Bonds of Choice 9.99:
Satori, Vin-Dit, Tsunami: Division

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

"Obi-Wan. Wake up."

Obi-Wan's eyelids fluttered once, then snapped open. He realized he'd dozed off over a stack of datachips. He'd been out of bed for hours, catching up on work time he'd lost to sleep. Though he'd put Qui-Gon under for a solid rest, he'd not gone back to sleep himself.

He suppressed a grin, recalling the surprise in Qui-Gon's mind when Obi-Wan had put him down. The desire to grin faded when he realized Qui-Gon was probably going to be peeved at his little trick. Oh well. Duty must be served and a Padawan must attend to the Master's needs whether the Master liked it or not. If Qui-Gon really wanted to argue that point, he was welcome to take it up with the traditions of the Padawan's Duty.

In any event, Obi-Wan was out of bed and fully dressed when Qui-Gon called on him. He rubbed sleep from his eyes and briefly considered offering breakfast of some sort. His stomach rebelled at the idea, so he put it aside.

"Bring your lightslate and come with me," Qui-Gon smiled, beckoning.

Qui-Gon set out on a long stroll, one that put them close to the Temple Library. As they made their way through the halls, Qui-Gon spoke of this and that in a quiet, instructional tone. Obi-Wan's hands disappeared behind his back, his head inclined towards his master, attentive, cataloging every word said. Nothing unusual about the scene, just a Master instructing his Padawan on some point or another. *How easy it would be to disguise basest blasphemy,* Obi-Wan thought wryly.

"My Padawan, I am going to give you something that hasn't seen the light of day in ... several centuries at least. I've seen something of what it is, what it can teach us, but ... Arjet thinks you are the one," Qui-Gon shrugged.

"The one what? I thought everyone was in a lather about that Skywalker kid being The One," Obi-Wan spoke in a quiet, deferential tone, thinly disguising the humor in it.

"No, uh, not that The One, a different 'the one'," Qui-Gon smiled minutely. "He thinks you're going to be able to understand something we've been struggling with for ... well ... quite some time now. I can only make this gift to you. I can do little to help you with it, but what I can do, I will do, always." Qui-Gon had led them deep into the oldest, most protected part of the Library archive. He touched a door panel and waved Obi-Wan inside.

The Padawan stopped, tried to understand what he was looking at. Finally he regained the ability to speak. "Books."

"Yes. Books. You begin to see the problem, no doubt," Qui-Gon smiled.

Centuries ago, millennia, probably, books had been abandoned for more practical, more compact forms of data storage. With the move to electronic storage, paper and ink was no longer a viable method for transporting information, either. Though still used for art and decoration, the materials had become quite expensive and difficult to obtain in some parts of the galaxy. Though there were some hardcopies of texts in the library, they were not what one might properly call a book. Thin sheets of fiberplas with two-dimensional print was no replacement for their ancient counterpart. The very scent of the room brought a change to Obi-Wan, as if he'd been transported through time, back to a day when the Order had been of wholly spiritual intent. Or perhaps forward, to a time when all these things had fallen away and come new again.

Obi-Wan began walking through the rows of books. Not as many as he'd thought at first, but plenty enough. The free-standing bookcases were two shelves higher than Qui-Gon's head, in rows five wide and five deep. The walls were lined with shelves crammed full of books and books and books. He reached out and touched one carefully. He'd only ever held two books before in his life. The second had been the little instruction manual that the Kurasians had given him with his Feathers of Heaven box, though it was more in line with the hardcopies in the Library stacks. Though the illustrations and text had been hand-made, the materials were obviously modern replacements for the pulp-and-dye creations that now surrounded him. The first had been a religious tome, sacred on some distant planet, ancient and real. He'd all but mind-tricked the owner for one chance to feel the pages under his fingers. The object had called to him, powerfully.

Maybe now he knew why.

"What am I to do with these, my Master?" Obi-Wan tucked his stray hand back into his sleeves.

"Well, I suppose that's entirely up to you, my Padawan. What you see before you is the pitiful remains of the once-great Jedi Temple Library. The countless volumes we once must have owned have been reduced to this. Much of what was taught ... in the very earliest days, in the very, very beginning has been lost over time, as water wears the mountain. The Order has changed over the millennia, as have our teachings. All that remains of our origins is this, and most are blissfully unaware of its existence. They belonged to Arjet Paje for a long time. He collected and preserved them from outpost Temples, as did our Master before him, and hers before her and so on and so on. This has been going on for so long, I think the Order has forgotten that they ever owned this little collection. He gave them to me shortly after I became a Knight," Qui-Gon settled down in one of the rows and watched his Padawan wander around. "And now I give them to you."

"Why?" Obi-Wan finally asked, trying to include all his questions in one word.

"Prophecy, feelings, call it what you will. Somewhere in these books, we don't really know where, lies the answer to a question we don't even know how to ask yet. It touches on the Force, the Light, the Dark ... don't think that little introduction to our theories brought you anywhere close to the truth. That was just a mental exercise to get you started." Qui-Gon shook his head, as if to clear his thoughts. "Anyway, we've never been able to find the question or the answer. Actually, I've never looked. I think Arjet actually tried to read all of this stuff, at some point or another."

"He couldn't find what he was looking for?" Obi-Wan asked.

"Well, there's over a hundred languages here, most of which are dead. That's part of the problem, too many languages. Besides that ... I don't think he was meant to. Actually, I know he wasn't meant to. So did he. Um, there was a prophecy. Poorly translated, it runs something like 'And the undying will gather up That Which was Written. And their children's children's children shall be weakened, and grieve them mightily. And the children unto them shall make gifts unto The Teacher. And The Teacher shall Teach unto The One who shall read that which is written. And understanding will come unto him, and through him, and with him it shall go out to all peoples, all times, everywhere.' Anyway, near as anyone can tell, I'm the Teacher. That used to really impress me," Qui-Gon grinned.

"Until you figured out that it was your student who was going to get all the glory," Obi-Wan returned.

"Eyah ... well, that and the fact that the student in question will either be hailed as a hero or murdered outright by those he thought to be trustworthy. Hard to tell, exactly," Qui-Gon's eyes clung to Obi-Wan, trying to memorize his features.

"I'm not going to be killed by a mob of Ewoks today, Master, so don't go borrowing trouble," Obi-Wan warned. "Prophecies have a way of twisting perceptions. We can't trust them to tell us the whole truth, or even when they're being fulfilled. We can only listen to the Force and trust it to know what it's doing."

Qui-Gon nodded. "You have learned your lessons well, Padawan. If a trifle ungainly, what you say is correct. Anyway, here it is. That Which was Written. Lots of it. Good luck."

Obi-Wan came to sit next to his master. "That's it? Good luck? I don't get any hints?"

"Oh, weren't you paying attention? I've brought teaching to you. Now you read. I'll clear your class schedule, re-code the lock down here for you. The books are all very well preserved. You should still be able to read most of them, if you know the languages. We took good care of them. I'll be along with some dinner later," Qui-Gon grinned at his surprised student. "I'm kidding. I'll go get us some provisions and we'll see how best to start."

"THANK you, Master," Obi-Wan breathed, very much relieved.

Qui-Gon went out and returned with a rather large crate. "I thought this might be of help to ... I must confess, Obi-Wan. I did not know you were the one we were looking for until quite recently. Just before you were taken into the Group, in fact. I bought these over the years, when I could. I began manufacturing them myself, after a while."

He popped the locks on the crate and revealed more books. "They're blank, all of them. There aren't enough here for everything in this room, of course, but I thought perhaps the most important texts ... "

Obi-Wan was on his knees before the crate in an instant, lifting one after another from it. Each was hand-made, thread-bound in the ancient style. Some had plain, but sturdy covers, clearly the ones Qui-Gon had made. He opened one of these and found the tiny sigil that stood for Qui-Gon Jinn. Tilting it to the light, he could see it was written there, not stamped. "You can write?" Obi-Wan whispered.

"Not to a calligrapher's standard, but yes. I can write," Qui-Gon shrugged. "To be honest, it's not terribly different from using a stylus on a lightslate. There is a certain exotic quality to using pen or brush on actual paper that I find appealing. The mechanics of writing took years to perfect, but it seemed prudent to learn."

Obi-Wan found a wide, flat box in the bottom of the crate and lifted it out. Within, there were any number of pens, inks, a small stack of paper. "Will you teach me?"

"Of course, if you wish to learn. I had no idea you would want to put the time and effort into it, Padawan," Qui-Gon laid his hands over Obi-Wan's. "I will teach you anything I know. My oath is good."

Obi-Wan nodded, embarrassed. Of course Qui-Gon would teach him. And he would learn. "But not today, my Master. We have much work to do. First we must look at the records of what we have and ... what?"

Qui-Gon looked sheepish. "No one has ever cataloged them. Obi-Wan, we can't READ most of them! I mean, there are books here written in script that might as well be bird scratches for all the sense I can make of them. Arjet tried, as I said, but his head for language is worse than mine, never mind the written forms of communication!"

Obi-Wan nodded, understanding. While most cultures develop a language of their own, the Jedi were children of the Republic, raised on Republic-held worlds and generally kept to Republic-held systems. No matter where they found themselves, someone was sure to speak Republic Standard Speech. Learning the languages of the Republic civilizations was considered a noble pursuit, but certainly not practical on a larger scale. A Jedi might be conversant in the eight or nine variations of Basic, as well as the language of his native planet and one or two others, but that, generally, was the end of it.

Unlike the Senate, which was obliged to have any number of translators, both droids and native speakers, on hand at any given moment, the Jedi were far more accustomed to having that work done for them. There had only been a handful of exceptions in recent years, Jedi who had made a hobby of speech and written forms of language. Obi-Wan knew them all, had learned from them all, and now he had his reason. "Bring me one, please, Master."

Obi-Wan sat on the floor and set up his lightslate. No, he might not be able to copy the texts yet, but he'd be damned if he didn't start a proper preservation of the information, here and now. Qui-Gon returned with a stack of books, setting them down reverently beside his student.

"Here, you let me do the record. I'm sure you'll have enough on your hands without that," Qui-Gon said, taking the slate from him.

Obi-Wan nodded, centered himself and picked up the first book. It was, indeed ancient. "I should be wearing gloves," Obi-Wan observed.

"We'll remember that, next time," Qui-Gon promised. "Can you read it?"

Obi-Wan opened the cover, relieved to see the ink and pages had withstood the test of time. "It's in Elder Low Common," he told Qui-Gon. "Um, a dialect of it, but I think I can give you the practical upshot."

Qui-Gon nodded, fingers ready over the keypad.

Obi-Wan cleared his throat and began. "On Balance and Control, an instructional guide to natural harmony. Written by Dosobo Beirak. Skies, Qui-Gon!"

