I slumped just a little and walked past the Gungan guards with a sad attempt at a smile. They patted my shoulder in concern and let me pass over the bridge towards my new home. I kept the thought of Qui-Gon's loss in the forefront of my mind so any stray thoughts would be sad ones. The last two days had been spent at the Palace with the Queen and Anakin, so I was missing him for real.
Shmi had stocked the cottage and prepared Qui-Gon's meals for him but she'd returned this afternoon so she'd be ready to leave with the others. The meetings were ended for now. The royal entourage had packed up and was on its way for a tour of the towns worst hit by the invaders. Ric Olie was piloting them while Panaka and his squad went along for protection.
Anakin had been so excited about the trip, he'd practically levitated the last few feet into the cruiser. I had admonished him gently then accepted a strangling hold for a goodbye hug. Ani had promised me he'd take good care of Dala and his mother while the young Queen stood by. They'd played out their parts for anyone watching. I'd allowed myself a sigh and a tired smile before waving goodbye to them all and leaving the docking bay to walk through the gathering storm back to our refuge.
Inside, I'd been bubbling over with an almost incandescent joy that I was afraid would leak out into the air around me. I didn't have to talk to Qui-Gon mentally when I could feel him as a constant presence in the Force. But after two days without touching him, I craved a physical reminder of my lover. A hug or a kiss would do quite nicely, I decided.
A naked hug would be even better.
A three day kiss would be just about right.
Thunder grumbled in the distance and I eyed the lowering clouds with a measuring eye. Another hour or so would see the storm directly overhead. Now that no one could see me, I allowed myself a quicker pace to the cottage that spelled home. No, it wasn't the cottage but the man inside who was the center of my universe.
Flinging open the door and hastening within, I froze two steps inside the front room. Qui-Gon was in the cooking area, half-naked with his hair loose about the broad tanned shoulders, bent over something. I took a deep breath and spoke evenly. "Put down the spoon and step away from the cooker and nobody will get hurt."
My golden master looked over his shoulder with a teasing look. "Shmi made it."
My heart leapt at the almost normal sound of his voice. Taking off my outer robe, I tossed it onto the hook by the door without a backward look. I couldn't quite help the note of suspicion in my voice. "Then why are you stirring it?"
"She made me promise to stir it every hour until you arrived." Qui-Gon smiled at my grimace. "She made the fresh bread as well as setting the table so you wouldn't have to. We must think of something nice to give her as a thank you."
"You swear you didn't put anything into it except the spoon?" I dropped my utility belt on the bench by the table and crossed to my master's side, sliding an arm around his trim waist and taking a deep sniff of the aromatic dish.
"I'm shocked at your lack of faith, beloved." Qui-Gon leaned over and brushed a kiss across my cheek.
I reached up and pulled him into the kiss I'd been dreaming of for two days. I could taste the stew, some herbs I didn't know and the unique flavor of my lover. Savoring the heated depths, I entwined my tongue with Qui-Gon's. I'd become so addicted to the sweetness I wanted to stay like this forever.
But my stomach had other ideas, growling in the silence. Pulling away, I grinned. "It's not lack of faith. It's the memory of the last two hundred times you cooked something."
Qui-Gon just laughed out loud and pointed to the table. I took the hint and brought the bowls to the cooker so he could ladle out the savory potage. The meal was delicious and leisurely, not something we were used to. I realized that for the first time in a very long time, we had nowhere we had to be, nothing to study and nobody expecting us.
//It's called a vacation, Obi-Wan. Something we have needed for some time.// The caressing thought brought a smile to my face.
I grinned and kept eating. //I believe Dala referred to it as a honeymoon.//
//Ah, yes. Perhaps we should study up on what happens in a honeymoon?// Qui-Gon's face was a study in innocence but hints of passion colored the thought.
//I'm sure we'll be able to think of something.// I smiled sweetly and licked my spoon suggestively.
Qui-Gon smiled gently and licked his fingers. I felt a slow burn start in my stomach and flow outward in waves to the tips of my fingers and toes. Reaching for the bowl of honey, I drizzled just a little on my buttered roll, catching a drip with my index finger and making a little show of licking it clean.
My lover took a drink of cool spring water but his eyes never left mine, heating the air between us with his gaze. We continued eating in silence, our growing need pulsing in the increasingly noisy atmosphere. The thunder had gone from a distant rumble to loud claps that resonated in the air long after the initial boom was gone.
The room darkened to an eerie green half-light that cast odd shadows in the corners. Qui-Gon's smile told me that my mentor still remembered my earlier fear of storms and I ducked my head a bit to try and hide my blush.
