Bonds of Choice 9.99:
The Language of Great Mystery: Written on the Fire

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

Qui-Gon let the center of himself warm to the powerful life energies around him. The sounds and smells of the Aviary fell away as his inner core flared to life. He drew a deep breath and released it slowly, focusing on the lotus keto his master had taught him during his year of exile.

The Spirit lies dormant in the body
Tamed to the hand of the Will
There, the passions of Living gather and ferment
Altering that which feeds it.
Know, Jedi, the folly of the Spirit
And read there the Honesty of desire
There is nothing light or dark but thinking makes it so.

*There is no cold like the cold survived alone,* Qui-Gon thought, a random truth within his mind. *How long have I been so alone?*

The brief periods of connection in his life had always been destined to end. That friendship and love would be ever-fleeting had been his pure reality for what seemed like eternity. Even when he came to understand his place as the Teacher, even when he knew his life was bound up in the actualization of finding the knowledge he had so long sought... even then. *The student learns and goes on to better things. Oh, but to hold him for this little while. Would that be too much to ask?*

Apparently.

Even his earliest childhood had been colored by an excess of isolation. First had been his nomadic apprenticeship, followed swiftly by his training with Arjet. The brief period of working with the Group had been truncated by the training of his first Padawan. Another handful of years in the Group's labors had segued into the debacle with Xanatos and its aftermath. And in all honesty, being within the Group was almost as lonely as being outside of it. The Group was, by necessity, made up of fiercely independent personalities bound together by an unwavering loyalty to their shared goals. Even his closest friend had never truly given himself over to the more normal trappings of friendship.

It would seem that this legacy of solitude had been passed on, untempered, to Obi-Wan. *Well, what did I expect? At least he has his friends.* Qui-Gon shifted his balance slightly and centered on his inner anxieties. Losing Obi-Wan was as possible as it was unthinkable. It was a reality he would simply have to accept. His impulse was to release all hopes to the Force and let well enough alone, but for once his mind and heart were at odds. On the one hand, he wanted free of the constant rejection. On the other, it was better than absolutely nothing.

*Is it desire and hope you are feeling, Jinn? Or is it really the hand of the Force guiding you to this path?*

The trouble was, he simply wasn't sure. It could be one, the other, both, or neither, and he was at a loss to discover the truth of it all. *That which you hold dear is the most difficult to set free.* It was a massive understatement to say he held Obi-Wan dear. For the first time in his life he had love to give, and in that most classic of ironies, there remained no one to give it to. Qui-Gon sighed and reached for the soothing calm of the Living Force once more. If nothing else, the Force would be with him. *Oh, but to have more...*

He had long accepted the lesson that one must never ask the Force to send reward. A Jedi lived with no thought of his own gain. But never had he been so sorely tempted to send a plea of mercy unto that which he had faithfully served since before he could honestly remember. Somewhere, deep inside him, a lonely man whispered, praying for just one small gift.


When Qui-Gon returned to his quarters, he sensed that some new stressor had entered his Padawan's life. The apartment was filled with the savory aroma of stir-fry and Obi-Wan was furiously releasing some kind of negative emotion through the wanton thermal abuse of various foods. Qui-Gon simply edged past him and began pulling down dishes.

"Skies-cursed civil service," Obi-Wan grumbled.

"What happened?"

"The Kurasian senator's security refuses to allow a Jedi apprentice to see their representative unless I have a chaperon, a body guard and a second, in case of a duel."

Qui-Gon levitated a bite of squash out of the pan and stifled a snicker. "What brought that on?"

"Apparently, there are new policies in place over there and I'm running afoul of them all. Cor, Jenji and Swed are going with me so you won't have to clear your schedule. One actual Jedi and three semi-Jedi ought to be plenty official enough for any secretary," Obi-Wan speared a bite of meat and chewed thoughtfully. After a moment he spat it out into the trash and kept stirring. "I don't know HOW you can eat this stuff. I'd think you would prefer something less... gamey."

"I really *must* introduce you to my master one day," Qui-Gon smiled. "And yes, the four of you should be plenty. It's more than most governments ever get from us."

Obi-Wan dished up Qui-Gon's food and set about preparing his own. "I kept SAYING that, and they kept saying 'A half-trained Jedi is more dangerous than a regular one.' I had no idea the Kurasians thought Jedi were dangerous."

"Nor did I, Padawan. The more I hear about them, the less I like what I hear." Qui-Gon went to the caterer to dial up some juice. "I don't suppose you saved the mission reports from our original contact, did you?"

"Mmm, sure. Should be in the 'recent data gathered' file. Why?"

"Sneaking suspicions begin to arise, Padawan. I want you to be very, very cautious tomorrow. Keep your eyes open and be prepared to report anything unusual directly to me. Do you understand?" Qui-Gon sat glasses and utensils on the table as he spoke.

