A/N:: For my mushball of a saucy space-cadet sistah, alchemydream. (huggle tackle) Thank you sooo much for cheering me up the other day! This fluff is alllllll for you as a result. As soon as the bunny hopped into my head, I knew to whom he belonged. (grins).
And now, just to prove that I can exist on something other than angst... (laughs)
Force knew he could be an idiot sometimes.
As Mace was constantly fond of reminding him; it wasn't enough that he seemed to accumulate pathetic life forms about him in a comical entourage…that was a problem that all Jedi deeply attuned to the Living Force encountered. But no, what separated Qui-Gon Jinn from the rest of the pack was that he actively encouraged them.
And he wondered why he never seemed to have any alone time.
The boy's name was Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon had found him one day, wandering the main hallways of the Temple far after everyone else had gone to bed with wide blue eyes and ponderously-sucked thumb. Rumpled auburn hair had fallen over a freckled nose as Qui-Gon scooped up the little renegade in one arm. It was a reluctant gesture – really, he didn't care for children at all – but there was no crèche-master in sight to deal with the truant.
But then those pale blue eyes locked on his own, and sombrely pulling his thumb from his mouth, the youngling blinked sleepily and smiled.
No more than one breathed syllable, barely audible, before sleepiness overtook the child, and he pillowed his head against Qui-Gon's chest. Obi-Wan's tiny hands curled against the rough fabric of the stunned Jedi Knight's robe. It felt as though those chubby fingers had wrapped around Qui-Gon's heart instead.
To Qui-Gon, it seemed like only moments had passed when a flustered crèche-master finally found her lost charge. The woman blinked at the strange picture of tiny toddler cradled in the arms of a towering Jedi Knight, pushing the stray wisps of her hair back out of her face.
It seemed like only moments had passed, but when the boy was gently pulled from his embrace, Qui-Gon found that his arms were numb from supporting the child's negligible weight for so long.
It wasn't attachment, Qui-Gon had told himself sternly, though his heart lurched strangely when Obi-Wan whimpered and reached for him again.
It wasn't attachment, he insisted to himself, when he went to the crèche the next day to see if the boy was all right. And the day after that. And the day after that. And again, when he returned from his next mission.
It wasn't attachment he felt, Qui-Gon was sure, when he spent the night sitting next to Obi-Wan's bed, making sure the boy slept soundly. The crèche-master had told him that the tiny scoundrel had slept terribly in Qui-Gon's absence from the Temple; it certainly wasn't attachment that had made Qui-Gon feel guilty at the veiled accusation.
It wasn't attachment when he bought Obi-Wan the stuffed bantha while on Kashyyyk, laughing at the thought of the stuffed animal being bigger than the youngling himself. And it wasn't attachment that had made him grin like a spice-addled idiot when the boy had named the toy "Qwai"
Qui-Gon wasn't a man who was used to having someone intrude in his life to such a degree. Even with his knack for picking up "pathetic life forms", he still managed to guard his privacy, his solitude. Even Mace, who was closer to him than any other in the galaxy, knew when to leave Qui-Gon to himself.
But Obi-Wan had come crashing into his existence abruptly, breaking down any barriers that Qui-Gon had carefully erected. The day that the little imp had figured out the comlinks, contacting Qui-Gon and demanding a bed-time story right in the middle of negotiations with the Tallurian royal family. Or the time that he had been in 'sabre practice with Mace, only to have his balance thrown off by a sudden enthusiastic embrace to his leg.
Things that would have been infuriating before became minor annoyances, banished in the next moment by that innocent smile.
But this was really going too far.
It had been a long mission. Nothing too arduous, but it had been far too long since Qui-Gon had slept in his own bed, in his own room at the Temple. More importantly, it had been far too long since Qui-Gon had any time alone with Mace: he had felt the heat of the other man's eyes on him, burning into his back during his entire report to the Council.
They didn't even make it to Qui-Gon's room before hands were fumbling desperately at layers of tunics, lips desperately seeking each other and entwining… and… pulling away…?
Qui-Gon gasped as Mace broke the embrace roughly, raising one eyebrow in consternation at his lover. Mace returned the glare mildly, with a pointed glance towards the apartment.
Qui-Gon sighed as he eyed the pathetic little huddle of sleep-clothes in front of his door. A surge of annoyance flooded him, even as an involuntary smile tugged at his lips. He had deliberately kept the location of his home in the Temple a secret from Obi-Wan, to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening. The tiny little youngling was almost dwarfed by the huge stuffed bantha that was clutched tightly in pale little hands that poked from too-long sleeves.
Well, if there was a bright side, it was that Obi-Wan had found the doorstep now, and hadn't wandered in on Qui-Gon and Mace together about ten minutes later. That was definitely a conversation he did not want to have with a three-year-old.
Qui-Gon stepped forward, bending fluidly to scoop up the youngling and his bantha companion effortlessly into his arms, before turning with a regretful smile to Mace.
