Title: Trials of the Heart
Author: James Walkswithwind (
gila@jbx.com) and Wolfling
(
wolfling.msn@attcanada.net)
Archive: Yes to Master & Apprentice
Rating: R
Pairing: Q/O
Spoilers: none
Categories: AU, drama, umm... (gee, can you tell I really hate figuring these out?)

Summary: Obi-Wan goes through his Jedi trials
Feedback: is gratefully accepted :)
Notes: This is the sequel to Firestorm. Thanks to Marnee and Lorelei for giving
this a very thorough beta. Any mistakes left are the authors'.

Trials of the Heart

By James Walkswithwind and Wolfling

This was the day.

The day of the trials; the day Obi-Wan would find out whether he would be elevated to the rank of Jedi Knight or...

Obi-Wan sighed and snuggled closer to his bedmate. He had no idea what would happen or what he would do if he failed the trials.

And that was part of the problem.

"Stop worrying, Obi-Wan," came the expected voice, close in his ear. An arm wrapped around him and hugged him closely. "If you were not ready, you would not be undergoing the trials."

"I thought it was the other way around -- that the trials were to test and see if I am ready," he replied, not without a trace of humor, as he felt his body instantly relax in his Master's embrace. Fleetingly he wished he could take the trials this way, knowing that his nerves would not get the better of him with Qui-Gon touching him. Then he had an image of himself asking the council just that and couldn't suppress a chuckle.

Somehow he was sure they wouldn't understand the request.

He felt his Master's -- lover's -- responding laughter, deep in his chest. "The Council is made up of the wisest of the Jedi. Do you think they would *not* understand?"

"They would say my Master is not a stuffed Wookiee to be used as a security blanket and that I am far too old to require such a thing anyway."

"You never had a stuffed Wookiee, Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon sounded faintly amused. Obi-Wan knew better -- Qui-Gon was *vastly* amused.

"No, I had something better. I *have* something better." He grinned up at his Master, leaving no doubt what that "something" was.

"Oh, yes. That stuffed R2 toy. I remember that." Qui-Gon shifted slightly, as if looking around the room he shared with Obi-Wan. "Whatever happened to that, anyhow?"

"I traded it in for a better model. The Jedi Master Security Blanket."

"Traded it? With whom?" Qui-Gon sounded surprised, continuing thoughtfully, playfully, "I don't recall being owned by anyone who wanted an R2 toy."

"You didn't see it in Master Yoda's room?" Obi-Wan asked, feigning surprise.

The joke was made all the better by the fact that there really was a small R2 toy in Yoda's quarters.

There was a moment of silence, then Qui-Gon asked, "That was *yours*?"

Obi-Wan just smiled at him, trying to hold in laughter at his Master's expression.

Qui-Gon looked disappointed. "I would have thought he'd hold out for more...."

"Your stubbornness was a notorious selling point, Master."

His answer for that one was Qui-Gon's fingertips, running lightly down his side. He wriggled away, trying to suppress his ticklishness.

Unfortunately, his Master was too good at this -- too much practice, Obi-Wan would have said, if he'd been able to breathe. Qui-Gon's hands followed him, grabbing onto him just before he would have slipped from the bed.

Obi-Wan struggled vainly to hold back his laughter, but once the first shriek of hilarity escaped him it was a lost cause. He rolled around and writhed on the bed, trying to get away from his Master's tormenting fingers, laughing until he was quite breathless.

He looked up to find his Master smiling down at him, waves of smug satisfaction flowing freely from his mind. Obi-Wan's laughter faded, leaving behind quieter, more intense emotions as he continued to watch his Master.

"Would it ruin my effort if I asked now if you were sufficiently distracted?" Qui-Gon asked suddenly, with only a hint of mischief in his eyes. The still-roiling emotions were stronger, now, full of love and desire.

"Only if you cease to continue distracting me," Obi-Wan replied.

"Are you saying you are in need of more distraction?" his Master asked in a carefully measured tone.

Instead of answering, Obi-Wan reached up and slipped a hand under Qui-Gon's hair to caress the back of his neck. Exerting just the faintest of pressures he urged his Master's head lower, within easy reach of his own lips.

Qui-Gon moved easily with the urging, a half-smile on his face. He stopped just shy of touching Obi-Wan's lips. "One R2 toy?"

"I would have gladly traded everything I had," Obi-Wan said honestly, "and still counted it a bargain."

Qui-Gon kissed him.

It began lightly, their mouths closed. Two heartbeats later they opened their mouths and drew each other in deeply. Qui-Gon let his body press down upon the smaller man's, and brought his hands up to cradle Obi-Wan's head.

As always when his Master touched him like this, Obi-Wan felt the love and awe and amazement bubbling up inside him. It left him dizzy, almost giddy; the only thing preventing him from laughing out loud was his Master's mouth fastened to his own. He felt the joy in kind, emanating from his Master, surrounding and burrowing into him, preceding his Master's hands as they explored his Padawan's body.

Obi-Wan reached up and tried to return caress for caress, but found his hands captured and pulled away. "Master?"

His Master did not answer, merely held his hands in place and continued covering Obi-Wan's face, neck, and shoulders with kisses. When Obi-Wan stopped trying to move, Qui-Gon let his hands go and returned to touching him everywhere he could reach.

Acquiescing to the silent order, Obi-Wan did not reach out again with his hands, but stretched out with his mind, opening himself fully to his Master's emotions and thoughts, while sharing his just as completely.

The ever-familiar, ever-breathtaking strength of it threatened to wash him away. Qui-Gon was silent above him, but he wouldn’t have heard him even if he had spoken, his mind being otherwise occupied. The love echoing in him even took him away from the hands touching him, his entire physical body fading out for a moment, replaced by a giant, uncontained wave of joy.

As he regained himself, he half-expected -- as he always did -- to hear someone call out from the hallway for them to 'hold it down in there'. It seemed incomprehensible that something so profound, so overwhelming could be so totally silent, even though he knew it was.

Then Qui-Gon pulled him close again, wrapping his arms beneath Obi-Wan's body, and the all remaining thought vanished into the night.

This time when he raised his hands to his Master's body, Qui-Gon didn't stop him so Obi-Wan wrapped his arms around him, stroking the smooth skin and powerful muscles in his Master's back.

Qui-Gon moved against him, up and down, slowly and apparently without thought or rhythm. Every time Obi-Wan tried to match his Master's movements, Qui-Gon changed his motions. After a few moments it began to drive Obi-Wan crazy.

"Master!" he gasped, part recrimination, part plea, as his hands continued to roam restlessly over Qui-Gon's form.

There was the faintest of sounds, somewhat like a "Hmm?" of inquiry but also very much a low moan of enjoyment.

With a concerted effort, Obi-Wan surged upwards and rolled them over, until Qui-Gon lay beneath him. Grinning down at him, Obi-Wan said, "Patience may be a virtue, but I do not want to have to explain to the Council that I was late for my trials because my Master was torturing me sexually." He leaned down and captured Qui-Gon's lips as his hips started a more demanding rhythm. He listened as the tone of the moaning changed, then his Master fell silent.

For a moment. Qui-Gon nudged Obi-Wan away and whispered, "Why not? It worked last time we were late."

"You didn't-!"

Qui-Gon gave him a bland look-- as bland as possible under the circumstances -- and went back to caressing Obi-Wan's neck with his tongue.

Caught between the sensations and the image of his lover telling the Council exactly what they were doing, Obi-Wan froze for a moment, allowing Qui-Gon to get the upper hand once again, and roll his apprentice back underneath him.

His Master gave him a distinctly smug look before going back to tormenting him physically.

