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Daybreak and After

Authors: Emma Grant and Helens
Rating: NC-17
Category: POV (everyone), Angst, Obi/Bail, pick-yer-own-pairing from Bail/Xan/Qui/Obi/T'nell.
Summary: The boys reflect on the events of last night (Hypotenuse, Event Horizon, Flinch) and start sifting through the aftermath.
Warnings: None
Disclaimer: O Mighty Lucas, please do not sue us, for we do not make any money off this venture.
Feedback: Good, bad, or ugly, on or offlist. Please send it to both of us!

Note: This piece was a collaboration between Emma and Helens. Though Emma wrote two and Helens wrote two, we each played a major role in shaping all four parts. (See if you can guess who wrote what!) We must thank Jedi Rita for her continued help, constructive criticism, and encouragement! We really needed it this week.

1. Bail

My eyes are open before sunrise. Unless I'm hyperspace-lagged, I rarely miss a dawn. People always talk about sunsets, about how beautiful they are. A sunset has nothing on a dawn, no matter what planet you're on. When the sun comes up, it's as if the world is reborn, and anything is possible.

Anything including breaking almost every rule I'm supposed to live by and waking up next to the most beautiful man I've ever laid eyes on.

Gods, what a night.

Ben snuggles against me, tucking one of his legs between mine and wrapping his arms around me. I sigh and press a kiss to the top of his head. As much as I like morning sex, morning cuddles make me edgy. If I'm not doing something in particular, I want to get out of bed and start my day. I nudge Ben a little, hoping he'll wake up and let me go.


Master? "What sort of dream are you having?" I ask.

I feel the brush of eyelashes against my chest before Ben pulls back. He looks completely befuddled as to where he is and what he's doing here, and blurts out "Gana?" as he stares at me. I wonder how long it's going to take before he remembers to call me Bail.

He looks around, confused, as if there's something he's missing and he can't quite place it. I check the chronometer before looking back at him. It's only just past five. Still early enough that I don't have to worry about going anywhere, but maybe he has some kind of morning ritual at the Temple -- I don't know what the Jedi do on an average day. "Is something wrong?" No response. "Ben? What is it?"

"Nothing. I just need to... which one is the fresher?"

I point out the bedroom fresher, and he bolts. Not the most flattering reaction I've had to someone waking up in my bed, but then I doubt he expected last night to turn out the way it did. I know I didn't. I expected the sex; I was done resisting him, and I know he wanted it, too. But having him here seemed so right -- I didn't want him to leave, and I don't think he wanted to go. I wasn't really thinking about how it would feel to have him wake up next to me. I just wanted him here. I wanted to let him in.

I grin as I sit up, remembering how he looked when he slid into me. Letting him in felt good.

But gods, now that it's morning, I can only marvel at last night's behavior. What was I thinking letting him stay overnight? I should get him out of here as fast as I can. I should kiss him goodbye, and conveniently lose any messages he sends me in the future. I should make sure our paths never cross again. He's a Jedi padawan -- the worst possible choice I could have made for my first lover since leaving Alderaan. I can just imagine my father's reaction. It's not enough that you're living on that gods-forsaken planet, but to take up with another one of those perverted telepathic freaks... It's not going to be pretty.

And no matter how ugly it's going to be, I also know it's inevitable. Because I'm not giving Ben up.

The door opens. I look up. Ben is standing in the doorway, looking as shaken as I feel. Gods, I hope I'm disguising it better than he is. I start talking just to fill the silence. "You can shower if you'd like. There's soap, shampoo..."

"How about an extra toothbrush?" he interrupts.

I walk into the fresher and rummage through the drawer, finally finding a spare toothbrush. I set toothpaste on the counter and gesture toward the shower. "Go ahead, if you want." I suddenly remember the shirt he lost last night, and can't help the half-smile that curls the edges of my lips as I remember how he lost it. "I'll find you a shirt to wear home while you shower." A fuzzy look of confusion turns into a wince before Ben nods and turns away from me. I leave, closing the fresher door behind me.

Most of his clothes are on the floor next to the bed. I lay them out on the bed and walk into my closet. I should try to find a shirt that matches the one he was wearing last night. Let's see... it was green, a mossy, muted emerald. It was soft and silky, buttoned down the front, and had a flat collar. What do I have that looks like that? I have a low-collared button-down green Nubian silk shirt. That's close enough. I pull out clothes for myself as well, drape my green silk shirt over Ben's clothes on the bed, and head to the hall fresher. I can use the sonics; I'll probably be done before he finishes dressing. And then we're going to have to talk.

I shower, brush my teeth, comb my hair into shape, dress, and Ben is only starting to get my shirt -- now his shirt -- buttoned when I walk back into the bedroom. The shirt isn't going to fit him as well as it fit me, but it looks good on him. Now that I think of it, last night's shirt didn't fit him that well, either. I suppose Jedi aren't in the habit of buying tailor-fitted clothing, and they probably don't wear Nubian silk that often. But when you're as gorgeous as Ben is, does it matter what you're wearing? He'd look good in sackcloth. Wait -- he's a Jedi. He probably wears sackcloth often. And he probably looks delicious in it.

He almost falls over as he pulls his pants on, and I wince as he yanks his fly up a little too fast. He's clearly upset, much more upset than I am. I reach out for him. "Do you want to talk?" I ask.

"No, I just need to get home."

Home to the Temple, home to his master... my blood chills slightly as I remember the first thing he said to me this morning. "...Master?" I've heard rumors all my life about masters and padawans, and I've chalked them up to so much nonsense, but... I don't want to think about it. I clear my throat before telling him, "All right, then, I need to talk."

He stiffens even more, if that's possible. "About what?"

How do I put this? "I need to ask a favor."

He frowns. "Politicians are always asking for favors from Jedi."

I suppose I deserve that. "That's not the sort of favor I have in mind." I try to smooth out the wrinkles in his shirt. The silk glides over his skin, the heat from his body warming the soft material under my hands. I can't resist. I run my hands over his arms, over his chest, over his back... it feels amazing. He relaxes a little, and his expression softens as he leans into my touch a bit.

"What, then?" he asks. Though he still looks a bit suspicious, his eyes are growing warmer. Oh, gods, I want this man.

But there are serious matters we need to talk about. I pull my hands away and look him in the eyes, knowing he probably won't take this well. "I'd like to keep this as discreet as possible. I'd rather not have tabloids asking me why I spent an evening with a Jedi padawan."

I was right; he's not taking it well. He stiffens again. "Oh, I don't think they'd need to ask why. Isn't it obvious? What reasons could you possibly have for spending the evening with a Jedi padawan?" he asks. His eyes are flashing. I close the distance between us and kiss him before he can grow too angry, to get his mind off his indignation. He relaxes immediately, kissing me back, both of us getting lost in it for a few seconds. He wraps his arms around me and moans softly into my mouth, making me shiver. I feel a different sort of "stiffening" nudging against my thigh, and pull away from the kiss before I lose track of what I was saying.

"You tell me," I murmur. I reach up and caress his cheek. He's covered in stubble. I want to feel that roughness all over my body. I don't know what I'm doing, Ben. I just know it feels too good to give up. "You tell me," I repeat. "What are we doing here?"

He has me on the bed before I can climb out of his arms. "Talking too much," he says. He straddles me, kissing me again.

My control isn't just gone, it's shredded, torn away from me as if it never existed in the first place. Panic grips me for a second. I remember this feeling, remember what it led to on Alderaan almost ten years ago. I push at Ben's chest, wrench my lips away from his. "Ben, stop." He doesn't listen at first. I push harder. "Ben, stop. I don't want to... fuck." I wasn't ready for things to move to the bed this fast. I feel dizzy, pressured, and I don't like it. Padawan Aubris made me feel like this every time he came near me. I don't want to feel this way with Ben.

Ben reaches for my cock, and it's an effort to keep my eyes from rolling back in my head. "You don't want to fuck?" he asks. "What other reasons would you have for being with a padawan?"

My gut twists horribly at that. It's too much like what Aubris said when... damn it. Damn it. "Let go and get off me. Now."

He takes me seriously and rolls away. "I don't understand. Why are you so concerned about discretion? I can think of a dozen senators who've spent nights with Jedi. It's hardly uncommon."