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan murmured. Qui-Gon was obviously cluing in on something from the Living Force, for him to be so adamant. Obi-Wan had long ago learned to heed those hints and hunches, so obeying these commands was no problem at all. "Did you happen to read my report from San Saloor?"

"No, I'm afraid I haven't gotten to it yet. Why?" Qui-Gon asked, taking his place at the table while Obi-Wan joined him there.

"I... sort of hid something from the Council?" Obi-Wan kept his eyes on his plate.

"Really? Do tell," Qui-Gon encouraged.

"It's in the report. Honest. If they took the time to read it, it would be right there for them to find," Obi-Wan assured his teacher.

"Do I sense a conjunction?" Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow.

Obi-Wan nodded, blushing around the edges. "I buried it between the linen count and the report on statuary repairs needed. Master, please, I was *scared* to tell them."

"I see..." Qui-Gon picked up his chopsticks and began eating. "You'd better give me the details."

"I was in my cabin, just fiddling around with some lists and... I saw a Force ghost. He spoke to me... and it wasn't a Jedi," Obi-Wan admitted.

"Not a Jedi?" Qui-Gon asked, voice slightly strained.

Obi-Wan nodded. "It was Darth Maul."

Qui-Gon took a deep breath and released it. "Padawan, you were right to hide this from the Council. It belongs squarely with the Group and that's where it is going. If you think you saw the spirit of a Sith..."

"I don't think, Master. It was Maul."

Qui-Gon fixed his student with a steady look. "Very well. I don't think you have much to worry about. Not much we can do about it, whatever it might mean. But I want to know if anything at all like this happens again. I want to know as it's happening, if at all possible."

"Do you think he'll be back?" Obi-Wan laid his chopsticks aside.

Qui-Gon frowned in thought, then replied. "More than likely. You said he spoke to you?"

"Yes, Master."

"Did he say what he wanted?"

"No, Master. I think he started to, but... we were interrupted."

"Then he still has unfinished business that he thinks you're involved in. Keep yourself very, very conscious of the moment until we know what's going on," Qui-Gon reiterated.

"Yes, Master. Did you want to look those files over again tonight? On the Kurasians?"

"I think we'd better, if you're seeing one of them tomorrow," Qui-Gon said. "Then sleep for both of us. You've had a long day and you'll need your energy tomorrow."


The next morning, Obi-Wan regarded himself in the mirror with a critical eye. He had always been aware that his hair grew rather fast. He needed a trim at least once a month to keep it in proper parameters. Now it had been almost two months, maybe three, since his last haircut and the effects were disturbing in the extreme, not to mention noticeable. "How can you live with so much hair? Just this much is driving me bonkers. Plus, I look... untidy," he told Qui-Gon.

"It actually looks pretty good." Qui-Gon tilted his head to one side. "But to be honest, it's not that noticeable unless you know what to look for."

Obi-Wan turned his head to one side, then the other. "It is to me. I see the difference." His Padawan braid had been pulled back against his head and combined with the tail of hair, from which it trailed down his back. "I look like I have a handle."

Qui-Gon twisted the braid up in his hand and pulled Obi-Wan close for a lingering kiss. "Good," he declared when they broke apart. "Now I won't have to chase quite as fast to catch you."

"You know you have only to call for me, Pantreti," Obi-Wan whispered. "But not now. You're going to be late feeding your strays. And I'm going to be late meeting Corubia."

"I wish I were free to go with you today," Qui-Gon said, running his hands over his own hair one last time.

"I have to return that fighting staff, and this has been my first free moment to do so. I was just ignoring it, but now I don't even want it around. I'll take care of it, you take care of your own stuff. Just don't be late to Master Paje's for lunch."

"I know, I know. This afternoon, Master Paje's quarters, don't be late, dire punishment if I fail. You've all told me often enough."

"Take your commlink with you. I'll chime you at noon and remind you." Obi-Wan tossed the link to his master.

"Thank you," Qui-Gon said, stepping into his boots. "You know me too well. Wish me luck. I get to teach the level nines about speaking, non-sentient lifeforms today. They always traumatize the parrots."

"I'll be sure to have cav for you when you get free," Obi-Wan promised.

"You are too good to me, Padawan," and Qui-Gon was gone.

Obi-Wan went into his bedroom and stared at the Kho'la'bo. He hadn't touched the thing since he'd returned from Reptha. Its gunmetal grey surface reflected something to him, something that tasted of deception and misunderstanding. He could change this staff, call the life energy of the Kurasians to him and make it a dangerous weapon of destruction... or at least he once could have. He hadn't tried to do that again, either.