Giving in to the inevitable, Obi-Wan did not make a second attempt at gaining the upper hand, instead lying back and giving himself completely into his Master's care, He knew that Qui-Gon would make the payoff worth any torment.

He was not wrong.

Qui-Gon knew his body as well as he did, and knew just exactly where and when to touch him. He knew how to interpret the faint shakings, groans, and the light slap to Qui-Gon's head which meant 'stop that.' He knew exactly how far he could push his apprentice before pleasure denied started to become pain. And he took Obi-Wan right up to that edge before granting him release.

When Obi-Wan tumbled, he felt Qui-Gon above him; surrounding him, trembling with him, and then, with one last, feverish kiss, falling with him as well.

For long moments afterwards, all Obi-Wan was aware of was his Master's presence, on all levels. body and spirit. He savored Qui-Gon's physical weight as he basked in the unconditional and all-encompassing love that surrounded and cradled him. He returned it, with equal strength, and found his Master behaving much the same as he: basking, delighting in the touch of his apprentice. Qui-Gon yawned and Obi-Wan thought he could hear a soft purr.

Did Jedi purr?

Apparently this one did.

He chuckled as he reached up and ran his fingers through Qui-Gon's long hair, gently untangling it. Qui-Gon moved his head slightly closer, giving Obi-Wan better access. His head rested heavily on Obi-Wan's arm.

"I've always wanted a Jedi blanket," Obi-Wan teased as he continued playing with his Master's hair.

"And I, a Jedi mattress." Qui-Gon shifted slightly, then stilled.

Obi-Wan felt himself drifting back towards sleep, feeling warm and secure and loved.

He realized his nervousness was gone as well; whatever happened at his trials, he would still have this. Even if he did not become a Knight, it would be enough.

"You will do *fine*. Now go to sleep already."

Obi-Wan smiled. "Yes, Master."

He felt Qui-Gon's muffled laugh, then closed his eyes and joined his Master in sleep.

********

Obi-Wan entered the council room, his Master at his side. His expression reflected the proper Jedi calm, but he could not stop his heart from racing.

This was it. These were his trials.

Qui-Gon brushed his arm lightly in wordless support. Obi-Wan was grateful, but he caught an amused expression on Master Liio's face.

Master Yoda spoke then. "Time it is. Master Qui-Gon, bring your Padawan before us to face his trials, you do. Judge him to be ready, do you?"

"I do, Master Yoda."

Yoda turned his attention to Obi-Wan. "Then come."

Obi-Wan followed the diminutive Jedi Master, his heart pounding even more fiercely. He allowed himself one last glance back at Qui-Gon when he reached the portal he was to step through. His Master -- Master no more, in one more moment -- watched him with an easy smile.

Yoda spoke again, and Obi-Wan turned back. "Through this portal must you go. Face what lies inside."

Nodding his understanding, Obi-Wan waited for further directions. But Yoda remained silent. "That's it?" he finally asked.

Yoda smiled faintly. "Simple, it will not be. Unexpected, things may be. Difficult...."

Obi-Wan nodded. "I will not fail," he vowed, casting another glance back at Qui-Gon as he spoke.

"Be here, he will, when completed the task you have." Yoda's voice was soft, and Obi-Wan suspected only he had heard the Jedi Master's words.

Looking down into wise eyes Obi-Wan wondered exactly how much Yoda knew about them, about their relationship and their feelings for one another.

But that was a question for another time. Right now he had to face... whatever was beyond the portal.

Taking a deep breath, he stepped through.

********

He was standing in a large room; it was dark as though filled with smoke, yet there was nothing there to obscure his vision. He peered around, trying to make out anything through the haze, but there was nothing. He had a very bad feeling, though, as if the room was waiting for him with evil intent.

Regulating his breathing, he tried to reach for a meditative state as he cautiously reached out with the Force to try and get an idea of his surroundings.

His vision instantly snapped into place. His perceptions said the room had, but he knew, he felt, it had been him. His eyes, suddenly focusing.

It was a place he knew.

The palace on Naboo. The control rooms, deep within its bowels. The place where they had fought and defeated the Sith.

Obi-Wan felt a shiver of unease at the recognition.

Why here?

He moved forward, wondering what he could possibly find here. What he could find that would make a difference to his... no.

A flash of evil portent seized him and he heard the sounds of battle.

Drawing his own lightsaber, Obi-Wan ran in the direction of the sounds. The unease was growing into fear.

He found himself retracing familiar steps. Ahead of him he found his Master and the Sith in battle. There was no sign of him, the other Obi-Wan that should be here, trapped by the energy fields.

With that thought, the fields snapped across the walkway before him and he came skidding to a halt.

'No, not again.' His eyes were drawn irresistibly to the figures doing battle.

He had to help, could not just stand here and watch passively. He tried to reach out with the Force and wrench free a control panel to throw...

Nothing happened.

He started in surprise and tried again. Reaching out for the Force, calmly and controlled, he sought to re-enact the fight, still confused as to *why* it was happening at all.

Still nothing.

Qui-Gon began to lose his battle.

Obi-Wan redoubled his efforts, frantically scrabbling with all his mental strength. He still could not get a grip on the panels.

Anger and fear washed through him, then he saw, in perfect clarity, the Sith attack.

The lightsaber landed a killing blow.

His Master fell.

Obi-Wan screamed. The panel came flying free, too late, but Obi-Wan sent it careening towards the Sith anyway. It hit squarely, sending the Sith stumbling to his knees.

The barrier separating Obi-Wan from the room dropped and he went running out, lightsaber activated and held high.

He made his way to the Sith's side and stood looking down at the still stunned man. Helpless. Unable to defend himself.

Obi-Wan hesitated for a second and then the image of his Master falling flashed before his eyes again. With a cry of rage and loss, Obi-Wan's blade flashed down in a killing stroke.

The Sith fell forward. Dead.

Seething, Obi-Wan stared at the body. Anger ripped through him and he wished the Sith were alive again so he could strike....

Obi-Wan dropped his lightsaber.

He started to shake as he realized what he had done.

The anger drained away, replaced by fear. The bodies vanished and he was left alone, kneeling on the floor of an empty room.

********

Obi-Wan had no idea how long it took him to pull himself together enough to stumble back out of the room. Inside he felt hollow, cold. He couldn't think, couldn't feel, he just kept replaying the images of his Master's death and his own subsequent actions over and over in his mind.

Hands caught him as he stepped out of the room. He looked up to find his Master looking down at him, concern and worry well-hidden in his eyes.

"M-Mas-Mas..." His voice trembled so hard he couldn't force even that single word out. Obi-Wan latched onto Qui-Gon with everything he had, opening his senses fully, letting the reality of his Master's continued existence wash over and through him.

It had all been a dream. Just a dream.

Qui-Gon let him in, embracing him in a strong, close hold. He said nothing as Obi-Wan rested there, ridding himself of the vision of his Master, dead at his feet.

After uncounted moments, Qui-Gon spoke his name.

"Obi-Wan?"

"I am sorry, Master," Obi-Wan responded pulling back slightly and refusing to meet Qui-Gon's eyes. Dream or not, he was shamed by his actions.

But Qui-Gon didn't let him go, not completely. He let Obi-Wan step away, but left his hands on Obi-Wan's shoulders. "Did you learn anything?" he asked calmly.

"Learn?" Obi-Wan repeated, confused. "I don't... You... Then I... Wrong, all wrong..." Unable to get his thoughts in order he trailed miserably to a stop.

When he had stood there silently for nearly a minute, Qui-Gon said, "The trial is here, Obi-Wan. Not what you faced in there, but how you deal with it." Then he repeated in the kind and patient tone that he had most often used with his Padawan, encouraging and supporting without risk of blame or censure. "What did you learn?"

