Title: Peace is Always Beautiful
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Star Wars pre-TPM
Rating: PG
Pairing: Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon
Disclaimer: Not my characters, world, franchise, etc. I make no money from this!
Summary: Obi-Wan is sick with a cold. Qui-Gon wants to help him but can’t do much. There’s a lot of touching and snuggling and sneezing.
Author Notes: I believe this fic was started in 2004. I finished it up after receiving a donation to do so in my fundraising page for the Walk to End HIV. The title is a Walt Whitman quotation.


Peace is Always Beautiful


/ Q \


            Qui-Gon entered his bedroom as quietly as possible. The whole of their quarters were dark as though empty. But they were far from that. Qui-Gon needed to use the Force to navigate around the furniture so as not to make noise by crashing into a misplaced chair or tripping over clothes strewn about the floor. He pressed a finger to the wall pad just inside the doorway to the bedroom and the lights slowly grew to a dim, fuzzy glow. In the bed, a forehead and short-haired top of head could just be made out; the rest of the body was covered with blankets. Obi-Wan was fast asleep, giving snuffled sorts of snores that were muffled by the covers. Qui-Gon shrugged out of his dripping wet robe and hung it on the hook beside the door then moved slowly across the room.


            He inched the covers down just a bit to allow more fresh air to get to his padawan. Obi-Wan slept on his side, curled nearly in a ball. One hand lay limply, palm-up, beside his head on the pillow. He had his favorite royal blue blanket clutched to his chest and had buried the lower half of his face in it, allowing it to brush against his chin, lips, and cheek. The rest of the blanket was wrapped around him, separate from the rest of the covers, as though he’d had it around him first and hadn’t bothered taking it off before climbing into bed. “Poor thing,” Qui-Gon whispered, smoothing out the blankets then running his hand tenderly over his padawan’s short, soft hair.


            He stood beside the bed for a while like this, petting, and getting used to the sounds and rhythm of Obi-Wan’s congested breathing. Feeling useless and unable to help, he finally decided he should head to the kitchen find something to eat and catch up on his work. He crossed the room silently, without his rain-soaked robe to weigh him down this time, and pushed the pad by the door to turn the lights back down. He paused a moment, debating whether to shut the door or not. But before he could make up his mind, he heard a rustling from the bed and turned.


            Obi-Wan’s eyes fluttered open briefly, just long enough to focus on his master, then quickly shut again. “You’re hobe,” he breathed with some relief and smiled.


            “I am,” Qui-Gon replied, his voice soft, smooth, and just above a whisper. “And you finally fell asleep, I see. Good for you.” Since this had begun, Obi-Wan had been trying to get just a bit of rest. But he was either too restless or too sneezey, and for a while both at the same time. But it looked like he’d finally had a bit of sleep at least. Qui-Gon knew he would need more if he were ever going to start feeling better. “Why don’t you try to go back to sleep? I’ll just be out in the common area reading if you need me.” He turned back around to leave, but from the bed behind him he heard coughing. Loud and harsh. Qui-Gon turned on his heels and went back to the bed. His voice was no longer soft, but strong and worried. “When did you start coughing?” He put his hand to the young man’s forehead but could neither feel nor sense any fever.


            Obi-Wan pushed himself up on an elbow to breathe a bit better. “It’s just frub the cogestiod.” He said, clearing his throat. “The cold’s still just id by…” He paused to lift his hand and swipe at his nose with a wet sniffle. “Id by dose. Dod’t worry ‘bout be.”


            A box of tissues sat on the headboard, and Qui-Gon pulled several out. “Did I sound worried?” he asked, settling down on the edge of the bed. He pressed the tissues to Obi-Wan’s nose, and the young man blew gently though he was so very congested that it made little difference a moment after.


            “You…” Obi-Wan coughed and cleared his throat. Then he took a deep breath in and out. “You always soud worried whed I’b sick.”


            Qui-Gon nodded and smiled. He wiped Obi-Wan’s nose clean with the Force-padded gentleness needed to keep from hurting Obi-Wan’s red nostrils. “I suppose that’s so. But you sound stuffed-up,” Qui-Gon said softly, giving Obi-Wan’s head another comforting stroke. “It’s difficult to watch you feeling sick and uncomfortable when there’s nothing I can do.”


            “You do a lot,” replied Obi-Wan, closing his eyes. It seemed for a moment that he might drift off to sleep again, comforted by his master’s presence. But his brow furrowed and his face tensed, eyes shutting more tightly, eyebrows raising, jaw dropping. Qui-Gon readied another handful of tissues and held them close to Obi-Wan’s face, but not touching. “ehhh… eh-PIFChhhhh! EHPFTschhhh!” He rubbed his face into the tissues, snuffling with congestion. Qui-Gon sensed another sneeze on the way, confirmed by how Obi-Wan’s face screwed up except for his jaw, which remained dropped, and eyes, which opened though they were slightly teary. “ehhhh-eh-hehhh…” Frustrated that it was taking its time, he rubbed his nose deeper into the handful of tissues. “ehhhh… ihhh…” Suddenly he tensed, and pulled back, looking up for a brief moment. “Hah-” His eyes shut and he fell forward, face back in the tissues. “ehhhPFFTChhhhh! Ahh…” He blew his nose and relaxed again. This was more like it had been all day. Constant sniffling and sneezing without the possibility of rest.


            “I’m going to get you some more tissues,” Qui-Gon declared, peering into the box. “And some tea, would you like some tea?” Obi-Wan nodded weakly, hugging the covers to his chest. Qui-Gon bent and placed a kiss on his padawan’s forehead. “All right, then. I’ll be back in a few minutes. You sit tight.” He forced a few clean tissues into Obi-Wan’s hand and tucked the blankets around him.


/ O \


            Obi-Wan watched as his master walked across their quarters. Lights sprang to life as Qui-Gon passed them, hand raised, palm facing the lamps or switches. Obi-Wan could see their quarters grow brighter as lights came on, one after the other. First the side table lamp by the sofa, then the overhead light in the main area, then the light which overlooked the table, and finally the light over the stove which buzzed when it was on, though Obi-Wan could not hear that well from the bedroom. He could hear the soft rush of water from the tap and the clink of the kettle as it hit the burner. And he might have been able to hear Qui-Gon setting the massive jar of tea leaves onto the counter had it not been for another sneeze which struck at precisely the same time.


            “ehhhhIHHChhhh!” Obi-Wan had had no thought to the tissues right in his hand. He had been sneezing all day, and apart from the few hours alone after Qui-Gon had left, he had had Qui-Gon to tend to his nose for him. In those few hours when he’d been alone, there had been no one to see him sneeze and no reason to cover his nose. Frankly, he was too tired to bother doing anything he didn’t need to do. The nap had been helpful, yes, but far too short. Yet there was little chance of getting back to sleep any time soon with the sneezes coming as strong and as fast as they were. “ehhhKTChhhhhh! hehhIHHShhhhh!” They shook his whole body, making him cling to the blankets for support, though they had little to offer in the way of stability as most had become untucked at the foot of the bed if they ever even had been tucked in the first place. His body shook as he took in a raspy breath, “huhh…” and seized up tightly as the tickle lingered with him a moment longer just before the sneeze struck, “ehhhHShphffftttt!” He found his nose unexpectedly pressed into a fresh wad of tissues. Obi-Wan needed a moment to center himself, but no time at all to figure out what had happened. His eyes still tightly closed, he said, muffled into the tissues, “Thag you Qui.”


