Obi-Wan strolled casually into the room, clean and dressed in fresh clothes. After pouring himself a cup of tea, he settled at the opposite end of the sofa from Qui-Gon.
"So, Master, what have you learned about the Moonflower festival that I will be allowed to know as well?"
Qui-Gon smirked. "I have your best interests at heart, you know. What do you wish to know?"
"What do you know about the substance in the flowers that's affecting us?"
"According to Hema-"
"The queen?" Obi-Wan interrupted, eyebrow raised in mock suspicion. The eyebrow was masking another wave of irritation, the precise source of which he could not identify.
Qui-Gon pretended to glare at him before continuing. "The substance is called clenasyn. It only occurs in the blossoms of the Moonflower tree, which can only be cultivated on this planet. There were many attempts long ago to transplant the trees to other worlds, to grow them under the same conditions, but these invariably failed. The trees apparently refused to bloom in any other environment. There were also attempts to synthesize the compound, but these resulted in a substance that, unlike natural clenasyn, had harmful side effects on humanoids."
"Wait... you're saying that clenasyn is non-toxic?" Obi-Wan asked, not quite believing that this could be true.
"Yes, and that is exactly why it is so special, why the Primalians revere it so. In fact, it is non-toxic to nearly all life forms. It is metabolized by the body as a nutrient, so it does no damage to the organs that typically suffer from the use of such recreational substances."
"So that's why we didn't get hungry," Obi-Wan nodded. "And that also explains the complete lack of a hangover."
"Correct. It induces feelings of euphoria, empathy, desire... it serves as an aphrodisiac, in particular." He watched Obi-Wan's face for a moment, but his apprentice kept his features stone-still. With noticeable difficulty. "Yet it doesn't impair judgment or cause people to act in ways that are contrary to their nature. It simply... amplifies desires that are already present, and removes some inhibitions."
Obi-Wan was absorbing this information with great interest. Qui-Gon gave him a few moments to think. "Padawan, how did the clenasyn affect you?"
"Well, before we reached the grove, I felt a strong urge to just... be among the trees, like I was hungry for the scent, hungry to breathe it. Once I was there, I felt like I could have just stayed there forever. I was so... content. It felt like... a warm, buzzing sensation at the base of my skull, and then it would spread through my body, down my spine. I didn't feel intoxicated or out of control. It was just... very intense."
Qui-Gon nodded, jotting down notes with the stylus, but mostly avoiding eye contact in hopes that his apprentice would keep talking.
"Then... when I met Jema and Jalet, I felt so connected to them right away, like we'd been friends for a long time. I just wanted to be with them, there in the grove. Everything was so beautiful, so soft and blue and perfect..." He paused, considering his words before continuing. "I can personally vouch for the clenasyn's power as an aphrodisiac."
"So can I," Qui-Gon admitted, meeting his apprentice's eyes briefly. Obi-Wan grinned and ran a hand through his hair.
"I suppose I should tell you that I passed out once."
Qui-Gon's head jerked up. "What happened?"
Obi-Wan shifted uncomfortably. He didn't want to lie to his master, but he wasn't ready to talk about what had happened. "I just... Jema and Jalet said that my senses were overwhelmed. One minute I was standing, and the next I was on the ground." Before Qui-Gon could ask for more information, he continued, "It almost happened again," /when Jalet had his arms around me, practically blowing in my ear/, "but I leaned on a tree and concentrated on breathing and finding my focus, and it passed." He avoided Qui-Gon's gaze.
Qui-Gon knew that there was something his apprentice was keeping from him, but he decided to let it go for the time being. He waited to see if Obi-Wan would say anything more, tapping notes onto the data pad.
"Master, did you notice that the Moonflower trees are Force-sensitive?"
Qui-Gon smiled. He had in fact known this in advance, from the private briefing with Master Windu and Master Yoda. Obi-Wan's rare instances of sensitivity to living things always caught him off-guard, though he was extremely pleased. Obi-Wan described his experience with the tree, and his belief that the Force was exceptionally strong in the grove. "I can see why the trees are considered sacred," he stated simply.
They arrived at the palace at sunset, both struggling to keep their excitement at bay. According to Qui-Gon's information, the festivities of Secondnight centered around three events: the crushing of petals for the next vintage of Moonflower wine, a feast, and the tasting of the previous year's wine. What happened after these events was a mystery, and each of them had kept their speculations, not to mention their hopes, private.
The queen soon arrived to greet them with the twins close behind. Jema and Jalet rushed to embrace Obi-Wan as soon as they saw him. He was elated, though a bit embarrassed by the sudden gush of attention in front of his master. Qui-Gon winked at him as his friends pulled him away enthusiastically.
The twins chattered away at Obi-Wan as they walked along -- telling him about their day, how much fun they'd had with him the night before -- finishing each other's sentences with practiced ease. He marveled again at the way that they seemed to be two halves of the same whole. He could hardly imagine them being separated from one another. This thought led to a twinge of jealousy -- the thought of having a soul-mate suddenly sounded very appealing, though he knew it was impossible. The closest he would come in his life to such a relationship was the bond he now had with Qui-Gon, though that would only last until he became a knight. Unless he trained a padawan himself, he might not experience such a bond again. /If I ever become a knight./
He was lost in thought when he was suddenly pulled into an alcove in the passageway by his energetic hosts. They wrapped their arms around him in the darkness and pressed their faces into his neck.
"Oh Obi, we missed you today!" Jema sighed.
"We could hardly wait to see you again," finished Jalet.
They were both exactly the same height, slightly shorter than him, and Obi-Wan could feel the ridges on their foreheads pressed into his neck as they clung to him tightly. He had been a little nervous about seeing them again, but being here, holding them so close... He pulled their bodies against his snugly and sighed.
"I missed you too," he whispered. "This feels so good..." And it did feel good to embrace them like that. He was surprised that holding them stirred up the same feelings as he'd experienced the night before, but without the heady rush of Moonflower blossoms to amplify the effect to the point of overload. /I really do like them both a lot/, he thought, relieved that his intense desires hadn't been a side-effect of the clenasyn.
At the same moment, the twins softly kissed his neck, and nuzzled under his chin briefly before pulling out of the embrace. He heard himself moan softly in response, and immediately missed their warmth against him. He pulled them back and they complied long enough to kiss his cheeks before pulling him back into the hallway. They left the palace and strolled across the gardens towards the Moonflower grove, arms intertwined and leaning on each other as if they could not bear to be separated at all.
As soon as his apprentice had been dragged from his sight, Qui-Gon felt Hema's arms slip around him from behind. He closed his eyes and leaned into the embrace, covering her hands with his own, pulling her arms more tightly around him.
She pressed her face against his back and sighed audibly. "Qui, this feels so good."
He smiled at her shortening of his name and twisted in the embrace so that they were facing each other. He raked his fingers through her thick dark hair and pulled her closer, pressing his body against hers.
"Yes, it does feel good," he whispered, and he was briefly overwhelmed by the intensity of the embrace. He so rarely experienced such close contact with another person. He wondered briefly what it would be like to have a lover on a regular basis -- though he knew it wasn't possible, not now, when he was so busy with Obi-Wan. /But I miss this so much.../
They stood there holding one another for several minutes, not speaking, or even moving. Neither of them wanted to let go. Hema finally turned her body out of the embrace slightly and they headed towards the grove, arms wrapped around each other.
The bins of Moonflowers had been filled with water and covered that morning, left to soak all day. When the lids were removed, the petals of the flowers were quite swollen with absorbed water.
After the king's blessing to open the festivities of Secondnight, the royal family were the first to climb into the bins to officially begin the crush. Jema had worn different clothing for this event -- a tunic over a long flowing skirt. Standing next to her parents and brother on the platform, she stepped out of the skirt to the cheers of the crowd. The tunic became a short version of the flowing dress she had worn the night before, the hem grazing the tops of her thighs delightfully. Hema followed suit to more cheers.
Qui-Gon felt a nudge at his side and turned to see Obi-Wan grinning at him.
"Master, we could get in a lot of trouble on this mission," he whispered.
"It's not a mission, officially. I plan on leaving some gaping holes in our report, Padawan, if you have no objections."
