"If here is where it all may end --
another place that I have never seen --
and now the time to start again,
I realize tomorrow's where I've been.
I stole across the sands of time;
I'll never know when life began to end."

-Miriam Stockley, "Miriam"

Chapter One

Eyes open, yet distant with absolute concentration and communion with the Force, Obi-Wan shifted his balance and reached for the next position in his kata. Naked muscle and sinewy limbs obeyed; nothing trembled or refused his demands.

[Is he slowing the movements even more?] wondered Qui-Gon, standing with arms folded at the edge of the grass that ringed the small garden attached to the rooms they'd been assigned on Sarsden. Raising an eyebrow, he watched as Obi-Wan slowed the exercise a fraction more, commanding his body with exquisite control and extending his expertise without his Master demanding it. [I am impressed.]

The kata the young man had chosen to perform over the last six months was the most difficult a Padawan could attempt. Not only did the positions demand, as a foundation, a physical perfection that most Padawan didn't bother to attempt, but Obi-Wan's mind had to merge with his body to successfully direct and guide its movements. This kata was an intricate dance that, depending upon the execution, either looked magnificent or totally incompetent. It demanded that each position be held motionless as marble for a traditional length of time before the Padawan's body was allowed to flow, in torturously slow increments, into the next position.

Qui-Gon knew how deliberate Obi-Wan's choice had been: in preparation and execution, this kata was an exercise in patience. If Obi-Wan could Master it, he would Master his own inborn, endless impatience. Qui-Gon could feel the concentrated effort it took to maintain the dance, could hear the mantra Obi-Wan had chanted for hours in meditation. [Perfect balance, perfect grace, perfect union with the Force.]

[Perfect,] Qui-Gon agreed, watching the sweat-sheened body move into the last positions. Tiring now, Obi-Wan sped up the kata as he moved into the next phase. [You are exquisitely beautiful, my Padawan.]

Desire jolted through Qui-Gon, making him gasp and arch slightly with the force of it, but with no great surprise. Arousal at the sight of his Padawan came quickly these days, as it had for months. Qui-Gon had all but gotten used to being half-erect around Obi-Wan. While the feeling was not unpleasant, the evidence of it could often be inconvenient. More than once, he'd had occasion to be grateful that Jedi robes hid so much from view.

What surprised Qui-Gon was the fact that he'd never had this problem before, had never been attracted to any other man. He'd watched countless padawan and Jedi in competition. Most had been half-naked and visions of perfect physical beauty. He'd admired their physiques, and their technique when it was warranted, but he'd never wanted to touch them. Not one of them had made his fingers tingle with desire. It had gotten so bad that cutting his padawan's hair was an exercise in torture. Showering together after practice had become impossible.

[Fool,] he sighed to himself. [You're too old for this. And he's far too young for it. And so, we endure. He has but a few months before I announce to the Council that he is ready for the trials. Once he perfects this kata, he *will* be ready. And then we will part. And his perfection will be with me no longer.]

Turning away as Obi-Wan completed the exercise, Qui-Gon swallowed hard against the tightness in his throat. [Son, friend, brother: I love him, would die for him. And I believe that I am also in love with him.]

"Master?" came the breathless, confused voice, so familiar and beloved. "Are you alright?"

Straightening his spine, Qui-Gon prepared a smile and turned around. "You are improving daily. I am much impressed. By Coruscant's autumn, you will have Mastered that kata."

"You think so?" Striding past Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan headed for the bath. Leaving the door open, he turned on the shower and stepped beneath the spray. "I don't feel all that confident. My mind still wanders, I get distracted."

"So what else is new?" Qui-Gon called over the sound of the water. Leaning against the door, he watched his student soap himself, and shifted uneasily as his erection grew. "With practice, Obi-Wan, you will triumph. But you know that; you don't need me telling you."

A snort was his Padawan's only reply: derisive, disrespectful and contradictory, all rolled into one. And totally Obi-Wan. Pushing away from the door, Qui-Gon sighed and went back out into the garden.

[It's my turn to discipline my own wandering mind,] he reflected, folding his long legs beneath him and settling into the posture he'd used in meditation for more than four decades. Steepling his hands, he closed his eyes. [You are not the only one who gets distracted, Padawan.] Between his legs throbbed a constant reminder of that distraction.

[Endure,] he ordered himself, directing his mind away from the demands of his physicality. [Ignore it; it will go away. At least for awhile. I hope.]

* * *

"How much longer before these negotiations are completed?" asked Obi-Wan, once more dressed and only slightly damp from his shower. Rubbing his hair with a towel, he encouraged it to dry.

Their mission to Sarsden had been an exercise in absolute, exhausting delicacy. One never said no to anything asked by the natives; to do so would have been interpreted as a grave insult to their king and his courtiers, which would result in the instant execution of whoever had given offense. Qui-Gon's skills as a diplomat had been sorely tested during his negotiations with the king on behalf of a neighboring, somewhat tactless planet desiring to purchase medical technology from the Sarsdenians. For Obi-Wan's part, all he'd had to do was be polite, walk two paces behind Qui-Gon, and eat whatever had been placed before him at the succulent banquets held every evening at the palace.

[Not a problem,] the always-hungry Padawan reflected.

"I have one last meeting this morning to tie up loose ends. You needn't attend." Qui-Gon handed Obi-Wan a communications disk. "Would you mind reviewing my notes before transmitting them to Chancellor Valorum? I've the uneasy feeling that I've forgotten something."

"You, Master?" Came a well-arched eyebrow and a look of disbelief amusement.

"Yes, well. I haven't been feeling quite so perfect as usual, these days."

Obi-Wan frowned at the derisive half-smile Qui-Gon gave before turning away and shrugging into his cloak. "Master?"

With a sigh, Qui-Gon laid a hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Calm yourself, Obi-Wan. Everyone has an off day now and then. Even me."

[His hand is shaking,] Obi-Wan realized. [Perhaps the negotiations have been harder on him than I realized.]

"Thank you for..." Qui-Gon hesitated, and disturbed blue eyes held Obi-Wan's for a long moment before he finished. "Thank you for all of your help. I value it more than you know."

Reaching up, Obi-Wan clasped the long-fingered hand that was still draped across his shoulder. "Are you sure everything is alright?"

A knock came at the door, interrupting them before Qui-Gon could reply. Turning away, cloak billowing, he let his hand fall away from Obi-Wan's shoulder.

"Enter," he called.

A beautiful young woman with cat-slanted green eyes glided into the room. Folding her hands meekly, almost in supplication, she knelt before Padawan and Master and offered a shy smile.

"In gratitude for your service here, my king wishes to bestow a gift upon the two of you."

Kneeling beside the courtier, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan followed Sarsdenian custom and enclosed her hands -- Master's over hers, Padawan's over his. Each touched their forehead to the tips of her fingers.

"My Padawan and I would be honored to accept the gift of your king. However, his majesty expects me in conference this morning--"

"The gift will be given to your Padawan," said the woman. "Will he please come with me for the receiving?"

Qui-Gon bowed his head. "Of course."

"I would be honored." [I'll see you later, Master?]

[Well before dinner, Obi-Wan.]

Taking the hand the woman offered, Obi-Wan indicated that he would follow her. Rising, he let himself be led through a tangle of palace hallways. If he was ever to find their rooms again, he'd have to use the Force to guide himself.

Leaving the opulence of the palace far behind, the courtier led Obi-Wan into an underground complex that was obviously dedicated to medical practice. Bare white walls and floors replaced the tapestries and sculptures decorating the palace above. Med-droids strode by purposefully, pushing gurneys and equipment.

[What sort of gift do they give down here?] Obi-Wan wondered. He dared not ask, knowing that such a question would be considered an intrusion and an insult.

Their journey ended in a small room dominated by a long, intimidating piece of machinery that looked like some sort of huge, cylindrical scanner outfitted with a conveyor belt. Immense and potentially frightening, it was pierced by a hole in the middle, just large enough for a human body to fit through when it was placed on the belt that seemed provided for just that purpose.

Stepping behind the thing, the courtier announced, "You will lie here, please?"

Obedient to the end because he was required to be if he valued his life, Obi-Wan did as she asked. He almost expected restraints to be added, but the woman merely moved to a wall console and began punching keys.

The belt moved smoothly, delivering him feet first into the scanner-thing. Bright light blinded him and he closed his eyes. A foul smell assailed his nostrils, and then the world went black. The last thing he remembered was a loud hum and an almost unbearable heat on his body.

* * *

When he awoke, the world was different. Everything looked slightly bigger than normal. His bones felt lighter. And he was alone. [Where?]