He swallowed once and cleared his thoughts as the Nurians had taught him, a different pattern than what Qui-Gon had taught him, more crude, less comprehensive. Then he pictured a vessel being filled with crimson rain. As the drops collected, they became silvered and glistening, constantly in motion until as one they flowed together and cascaded upon the Kho'la'bo. It was at this moment that Obi-Wan reached out of himself for the igniting spark of the Kho. A single touch of the energy would bring the Kho'la'bo to life. He reached.

Nothing happened.

He reached again, pressing a little harder, then snatched his senses back as if... as if... he shook his head. His senses wanted to say he had been burned, but nothing had ever quite felt that way before. He regarded the Kho'la'bo with even more suspicion than he had started out with. He dug up a sash from his laundry pile and fashioned a sort of strap for the staff. With this he slung it across his back and headed out to return it to its owners.

He wasted no time getting down to Corubia's new quarters. She and Master Paje had settled in nicely together, strengthening their bond so that one might never know they had just recently been paired. Unless one looked just beneath the surface expressions, to the upper layers of their thoughts.

The Council had left the issue of Rue Torlamin to the Group, and Arjet was deeply involved with the aftermath of her turning. Skies above knew how that would affect their pairing. Corubia had sworn up and down that it didn't bother her, but Obi-Wan knew her too well. Her cuticles were mangled, and she was shedding scales at a fairly high rate, indicating a bad case of nerves.

Well, he supposed she had earned that. And feeling nothing about the death of one's past Master at the hands of one's current Master would indicate a mental imbalance that simply wasn't there in Corubia's case. Obi-Wan shook those thoughts off as he thumbed the chime on her door.

She came to the door, ready to go. "Did you get the skimmer?"

"Yes, did you get directions and clear a flight schedule?"

"Didn't I say I would? " Corubia snagged her cloak and pulled the hood up.

It was then that Obi-Wan noticed where her braid dangled. "You messed with your hair, too?"

"I'm trying to create a sense of unity, here. We get odd enough looks without reason. Might as well give them cause," she smiled.

"Just put your serenity on and let it go," Obi-Wan chuckled. "Jenji and Swed are probably already waiting for us.

They were soon speeding their way to the governmental district. Corubia was piloting their atmospheric transport and Jenji sat next to her on the front seat. Obi-Wan was sitting next to Swed in back and trying to assimilate his friend's new rank.

"What?" Swed finally asked.

"It's just weird... dark pants, dark cloak, your braid gone... and your hair has always been long. Now that you've got it in a Knight's Lock..." Obi-Wan shrugged. "You look grown up."

"Trust me, I'm not. The Council approved for Master... I mean... for Jayden and me to work together, but they won't let us off planet yet. Keeping an eye on the new bond and all. It's a pain in the ass," Swed grumped.

"What new bond?" Jenji asked, twisting around in her seat.

"Well, since we're gonna work together and we're used to having a bond between us, the Council went ahead and let us partner-bond once the training one had dissipated," Swed explained. "It's... different. More equal, more... frank and honest. No emotion-tweaking and all that."

"They just let you do that? So soon?" Obi-Wan asked.

"Sure. With new partners, they make 'em wait. With old teaching pairs it doesn't matter. You already know what the deal is. Windu said if a master and apprentice got along well enough to *want* to stay together, it saves the Order a pile of pair-training and bonding time. So... couple days recovery from breaking the training bond, forge the new one and you're ready to go," Swed elaborated. "But it *is* a little different. There's no drive to constantly defer, for one thing. It's amazing how much of that comes from the training bond, rather than actual reflex."

The other three said nothing, but considered his words carefully. Corubia piloted the skimmer into the Order's hangar space and locked it down. They got out and checked one another's uniforms while Obi-Wan adjusted the Kho'la'bo across his back again. They then headed for the Senate offices.

Obi-Wan lost himself in the soothing litanies of his official persona. *A Jedi does not sneer. A Jedi does not giggle. A Jedi keeps his hands to himself and his eyes on his surroundings. A Jedi is aware of his...*

A flicker caught his attention and he glanced around him. The hallway was crowded, but the other pedestrians were making way for the Jedi entourage, so there was a break in the foot traffic just wide enough for Obi-Wan to see the pale blue glow near a large picture window. He stopped cold. "Guys... do you see..."

Corubia swallowed loudly. "There. By the window... is that..."

"Yes," Jenji confirmed.

"I think... it's okay," Swed murmured, his hand resting between Obi-Wan's shoulder blades.

Darth Maul turned and stared at them, then strode away down the hall.

"Follow?" Obi-Wan suggested.

"Is there anything that could stop us?" Corubia's tone was a bit shaky, but her steps were firm as she led them in the Sith ghost's wake.