"I imagine we'll have a lot of that in here," the Master observed.

"You don't understand, this is hand-written, not press-copied! This was actually WRITTEN by Master Beirak!" Obi-Wan didn't know whether to drop the book or bow to it.

"He was a great thinker, Obi-Wan, but still just a Jedi, the same as us," Qui-Gon reminded him, trying to calm the younger man. "Carry on, Padawan."

Obi-Wan obeyed that command instinctively. "Chapter One, The Necessary Center."

Hours later and they were halfway through the text and arguing. Again.

"Are you SURE that's what it says?" Qui-Gon asked for the third time.

"MASTER, while I am just as aware as you are that the accepted translation would be 'Taking content from form is simply done,' what this text SAYS is 'Removing the message from its composite parts is foolishly undertaken.' I SWEAR that's what it says. Look, right here," Obi-Wan leaned over and pointed to the line.

"I can't READ Elder Low Common, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon reminded him.

"Well I CAN," Obi-Wan snapped. "So put down what I tell you or ... or ... go do some pushups!"

Just then, Obi-Wan's comm link chirped. Keeping a steady gaze on his Master, Obi-Wan took the link from his belt. "Kenobi."

"Obi-Wan? It's Jayden. Listen, I hate to bother you, but could you come to the music room? Swed's at it again." The Knight sounded tired, stress thick in his tone.

"Yes, of course. Right away. How long?" Obi-Wan closed the book in his hands and set it aside.

"Sixteen hours on the pianoforte. Four on the synthesizers before that."

"I'll be right up," Obi-Wan clicked the link off and began putting things away.

"What's wrong?" Qui-Gon asked.

"It's Swed. Don't worry about it, I'll take care of it," Obi-Wan murmured.

"Do you mind if I join you? Perhaps I can be of help ... "

Obi-Wan was touched by his master's offer to assist his friend and accepted with a nod. "Do you think it would be okay to take some of this back to our rooms? We'd be more comfortable, working there." He stretched, relaxing muscles long-cramped by his seat on the floor.

"Of course. This belongs to you now. You can do what you wish with them," Qui-Gon smiled.

"We'll take these two and come back for more later," Obi-Wan decided.

The trip to the music room was a short one. Knight Hunter was waiting by the door. "I didn't want to worry you, Obi-Wan, but he really does need rest. Every time I ask him to come with me, he begs to be let alone. I really don't have anything pressing for him to do, so ... "

Obi-Wan nodded, understanding. "I'll see what I can do."

Swed was in his preferred chamber, seated at his favorite instrument. The music he drew from it was haunting, full of pathos and desolation. Obi-Wan sighed. His friend had long been given to depression and ennui, a situation most uncomfortable for a proper Jedi. Oddly, he was one of the most focused, competent individuals Obi-Wan knew, seemingly unhindered by his bent for emotional indulgence. Occasionally, though, Swed would find himself with time on his hands, without work to focus him. It was then that the call of his sorrow would enslave him, driving him to extreme behavior that most Jedi found incomprehensible. Obi-Wan had nothing but sympathy for his friend, a feeling that had often served to break the cycle.

"Swed?" Obi-Wan murmured when the song came to an end.

The elder Padawan looked up. His eyes were tired, dark smudges underlining their fatigue. "I can't get it right," he all but sobbed.

"It sounded beautiful," Obi-Wan began, but was stopped by Qui-Gon's hand on his shoulder.

"Again, from the beginning," the master commanded.

Obi-Wan's mouth dropped open in shock. The idea was to get Swed out of there, away from the siren call, not to pitch him further into it. "Master?"

"Let me help him, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon's tone made it a gentle command.

The Padawan bowed, stepping back. Qui-Gon went to the pianoforte and laid his hands upon the soundbox, swaying gently with the music. His head fell forward, hair swinging past his shoulders to shroud his face as he lost himself in the tones and swells, pitch and timbre, the subtle manipulations of the composition. Suddenly, his head came up. "No, no. Stop."

Swed obeyed, folding his hands in his lap.

"Here, let me ... " Qui-Gon looked around the room, strode to the wall and lifted an instrument from the available selection. "Listen."

He tucked the instrument under his chin and tuned it, hands moving expertly across the pegs, drawing a soulful passage from it when at last he was satisfied. "Listen, you've got to make allowances for the vyol," he said, stepping behind the other Padawan. "Again."

They played together, blending the tones of the two instruments in a mesh of glittering enchantment. Obi-Wan's throat ached at the sweetness, lost in the world it created. They came to the passage Qui-Gon had found fault with and the union fractured. Obi-Wan heard it, that time, the place where Swed's interpretation went wide of the mark.

"No, stop!" Qui-Gon objected, tapping the score with the vyol bow. "It can not be rushed, it must grow and be pure sorrow."

Swed nodded, seeming to understand this odd instruction while simultaneously accepting the strange words Qui-Gon used. Again they began, this time coming closer to pure harmony. "Better. Once more."

"I can't do it justice," Swed mourned. "I have tried, Master."

"It is that very thing that prevents thee, sprite. I think thou'rt overtired. Perhaps you'd best to rest before we try again," Qui-Gon stepped away, moving to return the vyol to the rack.

"Wait, Master Jinn! I can do it!" Swed stood, eyes beseeching.

"Of course you can," Qui-Gon's voice had returned to its more natural tones and accents. "You'd've not studied under Master Vren'Kel if you couldn't. But you've pushed yourself too hard, young sprite. Go sleep. If I'm free when you wake, we'll try again."

Swed looked longingly at the pianoforte, then gave an equally hungry look to Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon's expression softened and he drew the younger man into an embrace. "I know. Her passing was a great loss to us all, Padawan. But driving yourself to distraction over her memory wouldn't please her, and using her music to break your own spirit? I can't allow it. Go rest, sprite, and we'll find something our partners can enjoy with us."

One of Swed's rare smiles broke out as he stepped back and bowed. "Thank you, Master Jinn. I might have asked sooner, if I had known ... "

"Not many do anymore, Padawan Bvroukala. I hope you'll keep it to yourself," Qui-Gon looked near to blushing.

"Yes, Master," Swed bowed again. "Anything you wish."

"I wish for you to sleep more regularly and stop vexing your master. My Obi-Wan is a good friend to you, wants to help you, but first you must learn to help yourself. Now go," Qui-Gon stepped back, nodding towards Knight Hunter.

When they were alone, Obi-Wan raised an inquiring eyebrow at his master.

"What?" Qui-Gon asked.

"I could ask you the same thing. Or better yet, when? When did you have time to study music? And when did you have time to write all those papers in the stacks? Why did you never tell me?" Obi-Wan gestured helplessly.

Qui-Gon sighed and took a seat at the pianoforte. "You've never shown any interest in music, beyond singing, like you do with Corubia. I didn't want to turn that pleasure into another set of lessons for you, Padawan. Music, seriously learning about how to make music, is not a simple undertaking if it is taught properly. I couldn't see teaching you halfway. I thought it best to simply ... leave things as they were."

Obi-Wan nodded, understanding. "But Swed? What was that 'sprite' thing?"

Qui-Gon chuckled. "One of the better music teachers in the Order was Master Vren'Kel. She called all her students 'sprite' because she had a terrible head for names. You'd know you had gained proficiency when she finally remembered your name. I hadn't seen her since my trials, but I did run into her about two years ago. She called me 'Jinn', so maybe I did benefit from her instruction."

"How did she die?" Obi-Wan was suddenly curious about this Jedi who had so influenced his own teacher.

"Stupid politicians and their stupid greed. She was on a simple fact-finding assignment last year, but someone got paranoid about what it could lead to and ... poison," Qui-Gon sighed, shoulders sagging. "It seems such an odd thing. We Jedi have so many talents beyond what outsiders know. They see us as fighters, negotiators, some kind of galactic police. They never know we're just musicians, artists, scholars and cooks with a very strange day job."

Obi-Wan smiled. "Is that how do you see me, Master? A cook with a strange day job?"

"Aren't you? When you're in a pitched battle, or slogging your way through a nasty swamp trying to pull some kind of miracle for people who don't know you or care about you, don't you ever consider just chucking it all and becoming a mechanic or something?" Qui-Gon smiled.

"Well, mechanic? No, Swed and Corubia are much better at that sort of thing than I am. But maybe a teacher. Oh, and I did once want a farm of my own ... " Obi-Wan grinned back at his master.

"There, you see? Do you think the Kurasians know or care about that? Or the Daegans? No. They think we're out there serving some higher purpose. I wonder what they'd think if they knew how often I did my duty only because I promised myself some of your hotcakes when we got back here?" Qui-Gon stood and began closing up the pianoforte, putting music away, tidying up for the next person to use the practice rooms.

"But what about 'We are Jedi first, and servants to the Light?'" Obi-Wan asked.

Qui-Gon studied Obi-Wan for a long moment before answering. "A Jedi ... is not all one thing. Neither is the Force, nor the Light. When I see justice served, that is service to the Light because it creates a peace, a balance in this life. When Arjet ends the life of an evil person, that is service to the Light because it prevents future wrongs and redresses past ones. When I take up an instrument and play, that too is service to the Light. It makes me happy, brings joy to my soul, creates good where it might not have been, before. You could be a perfectly good Jedi and never do more than meditate and keep yourself serene. When you share your gifts, your talents, whatever they may be, that is service to the Light. That is the core of the Jedi way. Our options are myriad, our opportunities beyond number. We are not confined to the machinations of politics, the heat of battle, the coordination of government, though these are the places where our talents are most often recognized. When you are truly of the Light, everything you do is a service to it."

Obi-Wan was silent for a long moment, considering all that his master had said. It would seem there was much yet he had to learn and perhaps there always would be. A tiny smile played across his lips. If anything could be a service ...

He took a step forward, closing the distance between himself and Qui-Gon. With great reverence and honest respect, he rose up on his toes and placed a gentle kiss on his master's lips. Qui-Gon's arms came about him, drawing him closer as the kiss deepened into an expression of something nameless and infinite. The Moment stretched out around them, bringing their presence in the Force to perfect clarity. Obi-Wan hardly dared breathe, for fear of ending the exchange prematurely. His eyes drifted closed as his hands made circles along Qui-Gon's ribcage. Scent and taste mingled, there in the crystal purity of the Light.

He knew not how long they so embraced. When finally they parted, his knees shook and his voice wavered. "So ... hotcakes, huh? Maybe I'd better let the Council know how to motivate you," Obi-Wan joked.

"Don't you dare." Qui-Gon grinned. "Listen, I need to go see Arjet about one or two small matters. Why don't you check the library for information on how best to preserve your books while we work with them?" Qui-Gon pushed the door open and let his student precede him.