He found himself back in the bedroom he'd shared with Qui-Gon for the past two weeks. Sitting up, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and nearly fell sideways because the energy he'd needed to complete the action only that morning proved an effort in overkill this time. It felt almost as though the planet's gravity had changed -- or else his muscle mass had.

[That's impossible.] Rising, he swayed on feet that suddenly seemed too small. [What the Sith is wrong with me?]

The mirror opposite the bed answered the question the moment his eyes locked onto the image revealed there. He saw the reflected face lose all color, watched himself sway even as his vision darkened and his knees grew weak. Approaching the mirror, Obi-Wan reached out and touched his reflection. The face and the hand he saw brought a low moan to his lips. And then, for the first time in his life, he fainted.

* * *

For the third time that morning, Qui-Gon shivered against a disturbance in the Force that bore Obi-Wan's signature.

[Padawan?...] He sent the mind touch softly, subtly, and with much worry. [What is wrong?]

Sheer panic and shame met that call. [Oh, gods. I'm sorry, Master. I didn't mean to intrude. It's not important. Just, please, ignore me.]

[I cannot, *would* not. You are in distress. This meeting will be over soon. I will join you then, and you will tell me what is wrong.]

Absolutely misery and dread flowed through their bond at that mandate. And then, all was silent.


A mental sob was his only answer. Releasing the connection as his apprentice turned away from him mentally, Qui-Gon focused his attention back to the jovial king and willed him to end the meeting then and there.

Chapter Two

Qui-Gon strode into their assigned chambers like a warrior heading into battle, with lightsaber drawn and powered up, only to find himself confronted with darkness. Obi-Wan had drawn the curtains, had extinguished the lights. Passing through the common area, the Master sought his student's presence in the bedroom, but found it deserted. Nothing seemed amiss, everything was in its proper place. Returning to the common area, Qui-Gon searched their bond and discovered the disturbed aura that was Obi-Wan pulsing from the garden.

Throwing back the door leading onto the terrace, Qui-Gon paused on the threshold and let his eyes follow where the Force told him to look. Not fifteen feet away, only a few inches from where Obi-Wan had completed his kata that morning, a brown-cloaked figure leaned with its back against a shallot tree. Its hood was raised to conceal its face, its arms were wrapped around itself. Terror and distress billowed from outward, even as it seemed oblivious to Qui-Gon's arrival.

[Obi-Wan?] Qui-Gon thought softly, powering down his lightsaber and clipping it to his belt before moving slowly forward. [What is it, Padawan?]

Coming to stand beside his apprentice, Qui-Gon slid his hand over the younger man's shoulder. "I'm here, Obi-Wan."

Even as he spoke the words, he realized that the shoulder beneath his fingers did not feel the same as it had that morning. The bone was smaller, slighter. But it still *felt* like Obi-Wan.

A shiver of foreboding rippled down Qui-Gon's spine. He cast his thoughts back to the morning. "Did you receive the gift the king had in mind for us?"

A brief nod.

"What was it?"

Silence met that question, until a low moan drifted from beneath the cloak. On a sigh, Obi-Wan moved, shoving back the sleeves of the cloak to reveal two small hands. Reaching for the hood, those hands pushed it back and let it fall. Swallowing hard, Qui-Gon's apprentice lifted his head and stared up at his Master, who took a step back.

"By all the gods," he breathed. "What have they done to you?"

It was not Obi-Wan, and yet it was. The woman staring up at Qui-Gon had Obi-Wan's hair and his Padawan braid, but there the resemblance ended. Familiar, haunted green eyes looked out from a face so delicate, Qui-Gon worried that his broad hands might shatter it if he dared to do so much as brush a finger down her cheekbone. The cleft in the chin remained, as did the small ears. But the neck had become impossibly slender, and the shallow collarbone revealed by the now-too-large cloak bore witness that this young woman's build and bone structure was far less solid than Obi-Wan's had been. Whereas the top of Obi-Wan's head had reached Qui-Gon's nose, this woman could fit beneath his chin.

Once Qui-Gon had seen all that could be seen while his Padawan stood wrapped in the cloak, the Maseter wrapped his fingers around the edge of the heavy material.

"Obi-Wan?" he murmured, demanding entrance with a gentle, tentative tug.

She dropped her hands and closed her eyes.

[Permission to enter, I assume?] Qui-Gon lifted back one side of the heavy material and had his fears confirmed: the body beneath was entirely feminine. And Obi-Wan was breathing so rapidly, so shallowly, that Qui-Gon was afraid she would hyperventilate.

Closing the cloak, Qui-Gon closed his own eyes for a moment. [I'm the Master, I'm supposed to have all of the answers. But what am I supposed to do with this?]

Opening himself to Obi-Wan's feelings of deep shock and outrage mingled with fear, Qui-Gon sent what he hoped was calm reassurance through the bond they shared. Leaning down, he tentatively slid his arms around Obi-Wan. [He's strung tighter than an Alderaanian lute. Will he allow this touching?]

Gathering Obi-Wan in for a hug, even as he had gathered an injured doecta only the month before in Coruscant's park, calmed her, and carried her to the park authorities for treatment, the Master hugged his apprentice as hard as he dared and murmured, "Everything will be all right, Padawan. I will make it all right."

"I'm really happy to hear that," a low, attractive and definitely feminine voice responded, through gritted teeth, "because I'm obviously in no condition to help myself."

The voice was different, but the aura, emotions and especially the fierce delivery were so familiar that Qui-Gon almost laughed. Almost. Holding Obi-Wan as gently as he could, he shifted closer but dared not tighten his grip until Obi-Wan did it for him.

He didn't have to wait very long. Sliding her arms around Qui-Gon's waist, Obi-Wan burrowed into the safety of her Master's embrace and shoved her nose against Qui-Gon's chest, all in an obvious, if totally ineffective, attempt to hide.

When next Qui-Gon spoke, it was with his cheek braced against the top of Obi-Wan's head. "Padawan, how did this happen?"

"They've got some sort of machine down in the basement," she muttered into Qui-Gon's cloak. "That courtier made me go inside, and I came out like this. At least, I think I did. I don't really know what happened. I blacked out and when I woke up, I was back in our rooms."

"This, then, is the gift the king wished to give us?"

Shrug. "I don't know. I don't care. And I sure as Sith don't appreciate it. But..." Raising her head, she ventured, "I know that we can't ask the king to reverse the process -"

"If it's even reversable," the ever-reasonable Qui-Gon pointed out.

Fierce storm clouds lit the green eyes. "They have the technlogy to do this to me; they can damn well undo it!"

To ask them to do so is to ensure that we both die," Qui-Gon pointed out. "Is that what you're trying to accomplish?"

Shoving out of Qui-Gon's embrace, Obi-Wan paced around the tree. "It has to be obvious what I'd like to accomplish -- isn't it?"

Qui-Gon watched his Padawan go, robes trailing in the dirt. [He's lost at least four inches. All of the old clothes will be too large now. Have to get him -- er, her -- new ones.]

"Are you listening to me, Master?"

Qui-Gon pulled himself back to attention, even as he realized that he was staring hard at the young woman his apprentice had become. [If I thought he was beautiful as a man... I don't know what to call this.] His body did. Already, it was responding in ways that Qui-Gon knew would cause trouble.

"I'm sorry, Padawan. I was just... thinking."

On a sigh, Obi-Wan flung herself down against the trunk of the tree. Wrapping the cloak closer, she stared off into the distance. "I'm stuck with this, aren't I?"

"For now, I'm afraid so." Sinking down to sit cross-legged beside her, Qui-Gon thought aloud. "This is the situation we've been given; we must both deal with it."

"Yeah? Well, you're not the one who woke up a girl. Nothing's happened to you, so I think it's going to be a lot easier for you to deal with it than it is for me. In all of my nightmares, I never envisioned *this* happening."

"Nor I. But the negotiations are completed, Padawan. Our ship awaits to return us to Coruscant."

Obi-Wan took a moment to digest the news. "So I have to go back home and show everyone at the Temple the new me?" He shivered. "What about my being your apprentice?"

Qui-Gon met his apprentice's gaze steadily, serenely. "Your sex changes nothing between us. I could have chosen a female apprentice all those years ago. You know as well as I do that lightsaber techniques have nothing to do with the physical strength of your opponent. Male or female, we meet as equals in competition or in battle."

"Is that what you'll tell the Council?"

Qui-Gon shook his head. "I will not have to defend our continuing relationship, Padawan. 'Judge not by appearances,' remember? The Council is not so hypocritical that they will remove you from my care. Adjustments will have to be made to our lifestyle and in your lessons to accommodate your new body, but I believe that you find that things are, in the long run, easier for you."


Qui-Gon nodded briefly. "Male opponents tend to underestimate female opponents. In addition, your build is more compact now, less gravity bound. The aerial maneuvers you love so well will be easier for you to execute. You may even manage to slip past my guard once or twice a session."