            The Jedi Master smiled and shook his head. Obi-Wan saw neither, but sensed both. “No need to waste your energy on thank you’s. Just give me a few good blows and we’ll call it even.”


            “Hardly a fair trade,” Obi-Wan said, muffled into the tissues. But he took a deep breath, which caused him to cough a little. He took another breath and quickly blew his nose into the tissues, feeling Qui-Gon gently pinching his nose through them to help him out. After two large blows, Obi-Wan drew breath for a third.


            “Wait,” Qui-Gon commanded softly, taking them away by way of wiping Obi-Wan’s nose. Qui-Gon pulled the last two tissues out of the box on Obi-Wan’s bed and cupped them gently to his padawan’s nose. “There, all ready now.” Obi-Wan blew again, another few times. It seemed to get easier to blow for a while, then harder again. He gave up somewhere after number five or six, his whole body slumping back weakly into the pillows and blankets. “Better?” Qui-Gon asked, giving his nose a gentle rub, though it still hurt a little to Obi-Wan, who winced.


            Obi-Wan had little energy with which to shake his head. “Dot really,” he admitted. “Blowig by dose does’t seeb to helb adybore. I’b just so stuffed ub.” Quickly, he opened his eyes, looking up as Qui-Gon sat down on the edge of their bed. “Ub, but I do abbreciate it.” He didn’t want Qui-Gon to feel useless and leave him alone. His master might not be able to do much for him, but Obi-Wan simply felt better with him around.


            Qui-Gon set a fresh, just-opened box of tissues on the headboard and took the empty one down. He spent a few minutes picking used tissues up from the covers and stuffing them into the empty box as he let the tea cool a little. Then he set the box aside to toss into the trash later. “Ready for some tea?” Qui-Gon asked.


            Nodding, Obi-Wan tried to gather the energy to both extricate himself from the nest of blankets and sit up. But he found Qui-Gon’s hand on his shoulder, holding him down before he was an inch off the bed. “No, Padawan. Don’t push yourself. Let me help you.” He set the tea aside carefully then pulled Obi-Wan up and out from beneath the covers. He carefully pulled the blue blanket to Obi-Wan’s chest, tightening it as it wrapped around the young man warmly. He leaned Obi-Wan back against a stack of pillows he’d raised, so Obi-Wan was sitting just enough to be able to drink. Then he took the cup back, blew on the surface, and handed it over again.


            The sick padawan accepted it with both hands, shivering as he realized how warm it was and how very warm he wasn’t in comparison. He blew into it as well, and cautiously took a sip, then a bigger sip. He froze as he considered the tea for a moment, cup still pressed to his lips. “Is something wrong?” asked Qui-Gon concernedly. “It’s not too hot still, is it?” He took the cup back and took a sip for himself, finding it warm but certainly not hot. There was a gentle mix of sugar and honey in the strong, fruity tea. Sweet, just as his padawan liked it. He handed it back so Obi-Wan could at least have its warmth.


            “Dot the teberature,” Obi-Wan explained. He took another sip and paused after it in contemplation before swallowing. “It’s just that I cad’t taste it at all. It’s wet add warb. I dod’t taste ady tea.”


            “Oh, Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon sighed with sympathy, for his padawan had been through two cups of tea just that morning and had thoroughly enjoyed them then for all aspects including taste. “Your nose is truly stuffed. I’m so sorry.”


            Obi-Wan shook his head. “Dot, sniff! Dot your fault. Sniff, Sniff! I’b sure the tea tastes great.”


            Qui-Gon collected a few more tissues, holding them up in offering. “Here, you’re sniffling a lot. And I know you say it doesn’t help much, but why don’t you—”


            “Doe,” Obi-Wan refused with a shake of his head. He lowered the cup of tea. “Dod’t wadt to blow by dose because I’b…” His voice wavered on the edge for a moment. “I’b godda…” He let out a deep, shaky breath. One of Qui-Gon’s hand wrapped around his on his cup to keep it from spilling. The other pressed the tissues gently to the bottom of Obi-Wan’s nose. Though the sneezes had already started building, Obi-Wan was determined to finish. “Godda sdee…eeze!” he managed on a high note. Then the young padawan gave a few heaving breaths that puffed up his chest and made him tilt backwards a bit. “heh-ehhh-” He warned his master by forcing the breaths with a bit of vocalization. The corners of his mouth turned down in a frown, and Qui-Gon held the tissues more tightly in place. “EHKgshuffff! Heychfffff!


            Obi-Wan froze for a moment after the sneezes, which had thrown him forward so that his shoulders were hunched and his head bowed. Qui-Gon had sensed his movements and followed his nose with the tissues precisely. Obi-Wan gave a soft cough from his congestion and tried sniffing again. But his nose was too stuffed to let a bit of air through and he coughed again. He felt a gentle nudge through the Force from his master, and he quickly took a deep breath and, resignedly, blew his nose. It was a disheartening sound, and he winced even with his eyes already closed so as not to have to see his master’s worried look. Qui-Gon brought fresh tissues for more, and Obi-Wan obeyed and blew, though little good came of it.


            He pulled away from the tissues, knowing full well how terrible he sounded. With his free hand he swiped at his nose in annoyance. Then he felt his master’s hand slip off his, and he took a few sips of the now cooling but still utterly tasteless tea. “Awful cold.” Obi-Wan turned a little onto his side, still resting against the mass of soft pillows and retreating into them partially to hide himself.


            But Obi-Wan smiled through his misery as he noticed how his master had squeezed himself onto the bed. One leg hung over the side, resting on the floor to support him, lest he fall off. The rest of him was on the bed, but just barely. He had not wanted to make Obi-Wan scoot over to one side or the other, and instead took what space he could on the side. But, noticing this, Obi-Wan did scoot over a little. At least, he moved enough to let Qui-Gon sit on the bed, both long legs stretched out in front of him. Then Obi-Wan came back, snuggling into his Master’s chest. He still clutched the mug of tea, taking small sips, but now he sat against his master who was strong, warm, comforting. He could feel his master’s heartbeat against his arm. He could feel soft breaths against his face. He could feel the arm wrap around him and cuddle him closer, blanket and all. The steam from the tea was soothing, though it was dying away. And he clung to his master instead of the blankets, finding what he needed there. Enjoying the feeling of being taken care of, Obi-Wan closed his eyes.


/ O \


            Obi-Wan’s eyes flew open and his head snapped up as he realized he had nodded off for a few moments. “What—” he started, desperately, finding that he no longer held the cup. And instead of his arms sticking out of the blanket, the whole blanket was wrapped around him to keep all the warmth inside.


            “Hush, love,” Qui-Gon whispered, and kissed the top of the fuzzy head. “You fell asleep for just a few minutes only. I didn’t want you to spill the tea so I took it from you.”


            Obi-Wan found everything else just as it had been. He still sat in bed, covers to his waist, leaning sideways against Qui-Gon. “Few bidutes odly? Sniff! Agh…” He rubbed his hand against his nose and gave a few strong sniffs to keep his runny nose back. “Are you certaid?”