Drawing strength from his Master's presence and support, Obi-Wan closed his eyes and calmed himself, finding and settling in his center. There he found the lesson and there he found the words.

"I learned that we all have a Dark Side, *I* have a Dark Side, and that it is closer to the surface than I'd like to believe." He paused, looking up at Qui-Gon.

Qui-Gon said nothing, merely looked back at him. Waiting. Obi-Wan knew that posture well.

He continued picking his words slowly and with care. "But the Dark feelings cannot be exorcised, not without also exorcising their Light equivalents. If I banished the anger and fear I felt, it would also banish the love. The answer is not banishment, but control." He fell silent then, knowing in his heart that was the answer. He found Qui-Gon smiling faintly at him. "That's it?" he asked.

"I was left here, in case you needed assistance facing your lesson. Support from one who knew you best. I can see we could have as easily left Master Cor here," Qui-Gon told him. Obi-Wan could hear the pride in those words. Master Cor was a skilled Jedi, but a member of a species which, to humans, resembled nothing more than a small lizard. They spoke in a type of numeric code, and they were often very difficult to understand.

Obi-Wan ducked his head, embarrassed. "I am not so certain of that. But regardless, I am glad it was you."

"Yes." Qui-Gon pulled him in again and held him tightly. "I had suspected you might see... well, it does not matter. Not unless you wish to discuss it?"

"It was the fight on Naboo. But this time..." Obi-Wan's voice trailed off.

"This time?" Qui-Gon prompted gently.

"You didn't..." Again he trailed off, the words sticking in his throat even now. It was as if there were some part of him that feared that if he said it, it would come true.

"I am here, Obi-Wan. But you need not say it."

"Thank you." He managed a tiny smile. "It is silly, but I find I do not want to speak those particular words."

"Then don't," Qui-Gon said.

Obi-Wan nodded, his smile growing just a touch bigger, before it faded. "After you... I attacked the Sith. He was down on his knees, stunned, defenseless. I... killed him in cold blood."

"Hm." Qui-Gon regarded him. The normalcy of his expression, the sheer lack of reaction, in fact, made Obi-Wan wonder if he had missed something vital. Wasn't what he had done awful enough to warrant... well, something more than the same look which presaged, "I think your robe needs hemming"?

"Master?"

"And?" Qui-Gon prompted, still with that curiously blank expression.

"And... for a moment I was glad at what I did, then I realized... And then everything faded, leaving me in the empty room."

"So you discovered the potential within you for the Dark Side," Qui-Gon concluded.

"Essentially, yes." Obi-Wan was feeling a bit non-plussed at his Master's lack of reaction.

"Hmm," Qui-Gon said again. Obi-Wan wanted to scream at him to stop 'hm'ing and say something already!

"So what do you intend to do with this knowledge?" Qui-Gon finally asked when Obi-Wan just stared at him.

"Do?"

"Yes, Obi-Wan. What do you intend to do with this knowledge?"

Obi-Wan recalled again that Qui-Gon had said *this* was his trial. Not what he had done in that... dream? Vision? Whatever it had been.

"I..." What *was* he going to do with this knowledge? "What can I do Master?" he finally asked. "Except accept that part of myself and be vigilant about letting it control me or my actions."

Qui-Gon's eyebrow rose ever so slightly, and Obi-Wan could have sworn he saw a near-twitch in the corner of his mouth.

"Well?" Obi-Wan demanded as his Master continued his silence.

"You are taking this much better than I did," Qui-Gon said. "It took me three days to calm down enough to attempt the second trial."

Obi-Wan blinked. "I am? It did?"

"Indeed. My Master had to--" He stopped, and shook his head. "Suffice it to say, I am relieved you are ready to accept this knowledge." He cocked his head slightly, as if to verify that Obi-Wan did, indeed, feel ready to continue his trials.

"So I've finished this trial and passed...?" Obi-Wan asked slowly, needing to make sure.

"Unless you plan on incinerating the hallway decorations in your anger, yes, you have passed and are ready to proceed to the next trial."

"Incinerating the... Why would I do that?" He caught sight of a slight blush on his Master's face and raised an eyebrow as it dawned on him. "Master, just what was your trial like? If I may ask?"

"Perhaps I should tell you later. You should be getting ready for the next trial; Master Yoda is waiting." Qui-Gon obviously, and to Obi-Wan's eyes, clumsily, avoided the question.

He nodded and followed his Master out of the room. He felt extremely good at the moment. "You will tell me, you know," he said conversationally as they walked.

"Yes, Obi-Wan. But not now," Qui-Gon replied easily, and for the first time... in his entire life, Obi-Wan realized he heard his Master speak to him not as a Padawan, not as his Master.

He was going to be a Knight.

For the first time he found himself believing that.

**********

Qui-Gon led him to the common mess. There were few there; the midday meal had ended over an hour ago. They could still get fed, of course, but almost every seat was empty.

"I didn't realize it was so late," Obi-Wan said as they sat down. "How long was the trial?"

Qui-Gon smiled. "Almost two hours." Qui-Gon reached for a cup and poured water from the pitcher in the center of the table.

"Two hours?!" He looked at his Master, shocked. "But...it only felt like a few minutes, fifteen at the most."

"I believe the actual... fight, took only that long. The time before, and the time after... you sat in meditation quite some time, Obi-Wan. That was one reason Master Yoda thought to allow only myself to meet you afterwards."

Obi-Wan squirmed inwardly. "It wasn't exactly mediation, Master," he admitted.

Qui-Gon nodded his understanding.

Casting around for something to change the subject, Obi-Wan asked, "How long did your trial take?"

Qui-Gon shifted slightly and held out the serving dish to Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan took it and raised an eyebrow at his Master. He couldn't remember seeing him this nervous in a long time, and it made him even more curious to hear about the trial.

"Bread?" Qui-Gon offered, reaching for the plate on the next table.

"You're not going to answer me, are you?"

Bringing the plate over, Qui-Gon set it down, and very carefully selected a roll before answering. "I was in the room for three hours." His flat, matter-of-fact tone belied the fact that he was trying to avoid answering.

Having his own trial to compare it to, Obi-Wan thought that didn't seem that long and he said as much.

Qui-Gon sighed. "I was in the outer room for another five, yelling."

Obi-Wan felt his eyebrows climbing his forehead in surprise. He tried to picture his calm, cool, collected Master out of control enough to do such a thing. The picture wouldn't come.

He found it even harder to imagine something that would cause such a thing. "Your trial must have been very bad to make you react like that," he ventured cautiously.

Qui-Gon half-shrugged. "I did not yell the entire time, of course. I yelled, then I tried to sit and meditate... and when that failed me I yelled some more. It was five hours before I was exhausted enough to prevent my doing either."

"What happened then?" Obi-Wan asked, respecting his Master's reluctance to talk about the actual trial vision.

"My Master took me back to my room, and left me there to rest. Actually, I think he put me to sleep...." Qui-Gon frowned slightly. "When I woke, I began facing... rather, not facing, what I had seen. I refused to speak to anyone for a full day."

"You sulked." Obi-Wan could not entirely keep the smile off his face.

He had been expecting, at least, a rueful smile in return. But Qui-Gon shook his head. "I was afraid."

Without conscious thought Obi-Wan's hand snuck across the table to touch Qui-Gon's. "Afraid, Master?"

Qui-Gon nodded. "What I saw... was a galaxy unlike our own. One in which fear and hatred ruled. And it was my doing." His voice dropped to a whisper. Obi-Wan realized he looked still afraid.

"Never, Master," he told him, believing with all his heart that Qui-Gon was incapable of such a thing.

