Title: A Place Among the Stones

Author: Sage (greensage2@yahoo.com)

Rating: PG-13

Categories: Pre-Slash, Romance

Series: Possibly (if I get requests for more, hint, hint)

Summary: Obi-Wan sends his Master on a mission. Hopelessly romantic fluff with perhaps a splash of angst for spice.

Notes: Not beta'd. All mistakes are mine. The bunny that spawned this story originates from Augusta Pembrooke's terrific story, "The Death Trap Test." The idea of storing memories in stones really struck me, and, well, you can figure out the rest... Kind of a songfic but not really - I remembered the title from an album of mine after I wrote the story and found that the lyrics are poignantly appropriate to our favorite Jedi. If you want to read the lyrics, go here: http://members.nbci.com/mairebrennan/lyrics/lyrics2.html I've never read the Jedi Apprentice books, so I had to take a LOT of poetic license with some of the events here. Please suspend your disbelief!

Feedback: Oh please, oh please, oh PLEASE!

Disclaimers: Not mine. No money. All hail the mighty Lucas.

1

Qui-Gon woke with the dawn, as usual. He lay still for a moment, soaking up the quiet calm of a day waiting to begin. It was ten years today. Ten years since Obi-Wan had offered his life for Qui-Gon's in the mines of Bandomeer and become his apprentice. /How the time flies,/ he mused. He stretched out his Forcesense, seeking his sleeping padawan. He smiled. The young man was certainly still abed at this early hour. Obi-Wan had never truly been a morning person.

The Master's awareness expanded to include the padawan's room adjacent to his own. He found the room empty, its occupant nowhere to be found. Obi- Wan's signature was somewhat...stale, as though the young man hadn't slept here at all. Qui-Gon's brow furrowed briefly. It was unlike Obi-Wan to stay out all night with his friends without telling him first. Always mindful of his training, his conscientious padawan always double checked before doing anything that might be disruptive.

The Master rose and went quickly to the 'fresher. A shower and clean clothes left him reasonably ready to face the day. He put his long mane in order, wrestling with it until he'd managed to tie off a suitable Knight's tail. He was getting soft in his old age, he thought ruefully to himself. He was entirely too used to having Obi-Wan tie back his hair in the morning. It wasn't something he required or even asked of his padawan, but the young man always offered silently to take care of it. By all appearances, he was happy to do it, and Qui-Gon was happy to let him. It was something of a guilty pleasure, relishing the sure, gentle touch of Obi- Wan's hands against his scalp, lightly massaging even as he smoothed out the tangles and gathered a handful of the long, silvered, brown hair into a neat tail. Oh, to feel that gentle touch all over his body...

Qui-Gon shook his head, bringing himself out of his reverie. /Foolish old man, yearning after your young apprentice like that. What would he want with a dried-up old Jedi Master like yourself? A master, a teacher. Nothing more./ He sighed, heard the longing carried on that exhalation and chastised himself again. /Going senile in your dotage? You're a damned fool, Jinn./

Even in the unlikely event that Obi-Wan did feel anything for him, he could never act on it. There was no written rule in the Code, but Masters know that they do not initiate physical relationships with their padawans. If anything like that develops, it must be at the padawan's request, and then only if such a relationship will not adversely affect the training process. If Qui-Gon were honest with himself, he'd admit that Obi-Wan was his deepest desire. He'd never felt so intensely about another. He snorted ruefully. His deepest desire, and he could not give into it, at least, not until Obi-Wan was Knighted. But even so, what would a beautiful young man like Obi-Wan want with a relic twice his age? Qui-Gon closed his eyes briefly and tried to release his emotions into the Force, knowing from experience that it would be a fruitless venture.