That earned him a dark look. "If that's supposed to make me feel better, it's not working."

"Mmmm. We'll see." He dared to let his eyes crinkle at the corners.

Obi-Wan shook her head. "I don't like this, Master."

"Given time, perhaps you will find things to like about it, until we can make arrangements to change you back. If you think about it as a new experience, a temporary adventure?" Off of Obi-Wan's skeptical look, Qui-Gon continued. "Once we are back on Coruscant, I will make inquiries. Surely, this is not the only planet in the galaxy arranging these sorts of...."

"Sex changes. That's what they're called. For the record, I've never wanted one."

Getting to his feet, Qui-Gon said, "Be that as it may, you have received one. Let us go home and further deal with the matter there, in safety."

On a sigh, Obi-Wan gathered her robes and rose. Leaning down, Qui-Gon grasped her elbow and lent his support, as any gentleman would aid a lady to her feet. Once upright, Obi-Wan rocked back, stared up at Qui-Gon, and narrowed her eyes.

Recognizing his error, the Master gave an apologetic half-smile and withdrew his hand. "I'm sorry, Padawan. Habit, I suppose."


They stood staring at each other for a moment until Qui-Gon realized that he was still instinctively yielding to Obi-Wan's femininity and waiting for his Padawan to precede him into their rooms. From the rebellious expression on Obi-Wan's face, Qui-Gon knew that the offer had been recognized and refused long before Qui-Gon had even realized what he was doing. Resisting the urge even then to usher her before him, Qui-Gon drew a deep, heavy sigh, gathered his robes and his dignity, and walked in front of Obi-Wan.

"This is not going to be easy," he muttered beneath his breath.

"You can say that again."

Chapter Three

"I'll meet you in our quarters, all right?" Obi-Wan spoke from beneath her hood, not waiting for her Master's reply before taking the first branching hallway in the Jedi Temple and all but sprinting away.

Their trip back to Coruscant had been uneventful, except for the fact that Obi-Wan hadn't climbed out of her cloak for a moment during the journey. She wanted new clothing that fit, and right now. Arriving at General Supply and Stores, she stalked past the droid clerk -- who didn't even give the Jedi a glance -- and into the order/sizing booth. Punching Qui-Gon's purchase code into the computer, she hesitated at the "Name" screen, which listed Master Jinn and Padawan Kenobi's former self.

[If I call up my old body, I'll get my old measurements and the droid will balk at changing the sizes. Not only that, if I get my old body back -- no, let's make that *when* I get my old body back -- I'll have to size myself all over again. Best just to add a new person.]

She did, naming herself Obi-Two just for the sake of clarity. [Now, what to order? Three sets of Jediwear, two cloaks, necessary underpinnings...]

[Sports bras?] Obi-Wan shuddered, but ordered them. Four of them. [This is going to take some getting used to. The only thing that could make this worse is if Qui-Gon were here -- or if I had to deal with some human salesclerk rather than a droid taking my measurements.]

On a sigh, she continued down the list. [Boots. Definitely need boots. Two pair. Mine are far too big now. And running shoes. And swimwear.] Another shudder. But it was necessary and, suddenly, the entire magnitude of what she was doing was just too much. Shoving away new feelings of panic, Obi-Wan grit her teeth and completed the order. [I'll get whatever else I need later.]

Trying to ignore her reflection in the mirror covering one wall, she dropped her cloak, shrugged out of her old, baggy clothing, and gave permission to the service droid to begin working.

The measurements were taken swifly, impersonally. She stood with her eyes closed throughout the entire process, muttering only, "Bring one complete set of clothes and boots to me here. Deliver the rest to my quarters."

"Yes, sir."

Slotting itself back into the wall console, the droid buzzed and whirred its information to the next droids in line. Even as Obi-Wan covered her nakedness with the cloak and waited impatiently, her order was completed by mechanicals in the back room that sewed new tunics and leggings according to his new measurements. In a matter of minutes, a droid knocked at the booth door. Slitting it open, Obi-Wan all but grabbed her new clothes.

Pooling the old cloak at her feet, she all but leaped into the familiar tunic and leggings. Never before had she been so grateful for clothes that fit. Smoothing down the front of the tunic, she wrapped the new utility belt around her waist, snatched up her lightsaber, and went to clip it in place.

Halting momentarily, she stared at the weapon in his hands. They were small hands, now -- too small to grip it properly. The saber that Obi-Wan had built specifically to match *his* hands and *his* aura, the saber that had been a living extension of *his* mind and intent, now felt bulky, unbalanced, and wrong in her hands. Stunned, Obi-Wan realized that she'd have to construct a new one. It was just one more humliation. What diabolical new ones would the universe have in store over the next few days? Or months?

In the meantime, she still had the knowledge and the right to carry the weapon. Squaring her narrow shoulders and determined to deal with the situation as best she could, Obi-Wan clipped the weapon to its accustomed place and continued dressing.

The boots fit beautifully, hugging her small feet and feeling as though they weren't even there, which was a major requirement in practice, on missions, and in battle. Getting to her feet, Obi-Wan finally raised her head to confront the reflection in the mirror.

A small young woman with a decidedly defiant expression glowered back at her. Her eyes were hostile and defensive, her expression stressed. She wore a tunic three sizes below the one Obi-Wan used to wear.

[I look like my little sister,] she groused, [if I had a little sister.]

Dismissing the reflection with a wobbly sneer, Obi-Wan bundled her old clothes in the cloak and exited the booth. Crossing to the counter where the droid clerk waited, she slid the bundle across the counter.

"See that these are delivered to my quarters along with the rest of my order."

"Yes, Jedi." The droid shoved a credit board and stylus toward Obi-Wan.

She whistled low at the total waiting there, feeling a momentary twinge of conscience that her Master would have to pay the bill.

[On the other hand,] Obi-Wan thought as she signed the board, [my Master can't very well insist that I run around naked, can he? And it's not as if I don't need this stuff. I sure wish I didn't.]

Thank you, Jedi," came the tinny dismissal as Obi-Wan left the center.

Obi-Wan made a deliberate effort to slow her walk through the temple hallways, knowing that to rush would attract unnecessary attention. Though the seven ringed worlds of Alcazor might be on fire, a Jedi *never* hurried through the Temple. One meandered, at peace, even if one had to pretend -- which Obi-Wan did this time, slamming up her mental shields and refusing to meet anyone's gaze.

Reaching the last bank of elevators she had to navigate before reaching the level containing his and Qui-Gon's rooms, Obi-Wan punched the button and all but bounced impatiently on her feet as the car took its sweet time in arriving.

"So, are you and Master Epping entering the latest competition?" Obi-Wan heard Mace Windu's voice behind her.


"My Master is thinking on it."

That voice would belong to Epping's gossipy little apprentice, Tong-Maxel. Staring straight ahead, Obi-Wan wondered if it would look too obvious if she simply turned and walked away.

"And you, young lady?" A heavy hand landed on her shoulder. "What of you and your Master?"

"I..." Obi-Wan glanced up at Windu, who blinked in confusion as he stared down at an apprentice he didn't recognize. The elevator chose that moment to arrive and Obi-Wan stepped forward, only to find her progress halted by Windu's hand, which pressed insistently upon her shoulder.

"A moment of your time, if you please, Padawan?" The Jedi Councilman's voice was cool, low, and deadly.

Obi-Wan froze in place as Windu's hand went to the hilt of his lightsaber. [Oh, this is great. He probably thinks that I'm some witless imposter and security threat from the seamier side of Coruscant.]

Tong-Maxel hovered at the Master's elbow, eyebrows climbing as he stared at Obi-Wan. Looking more than a little interested at the developing conflict, the apprentice didn't bother to shield his thoughts.

[Gods, what a looker,] Obi-Wan heard through the Force.

[Does he mean me?]

"Tong, your Master awaits," said Mace Windu, his gaze never shifting from Obi-Wan.

Bowing slightly, Tong-Maxel backed into the elevator. "Yes, Master Windu. Good-night, sir."


Tong's wink and grinning leer reinforced the Force-driven thought delivered straight into Obi-Wan's mind. [I'll remember you, babe.]

An insistent hand at Obi-Wan's elbow guided her away from the bank of elevators.

"How is it, Padawan, that I know every apprentice here, but do not recognize you?" Windu demanded, his voice all but a growl.

Folding her hands behind her and trying to project harmlessness, Obi-Wan stared at her boots. "I've... changed... since my Master and I visited Sarsden, sir."

"You claim to live here at the Temple?"

The briefest nod.

"And your Master is?...."

"Qui-Gon Jinn, sir."

