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Note: Need I even say it any longer? Thanks to the other two members of the QAJ team: co-writer Helens and self-declared executive producer Jedi Rita! None of this would be possible without their significant contributions. I am so grateful!
What the fuck did I do last night?
Here I am, head hanging over the toilet, retching my guts out. Nothing but bitter hot liquid -- I apparently forgot to eat last night. Forehead on the cold hard rim, eyes watering, throat burning, nose running.... fucking miserable.
I woke up this morning to the sound of my own head pounding, an awareness of unreasonably bright sunlight streaming under my eyelids, and that awful sensation you get just before you throw up. I was also naked except for my boots -- boots? -- and I was handcuffed to my bed. Fortunately they were my handcuffs, so they were easy to get out of. Still, I barely made it to the fresher in time.
What the hells did I take last night? I haven't gotten sick like this in years.
I wash my face now, brush my teeth, and stare at my pale reflection in the mirror for a while before deciding to head back to bed. Only my bed isn't empty.
At first, I panic: Who the fuck are they? How did they get in my bed? My head swims with vague memories of the taxi ride home, the variety of sex acts that occurred, the quantity of mind-altering substances consumed. I must have been pretty fucked up -- one of them is female. I don't think I've ever--
Oh, I need some caf...
A few minutes later, I'm sitting at the small table in the tiny, much too bright kitchen, drinking a hot cup of caf with an obscene amount of sweetener, hoping that I'm not going to see it again too soon. How did I get here?
Yesterday started out fairly well. I got up, went for a run, found a quiet spot to meditate, and jerked off in the shower. I had firstmeal in the refectory, where I ran into one of my old friends -- someone I hadn't seen in at least fifteen years. We had a good talk, and she caught me up on the gossip about our agemates -- who's gotten tied, who's fucking whom, who's stationed on the really choice planets, and so on. I laughed at some of the gossip that was going around about me -- I'd died violently, turned to the dark side, become a pirate, and several other amusing stories. After that, I had a meeting with Master Windu, who gave me a list of candidates for the seminar I'll be starting in a few days. None of the names were familiar, except one: Obi-Wan Kenobi. I remember saying, "That will be interesting. I've been looking forward to meeting Qui's new padawan." Mace just smiled enigmatically, as he always does.
So there I was, sitting in Windu's office, enjoying a cup of tea and some pleasant conversation with a man who intimidated the shit out of me ten years ago. Everything was great; I had not a complaint in the universe. And then the door opened, and in walked my master.
My former master, I still have to remind myself. In all his fucking glory: fresh from the gym, still sweating, thin shirt plastered to his chest, hair pulled back. He looked good. Better than I remembered, even. I think I just stared at him as he stood there in the doorway, with my mouth hanging open or something stupid like that. The look on his face was one of pure shock, then amazement, and then shock again. He stood there, looking like he wasn't sure if he wanted to stay or leave.
Finally, Master Windu told him to come in and close the door. "You're early, Qui," he stated, looking carefully at each of us in turn. From the look on my master's face, I'm certain he didn't know that I was onworld until that moment. I'd been meaning to contact him. I really did not want it to happen like this. Mace sighed heavily. "Perhaps you two need some privacy at the moment. I'll just..." He excused himself with that, slipping through the door and leaving us there alone.
I just sat there, feeling nothing. That surprised me. After seeing him in the gardens a few days ago and needing an entire day to recover, I would have thought that seeing him face to face like this would tear me apart. But it didn't; it was almost like I was watching myself watch him, from somewhere outside my body, as if it weren't real. He looked like he was seeing a Force ghost -- completely pale and frozen in place, staring at me.
After what seemed like ten minutes, he finally spoke, voice breaking just a little. "Padawan?"
I felt the emotion rise in my throat like bile, into my mouth, into my eyes, filling my head. Of all the things to say, it had to be that?
I heard myself respond, voice eerily calm. "Master."
He took a few steps forward, and I stood up, not sure what to expect, not wanting to get any closer to him, but also wanting to touch him, to feel his arms around me. And then he was standing in front of me, watery blue eyes boring into mine, frozen where he stood once again. He seemed frighteningly unbalanced -- I probably could have knocked him over with a breath. It was unreal. Finally he moved again, cradling my face in his hands, holding me there firmly. I couldn't have moved away, even if I'd wanted to. That close, I could see how he'd aged, though not as much as I would have expected. The lines around his eyes made him look distinctive, not weathered. The sporadic streaks of silver in his hair made him look dashing, not old. No, he didn't look old at all. He looked amazing. Not like I expected. I didn't expect to find him so...