Qui-Gon took his morning tea, munched on some fruit, and checked his messages. Still no sign of Obi-Wan. Beginning to worry a little, he headed through the common room towards the door, snagging his robe as he strode past the pegs on the wall by the door. He slung it over his shoulders and paused when the cowled hood thunked against his back, clearly weighted down. He fished about through the folds until his fingers met with something hard and smooth. He drew it out and examined it. It was a rock – the Force-active stone he'd given Obi-Wan for his thirteenth birthday. He wondered how it had managed to end up in his hood. The signature of his padawan was strong in it, and the pebble seemed to pulse, drawing at him. On a whim, he extended his awareness into the crystalline matrix. Without warning, the stone grew warm in his hand, and images and sensations flared through his mind.

He was there again, on Bandomeer, but he saw it from a different set of eyes. The Jedi Master saw himself, bent over slightly to meet the eyes of whoever it was he now inhabited. The pride and gratitude in his other self's eyes was readily apparent as he reached out one large hand and spoke a single word.

"Padawan?" The Master's voice was soft, tentative, as if he weren't entirely sure what the response would be. Qui-Gon remembered that he hadn't been at all sure if the boy would accept him after being rejected so many times. These were Obi-Wan's memories, then, from his perspective.

Incredulity exploded across his senses, utter disbelief followed by ineffable joy. Caution then, as though he were bracing himself for disappointment, not wanting to believe his good fortune until he was sure it wouldn't be yanked from his grasp. The memory-Obi-Wan whose consciousness he inhabited slowly reached out a hand, small and slender with youth, and laid it in the Master's palm. Large fingers curled around it, swallowing the smaller hand in a gentle grip. Suddenly, there was a tug on his hand and the sensation of being enfolded in a huge embrace, strong arms around him, a massive chest against his ear.

"Master!" The word seemed to come from his own lips; he remembered hearing the faint exclamation, the disbelief with which his new padawan had breathed it. He was then suffused with feelings of gratitude; Obi-Wan's gratitude towards the Jedi Master, the Force, and any deity that might be listening. It was overlaid by a silent, fervent promise to be the best padawan the Order had ever seen. He would not let his new Master down, not for any reason. He swore that Qui-Gon Jinn would never find reason to regret attaching Obi-Wan Kenobi as padawan learner; he would not fail his Master, not for anything. Not ever.

"Oh, Padawan," the Qui-Gon of here and now whispered. He had no idea, hadn't sensed the depth of devotion in the young boy. His heart squeezed painfully. Obi-Wan had been true to his promise; Qui-Gon never regretted attaching the young man. How could he when his padawan was the most precious thing in his life? He supposed he really ought to express his pride in his apprentice more often, to share with Obi-Wan the pleasure he took in sharing the young man's company. It was such a fine line to walk, though. How easy it would be to let simple praise fly completely off the deep end and into an impassioned declaration of love and adoration! It would be as simple and as natural as breathing, as instinctive as love he felt for his apprentice.

Qui-Gon had no further time for rumination, for the stone pushed one more thought into his mind before becoming quiescent again, an impression of a bench in the Crystal Garden.

"Very well, Padawan," he said to the empty room, "I'm not sure what you're trying to tell me yet, but it promises to be an interesting morning." He left their quarters, the door closing softly behind him.

Qui-Gon found the bench among the silent, twinkling spires of multi-hued crystal. In the center of the bench, a single, perfect point of deep blue stone shot through with silver rested. It, too, pulsed strongly with the sense of his padawan. This time, the memories were of the first time Obi- Wan had truly heard the song of the Force in his mind. He'd agonized for days, Qui-Gon patiently teaching, explaining, guiding to no avail. The boy knew his Forcesense was there, used it without even thinking, but he couldn't "hear" the Force. In desperation, Qui-Gon had taken his anguished student to the calm, crystalline serenity of this Garden, hoping that it would help soothe his troubled spirit. He'd held the boy tightly as Obi- Wan sobbed out his fears that he wasn't fit to be a Jedi, wasn't fit to be the padawan of legendary Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, would never consciously sense the Force.

Heart aching anew at his young student's distress, Qui-Gon heard again the words he'd murmured to his padawan.

"Obi-Wan, my padawan, you will be a strong and good Jedi Knight. Listen with your heart, young one, and you will hear the Force, never fear."

