Breaking Through



     Obi-Wan rubbed his forehead in thought, and in pain. His master had been distant lately, and it was starting to become a noticeable problem. He sat at his desk in a dimly-lit, rather disorderly room as the computer panel in front of him streamed with colors to indicate it was processing something important. He might have rather been in Qui-Gon's quarters, where it was always warm. Suddenly the screen froze in its efforts and began beeping. Startled, then pleased, Obi-Wan cleared his throat with a forced cough, then hit the button to open communications.


     "Obi-Wan!" came the soft, familiar voice. "I saw the tag and thought it might be Qui calling. What a pleasant surprise to find it is you!"


     Obi-Wan gave a polite smile. "Greetings Tala. You're not an easy person to find in the vastness of space. I must have called the healing dome a dozen times before getting a healer who actually knew you were off world on a medical mission. And then searching through transmissions..." He rubbed the bottom of his nose with his knuckles and gave a light sniffle.


     Tala nodded with a smile. The healer looked much more tired than Obi-Wan had ever seen him. His hair was brown and ruffled in every direction possible, his eyes a bit sunken. "I can be difficult to locate, though I'm heading back this evening. How are you?" He paused and before Obi-Wan could reply, "Assuming the rotten cold you have is the least of the reasons you called?"


     "Heh," Obi-Wan replied with another sniffle. "How'd you figure that one out?"


     "I'm off world," Tala replied, "not blind. I'm a healer for a reason. Now, you're drinking enough juice and getting enough rest are you? Taking care of yourself?"


     He nodded, feeling his nose tickle in response. He had so much to talk about; he didn't want to show how badly he felt. His nose wanted to run. "Yes, Tala."


     "Good. I do not want to hear word upon my return that you are otherwise. So, if you're ill and did not call for some friendly medical I correct in assuming this is in reference to your master?"


     Another nod, and yet another sniff. "When I caught cold, he assumed my duties upon his own, and did his best to care for me. And he of course caught it from me."


     "Yes, I know Qui-Gon. I've never met two Jedi's with such low immune systems as the two of you. Or perhaps your midi-chlorians tend to take a break on the subject of disease."


     "Yes, well, I've been trying to convince him to stay home and rest, that I'll do the work, but he won't hear of it. He's put up walls, Tala... and..."


     "Shhhhh," Tala hushed him, and Obi-Wan suddenly realized that he was much more outwardly emotional than he had meant to be. Or perhaps it was simply Tala's instincts picking up on them. "How sick is he?"


     Frankly, with a rub of his palm at his nose. "Worse than I."


     "And for how long?"


     "A day or two. And he doesn't look to be getting much better. But he won't let me in." His nose was running more now, and he could feel the familiar tickles and pricks urging him to sneeze.


     "All right." Tala's voice was calm, quiet, but Obi-Wan could sense the worry behind it. "Here's what I want you to do. If he does not want you about, you need to take care of him without his knowing. Do your best to let him know you are there for him. But don't force him into anything. Qui-Gon can be stubborn when he thinks he's right, and he can be strong when he's the weakest. If he's blocking out even his Padawan, there's something really wrong and you must do all you can to make him comfortable without pushing him outright. Do you think you can?"


     "I'll do my best."


     "Good. Please keep me posted. I shall come see you upon my return."


     "Thank you, Healer Tala." Obi-Wan quickly lowered his hand to the panel as he raised his other to his nose and mouth to sneeze rather viciously, "eehhiiiiiikshhhh!"


     He heard a light chuckling and looked up to see that the transmission had not ended and Tala was still looking sympathetically at him. "Arnup'tchow. Thought you'd closed communications, hmm?"


     Obi-Wan nodded, wiping his hand on his leg discretely.


     "Never seen a hologram sneeze before. Interesting. I'll end it now, then. Feel better, Obi-Wan."


     He needed to blow his nose badly, and thus kept his other hand over his nose. "Thags."


     The transmission ended and Obi-Wan pulled some tissues out of his severely depleted box. He then loaded his pockets with a few and headed out to find his master.