I pushed his hands away then and took a step back, breaking the spell. It was too much just being close to him, close to this man I'd grown to despise, to blame for everything that had gone wrong in my life. This man I thought I'd gotten over, until the moment he touched me again.
"Please don't push me away," he said quietly, scanning my face with his eyes. "I can hardly believe you're real." He took a few more steps toward me, reaching out for me again. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again." His hands grasped my shoulders firmly and he held me there, centimeters away. And he was trembling. Trembling.
I wanted to say something, but my tongue felt weirdly fat in my mouth, and my mind was completely blank. All I could do was inhale his presence, his physicality, his heat, the scent of his sweat -- all things I had tried so hard to forget about for a decade.
"Qui-Gon," I managed to squeak out at last, "H-how have you been?" Oh, that sounded lame. I spent years thinking about what I would say to him if I saw him again. That was the best I could do?
He smiled, though, and pulled me against him, enfolding me in those long arms of his. I lost it then; I really, truly did. I hugged him back, hard, and I cried. And cried. And he held me, stroking my back like he did when I was a heartsick teenager, whispering soft comforting words. "It's all right, Xan. You're home. Everything is going to be all right. I've missed you so much. I was so worried about you."
He missed me? He was worried about me? What the fuck?
The anger returned so fast that it made my stomach churn, and I Force-shoved him away -- not so hard that it knocked him down, but hard enough to leave a bruise. The shocked look returned to his face, along with not a little hurt. And it fueled me; it was what I wanted to see.
"You bastard!" I hissed, my ears ringing from the force of my fury. "How dare you say that you missed me, after what you did to me?" I stalked toward him then, and he shrank backwards, completely bewildered. "You didn't give a fuck about me and you know it. You ruined my life! How can you stand there and say that you were worried about me, when you manipulated me and used me and--"
"Xan, stop!" He caught my forearms and pulled me towards him, close enough that I could see the tears welling in his eyes. "Please, don't do this, not now. I'm sorry for the way things ended between us. I regret what I did to you. I want..." He closed his eyes, emotions about to swell out of control.
"What do you want from me?" I asked, my voice barely above a whisper. My throat was strangely tight, and the world was starting to spin.
"I want to make things right between us," he whispered, emotions tightly under control once more. "I want to talk to you. I want your forgiveness. I want to be your friend again."
I managed a bitter laugh. "You want my forgiveness? How can I ever forgive you? Do you have any idea what you did to me? What my life has been like for the last ten years? What I've had to do because of you?" I wrenched myself free once more and stepped away from him, letting the venom fill me again. His very touch calmed me, his eyes pleaded with me, but I can't forget -- I can't forgive him for what he did.
I backed toward the door, intent on getting away from there, away from him. He made no attempt to follow me -- he just stood there and looked at me. I'd never seen that look on his face before, that expression of utter pain and despair. I'd imagined it plenty of times, but seeing it felt strangely unsatisfactory. In fact, it felt downright horrible. I'd finally managed to hurt him just a little, but I had only increased my own pain in the process.
I turned my back to him then, leaning my forehead against the door, struggling not to cry. I pounded my fists against the smooth surface in frustration, sending spikes of pain up to my elbows. It wasn't helping, though. I could feel his pain as clearly as if it were my own. It was seeping into my soul, touching me in a way that I hadn't been touched since...
"Stop it!" I moaned into the door, tears falling out of my control. "Don't touch me like that. You have no right!"
"What did I do to you, Xan?" His voice was much too close for comfort. "I know it went badly at the end, but I don't know what I did to cause you this much pain."
I laughed then, wiping my wet face on my sleeve and turning around at last. "Don't you see? That's my point exactly. You didn't have a fucking clue. You still don't, and you never will." I reached out with my hand then and activated the door. I took one step backward and closed it again. It slid shut between us with a sharp hiss. I'd cut him off once more.