Slowly, the frantic tears stopped, the desperate sobbing quieted. Obi-Wan had laid his head against his Master's chest and listened to the strong heartbeat. Qui-Gon felt from his student's perspective what it had been like - the abject terror and despair of being a total failure had receded as the boy listened to his teacher's heart. Slowly, in the back of his mind, a faint pulsing pushed its way forward, keeping time with the steady thumping in his ear. It grew clearer, stamped in Obi-Wan's mind's eye in threads of silver and blue - his Master's Force signature. Qui-Gon remembered the way the spiky, red-gold head had snapped up, wide, changeable grey-green eyes fixed on his own in astonishment.

"Master!" young Obi-Wan whispered, as if afraid he would scare off the Force in his head, "I hear you!"

The memory concluded with a brief glimpse of the huge atrium where the lightsabre crystals were kept. Qui-Gon sat for a moment, taking in the wonder and ineffable joy Obi-Wan had felt the first time he'd seen the Master's Force signature and heard the song of the Force in his mind.

At length, he remembered that the lapis point had directed him to another place. Obediently, Qui-Gon rose from the bench and went where his padawan decreed. There, he found a sapphire winking in solitary brilliance on a workbench. He picked it up and experienced the day when he had helped Obi- Wan build his first lightsabre, remembered his apprentice's pride and delight when the weapon worked perfectly on the first try. The signature of this stone was a bit worn about the edges. Obi-Wan's first focus crystal, the Master realized. He added it carefully to his growing collection before setting out for the Grand Arena, his next destination in this peculiar quest. Qui-Gon found himself enjoying the "hunt." He was reliving several of the most important moments of Obi-Wan's apprenticeship, this time from his padawan's perspective.

The stones led him all over the Temple. First to the Grand Arena, where a piece of agate showed him one of the times he and Obi-Wan had won the Master/Padawan pairs sparring in the annual Games. He remembered how proud he'd been if his student, and he experienced firsthand the bashful adoration of the student for his Master, the shy pride in having pleased Qui-Gon with his performance. Then to the Temple landing pads, where a rough pebble reminded him of a difficult mission some seven years previous – the mission where Obi-Wan had first saved his Master's life. He no longer felt like an unworthy child, but had finally begun to have some faith in his own abilities. Qui-Gon was startled to learn that his student had struggled with a poor self-image for so long; in the Master's eyes, Obi- Wan was the epitome of lissome grace, keen intellect, lightning-fast reflexes, and kind heart. Perhaps he should say so out loud, he mused. He'd always assumed Obi-Wan knew how proud his master was of him.

The pebble sent him to the Healers' wing, where a garnet showed him two memories, the first of Obi-Wan waking up to the vision of Qui-Gon's face, haggard with worry as the young man fought his way through a severe case of Axtellian fever. He felt Obi-Wan's surprise that his Master cared so much - to sit by his bedside and wait for him to wake, ignoring summons after summons from the Council. The vision shifted, and Qui-Gon saw himself, unconscious and still after being hit by a stray blaster shot on a mission. He felt his student's frantic worry and crippling guilt at having failed to protect him, only to have both supplanted by inarticulate relief as the indigo eyes fluttered open and focused on him.

The garnet sent him to the Council chamber anteroom, where a golden, uncut topaz gleamed dully on one of the cushioned benches. He picked it up and was swept back to a particularly irritating audience with the Council. He remembered it well; it had followed a mission that was truly a no-win situation, and Qui-Gon had been forced to use some highly unorthodox negotiating techniques to wrangle a treaty out of the opposing parties and prevent civil war. Qui-Gon saw himself standing in the center of the chamber, stubbornly arguing his point to the Council, even in the face of the universal disapproval radiating from the seated Masters. He saw his own jaw set in a grim, defiant line as the Council delivered a formal reprimand, then watched himself glance over in surprise when Obi-Wan spoke up without being invited by the Councilors. He remembered, now, how his student had unexpectedly risen to his defense. It hadn't done much good, but he'd appreciated the effort.

