Ben stood outside the infirmary, his head turned to watch the receding forms of Bruck Chun and his master, Adi Gallia. Even as the distance increased between them, he could hear the Jedi knight speaking to her padawan, although he couldn't quite make out what Bruck was being told. Probably a lecture, much as he knew he was going to hear soon.
Swinging his head back in the other direction, Ben studied the man beside him. Qui-Gon Jinn, Jedi master and his bondmate. Something in Qui-Gon's blue eyes told Ben that now was not the time to talk, so he remained quiet as they walked the halls of the Temple on their way back to their rooms.
Once the door closed behind them, however, Ben rounded on the older man. "So?"
"So?" Qui-Gon removed his robe, hanging it neat the door, then moved to the small kitchen. "Would you care for some tea, a'shera?"
"No." Ben blew out a breath as his frustration mounted. Trust Jinn to play obtuse with the situation. He dropped onto the couch, rubbing a hand over his still-sore ribs. "Get on with it. I know you want to lecture, we might as well get it out of the way."
Qui-Gon returned from the kitchen, holding steaming mugs of tea in each hand, offering one to Ben, who took it with a muttered oath. Seating himself next to the younger man, Qui-Gon took a sip of his brew, then shook his head. "No, I have no desire to 'lecture' you about the incident of several days ago or anything else. Both you and Padawan Chun were at fault, and I believe that you know that. What is important is that you both learned from the situation."
Ben offered a smirk at that. "No lectures, eh?" He took a drink, noting that Qui-Gon had prepared a blend that he had expressed a preference for. "I could have killed him, you know."
"I know. The fact that you didn't is much appreciated by Master Gallia and myself."
"I almost did," Ben continued as if he hadn't heard his lover's interjection. "For a moment there I was Obi-Wan Kenobi again. I knew how strongly he felt about Chun and he - I - wanted nothing more than to beat his face into the ground."
"It is a good thing that Adi and I arrived when we did then, isn't it?" Qui-Gon remained quiet for a moment, waiting for an answer. When none was forthcoming, he continued. "And yet I see that you managed to keep from doing just that while you were incarcerated with him. I'm sure there was ample opportunity; why didn't you do it?"
Ben sighed, the current of air causing the steam rising from his mug to circle and weave patterns in the air in front of him. "Because I couldn't. The person that Obi-Wan knew is no longer; he's changed just as I have. I don't think either of us realized that until we were forced to confront it."
He took another drink, then gave a half-smile. "Besides, he made me laugh."
Qui-Gon's expression turned to one of amazement. "He made you laugh? I am impressed! I shall have to let Adi know that her padawan deserves a commendation."
Ben set his mug down on the table beside the couch, resting his elbow on the arm of the furniture and letting his head fall into the palm of his hand. "I told him you would say exactly that."
"I'm glad of that." At Ben's perplexed look, Qui-Gon smiled. "It means that we are getting to know one another better, a'shera. Why would I not be pleased with that?"
Ben turned, resting his back against the arm of the couch, pulling his knees up in front of him, his expression now solemn. "At this point, I feel I may know you better than I know myself. How many more of Kenobi's memories are lurking, waiting to provoke me into actions I wouldn't normally consider? I'm not him any longer, but neither am I myself."
He sighed and pushed off of the sofa, moving to the window to watch the flow of traffic against the brightly lit sky, not noticing Qui-Gon's approach until the older man wrapped his arms around Ben from behind. "The past shapes you, no matter who you are. Remember, you've only just discovered who you were. Give it time, a'shera, and you'll come to terms with it. The roads we've traveled are important more for what they teach us than for what we have seen along them."
"And what of the roads we didn't travel?" Ben tilted his head back, resting it against Qui-Gon's shoulder, relaxing against the other man's body. "What do they teach us?"
"To live with regrets and missed chances." Qui-Gon's voice was so soft that Ben almost missed the answer. "What we have not done as much as what we have molds us."
"And how do you know if you should do something?" Ben's arms covered Qui-Gon's, and his hands unconsciously rubbed at the warm skin beneath them.
"That is when you trust in the Force for guidance, but ultimately the choices are yours alone."
Ben huffed out a laugh at that. "Why does that not offer me much in the way of consolation?"
Qui-Gon smiled and kissed the side of the younger man's head. "Perhaps this would bring you more of that then: The Council has heard of the lessons you were giving, and they have an offer for you."
"What? Stop and they won't throw me out?"
"Ben..." Qui-Gon's voice held disappointment. "They would not do such a thing." He ignored his bondmate's shrug and continued. "They would like for you to teach those classes officially, to the padawans and those knights and masters who wish to take part. The Order has become somewhat remote from the day-to-day, I fear. Perhaps this is a step toward bringing us into line with the rest of the universe."
Ben turned in the circle of Qui-Gon's arms, staring up at the older man incredulously. "They want me to teach the padawans? After what happened? Pardon me for not quite being able to swallow that one."
"Nonetheless, it is true. If we do not break out of our insulation, I fear that we will be blinded to those who are not so hindered. You told me yourself that none of us would last in the Arena on Golgatha. I believe that to be true."
"I may have been wrong in that respect. If nothing else, you would have survived, of that I am sure."
Qui-Gon tilted his head, studying his bondmate seriously. "I'm not sure if that was a compliment or not, a'shera. Care to enlighten me?"
"Not that I would wish it on anyone, but you have the skills to last there. In such, it was meant as a compliment."
"Then I thank you. There is one more thing, though."
"And that is?"
"For you to be able to instruct the padawans in all manners of fighting, you should be able to spar against them with blades, yes?"
It was an answer that required no thought at all. "That would come in handy."