The much-too-sweet-caf has cooled down to room temperature, forgotten as I've been sitting here, thinking. The memory of seeing him, hearing him, feeling him makes me tremble even now, a full day later. I was so angry at Qui-Gon yesterday, but looking back, I think I was mostly angry at myself. Angry that I let him get to me, that just seeing him could have such an effect. Angry that after everything that has happened, I wanted him to hold me and comfort me. Yes, I think that's the thing that surprised me most of all -- his touch was comforting. I didn't want it to be comforting. I wanted to be repulsed by him, to hate him even more. But I can't hate him. I still love him, even after all these years.
I pour the cold caf into the sink and refill the cup -- less sweetener this time, maybe a little cream from the cooler? Perfect. Comforting. Calming. My stomach has settled a bit. Maybe some toast? I find a package of crispbread in the cupboard. Unflavored. Good.
I walk over to my bedroom door and peek inside. My painfully young lovers are still sleeping peacefully, naked, limbs intertwined. They look well together, though I must say that neither is my type. I can't remember many of the details of their coming home with me. The boy stirs a little and snuggles closer to the girl, cheek resting against her breast, head tucked under her chin. Well... I can see why I found them appealing last night, even as stoned as I was. They're both quite beautiful -- and most likely underage. I turn away from the enticing sight, suppressing a groan. I've had wine older than that. Lately, now that I think about it.
I settle onto the sofa, crispbread and caf in hand. It occurs to me that I haven't eaten since firstmeal yesterday morning. By the time I returned to my quarters after the argument with Qui-Gon, it was midday, but I wasn't hungry. I tried to sleep, or read, or plan for the seminar, but I couldn't concentrate on anything. I alternated between anger and hurt, being crying and screaming, between lying on the bed curled into a ball and stalking the floor, radiating enough dark energy to kill plants if there'd been any in the room.
I'd finally settled on the balcony to watch the sun set, but it wasn't soothing at all. I realized that I needed to go somewhere, to do something. I needed to get my mind off of Qui-Gon and how much he'd hurt me and how angry I was. I needed to fuck somebody, be fucked, be hurt, get smashed, stoned -- anything to stop feeling.
I commed the only friend I have. T'nell had already made plans for the evening, but directed me to a favorite club of his, a place where he said I'd find whatever it was I was looking for. I threw on some appropriate clothes and took a taxi there. As soon as the cab stopped, I realized that I'd been there before -- the place had been a popular club when I was a padawan, though it had another name then.
The inside didn't look all that different than I remembered. The crowd was younger and edgier, the lights were more intense, and the music different, but otherwise it wasn't so unlike my memories. The place was packed, as one would expect on a Ninthday night -- most people don't work on Tenthday. Music pumping, bodies of many shapes, sizes, and colors grinding on the dance floor, a variety of sex acts taking place in every direction I looked, smoke from multiple types of narcotic inhalants filling the air... I remember the strange sensation of a smile creeping across my face for the first time in hours. This was exactly what I was hoping to find that night -- a place where I could just lose myself in sensation. I headed for the bar first -- fortification and lubrication needed to get this evening started right.
The bartender was a middle aged female Rotink -- very pleasing to the human eye. She nodded at me and slid down the bar a minute later. "What'll it be, Jedi?"
I was startled by that, I must admit. After ten years undercover, I know how to conceal my presence.
She saw the shocked look on my face and grinned. "You don't remember me, do you? I was a matron at Welt Works. You used to come there a lot."
I blinked at her momentarily, before a name surfaced to go with her face. "Serena? Oh, Force!" I hid my relief under a laugh and a smile. "I didn't recognize you with clothes on." I peeked over the bar. "Do you still keep that whip on you?"
"No, pretty boy, no longer. I retired. Tend bar here now. Better money. What can I get you?"
"Sunset ale, with a twist."
A moment later, she reappeared with my drink, one eyebrow raised as she slid it across the bar towards me. "On me, okay? Anything else?"
"Thanks, Serena. A recreational menu, perhaps?"
She pulled one from under the bar and placed it in front of me with a wink. I took a sip of my ale and scanned it. Chaqs, d-backs, Heffas, Q, and so on -- nearly every recreational substance legal in this sector. I ordered a few joints of Q and a pack of Heffas -- haven't done those for a while -- and made sure I gave her the credit chip this time before she could offer it to me for free.
