"I don't feel good."

They were words every Master dreaded, and Obi-Wan was no exception. Turning from the data-comp, he focused his attention on the young boy who stood before him, glassy-eyed and all but weaving on his feet. Pale circles stained the skin beneath the usually bright eyes, and Anakin somehow looked more fragile than Obi-Wan could remember having seen him before.

They hadn't been Master and Padawan very long, but Obi-Wan suspected that if Anakin said he didn't feel good, it meant that he was truly sick, for he never ran out of energy, never seemed to malinger, and so far had been immune to the usual list of Padawan complaints. Then again, slaves that were not healthy were slaves who were dead on the outer rim, and the Padawan whom Obi-Wan had inherited from his Master was very much a survivor. Usually.

Laying a hand across Anakin's forehead, Obi-Wan closed his eyes and accessed their training link. At the moment, Anakin's life Force was weak and pulsed erratically.

"Headache, muscle aches, nausea, abdominal cramps and fever," Obi-Wan diagnosed softly before smoothing the boy's hair back over his hot forehead. "That about cover it?"

Anakin nodded, only to wince as his pounding head reminded him not to do that.

"I don't feel good," he repeated.

Rising to his feet, Obi-Wan took the young man by the shoulders to steer him toward his sleep-chamber. "Bed, Padawan. Now."

Anakin headed obediently into his room while Obi-Wan retrieved a thermogauge from the 'fresher. Following Anakin into the chamber, the knight settled on the side of the bed and pressed the gauge against his padawan's ear.

"Am I gonna have to go to the healers?" the boy asked.

"I don't know yet. Did you eat breakfast?"

Anakin shook his head. //Probably wouldn't had stayed down if he had,// Obi-Wan thought to himself. A few minutes later, he consulted the thermogauge.

"A hundred three. Impressive," he said, patting the boy's knee. "You have a viral infection, Anakin. Stay in bed and get some rest while I see the healers for some tablets for you, all right?"

"Sure." Shivering slightly, he snugged down beneath the covers and closed his eyes.

Obi-Wan lowered the room lights before closing the door part-way behind him.

A rustle of cloak, and Qui-Gon moved out of the shadows near the closet, glided through the door, and silently followed his former Padawan as he made his way to the healers.

"I hope I'm doing this right, Master," Obi-Wan muttered to himself as he traversed the corridors. "This is the first time I've been on the other side of the thermometer and I don't mind telling you, it's just a bit unnerving."

"You're doing fine," Qui-Gon murmured at his back.

"How do you feel?" asked Obi-Wan later that afternoon, after waking Anakin and insisting he drink yet another tall glass of juice. The boy absolutely refused to eat, but he still had to drink.

"I feel like I'm a long way down a tunnel," came the brief mumbled answer, itself entirely out of character for the normally chattering child.

"That's the fever, Padawan."

Retrieving the still mostly full glass of juice before Anakin could let it slip from his uncaring fingers to pour over the blankets, Obi-Wan set it on the dresser. Settling on the edge of the bed, he laid the palm of his hand across Anakin's forehead to assess, yet again, the condition of his Padawan.

"Could you leave it there?" Anakin muttered.


"Your hands, they're so cool. Leave them there?..."

"All right." He rubbed between Anakin's eyes with his thumb. //Qui-Gon used to do this for me.//

Anakin panted, his eyes closed. He was limp where he lay; it seemed too much effort for him to even draw breath, and Obi-Wan let him slip into a drifting half-sleep. Reaching with his free hand, the knight wet a cloth in the basin of warm water he'd brought with him.

"Whenever I was sick like this, I wanted my Master to do the same thing," he confided softly. "Everything in the world shrank to just Qui-Gon's hands, so large and so cool when my skin was burning up."

Wringing out the cloth, Obi-Wan laid it across Anakin's forehead. Reaching for another cloth, he wet it and began sponging down the boy's neck, his arms, his torso.

Anakin cracked open an eye. "You got sick?"

