Always two there are. No more. No less.
Star Wars: One Night
Obi-Wan let his hand stray from the strong bicep to his master's ear. It traced the outer rim, lingering on the lobe a moment longer. He wished his lips there, but dared making such a movement lest he wake Qui-Gon, and it had taken him all night to finally get the man to fall asleep. Now he lay still at last, breathing heavily through his mouth as his nostrils twitched at each inward breath. His tired, dark blue eyes were closed, his rough voice at rest. Obi-Wan moved his hand to Qui-Gon's cheek, stroking gently with the soft backs of a few fingers. The young Jedi Padawan froze to see Qui-Gon react, the corner of his mouth drawing up to just the hint of a smile. Obi-Wan moved on to run his fingers through Qui-Gon's thick brown hair, graying with a few handsome streaks that none save Obi-Wan's overly attentive eyes noticed. Unable to resist, he placed a tender kiss on his Master's forehead.
Roused at the touch, Qui-Gon stirred, eyes pulling themselves open in curiosity. One eyebrow arched in question, its owner too tired and ill to use his voice around a Padawan he knew understood him no matter what.
//I am sorry. Your forehead…// he brushed two fingers over the rough skin in question. //…it was in need of a kiss. Please, fall back to sleep, Master.//
Qui-Gon closed his eyes, but not to sleep. He wrestled a hand out from beneath the covers and gripped the end of his nose with his thumb and bent index finger, moving it back and forth. His face wrinkled in concentration, then from a power far beyond his will. He cupped his nose and mouth completely, pulling back. “h'chuff! h'chashh!”
Anticipating him, Obi-Wan had dug under the pillow for the spare handkerchief and held it to his master's nose now. //Clear your nose. I am sorry for waking you.//
//Nonsense, I am better for the affection. A few minutes of sleep is an acceptable price to pay. Excuse me a moment.// Qui-Gon blew his nose briefly. He felt miserable beyond miserable; to have his Padawan baby-sit him but knowing that such was exactly what he wanted. He wished Obi-Wan could have a well-deserved sleep, but loved the way Obi-Wan tended to his every move. His head spun at the mix of reason and emotion, logic and affection.
The decision was made for him, and he gazed into his young student's hazel-green eyes. Such respect, such duty, such caring. Qui-Gon leaned in, finding the warmth of Obi-Wan's bare shoulder and peck. The smooth, young skin felt so gentle and soothing against his face. Obi-Wan's arm moved to wrap around his master under the neck, over his shoulder and against his back. A small sniffle and resulting shiver could not be restrained, and Qui-Gon nuzzled deeper against the warmth that was his Padawan learner.
To make him as comfortable as possible, Obi-Wan readjusted the blankets around them, tucking them tightly around their bodies and directly under his master's chin to keep the cold wind from sneaking in. Their tent was thin, the forest was sparse, and the wind after dark was chilling. Not the place for a man with a rotten head cold. Obi-Wan was determined to care for his Master in every capacity, even if it meant not an instant of sleep for himself that night.
When they were off world, sleep was always harder to come by. Being away from home meant an important mission. Any mission meant a considerable amount of calculation, deliberation and stress. And all of these meant tense, thought-filled nights. Countless times Qui-Gon had helped him empty his thoughts of the day in order to relax. He had to learn to separate the world and its inward effects from his spirit and subconscious. However, it was a lesson Qui-Gon had trouble following. At times when he seemed removed, thoughts flew across his mind in wild, free forms. Behind his eyes, was a complex deepness even Obi-Wan had trouble seeing the bottom of. But this time there were more excuses for sleepless minutes than the minutes themselves. They were with a small delegation on a remote planet whose technological advances were few and fewer. Where a palace with sleeping chambers might be, there were thin canvas tents. Where a formal meeting room might be, there was a ring of logs around a fire. Where a banquet hall might be, there was a bag of food outside the tent, hanging off the ground to avoid the morning frost. There were no facilities, just a hole in the ground behind some trees. There were no heaters, just a cold, chilling wind. There were no medical droids, just a tiny first aid kit tucked away in one of the delegate's tent. Obi-Wan wasn't certain if he remembered his master snifflings before the thunderous downpour had muted further negotiations that evening, but they were certainly present at bedtime. The elder man had said nothing, and uttered not a single word in complaint. But Obi-Wan could feel his master too well to let it go by unnoticed.