     The cafeteria, the venders, the gardens, the gym, the trade post, Qui-Gon seemed nowhere to be found including his quarters. On a hunch, Obi-Wan decided to next check the library. As soon as he entered, it was terribly obvious that Qui-Gon was here somewhere, as the sound of strong, muffled sneezes resounded about the quiet rooms. Shaking his head, the Padawan followed the sound cautiously. Qui-Gon sat at a corner table, facing outward, looking perfectly horrible. A tall stack of data pads, perhaps thirty or more, towered to his right. Several old-fashioned books sat in small stacks to his far left. Other pads were scattered about on the table amidst discarded handkerchiefs. The man looked sick as well, sallow, exhausted, hunched over his reading materials with a finger rubbing mindlessly beneath his reddened nostrils. Obi-Wan quickly ducked behind the closest bookcase. Peering out above the periodicals, his eyes caught a tall figure moving toward his master.


Looking up at his visitor Qui-Gon seemed to smile. It was Flora, the librarian with a large pot in her hand. "More tea, Master Jinn?"


     Qui-Gon tipped his cup toward himself to look inside before nodding. "Yes, blease." His voice was but a harsh, congested whisper. He hardly sounded like himself at all. And he felt as distant as if he were on the other side of the galaxy from his Padawan.


     The woman filled the Jedi Knight's cup and gave him a sympathetic smile.


     "Tha..." Qui-Gon started weakly, but let the sentiment trail off in order to snatch up a handkerchief that lay at the ready near one hand. He brought it to his face with both hands in order to muffle the sounds. "ummphh! hemuphh!" He then gave a very light, quick blow and rubbed the undersides of his nose with the cloth.


     "Bless you," she noted, looking all the more sympathetic.


     "Thag you," came his pitiful reply, before the librarian moved on.


     Obi-Wan noticed the tables on the other side of the library were full, but those immediately around his master were completely vacant. Seems others were afraid of catching whatever Qui-Gon had. Obi-Wan couldn't blame them... if he didn't already have it, he'd be scared as well; Qui-Gon looked and sounded awful. "uhMuphhh! Humshhhhh!" he sneezed again into a well-timed handkerchief. After another few blows, he sat back in his chair, as if trying to figure out why he wasn't allowing himself to be back in bed. He had a perplexed look upon his face, his brow wrinkled, his eyes squinting. Suddenly his expression changed to one of intense anxiety. His breathing was thick and heavy, his mouth hanging open, his eyes shutting closed. Panting, urging, waiting. His eyebrows raised, and he immediately raised the hanky with a violent flair of his nostrils. Only to freeze in place with an expression of complete agony upon his face. It lasted what seemed like full minutes, but was probably closer to a few seconds. Finally, he began lowering the handkerchief, only to snap it back into place for a quick and relieving, "uhWhuff! UhhCHushhph!" The Jedi Master blew his nose immediately, it sounded quite wet, folding his handkerchief and blowing again, and again until he seemed to have not even the energy to raise the cloth to his nose. He then wiped off his moustache and let his hands fall to the table, and his head tilt to the side in exhaustion. After a few moments, he seemed revived, and took up a data pad to read.


     If Obi-Wan had needed any evidence of his master's condition, it was now present in overwhelming abundance. He rubbed at his own nose to relieve a tickle, and selected a pad from the bottom shelves. After inserting it into a port in the bookshelf, he downloaded the first thing on the repository list, and loaded it up on the display as if he had every intention of reading it. He kept his eyes on his master as he slowly passed in front of him, behind the shelves. His eyes skimmed out through the spaces above the books and watched as Qui-Gon rubbed at his nose and tried to concentrate upon the material.


At the end of the shelf, Obi-Wan waited a moment, letting the time pass only so his master would not suspect for how long he had been spying. Then he rounded the bookcase and gracefully took a seat at the middle table, one in front and two the right of Qui-Gon's, with his back to his master. He began reading, his eyes working over the words but his mind taking in none of them. He was listening to his master's harsh breathing with some concern. Was he... wheezing?


     He had gone unnoticed for three skimmed sentences, and the beginning of a forth when Obi-Wan felt the need to cough. Raising a fist to his mouth, he let it out, and forced a small series with it. Then, he turned back to the data pad.


He had barely time to finish rereading the first sentence when at last he heard the interruption. //Padawan, what are you doing here? You should be in bed.//


     Obi-Wan wanted badly to answer that he thought his master should be in bed as well, but he blocked those thoughts with a thick wall as he answered, // I did not want to neglect my studies and I needed a change of scenery.//


     Qui-Gon made no answer to this and Obi-Wan assumed it was dropped until he felt warm hands upon his shoulders, which began to rub and massage. //Abarian anarchy literature, Padawan? Could you not just as easily read this back in your own quarters?//


     While trying to formulate a response, he could sense something building within his master, something that made his own nose tickle madly. Suddenly the hands were gone and the body behind him had reeled around to utter an oddly-sounding, "ehkkkish!"