            “Yes,” Qui-Gon reassured him softly, with another loving kiss to his head. “You’d barely fallen asleep, I promise. But you’re dreadfully tired, Padawan. Why do you not just relax and try to sleep again?”


            “Wadt to stay ub,” he murmured, fighting the urge to sleep. “Wadt to stay with you. Dod’t wadt to wake ub add fide you gode.” He snuggled closer. Both of his master’s arms wrapped around him in a hug. “Dod’t wadt to biss a secod, sniff, a secod of, sniff- sniff, of you. Sniff! Argh!” Obi-Wan rubbed fiercely at his nose, trying to get it to behave itself.


            “Relax, Padawan.” That was the commanding voice of Qui-Gon the Jedi Master, not of Qui-Gon the lover. And though it tickled and ran, Obi-wan obeyed at once and left his nose alone. Qui-Gon lifted a tissue and rubbed the nose carefully, then left the tissue in place to catch any more runs. “Your head cold will get no better if you do not take care to listen to what your body is telling you. We spent the whole morning trying to get you to sleep. And if what it takes for you to sleep is for me to leave again, then I will do so immediately.”


            With strong objection, Obi-Wan shook his head. “Doe, Baster. Sniff!” Qui-Gon rubbed at his nose some more as he continued. “I’d like you to stay. I’ll try to sleeb agaid if you stay. I’ll listed to by body bore. I’ll listed to the Force.” He could think of nothing more to promise, so stopped at that, hoping it was enough for his master.


            Qui-Gon stroked his head gently with an approving nod. “If you will do all these things, I shall stay.” Obi-Wan nodded and immediately closed his eyes to try to sleep. His body was indeed telling him to do so. He was in perfect warmth and comfort, and it seemed his body wanted him to take advantage of that. However, his nose was telling him that it needed to be blown and needed to sneeze. Obi-Wan found this conflict between sleep and sneezing a difficult one to resolve.


            But not for nothing was Obi-Wan the apprentice of Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Trained well in the ways of negotiation, Obi-Wan quickly set to work on the dispute. He slipped slowly into the first stage of a basic relaxation meditation to appease his tired body as he dealt with his nose. It tickled fiercely, and he tried to calm it. He sniffled and managed to lift a heavy hand to swipe at his nose. But it demanded satisfaction. So tired was his body, however, that by the time he understood he’d have to sneeze at least a few times to appease his nose, he couldn’t lift his hand. Obi-Wan gave up weakly to both the fatigue and the sneezing, just living in the moment. “huhhhEKShfffffff!” He sneezed, pitching forward but finding himself falling into another mass of tissues. He opened his eyes weakly to see Qui-Gon holding them again. Qui-Gon stroked his head gently, making him close his eyes again to savor the touch.


            He knew he was supposed to be sensing himself, not his master, and focused his attention back towards himself. There was another sneeze there, waiting and wanting to show itself before it would even consider letting him sleep. “hehhh…” He could feel it building in his nose, and though he knew he should probably fight it, his instincts were telling him to just relax and let it go. “ehhh… heh-kehhh… HUHKshhffff! Ehggshhhffff! ehhhHihshfffff! ehhh… ehh-hehhh… hehGshuffff!” He felt the tissues being lovingly rubbed against his nose, but Obi-Wan had not the energy to blow his nose again. The sense of relief which accompanied the release was overwhelming as it spread from his nose to the rest of his body. Utterly exhausted from the sneezes, he fell into a deep sleep.


/ O \


            When he woke, it seemed as though he’d only just fallen asleep. Every part of him was still tired, but his mind again turned away from himself and toward Qui-Gon. He wanted to be sure the man was still there. Qui-Gon was, though Obi-Wan was not sleeping against him any more. At least, not in the same sense as he had been when he had fallen asleep. He was lying against the bed and pillows now, but he and Qui-Gon were still touching. Qui-Gon’s arm was around him, and Obi-Wan was snuggled close against his master’s side. Qui-Gon sat back against the headboard, a datapad in his hand. He looked from it to Obi-Wan once he realized his padawan was awake. “Obi-Wan,” he said softly, with a smile. “Had a good sleep?”


            Obi-Wan nodded, sniffling. He had indeed had a good sleep, though it was already feeling too short. He thought of shaking his head upon this realization, but did not want Qui-Gon to worry needlessly again. When he reached up to push down the datapad to see what his master was reading, his arms felt much less heavy. “Basic bedicidal sciedce?”


            Qui-Gon smiled and nodded, tipping his head towards the datapad. “Basic medicinal science,” he repeated, his voice clear. “I thought it might come in handy.” Obi-Wan knew that it was clearly not for the next mission and gave his master a doubtful look. “All right,” he said with a sigh. “I’m tired of not knowing what to do to make you feel better.”


            Rubbing a finger against his nose, Obi-Wan shrugged. “This is just a bad cold id by dose. I’ll recover just fide.”


            “I am certain of that,” he said with a very firm nod. “But it is not only this time. I worry every time you come down with something, as you pointed out to me earlier this afternoon. I simply thought that if I educated myself a little more, I might come up with some new way to help.”


            “Add as I told you before, you do help,” replied Obi-Wan. “Id lots of… of ways-ehhh-heh-CHISHhhhhhh!” The sudden sneeze took them both off guard and Obi-Wan clapped a hand to his face in embarrassment, determined to do better about the next few sneezes he already felt coming on. But a hand pulled his away, and replaced it with a soft tissue. Obi-Wan nuzzled into it, his nose feeling sniffly and runny and the tissue feeling so dry and soft. His breathing was stuffy and shallow, and led easily into a series of small coughs. Qui-Gon was just about to suggest he blow his nose when the sneezes chose to strike. “hehhKTchfffff! huhhhShuffffff! ehhhKchfff!” He snuffled further, rubbing his nose into the tissue, and then he pulled back with a deep breath.


            Qui-Gon seemed to be having trouble juggling the datapad and tissues in one hand, as his other arm was still wrapped comfortingly around Obi-Wan. “Set the databad dowd, Baster,” Obi-Wan said. “You dod’t deed it to take care of be every secod.”


            Feeling that he was better off trusting his padawan, he agreed and put the datapad down. Then he cuddled Obi-Wan closer to him and gave him a tight squeeze of reassurance. Obi-Wan took the liberty of snuggling even closer, sitting up a bit again to lie against his master’s front. “So,” Qui-Gon said, giving a deep sigh to relax himself as well. “It is getting quite late into the evening. How is your appetite and have you any meal requests?”


            Obi-Wan shrugged. “Wod’t be able to taste adythig. But I would eat adythig if you bade it for be.”


            “Mmm,” Qui-Gon mused, smiling. “Time for me to get out my recipe for that stew—”


            Obi-Wan groaned. “Adythig but that, I beadt to say!” He buried his face in his master’s tunic, as though hiding from the very idea of eating it. It had been full of rubbery bits that tasted like roof tar and extra chewy little things that were so spicy his eyes had watered and his teeth hadn’t been able to break them apart, so he’d swallowed them whole.