The normally stern Jedi seemed as though he wasn't sure whether to laugh or scream. It was an amusing expression on the face of someone who prided himself on being impassive. Laughter finally won out, and he leaned in to press a chaste kiss against Qui-Gon's cheek.
"I am sorry, Mace." Qui-Gon said quietly, absently rubbing Obi-Wan's back in a soothing circular motion.
His lover snorted in disbelief. "Next time, I throw the kid out the nearest window," he replied calmly, folding his arms into the sleeves of his robe.
Qui-Gon laughed, palming open the door to his quarters with one hand. Snuggled against his chest, Obi-Wan stirred and yawned, blinking sleepy eyes up at him.
Setting the tiny boy down, Qui-Gon forced himself to sound stern. "What are you doing here, young one? You know very well that you promised to stay in the crèche while I was gone."
Oh the pout. The way those blue eyes turned mutinous, the nose scrunched and the lips tugged downwards with the faintest tremble of tears.
"Obi-Wan…" Qui-Gon repeated warningly.
Now there were tears in the youngling's eyes as he hugged his bantha tighter. "Don' like it there… stay wif you, please?"
Qui-Gon sighed heavily, knowing that now was the time to stand firm. He had to draw the line with this child, before Obi-Wan became too attached to him. Qui-Gon was old enough to know better than to fall victim to attachment, but it wasn't something that the younglings learned until they were five.
He opened his mouth to say "no", reached out to pick the boy up and carry him back to the crèche….
"All right, Obi-Wan. But just for tonight."
An hour later, Qui-Gon finally accepted that the boy snuggled up in his arms was there to stay, stuffed bantha and all.
Well… maybe attachment wasn't so bad, after all.
Anakin hissed as he tugged the bandage away from the wound on his arm. It was still an angry red colour, but at least it had closed over. A little bacta and he would be as good as new, without having to make a trip to the Temple Healers either – something that was always a welcome bonus.
Digging through his decimated pack, Anakin frowned. Where in the Sith hell was that bacta salve? He was certain that Luminara had given them an extra bottle of it, knowing very well team Skywalker/Kenobi's proclivity for getting into trouble. (If trouble was a synonym for "storm of blaster fire from droidekas", that is).
"Master?" Anakin bellowed at the closed fresher door, straining to be heard over the noise of the fresher.
After a second, the water stopped, replaced by the sound of a very annoyed Obi-Wan Kenobi. "What is it, Anakin?"
"The bacta! Where is it?"
"In my pack – Luminara didn't trust you to take care of it," Obi-Wan replied tersely, though his voice was laced with thinly-veiled amusement. "I'll get it for you in a moment."
Anakin scowled. He wasn't the one who had walked right into the Separatist's trap. Or fallen into that gundaark pit. Maybe it was time to re-evaluate who exactly was the more trustworthy one in their partnership.
But it wouldn't do to tell Master Obi-Wan that. Not unless Anakin wanted to be forced to cross-dress for their next ten undercover assignments. So he merely sighed, yelled a "thank you!" as the sound of the fresher resumed, and crammed his dirty clothes back into the mud-stained kitbag.
Sitting back on his heels, Anakin eyed Obi-Wan's bag – in a similar state of disarray to Anakin's own – and shot a pensive look at the fresher door. Obi-Wan would be in there for over an hour, luxuriating in the "miracle of civilization: hot running water". Ordinarily, Anakin wouldn't blame him for the indulgence; Sith knew his Master took little enough pleasure in anything.
But today, Anakin was tired, grumpy, and Force-damn-it, his arm hurt. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn't have even considered invading his Master's privacy. But it wasn't as though he was hacking into Obi-Wan's data pad (it was voice-locked anyways) or searching through drawers in his room. Anakin knew what was in the pack – Obi-Wan's discarded disguise, his mud-soaked robe, some emergency rations, and hopefully the thrice-damned bacta.
Having run through these very convincing justifications in his head, Anakin nodded shortly, and unceremoniously dumped the contents of the bag onto the floor.
The bacta was there. So was the dirty robe and the now-ruined silk shirt. There were no emergency rations… but there was one other incongruous item.
Anakin picked the thing up by one…well, appendage would have been too kind a word, and studied it intently. Under the dried mud, it looked like it could have, at one point, been a stuffed bantha. It certainly smelled like a wet Wookiee, but so did all of their clothing after weeks of mud and rain.
The sound of the fresher door opening made Anakin spring to his feet, quickly shoving the stuffed creature behind his back.
Obi-Wan paused in the doorway, rubbing at his hair with a towel and eying the mess on the floor despondently. "Anakin, what in the hell are you -?" he froze, noting that his belongings were the ones strewn all over the place. Obi-Wan's eyes darted to Anakin's nervously for a second, then skittered away.
The young Jedi Knight noticed the red tinge of embarrassment that painted Obi-Wan's cheeks and grinned. So the great implacable Obi-Wan Kenobi could get embarrassed. That was definitely a good thing to remember for future reference.