     Obi-Wan turned his head back to see his master hunched over, a bent hand beneath his nose, his mouth half open, his eyes closed. Obi-Wan dug a tissue out of his pocket and offered it timidly.


     Qui-Gon, on the other hand, waved it off with a strong sniff to right the resulting runs in his nose. //Go to your quarters, Padawan.// He sounded stern, perhaps frustrated.


     Obi-Wan turned off the data pad to clear it and rose from his seat. He did not want to go back to his quarters, and he did not want to leave his master alone there. He wanted Qui-Gon to rest, to take care of himself. No... he wanted to take care of his master. Trying to think of something to say that would not make him sound adolescent, he paused there. Suddenly, something sharp seized him in his nose, and he put his hand up immediately expecting a strong sneeze.


Instead, one barreled out of Qui-Gon before the elder man had had a chance to stop it. "ehhhHuchhhh!"


Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow. "Master, I'm not sure you--"


     //Go, Padawan!// the Jedi Master said, his large hand spanning his nose and mouth. //I have much work and cannot be bothered.//


     He sounded so uncharacteristically threatening that Obi-Wan was scared not to obey and quickly left without a glance back. He had disagreed with his master over matters before, and it had never been his place to do so then. Why should this be any different? Obi-Wan was back at his quarters in minutes, collapsing onto the blanket-lain desk chair and wishing his place were big enough for a couch like the one in Qui-Gon's quarters. He would have liked to lie down to stretch out while doing some work and goodness knew his bed was not the best place for that else he would fall right to sleep. He went to work transferring some controls, so that all messages and announcements traveled directly to his accounts rather than his master's. If his master was not going to let him help knowingly, he would help from a distance. Besides, if it was an important message, he'd forward it on and Qui-Gon would be none the worse for the slight relief of duties. Pulling a blanket up and around his shoulders, and brining his legs up underneath him, he curled up in place and closed his eyes for a brief nap.





     When the young Jedi Padawan awoke, he found just a few messages awaiting attention. After taking care of them in as much as he could, he decided to pay another visit to Qui-Gon... to simply see how his master was faring. It was dinnertime already, and thus figured that his master had naturally left the library. But finding his master neither back in quarters nor in the cafeteria, he tried the library again. And there he was, still surrounded by a seemingly endless pile of materials. Several mugs sat at the edge of the table, and an additional balled up handkerchief or two were strewn about. His master looked just as bad if not worse. He had one hanky in his hand, hovering at his chest as his other hand held the datapad he was reading. While Obi-Wan watched, Qui-Gon raised it as if he must have done a hundred times before, covering up as he bent to the side. "ehhhKumphh! Umphhh!" he sniffed and rubbed at his nose, then lowered his hand a little and continued reading, looking like he might nod off to sleep at any moment.


     Obi-Wan felt a bit of a tickle and rubbed his nose with his palm as he ducked behind the bookshelves again. He didn't want Qui-Gon finding him, certainly not from a sneeze. Suddenly his throat tickled, but not in a coughing sort of way.


     Qui-Gon turned and buried his face in his arm as his body shook with coughs. His face was flushed when he looked back up, exhausted. His eyes narrowed and he looked around. His voice was thick with congestion, soft and scratchy with soreness, "Obi-Wad? Obi-Wad... is dat..." Obi-Wan felt a tickle in his own nose again as he watched Qui-Gon snap the handkerchief back in place. "ehhIhhshmmph! ehhhChushhph! effChumph! Hishummm!"


     Obi-Wan quickly ducked out of the library before Qui-Gon could finish blowing his nose and find him. How could he have forgotten his master's senses? He's probably detected his presence earlier in the library as well, which is why he'd said nothing when Obi-Wan had made his entrance in the first place. With a sigh, Obi-Wan headed to the dining hall for some food. On a whim, he decided to again follow Tala's advise about taking care of him without his knowing, and had a tall thermos of soup, a sandwich, and a glass of orange juice sent to the library for Qui-Gon.