Jalet and the king rolled up the legs of their trousers to the knees, to more cheers. All four climbed into a bin together and began stepping on the petals with bare feet. The crowd cheered even louder. After several minutes of stomping and cheering, the king raised his arms to the crowd and everyone ran for the bins, stripping off clothing, taking off shoes, cheering and laughing. Unsure what to do, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan stepped back until they saw the royal family waving them over to their bin.
"You are our special guests, so you must join us!" the king shouted over the din. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon removed their boots, rolled up their trousers, and climbed over the edge of the bin.
Squishy was the first word that came to Obi-Wan's mind as his feet sank into the mass of blue petals. And cold as well, but not uncomfortably so. He lifted his foot and examined the mess that clung to his toes before stepping back down into the blue pool. After getting over the initial shock that he was stomping around in cold, squishy, blue stuff, he began to enjoy the feeling of the swollen petals bursting beneath his feet. The fragrance of the Moonflowers was wafting up from the bins now. It was not the heady, consuming perfume from the night before, but more subtle. He smiled a little, feeling the beginning of the buzz.
He looked up at their small group to see that they had been joined by a beautiful Primalian woman he had not seen before. She laughed and joked with the king, who playfully splashed blue juice at her with his foot. He looked in the other direction to see Qui-Gon and the queen playfully splashing each other as well. Obi-Wan knew his master well enough to interpret the expression on his face. He was getting accustomed to Qui-Gon's open flirting with the queen, but they were eyeing each other so publicly, and with the king just a few meters away. He swallowed down the now-customary irritation that he felt watching Qui-Gon flirt so with the queen.
He returned his gaze to the king and the beautiful woman, and tried not to gape as they exchanged a playful kiss. It slowly occurred to him that he did not understand the practices of this culture at all.
For a long moment, he watched Qui-Gon and Hema playing together in the blue mush. The signs were clear even to his eyes -- the suggestive glances, the playful jabs, the lingering touches. He began to wonder if this was normal behavior for these people, or if it had something to do with the festival. He had never before encountered a culture that tolerated open infidelity. /I suppose this is something to ask Qui-Gon about later/, he thought. /If he can pry himself away from that tarty queen./ He grimaced at himself, feeling guilty for the thought even as it surfaced. /Why does that bother me so? He has every right to-/
And then he was wet. And blue.
"What the...? Sith!"
Jema and Jalet were trying very hard not to laugh, feigning innocence. "Obi, what happened?" "You're supposed to be crushing the petals, not wearing them!"
After wiping the sticky liquid from his face, he attempted revenge by kicking a splash at his friends. They dodged the small wave he created with impressive quickness.
Unfortunately, it hadn't occurred to him that the sticky blue liquid would also make the bottom of the bin slippery.
Howls of laughter filled the royal bin as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi, fell flat on his ass.
Now he was really wet, and blue, and embarrassed. Jema and Jalet helped him up, and he resisted the urge to pull them down into the bin with him. They giggled and looked a little guilty, their eyes pleading him for forgiveness, though the rest of their faces showed supreme amusement as his predicament. /They are so beautiful/, he thought, shaking out his drenched clothing.
Jema reached out to comb his short sticky hair with her fingers. When she touched him, he felt the current that he had felt the night before and froze, held where he stood by her dark eyes. Bright moonlight reflected off of iridescent golden skin and dark hair. Her eyes sparkled at him, and she blushed. That display of vulnerability caught him off-guard slightly, and he unlocked his gaze from hers to keep from blushing as well. His eyes traveled down her body slowly, taking in the curves that were so clearly revealed under the damp, clingy fabric. He suddenly wanted to cup her breast in his hand and trace the visible outline of a nipple through the fabric. He forced his gaze back to her eyes, aware that his thoughts must have been obvious.
Her smoldering eyes told him that they were, and that her thoughts had been along a similar path. He inhaled deeply, reminding himself that they were not alone, but in public, in front of her parents, his master, her brother, and that he should not pull her against him and kiss her hard and tear that sheer fabric right off of her body.
He exhaled. It wasn't helping.
"Jema," he breathed softly, slipping his hand around the back of her neck and pulling her in for a kiss. She responded tenderly, and he pulled away before it became anything more. She looked at him quizzically, and he responded with a comical little growl of frustration. She laughed as he pressed his forehead against hers and then held her by the shoulders an arm length away. The meaning of the gesture was obvious -- I can't be this close to you without going insane.
Jalet appeared next to his sister and sweetly kissed her on the cheek, winking at Obi-Wan.
An hour later, the petals had been thoroughly crushed beneath their feet. Most of the participants, upon climbing out of the bins, merely needed to rinse off their feet and legs at nearby shower stations. Obi-Wan, on the other hand, needed a good bath.
Hema shook her head at him, smiling. "I'm afraid you'll need new clothes. Jalet has something you can wear, and you can take a quick shower in his quarters as well."
Jalet feigned disgust. "My shower will be blue for a week." But his eyes sparkled at Obi-Wan as he gestured for him to follow.
Jalet's suite in the palace was not as spacious as Obi-Wan had expected a prince's quarters to be. There was a central sitting room, an open door revealing an unmade bed, and a few other closed doors. Quite modestly furnished, but functional. Jalet gestured toward one of the doors.
"The 'fresher's in there. You'll find a towel on the shelf. I'll look for some clothes for you." He backed away smiling.
The shower felt great, though it took a little soap to get some of the stickiness off. Obi-Wan could still feel the effects of the clenasyn as the warm water trickled down his body. Marveling at how sensitive his skin was at the moment, his thoughts drifted and he imagined that the rivulets of water were fingertips drawing squiggles down his chest, on his back. He closed his eyes and let the feeling intensify, not pushing it away, feeling himself get hard. /So, Kenobi, whose fingers are you imagining exploring your body?/ He honestly wasn't sure. Jema, whose kiss he could still feel lingering on his lips, or Jalet, who was just on the other side of the door... alone. He wrenched his mind out of the fantasy, wondering where that thought would have taken him. He turned the water off and stepped out.
Dry, he paused to examine his naked body in the mirror. In the last day and a half, his perception of himself had changed somehow. He saw not an adolescent standing before him but a man, and a fairly good-looking one at that. The muscles in his chest and arms were well-defined from years of strenuous training. He had always compared his upper body to Qui-Gon's, but at the moment he did not think himself so inferior to his master at all. He smiled at himself, liking what he saw, believing that others might like it too.
Several others in particular. And one of them was waiting for him on the other side of that door. His erection was nearly gone, but the arousal had left him... he smiled slyly and wrapped the towel loosely around his waist.
Jalet was sitting on the sofa, with the clean clothes folded neatly beside him. He smiled invitingly at Obi-Wan, making no effort to hand him the clothes. The thought was clear on his face. Come and get them.
Obi-Wan felt a tingle of excitement flow through him. He was surprised at how intrigued he was with Jalet's interest, and it occurred to him that Jalet was not in control here -- /I am./ If Obi-Wan wanted to, he could pick up the clothes, return to the 'fresher, and change, effectively telling Jalet that he was not interested. But he was interested, and he could take the opportunity to show Jalet that he also sensed what was happening between them. Even if he didn't know what he wanted to do about it, really.
He returned Jalet's smile with what he hoped was a smoldering one, and slowly walked to the sofa. Standing quite close to Jalet, he dropped the towel.
Jalet struggled to maintain his composure, but his eyes widened and he inhaled sharply. Obi-Wan watched the other man's eyes traveling down his body, lingering here and widening slightly there. His head swam from the rush of feeling so obviously desired, so powerful. He had Jalet in the palm of his hand and he knew it.
/But what do I do with him now?/
Before he had to make a decision, Jalet handed him a pair of trousers, clearly trying to break the spell. Obi-Wan smiled at him. They were expected back in the main hall of the palace, and there wasn't time for anything more. Jalet's self-control was impressive. Obi-Wan suddenly realized that it felt good, for once, to not be the one to draw the line.
He pulled the trousers on, never averting his gaze from Jalet's eyes. Jalet grinned, knowing that he was being teased, but enjoying it tremendously.
The young prince picked up the shirt and stood, stepping tantalizingly close. He shook the shirt out of its fold and stepped behind Obi-Wan, slipping the sleeves over his arms and pulling the shirt over his shoulders. He let his fingertips graze skin gently as he did, sending tingling sensations through Obi-Wan's body, the fantasy in the shower flooding his mind. Jalet stepped to face him again, centimeters away, and traced his fingers down Obi-Wan's chest slowly, holding him in his gaze. Obi-Wan held his breath as Jalet's fingers slowly drifted lower, and lower. The fingers paused briefly at the waistband of his trousers... and then those fingers left his body to fasten the bottom button on the shirt, and then the one above it. His eyes never left Obi-Wan's.