She heard Windu's swift intake of breath, felt his shock ripple through the Force. A large hand claimed Obi-Wan's chin to lift it roughly. Defensive gray-green eyes met Windu's dark brown. For a moment, the Jedi Master simply stared, letting his gaze rove the fine features.

"Obi-Wan?..." he finally rasped.

"Yeah. It's me," she said darkly.

Windu swallowed hard. "How did this happen?"

Obi-Wan offered a bitter smile. "I'm sure that my Master is working on a report even now that explains it. I'm not too happy about it, myself."

"You didn't seek this...change?"

"You have *got* to be kidding!" She all but snarled, wrenching her chin out of the Master's grasp and backing up a pace. "This has been a very bad week, and we just got back this morning. I came down here to get some new clothes 'cause mine don't fit any more. I don't want any trouble, Master Windu. I'm not *causing* any trouble. I'm just standing here waiting for the elevator to take me home. And, to answer your original question, my Master and I *are* registered to compete next week, but I don't know if he still wants to. Now."

Obi-Wan and his Master had been looking forward to the competition, where Master and Padawan were paired to fight others until only one set of champions remained. For the first time during Obi-Wan's training, Qui-Gon had said that they had a very good chance of winning. [Well, I went and wrecked that, now, didn't I?]

Much to Obi-Wan's chagrin, her eyes began filling with tears, and a sob caught in her throat. Pushing past Windu, who was still standing slack-jawed with shock, she stomped back over to the bank of elevators and punched the button. Again.

Watching Obi-Wan go, Windu noted the fully masculine stride being sported by this delicate creature. Grinning, he followed after.

"Um, you might want to tone down that walk of yours, son... er... Padawan."

Obi-Wan stared up at him, totally uncomprehending.

Still grinning, the Jedi Master slowly circled the apprentice with an appraising eye. "It really *is* you."

Obi-Wan bit her lip to keep back the sarcastic reply that at once came to mind.

"The Council would be very interested in hearing about this," Windu was all but babbling now. "In all of the annuls of Jedi history, I don't think there's been another case like this. Please tell Qui-Gon that we'll expect him first thing tomorrow morning."

The elevator door opened. "I'll do that."

Stepping inside the car, Obi-Wan slammed her fist into the button commanding the door to close. Before Windu could follow, she was on her way up. Without the Master.

* * *

Obi-Wan was crying openly by the time she reached the rooms she shared with Qui-Gon. The door slid closed behind her, locking the rest of the world out. She leaned her back against it for a moment and tried to release the tension, tried to let the grief channel through her and into the Force, tried to comprehend everything she'd been only yesterday, and had now lost.

"Obi-Wan?" a familiar voice spoke from Qui-Gon's sleeping room. And then he was there, filling the doorframe, broad and immense, and Obi-Wan had never been so conscious, nor so jealous, of the man's size and masculinity.

Pushing away from the door, Obi-Wan bowed slightly and swiped at the tears coursing down her cheeks. "Master Windu and I met at the elevators. He was most amused to learn of the changes that took place on Sarsden. He desires that we attend tomorrow morning's Council meeting. And I didn't mean to disturb you, Master. I know that I should be meditating."

She almost made it to her own room. Almost.

"Before you go..." Qui-Gon murmured softly.

She didn't turn around. "Yes, Master?"

"Tell me what you are feeling, Padawan. What you are thinking."

Turning, she raised his hands and stared at them.

"Look at these." She waggled his fingers. "They're small and vulnerable. All of me is vulnerable now, and I feel totally inadequate in ways that you probably can't imagine." She eyed her Master's bulk. "No, let's make that in ways you *definitely* can't imagine, Master."

Crossing the distance between them, Obi-Wan took Qui-Gon's hands in her own. Turning them palm up, she laid her own hands across them. They fit, like a child's inside its father's.

"All you'd have to do is close your fingers and squeeze, and there'd go all of the bones. Pulverized. Useless. And I couldn't do a thing about it."

Qui-Gon's gaze reflected back Obi-Wan's pain. "You aren't that vulnerable."

Obi-Wan nodded. "Yes, I am. Until I learn how to adjust to this, I am. Weak. A liability fighting beside you."

"Liabilities can be changed into advantages. You know that as well as I do."

"With time, yeah. Sure. I can adjust and relearn." She lifted her tear-stained face, clear green eyes locking into Qui-Gon's worried blue. "How many more years will this add to my apprenticeship, Master?"

A sad smile flitted across Qui-Gon's lips. "Are you so eager to be rid of me, Padawan?"

She shook his head. "No. But I felt strong and competent yesterday, Master. Almost a Jedi. And you were proud of me, of what I could do. Now...." She curled his fingers halfway around Qui-Gon's wrist -- all he could reach. "The whole world is too big now. Even my lightsaber, and I"ll have to make another one. It's not all that difficult, and of course I know how, so it's stupid to cry about something like that. But can I stop the tears?" She shook her head and shrugged. "Nope. Not yet, anyway. I don't even understand all of the reasons why I'm crying. Everything I used to know... it's all changed."

"Oh, Padawan...." Qui-Gon stroked down Obi-Wan's cheek, erasing a tear track.

Obi-Wan let him. Fighting about it just didn't seem worth it right then. Especially not with this man, who had always known all of her secrets, fears, and dreams. On a sigh, she closed his eyes and leaned into Qui-Gon's touch when the big man cupped the side of his face. Resting in the coolness, in his Master's quiet strength, Obi-Wan continued.

"I'm really dreading having to bathe this body," she confessed. "I don't even want to practice with you tonight, because I'm afraid that I won't be able to do anything I could do yesterday. I look into people's faces, and they react in ways that frighten me." Opening her eyes, she stared up at Qui-Gon, who was listening intently. "Where am I in my training now, Master? Who am I, now?"

"I don't know, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon whispered, daring to caress the jaw beneath his fingers. "But we will learn together. I promise that you will not be alone on this journey." His blue eyes contained worlds of thought, unspoken: [My love and my care is all that I have ever had to give you, and time enough to learn. There has never been anything else. Is it enough, Obi-Wan?]

Tentatively, as though fairly certain that Obi-Wan would refuse him, Qui-Gon stepped back and offered a hesitant, crooked smile before opening his arms. That small space between them was another offering, Obi-Wan knew: space enough for her to shake her head, to refuse the comfort offered. No offense meant, none taken, and Qui-Gon would leave his Padawan to her meditations, leave her to handle the tears alone.

Even that small space was too big this afternoon. Two steps, and Obi-Wan didn't think before sliding her arms around Qui-Gon's waist. She did it because she needed to be closer, needed her Master's strength, support, and unchanging maleness -- as though Obi-Wan could absorb part of it into himself somehow, and be reassured by it.

Qui-Gon was much bigger than Obi-Wan had ever realized, and when he embraced his Padawan, his arms more than came around her. The Master bowed his entire body over her, enveloping her in such love that she shuddered with the enormity of it. Burrowing even closer, she sighed and released most of the tension and the worry, felt it dissolve under Qui-Gon's solid protection and caring.

Qui-Gon's large hands dared to caress the small of Obi-Wan's back, making her push her hips more strongly against Qui-Gon's thighs, accepting the soothing comfort and wanting nothing more than to believe that everything would be all right, that Qui-Gon could make it all right.

"We will meditate together," Qui-Gon rumbled, and Obi-Wan felt the vibration deep inside herself. "Afterward, we will have dinner and--"

"Practice," she whispered. "My 'saber is all the wrong size, now."

"It will do for this evening. After the Council meeting tomorrow, we will construct a new one for you."

Qui-Gon held Obi-Wan for a very long time, feeding calm confidence and love through the bond they shared, steadying his breathing and letting that breath stir the top of Obi-Wan's head. Slowly, Obi-Wan came to match her Master. Eventually, she allowed Qui-Gon to lead the way over to their huge bay window, overlooking the Temple gardens.

"Do you feel able to meditate now?"

Obi-Wan nodded, released her Master, and sank to her knees. Settling himself, she looked up. "Would you care to suggest a focus?"

Qui-Gon thought a moment. "Spacial relationships, I think. Contemplate where the subjective you ends and the objective universe begins."

[Where shin meets table in the dark,] Obi-Wan thought. [Or lightsaber becomes an extension of self.] Nodding, she accepted the assignment.

Qui-Gon smiled slightly to see his Padawan's thoughtful look, the furrowed brow that turned his expression almost into a scowl. [Ah, Obi-Wan... Some things will never change.]

With a sigh, his Padawan relaxed into trance. After watching over her for a few minutes more to assure himself that Obi-Wan had found her spiritual center, Qui-Gon knelt beside her and followed after.