     It was late at night when Obi-Wan again worked up the courage to check on his master. He stood outside of Qui-Gon's quarters, pressing the buzzer and leaning on the wall for support. He had a stubborn suspicion that he'd been pushing himself too hard running around that day. His nose had been uncooperative as well, stuffy and running all evening, more than his limited supply of tissues had been able to help with. His quarters were now practically littered with discarded ones, overflowing from the garbage cans. Currently, he clutched a handkerchief, rubbing at his nose every few seconds. "ehhHishooo! EhhhTuchoo!" he coughed to clear his throat. "Master Qui-Gon? Are you in?"


     No answer. Obi-Wan tried going in, but it seemed his master had changed the lock combination once again. Well, if he wasn't home, and it was nearly one in the morning... the library... still? Obi-Wan headed over.


     What he found when he peaked in this time was his master all right... though his master looked far from all right. The elder Jedi was asleep and snoring at the table, with empty tea mugs, drunken soup and an uneaten sandwich on the table before him. The table was covered in materials still, as if Qui-Gon had not done any work at all since Obi-Wan had last seen him. With a shake of his head Obi-Wan cleared the trash from the table and neatly stacked the resources with a note saying they were Qui-Gon's and please keep them reserved. He paused a moment then, wondering how to go about the rest. Qui-Gon was deep in sleep, dreaming of... of... did he have a fever? He was dreaming of red... of red pain and stinging, shooting fire in his stomach. Obi-Wan felt the man's forehead. Yes, a little too warm for his liking.


     //Master?// Obi-Wan prodded, catching glimpses into Qui-Gon's dreams that were growing more and more intensely dreadful. //Master? Time to wake...// He gently rubbed Qui-Gon's back. "Master?"


     Qui-Gon shook himself out of sleep, sweating and disoriented. "Obi-Wad? Where...?" he whispered, looking up at Obi-Wan, blinking, confused.


     Obi-Wan nodded, brushing his master's long hair back to wipe the sweat from his warm forehead. "Yes, I'm here."


     Qui-Gon surveyed the stack of reading materials, realizing where he still was. "I gotta read for de sedate beetigs Tuesday, add..."


     Obi-Wan turned his head to the side for a moment, directing a sudden sneeze into his shoulder. "ehhKishhh!"


     Qui-Gon, pausing a moment, looked up at his Padawan. "You're ill..."


     Obi-Wan nodded, sniffling. "Put me to bed, Master?" It was the best he could think of, but it worked perfectly. Qui-Gon rose, stiff and aching, and allowed his Padawan to wrap an arm around his waist for support. Support? It was for support, right?


Obi-Wan had a sudden tingle in his nose, and realized at once that it was not his own. He quickly pulled out a handkerchief and lifted it up to Qui-Gon's nose and mouth just as the man doubled over weakly with, "hehhUffchhahhh! HahEhhhshhhhoo!" Recovering with a deep wheeze, Qui-Gon's wise but tired blue eyes looked back to his Padawan.


It was a thank you look, and Obi-Wan knew it without a word being said. Obi-Wan resisted the urge to nod, or to hug him, or to... He simply said softly, "Bless you, Master." He let Qui-Gon lead, as if he had any choice in the matter; the man was hard to support from the side and back, let alone from slightly in front.



Qui-Gon went straight for his own quarters, once within he went straight for his bed. Obi-Wan sniffled and built up his courage before heading over to Qui-Gon's bedroom himself. He found the man sitting on the edge of his bed, bent over, one hand on his forehead, the other over his mouth with fingers pressing up against his nose. Obi-Wan hovered in the doorway, gripping the molding hesitantly.


     "Obi-Wad..." he called out in no more than a whisper, sounding less than hopeful. Had it been a call at all? Perhaps he had simply been thinking aloud.


     Either way, Obi-Wan made his presence known, coming in and sitting on the edge of the bed, facing Qui-Gon. "I'm here, Master."


     Qui-Gon said nothing, did nothing, save let out a very weak and tired yawn.


     Kindly, Obi-Wan set out to the task of putting his master to bed, as respectively as possible; he was this far already and was not about to do anything to strain the relations. His fingers found the sides of the man's robes at his neck, and gently eased them back until the robes slipped from his back and down his arms, then off the arms entirely. Obi-Wan could now see the man's light saber, a noble, beautifully crafted weapon. He wanted to touch it, to put it aside, but did didn't dare. So instead, he went for the bottom hem of the tunic, beginning to pull it up when Qui-Gon stopped his progress. "D'o Badawad... d'ot for you to do..." and as his words were strong and emotional, he sounded weak and out of breath. Yes, wheezing.