He felt Obi-Wan's emotions from that day, felt how his student, usually nervous at the way his Master so often defied the Council, had been dismayed and angry when they'd lit into Qui-Gon this time and taken him to task for his actions. He felt Obi-Wan come to the conscious decision that his Master was right, and right was more important than obedient. He felt his student's sudden, fierce pride. Obi-Wan was proud to stand at this man's side, and by the Force, he would defend his teacher, Council or no. Qui-Gon felt a surge of feeling from within himself at this last, which redoubled when he experienced Obi-Wan's realization that his Master was not a perfect paragon worthy of blind worship, but an imperfect man worthy of admiration and respect in his faults and accomplishments alike. Qui-Gon was touched by his student's assessment, but the topaz urged him onward before he had a chance to reflect any further.

His next stop was an empty classroom, where Obi-Wan had passed his exams and become a senior padawan. A piece of tigereye with its shifting brown- gold hues caught his eye. He picked it up and felt his student's elation at his own accomplishment and his anticipation of celebrating the event with his friends. The Qui-Gon of here and now felt a little guilty about that. He'd invited Obi-Wan to dinner outside the Temple to celebrate; it hadn't occurred to him at the time that the padawans would have something planned. He felt badly about taking his student away from his yearmates to spend the evening with his old master. The memory continued on. He felt his student's shocked delight when Qui-Gon had invited him out for a celebratory meal. Qui-Gon was surprised at the utter absence of regret in Obi-Wan as the young man commed his friends and told them he was unavailable for the remainder of the evening.

Qui-Gon remembered how ravishing Obi-Wan had looked that night in his stylish civilian clothes. He had dressed himself in a forest green tunic and misty grey leggings of supple suede. The Jedi Master's much-vaunted control had been sorely tested that evening. He felt Obi-Wan's appreciation of his own attire and found himself blushing. The young man had admired his Master's choice of fitted black trousers and sapphire blue silk shirt. More to the point, the padawan admired his Master's muscular body in said trousers and shirt. Qui-Gon was astonished to see himself as his apprentice had seen him that night; tall, handsome, virile, all leonine grace and smooth confidence. He was even more astonished to feel a sense of wistful longing in Obi-Wan as they'd walked to a good restaurant and enjoyed an excellent meal. Obi-Wan's strongest memories were not of the excellent food, but rather of watching his Master eat. Qui-Gon felt his padawan's elation when the Master steered him into a bar on their way home, toasting his elevated status with glasses of fine Correllian brandy. He felt the glimmer of hope that arose when Obi-Wan realized that his Master felt he was mature enough to drink the strong beverage - perhaps the older man would soon see his maturity in other respects, as well.

Qui-Gon's jaw dropped. Obi-Wan? Could it be possible that the desirable young man saw his Master as more than just a teacher? One thing was certain, and it was something Qui-Gon tended to overlook. His padawan was all grown up, a man in his own right. A man that could see something worth loving in Qui-Gon Jinn? Wild hope leapt in his chest. He quashed it ruthlessly. /There's no fool like an old fool, and you are definitely a fool, Qui-Gon Jinn, if you think for a moment that your beautiful padawan would look twice at you in that manner,/ he told himself firmly. He would've turned then, abandoned this "mission" his padawan had sent him on, but the stone demanded that he leave the classroom and go to the library. Qui-Gon could deny his padawan nothing, so he sighed and went.

He found the next stone by a data terminal. It was an uncommonly clear quartz point. He picked it up and was transported to the memory of a day only a year ago when he had sent his padawan to the library in search of a book on the proper etiquette in dealing with insectoid species. Obi-Wan quickly found the reference, but his eye had been drawn to a small text sitting next to it, a misplaced volume of poetry. The young man browsed through it idly and was struck by a particularly poignant ballad. Qui-Gon felt his apprentice's vast surprise when he discovered that the poet was his own Master. That had sparked a search. Obi-Wan raced through the library, collecting everything Qui-Gon had ever written - a text on ethics, several monographs on diplomacy, a rather abstract volume of philosophy, and page after page of poetry.