I found a quiet corner to smoke a joint and finish my ale. It was quality Q, and I felt myself relax almost instantly. I indulge in such things a bit too often, I admit. I ought to rely on the Force for comfort at such times, to meditate my tensions and problems away like a proper Jedi. I'm no proper fucking Jedi, though. I feel like I'm faking, like I have no right to be here. I wonder how long it will be before everyone else realizes that and sends me packing.
As soon as the Q hit my bloodstream, I started scanning the room for a trick. I wasn't looking for anything in particular -- I haven't been able to be picky in the last few years, after all. I was fairly surprised at the number of people checking me out. Probably just because I'm new onworld. Fresh meat.
It wasn't long before I caught someone's attention -- a scantily-clad Twi-lek, probably a little younger than me. He didn't say a word; just took a few hits off the joint I offered and led me to the back room. The Heffas got put to use right away, and the feeling of his mouth on me with that lively burn was amazing. He wanted me to fuck him, so I did, though I was a little reluctant. Twi-leks are tight by human standards and he was no exception. It didn't take long for me to come after all the stimulation and pent up frustration. I couldn't have stayed inside his tight ass much longer anyway. Some guys like that, but I was pretty sore afterwards.
The next guy was human, a padawan actually. I watched him dance for a while before catching his eye. He was pretty cute, a little short for my taste, and about as cocky as they come. My dick wasn't up to task quite yet, so I fed him a Heffas and sucked his cock for a while. He seemed to really be enjoying himself, so I pressed lightly against his mind, offering to make it even better. But he didn't want me in his head at all. Too bad -- he would have been in for quite a treat.
There was something strangely familiar about the brush of his mind against mine, something that reminded me of what I'd come there to forget. The Q was wearing off fast, and the tension and pain were coming back with it. The only Jedi I'd been with recently was T'nell, and I hadn't tried to mindfuck him since that night years ago. I suppose that I knew it would be too painful, that it would remind me too much of that night with Qui-Gon. What the hells inspired me to try it with a stranger?
The padawan stopped me before he could come and asked if I still wanted him to fuck me. I'd said something about wanting him to fuck me hard, earlier in my Heffas-induced haze. He did, all right, but in that mindless self-centered way that men his age fuck -- a complete dearth of technique, with only their own pleasure in mind. He left in a hurry when it was over. That almost pissed me off -- I'm not used to being dropped the instant someone's commlink sounds -- but it wasn't like I wanted anything more from him. It was a decent fuck, but it wasn't that good. It wasn't quite what I needed.
The problem was that I had no idea what it would take to stop thinking about Qui-Gon Jinn. Even a random padawan in a bar makes me think of my former master? What the fuck is wrong with me? As Trick Number Two scampered off to meet whoever he seemed to be so thrilled to hear from, I gathered myself up from the floor. I had to stop and heal myself a little as well, thinking, "Guess that's the last time I'll bottom tonight."
I headed back to the dance floor, wondering if this night was going to bring me any satisfaction at all. Two mediocre fucks in the back room just weren't going to cut it. I sucked down the last joint as the wet t-shirt contest started. The boys were up first. It was an interesting diversion, though I could have picked out the winner a kilometer away. The people who win those things are always the ones who clearly have nothing better to do with their lives than work out all day. And then get cosmetic surgery to enhance their bodies to a ridiculous extent. The few Jedi who'd dared to enter didn't stand a chance against all that artificial enhancement.
I leaned back against a pillar, watching as the next guy strutted out and stepped under the shower on the stage to wet himself down. The crowd cheered appreciatively.
"What do I have to do," a voice whispered in my ear, "to convince you to let me suck your cock?"
I closed my eyes and let my head drop back against the stone. "I'm convinced," I smiled. I kept my eyes closed as I felt the front of my pants being unfastened. A warm, wet mouth engulfed my cock to the base, and didn't move from there as I quickly hardened and grew down his throat. The guy was good -- he didn't even gag.
He sucked and tongued and licked and swallowed until my knees were shaking. I hadn't even looked at his face. The only reason that I even knew he was male was the occasional scrape of a beard against my skin.
A beard. My heart pounded suddenly and I couldn't breathe. My eyes flew open then, staring down at a man who was -- not Qui-Gon. But for a moment, I'd thought that maybe, just maybe...