Chapter Four

"Ouch! Sith take it!" Spinning about, Obi-Wan all but dropped her lightsaber, tossing it to her left hand and shaking out her fingers, which had just been stung by a well-placed blow to the hilt.

Qui-Gon spun his lightsaber easily and paced before her. The Master's body tensed, his blue eyes smoldered with a kind of heated, contained energy Obi-Wan was all too familiar with. "Where is your center?"

"Nowhere near my hand! Why did you do that?"

"Because I could. Theoretically, you now have no fingers and are incapable of holding your weapon in that hand. Where is your center?"

Before he'd stopped speaking, Obi-Wan had swung into the offensive and launched herself at him, expecting the easy power of well-honed muscle to answer as it always had for years.

Without the slightest hesitation, Qui-Gon repelled the attack. In less than three slamming blows, he drove Obi-Wan backward across the mat, making her all but whirl and run from him. Obi-Wan did the next best thing: she flipped over Qui-Gon's head in hopes of gaining some distance, some control. She quickly discovered how stupid that was, since Qui-Gon's tall frame let him pivot, take but a single step forward, and engage Obi-Wan's weapon so quickly and so closely that she nearly wasn't there to block it.

Their 'sabers clashed so hard, Obi-Wan's teeth vibrated. Her Master was so close, she could feel the overwhelming power radiating off of him. She had the feeling that Qui-Gon wasn't even half-trying to defeat her; his command of the Force and 'saber technique was absolute. It was what made him a Master, a great part of what defined him. It was also what he usually clothed beneath a veneer of calm dignity and gentleness. His was the ultimate training: to attack with powerful hands, spirit and body, accelerating sharply to an almost inhuman speed.

Obi-Wan had thought that she understood the way of the austere warrior after dueling with Qui-Gon and fighting beside him for so many years -- almost from the moment they'd met. But she knew now that she's taken too much for granted. Today, she understood how little she actually knew of the man.

Qui-Gon Jinn's strength, knowledge and experience had protected his apprentice. He had made every effort to teach it to her and she had learned, but couldn't use it now. She could see it in him, feel and almost taste his power as they breathed together. She was drawn into that power, fed on it, and knew it as so very male. Only now, Obi-Wan understand that Qui-Gon's heavy masculinity was much of what made him a Master, and one of the greatest among the Jedi. He had been teaching it to Obi-Wan, who had been adapting it to his own abilities and needs. But it was useless knowledge now, all gone.

Shivering slightly as her Master's breath stirred her hair, Obi-Wan backed up a step in an effort to put some distance between Qui-Gon and her pounding heart, only to know instantly that she'd made a mistake.

Shoving Obi-Wan's shoulder, and not even bothering to use the Force to do it, Qui-Gon sent her spinning away. The Master's unforgiving lightsaber came streaking after, seemingly intent upon beating Obi-Wan down into total humiliation. Obi-Wan twisted desperately in an attempt to out-reach her Master and failed miserably as her shorter arms couldn't compete with Qui-Gon's long limbs. There was no question of getting under his guard; all Obi-Wan could do was backpedal and try to protect her vitals.

All of the power Obi-Wan had worked for years to acquire... it simply wasn't there. Qui-Gon was longer and faster, more aggressive and just plain better at what he was doing. He gave her no room to maneuver or to breathe, much less to fight.

[I can't come anywhere near him,] she lamented. [His arms are so long, it feels like he's always on the other side of the blasted *room*!]

Sheer desperation made Obi-Wan continue the fight long past the time when she should have conceded defeat. She tried every technique she'd been taught, and a few she thought up on the spot. Yet nothing worked; Qui-Gon could defend all too easily against everything that Obi-Wan knew to do. Her lungs burned and her arms began wavering, but pride would not let her stop.

It was Qui-Gon who finally put an end to it. Locking his weapon against Obi-Wan's, he tangled the pulsing, sputtering blades around and around before slamming it down and out of Obi-Wan's hand. She let it go, not giving a damn when it rolled across the mat, far away from her. Dropping to her knees, she sucked in great gulps of air. Blinking against the sweat running in rivulets down her face, she wiped it away almost viciously and noted with deep resentment that her Master wasn't even winded.

[Why should I bother making a new lightsaber?] she wondered. [I'm not going to do any better with it.]

Peripherally, she was aware that Master Windu had slipped through the door into the private practice room. Keeping to the shadows beyond the mat, the Councilman watched quietly.

"I could behead you where you sit," Qui-Gon growled, stalking behind Obi-Wan like a menacing desert cat. His booted feet whispered over the mat until he stopped and stood with his legs against Obi-Wan's back. His lightsaber thrummed in the silence; Obi-Wan could see its green glow out the corner of her eye. Qui-Gon's words were quiet, for his Padawan's ears only, and the bulk of his body shielded both of them from Windu's view.

Leaning over, Qui-Gon casually tangled Obi-Wan's braid around his finger, pulled steadily on it to get him to raise her head. The gesture was so dominant and so possessive that Obi-Wan didn't know whether she liked or hated it. The confusion rising inside her drove her even further off balance.

"Stand up, Padawan," Qui-Gon all but purred. His lips teased so closely, Obi-Wan could have sworn that the Master was kissing the soft skin just behind her ear.

Obi-Wan gasped as pure desire spiked deep within her -- a feeling totally unlike any he'd ever felt as a man. In the 'him' she'd been, arousal had spiraled outward, reaching and swelling. Now, it was a flame deep within, contained and yearning for Qui-Gon to do something else, anything else, to make the spiral come again. When Qui-Gon did not, the flame faded to almost nothing, but Obi-Wan sensed that it was still there, would always be there, waiting for Qui-Gon to ignite it again.

[That's damn unsettling!] she thought to the inner part of herself that she felt had betrayed her.

"Call your weapon to you." That voice again. In the same place. Stirring behind that same ear. "Find your center. Padawan."

Qui-Gon breathed the last word into Obi-Wan's ear, and suddenly she couldn't think or breathe.

"Master?" She looked over her shoulder and found Qui-Gon's face so close that she could have kissed his cheek. "What are you doing?"

"Teaching you, my Padawan."

Almost, his lips brushed hers. The next moment, Qui-Gon swept his saber around, and Obi-Wan knew that she had no time to get away from the weapon. Yet she had to -- *had* to -- if only to prove to herself that he still could.

Force-leaping sideways, she commanded smaller muscles that answered instantly, and with far less effort than she'd had to expend if she'd still been a man. She barely made it, but make it he did.

Landing on one foot at a right angle to Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan kicked his wrist with her other foot. The blow landed true, flinging the weapon wide, but Qui-Gon summoned it back before it hit the floor. The blade barely had time to extinguish itself before it was back in the Master's hand and alight once more, but by then Obi-Wan had removed herself from any immediate danger.

[He tried to kiss me, and then he tried to KILL me!] Obi-Wan knew the supposed betrayal was only another lesson. She could protest how unfair it had been of Qui-Gon, or she could fight. She snarled down the first option and wondered why it had occurred to her at all. She'd last had that reaction as a frustrated, hormonally unbalanced Initiate years ago, and she'd certainly never felt the need for it with her Master, no matter what Qui-Gon put his Padawan through. Reaching out, Obi-Wan commanded her saber to her hand. [At least I can still do this!]

Balancing with muscle-fatigued effort and trying desperately to conceal it, she never saw the flash of approval in Qui-Gon's eyes.

"Where is your center?" he demanded yet again, stalking his apprentice yet again across the mat. His voice was all but a growl, his eyes still held the same 'Quarter-be-damned!' look Obi-Wan had seen in real battles.

[Yes, but it's never been directed at *me* before!] "Master, I--"

"You what? Padawan!" he growled. "*Where* is your center?"

Obi-Wan didn't bother powering up the 'saber. Instead, she stood calmly in the first position even as Qui-Gon loomed over her, the Master's own weapon tight over his head, ready to strike.

[You won't hurt me,] Obi-Wan thought into the bond between them. [If you hurt me, it won't teach me a thing.]

Obi-Wan knew that her Master was shielding his thoughts even as his eyes still threatened certain death, but she didn't care. What Qui-Gon was really thinking didn't matter. This session between Padawan Learner and Master was all; the lesson to be gained meant even more. If Obi-Wan couldn't learn it, if she ended by being fearful of her own Master, then she might as well just hand Qui-Gon her saber and walk out of the Temple then and there.

[Forget it, Master. I just don't believe you. And I don't need to fight right now. I need to *think* about this.]

Feet spread slightly, the now-ungainly lightsaber held lightly before her, she closed his eyes. Seeking peace within, she pondered what her Master wanted her to learn. Fighting only to fail certainly wasn't it.