Obi-Wan could not resist laughing, from surprise, frustration, and a little relief. Jalet grinned slyly, the expression saying, Gotcha! When the shirt was fastened, he adjusted the opening on the Jedi's chest with a tenderness that stirred Obi-Wan's emotions. Jalet cupped his face in his hands tenderly and placed a soft kiss on his lips before backing away, pulling him by the hand towards the door.
They walked slowly to the main hall, fingers intertwined, not speaking but glancing shyly at one another. Obi-Wan's emotions were twisting in his gut. He was suddenly not sure what he thought or what he felt or what he wanted. He briefly wondered if he should drop Jalet's hand now, run to Qui-Gon's side, and stay firmly there for the rest of the festival. He felt an urge to resist the strong emotions to which he was unaccustomed, to turn his back on the path they were leading him down so slowly but surely.
The beautiful man at his side smiled broadly, and his stomach seemed to flip inside his abdomen.
/Or maybe/, he thought, /I should seriously reconsider my previous assumptions about my sexual orientation./
The hall in which the meal was being held was a truly large room, but it managed to feel intimate and cozy. The lights were low, reflecting languid shadows on the dark wood paneling lining the walls. Long tables were set up in a geometric pattern, and people were seated, talking and laughing quietly. Jalet led Obi-Wan to the central table at which the royal family and their guests were seated. They sat in the two empty chairs by Jema, with Obi-Wan in between the twins. Jema had been watching for them, and saw their intertwined fingers slip apart as they reached the table.
She grinned at both of them, asking quietly, "What took you boys so long?" Jalet smirked and Obi-Wan felt himself blush, to his horror. She giggled at that and squeezed his hand affectionately under the table.
Obi-Wan realized suddenly that the twins were not jealous of each other at all. When he was affectionate with one of them, the other seemed to quietly encourage it, if not join in. They were not competing for his affections, but happily sharing them. This surprised him, and it also relieved him considerably.
Qui-Gon nodded a greeting from his position beside the queen across the table. Obi-Wan sheepishly rubbed a hand on his head, hoping that he had managed to rinse all of the Moonflower liquid out. Qui-Gon grinned and raised one eyebrow. Obi-Wan rolled his eyes in response.
The king stood and addressed the crowd in Primalian. Jema leaned over to translate in Obi-Wan's ear. He noticed the queen doing the same for Qui-Gon.
"Welcome, honored guests, to the Feast of Secondnight. We would thank you for your assisting in the crushing of petals for the new vintage of Moonflower wine by humbly presenting you with this traditional Primalian meal. At the end of the meal, we will celebrate together the closing of the year and the start of the next, with the opening of the latest vintage of wine. Enjoy, my friends."
With that the "humble" feast began. Heaping platters of food were brought to the table and passed around. Obi-Wan could not identify most of what he ate, but all of it was delicious. He had not realized he was so hungry until the smells of the various dishes began to fill the room. He tried everything that was within his reach, enduring his friends' questions about what food was like on Coruscant, whether he liked this spice or that one better, cajoling him into tasting items that appeared questionable. He found that he was enjoying their company tremendously. Everyone else in the hall, including his master, faded into the background as his world happily narrowed down to just Jema and Jalet.
Qui-Gon was equally absorbed in Hema, but stole occasional glances at his apprentice. Obi-Wan was relaxed, laughing, smiling -- all pleasant states that he hadn't been witness to in a long time. The mission to Hildass had drained them both. This festival was good for Obi-Wan's soul, and that was his purpose in bringing him here. Unconventional training methods, to be sure, but Qui-Gon wanted Obi-Wan to know what was beyond the life he had known for so long. He fixed his gaze on the young man for a long moment, suddenly unable to tear his eyes away. Obi-Wan's presence in the Force was a glowing beacon, radiant and beautiful. His eyes sparkled, his smile was breathtaking... /He's beautiful/, Qui-Gon thought suddenly. Why had he not noticed it before?
Obi-Wan's eyes darted up to find his. Qui-Gon swallowed hard, hoping he hadn't broadcast that thought. He managed a smile and a wink at his apprent ice. The younger man rewarded him with a genuinely heartfelt smile, eyes full of an emotion Qui-Gon could not identify. He felt his insides swirl and closed his eyes for a moment, trying to regain control of his senses. When he opened them again, Obi-Wan was immersed in conversation with his friends. /What is happening here?/ he thought carefully, before deciding it was something to meditate upon later. Much later.
Finally, the platters and plates were taken away and the conversation around them became more relaxed, as if weighed down with the food that everyone had consumed. Servers looped around the tables placing a large stemmed glass in front of each person. Obi-Wan traced the stem with his fingers and raised the bowl of the glass to the light. He did not see such exquisitely-crafted crystal very often. He glanced about the table, for a moment trying to soak in every detail of the scene. Such peaceful, pleasant moments were so rare in his life as a Jedi. Enjoying so luxurious a meal was even more so.
His thoughts were interrupted by cheers as the servers returned to the room carrying trays filled with bottles of Moonflower wine. Several silvery-blue bottles were placed at each table they passed, and the attention of each person was immediately riveted to the shimmering vessels. The bottle before Obi-Wan hardly seemed solid -- it was also made of hand-made crystal, but it seemed to glisten in a way that gave the illusion of softness, like the Moonflower petals themselves.
When the bottles were distributed, the king stood and raised his hands into the air. Jema translated the formal blessing of the wine for Obi-Wan. The king then raised a nearby bottle into the air and waited for the subsequent cheers of the guests to die down. When the suspense had reached a palpable level, he pressed his thumb against a button high on the neck of the bottle. With an audible pop, the seal on the bottle was broken. The crowd cheered. Jema reached for a nearby bottle and opened it similarly as the chamber filled with a pleasant, though odd, chorus of pops.
The wine was then poured into each glass. /A generous amount/, Obi-Wan thought as the large glass before him was half-filled with glittering blue liquid. Don't drink anything blue. How often had he heard that, from friends, from Qui-Gon teasingly, when he was heading out to spend an evening with his agemates? He glanced at his master, who gave him a quizzical look and shrugged. When everyone had a glass of wine, the king rose again for the traditional toast.
"The past year brought us happiness and sorrow, joy and pain, prosperity and difficulty. Remember, as you drink the wine, the events of the past year, pleasant and unpleasant," Jema whispered. Her breath on his ear was becoming distracting. The king paused and the room was silent for a long moment, as people reflected on the events of the past year. "Now turn your thoughts to the coming year. We do not forget the past, but we let go of our regrets and our mistakes, and celebrate the opportunities that the coming year will bring. To the coming year!"
"N'van chi qalat!" the people repeated, holding glasses high in the air.
Obi-Wan studied the liquid in the glass. It was just so... blue. He took a deep breath and brought the glass closer. He tilted it slightly and studied the color against the white cloth covering the table. It was iridescent, glimmering softly. He swirled the glass and brought it to his nose, inhaling the pleasant fragrance of Moonflowers, a slight burn of alcohol, a sweetness that seemed to permeate his senses. He swirled and inhaled more deeply, this time noticing faint aromas of earth and greenery. After a long moment, he raised the glass to his lips and sipped, allowing the liquid to swirl around his tongue, drawing in a little air as he did. The first taste he noticed was the sweetness of the wine -- not candy sweet, or even fruity-sweet, but something more pure. Then more complex flavors came to he fore -- dust, citrus, something that reminded him of a tropical fruit he had once tasted, and again something green. He swallowed slowly, feeling the liquid warm its way down his throat. It wasn't syrupy at all, rather crisp and pleasant. The finish was surprisingly warm and earthy, and he imagined that he could feel the wine in his stomach.
When he opened his eyes, Jema and Jalet were both staring at him.
"Well?" asked Jalet, apparently amused at Obi-Wan's display of formal ritual.
Obi-Wan nodded and tried not to blush, though that effort only ensured that he did. "I like it," he said, trying to decide whether any of his mental tasting notes could be shared without further self-consciousness. He just smiled. "Interesting color, though."