I closed my eyes at that, and let myself fantasize that it was him kneeling before me, here in a public place, worshipping my cock with abandon, sucking hard, tongue stroking down the underside, fingers stroking the skin just behind my balls, a little scrape of teeth--
I seized his head then, fucking his mouth roughly, imagining that it was Qui-Gon whose hair I was tangling in my fingers, whose throat I was ramming myself down, whose mouth I was coming in...
My knees did buckle then, and I slid to the floor, the man still attached to my crotch, still sucking as if he didn't realize it was over.
"Hey, hey..." I batted him away gently. "That was great, but I can't take any more, please."
"Anytime," I heard him whisper. And when I opened my eyes he was gone. I sat there on the floor for a good minute, flaccid dick still exposed, trying to keep myself together.
All I'd wanted tonight was to forget. To forget how he made me feel, how he affected me. And I just came while fantasizing that it was him sucking me off. Not healthy. Not helping.
I stood and tucked all exposed bits back in, then headed to the bar once more. Much more fortification needed, as soon as possible. Serena gave me a concerned look. I pressed my forehead into the sticky surface of the bar.
"No. I need something strong. Got any suggestions?"
"A shot of Trellian clear whiskey?"
"Not strong enough."
"A blaster to the head?"
"I'm serious, Serena." I sighed and looked up at her. "Got something that's not on that menu? Something for a broken heart, maybe?" I attempted a pout. It occurred to me that I was a little old for that tactic, but I didn't care. I was asking her to stick her neck out for me, to do something that could get her sacked if she got caught. She stared at me for a second, and then cast her eyes briefly toward the end of the bar.
A male Rodian sat there, watching the contest, alone. He looked like a pimp. I shot Serena a questioning glance. She poured two shots of something I didn't recognize and slid them across the bar to me.
I nodded in response. "Put that on my tab, will you? And add something for yourself." I picked up the drinks and headed for the end of the bar. I sat them both down on the bar by the Rodian and settled on a stool next to him. "Buy you a drink?"
Without looking at me or even saying a word, he picked up one of the glasses and shot the liquid down. I wondered if I should do the same and reached for the other glass. His hand on mine stopped me.
"What are you looking for?"
"What have you got?"
"Anything you want."
I thought for a moment, trying to recall some of the more powerful chemicals I've ingested in the last few years. "Tonk."
The Rodian stood and stretched, then turned to face the bar. He was so fast that I only barely registered the motion as his hands reached into his vest. He pulled the shot glass to him and quickly dumped a small vial of clear liquid into it, then slid the drink back to me.
I smiled, wondering how many tenets of the Jedi code I was breaking at that moment. Add them to the long, long list. "How much?" He mumbled a number and I slid him the credits. I downed the shot and headed back onto the dance floor.
The men's contest had ended and the winner was being congratulated. The crowd cheered some more as the guys cleared the stage. The announcer asked the female contestants to come forward. I started to wonder when the tonk was going to kick in.
I saw him standing not far away -- a boy, a little young to be in this place, truth be told. He'd been an unsuccessful contestant and was now watching the beginning of the women's contest with some interest. He turned his head and I caught a glimpse of a padawan braid carefully tucked behind his ear. I was shocked for a moment, until I recalled that I had been hitting the clubs long before I was legal as well. He was probably there looking for the exact same thing as I was at that age. I'm sure that this was about when the tonk started affecting me, because I remember walking up behind him, wrapping my arms around his chest, and saying, "I'm going back to the Temple now, and you're coming with me, padawan."
He'd laughed and turned in my arms, staring at me intently, perhaps sizing me up. "Maybe I will and maybe I won't."
I made a vague gesture in front of his face and said, "You are going to come home with me. I'm going to fuck you all night long."
He laughed again, and went along with the joke. "I'm going home with you. You're going to fuck me all night long." He kissed me then, and it made me shiver. "The only problem," he whispered, lips hovering a centimeter above mine, "is that I've already asked someone else to come home with me."
He was adorable and it was all I could do not to devour him on the spot. He melted in my arms instantly as I drew the tip of my tongue lightly along his ear. "So bring him along too. I'm up for that." Visions of a threesome starting filling my head. Hadn't done that in years. Sounded good, better all the time.
"M'kay, let me... oh, fuck..."