Qui-Gon flushed. He hadn't realized he'd composed and published so much poetry over the years. He'd have to give some serious thought to pulling some of it from the library. If anybody else made the connection, they'd think he was a sentimental old sap. Which apparently wasn't all that far from the truth, he mused morosely. His awareness switched back to Obi- Wan's memory.

Obi-Wan had spent the entire afternoon in the library, reading, thinking. When he finally finished the last of Qui-Gon's writings, the student sat back and digested everything he'd read. His Master was a complicated man, but a very human one. He was a consummate diplomat and accomplished thinker. But what affected Obi-Wan the most was the realization that beneath the legendary serenity, Qui-Gon Jinn was a man with a tremendous capacity for emotion. What his Master felt, he felt deeply and wholeheartedly. The memory-Obi-Wan's focus drifted to one of the windows. Qui-Gon experienced the student's thoughts of his Master - a newfound respect for him, not just as a teacher, not just as a Jedi, but as a man. An extraordinarily complicated, fascinating man. More and more, Obi-Wan was honored to be allowed into the life of this great man he called Master and, more importantly, friend. Then there was the sensation of wistful longing again, but Obi-Wan had again left out its focus when he pushed his memories into the quartz.

Qui-Gon sat at the terminal, in bemused contemplation of the quartz point. He felt both humbled and abashed in the wake of his student's quiet admiration.

"Pardon me, Master?" A young voice interrupted his musings.

Qui-Gon roused himself and turned around. An initiate stood nervously behind him. "Yes, young one? What can I do for you?"

The boy shuffled his feet and steadfastly examined his toes. "I'm really sorry, Master, but the Teaching Masters have asked us to write an essay on ethics. They sent us all down here to do research. You didn't look like you were using your terminal, and all the others are taken, so..." The boy trailed off, embarrassed and afraid he'd offended the Jedi Master.

"Of course, Initiate," Qui-Gon said kindly. "I was lost in my thoughts. The terminal is yours." He rose, preparing to leave.

"Oh, thank you Master..." the tousle-headed boy paused, hesitant.

"My name's Jinn, youngster."

The boy's jaw dropped, his eyes as huge and round as saucers. "_The_ Master Jinn?" he squeaked.

Qui-Gon regarded him seriously. "Last time I checked," the Master deadpanned.

"Obi's Master?"

That perked his ears up. "Yes, Obi-Wan is my padawan. Do you know him?"

The boy nodded earnestly, his cap of tumbled flame-red curls bobbing. "Oh, yes, Master Jinn. He sometimes teaches when Master Pella's away. He tells the best stories, always about you. Did you really ride a draigon?" The boy waited in breathless anticipation for his answer.

"Er, yes, I suppose I did."

"Oh, wow! You really must be a hero, like Obi says."

"Obi says that, does he?" the master murmured, his eyes distant. He focused on the Initiate's amazed regard again. "Thank you, Initiate. I'll leave you to your studies." At the stone's prompting, he set off for the Water Gardens.

Qui-Gon stepped into the Gardens, where his ears were immediately filled with the sound of falling water. He sighed happily. He'd always found these gardens particularly relaxing. Something about the gently tumbling water that soothed him, aided his meditations when no amount of calming and centering could help. He and Obi-Wan had experienced some of their best paired meditations here. He looked around expectantly. All the other stones had been left out in plain sight, but he couldn't see one here.

No, wait. There. Off to one side, glinting among the greenery that caressed the edge of their favorite fountain. Qui-Gon pulled it out from behind the creeping vines and gasped. It was beautiful. Delicate crystals in pale blue and green, the colors of their ignited lightsabers, twinkled in their mingled profusion. Surely, this had to be a very rare piece. For the two stones to have formed crystal points together while retaining their integrity was nigh impossible. It must have cost Obi-Wan the very earth.

He held the dual-toned gem reverently in his large palm, somehow sensing that this stone, the tenth stone, was the most important of the lot. Carefully, he stretched out his awareness to the crystal matrix. The Water Gardens vanished and were replaced by a vision of his padawan, sitting cross-legged. The young man was clearly seated before a mirror, so that his Master would be able to both see him and experience his thoughts. Qui- Gon would've been content to just drink in the sight of Obi-Wan seated before him, but his student obviously had other ideas.