It was as simple as a case of need. Qui-Gon was ill. He needed someone to look after him; he needed comforting. And though it felt like his duty to watch over his master and tend to his every need, the compassion came purely out of caring. To sit idly by while his master was in need of such things he could supply was against his very nature. No, when you care about someone, it is impossible not to do everything possible to fulfill the other's needs, or to make him contented.
It was well into the night by now, and Obi-Wan still had no designs upon sleeping; not when his master was in such a state. Of course the strong, noble Qui-Gon would never admit in words to anything so much as a tickle in his nose, let alone a full-blown cold. But when in his Padawan's arms, his movements spoke for themselves.
Obi-Wan felt the man tighten against him, and pull away. The man was weak, tired, without an ounce of energy left and was still going to sneeze. Heavy, deep pants announced its arrival, already closed eyes showed tension though wrinkles, his face screwing up, then relaxing as his mouth hung open in expectation. Obi-Wan was ready with the handkerchief; they'd agreed earlier in the night that will all the sneezing going on, Qui-Gon would need to muffle it so as not to wake the other delegates or arouse suspicion. Qui-Gon grasped the man's other arm to steady himself as the sneezes shook him. “huh… h'chishhh! h'chumph! h'shuphh!” He collected himself and sniffled into the handkerchief as Obi-Wan wiped around the nose and moustache to tidy up.
Then he rested his head back on the pillow, letting Obi-Wan adjust the covers and then hold him tightly. //Thank you, Padawan. I am sorry to keep you up.// He looked his Padawan up and down, the handsome young face staring back at him with the same concerned expression. //You look so tired. Please try to rest? You do not always need to fuss over me. This is something you cannot control any more than the positions of the stars and planets in the sky.//
Obi-Wan leaned over, kissing his master's forehead once more. //I will rest when you rest.//
//Yes, and at this rate, you will ware yourself down and catch what I have. Then you shall sneeze when I sneeze.//
Obi-Wan could not hold back a quiet chuckle. //That may very well be, but my duties to my Master far outweigh those to myself.//
//And I am to think nothing of my duties to my Padawan? Even as I am, should I not see to his every need and comfort?//
Running his hand through his master's hair once more, then caressing his cheek gently, he shook his head with the charming, sympathetic smile he knew his Master needed to see. //No, Master, you should not.// Obi-Wan pulled Qui-Gon close, stroking soothingly from forehead to the back of his neck. Their eyes met and Qui-Gon melted to feel their bond settle in his heart.
Then he snuffled, struggling back as he tensed up. //Obi-Wan…I think I…I'm…//
Obi-Wan finished for him. //…going to sneeze, I know. Lie still; I will hold you.// Obi-Wan guided the man's head to his shoulder, the cold, wet, pinkened nose pressed against his bare skin made him shiver but he only held his master tighter.
Qui-Gon draped in arm over the young man's chest, holding him tightly as he shook from the sneezes. “h'chhh! h'chphh! h'chummph! h'tchhh!” He rubbed his nose against the man's shoulder and closed his eyes tightly.
Obi-Wan patted his back gently.
“hehh…h'keshh! huhchphh! Sniffle, sniffle.” He pulled back, wiping Obi-Wan's shoulder off with the cuff of his sleeve. //My…my apologies, Padawan.//
//None needed, Master. Can I do anything to calm your nose for you? Or to make you more comfortable?// He wanted to see his Master asleep more than anything.
Qui-Gon stifled a yawn and shook his head. //Just hold me until I drift off.//
There was nothing Obi-Wan would have rather done. After a few more sniffles, Qui-Gon finally fell back to sleep.