I think I was sucking on his neck at that point, barely aware of my surroundings anymore. The tonk started to hit me hard then, and everything started spinning. The boy propped me up against a pillar, telling me to stay there, that he'd be right back. I couldn't have moved at that point if the place was on fire. Everything was a swirl of color and light. Somebody groped my crotch but was gone when I opened my eyes to protest. When I closed my eyes, the room spun, so I tried to keep them open. I tried to focus on purging that shit from my system, as best I could in that state. Things were out of control, too out of control. About the last clear memory I have is thinking, "What the fuck have I done?"
At some point -- maybe minutes later, maybe an hour later -- I was tugged into a cab by the boy and his friend, a girl about his age. My memories are pretty sketchy after that. I have no idea how I found my quarters, as I don't even remember exiting the cab. I have vague memories of sex. Lots of different positions, some with all three of us involved. I think I remember watching them, as well.
A giggle from the bedroom interrupts my thoughts. With a sigh I rise to my feet and walk over to the doorway. My companions are awake and are kissing, the girl stretched out on top of the boy, his hands squeezing her ass. Yes, there's definitely something familiar about watching them like this. I wonder if that has something to do with my being handcuffed...?
I clear my throat, and they look up, surprised. "Don't you two have masters who might be wondering where you are this morning?"
"Oh, they know where we are," the boy says, stroking the girl's back. "They know we're in the Temple, at least." The girl slides down the boy's body and licks once, slowly, up the length of his cock, keeping her eyes fixed on mine. They both smile at me invitingly.
I don't feel up to that, not right now. "There's caf on," I say, turning and heading back to the kitchen. A few minutes later they join me at the table, dressed in their rumpled clothes, sitting close together and watching me quietly.
"I only have one other cup," I say, pushing it across the table.
"We can share," the girl replies, taking a sip before sliding the mug wordlessly to the boy. They continue to watch me. It's unnerving.
I feel compelled to break the awkward silence at last. "Look, I was pretty trashed last night, so if I did anything that I ought to apologize for... well, consider this an apology."
They both grin. "Don't worry," the boy says. "You were great."
I smirk. "Well, it's not every day that I get a compliment on my sexual prowess from a pair of junior padawans."
"Oh, she's a senior padawan," the boy grins. I give him a long look. She can't be a day over 18. "No, really. She made senior at 17."
My eyebrows raise at that. "Impressive." I mean it -- 20 is the typical age to be promoted to senior; 17 is highly unusual.
"Very," the boy agrees with a grin.
The girl rolls her eyes and looks embarrassed. "Shut up."
"Don't be embarrassed," he says, smiling broadly at her, a hint of adoration in his eyes. "You've always been years ahead of your agemates. You can kick my ass, for example."
She smirks. "That's not particularly difficult."
"All right," he laughs, not chagrined in the slightest. "You can kick Obi-Wan's ass."
She smiles, just a little. "On a good day."
I start slightly at the mention of that name, and then nearly laugh. Of all the thousands of padawans in the Temple, I had to pick up friends of my master's current apprentice? It figures. "So what are your names?" I ask, looking from one to the other.
"Keli Briggs," the boy says, extending his hand. I take it, though I find the formal greeting a bit comical, considering the level of intimacy we've apparently shared.
"Siri Tachi," the girl says, extending her hand as well.
A familiar name, it turns out. I take her hand, a smile playing at the corners of my mouth. "Tachi, eh? You're going to be in my undercover ops seminar."
Her eyes narrow at that, and then widen again as she gasps audibly. "You're..." She pauses and then lowers her voice to a whisper, as if suddenly afraid someone will hear. "You're Xanatos, aren't you?"
I blink in surprise at the look on her face. "Yes, I am," I reply softly. Keli chokes on the caf, looking up at me in surprise.
"Oh, sweet Force, I don't believe it," Siri whispers, grinning from ear to ear. "It's really you."
"Yes, it's really me," I reply, starting to get flustered. "What's this about, anyway?" The way that they're looking at me is disconcerting. Why have they even heard of me? I've been working undercover since they were in the creche, quietly and discreetly. I've done nothing that anyone outside the Council chamber should have heard about.
"You're... you're Xanatos!" Keli squeaks. "Fucking hell!"
"All right, enough." I try to give them a stern look. It works surprisingly well. "What do you know about me?"
