The Year Without Memories

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)


Author's Notes: I don't use betas, so all mistakes are mine. #'s indicate Obi-Wan's thoughts. This is the first fic I've ever written in which the sex was a part of story and not the resolution.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to the IRC crew!


He blinked his eyes open, squinting against the light until he'd had a chance to adjust to the brightness. A woman dressed in a pale green tunic and a darker green robe stood beside him. She looked concerned. "How do you feel?" the woman asked.

"I have a headache," he said, raising a hand to his forehead. "Where am I?"

"With healers," was the only response she gave. "Can you tell me your name?"

He opened his mouth to answer and was startled when he couldn't think of what to say. "I...I don't know." A sudden chill came over him and he looked to the woman with wide, panicked eyes. "I don't remember. I don't remember anything."

The woman merely looked over at someone he could not see and nodded. "It's the same."

He struggled to sit up and the woman helped him when she saw what he was trying to do. "It's all right," she said, her voice soothing. "You're safe here."

"It's not all right!" he said, shaking his head vehemently. A wave of sympathy that was certainly not his own emotion washed over the man, and he looked to his left. There, on a bed similar to his own, sat another man. The other man looked to be just past his prime, silver streaks showing in his shoulder length brown hair and short beard, though he was still built solidly.

The bearded man was almost certainly the source of the sympathy, but before he could say anything the woman was speaking again. "You're name is Obi-Wan Kenobi. I can't tell you any more than that. It might hinder your recovery of your memory."

"Obi-Wan Kenobi," he murmured. It didn't feel familiar on his tongue, but how often did one say one's own name? "What happened?"

"You and Qui-Gon," she nodded to the other man, "were caught in a rock fall. That is all we know."

"I have also lost my memories," Qui-Gon revealed, "so I could not enlighten them further."

That was the source of the sympathy, then. The other man understood his confusion because he, too, had experienced it. Obi-Wan reached up to touch his own hair, suddenly curious about his appearance. He found it to be close cropped on the top and sides, longer in back. A single, long braid hung over his shoulder. The woman handed him a mirror, and he studied himself in it. Sandy hair, gray-green eyes...attractive, he supposed.

"Is there any way to restore our memories?" he asked.

"The mind is a hard thing to predict," the woman said evasively. "We think it best to let your memory to return in its own time, free of the influence of others. For that reason, we have recommended that you and Qui-Gon be taken somewhere where you can rest and heal. Alone."

"Me and Qui-Gon?" Obi-Wan asked, confused.

The woman nodded. "You share a bond. I'm sure you have sensed it. The bond may spark your memories, so you will remain together."

"When do we leave?"

"Immediately," said a man Obi-Wan had not seen before. He was dressed in a white and gray tunic and a dark brown robe. His skin was as brown as his clothing, his head shaved. "There is a transport waiting that is willing to take you as passengers within the hour. I wish we could have given you more time with the healers, but there will not be another transport to the same destination for almost a month."

The woman helped Obi-Wan to his feet. "Here is a bag of your things," she said, handing him a small sack. "Be careful. Some of them are weapons. Everything else you need will be waiting for you at your destination."

Qui-Gon also got to his feet and was handed a bag. As the two of them were rushed out of what Obi-Wan presumed to be the infirmary, the dark skinned man put a hand on Qui-Gon's arm. "Heal quickly, my friend," he said. "You are needed." Qui-Gon looked confused, but accepted the well wishes.

On the transport, Obi-Wan found that the captain had space enough only to the two of them a single room. Though he said nothing, Obi-Wan was relieved. Qui-Gon was the only companion he'd have on this confusing journey; the only person who knew what he was experiencing. The company would be welcome.

After the transport had left the planet - Obi-Wan couldn't remember it's name - he and Qui-Gon settled themselves in their quarters. There were two narrow bunks in the room and a tiny bathroom, the only storage space being the area underneath their bunks. The first thing the two men did was sort through the bags that, apparently, contained their belongings.

