Disclaimer: the characters and concepts of the Star Wars universe belong to George Lucas, Lucasfilm, Ltd, and appear here without permission. This work is written solely for the entertainment of other fans, and no profit has been made. No infringement of copyright is intended.
Obi-Wan rose from the now-tepid bath water and wrapped himself in a large towel. The prolonged soak had worked its usual magic on his aching muscles, though his cuts and burns were beginning to sting anew with their exposure to air. He ignored them, slinging another towel around his neck and padded out to the common room. His new quarters looked little different from the rooms he'd shared with Qui-Gon for so many years--granted, they were smaller. To his Force-senses, however, they might as well have been on different worlds.
These walls held no trace of Qui-Gon Jinn,or even of their former occupant, whoever that had been. Housekeeping, he reflected, took on a whole new meaning at a Jedi Temple. This entire floor, in fact, felt different from the level his Master lived on. Tradition put all the new-made Knights in this section, in the hopes that those inclined might find a suitable partner for fieldwork. It also served as a psychological aid. Away from even the echo of their Masters' presence and their former lives as Padawans, the new-made Knights could adjust that much faster to their new rank, forging new identities for themselves.
Few of his fellows would even consider the method Obi-Wan intended to use.
Water trailed from the end of his long, thin tail of hair, snaking across his chest. He blotted it dry with the towel, barely noticing. I have to be sure. Nothing less than absolute certainty will convince him.
He sank to his knees in the middle of the room and stared out the windows. Not so fine a view as from his Master's rooms...but just about anywhere on Coruscant, all you saw was another building, anyway. Resting his hands on his thighs, he slipped into the dual-awareness that preceded meditation.I am here, but not here. He felt the rough fibers of the carpet pressing against his knees, but the sensation hovered at the lowest level of his perceptions. I feel, but I am not consumed.
His thoughts swirled like leaves caught in a strong wind, circling the blank space in his mind. Qui-Gon had closed himself away behind layers of heavy shielding, the first step towards dissolving their training bond. A too-abrupt severance could damage them both. Still, to Obi-Wan, that blankness felt like the first, disorienting moment of sedation, a momentary delay of inevitable pain. I am intertwined, but I do not touch.
"Every life matters, my Padawan. Every death counts."
One of Qui-Gon's favorite sayings, oft-repeated during lessons designed to increase his sensitivity to the Living Force. The lessons had succeeded...but perhaps not as his Master had intended. Each lesson made him aware of how strongly the Living Force moved through his Master, how it filled and directed this man who had chosen to raise him to knighthood. A lifetime of study would not teach him what Qui-Gon had been born knowing. Nor, he sensed, was he meant to.
Obi-Wan tilted his head back and gazed up at the distant lights of Coruscant's highest towers. He breathed in, drew the stuff of life deep into his lungs, the complex, orderly systems of respiration and circulation that enabled life to continue in his body. Just as those who felt the Unifying Force secured those connected to the Living Force, assisting them in the preservation and protection of life.
Just as he served Qui-Gon Jinn. He could see it clearly: how every prior step along this path had led to this point. Now, on the eve of his knighthood ceremony, the will of the Force became plain.
He only had to convince his Master of that.
Obi-Wan rose to his feet, noting with some surprise the absence of the lingering aches from the small injuries he'd left unhealed after his Trials. He hadn't intended to heal them, but it seemed his body held a different opinion.
His packs sat on the floor beside the table, where he'd left them. They contained all of his personal belongings, packed up and moved here when it was announced he'd passed his Trials. Dropping to one knee, he dug through one of the deep side pockets, searching for the palm-sized flat case that stored the beads and wrappings he normally wove into his Padawan braid. He probably had three or four complete sets scattered among his belongings--few things were more aggravating than hunting strayed beads through thick carpeting and bedding or under furniture.
His fingertips brushed against smooth plastic near the very bottom. He pulled out the slim case and snapped it open. Four compartments, three filled with beads, one with ties. With the ease of long practice, he seperated the tail into three equal sections and began to plait them together, pausing now and then to add a bead or tie off a section. A third of the way down, he added the first indigo bead.
Every Padawan who wore a braid carried a set of the indigo beads, but few knew their significance. Certainly no Padawan in his memory had worn more than one of them. It had taken Obi-Wan almost a year to ferret out the reason behind that, and another year to piece together the ancient ritual the beads symbolized.
Well, no-one can say I made a hasty decision, Obi-Wan thought with a grin, tying off the braid with its four deep blue beads. Finished, he stroked the thin plait between his fingers. He could no longer tell just where the lock of his Master's hair had merged into his own. Twined together so tightly, they appeared the same.
The first weak rays of the morning sun crept into the small bedroom, as if reluctant to disturb the occupant. Qui-Gon, an early riser by nature, was already awake when the light spilled over the smooth covers of the empty bed. Still, he sat cross-legged in the center of the room, soaking up the traces of his Padawan's presence as he been doing all night and most of the previous day. While few Padawans died in the modern Trials, a small, superstitious corner of his mind whispered that sleep would prove the prelude to disaster, the first step in a gross display of incompetency that would result in--
The Master drew in a long, slow breath and released the chittering, nameless fears. Obi-Wan had survived, and passed the Trials. All that remained before them now was the actual ceremony. After that...well, after that, perhaps they might sit down for a long-delayed discussion about the Moment and the future.
He bathed and dressed with care, smoothing the folds of his formal robes, determined to show only honor and pride in his student. Qui-Gon had looked to this day with bittersweet anticipation. His Padawan had matured into a fine Jedi--but the final polish must be gained without Qui-Gon's influence. A Knight must part from his Master, re-create himself in the absence of the identity lost with the cutting of the braid. So he must wait a little longer before he was truly free to speak his heart. Wait in solitude.
Selfish old man, he berated himself. Thinking only of yourself on this day of all days.
He should be rejoicing that the Order could name such a luminary as his Padawan among the Knights. He most assuredly should not be brooding over how empty his life would be afterwards, how cold his heart would feel without the warmth of the younger man's spirit. Drawing up the hood of his robe, he left his quarters and headed towards the ceremony site.
He passed other Masters and senior Padawansin the halls, all making their way to the Room of a Thousand Fountains. Yoda and Mace already stood to his right, preparing for their own roles in the ceremony. The air hummed with carefully leashed excitement and anticipation. A few of the witnesses murmured amongst themselves, their voices almost inaudible over the sound of the fountains. Even that small distraction faded as a strong, silent summons rippled through the Force. As one, all eyes turned to the entrance.
Obi-Wan appeared in the archway, moving with solemn grace. As he passed by the gathered witnesses, the Padawans gave him the slight bow of equals while the Knights and Masters merely inclined their heads. Obi-Wan acknowledged all of this with a faint smile and downcast eyes.
