Title: Journeying

Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Star Wars, set a few years after Episode 1 (Anakin is, I dunno, 12 or 13?)

Rating: PG for kissing, slash mentioned

Parings: Obi/Qui, Obi/quasi-Mary-Sue

Spoilers: only if you haven't seen Episode 1
Disclaimer: I come in peace! I don't own these Jedi, or the concept either. G.L. does and he gets the money, not me. But Tala's mine, cuz, well, he is.
Summary: Obi-Wan and Anakin head home after a mission to Hoth. Obi-Wan's got a bit of a cold, Anakin's sick of the cold temperatures, and they're both quite glad to be returning. Of course, it's never quite that easy and the journey they find isn't one that requires traveling.

Notes: Oddly enough, this came about after watching the beginning of the library scene in Ep2 about a zillion times over the span of a weekend. Just needed some innocent Obi angst/suffering. Sorry Obi, but you're just too cute :-) And I wanted to explore the Obi & Ani relationship before he gets a bit big-headed and into his defiant teen years.





     Cargo ships could be quite cold, especially those transporting goods to and from a planet as cold as Hoth. This particular one picked up twenty crates on the ice planet, as well as two inconspicuous Jedi, all packed together in the cargo hold. Two other passengers were there from previous stops- a Telmarian woman who sat across the room on a box, reading, and a large humanoid-looking man who was stretched out on the floor asleep. Obi-Wan and Anakin sat on a box against one wall, talking in short bursts, usually telepathically. Anakin was just getting good at that particular skill and Obi-Wan was eager to give him ample opportunity to practice as they were away on this particular reconnaissance mission.


     Obi-Wan rubbed his nose as he stood to pace around the small area a bit, ducking behind boxes and peering over others. He returned not long after with a thick blue blanket. He draped it around Anakin's shoulders, then sat down beside, his arm around the shivering padawan learner. //There, that should warm you a bit. Are you still chilled, Ani?//


     The boy nodded, his teeth chattering. // I haven't been properly warm in days. What were they thinking when they sent us to a planet of ice and snow? Surely there was someone better suited for this mission? Why us?// He complained, tugging the blanket tighter around him. It was true that Anakin still had trouble with the cold that was space, and that Obi-Wan had been coming down with a slight cold of his own.


     Obi-Wan was not amused by his Padawan's tone, but overlooked the grumpiness a bit. //You're focusing on the negative again. There can be many reasons for being assigned a mission, my Padawan. It's not our place to question the council. Perhaps our need to conquer our minor sufferings was reason enough. And we did do a good job.// He sniffled, and raised a hand to his nose and mouth. "yeiihh-Chshh! Yeh-Chush!" The second sneeze made him shiver, and he tried to hide it by exaggerating his movements as he pulled out his handkerchief.


     //Is your cold still bothering you, Master?// Anakin asked rather timidly and uncharacteristically. His Master gave an indignant nod as he blew his nose as quietly as possible. //Maybe you should take a bit of this blanket as well?// And he pulled part off, moving to drape it over his Master's shoulder.


     Obi-Wan refused at first, noting his Padawan's still chattering teeth. But another sneeze snuck up on him, making him quickly clamp the handkerchief to his face as he bent forward. "ehh-ihh-Cheshh!" He shivered again and made no protest when Anakin covered him with half the blanket and scooted up against him for mutual warmth.


     "Bless you, Master," Anakin said slowly, closing his eyes with weariness and newfound warmth. His head lowered heavily, hit his chest, then bobbed back up, his eyes straining to open again. Losing the battle, his head fell again, lower, lower, then shot back up again, realizing he had been asleep. But barely a second of the realization passed before his head began to lower again.


     "heh-EHHshhh! Ihh-Yeshuhh!"


     Anakin's head shot back up, eyes trying to open again as he muttered a very weary, "Bless you, Master."


     Looking down at the boy, Obi-Wan gave him a soft squeeze with his arm, still on Anakin's upper back. "Sleep, Padawan. We'll be rendezvousing with a Jedi ship in more than six hours."


     The young padawan shook his head. "No, I can stay up."


     "There's no need for you to do so," Obi-Wan explained. "Unless you want me to quiz you on your astronomy once again for your test?" With a sleepy smile, Anakin shook his head. Between that and the mission report, he'd had enough work for a while.


     Obi-Wan sniffled, rubbed the handkerchief at his nose; he hoped his cold wouldn't keep the boy up. Despite the sneezing, much of his cold wasn't very loud. He'd had a constant, throbbing headache for days, even before the sniffles began. And his head felt stuffed; breathing through his nose was now nearly impossible, though happened once in a while after a particularly strong bout of blowing. His eyes hurt with tiredness and his body ached for sleep. As much as he enjoyed missions, Obi-Wan had been quite thankful when this particular one was over and they could rest out of the snow and wind on the ships on the way home. Soon they would be back in their own quarters and in their own beds. "Be warm and sleep, Ani. I'll wake you when it's time." He said in a rather fatherly sort of way.


     With a weak yawn, Anakin rested his head against his Master's side, intending to sleep. Whether the young boy would have fallen asleep, despite the distraction of Obi-Wan's sniffling and occasional sneezes, the pair never found out. There was a loud bang and the ship was thrown port, then tossed back the other way. The boxes shifted and tipped, throwing the woman to the ground; she huddled against the wall, arms protectively raised over her head. Two boxes tipped and began to fall directly down upon the just waking man.


     Thanks to his Jedi reflexes, Obi-Wan leapt to his feet at once, holding his hands out and concentrating on the boxes with all the energy his cold allowed him. The crates hovered in mid air, then slowly began to work their way back to the stack. When they were about halfway along, Obi-Wan's nose twitched and the realization of the sneeze crept up on him. //Ani-// Obi-Wan barely had time to begin to call the boy's name before the blanket was thrown off and the young Jedi padawan joined his master in holding the boxes off their rather scared looking travel companion. Leaving one hand up to hold the boxes, his other cupped his nose and mouth. "ehh-Hitchh! Cheshhh! Iihhh..." he paused, eyes opening to check on the crates, which hung, unmoving. Then his eyes shut again and he snapped forward with a final sneeze. "Yihshuhhh!" He rubbed his nose roughly on his sleeve, sniffed loudly, and then quickly moved his hand back in place. Using the force, he finally commanded the crates back onto the stack.


