information we have pretty thin," Qui-Gon interjected.

Obi-Wan shrugged. "Anyway, that was a serious breach of training protocol, and she was stopped from dealing with Trainees. They watched us closely, made sure we were okay, set me up with a Master who knew the situation. Somehow, Torlamin ended up with you. Now, just after she lost her position as a Councilor, she took a Padawan who's master had died. He only had another year and a half of training, so she was up and ready for another when you came up for consideration. She had proven herself as a teacher. Still, someone, somewhere pulled some strings to get you and her together."

"And that's where the trail ends. We might never really know what happened inside her head when she saw Darth Maul, felt the Dark. Her work with the Dark Side had been purely theoretical, though too in-depth to be anything but dangerous. Suddenly all the things she had been working with were manifest before her ... and it was too much. None of it had anything to do with you," Qui-Gon promised.

Arjet hopped down off the desk and went to his student, pulling her in for a long hug. "I think we'd better be going. Obi-Wan, thank you for the fine meal this morning. I'll have to come up with a better excuse to stop by sometime."

Obi-Wan stared at the floor. "I could have done better if I'd had a little more time, Master Paje."

"Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon spoke the name in a firm tone.

His head came up. "Thank you, Master. I'm glad you enjoyed it."

The guests left and Obi-Wan went to clean up the breakfast mess. Qui-Gon was no more than two steps behind him. "You felt it, didn't you?"

"Yes, Master. Like I hadn't done well enough, or should have done better."

"How do we stop this, Obi-Wan? I can't recommend you for the Trials until you get beyond this. I'll be honest with you, it's one of the few things that's stopping me. Even without your class work completed, I'd be ready to set you before the Council if we could get a handle on it ... " Qui-Gon let his voice trail off.

Obi-Wan slowly turned to face his master. "I'm ready for the Trials?"

"Nearly, except for this," Qui-Gon replied.

"And you think I would pass?"

"Obi-Wan! I would never recommend you if you were not ready to pass. I'd keep you on as Padawan until you were fifty if that's what it took. But you're ready, or very nearly so. And to be honest, you're progressing on this point much better than I thought you would. At least you can see it now. That's a good part of the battle right there," he explained.

Obi-Wan continued collecting the dishes from the table. "How long?"

"Until what?"

"How long do you think it'll take to fix me?"

Qui-Gon slipped his arms around his waist, pulled him close. "You're not broken, Koateleu. While we work on this, perhaps we should see into having you shepherded onto some of your own missions. It wouldn't be amiss to work with Arjet for a while, too. I want to be sure your training serves you as well as I hope it does. And if you're interested in matters academic, I can think of no better place to spend your time."

Obi-Wan set the dishes down and turned to face his Master, his partner. "It would be the greatest honor, Master."

"Then if we continue at this rate with your training, I'll recommend you quite soon. Perhaps within the next year or so. Why don't you go get ready for lessons? I'll take care of all this. Breakfast was fabulous, by the way." Qui-Gon landed a kiss on Obi-Wan's cheek.

Obi-Wan went into the bathroom and paused when he caught sight of himself in the mirror. He tugged his braid back over his shoulder and gave himself an appraising look. He was the picture of Jedi serenity and wisdom, strength and honor, grace and ... beauty.

*Yeah, Kenobi. I guess you'll do.*




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 9.99: Left Hand of the Light: Jedi Light and Dark

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

97 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written December 14, 1999 by HiperBunny

Setting: Star Wars Episode 1

Primary Races: Human

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

Pairings: Obi-Wan/ Qui-Gon

Blurb: Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon begin to deal with the aftermath of the battle on Repta. Kourt Crowe gives lessons and makes an acquisition. Many questions are answered, new questions are asked.

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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