Such a man he has become, Qui-Gon thought, a familiar ache flaring in his heart. He kept his shields firm, not wanting any of his improper emotions to leak across their training bond. The last thought and emotions Obi-Wan sensed through this bond should not be his Master's shameful longings.
Obi-Wan stopped four paces from the Masters. He bowed low to Mace and Yoda, then again to Qui-Gon. Courtesies performed, he sank down to one knee and bowed his head. "My Masters," he murmured.
Oh, if he could etch this moment indelibly into his memory, from the sound of the cascading water to the angle of the light beaming into the room, to the scent of the flowers and moist earth. This one moment, when his Padawan was at his most beautiful, a-glow with accomplishment and humility...surely he could have this one moment to carry with him into the future. He would never see Obi-Wan like this again, never again feel him so closely woven into his own mind and spirit.
"Padawan Kenobi, your mettle has been tested, through trial and danger, through temptation and manipulation, and you have come through with spirit and mind intact,"Mace intoned.
Despite the failings of your Master, Qui-Gon added in his head. Not that Mace would ever use those words. No, Mace would find some convoluted way to point out the obvious in fifty words or more... Oh, the technical training was faultless, that would stand up under any scrutiny. He just wished he could be sure that he himself hadn't been oneof those manipulators Mace spoke of so lightly. How often in the past years have I postponed his training and testing, disguising it with missions, seeking for excuses to keep him with me?
"Chosen the Light, have you?"Yoda asked, following the ritual.
At Qui-Gon's own Knighting, it had been Ki-Adi Mundi who had spoken that part, formidable in his alien authority. The master had fixed him with such an intense glare that the young Qui-Gon Jinn had been sure he'd spotted some Darkness in his soul, and was about to reveal it to all.
"I have, of my own free will, and offer myself to its service." Obi-Wan responded.
Yoda nodded in satisfaction, though the answer had never been in doubt. Now it was his turn to speak, to form the words his own Master had spoken over his bowed head.
"A Jedi lives by the Code," Qui-Gon said. "Let us hear your pledge in your own voice."
At last, Obi-Wan raised his head, meeting his Master's gaze. "'There is no emotion, there is peace...'" he began, his voice level. "' There is no ignorance, there is knowledge...'"
He listened as Obi-Wan recited the Code, hearing the slight stresses his student put on tenets that held particular meaning to him. He heard confidence and acceptance and...joy? He looked more closely at his student, risking a minute thinning of his shields. The training bond hummed with contentment, heavy with other emotions held behind careful shields. Qui-Gon withdrew as surreptitiously as he had approached, his composure shaken.
Are you so eager to leave me, my Padawan? Have I held you under so much restraint that you now strain for your freedom?
"Qui-Gon Jinn." Mace's voice skewered his attention back where it belonged. "You have stood as Master to this man. You have heard him speak the Code. In your time together, has he set deed to word? Does he live the Code as well as speak it?"
"He does," Qui-Gon affirmed. Better than I do.
"Release him from your service, do you?" Yoda asked, eyes narrowed in some consideration likely only another 800+ year old Jedi Master could comprehend.
No! he wanted to say, but instead, he drew in a calming breath and fixed his mind on the form of the ritual. Blessed things, rituals. Having a set role to perform kept the emotional reality at bay. "He has learned all I can teach him. He has passed the Trials. He knows the Code in word and spirit. He is ready to take his place among the Jedi as a knight and guardian of the peace."
Drawing his hands out from the sleeves of his robe, Qui-Gon produced a small, thin knife from his belt. The hilt was of plain white enamel, worn to near-nothingness in some places, though he had used it only once before. Reaching out, he caught Obi-Wan's chin in his free hand. This would be the last time he could touch this man so freely and he was loathe to let it end. Time, however, had no interest in altering to suit his desires. Tilting his apprentice's head back, he waited until those warm ocean-colored eyes fixed on him.
He ran his fingertips along the slender braid one last time, lingering over each bead, each hallmark of his student's accomplishments. So many years. So much learned, for both of them. He hadn't felt this reluctance during the Knighting of his first apprentice. Get it done. He wrapped the tail around his first two fingers, once, twice... He severed the braid with one quick stroke, the tail lying slack across his palm. Obi-Wan's eyes didn't so much as flicker. The joy, if anything, increased. He offered the severed braid to the kneeling man, who took it and pressed it to his lips. Qui-Gon frowned, noting the blue beads. Something about them nagged at his memory. Obi-Wan produced a square of clean cloth and carefully wrapped the braid in it, tucking it away. This was a public ceremony...offering the braid was a private act.
One last act to perform as this man's master. One final duty to his Padawan. Qui-Gon touched the sideof Obi-Wan's face, brushing his fingertips along the smooth cheek. He really didn't need the physical touch, but it was a last, hungered-for intimacy. The younger man gazed up at him, some tightly leashed emotion glittering in his eyes. He concentrated, unweaving the psychic tie connecting his mind to Obi-Wan's. The bond uncoiled, spiraling out to dissipate into the Force. A soft sigh escaped Obi-Wan's lips, his eyes closing. Qui-Gon dropped his hand away, feeling hollow.
"Confer on you the rank of Jedi Knight, the Council does," Yoda announced, thumping his walking stick against the floor for emphasis.
Almost over, Qui-Gon told himself. Then he could retreat somewhere private and try to find a way around the aching cold in his spirit.
"I offer the Council and its representatives my gratitude, and beg their indulgence a moment longer."
A slight stir at that. Obi-Wan ignored it, waiting until full silence returned. "Before my fellows, before the representatives of the Council, I announce my intention to swear fealty."
Yoda's ear-tips rose in pleased surprise. Even Mace look approving. The younger Knights and Padawans looked baffled, some of them exchanging puzzled looks. Qui-Gon stared at him, dumbfounded. Fealty? That hoary old custom had fallen into disuse centuries ago, and rightly so. Only the oldest Masters and dedicated historians of the Order remembered it. Obi-Wan had no business digging up that old fossil of a tradition, to have never even hinted at it. No business at all binding himself to--
--anyone but me.
The realization struck him like an open-handed slap, freezing him in place and keeping him silent.
"Great responsibility is such an oath. Prepared are you, for such a sacrifice?"
"I feel this is the will of the Force, my Masters," Obi-Wan said, his apparent bone-deep serenity adding weight to his words. "A Jedi lives a life of service, and I have been directed to offer mine to another of the Order that we both might best serve the Light." He hesitated, some of his formality slipping away. "I have spent months examining this decision, and I have no doubts. I know what I will be giving up--but it is meant to be."
"Does your intended liege stand withyou?" Mace asked.
Trust Mace to know the ritual response, Qui-Gon seethed behind his shields. Who was the intended? What fool thought himself worthy of this sacrifice? But Obi-Wan was shaking his head.
"I have yet to declare myself to my intended," the young Knight admitted. "The Code did not permit me to speak of it until now."