     The man scrambled up from beneath, panting. "Thanks," he breathed heavily, rubbing the back of his neck and giving them both a nod of thanks.


     Obi-Wan gave the same sort of nod to his student, and then moved past boxes to extend a hand and help the woman to her feet and to the front of the hold away from the boxes. "Everyone all right, then?" Three nods, albeit shaky ones. The ship shuddered again, more violently, and everyone was knocked off their feet except for Obi-Wan, who just managed to stay standing. "I've got a bad feeling about this," he mumbled, rubbing his nose with the back of his wrist. Then, he cleared his throat and announced. "Everyone stay away from the cargo. I'm going to go talk with the pilots." And in a few steps, he had reached the cockpit door and pulled it open.


     There were two men quickly fidgeting with the controls. An engine warning light was blinking on one dashboard with an irritating buzz, and a fuel low light was lit on another panel. "Having some trouble?" asked the Jedi master curiously as he ducked through the entrance and shut the door behind him.


     "We're losing power," one of the pilots told him matter-of-factly. "Engines failing, one after the other. We're trying to direct the ship to the nearest planet, here." He pointed at a monitor which showed a small but stable planet coming closer. "Supports life, but it's uninhabited. Violent rainstorms most the year, complete drought and burning temperatures the other part. But the ship isn't going to make it through the atmosphere."


     "Escape pods," the other pilot said, flipping on the emergency light. "If we stay on impulse, we've enough power to get them up and running. They'll be a tight fit for all six of us, but we should be able to fit two of us per pod."


     Obi-Wan nodded, looking at the planet which showed nothing but dark grey clouds. There were billions of planets out there, and it had been a while since his days in the academy studying astronomy, but Obi-Wan recognized this one well enough. "All right. I'll inform the others."


     The pilots gave him a nod, looking concerned and worried. Obi-Wan paused, hands folded in front of him, hidden beneath large sleeves. There was definitely something not right about all of this, but his priority was the safety of his companions. So he quickly turned and left the cockpit. He was met by three equally worried expressions. He rubbed his nose again to get the sneezey tickle out as well as to buy himself a little time to pick the proper phrasing. "We're going to have to use the escape pods, the engines are failing and there seems to be no recovery." The man nodded determinedly, the woman gave a shiver from nervousness, and Anakin simply bit his lip.


     Concernedly, the boy asked, //Will we make it down to a planet or just be drifting through space?//


     "There's a planet nearby, though not with favorable conditions. It is uninhabited but will provide conditions needed for a safe landing." Then to Anakin, //Worry not. There is one spot of land on this planet, and the rest is water. It's imperative to make a water landing, but as close to shore as possible.// This didn't seem to calm Anakin by any considerable amount. //The force will guide us, Padawan. There's no reason to worry.//


     "Something doesn't feel right, Master," Anakin said, forgetting in his nerves to keep this conversation silent.


     But Obi-Wan was forced to agree completely on this matter. Before he could answer, another sneeze or two struck, "heh-Yeshhh! hihYishhoo!" And as he pulled out his handkerchief to rub his nose, the pilots came through hurriedly.


     "We've got to go two per pod," the pilots said, walking briskly to the back where three doors stood. Obi-Wan immediately placed his hand on Anakin's shoulder to show ownership, but the pilot shook his head. "The boy should go with the largest of us here. There are very strict weight limits. You go with the woman, and Brice and I will take the third one." He gestured toward his co-pilot, and the pods in order.


     Everyone immediately headed to their assigned pod, except for Obi-Wan who held Anakin back a moment. "Stay safe, Anakin. Keep your head about you and use the force to direct you down safely. We'll meet up on the land and find shelter from the storms." The young boy nodded with hesitancy. "Do as I say and you /will/ be safe. May the force be with you."


     "And with you," Anakin replied, putting on a strong, brave face. He fingered his light saber for courage, took a deep breath, and joined the very large man in one pod. Obi-Wan made sure the other two pods were shut, secure and ready before entering his own. The ship was tossing around but the minimal blasters on the pods would be enough to get their escape going towards the planet rather than away from. He shut and secured the door as the woman typed the course and destination into the computer. Obi-Wan felt the strongest surge of something amiss just before the door closed, but tried to look confident as they made their evacuation.


     The pod broke away from the tossing ship with a very loud bang which left Obi-Wan's headache a little worse off, and his ears ringing dully. He sniffled, rubbing his wrist at his nose as he stared down at the control panels. They seemed to be bang on course at perfect speed. "It's going to take a little over twenty minutes," Obi-Wan announced as he leaned against the wall of the pod, which was curved and barely tall enough for him to stand in. There was one seat, and the woman was in that, her hands folded nervously in her lap. Obi-Wan cleared his throat. "Can you understand me?" he asked kindly but curiously.


     She nodded, timidly smiling.


     Sticking his hand out to shake, "My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi. I won't hurt you."


     Her smile broadened. And she shook her head, pointing at his light saber. She opened her mouth and a short series of clicks and hisses came out.


     "Yes, I am a Jedi," he answered her. "And I do understand Telmarian. But I'm afraid I'm not very good at speaking it. And I understand the Telmarians cannot vocalize to speak words like this. But it seems we can both understand each other well enough?"


     She nodded and clicked an affirmative answer. She then began to speak again, but stopped at the look on Obi-Wan's face.


