Shields

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)


Author's Notes: I don't use betas, so all mistakes are mine. This is a plot bunny that attacked me last night and refused to leave me alone.

Timeline: Before TPM.


Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon stood side by side, hoods raised, heads bowed. Before them, a pyre crackled. Its flames lit up the night, the heat touching the faces of those that watched. The man they honored had died in an explosion that had been triggered in the hopes of disrupting the negotiations the Jedi had been conducting. He had lived long enough to command his wife to bring the talks to a close.

Kiala had done so, with a calm composure that belied the intensity of the grief all knew she felt. Peace had been won, the attempt was in vain. But shortly afterwards, Kiala had seemed to wither inside. Her strength was gone, with only grief to replace it. Obi-Wan doubted he knew the depth of her pain. Kiala and her husband were telepaths, bonded mind to mind and heart to heart. Who knew what impact the death of her husband had had on her.

They were about to find out.

The fire, newly lit, blackened the cloth of Kiala's husband's robes. As if this made his death real to her at last, she cried out. Not with her voice, but with all the power of her mind. It was a cry of loss and pain and loneliness. Before any of the mourners quite knew what was happening, Kiala had thrown herself atop the pyre, her own pain fueling her mental scream.

The power of it ripped through Obi-Wan's mental shields. Grief and agony that was not his own coursed through him. He reached for his Master, only to sense the same turmoil.

The two Jedi collapsed, their minds fleeing into unconsciousness.

***

"I'm not entirely sure what happened," the captain said, addressing the Jedi Council nervously. "When they collapsed, I got them onto my ship and came here as fast as I could. I've got to tell you, I'm more than a little glad you'll be taking them off my hands."

"Please explain," Mace Windu asked intently.

The captain shifted nervously under the steady gaze. "Well, on the whole trip back my entire crew has been more than a little...edgy. Short-tempered. Normally we work pretty smoothly. But this trip...I had fist fights breaking out constantly."

"How did Master Jinn and his apprentice seem when you last saw them, captain?"

He glanced out the windows of the Jedi Council chamber, as if wishing himself on the other side of them. "Strung out, to put it simply," he answered. "We kept them separated on the way back, and I'm beginning to wonder if that was a good idea."

"Do not trouble yourself," Windu said calmly, "they are in our care now." The captain took this as the dismissal it was and hurried from the room, his relief obvious. Even as he left, the healers entered the chamber.

"Masters," the senior of the three said.

"How fare the Master and his apprentice?" Yoda asked.

"It seems that the death cry of the telepath has destroyed their mental shields," one of the lesser healers said. "The trauma has left their minds bruised and exposed to the thoughts of others. They are also broadcasting their distress very strongly."

"Affect even non-telepaths, it did," Yoda commented.

The healers went on. "Isolating them on the return to Coruscant was not a good idea. Their mental trauma had already impacted the crew, so the isolation did no good there. They were placed in shielded quarters, which meant that they could not sense each other. Considering the nature of the intrusion, they needed to know they were not alone."

"It is too late to change that," Master Windu said. "How are you dealing with them now? We can not expose the children at the Academy to them, yet you say they should not be shielded."

"We can not help them to rebuild their shields. They must do that, after the trauma has healed. In the meantime, we have placed them together in a set of shielded quarters, Masters," the senior healer replied. "Thus they are cut off from the Force sensitive at the Academy, yet they will still be aware of each other."

"Is that wise?" Windu asked. "If they are both entirely unshielded..."

"Break their bond, or make it stronger, it will," Yoda said.

***

Obi-Wan slowly awoke, fighting his way through the sedative that he dimly remembered someone giving him. For a single, panicked moment he thought he was alone again, the death cry echoing through his mind. But when he reached out, instead of encountering emptiness and shields, he found another mind. One whose touch was more familiar than any other.

"Master?" he asked, his voice tinged with relief. He sat up from the bed where he must have been placed and moved to kneel next to Qui-Gon on the floor. Their bond blazed with the emotion and thought that passed between them unhindered. Through it, Obi- Wan could feel that his Master was as relieved as he was that they were not alone.

"I have been unable to raise my mental shields," Qui-Gon said. Obi-Wan hardly had to reach out to know that it was pain that had prevented his Master from doing so. "There shall be few secrets between us by the time we heal."

Obi-Wan felt a stab of fear at that, but pushed it firmly from his mind, knowing that he could only keep a secret if he could prevent himself from thinking about it entirely. Qui-Gon glanced sharply at him, sensing the evasion.

"What happened, Master?" Obi-Wan asked, attempting to divert Qui-Gon's attention.

"Kiala's death cry ripped through our shields," the older man explained. "I gather that we have been broadcasting rather strongly."

Obi-Wan's brow wrinkled. "If that is so, why are we together?"

"I was not told, but I am glad. This is not an experience I would want you to go through alone." Sensing that Qui-Gon needed the touch of a familiar mind as well, Obi-Wan smiled.