"Master," Obi-Wan began in his soft, cultured tones, "if you're seeing me now, you've obviously followed through with little quest I've sent you on. Thank you for taking the time and for humoring me."

A tiny, self-deprecating smile flickered briefly across the memory-Obi- Wan's face.

"It's been ten years today since you took me on as your padawan, however reluctantly at the time. To honor the occasion, I wanted you to experience some of my most treasured memories of these ten years from my perspective. I also want you to know that I wouldn't change a thing, Master. I'd do it all again if given the chance."

He grinned dryly. "And before you ask, yes, I had help with the stones. From your master, as a matter of fact. 'When 800 years old you are, a trick or two you will learn,'" Obi-Wan imitated the little green Jedi Master.

"I hope you enjoyed the memories. I've been storing them in stones like this for years, so that I would always have them, no matter where I go. I've put the whole bunch you saw today into another stone for you, if you want it. I'll give it to you later."

Obi-Wan cleared his throat nervously, obviously trying to screw up his courage. "But this isn't about just the memories, my Master," he said quietly. "For ten years, I've stood by your side as your apprentice and friend. I know that it won't be very many more years before my trials, and...," he paused and examined his folded legs. "...and I find that I do not wish to leave you, even after I become a Knight. I could pretend that this is solely because we make an excellent team, but that's not the whole truth. I'm not a child anymore, Master, and it is as a man grown that offer you this."

Obi-Wan's eyes, now an intense green, flashed back up to the mirror, locking with Qui-Gon's own as he viewed this memory. His beautiful face was flushed with emotion. "I love you, Qui-Gon Jinn," he said, his voice husky. "Not just as a padawan loves his Master, nor even just as one friend loves another. I love you as one man loves another, and I offer you my heart and soul. They've always been yours, always will be yours, but I offer them openly to you now."

Obi-Wan took a deep breath as though relieved of a heavy burden, which Qui- Gon dimly realized in the midst of his shock and incredulous joy was probably true.

"See what is in my heart Master," he whispered shakily, "and know that this - that I - am yours." With that, Obi-Wan poured his feelings for his Master into the crystals.

Qui-Gon gasped and sat down heavily on the edge of the fountain, staggered by a wave of intense, unselfish love that nearly overwhelmed him. /So much love. Oh, my Obi-Wan, I never even guessed, never dared hope./

Eyes shining with unshed tears, Obi-Wan spoke again. "Now you know, Master. If...if you wish to accept my offer, I'll be meditating in the Tower Gardens. I'll stay there until sunset. If I haven't heard from you by then, I'll know your answer, and I swear never to speak of this again."

He paused again, tension and worry and fear and love and desperate hope so plain on his beautiful face. "Oh please, Master..." he breathed and closed his eyes. The stone went dark.

Qui-Gon sat motionless for a moment, tears streaming unheeded down his bearded cheeks. /You're a sentimental idiot, Jinn, but you're the luckiest bastard in the Galaxy. Sweet Force! He _loves_ me!/ He was struck motionless with sheer disbelief.

He surged suddenly to his feet. His beloved was waiting - his Obi-Wan was waiting for him in the Tower Gardens. He was waiting to find out if his love was returned, and Qui-Gon couldn't bear to leave him in suspense a single second longer.

He hurried to the doors that led back into the Temple, then flew through the halls, heedless of the curious glances he attracted. Somehow, he managed to slow his headlong rush before he reached the Tower Gardens. It wouldn't do to go crashing in there like a bantha and startle his padawan out of meditation. He was a Jedi Master, for Force's sake, and he had more control than that. Usually. He stepped carefully through the doors and out into the Tower Gardens.

Silent and serene in their ethereal beauty, these Gardens were one of the most peaceful and exquisitely beautiful places in the Temple. Qui-Gon, however, was not feeling especially serene, not when his heart was trying to hammer its way out of his chest, and he was fairly bursting with the need to see his apprentice, to touch his Obi-Wan and prove to himself that the memory from the stone was real. His eyes darted about the Garden frantically, seeking his Light, his life, the other half of his very soul.