     He needed to sneeze yet again. Badly, though it seemed momentarily stuck. His face was contorted, breathing shallow and rapid, eyes tightly closed. Obi-Wan had a corner of his handkerchief to his nose and mouth to muffle the sounds of his gasps and be ready for the sneeze. Finally, after many long seconds which seemed like hours, it came, with company. "ihh-Heshh! Yehshuhh! HehChuhhh! Heh-eh-Yeshoo!" Handkerchief clamped to his face, Obi-Wan tried to keep his sneezes as quiet and discrete as possible. However, he wasn't having much success. "yeh-Ishoo! Cheshuhhh!" He snuffled and blew his nose immediately after, trying to both control his nose and apologize. "I'b so sniff sorry... Sniff! Sniff! Sniff! Excuse be..." he managed between sniffles. He blew his nose again and tucked the handkerchief away. He chanced a glance at the woman's face. She was looking a bit worried still, perhaps suspicious. "It's just a bit of a cold," he explained with another sniffle.


     Did Telmarians catch colds or get sick at all in the same way? They were half insects but perhaps there were similar sorts of things, or sneezing at least. As if answering the question, she nodded and clicked a response which translated roughly to "I understand. It is all right. I do not mind."


     Obi-Wan, the Jedi Master, nearly blushed. "I, uh, didn't catch your name."


     She gave a series of clicks, whistles, chirps, and hisses, and she ran her hand through long, dark black hair.


     When she'd finished, Obi-Wan paused a bit, trying to decipher the sounds and translate them. First, he did his best to repeat the sounds, at which he received a nod from her at his apparent accuracy. Then, he tried the translation. "Something like Loraina or Lorena or Loraine even?" She clicked again. "The second one, Lorena?" The woman nodded with a definite flush in her cheeks as Obi-Wan continued. "What a beautiful name, in either language. Appropriate for such a beautiful woman." She giggled.


     The rest of the trip down was much darker and was filled with much less casual conversation. Not long after the compliment, the pod broke through the upper atmosphere layer and shook so violently that Obi-Wan was forced to cling to a handle on the wall to keep from knocking his head against the upper control panels. He felt the force quite strongly, but couldn't reach out to Anakin no matter how hard he tried; he hoped the boy was holding on as well. The second atmosphere was much less rough but burned the outside of their pod and covered the small view window with flames. Obi-Wan kept his eyes closed as the temperature rose, trying to keep his mind focused and his head from hurting. As they broke through the final bumpy layer of the atmospheric rings, they encountered a thick layer of dark clouds that took minutes to pass through. When they were able to look out the window at something, all they saw was rain. Raindrops were the size of their fists, and pelted the pod as it fell downward, starting to slow. It was now that Obi-Wan worked on directing the pod to the ideal location. They were heading for the water off the east coast of the land mass, and he was concentrating on getting as close to the land as possible while still safely landing in the water. The woman, Lorena, remained relatively quiet through the ordeal, calling out the time and distance numbers every few minutes as they hit important marks.


     The landing was a shock to them both, coming a bit harder and faster than they'd anticipated. The pod was submerged in water for nearly a minute before breaking through the sea's surface and bobbing on the storm-ridden waters.


     Lorena inquired as to how they would make it to the shore, but Obi-Wan did not answer apart from holding up a finger to signal she wait. He was slipping deeply in with the force, making the seas push against the currents and direct them to the land. It took a good ten minutes before they hit the rocks surrounding the shores which had only been a half dozen yards away, at most. "We'll need to get out and pull the pod to the banks." He hoped very much that, after looking at the land mass, they would be able to find sufficient natural shelter. The pods were not big enough for more than two people to stand in, and certainly not big enough for two to sleep in if they were stuck for more than a day or two. Ideally, they would be rescued in half a day, assuming the Jedi ship would try to track them down when they did not encounter Obi-Wan and Anakin. But things were never quite as ideal as he liked. In fact, he still could not reach Anakin through their bond, though he could roughly sense three people on the surface other than himself. //Anakin?// he tried again. He got no reply other than a vague sense of some other presence. Perhaps the storms were a disruption?


     Obi-Wan was the first out of the pod, pulling his hood up over his head to protect himself from the fierce rain. He held a hand out as he balanced on the rocks, and Lorena took it, stumbling out and slipping but not falling on the wet, sharp rocks. It took their combined efforts as well as the force to get the pod over the rocks and into the grassy area just past it, which led into a thick, lush forest. They ducked back inside to wring out their garments and raid the pod of anything they could easily carry. Apart from the box of food and water rations, the first aid kit, and several thick blankets, Obi-Wan pulled out some of the navigation system circuits and wires and a few transmitter cables. He left enough to allow the pod to send out its distress signal which he hoped would be found relatively quickly by a party that was relatively friendly.


     The rain outside was brutal, and the two lingered in the pod for a few minutes longer as Obi-Wan again tried to sense Anakin. It was possible they were simply too far away, or Anakin was otherwise occupied mentally, or his abilities simply had not developed to the point where he could be contacted at whim rather than when he was already expecting it. There were other distractions on Obi-Wan's side as well. Lorena was shivering from cold and Obi-Wan's nose had begun running and tickling madly. He paused, crouching on the floor, rubbing at his nose. "ehhh-heh-Ihhshhh! Heh-Yeshoo!" Another pause. "Yihchoo!" He pulled out his handkerchief and blew his nose, feeling a terrible sense of foreboding as he looked out at the streams of rain.


     Lorena spoke again, clicks and such which translated to "Will you be all right out in the rain?" She looked quite concerned as she gathered all she could carry in her arms.


     Nodding, he tucked his handkerchief away. "I'll be fine, thanks." He stood, looking out the window at what lay beyond. "I think we should head for that small mountain range." Was his voice getting hoarse? "A cave might be our best bet for shelter. And if we travel through the... sniff, sniff, through the... excuse me," he raised his hand to his face again and turned from her. "heh-CHISHH! Ihh-Cheshhh!" He rubbed at his nose as he mumbled the continuation. "The trees should protect us from the rain somewhat." He sniffed and stood, determined, shaking his hood to fall over his head and down his face as much as it would.