     Obi-Wan paused a moment, considering his next move, then removed his own robes, and went for his own light saber. He placed it gingerly on the bedside table with the soft words, "Tonight I'm not your padawan. I'm your--" Lover. How he longed to say lover. The word so light and delicious sat upon his tongue, waiting to jump off into all honesty. Lover. He wanted to say that word more than any other. "--friend." A sensation passed through Obi-Wan, concentrated at the nose, and he quickly whipped out a handkerchief, holding it to Qui-Gon's nose just in time as he uttered, "Bless you!"


     Qui-Gon then sprang forward, filling the handkerchief, "ehhhKumpshh! HehhEmpshhh! ehhhAhshmphh!" He sniffed strongly and Obi-Wan put a hand on the man's back.


"You need to blow your nose."


Without questioning it, Qui-Gon obeyed. His nose was full and stuffy and it was not until he was done that he realized what had happened. He looked over at Obi-Wan who, now wiping his moustache dry, seemed to have sensed the sneezes arrivals. He looked over at Obi-Wan, his tired eyes now wide and full of wonder. "Obi-Wad?"


     Obi-Wan nodded simply, folding the offending potions of the handkerchief inward and lying it down on the bed. Qui-Gon closed his eyes and fell forward, his forehead resting on Obi-Wan's shoulder. It was then that Obi-Wan was flooded with intense emotion. Pain, distress, illness, worry, fear, sadness, ache. He wrapped his arms around Qui-Gon in a hug, holding the man securely until they broke away. It took but a moment for Obi-Wan to recover from it, understanding the extent that his master had been holding back


     On the other hand, Qui-Gon seemed much relieved and much more exhausted. He quickly unbuckled his pants and pulled them off, along with his tunic. His silken sleepwear rested just to his side on the bed, and with Obi-Wan's help, he pulled them on and got under the bed.


     Obi-Wan tucked the covers around Qui-Gon, turned down the lights, and turned to go. But something caught him, holding him back. It was, he discovered, his master's hand grabbing the edge of his tunic. Qui-Gon looked up at him helplessly, shivering beneath the blankets looking, Obi-Wan decided, both ill and lonely. "Stay," was Qui-Gon's scratchy plea. It was not, by any means, the sort of command a Master gives his Padawan.


     "Yes, Master," was Obi-Wan's reply, slipping off his tunic, kicking off his boots, and sliding beside the weakened body of the Jedi Master. At first, they lay on their backs beside each other. But that was not a particularly good solution. Qui-Gon's breathing became strained within moments, and he coughed, having to sit up and massage his throat until they passed. Obi-Wan got up and returned with a glass of water. He then suggested Qui-Gon prop himself up with pillows and lie on his side as that helped him. They rearranged until Qui-Gon was comfortable, though with his back to Obi-Wan.


     Obi-Wan felt Qui-Gon sigh, then reached for the handkerchief again to cover another small series of sneezes. "ehhKishoo! EhhhHishoo! ehhh...ahhhChishhh!"


     Leaving the hanky there, "Go ahead and blow."


     Qui-Gon did as he was told, whimpering slightly as Obi-Wan rubbed his nose for him. He shivered again, feeling miserable, and as Obi-Wan pulled his hand back, Qui-Gon held it there. "Obi-Wad... will you..." he trailed off with a wet sniffle and a rub of his face into the pillow.


     Perhaps Obi-Wan didn't know what was to be asked... or perhaps he only wanted to hear it from his master. But whatever the reason, he asked, //Will I what, Master?//


     A pause, another sniffle, then the answer, //Will you hold me until I'm warm?//


     Obi-Wan's heart leapt, and he was sure Qui-Gon could sense it. He nodded and moved his hand back to where it had been, then pushed his other beneath Qui-Gon. He scooted his body against Qui-Gon's, spooning him tightly. The man was considerably larger than he, so his bent knees fit perfectly against Qui-Gon's, and his head rested comfortably on the man's silken shoulder. The man, he felt, was trembling slightly, chilled and ailing. //I will hold you until you tell me to stop, Master.// He felt the man tense up, and he held up the handkerchief, now able to see Qui-Gon sneeze. "Bless you."