The clothing was very plain, consisting of beige tunics and pants for Obi-Wan and darker beige tunics and brown pants for Qui- Gon. Both men had been handed cloaks upon leaving the infirmary, Qui-Gon's being slightly darker than Obi-Wan's.

There was little else in the bags. Both of them found data pads filled with information they would need on the planet they were being sent to, but nothing of their past, or present. The last item was obviously a weapon. Or at least, the hilt of a weapon. Qui- Gon had one also, although the style was slightly different. Holding his, Obi-Wan felt it settle into his palm, his fingers closing about it in muscle memory. The younger man set it aside reluctantly, wanting to stir the memory but unwilling to risk activating a weapon he remembered little about. Qui-Gon did the same.

The silence that followed was uncomfortable in its emptiness.

"This is ridiculous," Obi-Wan burst out finally. "We don't remember anything...how are we supposed to make conversation?"

"Perhaps...perhaps we ought to see what we can deduce of our past from our current situation?" Qui-Gon suggested. Obi-Wan nodded, a little relieved. "We definitely know each other well, but I think it is safe to say we are not related," Qui-Gon began. "We were injured together and seem to have a bond of some kind, but neither our names or appearances are the same."

"We are not rich, judging from our clothes, but are well provided for, considering out health and weapons," Obi-Wan continued.

"We do important work," Qui-Gon said, reminding Obi-Wan of the dark skinned man's comment, "and we travel frequently." He indicated the few possessions they carried.

There was a short pause. "Well, that seems to be just about it," Obi-Wan said eventually.

"Not much to go on," Qui-Gon agreed. There was another, longer pause.

This was going to be a really, really long trip.

***

By the end of the three day trip, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had figured out a way to keep company with each other despite their lack of memory. Instead of making small talk, they shared their reactions to sights, sounds and other stimuli. They wandered about the ship, making note of places and activities that seemed familiar. The two men were almost never apart, partially because they hoped to spark a memory off of each other, and partially because they found each other's presence pleasant and familiar.

The end of the trip brought them to a world given over entirely to agricultural purposes. The population was tiny, consisting of only those needed to work the fields. The government was little more than a council of farmers. This was as the inhabitants desired. All who lived on Avrenim chose to leave the technology-choked galaxy for the simple life of a farming community. Those that wished to settle were welcomed with open arms, and those who wished to leave had their passage paid. All this made for an exceedingly peaceful planet.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan would be living in a small cabin situated just inside virtually the only forest left on the agriculturally dominated planet. The spread of trees was owned by one of the first emigrants to the planet, a man who wished to live away from technology but had no love of the fields. He lived much deeper into the forest and had agreed to allow Obi-Wan and Qui- Gon the use of this cabin.

The two men were dropped by their transport at the edge of the forest. A small path meandered through the trees, eventually bringing them to their new home. It was built of rough cut logs and, inside, consisted of a single room. To the far left of the door two narrow beds were pushed up against the wall. To the right was a large fireplace with notches in the walls for a bar from which to hang a pot or spit. A table with four chairs graced the space in between, and on it stood two large boxes.

A carefully handwritten note lay atop one of the boxes. Qui-Gon picked it up and read it aloud. "'All that you need should be provided in these boxes. Feel free to hunt the surrounding forest, but take only what is necessary. I myself prefer not to be disturbed. The communications equipment has been coded to contact only the AgriCorps presence on this world. It is to be used when you either regain you memories or become convinced that no recovery is possible.' It is signed only, 'Your host.'"

Obi-Wan shared a shrug with Qui-Gon and set about unpacking the boxes onto the shelves on the walls. It did not take them long to settle in, considering how few possessions they had. Eventually, Obi-Wan sat down on the bed he'd claimed as his own and looked around, at a bit of a loss.

"What do we do now?" he asked.

"I don't know," Qui-Gon replied. "Why do you keep asking me?"