Qui-Gon gave him a sad smile. "Perhaps, Obi-Wan. But at the time... the vision I saw made me doubt in everything I was, everything I had been told. I believed I had been betrayed, when what I saw was my own betrayal."

Obi-Wan was quiet for a long moment uncertain what he could say that would help. He could tell Qui-Gon that he didn't believe him capable of betrayal -- which was the truth -- but that would not change the vision or its import. Such an assertion would, he feared, only serve to belittle his Master's feelings.

"Suddenly my trial doesn't seem so bad," he muttered, half to himself.

"Ah. I knew that some good would come from my trial," Qui-Gon said in an attempt at lightness.

But Obi-Wan did not want to lighten the conversation, not when he could see the pain his Master was still in. "You still fear it," he said quietly, putting into words what he had seen.

Qui-Gon nodded again. "I do. I... I had thought, once, that it was Xanatos I failed. But now... I am no longer sure." A shadow fell across his eyes, and he focused on something far away.

"Anakin."

"Yes. The Council... their reaction makes me wonder if I should trust my own feelings, or bow to their wisdom. I... I have rarely felt this strong a doubt in myself," he confided. "Not since I spent a brief day wrestling with my belief that I should not take on a new Padawan, have I mistrusted myself so," he added, glancing at Obi-Wan with a more sincere smile.

Obi-Wan smiled back. "And I am forever grateful you decided to take a chance on me, Master. In spite of your fears."

"As am I, Obi-Wan. It is the best thing I believe I have ever done." He raised Obi-Wan's hand to his lips and placed a gentle kiss on his fingers.

Obi-Wan basked in the feelings for a moment then turned his mind back to the problem of his Master's fears. "When did you start doubting your assessment of Anakin?"

"When I first mentioned him to you."

"I was afraid of that," Obi-Wan said with a sigh.

"Don't." Qui-Gon gave his hand a squeeze. "There is no blame to be given. Your hesitation gave me the first chance to see it from another's point of view. It is far too easy for one person to be blinded. I knew if you, whom I trust and depend on the most, did not agree with me that it might be that I was wrong."

Obi-Wan could tell that Qui-Gon still did not agree with his disagreement, as it were. He was still determined to train the boy. But there was the doubt, and the old fear coming to rise again.

"My disagreement was based more on my own insecurities and less on my worries about any potential danger Anakin might represent," Obi-Wan pointed out. "Do not doubt yourself because of them."

"It is not myself I doubt... not entirely, that is. But I find I doubt Anakin. He *is* powerful with the Force, and it is no accident that we found him. But if there is the slightest chance that what I saw will come to pass... perhaps it is best I do not attempt this, that I avoid the risk of it." There was an unsettling note of defeat in Qui-Gon's voice.

"No!" Obi-Wan denied adamantly. "The Council is wrong about this. Anakin *needs* to be trained. His power with the Force is such that he will be a target whether he has training or not. But without it, will he stand a chance of resisting whatever Darkness comes to prey on him? You were right about this, Master and I was wrong to let my... jealousy... get in the way."

"Perhaps, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon conceded, not sounding entirely convinced. But then he looked at his apprentice with a resurgence of his usual confidence and asked, "Will you help me? In my vision I saw a single teacher at Anakin's side. If you and I are going to remain together in any event, perhaps you could assist more directly in his training? Surely two of us can keep him safe."

Obi-Wan smiled. "I would be honored, Master."

Qui-Gon returned the smile. "You'll have to start calling me Qui-Gon, you know."

"That will be... strange."

"Yes. I have been looking forward to it."

"You have?" Obi-Wan asked, startled.

"Of course," Qui-Gon answered, looking surprised. "That you should become a Knight, and no longer an apprentice... it is what all of this training has been for, after all." Qui-Gon's eyes were sparkling again; the fear and uncertainty faded away.

"Besides which it will be nice to get that braid out of harm's way," he added, referring to the many times their activities had been interrupted by the braid falling in the way, or getting pulled painfully at just the wrong moment.

That brought a rueful smile to Obi-Wan's face as he reached up and fingered the long braid hanging over his shoulder. "I'm not the only one whose hair has gotten... caught," he pointed out, eyeing his Master's long locks.

"Yes, but it's easier to plan for an entire head of hair than one braid with a mind of its own."

"I think you attribute too much intelligence to my hair," Obi-Wan responded, amused.

"Then how do you explain the way it always ends up tickling me when I'm trying to fall asleep?" Qui-Gon asked.

Obi-Wan's eyes shone with mischief. "Who said that it was the hair's decision?" From Qui-Gon's expression, Obi-Wan knew he knew exactly who had done what, with said braid.

But then his expression softened slightly and became calm once again. "We should return. They will be ready for your next trial soon."

Nodding, Obi-Wan sobered and turned his attention to calming his mind and heart in preparation, silencing the sudden apprehension that tried to make itself felt.

The first trial had been bad enough. He didn't even want to speculate on what the next would hold.

A hand gripped his own, comforting. "You will do fine."

Obi-Wan nodded mutely, willing himself to believe.

********

Qui-Gon walked with him back to the room where the Council would be waiting. They did not speak, and once they reached the door Qui-Gon stopped.

"I am to go in alone, then?" Obi-Wan asked.

"This is not something you will need me for," Qui-Gon told him.

"I will always need you."

Qui-Gon smiled and brought his hand to Obi-Wan's cheek. "I shall be out here, when you are through."

Obi-Wan returned the smile and briefly leaned into the caress before stepping away and facing the door. He paused and looked back over his shoulder. Realizing that, if all went well, this would be the last time he would be facing Qui-Gon as his Padawan, he said softly, "Thank you, Master," before entering.

Qui-Gon acknowledged his words with a smile. "You have done well, Padawan. There is nothing to fear."

With those words ringing in his ears, Obi-Wan entered the council chamber.

The Council was waiting for him. No one said anything as Obi-Wan entered, until Obi-Wan had come to stand before Master Windu.

The Jedi Master looked at him a long moment before speaking. "Obi-Wan Kenobi. I am told you passed your first trial."

"Yes," Obi-Wan answered simply.

"Then before we begin the second, I must ask you if you truly wish to become a Knight." The Master's tone was serious, speaking as if in confidence.

"Yes, of course!" He could not keep the surprise at the question out of his voice.

Windu raised a hand. "Are you willing to give up your Master for it? To become a Knight?"

Obi-Wan shook his head, puzzled. "I don't understand. Of course he will not be my Master anymore..."

"Forgive my bluntness. What I ask is if you are willing to give up Qui-Gon Jinn, as your lover, to take your place as a Jedi Knight."

"What?!" The shocked word slipped out before he could stop it.

Master Windu seemed unperturbed. "You will be needed to serve the Council as a Knight. Master Jinn's place will be elsewhere. If you wish to remain with him... it will have to be at the expense of your knighthood."

For a long moment all Obi-Wan could do was stare in disbelief. Leave his Master or give up what he had worked for his entire life? How could they possibly ask him to make such a decision?

No matter. The hows or the whys did not matter now, only his decision. And looking into his heart he knew there was only one answer. "I'm sorry, Masters, but if that is a condition of my Knighthood, I must decline. My place is at my Mas... Qui-Gon's side."

Windu looked surprised. "You will give up being a Jedi? Think carefully. You will be allowed to remain with Master Jinn, but you cannot simply be a Padawan all your life. You will have to give up your lightsaber, and any right you have to being a Jedi."

The thought of that hurt, but not as much as losing Qui-Gon. "I... understand. But I will stay with Qui-Gon." He spread his hands. "It is where I am supposed to be."