It's someone here, Qui-Gon realized, already searching the expressions of the nearby guests, scrutinizing them to see who was preparing to step forward.
"Then your intended still has the right of refusal," Mace reminded gently.
A small smile flickered, then vanished."I know," Obi-Wan said. "But I do not."
So there was still a chance, if he could learn the identity of this other Knight--and persuade him to preserve Obi-Wan's liberty. He just had to watch...
Obi-Wan accepted the congratulations of his fellows with smiles and soft words of thanks. A few of his friends gave subtle indications that an invitation to join him in a more private celebration would not be refused, but he deterred these with gentle courtesy. He remained alert for the approach of one particular figure. Even in a gathering this size, Qui-Gon could not pass unseen. For all his preparation, however, he was still surprised when he turned and found his former Master standing directly behind him.
"Obi-Wan." The deep blue eyes had darkened, making them unreadable. The Jedi Master's face was closed into a serene, distant mask. "Walk with me."
Not an invitation, and perhaps a shade too commanding a tone to use with one no longer sworn to obey, but the young Jedi fell in beside him with ease. Long habit put him at Qui-Gon's left hand, the place of shield and defender. If he had read the Force correctly, it was a place he would occupy for the rest of his life.
In silence, the two men left the Fountains, making their way to the gardens. To Obi-Wan's surprise, Qui-Gon continued walking, leading them away from the light and lush plant life. The two continued in silence, moving through the gardens and onward into a dim, almost silent part of the Temple. Obi-Wan had learned the read the nature of Qui-Gon's silences, and experience told him his former Master was exerting formidable control over a tidal wave of emotion. The stone hallway opened up onto a terrace, and it was here Qui-Gon halted. Obi-Wan composed himself and waited for his Master--his former Master--to speak.
"Fealty?" Qui-Gon's voice was little more than a whisper.
He debated launching his explanation, then decided to wait it out. He knew this mood.
"There is a reason why that custom has fallen into disuse, Pa--Obi-Wan."
"Disuse. Not discared."
Qui-Gon shook his head, dismissing that. "We are too few as it is, we cannot--"
"Pairs tend to survive missions that have killed single Jedi. Taking this oath doesn't mean I would not be given solitary missions, but that I have chosen to complete all others as part of a pair."
"You can do that without swearing an antique oath," Qui-Gon snapped.
"But I can do it better by taking that oath." Qui-Gon was not taking this well. Surprise, surprise.
"You gained your Knighthood less than an hour ago. The title hasn't even settled firmly on your shoulders, but you're ready to set it all aside. Everything you have worked for your entire life, and you are about to turn it all over to another. If you swear, you will never rise to the formal rank of Master, you will never be permitted to take on an apprentice--"
"Without my Liege's consent. I know, Master. I've read the dictates. I know what I'm doing."
"Do you? Then do you realize there are precious few limits on what you can be called upon to perform for your liege? In the hands of a conservative traditionalist, that oath amounts to little more than slavery!"
"Sounds like you've been doing some reading yourself," Obi-Wan remarked. "Considering it's such an old, outdated custom, you seem to know a great deal about it."
Qui-Gon's eyes had darkened to near-black, glittering with tightly leashed anger. "You've said nothing about this, never even hinted at it. If you felt so strongly, why have you kept silent about it?"
Obi-Wan arched one brow, an ironic smile tugging at his mouth. "In light of your calm, reasoned argument against it, I'll admit to having perhaps borrowed trouble." He sobered. "I'm sorry, Master, I had to wait until now. Until our bond was dissolved. Otherwise, my choice could be challenged under the pretext of undue influence."
Qui-Gon stilled, his eyes asking what his voice would not. Obi-Wan nodded once, his eyes never leaving that familiar, beloved face.
"Yes, Master. You."
Qui-Gon's expression turned utterly blank, even his eyes went dim and cold. Obi-Wan waited, waited to be either accepted or rejected. For all of his attention to the Moment and the Living Force, Qui-Gon didn't handle emotional shocks very well. Experience told him to ride this out, to see what appeared on the other side of this storm.
In silence, his Master--his formerMaster, he corrected himself, sank to his knees on the cold stone, halfway into a trance before he even touched the ground. The turbulence in Qui-Gon's aura smoothed out. As the calm deepened, the young Knight felt something brush against his outermost shields. He almost didn't recognize the feather-light touch, it had been so long since he'd felt Qui-Gon's mind outside the direct channel of their training bond. He smiled in acceptance and thinned his shields to near-gossamer.
Frowning, he opened his eyes and looked at the kneeling figure before him. What could his Master possibly fear in any of this? Still, there it was, hanging between them like the stench of rot and promise of corruption. As if he felt his former apprentice's gaze, Qui-Gon looked up, midnight eyes bleak.
"Yes, my Obi-Wan. I am afraid. It is one thing to choose...another still to be chosen."
What could he mean by-- Memory rose up, blinding him.
Releasing his fear and anxiety into the Force was proving a never-ending process today. Today, he and his new Master would formally declare themselves to the Council. Today, his hair would be cut, and the start of his Padawan braid would be woven by his Master's own hands. He looked right through me, just as all the others did, for years. What changed his mind?
He couldn't ask that, could never ask that. No mere Initiate had the right to question a Master's decision--but Light and Darkness, why now? He'd been packed and ready to leave for the AgriCorps until Master Jinn had swept into the Initiates' dorms and told him to follow. Not that he'd miss a lifetime of talking to plants and luring drinkable water to the surface--but why wait so long?
The Knight of Chambers nodded to him, and Obi-Wan began his walk into the Council chambers. He sternly quelled the tremor in his hands, and kept going. Once inside, he could only see one figure: a tall man, shrouded in the dark brown robe of a full Jedi, standing with his back to the door. Was this the same Council chamber? It had never taken this long to cross it before. A rustle of cloth broke the silence, and his Master turned to face him, drawing back his hood.
Those eyes! So dark and deep, like the rare glimpses you could sometimes catch of Coruscant's true night sky. And the things they'd seen...! Stories of Master Jinn's accomplishments made the rounds of the Initiates' dorms, pieced together from gossip and careful eavesdropping, whispered in the first darkness after lights-out. What did they see in him? Everyone else had decided he'd make a great farmer.
For a moment, he wanted to turn around and run. He couldn't possibly hope to be capable of meeting this man's standards--look at the legend his first Padawan had become! And as for the second--well, maybe forming lasting bonds with a field wasn't so bad in comparison to living in the shadow of the Darkened.
Now he, Obi-Wan Kenobi, was about to become part of that legend, and whether it grew or collapsed depended in no small part on his own performance. I am not ready for this, I thought I was, I thought I could do it, I can't I'm going to screw it up--
He stopped and just stared up into Master Jinn's face. A faint smile tugged at the man's lips, lingered in his eyes. He rested a large hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder, gently turning him so they both faced the Council. Not a full Council, only Master Yoda, Master Windu, and the three Masters assigned as Initiate Guardians.
