Bonds of Choice 9.99:
Satori, Vin-Dit, Tsunami: The Past

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

Obi-Wan was just starting his second cup of cav when the doorchime rang. He'd found a message from their mission pilot, indicating an early afternoon departure. He'd decided to nap most of the morning away. Qui-Gon was still abed, so he went to see to the door himself. Corubia, Jenji and Swed stood there. An appraising look from Corubia, and she said "I told you so. Get him."

Which is why the Master awoke to a solitary bed and a range of odd thumping sounds liberally peppered with various protests and curses from his Padawan's room. Bemused, he drew on his bathrobe and went to see what the fuss was about. He leaned against the doorway, a slow smile creeping across his face.

"Master, make them stop! They've already used the Force three times to get me into this stuff," Obi-Wan mourned.

"Then they'll just have to get you right back out of it. Corubia, the formal? What were you thinking? He'll be changing before arrival, and I doubt there will be a ball during transit or on-site. Out of that, now," he chivvied. The Padawans groaned and began undressing Obi-Wan again. "Chocolate brown pants, the eggshell tunics, etceteras etceteras. Good skies above!"

"Yes, Master Jinn. I'm sorry Master Jinn," the trio murmured as the put the clothing away.

Qui-Gon wandered into the kitchen seeking cav and continued calling instructions to them. "See if you can find a really good belt in there. Something without the shiny rubbed off of it yet. It'll look good with the rich browns. I'll see about some sort of breakfast."

He had tea and toast ready when Obi-Wan was declared presentable. Qui-Gon turned to find his student well and truly transformed. He went over the costume with a discerning eye, from well-turned leg to narrow waistline, up to attractively disheveled hair. He sighed and stroked his beard. "Did you get him a new cloak? Because this old one is in a dire state."

Swed grinned. "Of course."

The change was made while Obi-Wan munched resignedly through his breakfast. "This is so dumb, guys."

"Obi-Wan! Are you saying your master's choice is dumb?" Corubia chided in mock affront.

"No, uh, well. Actually, I guess that is what I'm saying," Obi-Wan replied, levitating his teacup from the table.

"Hold still, little bro. Your sash is crooked. There. Perfect." Swed stood back and admired his handiwork then headed for the caterer to get some cav.

Corubia followed him. "Obi-Wan, now, listen. There's a datachip in your backpack, it lists all the gear we got out of Resources for you and all the survey protocols ... "

"Your confidence in my ability to care for myself underwhelms me," Obi-Wan growled.

"Fine. You're the one who needed me to help you with your sash," Swed reminded him. "Really, it's just in case you need it. There's a whole pile of stuff in there I doubt you've ever carried before. We were just trying to help."

Obi-Wan relented, shaking his head. "I know. It's just very weird having all of you fuss over me like this."

"Well, you know. First time out and all," Corubia shrugged.

Obi-Wan pulled her into a hug. "I'll be back in a few days and then you can all harass the life out of me for leaving you alone."

"No, Padawan. We're all very excited for you. Now, you'll probably be sent into the local population for recon and supply assessment. Be reserved, watch and listen, get the gossip. Well, you know all this, my Padawan," Qui-Gon left off his lecture and went into his room.

"Indeed, Master. You trained me well," Obi-Wan followed him. "They'll be in hangar four pretty soon."

Qui-Gon was kneeling in front of his storage chest. "There should be some work denims and so forth in there, as well. Don't dress up unless there is a formal gathering. And see if there's a youngster around to be with. Children aren't often tools of manipulation, and they hear everything despite their elder's best efforts. Here." Qui-Gon held a flat disk out to Obi-Wan. "Arjet took that right after I began changing my appearance."

Obi-Wan looked down at the holo, the youthful visage of his Master regarding him with laughter in his eyes. "What's this for, Master?"

"Just in case ... " Qui-Gon's hand strayed to Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Just in case, Padawan."

"Master, I'm coming back. Your Padawan will not abandon you. Not this time," Obi-Wan took Qui-Gon's hand in his own and dropped a kiss into his palm. "I will not abandon you."

Qui-Gon cleared his throat. "And I will be here when you return. Come now, you'll want some help to take your things to the hangar."

"I only have three bags, Master," Obi-Wan started to object, then stopped himself. "I'll just grab the last of my things."

Obi-Wan put the holo into his trouser pocket and went to collect his personal things. Qui-Gon stood for a long moment, gathering his calm about him. When he looked up, Swed was standing in the door. "Can I help you with something, Padawan Bvroukala?"

Swed stubbed his toe on the carpet. "I, uh, Master Jinn, Obi-Wan told me about ... you and he."

"What of it, Padawan?" Qui-Gon felt his stomach clench.

"I don't know if you know this, but ... I'm the one who put him back together after Obream. He might be a little unstable when he gets back. I respect you, sir, and would never threaten you in any way ... but if you hurt him I will have my satisfaction." Swed's back was ramrod straight as he spoke, but Qui-Gon could see the trembling in his fingers.

"Thank you, Swed. I am overjoyed that you would think so much of my Padawan. And should I hurt him, I will be ready to meet you. I only hope that you make me answer for my actions to the fullest extent of your powers," Qui-Gon bowed his head and clenched one hand over the other, making the truth-swearing sign.

"Don't let's make it come to that," he offered him a little smile. "In the meantime, how about we get together and play a bit?"

"I would like that. With Obi-Wan gone, I should have some free time," Qui-Gon smiled back.

They joined the others in hauling Obi-Wan's gear to the transit hangar.


Obi-Wan shifted his shoulder pack once more, trying not to fidget as he waited for the transport to arrive. Obream had not yet arrived, and yet it felt like everything was going far too fast. He was suddenly very worried that he hadn't put enough thought into this decision. Still, within himself he was sure this was the proper course, so he calmed his thoughts and tried to make peace with the morning's events. He slipped his hand into his pocket and touched the holodisk there.

It was that gift, that moment that had made him realize what Qui-Gon must be going through. According to Master Paje's reports, Xanatos had ... turned ... just shortly after realizing what kind of life the Order had in store for him. Obi-Wan had only disgust for that kind of petty selfishness, but he was suddenly aware of the similarities between this situation and that. He wished he knew how Qui-Gon truly felt about his going. He wished he'd spoken to his master before sleeping last night. He wished ... a lot of things.

He flinched as a hand fell on his shoulder, turned to find the smiling visage of Master Paje behind him. "A word with you, Padawan Kenobi?"

Obi-Wan nodded and followed Arjet a small distance from where his friends and Master stood with his luggage. Arjet led him to a narrow space between cargo crates before turning on him with eyes full of danger.

Obi-Wan's throat contracted and he was hard pressed to believe what was happening to him. A glance downward supplied all the corroboration he needed. Arjet's right hand was flexed against his leg in the classic 'Force-hold' grip. He wasn't cutting off Obi-Wan's air supply, but a twitch of hand, or a flick of thought would crush Obi-Wan's windpipe. The Padawan relaxed into the grip, showing his acceptance in the only way available.

"You are not a stupid boy. If you were, Qui-Gon wouldn't love you like he does. I'm not one to meddle in personal affairs, even those of my friends, especially when the concerned parties are trustworthy. I am, however, in the habit of securing a situation as much as possible, in whatever manner nessecary. Hear me now and listen well. I've already put Qui-Gon back together after one snot-nosed brat decided the Order wasn't good enough for him. I'll not be pleased at being made to do it again. Go to Perrys and do what you must. Do your duty honorably and well. Come back quickly. If you decide not to return here, I have only one piece of advice for you: run and hide. For if you break my friend's heart, you can be sure I'll eat yours out of your chest while you watch. Do we have a clear understanding?" Arjet tightened his touch ever so slightly.

"A perfectly clear understanding, Master Paje," Obi-Wan gasped.

"Good," Arjet relaxed his hand and Obi-Wan took a deep breath. "Now, Padawan, with that aside I'd like you to know that I will be available to you at all times, should you need advice or even rescue. Our lives are bound together now." The master reached down and caught Obi-Wan's smallest finger with his own, touching their rings together. "I don't like the similarities between this situation and one I've seen before. You understand that. Perhaps, though, we've been given a chance to over-write that past unhappiness and make it right this time."

"Perhaps we have, Master Paje. I will come to you, should I need you," Obi-Wan promised.

Arjet nodded once, satisfied, and pushed Obi-Wan back towards the farewell party. It had grown considerably during their short absence, with his friend's masters and various other associates coming to bid him goodspeed. Obream himself waited there also, ready to escort Obi-Wan and his gear onboard the cruiser that would bear them off to the Perrys sector and the Temple at San Saloor. Time was short.

He raised his right hand to waist level and touched his thumb quickly to index, middle and third finger, then pointed with his chin back the way he had come from. Corubia, Swed and Jenji followed him. When they were alone, they huddled up for a quick conference. "Sorry about my rotten mood this morning," Obi-Wan apologized.

"Don't worry. We'll take it out of your hide when you get back," Corubia assured him.

"Anything you need us to do until then?" Jenji asked.

"Look after Qui-Gon," Obi-Wan immediately replied. "Make sure he's eating and sleeping and so forth. I know he looks self-sufficient, but ... "

"We know better," Swed grinned. "We all have masters too, bro."

"Right. So you should know what you're about with him. He's fairly healthy and happy right now. If he's not in as good condition or better when I get back, you'd better find someplace to seek refuge," Obi-Wan was deadly serious as he spoke.

"No problem, boss. He'll be in mint condition when you return. Honor's oath," Corubia held her thumb out and Obi-Wan caught it with his own. Swed and Jenji added their own promises and thumbs. "Now get over there and say a proper goodbye, kid."

Obi-Wan nodded and led them all back to the small crowd gathered around his belongings. Qui-Gon came towards him and bowed deeply. Obi-Wan returned the gesture, awaiting his last-minute instructions. Qui-Gon's eyes seemed to fix on some distant point as he searched for words. Finally he leaned forward and brushed a kiss onto Obi-Wan's lips. "I love you. I'll be waiting."

The last minute good-byes were more or less lost on Obi-Wan after that. His hands were filled with parting tokens, pockets stuffed with data chips and candy, the Padawan survival kit for space journeys. Obream bowed to Obi-Wan and turned to lead him onto the waiting transport. The porter droids gathered up bits of cargo and followed them. After a hasty, across-the-board wave goodbye, Obi-Wan followed as well.

*I hope this isn't the biggest mistake of my life,* he thought ruefully. A glance back revealed that Qui-Gon was watching him, his stance the very picture of Jedi serenity. In his eyes, however, was the fire of passion that reminded Obi-Wan of his final words. *Wait for me, Pantreti. That is all I ask of you.*


Qui-Gon stepped out of the shower and reached for his towel. As he turned towards the door he caught sight of something in the mirror, something that made him turn back and look himself over very carefully. At first it was not apparent as to what was amiss. Then he raised his right arm and turned halfway back towards the door. There.