* * *
Obi-Wan's eyes pulled themselves open. Qui-Gon still lay in his arms, but the man was awake once again. Why hadn't he seen… //Oh, Master, I am sorry! I must have been resting my eyes a bit too long.//
Qui-Gon's nose was considerably pinker, and large bags puffed at the bottoms of his eyes. He rubbed the handkerchief against his nose. //I have been up a while now. I am glad you were able to sleep.// He sounded genuine, but miserable and exhausted at the same time.
Obi-Wan stroked his master's cheek. Something more was wrong than simply his cold. //What is the matter? Not just your sneezles keeping you up, is it?//
He shook his head. Rather reluctantly, //Nay, I had a bad dream.//
Obi-Wan cocked his head to the side, shifting so that his Master's head lay on his chest and both of Obi-Wan's arms wrapped around him, hands folded and resting on his Master's shoulder. //A nightmare?//
Qui-Gon nodded, turning his eyes down. //Childish, I know, but--//
//Not childish, Master. Visions come in many forms, you of all should know that. What was it? Can you tell me?//
Nodding again, and closing his eyes, //I can show you.// Obi-Wan followed suit and relaxed as visions began to flood his senses. The campfire, blaster fire, creatures in black taking over the delegates, tents demolished, and Obi-Wan lying face down on the ground with blood running from his head and arm. They were simple visions of little detail or timeframe, but Obi-Wan got the idea and eased his master out of it. He reached his hand around and took Qui-Gon's. //I am alright. We will protect them, and you will protect me. Yes?//
Qui-Gon nodded. One student lost to the darkness. One student lost to the death. Which, he wondered, would be worse?
//I will be all right.// He squeezed his hand. //My Master, you must believe me. I can feel it.//
Qui-Gon sniffed. //I am… I am ill, Padawan. What happens if I cannot act as quickly as I should?//
//Then you should at least take care to rest and help your illness so that it does not become a problem.//
Hesitation was very rarely a problem between them. They knew each other's thoughts and feelings better than they knew their own. Obi-Wan hugged his Master tightly. //I know. You are ill. I know you feel considerably worse than what shows. Don't you think I know that?//
Qui-Gon rubbed his nose roughly. He froze a moment, staring off into oblivion, not quite sure that the sneezes would
come. Quickly he cupped his hand over his mouth, eyes closing, brow furrowing in worry. “ih'tchah! h'chuff! h'tchum!” He sniffed, rubbing at his nose and wiping his sleeve beneath to clean up. //Not so ill as all that… //
Oui-Gon raised one eyebrow, shooting him a serious look of suspicion. //Master?//
He sniffled, looking down. //Well, perhaps I am feeling worse…// What would happen if he could not fight as well as he should? What would happen if he could not watch his Padawan's back every moment? He covered his countenance once more, this time with his sleeve-covered elbow rather than his hand. “hehh…huhphh! h'chmmm! hetchmm!” His eyes opened halfway, mouth hanging open still in expectation. “ehchuff! h'chufff! h'chummff!”
//Master, we are here for each other. Always. Yes? I for you when your nose is being uncooperative…// He lifted the soggy handkerchief to Obi-Gon's nose, then reached over and stoked his Master's light saber, his fingertips just gracing the cold metal that was practically sacred to him. //…and you for me when my skills are still lacking.//
Breaking from beneath his Padawan's arms, he pulled himself up and leaned forward, lightly kissing the young man's forehead. //Your skills are never so lacking. And I will never let anything happen to you.//
Obi-Wan smiled, opening his arms and pulling the covers up over them. //Now, come, Master. Make yourself comfy here and we will fall asleep together.//
Qui-Gon took the invitation willingly, snuggling up against his Padawan with his head back on his chest. Obi-Wan draped his arms around him and let his eyes close again, this time sensing that Qui-Gon was both content and comforted by the touch and the assurance of their bond that went far beyond any bad dream.
* * *
Obi-Wan looked down at the sleeping figure of his master, so peaceful and sickly. Even asleep he looked miserable. He pulled his Master's hair back and spoke softly to rouse him. “Master… Master, please wake up.”