"Oh, I don't know. I was thinking of working on my roast mekul recipe today," Obi-Wan ducked his head to hide his smile.

"You're trying to bribe me, but it won't work. Research first, then mekul," the tone was firm and commanding.

"As it please you, Master."

Obi-Wan closed out his datasearch and started gathering up his chips on antiquity preservation. He switched his comm link from 'messaging' to 'receiving' and heard a chime for messages. Corubia sounded rather excited and he had to replay for clarity.

"Obi! Get in touch with me. The Senate finally approved our back-pay for leisure credits. We're RICH! I've reserved us a speeder so we can go shopping. Call me back NOW."

Obi-Wan smiled and chimed for her comm link. Leave it to Corubia. She always got the good news first.


"Hey Cor. What's up? I just did some really interesting research on preservation of ... "

"We got clearance to go to Stone Marked. We're in hangar 2."

"I'll be right there. Kenobi out." Obi-Wan clicked off and headed for the express lifts. When he arrived, the others were impatiently waiting. He jumped in the back seat and Swed launched them out into traffic.

Once they were on their way, Jenji twisted around in her seat to face Obi-Wan. "Where were you?"

"Doing research. Master gave me a wonderful gift, and I wanted to be able to take care of it properly," he responded, a touch of pride coloring his words.

"What is it this time? Not another otter," Swed grinned in the rearview mirror.

"Nope. Books."

Silence descended over the group for a long moment. "Books? Like, more than one?" Jenji finally squeaked.

"Like more than a hundred. A lot more. They're really, really old, and ... " Obi-Wan rubbed his hand over his eyes. "They're in ancient languages and they're beautiful. I don't think I've ever seen anything so ... " He suddenly realized that his friends were looking at him as if he'd grown a spare head. "Well they ARE," he huffed.

Corubia chuckled. "Of course they are, boss." She patted his hand gently.

"That's not funny, Cor. So, Stone Marked? Isn't that it down there?" Obi-Wan gestured towards the turn Swed was about to miss.

Swed swerved in a wide arc. "Thanks, bro." He pulled into the parking lot on the roof of the building in which the Stone Marked shop resided. Being a Jedi on Coruscant tended to lead to odd deprivations in the Temple residents. Although the Gardens in the Temple itself did much to balance the energy fields and ambient Living Force, the living quarters allotted to the residents often had little or no space for living creatures and plants. Obi-Wan's solution had been a turtle, but his Master was particularly forgiving in the area of petkeeping. Qui-Gon had even gone so far as to spring for the various supplies and equipment that Obi-Wan needed to maintain his pet.

The other Padawans were not quite so fortunate.

It was Jenji who, during their time in the crèche, had discovered that the stones in Abrath garden actually created their own presence in the Living Force. The specimens of stone in that garden were usually quite rare and costly, but with careful research and selection, they had discovered what types of stone could be used to enhance the ambient Force in their personal space. It was their lightsaber crystals that had tipped them off, as to what stones would be most appropriate and Stone Marked was the finest crystal emporium on Coruscant.

Not for nothing was it within easy striking distance of the Temple.

Obi-Wan led the way into the store and immediately relaxed into the undertones and hum of calm energy brought to this place from hundreds of worlds across the galaxy. Every color in the spectrum was represented in the softly lit nooks and crannies of the shop. The proprietor, Ales Merand, held court behind his counter. Obi-Wan waved to he as he passed, headed towards the display of toned and chiming stones. Jenji paused there to speak with him and the others spread out, quietly browsing the displayed goods.

Obi-Wan went to the middle of the chamber in which his favorite stones were housed, centering himself and preparing to open up into the energies there. He was careful to prevent himself from projecting, mindful of the erratic turn his control had taken of late. When he was ready, he let himself go on the wash of call and response.

He felt something tugging at him, a sense of belonging, a sense of need pulling him towards a particular specimen. He closed his eyes and focused on that tug, smiling to himself as he realized his control was holding under this gentle exercise. His feet led him out of the chamber and towards a room he rarely frequented. Still, he let the Force guide him, trusting in its insistent urging as it guided his steps, then his hands out to THIS stone, THAT tone, a particular piece that would best suit him. He smiled as his fingers nestled down over the points and planes of a crystal cluster, let a sigh escape his lips as he connected to the stone with a near-audible *snap*.

"A good choice for you, Padawan," came the odd slurring accent of Ales Merand. "If ever you need work, you could come here and make choosings for folk and do well."

"Thank you, Ser Merand," Obi-Wan murmured, keeping his eyes closed. "What have I got here?"

"Ah, is a good sign, for one so young. Is an alignment cluster, friend-mine. Makes matches between resonances, it does. Could be good to help you choose stones for your lightsaber, pick a place to live, make tough decisions regarding your future," he murmured, taking Obi-Wan's hands in his own. "And if you hold it like this, and turn it thus, it will bring into harmony the energies that surround it. They say it helps to coordinate the efforts of many, bringing focus more easily between individuals."

"Why do I get the feeling that isn't what most folk would use it for?" Obi-Wan smiled.

"Naah, most use it to identify their true love, which it will do, should you ever meet that person. But I always thought the hunt was part of the fun," Ales removed his hands. "And besides, everyone knows a Jedi doesn't partner for life."

"Really? I didn't know about that rule," Obi-Wan smiled.

"Could be Urban Legend," Ales conceded. "If you want a life-partner, surely this stone could find it for you. But you must first have the desire to seek, and the courage to find."

"I see," Obi-Wan finally opened his eyes to look at his stone. He was shocked, stunned even, at what he beheld. "It's rather ... ugly, isn't it?"

"Yes, ugly, of course. Better that way. This stone, you must seek through it with the *heart*, yes. Not with the eye. And it's on sale this week, a very good price," Ales wrapped up his spiel.

Obi-Wan checked the tag and had to agree. "A very good price, if one has use for it."

Ales shook his head. "I saw you find. I know you were led. Not good, Jedi, to ignore the will of the Force."

"Much you seem to know of it, Ales," Obi-Wan smiled.

"It is part of what I do, to know these things. I can quote you practices on a thousand religions and peoples from all over the galaxy. This 'obey the Force' rule is no stranger to me," Ales preened.

"Thank you, Ales, but I think Swed is waiting for you," Obi-Wan gestured towards his friend who seemed to be dithering over a wide selection of silver-blue stones.

"Think well, Padawan," Ales smiled, already knowing the sale had been made.

Obi-Wan returned his attention to the cluster of crystals in his hands. There were two very distinct types of stone, fused together on a dull gray base. About half of the splinters and formations were clear white, no more remarkable than common quartz. The others were mottled with black and yellow, reflecting light as if a bruise had been captured in stone. A pale sheen of blue on each surface only added to the effect. Obi-Wan sighed, looking around the room at all the beautiful and elegant specimen on display around him. *Oh well. Maybe something more pretty next time,* he shrugged and made his way towards the counter.

As he turned, his foot caught in his cloak, tripping him up. He reached out to steady himself, and the stone slipped from his grasp. He caught it with a tendril of the Force, cushioning it from hitting the floor and being damaged. The Force resonated at the contact. It was as if someone had sounded a chime behind his eyes. Obi-Wan glanced around to see if anyone else had felt it. No one appeared to have noticed and Obi-Wan bent his scrutiny to the stone again. What under the sky had happened?

With a rueful chuckle he remembered what Qui-Gon had said the day before. "Accidental levitation. Heightened precog. Oddling occurrences. I bet I energized this thing on accident ... "

Reassured that the universe wasn't playing tricks on him, he made his way to the counter to finalize his purchase. Ales' words regarding the pairing habits of Jedi kept coming back to him. He was silent all the way home, except to admire the purchases his friends had made. There was much he had yet to think on.

Obi-Wan exited the speeder and straightened his robes. *Well, at least I got my research done,* he sighed. *And at least this doesn't seem life-threatening.* Obi-Wan was not too proud to admit he felt unsure of himself. Qui-Gon had given him very specific instructions for cases like this. He sent out a tendril of thought.


//Yes, Padawan?//

**Where are you?**


**Ah. I need to speak with you. Are you busy?**

//Never too busy for you, Koatel.//

Obi-Wan started to squash the warm fuzzies that name inexplicably set off in him, but instead let them flutter through his belly. *You're losing it, Kenobi.* Obi-Wan shook his head and set off for his rooms.

The door to their shared quarters slid back and a wall of sound staggered the surprised Padawan. He stepped inside quickly to let the door close once more. Thumping bass lines drove into his chest while a wailing guitar solo glistened in the air around him. A crescendo on synthesizer gave way to vocals that attempted to shred Obi-Wan's opinion of his master's serenity.

I'll kneel down before you
And nothing will I waste
I'd give up everything for you
Just to learn the taste
To see the way your body shakes
When I bring you down
When I make you beg for more
I worship every sound

The voice was not distinctly male or female, but Obi-Wan was suddenly and certainly aware that Qui-Gon thought of him when he heard this song. He went to the desk and picked up a music chip box, surprised to see the band was all female humanoids. "Shaybonee" was emblazoned across the photo of five seemingly enraged women of various planetary origins. Obi-Wan shook his head in wonder. Then he froze as the lyrics to the verse registered on him.

Too, too young too sweet
And how was I supposed to know?
But when you spread out just for me
Did you think I could say no?
So now I have to offer everything
Though I'd hold out if I could
The weight of the planet on me
I've given far more than I should

He set the cover box down and made haste for his room. *Don't be stupid, it's just a song. You don't even know if he's paying any attention to it,* he chided himself. But he did know. In the same way that he knew just where a blaster shot was aimed, he knew. He heard the bathroom door open and close, saw Qui-Gon pass by on his way to get dressed. Peripherally, Obi-Wan was aware his master had only a towel on, but the singer's voice was back, more livid than ever before.

When I lay down for you
It's for you and no one else
And when I make love to you
I make love to myself
And when you're coming in me
I give all a woman can
When you charm and win me
Does it make me less than a man?

Obi-Wan poked his head out of his door, looked towards Qui-Gon's room and realized he could see his master. A grin spread slowly across Obi-Wan's face. Qui-Gon was in front of the mirror, pants on but otherwise undressed. He was leaping, twisting, slinging his hair back and forth, flinging droplets of water in all directions, dancing, Obi-Wan suddenly realized, but with a fury and intensity rarely seen in a Jedi Master. A freedom ...

I'll kneel down before you
And nothing will I waste
I'd give up everything for you
Just to learn the taste
To see the way your body shakes
When I bring you down
When I make you beg for more
I worship every sound

Qui-Gon was howling the lyrics, back bent, arms flung out as he spun on one foot. Obi-Wan felt his chin hit his chest. When Qui-Gon stopped, feet planted wide apart, chest heaving in rhythm to the music, growling the closing refrain, Obi-Wan was certain he'd never seen anything more erotic or more disturbing in his life. "Master?"