"I did. Usually on missions, when it was most inconvenient. I got sick after the annual feast on Daviik-5 once. The negotiations weren't to stop until they were finished, and I was required to stay with my Master, who wasn't allowed to seek help for me until the treaty was signed. I had a fever higher than yours then, and a terrible headache. I was so sensitive to the shrill, high voices of the bird- like representatives that I was literally throwing up in the chambers. In desperation, Qui-Gon laid me on his lap, wrapped me up in his cloak and deepened our bond until all I could hear was the murmer of his voice and his heartbeat. He cradled me like a baby--all fourteen years of me--and sent me into Force-sleep. I wasn't conscious of another thing until I awoke on a luxury barge, still sick, with my Master kneeling beside me and his cool hands on my skin. He'd paid triple the cost of our usual shared accommodations to get a private cabin. The Council later protested that such privacy had been totally unneccesary, but it was a cool and quiet sanctuary then. My Master tended me as I'm tending you, without interruption, stares, or commentary from the other passengers."

Obi-Wan shook his head, remembering. "There was nothing in the world like his touch."

He continued with the sponge bath, pausing from time to time to let the water evaporate from Anakin's heated skin and listening to his Padawan's breathing deepen. The boy was falling asleep, and Obi-Wan reached out to deepen and monitor that sleep; if his temperature climbed, the knight would know it and get his Padawan to the healers in good time. To Obi-Wan's surprise, he felt Anakin struggle against the much-needed sleep.

//I can't sleep!// he protested through the bond. //It's afternoon, isn't it?//

//Yes. Why is this important, Ani?//

//I have to go out into the gardens and meditate, like I always do.//


"You don't understand!" shouted the boy, struggling up in the bed and swiping the cloth from his forehead. "Qui-Gon always meets me there, and he'll miss me if I'm not there!"

//Hallucinations? Is this the beginnings of a seizure?// Obi-Wan wondered. Pressing the boy back, he said gently, if firmly, "If Qui- Gon misses you in the garden, he knows the way inside. He'll come and find you here."

Anakin scowled at him, beads of moisture glistening on his forehead.

"My Master had... has great experience with sick Padawans," Obi-Wan said sternly, even as he wondered about encouraging his Padawan's imagination. "He will know exactly where to find you."

Anakin fell back, exhausted and panting. "Promise?"

"I promise."

//As do I, Anakin....// The breath of a familiar voice, just over Obi- Wan's left shoulder and near the door. He turned slightly to glance at the space, but it was empty.

"All right," murmured Anakin, settling beneath the covers once more. "As long as you both promise."

He sank deeply into sleep after that, curling his mind around Obi-Wan's within the link and clinging to his touch, much as Obi-Wan had to his own Master.

"Sleep well," the knight murmured, getting to his feet. His back was stiff and his legs wouldn't cooperate for a moment. A glance at the chronometer told him that he'd been tending Anakin a good part of the afternoon. It was late into the day now; time to tend to his own evening meal and to get a bit of soup to force down Anakin when he awoke.

Turning toward the door, Obi-Wan paused and frowned slightly as a shadow moved across it, looking for all the world as though an invisible someone were getting out of his way. Shaking his head, Obi- Wan keyed open the door and paused on the other side. He laughed softly to realize what he was doing: //Delaying the door, just as does Anakin.//

"Is that long enough, Master?" he murmured into the silence. Closing the door behind him, Obi-Wan continued down the hall, only to pause abruptly and stare down at his hands.

" such a simple thing, isn't it?" he said to no one in particular. "Yet it can mean so much. It always meant a great deal to me when you were the one doing it, Master. I hope that you know that. And I hope, somehow, that you know how much I miss your touch."

Transparent hands almost came to rest on Obi-Wan's shoulders, but the knight moved out from beneath them before they could make contact. Wrapping his hands once more in his robes, Qui-Gon stared after Obi-Wan and sighed.

"I miss you, too, my Padawan."



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