It's been two months since Dagan left him, and I can't stand it anymore. I can't stand just sitting here, watching him close himself off further and further, day by day. I can't just watch him be miserable and not want to do something about it. Part of me wishes he'd find another lover, while part of me dreads the moment when he does, as he certainly will. He always has before, why should this time be any different?

It's different because I've heard him refuse two offers of companionship already, from a knight and from a Master. I've seen the looks he's getting in the corridors -- the wistful craving looks as well as the speculative, sly ones. Strategies are being planned, perhaps even implemented when I'm not around.

I find myself holding my breath each time I come in the door; will someone else be here? Will it be another knight filled with light, with that long-legged, easy way of going that Knight Sharat had? Will the newest lover be all angular lines and elegant beauty, too? How long will this new dance last with my Master? Will he and his new lover form a soul-bond so that he's lost to me forever?

Sith, but I'm torturing myself again. So much for releasing all of this to the Force when I was twenty. Kenobi, you need to either bury this so deep that it never comes up again, or you need to act on what you're feeling once and for all.

Do I dare?

If I told him of my feelings for him, what would he say? What would he do? What are the consequences if he rejects me?

I could lose him as my Master. More than that, I could lose him as my friend. He could go so far as to say that my unrequited feelings will interfere with my training. He could resign and the Council could assign me another Master. I don't want that. I don't want anything near it to happen, so it's better if I stay silent.

But he deserves to be loved. And by someone better than Dagan or Windu or... or the next inquisitive Jedi who wonders what it's like to have Qui-Gon Jinn in his bed, and who will throw him aside once his curiosity's been satisfied.

Force, but I don't know what to do.



Hey, perhaps I don't have to speak of my love to act on it. Maybe I could keep just loving Qui-Gon as I have been, only take that love to the next level? Hope springs eternal in the heart of a foolish, idiotic Padawan. I might be risking all here, but the Force seems to be whispering that I need to at least give this a shot. Else I'll never know, someone else will get in there, and he'll be gone to me again.

I thought my Master was out of reach, but perhaps he's not. He can't throw me out if he doesn't know how I really feel, right? And if I don't tell him, he can't know how I feel to throw me out.

All right, decision made. I'm going to court him, fuss over him, make much of him. I'm going to love him and stick to him like Wydgin adhesive in the best ways that I know how.

Step One: Research my prey. My very tall prey.

Step Two: Plan my strategy carefully, cleverly, according to my findings.

Step Three: Implement my plans.

Force, just don't let him acquire another lover in the meantime. I've already wasted too much time dithering around with this.



I tackled my research as though I was preparing for a mission, which I suppose I was. My first item of research was Qui-Gon's memories, hopefully straight from the Master's mouth.

It wasn't hard to begin. We were officially on a rest cycle between missions and Qui-Gon was home nights, ensconced in his favorite chair in the common area or holed up in his sleeping chamber with a book. Always he was with a book, and no new lover had darkened our doorstep.

In addition to catching up on my classes and exams, I'd been assigned to teach a beginning Padawan class on droid and draigon battle techniques. I supposed I was qualified -- we'd certainly met enough of both on our missions, to the point that neither enemy held much fear for me anymore, but I resented the necessity of leaving Qui-Gon behind in the morning.

I invited him into my class a couple of times, but he didn't imitate a very good droid or a draigon. I then asked him to tell my charges his impressions of our battles.

"I'd rather not do that, Obi-Wan," came the reluctant refusal. "You were a unique young Padawan, absolutely fearless and full of confidence when we met our first enemies. Any memories I shared of those battles and my Padawan's efforts in them would likely frighten your young students, they'd feel they had your reputation to live up to, and then we'd have their Masters' complaints to deal with. Why don't arrange to have the weapons Master provide a few retrofitted battle droids for a more productive session?"

"Will you help me demonstrate how to take them apart?" I pursued.

"If you wish it."

I wished it. Any opportunity to dance with him, I wished it. He seemed to let go his sadness when we danced. I begged that we continue our sparring sessions every other afternoon, regardless we'd honed our skills to the point that Qui-Gon pointed out that such sessions were scarcely needed.

"I need them," I'd said fiercely, pulling back on my possessive feelings at the last moment, lest my Master sense them through the bond.

I'd noticed another reason to be concerned: my Master seemed to be turning into a hermit, not leaving our quarters unless he accompanied me. I was uneasy, rather than flattered at that development, for it seemed he was coming with me for all of the wrong reasons. My classes and our sparring sessions provided welcome distractions, being two of the few times when he could forget his loneliness for a time. The bond sang between us when we taught or sparred together; I dropped my shields as far as I dared and let him inside of me during those times. He didn't reach back across the bond or comment on it, but I could sense that he was grateful for the contact. I was happy when I was with him, while he was distracted. I wished that he didn't have to use my distractions as... well, just distractions.