Qui-Gon still stood before her; Obi-Wan could feel it. And then she heard the lightsaber deactivate.

"Do you remember visiting Queen Shagura's stables, Padawan?" Qui-Gon asked, and the words were no pleasant reminiscence to pass the time. Urgent purpose lay behind them.

Obi-Wan all but jumped when Qui-Gon's fingers slipped around her wrists, the Master's hands halfway up her arms because those hands were so big.

"Do you remember the stallions -- supremely strong, confident and dangerous in their virility?" He was using that voice again; the one that made the flames build inside her. "Do you remember the one that drove at us -- all screaming, flashing hooves and sharp teeth?"

Stepping closer, he leaned against Obi-Wan, who leaned away.

"Before Sarsden, you fought like a stallion," he murmured, running his hands up to Obi-Wan's shoulders. "And it worked."

Obi-Wan could feel the all-powerful strength in Qui-Gon's touch, felt the rumble of his voice, and knew herself helpless in this new body. If Qui-Gon chose to challenge her on a purely physical level, she couldn't win against those muscles.

[There's one lesson: I'm no longer a stallion,] Obi-Wan acknowledged. [I have to accept that and use it. There has to be a way.]

Qui-Gon slipped a hand behind Obi-Wan to caress the length of her back before pressing his hips against hers. All thought of what Obi-Wan was attempting to learn, attempting to discover in order to defend herself against this man, fled.

"A stallion will rage at you again and again until you are down and bloody and dying -- or you wish you were," the Master murmured. "But a mare...."

Pulling Obi-Wan up tight against him, Qui-Gon lifted his apprentice slightly. With his free hand, he cupped Obi-Wan's chin. Knowing it would irritate her, Qui-Gon did it anyway, just to ensure that he had his Padawan's full attention. Obi-Wan's eyes flew open, and their green depths were not friendly. Qui-Gon didn't care.

"A mare will drive you away." He enunciated every word. "She will run at you, slash you, whirl and kick you. And then she will take off. The stallion tries to kill you. But the mare drives you away." Lightly, she brushed down Obi-Wan's nose and gave a half-smile. "Where is your center, Padawan?"

Releasing Obi-Wan so abruptly that she almost fell back, Qui-Gon resumed his pacing, watching, and waiting. Inscrutable blue eyes bore into Obi-Wan's own clouded gray-green.

Shivering so hard that she knew Qui-Gon could see it, Obi-Wan glowered. [Stop confusing me even more than I already am!]

Ignoring Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan took the liberty -- and the risk -- of closing her eyes again and trying to think things through. [Force guide me, please. He's making everything a tangle in here, but I have *got* to work through this in the next few minutes. Where am I?... Never mind where is he.]

[... I have to work a lot harder at fighting now and I'm not getting anywhere near the same results as before.] Swiftly, she ran through the fight they'd just finished. [I'm a girl now, so how would a girl do it? How would a mare drive Qui-Gon away?]

She let the images flow.

[I can't fight from strength. I'll have to use speed and skill,] she realized. [Hit and run; get in, get out. I can do that.] A smile threatened the corners of her mouth. Obi-Wan slammed down on her hope, lest her Master sense it. [And don't get cocky; this might not work.]

[Where is my center? Where *was* my center?] In Obi-Wan's mind, she set her old body and her new one side by side. [The most obvious difference is that I don't have the same muscle mass as before. My predominant strength used to be in my arms and shoulders, in my upper body. Just as is *his*.]

[Women carry theirs lower,] she realized. [That means my center is lower, in my solar plexus and hips. So... I should spine and my hips more? Let's see where that gets me.]

Opening her eyes, Obi-Wan powered up her lightsaber and braced her feet a bit less widely than she used to. Aligning herself over this new center -- which was deep within, where the flames Qui-Gon had ignited still smoldered -- she nodded readiness to Qui-Gon, who startled Obi-Wan by holding up a hand to halt the session before it had even begun.

"A moment, please." Whirling, he strode off of the mat and up to the group of at least four Council members who were now lurking in the wings.

[Where did they come from?] wondered Obi-Wan, lowering her saber. [I didn't hear them come in.]

"This is a private session," Qui-Gon all but growled at the intruders. "While I'm sure that the rumors regarding our adventures on Sarsden have flown fast and furious, now is neither the time nor the place to confront them. We will see you at the Council meeting tomorrow morning. For now, we'd be grateful if you left us alone."

One by one, they filed out of the room. Even at a distance, Obi-Wan could feel their embarrassment through the Force.

[Oh, this is great,] she thought. [It's bad enough that I've always had the Council's eyes on me because of Xanatos's failure and my Master's rebellious reputation. Now I've got to deal with their reactions to the new me!]

Only Master Windu remained behind to challenge Qui-Gon, who gestured at the door with his still-lit lightsaber. "You, too."


"Tomorrow." That low voice held a warning that brooked no argument.

Windu heeded the warning and followed the others out the door. Following close on Windu's cloaked heels, Qui-Gon waited until the door had closed behind him. Thumbing his saber's intensity up a couple of notches, he drove the pulsing blade into the controls. Metal melted abruptly in the beam's wake, demolishing the circuitry and locking the door until such time as someone sorted through the molten mess to manually open the door.

The only other way out of the room was through the locker room. Placed in the center of the huge square building, it served as a hub for the surrounding practice rooms, with the exterior corridor running the perimeter of the building. Traditionally, no one walked in on anyone else's practice session unless they were invited: the Council members had definitely overstepped their limits.

With all possibility of distraction removed, Qui-Gon returned to confront his apprentice, who was gaping in amazement at the destruction her Master had just created.

Taking a deep breath, Qui-Gon centered himself within the Force. Obi-Wan felt him let go his anger, could feel the almost-tangible emotion dissolve in the bond they shared, and was astonished that her Master had felt it in the first place.

"You were angry... on my behalf?" she asked. "Because of their intrusion?"

Qui-Gon arched an eyebrow before safely switching down the intensity on his lightsaber once more. "Is that so amazing?"

"I can't imagine such a thing happening, say, last week, no matter the circumstances."

"For a great many years, what has occurred in this room between us has been private and very special. I am not willing to surrender that. To anyone. Are you ready, my Padawan?" Blue eyes flashing, he raised his saber and waited. But not for long.

Bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet, Obi-Wan lunged and Qui-Gon answered... nothing but air. At the last second, Obi-Wan took a great leap sideways, beyond Qui-Gon's immediate circle. Whirling, she danced in to slash down the Master's biceps, then quickly danced away.

Gritting his teeth against the tingling blow, which signaled that his arm would be numb for the next five minutes, Qui-Gon murmured, "Coincidence, Obi-Wan, or enlightenment?"

"I'm not telling." Obi-Wan's smile faded when Qui-Gon narrowed his eyes. All too aware of his vulnerability, Obi-Wan found herself waiting somewhat anxiously for her Master's next move. [This is not good... once you start defending only, you've lost the battle.]

Driving forward, Qui-Gon initiated a blur of assaults that had Obi-Wan once more skittering backward. Throwing herself forward into a tight roll, Obi-Wan leaped up behind Qui-Gon before the Master had a chance to turn. And then, her lightsaber was at the Master's throat, threatening but unwilling to hurt this man.

"You have no head, my Master."

Powering down his lightsaber, Qui-Gon acknowledged defeat. Turning, he looked down at his apprentice. "Again, I ask you, Obi-Wan: luck or skill?"

"Luck," she answered honestly, extinguishing her own weapon. A quizzical look slanted her green eyes. "Do you mind if I do some experimental exercises by myself tomorrow? I need to see what, exactly, this body can do. Will you watch and tell me where I need improvement?"

"Of course." Qui-Gon's warm gaze told Obi-Wan that's what he'd been doing for years.

Chapter Five

[Why would I stop now, when I have always watched over you?] Qui-Gon wondered.

He reflected that watching over his apprentice had never included cutting him -- or her -- any slack. Especially not now, even though Qui-Gon's every instinct demanded that he protect the new Obi-Wan with everything he was. The Jedi Master's hard-won experience and wisdom killed that impulse. [She will not learn how to survive in this new body if I shield her.]

Unfortunately, after only one practice session Qui-Gon had realized something Obi-Wan had not: [In a great many things regarding Obi-Wan's technique, we are back to square one. Intellectually, she still knows what to do, but her body no longer answers instinctively, because all of her instincts have changed. She must now forget most of what she thinks he knows, and rebuild. She is no longer close to being ready for the trials, and I cannot bear to tell her that at least two years have been added to her training. I also cannot simply let her idle with her present knowledge, hopeful that we will discover a way to change her back. The Council will not wait: she must be prepared for the missions which, even now, we are scheduled to complete. She must learn quickly if we are to re-establish the easy, off-world partnership we both enjoyed.]