Four lines, four marks, perhaps scrapes, running from just below his arm and around his ribcage. He turned slowly, searching to see where they led. With his back to the mirror he looked over his shoulder, appalled at what he saw. The scratches ended in a patch of blue-black. Cuts like half-moons punctuated the wound. Qui-Gon closed his eyes and swallowed once, twisted to lay his own fingers against the mark, then looked again. No, this was from a smaller hand. So was the matching scrapes on his shoulders and the other side of his ribcage.

He closed his eyes again briefly and swallowed convulsively. *Just get a handle on it. Breathe, just relax. It's okay. It's not like before. You chose this, wanted this.* He dried himself off, moving quickly to hide his nudity from his own eyes. *Just hang on, hold them off.* He finally faced himself in the mirror and spoke out loud to begin his ritual. "You are in a safe place."

His body went on autopilot from that verbal trigger, carrying him into his bedroom and onto the patch of sunlight in front of his window. He dropped to his knees, the rough cloth of the towel stretched tight across his legs. *Master, please, guide me.* He closed his eyes again and let the memories come back, let go his hold on the present and drifted over into the past. The trembling in his heart, the itch in his throat grew worse as the memories flooded in. A morning not unlike this one. An incident quite similar, in fact. Difference being, he had not been alone.

***

Qui-Gon looked at himself in the mirror, appalled at what he had allowed to be done to him. Heavy bruises on hip, thigh, buttock, shoulder ... *Skies, is there no part of me untouched?* He shifted his weight and an inner pain told him there was not. He wouldn't be able to sit comfortably for a week, at least. He turned his head to get a better look at himself and shivered as his braid pulled across his nipple. *This has got to stop, Jinn. You're going to end up killed, one of these nights. At least hang on the extra three years and get knighted.*

A knock on the door announced his Master's arrival. She came in even as he reached for his bathrobe. A quick inhalation told him the game was up. He froze where he stood, waiting for the condemnation he was sure would follow.

"Padawan? Are you ... " the soft tones of her voice were quite unexpected.

"Yes, Master. I am well," he assured her, pulling a thick blue sweater on to hide the contrary evidence.

"I was going to say we should work on your tumbling today, but I think it would be better if we talked," she said, not moving from the doorway. He did not turn to face her.

"Yes, Master."

"Dress yourself, Padawan, then join me in my quarters for breakfast." The door closed behind her and Qui-Gon stepped into his denim pants, trying to think how to explain what had happened to him. Trying hard not to think of what might happen yet.

When he took his place at his master's table, he still had no answers. Only shame, and a grief for the respect he must surely have lost in her eyes. Sitting was as uncomfortable as he'd feared it would be, but was nothing in comparison to the silence between himself and his master. She sat quietly, chewing on her morning hardtack, focus fixed on some distant point beyond him. He drank in her much-loved features, the skin tanned dark brown from long days and years in harsh environments. Her grass-green eyes, sharp and unpredictable, moving from cold calculation to warm laughter, usually without warning. She slowly chewed her bottom lip as her gaze became unfocused. He knew she was allowing herself to become lost in thought, seeking the best solution to this latest problem her Padawan had brought to this table.

Qui-Gon carefully studied Master Sarafel's countenance, the utter calm with which she faced all events, the strength and composure with which she held herself. One day, he hoped to have those qualities for himself, to use them in the protection of others. She rose to fetch something from the kitchen and he was struck once more with the difference in size between himself and his master.

She was barely five feet tall, compact and powerfully built. Many an enemy had fallen prey to the deception of weakness that came with her stature, a mistake Qui-Gon had not made in years. Of course, it had taken long years of working at her side, learning her style before he understood that she would never need the protection of anyone, much less her gangly student who, most days, couldn't keep track of his own two feet. She returned to the table, tossed her mane of curly brown hair over her shoulder and set a knife before him. "Cut yourself, Padawan. On the back of your hand, please."

He closed his eyes and tried to will himself to obey. "Master, please. I can explain ... "

"Really? Good. Because I find it hard to believe you found anyone at a dance club who could beat you so soundly. I can't even imagine a group of thugs who could. I did not forbid you from protecting yourself, Qui-Gon. I only wanted you to be careful of the ... more dangerous elements hereabout." Her green eyes were flint hard, but her hands were shaking as she picked the knife up once more. "You must protect yourself when I can't do it for you. Failing in that is purely self-destructive."

"Master, it ... wasn't a fight." The admission was difficult, but Qui-Gon knew an even more difficult one was coming. Master Sarafel was quite particular about the well-being of her student. If something had harmed him, she would know the truth of it, and soon.

"Not a fight? Qui-Gon, you are bruised from neck to heel, and I just know you didn't do this to yourself."

*Not this time,* he thought glumly.

"Padawan."

He looked up, understanding the command inherent in that single word. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And be quick about it. "Master, I ... did not spend the evening alone. I met someone at the club, went back to his home and ... "

"I understand," she supplied, saving him that much, at least.

"He was smaller than I, but strong ... I ... I chose him for this, Master. I ... wanted him to do this to me." There. It was out. Now she would be free to put him from her side. Now she knew how useless it was to try and make him a Jedi, for all that his Potential gave him.

"Oh, Qui-Gon," she whispered. "Oh, my poor boy. You don't have to ... "

"Master, I tell you the truth. I wanted this. This was not the first time." Best to make it clean now.

Sarafel was quiet for a long moment, then she came around to stand behind him, fingers resting in his hair. "Do you need to keep those marks?"

"No, master. It hurts, but ... I didn't want to try to heal them by myself," he admitted. His skills as a healer were strong, but self-healing was a most difficult task that took years of training to perfect.

"Relax," she whispered. The warm, soothing flow of energy from her hands went down through his skin, dispelling the blood and healing the breaks that had been left there by some nameless stranger. Long moments passed as she corrected the damage done to his flesh. "Did I miss anywhere?" she finally asked.

"Yes, Master," he admitted, knowing she would find those wounds eventually, anyway.

He shifted as her healing skills repaired the tears to his anus, then went still as the pain receded and disappeared. Her arms came down around him, rocking him gently. "Oh, Qui-Gon. I could have spared you this. I will spare you this, now that I can. We have much to speak on."

He sighed, raising his arms to hold her. "Thank you, Master, but I don't think this is something you can fix."

A light kiss brushed his temple and she withdrew. "It can not be fixed, because you are not broken. You need only to understand the nature of this desire."

They adjourned to the sunny patch on the floor near the sofa in Sarafel's quarters, letting the ritual of morning meditation calm them both for the conversation ahead. Qui-Gon was relieved to find his master accepting him, this, being ready to guide him in this ... madness, obsession, whatever it was that had taken him. He was not afraid. It would have taken more than this to shake the calm that had been trained into him since before he could remember. He was, however, curious as to why his master was so relaxed.

Qui-Gon opened his eyes to regard his teacher while she meditated. They were dressed similarly, she in a dark blue sweater and very pale blue jeans, their customary dress for downtime. Qui-Gon had adopted the habit via osmosis, but found it quite the most appealing form of costume, after his uniform. A smile tugged at his lips as he noticed the sweater Sarafel wore was one of his own crude making. She wore it as if it were no less than royal robes. Her dignity made her every inch the Master, even when dressed like a laborer.

Finally she opened her eyes and stared back at him. He waited for a long moment, letting time and place fill him with an awareness of the Moment.

"Padawan, I need you to tell me things of a personal nature. I hope there is enough trust between us that you may do so without discomfort, but even if it pains thee, I must have the truth of you," she began.

Qui-Gon bowed his head in obedient acceptance.

"What is it you were looking for, when you asked another to hurt you?"

Qui-Gon drew a calming breath, then focused his thoughts on his own motivations. "The pain ... it cleanses me, Master. It ... is something like an atonement."

"For what, Qui-Gon? Why would you need to atone?"

Qui-Gon met her eye with a steady gaze. "Master, it seems to me that ... for what I am, for what I do, I am never made to pay. I have lied, stolen, cheated ... killed ... and no one ever holds me responsible. As long as I am serene and tranquil, no one ever questions my actions. And I can do it ... all of it ... and never bat an eye. And the pain ... "

"Hmm?"

"It feels good."

"Being hurt feels good?"

Qui-Gon shrugged. "It doesn't hurt me, not when it happens. I know it's not my pain threshold. You know how I am when I get injured. It's this ... other thing, these little pains ... the situation and the fact that it is of my choosing ... all of it."

"Perhaps it is time we discussed some of the more ... eclectic types of sexuality, Padawan. Masochism and submission are well-documented practices. Perhaps we should seriously explore them for your life."

Qui-Gon shook his head no. "I don't think so. At least, I looked into that and it doesn't seem to be what I'm after."

"You looked into that?" Sarafel squeaked.

Qui-Gon nodded slowly. "That was my first thought, that I was in need of submission or masochism. That's not it ... not at all. There's a sexual nature to what I need ... but it's not the same, somehow."

Sarafel nodded slowly. "When do you get these ... needs?"

Qui-Gon sighed. "I haven't been able to really pick out a pattern yet. I know it happens right after a battle, or just before, if I know one is coming up. Other than that? The triggers seem wholly unrelated."

"And this doesn't touch on your ... other, more regular ... sexual desires?"

Qui-Gon shook his head fervently. "No, not at all. I don't think I could want this with someone who ... well, not all the time, anyway."

"You might want to think about that, Qui-Gon. Desires like these ... well, it is usually better to get it from someone who loves you."

"Yes, Master."

"Meaning you do not believe me. I suppose that is to be expected. Well, you realize I must forbid you from doing this again, don't you?"

"Yes, Master."

"Consider yourself so forbidden. Not because what you do is wrong or ugly, but because you have been doing it in a very dangerous way. I know you are not seeking that kind of role-play here, but ... I think it would be best if you went to a professional for these purposes."

"As you will, Master," Qui-Gon responded miserably.

"You needn't sleep with them, you know. Just ... until you find someone you care about, who can give you what you're looking for."

And Qui-Gon nodded again, accepting his Master's edict. Within himself, he doubted if he would ever find someone he could explain this to, never mind share this with.

***

Qui-Gon opened his eyes and sighed, smiling faintly at the memory of that morning, and mornings after. The reassurances his master had given him had helped, over the years, to prevent repetitions of those early days, those early mistakes. He understood his preference to occasionally blend pleasure and pain. Eventually he had come to understand his motivations. His training as a Jedi, powerful warrior and precious being, had made him feel ... somehow unreal, unconnected to a great many things. Through sexually motivated pain, he focused his need to be out of control, in the care of another, taken to a dangerous place and brought back safely. There was nothing wrong with that, and it seemed closer to the more common BDSM ideals than he'd originally believed. It was only the surface of all he expressed through those joinings, but it was enough to help him keep a grip on it all.