"Friends," the king said to those seated at the table, letting the young Jedi off the hook. "I'd like to personally welcome you to enjoy the rest of Secondnight with us on the palace grounds. Thank you for spending the evening as our guests. On behalf of my wife and children, I wish you all the best in the coming year." He raised his glass in a toast and the guests and family joined him, taking another sip of wine.
"On behalf of Obi-Wan and myself, I would like to express my gratitude for your hospitality," Qui-Gon said warmly. Another toast was raised, with hearty statements of "N'van chi qalat."
"If I may," Qui-Gon continued, casting a meaningful glance at his apprentice, "I would make an announcement." Everyone focused their attention on the Jedi master and his raised glass. "Tomorrow will be Obi-Wan's birthday. Happy birthday, Padawan."
A wave of warmth flowed over the bond in both directions. Obi-Wan tried not to blush, failing yet again.
The startled gasp at the table broke through the moment. "Your birthday!" Jema cried, clutching his arm. "How old are you?" Jalet interjected.
"I'll be eighteen," Obi-Wan stated simply.
The reaction startled him. The king and queen gasped in surprise, Jalet grabbed his hand under the table and squeezed it, and Jema just gaped. It was a long moment before Obi-Wan realized that they were all smiling. He looked at Qui-Gon, having felt the older man's flicker of concern melt into relief as well.
"I believe we are not well enough aware of the customs of Primale to understand the significance of this..." he began, trailing off.
Hema explained, her voice soft. "On Primale, to have one's birthday fall during the Moonflower festival is considered very lucky -- such an individual is considered to be blessed in the coming year."
Qui-Gon nodded, recalling that the solar year on Primale was longer than a standard year, and so the dates of the festival would vary annually. One was likely to have one's birth date fall close to the festival at least once in a lifetime.
"However, to have your birthday fall on Thirdnight is quite fortunate. You are considered to be blessed for the next five years."
Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at Qui-Gon, smiling.
"But Obi-Wan's eighteenth birthday falls on Thirdnight," she said, shaking her head and smiling. "That is actually quite a rare occurrence, and is a celebrated one."
"Does it mean even more... luck?" Obi-Wan asked, finding the custom charming, but keeping his skepticism politely under wraps.
"It means, Obi-Wan," the queen began, with a serious look on her face, "that you are destined to have an extraordinary life." She paused, letting her words sink in.
Obi-Wan suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. Jema and Jalet intertwined their fingers with his underneath the table, and stroked the backs of his hands with their free fingers, as if soothing him.
"Your destiny, Obi-Wan, is to play a major role in the events of the galaxy in your lifetime. It is not for us to know whether your life will be a happy one, or a long one, but it will be a significant one."
Obi-Wan felt very strange suddenly and looked to Qui-Gon, who was eyeing him curiously. After a long pause, Obi-Wan smiled. "I'll drink to that."
The table relaxed again and everyone drank. Jema pressed a lingering kiss to his cheek, and he leaned into it, no longer self-conscious about the public show of affection. He turned to look at her, and her eyes sparkled. He lost himself for a moment in her eyes, emotions swirling. She broke the spell with a wink. He smiled.
Around them, people were leaving the tables and beginning to wander out towards the gardens. Obi-Wan downed the wine in his glass, only to have it refilled by Jalet.
"Good to see you're getting into the spirit of things," he grinned.
"Exactly how much of this wine is there?" Obi-Wan asked, eyeing his friend quizzically.
Jalet laughed. "Oh, well, let's see... There were twenty-seven barrels produced last year, and two of those were bottled for tonight." He leaned close, his tone conspiratorial. "The other twenty-five are around the palace grounds, in the gardens, mostly."
Obi-Wan began to understand. "So that's where everyone else is going -- to find the barrels and drink more wine." The buzz of the clenaysn was beginning again in his head, and he could feel the warmth spreading down his spine.
"Actually, the tradition is to sample each barrel before sunrise. It brings luck for the coming year."
"Every barrel?" His head spun at the thought. He would be thoroughly smashed after twenty-five more glasses of this wine. He wondered briefly if the small amount of alcohol in the wine would affect him in such a great quantity. /Well/, he thought, /this is what I wanted to be doing on my birthday./ He smiled his resolution at Jalet. "Where do we begin?"
As he rose to his feet, Jalet snatched something from his chair. "Don't forget this, now." Draped across his open palm lay a strand of gold-colored beads -- it had been hanging on the back of Obi-Wan's chair.
Confused, he took the beads from Jalet. The circular strand was long enough to slip over his head. As he glanced around the room, he saw that some people were wearing the beads around their necks. He looked back at Jalet, and noticed that he was not wearing beads. As if sensing his silent question, Jalet revealed a gold strand in a pocket on his shirt. Obi-Wan slipped his beads into a pocket on his own shirt as they made their way to where Jema was waiting.
Two hours later, the threesome found their ninth barrel of wine, filled their glasses, and sank into the grass together to enjoy their drinks. Obi-Wan was delirious with contentment -- being with his beautiful friends in the moonlit garden was intoxicating enough, but the quantity of wine he'd drunk was amplifying the feeling intensely. He took a sip from his glass, amazed at the subtle difference between each barrel. Jema had explained that each barrel was made from a different kind of wood for the purpose of creating a unique wine. It certainly added to the experience.
As he finished the glass, he could feel the warmth down to his fingertips. He sank back into the grass, his body enveloped in warmth, the buzz in his head lulling him into a deeper sense of contentment than he could ever remember feeling. He exhaled slowly.
A giggle to his left, and then Jema's cheek nuzzled against his. He felt her lips brush his cheek softly. Eyes still closed, he turned his head toward hers to capture her lips in a kiss, but she pulled away just before he could find her. She giggled again. Keeping his eyes closed, he folded his hands behind his headed and smiled, waiting. After a moment, he was rewarded with soft, warm lips pressed against his. The intensity of the kiss caught him by surprise and he moaned softly. He wanted desperately to clasp his hands in that thick hair and pull her into him, but forced himself to lie still. He would let her kiss him on her own terms. He felt a tongue press past his lips and he opened his mouth eagerly, allowing the sensual exploration of his mouth for a moment before pressing back into that wet warmth. He tasted the sweetness of the wine on her tongue and pressed his tongue past her lips to taste more of her. His tongue was caught between soft lips and sucked gently. The sensation sent a current straight to his groin as the sexual analogy immediately appeared his mind. Oh, those lips on another part of his body... He moaned again as the kiss intensified once more, no longer gentle playing, but full of desire and raw hunger. He whimpered softly as the kiss ended and opened his eyes... to see Jalet's looking into his own.
He blinked slowly as the realization hit him. /I've just been kissed by a man./ Not that the thought bothered him. It was just that he had never kissed a man before. It was surprisingly erotic, and not like he had imagined at all. He couldn't help but laugh suddenly, much to Jalet's surprise. Before his friend could misconstrue his response, he pulled him down into another kiss and rolled them over so that Jalet was pinned beneath him. When he drew away again, Jalet was breathing heavily, eyes sparkling with desire. Obi-Wan grinned, suddenly feeling more free than he could remember feeling in a long time.
Jema's laugh drew his attention away from Jalet's gaze for a moment. He rolled off of Jalet and leaned on one elbow, watching them both. What did they want? The twins exchanged a meaningful look, and Jalet sat up abruptly. Obi-Wan sat up as well as the twins knelt on either side of him.
"Obi-Wan," Jema began, "We'd like to invite you to spend Thirdnight with us. With both of us."
They both watched him intently for a moment. /Of course/, he thought. /Where else would I be?/ He wasn't sure why they would have thought he would do otherwise. He nodded his response, smiling broadly.
"I can't think of anyone I'd rather be with tomorrow night," he said.
They grinned and each pulled the beads from their pockets. He found his as well and held them outstretched in his hand to them. Jalet took them from him and he and Jema both placed the strand around Obi-Wan's neck. They held their beads out to him and he clumsily managed to hang the beads around both their necks simultaneously. Now the meaning of the beads was more clear to him -- they indicated that he was taken. It seemed a charming formality; after all, they had spent almost all of their time together so far, and he would not have expected it to be any different on the following night.