Together, they wandered toward the men's locker room.

"Meditate tonight upon your new center," Qui-Gon said aloud, sliding a companionable hand across Obi-Wan's shoulder and all but tucking her beneath his arm as he did so -- not necessarily by choice, but by virtue of his great height. "By tomorrow's practice session, I predict you will have a great many ideas with which to experiment."

"Hope so," Obi-Wan growled. "As badly as I was doing earlier, there's nothing for me to do but improve."

Qui-Gon halted a few feet from the locker room entrance, while his apprentice continued on a few paces without him.

"Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon's voice made her stop and cast an inquisitive look over her shoulder. "Are you certain that you wish to enter that particular room with me?"

"Huh?" She shrugged. "Why not? We both need a shower." Remembering in the next instant why Qui-Gon was asking such a question as she stood at the threshold of the men's locker room, Obi-Wan blushed furiously. "Oh. Right."

Ducking her head, she backed away from the open entry. Passing Qui-Gon, she summoned an embarrassed smile.

"I'll, uh,... I'll just go over there, all right?" Obi-Wan cocked a thumb toward the entrance to the women's locker room, which was further down the wall. "See you later. I guess."

Whirling, she all but sprinted away as Qui-Gon gave a tolerant half-smile.

* * *

[Damn this,] thought Obi-Wan, slinking inside the chamber and praying to whatever gods that seemed bent on torturing her that it would be empty. It was, except for two naked women standing before the lockers, toweling off. Before Obi-Wan could help herself, her gaze swept down the length of one woman, and then the other. Inevitably, she waited for the rush of blood to her loins -- the sudden, fierce arousal that always followed each and every time he had seen a woman in any state of undress.

That arousal didn't come. In fact, Obi-Wan felt nothing at all and may as well have been staring at the rain falling outside the window of her sleeping chamber. Lost in total confusion, she headed for a private shower, stripped down, and stepped quickly beneath the hottest water she could bear.

[What's *wrong* with me, besides the obvious?] she wondered, letting the falling water beat on him, massaging the tension from his muscles as best it could. It didn't help much. [I should be writhing with desire right now, cradling my testicles and pretending that I'm out there with their lips on my... non-existent... whatevers.]

With a sigh, she braced her forehead against the cool tile, closed her eyes, and began soaping herself all over. [I should be feeling *something* for those two out there... shouldn't I? And what about what I feel for *me*, my own body?]

Opening her eyes, she stared down at the body she was cleaning. Her Padawan braid trailed between . breasts. Small, firm breasts. [Just like I used to like 'em.] Obi-Wan's hands followed the soap bubbles to discover that she now had a narrow waist, flat stomach, and very nice hips with bones that jutted out slightly. Running her fingers over the bones, she waited expectantly for desire to coil tightly within her.

She waited in vain. Bending slightly, she soaped her legs and between her thighs. She enjoyed the tight musculature of those legs, admired the way the new muscles instantly and easily obeyed her demands, but that was definitely all. For Obi-Wan, running her hands over herself was like... Well, it was a lot like running her hands over the surface of one of the cool marble sculptures in the Hall of Memory.

[A great... big... so what.]

If Obi-Wan dipped his fingers between her legs, she assumed that she probably could have coaxed a satisfactory reaction from her new body. But creating sexual desire through mere physiology?

[That'd be cheating. And frustrating.] It wouldn't prove a thing, and it certainly wouldn't resolve her confusion regarding what she no longer seemed to feel about the opposite... er... the gentler sex.

[It would be all in my mind, right? And that hasn't changed. I think. I hope?] Beyond which, she *knew* that she wasn't ready for the totally unfamiliar, even more confusing sensations that touching herself would probably cause.

[So my DNA's been changed so much that I no longer give a damn about feminine beauty,] she thought bitterly. [Not even my own.]

Wafting her fingers over her totally unimpressed nipples, she simply stood in the spray of the water, held her breasts and wished, waited, and hoped against hope for some sort of familiar, *male-ish* reaction to her new femininity.

[Nope, not a twinge,] Obi-Wan reflected sadly. Sighing, she gave up and began washing the soap away. No shivers, no spiking desire between her legs. Not even a curled toe. Just a sweet, clean little body with lots and lots of problems.

Deflated in more ways than one, Obi-Wan exited the shower and grabbed two towels -- one for his hips... er, make that her torso, and one for her hair. Bundling her sweaty clothing, she padded with great dejection down the hall and back into the common chamber. Grimacing an acknowledgment at the other two apprentices -- one of which had dressed and was waiting for the other woman to finish a wrestling match she was having with her tangled Padawan braid -- Obi-Wan laid her clothes on the bench and proceeded to towel dry her hair.

So what if I stand around naked?] came the rebellious mental challenge. [You were. It's no big deal, 'cause I'm definitely one of you. Right?]

Gathering a neatly folded stack of clothes from a nearby bench, the taller of the two women approached Obi-Wan.

"Master Jinn brought these for you," she said shyly, her brown eyes reflecting warm sympathy. "You *are* Obi-Wan?"

"Yeah?" [So what I've become is common knowledge, now?] Inwardly, Obi-Wan cringed, even as she reached for the clean tunic the Padawan offered, and dove into it. The leggings followed just as quickly as she could towel off and get them onto her slender legs.

"I'm Kee-Lahn." The other apprentice bowed slightly, a formal greeting from a younger Padawan to an older.

[Why's she bothering to be so respectful?] Obi-Wan wondered. [A lot of people would be laughing themselves sick at the sight of me.]

"It's really too scary, what's happened to you," Kee-Lahn said softly, as though she didn't want her companion overhearing their conversation.

It suddenly occurred to Obi-Wan that perhaps that companion didn't yet know who she was now. Perhaps Qui-Gon had been more than a little discreet while delivering the clothing?

"I'd be a total wreck if somebody turned me into a man," Kee-Lahn was continuing. "It can't be easy for you to handle...this..." She swept a hand down, encompassing Obi-Wan's dilemma. "If there's anything I can do to help, just ask, please?"

"Thanks for the offer," Obi-Wan whispered, blinking back tears at the unexpected kindness from a stranger. [Sith take it, why do I want to cry all the damn time!]

Kee-Lahn continued, "You probably don't remember me, but I was two years behind you at the Temple. I've watched you practice a lot with Master Jinn. You've always taught me something."

Obi-Wan managed a heartsick smile. "I don't think you'll want to watch me now. I'm not doing so great these days."

She tilted her head in sincere inquiry. "What's the problem?"

Obi-Wan was less certain about accepting the young woman's help, regardless such was part of the Jedi Code they'd all learned as children. Still, she'd never been one to let her fears rule her.

"I'm too small now, and my Master's too big. Nothing I've learned seems to really work anymore."

Kee-Lahn nodded understanding. "My Master's just as tall as yours. You'll just have to learn to dance very fast."


"Our size helps a lot because it makes us faster than most guys." She sent Obi-Wan a few images. "Think fast, fierce and ruthless. Do as much as you can in the air, 'cause most men are really earthbound. By the time your opponent reacts to where you are, you're just not there anymore."

Along with the images came companion emotions of determined female ferocity that had Obi-Wan rocking back and staring at Kee-Lahn.

"I can't do that!"

"Yes, you can." Her brown eyes were sincere. "You *have* to do it if you want to survive with Masters like ours. And then there's the missions we'll face alone after we're knighted. You've just got to do it, Obi-Wan. And a lot more."

She stared at her new friend, who sighed deeply.

"Look," Kee-Lahn continued, "not to be rude about it, but yesterday you had a lot of brawn and only a few brains." She laughed outright at Obi-Wan's shocked expression. "Don't look at me like that. It's true. Trust me: after a few weeks of living as a woman, you'll *know* it's true."

"Do you think that of my Master, as well?"

Kee-Lahn had the grace to look appalled. "No way! Qui-Gon Jinn is *always* totally in balance. His brains and his brawn are just fine. No, make that *really* fine." She grinned.

"But I'm not?"

Kee-Lahn's grin widened. "Nope. Sorry. At least, you weren't as a *guy*. I predict that you'll catch on really quick, now that you're a girl. You've just got to think a lot faster and remember that your brawn isn't nearly as dependable as it used to be. We women are softer, more delicate, and definitely less strong. It's not our fault, it's just the way nature designed our bodies. To make up for that, we have to be... slightly villainous, shall we say... in our fighting techniques? Don't be afraid to get really creative. Try new things to out-think your enemy."

"Master Jinn is my *enemy* now?" Much to Obi-Wan's chagrin, her voice squeaked at the end.

"On that mat, he sure is. Out there, he's definitely not your great good buddy, or he's not being a proper Master to you. He won't be with you forever, 'Young Padawan.'"