"You may take some time to consider the matter, Obi-Wan," Windu suggested in an almost kind tone.

"Thank you. But I need no time. My decision is made." He unclipped his lightsaber from his belt and held it out to Windu.

The other Jedi did not take it. Instead he looked at Obi-Wan with a curious expression. "You know your heart so well, that you know your answer so readily."

"Qui-Gon *is* my heart," Obi-Wan replied simply.

Master Windu nodded his head and took the lightsaber.

Surprisingly Obi-Wan didn't feel anything more than mild regret. He knew he had made the right decision. Bowing to the Council, he turned to go.

"Obi-Wan." Yoda's voice stopped him.

Obi-Wan turned back around.

He found every member of the Council smiling at him. "Congratulations," Yoda said. "Passed the final trial, you have."

"I-I don't understand," Obi-Wan said, shaking his head, more than a little puzzled. "You said I-"

Windu looked apologetic. "I am sorry to mislead you, Obi-Wan. But it was necessary to know how well you knew yourself. There is no need for you to choose between your work and your beloved."

It took several minutes for Windu's words to sink in. "I don't have to leave my Master?" he finally asked tentatively.

"You do not... although he is no longer your Master." Windu was smiling ever so faintly, and Obi-Wan felt a wave of amusement.

"And I am a full Knight?"

"There are certain traditions to be upheld... technically you are not a Knight until the ceremony." Master Windu indicated the lightsaber he held in his hand. It would be presented to him, with all due pomp and ceremony... at least as much as the Jedi indulged in.

"But yes, you are a Knight." The words came from behind.

Turning with a smile, Obi-Wan met his Ma... Qui-Gon's eyes.

Qui-Gon was smiling at him, and Obi-Wan felt his own mouth tugging towards a wide grin. During the ceremony, Qui-Gon would, with much solemnity, present his saber and introduce him to the Council, and others, as a full Knight.

But for now, there was little need for solemnity.

Taking advantage of that fact, Obi-Wan took the two steps he needed to be in his lover's arms, eyes closing as he felt Qui-Gon hug him tightly. They rested there for a brief second, then the sudden tightening of Qui-Gon's arms was his only warning. He found himself being spun in a circle, as Qui-Gon laughed.

"Master!" he cried out, trying unsuccessfully to stifle his own laughter.

"Well, I no longer have to set a good example," Qui-Gon explained, still laughing.

"You mean you've been pretending all these years?" Obi-Wan teased.

"Of course." Qui-Gon set him down then. Obi-Wan had the feeling he would have kissed him, had they not been standing before the entire Council.

So *he* kissed Qui-Gon. He couldn't let Qui-Gon be the only impulsive one here after all.

They shared the kiss until Windu cleared his throat. Obi-wan felt Qui-Gon look over at Windu, but neither of them tried to break the kiss.

"There really isn't any further need for you two to be here," Windu said. "Not that we mind watching you two celebrate, but we *do* have other business to tend to."

"Sorry Master Windu," Obi-Wan said contritely, though his smile belied his apology.

The Jedi Master just waved them towards the door. Qui-Gon took Obi-Wan's hand and they headed out of the room.

*******

Several hours later, they left their quarters. Neither could quite control the smiles, nor avoid looking at one another or reaching out for one another. Though, truth be told, those looks and touches were brief enough; inside their hearts, where it mattered, they were still entwined.

Obi-Wan could practically feel the happiness bubbling up within him, the Council's pronouncement still slowly sinking in. He was a Knight! A goal he had sought after and worked for since he was a very small child, finally obtained. It still felt unbelievable, and the same disbelieving shock continued to ripple along his nerves every time he thought about it.

Qui-Gon remained silent at his side, no doubt wisely. Obi-Wan suspected there was nothing his Mas-- his *former* Master, could do or say that would in any way affect how he was feeling.

Not that Obi-Wan minded feeling this way; he only hoped he would be able to maintain the proper solemnity during the ceremony later that night. He wasn't very hopeful. The last time he had felt like this -- when he and Qui-Gon had first gotten together -- the happy giddiness had lasted weeks, if not months.

"Would it help if you were too tired to do more than stand?" Qui-Gon's unexpected offer came out of the silence. It sent a shiver of a totally different kind down Obi-Wan's spine, though he told himself Qui-Gon could just as easily be suggesting a workout in the training room.

But he gave the offer serious thought. "Probably not," he finally answered. "My brain is always the last to shut down."

Qui-Gon looked at him, one eyebrow raised. The expression on his face was clear.

Obi-Wan could feel the blush rising on his face. "Well we can't very well do *that* during the ceremony," he pointed out with as much dignity as he could muster.

"I meant before," Qui-Gon replied easily. "I believe I could prevail upon myself to ensure your brain, and not your body, has shut down."

"A whole new kind of Jedi mind-trick?" Obi-Wan asked with a laugh.

"No, Obi-Wan. A very, very old one." Qui-Gon smiled.

"I suspect it requires hours of diligent practice to perfect..."

Qui-Gon sent him a mildly shocked look. "Are you saying I need *practice*?"

Obi-Wan raised one eyebrow. "Are you saying you'd pass up the excuse to practice?"

"Not at all. A good Jedi is ever-vigilant." Qui-Gon cast a glance down the hall, the expression on his face growing slightly distracted. But he gave Obi-Wan a smile. "Anakin is waiting. Shall we?"

Obi-Wan nodded, pleased to note that he no longer felt the little surge of jealousy he had been getting whenever his Ma... Qui-Gon brought up the boy.

He felt Qui-Gon's hand brushed his arm, briefly, as Obi-Wan moved to walk at his side. After a moment Qui-Gon spoke with a note of care, "I asked you once what you thought of leaving Anakin here at the Temple for a time, after we have a chance to begin his training."

"I did not react well when you did," Obi-Wan admitted, looking up at his lover. "I was too wrapped up in my own pain. For that I am sorry."

"It is done, Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon placed his hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder. "Our apologies have been made; you do not need to make yours again."

Nodding in acknowledgement, Obi-Wan turned his mind to what Qui-Gon had asked, giving the matter serious consideration for the first time. "I think it will depend on Anakin and his reactions," he finally answered. "He would no doubt benefit from what he could learn here, but only if he is ready. Remember it is only recently that he has been separated from his mother. He may not be able to handle another separation so soon."

They walked a few steps in silence before Qui-Gon continued, "I wonder if it might not be wiser, then, to leave him at the Temple *now*. Before he forms attachments to us. He can gain the stability of a new home, here at the Temple." It was obvious Qui-Gon was troubled by whether this would be the correct thing to do.

"That might work except for one thing, Ma... Qui-Gon. He already has formed attachments. Or at least *an* attachment. To you."

There was the briefest glance his way; it nearly wasn't there to see. But Obi-Wan caught it. He wondered if Qui-Gon would say anything, or simply give him a chance to let old habits die.

Qui-Gon gave a nod. "That is true. Perhaps, then, we should simply wait and see what transpires."

"That would be my advice," Obi-Wan affirmed.

"Thank you." Qui-Gon's tone was sincere, and Obi-Wan knew it covered more than the simple piece of advice he had offered.

"You're welcome," he replied with a smile.

They continued on their way in silence; calmer than before, less troubled than just a moment ago. If this was an example of his new life, Obi-Wan decided he liked it. He liked it very much indeed.

They found Anakin waiting with Master Hfala just outside the main mess. People were beginning to gather for dinner, and several stopped on their way past to give their congratulations to Obi-Wan. He accepted each well wish with a quiet "thank you" and a smile as he and Qui-Gon made their way over to where Anakin was waiting.