After a few gentle shakes, Qui-Gon came to groggily. He looked around a moment, blinking as his eyes adjusted. Then his head went back down onto Obi-Wan's chest. //Ug, it is not morn yet. Let me be!//
It hurt, but he persisted. “Master, I am sorry. Please wake. I've heard something. Can you sense it, too?”
Qui-Gon forced his eyes open, straining to listen with heightened perception. //Nothing. There is nothing… Obi-Wan—Padawan, you are shaking.//
He nodded, moving to sit up, Qui-Gon doing the same as he was lying on top. “Shall we move the caravan to a safer spot? By the mountain, in the caves perhaps?”
Qui-Gon still heard nothing, but began to sense something, muffled and clouded, but something dangerous all the same. He reached over for Obi-Wan's shirt and tunics. //Aye, dress. I will see the heads of state. You help assemble the rest as peacefully and quietly as possible.//
“Yes Master.” He pulled on his garments and looked up to see his Master stepping out. “Master Qui-Gon!” he called, a thought suddenly occurring to him.
Qui-Gon sniffled, poking his head back in. //Yes?//
“Clear your throat and blow your nose, will you?”
“Obi-Wad, sniff, I cad sbeag berfegdly fide…” He cracked a smile. //Well, I thought I could.// He forced a few coughs and cleared his throat. //Pass me the hanky, Padawan?//
Obi-Wan stood, handing off the handkerchief and patting his Master on the back. “Are you all right? Would you rather I speak to the officials?”
Qui-Gon nodded, rubbing at his nose. “Blease.”
They left the tent, going their separate ways to wake the rest of the camp. Obi-Wan was certain it was mechanical, and getting much louder. Qui-Gon turned back, smiling. “Obi?”
Obi-Wan turned. “Yes Master?”
Qui-Gon rubbed at his nose, smiling sheepishly. “Thag you. For wakig, add for the rebider.”
Obi-Wan nodded. “Of course, Master.” There wasn't a door to knock on, so he went past the sleeping guards to the first tent, finding King Tentus slowly waking at the sound. “King Tentus, there is a great danger heading our way. We must move everyone to safer ground.”
The King nodded, pushing his blankets down. “I'll get my men together. Thank you Jedi Kenobi.”
Obi-Wan nodded respectively and headed over to the next tent. The guards admitted him in a moment. The woman was under heavy covers on a soft cot, surrounded by pillows. Obi-Wan couldn't help but feel a little jealous, or bad for waking her from it. “Misstress Owen?”
The woman rolled over, smiling up at him with a smile. “Ah, one of the Jedi. How may I help you?”
He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. A dreadful feeling was beginning to grow in him. “Misstress, we must move everyone from here quickly. Someone will be attacking soon and the negotiations will be in jeopardy.”
Concerned, “Someone? Who would do such a thing?”
Shaking his head, “I know not. Let us just move fast. Please see to your attendants. I've to see to the others.”
She sat up, clapping her hands twice. A dark figure immediately appeared in the doorway. “I am afraid, foolish Jedi, that you will be helping no one tonight.” The man charged at him upon her first word.
Caught off guard, Obi-Wan pulled out his light saber just as the blaster fire whipped by him. He deflected as it discharged, but still felt his arm give out. //Master?// He called out. //Master, I need your assistance!// He sensed that it was behind him as well, and turned on the balls of his feet with his lightning quick reflexes and deflected another stream of fiery light coming at him from a gun in the Mistress's hand. He jumped up quickly to avoid the fire from both sides, swinging down to take out the first attacker. He landed, turning to the woman, then turning again as five more came at him. Even as he knocked them down with his powers, their guns were trained upon him. The tent was dark, but he could see well. They outnumbered him, but he was far superior in skill and weapon. Very little could kill a Jedi. But there were a few things that could defeat an exhausted Jedi Padawan. Try as he might, his skills were not what they might have been. He felt it come at him before he even saw it and though he tried to dodge it, the gun still hit his head. He was down before he knew from where it had come, and with his last once of strength, he managed to call out, //Master! It was Mistress… Owen…Master…// He wasn't even sure if Qui-Gon could hear him. If the man was ill and there was a considerable distance between them, there would be no way of reaching him.