There! There he was, kneeling alone by a reflecting pool in meditation. For an instant, Qui-Gon stood rooted to the spot. So beautiful... Then, Obi-Wan's marvelous eyes blinked open and unerringly found his Master. In a heartbeat, Qui-Gon flew to the young man's side, falling to his knees and roughly pulling his beloved apprentice into his huge embrace.

For a moment, Qui-Gon simply held him tightly, unable to speak. Then softly, whispered in his ear, "Master?" The shivering hope in the Padawan's voice nearly undid him completely.

Qui-Gon clasped his apprentice's shoulders in his large hands and held the young man at arm's length.

"Is it true?" Qui-Gon barely recognized his own voice, hoarse and choked as it was with very unJedi-like emotion.

Obi-Wan gulped and nodded, afraid to trust his voice.

The breath left Qui-Gon's body in a rush. "Oh, love…You didn't…I can't…You…I…" For the first time in his distinguished career, the Jedi Order's best diplomat found himself completely speechless.

In an attempt to convey what words were woefully inadequate to express, Qui- Gon took his apprentice's face between his hands and dipped his head to take the young man's lips in a gentle kiss. Obi-Wan's lips parted in surprise as his hands fisted convulsively in his Master's tunics. Qui-Gon took advantage of the opportunity and tentatively tasted his young love for the first time. Oh. _Oh._

Surely nothing ever tasted as sweet as his padawan's pure, giving kiss. Nothing else could possibly feel so right, so perfect. After a blissful eternity suspended in that soft touch, Qui-Gon drew away with a sigh.

"I love you, Master," Obi-Wan breathed.

"And I you, my Obi-Wan."

The beatific smile that spread across Obi-Wan's face at this declaration was so dazzling that Qui-Gon's breath hitched in his throat. His apprentice's relief and joy knew no bounds.

Obi-Wan gazed fixedly into his Master's eyes. Greatly daring, he spoke aloud. "My heart, my soul, my love, my loyalty, my honor, my life. These I offer to you in the name of the Light. Will you have them?" His eyes turned imploring.

Qui-Gon was startled. Obi-Wan had spoken traditional Lifebonding vows. Surely he knew that they could not publicly acknowledge any such relationship until after his Knighting. Qui-Gon glanced around the Garden and found it empty. No one would know. His decision was made in an instant. He could deny his beloved nothing. This would be just for them.

"I will," he responded softly. "I will accept and cherish them, even as I give you mine. My heart, my soul, my love, my loyalty, my honor, my life. These I offer to you in the name of the Light. Will you have them?"

Another sweet smile broke over Obi-Wan's face. "I will." He extended both hands, and Qui-Gon placed both his hands in his padawan's grip. "Now and forever, one in the Force," Obi-Wan said. Qui-Gon echoed him, and as though responding to their call, a coruscating eruption of brilliant Force energy swirled around and between them, completing their bond. Dazed, they fell into each other's embrace, each holding the other as tightly as he could.

"Don't let go, Qui-Gon," Obi-Wan whispered.

"Never, my heart."

From his place of concealment among the greenery, Master Yoda smiled gently as he watched his former padawan embrace his young lover. He knew, as a Council Member, that he should report this to the rest of the Council. It was a serious thing when a Master entered a romantic relationship with his own padawan. Yoda sighed and smiled again. Then again...his eyes were very old, after all. Perhaps they didn't really see this. The Force had already asked so much of these two, would ask so much of them in the future. Yoda decided to let the Force give them their justly-deserved reward without any interference. Quietly, so as not to disturb the two lovers, he stumped out of the Gardens. He had things to do and Padawans to water. His favorite pair of Padawans, however, could now take care of each other. He'd grown them well.

Fin.

"Well? Looking at what, are you? Hah? When 800 years old you are, hopeless romantic you will be, too. Hrmpf! Old I may be, but hit you with my stick, I still can!"