Obi-Wan shrugged. "I feel like there is something to be done, and I feel like you ought to know what it is."

"That probably means something," Qui-Gon sighed, "but I do not want to try and figure it out at this moment."

"Perhaps we ought to exercise?" Obi-Wan offered. "There was not the space to do so on the ship."

"Good idea," Qui-Gon said briskly, and stood. "What shall we do? Run?"

"As good a suggestion as any," Obi-Wan shrugged, and they jogged out the door. They had to watch their footing carefully in the woods, but both found that they enjoyed the exercise. His blood pumping, sweat running down his back, Obi-Wan felt that there was something missing from the workout. Something that would make it easier physically, yet that would also make it a more complete...

The bond between Qui-Gon and himself hummed with energy and, reaching along it, the unease he felt lightened a little. #Energy...# Obi-Wan thought, even as he ran. #If it is strong enough between us that I can feel it, perhaps the reason I do not sense it elsewhere is only because it is less concentrated.#

Reaching out with skills he didn't know he had, Obi-Wan felt a wash of energy flow through him. It soothed the ache of his muscles and lent strength to his legs. He found, after a few moments, that he didn't have to watch his footing as closely if he allowed that energy to guide him. Without thinking about it, he reached out and shared his discovery with Qui-Gon.

Obi-Wan could feel his companion's surprise along his bond, and then Qui-Gon's step firmed. They found themselves running in sync, their movements complementary. Arriving back at the cabin, they slowed to a stop.

"Well," Qui-Gon said, turning to Obi-Wan and smiling a bit. "I have a feeling that was a very important discovery."

Unfortunately, it was the last important discovery they would make for weeks. The two men settled into life in the cabin quickly, remembering nothing before it. They left themselves open to the energy they had discovered at all times and quickly grew accustomed to heeding it's guidance. The mornings usually began with a long run, sometimes followed by a swim in a lake they had discovered. Afternoons they spent hunting, when necessary.

In the evenings...in the evenings Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan frustrated themselves and each other with their struggles to remember. Any event that brought with it the slightest sense of familiarity was recalled and examined and dissected in the hopes of sparking a memory. But none ever came, and the two men often went to bed frustrated and tense.

On one of these nights, Obi-Wan woke from an uneasy slumber, his mind as weary as it had been when he first sought sleep. Sighing, he rose and wrapped his robe about himself, noting Qui- Gon's absence as he did so. Apparently the older man had also been struck with a bout of insomnia. Obi-Wan snagged one of their towels off a shelf as he left the cabin and headed towards the lake, hoping to wear out his body and thus force his mind to rest.

He was just about to step from the shelter of the trees when a slight noise alerted him. Calming his thoughts and emotions as he did when hunting, Obi-Wan peered into the moon lit darkness. There, smoothly knifing through the waters of the lake, was Qui-Gon. Strong arms pulled him steadily out into the water and then back to shore.

The older man found his feet in the shallower water and stood, water cascading off of him in sheets. Obi-Wan bit back a gasp. Water dripped from Qui-Gon's body, tracing silvery streaks down his chest and abdomen, past his waist and along strong thighs and calves. Yet it was not the moon's gilding that drew Obi-Wan's attention. It was the firm planes of Qui-Gon's nude body, the solid reality of flesh bared in all its glory for the first time in memory that captured Obi-Wan.

The rush of desire that flushed Obi-Wan held the tinge of familiarly that he had come to associate with all the things that echoed his lost memories. This time, instead of clutching at the elusive feeling, he resented it. #No!# he thought. #I will not sacrifice this, too, to lost memories. This feeling is mine, here, in this moment.#

Obi-Wan watched Qui-Gon skim the majority of the water off his body and wrap himself in his cloak. Then, when the older man was well away, he shed his own robe and slid into the cool embrace of the water. He closed his eyes and imagined the glide of a lover's hands - Qui-Gon's hands - on him, and he savored the desire that tingled along his nerves.