     Obi-Wan left first again, waiting outside for Lorena so he could close the pod's hatch after her. As he did so, she unfurled her wings, which resembled a butterfly's in part, though with more than two sections each. The wings were larger than she was, and tinted a gentle blue which complimented her eyes nicely. One wing she bent to the side and over her head, using it as a sort of umbrella. The other, she bent similarly to her side, right over Obi-Wan's head. She clicked and hissed what amounted to "We'll have to walk close together, but they should keep us relatively dry." Her wings were thick and coated with something slick, slowing the water to bead up and simply run right off them. Gladly accepting the help, they set off into the forest towards the base of the mountain chain.


     Several times they stopped to rest, or for Obi-Wan to catch his breath. His sneezes were becoming more frequent and his handkerchief soaked completely from the combination of blows and the rain. He had taken to simply rubbing his nose with the cuff of his sleeve, which was wet as well, but more convenient than the hanky. As a result, his nose was getting rather pink at the tip and his congestion increased from the sniffling.


     It was true, that there was less rain as they navigated through the forest, but it was also more difficult to see where they were going and how on course they were. With Obi-Wan leading, they let the force guide them as much as possible, but several times one or the other climbed a few branches up a tree to survey the mountains and their progress.


     Almost two hours later, they came upon the rocky terrain of the mountains, and found a shallow cave just a little ways up. Obi-Wan boosted Lorena up to the entrance, handed her up the things, and then bent and sprung himself up. It was delightful in the cave, out of the rain and the wind, though still chilly. And the booms of thunder echoed terribly throughout. Obi-Wan had gathered a few sticks for a fire and laid them out at once, noticing that Lorena was trying not to shiver as much as he, himself, was. Once the wood was in place, Obi-Wan pulled out his light saber. It took quite a while and the perfect distance to warm the wood enough that it dried out sufficiently in order to catch on fire. There were a few startling sparks but after a while, they finally had a good-sized fire. The two huddled around it, holding their palms out, bending over to dry their hair or their clothes.


     "yih-Heshhh! Heh-Cheshhh!" Obi-Wan sneezed, rubbing his nose on now slightly dryer sleeve. He thought fleetingly of pulling out his handkerchief and drying it over the fire, but that felt a little too personal and Lorena was perhaps being as accepting of witnessing his ailment as a stranger could possibly be. He did, however, discard his robes and set them out to dry, kneeling in front of the fire in only his pants and loose tunic. "yeh...heh-Yeshoo! Yeh-Chishhoo! Chushh!"


     Lorena did not dry quickly either, though she folded her wings away with relief and a groan of exhaustion. After a few minutes of watching Obi-Wan shiver and sneeze, she rolled her eyes and stood, grabbing one of the blankets out of its plastic wrap and kneeling down beside him. She clicked purposefully and gestured towards his tunic. With a strong sniff, Obi-Wan looked up and blinked at her, puzzled. "You want me to take off my clothes?" She spoke again with an urgent tone and reached out to tug the sleeve of his tunic. Obi-Wan shook his head. "I could get what? I don't understand the word you used. But I'm not going to take off all my clothes in front of you--" They'd only just met. And now it was getting rather too personal.


     She spoke again, this time with frustration, trying to make it as simple as possible. Translated, "You are sick already. Your body temperature is dropping. Your clothes are wet and not helping. If you take off your clothes and wrap up in a dry blanket, you won't get sicker." She paused, and then added. "I will do the same."


     As he gave a violent shiver, despite the warm fire, Obi-Wan was forced to agree. After another double sneeze "heh-Ihshhh! Yehsheshh!" he let her help him off with his shirt. Then she turned while he stripped down to his underwear and quickly pulled the heavy blanket around his shoulders and front. He had to admit, as he snuggled with the blanket in front of the fire and she rubbed her hands up and down his shoulders, that he was exceptionally less chilly with this new arrangement. At it would at least allow his clothing to dry more quickly. He turned his back as she stripped and dawned the other blanket, then settled across the fire from him again. "I'm feeling much better," he told her with a smile. "Thank you." She nodded, smiling, and replied that she was feeling much warmer as well.


     It wasn't long after when Obi-Wan heard voices nearly upon him. As he looked up to see his Padawan's face, he felt their bond surge reassuringly with their closeness. He sighed in relief Anakin and the large man climbed into the cave to join him. It seemed they had constructed sort of rain garments out of some forest tree leaves. They had hats with large brims which came down over their necks, shoulders, fronts, and upper backs to keep the rain from soaking them too much. Just the same, under Lorena's recommendation, they wrapped up in blankets and sat around the fire as well.


     Anakin snuggled up beside Obi-Wan, seeking out his warmth instinctually. The boy's teeth were chattering again, but the shivering soon stopped and the boy was himself enough to levitate some more wood into the cave for the fire. "We headed towards the mountains and saw the smoke as we got close," Anakin explained. Then he turned to Lorena. "My name is Anakin Skywalker," he introduced, then gestured toward the large man, who looked warm and drowsy. "And this is Sir Reginald Osprey from Arstonia." He added, as the man yawned, "He's been traveling for three days straight without sleep."


     Lorena giggled and looked at Obi-Wan, clicking to ask if he could do her introductions. "I am Obi-Wan Kenobi, and this is Lorena from Telmaria." He rubbed at his nose with a bit of the rough blanket, which hurt but was dry enough to do a good job. "I don't suppose you ran across the pilots somewhere out there?" he asked.


     Anakin shook his head. "Not a trace. I sensed you both as soon as we landed, but I'm having a hard time sensing more than the four of us."


     Obi-Wan nodded. That was all he could identify as well. It was as if the two men had not even evacuated. Or if they had, they had not made it down alive. "We will conduct a few searches when we all warm up enough to brave the storms again. They may be out in the waves still or wandering around the... the forest." Obi-Wan raised his shoulder beneath the blankets and bent his head, sneezing against it. "ehh-Hechhh! Hih-Yihtchhh!" He gave a series of sniffs as he rubbed miserably at his nose through the blanket.


     "Bless you, Master," Anakin said, looking over at him. "How's the cold?"