"It's not common on Alderaan," I point out, voice gone cold. "And I'm not--" I cut myself off mid-sentence. I remind myself that he doesn't know who I am, doesn't know who my father is. He didn't even realize I was a junior senator until I told him. I don't need him to know that I'm more than just a senator. Not yet. "I'm not interested in having gossip about me spread all over Coruscant," I finish.

Ben's expression has gone neutral. "All right," he says, and I can't read his tone at all. "It was a good evening. You'll have to let me know when you'll be in town next. Maybe we'll do this again."

I feel like I've been slapped. "I'm not going anywhere," I tell him, trying not to let my voice shake. I remember a mocking voice telling me Padawans aren't permitted to form attachments. You didn't think this was anything more than sex, did you, my prince? "I'm going to be on Coruscant for the next several months while the Senate is in session. I want to see you again."

I reach out for him, and he pull pressing the length of his body to mine. He kisses me again, almost desperately. When he pulls away, I can hear him panting softly. "You've got to stop playing games with me," he says. "I can't keep up. I'm no good at them."

"I wasn't trying to play games with you."

"The hell you weren't." He's still angry, but his body feels so good against mine -- he's hard, and his erection is pressing into my groin. "The way you were talking... the things you said last night, about asking me to go..."

"I told you the night we met that I'm not interested in one-night stands." I squirm under him, knowing I'm pressing against him as much as he's pressing against me. "I didn't invite you here just to fuck you. I do want to see you again. I just need to know that I can trust you to keep it discreet."

I feel some of the tension leak out of him at that. "I promise," he tells me. "And you're right... I don't want this to be public knowledge, either."

My eyebrows lift. I know, vaguely, about the code that forbids padawans forming attachments, but is there more to this than that? Is there someone he wants to keep this secret from?

He called me "Master" this morning, before he knew where he was. Gods, I hope that doesn't mean what I think it might. I try to remember people I've seen him with in the clubs and can't. All I really remember from the clubs is Ben. Ben, hunting, being hunted; Ben's look of guarded concentration as he fucks someone...

Ben's face looked nothing like that when he was inside me last night. He looked open and vulnerable and... steady, too. He looked like I felt: shattered and safe. Gods, Ben. What happened to us?

I don't want to think about that right now. I lean up and kiss him again, briefly. "Thank you," I tell him. "I appreciate it." I roll us over so I'm on top of him. The feel of his body under mine is just incredible. I kiss him for a few seconds, enjoying the way he tastes, the way he feels, the way his arms tighten around me. I don't feel lost -- just aroused and wanted. I'm already looking forward to seeing him again. "Are you going to be on Coruscant for a while?"

"As far as I know."

"Good." No more playing tag at Balikk's. No more games. "I've got a free night in four days. Will you spend the night with me again?"

He looks away for a second. "I can come see you," he says. He looks at me. Damn it. I can't tell what he's thinking. "I don't know if I can spend the night again. I really shouldn't..."

I grind my hips into his. "Oh, you really should."

His eyes close, and I suddenly have him gasping under me. "I'll come if you ask me to," he whispers.

I grin and put my lips next to his ear. "Will you come for me?"

"Fuck... yes..."

I kiss him again, and before I can really get started, he flips me over and starts tearing at my clothes. I should stop him, I really should... he unbuttons my pants and pulls my cock out. Do I have time for this? Now he's stroking my cock with one hand, and his mouth comes down to join it -- oh, gods, yes. Where did he learn to give head like that? No, never mind. I don't want to know. I'm relaxing into it now, enjoying it, thinking I might just stay here forever, when -- damn it. The alarm. I curse a few times and manage to call off the alarm clock, but that reminds me -- I really can't stay here forever, much as I'd like to. I try to urge him to speed up a little...

Ben looks up at me. He puts his hand on my cock and slides his mouth up and off me in one hard, smooth motion. "Faster?"


He obliges, taking me in deep, letting me thrust up into his mouth. Yes, like that -- harder, faster, don't worry about being careful, I want it that way... oh, gods, yes. Yes. Release feels like nothing I've ever imagined before. I wonder if it will always feel this way with him. I close my eyes, panting softly, as he climbs up the bed. I look up at him. He's smiling, lips closed -- oh.I lean up and open my mouth over his, and as soon as he opens his, I slide my tongue into his mouth to take my own come from him. Oh, yes. Oh, that's good. I lick his lips, slowly, wanting to make sure I get every last drop... he moans a little, and I realize he must be getting close.

The thought of Ben, needing completion, needing me to bring him to orgasm, rips me out of my fuzzy contentment. I unzip his pants and reach through layers and folds of fabric to wrap my hand around his cock, pulling it free and stroking it. He clenches his teeth, and I grin as I lower my head to take him in my mouth. It only takes one small lick, and he's coming for me. I keep his come in my mouth to share with him, and when I come back up to kiss him, he takes it from me. Our tastes are mingling, now, and it's nice. It's very nice. It's a nice high note for this morning to end on.

I reach up to stroke his cheek with the backs of my fingers. So rough. The next time he's here in the morning, I'll have him run his face over the small of my back, scratching me a little, before I let him slide into me. That sounds unbelievably good. "I have to go," I tell him.

"Give me a second." He falls onto his back and covers his eyes with one hand. I put my clothes back in order and look back at him. He looks exhausted. I can't decide whether to be smug or confused. He's never needed to wait between partners at Rising. I lean forward and put my hand on his chest, rubbing gently. He puts a hand over mine, and then takes his other hand away from his eyes. He reaches up and cups the back of my neck, pulling me close. I kiss him again, gently, and take my time tasting him.

He releases me, and I draw back. "That was nice," I tell him, smiling. His eyes are closed, and he's smiling, too.

"Let me just..." I move out of the way so he can tuck his cock back into his pants and zip them up again. He reaches for me. I start to kiss him, but he dodges a bit and tucks my head under his, and holds me. I let my eyes close and sink into him. A few seconds pass, and I feel our chests rising and falling together.

I pull back. "You're not going to fall asleep, are you?" I tease.

"The way you did last night?" I see a smile curving its way around his lips, and I sit up. His eyes blink open, and he turns on his side, smiling at me, expression soft, eyes as green as his shirt. Gods.

I clear my throat. "I'd like to give you my private comm frequency."

"No more playing hard-to-get?" he asks.

I have to put my hands in my lap to avoid reaching out for him. "No more games. Do you want it or not?"

He wants it; he takes it, and gives me his. It suddenly occurs to me that the alternative, for me, would have been to call the Jedi Temple and ask for Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi -- I don't know if I could have done that. I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.

"Four days," I tell him at the front door. He nods. He glances to the elevator, then back to me, a slight frown on his face. I shake my head. "I have a few things I need to do before I leave." He nods again, and reaches out for me to kiss me goodbye.

I still taste us on him. It takes more effort than I'd like to admit to push him away. "Good--" I can't say 'goodbye' to him. It seems so final. "Good morning," I tell him, instead.

He brushes his lips over mine, barely touching me, and then pulls away, smiling. "Good morning," he says. He leaves, and I breathe a sigh of relief. Of regret. Of something.

Gods, what a morning.

I have a few minutes before I have to leave for my breakfast meeting with Senator Antilles and the office staff. I go back inside, forcing myself not to watch him until he gets on the elevator and leaves. I can still taste myself, can still taste him. I'm still half-hard from all those kisses at the door.

Pull yourself together, Bail. And make sure there are no obvious traces of last night around before the cleaning staff shows up and finds something to report to your father.

We never actually got around to drinking the brandy. I put away the bottle and rinse the glasses out, clean them and put them back in the cabinet. His toothbrush. I go back to the bedroom fresher and drop his toothbrush into a drawer. No one is going to notice my shirt is missing except for me.

I don't know what I'm going to tell Larian; she's not stupid. She's going to know something happened last night. At least I can trust her; she's mine, not my father's, and she's smart and loyal. Having at least one person who knows about it and can cover for me will probably come in handy sooner or later. I'll have to tell her the truth.

If I had to fall for another padawan, at least this time it's Obi-Wan Kenobi, padawan to Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Gods. Obi-Wan... my Ben... is nothing like mission reports and senate gossip make him out to be. Master Jinn is something of a living legend, and Obi-Wan Kenobi has been making a respectable name for himself for the last three or four years -- though I doubt he knows it. Ben made such a production of telling me his real name that I didn't have the heart to tell him I knew it already -- I knew it from the moment he told me about his mission on Fin'aq, and the only reason I stumbled over telling it to Larian is because I don't know if I want her knowing which padawan he is yet. Ben will do fine for now.