Two weeks later, frustrated with the complete stall in their progress, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan found themselves staring contemplatively at their weapons. The two hilts lay side by side on the table, waiting.

"Are you sure this is safe?" Obi-Wan asked hesitantly. Over the past days he'd felt less and less anxious to regain his memory. He found himself becoming content with the simple life they led.

"I'm not sure," Qui-Gon replied, troubled. "But they are the only part of our lives we have failed to investigate. I feel there is nowhere else for us to turn, now." Then, sensing Obi-Wan's emotions through their bond, he went on. "It is not just for us that I am so insistent, Obi-Wan. We were told we are needed... I cannot abandon the responsibility that implies."

"Very well," Obi-Wan murmured. He lifted the hilt he had found in his bag and, stepping well away from Qui-Gon, thumbed the single button he found on the hilt. A long beam of blue energy sprang into life, and Obi-Wan felt it's presence strongly in the energy that flowed around and through him. The feel of the hilt in his hand, the resonance of the blade, it was all intensely familiar. Memories flickered and danced just beyond his grasp.

Angry, Obi-Wan doused the weapon and tossed it back on the table. "I'm tired of reaching for memories I'm not even sure I want," he burst out. "Surely I would remember if I missed that life? There must be some reason my mind refuses to recall."

"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon began, but subsided when the younger man glared at him. "Perhaps we are pushing too hard," he admitted after a moment. "I shall try simply...living in peace for a few weeks. Maybe our memories will surface on their own."

Obi-Wan knew Qui-Gon felt awkward for the first few days after his decision. Through their bond, he could sense the older man's conviction that they were needed elsewhere, and his desire to act. But, as the days passed and Qui-Gon allowed himself to settle into their new life as Obi-Wan had done, the urgency faded. He relaxed and began to enjoy the simple joys of the woods. His intensity of focus eased, and a subtle sense of humor emerged.

The 'few weeks' he had spoken of stretched into months. As Qui- Gon grew more content, Obi-Wan delighted in the little spikes of desire that found their way along the bond between the two men. Neither spoke of their attraction, though both were aware of it. They allowed it to grow between them, to reach beyond the physical.

Around nine months after coming to the forest, Obi-Wan found himself splitting and stacking wood for the fire that would warm them through the approaching winter. He rolled his shoulders as he entered the cabin, hoping to loosen tense muscles.

"Let me help," Qui-Gon said warmly. Obi-Wan threw his friend a questioning look but waited as Qui-Gon spread the blankets from his bed on the floor and gestured for him to lie down on them. After he had removed his tunic and settled himself, oil- slick hands dug into his overworked muscles, releasing the tension. The depth of the massage hurt at first, as the knots in his back protested being loosened. Then, as Obi-Wan relaxed, the touch grew lighter and less businesslike.

Obi-Wan smiled as Qui-Gon's large, strong hands stroked and caressed his back. His arousal built slowly. It began as liquid warmth in his loins and spread through his body with each stroke of those hands. The younger man allowed his desire to spill across his bond to Qui-Gon, and received an answering wash of love and lust.

Grinning, Obi-Wan twisted to lie on his back beneath the other man, who had straddled him for the massage. Obi-Wan studied the man who kneeled above him, flushed with desire and the warmth of the fireplace. He wondered, for a moment, who Qui- Gon had been before the rock fall that had taken their memories. He wondered who he had been. In the next moment, he knew it didn't matter. They were together now, in this moment, and the past was past.

Qui-Gon smiled down at him, sharing the thought. Obi-Wan reached up and pulled Qui-Gon down for a kiss. Lips captured lips with hunger and passion, and Obi-Wan struggled not to break the kiss as he stripped Qui-Gon of his clothing. There was an urgency in their actions now, a need to consummate the longing that had been building between them for months.