But this, what had happened last night, what was still happening today ... this was not right. He hadn't made himself clear to Obi-Wan, had let his partner run on assumptions that were not true. Obi-Wan seemed to think Qui-Gon would want this ... roughness ... more often than not, if not all the time. If Obi-Wan continued to run on those assumptions ... Qui-Gon couldn't face that idea. Qui-Gon threaded his fingers up into his own hair and sent healing Force through his skin, healing the bruises and scratches with practiced ease.

He could not so easily erase the misconceptions between himself and Obi-Wan, but erase them he would, no matter what it took. He unfolded his legs from under him and lay back on the floor, letting the sunlight caress his skin. With one hand he pulled his towel away from his body. The other hand extended out towards the shelves that lined one wall of his room, summoning a small box to his side. He closed his eyes and prepared himself for long contemplation of events past and present, began to plan for events of the future.


Obi-Wan settled his gear into the small berth afforded him aboard the transport. Obream had mentioned a briefing soon, said Obi-Wan should see him in his quarters when they were under way. The Knight seemed ... edgy was an understatement, but was the best Obi-Wan could come up with for him. His fine features were beginning to show the signs of wear the life of a Jedi puts on anyone. His hair was thinning, and he was losing some of the fine muscle tone Obi-Wan had always admired in his form. The sharp nose was less attractive as his features began the softening of age, and Obi-Wan was having difficulty remembering what it was he'd found so attractive about Obream in the first place. Especially considering the fine example of male beauty he'd lived with every day of his life since he was twelve.

*Where the hell did that come from, Kenobi? When you and Obream were together, Qui-Gon was the furthest thing from your mind.*

Obi-Wan shook it off and headed up to the cockpit. He entered quietly, keeping well out of the way. Some pilots were rather touchy about their controls, himself among that number. The man at the helm was thin, willowy like so many spacers tended to be. His hair was dark, movements quick and sure. "Hi," Obi-Wan greeted.

The pilot turned halfway round in his chair. "Hi there!" he returned. "You must be the sheep. I'm Guild Pilot Sekarit Mendrova, but everyone calls me Scratch." He tossed his bangs away from his glasses and offered a hand.

Obi-Wan accepted. "Padawan Kenobi. Call me Obi-Wan."

"Welcome to the 'Nathaniel Bereak', Obi-Wan Kenobi. Home and transport to me and mine. Oh, look at the time. You might want to stand clear of the door," Scratch advised, lifting a plastic box out from under the console.

Obi-Wan stepped aside and turned to see what he was getting clear of. He felt a wide grin creep across his face as two low, long, furry and terminally adorable mammals came charging along the corridor and swarmed up the pilot's legs. One arranged itself in Scratch's lap. The other made for his shoulders and both fixed the pilot with an expectant look. "Ferrets? I've never seen real ferrets before!" Obi-Wan exclaimed.

"And you're not likely to see them again anytime soon. Us spacers have pretty much cornered the market," Scratch grinned. "Now, Duran, Myrkit, this is Obi-Wan. You're not to vex him."

The ferrets turned their intelligent eyes towards the Padawan and seemed to memorize him. Obi-Wan projected calm and vegetarianism for all he was worth, as Qui-Gon had long ago taught him. The little mammals seemed satisfied with that and returned their attention to Scratch and his box.

Obi-Wan watched with some amusement as the pilot fed his companions. "I had to teach them to eat up here with me. Otherwise they'd've figured the caterer out. It's worse with raccoons. Oh, here comes Nate," Scratch indicated the entry-light.

A few moments later and a tall, also-spacer-thin curly-haired gentleman entered and took a seat in the co-pilot's chair. "Hi! Nathan Vreen, of the Nathaniel Bereak."

"No relation," Scratch clarified.

Obi-Wan suppressed a chuckle and tendered his own introduction. "Are you guys our survey crew?"

"Well, such as we are, yes," Nate smiled. "We've been in and out of Perrys all during the hostilities, so we're about ready for some Jedi presence to shore the situation up a bit."

"We're the ones who fished Master Ar'thapa out of the capitol when war broke out, you know," Scratch set his pets down and they made off for parts unknown.

"Really?" Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. "Was her Padawan with her?"

"Mmhmm. Spent the trip back drawing the kids," Nate confirmed.

"That's Jenji all right. I'm surprised she didn't mention that she knew you. We're quite close. I must thank you for getting her back to us safely," Obi-Wan bowed low.

Nate and Scratch exchanged looks. "We don't tie to Jedi," Scratch finally said. "Y'all cause too much trouble."

Obi-Wan nodded slowly. "Very well. But if you should need me ... "

Nate snorted. "More likely you'll need us. Perrys isn't anywhere near as stable as they're making out to be. And the Guild acts like something bad is stirring out that way."

Before Obi-Wan could inquire further, his comm link chimed. "Kenobi."

"Padawan, I'll be briefing you on our mission now. Come to my quarters where we may have some privacy."

"Yes, Knight Trydal," Obi-Wan replied.

"Guess that's our cue," Scratch turned back to his controls.

Obi-Wan headed out to find Obream's quarters as the Nathaniel Bereak cleared Coruscant atmosphere and made the jump to lightspeed. *Guess this is it. First mission without my Master.*

He allowed himself a pleased smile, fully confident that this mission would be successful.


Qui-Gon lay in the sunbeam, noted the shift it had taken as he meditated and relaxed his mind, preparing himself for his next journey down memory lane. His next destination Obi-Wan might never guess at. He'd had plenty of hints, but Qui-Gon sincerely hoped his young student had not yet guessed at what lay down this particular footpath of Qui-Gon's personal history. It began so innocently. Well, as innocently as any lesson from Master Arjet Paje can be. It began with a book of holos and ended with a stiletto. Qui-Gon opened the box beside him and drew the stiletto out, watching the blade glitter in the sun. He lay the cool steel against his belly, let the present go and fell back into the past.

***

Arjet had been training Qui-Gon in special operations for quite some time, nearly two years, when Qui-Gon discovered a particular collection of holograms in one particular book kept in the Group's lab. He had been looking for something else, he couldn't remember what, when this one had fallen from the shelf and the pages fell open, displaying holochips that recorded something ... gruesome. Horrible. Lovely.

Qui-Gon had taken the book into better light, studying each one carefully. There were pictures of several different lifeforms, a handful of humans and humanoid types. It was these that he concentrated on. Especially the three men. Each man was naked, his flesh a webwork of pink and brown lines. Qui-Gon felt his pulse pick up, his breath hitch in his throat even as his gorge rose. He'd long since accepted that Arjet was meticulous, a master craftsman when it came to administering pain and getting what he wanted from whoever he wanted, whatever it took. But Qui-Gon had never suspected that his friend was also an artist!

The book snapped shut and Qui-Gon recoiled, realizing Arjet had closed the book with the Force. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Jinn?"

Qui-Gon stammered for a moment, then said "I was looking ... did you do that?"

Arjet nodded slowly, danger filling his eyes. "Don't move, Qui-Gon." The younger man stood stock still as Arjet stepped closer, pushed the book aside and rested his hand on Qui-Gon's crotch. His fingers closed down on the erection there, an accusation and question all in one. "What the fuck is wrong with you, man?" Arjet hissed.

"I didn't ... I wasn't ... " Qui-Gon began.

"I don't do that because I enjoy it, you sick little fuck! I did that because it was the most expedient method. Do you learn what I teach you because ... Qui-Gon, do you LIKE hurting people??" Arjet demanded.

"NO! Arjet, please, NO! This, it isn't ... " he put one hand on the back of Arjet's, pressing him tight against his cock. "I'm not ashamed of this. I wasn't thinking about doing that to someone else. I like pain sometimes ... and that ... I was thinking about what it would be like to have that done to me. I wouldn't want to do it to someone else ... I didn't even realize these were your ... targets. Arjet, please, you have to understand. It's the nature of this desire." He had himself back under control, centered on himself and what it was that caused this reaction.

"Really?" Arjet growled dangerously.

Qui-Gon closed his eyes and opened himself to Arjet's mind, showing him the very basic and un-planned reaction within himself. He felt Arjet scrabble through his memories, checking him for Darkness or any twisted desires. "Arjet, please ... please don't hate me for this. I have no wish to change what I am, how I am. It doesn't change who I am ... and I thought you had a care for me."

He felt the withdraw of Arjet's mind and sighed with relief. "You never mentioned anything like this before, Quigs."

Qui-Gon relaxed with the return of his nickname. "It's not something I tell everyone. Not even my lovers, anymore. Not many understand, you see. I don't get it often ... it's only good if you get it from someone who cares about you." He shrugged. "Very few care for me."

His breath caught again as soft lips closed over his. A tongue sought entrance to his mouth, and he opened to it, willingly, achingly, sensing the care and love that spurred the touch. When they parted, Arjet whispered against his cheek. "I care for you, Qui-Gon Jinn. Never doubt it."

"Will you show me that, Arjet? Is it something I can do for myself, so I don't ... " Qui-Gon looked away. "So I can get what I want without needing to give myself over to someone else?"

Arjet traced Qui-Gon's jawline with his thumb. "Why?"

Qui-Gon's hands flapped at his sides, frustrated. "It takes too long to build that kind of trust between two people. It's time I don't really have ... probably won't have, ever. It's dangerous to play like that, without the trust, even when there is love involved."

"You could find someone who ... " Arjet began.

"I've looked."

Arjet let out a slow breath. "Yes, I can teach you this. Yes, you can do it to yourself. You have to promise me something, though, Qui-Gon. Never teach it to anyone. If you finally find ... whoever you're looking for ... send them to me. I'll teach them myself. Do you swear?"

Qui-Gon clenched Arjet's thumb with his own. "I swear."

"Good. Because I can teach you love-pain like you've never dreamed of. I can teach you to sustain yourself and make you self reliant in this need. I wish you'd've told me sooner, Quigs," Arjet grinned. "This might even be fun."

Arjet was as good as his word, instructing Qui-Gon on the finer points of pain distribution and the adjacent philosophies from which the various disciplines sprang. These lessons dovetailed nicely with the lessons Master Sarafel had given her student. Qui-Gon came to understand more clearly the body responses that were created by indulging in pain. Eventually that understanding brought a refined control over those responses, a mastery of himself and his need. He'd just about decided he didn't need anything more when Arjet Paje had taught him differently, yet again.

