Title: Homecoming

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Star Wars

Rating: PG (for snuggly smarm)

Pairing: Q/O

Disclaimer: Right. If I were George Lucas or actually in any way affiliated, this wouldn't be just a fanfic. As it is, I'm just a poor fan with an over-active imagination and no money

Summary: Obi-Wan comes home for the holiday with a cold. Qui-Gon reflects on this and a previous incident.

Notes: This was begun for the Sneezefic Winter Challenge 2003-04 but I couldn't fit the bunny into it as I wanted to and I certainly didn't finish the story on time.

 

 

Homecoming

 

     I could hear the sound of snuffles and coughs drifting in from the common area and smiled to myself. My Obi-Wan was home. And more importantly, I could tell just by listening to him what time of year it was. Obi-Wan, looking tired, appeared at the doorway and made straight for the bed. He kicked his boots off in the process and lost a layer of clothing on top. But otherwise he collapsed, clothed and dirty onto his side of our bed. I sat, reading, on my side, back against the wall, data pad up on my legs which were bent so I could read it more closely. I pretended not to notice his wheezing breaths and sniffles as he nuzzled his pillow and fought to pull a blanket up over himself. The blanket was not being at all cooperative, caught and tangled at the bottom of the bed, and with me sitting on it, in part. He gave up and curled up in his robes, hugging what bit of the blanket he could get at to his chest. "Had a good mission, Obi-Wan?"

 

     He turned his head into the pillow and coughed lightly into it, then nodded. "It went fine. No problems." He sniffled wetly, wiggling his nose rather than taking his hand out from its warm sleeve and rubbing away the tickle that had apparently settled there.

 

     "No problems?" I repeated. "Well, that's certainly good to hear." I smiled, looking down at my sniffly padawan who apparently thought that being stuffed up and sick wasn't a problem worth mentioning. "Don't you think you should maybe change before going to bed?"

 

     Obi-Wan shook his head. "I'm too tired to get up now that I'm down, Master." I could sense his body tense, then watched as it shook with the force of a sneeze. "ihh-ehhChuhhh! yehhChooo!" He sniffed a sniff that didn't do him much good.

 

     I pulled out my handkerchief and unfolded it, then rubbed it against his nose. He jumped at the touch, but then relaxed, closed his yes, and allowed me to wipe his nose clean. "Apparently too tired to cover your nose when you sneeze as well."

 

     "Sorry, Master," he whispered, opening his eyes to meet my gaze. With a hefty, resigned sigh, "I think I'm getting sick."

 

     So sympathetic was my expression, and so welcoming in the way I held out my arm, that he inched over and curled up along-side of me, his head in part of my lap. I set the data pad aside and stretched my legs out so he could snuggle closer, his head in the center of my lap now. "I know," I said, petting his head as though he were my pet. Though, in a way, he was. At least, like this he was. I knew normally he could take care of himself just fine without my help. And the council knew as well, as they had begun granting him solo missions. But even when he was knighted and no longer my padawan, I knew he'd still be mine. And I would be his. The sort of bond we had was not easily broken by titles.

 

     "You know?" Obi-Wan asked, with some confusion. He draped his arm over my thighs in a loose hug. "You sensed it?"

 

     "Of course I knew. But I didn't need to sense it. The holiday just started yesterday, didn't it? You always come down sick right as it begins." And most likely it wouldn't end with one little cold. No, not during the holidays. He was almost constantly plagued by a stream of colds and fevers and flus during this season, but especially during holidays. Pretty much anything that could make one sick and miserable, and he'd catch it. Usually one after another, though sometimes two at once. I remember a number of years back, in fact, when he had a cold, an ear infection, and strep throat all at once. That had made for a particularly difficult holiday time. He was lucky that there were only three fete weeks a year. "But it's all right. I've already made you an appointment with the healers, and stocked up on healthy foods and lots of liquids. Now that you're home you'll be all... right..."

 

     My voice died away as I looked down to see that he had fallen asleep already. His breaths were heavy and open-mouthed. If I'd had my way, I would have woken him up again just to make him change into sleep pants. But he looked so exhausted from the trip and so worn out from his cold that I didn't have the heart. I carefully pulled the blanket free, straightened it out, and draped it over Obi-Wan. He snuffled and snuggled closer to me in the warmth, clearly glad for the kind touch and glad to be home.

 

     As I held him tightly, I recalled a time not too long ago when he had been apprehensive about finding his way into bed with me. Now I couldn't make him get up and out, but back then it had taken all I had just to make him get in.