Obi-Wan fixed his eyes on her back and directed his thoughts toward Qui-Gon. **Master?**

//Yes, Padawan?//

**It's happening.**

//Can you be more specific?//

**We're trailing Darth Maul's ghost through the Senatorial Offices.**

//The others see him too?//

** Yes, Master.**

//I'm going to our quarters. Keep me posted.//

They hurried as only Jedi can, with utter serenity and not a flicker of worry touching their faces. If they moved quickly, it was with such grace and calm that they seemed to be on a leisurely stroll. If strangers had to step quickly to get out of their way, well, Jedi must be deferred unto. Obi-Wan looked past Corubia just in time to see Maul turn down a side-corridor. "Any idea where he's going?" Jenji asked.

"He's... there are only a few offices down here," Swed supplied. "Naboo and Kurasia. At the T-juncture there's the offices of the Trade Federation and Ero Phelian."

A cold fist clenched around Obi-Wan's heart. "That can't be..."

"Shit... where does that go?" Corubia murmured.

Darth Maul had stepped *through* a door and disappeared.

Obi-Wan glanced down at the nameplate. "It's... this is where we were going..."

"Well, at least we're expected," Jenji grimly noted as she touched the doorplate. They stepped into the reception area and saw that Maul was standing before the far doorway. After a beat, he stepped through that as well.

Obi-Wan approached the receptionist. "Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi here to see the Kurasian Senator," he announced.

"I'm afraid he's not ready to see you," the receptionist informed him. "You'll have to sit and wait."

"Well, *I'm* afraid that isn't going to be good enough," Swed replied, drawing up every bit of authority he could muster. "I am under orders to return these three to the Temple at the soonest possible moment. That means we will *not* await the pleasure of a bureaucrat, especially one who demanded our presence in the first place."

The receptionist blinked and shook his head. "I'm sorry..."

Obi-Wan raised his right hand and made a 'so-so' gesture. "We will see the Senator now."

The receptionist touched a button and the inner door opened.

"I don't believe you just did that," Corubia whispered.

"Tell Qui-Gon and I'll scale you like a trout," Obi-Wan replied.

They stepped through the inner door and made their way along a hallway. The far wall was entirely of windows, a sweeping view of the skyline spread out before them. "I know this..." Obi-Wan murmured. He stepped towards the window for a better look. "Reptha..."

"Look," Corubia said.

Obi-Wan turned his head and saw the blue spirit staring out over Coruscant. After a moment Maul turned away and continued down the hall. The Jedi hurried after him.

"Is this something you got from Maul?" Corubia asked.

"Absolutely," Obi-Wan assured her. **Master... I found that skyline... we're still following Maul...**

//Don't shield against me, Padawan. I need to be certain you're all right,// Qui-Gon ordered.

**This is too strange, Master. Did you know the Trade Federation hasn't been disbanded? Their offices are right here by the Nabooian delegation... right down the hall from the Kurasians... right next to the Ero Phelian group...**

//Really? Researching...//

Qui-Gon's attention shifted and Obi-Wan wrenched himself back to his present position. "There, that's got to be it," he said.

Maul stepped through yet another doorway, beyond which Obi-Wan could sense the presence of a familiar type of energy. Someone was channeling the Kho in there. The door opened at their approach and Obi-Wan was stunned to discover Chancellor Palpatine in conference with Senator Re'Nath Nurian. Darth Maul looked over his shoulder, eyes radiating his message. *Oh skies above...*

As one, the Jedi bowed. Obi-Wan stepped forward and placed the Kho'la'bo on Re'Nath's desk. Then, as a unit, they turned and exited, never once showing a hint of their shock at seeing Darth Maul kneeling at Palpatine's feet.


Qui-Gon approached Arjet's door with a little trepidation. It wasn't often that Obi-Wan tried to include him in his personal activities, but the young Jedi had been positively bouncing this morning, despite the hairdo. Obi-Wan had contacted him via comm-link, assuring him that all were safe and that the day's lunch plans should continue as scheduled. Something was up, and Qui-Gon Jinn didn't need the Force to tell him that. He couldn't help but think he was forgetting something, something vital about today, something special. He'd meant to check the date before he left his classes, but somehow hadn't done it.

Hmm. Curious. Arjet's door opened as soon as Qui-Gon sounded the chime. The lights were dim, but Qui-Gon could make out odd shapes of *something* as he stepped inside. "Hello?" he called. Not unexpectedly, the door closed behind him. He advanced a few steps, trying to make his way towards the only apparent source of light. Several rows of tiny candles marched across...a cake? "What's going on?" he muttered.

The lights flicked on and three voices shouted "Happy Nameday!!!!"


Obi-Wan had never been so self-satisfied in his life. He'd really put one over on Qui-Gon this time. And it was Qui-Gon's own fault. *Maybe he'll learn to check his dayplanner from now on.* Obi-Wan mused.