Jema cradled his face in her hands and leaned close to kiss him. He was stunned to find that her lips felt indistinguishable from her brother's. Her kiss was no less fiery or passionate. He pulled her body close against his and was suddenly overcome by a desire to feel her bare skin pressed against his own. He pulled back after a moment, trying to will away the heat that had suddenly enveloped his core. They were in the gardens, with people wandering all around, and all he could think of was tearing her dress off of her body. Very un-Jedi-like.
"Well?" asked Jalet. His friend wore a mischievous grin.
"Who is the better kisser?"
"Jal!" Jema swatted playfully at her brother, but turned an amused face to Obi-Wan.
He could only grin. "I'll have to do a bit more research before I can truly make a decision on that issue."
"That can be arranged," Jalet said, picking up their glasses and getting to his feet. "But first, there's more wine to drink."
Qui-Gon sighed as he leaned back into Hema's arms. Hema had led him back into the Moonflower grove to look for more wine barrels, and then had pulled him into a secluded spot for a clandestine kiss. He had pulled away on the brink of losing control -- he knew that this was not the night for what he desperately wanted. The look in her eyes had told him that she felt the same and she had sunk to the ground, leaning against a tree, motioning for him to join her.
Now he pressed his head into her breast and closed his eyes as she enfolded him in her arms.
"This is really wonderful, Hema. Frustrating as hell, but wonderful."
She sighed in return and planted soft kisses on his forehead, trailing her fingers through his long hair. They remained like that for a long moment, enjoying the feeling of holding and being held. /I could really get used to this/, Qui-Gon thought. For a brief moment, he felt a wave of sadness flow through him as he realized how close he had come to having this with Tahl. He opened his eyes in an effort to bring himself back to the moment, and found Hema staring at him thoughtfully.
"Where were you just now?"
"In the past." He paused, not sure he wanted to say any more. "I was just thinking of how wonderful it is to feel so close to someone, and of how long it's been since I've felt this way."
She nodded, understanding that he didn't want to say more. She would not press him -- the Moonflower festival was about living in the moment and enjoying the company of one's chosen companion. Current and past relationships were not significant during the festival, and they were not discussed.
"Just enjoy it, Qui-Gon. I know that I am enjoying being with you." She fingered the beads around his neck before leaning down to place a soft kiss on his lips. She lingered, and he could not resist sliding his hand behind her head to pull her down into a deeper kiss. His tongue parted her lips and she moaned softly, welcoming him into her mouth.
The sound of laughter nearby found his ears, and he was about to ignore it when he distinctly heard the voice of his padawan.
"This isn't fair, you know."
He couldn't resist ending the kiss and peering through the brush. Hema was not offended; in fact, she appeared interested in the interruption as well. When three figures stumbled into view, it became clear why.
Obi-Wan was walking between the twins, and the three had their arms entwined about each others' bodies tightly. Suddenly Jema twisted into Obi-Wan's path so that he was forced to stop walking.
"More research," she said with a wicked smile before kissing him hard and pressing her body tightly against his. He slid his hand down to her backside and squeezed, and the young woman groaned hungrily, pressing herself into him even more. After a long moment, she drew back and laughed, wiping at Obi-Wan's face with her sleeve. He grinned at her briefly.
"Well," he began, and turned to face Jalet. "Let's see then." With the arm still wrapped around the other man, he pulled him close and kissed him with the same obvious passion and desire that he had just exchanged with Jema. Jalet moaned softly and stumbled slightly, as if his knees had gone weak. When the kiss ended, Obi-Wan looked from one twin to another slyly.
They proceeded to tickle him in protest, and he twisted his body away, laughing. He took a few taunting steps away, and soon the threesome was out of view, footsteps pounding in the distance.
Qui-Gon suddenly realized he had been holding his breath and released it softly. He also realized with a twinge of confusion that he had been quite aroused by the scene that had played out before him. This disturbed him immediately, though he wasn't certain why. Was it just a bit of shame felt for illicitly watching the lovers? Was it because he knew he had intruded on his padawan's privacy? Or was it something else? He closed his eyes for a moment, and the image of Obi-Wan pulling Jalet close and kissing him hard filled his mind again. His stomach fluttered slightly, and he realized with a start that the sight of his padawan kissing another male was... well, erotic.
"You okay?" Hema asked.
He nodded, forcing his eyes open. "Yes, sorry. That was... strange."
She laughed softly. "My children, your apprentice -- quite a family we'd make, eh?" He remained thoughtful and she studied his expression for a long moment. "Did it bother you to see them together?"
"I..." He paused, considering his words. "I honestly don't know if it bothered me."
"Did you know that your apprentice likes men as well as women?" she asked after another pause, already guessing the answer.
"I hadn't really considered it," he responded. "As far as I know, he has only shown interest in women until now."
"Does it bother you?"
He couldn't help but blush. "No, quite the contrary." He blushed more, wishing he'd phrased the comment another way entirely.
"Ah, I see," Hema said, grinning and repositioning him so that she could see his face better. "You don't have a preference either."
"Well, no, I wouldn't say... I have had male lovers on occasion, but....." Why was he telling her this?
"So what precisely did you see that bothered you?"
"I'm honestly not sure if bothered is the right word. Maybe intrigued."
She smiled at him again. "Obi-Wan is a very beautiful young man." She raised an eyebrow suggestively.
Qui-Gon exhaled. "That's just not an option, no matter how intriguing it might seem at the moment." /Or at any moment in the future/, he thought.
And it was intriguing, he had to admit. He had never before looked at his apprentice and seen a man standing before him. He shook the thought away. /This is wrong/, he thought. /He's my padawan./ He focused his gaze back to Hema's face.
"But at this moment, I find you very intriguing." He twisted his body so that they were face-to-face and pressed her against the ground, claiming her mouth hungrily.
As the sun began to rise, Obi-Wan reluctantly followed Jema and Jalet back into the large dining hall. The three had indeed succeeded in sampling all twenty-five barrels of Moonflower wine, and he was definitely feeling the effects. He had finally consumed enough alcohol to feel fairly drunk and, in addition to the significant amount of clenasyn coursing through his veins, it made him feel rather... randy. When they stopped walking, his head swam momentarily as another wave of desire washed through him. He managed to grab Jema's hand and pull her back against him, pressing his mouth to her throat.
"Mmmmm... Obi-Wan," she murmured softly, wrapping her arms around him in response.
The scent of her skin only increased his desperation, and he suddenly needed to feel her pressed tighter against him. He slipped one of his hands down to squeeze her backside, pulling her pelvis against his rapidly growing erection. She giggled and pushed him away reluctantly.
"Time for bed," she purred.
His eyes smoldered and he reached for her again. "Fine with me."
She laughed and held him at arm's length. "No, Obi." She fingered the beads around his neck for a moment before meeting his dark gaze again. "Patience, now."
He was about to protest again, when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He didn't have to look to know that it was Qui-Gon.
"Ready for bed, padawan?" Qui-Gon's eyes danced, or so it appeared to Obi-Wan through his chemically/hormonally-induced haze.
"Not really, Master. Not if I have to go alone." No use lying now. He was starting to feel physical pain at being separated from Jema. He whimpered slightly, closing his eyes.
Jalet, suddenly at his side, laughed. "We'll see you tonight, Obi."
He started to back away, but Obi-Wan caught the beads around his neck and grinned devilishly before pulling him back for a searing kiss. "I can't wait," he replied as his friend pulled away, his voice husky from both desire and frustration.
Qui-Gon made his presence known again, steering his apprentice towards the exit. "Come on, Obi-Wan, we both need to get to sleep." Obi-Wan started to protest, but something in Qui-Gon's voice gave him pause. Was he imagining it, or was his master suddenly a bit... jealous?
The twins waved at him as he was pushed through the door.
The wave of the chemicals in his bloodstream began to crest as they made their way back to the hotel, and he found it more and more difficult to walk, or even to think coherently. He attempted to talk to Qui-Gon, to ask him about his evening with Hema, but he could tell that he was not making much sense from the looks the older Jedi was giving him. He decided to focus on walking. Putting one foot in front of the other. Repeatedly.
Once in the lift, he realized that he was leaning heavily on Qui-Gon, that he could barely stand on his own. He struggled to regain his composure enough to not appear completely wasted, but even in that state, he knew it was a losing battle.
