"At least the food should be good," Obi-Wan murmured to his master, who had to bend slightly toward him to hear the soft words.

"Patience, young Padawan. The night will not last forever."

Sighing, Obi-Wan folded his arms, mirroring his master, and schooled his features. Qui-Gon Jinn's latest assignment was proving to be a real yawner: provide minimal, mostly symbolic, security to an annual conference of artisans gathered at the Intergalactic Art Institute on Ubiqua. He and Qui-Gon had already toured the museum where the work was on display: Obi-Wan wasn't impressed, but then clothing and textiles weren't really his thing.

Luckily, all he really had to do was follow at Qui-Gon's heels and look interested. All of the talking fell to the master, which was as Obi-Wan preferred it, at least this time around. He had the feeling that, as Jedi Knights, they were considered somewhat of an archaic art form themselves: decorative and quaint in their utilitarian robes compared to the glitter and glitz of the artists.

"If it were a gathering of weaponry experts," said Qui-Gon, "I'm sure you would be able to summon a bit more enthusiasm. For tonight, however, I fear you must face broadening your education on textiles."

Obi-Wan suppressed a grin. Surveying the reception crowd, he tried to find someone, anyone, interesting to look at. Snub-nosed aliens buzzed around humanoids, who were talking to slimeoids, simians and leathery desert dwellers, while everyone discussed the latest history-making trends in their art. All were dressed in what passed for the height of style in their respective cultures, which made for a mind-boggling, somewhat visually nauseating display. Everyone left Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon alone -- if they looked their way at all; the Jedi presence, albeit required, was superficially necessary at best.

Obi-Wan's gaze was drawn by a woman in her late thirties who was standing near the center of the room. Dressed austerely in a comfortable brown tunic with matching harem pants, she flipped her waist-length brown hair over her shoulder, sipped her drink, and nodded agreement with whatever the tattooed Corellian beside her was saying. Moving closer, the Corellian tried to slide an arm around the woman's waist, but she sidestepped the motion, making it clear without being rude that she was not looking for such attention. With a wry smile of disappointment, the Corellian raised his hands and backed up. Bowing slightly, the woman moved away as her erstwhile acquaintance turned his attention to a delicate Xopian coming his way.

Setting her drink atop a service droid's tray, the woman refused another and wandered toward the main dining room, which was beginning to fill.

"Tengri," Qui-Gon said softly as the woman passed.

Glancing their way, she stopped short at the sight of Obi-Wan in his robes, and blocked the flow of attendees into the dining room, who were forced to move around her. Startled, she slid her gaze quickly from the young apprentice to Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan saw rather than heard her gasp. Qui-Gon held out a hand as though to break the spell his presence seemed to have woven around her, to summon her to his side and let the rest of the people get by.

Crossing the small space between them, she took the hand he offered and stood on tiptoe to kiss him. Leaning down, he met her halfway and showed no sign of hesitance or discomfort with doing so, nor did he seem to want the kiss to stop. In the end, it was Tengri who pulled back first.

Probably due to the impossible angle of her neck from way down there, Obi-Wan noted as he stared. In all their years together, he'd never seen his master greet anyone with such...enthusiasm. Who was this woman?

"What, by all the moons of Saul, are you doing here?" she asked.

Qui-Gon's eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled down at her. "Watching over your conference. May I present my apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi?"

She looked at him, but held onto Qui-Gon, who didn't seem to mind. "How long have you been training with Qui-Gon?"

"Nearly ten years."

She grinned at him. "Lucky man. You don't know how lucky." Looking back up Qui-Gon, she tugged on a strand of his hair.

He lowered his head so that she could whisper into his ear. Their conversation was quiet and private, but one word slipped through Qui-Gon's guard. "...tonight." Tengri stepped back, a satisfied smile on her face. Reaching up, she touched Qui-Gon's cheek, softly stroked his beard before turning away.

What the hell was that? Obi-Wan wondered, staring up at his mentor, who was smiling his own secret smile.

"Shall we go in to dinner?" Qui-Gon said, his voice even deeper than usual. Folding his hands calmly before him, the Jedi Master followed Tengri at a discreet distance into the dining room.

If Master Qui-Gon were anyone else, thought Obi-Wan, I'd think that he just made plans to meet that woman later. Alone. The thought was deliciously tantalizing. So he's got a private life, after all? Well, maybe he's got a private life. I could have misheard it. I could have misunderstood. He might be meeting her on business or to help in some convoluted textile problem for the Republic. Though what textile problem could cause that sort of smile was certainly beyond Obi-Wan's scope of experience as an apprentice.

What was certain was that Obi-Wan wasn't misreading the anticipation pulsing through his master. Qui-Gon practically vibrated with it, although it would have taken someone as familiar with his master's aura as was Obi-Wan to detect it. Outwardly, he gave no sign.

Well, Obi-Wan thought, this evening just became a little less boring.

* * *

Why am I not surprised? Obi-Wan reflected as they found themselves sitting opposite Tengri, who had been joined by a textiles buyer from Ouprey. She blushed to meet Qui-Gon's calm gaze across the table, offered him a basket of cheese baquettes, and totally ignored his apprentice.

That's all right, Obi-Wan thought cheerily. Just forget that I'm here, just pretend I'm invisible. I'll learn more that way.

"Be mindful, Padawan," he could hear his master's voice in his mind.

Yeah, but I don't think you ever meant for me to pay this much attention to you.

The meal was long, relaxed, and intriguing. Dinner partners on either side of the Jedi and the lady engaged them in conversation, and Tengri concentrated on the buyer from Ouprey to the point that by the end of the first course she seemed to have concluded negotiations to supply the alien with 100,000 credits' worth of some sort of clothing designs. But Obi-Wan noticed that, regardless her determination to tend to the business of the conference, certain people's gazes kept drifting back to each other across the table.

Qui-Gon was far more restless than Obi-Wan could ever remember seeing him; for some reason, he kept shifting in his chair, as though he couldn't get comfortable. Given the thick cushioning of the chairs, Obi-Wan wondered what his problem was. He didn't eat much, either. Then there was the fact that Qui-Gon's voice had definitely altered; in all of the years of hearing his master lecture, Obi-Wan couldn't remember ever hearing such low, provocative tones.

In a couple of hours, the dinner was over, and Tengri left the table with a final smile and a nod in their direction. A few minutes later, Qui-Gon gathered Obi-Wan with a look and approached their hosts to bow their departure. Emerging from the Art Institute, Qui-Gon stared up at the lights of the purple night sky and began strolling toward the spaceport hangar where their ship was located.

Obi-Wan could stand it no more. "Who is she, master?"

"Someone I helped a very long time ago."

"She must have been very grateful," Obi-Wan tried again after he realized t hat Qui-Gon wasn't going to volunteer any more information. "It's obvious she cares for you very deeply."

Qui-Gon shot him an inquiring glance, and Obi-Wan hastened to clarify his thoughts. "It's seldom... unheard of, really... for me to see you greet anyone with a kiss."

Qui-Gon sighed. "You're not going to forget this, are you, Padawan?"

"I would prefer not to, Master."

"You're looking forward to hearing the details, aren't you?"

"Yes, Master. If you'd care to share them."

"And you heard me agree to meet the lady... later, didn't you, Padawan?"

"I believe so, master."

They strolled on. When Obi-Wan dared to glance up at his master, he saw that a quiet, contemplative smile lit Qui-Gon's usually austere features.

"Tengri is very special to me. I've known her a very long time."

"You're friends, then?"

"No, Padawan. Much more than friends. Tengri is my mistress."




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