"Master Jinn, you have a declaration to make to the Council," said Master Windu sitting in what Obi-Wan would later privately call the 'we're waiting' pose. A truly massive leather bound book sat in front of him.
Both hands came to rest on Obi-Wan's shoulders, gentle for all their size and strength. "I have chosen a new apprentice. I take Obi-Wan Kenobi as my Padawan Learner."
An irritated huff broke the solemn moment."Past time, it is. Watch that procrastination does not become a habit, you must," Master Yoda stated, rapping on the floor with his walking stick for emphasis.
"Yes, my Master."
He couldn't be sure, but he thought he heard a smile in the voice.
"Do any object to this declaration?" Master Windu continued, as if the by-play hadn't happened.
"Very well, then. Obi-Wan Kenobi, do you accept Qui-Gon Jinn as your Master?"
"I--" To his horror, the thirteen year old heard his voice crack. No-one laughed, but surely they wanted to. He wished the floor would just open up and swallow him, but that never happened when you really, really needed it to... He cleared his throat, feeling the burn of blood in his cheeks. "I do."
Mace nodded slowly, and opened the huge book on the table before him. He turned to the middle pages, skimming the fingertips of one hand down the page, not quite touching it. With an air of reverence, he turned the book to face the newly-declared pair. Qui-Gon stepped up and lifted the old-fashioned ink pen, dipped its tip into the small bottle and wrote something on the page. He turned, then held the pen out.
Still feeling a little flustered, he joined his Master, automatically taking the pen. He looked at the huge book--and did a double-take.
Names. Written in different hands, sometimes in different languages. One page alone must have at least two hundred entries! Mid-way through the page, one name jumped out at him: Qui-Gon Jinn, written in a crabbed, careful hand on the right side of the page. To its left was a strange symbol of curved and straight lines. Other names: Mace Windu, Adi Gallia, Depa Billaba. One line in particular caught his attention: an entry with its right-hand entry blacked out, the only one so marked in the entire page. The one who had fallen.
Realizing they were all looking at him, he took a deep breath and raised the pen--then halted. He had no idea how to use it, he'd never used a real pen in his life. Master Jinn's hand closed around his own, guiding his hand to the ink bottle, showing him the proper angle to draw ink into the barrel. Then he let go and stepped back. Obi-Wan bent over the book, carefully lettering his name beside the still-wet signature of his Master, holding the tip of his tongue between his teeth as he concentrated. Finished, he set the pen aside with relief.
Master Windu turned the book around again, looking at the names. He waved a hand over the page, quick-drying the ink. Each of the other attending Masters also looked at the new entries, nodding.
"You are recognized as Master and Padawan," Master Windu said. "Learn wisely and well. May the Force be with you."
That quickly, it was over, and he was hurrying at his new Master's heels. The enormity of the situation washed over him. He was on his own, now. Before, he'd known he could rely on his age-mates when he got in over his head, even as they all subtly competed for the attention of the Masters. Now, success or failure rested on his shoulders alone. Knowing a Padawan's duties as outlined in his texts was one thing...living under the critical eye of a Master Jedi no longer seemed quite so straightforward...
The memory faded, leaving Obi-Wan staring down at his Master. Many years had passed since then, even more years since his Master had stood at the edge of such unknown territory. Unused to seeing Qui-Gon wrestling with doubt, he hesitated before speaking.
"The only doubts are yours, Master Jinn. I've made my offer. All I ask is that you step outside the Moment, and fully consider what I have asked. I await your decision--and I will wait, as long as it takes."
He half-bowed to the kneeling figure and retreated, making his way back to the Temple proper.
Duty managed to fill up every spare hour of the rest of the day. There was paperwork to be finalized, turning over Obi-Wan's training records to be entered into the Temple archives. Friends stopped him often to congratulate him on seeing another Padawan knighted. He accepted their congratulations with gracious words and a slight smile, but felt his heart squeeze tighter every time. Many people asked after Obi-Wan's intended, giving him some good-natured teasing about the maverick mentoring a traditionalist. He only hoped he dealt with those comments as gracefully as he had the first. By midday, he isolated himself in the Library--hiding, he admitted it freely--immersing himself in researching the court etiquette of the Chirdasi royal house until long after nightfall. Then he escaped to his quarters and his bed, hoping sleep would give him some needed distance from this dilemma.
It proved a futile hope.
Qui-Gon snapped awake for the fifth time in two hours. Grimacing, he sat up in bed, resting his arms on his drawn-up knees. Sleep was as much an escape as it was a necessity, and his disciplined mind would not allow him to avoid his troubles so easily. He threw back the blankets and made his way to the common room. He left the lights off, contenting himself with the shadowy peace of the quiet room.
What to do about Obi-Wan's request? Stripped of all emotional overtones, Obi-Wan's offered pledge made good, concrete sense. They worked well together, their skill sets complemented each other, and their success rate was admirable, even enviable. He had already decided Obi-Wan would be his last Padawan, so there was no future student to consider. On the surface, he had no logical reason to refuse.
Except he and Obi-Wan were emotional beings, and emotion rarely shared the same path with logic. Should he accept Obi-Wan's oath, those emotions would have to be acknowledged, examined, and dealt with--starting with his own.
He loathed the notion of fealty outside of the Master-Padawan relationship, which had safeguards built into it. A fealty oath between two Knights...an open avenue for corruption and misuse. The Jedi were few enough, none could be spared for the whimsy of exclusive service, not even among their own. A Knight of Obi-Wan's potential should not be fettered by the limits an oath of fealty would place on him.
'Step outside the Moment,' Obi-Wan had challenged him. Centering himself, Qui-Gon did just that and gave himself over fully to the Force.
Time and Space simply...ceased. All around him swirled the currents of the Living Force, a billion sparks and glints of Life tending to itself, spreading out far past his perceptions, disappearing into the future and the past. The farther it stretched, the more unclear it became, until it faded beneath a less familiar pattern. The Unifying Force, as alien to him as the positronic pathways of a droid, somehow terrifyingly separate from Life but bound to it. One did not touch the Unifying Force, one was carried by it. Now, it carried him along a path he vaguely recognized, but could not name.
From this considerable distance, he could sense a rise in tension, his mind/body reacting to something his conscious self did not want to acknowledge. He accepted this as a sign he was moving--or being moved--in the right direction, and continued on.
**What is the root of my disquiet?** he asked, using the speech that was neither of the mind or of the body.
Resentment surfaced first, a writhing thing that continually tried to twist out of his grasp. Resentment towards Obi-Wan, towards the situation. The root reached deeper, however, and other emotions clamored for his attention. Cold, slippery fear, defying definition or resolution. Anger, throwing off fitful sparks. Nothing unexpected really, so why this gnawing sense that he was missing something?
Qui-Gon delved through layers of thought and expectation. Something lay buried here, something that tied these chaotic emotions together into a choking noose around his neck. He slipped past the veils and touched...lust.
