I've been bitten by a wasp!! But at least it gives me more time to write as I'm sat with my foot up and surrounded by ice-packs. Evil buggers, I'm travelling with a flyswatter from now on.
Qui-Gon walked slowly back to his apartment. His and Obi-Wan's. His padawan's name caused a fresh stab of guilt in his heart. How had he managed to lose his padawan? Lose him to the point where he rejected his own status as his apprentice, to the point where he was indifferent to his master? The memory of Obi-Wan's cold face turning sharply away replayed through Qui-Gon's mind, bringing a stronger surge of remorse and confusion each time.
Absently raising one hand, he slid open the door and was met with a cold and empty apartment. Glancing around the room he saw for the first time the striking lack of Obi-Wan presence. There were no books, datapads or even the brown boots half hidden under the couch that spoke of a guilty clean up attempt. Everything looked different, there were the possessions of a younger boy scattered every now. Qui-Gon sadly picked up a cushion from the ground and moved to replace it on the couch. He started in surprise. Laid out comatose on the couch was Anakin. He was laying sprawled on his back, arms and legs danglingly limply over the sides, his face smeared with a dark substance. Around were a collection of empty cartons and crumpled packets. Bending down Qui-Gon curiously examined one, 'Ultra Choc-Chip Ice-cream', Qui-Gon lifted the lid and peered inside, it was empty too. He dropped the carton and crunched his way over to the boy's side. Anakin's mouth hung open and he was snoring quietly, clutched in his grubby paw was a smudged note. Qui-Gon prised it gently out of his fingers,
'Dear Anakin, welcome to the joys of chocolate! Enjoy!!! Bant'.
So Anakin had eaten himself into insensibility. Despite everything Qui-Gon's mouth twitched and he coughed over a chuckle. At the noise Anakin's eyes fluttered and opened, he burped and sighed happily.
'Qui-Gon Sir, so-so glad you chose me,' he struggled to keep his eyes open, 'chose me to be your padawan.' With that the boy rolled over asleep again.
Qui-Gon's indulgent smile faded off his face, replaced with sudden doubt. Anakin wasn't his padawan, 'Chose me to be your padawan', that's what the boy had said. Obi-Wan was his padawan, at least until he passed his Trials and became a knight. With those words still fresh in his mind, a cold feeling swept over him. Obi-Wan's sudden desire to pass his Trials, his reluctance to talk to him, to meet his eye or even be in his presence. Countless images of Obi-Wan's face came swiftly to his mind, how could he have missed it? Qui-Gon turned a desperate gaze on the door, his forehead creased in a realisation that was too late. Again he wondered how he could have missed it, missed everything. His apology for neglecting Obi-Wan in the days after Anakin's acceptance seemed so pathetic and ineffective. And it had cost him his padawan. It had gained a new one, but quietly as he shifted his gaze to Anakin's sandy blonde head he realised he would rather see ginger.
Qui-Gon slowly released his breath and sank down onto the couch. The springs creaked tiredly as Qui-Gon's solid weight landed on the cushion, a small plume of dust rose into the air that spoke of months without cleaning. The Jedi master leaned his elbows onto his knees and wearily passed a hand over his face. How does one apologise? For so many things? Qui-Gon suddenly felt very old and tired.
Qui-Gon slumped pensively in the row of seats around the training room. Padawans and younglings yelled happily and swung dimmed lightsabres with enthusiasm. Masters sat encouragingly at the edge, calling out to their apprentices and occasionally rushing in to intervene between overly realistic fights. Qui-Gon sat apart from everyone else, his musing eye turned on a small figure engaged in a mock duel with another youngling. His thoughts were occupied not by that boy, but by another one lying a room somewhere else. With a sigh he shifted positions and stared down at his clasped hands. Out the corner of his eye he could see a group of padawans sat several rows higher, their heads occasionally turning to shoot him frowning glances. In the middle of the group, talking earnestly and gesturing was Obi-Wan's friend, Bant. Qui-Gon sighed again and creaked around in the plastic chair to put his back to them. Already he had received several cold inquiries about his padawan's health, the emphasis always being placed on 'his padawan'. Temple gossip travelled fast.
'Doing well you Skywalker is,' Yoda skipped nimbly into the chair next to Qui-Gon.
Qui-Gon gave a non-committal grunt and stretched his long legs out in front.
'Decided to train him we have,' Yoda announced suddenly.
'I'm glad, he his the Chosen One,' Qui-Gon's voice was honest but lacking in any real excitement. Down below on the mat, Anakin deflected a strike with a look of intense concentration. There was a painful pang in the watching Jedi's heart as he observed that familiar look, his mind imposing a different face to that look.
'Begin his training you can soon.'
Qui-Gon quietly absorbed those words then straightened decisively in his seat .
'No,' Qui-Gon repeated firmly, pushing his palms against the plastic to rise to his feet, 'I am glad Anakin is to be trained and I am sure he shall do very well,' he turned one last glance towards Anakin, 'I shall support him but I will not train him.' With a polite nod of his head, Qui-Gon strode out of the room.