"You were Master Jinn's first padawan," Siri begins, nearly breathless.
"But you left after your knighting. Some people say that you and he had some sort of falling out," Keli continues, words spilling out rapidly.
"And then you disappeared. No one knew what happened to you."
"There were lots of stories, like that you died in a duel with Master Jinn, or with a Sith."
"A Sith?" I grin, trying not to laugh. "That's ridiculous!"
"Or," Siri continues excitedly, "that you turned to the dark side."
"Or became a rogue Jedi, killing pirates and slavers--"
"Like in the holovid series! Wearing a black cape and everything."
I laugh out loud now -- this is just too funny. I had no idea that such rumors were being spread about me all this time. "The truth is not quite that glamorous, I'm afraid."
"Oh, but in the last few years, the newest rumor going around was that you were an undercover agent," Siri whispers conspiratorially, leaning across the table now. "That you went on all of these top secret missions and reported to Master Yoda himself. The rumor was that you were one of the most powerful Jedi in the field; that you had learned to use the Force in ways that others couldn't imagine."
I swallow hard at that. It isn't far from the truth, though many would find the truth uncomfortable.
"There aren't any holos of you anywhere," Keli says. They've all been removed from the archives. Files about you are classified. I even looked once, but couldn't find anything. People could only guess about what you look like now." He blushes at that, for no discernible reason.
"Obi-Wan showed me a holo of you once," Siri continued. "One that Master Jinn keeps hidden away. It was of you when you were a child, maybe about 10 years old. That's the only image of you I've ever even heard of. He made me promise not to tell anybody about it." My heart pounds a little harder at that. I didn't know Qui had a holo of me from before I was his padawan. Why would he have kept something like that all these years?
"My master is on the Council, and when she told me about the seminar, she hinted that the instructor was someone that I'd heard of, someone I'd be surprised and thrilled to meet!" The grin on her face broadens, and she squeals slightly. Keli shoots her a look at that, and she shrugs at him, embarrassed.
This is quite possibly the weirdest moment of my life. "Why do you know all of this about me?" I ask, shaking my head.
They glance at each other, then back at me. "You're a legend," Siri says, as if this should be completely apparent to me. "You're famous. You had no idea?"
I'm sure the color has drained from my face entirely. "I... no, of course not. Wait, you can't be serious!"
"Yes!" they both squeal.
I stand at that and cross the room, suddenly very uncomfortable. I had been hoping that these months at the Temple would be relatively relaxing -- that I could keep a low profile and not attract any more attention than necessary. But this is too much, too much to think about right now.
"No one knows you're here, do they?" Siri asks quietly. "The only ones who'll know are the students in the seminar."
I turn back to see both padawans waiting intently for me to say something. I sigh and close my eyes. "Look, I was hoping to keep my presence here quiet. I need a little quiet right now. I had no idea it would be... difficult."
"Don't worry," Keli grins. "We won't say anything. But word will get out soon enough. You know how gossip spreads around here."
"You might think about keeping a low profile," Siri contributes, then winces, as if mentally swatting herself. "But I'll bet you're good at that."
"Out there, I am," I whisper, almost to myself. "But in here? It's pretty obvious that I'm... not like everyone else. You figured it out pretty quickly." An uncomfortable moment passes in silence.
"I'm looking forward to studying with you, Knight Xanatos," Siri states. "I hope you aren't uncomfortable with that, after last night."
"No," I smile. "I don't remember enough of last night to be uncomfortable."
"So I'm not the only one who's fucked the teacher now, am I?" Keli teases quietly. She sticks her tongue out at him playfully.
I don't think he meant for me to hear that comment. Fucking the teacher... I pause at that thought. "Did we...?" I ask, waggling a finger back and forth between her and me.
"Yes, we did," she giggled. "You said it was the first time you'd ever... with a woman." She blushes a little, perhaps embarrassed on my behalf. "Is that true?"
I cringe. "Yes, it was. And I don't even remember. Did I enjoy it?"
"You seemed to," she laughs.
"Of course, that could be because I was fucking you while you were fucking her," Keli interjects.
I scratch my head thoughtfully. "I'm sorry I don't remember that."
Keli smiles suggestively, stretching his arms above his head. "We could remind you."
I smile, crossing my arms in front of my chest. "Perhaps another time. When you're a bit older?"