It's hard to reconcile all these images. Padawan Kenobi, respectable young Jedi with a promising future. Ben, the man who talks to me, with whom sex is so sweet it almost brings tears to my eyes. The passionate young padawan whose every move says "fuck me" in the clubs. Three different personae, and each of them is deliciously irresistable in one way or another. I knew, early on, that I was going to want to see more of him than I saw in the clubs. I wanted to see what he didn't want to show people there. I knew he wasn't going to be someone I could walk away from and forget.

I couldn't forget him now, even if I tried. And I did try, for a while.

This is not going to turn out the way it did with Aubris. I will not let things get to that point. Ben might make me feel like I'm going to lose my mind, but I'm going to be very sure it doesn't actually get lost.

He is going to be trouble. There's nothing I can do about that. But he's more than that. He's making me feel things I haven't felt in years, things I haven't wanted to feel in years.

I am not giving him up. And if I play every angle right, maybe I won't be asked to.

I walk back to the balcony to greet the day, to take in the last traces of pink in the sky as dawn breaks. I watch the traffic and wonder if Ben is in one of those tiny moving dots in the sky. Gods help me, I miss him already.

2. Xan

It's time to get up. I've been lying here half-awake for a while now, after slowly surfacing from a pleasant dream. I feel better than I've felt in years, and I suppose that should surprise me. By all accounts, I ought to be a wreck by now, but I'm incredibly calm and content.

I'm back at the fucking Temple, after all, and I'm likely to run into my former master soon. I have no idea what that will be like. Sometimes I think I'm ready for it, that I should just go find his quarters and knock on the door: Surprise! Maybe not. I'll have to find a way to make my peace with him. If he wants to, that is. I have no idea if he'll even want to see me again, after the way we parted.

I stretch beneath the blanket and my foot brushes against a warm leg. I pull away quickly before I wake him. I can't believe the morning of incredible sex I've just experienced. T'nell was the last person I ever expected to jump back in bed with me. I wound up in therapy after the last time. He may have as well, as far as I know. I'd assumed he wouldn't want to see me again, much less drape his naked body across my bed the first chance he got.

He's sleeping soundly now. He must have had quite a night last night, before he came to greet me this morning. I wonder who fucked him so hard he was that sore?

I watch him sleep. His eyelashes seem impossibly long against his pale cheeks, and his lips are slightly parted. His chest rises and falls in a steady rhythm, marking the time as it slowly drifts by. There is something so delicious about lounging in bed late in the morning like this, a sleeping lover beside me. I shift the blanket aside enough to see just a little more of him.

I still can't get over how beautiful he is. It's hard not to reach out and touch him. I want to trace the outline of his lips with my fingers. I want to plant gentle kisses on his chest. I want to wake him slowly. With my tongue.

Oh, I should not be having these thoughts about a padawan. I remember the way he looked at me that night, nearly two years ago; how hurt he was when he realized I had been pretending he was someone else all along. I didn't mean to hurt him, but when I looked at him, all I could see was Qui-Gon. I didn't think he would mind -- after all, we both knew it was only for a week. He was only 18, and I figured it was just another fuck for him too. I had no idea he had come to feel so strongly about me in such a short time. I don't want it to happen again. He can give me his body, but he's not allowed to give me anything more. Not until that braid has been cut off.

I know what it's like to be in that position, and I won't do it to him. I need to find a lover closer to my own age. Some days, I think I want more than... someone to fuck regularly. I enjoyed the club scene when I was his age -- I certainly fucked my way through the senior padawan ranks just like everyone else. Well, half the ranks, at least. During those ten years undercover, I took pleasure when and where I could, and with a variety of different people. Some were much younger than T'nell; some were much older than me. Fucking strangers in dark corners certainly has its appeal, but I think the time may be approaching for me settle down a little. I glance down at T'nell's lovely face again. Perhaps not immediately.

T'nell stirs and mumbles in his sleep, rolling onto his back. The blanket falls away just enough to reveal a glimpse of his penis, nestled in dark curly hair at his groin. I force my eyes away -- down, boy -- but I can't resist kissing his cheek lightly, just dusting it with my lips.

He opens his eyes and yawns, squirming adorably. "Hey."

"Hey. Listen, I'm going to go for a walk. Stay as long as you like."

"M'kay." He nestles back down into the pillow, pulling the blanket back over his naked body.

Force, he's so beautiful. Even asleep, he reminds me of Qui-Gon. A memory surfaces so quickly that I can't clamp down on it. I'm not supposed to, of course; I'm supposed to let them come, let them fill me, and then let them go. That's what the soul healer I spent so much money on told me, at least. It seems to work well enough.

Qui-Gon Jinn was sent to collect me from my home planet -- I'd returned there after Master Pell was killed, not sure if I wanted to continue my training. A few months with my father was enough to convince me that I was meant to be a Jedi, and that I would not be able to return to a life outside the Order. I don't think I was surprised to see Qui step off of that ship -- he was the one who'd found me in the first place, when I was a very small child. What surprised me was that minutes after we'd made the jump to hyperspace, he sat down beside me, took my hand, and told me that he'd asked the Council for permission to complete my training. He wanted to take me as his padawan. I was stunned, frankly -- he had only been a knight for a few years himself. He wasn't even thirty years old, far too young to be my master. But I was desperately lonely, and I had always considered him a friend. I trusted him, and I cared about him. I knew he cared about me. I said yes.

I couldn't sleep that night, so I crept into his cabin and knelt on the floor by his bed. I must have watched him sleep for an hour. His hair had grown out of the padawan cut several years earlier and dark shaggy locks hung haphazardly around his face. He wouldn't grow a beard for several years yet. Though I had felt an adolescent attraction for him for the last few years, this was the first time I'd ever really had the opportunity to look at him, to watch him like this. I longed to touch him, to taste his skin, to feel his arms around me. His body was naked under the thin sheet, and I could almost make out the lines of his genitals. I was so tempted to touch him, to see how he would respond. Would he grow hard under my fingers? Would he let me suck him off there in the dark? Would he pretend it hadn't happened in the morning?

I wasn't a virgin then -- though I hadn't had much experience -- but it was quite disconcerting to feel that sort of desire for my master. Master Pell had been like a father to me, and it would never have occurred to me to regard him otherwise. But Qui was a knight, not a master. He was young and beautiful and had developed quite a reputation for himself -- I had overheard giggling testimonials from more than one senior padawan in the communal changing rooms. My friends, thinking that I might know him better than most, frequently pestered me for details about him. We regarded him as a romantic figure, someone we'd all like to be -- or do, at the very least. And now, this man, about whom I'd fantasized on more than one occasion, was going to be my master?

I returned to my own cabin and stroked my cock slowly while lying back in my own narrow bunk, thinking about his hands, his eyes, his body... It was a familiar fantasy, and it brought me to the edge of orgasm just as quickly as it always had, though I now had a little more realistic detail to add. It was the first time that I'd ever jerked off thinking about my master, but it wouldn't be the last.

That memory is stirring my desire now, but after what just happened between T'nell and me, I'm not sure more sex would be a good idea. I slide out of bed and fumble through my unpacked bag for clean clothes. T'nell is snoring lightly when I leave the room at last.

The Temple halls are much busier than they were early this morning. I get a few strange looks as I wander through the halls, but I don't see anyone I recognize. Because of the nature of my work, I stopped wearing the traditional Jedi garb years ago, and I can't imagine I'll go back to it now. Black trousers and dark-colored shirts, topped with a cloak so iridescent black it's nearly blue in bright sunlight -- these became my uniform years ago. I'm comfortable like this.

Nearly everyone who streams by me gives me a sideways glance, and I can feel a few curious probes in my direction. Maintaining such tight shields is more of a challenge than I expected it to be. Maybe I should find a less crowded spot for my first outing. Perhaps the Rhichta Gardens?