Qui-Gon spun, instantly the very image of Jedi serenity. "Good evening, Padawan. Would you turn the music down? You said you had something you wanted to talk about."

"Yes, Master." Obi-Wan went to the desk, turned the chipreader off and came back to Qui-Gon's room. When he returned, his Master was already in his tunics and adjusting the drape of his vest. "I'm afraid I need your assistance with something that's come up ... "

"Afraid because you need my help, afraid because you don't like to ask for help, afraid because you think you're imposing on my time and attention or afraid because the situation is upsetting in some way?" Qui-Gon inquired.

That brought Obi-Wan up short. It had been a long time since Qui-Gon had used conversational semantics to pry information out of his student. *But he is right. It isn't just semantics this time.* "All of the above?"

"Very well. Let us sit," Qui-Gon gestured to the sofa. "Tell me."

"If it please you, Master, I'd rather stand," Obi-Wan hedged.

"Yes, of course Padawan," Qui-Gon settled down and began working on his hair.

"Master, I ... First I must ask you to think not of me as your lover. I must ask that you advise me as my Master only, in this. Secondly, I must ask you very personal questions as to your feelings towards me. If either of these things are ... not viable, I shall seek the council of others." Obi-Wan let his hands grip one another within the hiding place in his sleeves.

Qui-Gon drew a deep breath, then released it, centering himself. "I believe I can do that, yes."

"Then, to the first questions. Is it true that Jedi do not mate for life?"

Qui-Gon relaxed at that. "No, Padawan. You will rarely see a pair live to be old and gray together, but ... no. It is not true."

Obi-Wan nodded, accepting that as a lesson to be meditated upon at a later time. "How does a Jedi know when it is safe to love?"

Qui-Gon answered promptly, firmly. "In the same way we know anything. Through the will of the Force. And remember what I have often told you, Obi-Wan, silence is as instructive as speech. If you hear nothing within yourself, and are calm, at peace, you may know you are upon the proper path. If your heart is restless, you may begin to wonder if your course of action must be altered."

Obi-Wan drew a breath and released it quite slowly. This was the rude part, the impertinent question that had pushed to the front of his mind and stayed there, during the ride home. "When you think of me, and consider your feelings, Master ... how feel you?"

"At peace, Obi-Wan. Thoughts of you have always brought me the greatest calm and peace."

"Thank you, Master." Obi-Wan bowed, a formal thanks for lessons from his teacher.

"You are always welcome, Obi-Wan. I am honored that you brought these questions to me." Qui-Gon bowed his head in turn, honoring the thoughtful student.

"I believe I would like to meditate now. Have you any instructions for me, Master?"

"Yes, I do. I wish you to consider your dealings and current feelings on the matter of Knight Trydal. It has been offered that you might take your first shepherded mission this week, but the only appropriate assignment is headed by he. You know it is not allowed for ... personal relationships ... to alter the expectations between working partners and groups. If you honestly feel you can not work effectively with him, because of your personal history, I must decline the offer and leave the injuncture against him in place. Normally, I would refuse such an offer out of hand. However, I believe you are of an age and maturity that I may allow you to decide for yourself." Qui-Gon pulled his toplock back and began binding it off. "I wish for you to meditate upon that question."

Obi-Wan bowed again, demonstrating his understanding of the assignment. "If you have need of me, I shall be in the Mid-Garden."

"As you will," Qui-Gon smiled.

Obi-Wan turned his steps towards that place, knowing his meditations would be long and deep. He was off-center, deeply troubled, needed much time and consideration to still the teeming chaos that was his heart. But part of him thrilled at the news. Passed to be shepherded! It was the first of many steps in the final phase of training, the first real sign that a Padawan was nearing his Trials. Corubia was going to skin him alive.

He couldn't have been happier.

Early the next morning, Obi-Wan entered Jenji's workshop quietly, scenting the wind around him with care. The odor of hot silicon pervaded the air, warning him as to what he might find. He was feeling much better after his meditations, but still wanted to check a couple of things with his most trusted advisors.

"Harder, damnit! You've got to blow harder!" a familiar voice demanded. "Oh screw."

Corubia was atop a tall scaffold, blowing into the top of a pipe while spinning it in her hands. Jenji stood below her wearing heavy gloves and wielding some odd-looking metal tools. She was working with glass sculpture again, but the one under her hands wasn't behaving properly. It canted to one side, thinned and fell.

"Well, there goes another one," Jenji mourned, looking at the ruins of her creation. "Marry, I can not work it out! Maybe the temperature?"

"I think you've just got inferior work partners, Jenji," Corubia called. "We'll try again in a minute."

"Maybe if you tried taking in air through your gills," Jenji began.

"No, no. That's not what they're for. Unless you want me blowing water, they're not going to be a lot of help," Corubia set the glassblowing pipe aside and made for the ladder.

"Hi guys," Obi-Wan greeted.

"Hey! Look who's here! How's it going, kid?" Jenji pulled her gloves off and clenched thumbs with him.

"Um, not good, of course," Obi-Wan admitted sheepishly.

"And you've come seeking help," Jenji surmised. "Why am I not surprised?"

"Cause you know him so well?" Corubia guessed. "But I know that look. I've seen that one on you before. Let me guess, the problem is tall, handsome and his name starts with an O."

"Am I that obvious?" Obi-Wan asked, surprised.

"You can only watch your best friend fall apart over someone like that ONCE before you learn the signs. I know Qui-Gon wouldn't do something like that to you, so ... " Corubia shrugged. "Obream's in the Temple. Did he bother you?"

"No. I haven't seen him ... I've been offered a shepherded mission, but he's heading the team, so ... Master said I could decide for myself." Obi-Wan shrugged.

Jenji spoke up. "Don't you think that shows how much he trusts you? I don't think he's even questioning whether or not you can handle the situation. I think he's asking if you want to."

Obi-Wan nodded miserably.

"And there's the ... other thing," Corubia alluded with a raised eyebrow.

"Yeah. I mean ... he has to trust me on THAT point to even consider allowing this, right?" Obi-Wan whispered.

"I'm missing something," Jenji correctly surmised.

Obi-Wan nodded to Corubia, who took a moment to phrase the news. "Obi-Wan and Master Jinn are ... getting serious," she finally announced.

"It's about time," Jenji smirked. "Now I can stop foretelling about you two."

Obi-Wan's jaw hit his chest. "WHAT?"

"You know, foretelling? My little 'Force Trick' since age nine? I've been seeing you two ... together ... for about a year now. I mean, nothing sure and certain ... but it's there." Jenji rubbed at the floor with the toe of her boot. "It didn't feel like the kind I should share, though. Sorry."

Obi-Wan shrugged. "It happens." But inwardly, he wanted to strangle her. It was an unfair impulse. When a precognitive sensed they shouldn't tell, they never did. This particular scruple had apparently pre-empted more trouble than it caused, and the Order just had to live with it. Future knowledge was only shared if a course of action must be changed. If no change were necessary ... they just let it be. Since Jenji had sensed no danger in such a union, she had kept the information to herself and let nature take its course. The urge to strangle revived in Obi-Wan and he put it down again, with an effort. "Anything else I need to know about there?" he casually inquired.

"I'll let you know if you do," Jenji assured him.

"What about Obream, oh tellers mine?" he folded his hands in supplication.

Corubia and Jenji looked away from him, eyes focusing on points in the distance. Corubia's brow furrowed in concentration while Jenji's fingers tapped out a rhythm on her leg. After a long moment, they looked at one another, clearly sharing some internal conversation, comparing notes subvocally. "Go." Jenji pronounced.

"That's it? Just 'Go' ?" Obi-Wan demanded.

Jenji shrugged. "It'll suck. It'll be a crappy situation to be out on this mission with him. But all futures in which you do not go suck so much more, I can't recommend that you decline this mission."

"Something's up. You need to be off-planet and soon. This is the best way," Corubia confirmed.

Obi-Wan nodded. "Guess I'd better go get packing, then."

"And not lend a hand, of course," Corubia turned to prepare another blowpipe for the kiln.

"Well, you know, that's not really where my talents lie," he hedged.

"So go use your talents to some good," Jenji went to the tool rack and began selecting her implements.

"Thank you, ladies. I owe you ... probably several dozen." he bowed.

"We'll be along to collect eventually," Jenji assured him.

Obi-Wan made no reply, choosing rather to beat a hasty retreat from the artistic labors they now returned to.

Qui-Gon had taken the news of his acceptance with perfect composure, as he had always accepted everything. He had gone to arrange for the retraction of his injuncture against Knight Trydal and to finish the paperwork for Obi-Wan's first quasi-solo mission, telling his student to spend time on something he wouldn't be able to do on the mission. Obi-Wan was perfectly satisfied with that. He was still trying to wrap his mind around the idea of going out in the company of that ... person. He sighed. *Wonder if he's still as good an operative as he used to be? Wonder what we'll be doing, really? 'Survey mission' could be anything!* He shook his head and re-focused on the task before him, bringing all his concentration to bear.

There was just something satisfying about working with your hands, Obi-Wan decided. Well, not his hands, as such ... but manual labor ... okay, that wasn't much better. Anyway, there was a great deal of satisfaction to be found in making something. Even if the inspiration had a questionable side to it. He laid the last of the circuitry in, gentle strands of the Force smoothing them into place. The delicate webwork of hair-fine wires was finally finished. He let go the Force and relaxed his breathing patterns.

Obi-Wan opened his eyes, stood and stretched. Well, that did it for the wiring. Now he'd just have to seat the crystals and make sure the power sources were working to specification. But first, a stretch, some cav ... maybe a little holovid ... arrgh. Dealing with the Group so much was beginning to alter his work habits. Many such breaks had been called for, over the course of dealing with Darth Maul. Oh well ...

Swed was lounging on the front room sofa, idly surfing the indy networks for some decent daytime programming. "It's an exercise in futility," Obi-Wan reminded him.

"I'm trying to hone my sense of hope in the face of doom," Swed replied.

"Hmm. Cav?"

"Yeah, thanks. How's the project going?" Swed sat up to make room for Obi-Wan on the sofa.

"Better. I'm going to have to file the brackets for the crystals AGAIN, but I think I've got the wiring done. Finally. Wanna give it a check for me?" Obi-Wan handed his friend a mug of lukewarm cav, extra cream. "I'm still a little shaky on my fine motor skills, Forcewise."

"Sure, no prob," Swed got up and headed towards the lab.

Obi-Wan picked up the remote and began his own exercise in futility. Either Swed would tell him exactly what he'd done wrong and how to correct it or he would pronounce the project a 'go'. Obi-Wan hoped he'd finally worked all the bugs out of the system. It had seemed like such a SIMPLE idea, in the beginning.