Suddenly he was dropped somewhat roughly on his bed, and his boots were being pulled off. The room was spinning. His shirt was pulled over his head, and hands on his chest pressed him down onto the bed. That touch to his bare skin stirred the heat in his blood again, and he covered the hands with his own as he lay back. The hands started to move away and he seized them to pull them back down.
"No, don' go..." he moaned. "I need you..." The hands stopped trying to pull away and he felt a shift on the mattress as their owner sat on the edge of the bed. One hand slipped out of his grasp and stroked his forehead.
"Oh, Obi-Wan. Will you be all right?"
"Mmmm... yes... I will if..." He slid the hand he still held down to rest on his semi-hard penis. For a moment, the hand lingered there before being pulled away abruptly, and the weight shifted again as the person stood. Obi-Wan sighed in frustration, but couldn't voice his protest. He couldn't see. The world began to fall away...
Qui-Gon contemplated his unconscious apprentice for a long moment. He knew that Obi-Wan's actions were the result of the large amount of wine he'd consumed, and that there was no reason for him to think that Obi-Wan even knew who had just tucked him into bed. /A frightening thought/, he mused, suddenly feeling quite protective. But he was far gone enough himself to admit that the drunken offer had intrigued him for a more than a second. /I'm sure I'll regret even thinking that when I've sobered up./
He pulled the blankets tight over Obi-Wan before heading to his own room.
Obi-Wan slowly regained awareness. Awareness of lying flat on his back, a position he never slept in. Awareness of lying in a bed. In his room at the hotel. He opened his eyes, confused. The last thing he remembered... /How did I get here?/ He sat up cautiously. He had a mild headache and felt a little nauseous, but otherwise seemed none the worse for the wear. After a moment, he swung his legs over the bed, noting that he had been undressed except for his pants. /Don't remember that either./ He stood slowly. When he was convinced that he wouldn't fall down again, he headed for the 'fresher.
A few minutes later, he emerged into the suite's main room to see Qui-Gon sitting on the sofa, tapping information into the data pad. He headed for the spread of food at the table, noting that he wasn't as hungry as he'd been the morning before.
"Protein and sugar," Qui-Gon said. Obi-Wan looked up. "They'll help the hangover."
Obi-Wan searched the table for food items containing either of these requirements, then settled on the sofa next to his master.
Qui-Gon looked up from the data pad and contemplated his padawan for a long moment. Obi-Wan finally felt his master's eyes upon him and looked up.
"How are you feeling this... afternoon?"
Obi-Wan chewed and swallowed. "Not bad, actually. I ought to feel horrible, considering the condition I was in last night, but I don't."
Qui-Gon grinned. "You were fairly well sloshed."
Obi-Wan blushed. "I don't even remember coming home, Master. Please tell me I didn't do anything terribly embarrassing."
Qui-Gon hesitated, which made Obi-Wan's face drain.
"Now, Obi-Wan, don't panic."
"What did I do?"
"Let's just say that you were very... affectionate."
"Affectionate?! Towards whom?"
Qui-Gon considered his words carefully. "Well... everyone, honestly."
"Master, what did I do?" He began to sweat.
Qui-Gon laughed. "Don't worry, Obi-Wan, it was nothing. No one will remember anyway. You merely lavished affection on anyone who came close enough. It was quite sweet."
Obi-Wan considered pressing him further, but something in Qui-Gon's manner made him decide not to ask any more questions. He ate more in silence.
Qui-Gon found it difficult to concentrate on the data pad suddenly. His eyes were drawn back to his shirtless apprentice, who was licking sugar from his fingers slowly. Beautiful... /Force, what am I doing?/ He tried to look away, but couldn't. Obi-Wan sensed his stare and met his eyes again.
"Master? Is something wrong?"
Qui-Gon tore his gaze away, horrified to feel the sudden flush on his face. "No, Padawan." He couldn't think of anything else to say. He set the data pad down and crossed the room to the table. /Yes, food, anything to get my mind off of.../ He couldn't even finish the thought. He picked up one of the sticky rolls that Obi-Wan had just been eating and returned to the sofa.
"It looked good," he said sheepishly. It wasn't a lie. Let Obi-Wan decide what it was. He took a bite and chewed slowly, trying to clear his mind. He felt a strange emotion shiver through his apprentice and glanced up to see Obi-Wan staring at him.
"What?" he asked, suddenly self-conscious.
The younger man merely looked slightly confused. He shook his head. "I... nothing. Sorry." He looked away, fingers idly playing with the strand of gold beads still around his neck.
/A good opportunity to steer this conversation./ "So, Obi-Wan, which of the twins gave you the beads?" The younger man looked up again to see his master grinning at him.
"Both of them," he stated innocently.
Qui-Gon's eyes widened and he barely managed to not choke on the last bite of the sticky roll. Swallowing took effort. "Both of them? Well..." He smiled and shook his head. Obi-Wan was more adventurous than he'd ever given him credit for.
His apprentice looked thoughtful for a moment. "Master..."
Qui-Gon's smile faded at the pause. /Oh, no.../
"What do the beads mean, exactly?"
Qui-Gon inhaled sharply, much to his own distress. Obi-Wan was clearly startled by his reaction to the question.
"Master? Have I done something wrong?"
"No, no, of course not, Padawan. It's just that... When I saw you with them, I thought you knew... I assumed they'd told you." He sank his forehead into his hand. "Shit."
"Master?" Qui-Gon rarely swore. Obi-Wan was getting nervous.
Qui-Gon slid across the sofa and took Obi-Wan's hands in his. He took a deep breath.
"Obi-Wan, I owe you an apology. I purposely withheld from you information about this festival, and my short-sightedness may have put you in an uncomfortable situation."
Obi-Wan was starting to panic. He took a deep breath. "Master, please, out with it. Apologize later."
"You may or may not be aware that Primalian culture forbids sexual activity outside of marriage, with one exception. On Thirdnight, all Primalians of legal age may choose a partner with whom to spend the night. For married couples, it means one night away from their spouses, and for unmarried people, it is the one night of the year that they are allowed to engage in sexual activity." He paused, letting the information be digested. "Partners for Thirdnight are chosen on Secondnight, and the beads are exchanged as a symbol of promise." He stopped, unsure what more to say.
To his surprise, a relieved smile slowly spread across Obi-Wan's face. He laughed suddenly, and then blushed furiously. "Master, you really had me frightened for a moment there. I thought perhaps I'd offered to donate a kidney or some other vital body part."
Qui-Gon exhaled, still uncertain that Obi-Wan understood.
"Qui-Gon, this explains a lot, really. You flirting with the queen, the fact that the twins have been teasing me mercilessly but keeping me at arm's length." He paused, then looked down at his hands, still enfolded in his master's. "The funny part is that I've always been the one to draw the line in those situations, to say stop. With them, it was so different. I was the one pushing the boundaries, wanting more than I could have. I don't feel like I've been myself these past days. I guess I'm naturally much more..." He paused, looking for the right word.
"Submissive?" Qui-Gon was immediately horrified. /Did I say that?/ He dropped Obi-Wan's hands.
Obi-Wan looked up sharply, curiosity on his features. Qui-Gon forced his face to remain serene.
"Well, yes, I suppose so. At any rate, I understand now why they were behaving as they were. I must have frightened them."
"Obi-Wan, I have to say that you're taking this rather well. As far as I know, this will be your first significant sexual encounter, and you're going to be with a man and a woman. I have underestimated you, I'm afraid."
Obi-Wan grinned. "Well, I'll admit that I'm starting to get nervous. A few minutes ago, all I could think about was how to seduce one of them, either of them, and now they're both expecting to..." He took a shaky breath. "And, yes, this will be my first time. Is that why you brought me here?"
Qui-Gon smiled. "There were many reasons, but the idea of getting you laid on your eighteenth birthday was certainly high on the list."
"Is this something that your master did for you?" An eyebrow quirked upwards.
"Ummm... no." It was Qui-Gon's turn to feel embarrassed.
"Aren't you going to tell me?"
Qui-Gon paled slightly. "Tell you? About what?"
"About your first time?" His master's jaw dropped. "Oh, please, Master, tell me."
"Padawan, I... why do you want to know?"
Obi-Wan paused briefly. /Why do I want to know?/ "I'm just curious, I suspect." He offered one of his radiant smiles and leaned forward, touching Qui-Gon's forearm. He squeezed the older man's arm, looking up at him through dark lashes. "Pleeeease, Master."