 

 

*

 

 

     Something very unlike an alarm but more like the force woke me from my sleep that morning. I should say morning, as one standard twenty-four hour day had ended and another began, but it was still quite dark out and I was still quite tired. When I opened my eyes, I saw my young padawan beside my bed, hovering over me, swaying a little in the cold night air. "Obi-Wan?" I could see his figure, and sense him there, but the whites of his eyes and the occasional glint of moonlight on his pale face were all that really told me it was him. "What's wrong?"

 

     He remained silent, still swaying, as though so small that the simple, cool breeze blowing in through my cracked window was too much for him. I thought perhaps of getting up and shutting it, but wasn't sure it was the wind that was the cause of the swaying. I sensed reluctance, indecision, and worry. Not comforting things to feel from a boy who was normally quite comfortable and calm, especially around me.

 

     "Obi-Wan," I said, sitting up now with my own worries coming over me. "What's the matter?" And still silence. His lips pursed tightly as though trying to keep him from saying something. Every possibility began racing through my mind. "A bad dream? An intruder? A scary shadow? A strange noise? What is it, Obi-Wan?"

 

     He was silent, and still swaying, with arms crossed over his chest. Then, suddenly I heard a short gasp, and he snapped forward. "heh-CHII!" He immediately clapped his hands to his nose and mouth, looking shocked as he sniffled. There were no tears in his eyes, but were it anyone but Obi-Wan I knew there might have been. Still, he looked scandalized and started to bolt from the room.

 

     "Obi-Wan!" I called, in a stern tone that reminded me of my own master. Nonetheless, it was effective in making Obi-Wan stop abruptly in his tracks, the short padawan braid catching the moonlight as it swung forward, then back at his motion. "Obi-Wan, come back here, please," I said, sounding more like myself in that. He obeyed. Obi-Wan was never one not to obey when I told him he must do something. Very reliable, my padawan was. Always followed the rules, always followed orders. I never had to worry about him doing something he shouldn't.

 

     I reached out to him, but he jumped back. "No!" he whispered, his voice strained. "You'll catch my cold." He was more than simply swaying now. He was rocking. "I shouldn't have come. I'm sorry to have woken you." And he quickly turned again to leave.

 

     As he turned, I grabbed his hand and pulled him back. He couldn't pull away. I was too strong, and he was not the sort who would do something against my wishes. Still, he made a strangled sound, a sort of whine, and looked entirely uncomfortable with this. "You're sick?" I asked. He nodded, looking anxious. "And you came in here to tell me you weren't feeling well?" He nodded. I wondered what he had been expecting, or at least hoping for, for it seemed he had not come in simply to tell me. That sort of information could be relayed in the morning when we woke for meditation. No, he was clearly uncomfortable with his illness, and clearly thought I could help with that. But he had been uncertain as to what I would say, what I would do. Apparently he could not sleep, or perhaps had been roused from it because he was feeling miserable and now could not get back to sleep. He wanted my help, my caring, whether he was willing to admit it or not. He had been drawn to me. It was only natural. I was his master, after all.

 

     I gave his hand a gentle squeeze, feeling how cool and clammy it was. I reached out and took his other one, putting them together and rubbing my much larger hands back and forth on top of his. "I'm sorry I woke you," he said, with a bit of a frightened squeak. Then his face fell and he wrenched one of his hands away from my hold, cupping it to his face. "heh-EhhhCHII! ehhCHuhh!" He sniffled and rubbed his hand beneath his nose. He looked so small, so miserable, and all I could think to do was to sweep him up in my arms, snuggle him reassuringly, and carry him back to his room. He sniffled again and closed his eyes. "I'll go back and try again to sleep," he said decisively.

 

     The sneezes seemed to have taken quite a lot out of him, and he was swaying again, unsteady on his feet. "No," I said softly, making my mind up at once. "No, you came to me for help, and you'll get it. Now, climb into bed with me."

 

     Obi-Wan's eyes shot open. "Master?"

 

     "I want you to get in bed. You're going to get worse standing there all sick and sniffly in such a cold room." He did not move. "Are you refusing to obey my direct instructions, Padawan?" I asked, knowing full well how he would react to such words. Reluctantly, he came closer, and climbed up onto my bed. "That's a good lad," I soothed, for he was still looking reluctant and uncertain. "My role of a master is not simply to train you. I am here to look after you, as well. And you'll be all nice and warm now. In fact..." I looked around the room. "Wait here a moment." I climbed out of bed. "Let me get another pillow and a blanket for you." I closed the window and drew the shades as well.