The two men finally had to break the kiss to gasp for breath, taking advantage of the necessity by quickly discarding their boots and pants. Then they came together again, Obi-Wan pulling Qui-Gon down on top of him, luxuriating in the press of the other man's body against his. His senses were filled with Qui- Gon. The musky smell of skin and sweat filled his nostrils, Qui- Gon's skin brushed tantalizingly against his own, soft moans and gasps reached his ears, his eyes caressed the other man as thoroughly as his hands and Obi-Wan's mouth tasted his lover's in a dozen places.

Their union, when it came, was full of passion and the sweetness of long held desire finally sated. They relaxed into each other's arms from the exquisite tension of their orgasm and lay there for a while, simply enjoying the moment. "Come," Qui-Gon said finally, rising. "Let's go to bed." By unspoken mutual consent, the two men pushed their beds together and slept the night in each other's arms.

***

Obi-Wan sat at the table, the weapon he had wielded only once lying on the wood before him. It was curiosity that motivated him now. He carefully opened the casing of the hilt, and peered at the delicate arrangement of internal components. A bluish, shimmering crystal drew his attention. The energy field that tingled Obi-Wan's senses resonated strongly about the stone. Gently, he reached out and tapped it.

A sudden vision flashed into his mind's eyes. ///Careful, Obi- Wan. Let the Force guide you in setting the crystal.///

Hesitant, Obi-Wan picked up the crystal, which lay warmly in his palm. The energy concentrated in the stone reached out to him like a living thing, and suddenly a lifetime of memories slammed into his mind in the space of seconds. Obi-Wan cried out at the force of the assault. He was vaguely aware that Qui- Gon was echoing his cry, the older man's memories triggered by Obi-Wan's own recollection.

When the barrage of images finally came to a halt, Obi-Wan found himself bent forward over the table, his forehead resting against the rough wood, his hands clasped over his skull as if to hold it together. #I remember...# he thought, still trying to sort out the sudden influx of information. Then a sudden realization struck him and he slammed his shields up, blocking out the bond that had been left open for months. #Oh, Force...#

Obi-Wan jumped up and practically ran from the cabin, as if to escape the life they'd led there. #Force! What have I done?# he wailed internally, unable to forget the touch of hands and lips as he'd forgotten the rest of his life. He didn't venture far from the cabin. There was nowhere to go, to escape his memories.

Sitting heavily on a fallen tree, Obi-Wan calmed his breathing and his pulse and forced himself out of the panic he'd fallen into. He could not so easily dispel the confusion that washed over him now. He'd felt so different, those months he'd lived without memory. Both free, and lost... And now...now he couldn't decide if he'd found himself or lost himself.

#Am I the same person now that I have been for the past year?# he wondered. #Is that Obi-Wan a part of me, or am I a part of him? Does he exist at all?# The worst part of the whole situation was that the person Obi-Wan would have gone to for advice was a part of the problem.

Eventually, with no resolution in sight, Obi-Wan forced himself to return to the cabin. Qui-Gon, sitting at the table with the comm equipment in front of him, looked up calmly as he entered. "I have contacted the Council," he informed Obi-Wan. "They are sending a transport to pick us up, now that our memories have returned."

"Of course, Master," Obi-Wan said automatically. There was silence then, a pause filled with a new awkwardness. After a moment Obi-Wan went to the table and scooped up the parts of his lightsaber. Turning, he found there was nowhere else to sit. Attempting unsuccessfully to hide his reluctance, Obi-Wan seated himself next to his Master and bent to the task of rebuilding the weapon.

Qui-Gon rose from the table shortly thereafter and left the cabin. Obi-Wan assumed he was going to meditate. #Force knows I need to take some time to figure out my own thoughts,# the Padawan thought to himself, snapping the casing of the hilt of his lightsaber closed. Obi-Wan settled himself comfortably on the hard wooden floor and carefully regulated his breathing and relaxed his mind. He quickly sank into a light trance, allowing his thoughts to wander and make connections.