The Jedi chuckled at his lover's dry tone before turning serious again. "There is one problem with that."
Ben thought about it, then nodded. "Practice blades don't approximate your light sabers."
"There is a solution to that. The Council has granted permission for you to build one for use in the training sessions."
"I am not a Jedi, that isn't allowed."
"There can be exceptions to all rules. You have the knowledge, you have the rudimentary training, and you certainly have the experience. If there are things you've grown rusty on, I can spar to sharpen those skills, both with the blade and with the Force."
"I don't know..." Ben turned back to the window, resting his forehead against the transparisteel, lost in thought. He could feel Qui-Gon behind him, but the other man made no move to hurry his decision or influence it.
It all came back to choices. The damned path you chose and the one you didn't. For all of his youth, Obi-Wan Kenobi had strived for what was now being offered to the man he had become. He searched for the catch and could find none except for the fact that this would bind him closer to the Temple and to Qui-Gon.
"All right. If I'm going to do this, I should do it correctly." Ben could feel Qui-Gon's relief like the sun on his back, and he allowed himself to believe that this time he had made the right choice.
Turning brusquely, he continued. "So when do we start?"
"Right now if you wish."
Ben nodded. "Then let's get started. The longer it takes, the staler my class is going to get."
Qui-Gon chuckled, pulling the younger man in for a brief hug, one he was pleased to see that Ben didn't pull away from. "Come with me, a'shera, and we'll begin.
"You know, somehow I don't remember it being that difficult to put together." Pushing past Qui-Gon, Ben headed toward the couch, collapsing onto it, mentally exhausted.
"You're too hard on yourself. You've made more progress in one afternoon than most do in a week." Qui-Gon leaned over the back of the sofa, setting his hands on Ben's shoulders and massaging at the tension he felt there. "Just because you remember how to do something doesn't mean your hands will automatically do it, not without practice."
Ben sighed, his head falling forward as he felt himself relax under his bondmate's touch. "I know. It's just that I can see how it should look; the pieces don't seem to fit that way."
"Give it time," the Jedi master counseled. "Obsessing about it is not going to make the work go any faster. You need to relax, a'shera. You do have classes tomorrow."
The fighter turned his head, smiling back at Qui-Gon. "The speed at which they filled up is almost frightening. Are you sure there aren't going to be any problems over this?"
"Ben..." Qui-Gon's stern answer was cut off by the sight of the other man yawning. "The only problem will occur if you happen to fall asleep in the middle of your classes and let the padawans get the best of you. To avoid that, I would suggest we get to bed, all right?"
"I'm not going to argue with that one, Jinn. Hells, it feels like someone's been beating on my head with a spanner." Ben's head fell back as Qui-Gon shifted his hands to massage his temples, and he let out a soft sound of pleasure. Deciding he'd better move before he got too comfortable, Ben lurched to his feet. "Bed, right..."
Biting his lower lip to keep from chuckling at the other man's almost incoherent ramblings as he lumbered toward the bedroom, Qui-Gon followed, shutting off the lights as he went. Moving up behind Ben, he proceeded to assist him out of his clothes, then gave the younger man a small push toward the bed, smiling as he collapsed almost bonelessly onto the sheets. Pulling off his own garments, Qui-Gon soon joined his bondmate, settling them both under the light blankets, noting idly the way they moved together automatically, seeking body contact.
"Mind explaining why I'm so tired?" Ben murmured, shifting slightly to settle his head more comfortably on Qui-Gon's broad chest.
"Mental exercise can be more tasking than the physical, especially when it involves using parts of the mind that have haven't been stretched in a long while."
"Suppose that means I'll have to up my workouts then." Ben's hand ghosted over Qui-Gon's side, then he paused, frowning, noting how much more at ease he felt here in the other man's arms.
"What is it, Ben?"
"I still don't understand all this bonding mess. It's like I traded one addiction for another - stim-sticks for you."
Qui-Gon shook his head, his arms automatically tightening around the younger man. "I am sorry if it unsettles you. If I could explain it better, I would, but I don't believe that there's anyone who understands it fully. Something in each of us recognized the other and was drawn to it. Forgive me, but I cannot wish it were otherwise."
Ben lifted his head, his blue-green eyes dark in the shadows. "I don't know what I wish but... if it had to be someone, I am glad it was you, Qui-Gon."
The Jedi master closed his eyes for a moment, touched by this statement from his normally stoic and reserved bonded. "I am glad also." This said, he leaned in, brushing a light kiss over Ben's lips - one that gradually deepened as they acknowledged the need brought on by their time apart.
Hands roamed, re-learning the planes and angles of each other's bodies, as if even three nights apart were too much to bear. Soft moans and gasps for breath accompanied small shifts in position until both cried out as their bodies aligned perfectly.
The pace at which they rocked together remained languid, a long, slow buildup that culminated in the knowledge of shared pleasure as they felt the heated pulses of their seed between them. Now hands moved over sweat-covered skin, gentling and easing both down from the heights to blissful relaxation.
Qui-Gon reached for a towel and cleaned them up before collapsing back onto the bed, sighing in contentment as Ben reclaimed his position next to him again. One hand played idly at the hair at the nape of his lover's neck while the other rested around Ben's waist, holding him close as the Jedi drifted to sleep.
Ben remained awake a little longer, head resting on one forearm, watching the changes that came over Qui-Gon's face as he fell asleep. Reaching out, he traced a fingertip down the older man's cheek, feeling the contrast between his skin and the soft hairs of his beard. Swallowing hard, he looked away, sure that, this time, he had made the correct choice.
"Sleep well, a'shera," Ben whispered, closing his eyes and letting the darkness claim him, knowing that he wasn't alone.
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