//The only way to lose a fear is to face it, beloved. Will you come outside with me, now?//
The gentle mind touch calmed the brief surge of fear and I stretched out my hand to return the touch on both levels. //If we're together, I can face anything.//
Qui-Gon laughed soundlessly and stood, pulling me up at the same time. //Then, let's go play in the rain.// The blue eyes gleamed at me. //Naked.//
I laughed out loud and hurriedly stripped while watching my master gracefully shed the light pants he'd been wearing. Hand in hand, we left the cottage and stood in the small clearing, watching the trees sway and bend in the gusty wind. The glimmering shield that protected the island had been designed to ignore the natural elements so the first drops of rain splashed on our upturned faces.
It felt ... cleansing, I decided. Washing away the pain and fear of the last few weeks. Unbidden, the memories of Qui-Gon's death filled my mind with terrible dark pictures of despair. I thought I'd banished them but they kept returning, no matter how many I released into the Force. Warm hands broke the chain of thoughts, hands that cradled my head and forced me to look up into bright eyes.
//I am here, beloved. Not dead. Not a Force ghost. Right here. Right now.// The words were loving but also a reminder of past lessons. //Live in the moment, Padawan. This moment.//
I sighed my love into the mouth that gently took mine. //I love you, Qui-Gon Jinn.//
//I love you well, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Force willing, I will always be there for you.// His lips scattered little kisses over my rain wet face. //But even if I can't physically be with you at some point in our lives, I will still be loving you however I am able.//
Dark blue eyes looked down into mine and I saw that the golden glow that surrounded my master now extended around me too. My hands and arms were luminous even without the bright lightning flashes that came ever more quickly as the storm moved directly over us.
"I've been meaning to ask you about the glow." I started to question him but the twinkle in my lover's eyes stopped me. "What?"
"What glow?" Qui-Gon asked him innocently, but the look of mischief in his eyes made me smile.
"The golden aura that has surrounded you since the chapel. Yoda kept muttering something about shields and the living Force. He wasn't making much sense when he waved good bye to me on Coruscant." I shook my head and watched the water drops whip into the night air. At some point in the last few moments, the sprinkling had turned into a shower.
"Perhaps I can show you rather than try to explain the phenomenon. It is rather simple really." Qui-Gon tilted his head back and I watched in awe while the rain sleeked his hair into a cascade of darkened silk. All colors were leached out to shades of gray in the shadows of the rain soaked glade. Except for the glow.
Qui-Gon's hands pulled me closer, then closer yet. Our bodies met and matched along every point, warmth blossoming wherever our skin made contact. The chilling rain had no chance against the heat we generated between us. I slid my hands up and down the broad muscular back of my lover, luxuriating in the solid feel of living skin.
We held each other tenderly and I arched into the caresses that Qui-Gon pressed onto my flesh. I'd never known so many nerve endings along my spine led directly to my groin. I was tingling from my toes all the way up to the ends of my hair. Opening my eyes, I watched as the very air around us took on a golden glow as well. The center of the glade now shown with a gilded splendor that seemed to be coming from us.
//Hush, beloved. Feel the Force flowing through us. Center yourself and then let go.//
I nodded and found my still center. Opening my senses as I'd done a thousand times before, I absorbed the different feel of the Force in the here and now. The drops of liquid sliding over my skin. The flashes of bright light zig-zagging across the sky. The smell of damp earth surrounding us. The crack of thunder resounding above. The taste of Qui-Gon's skin skittering over my tongue.
But mostly it was the feel of Qui-Gon filling our bond with his love. I reveled in the emotions and sent my own arcing back through our link. So many different kinds of love we had felt over the years, from platonic to carnal. But this time, I could feel something different. Something vast seeped into me with a slow pulsating rhythm like the beat of a giant heartbeat.
Eyes widening, I gazed at Qui-Gon in awe. My lover's heartbeat was also the pulse of the Force. //You are one with the Force. But you're not dead.//
//I died and returned to the Force from which we all come. But Anakin was right. It was not my time. The Universe needed me here and your love enabled me to resettle into this form. However, my body was remade with the energy of the Force.//
I wasn't too sure what I was feeling. Confused. Stunned. Unsure. And so very, very young. How could I make love to an avatar of the Force? Because that was what Qui-Gon had just described. An avatar of the Spirit. Why would that avatar want to make love to me? I was just ... ordinary. Not special in any way at all.