Anakin watched them quietly, huge eyes darting from one face to another, taking everything in. Obi-Wan saw him relax as Qui-Gon reached out for him. "Thank you, Hfala," Qui-Gon told the Kummian. "Come, Anakin."

The boy scampered over to Qui-Gon's side, and they found some seats.

Throughout the meal, Obi-Wan sat back and watched his Ma... Qui-Gon's interaction with Anakin, doing so for the first time uncolored by jealousy. What he noticed the most, though, was the fact that the boy kept sneaking sidelong glances at *him*.

Qui-Gon did not *seem* to be paying any attention to it. Obi-Wan knew him well enough to know better. Qui-Gon was simply not going to force any sort of rules on them as to how they should treat each other.

Instead, he continued his explanations about the Force, his training, the Temple, and apparently anything else that occurred to him, as they ate.

Taking matters into his own hands, Obi-Wan waited until the next time Anakin snuck a look at him, then smiled at the boy. Anakin's expression froze, then very tentatively, he returned the smile.

Qui-Gon kept talking, only the slightest pause telling Obi-Wan he had noted, and approved, the effort.

When the Jedi Master paused for breath, Obi-Wan took another step in drawing the boy out. "Is there anything you want to ask, Ani? Anything in particular you want to know about?" Leaning closer he continued in a low conspiratorial tone, "Left to his own devices, Master Qui-Gon can ramble on for quite some time. He always does better when he has a focus." Qui-Gon sent him a mild glare; Obi-Wan felt his amusement.

Anakin grinned briefly, but shook his head. "I don't even know what's going on... I mean I know I'm going to be a Jedi. But...." He looked up at Obi-Wan, then Qui-Gon with an expression of confusion.

Obi-Wan's heart went out to the boy and he reached over and squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. "What do you need to know, Ani?"

"Are you... I mean..." He glanced at Qui-Gon again, obviously not wanting to upset him with his question. "Which of you is going to be training me?" he finally asked.

"We were thinking of both of us training you," Obi-Wan answered. "Is that okay with you?" He wasn't sure what they could do if Anakin said no, but he still had to ask.

The boy's eyes grew even bigger, and he grinned. "That'd be great! I didn't know you could do that," he added, sounding faintly worldly as only a child could do.

Qui-Gon hid his grin and answered the boy. Obi-Wan suddenly realized how often Qui-Gon had hidden his amusement at things Obi-Wan had said or done in the earliest of his years as Padawan. "The Council will allow it, Anakin, since Obi-Wan and I are bonded."

It was one of the first times that Qui-Gon had referred to their relationship so openly and it made Obi-Wan realize that they no longer had to be as discreet. A Knight and Master being lovers did not hold the same stigma that a Master and Padawan being lovers did. Not, Obi-Wan realized, that anyone seemed to have been unaware of their relationship up to now. But as long as they'd been discreet, no one had disapproved too seriously.

Anakin looked from Qui-Gon to Obi-Wan, then back. "Does that mean you're both my Masters?"

"I guess in a way it does," Obi-Wan replied after a glance at his former teacher. "Though Qui-Gon will be your official Master." Anakin didn't look entirely convinced.

Qui-Gon attempted to explain it. "With regard to your training, and indeed with all things, I shall be your Master. Obi-Wan will be with me, however, and his skills and experience as a Jedi will allow him to both assist in your training, or take it over should the need arise."

"Which it will not," Obi-Wan said, shooting Qui-Gon a quelling glance. The memories from the trial that morning were still too fresh in his mind for him to let that comment pass without saying something.

Qui-Gon looked startled, and apologized quickly. "I simply meant, should I need to be elsewhere...." He reached over for Obi-Wan's hand. "I am sorry, I did not mean it that way."

"Good. Don't ever think otherwise." He held Qui-Gon's eyes as he spoke.

"I won't," Qui-Gon replied. They sat for a moment before Anakin interrupted.

"Oh, is *that* what you mean by 'bonded'?" He sounded faintly disappointed, as if he'd expected it to be something wondrous and mystical, that only Jedi could do and not something common and everyday, like love.

"What did you think we meant?" Obi-Wan asked with a faint smile.

"I dunno," the boy admitted. "I thought it was because you were both training me." He looked up ruefully. "I suppose that's okay."

Qui-Gon said mildly, "Thank you, Anakin." Obi-Wan heard the gentle admonishment and wondered if Anakin had, too.

Changing the subject, Obi-Wan asked, "So, is there anything else you want to know right now? Or should we let Master Qui-Gon go back to rambling?"

"I do not ramble," Qui-Gon said in a firm tone, which only made Anakin fight back his giggles.

"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan said dutifully.

Qui-Gon sighed, grinning. Anakin giggled out loud.

Turning his attention back to the boy, Qui-Gon visibly tried to recapture the 'authority figure' demeanor Obi-Wan had so easily deflated. "Anakin, the three of us shall be leaving Coruscant in a few days. Until then you shall attend classes here at the Temple, so you can become familiar with the Jedi ways. When you are not in class, you shall be with me and Obi-Wan. You are encouraged to ask any question you have, but you are required to obey any instruction you are given by a Jedi Master. Do you understand?"

Anakin's expression became visibly more solemn during Qui-Gon's directions. "Yes, sir," he answered clearly. Qui-Gon nodded, his expression changing to show his approval.

The boy sighed, no doubt used to doing as he was told, but also no doubt wondering just what he'd gotten into. Obi-Wan smiled at him encouragingly and winked, which brought another suppressed giggle out of the child.

Qui-Gon rolled his eyes. "Now I know why the Council never lets a Master take two students at once. If I find that the two of you have put gako leaves in Master Windu's bed...."

"It was only that once," Obi-Wan protested. "How was I supposed to know he was violently allergic to them?"

Anakin began laughing, his entire body shaking. Qui-Gon gave his former apprentice a stern frown. "If you had *asked* you would have been told... to use marini leaves."

"I was saving those for your bed."

"What are marini leaves?" Anakin asked with exaggerated innocence.

"Never you mind, Anakin," Qui-Gon replied quickly.

"They have an interesting reaction when placed in contact with human flesh," Obi-Wan told the boy. "Turns the skin bright blue."

"Really?" His eyes got huge again.

"You realize, Obi-Wan, that if he places them in anyone's bed *you* shall be held as responsible as I?"

"As long as it's not our bed..."

"I will remind you of that when Master Windu assigns the three of us to cleaning the stone gardens."

Again, Anakin looked from one to the other. "What's so bad about cleaning the stone gardens?"

Obi-Wan grimaced. "It involves cleaning every stone individually. There are over 3,000 stones in the garden."

"Oh. That doesn't sound *too* bad," Anakin replied. "I had to clean Watto's shop all the time and we had a *lot* of junk. The sanitizers made it easy, though."

"The stone gardens are traditionally cleaned by hand. No sanitizers."

"Oh." Anakin stared at Qui-Gon, then said to Obi-Wan, "I don't think I'll put any leaves in anyone's bed."

"Thank you," Qui-Gon replied.

"M... Master?" Anakin asked after a moment.

Obi-Wan jumped slightly at the tentatively spoken word. But it was Anakin's place to use that title now, as it was his no longer.

He found, to his surprise, that it did not hurt at all.

"Yes, Anakin?"

"I know the other Padawans... they usually room with their Masters. Cori was telling me, she just got a Master and she was telling me all about it. But if you two are... where am I gonna sleep?"

"Uhm..." Blinking Obi-Wan looked to Qui-Gon. "Good question."

"We shall arrange for an adjacent room while we are here," Qui-Gon said, obviously taken aback as well. That detail had escaped *him* as well, Obi-Wan noted. Somehow he found that pleased him. "When we are traveling, we shall simply make do with whatever arrangements are to be had."