I spent hours and hours on my knees there as a padawan, and my feet still remember the way. The gardens are just as beautiful as they were ten years ago. It's strange how nothing changes here. The entire galaxy seems to be spinning out of control, but this place is the center of calm and tradition. It's unmoving and solid. Or... perhaps it's outdated and out of touch? I snort lightly at my own cynicism. Now is not the time to start reflecting on my political views. I have a feeling that they will be causing me more than enough trouble in the near future.

I make my way to a favorite secluded spot inside the small vineyard that produces grapes for traditional Rilatian wine. The flowers are blooming this time of year, and the scent alone is intoxicating. I'll have to return when the fruits are ripe later in the year to sneak a few. They contain a naturally occurring intoxicant, so the grapes alone can give one a bit of a buzz. When finished, the wine itself packs quite a punch.

I sink to my knees and just float in the scent for a moment. I spent a good amount of time here as a padawan, sometimes meditating, sometimes just thinking. I made love to Jal Benyat -- the only real boyfriend I've ever had -- on this very spot, not long before he was killed on a mission. On quarters late at night, I would often come here so I wouldn't hear them crying out for each other through the thin walls. Sometimes I wondered if the vines grew so vibrantly because of the amount of semen I left behind on those nights.

It's strange that I can just feel these memories now -- they don't hurt like they did for so long. Of course, it's the memories of what happened years later that still have the power to crush me into the ground. Those are the ones I'll have to face very soon.

I loved him so much back then. He was perfect. He was beautiful. He was such a strong Jedi. His eyes were so blue, and the way he looked at me -- sometimes I thought that he felt something more than masterly affection for me as well. I didn't have the balls to say anything to him at my Coming Out, and instead approached him shyly a few days afterwards. I had planned it all so carefully, so precisely. I knew exactly what I would say, and I thought I knew how he would respond. I was wrong -- he said no. He told me that he cared about me, but that it was inappropriate for us to be physically intimate as long as we were master and apprentice. He kissed me on the forehead and hugged me tightly, and then left our quarters. He didn't come back until morning.

But I understood, and looking back, I know he was right about that. It wasn't appropriate. Not that some master-padawan pairs don't make it work, but... It's not a fair arrangement for either person. At least he's significantly older than his current padawan. I doubt a boy T'nell's age would find a middle-aged master very appealing. It's probably not even an issue between them.

He probably hasn't aged very well anyway. He never took good care of himself. I had to bribe and nag him to go to the healers, not just for routine exams, but even when he was bleeding profusely. I'm sure the last ten years have not been kind, especially since he's been on such a heavy mission rotation. And training a padawan as talented and vivacious as Kenobi must be quite difficult.

I have to grin at myself -- this line of reasoning is just too petty, even for me. I'm not nervous about seeing Master Jinn again. I'm over him. He hurt me terribly, but I've forgiven him. I plan to tell him that as soon as possible. Perhaps I'll take T'nell up on his offer to set up a meeting. I should definitely make the first move, before he finds out I'm here and comes looking for me.

I feel strangely calm, surprisingly serene. Perhaps being here will be good for me after all? I've been dreading it for months, but it hasn't been so terrible thus far.

I take a deep breath and release it slowly. The scent of the flowers is becoming overwhelming, and I can't focus enough to meditate properly. Perhaps I should find another spot. There is a beautiful fountain on the other side of the garden, as I recall.

My feet take me there almost unconsciously. The false sky is incredibly blue, and the temperature is perfect. A slight breeze blows through the garden. I've really missed this place. I want to--



Standing by the fountain, staring into the water, looking... Sad? Tired? Contemplative? I can't really tell.

But, oh, he looks... good. I take a few quick steps back and duck behind a tree. My heart is pounding in my chest, so loud I can hear it. When did I pull my shields up this tight? I'm shaking.

I look around the tree trunk carefully. I see him in perfect profile, and he looks exactly the same as I remember -- the longish hair, the neatly trimmed beard. He's the same. It's as if those ten years did not pass at all.

Oh, fuck. I have to get out of here. I can't... I can't look at him. The later memories are surfacing now, much too quickly -- the ones I haven't let myself think about. Him holding me as I sobbed, him kissing me so tenderly, making love to me, his arms around me as I fell asleep...

No, no, no...

The feeling of him moving inside me so gently, so powerfully. I didn't want it to end. I could still feel him there the next day, and the thought that it hadn't meant to him what it had meant to me was -- is -- crushing.

I sink to my knees. Not now.

The hard glint in his eyes when he told me no, he didn't feel that way about me, he had just wanted to comfort me, and that he regretted it.

Fuck. I'd forgotten about that. I wanted to forget.

It had been a pity fuck to him. That's what it was. That's all it was. And on top of all of that, he knew -- he knew what my trial would be. My father died in my arms, and Qui had known. He knew that it would shatter me, that it was cruel, that it was an unfair trial, and he took me there, manipulated me, forced me to make a choice no one should have to make, and fucked me when I was desperate and distraught. And then told me it had meant nothing to him.

I try to stifle my sobs, but I can't. How could just the sight of him shatter me like this? It's been ten fucking years! I thought... I can't...

When will he stop affecting me like this? How can I possibly face him now? What will I say? What will he do?

I look back towards the fountain, and he's gone. I lean back against the tree trunk and try to collect myself again. How long can this continue? How long before I will be able to face him and not fall apart? Why did I come back here? It's not too late -- I could just tell them I've changed my mind and get back on my ship right now, head away from here, anywhere.

And keep running, just like I've been doing for the last ten years? Alone?

My quarters are empty when I return. I'm relieved beyond measure. I do not want to see anyone, talk to anyone right now. I want to sleep, or do something to clear my head. The bed is... still warm, and still smells of sex. What have I done to T'nell this time?

The balcony. The sound of traffic is muted by the energy shielding. I fall to my knees and somehow manage to meditate.

3. Qui

I finish the last bite of the ditlan as Mace concludes the story he's be me about a recent development in the years-long sentient rights debate between Yoda and the senator from Gorlan 3. I haven't really been paying close attention, I'll admit. I've heard most of the details already, and I know that he's stalling for time by drawing it out. I have no idea what is the real reason for his inviting me to share mid-day meal in his quarters, but I suspect it's something more significant than Temple politics.

I overslept this morning and nearly missed a meeting of the diplomacy seminar I've been coordinating for the last few months. Of course, the reason for my sleeping late is something I haven't had much time to think about yet. Part of my mind has been sorting through the details of the last few days. After what happened with Obi-Wan at Siri's Coming Out, and then last night with T'nell... I've spent a lot of time on my knees lately, and I'm not certain that much progress has been made. Sitting here and having to smile politely and force down Mace's attempt at cooking is not helping at all.

After the seminar meeting, I returned to my quarters to find that Obi-Wan had come and gone in my absence. His half full teacup sat on the counter in the kitchen and still warm clothes were strewn on the floor just inside the door of his room. One was a green shirt I hadn't ever seen before. In fact, it looked quite expensive. I wonder how long he's had it? I had not been terribly surprised that he hadn't come home during the night, but the idea that he would wait until he knew I was gone... Is he avoiding me? Did I hurt him as much as I think I did? I need to see him, to talk to him.

Mace had left a message inviting me to share a private meal with him. Well, perhaps inviting is not quite accurate. I spent my shower wondering what he could possibly want to discuss with me that he couldn't say in public. My behavior of late has certainly been erratic, but he couldn't possibly know the reason. Perhaps it's an upcoming mission? That wouldn't warrant a private meeting, though -- not in his quarters, at least. His message would not have been so cryptic had he been inviting me over for a visit of a more personal nature. We were lovers once, but that was years ago, before he was on the Council. I doubt he has the time for much of a social life now.

I had an hour before I needed to meet him, and I decided to go to a garden I hadn't been to in years to meditate. I'm not sure what drew me there. I've been feeling edgy all morning. It's a strangely familiar feeling, almost like a warning.

"And Yoda just walked away at that," Mace finished, his teacup clinking against the saucer, brightly signaling the end of the story.

I smile, though I'm sure it's clear that I'm distracted. Best to get this over with before I have to apologize for my rudeness even more. I take a deep breath. "Mace, why did you invite me here today? I'm sure it wasn't to regale me wi Yoda's intellectual prowess."

Mace smiles tightly in return. "Well, no, it wasn't. There are a couple of things I'd like to discuss with you."