I made it a point to check his messages at the comm twice a day and was greatly encouraged to find no communications except from the Council and their half-dozen mission scheduling minions. There was no one new in his life as of yet, and if I accommodated his staying close to home and close to me, it wasn't likely that anyone would get under his skin anytime soon.

I set a kind of rhythm with our days, leaving him to himself when I was in taking my own lessons and coming home to share mid- and evening-meal with him. The stack of books on his desk grew higher, as did the one next to his chair. He was reading, burrowing into yet another distraction and adding to his already considerable knowledge on only-the-Force-knew-what. More than once, his extensive, eclectic reading had come in handy, to the extent of saving our butts and our lives.

/That's fine, Master,/ I thought, setting the table and drawing him from his solitary researches for evening-meal. /You read while I plot. Just a few more days, and I'll be able to implement my basic strategy./

He researched his material while I researched mine. Our casual conversation at meals had taken on a new purpose for me. Gently, subtly I hoped, I probed his distant past. He answered willingly enough, never suspecting that his Padawan was filing away detail after detail for use in a multi-layered plan of sweet seduction.

After meals, I came to sit close to him or at his feet, leaning against his chair or his thigh, wanting him to "tell me more stories."

"You haven't wanted this many stories since you were ill with Denuban fever at thirteen," he protested, frowning and sliding his hand across my forehead. I shivered slightly at the touch of his warm, dry hand, hoped he didn't notice. "You're not sick now, are you?"

"No, Master." I offered a disarming grin. "I'm just interested. I've always enjoyed your stories. Please go on?"

"You'll have to stop and ask me about parts you find particularly interesting," he said dryly, settling back in his chair and flicking a hand at the lights to lower them. I was glad he did; I had wanted to, but didn't dare. Any shift I made to the atmosphere might create a suspicion that I didn't want created. Qui-Gon Jinn was a tired, sleeping draigon on these nights. I needed smoky details without the fire.

"I will ask," I assured him, settling in for a good, long reminiscence.

He obliged, perhaps as another helpful distraction. Anything, after all, to keep his mind off of Dagan's absence and the wounds left behind. Qui-Gon told me willingly enough about the knight he used to be. "The early days," he called them. "Before Xanatos."

I was startled that he said the words. More than that, he gave me a small, resigned smile as he spoke his former Padawan's name. Resignation wasn't an emotion I had ever seen my Master associate with Xanatos. /Perhaps he's making peace with his other demons, even as Sharat's demon has laid hold of him?/ After all, Xanatos was dead, unable to inflict further pain, while Dagan was still around. There was no telling when they might pass each other in the halls, when the gossip chain might inform my Master of some newsy tidbit or other in relation to his lover that might hurt him further.

Qui-Gon gave me names and mission dates, things I could easily use to look up logs in the archives later, which I did. I'd never heard him speak like this, so freely and with so much detail. It was unfortunate that he had to be in pain before he'd do it.

"You've never let me see inside your mind like this before," I commented on impulse.

"All too soon, you'll be a knight off on your own. If one of my memories triggers something in the future that helps you manage a mission.... more power to it." And he continued talking.

The bond told me that Qui-Gon wasn't looking ahead to the time when I'd be off on my own as a knight, but that he was more conscious now that the time would come when he would be totally alone. I picked up his thoughts, not because his shielding was sloppy this night, but because he seemed to think that those particular thoughts would be of no consequence to me.

His pain ran even deeper than I had previously realized. Sliding closer, I dared to lean my arm on his thigh and braced my chin on my wrist. Giving a small, oblivious smile, he continued talking. A few minutes later, though, he was carding his fingers through my hair. Sighing, I leaned into the touch, wishing that I had the power to make him feel more contented and less dismal this night.



He talked and talked, lost in the past to escape his present. I did my best to see through his eyes, to use his words and throw myself back to understand the man I loved.

I meditated daily on the things he'd told me the night before, seeking my private, shady corner of the meditation garden. Sinking down into a trance, I gathered my Master's vibrations around me, immersed myself in them and tried, for the duration of the meditation, to be and think and feel as Qui-Gon Jinn. The Force supported my efforts. Images and emotions swirled together, became a more cohesive whole with every session. I came to see that all of us Jedi, but especially Qui-Gon, invest half of our lifetimes cultivating three separate personal images, or masks.