Not the clean, simple hunger of being for another, but a seething thing edged with Darkness. Not a lust for flesh or sensation, but a fundamental hunger for control. That one burst of perception lit up his mental landscape like a grass fire, and his entire life now lay revealed in this new light.
His often-expressed contempt of the more...constrained practices and Traditions of the Order...the chafe marks left on his soul every time he was forced to bow his head to collective stupidity, to march out along a path he knew led nowhere...the growling resistance to submitting to any will except his own. Living in the Moment, taken to extremes. Sheer destructive impulse, held in check by his Jedi discipline. Now, he was being offered a choice opportunity to feed those impulses, carefully screened behind ancient tradition. Who would think to observe them too closely?
Qui-Gon pressed his hands flat on the floor, letting the turmoil drain out of him. One fact remained fixed in that emotional storm: time and time again, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi had been thrown together. Whenever one of them had chosen to walk away, the road led him back to the other. The will of the Force? If so, how could he stand against it?
I trust Obi-Wan. I trust in the Force.I do not trust myself.
This was no longer a decision he could make on his own. Qui-Gon bowed his head in acknowledgement, thenrose to his feet. He would dress, then go to the new knight's quarters. He would...seek guidance.
It was well past midnight before Obi-Wan settled down on the couch, barefoot and dressed in a worn but clean set of workout clothes.The last of his visitors had departed, finally leaving him with time to contemplate the day's events. Had he made a mistake in announcing his intentions so soon, so publicly? Qui-Gon was a private man who expected to have his boundaries respected by his fellow Jedi. In all of his musings, he'd never imagined that look on Qui-Gon's face. His former master was a man as well as a Jedi, and every man had faults and fears. What fear had his words awakened in his master? And could they overcome it?
He reached over to the side table and picked up a swatch of white cloth. Unfolding it, he studied the carefully coiled length of his Padawan braid. The four beads gleamed in the low light. Blue was the color of fidelity, the deeper the shade, the deeper the commitment. Four indigo beads, for mind, heart, body, and spirit. Qui-Gon hadn't appeared to even notice them.
A sudden nudge of awareness made him look towards the door. Whoever was beyond the door made no attempt to announce himself, but didn't seem in any hurry to leave, either. Obi-Wan set the braid aside and went to the door. The presence took on a teasing familiarity: warm and deep as a southern river. He hit the door controls and met his Master with a welcoming grin.
"I've been waiting for you," he said, half-surprised to realize it was true. "Come in."
He stepped aside, allowing the older man to pass. Qui-Gon hesitated, then stepped over the threshold. For a moment, Obi-Wan felt a pang of embarrassment over the stark barrenness of his quarters, this box wasn't fit to receive a Jedi Master in. But this was his Master, and he surely hadn't come by to critique his former student's decorating skill--or lack there of.
"I was about to make tea," he said, locking the door. "Would you like some?"
"Yes...that would be welcome, thank you."
Obi-Wan waved him towards the sofa, then made for the kitchen, feeling Qui-Gon's eyes on his back. He'd grown up under those eyes, why did he feel their touch so strongly now? He'd had enough visitors this evening to necessitate unpacking his jars of tea leaves. Some of his year-mates had chipped in and bought him a set of handle-less tea cups for a knighting-day gift (among other, bawdier, things). He rinsed out two of the delicate cups and set them aside. While the water heated, he measured out dried leaves from a numberof the jars. Recently, he had begun to blend his own teas, tailoring each cup to its intended drinker. He found it a soothing hobby. When the water was ready, he poured out and carried the cups to the common room.
"Master, " he said, proffering a cup with a half-bow.
Qui-Gon accepted the cup, his expression unreadable. Habit directed him to sit at his Master's feet, but he recovered in time, settling into one of the two straight chairs instead. An easy silence wrapped around them. Obi-Wan drank a mouthful of tea and waited.
"What does it mean to you when you call me 'Master'?"Qui-Gon asked without preamble.
Obi-Wan looked up from his cup with a grin. "Another definition test?"
Qui-Gon didn't answer, and the young Knight's grin faded. He straightened in his chair and set his cup aside, giving the question his full attention.
"More than your rank and title," Obi-Wan said slowly, giving his thoughts time to translate into words. "It's a name that, at times, seems more you than your given name. It's only one facet of your identity, but it's one of the strongest. In some part of my heart, you will always be Master."
Qui-Gon studied the bottom of his cup like a marketplace soothsayer. "And nothing more?" he asked softly.
A tide of emotion welled up, swept out his next words before he could think to censor them. "Much more, if you'll allow it. I have only waited to be able to tell you."
Surprised blue eyes flashed up, held his gaze for a long moment, then dropped away. "It's not so much a question of what I will allow, but what you will have."
"I don't understand."
Silence stretched out, grew heavy, as Qui-Gon searched for words. "I know something of your ambitions, Obi-Wan."
~How could I not? Every checked sigh whenever I interceded for someone you deemed unworthy of my attentions, how you closed yourself off from me when I argued against the Council until I felt as if I stood alone even though you stood beside me--~
The words struck like a slap of icy water, he felt the cold in his soul. He could only stare at the man seated across from him, the man who would not even meet his eyes.
"You believe me so faithless." Not a question, a dull recitation of perceived fact. "After all you have taught me, all I have seen you sacrifice and endure, you think I would put my ambition over my duty, over the will of the Force?"
The cold was melting now, burning away in the sudden heat. Yes, heat was good, any heat so long as he never felt that cold again. Qui-Gon looked as if he'd taken a blow to the gut.
"Pada--Obi-Wan, I didn't mean for you to hear that. How did you hear that?"
How, indeed? He loosened his grip on the table's edge and sat back. Their training bond had been dissolved, they were both shielded. Cautiously, he tested the currents of the Force around them--and nearly reeled at their swirling strength. We are being brought together, my Master. The Moment has chosen itself.
"I don't know how," he admitted. "But I did. And you haven't answered my question."
"I never doubted your faith, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said, "or your sense of duty. But I am what I am, an old renegade who remains a part of the Order only because my successes outnumber my failures. I cannot change what I am, and I know your opinion on my acts of defiance. With all of that, I cannot imagine what makes you want to do this. I will gratefully receive your continued presence in my life, but I will not accept you as a martyr or a sacrifice!"
The Jedi Master's eyes flashed with heat of his own, his voice taking on the resonant timbre that could make the walls of the Council chamber ring with his declarations. Obi-Wan felt the Moment tremble about them, the flux and eddy of the Force. He rose to his feet and moved with it, coming to a halt before the seated Master.
"I have dreamed of you for years. The memory of your most casual touch lay between me and any lover I sought out. I have loved you in silence, knowing even if I spoke of it, you would not hear me, not so long as I was your Padawan."