"Looks good, Kenobi. Want me to get the testing crystals for you?" Swed knew all the best shortcuts in the Temple. He could probably get to the vaults faster than anyone.

"Sure. I want to take another look at the prototype before I start on the brackets, so take your time," Obi-Wan accepted gratefully. "You might want to bring a few different types of stones. I haven't done the resonance testing."

"I still think you're the freak of the week for doing this, you know," Swed reminded him for what seemed like the billionth time.

"Yeah, I know. I'm starting to agree." Obi-Wan tossed back the rest of the cav and went through the lab, through the bunk room, through the security-laden whiteroom and into the storage unit. Stored here were most of the artifacts brought back from Reptha. The lightsaber crystals he and Qui-Gon had pulled out of the ice-pillars were stored here, as were the Chendries. As was one other rather intriguing item. He unlocked one of the cabinets and took out Darth Maul's lightsaber.

He'd taken the thing apart and put it back together several times before embarking on his own experiment. He'd even tried the thing, under his Master's careful supervision, to see exactly what was going on with it. It was a fine weapon, carefully crafted to serve the strengths and weaknesses of the particular wielder. Shaped and designed to account for the use of the Force in combat. Special failsafes were included in it to prevent short-outs, loss of power due to any number of stresses and breakaway points such as Obi-Wan had seen during combat. There was counterweighting so that either blade could be used singly, or both together, depending on the warrior's mood. It also radiated a hatred and bloodlust so strong it quite turned Obi-Wan's stomach to be near it. But like a moth to a flame, he returned again and again. It was a fascinating weapon, a creative and versatile design. He had a grudging admiration for whatever dark and angry beast had created it, even as the thought of such a person repulsed him. But it was the idea of that person that drew him back over the days since returning from Renal Sejon. He thought this was a really magnificent weapon, replete with innovation and versatile design.

But Obi-Wan was certain he could do better.

He'd first taken the idea to Master Paje, knowing he would need to use the Group's little playground to do it right. There was NO way he was taking that Sith thing down to the workshop, where Trainees might be exposed to it. Then he'd checked with Swed, enlisted the help of the finest mechanical mind available to assist with production. Only after he was ready to embark on the project had he checked with Qui-Gon.

His master hadn't been overjoyed at the idea, but had allowed Obi-Wan the project anyway. He'd seemed interested in Obi-Wan's ideas, which was a boon as far as the Padawan was concerned. Qui-Gon had asked about the new weapon. Twice. Not in connection to training or Obi-Wan's ongoing education. Simply inquired because he knew it was something Obi-Wan cared about. That thought warmed Obi-Wan clear through. That he'd ordered Obi-Wan to work on it now reflected his continued interest in the project, if nothing else.

He finished his inspection of the crystal brackets and returned to his own project. Selecting a delicate file, he began the slow process of shaping the settings that would hold and protect the twin hearts of the new saber. Any roughness could damage the crystals, make for an imperfect focus of energy, which would be potentially lethal in any number of ways. Improper shape and angles could cause the crystal to slip off plumb, shake loose or come free altogether. A lightsaber with no energy focus was essentially a very short stick, not all that useful in a pitched battle. So Obi-Wan steadied his breathing, fixed the shape he desired in his mind and set in for the long haul.

The first thing he had changed for this project was the size. He'd taken saber designs that had been refined over centuries of experimentation and miniaturized it all. His first efforts had produced a saber too small to be useful, in fact. His lightsaber was nearly as thick as his wrist. The first mini-saber had been about an inch thick. This one was barely three fingers wide. His lightsaber used a power source that had been created in the middle of the last millennium. Swed had suggested something new, one of the power cells from an M9 droid. They were light, strong, small, had a half-life of 70 years and were readily available in most parts of the galaxy. The only problem ... well, the biggest of many problems was going to be the focus stones. They would have to be rather fine, very hard and very, very tiny. His preferred stone, Orilian sapphire, would be right out, he was almost certain of that. Though he had designed the casing with his sapphires in mind, he was beginning to doubt they would suit at all.

This second attempt at making a smaller saber was about to drive him crazy. The first one he'd made was quite a bit smaller. The casing sat ready for completion, but Obi-Wan couldn't imagine using it for anything resembling real combat. He doubted he could make it produce a stable blade of more than twelve inches or so. He'd realized that when he took the resonances of it and discovered he'd made the whole thing too small. By expanding that design somewhat, he'd arrived at the model now nearing completion.

Finally the brackets were properly smooth, ready to receive the focus crystals. Obi-Wan took up the resonance scanner, wired it up and hit the power switch. Perfect. Sort of. The power signature was definitely off the scale for his sapphires. He'd have to find something to suit this higher pitch. Perhaps a topaz of some sort ...

"Obi-Wan! How's it going?"

Obi-Wan turned to see his master standing in the doorway of the workroom. "Just taking the resonances," Obi-Wan explained. "I was about to take a break. Swed went to get some test crystals for it."

"Hmm. Let me see ... " Qui-Gon leaned over his shoulder. "You're going to be looking at a high-grade topaz or any of the Sefaradian emeralds. Well, maybe any emerald at all, if you can make those fluctuations drop out."

Obi-Wan sighed and pushed the project away. "I don't think I'm going to try. I was trying to improve on that Sith design, but all I got was a pair of teensy sabers."

Qui-Gon looked at the two casings, then at his Padawan. "So, because you didn't get what you wanted, what you have is worthless?"

Obi-Wan closed his eyes, inwardly cringing from whatever lesson was about to be dumped on him.

"Do you mind if I try?" Qui-Gon quietly requested.

"No, of course not, Master," Obi-Wan stood and relinquished his chair at the workbench.

"Look over your manifest then and see if it will suit for your trip," Qui-Gon handed him a lightslate and took his place over the miniature lightsabers.

Obi-Wan felt the withdraw of Qui-Gon's scrutiny as he began looking through the supply list. Any number of questions sprang to mind, but he knew better than to interrupt anyone who was working on a lightsaber. It looked like Knight Trydal had been assigned to literally survey the site of what used to be a Jedi Temple. The target in question was within the borders of the Perrys sector, an area nominally within the borders of the Republic, but so given to civil war and infighting that the Jedi had eventually withdrawn their presence. As he recalled, the move had been one of self-preservation. The situation in Perrys had apparently calmed to the point that the Council might consider re-opening operations there. The Jedi Temple at San Saloor needed to be inspected, preliminary to any such decision. Obi-Wan and Knight Trydal would undertake that inspection. He opened his mouth to ask about logistics, but stopped when he saw a frown of concentration twist the edges of Qui-Gon's mouth down.

Instead of speaking, he scrolled down to check his operation parameters. Passport approved, complete diplomatic immunity had been extended, *Well, that's a boon.* As a general rule, Jedi traveled without citizenship to any political entity, which lost them a lot of protection but freed them significantly when it came to more difficult situations. He'd be given a diplomatic voice in the Senate, representing the Order if he really felt the urge to play the fool with this privilege. Good. Now he officially outranked the local ruling class in his own right. That would give him a leg to stand on if hostilities broke out during his stay and they had to fight their way free.

A definitive stipulation that one Obi-Wan Kenobi was a member of the Jedi Order, that he was a political nonperson and held responsible by the Jedi Order alone, was plastered across the top of his credentials. Good. Now he couldn't get involved in local politics even if he wanted to. An outside party, merely an observer as far as the Jedi and the Republic were concerned.

There was a shockingly high credit balance in his name now, as well. Handy if he had to get his own passage back home. But if all went as planned, he might be able to pick up a souvenir or two from his visit. That might be worthwhile.

His reverie was interrupted when Swed entered the room bearing a large, flat box. He threw Obi-Wan a surprised glance, set the box down and retreated to the front room. Qui-Gon looked up as he exited and noticed that the crystals had arrived. "Hmm. See what we have ... " he told Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan flipped the case lid open and perused the contents. "Umm, we have the Orillian sapphire, a perennial favorite of course. Here's the last of that jade from Perdu. Jenji absolutely swears by it. Uh, topaz, lemme see, blue, yellow and white. I think Corubia uses a yellow like this," he held it up for Qui-Gon to inspect.

"No, far too soft," the master dismissed.

"Okay, well, we have some nice emeralds here. Uh, the purple Shaykda were quite popular a year ago. Let's see, there's the native Coruscantian, quite rare, those. Here's Plygos and Tradian ... " Obi-Wan didn't even look up before handing that one over. "Oh! Look, here's a Syheliot. They make a lovely orange blade."

"Orange doesn't go with green," Qui-Gon murmured.

"Well, let us be fashionable or die," Obi-Wan smirked, returning to the case. "Ruby?"


Obi-Wan sighed. "Look, just because Chendries make a red blade ... "

"No rubies. Ever. Not as long as you're my Padawan, anyway," Qui-Gon was firm on this.

"You've really got a serious case of the willies about that, you know?" Obi-Wan came to watch his master work.

"I keep having nightmares about it. Leave it be, hmm?" Qui-Gon was tightening down the brackets of the smaller saber, adjusting the set one final time. He snapped the casing closed and began bolting it on. "What else?"

"Opals, far too fragile. Um, a luna sapphire, though I think they're pretty weak, too. That's the lot," Obi-Wan closed the case.

"I think, if not these emeralds, one of the white topaz might be best," Qui-Gon said, picking up the completed saber. "Let's see how this does.

He switched on the smaller weapon, which gave a ten-inch blade and no more. Obi-Wan sighed.

"No, this is good, when you look at the whole picture," Qui-Gon assured him. The Master sat down and began working on the other blade, putting it together with practiced ease. It leapt to life with a thin, tightly focused beam humming wickedly between them. "See? They're perfect."

"For what?" Obi-Wan demanded.

"Oh, well ... I suppose I'd better show you. Ask Swed if he'd like to come along to the Form room."

"Okay, I give. What under the skies is your Master doing?" Swed leaned against the railing that ran along the observation balcony, watching Qui-Gon with rapt fascination.

"Um, he's programming a form, man." Obi-Wan spoke this as if he was revealing that the sky was blue on Coruscant.

"Yeah, I know he's programming a form. But what's that music?" Swed twitched, trying not to dance.

"I think it's a cover. The band ... it kinda sounds like Shaybonee, but I don't know anything about them," Obi-Wan shrugged.

"Huh. I guess I'll have to look into it myself," Swed bobbed his head back and forth. "Pretty good."

"Yeah, I guess so," Obi-Wan shrugged again.

Below them Qui-Gon stopped his exercises and went over to the dataset. He spoke clearly into the microphone. "Record for offensive. Replay track 9."