First came the public mask, sabered and solemn and robed -- the one we show to those we meet and serve during missions. Second came the Jedi's mask, also sabered and solemn and robed, but with varied layers of presentation and much higher personal stakes; this is the one we exhibit before the Council and while moving among our peers at the Temple. The third image is the one seen behind closed doors when we're home, and it can be multifaceted.

If a Jedi is lucky, he or she sheds saber and robes and all of the masks when they're home, alone, or with a Padawan. If a Jedi is not so lucky, he or she sheds one or two masks, but still keeps one intact for interacting with their Padawan... or their lover.

I suspected that the latter applied to Qui-Gon. He'd never been able to shed all of the masks and simply be himself. At heart, he was just a man, not a Jedi. What sort of pressure built up inside of a man who could not, dared not, be himself?

"From the creche, my friends were Mace and the others currently on the Council," he'd told me. "In the early years, they saw me a certain way, with no room for change. I was too tall and gangly, terribly shy, most-times uncoordinated. All arms and legs and clumsiness, I was also someone they defeated easily in the salle and in the debating chamber until I grew into myself, which took far too long for my personal comfort and still influences how some of them see me to this day, I think.

"I didn't finish growing physically until close to the time I was knighted. My body then allowed me the luxury of being able to know where I ended and things began, and the Force seems to have taken pity on me and began shouting louder. In any event, it became easier for me to hear its prompting." He offered a crooked smile. "Physical maturation ended with a vengeance, and I was finally allowed to use the gifts I had been given, not to mention my mind which finally seemed to engage, albeit a bit late."

"What happened?"

"My swordsmanship improved drastically the last two years of my apprenticeship. I beat the leggings off of Mace and others, initially because they assumed that my skills were as they'd always been, and I knew all of their openings and arrogance from fighting them unsuccessfully for so long. Once knighted, I took my Master's advice and accepted a two-year assignment on a remote rim planet to study the living Force and offer spiritual assistance to the gentle inhabitants of a small ring of planets orbiting a weak sun.

"There, I grew up. I also grew the beard you see now," he gestured at his jaw, "let my hair lengthen, and put himself through a regimen that created a more pleasing physical foundation."

/He let the formidable, austere Jedi emerge,/ I thought, amazed at the sculpting that had been done.

"That man eventually became the Master you know now," Qui-Gon said, skipping a couple of decades with one sentence. No matter; perhaps he'd let us come back to the details later. "When I returned to the Temple here on Coruscant, no one knew me."


"Literally," Qui-Gon agreed. "I didn't look a thing like the wet-behind-the-ears knight who'd left two years before. I discovered that, for some reason which I still don't fully understand, my peers were stunned and intimidated by my presence alone."

"I can understand that," I muttered.

"Then perhaps you would explain it to me?"

I grinned. "I think your mystique is best left a mystery, even to you, Master. Let's just say that the shy knight who left had returned to turn everyone's expectations upside down."

The conversation drifted into other subjects then -- my lesson plan for the next day and when we'd meet to spar.



I looked up early the next morning to see Mk'zil slipping inside the study room I'd commandeered at the library. Giving a sly smile, she slunk up to the table I'd covered with my musings on Qui-Gon. Her green-gold eyes flicked over the papers, dismissing them entirely -- no doubt due to my erratic penmanship -- before she hopped up to sit on them. I didn't have to worry about anyone, including Qui-Gon, reading my notes; my messy writing was an unsolvable code all by itself.

"Obiii-Wannnn," she purred, flicking her hair out of her eyes and twining her long tail around my wrist in a caress that made me shiver. "You have abandoned the chasing of me?"

She was a beautiful spotted tabby from Trixta, and I'd been enchanted with her for months. We shared an on-again, off-again intimacy, with her arching approvingly beneath my touch, purring and petting me in return, but nothing had really ever come of it. Mostly, we just talked about what might happen between us. I wasn't certain that I wanted those sharp, furry claws wrapped around my most tender parts, while she wasn't certain that she wanted such a bald lover inside of her.

"You wish not to make me scream-come now?" she pursued.

Running a hand over her flank, I gave a small smile. "As we've discussed before, I'm not sure that I could make you scream, Mk'Zil. You're a little too wild, even for my tastes."

Leaning over, she sniffed me thoroughly, nuzzled my hair and licked my nose.

"Excited you are, but not for me." She gave her best effort at pouting, but her narrow muzzle and whiskers wouldn't really allow it. The best she could manage was to lift one lip in a sort of sneer. She ruined the effect by sneezing politely, which cleared her scent-palate. "Smell like the silver-haired one, you do."

"I've.... er... I've been spending a lot of time with my Master lately."