He rolls his eyes. "That's what Obi-Wan said." He turns to Siri and kisses her on the cheek. "But not Siri. She'll fuck me. She likes younger men."
Obi-Wan again. They both seem to think well of him. This could be messy indeed. "So you're both friends with Obi-Wan, I take it?" They nod. "I've heard a great deal about him. I'm looking forward to meeting him after all this time."
Keli coughs at that, but says nothing, looking away. I squint at him, but he smiles innocently. I tense slightly. Of course. Obi-Wan has probably heard Qui-Gon's version of what happened between us. If he's anything like I was at his age, he's fiercely loyal to his master. He may have cause not to like me very much. I sigh and press my palms to my forehead.
Siri stands and pulls Keli to his feet beside her. "We should go," she tells him, taking his hand. They both bow to me slightly and head for the door. I shake my head at the gesture. It seems a bit too formal after the events of last night. Thinking of last night's events reminds me...
"I have one more question," I ask. They turn towards me. "Can you tell me why I woke up handcuffed to my bed this morning?"
Keli opens his mouth, but before he can speak, Siri steps close behind him and reaches around him, clamping her hand over his mouth and pulling him against her. She grins at me and shakes her head, peering over his shoulder. "Trust me," she says. "You don't want to know." They exit, grinning, and the door swishes shut behind them. I sink onto the sofa with a sigh. I'm sure it's best if I don't know. I can guess, but... it's too embarrassing to contemplate.
It actually doesn't bother me that Siri will be in the seminar. Perhaps it ought to, but it's not as if I plan on seeing her like this again. She'll be my student, but it's not as if she's my padawan or anything.
Thinking of padawans... I'm going to have Qui-Gon's padawan in my seminar, and that could possibly be uncomfortable. The look that Keli gave me when I mentioned his name was disconcerting.
And the thought that I have such a reputation, even amongst Jedi of their age, is mind-boggling! I almost don't believe it. Isn't security surrounding those kinds of missions better than that? But if it is true...
I don't belong here. I'm different from the rest of them, and it won't take them long to find that out, especially not if I attract the amount of attention that it sounds like I could. Siri suggested that I keep a low profile. Perhaps...
Why not consider this an undercover mission like any other? Except that this time I'd be disguising myself as an ordinary Jedi. I could dress and behave as everyone else, and no one would be the wiser. It might make this easier, in fact -- if I pretend that everything is fine, then it will be. I've spent months undercover in hostile situations -- how hard could this be?
I comm the quartermaster and arrange to have standard issue Jedi robes sent to my quarters as soon as possible. An hour later, I am freshly showered and shaved, hair trimmed into something resembling a decent style, and wearing the clothing I cast away ten years ago as a symbol of everything I wanted to escape from. As a symbol of the man I wanted to escape from.
Well, I'm going to have to do something about that as well, aren't I? If I am truly to be perceived as a serene and ordinary Jedi, then I will either have to avoid Qui-Gon altogether or somehow make amends with him once and for all. With Obi-Wan in my seminar, it appears the former is out of the question.
It is time, I tell myself. It has been ten years, and I cannot go on letting the very presence of my former master affect me this way. I need to get past this once and for all. I need to make my peace with him, somehow. I need to tell him how I feel -- felt -- about him, and why I'm angry with him. And I need to forgive him at last.
Trembling, I pick up my commlink and punch in a code that my fingers have somehow not forgotten. It occurs to me only after the tone is ringing that the code may have changed -- but the voice that answers is achingly familiar.
"Qui-Gon, it's me." I pause to take a breath. I have no idea what to say, how to start this conversation. I commed him before I had a chance to change my mind.
He sighs heavily. "What do you want from me?"
"I want to talk to you. Please, I... I'm sorry for what happened yesterday. When can I see you?"
There is a long silence. "How about now? I happen to be free at the moment."
Shit. Now is terribly soon. Live in the moment -- isn't that what he always used to say? I exhale, slowly. "Now is good. Tell me where I can find you."
"No -- Obi-Wan is here now, and... I'll come to you."
I give him the address of my quarters, and he's says he'll be here in half an hour. As the commlink clicks off, I feel my knees buckle beneath me. I have no idea what to do now -- what to say, what to think, what to feel. I just want to be his friend again, I think. I could live with that.
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