Corubia's quarters were awash in balloons and streamers, flowers and party favors. Master Paje had a pointy paper hat of some sort perched on his head. They had all dined on Obi-Wan's stir-fry, spicy, just like Qui-Gon preferred it. That had segued into the chocolate cake and an interesting revelation made by none other than Master Arjet Paje.

The four Jedi now sat on the kitchenette floor. The Padawans held their lightsabers steady while the Masters did their work. Qui-Gon was carefully levitating two marshmallows just a breath away from the energy blade. He rotated them slowly, making sure to brown all sides evenly. "Now," he whispered with solemn reverence. Obi-Wan levitated the graham crackers and chocolate squares in next to the marshmallows, close enough for the chocolate to begin melting. Qui-Gon settled the marshmallows on top and brought in the top cracker. "Okay, all done," the Jedi pronounced. Obi-Wan switched off the lightsaber and reached for his share.

Heaven.

"I can't believe you waited so long to show this to me, Master," Obi-Wan complained, setting up another round of s'mores.

"I feel a right idiot for putting it off, Padawan." Qui-Gon drew his lightsaber this time and held it for Obi-Wan to toast the marshmallows.

When they had finished their second round, Corubia looked up. "I suppose we ought to talk about what happened," she began.

Obi-Wan gave her an unhappy glance. "This is supposed to be a party, Cor."

"No, Padawan... she's right. I appreciate the trouble you've all gone to, but more pressing issues are afoot," Qui-Gon said. "We really must know what happened today."

"Pardon, 'scuse me, but... what?" Arjet broke in.

Obi-Wan turned an accusing glare on Corubia. "You didn't tell him?"

"Tell me what?" Arjet asked again. "Rubi... did something happen at the Senate?"

Obi-Wan coughed and looked away. "Uh... yeah."

Corubia crossed her arms and refused to make eye contact with the rest of them.

"Arjet, they think they saw the ghost of Darth Maul today," Qui-Gon began.

"It *was* him," Obi-Wan interjected.

"Well, you say that, Padawan. I think you mean it, too... but what about the others?" Qui-Gon gently inquired.

"Swed and Jenji went to make their reports as soon as they got back," Obi-Wan replied, a trifle defensively.

"And Corubia?" Qui-Gon pressed.

Obi-Wan frowned at his master. "You know, I think she has a pretty good reason for not wanting to talk about Darth Maul. He killed her master, you know."

"He *turned* her *former* master, Obi-Wan. She died here in the Temple. You know that." Qui-Gon's tone was perfectly even.

"Semantics," Obi-Wan flippantly replied. "If not for him..." the younger man stopped. What *would* have happened to his best friend if Torlamin hadn't turned? With what he now knew of the woman, he couldn't help but think her turning and subsequent execution might have been the best thing for Corubia.

"Who killed Master Torlamin?" Corubia suddenly asked.

"What?" Arjet demanded, turning towards her again.

"Who... who did it? How was it done?" she murmured, still not looking anyone in the eye. "I think I have a right to know."

"Sis, let it go," Obi-Wan reached over and rubbed between her shoulder blades. "It can't possibly matter now."

"Easy for you to say," she replied, voice a little firmer. "If it was Qui-Gon, could you just 'let it go'? Wouldn't you *want* to know? Or are you too scared to face up to that truth, as well?"

"Look, Cor, I know this is hard on you, but there's no need to be nasty," Obi-Wan pulled back, stung.

"No need to be... be what? Be nasty? Obi-Wan, someone in this room killed my Master. I know it was justice, but I want to know whose hand it was." Corubia's mouth twitched. "Just say it, Master. Just tell me..."

"No one killed her, Corubia. She committed suicide," Qui-Gon said.

There was a long moment of silence before he continued.

"She had come to accept certain truths and chose to end her own life... for the greater good. I was there when it happened. I was the only witness, so I'm afraid you'll have to take my word for it."

Corubia stared at him, appalled. Obi-Wan had the suspicion that he was doing the same thing. "Pan, you... you didn't try to stop her?"

"Stop her, Koatel? I was there to encourage her." Qui-Gon stood and walked back into the living room. "It was the only way to serve justice and attain peace in this matter."

Obi-Wan closed his eyes, deep shame burning in his stomach. "I... I don't understand."

"One day you will, my Padawan. On that day, I will weep for your innocence," Qui-Gon replied.

"Darth Maul appeared on the lower promenade," Corubia said, voice once again firm and steady. "I think we pretty much saw him at the same time, though Padawan Kenobi seemed less surprised than the rest of us. He led us through the Senate complex to the Kurasian offices. There, he showed us -"

"Stop," Arjet said, raising his hand. "Say nothing further."