They'd been out clubbing. 'Taking a tour of the local cultural outlets' as the official report euphemism went. Qui-Gon had been drinking too much, and for once Arjet had been, too. The night was something of a celebration, Qui-Gon's 'period of adjustment' from student to Knight had been completed. Arjet's official report on his last couple of years' work making him eligible for taking a Padawan and other more advanced duties in the Order. The last few months had started something between the two Jedi, what with the in-depth analysis of Qui-Gon's sex drive, among other things. The unbroken sexual tension between the men had risen to a fever pitch with those lessons, and Qui-Gon had decided he could do without the stress headache, if it was all the same to the universe.

And apparently, Arjet had come to about the same conclusion.

They left the noise and smoke and confusion of the club district and decided to walk back to the embassy, to find refuge in the rooms allotted them by the local ruling body. This mission was meant to be something of a rest period for Arjet, who had just finished a long string of 'unmentionable' assignments. Qui-Gon's duties included overseeing Arjet's relaxation, a job he had performed to the best of his abilities during their participation in the trade negotiations they were nominally overseeing.

In fact, all Qui-Gon had really overseen was the constant and unrelenting application of seductive intent on his partner. It was a surprise to neither of them when Arjet finally backed Qui-Gon up against a wall and kissed him, deeply, with intent to claim. It was only the second time Qui-Gon had felt Arjet's kiss, but in that moment it was like unto a homecoming.

The rest of the walk home was a jumbled collection of kisses, gropes and gentle suggestions to passers-by that they had seen nothing, heard nothing, would simply go on their way. When they finally stumbled into Qui-Gon's apartment they hadn't even bothered with the lights, nor with much finesse in undressing one another. The time for waiting had passed and there was much to be shared.

Qui-Gon was fairly certain life couldn't get better.

So it was through touch that Qui-Gon first learned Arjet's body. The silkiness of his skin and the sleek, resilient softness of all that long, strait hair. His lips and tongue got first shot at Arjet's sensitive and tight nipples while fingertips spread out and down, cataloging the undiscovered country of muscular belly, thighs, ass and finally the short, rough hair and generous sac. He cupped Arjet's genitals with care and tenderness, only gradually becoming aware of the lack of firmness there. "Arjet? What's wrong?" Qui-Gon murmured, pulling back.

"Shh, it's not you ... I'm not human, remember? It isn't automatic. Give me a minute ... " Arjet reassured him, guiding them both to the bed. "How do you like it?"

"What?" Qui-Gon murmured, confused by this turn of events. "How do I like what?"

"Cocks, Quigs. How do you like them? I can do any kind you like ... "

Qui-Gon fell back on the pillows, laughing. "Made to order penis? Are you serious?"

"Absolutely," Arjet nuzzled along his jawline. "Do you have a preference, or should I just wing it?"

"Wait, I have a couple of questions, here ... " Qui-Gon was bold with the courage of alcohol and lust. "If you're not human ... do you like sex? Does it feel good? Can you ... come?"

"Yes, yes and yes. I just have to arrange for things, love. I need you to help me, so you get what you want, too," Arjet moved down Qui-Gon's chest, suckling at one nipple, then the other. "You have to prepare for sex, so do I, so please, let's get on with it before I kill something."

Qui-Gon was laughing again, but he captured Arjet's hands and guided them down to his own cock. "Be as you prefer to be, lover," he whispered, suddenly serious.

"Okay," Arjet readily agreed, touching Qui-Gon's erection like a blind man, fingers skating deftly over the sensitive skin. "This is nice ... good ... "

"Oh yes, very ... " Qui-Gon murmured, arching into the exploring fingers.

"Good, good ... this is good ... " Arjet groaned, but with what sensation Qui-Gon could only imagine. "Like this?" he asked, pulling Qui-Gon's hands to his own penis once more.

"Mmm ... skies ... this is ... yeah ... " he squeezed and stroked carefully, mapping the sensitive spots and generous shape.

"Sooo ... .what do you think? Bigger, smaller, just right?" Arjet was stroking Qui-Gon once more, but this time with purpose.

"Arjet, love, don't take this the wrong way ... but shut up." Qui-Gon gasped as the flesh in his hands grew ... warmer ... altered in some way ... and Arjet moaned again in what could only be pleasure. "That is the most astounding thing I have ever encountered."

Arjet chuckled low in his throat. "You are the most astounding thing I have ever encountered. I knew you would understand ... "

Qui-Gon pulled Arjet to lay atop him. "You've given me so much ... understanding, education, care ... how could I give you less?"

"I want to give you everything," Arjet dove back in for deeper kisses, and Qui-Gon let his hands wander the silken flesh above him once more, grinding his cock up into the hardness Arjet had so thoughtfully crafted for his pleasure. "Quigs, Qui-Gon, lover, let me be something to you."

"Trust you with anything," Qui-Gon moaned. Then a thought came to him and he cupped Arjet's face in his hands. "As long as it's pleasure. No pain between us, not ever."

"But, Quigs ... I know you like it ... " Arjet's tone was pure astonishment.

"And I know you hate to hurt anyone or anything. I don't want you going ice cold on me just to do that. I've seen you like that and it doesn't belong here." Qui-Gon shivered at the recollection of Arjet's emotionless attitude towards those acts. "Pleasure me, let me pleasure you. Isn't that enough? If you want to hurt me ... I can if you want me to ... "

Feather-light kisses stilled his words. "Pleasure, love, trust, you and I. Sounds good to me," Arjet agreed. "Now get comfy, Quigs baby. I got something to show you."

So Qui-Gon had. He arranged himself in a most comfortable pose and simply allowed Arjet to do what he willed. Soft lips and strong hands toured his body, tasting and caressing him until every nerve was on fire, every hair stood on end and his cock was achingly hard with arousal. Arjet suckled and nibbled his nipples for what seemed like an eternity, drawing cries and moans from Qui-Gon's throat until he was hoarse and pleading for more. Then he strayed low down, letting his hair trail from Qui-Gon's chest, across his belly and laying a soft path of soothing weight behind him.

Arjet kissed the tip of Qui-Gon's cock, tongue flicking out over the moist tip, a light teasing precursor to the hot pleasure of being taken in completely and swallowed whole. Qui-Gon thrust upwards into that beckoning warmth, stroking deeply before he could stop himself. "Oh fuck, I don't want to hurt you, skies, Arjet!" he screamed, pulling away and thrusting again.

Arjet withdrew, laying his throat against the length of Qui-Gon's penis. The thrum of his chuckle was something else again. "Doesn't apply, lover. You can't hurt me, I promise."

And that mobile tongue slicked his cock again, preparing him to be taken in and loved. He was vaguely aware of hands slipping under his hips, lifting him up as Arjet swallowed him again, the muscles in that giving throat rippling and stroking him, pulling and squeezing his length with infinite delicacy and care. <<And I won't hurt you,>> he murmured directly into Qui-Gon's mind.

A heavy pressure at the base of his cock illustrated this truth. With a start, Qui-Gon realized Arjet was perfectly in tune with what Qui-Gon was feeling. He was using that knowledge to insure there was nothing, not a single sliver of pain between them. He groaned again, buried his hands in Arjet's beautiful hair and thrust with abandon, twice, thrice, feeling the edge of orgasm gathering in his groin and pulling him towards release. "I'm going to ... I'm ... " and the rest was lost in a howl of ecstasy.

Arjet's fingers slid under his balls, pressing in and up, prolonging the sensation, intensifying it as he bucked and twisted against the sucking pull of lips and throat. Qui-Gon writhed for long moments, waves of lust and pleasure rocking him to the core. When at last he rested, Arjet released him and swallowed again. "Feel, see?" he murmured, pulling Qui-Gon's hands down to his own cock.

Qui-Gon gasped, astonished. "How?"

"The human body is an amazing thing, Quigs. You just have to learn how it works," Arjet kissed him again, giving him the flavor of his own seed with the smooth embrace. "Ready for more?"

"Want you inside me ... Can we?" Qui-Gon was near to begging as he stroked his own too-sensitive, impossible erection.

"Absolutely," Arjet assured him. "Lube?"

"In my bag," Qui-Gon rose to fetch his massage oil and returned, laying on his belly, hips pushing down against the hot sheets. "Here," he said, giving himself over to Arjet's care once more.

Strong fingers caressed along Qui-Gon's shoulderblades, down his spine and over the curves of his hips, lifting him up to slip a pillow beneath him. Then warm lips caressed his neck, down one shoulder and along his arm as Arjet's luxurious hair dragged along his back. The weight of Arjet's body pressed against him as he leaned over, kissing curve of elbow down into Qui-Gon's palm where his hand lay at his side, then up across his waist to buttocks, down the inside of his thigh and on into the back of his knee. Arjet laved that tender skin for several slow breaths, then nudged Qui-Gon's legs apart so that he might kneel there and kiss again, knee to thigh to buttock.

Gently, slowly Qui-Gon felt himself parted, hot breath touching just an instant before lips and tongue embraced his anus soothing and relaxing him before the tip ventured further, opening and moistening within. Qui-Gon screamed hoarsely as the teasing licks ventured quite deep, impossibly gentle and intimate. "Ohhhh ... .Arjet ... do it again," he pleaded, as the pleasure-stars faded from behind his eyes. Again Arjet let the tip of his tongue wander, touching off fireworks of heightened pleasure in Qui-Gon's body.

<<Open to me, Qui-Gon. Please, I need to be sure,>> Arjet's mental voice was as familiar as his own name, so Qui-Gon did as he was asked, thinning and lowering shields, letting his lover within his mind, where he could see what was happening. <<Come in to me, Quigs,>> Arjet invited, letting his own safeguards go.

Pleasure and trust were making a neuron soup of Arjet's mind, but somewhere in there Qui-Gon could still sense that unshakable calm and control that allowed them both the pleasure of this joining. No verbal thoughts remained for long as Arjet's mouth was replaced by oily fingers, stroking and stretching, touching deep and gentle with infinite grace. Qui-Gon writhed under the thorough preparation, pushing back on one, two ... more fingers, understanding the necessity and more than willing to submit unto it.

Then Arjet was shifting back, pressing the tip of his cock to Qui-Gon's slick passage and Qui-Gon cried out, //Hold me Arjet, hold me down make me yours part of you I want your strength// he babbled, before losing contact with language once more.

Arjet's hands pressed his shoulders to the bed, gentle weight anchoring him to the reality of their joining as Qui-Gon undulated into the stretch of entry. Sobs escaped, along with pleasure-filled laughter as their bodies twined closer, their minds burning with lust, pleasure, ecstatic sharing, deep and abiding trust and the sweet, sweet love they bore for one another. Qui-Gon reached up and back, gripping Arjet's wrists as he began to thrust, pulling his arms down and around until chest pressed to back, hips moved together, hands joined over erection even as cock thrust into joyfully receiving channel, and Qui-Gon threw his head back, rubbing and moving and whimpering, sensing Arjet's arousal rising to a fever pitch between one breath and the next.