Qui-Gon was floored. Was his apprentice flirting with him? Fingers trailed slowly down his forearm, practically leaving fire in their wake, and the younger man took his hand. His senses flared suddenly, and he swallowed down the arousal that was beginning to edge into his brain.
With a start, he realized that Obi-Wan frequently behaved this way when he was trying to convince him of something in a playful manner. He had always regarded it as a childish game before, and would tease his apprentice about pouting to get his way. /That was when I still thought of him as a child/, he thought. /How the world can change in a night./
He took a deep breath, committing himself to what he was about to do. "Well... I was about 16, I believe. My master and I were on a mission with another master-padawan team." He paused, letting the memory seep in, his eyes becoming a bit distant. "The other padawan was Rinaki Mell, maybe two or three years older than me. We were separated from our masters and spent four days hiking through the wilderness on some Outer Rim planet -- I can't remember the name -- trying to make our way to the rendezvous point."
Obi-Wan had settled back into the sofa, knees pulled up to his chest, and was listening intently.
"It got extremely cold at night, and so we fastened our sleep sacks together and huddled against each other to conserve heat. There had been a certain amount of tension between us from the beginning. We had been attracted to each other immediately. Out there for four days, there were no masters to steer us apart or lecture us on the dangers of giving in to such feelings."
He couldn't help but grin at Obi-Wan then, who returned the smile with a laugh.
"On the third night, the huddling turned into something much more intimate. We sort of fumbled around in the dark and in the cold, and we eventually had sex." He paused. "Several times, I recall." He felt himself blush again, despite the fact that Obi-Wan appeared completely serene. "Our masters knew immediately, when they saw us together, but they didn't say anything. I, for one, was thankful for that."
"So what happened to her? Do you still see her sometimes?"
Qui-Gon thought for a moment. He had carefully avoided using pronouns in telling his story. He couldn't think of a reason to lie to Obi-Wan, however, under the circumstances.
"Renati became a knight a few years before I did, and became a covert operations specialist. I haven't seen him in fifteen years." He watched Obi-Wan's face, seeing his apprentice's eyes widen at the realization.
Obi-Wan said nothing, but looked thoughtful.
"Does it bother you that I've had male lovers?"
"I... no, Master. Wait, lovers? More than one?"
Qui-Gon nodded, still watching his apprentice's face.
Obi-Wan grinned. "Why would you think that would bother me, Qui-Gon? I'll admit I'm surprised, though. Because of Tahl, I just assumed..."
Qui-Gon nodded. "That I am only interested in women? The life of a Jedi is lonely, Obi-Wan, and restricting oneself to one gender would eliminate many of the few opportunities one has for companionship. At any rate, I haven't had much of a love life, excluding Tahl, for the last few years. The Council have kept us rather busy."
Obi-Wan contemplated this for a moment. "Can I ask you something... personal? About your first time?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Did you... ummm... Were you..." Obi-Wan paused, suddenly uncomfortable.
"Are you asking if I was a bottom or a top?" Strangely, Qui-Gon was starting to enjoy his apprentice's embarrassment.
Obi-Wan blushed and laughed nervously. "Yes, that's it."
"Well, over the course of the evening, both."
"Did it hurt?" Before Qui-Gon could respond, he continued hastily. "I want to be prepared for whatever happens. I don't want to seem so completely inexperienced."
"Well, yes, there is a certain amount of pain that is unavoidable. But if your partner is patient, much of that can be alleviated through proper preparation. And it starts to feel very good rather quickly. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be."
Obi-Wan nodded and was silent for a moment. Qui-Gon could sense that he had more questions and waited.
"Should we be concerned about... safety, or pregnancy, or...?"
"Good question, Padawan. According to the queen, all Primalians who plan to participate in the festival must pass a strict series of medical exams in the week prior."
"Is that why we had to have that scan right before we left?"
"Yes, and our records were sent here to the palace medical chief. They would not have let us participate had we not been cleared. In addition, women of child-bearing age take the appropriate precautions to prevent pregnancy. So there should be nothing to worry about."
Obi-Wan exhaled slowly. "Nothing to worry about," he repeated.
A few hours later, as sunset approached, Obi-Wan waited anxiously in the main sitting area of their suite for Qui-Gon to reappear from his room. A half an hour earlier, his master had emerged from the shower, chest still glistening with water droplets, a thin towel wrapped loosely around his hips. Obi-Wan was sitting on the sofa, skimming through the report on the data pad when the man walked -- no, prowled -- by on his way to his room. He'd seen Qui-Gon just from the shower like that hundreds, maybe thousands of times. He'd even seen him completely naked on quite a few occasions. But somehow, he'd never seen his master like that.
Like a man.
His breath had literally hitched in his throat, and his heart pounded so loudly that he would have sworn Qui-Gon could hear it.
Had he not noticed before that his master was so devastatingly sexy? He'd always loved and admired him, of course. His adolescent crush a few years ago had been completely innocent. This feeling that now swirled through his consciousness was something new, something that had been awakened in him over the last few days.
Obi-Wan had to admit that he'd never really thought of Qui-Gon as a man before, with a sexual history and needs and desires of his own. His master had always been... a Jedi. Even his relationship with Tahl had been platonic as far as Obi-Wan could tell. Until their conversation earlier that day, he had honestly never thought of his master as a sexual being, not really. Abstractly, he knew that Qui-Gon had had lovers, maybe even had a few recent affairs that he was oblivious to.
But it had never occurred to him that Qui-Gon would be attracted to men. That revelation had stunned him, and had opened his eyes to a possibility he had never considered before. Would Qui-Gon ever consider a relationship with his padawan?
Obi-Wan knew that the word relationship was important -- the nature of their work together would make a casual physical encounter impossible. Qui-Gon was certainly not promiscuous, and if his relationship with Tahl was any indication, he did not take such relationships lightly.
/What about me?/ Obi-Wan wondered. /Would I be interested in a relationship with Qui-Gon?/ Of course, that had only become a possibility because of his experiences over the last few days with Jalet.
/Jalet and Jema./ Reality crashed back in. He was going to spend the night making love to them, to both of them. /Separately, or at the same time?/ He tried to imagine a position that would allow the three of them to be engaged at once, but without the twins touching each other. He could imagine one, and a shiver of excitement trickled down his spine. /I think we'll have to try that/, he thought, unconsciously slipping his hand between his thighs to touch himself, eyes closing. He stroked his growing hardness through the thin cloth of his trousers without thought, idly, as if it were the most natural thing to-
"Obi-Wan, are you ready?"
He jerked himself back to reality, mortified, but Qui-Gon was on the other side of the room. He didn't appear to have noticed his apprentice fondling himself. /I really need this/, Obi-Wan thought, exhaling.
/He really needs this/, Qui-Gon thought, trying desperately to push away the picture of Obi-Wan touching himself, eyes closed, mouth slightly open... /Sith, I need this./
When the two Jedi walked into the grand ballroom of the palace, they realized that they were a little early. After a brisk walk during which they were both lost in remarkably similar thoughts, unbeknownst to each other, they found themselves shooed out onto the terrace to watch the sun set while the palace staff continued their preparations for Thirdnight.
Obi-Wan leaned against the railing of the balcony, watching the burnt sky slowly change color from pink to orange to purple. Lost in thought, he didn't immediately notice Qui-Gon settle against the stone railing to his left.
He inhaled a little too sharply, startled out his sunset-induced daze. "Yes, Master?" He met the sky-blue eyes solidly, though the older man's proximity made him shiver slightly.
Qui-Gon smiled warmly. "I wanted to wish you a happy birthday once more, before you run off with your friends for the night. I trust it's been an enjoyable day... so far?"
Obi-Wan grinned in response, glad that the flush on his cheeks would be less apparent in the twilight. He looked away briefly to compose himself. "Yes, Qui-Gon, it has indeed." He met his master's gaze again, raising his chin slightly. "I want to thank you for this. I really have had an amazing time. You didn't have to do anything special for me, and this has gone far beyond anything I could have imagined."
Qui-Gon's features softened perceptibly, the warmth in his eyes taking on an emotion that Obi-Wan could not identify. He watched his master for a moment, sensing that he was trying to find the words -- or the courage -- to express something significant.