Several seats above Bant's eyes widened and she scrambled hastily down the rows.
'Obi-Wan Kenobi, Current Winner of the Banobi Sparring Contest, you won't guess what Qui-Gon just said!' Bant seated herself next to him with an air of smugness about her.
'Hm?' Obi-Wan turned a vaguely curious look on her.
'Oh honestly,' she smacked his hand impatiently, 'be a bit more excited! He just said,' she leant forward, 'he's not going to train Bratakins!' She nodded vigorously and then rolled her eyes at his lack of response, 'come on Kenobi, show some surprise.'
Obi-Wan felt shocked, Qui-Gon wasn't going train the Chosen One? Why?
'Well, I feel sorry for Anakin, he will miss out on having a good master,' he replied carefully, not quite meeting Bant's eye.
'Yeeeah, but he wasn't a good master,' Bant said slowly, staring oddly at him from her perch on the side of the bed.
'I don't really mind what Qui-Gon does or doesn't do anymore, Bant,' Obi-Wan lifted his clear blue eyes to gaze seriously at her.
Bant matched his steady look, then she shifted her eyes down and shrugged.
'I know I'm not the man's biggest fan,' she flashed her eyes up with a shadow of a smile, 'but who are you hurting more? You or him?'
Obi-Wan didn't reply immediately, when he did his voice was calm and quiet.
'I'm not hurting anyone.'
Obi-Wan lay still under the muted lights. His eyelashes rested peacefully against pale cheeks and his soft regular breathes fluttered the edge of the sheet. Loosely clenched hands lay heavily across his side, rising and falling with each breath. Despite the late hour displayed in flashing digits across the room, Obi-Wan was unable to sleep. And despite his words to Bant earlier, he was unable to shake the wish to still have Qui-Gon as a part of his life. Laying alone in the empty room, he allowed one cold tear to trickle down his cheek. Why did Qui-Gon choose Anakin over him that day? That's what it all came down to in the end. Everything else, all actions and words came from that one event in the Jedi Council room, when Qui-Gon said he no longer wished to have Obi-Wan as a padawan. Now Qui-Gon said he wasn't going to train Anakin as a padawan either, was that Obi-Wan's fault too? No change came over Obi-Wan's face in the soft light, only one more solitary tear escaped from the corner of his closed eye. It hung quivering on the edge of his eyelash before splashing down his cheekbone. He didn't feel like an independent man, he felt like a lonely padawan.
Soft footsteps echoed across the tiles and the door slid noiselessly open. Obi-Wan kept his cheek pressed against the pillow and didn't open his eyes. Whoever it was they would leave soon enough. The footsteps stopped beside his bed and a heavy sigh sounded in the dark silence, a warm weight descended to rest Obi-Wan's frozen cheek, turning his face gently from the pillow. Obi-Wan slowly opened his eyes and stared into a pair of tired blue eyes, framed by dozens of small lines of stress and sadness. Obi-Wan stared calmly back without speaking, Qui-Gon's eyes slowly filled with tears and he pressed his hand tightly against Obi-Wan's still cheek with a small quiver. Nothing changed in Obi-Wan's expression, then his face suddenly twisted and he hurled himself forward. Ignoring the flare in his shoulder, he buried his head into Qui-Gon's neck with a bitter cry. Arms wrapped around his back and held him tightly, one shaking hand moved to hold the back of his head and Qui-Gon sobbed silently. Tears streaked down Obi-Wan's face, he wasn't sure whose they were. Qui-Gon's entire form shook with remorse as he held his padawan.
'Why?' Obi-Wan choked out desperately.
There was no spoken response from Qui-Gon, only an increase in the grip around around Obi-Wan's back and the sound of continued crying.
'Someone should have explained I can't have everything I want, padawan,' Obi-Wan grinned shakily through his tears at the thought flowing across their long disused mind-link.
'You still wanted me as your padawan?'
'I didn't realise how you would take it, I'm so,' Qui-Gon drew a shuddering breath, 'so sorry. Anakin can be trained by someone else.'
'You do want me as you padawan though?' Obi-Wan felt a fleeting feeling of dread.
'Yes!' Qui-Gon pulled back Obi-Wan's head to meet his downcast eyes, 'yes! And it should be me asking whether you want me as your master!' A flicker of apprehension crossed his damp eyes as he looked into Obi-Wan's guarded ones.
There was what felt like a long stretch of silence as Obi-Wan stared through the dim light at Qui-Gon's anxious face. Then with a sharp crack, Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes and slapped Qui-Gon firmly across the side of the face. Qui-Gon closed his eyes and made no movement. Obi-Wan's face erupted into a grin and he roughly pulled his master into a hug. There were no more words spoken, only a grateful sigh from Qui-Gon.
It was with a rush of memories that Obi-Wan woke up in the Healers the next morning. Raising his left hand to gingerly rub his neck he peered around the room. He didn't have to look far. Half slumped off the seat next to his bed was Qui-Gon, arms and head flopped over the small plastic railing and onto Obi-Wan's bed. The head sank half into his pillow was snoring contentedly as only a relaxed Qui-Gon could. Obi-Wan grinned.