Silence. He watched the emotions flickering behind Qui-Gon's dark eyes, though his features remained impassive.
"Tell me. Look at me, and tell me this is all one-sided, that you feel nothing for me beyond what a Master feels for his student. Or tell me the real reason you are fighting this so hard."
A shaky breath, then, "I can't."
"You can. Is this about Order politics or about you and me?" He could feel his heart pounding inhis chest, a new, unnamed tension coiling deep inside himself.
Qui-Gon radiated tension of his own, strung as taut as wire, and as heavily charged. The Master raised his hands, then turned them palms-up in supplication.
"I have had dreams of my own, Obi-Wan." The words dragged out of him, as if rent out by force. Or Force. "It isn't that I don't want to take what you offer--oh, how I want to!--but that I don't know if I can give in return."
"Do you believe yourself so hollow, Master Jinn?" he challenged. "You, who have risked yourself repeatedly for strangers. Why won't you take that risk with me?"
He saw the flash of hope and hunger leap into those brilliant blue eyes, saw it quelled again by ingrained control. Obi-Wan exhaled slowly, a thousand tiny bolts of lightning suddenly dancing in his blood. He folded to his knees before his former Master. Qui-Gon's struggle raged behind his eyes, darkening their brilliant color with shadows.
"What is it?" Obi-Wan murmured, bringing his hands up to rest on the other man's knees. "What is holding you back?"
Large hands covered his own, callused and warm. Rough fingertips traced the veins on the backs of his hands. A slow ripple of awareness, and a cascade of images spun through his mind, an unrelated series of Moments, united by a common feeling. He felt the just-acknowledged hunger gnawing at his own spirit even as it gnawed at Qui-Gon's mind.
~Now you know why,~ the Master whispered in his mind.
"Not why," Obi-Wan breathed, "but what."
He slid his hands along Qui-Gon's thighs, hearing the sharp inhalation of breath. His pulse began pounding, he fought to keep himself still, watching his Master's face intently."Let it feed, Qui-Gon. Let it be fed."
The older Jedi shook his head once in negation. "You're mad."
"I'm willing," he corrected, rising up from his knees. He couldn't hold back a grin. "Eager,even."
Qui-Gon opened his mouth to protest, todeny, it didn't matter what he meant to say, for Obi-Wan swept in to claim that mouth with his own. He tried to put his yearning and growing awareness, his certainty of the rightness of their joining into the kiss. It was a lot to put into one gesture, and the effort left them both breathless.
"You have a bad habit of seeing me as a child," he informed Qui-Gon when he could speak again. "It's time to change that."
As he spoke, he raised his hands to the leather tie holding back his Master's hair and deftly undid the knot. He combed his fingers through the heavy sable strands, spreading them out against the man's broad shoulders. His hair smelled like clean wind and sun-warmed grass. Obi-Wan gathered a handful of the dark, shining hair and pressed it to his lips.
"Do you want to see where we can take this?" he asked, still playing with Qui-Gon's hair.
One word...but it opened up so many possibilities.He traced along the curve of Qui-Gon's ear, trailing down to follow the line of his jaw. The wiry hairs of the neatly trimmed beardfelt slick and lush against his fingertips. Qui-Gon tilted hishead back and Obi-Wan stroked down the arch of his throat, a long,lazy caress. Qui-Gon turned into that caress, his breath warmagainst his palm. Obi-Wan wove one hand into the dark, heavy hair, holding him still. Qui-Gon's lips were firm, yet parted easily to admit his questing tongue. He held the kiss, exploring and being explored, until he was light-headed and dizzy. He brokeaway with a gasp. The lightning had kindled a fire inside him, a fire that flared and roared at every touch to this man's skin. He watched in fascination as Qui-Gon swallowed hard, his hands curling into fists on his thighs, his chest rising and falling as he gulped down air. Obi-Wan slid his hands down Qui-Gon's broad chest.
Qui-Gon's gaze turned dark and hooded, his lips slightly parted. Obi-Wan moved his hands to the broad belt, unbuckling it and pushing it aside. He had to concentrate to keep his hands from shaking, to take his time instead of simply tearing away the barriers between them until he touched bare flesh at last. He straddled the olderman's thighs, already reaching around to work at the intricate knot in the sash. Grinning up at the older man, he shifted hiships, rubbing his growing erection against the muscular thighs. Qui-Gon made a small, choked sound, bringing his own hands upto rest on his former student's hips. The sash dropped away to the floor, and Obi-Wan slipped in under the layered tunics. Warm, sleek flesh, spread taut over muscle and bone met his questing fingers. He kept his eyes on Qui-Gon's face, learning his body by touch.
The corded abdominal muscles quivered once under his questing hands, stilled as Qui-Gon let a slow, hissing breath. The stark lines of his rib cage, the small hollow over his breastbone that cried out for for the touch of lips andtongue. Obi-Wan laved the spot with his tongue, tasting warm,clean skin. From there, it was an easy journey to claim a dark nipple with his teeth, to hold once and let go.
"Tease," Qui-Gon gasped.
"Not yet," Obi-Wan murmured."You'll know when I am."
He grabbed a double handful of Qui-Gon'sloose tunics and dragged them off, tossing them aside. A shiftof his weight, a twist, and they both tumbled from the couch to the floor. Light from the room's single lamp painted a warm golden tone to his skin, warming the silver in his hair to white gold.Obi-Wan found himself drawn in, as inexorably as a planet spun around its sun. No...no...he was supposed to be taking, not falling into a haze of lust and longing. Inevitable, of course, but damnit all, Qui-Gon should have to break a sweat, first. He stilled himself against the warm body in his arms--when had he done that? Didn't matter. He pressed his hands flat against his Master'sback, then slowly, deliberately, curled his fingers in, dragging his nails down the broad, muscled back.
Qui-Gon gave a shuddering cry, arching up under the touch, responding with a fluid purity he had never seen in anyone else. Obi-Wan spread his hands wide and slid themdown along the small of Qui-Gon's back, curving down to rest onhis ass. Qui-Gon was trembling now, tiny shivers that shook through his limbs. A good start...but only a start. Obi-Wan dipped his fingers below the waistband of Qui-Gon's leggings. The hard, insistent heat of Qui-Gon's erection pressed against his thigh, demanding attention. Obi-Wan began dusting kisses along his lover's collarbone.
"I was beginning to worry..."--kiss-- "...that you weren't..." --nibble-- "...enjoying this."
Qui-Gon gave a ragged sigh, one part denial,one part plea. A large, warm hand came to rest on the back ofObi-Wan's neck."Thought you might be somewhere else,"he continued, as if Qui-Gon hadn't reacted at all. "With someone else."
A flare of poisonous jealousy lit up hismind, images he'd carefully never examined before suddenly danced brazenly before his mind's eye. He bit down hard into flesh and muscle to ground himself, to lock Qui-Gon's attention onto him. A choked cry and the sudden tightening of arms around him indicated his success. Let him find a serene way of carrying this mark in his flesh, he thought with savage satisfaction.