I nod, taking another long sip of my tea, steeling myself. I still don't know what this is about, but that strange feeling has returned. It makes me nervous. He rests his elbows on the table, peering at me over his steepled hands. His eyes are darker than usual, and the fine lines around them are slightly more pronounced than I remember seeing before. It occurs to me that I haven't been this close to him in years.

"First of all, I thought you should know that one of our covert operations specialists has returned to the Temple for a few months. While he's here, he'll be working with a few select senior padawans who could benefit from training and supervised undercover fieldwork. I was thinking that Obi-Wan would be a good candidate."

I shrug. "Well, that's certainly an area in which he hasn't had much experience. I have neither the interest nor the talent for it, I'm afraid."

Mace smiles warmly, which relaxes me somewhat. "Qui-Gon, you're one of the most gifted diplomats I've ever known. We have absolutely no interest in sending you undercover any time soon. I wanted to clear it with you, of course. It would mean he'd be taken out of the mission rotation for several months. We would probably take you off of the rotation as well. You two seem like you could use a break anyway."

"Does that mean you have other plans for me?"

"We were hoping you could be convinced to expand your diplomacy seminar."

I nod. "That shouldn't be a problem. We were planning to begin reading the classical texts of H'kalith Banf. It would be a good time to add some new participants."

Mace nods in return. "I'll make some inquiries and send a list of candidates to you in the next few days. There are some young knights who could certainly benefit from your expertise in that area. A few recent missions have been a little rough, you know."

"No, I don't know. I'm not the one on the Council. You probably shouldn't give me any more detail than that." I accompany that slight jab with a smile, though he doesn't seem to notice.

"No, I shouldn't." He pauses, taking a sip of tea and watching me for a moment. It makes me uneasy suddenly. This can't be all he wanted to talk to me about.

"You said there were several things you wanted to...?"

He exhales. Not a good sign. His eyes meet mine hesitantly. "I understand you attended Padawan Tachi's Coming Out a few nights ago."

"Yes." I frown slightly. There's nothing wrong with that. Perhaps I'm a bit old for that sort of thing, but--

"I also understand that there was a... an incident with Obi-Wan? In the back room?" He sips his tea calmly.

I'm sure the color has just drained from my face. I open my mouth but nothing comes out. Who saw that? How did Mace hear about it? The room was empty -- at least, I thought it was. The only person I've told is T'nell. Then does that mean...? T'nell wouldn't have said anything, would he? Did Obi-Wan tell someone? Oh, Force -- I need to talk to him.

"Mace, I--"

He cuts me off with a wave of his hand. "Listen, Qui-Gon, I know that your relationship with Obi-Wan is none of my business. I don't have to remind you of the official position on such things, but I'll tell you that the Council has been aware of the nature of your relationship with your padawan for some time. Even when he was underage." He looks down at that, tracing the edge of his teacup with one finger.

I close my eyes, reeling a little from this revelation. I was certain that we were discreet back then. I suppose that it was naive of me to think that we could keep it a secret, but... I was nervous that it was becoming obvious at the end. That was part of the reason why I put a stop to it in the first place. I open my eyes and pull my composure back into some reasonable semblance of normalcy.


"Of course, we generally turned a blind eye to the situation," he continues, looking at me again. "It was clear that there was no impropriety. In fact, it actually seemed to strengthen your working relationship. But Qui-Gon, whatever... games you play in the privacy of your quarters need to stay there. Surely you can appreciate the PR nightmare that could have resulted from your fantasy rape scene, or whatever it was?"

I fight to maintain control of my features as my insides twist severely. That is a word I've barely permitted myself to think. I haven't spoken it aloud. It's too horrible even to contemplate. I struggle to control my breathing. I need to leave. I need to get away from here, to be alone for a while, to think.

"Qui, you're my friend. I don't want to see you or Obi-Wan hurt -- or worse, separated from each other at the demand of the moral hard-liners on the Council. I don't think that will happen. I managed to put a stop to the gossip on this. But please, don't put yourselves in that position again. I may not be able to help you next time."

Next time. Will there even be a next time? I can only nod my head slightly. I can't even look at him. I stare into my teacup. I need to leave, but I can't think of a way to do so and maintain the illusion of self-control.

He thinks we were acting out a fantasy. Was it a fantasy? Was it something that I'd thought about before, on any level? We've played around with rough sex before, but... Could that mean Obi-Wan thinks it was an act as well? I have no idea what Obi thinks. I haven't seen him, heard from him, or even clearly felt his presence in the Force for days. This has to stop.

T'nell said that Obi-Wan wasn't angry with me. I want to believe that.

I take a deep breath and force myself to meet Mace's intense gaze. I almost falter at the concern I see there, but I hang on to the last shreds of my control even as it threatens to unravel further.

"Qui-Gon, are you all right? I'm sorry if... Just be more careful, please. I know how difficult a master-apprentice relationship can be -- especially when it's more than that." He smiles tightly as he cuts his words off.

I nod in return and manage to rise to my feet. "Thank you for the meal. For everything." I bow slightly and let myself out.

I head for my quarters, lost in a storm of worry. What have I done to Obi-Wan? What has happened between us? I thought I was doing the right thing by getting involved with him in the first place, years ago. I was trying not to make the same mistakes I made with...

For some reason, thoughts of Xanatos have been drifting into the edges of my consciousness lately. The situation is different, but my feelings aren't so dissimilar. Perhaps...

I loved Xanatos dearly. He was nearly an adult when he became my padawan, and we were separated by only a dozen years in age. He was beautiful and kind and loving. I knew that he had strong feelings for me. I saw the way he looked at me, and I couldn't help but notice him as well. But he was my padawan, and as far as I knew such relationships were forbidden. Of course, I knew that particular rule was occasionally ignored, but at that time it made so much sense to me. I wasn't sure of what I was doing most of the time, and welcoming that beautiful young man into my bed seemed like it would only complicate the situation.

I had hoped he would ask me at his Coming Out. I could have justified it that night. I watched him take man after man by the hand and lead them away, all the while gritting my teeth in frustration. He had to ask. I wasn't permitted to approach him, though I wanted to.

Several days later, hours of meditation convinced me that it had been for the best. He and I needed to maintain a certain amount of distance between us. He desperately needed a father figure, and I was the only one who could provide that. I hadn't been ready for a padawan. Master Dooku had seen me comforting the boy at Master Pell's funeral, and suggested that I take him as my first apprentice, to complete his training. I thought it was a bad idea, and I fought against it. I didn't want a padawan. I wasn't ready. And then Xan left the Order, went home to his family -- discussion over. Several months later, Yoda himself commed me to tell me that Xan was coming back, and suggested that I take the boy as my padawan. He calmly countered all of my arguments against with impeccable logic, and before I knew it I was on a transport to Telos, nervous as hell but still convincing myself this was going to work.

I realize that I am standing outside my quarters now, hesitating. What if Obi-Wan is inside? Am I ready to face him yet? I need to sort my emotions out more. I nee calm myself down, and to figure out why I suddenly cannot stop thinking about my first apprentice. I reach out with the Force, tentatively, and Obi is nowhere nearby. I palm the door open with a sigh of relief and find my meditation mat right away. I feel strangely compelled to re-examine what happened between Xan and me. Perhaps there are clues here to my feelings for Obi-Wan? I settle into a comfortable position and gradually even my breathing. It takes more effort than it should.

When Xan finally approached me to confess his feelings a few days after his eighteenth birthday, I nearly gave in. It was extremely difficult to tell him no, to walk away. I couldn't bring myself to return that night, for fear that the temptation to walk into his bedroom and just take him would be too great.

I found a lover in an agemate of mine soon after. Xan seemed not to have been too hurt or bothered by my rejection of him, and he continued to lead a fairly active social life. Things returned to normal quickly, though it was even more difficult to keep my eyes to myself in the showers, and not to let myself be affected by brushing against him in tight spaces or sleeping next to him on missions.

And the aftermath of his trial was... It was not the way I had anticipated the mission would end, but there was little I could do. It was his trial, and I had to let him make decisions on his own. I have often wished I had stepped in sooner -- perhaps I could have prevented his father's death.