            “It’s all right,” Qui-Gon soothed, stroking the back of his head again. His padawan had taken to growing his hair out a bit longer in the back, and it was nearly long enough now to be pulled into a very attractive and still relatively conservative ponytail. Nothing like his own of course as Obi-Wan did not have that sort of freedom of style as he was only a padawan, but in a way it was a little flattering to know his padawan wanted to follow in his master’s example. “Just a joke,” he assured Obi-Wan. “I only missed your smile and had hoped it might make a brief appearance at that.”


            Obi-Wan looked up and gave a weak smile before burrowing back into his master’s warm chest. “Sorry,” he whispered. “I’b just feelig too sick to fide adythig fuddy.”


            Qui-Gon wrapped both arms around his padawan in a hug. His sleeves were long and thick, and the blanket so warm around Obi-Wan that he felt pleasantly caught in a nest made especially for him. He nuzzled his master’s neck and kissed it in appreciation. “My Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon returned the kiss with one to the top of his head. He cradled his young padawan and lover in his arms. “Oh how I wish I could make this cold go away. I just see you all sneezy and sniffly and snuffly and I want to be able to free you from it all. But all I can do is endure it with you, making you as comfortable as possible while it is upon you.”


            “That is edough,” Obi-Wan replied.


            Shaking his head sadly, “No, it’s not.”


            “Yes,” Obi-Wan insisted. He pulled his hand out from the warm nest and rubbed his nose. “Yes, it is. It’s all I deed.” He closed his eyes in contentment but did not sleep. He rubbed at his nose and sniffled against the collar of his master’s tunic.


            “Sounds like you need tissues, too,” Qui-Gon said, pulling a few from the box and wedging them between his neck and Obi-Wan’s face. “Want to try blowing your nose again?”


            Obi-Wan shook his head but snuffled into the tissues all the same. “Does’t helb.” He coughed from the congestion, his head warm and full, his nose running. His nose was so stuffed-up, he couldn’t even feel it leaking until a drip hit the sensitive skin beneath his nose, and that made him shiver with embarrassment, unable even to sniff to keep it from happening. He could only breathe heavily in and out through his mouth. He coughed again. Qui-Gon shot him another look which reminded Obi-Wan to listen to the needs of his body. “Well, baybe I’ll try,” Obi-Wan said quickly. He took a deep breath and blew his nose, while Qui-Gon held his nose through the tissues firmly to make it easier. When done, he still felt terribly stuffy, but his nose wasn’t quite so runny which was certainly a preferable improvement.


            “That’s a good man,” Qui-Gon said softly, kissing Obi-Wan’s head. Obi-Wan rubbed his cheek into his master’s shoulder in appreciation. “How about we start dinner off slowly with some tea first?” he suggested. “I took the liberty of asking Mace to bring over some things while you were sleeping, and we’ve got some nice new teas.”


            Remembering the warmth the last cup of tea had brought, Obi-Wan nodded his head. “Tea souds good.” He sniffled and pulled himself off Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon took a few tissues and stuffed them in Obi-Wan’s hand, then set the box on Obi-Wan’s lap as he propped the man up against a great pile of pillows. He kissed Obi-Wan’s forehead lightly before heading out of the bedroom. Truth was, Obi-Wan wasn’t exactly feeling hungry enough for dinner. If he had to try to eat at all, he very much liked Qui-Gon’s idea of easing slowly into it.


            Obi-Wan sniffed hard and rubbed the tissues under his nose, and then he just held them beneath as his nose began running again. Curious, he summoned over the datapad his master had been reading and looked it over. His master had been reading about proper treatments for fever, especially in survival types of situations. Obi-Wan chuckled and closed the current file, pulling up instead the list of communications addressed to Obi-Wan himself. Several of his age-mates had contacted him about minor matters, or just to see how he was feeling. These all followed a notification from the council which explained that his duties had been suspended until he was well and caught up. Obi-Wan dropped the tissues in order to manipulate the touchscreen to reply to a message from Bant.


            “Ah-ah,” Qui-Gon said disapprovingly. He snatched the datapad from Obi-Wan’s hands, took a glance at it, and then set it aside. “If I’m not allowed to do some simple reading, neither are you. And you’re the sick one, so don’t you try to argue with me on that point.” He forced a cup of tea into Obi-Wan’s hands. “Now, you relax and drink. That’s all you have to do today, and if I must order you to do it as your master, I will. But I’d rather lie beside you as a lover. So no more thoughts about work.”


            Obi-Wan nodded obediently. It was pointless to try and disagree with Qui-Gon when he was so right. He blew across the surface of the tea until the steam was not visibly rising from the cup. It had a strange dark reddish tint to it.


            “Raspberry flavored,” Qui-Gon supplied.


            Obi-Wan took a small sip. Whether it tasted even remotely like raspberries or not, Obi-Wan could not tell. He could taste nothing. But the heat was nice and there was a small amount of steam from the tea that tickled his nose when we went to drink. Obi-Wan’s nose wrinkled and he sniffed hard through his nose, though the breath did not get far.


            He reached for the tissues, but Qui-Gon was already ready with two, pressed gently to Obi-Wan’s nose. Obi-Wan’s firm breath out through his mouth held his thanks to Qui-Gon, like a sigh of relief, as his eyes closed. “ihhh… Kshffff! Shefffff! hehhGshhffff! hehIhkshhffff! Hehhggxxshhhh! ihKSchhhffffff!” The sneezes were wet and forceful, but Obi-Wan had not spilled the tea. Qui-Gon started to pull the tissues away, by way of wiping Obi-Wan’s nose dry, but Obi-Wan grabbed his master’s wrist. “Ode bore,” he breathed, eyes still closed. “hehh…


            “Your nose still tickles after all that?” Qui-Gon asked, taking the tea from him with his other hand just in case.


            Obi-Wan breathed out again in an affirmative sort of way. “Yes…” he managed, the word just riding his heavy breath. “Ode… bore ihhh sdeeze…” His nostrils twitched and his mouth turned down. He pushed his nose further into the tissues as the rest of his body pulled back with a deep breath. The urge was strong, stronger than he expected, stronger than it had seemed at first. “Baybe… baybe bore thad ode-IHHHShhhfff! hehUhChffff! hehShufffff! hugChufffff! ehhhShooffff!” After the sneezes, and a brief pause, he pulled back, nodding. “That’s it for dow.”


            Qui-Gon wiped his nose dry with a fresh tissue. “All right, my Obi-Wan?”


            Obi-Wan nodded with another heavy breath. Simply sneezing was robbing him of much energy. “You have such a soft touch,” he said, brushing his fingers across the back of Qui-Gon’s hand as the elder man finished with his nose. “Thang you.”


/ Q \


            Qui-Gon kissed Obi-Wan’s temple as he handed the tea over again. The Jedi Master settled down on the bed again beside Obi-Wan but did not take the man up in his arms or cuddle him close. “I’m letting dinner simmer,” Qui-Gon explained. “I need to get up in a few minutes and check on it.”


            “What are… we havig?” asked Obi-Wan between sips and sniffles. The tea was warming him and soothing his throat, but also clearing up his nose a little, making it run.


            “I thought soup and sandwiches would be good,” Qui-Gon said. Obi-Wan rolled his eyes. “Yes, I know I make it frequently when you’re ill. But that’s because it’s quick and good for you. Besides, it’s not the standard soup. It’s a new one you’ve never tried before. It’s a little spicy, which is supposed to help a cold.”