He writhed out of the arms holding him,sitting back, his breath coming faster. He tugged on a fold ofthe other man's leggings. "Lose these," he suggested.
For the space of a heartbeat, neither man moved, then the older Jedi seemed to flow out of his remaining clothing. Qui-Gon kept his eyes fixed on Obi-Wan the entire time, sprawled naked and proud under his former Padawan's gaze. Obi-Wan ran his hands along the long limbs, as if the other man were a sale object on display, inspecting his handiwork. The bite mark was already turning purple. He placed his fingertips on the edge of the darkening bruise, tracing along, applying just a bit more pressure than might be comfortable. Qui-Gon flinched, breath hissing between clenched teeth.
A slight shake of his head was the only answer. Obi-Wan continued his exploration, touching everywhere but where his touch was silently demanded. Over the years, he'd had any number of fantasies about this moment, in every possible setting. But it wasn't his time to feast. It was Qui-Gon's hunger that needed to be fed. If he could assure the older man that this appetite could be safely explored with him, all the rest would fall into place. Every nerve in his body hummed and snapped, eager to close the circuit.
Rough hands gripped his arms, dragging him to his feet.
"We're not doing this on the floor," his lover said, the words a deep rumble in his chest.
He didn't have to point out where the bedroom was, Qui-Gon knew exactly where he was going. Obi-Wan's main concern was keeping his feet. If he stumbled, Qui-Gon mightvery well *drag* him to the bed. Qui-Gon paused abruptly at thethreshold, spinning him so he slammed up against the side of thedoorframe. The impact knocked the breath out of him, would leavehim bruised from shoulder to hip tomorrow, but he didn't care.His lover locked one hand at the back of his neck, holding himstill for another hard, ravenous kiss. It felt as if the otherman were trying to suck out his very soul.
The feel of the Master's hard cock grinding against his own pulled a groan from his guts, the sound muffledby the kiss. He wrapped himself around his Master, winding hislegs around the lean hips. Qui-Gon pressed him harder against the doorframe, both hands taking a tight grip on his ass to helpsupport his weight. And all the while, Qui-Gon's insistent tongue probed and thrust into his mouth, a promise of what was to come.
A kiss and a promise, Obi-Wan thought, giddy-drunk with desire.
At last, Qui-Gon dragged his mouth away."We're not doing this in a door way, either."
"No sense of adventure," Obi-Wan gasped. Ooo, I'm going to pay for that, he though, hearing his lover snarl. He couldn't wait.
Four steps brought them to the foot ofthe
neatly made bed. Obi-Wan found himself dumped unceremoniouslyon
the bed. Before he could move, Qui-Gon swarmed up his body,eager
to continue his feast. Impatient hands pulled at his clothes,and
he squirmed out of them,
hearing more than one seam tear. His cock pulsed with a steadyache, begging to be touched and tasted. Strong fingers laced throughhis own, pinning his hands. A hungry mouth clamped down on histhroat, sucking hard at the pulse point. Obi-Wan tried to archup into the contact, but Qui-Gon's weight made it nearly impossible.
"Qui-Gon," he panted, "Master,please..."
His lover released his hands, directingsearing touches along his ribs and thighs. Obi-Wan wrapped hisarms around his lover, stroking whatever he could reach, tanglinghis fingers in the soft, dark hair. Another touch, swift and insistentagainst his shields. He let them collapse with the smallest whimper.
The fierce essence of Qui-Gon Jinn floodedhis mind. The hunger he'd sensed earlier wove through him, andin its wake came images. Images of himself, possessing and possessed,a hundred thousand different ways of being claimed and loved bythe man pressed so tightly against him now.
"Please," he whispered again.
Blunt nails bit into his flesh, draggedup his flanks and over his hips. Obi-Wan bucked up with a near-scream,nerves sizzling with new intensity. His breath sobbed and caughtin his throat. Qui-Gon pushed himself away and gazed down at him,eyes nearly black and glittering with satisfaction.
"Let me tell you how we're goingto do this," he purred.
Obi-Wan shuddered at the silky promisein those words, a-fire with longing for it. "Anything,"he murmured, reaching for his lover. "Any way at all."
Qui-Gon slapped his hands aside. "Situp!"
He obeyed, though he had to prop himselfagainst the wall to stay upright. The scratches on his thighsburned, and the scent of his lover hung in the air like musk.
"Now, be still," Qui-Gon ordered,sliding down.
Before Obi-Wan's passion-fogged braincould anticipate the next move, the older man had settled betweenhis legs and swallowed him whole. His hips bucked once before heavy hands seized hold, pinning him to the mattress. Hard, glorious suction pulled at his cock, wringing guttural cries from him.Nimble fingers stroked his balls, then closed around them in agentle squeeze. Qui-Gon's hot mouth worked on him, tongue pressing against the pulsing vein at the underside. Obi-Wan shouted something that might have been his lover's name, might have been a plea, a command, or just an inarticulate roar of passion. He didn't know, didn't care so long as that wet heat held him tight and deep-- A wet popping sound, and Qui-Gon pulled his mouth off of him.
"No!" Obi-Wan reached out todrag him back.
The older Jedi laughed. "I thoughtI was the greedy one," he said, straddling his lover. "Easy,now," he added, gripping Obi-Wan's slick, wet cock.
Locking eyes with the younger Jedi, Qui-Gonlet out a long, rasping breath, forcing himself to relax--anddrove himself onto Obi-Wan's cock. He couldn't look away fromthose hungry blue eyes. *Force* so tight, almost too tight, andhe couldn't move, wanted to thrust up into his lover's lush heatbut he couldn't *move*-- Qui-Gon grinned down at him like a demonfrom the Sith hells.
"Move," he begged. "Qui-Gon,please."
"Ride me, Qui-Gon. Please!"
"Again," he rasped, shiftinghis hips, but not enough. "Say my name again."
"Qui-Gon, Master, love, *please*!"
"Yes," he hissed in satisfaction,and finally, Light bless him damn him, began to move.
Obi-Wan found his hands pinned again,didn't mind, it gave him some kind of anchor point as he movedagainst the body that rode him so hard--so hard, so good, yes,just like that--
A searing mental touch wove through hismind again, blurring the boundaries between them. Staring up intohis lover's face, he could feel how he filled and stretched theother man, see his own flushed face contorted with passion. Heopened himself wider to that touch, drinking it down like waterin dry land. The dizzying whirl of Qui-Gon's hunger swept overhim again, and he embraced it,wrapping himself in it. It drapedover him like velvet, clung like the muscles deep inside Qui-Gon'sbody, squeezing him tight--and still he found more to give toit. Feeding, and being fed upon, and it was beyond glorious.
His perceptions overloaded and for a moment,he
was back purely in the
physical, awash in the animal grunts and groans rising from boththeir throats, the slap of sweat-slick flesh against flesh.