Xan was distraught on the return trip. I tried to comfort him as best I could, but he was inconsolable. I held him for hours, hoping that my presence could somehow soothe some of the pain that was rolling off of him. When he kissed me, I kissed him back. When he asked me to make love to him, I didn't turn away. I knew that it was probably a bad idea, but I felt as if I'd let him down enough already. He'd gotten over his crush on me years earlier, I thought. There seemed to be little harm in losing ourselves in physical comfort for a while. I believed I was helping him at the time.

But when we returned to Coruscant, everything changed. He was moody, unpredictable, emotional -- I knew that he was suffering after-effects of the traumatic experience he had just survived, but it was unnerving. The morning of his knighting, he knelt at my feet and told me he loved me; that he wanted to be more to me than just my former apprentice. I was astonished, and thinking he was still in need of psychological help, I handled it badly. He took my rejection personally and in the end we screamed at each other for hours. He accused me of things that made no sense, and when I denied his accusations, it only became worse.

We went to his knighting ceremony angry. Afterwards, he stormed away, taking his severed braid with him. I never saw him again. I learned later that he had not abandoned the Jedi, but that he wished to have no contact with me. I sent a few desperate messages to him anyway, through Master Yoda -- who assured me that he was well. I never heard from him.

My rejection had driven him away. His trial was traumatic, but successful. His father was stopped. Xanatos earned his knighthood. But I had no idea that he'd loved me silently all those years, and that he had been waiting to tell me so. I regret just... fucking him the way I did. I wish that it had happened under other circumstances. I cared about him more than I knew at the time, but I could not make any promises to him under those conditions.

I exhale slowly, and sink to the floor, pressing my forehead to the cool stone. The memories are still shockingly painful. I thought I would not make the same mistake with Obi-Wan. I would not deny him his feelings for me, nor mine for him. I was older, wiser, and knew more about relationships. At first it wasn't difficult. When I thought he was feeling too much for me, I backed away. He seemed fine. I quickly realized that he, like Xan, never showed any interest in women.

It didn't bother me that that both of my padawans were slack. I never made a fuss about of it with either of them. In fact, I have been very careful about the gender of the lovers I've brought home for the last few years. Xan seemed particularly uncomfortable around Tahl when she and I were lovers, and he didn't have the same reaction on the mornings that Mace joined us for firstmeal. I thought it would help Obi-Wan feel more comfortable with his sexuality if I didn't alienate him any more than necessary. I realize now that I may have given him the wrong impression altogether.

Ironically, the situation with Obi-Wan is the reverse of the situation with Xanatos. I am desperately in love with my apprentice, and he does not feel that way about me in return. Of course, I know that is how it should be -- after all, he is not permitted to form attachments until he's a knight, and that is several years away. I want something from him that he does not have to give.

I thought I could settle for being his lover. I didn't mind that he was promiscuous -- he should be at his age. He always came home to me. As long as he was in my bed regularly, I was happy. It was enough.

But lately -- lately he's been pushing me away, and I reacted badly. I was so angry with him at Siri's party. He wouldn't fuck me, but he would drive away everyone else who wanted to? He would let a stranger fuck him, but not the one person who loves him more than anything?

I sit up again and calm my breathing once more. I'm close to the event that I need most to examine, and I can't stop now.

I remember Siri asking me to go to the back room with her that night. I had actually left the club and walked around the block a few times before returning to make sure Obi knew I was leaving. I arrived just in time to see him dragging someone off to to the back room. I distinctly remember the way that my anger swelled in me at that moment. It didn't surprise me at the time. It should have set off alarms, but there, in the moment, it didn't. I could only feel -- I couldn't think. I felt that the best course of action would be to head after them, and then drag my padawan home with me, using whatever force was necessary. How dare he treat me this way?

Siri intercepted me along the way and reminded me that her offer still stood. I wonder now if she knew what I was intending to do and was distracting me? As she stood there in front of me, her hand sliding down to caress me to hardness, I realized that having sex with Siri could be even better revenge for the way Obi-Wan been treating me. It makes little sense now that I think about it, but it all seemed so clear at the time. He had been so angry with me when he saw us flirting with each other earlier in the evening. Seeing me with a woman had upset Xan as well. I wanted Obi-Wan to be angry, as angry as I was. Then we could somehow... understand each other again.

So I made him watch. I forced him to watch. It hurt him more than I intended, though, and I faltered when I started to feel his emotions bleeding through. I brought Siri off and pretended my own completion before I could lose my erection completely -- easy enough with a barrier on -- and made my way over to him as soon as I could. After that, my memories are hazy, as if I was very drunk. I remember snippets of emotion, and of sight and sound, but nothing else until the horrible moment that I realized what I was doing. Then everything just crashed around me, and I ran away.

I take a deep, shaky breath now. I forced him. I took him without his consent. He fought me -- I had the bruises to prove it the next day -- and he was crying and telling me to stop, that I was hurting him...

And I don't know how I got there. I have had moments like that before, when the world became blurry and I later realized that I had no memory of what I had just done. They seem to happen in moments of extreme emotion. And they have happened with Obi-Wan before.

I don't know how we can get past this. I don't know if I can forgive myself. All I know is that I love him. And I have to tell him as soon as possible.

I push myself to my feet and stumble to the terminal at the desk. I type out a quick message and send it to his account:


We need to talk. I'll be in our quarters.

I'm sorry for everything.


I settle back onto my meditation pad to wait, and I have the feeling that I may have to wait for quite a while.

4. Obi-Wan

I'm stalling, and I know it. I should have headed home as soo as my classes were over. Instead, I'm waiting for T'nell to get out of his last class, hoping he'll be free for lastmeal. I ran into him when I arrived at the Temple this morning, and he was in a hurry to meet someone. He told me I should head home and see how Qui was doing, that Qui wanted to talk to me.

I wasn't ready to see Qui yet, so I went up to one of the tower balconies and watched the last traces of pink and orange fade into blue, reliving last night and this morning over and over as I watched speeders race by. By the time I went back into the Temple, it was nearly eighth hour. Qui was gone when I reached our quarters. I made myself a cup of tea, showered, dressed, and left. It was hard to concentrate in my classes today, and getting Qui's message early this afternoon didn't help. We need to talk. I'm sorry about everything. I don't want to have that conversation. I just want to move on with our lives.

Knowing I'm going to see Bail again in four days helps. At least now I'm only reliving our night together instead of obsessing over someone I thought I'd never see again. I should have realized what a prick I was being, how far I was pushing Qui. I'm not surprised he eventually lashed out at me. I don't blame myself for what happened, but I should take responsibility for losing control of my emotions. There is no passion; there is serenity. After last night, I finally feel like I can reach serenity again. I'll keep a closer eye on my actions from now on.

Bail was probably right when he said we should keep our... whatever it is... discreet. I certainly can't tell Qui about it. "I've met this amazing man, I've been obsessing about him for months, and now that we're finally both on Coruscant again, I'm going to see him as often as our schedules will permit." That doesn't sound good, even to me. Force only knows how it would sound to my master. It might sound like an attachment -- the kind padawans are not permitted to form.

It's not an attachment, is it? It's friendship. It's sex. Qui has never been bothered by my friendships, and he's always encouraged me to indulge my sexual urges. The anticipation I'm feeling, thinking about seeing Bail again, isn't much different from the anticipation I feel about seeing other friends who aren't around often. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

My mind drifts back to the way I felt after he went down on me. That kiss...

"And what are you daydreaming about?"

I uncross my arms and push off from the wall. T'nell must have come out of his classroom without my even noticing him. I flash a grin at him. "I wasn't daydreaming. I was fantasizing."

"Could have fooled me," T'nell snorts. He takes off down the hall, his long legs carrying him a bit faster than I can keep up with just by walking.

I frown. "Are you in a hurry?" I ask.

"I have an errand to run."

"Would you like some company?"

He looks at me and slows down a bit. "Actually... yes, I would. I have to go to the healers' ward."

"What for?" I look him over, concerned now. He doesn't look injured, just tense and unhappy. I reach out for him and put a hand on his shoulder. "What's wrong?"

T'nell stops, then glances over his shoulder. We're alone in the hall by now, and he lowers his voice a bit. "I got fucked raw this morning."

My eyebrows shoot up. T'nell bottomed? That's new. He always seemed completely uninterested -- he never let me near his gorgeous ass. If it was his first time, he probably feels like he's missing some skin back there. Even so... "You don't need to see the healers for that. Anyone with a good grasp on the Living Force and a talented tongue should be able to ease your discomfort." My cock twitches as I remember times that Qui has fucked me until I could barely sit -- and then used a combination of Living Force and rimming to make me feel perfect again. "Who did you--?"