 

     Obi-Wan pushed himself up on his elbow, sniffling. "I don't need a pillow or blanket, Mah.... Hah-ehhChhhhh! ehhhChiiih!"

 

     "Of course you don't," I said, smiling. "But humor me, Padawan Mine." I returned to bed, slipping another pillow under his head so that he was well elevated. I draped the blanket over the bed and made sure it was tucked around Obi-Wan. "This way you'll have plenty of blankets still if I steal one in the middle of the night." I failed to mention that this was already the middle of the night and I'd be getting up in just a number of hours to meditate anyway. When I climbed back into bed, I found it quite cold. He was shivering a little bit, and his hands, when I felt them, were still like ice. Instinctively, I held my arm out. "Come here, Padawan. Snuggle up to me and get warm."

 

     He looked hesitant, but obeyed, scooting over in bed until my arm was around his shoulders and rubbing his far arm. Lying on his back still, he turned his head towards me, his cheek resting against my warm arm. And he closed his eyes at the touch, apparently quite glad for it. "I thought you might be mad at me for falling ill again," he said softly, as though the words were less painful if they were only whispered.

 

     I tilted my head forward, resting my cheek against the top of his head. "I would never be angry with you for something that is out of your control. Even the best healing meditations cannot always keep illness away, it just helps to lessen the experience." I felt the muscles in his arm relax a bit at these words and smiled. Though, as I listened to the sounds of his sniffling and heavy breathing, something else was weighing on my mind. "Again, Padawan?"

 

     Obi-Wan's head bobbed up and down with a nod. "Every year at this time I come down sick, whether I want to or not. The crèche masters always got a bit frustrated that I couldn't prevent it. And I would try, of course, but every year I'd come down sick and spend the holiday away from the others or with the healers so no one would catch it from me." He lifted his head, tensing back up, full of worry. "I don't want you to catch this from me either."

 

     "Oh, Obi-Wan," I sighed, hugging him closer. My hand guided his head back down until it was against my chest and he could hear my heartbeat. It worked well to relax him again. This was not his fault in the slightest. "After you've had a bit of rest I'll show you some things that will make you feel better. But there's no need to be embarrassed about feeling sick or be worried about making me so."

 

     He gave a weak nod of comprehension. "Yes Mas..." He seemed to have trouble saying that word tonight. He scrubbed furiously at the base of his nose with two fingers, but it did little good and the young boy shook in my arms. "ihhChihhh! ehhhChihh! heh... ehhhCHhhhh!" Then he sniffled wetly.

 

     I pulled out my handkerchief and unfolded it, then rubbed it against his nose. He pulled away a little bit, but my touch was as commanding as my words, and moments later he relaxed and let me wipe his nose for him. "Bless you, Padawan." For one so worried about me catching his cold, he did not seem so worried about having just sneezed openly against my chest.

 

     "Sorry, Master," he said, sounding only half awake. "So sleepy."

 

     "Of course," I said softly, wrapping both arms around him, but holding onto the handkerchief still, just in case he needed it again before falling asleep. "Sleep as long as you need to. It's the holidays. No lessons. No missions. No timetables. Plenty of time to let me take care of you and for you to get better."

 

     He nuzzled close with affection and murmured, "Thank you, Master," before drifting right off to sleep.

 

 

*

 

 

     As I loaded a second glass of orange juice onto the tray, I had to admit that things certainly had changed since then. No longer was he hesitant to tell me his feelings, whatever they may be. And no longer did I have to order him to take care of himself. When he was sick, he sought out my touch before anything else.

 

     I paused in the doorway, looking over at my bed. While Obi-Wan still had not changed into sleep pants, he had stripped down to just his leggings and his undershirt. He sat back against the pillows, legs crossed, back straight, head bowed. So calm, so solemn my Obi-Wan looked when meditating. There was no time I enjoyed looking upon him more than when he was at peace and at one with the force. There was something in the quite pureness of the scene that made him more appealing to me than when he walked naked through our quarters with droplets of water on his skin from the shower, or when he leapt and threw me onto the bed to cover me with kisses or grope me enthusiastically. I would have him any way I could get him, wet or dry, submissive or dominant, docile or energetic, sick or well. But there was just something about him now that glowed.

 

     Pulling himself out of a healing trance, perhaps having sensed my presence, he opened his eyes, smiling up at me from the bed. "What's all this?"