Obi-Wan wanted to cover his eyes in embarrassment, but settled for clenching the railing. Qui-Gon was stripped to the waist, hair pulling loose from the topknot. He was dripping perspiration, breathing elevated, eyes glittering with battle lust. Obi-Wan had the sneaking suspicion that his own eyes were glittering with a different kind of lust entirely. Swed's certainly were.

The music started again, and Qui-Gon switched on the mini sabers. The larger one was in his right hand, the smaller in his left. He moved in a style radically different from the one Obi-Wan had trained to for so long. This one was all elegant lines, subtle baffles and escapes, almost pure finesse. And that music ...

Obi-Wan snuck a look at his friend again. "You're starting to drool, bro."

"Hey, sorry. But that could really change your ... religion," Swed blushed.

"Yeah, if it hadn't been changed years ago," Obi-Wan smiled. "I was there, remember?"

Swed got a nostalgic look in his eye. "Yeah ... "

"But put your tongue away, buddy. He's spoken for," Obi-Wan had no idea why he was even making such a claim. He and Qui-Gon had hardly made any promises. Still ...

"Really? Who's the lucky bastard?" Swed pried unsubtly.


Swed's head came around hard, mouth agape and eyes near popping from his head. Then a slow grin appeared. "You lucky bastard!"

"Indeed, dearest brother," Obi-Wan waggled his eyebrows.

"And he didn't do too bad for himself," Swed put his grin away and turned back to watching Qui-Gon. "I didn't mean I'd try to ... you know ... "

"Yeah, I know. Don't worry about it. What I want to know is how he got so good with those so fast," Obi-Wan nodded towards the person in question.

"He probably learned it during his exile."

The two Padawans turned towards the speaker, surprise in both pairs of eyes. Jayden Hunter had joined them on the observation balcony.

"Master Jinn was exiled?" Swed asked.

Jayden shrugged. "It was right after ... Xanatos. When Qui-Gon couldn't find him, he came back and asked the Council for punishment. I'm given to understand they fought him on the point, quite strenuously. Anyway, they eventually gave in and set him some restrictions that effectively put him in a position where he would either have to hide or die."

Obi-Wan's throat tightened at the words. "What did they do?"

"Well, they forbade him to touch a lightsaber for the period of a year and a day."

Obi-Wan looked down at his master, trying to get his mind around the idea of Qui-Gon without his weapon. It was just too foreign a concept. Every time he got close, his hand twitched towards his own saber, ready to defend his teacher. "But ... "

Jayden waived a hand at his objections, putting them to rest. "Master Yoda called upon Master Sarafel to protect him. He was in no danger as long as he kept a low profile. I believe they spent the year on Ebrant. That's where that style comes from, anyway."

Swed shook his head. "But if he couldn't use a saber ... "

"That's not a lightsaber style. The Ebrantians have a rather odd ... sport, pastime, call it what you will, from their pre-space days. They call it 'dueling', but I very much doubt that means to them what it means to us. Very popular still, I believe. Of course, they don't use lightsabers. Their weapons would be a sword and dagger," he nodded towards the mini sabers by way of explanation. "Impractical to think a Jedi would use a sword, but he did. When did he make those?"

Obi-Wan swallowed. "He didn't. I did. I didn't mean to ... I was just trying some new designs, seeing if I could do something with a couple of ideas I got from that saber the Sith used. I ... it was an accident."

"A happy one. Those have a lot of possibilities. Small enough to hide up a sleeve or down the back of a tunic. If you could use them like he does ... very effective. Rather a nasty surprise if someone thought you were unarmed. I'd like to see your designs, Padawan Kenobi." Jayden leaned over the railings. "Looks like he's done with the imaging."

The Padawans saw that this was true. Qui-Gon had gone to the dataset and was correcting the program for mistakes he'd made in his performance. After a moment he stepped away, turned the music off and returned to the center of the fighting ring.

"Now we'll see if he's as good with those as we think he is," Jayden grinned.

It was a necessity in a Jedi's life that, once one was knighted, individual training halted completely. Though one might learn from work-partners and friends, one was pretty much left to one's own devices when it came to the guidance of a personal instructor. One of the many solutions to this problem was the Form room.

The room was circular, the high walls fitted with low-powered computer-controlled blaster-nodes. The computer in question was programmed with the particulars of most known training katas, Forms, routines, what have you. As the program began, the blasters came to sudden and unrelenting life, firing upon the practitioner. If one stayed true to the parameters of the Form, one's blade would always be in the proper position to deflect the blaster shots. If one strayed from true, a pinprick of laserfire would reach the unprotected body. The intervals of fire could be altered, from random fire to continuous feed or any setup one desired. As proficiency was gained, the intervals were shortened, demanding more precision until perfection was achieved.

Qui-Gon had the interval set much lower than the one he used in his more traditional saber practices. Even with that, a couple of shots got through. Obi-Wan felt a little smile tug at his lips. Even without a blindfold, even at a low level, Qui-Gon was far from the perfection he apparently desired. Still ... "Well, he's a lot better at that than I would be."

Swed nodded his agreement. "It's just so ... different."

"You say that like it's a bad thing, Padawan," Jayden smiled at his student.

"Oh no, Master. I think it's beautiful," Swed hastened to reply.

"Indeed? Well, perhaps one day you'll be able to study that style as well. For now, you need to work on the Honeyrose, so let's to our session for today." Jayden threw a companionable arm around his shoulders. "See you around, Obi."

"Yes, Knight Hunter," Obi-Wan bowed. He turned back to the practice session below him to find Qui-Gon looking up at him.

"How did that look?" his master inquired.

"You want the respectful answer or the honest one?" Obi-Wan inquired.

"Honesty, please. I know you aren't familiar with this style, but you know enough of technique to give a proper assessment," Qui-Gon encouraged.

Obi-Wan thought about it for a long moment before replying. In the area of combat training, niceties and politeness were potentially deadly. Qui-Gon was asking for information that might one day save his life. "Looked like shit, Master. Your off hand is sloppy and I think maybe you're trying to use your main as you would a regular saber. The blade is much thinner. You'll have to be a lot more quick and precise to get the accuracy you're looking for."

Qui-Gon nodded once and started the program again. Obi-Wan leaned on the railing and put all his concentration into analyzing Qui-Gon's form. The blasters could tell you a lot, but an observer could tell you more, if they watched with care and mindfulness. He was honored that his master would ask for his help in this exercise. It spoke well of his own abilities and his master's confidence in them. He did not wish to disappoint or give any reason for that confidence to be withdrawn.

"Better, though I'd say you might want to do something with that off hand at the soonest possible opportunity. And your main is too short," Obi-Wan called.

Qui-Gon tested the length against his arm. "Is not," he contradicted.

"Is too. Give it another two inches, try it again." Obi-Wan turned his back on Qui-Gon, a technique he'd often used with much success on the younger trainees. A challenge, really. They could choose to do as they pleased, but he would not be responsible for the result. Obi-Wan engaged in a detailed study of the door while his master ran through the form again.

"Thank you, Padawan," Qui-Gon called. "I don't see how I managed to do that."

"It's the hilt," Obi-Wan replied, turning back to his master. "Single handed, not hand and a half like yours."

"And my grip is always farther forward ... yes. I see. I think I'm done here. Would you care for tea?" Qui-Gon went to the datapad and shut his program down.

"Of course. Meet you in our quarters? I could make some of those cheesy biscuits you like," Obi-Wan offered by way of apology. Though he'd been right in his suggestion, it was never good form to correct one's Master.

"As it please you, Padawan."

Obi-Wan bowed and went to make good on his promise.

Tea was on the table when Qui-Gon returned to their quarters. Obi-Wan had also laid in a supply of sandwiches, which Qui-Gon tucked into with a will. Obi-Wan was not much hungry, taking only tea and a biscuit for himself. It did him much good to simply see his master eat, and eat with pleasure. Because he was a field operative and often subjected to the appalling cuisine of differing cultures, Qui-Gon tended to prefer simple food and lots of it. Obi-Wan might indulge his own culinary pleasures when he had a receptive audience, but for Qui-Gon he was best pleased to provide what was wanted, in great quantity.

That his master was provided with a meal that he could honestly enjoy was thanks enough.

"You're not eating, Padawan," Qui-Gon observed, reaching for his third sandwich.

"I'm not hungry, Master," Obi-Wan smiled, taking a second biscuit.

"Then why did you make so much ... oh," Qui-Gon grinned self-consciously. "Thank you."

"You're quite welcome, Master. Though I feel I should admit I was baiting a trap," Obi-Wan sipped his tea, trying to assess Qui-Gon's mood.

"You want to know where I learned those weapons," Qui-Gon guessed.

"No, Master. Knight Hunter told me where you probably learned them," Obi-Wan admitted.

"Then you want to know why I never told you I'd been exiled," Qui-Gon rejoined.

"Yes, please. If you think it appropriate." Obi-Wan was a little disappointed to see the sandwich put aside.

"Well, yes. The answer is fairly simple, really. I'm sure you are more than aware that my ... reputation and ... associations tend to color the perceptions other people have about you," Qui-Gon began. At Obi-Wan's nod, he continued. "What I sought to prevent was my history coloring your opinion of yourself. I don't worry that it would much alter what you think of me. You're a steady sort, I'm sure you understand me as well as I know myself. But knowing your master had been exiled, formally punished by the Council ... " Qui-Gon raised an eloquent brow.

Obi-Wan nodded. "Yes, I see. I understand."

"I'm not ashamed of it, Obi-Wan. It was necessary to my situation. It ... did much to heal me," Qui-Gon explained

Well that was explanation enough for Obi-Wan. "Another question, if it please you Master?"

"Questions are always pleasing to the teacher," Qui-Gon replied.

"Pray, then, who is Master Sarafel? I've never heard of ... her?" Qui-Gon nodded and Obi-Wan went on. "I've never heard of her before today, and now I've heard she spent a year protecting you from possible assassination. Who is she?"

"Again, this was kept from you on purpose, Obi-Wan, but not for the same reasons as the other. You were not told of her so as to protect her. She was my Master," Qui-Gon admitted. "Arjet's, too."

"But ... Master Yoda ... I thought ... " Obi-Wan reached for his tea, fighting with the concept.

"Did I ever say Yoda was my master?" Qui-Gon inquired archly.

"Well, no ... but ... " Obi-Wan's voice trailed off weakly. "But you two fight so much, I thought ... "

Qui-Gon chuckled. "We just tend to disagree, Padawan. Master Sarafel is not a name one can safely speak. Not that it would be dangerous to you, my Padawan. It would be dangerous to her if certain parties knew for a fact that she still lived. We keep her mention to a minimum. Who told you of her involvement?"

"Knight Hunter, but I think he thought I already knew about her. Swed didn't seem to attach any importance to the name. Will I never meet her, then?" Obi-Wan was suddenly, intensely curious about her.