And then the silver-red spangled hungerrose up again and he grabbed for it, drawing it out of Qui-Gon and grounding behind the boundary of his own flesh. It pierced him, cold and sharp like pain, spread fierce and hot like passion. Qui-Gon's eyes went wide.
The awareness spread like fire under his skin, stretching out to be joined with the other. Qui-Gon flunghis head back and roared his lover's name, grinding down in onelast hard thrust, his seed running hot over Obi-Wan's chest andbelly. The scent and wash of his lover's semen triggered his own climax, and he ground himself up against the other man, pulsing hot and deep inside him.
Qui-Gon crumpled to his side, pulling Obi-Wan with him, sobbing for breath. The young knight touched him with trembling hands, murmuring wordless sounds of comfor tand love. Qui-Gon's hands were gentle on his body now, gentle as only a strong man's hands could be. Obi-Wan closed his eyes, thoughts falling together in his mind. He would have to articulate those thoughts, he knew. Eventually. Soon. When he remembered how to speak. Right now, he felt too good to bother about words.
Qui-Gon's hand stroked over his close-croppedhair, massaging the nape of his neck. "What is it?" he asked huskily.
Obi-Wan remained silent, unsure of how to phrase this next question. When the body beneath him tensed in growing anxiety, he gave up and let the words flow as they willed.
"Qui-Gon...I've no hesitation about sharing your bed or my body, " he began. Very careful wording, there, he had any number of objections to sharing Qui-Gon'sbody with anyone. "I just need to know: is this how you prefer to make love?"
Qui-Gon's midnight eyes turned distant.Obi-Wan cursed himself, drawing back in self-protection. The Will of the Force called him to this man's side. His bed and heart were optional, as the sudden tension reminded him.
"I honestly can't say," Qui-Gon admitted. "This kind of need--recognizing this need,"he corrected himself, "is foreign to me."
"Oh." Obi-Wan frowned, trying to place that in this new mental landscape.
The arm around him tightened, and he reflexively nestled in, pressing himself against warm flesh. After a moment,Qui-Gon spoke, stirring his hair with his warm breath.
"You read me so clearly, and by that reading, reveal more to me that I had ever thought to see."
"And I--" Obi-Wan closed his eyes, buried his face in his Master's neck and just breathed.
~This is what I Saw, what I felt. This is why I offer you my oath of fealty and homage.~ He clung to his lover, hoping this deeper speech would convey what spoken words could not. ~We can each learn through the lens of the other--and two to teach spreads the knowledge further. Two may protect better than one, two may serve as one.~
He trembled in Qui-Gon's embrace, shaking with the need to make him understand.
It took him some moments to respond. That 'yes' trickled down inside his mind and spirit, answering so many questions, quelling so many doubts. Obi-Wan drew back, propping himself on his elbow to better seethis man who lay beside him. The Force swirled around them, attesting to the rightness of this Moment. If he could bear to look away from those serene blue eyes, he thought he might actually seeit flowing past them, a shimmering blue stream of contentment.
Moving with exaggerated care, he touched his lips to Qui-Gon's letting the other man's tongue draw himin. He tasted wonder and acceptance, joy and humility. Large hands stroked over his shoulders, coming to rest at the small of hisback. Strong fingers kneaded and caressed, until Obi-Wan was moaning against his lover's tongue.
This time, their joining was languid and sweet, a relaxation into their new boundaries instead of a discovery of them. The question had been asked, the answer given. The fine details had yet to be worked out, but they would keep until morning. Both men drifted into sleep and dreams of the future.
Once again, they gathered in the Room of a Thousand Fountains. A smaller gathering this time, Qui-Gon's own Master, Mace, and Bant and her Master. For this occasion, Obi-Wan had put off the cream and brown colors of the Jedi Order and donned robes of pure white. The rumor mill stated the Temple Quartermaster had had a minor breakdown trying to assemble formal garb no-one had even asked for in over one hundred and fifty years. Qui-Gon waited until the silence took on a particular quality, then pitched his voice to carry to all of the spectators.
"As a Knight and Master of the Order, I would take Obi-Wan Kenobi, Knight of the Jedi Order, as my oath-sworn companion, in service to the Light and the people of the Republic. Do you, Obi-Wan Kenobi, wish to take on the responsibilities as well as the rights that come with this bond?"
"I do." The young knight's voice was steady and clear. It would take Force-senses to feel the quiet joy flowing from him. Qui-Gon blinked, took a steadying breath and reached for the next part of the ritual.
"Then, Knight Kenobi, before these witnesses swear your oath."
Obi-Wan went to his knees, his robes rustling."I, Obi-Wan Kenobi, in the presence of these other witnesses, swear that with this oath I am become liegeman to you, Qui-Gon Jinn, Master of the Jedi Order. I hereby swear myself to your service, saving only those responsibilities which I bear to the Light. I further pledge to defend you and yours in peace and in war, and through you, the Order and the Light."
The words took on new weight, heavy with intent and meaning. The Force hummed and brightened, swirling around them.
"Before these witnesses, I, Qui-Gon Jinn, pledge to you in turn my fealty and homage." A murmur of surprised voices. He ignored them, staring down into the brilliant eyes of the young Jedi before him. "I further swear to protect and aid you in your time of need, and pursue justice in your causes to the highest levels. I pledge to reward your fealty with love,loyalty with honor, and oathbreaking with just punishment. In return for your service I will owe to you the hospitality of my table at any time that you might call upon it, the protection of my rank and the strength of my arm. "
The energy settled inside him, a more subdued form of the connection they'd found in each other's arms, but no less strong. By the slight widening of Obi-Wan's eyes, he felt it, too. Qui-Gon tore his gaze away, and looked to the spectators.
"You who are our witnesses, do you affirm this bond that we have made?"
Mace spoke for all of them. "We do."
"Wear then this visible sign of our bond, that all may know you my liegeman." He opened his hand, showing Obi-Wan whathe'd concealed there: a concave disk of clear crystal. A single lock of dark hair lay coiled in a four-armed spiral at its center, each arm decorated with an indigo bead. He wore Obi-Wan's braid as his own sign, carefully wound around his wrist.
Obi-Wan gave him a soft smile, as if there were no-one else in the room save for the two of them, and bowed his head. Qui-Gon slipped the tiny medallion over the kneeling man's head. Obi-Wan touched the disk to his lips, then carefully tucked it into the folds of his tunic for safekeeping. The smile stayed in place. The Jedi Master extended a hand to his new liegeman.Obi-Wan caught his hand in a sure grip and rose smoothly to hisfeet. Instead of releasing his hand, Obi-Wan drew him in closer and brushed his lips with the promise of a kiss. Qui-Gon caught a mischievous glint in the younger man's eye before Obi-Wan drew on one of his more sober masks. Together, they turned to greet the well-wishers.