            “Did you read that id Basic Bedicidal Sciedce?” Obi-Wan asked. By the way Qui-Gon smiled and hesitated to answer, Obi-Wan already knew.


            “You said you’d eat almost anything, remember? Now drink your tea.” He petted Obi-Wan’s side. Obi-Wan remembered his statement, and he still knew he would, even if he wasn’t very hungry. Qui-Gon got up, not long into the tea, and went back to the kitchen area. He stirred the soup in its pot and did a quick taste test to see how it was coming along. Then he gathered up what he needed to make the sandwiches. He knew Obi-Wan wouldn’t really be able to taste them, but he wanted to make something good all the same.   


            The Jedi Master returned to a sneezing Obi-Wan who had finished as much tea as he could handle. “IhhhShhh! hehChuhhh! huhShhhh! ehhhShooo!” Obi-Wan was sitting up in bed, hunched over, sneezing without restraint or cover. His nose twitched and nostrils flared with each oncoming sneeze. “hehh… hehIHHShhh! ehhhShuhh! huhhChuhhhh! Sniff, SNIFF!” Obi-Wan grabbed a tissue wearily and blew his nose, one-handed. “By dose is startig to rud a lot agaid,” he informed Qui-Gon once he’d opened his eyes to see that his master was there. “Sniff! Sniiiffff!” he sniffed to demonstrate his point, smiling.


            “That’s a… good thing, yes?” Qui-Gon said, settling down on the side of the bed with a small tray in hand.


            Obi-Wan nodded ardently. “Less bressue id by head. Less stuffidess. Sniff! Sniff!” He blew his nose again. “It’s still adoyig, but at least dow, sniff, I cad breathe a little, sniff, through it add blowig helbs, sniff, dow.”


            “Well, that does sound like an improvement of sorts,” Qui-Gon said, trying to sound reassuring and cheerful when really Obi-Wan looked and sounded no better at all to him. “Why don’t we try some dinner then?”


            “Ode bobedt,” Obi-Wan requested, holding up a finger. He took a few more tissues from the box then blew his nose forcefully into them several times. On the last blow, he winced. Not only did it hurt to blow his nose as it was sore, but he apparently blew his ear out. He opened his mouth wide and moved his jaw back and forth until his ear popped back to normal. Then he sighed and tossed the used tissues to the foot of the bed. “Okay,” he said, looking over the tray as though it were a task he’d been assigned. “Food.”


            There were two bowls of soup, though one was significantly smaller than the other. And one plate held half a sandwich while the other held a full sandwich. “I thought I would start you off with smaller portions tonight, since you said you weren’t hungry,” Qui-Gon explained, gesturing to the food.


            Even the small bowl of soup looked like a formidable obstacle to Obi-Wan at present. Qui-Gon placed the tray on his own lap, holding it with one hand to keep it steady, while he stirred a spoon around in the smaller bowl. Then he lifted a spoonful to Obi-Wan’s mouth, giving a bit of a nudge with the Force. Obi-Wan ate it then nodded. “Dot bad, but as I cad’t really taste adythig…” He coughed a few times and shivered. “But it is warb. I’ll give it that.”


            “Good,” Qui-Gon said approvingly, handing the spoon over to Obi-Wan so he could eat at his own rate. “You’ll be all right eating, won’t you?” he asked, watching as Obi-Wan very heavy-handedly dipped his spoon into the soup. Obi-Wan nodded and demonstrated that he could eat. He wasn’t very fast, or very accurate, or very hungry, but he could eat. Several times his arms grew too tired to reach for his sandwich, and he let them flop onto the covers to rest a while before trying again. Several times Qui-Gon abandoned his own meal to assist when Obi-Wan looked to be in need. But after nearly an hour, both men were fed and the food was gone from all dishes. “How did you like it?” Qui-Gon asked, as he cleared the tray away. “Could you taste anything at all?”


            Obi-Wan gave a weak shrug. “Dot really. But I’b sure it was good if you bade it.”


            Qui-Gon made a production out of rolling his eyes before taking the tray to the kitchen and cleaning the dishes. “More tea?” he called from the kitchen area, up to his elbows in suds. “Or maybe some juice or water?” He was too far away to hear Obi-Wan’s answer, as the young man could not call out very loudly in his current state. “Juice it is then,” Qui-Gon nodded, after popping back in and out of the bedroom to check with Obi-Wan.


            But Obi-Wan was asleep when he returned, sprawled out over the covers and snoring lightly amidst the blankets and balled-up used tissues. Qui-Gon sighed and shook his head. “Oh, my Obi.” He took a gulp of the juice, and set the glass on the nightstand. Then he pulled the blankets up around Obi-Wan, covering him warmly and kissed the young man lightly on the forehead. Obi-Wan twitched in his sleep and gave a weak smile.


            Qui-Gon was, admittedly, tired as well. Taking care of Obi-Wan came with its own set of demands. It required much energy to deal with the stress. Qui-Gon decided upon a short sonic shower followed by quiet meditation across the room from Obi-Wan. The young man’s snores were hypnotic, sending him to some plane of existence where Qui-Gon felt helpless and useless, and where he could not reach Obi-Wan. His padawan and lover was far away, enveloped by a weakening illness which only time and sleep could pull him from. And Qui-Gon was forced to sit by, watching and worrying.


            During the meditation, the force took the edge off his emotions. It removed the ache and worry. It removed the helplessness and longing. And it filled the void with reassurance and confidence in his Padawan. It filled the void with understanding and patience. And when Qui-Gon emerged with a grateful nod to the Force, he felt more assured that his simply being near was helping Obi-Wan in immeasurable ways.


            He reached out through the Force to Obi-Wan, giving him a soft pet physically to match as he returned to bed. Once he slipped beneath the covers, Obi-Wan snuggled up to him, not just for warmth but for familiar comfort. It was how they always slept nowadays. Obi-Wan rarely used the sleep couch in his room for any reason. When starting out as lovers, they’d slept in bed together, keeping a cautious distance. But neither had been able to sleep much like that. There had always been touching in their relationship, even before it had turned physical. And now they rarely slept apart.


            Qui-Gon drifted off to sleep, his arm around Obi-Wan, his cheek against the top of the man’s fuzzy head.


/ Q \


            But he woke not much later in the middle of the night. The bed was moving, the cause of which was Obi-Wan sitting up in bed. He was breathing heavily, a hand clamped to his nose and mouth. “Obi-Wan?” whispered Qui-Gon groggily. He had not slept well, snapping awake at nearly every one of Obi-Wan’s strong snores. Now he sat up and instinctively wrapped an arm around the man. “Are you all right?”


            Obi-Wan nodded, now rubbing a finger furiously back and forth beneath his nose. “By dose is ticklig so badly…” he exhaled hard, face caught in concentration. “Cad’t… hahhh…” His finger paused as he waited a moment hopefully. Then he shook his head and rubbed again at his nose, his fingers getting a bit wet from the way his nose was running. “Cad’t sdeeze,” he complained. Then, lifting his head and looking at Qui-Gon, “I’ve beed tryig dot to wake you. But it’s drivig hahh… drivig be crazy.”