"I am going to shower, Master," he said, rising. "I feel as if I've been in these clothes forever." Qui- Gon nodded and went to the computer console in the sitting room to read. As the warm spray rained down on him, Obi-Wan found himself picking up stray facts about one of the outer rim worlds. He couldn't help but grin when he sensed that his Master was getting bored, and was forcing himself to read to the end of the document.

Stepping out of the shower, Obi-Wan wrapped a towel about his waist and picked up his robes. In the bedroom he found the chute that led to the laundry and tossed his soiled clothing into it. Leaning against the doorframe, he grinned at his Master as Qui-Gon finished his reading and turned off the console.

"I knew you found those things just as boring as I did," Obi-Wan said, a shade of triumph in his voice.

Qui-Gon sighed, but Obi-Wan knew he smiled a little as he turned away from the screen. "I can see that my image of the stoic Jedi Master is not going to survive this."

Obi-Wan opened his mouth to reply, but a sudden succession of emotions silenced him. He felt a stab of something, so brief he could only describe it as intense, from Qui-Gon, followed by a wash of arousal that was as quickly tamped out as the fear that came next.

"Master," Obi-Wan said, startled by the flood of emotions from his normally reserved teacher and wondering what had prompted them. Surely it could not have been him...

"Padawan," Qui-Gon said firmly, "you should meditate. We must rebuild our shields ourselves. This is not something the healers can help us with." Obi-Wan hesitated, but obeyed. He found it much easier to calm his own thoughts with the serenity of his Master's mind so close, mentally and physically.

The rest of the day passed in peace, the openness between them not seeming that much more than what he had felt along their bond prior to Kiala's death. Obi-Wan realized, at one point, that this was evidence of the unusual closeness of their bond. Qui-Gon merely smiled at his student's revelation, but Obi-Wan could see what his Master was not saying, now. It was not merely unusual closeness, it was rare enough that Yoda had commented on it to his Master.

That evening Obi-Wan slid in between the sheets of his bed, curling up on his side and facing the wall. Qui-Gon settled himself in his own bed a short time later, and the two Jedi waited for sleep to come. Darkness closed in on Obi-Wan, the starlight doing little to relieve it. For a moment Obi-Wan was frozen by an intense loneliness, Kiala's cry of pain and loneliness echoing in his heart and chilling him to the bone.

Then a weight disturbed his mattress, and a warm body joined him under the sheet. Obi-Wan smiled a little, covering the arms that embraced him with his own hands, taking as much comfort in the reality of the touch as his Master did. Sleep claimed him shortly thereafter.

***

He stood in the center of a brightly-lit room. White light flooded every corner, illuminated every crevice...but one. A tiny crevice, no more than a pockmark in the white walls, seemed to swallow the light. He watched, horrified, as the darkness consumed the brightness. It could not be said to grow, for there was nothing of creation in it. Rather, it destroyed.

Nor did the blackness spread like a liquid, pooling and spilling across the floor. Instead it reached twisted tentacles across the walls and ceiling, reaching out for him like fingers. The closer they approached, the thinner his grip on his fear became. He found that he could not guard against it, his shields were in tatters, his mind exposed. As the darkness wrapped about one ankle, a cry that was at once familiar and out of place sounded in his heart.

***

Obi-Wan awoke, trembling violently. He didn't know if the nightmare has been his own or Qui- Gon's, but they had both felt it. It shook them both equally. Turning to face his Master, Obi-Wan wrapped his arms about the other man and reached out with his mind, needing desperately to know that he was not alone, needing to know it emotionally and mentally as well as physically.

He met Qui-Gon halfway, their minds touching like old friends, sharing thoughts and emotions with the trust that had always been between them. Before Obi-Wan could halt it, a surge of love poured itself into the bond. There wasn't even time for the younger man to fear his Master's reaction before he sensed Qui-Gon returning that love. It soothed the mental bruises and eased the fear.

Allowing his heart to guide his actions, Obi-Wan sought Qui-Gon's lips with his own and pressed a tender kiss upon the other man. Qui-Gon sighed mentally and responded, his tongue gently asking entry and being granted it. The kiss deepened even as their bond did, and hands pushed the obstacles of clothing aside, seeking warm skin.

There was no need for speech. It might even have been an intrusion into the beauty of the moment. They shared the pleasure of their touches, the slide of hands, the wet press of lips. Gasps and moans of pleasure broke the silence, the two men thrusting against each other. Pleasure warred with the reluctance to allow their union to end, eventually winning. Master and apprentice came, shuddering against each other, their names on each other's lips.

They abandoned Obi-Wan's bed for Qui-Gon's, settling into each other's arms with sleepy satisfaction. Obi-Wan was distantly aware that they had healed each other from the damage the death cry had done, that their shields had been rebuilt...around both of them. But it didn't seem important, at the moment.

Obi-Wan smiled. "I love you," he murmured quietly, needing to say it. To hear it.

"And I you, beloved," replied his Master.

They slept. In peace this time.

--End--