Qui-Gon pushed back, almost rising to his knees, flexed his inner muscles and thrust between the fingers that caressed his cock and came once more, crying out the name he saw like a living flame within his partner's mind.

They lay together, hopelessly tangled as their bodies trembled to a halt, breaths irregular but pleasantly so. It was Arjet who spoke first, even as he began withdrawing his mind back behind shields. "I don't think anyone has ever mispronounced my name quite that badly before," he chuckled.

"Bet I have the best excuse, though," Qui-Gon murmured, pulling Arjet's arms more firmly around his chest. "Stay with me. Stay, please," he whispered.

"As if I would give this up," Arjet nuzzled his ear. "Let's get under the sheets, though."

And in the morning they had risen and gone back to overseeing not much of anything. They passed the daytime hours goosing one another with mental images and the nights they passed in arranging for their realization. It was, perhaps, the most beautiful period of learning Qui-Gon had ever known.

That period came to a natural conclusion. Arjet had fallen back on his old habit of taking the most dangerous and life-threatening missions, searching for something Qui-Gon couldn't begin to comprehend. Then Pequara Shereid had wandered up to him in the library one day and Qui-Gon Jinn had his first Padawan.

Arjet had simply ... shown up at the Council Chamber door on the day Qui-Gon was to bond with Pequara. He bore the gift of a stiletto and some advice as he accepted Qui-Gon's temporary withdrawal from the Group's work. "Don't forget what you are, who you really are, Quigs. And never, never be ashamed of it."

***

Arjet had witnessed that bond, as he had witnessed Qui-Gon's other bondings. Always he offered those same words. 'Don't forget. Don't regret.' And Qui-Gon never had, until Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon turned the stiletto in his hands, letting the sunlight play along its razor edge. Obi-Wan would simply have to listen. He would have to understand Qui-Gon, all of him, on every level before Qui-Gon could be satisfied.

Qui-Gon thought about his words to his lover the night before. 'Anything at all that you desire, on any terms you wish. I want you to.' He accepted that his words were a lie. He couldn't simply let Obi-Wan pick and choose what they would have together. That was an imbalance in and of itself. Qui-Gon turned over onto his stomach and curled his arms under his head. *Don't forget about yourself, Jinn. Have a care for yourself. Nobody else will, if you don't.*

He let his eyes drift closed as he sought a meditative trance. No more memories now. He let his mind drift on the steady pulses of the Force, seeking what he must bring to his Koateleu, if a balance was to be struck.


Obi-Wan reached for the chime on Obream's door. A touch of misgiving fluttering in his stomach, and he pulled his hand back. He wasn't absolutely certain that this was how things were done. He was acutely aware of the absurd and uncomfortable position this assignment had put him in, but he only had his own suspicions and the mere potential for trouble. He was more than capable of handling unwanted advances, but this was a new and complicated situation. If Obream tried to make his life difficult, it could easily compromise the viability of the mission. If Obream really went for power-abuse, Obi-Wan was light-years from home and in the middle of hostile territory, for all intents and purposes.

He shook himself mentally. *Do not focus on your anxieties, Kenobi. Remember what Master keeps telling you. Focus determines reality. Focus on completing this mission without incident. Or killing anyone in a leadership position.* Obi-Wan hit the chime on the door. He rather thought the Knight's attempts, should they occur, would pale in comparison to the things Qui-Gon had done over the years to hone Obi-Wan's calm and serenity.

The door opened and Obi-Wan knew that touch of misgiving had been a true foretelling. Obream was in nothing but trousers, and as he stepped back Obi-Wan saw that every available chair was filled with gear and supplies. This left only the short bunk for a seat, a sign that boded not well for this mission. He gave a mental sigh and engaged his 'evasive maneuvers' for annoying politicians and inebriated peers. Too bad he had to use them on a superior, but he'd really expected at least one incident like this.

"Come on in," Obream offered, tone rather familiar. "Have a seat."

"Good day, Knight Trydal. If it please you, I should prefer to stand." Obi-Wan noted the flicker of disappointment. "I have the manifest from the evacuation crew, and the blueprints for the Temple. We should be able to work from these to evaluate the facility," Obi-Wan began, keeping his tone firmly deferential and businesslike, the very picture of Padawanian innocence. He glanced up and could tell Obream wasn't buying it. He looked more like he was picturing Obi-Wan at least several feet away from his uniform. Preferably sweaty and panting. Obi-Wan suppressed a shudder and continued. "I was unable to find supply estimates for San Saloor. It's a good-sized town, at last report, so I think it will merely be a matter of arranging things. As opposed to creating a support base for the Temple, you see," he held his lightslate out to Obream.

Obream took the slate and set it aside. *Great. All the subtlety of a Bantha in heat. This I do not need,* Obi-Wan inwardly seethed. His face was a mask of perfect calm, reasonable openness and serene inquiry. *Come on, little fishy. Step in it.*

"I understand you requested the restraining order against me be lifted," Obream began.

"I had to, in order to accept this mission," Obi-Wan truthfully replied.

"And that was your only motivation?" the Knight pressed.

"Yes." Obi-Wan could tell the Knight didn't believe that.

"Are you sure there were no ... other causes?"

"None that you would understand," Obi-Wan smiled.

"Try me."

"Thank you, I'd rather not. Been there, done that, got the emotional scars," Obi-Wan's tone was still polite, but carried the weight of razor-sharp steel with it.

Obream blinked, then picked up the lightslate again. "I think you're right about the supply. I'd like to do the Temple survey myself, so if you could take the local survey, I think that would work out best."

"As you will, Sir," Obi-Wan bowed, accepting.

"We should be in San Saloor by late tomorrow, local time. Did you have anything pressing to accomplish during transit?" Obream was looking for an opening again.

"Indeed. I have several assignments and meditations that Master Jinn will expect report on when I return. I wanted to get started on them as soon as possible," Obi-Wan replied.

"I see. Well, I'll leave you to that. I'll be having lunch in the common area just past ships' noon, so perhaps you'd care to join me?"

Obi-Wan considered for a long moment. Incivility would get him nowhere, and would give the appearance of hiding, cowardice. "Yes, I believe I will." He didn't much care for the triumphant smile that caused, or the feather-light caress to his fingers as he took his lightslate back, but there was no easy cure for that.

"Lunch, then," Obream nodded.

Obi-Wan bowed and exited, headed for his own quarters. He put Obream out of his mind. There were more pressing matters, important matters he needed to explore. No ex-boyfriend was going to put him off his center, not this late in the game. Besides, he had a current boyfriend to deal with, just now.

*Again with the relationship stuff. Either you're losing it, or ... you've already lost it. Best to find out for sure, Kenobi.*


The music room was nearly empty when Qui-Gon arrived early for his appointment with Swed. He would have been late, had he opted to wear his uniform. However, his morning meditation had put him in mind of more casual clothing so he had opted for a thin sweater and comfortable denims instead. Most of the practice cubicles stood free for use and Qui-Gon went into the one Swed seemed to prefer, set his vyol case on the table and sat at the pianoforte to test its tuning. The action was a little light for his tastes, but he'd seen that Swed could use this attribute to his advantage. Satisfied, he turned to his vyol. It had been carefully stored away some years ago, taken out only in moments of supreme need. It took some long time to make it ready for playing once more, but the effort was much worth the result of sweet sound he finally drew from the instrument. Preparations complete, he exited the practice room in search of sheet music.

His quest was interrupted when he passed one of the smaller practice rooms. A low tension of frustration and near-anger drifted to him from beyond the door. He tapped on it, wondering if perhaps Swed had chosen a different room for today's session. The door slid back to reveal, not a Padawan, but a trainee struggling with a small lap harp. Qui-Gon started to back out of the room, but the boy turned to face him, his expression a mask of tension. "Can I help you?" Qui-Gon asked.

"I'm sorry, Master. I didn't mean to disturb you," the boy replied, fumbling to raise shields around his emotional turmoil.

"I wasn't disturbed. I was just wondering who else was here," Qui-Gon lied easily. It wouldn't do to leave a child in this state. Not at all.

"Oh. I'm Aeson. Aren't you Master Jinn? Obi-Wan's Master?" the boy inquired.

"Yes, I am," Qui-Gon smiled, a little surprised at being recognized by one so young.

"Is he going to be in the gardens today?" Aeson asked hopefully.

"No, I'm afraid not. He has gone on a mission. I'm staying here at the Temple to wait for him to get back," Qui-Gon explained.

"Oh. Well, I'd better get back to my exercises," the young man sighed. He shifted on the cushion he was using as a seat, pulled the harp into his shoulder and began the fingering exercises Qui-Gon's entrance had interrupted.

Qui-Gon came and knelt down behind him. "Mind if I watch?"

"As it please you, Master," Aeson replied easily, the rote response for one of his rank and age. Qui-Gon smiled, thinking of the recent times Obi-Wan had used just that phrase to remind the master that the student was growing up. Aeson's right hand moved smoothly up the strings, then back down, then up and down once more, wrist flowing smoothly with the scale. The left hand, however, struggled to keep up with the exercise. Qui-Gon reached over and gently removed Aeson's right hand from the strings, focusing the practice where it was most needed. The boy never paused, taking the correction in stride.

Qui-Gon watched the left hand carefully, dredging up memories from his long-ago experiments with the harp. After a moment, he took Aeson's left hand, stretched the fingers in a more careful arc, correcting the embouchure of thumb to string and released him to continue. Now the exercise flowed easily and Qui-Gon put his right hand back to the strings. "Better?"

"Yes, Master. Thank you, Master," Aeson replied, voice low and breathless.

"I'm sorry. That was rather rude of me, wasn't it?" Qui-Gon berated himself. "I suppose it just becomes reflex, after a while."

Aeson's head came around, music forgotten. "No, Master," he whispered, aghast.

"I'll leave you to your practice," Qui-Gon hastily stood and retreated to his own practice chamber, closing the door firmly behind him. He leaned there for a long moment, eyes closed, breathing controlled, until he was calm once more.

"Master Jinn?"

The unexpected address made Qui-Gon nearly jump out of his skin. "Yes, Padawan?"

"Are you okay?" Swed asked from his seat at the pianoforte.

"I ... think so," Qui-Gon hazarded.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

That simple offering quite took Qui-Gon by surprise. Few, if any, simply listened to his worries anymore. He supposed that had much to do with the image of a Jedi Master, but that made the phenomenon no less lonely. "I just barged in on some trainee and started correcting his practice."

"And?"

"And I've never even met him before. Harp isn't even one of my better instruments," Qui-Gon explained.

"And?"