Qui-Gon raised his hand to cup Obi-Wan's cheek. "Padawan, you deserve more than I can give you. I want you to know that I am very proud of you. I know, with the utmost certainty, that you will be a great Jedi, perhaps one of the greatest. It is my honor to teach you." He stroked the younger man's cheek with his thumb.
Obi-Wan found himself leaning into the touch, overwhelmed by the words and the emotion that he could feel behind them. "Master... I only hope to attain a fraction of your greatness as a Jedi. I am truly honored to be your student."
Something flickered briefly across Qui-Gon's face and he traced his thumb lightly over the younger man's lower lip. On impulse, Obi-Wan kissed his thumb softly, closing his eyes as if he could hold on to the moment longer if he weren't watching it so closely. He felt Qui-Gon's hands frame his face, and then felt his master's lips brush his softly. It was a brief, chaste kiss, one of formal Jedi ritual. It was followed, as was customary, by a kiss on his forehead -- the classic master-padawan ritual greeting.
He opened his eyes to see Qui-Gon staring into his. His master looked slightly shaken. He smiled. Qui-Gon smiled back, and pulled him into a tight embrace.
"From the noise it sounds as if the party is starting without us."
Obi-Wan nodded into Qui-Gon's chest. He could suddenly care less about the party inside. The kiss had left him confused and a little shaken. Qui-Gon had kissed him that way a few times before, in formal settings where it was expected, but it had never felt like that -- so... erotic. He wondered why his feelings toward the man seemed to be changing so rapidly. The world suddenly seemed to be upside-down, and he was reacting in unexpected ways to his master's routine behaviors.
They stood there for a long moment, neither willing to end the embrace. Qui-Gon finally squeezed Obi-Wan tightly for a split second and then stepped back, holding him at arm's length. "Enjoy yourself tonight, Padawan. You deserve it." He nodded his head toward the doorway.
With a small sigh, Obi-Wan followed him through the door.
The party had indeed started. The room was filled with people whose faces were becoming familiar, and they seemed to be grouped around small tables, sitting on cushions on the floor. The room was surprisingly dark -- the only light sources appeared to be candles on the tables. They glanced around for their hosts, and finally caught sight of the royal family near the center of the room.
Obi-Wan settled onto a cushion at the small table where the twins were busying themselves. They kissed him in greeting, faces glowing in the dim light and dark eyes sparkling. He watched as Qui-Gon was greeted similarly by the queen and settled onto a cushion at a nearby table. Their eyes met suddenly, and Obi-Wan fought the urge to look away. Qui-Gon winked. He smiled back, feeling a slight tingling sensation in his abdomen.
He forced his attention back to the twins, mostly so that he could not think about what was happening between himself and his master. No time to think about that yet, not now.
He was rescued from his thoughts by the king, who greeted the gathered celebrants once more in the local language. Jema translated, sliding her hand from his knee up his thigh slowly. He struggled to maintain his composure at that sudden erotic touch. He had no idea what she was saying, and hoped it wasn't anything terribly significant. All he could suddenly think about was the fact that she -- and Jalet -- were expecting to have sex with him that very night.
He glanced around the room slyly. Would they do it here, with everyone else around them? Was it to be a sort of planet-wide orgy? He was suddenly seized by the thought of having to watch Qui-Gon make love to someone else. /Someone else? Instead of whom?/ He refused to answer his own question, not now.
Something dropped onto the table in front of him, pulling him from his unbidden thoughts of his master yet again. It was a blue pouch made of a soft and shiny blue fabric, about the size of his hand. Servants were circling the room, distributing one to each person. He took the bag from the table and loosened the drawstring to examine the contents.
/Tea?/ It looked like it was full of tea, only it was bluish in color... /The dried petals/, he thought suddenly. Relief spread through his body like a flush. He fervently hoped that he could get a clenasyn buzz quickly, to clear his mind of thoughts of Qui-Gon. He smiled at himself, suddenly understanding the allure of intoxication as he never had before.
A chime sounded, and the room began to rumble softly with the sounds of hushed conversation and activity. He turned his attention back to Jema and Jalet, who were studying him curiously.
"I'm not sure what's expected of me tonight," he confessed. "I'm a little nervous."
They grinned at him. "Don't worry," Jema smiled. "We'll take good care of you."
"But first, we have to do this," Jalet said, waving his hand at the table and rolling his eyes a tiny bit. Jema reached for the teapot that was there, but he pushed her hand away. "No, darling, I do it much better than you," he teased.
He arranged the cups carefully on the tiny table top and motioned for Obi-Wan to hand him his blue pouch. With a flourish of hands, he measured an amount of the "tea" from each pouch into the cup. A fairly elaborate ritual of pouring of water followed.
Obi-Wan watched, fascinated, as the dark-haired man prepared the tea according to what was clearly an ancient tradition. At the Temple, he had studied various tea ceremonies in classes on culture and etiquette, and had always found them quite fascinating. This one was similar to ones he knew, but there was an air of mischievousness to the prince's method that surprised him. It was as if the young man were treading the line between being respectful of the tradition and making fun of it at the same time.
He had seen Qui-Gon do that countless times -- his master was not as fond of ritual as was Obi-Wan, and made his annoyance of it clear whenever he did not risk offending anyone. Obi-Wan generally delighted in forcing his master to sit through a tedious tea ceremony on special days of observance -- when even Qui-Gon could not refuse.
The water was boiling hot, and steam rolled out of the cups. The liquid steeped quickly to an unnerving bright blue color. After a long moment, Jalet picked up a cup and blew on the surface to cool it slightly. He raised it to his forehead and spoke a few words in Primalian, then lowered it to his heart and spoke again. He then handed the cup to his sister, who repeated the process. She handed the cup to Obi-Wan, opening her mouth to tell him not to worry about the ritual, but not before he repeated the process, speaking the words of the ceremony perfectly.
The twins exchanged a glance, surprised. For a brief moment, Obi-Wan wondered if he'd made a mistake. One aspect of his diplomatic training had focused on picking up ritual behaviors quickly in situations such as this one.
Jema broke the quasi-solemnity of the ceremony with a grin, whispering, "Wow, Obi. You sure you've never done this before?"
He smiled enigmatically in return. Obi-Wan handed the cup back to Jalet, but he shook his head. "That one's yours."
Jema picked up another cup of tea and repeated the blessing of it. She handed it to Obi-Wan, who did the same, and then handed it to Jalet. One more round, this one started by Obi-Wan, and Jema held a cup as well.
She held it between her cupped hands, testing the temperature as best she could. "The heat transforms the clenasyn in the petals, so it's worth the wait."
"Heat?" Obi-Wan asked. He started to ask a question when he saw a brief glance exchanged between the twins.
Jalet laughed, then smiled apologetically at Obi-Wan. "I think it's time," he grinned, picking up his cup and blowing on the surface of the liquid before taking a long sip.
Obi-Wan and Jema followed suit. The tea had a strong bitter taste, though no more than most teas he'd tried. Obi-Wan swallowed carefully, noticing that the twins were trying to drain their cups as quickly as possible. With some effort, he did so as well. He returned his cup to the table and waited, wondering what he was supposed to feel. Jema and Jalet watched him, grinning.
Then it hit him -- a gentle wave of pleasure that started at the base of his skull and radiated down his spine and throughout his body. He closed his eyes and exhaled slowly, trying not to disturb it or unsettle it -- it felt as fragile as glass for some reason. Behind his eyelids was a blue haze, and his mind swirled momentarily from the sheer pleasure he was feeling. The feeling soon began to dissipate, very slowly, and after a minute it had become a pleasant buzz, much like the one he had felt in the grove on during Firstnight, as a result of inhaling the fragrance of the Moonflowers.
He opened his eyes slowly. "Wow," was all he could manage. The twins looked blissful.
Jema stood slowly and held out her hand to him. He rose to stand beside her, smiling.
Jalet stood, tucking his own blue pouch into his pocket. "Don't forget that." He gestured to Obi-Wan's pouch on the table. "It gets better," he said with a wink.
Obi-Wan felt a tremor in his core at the look the young man gave him. That had been the most amazing sensation he'd ever felt, even better than his self-induced orgasms. How could it get any better? Well, perhaps he could think of a few ways. He smiled back and floated more than he walked as he followed the twins out onto the terrace and into the gardens beyond.