Obi-Wan opened his mouth to object. "You either, Obi-Wan. I want you to make this report directly to the Council. I don't want them to think I have coached or meddled in your words. Just give me time to arrange for things."


Obi-Wan paced his room, frowning occasionally at the setting sun. "This is so annoying!" he called.

"Patience, Padawan," Qui-Gon absently replied.

"You don't understand, Master. Right now, this IS patience! I'm standing here, KNOWING who the Sith Master is, and I CAN'T tell anyone!" Obi-Wan kicked his bed and frowned at the fading light once more.

"Find something else to fret about," Qui-Gon suggested.

"Such as?"

There was a long moment of silence. "Contemplate your physical flaws."

"What physical flaws?" Obi-Wan demanded.

Qui-Gon did not answer.

Obi-Wan stalked into the bathroom and switched on the lights. What physical flaws? He stared at himself for a long time, from a few different angles, before frowning with frustration. Physical flaws? Well, yes... there must be physical flaws. *I'm not perfect, after all...* he reminded himself. He also recalled that he'd never considered himself physically exceptional, either. Attractive, yes, but that had more to do with personality and willingness to accommodate than anything else. Uncomplicated sex was an extremely attractive trait and one at which Obi-Wan excelled. Not that this trait seemed very attractive to Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon, in fact, seemed bent on getting PAST that trait, for whatever reason.

He shook his head. Physical flaws. Well, his chin was cleft, perhaps that was the flaw... but it was also nicely symmetrical and altogether a strong chin. Hmmm. Eyes, maybe? Their consistently undefinable color had often been a source of frustration when it came to filling out official descriptions, but otherwise they were perfectly serviceable. Nose? Nah. Mouth? He knew for certain it wasn't the mouth. EVERYONE liked his mouth, and said so. Brow? A trifle high, and a dermal blemish to boot... that might be it.

He stuck his head out of the bathroom and pointed to his forehead. Qui-Gon looked up at him, frowned, and shook his head, indicating negative. Obi-Wan sighed and went back to his contemplations. His hair... well, nothing to do about that anyway, and Qui-Gon had already said he liked it. Ears? A little pokey-out, but nothing offensive, really. Hmmm.

He shrugged out of his cloak and tunics, giving his arms and chest a slow once-over. Despite the latticework of scars punctuating them, they seemed well enough. Neither was he overly muscular. Firmly defined, would be his word for it. His tummy was flat and firm as well, but for all that he had also a graceful flexibility trained into him by Qui-Gon's lessons. He turned his back towards the mirror and observed. Same thing.

It was but a moment's work to strip off boots and pants, but the search was equally fruitless. Though there was a paleness of skin, overall, and perhaps something of too-eager readiness in presentation, he couldn't say he found himself particularly *flawed* in any significant sense...

"Single sand?" he called out.

"Very good, Padawan. Get dressed. The Council will be waiting for us," Qui-Gon replied.

Obi-Wan chuckled to himself. Classic misdirection. Still, the lesson was a good one, and one he would remember in the future. The Single Sand meditation was a by-product of a physical exercise often given to very restless, very inquisitive Padawans. The goal was to find one single grain of sand that perfectly embodied the ideal of being a grain of sand. The search for one single sand had been going on for more generations than Obi-Wan cared to think about, and was a search he and his friends continued even though they'd long ago worked the puzzle out. No grain of sand is better or more perfect than any other. This principle, of course, was applied to other, greater subjects than sand. Governments, political leaders, systems of belief, monetary standards, virtually anything a Jedi might encounter many, varied examples of throughout the course of his duties. They were all just grains of sand on the beach, one not much better than the other, so all would be accepted for their own unique and self-contained attributes. It did little good to compare one sand to another. It was all sand.

Obi-Wan straightened his cloak and joined his master by the door. "So, I'm just a grain of sand, Master?"

Qui-Gon brushed his lips over Obi-Wan's chin. "Diamond in the rough, my Padawan."

Obi-Wan flushed with pleasure and followed his master towards the Council chamber.


Qui-Gon was surprised to see a rank of Senatorial guards outside the Council's antechamber. It was not often that a senator would travel so far to see the Jedi. More often they would summon a Jedi to them, as if the Order was nothing more than a packet of lackeys to do their bidding. Qui-Gon snorted at the idea but said nothing.

"What is it, Master?" Obi-Wan murmured.

"Circumstances, Padawan," Qui-Gon replied and continued on into the Council Chamber.

The whole of the Council was there, not to mention a few others besides. Arjet and Corubia, Jenji and Teril, Swed and Jayden, plus one or two civilians unknown to Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon took his place in the row of Masters, trusting Obi-Wan to fall in line with his rank-mates. He glanced sideways and caught a glimmer of Arjet's 'longsuffering' look. Well, it would seem the Council was requiring some convincing on this. At least they were taking this seriously. They could have been ignoring it out of hand.