"And? There I was, big as you please, like he was my student and I had a right to be doing that. I'm surprised the lot of you Learners and Trainees don't rise up and revolt against us Masters on a regular basis." Qui-Gon snorted.

"Don't think we haven't considered it, Master Jinn. However, there's a serious drawback to that plan, one you might not have considered," Swed stood and joined Qui-Gon by the door, leaning against the jamb.

"You all have some deep and abiding need to be put down on a daily basis?" Qui-Gon guessed.

"Nope. Better than that. You all have something you can teach us, if we're willing to learn. If we kill you, your knowledge goes with you and we'd never be Jedi. That IS what most of us are after, you know." Swed shrugged. "Most of us. That kid, whoever he was, was probably thrilled that a Master took a few minutes out of his day to help him. I would have been, at that age."

"I've probably scarred him for life," Qui-Gon mourned.

"I think you might be over rating your powers of influence, Master Jinn. If you're really worried about him, go take some candy or something to him later. Come on, we've got work to do. I found something Obi-Wan would just adore." Swed went to his shoulderbag and began riffling through stacks of music.

Qui-Gon resolved to take Swed's advice about Aeson and put the incident from his mind. His own skills were rusty, to say the least. He'd have long hours of practice ahead of him if he wanted his Koatel to be properly impressed. "So, what have you selected."

"Little thing Corubia asked me to do. Jenji's got a new sculpture going up about this legend Cor told her. They wanted a song to go with it, so they asked me. I wrote some of it down, but it needs a little improv. Since it's a sculpture about a folk tale, I thought I'd do the song in folk music," he explained.

Qui-Gon looked the music over, smiled at the catchy tune and made ready to play.

"I don't normally play music like this. I like it, though. It's nothing like what you were practicing those forms to," Swed alluded.

Qui-Gon firmly controlled his blush reflex.

"That was some pretty hot stuff," Swed pressed.

"Shall we begin?" Qui-Gon asked.

"Okay. I'll see if I can't do some of the lyrics, though I'll warn you, I'm no singer," Swed began the opening bars.

Qui-Gon picked up and followed along, toying with the themes as Swed warmed up to his style. "Okay, here's the chorus," Swed informed him. He hummed a bit, then picked up a thread of lyric.

And the vine it winds around around
And the vine it winds around
It takes its strength from oaken branch
That the vine it winds around

"I've heard this tune before," Qui-Gon smiled, pausing in his performance.

"The music is a variation on something Obi and Cor used to sing." Swed grinned. "It just worked well with the lyrics I'd written. I didn't think they'd still be singing a love song they wrote in the throes of teenage amore. They gave up love songs a long time ago. To be honest, you could have knocked me over with a feather when he told me about you two."

Qui-Gon put his vyol down, surprised. "Why?"

Swed sobered at the question. "Because he's the only one of us to have lost faith in love. I didn't think he'd dally with someone he cares for and respects, as he does you. He doesn't take lovers. Just partners."

"Until now, you mean," Qui-Gon insisted.

"No, I mean, he's sworn off. Sex? Cool. Anything more? Well, he's okay with feeling love for others, but you've undoubtedly noticed he doesn't accept it too well. Relationships? Kenobi doesn't DO relationships. Ask Jenji sometime."

"I'd rather not," Qui-Gon murmured. "So, why did it surprise you?"

Swed rolled his eyes. "He takes you seriously. I mean, Jenji was the closest thing he ever accepted as a lover, and they were done faster than the news about them could get around. She cared about him, he couldn't take it, he bolted. Luckily it wasn't 'love undying' on her part, or they wouldn't be speaking anymore. So, but he swore a LONG time ago never to fuck someone he thought he could love. As far as I know, he kept to that. There was a ... bad patch some while back, with Obream. It ... killed his faith. And then he tells me you and he are ... intimate."

"So the surprise is that he's sleeping with me, so he can't possibly love me," Qui-Gon clarified.

Swed shrugged. "Dunno. Maybe he does, in his own weird little Kenobi way. We've teased him for years, saying he had a crush on you. I never thought it might be true, or that anything would come of it if it was. But I doubt he would have bedded you, if he was planning on staying. Cor says he's like Ulanta. I think that's why she and Jenji were talking about this legend, trying to make him think about what he's doing. Instead, they end up making sculpture."

"What's an Ulanta?" Qui-Gon asked, starting to feel a little numb.

"You know, Ulanta and Pantreti. That's what they're sculpting," Swed handed the lyric sheet over to Qui-Gon. "I don't have the whole story yet, but ... "

Qui-Gon was definitely going numb now. "Would you begin from the beginning, please, Padawan?" he handed the lyric sheet back and raised his vyol, took a deep breath to steady himself.

Swed smiled and began the opening strains once more. Qui-Gon followed along, keeping his own line simple, listening to the lyrics as if they held the key to life itself.

Ulanta was a comely lass
A warrior was she
Oh ever would she let love pass
And never would she see, oh
Never would she see

Pantreti was her sheildmate
Strength flowing like the fountain
And in his heart love did create
The patience of the mountain
The patience of the mountain

And the vine it winds around around
And the vine it winds around
It takes its strength from the oaken branch
That the vine it winds around

For a hundred days it's said
Pantreti sweetly wooed her
Until Ulanta from him fled
And Pantreti pursued her
And Pantreti pursued her

She ran across the hill and dale
Through meadow and through field
Pantreti followed every step
But never would she yield, oh
Never would she yield

And the vine it winds around around
And the vine it winds around
It takes its strength from the oaken branch
That the vine it winds around

Ulanta's goddess heard her plea
"Pantreti for me pines!
I want no lover, rescue me!"
The goddess changed her to a vine
A strong and healthy vine

Pantreti to his god then prayed
"My love is given freely
I'd give her shelter, give her shade,"
And Pantreti was a tree, oh
A tall, strong oaken tree

And the vine it winds around around
And the vine it winds around
It takes its strength from the oaken branch
That the vine it winds around

And to this day in every field
In forest and in glade
You'll see the lovers loving still
In patience love was made, oh
In patience love was made

So if your true love turns away
Or will not yield unto thee
Remember all the words I say
And be you like Pantreti, oh
Be you like Pantreti

And the vine it winds around around
And the vine it winds around
It takes its strength from the oaken branch
That the vine it winds around

Qui-Gon drew the last notes out of his instrument then carefully set it aside. He folded his hands over his heart and bowed to Swed. "I owe you a debt, Padawan. This is ... a revelation to me."

Swed gave him an inquisitive look, but held his peace.

"My Padawan gave me ... he called it an 'inappropriate nickname' and wouldn't tell me what it meant. Your song has been very instructive as to its meaning," Qui-Gon explained.

The light of understanding slowly dawned in Swed's eyes. "You're kidding! No, I can see you aren't. Well. We're going to have to get this perfect so you can play it for him when he gets back! I can't wait to see the look on his face ... " Swed dissolved into laughter at this point.

Qui-Gon was well inclined to join him, and did. *Oh, Koateleu, what a surprise I'm going to have for your homecoming!* But in his heart a worry had begun. It would seem his love had no belief in loving. Qui-Gon could well understand, for there had been a time when such faith had died within himself as well.


Obi-Wan gazed into the small, hand-held mirror, his concentration so intent that he had begun not only to resemble a statue, but to feel like one as well. At long last he set the mirror aside and let out a gusty sigh.

"I don't see it, Qui-Gon. I looked, but I still don't see it," he spoke aloud to the empty room. He ran his fingers through his hair, careful not to snag his braid in the passing. WHY had the Council ordered him to grow it? What in the world could have possessed them? He tugged his boots off and settled into a more comfortable position on the floor, surveying the many objects ranged about him in a semicircle, all within easy reach. *Never let it be said that I do things halfway,* he chuckled.

The mirror was only the first phase of his inquiries. The next was a little more personal, the gift Qui-Gon had given him upon moving into the Padawan quarters in his master's rooms. He'd not had time to use it much, and had only solved a couple of the offered puzzles. He'd been surprised when the cube had shifted, seemingly of its own accord, into a new shape for him to solve once the first one was completed. Just now it was a pyramid, divided into colored squares waiting to be separated and neatly re-arranged. For all that Qui-Gon called it a toy, he found his gift to be quite hypnotic and relaxing. An observer might have thought he was meditating as he levitated and manipulated the puzzle, but that was not quite so. He'd simply given up on logic and skill and was letting his brain run on autopilot.

Normally, he'd've been sitting in front of Dauhge's tank, chewing on his fingernails and waiting for enlightenment. In absence of that reptilian assistance, he was trying other methods of relaxing his brain. For years he had envied Jenji's ability to pick the threads of future possibility apart through the Force. That Qui-Gon could also do this thing was yet another source of frustration in his past. But he could do something neither of them could do: take current events and find the truth, the honest reality within the layers of obfuscation and deceit that perspective lent an observer. He could, essentially, shake a box of colored chips and toss them out to create a masterpiece. Sometimes. If he really, really needed to.

Right now, he needed to.

He wasn't sure when the idea had taken root, this plan to analyze just what the heck was going on with him and Qui-Gon. It had all started so ... innocently. Just desire. He'd wanted Qui-Gon. Truly, he respected his master and cared for him in the deepest, most intimate and lasting sense ... but love? Well, he just wasn't sure if he loved Qui-Gon in the romantic, mated sense. And he wasn't at all sure it would be wise to love Qui-Gon, at least not at this point in his life.

And then there was Qui-Gon himself. Obi-Wan had always assumed his master wanted nothing more than to travel the stars, serve the Order and work in the field until the day he ... died.

A tremor went through Obi-Wan at that thought, and something on some level shifted within his mind. He focused back down on that, trying to find the source. Mortality. Not his own, but Qui-Gon's. Something ... dark and powerful ... very near ... something there was that wanted Qui-Gon dead. Something strong in the Force. Something sinister.

A fierce protectiveness welled up in Obi-Wan, gripped him in a stranglehold of act/react, before he could really understand what had happened. For a long moment all he knew was that if something wanted to hurt Qui-Gon Jinn, it would have to go through Obi-Wan Kenobi to do it. As he relaxed himself back down to serenity, it was interesting to note that this drive remained firmly in place. He studied it, looked at this ... reflex ... from all angles, observed its placement within himself and his desires. It looked ... right. As proper as a cloud in the sky. He opened himself to the Force and sensed the harmony of it within the Will. Yes. Protect Qui-Gon. That was good and right.

And just another part of the puzzle. The answer was still out there, Obi-Wan was certain. He just needed the courage to continue searching for it. He let the puzzle settle onto the floor once more, stretched and popped his neck. He noticed it was getting close to lunchtime, so left off his ponderings for a while. He made his way to the dining area and was pleased to note that both Scratch and Nathan were there, but Obream was nowhere to be seen. Good, he thought smugly, and went to join the other men. "So, what's on the menu?"