     Obi-Wan tried to make it clear in his tone that this particular subject was not one for open conversation or anything else, truth be told. "No better, thank you." Quickly, he changed the subject. "I brought some electronics with me. I'm not sure what survived the rains so be careful, but there might be enough to construct a decent communicator to at least transmit on certain /important/ frequencies. Why don't you have a look at it when you've warmed up, Padawan?"


     Anakin didn't need telling twice, as he immediately crawled over to the parts and a few tools that were mixed in with the survival boxes. Not long after, Lorena and Reginald volunteered to go out and search for the pilots, given they had a large, blazing fire to welcome them back. Obi-Wan gave his word on that. With Anakin happily tinkering and the other two gone, Obi-Wan found himself slipping into deep meditation and things he had not thought of in a very long time.


     Thoughts of warm skin and foamy lather. Thoughts of blazing hot tubs and flower petals. Of shaving in front of a mirror with a body pressed to his back and a beard rubbing the back of his neck. Of gentle caresses and subtle, smooth curves of the body.


     "Master Obi-Wan?" He felt a hand shake him, and he awoke to see Anakin hovering above him. It was a few blurry moments before he realized that he was lying on the floor of the cave, and had been deep asleep.


     He pulled himself up, noticing that the other two had already returned. How long had he been out? He'd been having the most wonderful visions of many years ago with Qui-Gon. Rolling through the flowers with each other, sharing a goblet full of Akbul juice, wrapped in blankets when sleeping in on weekends, cuddling by the fire...


     "Master? Wake up."


     Obi-Wan opened his eyes, finding that he was, again, lying down. He rubbed at his nose roughly; it was running rather badly. His cheeks flushed and he sniffed strongly. "I'm sorry," he said breathlessly, not really understanding his predicament. "I must have..." What had happened?


     "You passed out," Anakin explained, helping the man to sit up. "Twice. Half an hour the first time, and just a few minutes this last time." He paused, seeming to be considering his next action carefully.


     Raising an eyebrow, "No, I'm not in need of sleep, and I am not feverish, Anakin. Don't you dare go easing me back down or touching my forehead." He coughed and realized his voice was indeed going hoarse. "Any sign of the pilots?"


     Anakin shook his head. "Lorena and Reginald went out once. Apparently covered a good portion of the coast but... Master? Are you all right?"


     Obi-Wan had frozen, his eyes wide as if he were trying very hard to see something. Then, quickly, "heh-Yishhuhh! Heh-Chishoo!" His whole body shook beneath the blankets as he sneezed rather freely.


     "Bless you," Anakin said, deciding in a beat that his master's health was slightly more important than informing him of the pilots. He passed over his master's clothes. "Here. These are dry, if you'd like to put them back on."


     It seemed Obi-Wan did want to, very much. Quickly he changed, but still wrapped up in the blanket after wards, shivering in front of the fire. Beads of sweat rose on his forehead. His teeth were gritted tightly, lest they chatter. And he seemed to be forcing his eyes open to keep from falling asleep outright. "heh-Yeshhoo! yih...Hetchhh!" His handkerchief was somewhat dryer than he remembered, and felt much better than scratchy blanket against his pink nose. "And h-how is the transmitter?" he asked, gazing over at Anakin who seemed to have assembled a box of wires and chips. His teeth were chattering again and he levitated another log onto the fire.


     Anakin noticed but overlooked this. "I think it's ready to test, but it can't transmit from in here. I need to run a wire higher up the mountain if we're to get a signal." He motioned to the wire. "Reginald and I are going to climb up and see what we can do, then search a bit more."


     Obi-Wan started to pull off the blanket. "He's tired... I can help... sniff, sniff! I haven't gone out again yet."


     There was some urgency in Anakin's voice. "No. You can stay here and help." He forced the box into Obi-Wan's hand, then draped the blanket around his master's shoulders again. "You need to make sure we don't pull too hard on the wire. It's safe in the storm, but the transmitter isn't. And we've got to run a lightning rod from the ground so every inch of cable is crucial." He was rambling, and he knew it, but Obi-Wan didn't seem to notice or else did not care. "Then I'll need you to activate it, this button right here," Anakin transferred a cable from hand to mouth in order to point, then back again. "There's a possibility it could short circuit or the cables won't be water tight. So I'd rather not endanger the other two." He stopped, waiting for approval or protest.


     Luckily, it was the former. "All right. Shout down when you need me to... sniff, sniff! switch it on."


     With a sigh, "Yes, of course." Anakin fixed his make-shift hat on over his hood and taking up the cables. Reginald helped him out, and Obi-Wan watched as they carefully began by climbing up over the entrance of the cave. He turned his eyes from the entrance to the fire, feeling tired again as he watched the dancing flames. They were soothing, entrancing, and somehow made his headache feel slightly better.


     A series of clicks and hisses brought him back to reality. "Quite a lad you've got there."


     Obi-Wan looked up, scrubbing his nose with the back of his wrist. "Yes," he croaked, and cleared his throat. "He is a handful. I can't recall giving my master this kind of trouble when I was his age." He rubbed the back of his neck wearily and stifled a yawn.


     "Just because you can't recall it, does not mean that you didn't," she said, smiling.


     With a nod, Obi-Wan agreed, though too occupied by oncoming sneezes to reply verbally. "heh...ehhh..." He had enough time to retrieve his handkerchief. "ihh-Keshoo! Heh-Yeshoo! Chishuhhh!" Panting, he gave his nose a few strong blows.




     Obi-Wan forced a cough to clear his throat. "Excuse me. Anakin's calling." Then, silently, //Shall I turn on the switch, then?//


     //Yes, Master.//


     With a deep breath, hoping that his complete confidence in his padawan's mechanical abilities was not unfounded, he flipped the switch. A green light shown brightly, and a faint hum began to issue from the box, clutched in Obi-Wan's steady hands. //It is humming, and a light is on.//


     "Perfect," Anakin said, climbing down into the cave and giving a hand to help Reginald. "We'll be off to search for a bit then."


     They two headed down this time, and Obi-Wan found himself alone yet again with Lorena. Her face was soft, kind, sweet, but it hurt him somehow to gaze into her eyes. Her gorgeous, sympathetic eyes. Eyes which, he realized as he looked away to the fire, reminded him of other eyes from years ago. He found his own eyes closing slowly, despite efforts to keep them open.