"Assumed it is, that your Padawan also saw the spirit of Darth Maul today," Yoda began conversationally. "Why so little does this surprise me, Master Jinn?"

"Because, Master Yoda, it is in my nature to do anything that might confound and vex this most honorable Council. If it would be complicated for my student to be in consort with a deceased Sith, then surely he must do it. For as the Master, so the Padawan," Qui-Gon returned.

"Are you in consort with a deceased Sith?" Master Gallia inquired.

"No, Master. I have learned to delegate responsibilities," Qui-Gon replied.

The others of the Group murmured "The many as the one."

Qui-Gon nodded slowly to them. "Even so."

"Speak into the record your experiences, Padawan Kenobi," Master Windu ordered.

Obi-Wan cleared his throat and obeyed, describing the afternoon's events in clear, precise language. He never paused to search for a word, nor faltered in his narrative. He was at a calm center, focused on obedience and humble submission to the will of the council. Qui-Gon was proud to see how well his student did before the Council. For once the air was not crackling with tension and unspoken mistrust. The Councilors were listening to each word, mining his recitation for information rather than suspected duplicity. Qui-Gon quite envied the young man for their attentions.

When Obi-Wan had explained the final tableau, of Palpatine and Darth Maul, Qui-Gon had to grip his serenity with both hands and hang on to his center for all he was worth. *Not as if you never suspected,* he reminded himself. Still, to know, to have solid proof once and for all... and Obi-Wan accepted it with the serenity of a true Jedi. *Must update my contingency file,* he mused.

The Council was silent for a long moment. "Have any of you anything to add?" Master Poof inquired.

Arjet answered for them. "No, Councilors."

"Padawan Kenobi, your report from San Saloor has been fully reviewed. Darth Maul has visited you before. Do you think you can call him to you again?" Master Windu asked.

"I do not think so, Master. I have never called him to me before. He has appeared, and I have seen him," Obi-Wan explained.

"But surely you did something to attract his attention," Gallia suggested.

"I killed him. I think that would get his notice pretty handily," Obi-Wan replied.

Qui-Gon intervened. "Padawan, moderate your attitude."

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan bowed his head.

"Now then, how do you get him to come to you," Gallia began again.

"With all due respect, Master, my Padawan has already said he does not summon the Sith ghost. He's a Jedi, not a soothsayer," Qui-Gon pre-empted.

Gallia sat back, eyes narrowed in thought. "As you say, Master Jinn."

"Moot, this all is. Corroborate our theories, their experience does," Yoda said. "Implement our plan we should, before too late it becomes."

"Are you really ready to take such a step with nothing but these... these junior Shadows as evidence?" Gallia demanded.

"My own council I will keep, as to who I trust or not. Your own informants, evidence have brought. Time to move it is, before we lose all opportunity," Yoda announced.

"I quite agree," Windu added. "Arjet, if you and yours would be so kind," and he gestured towards the perimeter of the chamber.

Arjet bowed and stepped towards the windows, raising his hood and folding his hands even deeper in his sleeves. Qui-Gon copied his example, taking Obi-Wan with him.

**What is this, Master?** Obi-Wan's mental voice was hushed, tightly projected and hidden from eavesdroppers.

//Moral support, I'd say. There are Senators in the antechamber. I think the Council has some sort of plot going on. The presence of this many Jedi will give the politicians pause. For all that they like to have us on their side, for the most part they're scared of us,// Qui-Gon explained.

**But the Council always does what they want,** Obi-Wan objected.

//Not always, Padawan. And it's not the Council they're scared of. The councilors make sure of that. It's us field operatives that scare the starch right out of them. The Council is Wise. We're wise, strong, quick and heavily armed. What's not to be scared of?// Qui-Gon explained. //Fear is the enemy of the prominently placed.//

**Then fear is occasionally the ally of the Jedi?** Obi-Wan inquired.

//It depends on just who's shaking in their boots, when and why.// Qui-Gon stifled a sigh. Sometimes it was complicated, keeping up with his Padawan's mental processes. //Oh skies above. Senator Vallorum and Senator Antilles.//

Obi-Wan masked his shock quite well. **I thought... wasn't Vallorum sent away?**

//Just because he isn't Chancellor doesn't mean he isn't a Senator. His people still support him, especially since the rumors of his corruption have been so thoroughly squashed.//

**And Antilles? What can Alderaan possibly have to do with this?**

//They're a neutral representative. He's probably here to listen for others, more powerful sectors and sovereignties that prefer to operate through him,// Qui-Gon explained.