"No, you don't understand," he says, cutting me off. "I got fucked raw. As in 'without a barrier' raw."

He can't be serious. He knows better. I stare at him, shocked. "Fuck, T'nell!"

"I know--"

"What the hell happened?"

"Look, please -- don't ask me about it, all right? It was stupid, I know it was stupid, and there's probably nothing wrong -- I just need to go see the healers and have the standard series of tests run. I just need to... oh, Force, Obi." He leans forward and clutches me in his arms, and I hold him, feeling the nervousness and guilt flash through him. "I'm fucking nervous as hell."

"I can tell." I squeeze him. "Try to relax. It's probably nothing."

"Easy for you to say." He pulls himself together with a bit of effort, and we make our way -- more slowly -- toward the healer's ward. He takes a stuttering breath, and then says, "So how was your night?"

I can't help grinning. "Terrific."

"What happened to the shirt I loaned you?"

I look up at him, frowning. "What do you mean?"

"The shirt I loaned you last night. You came home wearing a different shirt. What happened to my shirt?"

Oh, shit. I had been hoping he wouldn't notice. "Are you sure?" I ask. If it had been my shirt, I wouldn't have known the difference.

T'nell rolls his eyes at me. "You left wearing a green shirt made of synthetic fibers. You came back wearing Nubian silk."

"I did?" This time the confusion is genuine. I wouldn't know the difference between Nubian silk and synthetic fibers if you showed me the chemical composition of each. T'nell can tell the difference between them on sight? I guess that shouldn't surprise me. "T'nell, I'm really sorry..."

"Fuck it. I just want to know what happened." His eyes are teasing me now, and I feel myself coloring a little.

"Well, we were on his balcony, and he had the shielding disabled, so it was very windy..."


"...and as soon as he yanked my -- your -- shirt off, it went flying over the edge of the balcony. I didn't have time to reach for it."

T'nell grins and nudges me a little with his shoulder. "Well, you certainly came back looking happy. Maybe it was worth a shirt sacrifice to get you feeling like that."

"Thanks." I grin back.

"So I take it the talk with Qui went well?"

"I haven't actually talked to Qui yet," I admit. T'nell frowns at me. "I'll see him when I go home tonight. I'm fine, T'nell. Don't worry about it."

He looks at me oddly. "So do I get to hear any more details about last night's trick? He must have been quite talented to put you in a mood like this..."

"He wasn't last night's trick," I interrupt. T'nell's odd look turns into a confused frown. "It wasn't like that." I stop. "I don't know if I should talk about it."

"Oh, you should definitely talk about it." He winds an arm around my shoulders and pulls me close. "You met someone at the restaurant last night, correct?"


"Someone who was worth losing one of my nicer green shirts for."

I remember Bail's hand over mine as he showed me how to stroke him to orgasm. "Force, yes."

"Someone good enough to change your entire outlook on life." This is said with a hint of sarcasm, but I let it pass, distracted with thoughts of Bail. The look on his face when I pushed into him, the trick he managed with the barrier, the way he... T'nell nudges me. "Someone very good?" he prompts.

"Someone very good," I grin.

"But not last night's trick?"

I clear my throat, thinking I should have kept my mouth shut. "No."

"How does that work?"

Can I trust T'nell? Yes. He knows when to keep his mouth shut. He's not going to spread this all over the Temple. "It means I've seen him before, and I'm going to see him again." I look up at T'nell. "You have to promise me you won't say anything to anyone about this."

"Wait a minute. You've seen him before? When was this?"

"A few times."

"Are you serious about this guy?" T'nell asks. I shake my head, rolling my eyes. "Are you saying you have a boyfriend?"

"Force, T'nell, no. None of that." I smack him lightly on the ass, and he jumps. "Boyfriend. Honestly. Where do you come up with these things?"

"That look on your face when you left Balikk's last night, for one. I'd never seen you look like that before."

What look? What is he talking about? "What would I do with a boyfriend?" I ask. "He's just a friend. He's someone I'm fucking. It's not serious."

"All right, so why all the secrecy? Why haven't you mentioned him to me before? Is he someone I've seen you with in the clubs?"

"No, he's..." I might as well tell him. Keeping things secret is almost never healthy, and acting as if this is something I need to hide could lead to the kind of obsessing I did back when I wasn't sure I was ever going to see Bail again. Still, discretion is called for here. "You promise you're not going to spread this all over the Temple?"

"Would I do that?" T'nell asks. I raise an eyebrow at him. "Of course not, Obi. Tell me."

"All right." I exhale. "He's a junior senator, and..."

"Bail Organa?" T'nell blurts out. What the--? How the hell did he know? Did he see us together at Balikk's? Is Bail so famous that people recognize him on sight? This time it's my turn to look around the hallway, relieved to find that we're alone here. T'nell's eyes are like saucers. "You're seeing Bail Organa?"

"Yes, I'm seeing Bail Organa, and would you try not to yell it all over the Temple? He wanted me to keep it discreet. I think it might hurt his reputation if he's seen with a padawan." I try not to let the bitterness creep into my voice, but I can't erase all of it. T'nell is distracted enough -- or polite enough -- not to comment on it.

"I can't believe it. You and Bail Organa? I mean, I saw him last night at Balikk's -- well, I saw his assistant, but I figured he must have been there -- and then you left, and I never did see him." Oh. Force, I hope no one else noticed that Bail and I disappeared at roughly the same time and can put two and two together the way T'nell just did. Bail would not like that. T'nell continues, "How did you meet him in the first place? How long have you been seeing him?"

"Has the Temple been so boring lately that you're looking for gossip?" I ask, getting a little tense now. "I don't want you to make a big deal out of this, and Bail made me promise to be discreet."

"'Bail made you promise'-- what is going on? How long have you been seeing him?"

"Why are you asking so many questions?"

"Just tell me." He's still frowning, and we've come to another complete stop in the hall. "How long?"

"A few months now--"

"A few months?"

"--sort of." I lower my voice and try to rush through this part of the conversation. "I've been off-planet, he's been off-planet, so we've only really seen each other three times. Why are you making such a big deal out of this? It's nothing--" I cut myself off again, because I know that whatever this is, it's not 'nothing,' and I don't want T'nell to catch me in a lie. "It's nothing you need to be concerned about," I tell him.

"Obi, listen to yourself. You're saying you've been seeing someone outside the clubs for 'a few months' now, you've never told anyone about him, you're going to keep seeing him, you don't want anyone to know about it, and I shouldn't be concerned?"

"I didn't say I hadn't told anyone about him. I just hadn't told you." I glare at him and start off down the hall. "I knew you'd act like this."

"I'm your friend. How else can I act? This sounds like..."

"What? What does it sound like?"

He shakes his head as we reach the healer's ward. "I don't know," he admits. "Something."

"All right, but can we talk about it later?" I gesture at the door. T'nell nods, and I watch him steel himself before walking in.

T'nell quietly explains to the padawan-nurse that he needs to have a series of tests for sexually transmitted diseases done, and she doesn't flinch or make the slightest movement that would embarrass or fluster him. She takes him to a cubicle with a biobed. T'nell looks over his shoulder at me as he heads for the cubicle, and I follow. I watch as she draws blood onto a small microscope slide and then feeds the slide into the console on the wall.

"It should only take a few minutes. Would you like to wait here? The results will be displayed on this screen when they're ready." The padawan-nurse indicates the small display at the head of the biobed, and T'nell nods a few times.

"Um... yes, thank you." T'nell watches her go and rubs his eyes after she's gone. "I think I'm going to be sick."

"Oh, maybe," I tell him, voice teasing. His eyes snap to me, wide and half-panicked. "Look on the bright side, though," I continue, joking with him. "If you caught Volann's Syndrome, you'll never have to worry about getting it up again. Of course, getting it to go down..."


"And if you've got chromachsis, your cock will turn this lovely shade of green once a month. It's perfect for garden holidays on some planets in the spring."

"Oh, fuck you." He's gone from looking panicked to looking pissed. "Fuck you, Obi."