"Will that be satisfactory?" Obi-Wan asked Anakin.

"Uh, yeah. That's fine." Anakin sounded surprised that Obi-Wan had asked.

Looking up, Obi-Wan realized that the dinner hour was almost over. The place was emptying out and he would soon have to get ready for the ceremony.

Which gave him a thought. "Anakin?"

"Yes... what do I call you? Master?" Anakin asked.

Obi-Wan hesitated. "I..."

"You may if you like," Qui-Gon spoke for him. "It may be easier for you to think of him as such. But the choice is between the two of you."

Anakin turned to Obi-Wan, considering. "Would you mind?" he finally asked.

He considered. Being called Master promised to be as strange as not calling Qui-Gon that. But somehow, from Anakin, it felt... right. "I would be honored, Ani," he said with a smile.

"Good," Anakin said with finality. The boy felt suddenly more centered, or at least more relaxed, than he had previously, Obi-Wan realized. A glance up at Qui-Gon told him his Ma... Qui-Gon had noticed it, as well.

Looking at the boy, Obi-Wan returned to his original question. "I will be officially given the rank of Knight this evening. I wanted to ask you, Ani, if you would like to attend the ceremony."

"Oh! Yeah! Can I?" he asked Qui-Gon, then glanced over at Obi-Wan.

"Of course," Qui-Gon told him. "You needn't ask me if Obi-Wan has told you that you may."

Anakin nodded. "This is gonna take some getting used to."

Obi-Wan smiled. "For me as well. I fear I'm going to look behind me to see who you are talking to for the next little while when you call me Master."

Anakin grinned.

"We had best be going," Qui-Gon interrupted. "It would not do for us to be late for the ceremony and there are several preparations to be made."

Nodding, Obi-Wan reached up absently and ran his fingers over his braid. Before the evening was over it would be gone.

He caught the look Qui-Gon was giving him as they gathered their dishes. He was smiling, but there was a sorrow in his eyes as well.

"Change is never easy is it?" Obi-Wan asked softly. "Even when it is one you've worked for."

"No," Qui-Gon agreed. "Even when it is for the best."

Obi-Wan sighed. "I shall miss being your Padawan," he confided. "I shall miss calling you Master."

There was, very briefly, a mischievous twinkle in Qui-Gon's eye. But he glanced down at Anakin and said nothing. Catching the direction of his Mas... Qui-Gon's thoughts, Obi-Wan blushed. Brightly.

Placidly, Qui-Gon herded them all towards the kitchen where they left their dishes, then conducted them out of the mess. Obi-Wan saw Anakin give them each tiny, perplexed glances.

The future certainly promised to be interesting.

*****

They had sent Anakin to stay with Master Yoda for the ceremony. Yoda would have no role other than that of an observer, and he had expressed a desire to speak to the boy.

*Everyone* would simply be observing, except for Obi-Wan, and his Master.

Qui-Gon left him outside the hall with a simple nod of encouragement, then went to take his place.

Obi-Wan took a deep calming breath, his hand once again slipping up to his braid. Surprisingly, he wasn't nervous, or overly anxious or excited. Instead all he felt was a quiet satisfaction and happiness, a feeling of peace and rightness that this was happening now.

He was indeed ready.

He felt a brief tremor of like emotion from within the chamber. Qui-Gon. With that as his invitation, Obi-Wan stepped through the door.

The room was full of people-- friends, council members, and other interested parties -- but Obi-Wan barely noticed them. The only person he was focused on was the one who stood in the middle of the room, waiting for him.

There in the center, Qui-Gon waited. The area around him was otherwise empty -- nothing was required, besides the two Jedi. As Obi-Wan walked forward, he found Qui-Gon's gaze resting firmly on him. He tried to keep his expression appropriately serious, but could not stop his lips from curling up into a small smile.

When he reached Qui-Gon, he knelt before him as was the custom and waited for his Master to speak.

For a moment there was only silence. When the silence stretched, Obi-Wan risked a glance upwards, mildly concerned Qui-Gon had forgotten his words. But his Master seemed to find himself, then, and he spoke.

"Esteemed friends, before us awaits a Jedi. He has walked the path of a Padawan by my side, and now he is ready to rise as a Knight."

Obi-Wan let the words wash over him, hearing them but hearing the unspoken pride and love behind them as well.

"It is my honor to sever the tie that binds a Master with his apprentice, and let it be replaced with one of equals... and partners."

What? Obi-Wan's jerked his head up at Qui-Gon's adlib, his eyes catching and locking with his former Master's.

Qui-Gon was smiling calmly... but Obi-Wan could feel the excitement Qui-Gon was attempting half-heartedly to suppress. None of it showed on his face, though, as he raised his hand He was holding Obi-Wan's lightsaber.

Apparently they were back with the script after that one deviation. Obi-Wan lowered his head, baring his neck to Qui-Gon... and his braid. He heard the distinctive hum of his lightsaber being turned on, but remained still.

The blade was small, and the power turned down to almost nothing. The size used to do such things as pick locks.

Or slice hair.

Qui-Gon took the braid in his hand. Without a word, he sliced it clean.

He shut the lightsaber off.

Obi-Wan felt strangely lightheaded then, though his braid had not weighed enough to make a noticeable difference. But what it had represented...

He couldn't stop one hand from sneaking up to touch the place from which it had hung.

Qui-Gon was holding out his lightsaber in one hand, Obi-Wan's braid wrapped around his palm. Normally the ceremony would be practically over... but Obi-Wan had a strange feeling this one was not.

Climbing to his feet, he reached out to take the lightsaber from his former Master's hand... except Qui-Gon was not letting go. Qui-Gon looked at him, then said, "Obi-Wan... as a Jedi Knight you are free to go where you please, at the service of the Temple. Will you choose to remain at my side?" The quiet words rang through the room -- though there were no whispers of surprise.

This time there was no holding his smile in as he looked back steadily and replied, "Yes, Ma... Qui-Gon." His smile grew a little wider at what he expected was going to be a common slip. "There is nowhere else I would choose to be."

Qui-Gon's answering smile was no less wide than his own. Then there was the slightest tug on his hand, and Qui-Gon pulled him forward. As they kissed, he heard an amused and beloved voice whisper in his mind, "I shall be honored to have you call me 'My Qui-Gon'."

Pulling back and meeting his lover's eyes, Obi-Wan asked in a whisper, "Are you?"

"Always."

Smiling, Obi-Wan leaned in for another kiss.

They stood there for only a moment before breaking away, and turning to face the gathered Jedi. Hand-in-hand, they waited for the Council's official pronouncement of acceptance -- both of Obi-Wan's Knighthood, and of their impromptu wedding.

Master Yoda stood and said clearly, "Welcome you, the Council does Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi." He paused and his eyes slipped to Qui-Gon and back, but he did not say anything else, though Obi-Wan could sense the fond exasperation aimed at them.

"Master Yoda," Qui-Gon began, once again in the formal tones and script of the Knight ceremony, "I request that the Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi be assigned with me, in the training of Anakin Skywalker."

The act of the request was usual, though the details were not. Few students ever had two Masters -- Obi-Wan himself had never known any, only known of them.

Yoda's eyes flicked to Obi-Wan. "Agree to this you do?"

Inclining his head, Obi-Wan answered, "Yes, Master Yoda."

"Then accompany him, you shall. Train young Skywalker in the ways of the Force." The mild tone of the Jedi Master told Obi-Wan that, yet again, they had not *surprised* anyone with their deviations.

Then Yoda spoke again, and with it the ceremony was over. "May the Force be with you."