"Are you looking for something, Master?" Anakin asked sweetly, making his expression completely guileless. He stepped back easily, keeping his back turned away from the older Jedi as Obi-Wan knelt and quickly rifled though his belongings. Anakin grinned to himself, planning the perfect moment to spring his new-found knowledge on his unsuspecting Master.
He wasn't prepared for the look of utter heartbreak on Obi-Wan's face when he realised the bantha was missing. It passed in a second, as Obi-Wan seemed to remember he was not alone and forced a quick smile at his former Padawan.
"No, I…. No. I was mistaken, that's all Anakin. Here's the bacta."
It was an agonizing evening. Anakin managed to smuggle the toy into his room, holding it loosely in his hands, ready to toss it under the bed at the first sound of his Master's approach. He had wanted to slip it into Obi-Wan's bedroom, but the older Jedi Knight had spent most of the day in there. Anakin could hear drawers being opened and slammed shut; the few meagre possessions contained therein being rattled around in the search.
Anakin turned the thing over in his hands. It had certainly seen better days, although he would be fair and admit that the mud didn't help. Mud that was still crusted over various parts of his body as well, Anakin reminded himself with a sigh.
A sigh that turned into a smile as an idea occurred to him. Bantha in hand, Anakin snuck over to the fresher, locking the door securely behind him.
Obi-Wan had finally given up the search, collapsing backwards onto his bed and covering his face with his hands.
It was gone.
He didn't know why he was so upset. After all, most crèchelings had to give up their favourite toy when they reached the age of five. It was only because Qui-Gon had hidden it from the crèche-masters that Obi-Wan still had the thing at all. It was a ridiculous attachment to still possess, anyways. Stars' end, but he was an adult now. It might have been a nostalgic reminder of his former Master at one point in his life, but that was years ago now! He didn't even have a Padawan of his own anymore, now that Anakin had been Knighted. Obi-Wan knew he certainly didn't need to hug an old, battered, stuffed bantha to be able to sleep at night.
But it helped.
"Fucking Sith hell," Obi-Wan muttered, squeezing his eyes tightly shut. It wasn't as if the thing were sentient; he shouldn't feel sick at the thought of Qwai being stuck in a mud hole somewhere on some Force-forgotten planet.
Biting his lip, Obi-Wan slowly rolled over on his side, wrapping his arms tightly around a pillow. But it wasn't the same, not at all.
He didn't realize he had fallen asleep until he was woken by something tickling at his nose. Something fuzzy and faintly damp and smelling of fresh soap and… wet Wookiee fur?
Obi-Wan opened his eyes to find Qwai nestled on the pillow in front of him. The bantha's fur had been carefully brushed, all the mud and mats combed out painstakingly. Still half-asleep, Obi-Wan curled one arm around the bantha, hugging it tightly against his chest with a tired sigh of contentment.
Realisation hit a moment later, and he bolted upright, staring with wide eyes at Anakin, who was perched on the far side of the mattress.
Obi-Wan instantly felt his cheeks turn brilliant scarlet, and he set aside the bantha hurriedly – but carefully nonetheless. By the stars, what would Anakin think of him now? That his Master was so weak, he needed a stuffed toy to get him through a night without being tormented by dreams? That his frenzy that evening had been to search for a meaningless possession he wasn't even supposed to have?
Obi-Wan couldn't meet Anakin's eyes, finding the bland cover on his bed suddenly far more interesting.
"I used to have a toy Jawa," Anakin remarked in a conversational tone. "His name was just… Jawa. I still kind of miss him… he was good at scaring away monsters."
Obi-Wan tried to speak, but his throat had closed up inexplicably. He tentatively raised his eyes to meet Anakin's own, expecting to meet mockery or condescension… and found only understanding.
"He- his name's Qwai," Obi-Wan whispered in response, with a weak smile.
Anakin tentatively reached out to stroke the bantha's fur. Obi-Wan's breath hitched in his throat as Anakin's fingers brushed against his own, raising startled eyes to look at his former Padawan.
Anakin's smile was hesitant, and Obi-Wan couldn't tear his eyes away as the younger Jedi Knight slowly leaned in to kiss him. Just one kiss, one that sent tingles reverberating through Obi-Wan's body, before Anakin pressed him back down on the bed and curled up against the older Jedi Knight. Obi-Wan smiled, snuggling his head comfortably under Anakin's chin as his former Padawan wrapped one arm tightly around his waist.
Qwai was smooshed in between the two Jedi Knights, and guarded the dreams of both.
Its fur was faded, and it had gone bald in places; some of the seams were loose, despite having been painstakingly re-sewn again and again. The enamel on the eyes was a bit chipped, and one horn wobbled.
Luke didn't care. He loved his bantha, pushing it around in the dirt in front of his house. It was his best friend, his confidante, and protector. It was his fearless companion in his daydreams of being a Jedi.
Its name was Ben.
Hope you guys liked! (smile). SN 9 will be posted...er... fairly soon. I think. (innocent grin). I haven't forgotten about it, don't worry!