'Hey,' a distinctive voice came from around the door as Bant tromped loudly in.
'Hey,' Obi-Wan responded cheerfully, turning his head to give her a wide smile.
'Ah, I see you're delighted by my presence as always, but I regret to say I will not be signing autographs toda...' her voice trailed off as her eyes fell on Qui-Gon, she raised one eyebrow at Obi-Wan.
He simply smiled back at her, she gave him an exasperated look then grinned widely, there was no need to speak. Her grin then tilted at the corner and she arched an eyebrow again.
'Sooo, had a good night?' She winked, Qui-Gon choose that moment to snuffle sleepily and throw an arm heavily across Obi-Wan's shoulders.
Obi-Wan looked across at Qui-Gon and for the first time in months, threw back his head and laughed. There was a snort as Qui-Gon jerked blearily awake, his eyes travelling around the room before focusing on Bant. His face sobered and he sat up straight.
'I have to ask you something, padawan,' his voice was serious, 'are you in a relationship with Padawan Eerin?'
The look on Bant's face suggested she had just been hit over the head with a heavy object. Repeatedly. Her eyes widened significantly and she suddenly doubled over with a badly concealed choke.
'With Obi-Wan?' She gasped in amused disbelief.
'I'm not that bad,' Obi-Wan retorted, somewhat put out by her reaction.
'You're gorgeous, cutie,' she assured, winking at him, 'but-' she suddenly snorted again.
'Shall I take that as a no?' Qui-Gon's mouth twitched at the disgruntled look on Obi-Wan's face.
'What ever gave you that idea in the first place?' Bant asked curiously, recovering slightly.
'No matter,' the older Jedi looked uncomfortable.
Obi-Wan still stared in curious shock at Qui-Gon, Bant glanced between the two of them and bit her lip, quietly shuffling backwards. Obi-Wan kept his gaze steadily on Qui-Gon.
'Why?' Obi-Wan's voice had a slight warning edge in it.
There was a sigh as Qui-Gon tiredly rubbed a hand over his face, closing his eyes before opening them to look thoughtfully at his padawan.
'I think I've been missing quite a few things over the months, Obi-Wan,' he said honestly, 'the explanations for things I'd seen,' he broke eye contact uneasily again, staring at his hands, 'I missed everything else and only saw a,' there was another pause, 'friendship between you and Bant.' There was a long silence between the two Jedi. 'Why didn't you tell me about your shoulder?' Qui-Gon said finally with a note of sad reproach.
'I wanted to pass my Trials, fast,' Obi-Wan said bluntly, catching himself quickly before anything else slipped out. The answering nod he received showed an understanding that the meaning had not gone unnoticed.
'But I hurt you,' Qui-Gon's eyes fell on Obi-Wan's bandaged shoulder before moving back up to his face, 'in more ways than one,' he added quietly.
Another silence fell between them, not entirely awkward though.
'Tell me every from now on?' There was an uncharacteristic question in Qui-Gon's voice, his blue eyes meeting Obi-Wan's anxiously.
'Keep me as your padawan?' Obi-Wan countered with a small shadow of a smile.
Qui-Gon returned the smile and held out on large hand. Obi-Wan stretched out his hand and grasped it warmly. Everything unspoken was said in the tight grip of their hands.
Obi-Wan could see Qui-Gon's annoyed frustration. His large hands were gripping the controls so tightly their knuckles were turning white, his fingers digging into the metal fiercely. A muscle rippled along his jawline and veins throbbed at his temple. A loud aggressive beeep sounded repeatedly over the noise of Coruscant's traffic, Qui-Gon ground his teeth together. The obnoxious beep blared again and Qui-Gon almost tore the controls off the speeder in an attempt to remain calm.
'Can'..Can'.?' The words squeezed out from between clenched teeth.
'Let me deal with it,' Obi-Wan twisted in his seat to stare across the speeder at the ugly Hutt glaring at them from the speeder behind.
The Hutt shook his fist angrily and shouted at Obi-Wan, the words lost in the noise of the traffic but their overall meaning getting through. With a slow gesture, Obi-Wan brought his hand to his mouth and pursed his lips at the Hutt, blowing a kiss at him. The Hutt's eyes bulged in shock, Obi-Wan opened his mouth and gave an exaggerated wink. The traffic started moving forward again, but the Hutt in the red speeder remained stopped in horrified disbelief.
'See, no problem,' Obi-Wan twisted back in his seat and hummed lightly.
Qui-Gon stared at him.
'You've been visiting Bant again, haven't you?'
I know, there's no long explanation from Qui-Gon to Obi-Wan, but in all honesty they're guys and none of the fights between guys I've known have ended with a heart to heart discussion. I did write more, but chopped it out as it seemed a bit overly sappy and I'm on a strict NO-OVERLY MUSHY-NESS thing...might have broken that vow a bit...but not toooo much I hope.
MASSIVE thank you to allll my Lovely Reviewers, you should have heard the happy little squeaks when I checked my inbox. THANKS!!!!!!!! I've loved writing this story, torturing the characters and everything...