I know I'm probably going too far now, but I can't seem to stop myself. "You know, Qui caught the blood fever from Knight Yttera one year, after Yttera came back from Rodash IV. Now there was a week. We barely left our quarters, and he fucked me until I was little more than a heap on the floor..."

"Oh, you mean like at Siri's party?"




"I wondered if you pushed him into that because you wanted him to fuck you until you saw stars," T'nell continues, not noticing how my hands are gripping the edge of his biobed, how my knuckles have gone white. "You seemed to be just fine by the time you left the restaurant last night. Do you have any idea what Qui was doing while you were out fucking your new boyfriend?"

"No." My voice feels distant, like something far away from me is speaking while I just watch. There's a tiny voice in my mind that is screaming, asking what I did to deserve this kind of vicious outburst. "What was Qui doing?" I ask.

"You want to talk about good decorations for garden holidays? How about a distraught Jedi Master? Maybe one so broken up about thinking he hurt his padawan that he goes out and meditates for twenty-four straight hours, not eating, not sleeping, and giving off so much guilt he damn near kills the plant life for a radius of meters. That'd be a great decoration, and I know just where we can find one."

"Force, T'nell, I didn't know--"

"How could you? You haven't bothered to see Qui since you got home."

"I was going to see him tonight."

"What, is Bail busy?" That hurts enough to take my breath away. T'nell keeps going. "Last night while you were fucking Bail -- Bail Organa! What the hell are you doing with someone like him, anyway? -- your master was lying on the fresher floor in your rooms, retching into the toilet, talking about how horrified he was that he'd hurt you."

What the--? What the hell are you doing with someone like him, anyway? "Someone like what...?"

"Are you even listening to yourself? Do you give a shit about Qui-Gon, or is he just like everyone else in your life -- someone to fuck when it's convenient and to ignore when he wants to do more than fuck you?"

I take an involuntary step back, clenching my fists. My breath is locked in my chest. "T'nell, that's not it at all," I whisper.

"He's not just another fuck. He's your master, and you should have been there for him last night. You should have known what he was feeling. You sure as hell shouldn't have left me to pick up the pieces." He glares at me. "You said you didn't think he meant to hurt you. Did you mean to hurt him?"

Force, I know he's nervous, know he's scared as hell, but this is too much. "Stop it. Please."

"Why? So you can pretend you care about people? We all know it's just about fucking to you. I'm just a fuck. Qui is just a fuck. The one I feel sorry for is Bail, because he might actually be stupid enough to believe you give a damn about him."

"T'nell, shut the fuck up."

He stops with his mouth open, as if he was just about to say something even more hurtful, and then his face crumbles. "Oh, Force, Obi-Wan, I didn't mean... I didn't mean any of that..."

"You have no right to talk about Bail, or Qui, like that." I hold onto my anger, even though bits and pieces of it are desperate to be released into the Force. Now is not the time, and here in the healers' ward is certainly not the place, to go releasing my darker emotions. The last thing people around here need is that sensation of anger rushing by them as it joins with the Unifying Force. "I'm sorry for joking. I really am. But don't take your mood out on me. I'm not the one who was stupid enough to let the first guy who wanted to top me fuck me raw."

"Second guy," T'nell manages, trying to crack a smile. "The first guy remembered."

I close my eyes. I have to get past the anger. I can't release it, but I can manage it. I know why T'nell lashed out at me, and I can even recognize that some of the things he said were true. I should have been there for Qui, and I wasn't. I sigh, then make the sigh a little more melodramatic. "Force, you learn fast, don't you? Two in less than twelve hours? Why didn't you tell me you were planning to do this? Now you're probably going to swear off bottoming for good, and I'll never have a chance to get into that sweet ass of yours." I put my hands on his knees, and he wraps his arms around me, grinning a little more now.

"I wouldn't say that," he tells me.

"Who was the second guy?"

"Just a knight. You don't know him."

I growl a little. "'Just a knight'?" I repeat. "How about an irresponsible, selfish knight, who--"

"Obi, stop. It wasn't like that. We just got... carried away."

"You and I have gotten 'carried away' on any number of occasions, and we've never forgotten a barrier." I pause. "Do you want me to talk to him?"

"No!" T'nell blurts out. I look up at him. He looks horrified. "No, definitely not. It wasn't his fault."

"Well, it certainly wasn't yours." I glare.

He leans down and kisses me, very softly. "It's good to know you care about me so much. Sometimes I wonder."

How can he possibly wonder that? He's one of my best friends. I know my expression must be showing that thought very clearly, because he kisses me again, and runs his fingers through my hair, trailing one hand down my braid.

"Thank you for being here for me," he tells me.

"Of course." I squeeze his knees again, and he jumps a little, smiling.

"And if all my tests come out negative, you could..." He smiles, suddenly. "You could give me a refresher course on safe sex."

My eyes light up. "As it happens, there's this thing I learned last night... I'll have to get my hands on some unlubricated barriers, though."

"Unlubricated barriers?" T'nell grins at me. "What's this new boyfriend of yours teaching you?"

"Bail merely demonstrated the excellent oral skills he's developed in his years of public service," I wink. "So maybe it's not so bad to be dating a senator."

"Dating," T'nell repeats, shaking his head. "I'd never have expected that from you."

"Did I say dating? I meant fucking." I meant dating, but I don't need to get this kind of shit from T'nell about it. And it's probably safer for me to think of it as fucking, and not dating, anyway. "So shut up already, and tell me more about these two guys who fucked you. Did you like it? Did they find your prostate?"

T'nell groans a little. "I don't know what took me so long. It was amazing."

"I'd have been happy to introduce you to bottoming any time, you know." I mock-pout at him.

He grins. "Didn't I already promise I'd let you be the next prick I let into my ass?"

"Sounds good." I pause, thinking over his last phrase. "Did you just call me a prick?" I ask.

His eyes twinkle. "Would I do that?"

He leans forward and kisses me again, and I try to show him how much he does mean to me with that kiss. It's gentle and sweet, and it doesn't last nearly long enough. We're interrupted by a soft beep from the terminal attached to the biobed. T'nell draws back immediately and looks up at the screen.

He reads over the data once, then twice, and his face softens. He takes a deep breath and exhales slowly, letting his eyes close. I reach over and take his hand, and he threads his fingers through mine, squeezing tight. I raise his hand to my lips, brushing a kiss over his knuckles. He lets me go, then draws a hand over his face and lets out a little half-sigh of relief. I squeeze his right knee and smile at him. "I told you."

T'nell turns back to me and rests his head on mine. "I'm looking forward to keeping that promise, then."

I hum softly with anticipation. That sounds wonderful. And I still have four days before I can see Bail again, anyway. "Anytime you like." I hesitate. "But not tonight. I was hoping you'd go to lastmeal with me, but then I need to go home and talk to Qui."

"Forget lastmeal. You need to get home."

"I know." I reach up and run my fingers over his face. "Try not to snap at me like that again, all right? And remember to make your partner use a fucking barrier."

"I'll keep that in mind," he grimaces. He hops off the bio-bed, and as we leave the healers' ward, he waves to the padawan-nurse. "Should I walk you home?" he asks me.

"I think I can find it on my own. But thank you."

I bid T'nell good night. After he disappears down the hall, I find myself stalling again. I have Bail's comm frequency committed to memory now, and I want to hear his voice right now. The closer I get to this talk I need to have with Qui, the more I long for the quiet serenity of being in Bail's arms. But T'nell was right. I've been blissfully ignoring what I did to Qui. I wanted Bail to make me forget about what happened in that back room, and he did. That and more.

My steps slow as I reach our quarters. I can sense Qui's presence, and I can feel his nervousness, guilt, fear, anguish. I shudder a little. He didn't deserve the things I did to him. I should have known better than to let my obsession with Bail drive me over the edge the way it did. I failed him -- failed my lover, my best friend, and my master, all at once.

Oh, Qui. I'm so sorry.

I have to take a few seconds just to breathe before I can press my palm to the doorplate. When the door opens, Qui is waiting for me in meditation, head pressed to the floor. I step inside, and the door closes. I kneel in front of him.

Qui comes up slowly. His hair is loose, falling around his shoulders, hanging in his face a bit. I reach out to sweep the loose locks of hair behind his ears, and then pull my hand away as he looks up. Our eyes meet.

I hold my breath, waiting for him to speak.


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