"eehhhIhshhh! heptchuhh! ahhKetchoo!" Qui-Gon sniffed strongly, his body relaxing again. "I'b sorry..."


     Obi-Wan rubbed the man's nose as gently as possible, then wrapped his arms around, folding his hands on the man's strong chest. "No need to be... sor..." this time, he had to sneeze himself. He turned his head and angled it again into his shoulder, careful not to break his locked hands. "eehhhhsheeshhh! ehhhhChicshhhoo! Sniff, sniff!"


     Qui-Gon closed his eyes. "Bless you." He put a hand on top of Obi-Wan's folded hands. //You are ill... Are you tired, my Obi- Wan?//


     //I will stay awake and tend to you until you fall to sleep.// He hugged the man closer, wishing he could do more.


     He sniffed and turned his head into the pillow. //Thank you, my Padawan. Thank you my...// Obi-Wan sensed he was uncertain as to how to finish.


     So he interrupted. "Shhhh... sleep now, Master." Qui-Gon was feverish and sick... he didn't want the man to be regretful as well.


     Obi-Wan lay awake, long after the snores began emanating from the man he held. He'd been bothered by their relationship all day, as was evident by his call to Tala that afternoon. Qui-Gon was never so distant as he'd been that day, but for as many colds as he'd caught in front of Obi-Wan, never before had Obi-Wan the ability to sense so much as a discomfort within his master. So why had he this time? After many, many minutes of thought, he came to the conclusion that it was actually Qui-Gon's walls that had allowed it to happen. Through all the trying and caring Obi-Wan had been doing only the physically obvious had seeped through. Besides, such discomfort as that his master had been experiencing was too strong to deny, even with Qui-Gon's strongest walls up. It was natural, after all. If he could sense his master's thoughts, why not sense his master's sneezes?






     Obi-Wan woke late the next morning to find himself in the same spot, his arms wrapped securely around Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon was still asleep, snoring through a stuffy nose and dreaming of... of warmth and comfort, of beaches and sunsets, of love and contentment. But there was someone else there, moving about. Obi-Wan could sense the presence, could hear the movements, could see the shadows. His eyes strained, then closed as his senses strained. When his eyes opened once again, they were looking with pleasantness at Healer Tala.


     Tala put a finger to his mouth, but smiled at how he found the two Jedi's there. He held up a box of tissues, a small packet of tea leaves, and an odd-looking contraption which, when plugged in, seemed to fill the dry, cool air of warmth and moisture and a gentle white noise whirr.


     //I thank you, Tala.// Obi-Wan thought kindly, knowing Tala had not the ability to return conversation in thought.


     He whispered softly, with hardly a breath, counting on Obi-Wan to read his lips and understand well. "I shall visit again much later when you're both awake. How are you feeling?"


     Obi-Wan understood the healer meant Qui-Gon more than himself, and he answered accordingly. //I am much better. Qui-Gon's chills are gone, and he is a bit better.//

     "This will make you both better. Call me if you need me." He reached down and rubbed his hand on Obi-Wan's short, hedgehog cut.


     Obi-Wan noticed walls put up within the healer, but the smile on his face told the young Padawan all he needed to know.


     When the healer had gone, Obi-Wan looked upon his restful Master once more. Full of calm, full of peace. The new machine was making his own nose run, however, and he rubbed his nose into his shoulder so he wouldn't have to pull his hands out from the warmth against Qui-Gon's chest, beneath the blankets. Unfortunately, his nose had a different idea, and began to tickle madly. He rubbed it again into his shoulder, pressing his nose there hard in order to hold it off. But it was no use at all. "ehhhKgxxst! hept--xxst!" he sneezed, trying to stifle them, but not succeeding any.


     Qui-Gon stirred, coming out of sleep with a stuffy snort and a yawn. He looked back at Obi-Wan with a sweet smile. //You're still here,// he observed the obvious, as if it were a thank you. Because, in reality, that's exactly what it was.


     Obi-Wan nodded, eyes closed tight in concentration. He tried to control his breath, but the sneezey sensation was too much. "ehhKISHHH!" stronger and wetter after having tried to hold them back. Scared he might sneeze upon Qui-Gon, he broke his grasp and covered his mouth and nose hurriedly as his face fell with the urge again.