"Doubtful, my Obi-Wan. If ever you did, you may rest assured that the situation will be either so dire or so joyous that you won't have much time to find anything out from her. I do apologize. I'd like for you to have known your Grandmaster," Qui-Gon smiled a little at that.

"My what?"

"Um, the master of your master. Like the mother of your mother," Qui-Gon elaborated.

Obi-Wan chuckled at that, too. "Well, I have you. And Master Paje would probably be more than happy to thump me a bit if I need it. I'm pretty well set up, all things considered."

"Indeed. And now we must see to your journey, Obi-Wan. I expect you'll find quite a few surprises in your room. I'll do the clearing up. You go make sure you have everything you need," Qui-Gon stood and began collecting dishes.

"And you finish those biscuits," Obi-Wan commanded. "They were for you."

Qui-Gon obediently bit into the pastry as Obi-Wan headed off to check his supply.

A moment later he stormed back out of the room, arms laden with piles of clothes. " *What* is all *this*?"

"You'll be a full field operative, Obi-Wan. As a member of the Order, not as an apprentice. You need to be able to hold your own," Qui-Gon began.

"But ... " Obi-Wan gestured with a pair of shorts. "I didn't need new EVERYTHING, Master!"

"Obi-Wan, however simple this mission seems, you may be headed into danger. I'll not let you out of my care with but shoddy supply to your name," Qui-Gon informed him. "A Jedi in the field must command respect at all times. Fraying cuffs and re-stitched seams may not matter too much on a Padawan, but on a Knight it makes a difference. Dress the part, Obi-Wan, and you'll be all the more ready to play it."

Obi-Wan sighed and looked at the new gear. Qui-Gon was right. He'd need to blend with Obream's presentation as much as possible and be prepared to take care of himself if necessary. A Padawan had his master to look after him. A Padawan on a shepherd mission must behave as a Knight if at all possible. He must not let the higher-ranking shepherd be dragged down with the care of a useless work partner. Obi-Wan had nearly stepped into the trap of automatically deferring to his mission leader, from sheer reflex of rank. This was part of the function of these missions. To make a Padawan stop thinking like a Padawan and start acting like a Knight. Which, he tardily realized, he had nearly done.

"Okay, Master. I've seen you guide nobles in and out of positions before, as situations warrant. You already raised one good and faithful Knight of the Order. Please, Master Jinn. Council me." He set the clothes down on the sofa and sat down at table again.

Qui-Gon smiled, ducked his head once and began talking. There was much to plan before Obi-Wan shipped out.

"Well, Obream seems overjoyed," Obi-Wan reported as he shut down the vid. Sarcasm was heavy on that observation.

"He should be. He had every reason to expect a long delay," Qui-Gon replied from his seat on the sofa. "He should be pleased a partner was found for him so quickly."

"Well, it is a bit sudden, but if I'm going to start shepherd missions, I might as well get it over with. Tomorrow, then." Obi-Wan looked at his packs. "I can't believe you got all that stuff together that quickly."

"Thank Corubia. I think she harassed the life out of her friends in Allocations," Qui-Gon grinned. "She's a good sort to have around."

"And to think she laid deep and involved plans to avoid Jackee Rilka at all costs," Obi-Wan sighed.

"Anyone working for Lrakin Rilka is probably a good person to cultivate as a friend and associate. Still, the result is rather impressive."

Corubia had put together nearly everything a Knight would need for travel in just a few hours. Almost all of it had come from the Temple stores, but some bits and pieces were recognized as personal possessions from all across the Temple residents. Jenji had apparently raided her candy stores, Swed had supplied the finer accessories to the personal linen and Obi-Wan strongly suspected that Master Ar'thapa was going to miss her holocam. But it all came together in a perfect presentation of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Knight.

Qui-Gon levered himself off the sofa. "I hate to dash off like this, but I do have to finish up the removal of stricture on Obream before he's allowed near you. Skies above only know how long the Council will keep me over this. You'd better see to a shower and get ready for bed. I'll see you when I get back."

Obi-Wan nodded and headed for the bathroom. Upon exiting the shower, he faced himself in the mirror, trying to reconcile himself to what he was seeing. *I should do something with this ... *

His hair was too long. Far too long. The Council had, for some reason, forbidden him to cut his hair the last time he'd stood before them. That order had come on top of a good three months without a trim and now the length was getting into a stage that he was unpracticed at managing. He ran his fingers through the damp locks, trying to make them fall into the style unto which he had become accustomed. They fell over again, refusing to cooperate. Damn. *I can't go waltzing around San Saloor looking like a stray cat,* he fumed. Nothing for it. He took his comm link out and chimed for Corubia.


"Cor, hey. It's Obi. Listen, do you think you could help me out a bit here? It's my hair," he sighed.

"Yeah, you were looking a bit shaggy this morning. I'll be right over." She chirped off, leaving him alone with his reflection once more.

She arrived bearing an armload of hair-care supplies and instruments. After a quick inspection, she pulled out the clippers and prepared to give him a buzz.

"No dice," he stopped her. "Council said I can't cut it."

"Really? Why?" she asked, putting the clippers away once more.

"No idea. What am I gonna do? I look like a ... a ... "

"Knight, really. Except for the braid, of course," she went into the front room and brought back the desk chair. "Sit." She toyed with his hair thoughtfully. He watched her fool around for a minute, deciding how she wanted to go about her work.

"Okay, how about this?" she asked, pulling his braid back against his head and holding it flush with his tail.

"Okay. Fine. I'd better put it away, I guess," Obi-Wan conceded.

She took out her scissors and snipped the tie, then re-wrapped the braid in with it. "Okay, now pay attention. You've never worn your hair like this and you'll need to do it on your own."

Obi-Wan nodded and she took out a tube of thick, clear cream. "Extra-hold," she explained, showing him the label. "Now, just this much, and get it in there evenly."

He watched her technique carefully. After the gel was in, she began twisting and combing her fingers through, making his hair stand up in little soft fingers. He had to admit, it looked pretty good, lending him an air of disarray that he found quite stylish. She let the tail and braid alone, of course, but made the sides and back a little more tame than the top. "There. A lovely 'just been fucked' look for the untrimmed Padawan."

"That's not funny, Cor," he growled.

"No, it's actually pretty good," she said, stepping back to admire her handiwork. "Besides, now you don't look like you're about to deliver a sermon on moral life. Trust me, the last thing anyone's going to want to hear out of you is ethical theory or spiritual enlightenment."

"Really? And how would you know?" Obi-Wan spun around on the chair to face her.

"Well, it's kind of hard to explain. I mean, you've never really spent an extended period of time away from both Master and Temple," she explained. "I think this is going to be a lot like when I used to go home. I mean, when you're in the field with Qui-Gon, he's always there to tell you what to do, when to do it, and people respect that. It's training, learning, like that. When you're by yourself ... it's different. Especially with locals who aren't at all used to having Jedi around. I mean, there's a reason I don't go home much anymore."

"Why? I thought you liked your family," Obi-Wan tilted his head to one side, curious.

"It's just really ... stressful now. I mean, sure, you've never met these people before, but I bet ... " she looked away for a moment. "Listen, there's just something about outsiders that you don't get here at the Temple. Especially with my family. They have ... expectations, usually something they don't understand or can't explain. But it's there all the same ... "

"Are you serious? I mean, how do you know?" Obi-Wan stood and headed out to the sofa. Corubia followed and settled in on the other end.

"Well, Jenji said her folks were the same. Swed ... he doesn't say much, but I gather his family was really, really upset when they found out he doesn't limit his dating to female humans," Corubia shrugged. "Like I said, it's kind of hard to explain. My parents have this idea about what they want their kids to be, to do. My brother's a banker, for skies' sake and my sister's married and has a kid on the way. She's only two years older than me, you know."

"So, but, they know you're not going to be anything like that, don't they?" Obi-Wan was totally confused.

"Yeah, intellectually, they know. But for as long as I can remember, they wanted me to come home and join the family business or something. You just can't explain the kind of pressure a mom can put on a kid," Corubia pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. "I remember, they kept telling me 'All you have to do is say you want to and you can come home to stay.' You know that, right? Once you're old enough to have a solid grip on your abilities, you can leave the Temple."

Obi-Wan swallowed. "Yeah, if you have somewhere to go."

"You didn't miss much, bro. It's tough on a kid. I mean, you go home, they lavish all this attention on you, you don't have to go to classes, they let you sleep late and fool around. Plus, if you go do katas or meditate or whatever where they can see you, all you get is weird looks. And practicing Force stuff? Right out. I almost gave my da a heart attack the first time I levitated something instead of going to get it." She shuddered at the memory. "And saber drills? That's what's keeping me away right now. I was working on Amber Rainbow last time I went home."

Obi-Wan chuckled in sympathy. The Rainbow was one of the required sets of forms, the mastery of which required daily practice for months on end. The rule of thumb was 'miss a day, loose a week' in the Rainbow forms.

"So there I was, deep in a workout in the backyard. Ma came out and says 'Corubia, dear? Could you maybe not do that right now? I'm afraid you'll hurt yourself." Corubia lay her forehead on her arms then looked up again. "I lost three weeks of work before I got back."

"Hurt yourself?" Obi-Wan was at a loss for words.

"Yeah. None of them could reconcile the idea of THE JEDI, warriors honest and true ... and me. If there was ever an attack on their capitol, they'd be on their knees praying for a Knight to show up and save them. But me? Their kid?" she sighed.

"But it wasn't all bad, was it?" Obi-Wan swallowed, beginning to think maybe he *hadn't* missed much.

"No, it wasn't. That's the worst of it. For the most part, it's really GOOD. I mean, I could walk out of here and into just about any job Trimeas has to offer, with the experience and education I have. Ma made very certain I understood what that meant, both personally and financially. I could be a teacher at the university, or maybe a businessperson, whatever. It would be an easy life, back home." Corubia suddenly became very interested in the sofa upholstery. "At least your survey group won't be as bad as my family. They actually know what they want out of you."

Obi-Wan snorted. "I wish I'd been able to go home at least once. Maybe it would help me now."

"Actually, it's probably a good thing you didn't. It's hard to tell your mom 'Sorry, I know this really, really hurts you, but I just can't do what you're asking of me.' No matter what terms you're on, it's hard to disappoint your family when you could just as easily do something that could make them really happy," Corubia started picking at a loose scale on the back of her hand. "I mean, you read stories all the time about adoptees finding their birth families and going to all these lengths to live up to whatever fantasies their families had about them."

Obi-Wan thought about that for a minute. "I don't know. I mean, I'm pretty good, as I am now. Why would they do that?"