"Vegetarian pasta, tea, fruit," Scratch offered. "Some of you Jedi are a mite picky about what you'll eat."

"Not me. I've gone without too often to complain when there's food on the table," Obi-Wan grinned and headed for the caterer. "Master says once a thing has passed from this life, the damage is done. Might as well see to it that the death isn't a pointless one."

Nathan snickered under his hand. "I'd like to meet this master of yours. He sounds ... practical."

Obi-Wan took a chair at their table. "Not always. I'm just drawn to the more practical advice he gives, I think."

"Oh," Scratch rubbed his hand through his hair, as if trying to brush something out of it. "Are you okay, Obi-Wan?"

"Mmm," Obi-Wan assured him around a mouthful of noodles. "Why?"

"You're making my hair stand up," Scratch shrugged, as if this was supposed to make sense. "Are you in some kind of trouble?"

Obi-Wan shook his head in denial. "No, I spent the morning in meditation."

"Oh! That explains it!" Scratch turned back to his meal.

Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at Nate, who chuckled and offered an explanation. "Scratch's mamma was a seer. He's got a touch of it, himself, I think. Sometimes he can tell when something's about to happen, something unexpected. It makes his hair feel funky. Good thing to have in a deep-space pilot. Little forewarning that the scanners can't keep you posted on. Jedi, though ... tend to cause a little interference. You're all so high-strung, energywise."

Obi-Wan began to wonder if he should apologize.

"You're cruising for a vin-dit," Scratch informed him.

Obi-Wan blinked. "Surely not."

"You just go on thinking that, then," the pilot offered. "It's on the way, and no mistake."

Obi-Wan pressed his lips together, considering. *Well, Force, is this what I've been waiting for?* No answer was forthcoming, but he had the niggling sense that the pilot might be right. He shrugged and continued with his meal. If there was going to be a cosmic shove that pushed him in the direction of his true destiny, he couldn't say he hadn't asked for it.

"You don't sound too worried about it," Scratch noticed.

Obi-Wan shrugged. "I grew up with the biggest collection of seers in the Galaxy. I guess I'm used to it."

"It's not the Force," Scratch pointed out, a trifle defensively.

"Okay," Obi-Wan agreed.

Scratch stirred his noodles for a moment. "You're not going to try to change my mind?"

"Nope. No reason to," Obi-Wan replied. But just for kicks, he scrutinized his pilot's presence in the Force.

"I'm not a Jedi wannabe, damnit!" Scratch grumbled. "I like my life just how it is."

"So it would be a comfort to you if I reconfirmed that you probably couldn't be a Jedi if you tried?" Obi-Wan smiled.

"Yeah, well ... sort of," Scratch grinned.

"We're not a religious order anymore. It's not my job to preach," Obi-Wan assured him.

"Padawan! I went to your rooms, but you had already gone," Obream greeted from the doorway.

"I said I would meet you here," Obi-Wan reminded him.

"Oh yes. Well ... let's see ... vegetarian! Good! I do so hate picking meat out of my food."

Obi-Wan rolled his eyes at his companions and they both suppressed snickers. "I rather thought this pasta could use a little duck."

Obream shot him a dirty look, suddenly recalling Obi-Wan's carnivorous leanings. "I hardly think that's a position becoming a Jedi, Padawan Kenobi."

"A thousand pardons, Knight Trydal, but with duck it would be one of Master Jinn's favorite dishes. I suppose I'm just a little homesick," Obi-Wan bowed his head to hide the smile that was tugging at his lips.

Obream made no reply, but settled at the table across from Obi-Wan. "Will you be needing any assistance in the local survey, Padawan?"

Obi-Wan started to say no, but then gave their supplementary crew a long, considering look. "I believe our good pilot might be of some assistance in my endeavors," he finally announced.

"As you will," Obream accepted.

Scratch spoke up "I'd like to nose around a bit in San Saloor anyway. I've had a couple of strange words in my ear regarding Perrys and Eab Nanoorn. Some of it might have to do with that ... tension in Ero Phelian, and I've lost a friend or two out that way."

Obream nodded shortly "See that it doesn't interfere with our work."

Scratch assured him it would not and the meal continued in silence.

Obi-Wan ate quickly, anxious to return to his meditations. If Scratch's hair was a trustworthy indicator, he'd best to get a hold on what was happening, and soon.


Qui-Gon poked through the sparse collection of knickknacks on Arjet's living room shelves, a smile tugging at his lips. Arjet had called him with an invitation to dinner not long after Qui-Gon and Swed had knocked off for the evening. He had shared a pleasant meal with Arjet and his Padawan, listening to Corubia's stories about Obi-Wan's various youthful misadventures. Corubia had eventually bid goodnight to himself and Arjet, leaving them to discuss 'Master things' before Qui-Gon went back to his quarters. Arjet was dialing up some brandy from the catering unit while Qui-Gon settled in for more serious matters.

*Hello, what's this?* Qui-Gon mused, finding a deactivated hologram projector set carefully to one side of the display. He thumbed the power switch and was surprised to see the face of a stranger smiling back at him, in miniature.

*Wait, I know this guy,* he realized with a start. *Working out in the Ero Phelian sector. What in the world?*

The next holo made it readily apparent that this was no casual acquaintance. He was powerfully built, muscles rippling as he stretched back on what looked like a sunwarmed rock. His blond hair was cut short, as short as a Padawan's but minus the braid and tail. It looked good on him. Full, lush lips parted in an easy smile and those pale blue eyes were obviously amused with the antics of the cameraholder. Then something changed, a tension that was visible even in this pale shadow of events. His hands crept slowly down strong chest, sharply defined abdomen to comb through the ginger-blond curls below, stroking slowly ...

Qui-Gon switched the holo off, well knowing that Arjet wouldn't have stopped recording for anything short of war. With a start, he realized he was blushing, and laughed again. Giavanni. Master Kato Giavanni, work partner of one Knight Zareen, his ex-Padawan. The pair of them had been sent out to investigate rumors of an army being amassed near Ero Phelian. Qui-Gon remembered this because he had been asked to go, then was told others were taking care of the situation. He hadn't seen Kato since their very brief meeting just before the then-Knight took his first Padawan and withdrew from active duty within the Group. It was unclear as to how the knight had joined the Group, which lent weight to the argument that he was nowhere near as young as he looked. Not conclusive, of course, but good to have experience like that out near Ero Phelian. Dangerous situation, that.

That recollection was like a blow to the gut. *Oh skies. Oh Arjet, why didn't you say something? You must be worried sick!*

"So, Quigs, did you get a chance to visit Cord?" Arjet returned with the glasses of brandy.

"Yeah, there's no problem there. I know it looks bad, but ... well, if there is a problem, I can't find it." Qui-Gon accepted the brandy with a nod of thanks. His eyes clung to Arjet's face, looking for signs of worry or relief, anything that might indicate what was going on with his ... lover? Friend? Nothing showed.

"And you looked as deeply as possible? Left no stone unturned?" Arjet sat down on the coffee table and sipped at his own drink.

"Mmm-hm. Bent or broke every rule the Order has about personal privacy, ransacked his memories AND all reflex-functions, so ... I'd say he's clean," Qui-Gon elaborated. *And what would I find if I dug through your mind, Master Paje? What are you trying to hide from me, behind that masterly façade?*

"You always were my best student, Qui-Gon. I checked on Torlamin again. She's deteriorating just as she did the first time, so ... I guess there's nothing for it." Arjet turned the brandy snifter in his hand. "I'm not sure I can do it."

"And I'm perfectly sure that I can," Qui-Gon smiled, finally giving the conversation his full attention. "Don't trouble yourself. I'll take care of it."

"You're a good man, Qui-Gon Jinn," Arjet smiled back. "I'll do all the prep work if you'll do the ... finishing touches."

"No, I'm a good Jedi. Two very different things," Qui-Gon reminded him. "So. Western tower at sunset?"

"As protocols dictate. The Council is going to call Swed's trial any moment now, and I'm to second Jayden on that. We'll wait until that's decided, but it shouldn't be long now. You'd better get to bed, old man. You're gonna need your strength," Arjet offered him a hand up.

Qui-Gon tossed off the rest of his brandy. "Anything else?"

"Are you absolutely, one hundred percent certain about Cord?" Arjet asked once more.

"Yes, Arjet, I'm sure. However, since you're so worked up about it, I didn't get a chance to check Anakin Skywalker. I leave that to you, fair deal?" Qui-Gon stretched and returned his glass to his host.

"Fair deal. See you tomorrow," Arjet bowed and turned towards the kitchen.

Qui-Gon walked slowly back to his room, mentally reviewing the Ceremony of the Left Hand. It was a not-often used bit of mind manipulation coupled with a violent act, a situation of grave danger to the person who enacted it. *Arjet's right to not involve himself with this one,* Qui-Gon decided, tucking his hands in his sleeves. The bond between Arjet and Corubia was a strong one, strong enough to tip Arjet off-center when it came to Rue Torlamin. *And the Left Hand must be calm, centered, confident, unwavering, unstoppable, pure and of the Light. There is no room for mistakes.*

The fact was, depriving a Jedi of their living form didn't necessarily put an end to them. On a day-to-day basis, this didn't much enter into things. Jedi were killed in battle, died of illness and injury and occasionally old age. A true Jedi, passing from this life to the Force, went willingly into oblivion almost every time. It was not unusual for one to take their body with them, a testament to their oneness with the Force. Only the most dire need, in times of extreme upheaval, would one cling to their personality and the business of living. Even in the times of the Sith Wars there had been few cases of a Force-user staying on the job after death, despite the fact that sensitivities of both sides were expiring at a high rate. A few, a bare handful, had. Both Sith and Jedi spirits had been seen and identified, even years after separation from their bodies. Those Sith had been the most destructive forces involved in the Wars. Those Jedi had been the only thing available to stop them.

The Group had studied this phenomenon along with other aspects of the dark users and had discovered a common thread to all those who died, but did not pass on into the Force. The Jedi ghosts had 'unfinished business', something they absolutely needed to do that death had prevented them from accomplishing. Once that goal was achieved, they passed on 'into the Light' as it were. The Sith, it seemed, had uncompleted desires, something they hungered for with such a passion that it transcended the natural law of life and death. Qui-Gon thumbed the lock on his door, pondering the thin line of separation between the two cases. He shook his head, focusing on the needs the next day would bring. Torlamin would have to be emptied of both desire and unfinished business. There were drugs that could help, but they wouldn't be able to do everything because Torlamin would need to be in her 'right mind' as much as possible, for the Ceremony to be reliable. She would, in fact, have to commit suicide.