     A hand brushing his face, resting on his chest, gently rocking, caressing. Obi-Wan woke with a start to see Lorena hovering over him. Coughing, sniffing, he scrambled backwards, out of her reach. "What...?" He looked around desperately, hoping Anakin was back, but he wasn't.


     "You were crying in your sleep. Then you started yelling. I was trying to shake you awake," she explained plainly, sure that her words could not be mistranslated. Her heart was racing.


     Leaning back on one hand, Obi-Wan raised the other, finding fresh tears on his cheeks. "I'm sorry," he replied, sniffling and searching for the handkerchief he'd tucked into one of his inner pockets. Then he looked up at her, realizing that she was just as startled as he was, if not more. "I didn't mean to scare you. It was just a bad dream." A dream. And he a Jedi. It had to be the cold doing this to him. "Thank you for waking me."


     Slowly, she nodded, her heart slowing again as well. "I didn't know Jedi had bad dreams."


     "Sometimes," he replied, hoping he could convince himself it was true. "How long was I--"


     "Not long," she told him. "Twenty minutes maybe."


     He nodded, then sneezed again. "ehh-Keshhh! Yeh-Chishh! eeh...yih-shoo!" He rubbed miserably at his nose and gave a few blows.


     "You know you really don't look very well," said Lorena, even the insect-like clicks and hisses sounding soft and soothing and as sympathetic as her eyes. Just like his eyes had been.


     Obi-Wan nodded, raising the handkerchief to hide a yawn.


     "You look so tired. Maybe you should try to get some sleep?"


     He coughed and disagreed sternly. " I'm not that sick. Heh-Ehhshhh! Ehh-Yeshoo! Sniff, sniff, sniff!  Just have a little cold."


     With a soft, reassuring smile, she settled herself down beside him at the fire. She handed him a section of protein bar that had come in the survival pack. "Well, then. Don't go to sleep for the night. Just have a little nap."


     She reached over and took her blanket, then shook it out, draping it over a sniffley, yawning Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan looked hesitant, but she patted her thigh. "I've heard I make a good pillow. Come on, just a short nap."


     And, finally, Obi-Wan agreed, resting his head in her lap, letting her tuck the blankets around him warmly. But it was a while before he relaxed enough. He shook against her as he sneezed "heh-EHHshhh! Heh-Yeshhoo!" and even with his head elevated the congestion made his head feel stuffed and heavy.


     "There, there," she coddled, lying a hand gently on his side. When he did not flinch or wave her off, she began stroking gently, rubbing up and down his side soothingly. "Just relax. Don't worry about your cold. Just..." and she uttered a word Obi-Wan could not translate. "Empty your mind. Meditate," she tried again at his request to explain.


     And this he understood. He closed his eyes, ignoring the runny nose and scratchy throat, the throbbing headache and the burning chills. Obi-Wan concentrated on the fire and her gentle, constant touch. His breathing slowed, and his body went heavy. Lorena wished him sweet dreams as the fire sent him back to sleep.


     The cold ebbed away. The zaps of lightning followed by roars of thunder were muted. And the grey, overcast sky melted into a deep, lovely blue with a brightly burning sun. A gentle hand took his as they strode. Rough thumb rubbing against his in a comforting though absentminded way. The breeze which blew was warm, and the scent was not that of wet cloth and burning wood but flowers and spring. Their grasp grew tighter and there were wet lips beneath his ear, then his cheek. He closed his eyes to savor their meeting against his own. The tongue tasted sweet, the lips juicy, and he opened and closed around them.



     The mountain shook so completely that Obi-Wan would have been woken even without the loud stampede of rocks falling past the opening of the cave to the ground just below. His eyes shot open, seeing the rocks out of the corner of his eye, but not really understanding. "What--" he broke off, coughing.


     "Rockslide," said Reginald, striding over to the entrance and looking down. "Blocks the easiest way of climbing up here, it seems."


     Obi-Wan threw the blankets off and started the task of getting up. "I'll help clear them," he groaned. What parts of his head that weren't clogged with congestion were now spinning and throbbing.


     Lorena looked anxiously at Obi-Wan, but it was Anakin who acted. "Master, you should rest. Reg and I can handle the rocks. We weren't able to see any trace of the pilots," he informed his master, trying to distract him from the task unhand. Distraction, however, was not so easy when Jedi were concerned. "No pod, no wreckage, no distress signal, no tracks through the mud."


     "They're not coming," said Obi-Wan, coughing again. The three stared at him for the statement, then grew uncomfortable when the Jedi master's coughing did not stop easily. Anakin quickly handed Lorena a cup of water from the rations and, gingerly, she forced him to drink a few mouthfuls. It hurt to swallow, but the cold water felt soothing to his throat, just the same. When he could again speak, Obi-Wan elaborated for his onlookers. "They needed the room, I'm afraid. We were disposable"


     "But we paid in advance!" roared the large knight, growing red in the face. Lorena did not look very pleased at the situation either. Anakin simply blinked, comprehension finding its way onto his face slowly.


     "Not all of it legal," Obi-Wan continued, nearly slurring his words from his fatique. "Couldn't have four witnesses along for the ride. I did think they'd have the sense to fake it a bit better if their plan was so blatantly obvious but..." The three were listening very intently, hanging on his pause. But Obi-Wan had generally finished his explanation. It was all rather difficult to miss- smuggling contraband is much more profitable than travelers. And to desert them on a livable but devastating planet by way of a faked accident... All they had to do was turn the other way, run as fast as possible from the scene, and hope the four perished before they could leak a word about it all. But they still watched him for information, so Obi-Wan explained his pause gruffly, "I... have to sneeze... tha... that's all." He raised a fist. "ehhh...eh-heh-Hehshhh! heh-IHHshhh! Heh-YEHShooo! Ihh...hehKeshhh!" Obi-Wan rubbed at his nose with the cuff of his sleeve, not wanting to bother with his handkerchief. The sneezes made his head spin even worse. "I... I'll help clear the way," he managed, his head settling back down to a gentle pounding as he closed his eyes and laid his head back on Lorena's thigh.