Obi-Wan was soon surrounded by friends and acquaintances offering their congratulations. He accepted their well wishes gracefully, but in truth wanted nothing more than to escape the crowd and head back to his quarters with Qui-Gon. The way he wanted to celebrate this milestone (several milestones, he corrected himself) was best done in private, though he doubted they would surprise the Council if they "celebrated" right here.

Perhaps they were even expecting it.

He was sure of it when, less than a half-hour after the end of the actual ceremony, various people began making excuses to leave.

Qui-Gon gave him a look, which made Obi-Wan wish they would hurry even more. They were only briefly interrupted by Yoda.

"Wish the boy to stay with me, this night I do. Much to learn have I. Mind you, his absence one night?" Obi-Wan had never seen *quite* that expression of devilish amusement on Master Yoda's face.

"I think we can somehow manage without him for one night," Qui-Gon answered, expression totally serious, though Obi-Wan could feel his amusement.

Yoda didn't miss it, either. The Jedi Master just inclined his head to them, and took Anakin with him out of the room. After that, it took very little time for the rest of those gathered to take their leave.

Qui-Gon turned to Obi-Wan, raising the hand he had not let go of, and kissed his fingers gently.

"Thank you," Obi-Wan said softly, his eyes never leaving his former Master's.

"You are welcome," Qui-Gon replied, though Obi-Wan felt the brief confusion as to *what*, exactly, he was being thanked for.

That caused him to smile. "You don't know why, do you?"

"I could find out," Qui-Gon gently pushed his thoughts up against Obi-Wan's, not intruding, only making his presence known. "But I would like to see you, tonight, with my own heart, not overlain with... other things."

"That can be arranged, Ma... Qui-Gon." He smiled ruefully at his slip then softly added, "My Qui-Gon."

"My Obi-Wan," came the reply, in a voice low and tinged with a husky burr. Qui-Gon brought his head down, and for the third time they kissed in the center of the room. Obi-Wan put his heart and soul into this one, opening up in a way he hadn't dared earlier when they had had an audience. Qui-Gon met him, invited him in, and returned in kind. For several long moments they remained there, even after their mouths had parted, clutching at each other and oblivious to all else but themselves.

Then he heard Qui-Gon ask, "For what?"

It took a few seconds for Obi-Wan to remember their conversation. "For everything," he answered, nuzzling at Qui-Gon's throat. "For being my teacher, my lover, my friend, my beloved. I would not be the man I am without you. So thank you."

"Ah. That," Qui-Gon said in a casual tone. "I was afraid you meant the other thing." He stepped back and headed towards the door, tugging Obi-Wan after him.

"Other thing?"

"Hmm?" Qui-Gon began walking rather more quickly than was entirely acceptable in the hallways of the Temple.

Obi-Wan allowed himself to be towed along without resistance. "You said you were afraid I meant the other thing. What other thing?"

He caught a grin on Qui-Gon's face.

"Qui-Gon..."

"Yes?" This time the tone was innocent.

"What other thing?" Persistence, he had learned, was necessary when dealing with his former Master.

"What other thing?"

They were halfway to their room.

Coming to the realization that he wasn't going to get a straight answer, Obi-Wan rolled his eyes and then grinned as he thought of a comeback. "Never mind," he said solicitously. "The mind is always the first to go."

"First to go where?" Qui-Gon asked calmly. Then, as they neared the door to their room, he demonstrated he knew his former pupil all too well... as he reached for Obi-Wan's sides, and tickled him.

Obi-Wan yelped, and simultaneously tried to protect himself and launch his own attack at his lover, the resulting in little success with either.

Qui-Gon did manage to get them inside the door, shoving it closed with his foot while propelling Obi-Wan further inside the room.

Somehow, they ended up entangled on the bed, minus most of their clothing. Obi-Wan wasn't exactly sure how they had got there, but wasn't going to worry about it since this was exactly where he wanted to be.

The laughter was mostly gone -- not entirely, he could still hear it echoing in his beloved's thoughts -- as Qui-Gon pressed against him, kissing him deeply. He ran a hand down Obi-Wan's bare chest and the younger man was startled to realize his braid was still wrapped around his lover's hand.

"You going to put that down some time?" he asked in a husky voice as Qui-Gon released his mouth only to start working his way downwards.

"What?" Qui-Gon was honestly startled, this time, as he leaned back to look at Obi-Wan.

"This." Obi-Wan reached down and took hold of Qui-Gon's hand, his thumb stroking across the tightly wrapped braid. His other hand drifted up to where it had been attached for the last 13 years. "You've been holding it ever since you cut it off."

He watched as Qui-Gon blinked at his hand, at the braid wrapped tightly there. "Oh. I didn't realize..." He stared at it for a moment, obviously considering what to do with it.

Suddenly he reached down and took his lightsaber, and opened the small compartment in its side, where spare chips and tiny tools could be stored for repair. He unwound the braid, coiled it, and placed it inside.

Unaccountably touched by the gesture, Obi-Wan covered by gently teasing, "I thought you said you would be glad to be rid of my braid."

Qui-Gon looked up, startled. "No... only out of my way," he finally said, as he leaned back towards Obi-Wan.

Obi-Wan eyed Qui-Gon's long locks speculatively. "I wonder..."

Qui-Gon leaned back, out of easy reach. "Wonder what?"

"What you would look like with a haircut." Obi-Wan grinned.

"I'd look horrible," Qui-Gon assured him, and leaned over, pressing Obi-Wan into the mattress, and hovered above him. His hair fell forward, brushing against Obi-Wan's chest and face. Qui-Gon looked down at him, eyes wide and clear.

"Yes," Obi-Wan said softly, reaching up and caressing his lover's cheek, "I suspect you would."

Qui-Gon stopped in his descent towards Obi-Wan's mouth. "You're not supposed to agree with me, you know," he said mildly.

"Wasn't I?" He fought his grin unsuccessfully.

This time Qui-Gon bit him on the neck.

Obi-Wan chuckled.

The bite became a nuzzle, followed by a slow lick.

A lock of Qui-Gon's hair fell forward, into Obi-Wan's face. He tried to ignore the tickling sensation as it brushed against his nose, to no avail. He sneezed.

Qui-Gon stopped amusing himself at Obi-Wan's neck, and looked at him sternly.

"Sorry," Obi-Wan told him contritely, though the barely-suppressed laughter rather ruined the effect.

"If you just sneezed in my hair...."

It was too much. The laughter escaped. Obi-Wan buried his face in his lover's neck as he tried to get himself back under control.

Qui-Gon just waited, holding onto him as he laughed.

Finally Obi-Wan calmed and looked up. And felt his breath catch at the expression of love and indulgence on Qui-Gon's face. It wasn't the first time he had seen it, but it never failed to make his heart skip a beat.

"Did you know it would be this way, Master?" he asked suddenly. "Laughter and silliness and love so big it's impossible to keep contained?"

For a moment he saw a flippant, teasing remark on his lover's lips... then it faded, and all he saw was love, and laughter, and everything else in Qui-Gon's eyes.

"I could not have dreamed of such things, Obi-Wan. Not until you were there to show me."

"We showed each other, I think," was Obi-Wan's thoughtful reply.

"Yes," Qui-Gon agreed, then fell silent for a moment. Then he frowned slightly.

"What is it?"

Qui-Gon propped himself on one elbow, and reached for Obi-Wan with his freed hand. "Sorry, guess that's mine." He pulled a loose hair from Obi-Wan's face.

"Maybe a haircut isn't such a bad idea," Obi-Wan said darkly.

That got him tickled again.

Out in the hallway, unheard by either, two Jedi Masters exchanged a glance, rolled their eyes, and muttered something about the good old days when people remembered to put shields up around their rooms.

END