#Now that my memories have returned, now that we're returning to Coruscant, am I supposed to just forget the past year?# he wondered. #Even if I am supposed to, I'm don't think I can...I don't think I wanted to forget. They're good memories. But are they mine? Do memories make the man, or does the man make them?#

Distantly, Obi-Wan heard Qui-Gon return and begin preparing an evening meal for them. For a moment the sounds were comforting, and then it occurred to Obi-Wan that, as Padawan, he ought to be the one preparing the food. But he couldn't bring himself to break out of his meditation to take over the duties, so he returned to his thoughts.

Looking back on the previous year, Obi-Wan found it hard to believe he had acted against the Code with such impunity so many times. Certainly there had been no major transgressions, no brushes with the dark side. But it was just as obvious that he had allowed his emotions - fear and anger as well as love and lust - to rule him more often than not. That was not the Jedi way.

And yet...he had done nothing he could regret. Not even becoming Qui-Gon's lover. Obi-Wan treasured those memories as the gift that they were. He had loved his Master before the accident. He fell in love with him again after losing his past. He loved him still. And yet their time as lovers had given him no hope. Obi-Wan knew with painful certainty that Qui-Gon Jinn, Jedi Master, would never give up his duty to the Jedi for the life they had led for a year. Obi-Wan rose from his meditation, having settled at least one of the many concerns crowding his mind. The peace he'd found was painful, but it was peace.

Dinner was a quiet and uncomfortable affair. The two men who had been so close a year ago now struggled to relate to each other at all. Afterwards, Obi-Wan left and went for a long walk, hoping more to tire himself than to sort out the rest of his thoughts. When he returned, Qui-Gon had already turned in for the night.

Obi-Wan regarded the bed with some trepidation. It was formed from two frames. He could pull one aside. But to do so would be to call attention to the relationship they had both been studiously ignoring. So he climbed into the bed, turned his back to his Master and curled up so close to the edge he felt he would fall off if he stirred in his sleep.

***

Three days later, Obi-Wan woke to find Qui-Gon absent, their few belongings packed into their bags. Obi-Wan rose and silently separated the beds, returning the cabin to it's original appearance. When he straightened from his task, Qui-Gon was standing in the doorway, his bag over his shoulder. "Our transport has arrived, Padawan," he said.

Obi-Wan nodded silently, picked up his own bag and followed his Master to the ship that awaited them. The younger man had no doubt that the three days ahead would pass much as the three behind had. In tense silence, the occasional awkward moment and meditation. Lots and lots of meditation. Obi-Wan didn't think he'd ever willingly meditated so much in his life.

Yet now he found serenity in the trance. He'd grown much closer to the Force during the year without memories. It soothed him now, kneeling on the floor of his cabin. Obi-Wan had spent the majority of his meditations remembering. Not the memories that he had lost, but those that he gained. He reviewed each recollection in his mind and accepted every one, without exception, as a part of himself.

#When my remembrances left me, I did not cease to be Obi-Wan Kenobi,# he realized slowly. #Nor did I cease to be Jedi. But I did learn to live in the moment, and I learned to feel the living Force. And I loved my Master, in all ways. And that love did not change as my memories came and went. It only grew, as I did.#

Obi-Wan sighed deeply. #I would sacrifice every moment I had in Qui-Gon's arms,# he thought sadly, #to regain the intimacy we once shared.#

Unlike their trip to Avrenim, on the trip away from the planet Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon were given separate quarters. Obi-Wan was as glad of the solitude now as he had been of the company travelling in the opposite direction.

Growing tired of the company of his own thoughts, the young Jedi took his lightsaber and went to the cargo bay. The hold was the only place on the ship large enough for him to safely practice his lightsaber katas, and he felt the need to stretch his muscles and practice the movements. He and Qui-Gon had had little practice over the past year, though they had kept in shape.