     "Master, no--" Anakin began, stating what seemed terribly obvious to all but Obi-Wan.


     But he was interrupted by startled clicking, hissing and clucking from Lorena, who had just passed her hand briefly over Obi-Wan's forehead. "He's burning up!"


     Neither Sir. Reginald nor Anakin spoke the least bit of Telmarian, and they looked at Obi-Wan for translation. When it did not come, "Master, what did she--"


     "Sniff, sniff! She says that I'm feeling better and should help clear the rocks." He pulled himself up on one arm, and then tried to sit up completely.


     Lorena looked scandalously at him and repeated her series of hisses and clicks with a few loud, pointed ones added. Then she motioned to Anakin, putting her hand on her own forehead to try to explain.


     Anakin scooted towards Lorena's other side, leaning carefully around the fire to feel his master's forehead. Obi-Wan struggled to get away, but he was weaker than the at least three hands which held him down. "Anakin," he said, muffled by the blankets he had squirmed against. "I forbid you to touch me." Had he had his way probably would have launched into a lecture on how he needed to learn his place and obey his elders above all else.


     But this was as good a time as any to disobey, and Anakin pushed his master back down firmly with one hand as he brandished his light saber with his other. "Lie still or I will make you." Obi-Wan caught a glimpse of maniacal force in his padawan's eyes, and decided that once, he would not insist upon being obeyed, as wise and correct as he was in this instant. Anakin's palm pressed against his forehead, flipped over and felt again. There was a sudden intake of breath at the boy's realization.


     The young padawan sat back, lowering the saber's beam, and Obi-Wan relaxed slightly, though he knew his padawan had no intention of using it. Still, the boy was relatively new to the weapon and even though he showed amazing progress, Obi-Wan did not fully trust his restraint. Quickly, Anakin reached over and pulled the two blankets up over his master's body, then added his own as a third. He had been wearing only trousers and his saber beneath the blanket but made no rush to change as he waved his hand to pull his tunic to him. Instead, he tore off one sleeve and pushed it towards Reginald. "Go wet this from the cold rain. We need a compress." Then he turned to Lorena. "Don't let him up for anything. Keep the blankets on him, firm but loose." Lorena took a wing out, bending it and laying it on top of Obi-Wan's blankets, stroking gently, warmly.


     "Anakin," Obi-Wan tried to reason with him. "It's... just a cold." But he shivered and knew, as his head pounded, that it was far worse than he had anticipated it being. He coughed from congestion and sneezed again "heh-Ehhshh! Hek-Tushooo!" retreating under the blankets a bit. He hadn't even bothered raising his hand this time, and kept his eyes closed afterwards, slightly ashamed.


     He felt a dry cloth rub at his nose. "Blow." That was Ani's voice. Obi-Wan started to protest but he heard the swish of an unfurled light saber and thought twice. "Master, please..." Anakin's tone was pleading, worried, and commanding all at once, and Obi-Wan obeyed. Then a cold, wet cloth pressed against his forehead. A fierce shiver ran through his body. And at the same time, he had the urge to push off all the blankets. When he tried, a hand pulled them back up, tucking them loosely around him. "Take a little more water," Anakin then insisted. Lorena brushed Obi-Wan's hair from his face and helped him tilt up enough to swallow the water Anakin gently administered. Obi-Wan took the water thankfully, though winced as he swallowed. "Sore throat?" Anakin asked, at which Obi-Wan nodded wearily, then fell back to Lorena's warm, soft lap.


     He thought of Qui-Gon's caretaking, the way the man had held him, given him warm, healing waves of energy between their bond. Even now, Obi-Wan could nearly feel them.  Perhaps it was just the force. Or perhaps it was Qui-Gon reaching out from the beyond- he had seen and heard of stranger things. Whatever it was, his worries seemed to slip away again. A gentle touch ran the length of his side, and a soft hand brushed his cheek. The cold cloth which was warming against his forehead was removed long enough for lips to brush against his forehead in a kiss, and then it was replaced. He heard someone tell him to sleep and he, always obedient, followed the order effortlessly.



*                      *                      *



     Obi-Wan opened his eyes to blaring white light. There was no roar of wind, no torrent of rain. It was not completely silent, but there was a soothing softness about the hushed sounds. He sensed others there, moving about slowly, on task. He nearly expected to see Qui-Gon bending over him, extending a hand. But a different face appeared in front of his eyes. "You're awake," it said softly, with a bit of relief. "Do you know who you are?"


     Obi-Wan blinked then closed his eyes, counted to three, and opened them again. "Tala?" he asked of the man who apparently was no figment of his imagination.


     The man grinned. "If you're Tala, then do I get to be the great Obi-Wan Kenobi?" Healer Tala D'Marke looked over at a stool and it wheeled itself to him, positioned right behind for him to sit and examine his patient. Tala appeared, as he always was, tall, gangly, and as if he'd passed up a good night of sleep and a comb to stay up with a patient or test tube or his latest chapter.


     Obi-Wan paused a moment, trying to sort things out. His nose, on the other hand, seemed to waste no time. "ehh..." he tried to pull his arm out from beneath blankets but didn't quite make it in time. "heh-Ehshhh! Yeh-Keshhh!" Jedi very rarely blush, and it was even rarer for Obi-Wan, but his embarrassment showed quite plainly on his face as he snuffled the rest of the tickle in his nose away. "Where ab I?" he asked with a bit of urgency. Surely the Jedi medical ship wasn't back in commission after so many years.


     But Tala merely smiled, reaching down with a fluid gesture of rubbing Obi-Wan's nose with a handkerchief. He managed, in addition, to slip a thermometer into the master Jedi's mouth. The man wanted to protest but after all he'd been through, it seemed rather pointless now, and he was much more eager for answers. He did shoot Tala a stern look for the sneakiness, though he had to admit the need for it was not unfounded.