Her pupils expanded, she narrowed her eyes. A sharp claw traced my jaw. "Honest you can be with meeee, Obiiii-Wannnn. Peaceful you are when you speak of him. Peaceful you are when you be with him. Lie to me, don't about him. Part we will with some respect and memories of soft pettings, hmmrrw?"

"Hmmrrrw," I agreed as best I could. Rising half out of my chair, I bumped heads and rubbed against her in simple affection. "And here I thought that I was hiding my feelings so well."

She chuckled, a deep vibration I'd always found alluring. "Feelings you hide wellllll. Scents you cannot hide from me. Smell like him you do always, but it is stronger now." Her paw wafted over the papers. "Clings here." She wiped a paw down my face, in chastisement as well as caress. "...and here. Soaked with him you arrrrre."

She licked her paw clean, then leaned even closer so that her wet nose was touching mine. "Nowherrrre else you'd rather be," Mk'Zil purred. "Comfy Obiii-Wannnn with silvered Masterrr."

"True," I admitted, knowing that if I didn't she'd most likely bite me.

She showed her fangs in what passed for a pleased smile. "Good this is to say, Obiiii-Wannn."

"You're right, I'm at peace when I'm with him," I said. "There's nothing else I'd rather be doing."

Her eyes widened. "Bonding you are?"

"Of course we're bonded," I said with some confusion. "He's my Master."

"No, silliness Obi. Bond-mated in scent, bond-mated and mated you want to be with him?" She made a gesture which, in her native language meant two halves of a whole, joined. Her ears swivelled.

"Gods, I hope so." It was the first time I'd admitted it aloud to anyone. It felt good and terrifying to have done it now. Reaching up, I scratched behind her ears. She purred in delight and leaned in to increase the pressure of my touch. "That's a secret, 'Zil."

"Ssssecretive, yes. Keep the secret I willlll if you keep sssscratching, just therrrrre."

I did, and knew that she would. As I petted her, I wished that my Master was as easy to touch and to please.

Mk'Zil left shortly after, while I stacked my papers and toggled the lever to bring the datacomp up from its hidden bed inside the table. Physiology was on my mind, anatomy and other boring things that I needed to know next.

How old was Qui-Gon Jinn, in terms of his own race and in relation to mine? I asked the question and sought the answer, only to discover that age was no issue between us. There: he was not too old for me; one possible argument shot down. I was a third of the way through my life, while my Master was halfway through his. If we actually were to bond, we'd die at about the same time, barring an early death from injury or battle on some mission or other. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, I scanned the other data on his race and found that we were entirely compatible.

So far, aside from the physiological worries I'd just laid to rest, Qui-Gon's words and my own meditations had made me understand the public Jedi Master. I'd been allowed more glimpses of him than anyone else had in his life, including Mace and Tahl, but perhaps not Xanatos. That in itself meant something, but I wasn't certain what just then. I did know that the private Qui-Gon was different. I knew that he had let me see glimpses of himself. His lovers had seen more, and I wanted to as well. I wanted *in*.

Leaning back in my chair, I closed my eyes and considered matters for a moment. In public, my Master took charge and exerted control. I sensed that he'd react defensively to any threat to that image in public.

In private was another matter entirely. He easily relinquished control to me already, letting me tend his hair, give him backrubs, and even pamper him on occasion.

That was significant, right? I knew that it's wasn't traditional for a Padawan to serve a Master so completely; a few that I'd talked to had even been startled that the great Qui-Gon Jinn allowed me such liberties. I guess they thought that he was made of stone and didn't taken care of. Maybe that's why some of the knights dreamed of getting him into bed -- they wanted want to rock that aura of austere control that he'd cultivated for years.

I guessed that maybe I wanted to rock him, too. But the difference was that those knights didn't need him, while I do. I hoped that, at some point, he'd decide he needed me, too. But that was for him to decide, I couldn't force him to feel anything.

That was the rub, wasn't it? That he might never feel for me what I felt for him? That he might love me, but never be in love with me?

Gods, the thought was heartbreaking. But we must take what we're given. If Qui-Gon could love me only as a father loves his son, as a Master cares for his apprentice, then I would have to settle for that, wouldn't I?

We'd see.

On the other end of the spectrum, maybe he did desire me on some level? Maybe he just needed a bit of encouragement to acknowledge and act on it?

And if he did act on it? What then? What sort of lover would he be? Would he take control in our bed, or would he let me lead the dance?

I couldn't think about that now. Right now, I had to look for ways to love him in public and in private that didn't threaten him. Ways that wouldn't alert him to the fact that his Padawan was trying to court him.

Good luck, Kenobi. I think you'll need it.


On to next chapter