*Well, she'll be 'suicided' anyway. However you want to say it,* Qui-Gon heeled his boots off and began stripping down for bed, leaving his clothes in a trail from door to bedroom. *No Padawan to discover such a mess and be scandalized.* Qui-Gon wasn't sure if that was a happy thought or a sad one.

He would definitely need his rest, saved against the exertion through which Torlamin would be ... accounted for. The Ceremony could take hours. It could take days. There was legend of one that went on for nearly a year, at the Temple on Mieral. Qui-Gon thought that was probably due to poor planning and/or an undertrained executioner. Qui-Gon had no fear of that. Arjet was the leading authority on the Ceremony of the Left Hand and he had trained Qui-Gon himself. Qui-Gon shivered in memory of that training, the long, grueling hours. The gutwrenching pain and loss. He took a breath and pushed those thoughts aside. *Sleep, Jinn. Sleep and dream of beautiful eyes and strong hands. Make this universe a better place for your Koatel.*


Obi-Wan stepped off the Nathan Bereak and into the outer courtyard of the Jedi Temple at San Saloor. It was an effort to keep his jaw off his chest. Though he had long ago become accustomed to the stark beauty of the Temple at Coruscant, he'd never understood how much it colored his idea of what a Jedi Temple looked like. From the outside, the main Temple looked like nothing so much as a corporate office with huge towers atop it. But this! Constructed from white stone, there were dozens of sculptures and stained glass windows, delicate spires and elaborate facades that added elegance and beauty.

Obi-Wan shook his head. No wonder the place had been abandoned. Jedi presence would have drawn attention to the area, and the inevitable attacks and destruction. Now, though, with hostilities removed from San Saloor to the other side of the Perrys sector, and those calming quickly, this facility could be returned to use. He approached the door and pressed his palm to the touchplate.

Nothing.

"Great. Facility's power is out. We'll have to override the locks," he called.

"How, if nothing's turned on?" Obream asked.

Obi-Wan shrugged. "Petitioner's door, maybe?"

Obream nodded. "Why don't you and the pilot head on into town and we'll see to things here."

Obi-Wan bowed his acceptance and headed back to the transport to grab his pack. Scratch was already backing the speeder out of the cargo hold when he disembarked again and Obi-Wan went to join him. "We're on local survey detail. Any suggestions where to start?"

Scratch nodded. "Sure. Granger's bar. All the spacers stop there for a drink and Granger knows everyone in San Saloor. Or did, last time I was here. He'll be able to point us in the right directions."

Obi-Wan hopped into the passenger's seat and pulled his slate out, resetting it for local time in his reports file. He looked back at the Temple doors and noted that Obream had gotten them open and was helping Nate haul their gear inside. Scratch pointed the speeder towards the Temple gates and they were on their way.

There wasn't a whole lot to San Saloor, from what Obi-Wan could see. The planetary capitol was a long piece north, a goodly distance from the Jedi stronghold, much to Obi-Wan's relief. Being in a more-or-less remote, primarily agricultural area would make the Temple easy to supply and out of the range of local politics. If they were efficient, the survey team could be in and out of the area before anyone official knew of their presence. Given the uncertain nature of this sector's status and this Temple's future, that would be a good thing.

Scratch pulled their speeder in at the end of a long row of battered transports and hopped out into the dusty street. "Welcome to San Saloor. It's small, but it's treacherous. Can you handle yourself in a fight?"

Obi-Wan nodded.

"Good. Keep your hands down and let me talk," Scratch said, pushing the door open and leading the way into a dimly lit tavern.

The sounds and smells washed over Obi-Wan and he found himself falling into step behind Scratch. The pilot raised his hand in greeting to one or two beings as he pushed his way to the bar. "Granger! Demi tawtaw atun nat nalia."

A large, heavy-bodied, many tusked and horned barkeep turned around and grunted. "Scratch! Demi tawtaw. N'atchka sebare vu? Ketun kep tara du Jedi."

Scratch laughed and pulled Obi-Wan forward. "Naetu Jedi. Demi tawtaw ata Obi-Wan Jedi. Naetu secunde Teril Jedi un Jenji Jedi. Obi-Wan, demi tawtaw Granger."

Obi-Wan bowed his head, "Demi tawtaw," he murmured.

Granger laughed. "Du Jedi ketun kep tara du Pilots, neh?"

"Naw, na neh. Du Jedi ketun kep heroics du Pilots. Esen so," Scratch leaned forward. "Uten vu nolic de Eab Nanoorn?"

"Naw, na surgo. Uten vu nolic surgo de Ero Phelian?" Granger plunked two glasses down in front of Obi-Wan and Scratch, then leaned forward to talk. Obi-Wan tried hard to mask his revulsion at the barkeep's breath.

"Naw, na! Emet'ah du nolic de Ero Phelian," Scratch put a credit marker down on the bar and it quickly disappeared into Granger's pocket.

"Ero Phelian ketun kep tara etata du Pilots. Esper te gana, na esper te remal," Granger confided.

Scratch turned to Obi-Wan. "There's trouble in Ero Phelian," he explained. "Pilots, all sorts go in, but don't come out again."

Obi-Wan sipped at his drink, thinking. "All pilots, or any one kind?"

Scratch turned back to Granger. "Etata du Pilots? Ne un ocoto kinter?"

Granger scratched at his horns, thinking for a long moment. "Naw na etata du Pilots, epart. Epart, secunde vu. Du Pilots con kinter tese don de du Jedi."

Scratch turned to Obi-Wan. "At first it was just pilots like me. Ones who were known to work with the Jedi."

"And now?" Obi-Wan pressed.

"Atun?" Scratch in turn requested.

"Etata du Pilots no kinder."

"Any pilot that no one's particularly looking out for."

"Du Pilots tese don de du Gilden no tara. Du Pilots tese don de du no kinter pera sebare du Jedi," Granger shrugged. "Esper te gana, na esper te remal."

"He says the Guild pilots are being left alone. It's the pilots with no friends except Jedi that are really being hit hardest."

Obi-Wan nodded his understanding. "Just pilots?"

"Selo du Pilots?" Scratch inquired.

"Nako cura du unten?" Granger shrugged again.

"He wouldn't know, Obi-Wan," Scratch explained.

"What did he say?" Obi-Wan demanded.

"He said 'Who cares of outsiders?' All he cares about is that his friends, family, 'kinter' are disappearing and no one knows why. This is going on within Republic space. Don't you know anything?" Scratch pressed.

"Hey, I'm just a Learner. They don't tell me anything," Obi-Wan defended himself with an unrelated truth.

"Dekko emlo sekara?" Granger pointed at Obi-Wan with his chin.

Obi-Wan turned to him. "Nako cura du Jedi? What does it matter what I say?"

Scratch eased his hand toward his blaster.

"Sekara Tene Tatu?" Granger growled.

"Naw, na." Obi-Wan smiled. "I don't need to speak it. Du Jedi."

"Shut up, Kenobi," Scratch warned.

"Let him tell me himself," Obi-Wan invited. "He speaks standard as well as I do."

Granger gave Obi-Wan a long stare and turned back to his barkeeping with a snort. "Du Jedi. Ketu kep tara."

"Ketu kep heroics," Obi-Wan leaned forward, letting a stack of credit chips rattle on the bar.

Granger scooped them up in passing. "Nactu. Ebarta sobren."

"Tonight, it is. And well after closing, I do assure you," Obi-Wan bowed.

The daylight seemed triply bright after the gloom of Granger's bar. The pair walked to the speeder in silence, with Scratch shooting Obi-Wan evil looks all the way. "Where did you learn that?"

"Learn what?" Obi-Wan asked, the very picture of innocence.

"Tene Tatu. Only pilots and spacers know that," Scratch scowled.

"Never heard of it," Obi-Wan truthfully replied.

"Bullshit. You knew what we were saying!"

Obi-Wan shrugged. "You translated for me."

"Come on, sheep. Are you telling me that was some Jedi Mind Trick you pulled in there?" Scratch demanded.

"Nah, that was just good negotiation. Come on, we need to find some suppliers ... "

"Damn it, Jedi!" Scratch thumped the seat between them. "Tell, or I'm not showing you a damn thing."

Obi-Wan sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. "Really. I have no idea what language that was or what I said. I was just running on the information you gave me."

Scratch's hand wandered towards his blaster again.

"Okay! Skies above! I'm too young to die!" Obi-Wan held his hands up in surrender. "You said something like 'ketu kep heroics' and touched your credit pouch. You were smiling when you did it. I figured that meant money or something. 'Unten' is outsiders in tradespeak, so 'nako cura' was 'who cares?' and 'du Jedi' was pretty obvious. 'Nactu' is tradespeak, too. The rest, I guessed."

"And how did you know he spoke standard?" Scratch demanded.

"Your native language is standard, one of the prime dialects. I can tell by the way you speak it. Your accent is like mine. You both had the same accent in ... Tene Tatu? So your native languages were the same. Basic linguistics," Obi-Wan folded his hands in his lap.

Scratch narrowed his eyes, then threw his head back in laughter. "Damn Jedi. Always so much smarter than the rest of us."

"We have to be," Obi-Wan grinned. "The rest of you would kill us if we weren't."

"How's that?" Scratch pulled the speeder out into traffic and headed towards another section of San Saloor.

"Everyone thinks a Jedi's first weapon is his lightsaber. Not true, to us. We fight with information almost every time. The saber just helps us save the knowledge we carry with us." Obi-Wan shrugged. "And they're good for starting campfires."

Scratch laughed again, nearly wrecking into a passing transport as he did so. "Where the hell did you get that?"

"Ever hear of Qui-Gon Jinn?" Obi-Wan turned away to watch the town as it passed by.

"Sure. Who hasn't? Kept Malistair from self-destructing last year. Must have balls of pure steel," Scratch replied.

"He's my master. And his balls are flesh and blood, just like mine," Obi-Wan smirked.

"No shit? Well!" Scratch looked at his passenger with new respect. "I'll have to keep a closer eye on you, then. Don't want him coming after me if I return you damaged."

"Just forget it. Where to, now?" Obi-Wan changed the subject.

"Farmer's combine. They'll be able to get your Temple what they need," Scratch explained.

Obi-Wan nodded and took his slate out to make a record of the day's proceedings. He made a footnote to the effect that the Jedi should try to get hold of a Pilot willing to sell some of the Tene Tatu vocabulary if at all possible.




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: The Past

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

103 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, Qui-Gon/Kourt Crowe, Qui-Gon/Other and Obi-Wan/ Other implied

Blurb: Obi-Wan goes out on his own, Qui-Gon is lost in thought, Kourt Crowe gets laid.

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.

Page Hit Count from March 17, 2005    3500