**I feel like I started an avalanche,** Obi-Wan murmured.

//From the look of things, you might be right.//

Obi-Wan made no reply, but focused his attentions on the senators. Qui-Gon quietly observed his student's scrutiny, how Obi-Wan monitored their heart rates and breathing through the Force, then carefully lowered part of his mental shielding to get the sense of their thoughts. As he did so, Qui-Gon noticed something new in his student. A reluctance to use one of his Force-abilities.

//What is wrong, Obi-Wan?//

For a moment, the younger man did not answer. **It makes me feel naked.**

//And that is uncomfortable? You've never been ashamed of your body...//

**I can't say the same of my soul,** Obi-Wan brusquely replied.

The sentiment hit Qui-Gon like a sucker-punch to the gut. //I see,// he calmly replied, and released his reaction to the Force. //We will discuss this later. For now, merely observe as you would have, before you gained your telepathy.//

**Yes, Master,** was the obedient reply, but the relief was easy to see.

Qui-Gon turned his own attention towards the senators. They were doing their best to seem in control, but it was clear that twenty Jedi did what only twelve could not. The Senators were plainly intimidated. The Council seemed ready to play that for all it was worth.

"Senators, long have we been in communication with you, regarding a certain individual among your number whom we believe to be a grave threat to the peace of your Republic. Long and longer still you have ignored our warnings. That time is done. You will begin to effect the plan we first brought to you. Now. This very evening. If you do not, we can not be responsible for the outcome." Master Windu steepled his fingers as he spoke.

"And what outcome might there be, that we should so endanger ourselves?" Vallorum demanded.

"We have foreseen the destruction of the Republic as you know it. This we have seen and told you, and yet you behave as if nothing has changed for you or your peoples. We bring to you the solution, the possible path to surviving the dark times to come, and you choose to ignore our words. This is your final warning. These eight Jedi have corroborated the suspicions that long have been held against Chancellor Palpatine, even before he was chancellor. What is more, they have proven an aspect to him that even you do not suspect. Do what you can to weaken his position, or we can not help you," Windu's tone carried the weight of his office, his power and the full influence of a true Jedi Master.

The Senators shifted uncomfortably.

"We can't..." Antilles began.

"We are not interested in what you believe you can not do," Master Poof halted him. "Do what you must or have it done for you. Are we perfectly clear?"

"Yes," Antilles ground out.

"Well and well," Knight Mundi nodded his approval. "We will begin our own works on the morrow."

The senators took their leave without dismissal and Obi-Wan snorted. "Smug bastards. If the Council has to deal with their sort all the time..."

"That and worse, Padawan. And still they do the best for more with less than any other twelve living beings in the Galaxy," Qui-Gon whispered in reply.

"Then why do you defy them so often?" Obi-Wan inquired.

"Great triumph requires great opposition. We need each other, the Council and I," Qui-Gon explained.

"Remain on Coruscant, you all shall, until more certain the actions of the Senate is. Need you, we may, to disrupt this Palpatine's position. Easier to remove, he will be, if out of the Chancellorship he is. Fewer guards to deal with, there will be," Master Yaddle said.

"As you will," Arjet answered for the others again.

"Thank you, we do, Master Paje. Once again, engineered you have, a position of power," the little Master continued.

"The honor is mine," Arjet assured her, bowing low.

"May the Force be with you," Windu absently murmured.

The Group left as one. "Well, that didn't surprise them a bit," Arjet cheerfully announced.

"So they've known and done nothing about it this whole time?" Corubia demanded.

"Well, I doubt they've been in any position TO take action, before now," Arjet replied.

"The Council is constrained by a great many regulations. Over the millennia, the Senate has sought to hamper their control over the Order. For now, they can take no political action on any situation unless the problem is brought to them by some outside entity," Qui-Gon explained.

"This time, it was you Padawans," Arjet specified. "Since you're not really Jedi yet, you count as an outside petitioner. A fine line to tread, but one that would hold up to legal scrutiny."

"So we gave them the authority to act?" Jenji asked.

"Essentially," Teril replied. "Though we're all gonna be grounded for the time being."

"Sounds good to me," Obi-Wan said. "I don't want to shepherd with every ex-lover I have in the Temple. I don't think my nerves could handle it."

His friends laughed at this remark, just missing the pained looks that passed among their elders. Qui-Gon chose not to respond. *He has a long way to go before he's ready to hear what I need to say. I hope I can hold on long enough...*




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: The Language of Great Mystery: Written on the Fire

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

46 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written May 29, 2000 by HiperBunny

Setting: Star Wars Episode 1

Primary Races: Human

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

Pairings: Obi-Wan/ Qui-Gon

Blurb: Qui-Gon Thinks. Obi-Wan Acts. A certain amount of revelation comes to the Jedi.

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

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