Obi-Wan blushed to recognize the imitation Kee-Lahn could do of his Master's delivery.

"Your Master's muscles are going to teach you things you've *never* had to learn before," Kee-Lahn promised. "If you learn those lessons, you'll win. If you don't...." She shrugged. "Well, you can call me to commiserate when you need a shoulder to cry on. And somebody to dress the burns."

Getting to her feet, Kee-Lahn offered a last, lingering smile. "You'll do fine, Obi-Wan, if you just get used to the idea that you're going to have to be a lot more devious now if you want to make your lightsaber work."

"I'll... give it some thought."

Gathering her friend, Kee-Lahn left the locker room, waved a good-bye to Obi-Wan on her way out.

"Oops, sorry. Didn't know you were standing there," Obi-Wan heard her say to someone out of sight, around the corner.

Without reaching in the Force, Obi-Wan knew that Kee-Lahn had almost run into Master Jinn, who was probably waiting for his Padawan. Gathering his sweaty clothes, Obi-Wan trailed after Kee-Lahn.

Chapter Six

Pushing away from the wall he'd been leaning against while letting the two apprentices pass, Qui-Gon loomed over Obi-Wan. His blue eyes were filled with concern as his Padawan took the carry-all he offered and knelt to tuck away his things inside it.

"How was your shower?" Qui-Gon asked.

Zipping the carry-all, Obi-Wan kept it when Qui-Gon would have taken it from her.

"That's all right; I've got it." [I'm still your Padawan, still here to serve you as always, Master. And I think I can carry three krills of clothes.]

"Well, the rest of the world was definitely naked in there," she replied to his Master's question and shrugged. "But I didn't care." Looking up, she locked his worried gaze into Qui-Gon's. "Master, am I *supposed* to not care?"

Ducking his head, Qui-Gon tried in vain to hide a smile. "It just means that you're not attracted to naked women, Obi-Wan."

"I used to be." His tone dripped displeasure.

Amusement sparkled through the Master/Apprentice bond. "Do you realize what it would mean if you *did* still desire them, Obi-Wan?"

"Sure. It would mean that I'm still a full-blooded, totally capable... er... um...."

"Yes, Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon urged him to complete the sentence.

Realization and embarrassment flooded across the bond he shared with Qui-Gon. "I don't think I'm ready to make love to a woman as a woman quite yet, Master. Actually, I don't think I'm even ready for this discussion. Let's just forget it."

Laughing outright, the Jedi Master hugged Obi-Wan so hard, her feet left the ground.

"It's all right, Padawan. Sincerely all right. There's nothing at all wrong with you. If you are not attracted to women, perhaps you are attracted to someone else."

"Huh? No, I don't think so."

"I think you might be. There's one way to find out."

Without preamble, warning, or apology, Qui-Gon pulled Obi-Wan around in front of him. Although startled, she came willingly enough, dropping the carry-all to the floor on the way. Sliding his arms over Obi-Wan's back, Qui-Gon bent to touch his mouth firmly to hers. Tightening the embrace, he supported Obi-Wan when his Padawan's legs threatened to collapse beneath him. Clinging to the Master's shoulders, Obi-Wan didn't even think to close her eyes. Of their own will, her hands tangled themselves in Qui-Gon's hair.

[It's thick and heavy,] she registered first, amazed that she could even think. [I never could think, before. Huh. Before, all of his attention had been focused on the flesh beneath him, the arousal demanding his attention. [But... I can *think* about what's going on. That's really weird.]

She took the time to feel -- really *feel* the hair between her fingers. [It's soft. I never realized how soft, before. And he smells... so good.]

Sighing into the kiss, Obi-Wan slid her fingers around the back of Qui-Gon's neck and pulled down his head to deepen the pressure. The Master obliged, tilting his head slightly for better access to Obi-Wan's mouth.

[His lips are dry,] Obi-Wan reflected further. [And... and they're *moving*.]

Qui-Gon's kiss was moving other things in her, as well. The flame he'd kindled on the practice mat was becoming a raging fire deep within Obi-Wan, making her shift restlessly, anxiously against her Master. Whimpering softly, she licked Qui-Gon's lower lip, drew it seductively between her own, and sucked.

[So good... so warm. Need you closer..] She sent the thought singing through their bond. At the same time, her hands caressed Qui-Gon's shoulders, ventured beneath the folds of his tunic to begin exploring his chest.

With a moan, Qui-Gon broke off the kiss and captured those wandering hands. Breathing raggedly, he brought them to his lips to kiss at the base of each palm. When he spoke, his voice was deeper than Obi-Wan could remember ever having heard it before.

"Such small hands to rouse me so," he rasped, hard arousal radiating off of him as brilliantly as the glow of a lightsaber in his hand.

"Master?" Obi-Wan's gaze searched his. [Does he mean that?] Her lips felt swollen with kisses, were tingling from the touch of Qui-Gon's beard as they begged for more.

"Look, we don't mean to intrude on a romantic moment," a familiar, if abrasive, voice interrupted, "but we're trapped. We can't get the door open. And you're blocking the way, so we can't go back inside the locker-room hub and get out through an empty practice room, either."

Whirling out of Qui-Gon's embrace, Obi-Wan came nose to nose with Kee-Lahn, who was standing directly behind her with her arms folded. Her accusatory gaze was directed over Obi-Wan's head, at Qui-Gon.

"The sensor seems to have melted," she said sweetly, though her knowing expression belied her tone. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you, Master Jinn?"

Straightening to his full height, Qui-Gon paced around Obi-Wan to loom over Kee-Lahn. "I will tend to it."

Stalking across the room, he ignored her companion, who took two steps back from the menacing figure in the dark-brown cloak when it passed her. Approaching the door, Qui-Gon surveyed the damage.

"What makes you think my Master had anything to do with that?" Obi-Wan whispered in curiosity.

"Because this is *your* practice room traditionally, and you used it last," she hissed back. "And because the only thing that could do that sort of damage is a Master's lightsaber."

"Maybe *I* did it."

She shook her head and began tapping her toe as Qui-Gon didn't seem to be making any progress on the door. "No way. Our lightsabers would burn themselves out if we tried that. For a Master's saber, however, dissolving metal would be like cutting through cake."

As though to prove her point, Qui-Gon palmed his lightsaber, powered up, and drove it viciously through the door panel itself, parallel with the melted control console. Metal bubbled and hissed, dripped onto the floor to scorch the tile as the magnetic seal mechanism dissolved under the onslaught. That panel would never lock again. Indeed, the entire door and all of its mechanisms would have to be ripped out and replaced.

Dousing the lightsaber, Qui-Gon shoved against the panel. It rolled back with great reluctance, just enough to allow them to exit. Beyond the door, Obi-Wan could see masters and apprentices who had stopped to watch in the temple hallway. All of them were gaping at the molten metal that still glowed on their side of the corridor.

[How much is he broadcasting through the Force?] Obi-Wan wondered.

Turning, his blue eyes smoldering with barely dammed passion, Qui-Gon swept a hand before him. "After you."

Kee-Lahn's friend all but sprinted past Qui-Gon. As for Kee-Lahn herself, she sauntered toward the Master, her brown eyes boldly holding his.

"You realize, of course, that this incident is only going to add to your reputation?"

An eyebrow raised in inquiry was her only reply.

"You've locked yourself in a training room for two hours with three women," Kee-Lahn pointed out. "Walls have ears and the Jedi will talk." Daring to pause before Qui-Gon, she leaned up and kissed him on the cheek, seemingly oblivious to the gaping crowd gathered in the corridor outside. For his and Obi-Wan's ears only, she whispered, "Guess what they're going to be saying?"

The expression on Qui-Gon's face said that he didn't give a damn. Squeezing past his bulk, Kee-Lahn wandered down the corridor.

Qui-Gon held out his hand, commanding his apprentice. "Obi-Wan."

Not daring to be anything but obedient given his Master's present mood, Obi-Wan gathered the carry-all containing their clothes. Slipping past him and out into the corridor, Obi-Wan was startled to have her hand captured in a firm grip on the way by. Matching his Padawan's shorter stride, Qui-Gon released Obi-Wan's hand only to slide a possessive arm around her waist -- whoever was watching be damned. And there were plenty, all murmuring in their wake.

"Master, I believe that I have learned something from your kissing me," Obi-Wan ventured, almost shyly, careful not to let his voice carry further than their own, private conversation.

"What is that, Obi-Wan?"

"This body is functioning perfectly."

[Tell me something I don't know,] Qui-Gon growled inwardly. Spreading his legs a bit wider as he walked, he struggled to accommodate the massive erection he was having no great success at ignoring.


On to Part 2