            Qui-Gon squeezed Obi-Wan’s shoulders reassuringly. “No need to continue trying to be quiet.” He was already awake, after all.


            Obi-Wan nodded again. His mouth hung open, and his breathing was deep, heavy. In fact, it could be heard as he breathed in and out not just in breaths but from a light rasp in his chest. Qui-Gon frowned at this sound, worrying that his padawan’s cold might have traveled to his chest overnight. But there were more pressing matters at hand. Obi-Wan was panting, desperate for a sneeze that seemed reluctant to come out.


            “ehhhh… hahhh…” His eyes narrowed in concentration, feeling the sneeze rising.


            Qui-Gon pulled several tissues out of the box, holding them as a bunch in his hand. At the desperate, breathy sound in Obi-Wan’s voice, Qui-Gon lifted the tissues up to his nose for him, and tightened the squeeze around his padawan’s shoulders.


            Obi-Wan’s breaths sped up, and then caught. “hehh… heh-hah-HIH—” Qui-Gon held the tissues in place tightly as Obi-Wan froze in place. But no sneeze came. Obi-Wan sighed deeply and shook his head. He relaxed, first at the shoulders, then everywhere else. Another false alarm. All that time spent trying to keep from sneezing, and now it seemed he couldn’t actually get himself to sneeze when he wanted to.


            Qui-Gon lowered his hand and kissed the side of Obi-Wan’s head. “It’s all right,” he whispered. “Just be patient and relax.”


            “Cad’t…” Obi-Wan muttered. “I hab to… sdee… sniff! sdeeze…” he said, rubbing a finger at his nose at the annoying tickling within. He gave a cold shudder and his mouth turned down in a frown. Then he reached back, waving his hand, gesturing for the tissues again. Qui-Gon obliged, lifting them to his face for him. “hehh… hahh… ehhhh…” He froze again, eyes tightly shut, body tensed. Then he relaxed with a cough and shook his head to indicate the sneeze had once more backed away.


            This time, Qui-Gon could think of nothing reassuring to say that would help. He, too, could sense the sneeze there. And he knew it was important for Obi-Wan to be patient and wait for it. But his young padawan learner was snuffling and coughing with every ounce of strength he had left backing the urge to sneeze. He wanted it out, and did not seem to be able to make it happen. Qui-Gon pet the side of Obi-Wan’s head as he lowered the tissues. Obi-Wan acknowledged his touch with a partial nod cut short from a cough. The congestion was becoming too much for him. Qui-Gon raised the tissues halfway, silently asking if Obi-Wan wanted to try blowing his nose.


            “Dot yet,” he replied with a strong sniff that did not let any air in. “Wadt to get this sdeeze out first.” He coughed and sniffed again. “It’s beed half ad hour id cob… cob…” His body seized up again, and Qui-Gon quickly raised the tissues up to his nose in preparation. “heh-ehh… ihhhhh… HUH­-” But as quickly as the feeling came, it dissipated. Obi-Wan sighed and his shoulders sank again. A frustrated look was plastered upon his face, as he panted heavily through his mouth, unable to breathe through his nose. After every few breaths, he tried to sniffle or he rubbed at his nose. The need to sneeze was still filling his nose. It just refused to come out.


            “Obi-Wan?” Qui-Gon said softly, “May I use the Force to try and help?”


            Obi-Wan nodded heavily, and coughed. He seemed willing to entertain any idea just now as long as it resulted in finally sneezing.


            Qui-Gon gently set a finger at the bridge of Obi-Wan’s nose. The pad of his finger was warm and heavy. Qui-Gon closed his eyes, collecting the Force around him, and inside him, and channeling just a bit of it out to Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan’s nose buzzed from the sensation and he pulled his head away, so as not to sneeze on Qui-Gon. His breath raced, chest rising and falling. “eh-heh-ihh-heh-” Qui-Gon readied the tissues again, sure this would finally be it. Obi-Wan’s brow furrowed and his face screwed up, then it went slack. His mouth hung open, his deep breath made him pull back. “uhhhhhh…” But then there was nothing. Obi-Wan froze in place, tongue nearly hanging from his mouth. Finally he sighed and tried to sniff, and shook his head again in a gesture that was making Qui-Gon start to lose patience as well.


            “I am sorry,” Qui-Gon said, relaxing beside him. He looked down at his hands and the fistful of tissues all resting in his lap now. “I felt sure that would—”


            “EHGShhhhhh!” Obi-Wan pitched forward with a sudden, unrestrained sneeze. The sneezing did not stop with one, however. “HEHGShhhhh! ahhhKShuhhh! ehhhKUHSHhhhhh! Heh-ehh-EHGGUSHH! ehh-HEH-SHHHH!” He put a hand out, steadying himself on the bed, as each strong sneeze tossed him forward and each deep build-up breath pulled him back. “ehhhhh-HUHSHhhh! uhhhhKUHShhhhh! IHGGYShhhhhh!” With the last sneeze, Obi-Wan groaned and when he sniffed back his runny nose now, it was a loud, liquid sound.


            “Blow?” Qui-Gon offered, holding up the tissues. It figured that the one time he had not reacted quickly enough had been the time Obi-Wan finally sneezed. Unlike earlier, Obi-Wan nodded in firm agreement with the idea to blow his nose, and then he buried his nose in the mass of tissues Qui-Gon held for him. He blew his nose over and over again, sounding better and better with each. Qui-Gon got new tissues as needed, careful to keep his nose dry but not hurt the red, chapped parts with too much rubbing.


/ O \


            With the last blow, Obi-Wan made to fall back on the bed against the blankets and pillows. Instead, he fell back against Qui-Gon, who had positioned himself there for precisely that reason. Obi-Wan sighed deeply as he came into contact with the warmth and firmness of his strong master instead of the fluffiness of the bed. He turned and curled, coughing, closing his eyes. “There now,” Qui-Gon soothed, wrapping both arms around the younger man and squeezing. “Everything’s all right now.”


            But everything was not all right. Obi-Wan felt horrible. The first sneezes of the day had already taken much out of him. And, unfortunately, they were far from the last sneezes. Under his master’s urging, Obi-Wan tried to fall back to sleep again, but the sneezes kept them both awake.


            Once, without warning, he sneezed a half dozen times into Qui-Gon’s chest. And for every sneeze, there were a handful of attempts that built up and got stuck in his nose. Obi-Wan was starting to lose all the patience he had left when it came to his feeling any better. When the time came to eat, heralded by Qui-Gon’s tummy making needy, rumbly sounds, Obi-Wan hadn’t managed a wink more sleep. He refused breakfast, even when Qui-Gon made eggs and toast and brought it over. He drank a little bit of tea, but the sneezes kept getting in the way of that as well.


            Worse yet was the congestion that came with the sneezes. He coughed frequently from it, and it made his head throb terribly. He could not get comfortable enough to sleep with it plaguing him, no matter how warm and soothing Qui-Gon’s arms around him were. The day before, he had been unable to sleep for the whole morning. But now he could not even manage to get comfortable. He tossed and turned, feeling the urge to complain about his misery but releasing it to the force so he would not.