"You think I didn't get pressure from my family? I did. It was pretty intense right before Master Torlamin made me her Padawan. They kept telling me about all the hard work, all the danger, all the things I'd be giving up if I stayed in the Temple. It's been hard, knowing I could leave. Some days I'd be there, I'd think to myself 'I can just stay. I'd never have to kill anyone again, I'd never be shot at or poisoned again. I'd never have to do that damn ribbon-and-fan exercise ever, ever again," she thumped the sofa once for emphasis.

"That had to have been tough," Obi-Wan whispered.

Corubia fixed him with a steady gaze. "It was the hardest, longest fight I've ever dealt with, but I stood strong for what I believed to be right. I held on and kept coming back to the Temple, because I'm Jedi. It's what I am and what I was meant to be. You know why I'm not worried about you going off with Obream? Because he can make your life a living hell and it won't make any difference one way or another. Down in the core of it, he can't touch you. You'll be fine, because you're Jedi too. Right down to the bone, you're Jedi. Maybe deeper."

Obi-Wan grinned at her. "I'll try to keep that in mind."

"Do that. It might be the only thing that keeps you sane. Look, I've got to go see Rigger. Call me if you need anything," Corubia got up and headed to the bathroom for her things. "By the way, that's a good look for you."

He waved his thanks, for the compliment and the advice, "See you when I get back."

"Count on it, bro," she grinned, thumbing the door open.

He sighed, leaning his head back on the arm of the sofa. *I hope you're wrong about this, Cor. Then again, I hope you're right, too.*

Qui-Gon stood in the door of Obi-Wan's room, watching his student put the last of his things into packs. It all seemed so final. His Padawan was leaving him and for all that it was a simple mission, he might not return. All Jedi faced that possibility on every mission. His Koateleu was leaving him ...

"Koateleu," he whispered, to taste the word again. Obi-Wan turned to him, smiling. Responding to the name. Qui-Gon smiled back, hoped it reached as far as his eyes, doubted that it did.

"Pantreti," Obi-Wan whispered.

"You're really not going to tell me what that means?" Qui-Gon asked.

"Of course not. A fine Jedi Master like yourself should be able to find out, if he really wants to know," Obi-Wan teased.

Qui-Gon looked away, leaving the smile on his lips. "As you will, Koatel. You should get some sleep. Obream might be an early riser, you know."

"I doubt it. I would be very much surprised if he was up and about before luncheon," Obi-Wan replied, coming closer. "I have time to spare."

Qui-Gon slipped his arms around Obi-Wan's strong shoulders, pressing a kiss to his temple. "If you are sure," he began.

"Did you think I would not bid you a proper farewell, my Pantreti?" The younger man smiled. "We can do it here, if you wish," he tilted his head towards his own bed.

Something about that phrasing struck Qui-Gon as being odd, but he pushed the thought aside. "My bed, if you will. So that it may hold your memory, if not yourself."

Obi-Wan nodded, stepping back. He removed his boots and placed them next to his packs, ditto the belt and sash he wore. His tunics fell open, exposing him from throat to navel. Qui-Gon swallowed once, trying to keep what composure he could.

Obi-Wan returned, taking him by the hand, leading him to his own bed. He stayed close, hip brushing against Qui-Gon's on every other step, until they stood beside the bed. Obi-Wan looked up at him through thick lashes, mouth parted ever so slightly, moist. Hungry. Qui-Gon felt his pulse quicken at the sight, then leaned in to taste.

Obi-Wan's mouth was a soft, pliant offering, a granting of desire, a dream made real. His flavor was rich and heady, tongue mobile and exciting as he explored Qui-Gon's lips, teeth, strong brush along the gumline which amused Obi-Wan for some reason. The laugh that escaped him broke the kiss and Obi-Wan took the opportunity to begin working on Qui-Gon's clothes.

Moments later and they were twisted together on the bed, down to their leggings and a hot passion for one anther's flesh. Qui-Gon spent long moments savoring his lover's skin, touching, stroking, pressing himself to every available surface. It wasn't enough. Couldn't be enough for this night. //Open to me.//


//Let's be ... together, my Obi-Wan,// Qui-Gon nuzzled along his jawline, nibbled an ear, gave the braid a playful bite and tug. //Please.//

**As you will, Qui-Gon.**

The tone of that seemed odd as well, and it was an oddness that he couldn't simply push aside. Obi-Wan's thoughts were spinning out into his, blending, making themselves known to him. He could sense where he was about to be touched, a bare instant before it happened. He thinned his shield and spun himself into Obi-Wan's mind as well, sharing the pleasure and joy across the link.

**Still, be still,** Obi-Wan murmured, eyes glazing with the shared sensations. Qui-Gon leaned back into the pillows, more than willing to obey. His fingers wandered over Obi-Wan's shoulders, across his neck and into his hair. For some reason, he found himself longing for the day when those soft ginger locks would be long enough for him to get a proper grip on.

Obi-Wan sensed the wish and chuckled, scattering a flurry of kisses down Qui-Gon's abdomen. At the same time, he was pushing the remaining cloth down Qui-Gon's legs, baring him completely. Strong, nimble fingers stroked and caressed Qui-Gon's thighs, pushing them apart, touching all the right places before hot, hungry lips followed their explorations. Qui-Gon moaned, but it still wasn't enough. He opened his thoughts more fully, lowering all outer shields, letting his wordless feelings of pleasure and love flow out of him and into his beautiful tormentor.

Obi-Wan's head came up suddenly, a look of surprise flitting across his face before he returned to his ministrations. Odd, for certain, and Qui-Gon couldn't let it go. //Open to me, Obi-Wan. Please. I love you.//

Obi-Wan smiled, taking one finger into his mouth and moistening it. **I think it's time for you to open to me, Pantreti.**

Qui-Gon smiled, letting his legs fall wider apart. At the same time, he summoned the bottle of rose oil from the table to his hand.

**Showoff. You could have reached that,** Obi-Wan admonished.

//Only if I'd moved, which I have no desire to do,// Qui-Gon explained.

**Oh? I bet I can make you move,** Obi-Wan smiled and pressed his finger deep into Qui-Gon's body.

The unexpected intrusion sent a flash of ... very strong sensation through Qui-Gon. Not pain, exactly, but something else. It had been quite some time since that entry had been less than pleasurable and it brought Qui-Gon up short. "Wait," he gasped. "Wait a minute."

Obi-Wan looked concerned, withdrew his hand and stretched out along Qui-Gon's body. "Better some other way tonight, Pan?"

Qui-Gon smiled. "Maybe. Let's not rush into anything ..."

Obi-Wan propped his head up on one hand, gazing steadily into Qui-Gon's eyes, patiently waiting for his partner to signal his readiness to continue. Qui-Gon raised his hand, put it back down and considered for a long moment. //Let me in. Let me see you ... //

Obi-Wan's eyes flicked away and came back, flicked again and fixed on Qui-Gon once more. Slowly his shields thinned and fell away.

Qui-Gon was immediately aware of his partner's discomfort at the exposure. He looked quickly and withdrew himself firmly behind his own mental shields, closed his eyes to consider what he'd seen.

Obi-Wan cared for him. Obi-Wan was having sex with him. The two concepts stood apart, separate and wholly unrelated. "Oh," Qui-Gon breathed, understanding at last.

"I told you that a long time ago," Obi-Wan whispered, defensive.

"It's all right," Qui-Gon assured him. "I simply ... misunderstood."

Obi-Wan sighed and kissed his shoulder. "Ready?"

Qui-Gon kept his eyes closed, considering. "Will you stay with me tonight?"


*Why indeed?* Qui-Gon thought. If the physical was not a reflection of the emotional, why indeed? Why any of it?

"I will, Qui-Gon, if you want me to," Obi-Wan assured him.

"Shh, no. No. I ... don't wish to force you," Qui-Gon murmured, ashamed of his request.

"Dammit, Qui-Gon! Why are you making things so difficult?" Obi-Wan fell back on the bed, withdrawing. "I'm leaving tomorrow. I won't see you for a few days, maybe longer! Don't you want me to ... "

Qui-Gon opened his eyes at last. "Yes. I want you to. Anything at all that you desire, on any terms you wish. I want you to."

"Good, because I want this. I want to take this with me, where I am going," Obi-Wan slipped off the bed, removed his pants and returned.

"How would you have me?" Qui-Gon murmured, closing his eyes.

"Turn over," Obi-Wan purred, lips brushing Qui-Gon's once more.

Qui-Gon did as he was bid, wrapping his arms around his pillow. Once more his senses filled with the white-hot pleasure of contact between himself and the man he loved with all his heart. *It doesn't matter. It doesn't,* he told himself firmly. He willed himself to relax, to enjoy, to drink in the sensation of giving himself over to Obi-Wan's desires. He pressed his face into the pillow, letting his hair fall forward as Obi-Wan stroked his hips, buttocks, parting him for a long, intimate kiss ...

This time the penetration was easy, slow, and he was more than ready for it. One finger was followed by two, then three and his cock was rock hard and aching between himself and the sheets. He moved his hips, undulating slowly against the two stimulants. *There is no passion. There is serenity,* he reminded himself, clinging to the belief that was a solid fact in the core of his being.

Then he was empty, and Obi-Wan's teeth fastened hard onto the back of his neck. He cried out at the sharp feel, sighed as it eased off, moaned as his body was filled once more, pressing into the claim that was laid on his flesh.

He pushed up onto his knees, snapping his hips back against Obi-Wan, letting himself be weakened by the pleasure, letting need and lust well up in him and burn his thoughts away. Obi-Wan's strong fist closed over his hungry cock and he thrust into it, soft grunts catching in his throat. "More," he gasped. "Harder."

Obi-Wan supplied with a will, bearing down on him, rocking them both with each thrust. His cock found just the right angle, pounding hard on Qui-Gon's prostate, driving him over the edge of orgasm between one heartbeat and the next. Qui-Gon moaned, reveled in the sounds from his lover that signaled his release as well. They fell forward onto the sheets, separating, hands seeking to hold as they caught their breath.

"Good?" Obi-Wan panted.

"Skies yes," Qui-Gon replied.

"Mmm. Good. Sleep," Obi-Wan pulled at the sheets.

"Yeah," Qui-Gon agreed after a moment. They managed to get themselves covered with a minimum of movement, spooning together without words.

Qui-Gon slid down, buried his face in the back of Obi-Wan's neck, breathing in the scent, memorizing the taste of a few kisses. *I will hold this here with me,* he promised, and drifted off to sleep.

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: Satori, Vin-Dit, Tsunami: Division

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

104 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written February 20, 2000 by HiperBunny

Setting: Star Wars Episode 1

Primary Races: Human

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

Pairings: Obi-Wan/ Qui-Gon

Blurb: A gift is given, a history learned, a mission accepted and a mistake made.

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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