 

     I strode forward and placed the tray on his lap before sitting down on the edge of his side of the bed. "Breakfast in bed," I answered. "Because you did a fine job on your mission, and now it's time to celebrate the holiday, and--"

 

     He turned his head quickly, directing the sneezes into his shoulder. "ihhhChehhh! CHIHshhhh!"

 

     "And because you're sick and don't seem to want to get out of bed," I finished, pulling out my handkerchief again and rubbing his nose for him. "Now eat up before it gets cold." I reached over and took one of the two forks, stabbing a bit of the scrambled egg and taking a bite. I had made larger portions than normal in celebration of his homecoming, and I intended to eat my share as heartily as possible to inspire him to do the same. He smiled and picked up the fork, looking as though he wasn't very hungry. But Obi-Wan was always in the mood to humor his old master, and began eating just the same. I smiled approvingly back at him.

 

     "You're right, you know," he said around a piece of toast.

 

     "That you did a fine job on the mission?" I replied, as though I hadn't read through his mission report last night after he fell to sleep, taking in every detail of it. It showed great trust to allow him to go on solo missions, but that did not mean I was not going to check up on everything afterwards. He may have been close to his trials, but he was still my padawan learner. "I appreciate that you have confidence in your abilities, but you must also show humility with such things, Padawan."

 

     He smiled and shook his head. After a good drink of juice, he answered, "You were right that I don't want to get out of bed." He settled back into the pillows with a sigh. "Six days sleeping on a board in the wall of a transport, and then a week and a half on a rickety old bed I was scared would collapse any moment. No sheets, no pillows." He closed his eyes. "This is certainly preferable."

 

     I was glad he had his eyes closed and could not see me roll my eyes at that comment. "Obi-Wan, true contentment cannot be found in material possessions. No matter how comfortable they might be."

 

     He opened his eyes and smiled. "I know that. But this is your bed. It's not the sheets or blankets or pillows that make me most comfortable in it." A surge of warmth traveled through our bond from both sides and I smiled back at him, feeling a bit foolish to have underestimated him so.

 

     Obi-Wan reached forward and took the handkerchief from my lap, where I had set it so I could concentrate on eating. He held it tightly to his face, breathing heavily against it for a few moments before the sneezes struck. "hehh... hehIHShhhhh! ehhhChihhhh! ehhh..." He seemed to be struggling with the tickle in his nose. His face screwed up in intense concentration as he tried to force himself to sneeze. I reached over and put my hand on his thigh, rubbing soothingly. He pulled his eyes open, looking at me with gratefulness over the folds of the handkerchief. Then I sent another wave of the force to him, and his eyes slammed shut. "huhCHIHH! yehhhChoo! ehhhChiiiih!" He snuffled and wiped his nose dry. "Just odce..." he trailed off and gave his nose a soft blow before he made another attempt to speak. "Just once I'd like to get through the holidays without getting sick." He wiped his nose again and surveyed the breakfast. "I didn't sneeze on anything, did I?" he asked, sounding guilty. "I wouldn't want you getting sick." I shook my head. He hadn't. I had been watching. Not that I much minded. He looked relieved. "I mean, every year it's always the same. This time I thought maybe if I went off world I could trick myself into forgetting what time of year it was. And even that didn't work. I'm doomed to spend the holiday sick every single year." He sighed heavily, which started him off coughing.

 

     I handed him his glass of orange juice, and waited as he gulped a little down, coughed again, then cleared his throat. Then I leaned over the breakfast tray and kissed him softly on the lips. He tensed and started to pull away, but I put a hand to the back of his head, just below where he had tied his small ponytail, and held him in place. Then I pulled back. "And every single year I get to spend the holidays with you in bed. Relaxing, reading, snuggling. It's been years since I attended any of the traditional celebrations. But from what I recall, they are nothing compared to drinking tea with you in my arms and fighting over the blankets. I cannot think of a better way to spend my holidays."

 

     Obi-Wan was silent. He did not move, did not speak. But his eyes showed weakness. "Obi-Wan?" I asked quickly, picking up the tray and setting it aside. Then I picked up his hand and squeezed it with one of my own, while my other ran over the back of his hand, stroking it gently. "What's wrong?"

 

     He sniffled and shook his head, and I could see the beginnings of tears in his eyes. "Absolutely nothing," he said in a mere whisper as it was all he could manage. Then he leaned forward, burying his face in my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around him tightly and rubbed my hand up and down his back. "So good to be home, Master," he murmured. I nodded and rested my cheek against the top of his head as I drew him close. It was good to have my Obi-Wan home.