     "You've been asleep for over three days," he explained softly, trying to calm the sniffley Obi-Wan who seemed to be having trouble breathing from his nose with the thermometer in his mouth. "You're back home, on Coruscant." Obi-Wan's eyes widened with considerable surprise. "As I hear it, there was considerable suspicion when you did not meet up at your appointed rendezvous. The Jedi ship set out at once and stumbled upon the pod distress signals and your padawan's transmission on the private frequency." He checked his watch, watching a few seconds tick away. "Apparently, you weren't in a very good condition when they reached you. You were much worse when you were brought in here. I escorted you from the hanger myself, wouldn't let anyone in without me present. You were delirious and, er, talking quite openly about a few things." He eased the thermometer from Obi-Wan's mouth. "Qui-Gon came up." Tala ruffled the man's hair affectionately. "A few hundred times."


     "I thought I was dyig," Obi-Wan rationalized, very softly.


     "You seemed close for a while, I don't mind telling you." Tala agreed, taking out a light and gazing into the man's ears, eyes, nose, and mouth in turn. "Feverish and thrashing around. Couldn't keep any liquids down." He paused to motion at the IV sticking out from Obi-Wan's arm. He continued inspecting the man, and explaining. "You owe me a pair of new robes because of that, now that I think of it." Finished examining those, he reached for the handkerchief again, covering the man's nose. "Go right ahead and sneeze."


     Too many times had he been surprised by Tala's sense of his illnesses. Even though he wasn't immediately sneezey, he gave it a moment, finding himself pitching forward with three rather sudden ones. "heh-Yetchhh! Heh-Chishhh! Yeh-Hitchhhh!"


     "Arnup'tchow." It was amazing how being around Tala turned him into a sick little boy again. "There, now blow. Good lad." He tossed the handkerchief into a waste bin, and then turned back to Obi-Wan. How are you feeling? What hurts, what feels better? Your temperature's back to normal and you've got much more color to you now than when we brought you in."


     Obi-Wan pulled his arm out from beneath the blankets finally, with much effort, and gave a not-so-coordinated rub at his nose. "Still feel codgested. Add by head still aches. Add by throat hurts. I'b a little thirsty as well."


     Tala nodded, pulling over a cup of ice chips. "One spoonful. If you can keep these down, I'll start you on a soft diet this afternoon." Obi-Wan accepted the ice gratefully, savoring the cold against the back of his throat until they had all but melted and he swallowed the last of it down. "Stomach doesn't feel upset?"


     Obi-Wan shook his head no, restraining himself from levitating the whole cup over for a good drink.


     "That's good to hear. Maybe I can scrounge up some ice cream for you this evening." Tala made a few quick notes on an all-too-familiar data pad.


     Obi-Wan coughed and looked around the room. It was a private room at the medical center but the door to the hallway was open, letting in light and the pleasant smell of stewing herbs. Healers walked back and forth in front of the doorway, a few looking in on him with smiles. The room was simple, but surprisingly cheerful. He noticed a cot squeezed between his bed and the windowed wall, and a stack of datapads on the bedside table, nearly falling off for the lamp to fit as well.


     Smiling, Tala told him, "Anakin's barely left your side. I wouldn't let him skip his lessons of course, but he's here the rest of the time. Meals, between class breaks, and at night. Only goes back to your quarters to shower and change."


     With another cough. "He could dot bossibly have beed /that/ worried about be?" At the sound of his voice, he wearily picked up a fresh handkerchief and gave his nose a few very strong blows.


     "To tell you the truth, we were both pretty worried about you for a while in there. But if you ask me, he just wanted to be with you. A padawan needs his master."


     Obi-Wan looked suspicious. "He and I have been in direct contact for five days on the trip. Sniff! Sniff, sniff! And this is Anakin we're talking about. He never needed anyone's direct company."


     Tala shook his head. "Jedi are as self sufficient as they come, one with the force. But we still cling to our masters in times of trouble. Or to their spirits at least." Obi-Wan knew he was not only talking of Qui-Gon but his own master who had died long before Tala and Obi-Wan had ever met. And even though Tala hadn't made it through to becoming a Jedi, he still thought of his master often.


     "Master Obi-Wan?"


     Obi-Wan felt the warm, force-filled surge of their bond return as he looked up to see the boy hovering in the doorway with a grin.


     "I'm happy- I'm so happy to see you're better." He looked to be debating course of action, teetering on the threshold with relief and excitement.


     "Come here, Padawan." Obi-Wan held an arm out in welcome and Anakin rushed into it with a hug. There hadn't been many of these in their relationship. There had been lessons and orders and arguing and friendship, yes, but affection was different. Still, this time it felt as if they had done it a million times before- natural and warm and instinctive. "I hear I owe you gratitude for our rescue," said Obi-Wan, as they pulled back from each other.


     Anakin shrugged. "The transmitter was your idea. But it felt pretty good to give you orders for a change. You were getting rather grumpy." He grinned, then quickly changed the subject. "I informed the council of our status as soon as we returned and gave them our report on Hoth, as well. The Jedi gave Reg and Lorena transport to their destinations. They wanted to stick around to see you when you woke, but we weren't sure when you'd be waking up. And the Jedi who picked us up found the pilots without much problem- tracked their signature from the planet, I think. They're being held for questioning. And I passed my astronomy test."


     It was a lot for still sick Obi-Wan to take in, but he nodded his approval to the boy. "Which one did you miss?"


     Anakin rolled his eyes. "The question about the B'cardi system. Just couldn't recall the star formation names."


     Obi-Wan nodded. "Then I want a five page paper on the system- planets, moons, stars, constellations, name derivations, history, and especially--"


     "The meteor stream. Yes, Master." It was a milestone, Obi-Wan noted. The first time his Padawan seemed better than annoyed at the extra work. In fact, he seemed practically giddy at the ordered assignment. "May I stay here with you and do some work?"


     Smiling and remembering what Tala had told him as he stole a glance at the on looking healer, "Of course, Padawan."