Obi-Wan stepped carefully into the most basic kata, moving slowly to allow his body to remember the movement. He opened himself to the Force and allowed it to guide him, his movements slowly growing smoother and faster. The Padawan repeated the first kata three times before he was satisfied enough to move onto the second.

Soon sweat soaked his hair and rolled down his neck and back. Obi-Wan made no allowances for his long break, but pushed himself to move past uncertainty and into confidence again. At last he completed the last, most advanced kata. His muscles burned from the exertion, but his mind felt clear and sharp. It felt good to hold his lightsaber with conviction again.

"Well done, Padawan," Qui-Gon said from the door to the bay. "I see our long absence has not dulled your skills."

#Absence?# Obi-Wan wondered. #Is that how he feels, then? That we were not present during the past year? That we merely lost time?# "If nothing else, Master," he replied aloud, "I learned to listen to the living Force." #Perhaps he was indeed absent. But I was not.#

They arrived at Coruscant and, though the uncomfortable silences had ceased, there was a distance between them that had never been there before. Master and Padawan reported to the Council, and they must have sensed their disunion, for they were given a week to 'settle in'. The two men bowed and went to their quarters. There were there for only a few minutes before Obi- Wan resorted to meditation and Qui-Gon left.

Obi-Wan sighed internally. #This cannot go on. I may lose my Master, but I have already lost Qui-Gon, and that is worse.# He rose, resolve in his movements, and reached out along their bond to locate his Master. Neither of them had touched the bond since regaining their memories, and Obi-Wan regretted his unwillingness to reach out first. Now, he touched Qui-Gon's mind and, though it was shielded, knew from that contact where to find his Master.

Deep in the meditation gardens, Qui-Gon sat quietly on the short grass. His eyes were closed, his posture relaxed. A waterfall crashed down a short cliff next to the plateau where Qui-Gon had seated himself. Obi-Wan took in the serene scene for a moment before moving out of the trees and seating himself before his Master.

"You referred to the past year as our absence," Obi-Wan began without preamble, "but I was not absent. Nor was I lost. It has taken me awhile to see it, but I have been the same person for the past year as I have been my whole life. I am not the sum of my memories. The only regret I have is that our time on Avrenim has created a division between us.

"If you feel you can no longer have me as your Padawan, I will accept a new Master. Please believe me when I tell you that if I could change what happened, I would."

Qui-Gon's eyes opened for the first time in Obi-Wan's speech. "Did those months mean so little to you?" he asked, his voice without emotion.

Obi-Wan blinked in surprise. "Those months were a gift," he replied. "But I would give up being your lover to be your trusted friend and companion, your partner and your Padawan."

Qui-Gon smiled slowly. "You thought once," he said, "That Qui- Gon Jinn, Jedi Master, would never give up his duty to the Jedi for the life we led for a year. And you were right." Obi-Wan's throat tightened, his heart aching to hear Qui-Gon confirm his thought. But the older man was not finished. "I am a Jedi, but I am also a man. Though the man would not return to that life, he would share this one with you."

Qui-Gon rose to his knees and leaned down to kiss his stunned Padawan tenderly. Obi-Wan tentatively returned the caress. When Qui-Gon pulled away, the Padawan murmured, "You knew what I was thinking. For the past six days you've followed my thoughts."

"I had to let you work it out for yourself," Qui-Gon confirmed gently. "I couldn't guide you, in this. I couldn't give you the explanations I found. I had to let you find your own answers."

"I understand," Obi-Wan murmured. He looked up at his Master, feeling happy for the first time in days. "I love you, Qui-Gon Jinn."

"And I you, Obi-Wan Kenobi." Qui-Gon stood and held out his hand to his Padawan. Obi-Wan took it and was helped to his feet. "Now," Qui-Gon continued, putting his arms around the younger man's waist and drawing him close, "the Council has given us a week off. I intend to use it." Obi-Wan leaned back to look up and met Qui-Gon's smile with a grin.

--End--