            Qui-Gon noticed his padawan’s struggle, of course. “How about a nice hot shower?” he suggested. “To soothe you and free your breathing a bit?” Obi-Wan lifted his head and nodded heavily. He wasn’t too sure about getting up for one, but he hated the idea of lying in bed, restless the rest of the morning. “All right,” Qui-Gon said, sounding forcibly cheerful. “I’ll just run the water. Give it a minute or two to warm up and then come on in.” They didn’t often take real showers with water. Such things were impractical when sonic showers would do just fine in half the time.


            Obi-Wan gave it five minutes then crawled across the bed with a tissue balled up in his hand just in case. When he stood, his head went light and dizzy. A moment later he found himself sitting on the edge of the bed, clinging to the bedsheets for support. After composing himself and blowing his nose again, he headed over to the ‘fresher and managed to stay upright during the rest of the trip.


/ Q \


            A stream of water poured down from the spout onto Qui-Gon’s hand as he tested it. Sensing Obi-Wan before he heard the sniffles, he shut the shower stall door and turned with a smile. “Shower’s ready whenever you are.” Obi-Wan began stripping down, moving as though in slow motion, coughing and sniffling all the while. Steadied by Qui-Gon’s arm around his waist and his congestion loosened by the steam filling the room, Obi-Wan blew his nose as much as he could.


            On his way into the shower, however, he paused, cocking his head. “Will you cub id wid be?” he asked, still sounding stuffy despite all the blowing. “I’b feelig a little…”


            “Weak?” Qui-Gon finished for him. Obi-Wan nodded. “All right, then. Get in where it’s warm before you get chilled and I’ll follow just behind. Hold onto the bar on the door” As he shed his clothes, Qui-Gon kept an eye on his padawan to be sure he was all right. Then, once in the shower along with him, Qui-Gon wrapped his arms around the younger man from behind in a strong, sturdy hug. “Feeling steady now?” Qui-Gon murmured into Obi-Wan’s ear, nibbling on it a little. It was hard to resist the young man, wet and naked and leaning back into his erection the way he was. Obi-Wan nodded again, closing his eyes and snuffling a little from the heat and steam. “Just relax,” Qui-Gon soothed him. “I’ll take care of washing.”


            With a soapy washcloth in hand, he rubbed gently against Obi-Wan’s skin. Neck and arms first, then torso. By the time the washcloth made it to Obi-Wan’s stomach, the padawan was sniffling almost constantly. “Steam getting to you?” Qui-Gon asked, running hands over Obi-Wan’s chest to help wash away the suds.


            “Jusd sniff, sniff, by dose ruddig. Sniff!” he replied, lifting a hand to rub beneath his nose. “Dod’t deed to sdeeze jusd yet.”


            “That’s good to hear. Breathe deep, Padawan Mine.” Qui-Gon rinsed off the rest of the soap quickly, and set the washcloth on the bar on the stall door. Then he slipped from the stall with a shiver, wiping his hands off on the hand towel by the sink until they were reasonably dry. He plucked out a half dozen tissues and returned to the shower stall with them, pulling Obi-Wan out from beneath the hot spray for just a moment. He hugged Obi-Wan to keep him warm, though they were both a bit shivery in the absence of the hot water. Obi-Wan was far better after blowing his nose copiously. And there was little more sniffling for the rest of the shower. “I cad albost breathe through by dose,” Obi-Wan said, grinning. Qui-Gon got back into the shower to resume his task. As he set to work washing Obi-Wan’s legs and feet, he looked up with a happy expression as well.


/ O \


            They lingered in the shower together a long while after the washing and rinsing was through. Obi-Wan leaned against Qui-Gon for support, feeling so comfortable and warm that he could imagine falling asleep right there on his feet. But, with wrinkled fingers and more shivering, they finally turned off the water and opened the shower stall door. At once, Qui-Gon wrapped his padawan in a large, thick towel and then in his arms. He towel-dried Obi-Wan’s hair, which was short enough that it would dry quickly. Obi-Wan shook with cold, and Qui-Gon rubbed his hands up and down Obi-Wan’s back to warm him.


            But that didn’t help. Finally, Obi-Wan broke away and, shivering, grabbed for the change of clean sleepwear Qui-Gon had brought for him. His hands shook so much he had trouble putting the clothes on. But, once he had, he felt warmer. He let Qui-Gon steer him out of the warm bathroom and into the living area. He assumed they would go back to bed; he practically lived in bed when he had a cold this bad. But, instead, Qui-Gon took him to the couch where a nest of blankets waited for him, including his favorite blue one.


            Obi-Wan wasn’t sure how or when Qui-Gon had managed this, but he didn’t think twice before burrowing in, snuggling up with the blankets and curling himself into a ball until he stopped shivering with cold.


            Then Qui-Gon was there with a cup of tea and a kind touch. He wrapped himself around the ball Obi-Wan had made of himself and nuzzled in close, with his beard rubbing Obi-Wan’s cheek and lips pressed to Obi-Wan’s temple. He had never felt so warm and loved as when he felt terrible and miserable and his master took care of him. It was almost worth all the sneezing just for this moment, these touches, and this overwhelming sense that Qui-Gon would use every means at his disposal to make him feel better.


            “Tea, my Obi-Wan?”


            Obi-Wan nodded. “Yes blease. But hah but first…”


            “First, a sneeze?”


            Obi-Wan nodded again. “hehh-eh-EHGTChhhh!” Tissues dabbed at his nose, conveniently in place to catch a second sneeze. “h’IHGTTtxxxx!


            “Any more?” Qui-Gon asked lightly.


            “Dot just dow,” Obi-Wan answered and gave a little shiver. The blankets had slipped down during the small sneezing fit.


            But Qui-Gon pulled them back up into place. He took special care with Obi-Wan’s blue blanket, pulling it up and around Obi-Wan’s head so it resembled the hood of a Jedi cloak. But also it came around in the front, the exquisitely soft end brushing Obi-Wan’s sensitive lips. Obi-Wan couldn’t help but tilt his head and nuzzle his face right into the material. And though he sniffled, the touch still comforted him immensely. A tissue touched his nose. A mug of tea was pressed to his lips. Warm arms wrapped and hugged and stroked. Obi-Wan relaxed. He relaxed so well he very nearly fell asleep.


            “hehh-IHGtschhhh!” He sneezed into tissues without even asking for them. Somehow, Qui-Gon had just known. He nuzzled into the tissues, which his master wiped gently at his raw, hurting, streaming nose until it was better behaved, though far from healed.


            “There now,” Qui-Gon soothed. “You have all you could want. You have your favorite blanket and your tissues and your tea and your master and the Force.”


            Obi-Wan smiled contentedly. It was true. There was nothing more he wanted, apart from the ability to once again breathe through both sides of his nose simultaneously. Unable and unwilling to dislodge the blankets again, he reached out with the Force and embraced his master through their bond. It was hard to convey whole-heartedly how much he appreciated Qui-Gon’s care.


            “Oh, Padawan Mine,” Qui-Gon breathed, dropping a kiss on Obi-Wan’s head. “Even ill, you overwhelm me with your affection. I only wish you felt better already.”