     "Bless you." His voice was less rough, but quiet, as if any loud word would break the magic of the moment brought from waking up in such warm, loving arms. The Jedi Master picked up the nearby handkerchief Obi-Wan had been using on his sneezes the night before, and offered it over.


     None too soon this, as Obi-Wan fell victim again, "ehhIhshhh! HehKishhoo!" he sneezed into the handkerchief, then began to give his nose a blow and rub.


     "eehhhHehshoo! ihhhChishooo! Ehhh..." the elder man had a fist beneath his nose, trying hard not to sneeze. "ehhh...ahhhCheeshhhh!"


     Obi-Wan smirked at the irony and handed back the handkerchief, then went for several of the tissues Tala had left for them.


     Qui-Gon, stuffy and congested, wasted no time in giving the handkerchief good use. "ehhhKetchoo! ihhheptchoo! ehhh...hehhh...iiihhhh..." he sat, mouth open, sneeze pulling out ever so slowly but tickling like mad. He looked terribly distressed.


Obi-Wan patted his back soothingly. "It's ok, just sniff, sniff, let it sniff, sniff, come when it wants."


Nodding, Qui-Gon agreed, then feel forward. "hehhIhkkkshhoo!"


"Good, good. Would you like some tissues to blow your nose?"


Qui-Gon shook his head, giving his nose a hearty blow then and there. "By doze is so... so...hept--" he was panicked, breath catching. "HEHSHHHH!" he sneezed ever so wetly. He sniffed, not lowering the handkerchief. He paused a moment, seeming to survey the situation. //Perhaps I will take a tissue after all.//


     Several were quickly supplied and Qui-Gon winced in pain as the roughness rubbed raw his reddened nose.


     Obi-Wan wanted badly to kiss it better, then allow his lips to fall upon Qui-Gon's, lingering there in beautiful discovery and enjoyment. But of course he did nothing of the sort aside from a soft, "Bless you."


     "Dag you," Qui-Gon replied, blowing still on his nose to clear the tickles from it. "Add bless you too."


     "Thank you," Obi-Wan whispered back. "And I am sorry to wake you with my sneezes. Sniff, sniff!" He turned onto his back, readying to get up. It took all his willpower to even think of leaving the warm, cozy bed. But he also did not wish to remain uninvited and created an excuse. "Shall I get you some sniff, sniff, tea and breakfast?"


     Finished with his nose for the time being, Qui-Gon turned over onto his other side, Facing Obi-Wan. //Not just yet, I think.// He draped his arm around Obi-Wan protectively. //I think I would like more of this.//


     Obi-Wan smiled at the response he had not been expecting. The man was neither chilled nor feverish to make the request this time. //But work, Master?//


     //To be wise is to know when work can wait.//


//Yes, Master,// he answered, to which Qui-Gon shook his head.


     //Not your Master this morning, my Obi-Wan. Not if you are still my...friend.//


     Obi-Wan closed his eyes with overwhelming relief. //If you'll have me, my Qui-Gon.//


     Qui-Gon closed his eyes as well, with a soft, knowing smile. //I would have it no other way.// He nuzzled closer, his head on Obi-Wan's shoulder. Obi-Wan wrapped that arm around Qui-Gon, wishing it were longer than to reach halfway down the man's back. He held Qui-Gon tightly, protectively. And when the man sneezed or began to sniffle from runny nose, he was there to hold the tissues gently so his master, his friend would not be forced to move. When the elder Jedi's nose had fallen into line, Obi-Wan's free hand found Qui-Gon's and held it with a tight squeeze.


     Squeezing back, Qui-Gon allowed himself to fall back to sleep.


     It was again a while before Obi-Wan himself drifted off. But this time it was not because he was worried or thinking. It was because he did not want to miss a moment of listening to Qui-Gon's heart beat against his own, or feeling the man's chest rise and fall with each deep breath, or watching the man's peaceful, sleeping face. When he woke, this might have all been but a dream. A wonderful, tender dream that--


     Qui-Gon stirred with a broken snore and a wet sniffle.


     Obi-Wan rubbed his nose gently, wishing the man back to sleep with some gentle waves of the force.


     As he drifted back, Qui-Gon mumbled through their bond, //Good enough to be the best of dreams, yes. But not a dream, my Obi-Wan.//


     The body grew heavy against Obi-Wan's once again, and with a reassured smile, Obi-Wan found himself joining Qui-Gon in much-needed blissful relaxation.