//Hush, beloved. You are everything I ever dreamed of having. Bright, inquisitive, daring and so very loving. Your heart is larger than the universe and I am humbled that you love me.// Qui-Gon cradled my head with both hands, his thumbs brushing the tears from my cheeks.
I couldn't find the words to express that love so I simply relaxed and let it all flow across our bond to the man in my arms. It fed on our emotions, increasing exponentially until love shone from us like a beacon of pure golden light. With my mind's eye, I could see us becoming part of the light that filled the universe.
Lips met, creating a firestorm of need.
Hands stroked quivering flesh.
Thoughts enflamed desires to a new level of excitement.
And in that instant, Qui-Gon called to the lightning and the power of the storm flashed down to enmesh us with its power. Energy flooded through us, sending electrical pulses through all our nerve endings. I arched into the solid body that held me and felt us merge at the cellular level.
I awoke slowly, listening to the heartbeat beneath my ear. My mind remembered the flash of pure light but nothing after that. I was warm and dry now so Qui-Gon must have gotten us indoors. Why weren't we dead? We'd been struck by lightning.
//Oh good, you're awake.// Qui-Gon's voice rumbled in my mind and I raised my head to look at the man who held me.
He looked the same. Crinkles around his eyes, broken nose, prickly mustache and firm lips. //What happened?//
//Besides being hit by lightning?// He teased me gently, his lips quirking up into his same old know-it-all smile.
I stuck my tongue out at him while I thought back to the feelings leading up to the strike. Merging. We'd merged somehow. If I concentrated hard enough I could feel his body as if it were my own. His stomach was empty and his left foot was cold. Meeting his eyes again, I hesitated to ask my question.
He just smiled. //The Force has made sure that we are bonded at all levels. I always worried that my age would tie you to a doddering old fool while you were in your prime. You deserve better than that.//
I interrupted him fiercely. //You have been foolish, my master but you have never been nor will you ever be doddering.//
//Beloved.// Qui-Gon stroked my cheek. //We were both afraid to fail the other. The Force has taken care of that problem for us. Together, we are stronger than we are apart. You are now one with the Force as well. Reach out to it.//
I frowned and opened my mind's eye to the currents of the Force but I couldn't see them. Rolling off of my lover, I spied my hair brush on the counter and called it to me. It flew across the room and smacked into my hand as if it had wires attached. Using my mind only, I willed the blankets covering us to rise then fall back. Qui-Gon was right, the Force was now a part of my very being which is why I could no longer see it separate from myself.
//It will take some getting used to, Obi-Wan. I had quite awhile to rest and test my boundaries.//
//Are there boundaries?// I asked tentatively.
He shrugged and the covers fell off his shoulder. //I haven't found any yet.//
//Oh.// I sank back down and tried to wrap my mind around the concept that I was now some kind of ... I didn't know what I was anymore.
//You are Obi-Wan Kenobi. Jedi Knight. Beloved of Qui-Gon Jinn. Big brother to Queen Amidala. Master to Padawan Anakin Skywalker. Friend to countless beings on a hundred planets. You are still yourself, that hasn't changed. The Force has simply taken you for its own. In one way or another, we are all avatars of the Force. You just know about it now.// Qui-Gon leaned up on one elbow and gazed down on me. //It is a gift and a responsibility wrapped up in one. More lessons, I'm afraid.//
I tried to keep back my laugh. I really did but it burst out of me like a geyser in full spate. The Universe was playing a joke on itself by co-opting me as its representative. Qui-Gon just smiled while my laughter ran its course. //The Force knows what its doing, beloved. It's up to us to try and understand its will then do it.//
//I'll try, Master. But it seems very bizarre to me.// I shook my head and ran my hand over his where it lay on my chest. //I can understand why it would choose you. And I'm so grateful it did.//
He leaned down and kissed me gently, our lips parting almost instantly to deepen the kiss. //It would not have succeeded if your love had not been so strong, Obi-Wan. That is your gift to the universe. And to me. I am the luckiest man alive because of you.//
I moaned into the kiss, feeling it tingle all the way down to my toes. His words and the conviction behind them settled deep into my soul and soothed the wounds his death had wrought. I was needed not just for my skills but for who I was. It might take a little time to come to grips with this amazing turn of events but I'd always been a good student and I'd be able to learn this as well. Qui-Gon agreed with me and broke off the kiss.
"Indeed you will, beloved. And since you threatened me with mayhem if I cooked anything, perhaps you'd be willing to make us breakfast?" Qui-Gon gave me a sorrowful look at the same time his stomach grumbled.
Then we were both laughing and getting out of bed, ready for anything the new day might throw at us.
End part six