            “Sood,” he said, hoping that were true. It certainly seemed that with so much care, he couldn’t help but get better soon. Obi-Wan craned his neck and took a sip of the tea Qui-Gon held for him. He only managed to drink half the cup before it started cooling off. And, by then, he was falling asleep and couldn’t help doing so. Falling asleep in his nest of blankets. Falling asleep in his master’s arms.


/ O \


            When Obi-Wan woke, he did so abruptly, coughing from the thick congestion stuffing his nose. He found that one of Qui-Gon’s arms was still wrapped protectively around him. The other had been pulled back and a large, strong hand stroked his hair with an almost impossibly gentle touch. He considered allowing himself to drift back off to sleep, but a question danced in his mind and would not be denied. //Did you stay here the whole time I was asleep, petting me like this?//


            Qui-Gon’s other hand patted Obi-Wan’s chest and lips pressed to the top of his head. “Of course. I will care for you as long as it takes.”


            A strange, unsettling feeling came over Obi-Wan. He felt somehow removed from the world, removed from time. He had no idea what time of day it was or, in fact, even what day it was. He had no mission, no work, no responsibilities. All he had was this terrible head cold and his Master holding tight to him, keeping him tethered to the world just as he kept him tied to the Force sometimes when Obi-Wan was struggling. It had been many years since he’d been a young padawan, in need of his master’s guidance, but he felt as if he needed his master more than ever just now.


            “EHHFFFGIHShhhhhh!” As he was tossed forward suddenly, his nose brushed against a bit of his soft blanket. He pressed his nose against the fabric, breathing warmly into it. His lips brushed the blanket next, and he would have kept nuzzling if his nose hadn’t started tickling again. But the urge to sneeze was so strong, so undeniable. “eh-ehhh-eh-HEFSchhhh! HFGshhhhh!


            The back of his master’s gentle hand stroked his cheek, making a place for itself, squeezing in with a tissue. The tissue wasn’t as soft as his blanket. But his nose ran into it and the sniffliness was almost too much to handle. “Sniff! Sniff, sniff!


            “No need for that, Obi-Wan. I have plenty of tissues for you.”


            So Obi-Wan blew his nose and coughed and snuffled and blew some more. But the tickle stayed put, as if it might never leave his nose. “EHHKTShhhh! Eh-HehSHFshhhh! ehhhPpfftchhhhhh! EhPIHSchhhh!” Qui-Gon switched tissues for him, pressing a fresh, dry one cupped to his nose and mouth even as Obi-Wan’s nose continued to twitch. “ehhh-IHPTchhhhhh! ehhhhHPGSchhhhh!


            “So sneezy,” Qui-Gon murmured.


            Obi-Wan nodded his head. “So… so sdeh… eh…ehhhh… HPTSChhhhhhhh! So sdeezy,” he agreed.


/ Q \


            Qui-Gon could hear the congestion in every breath his padawan took. The thick wheeze in through his mouth, not his stuffed-up nose, and the rasp in his throat on its way out. The coughs and sneezes were hard indicators to miss, but this cold had overtaken every part of the younger man. And Qui-Gon felt so helpless to a degree he hadn't felt since perhaps back when he was a padawan, still finding his way in the Order and the Force. There had to be something he could do apart from plying Obi-Wan with tissues and tea every twenty minutes.


            “Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon said, nudging him by dropping his nose into the short hair and almost nuzzling. “I have something that might help you feel better.”


            It was telling as to how bad Obi-Wan felt that he did not insist he was already feeling better. All the tissues and tea and touching was good, but apparently not enough to combat this cold. Obi-Wan lifted his head, his eyes shining bright and hopeful. “What is it?”


            His heart melting, Qui-Gon kissed Obi-Wan's forehead and cupped his chin with a large but gentle hand. “Come.” Together they rose, leaving behind them the pillows and most of the blankets. But Qui-Gon carried one knitted blanket and Obi-Wan's favorite blue blanket stayed wrapped around him as the padawan shuffled across their quarters after his master. Qui-Gon sat him at the table and put the kettle of water on the stove.


            “Bore tea?” Obi-Wan asked. He looked sick to death of tea.


            “Not this time.” Qui-Gon searched around in some of the lower cabinets until he pulled out a large bowl they normally only used if they were trying to cook something large... which was not often, given their skill levels in the kitchen. As soon as the kettle began to whistle, rest of the plan came together in a sudden, graceful confluence so that Obi-Wan found himself hunched over a bowl of steaming water with his master's arm around him and a blanket draped over both their upper bodies. Qui-Gon was taller, even sitting down, and the blanket sloped down on all sides, creating a warm tent. “Breathe deep,” Qui-Gon instructed.


            The dutiful padawan did as his master commanded, breathing in the moist air. At first, there was no change at all. Obi-Wan's breaths were still thick with the terrible cold and the misery it came with. If anything, they sounded even worse. 


            So Qui-Gon was not at all prepared for it when it began to work. All at once, Obi-Wan's eyes grew wide before his eyelids drooped. His nose gave a tickly sort of twitch and then he snapped forward, suddenly. “ehhh-HIFTCHHHHH! Oh...


            Stroking Obi-Wan's back, Qui-Gon whispered, “Are you all right?”


            “That felt... woderful.” At once, he leaned forward again, taking another deep breath then another and another. His congestion began to loosen and the tension in his body melted away. Everything was warm and wet and welcoming. Repeatedly he wiped beneath the nose with a tissue, not wanting to sniff. And when his nose grew tickly again, he turned and buried his whole face into his master's chest, the blanket sliding down his back as the distance closed between then. He let loose with a whole barrage of sneezes he seemed not only unable to stop but unwilling to. “ehhhh-Phftshhhhhhh! EhhPTschuhhhh! Ihhhptshhhhhh! Ih-Hihhhhhkuhshhhhhhhh! Uh-huh-huh-EhhhhhFschhhhhhh!” He nuzzled over a little, nose searching out a dryer spot of his master's robes. And Qui-Gon kept stroking his head, hoping this would finally be some amount of help. “eh-ehh-Ihshuhhhh! Ehhhpihffshhhhhhh! Ihhhktchhhhhhhh! Hih-Ihhhhktshhhh! Ih-ih-IHyishhhhhhh!


            Obi-Wan wiped his nose with a final nuzzle and lifted his head. He opened his eyes and the greatest look of relief came over his whole face.


            “Better?” Qui-Gon asked.


            “So b’much better,” Obi-Wan agreed, his voice sounding so nearly back to normal that Qui-Gon could not help but feel relief as well, even with his robes dirtied.


            He ushered his padawan back to the couch, where he stripped out of his robes and built what amounted to a nest out of pillows, cushions, and blankets. With Obi-Wan nestled against him just right, Qui-Gon used the Force to wrap more blankets tight around them. At first, he worried them might be too tight, but Obi-Wan beamed happily and hugged Qui-Gon's arms around himself tighter as if he could not get enough of the embrace.


            “I never want another cold this bad,” Obi-Wan said, his eyes closing again, but not because he needed to sneeze another sneeze. “But if I do happen to catch one, I hope I'll have with me everything I need.” He smiled sleepily. “My tissues and my blanket.” He rubbed the lower half of his face against the soft edge of his blue blanket. “And most of all, my master.” As Qui-Gon dropped light kiss after kiss to the top of his head, Obi-Wan fell asleep. It looked as if it might actually be a peaceful sleep this time.