Qui-Gon arrived only moments later, cutting them down, and having guards take the Mistress into custody. He rushed to his fallen student, tears in his eyes, but there was not even time for goodbyes. The man was already gone.
* * *
Qui-Gon sat up, panting heavily, beads of sweat pouring down his face.
//Master?// Obi-Wan rubbed his eyes and sat up as well to wrap an arm around him. //Are you all right?//
Qui-Gon looked him up and down. He was alive, he was safe. For now, at least. Qui-Gon threw off the blankets, turning quickly as the sneezes struck. “hehIhshoo! ehChoo! huh… huhCHIshhh! Sniff!” He rubbed his nose on his shoulder; there was not a moment to spare. //We must save the delegates. Move them to the caves. I will see to the heads, you—//
//Master! Master, hush!// Obi-Wan stroked the man's forehead, placing a kiss on his cheek. //The mission ended two days ago. We are back home. We are in bed.// He rubbed his hand up and down Qui-Gon's back. //You've been feverish; you are sick, remember? You caught the sniffles and the negotiations ended early so we headed back here.//
Qui-Gon searched his memory.
//Did you have another nightmare, Master?//
//The one you had when we were camping two nights ago?//
Qui-Gon nodded again.
//I remember, that was a difficult night. But I'm all right. And the negotiations went fine. No one was harmed.// He picked up his Master's hand and placed it on his own heart. Then placed his own hand on Qui-Gon's to find that his Master's heart was racing. He closed his eyes and sent a warm, calming wave of energy to his master. When he opened his eyes, he found his master's were closed. With his free hand, Obi-Wan ran his fingertips over his Master's face, feeling each bit as if for the first time. The rough skin, the curve of his cheek bone, the laughter wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, the bend of his nose, the bare skin chapped from his cold between his nose and upper lip where his moustache parted, the thin tender lips, the tough stubble-lain skin of his chin, and the soft hairs of his beard. He leaned over, brushing his lips upon Qui-Gon's ever so softly. //I am all right. Are you?//
Qui-Gon opened his eyes and nodded a single nod. //I am now.// He took his hand back to take up his handkerchief, covering his nose and mouth as his eyes fell closed once more. “h'Tchah! huh… ehhTishoo! huhChah!”
Obi-Wan rubbed his back, up and down, in comforting strokes. //Bless you. Come, Master, there is still time before the suns rise. Lie with me a while longer?//
“hehIhshh! h'Choo! huh… ehhhHihshh! hehShahh!” Blowing his nose thoroughly, he gave a nod and lay back down on his side.
Obi-Wan opened his arms and let his Master snuggle up against him. Then he lowered his arms around his Master in a warm, protective hug. It was not a necessary action, as it had been on the cold, windy planet, but instead an instinctual one of true caring.
With a sigh of contentedness, Qui-Gon let his eyes rest upon his Padawan learner a while before he succumbed to sleep. The man looked so young; it was a wonder he had already grown so wise in the ways of logic as much as loving. Or perhaps he simply knew his bondmate so well as to do exactly what to do. Obi-Wan was so soft, so smooth, so sensitive. In every emotion and every action. Qui-Gon reached up and ran a finger from his short fuzzy hair down his forehead and nose, over the lips, and down to linger on the cleft of his chin. He closed his eyes as he took one of Obi-Wan's hands in his own; the young man still hugged him with the other. He squeezed the hand and relaxed, letting himself melt lovingly into Obi-Wan. //Thank you, my Padawan.//
Smiling still at the touch, Obi-Wan squeezed back. He wanted to tell him that he would care for him until he was well and then beyond. He wanted to confess his affections. He wanted to explain that he would be by his side at every moment. //Sweet dreams, my Master. I will be with you.//
A soft, sleepy voice reached out from Qui-Gon as he tumbled head-first into a feverless, peaceful sleep, //No words are needed. I know.//