Title: Together
Author: Wolfling (
wolfling.msn@attcanada.net)
Archive: Yes to Master & Apprentice
Other Archive: www.hawksong.com/forest/wolfling.html

Rating: G
Pairing: Q/O
Spoilers: Some from TESB
Summary: Just where exactly was Qui-Gon when Obi-Wan was talking to Luke on Hoth?
Feedback: is gratefully accepted :)
Notes: This is the third story in the Second Chance series, sequel to Afterthoughts and Homecoming. Many thanks to Mercutio and Marnee for betaing.

Together

By Wolfling

It feels funny to have him back at my side.

We were separated for so many years -- decades -- almost three times as long as our time together had been. Those years had been exceedingly cruel to my beloved, pushing him to his limits and beyond, taking all that he could give and then demanding more.

And through it all, I could only stand by his side and watch. Unseen and unheard, except for the rare times when I was able to touch him during dreams or meditation.

It seemed like so little, but it was all I could do: go to him in his dreams and give him what comfort I could and only hope that it would be enough to sustain him.

For the most part it was; in all that time, through all that my beloved endured, only once did he falter. And through some miracle of love or the Force, that was the one time I was able to truly go to him, not in a dream or a memory, but in reality.

I was able to hold him and comfort him and even ease some of his guilt by giving him the absolution he thought he needed. And then I had to ask of him the hardest thing I ever had to.

I had to ask him to carry on, knowing that he would face years of continuing hardship and loneliness. And I had never been prouder of my former apprentice than when he stoically accepted the continuing burden, eyes full of sadness and duty.

Not that I ever had any doubt. My Obi-Wan was too honorable a man to leave before his duty was finished.

No matter how much he may have wanted to.

He carried those burdens for another two decades, and never again did he falter or stumble or lose his faith. He carried himself with such dignity and patience that I knew I could never have done as well in his place. I watched with love and awe and the kind of wistful pride every teacher feels when their student surpasses them.

It was amazing, *he* was amazing.

But all things eventually come to an end, and so it was with Obi-Wan's and my waiting. I will never forget the look on his face or the feeling of him in my arms when he finally was allowed to join me. It was... incandescent, pure joy.

It was love.

And now we have each other again, and it is wonderful and strange and even a little frightening.

We are not the same as we were. Thirty years of being so much a part of the Force has changed me as it had to, and Obi-Wan...

Even though he appears to me as he was when we were last together -- Padawan braid and all -- I could never mistake him for the apprentice he had once been. He has endured so much, grown so much, and it shows in his too-wise eyes and in his sudden silences.

But for all the differences some things, the most important things, haven't changed. Our bond, our connection, remains stronger than ever, as do our feelings for each other and the way we fit together no matter what we're doing.

Even if it's trying to convince a certain very old, very wise, and very stubborn Jedi Master to see things our way.

"No. Too dangerous it is. Repeat the same mistake I will not!"

I stifle a sigh of frustration as Yoda hobbles away from us. So far this is not going well.

We have come here to get Master Yoda to agree to take on Anakin's son as a student, to complete the training that my Obi-Wan began. And it looks like it is going to be an uphill battle.

Beside me I can feel how Obi-Wan has tensed up at Yoda's words and I reach over and lay a comforting hand on his shoulder. "He did not mean it as an accusation," I say.

"Didn't he?" Obi-Wan replies, a strange ironic half-smile on his face.

I incline my head conceding the point. Knowing Master Yoda, it is indeed quite possible that he had meant it as an accusation. He has certainly never been shy about making them to me. I am just unused to him doing so to my former Padawan.

But whether Yoda meant it that way or not, I refuse to let him place all the fault on Obi-Wan's shoulders. "If he did mean it that way, then I share equally in the blame. It was my actions that started it all, my plea that you take on the responsibility..."

Obi-Wan stops my words with an upraised hand and a small shake of the head. "Assigning of blame is a futile and wasted effort," he says and I am once again reminded how much he has grown. "We all did our best and we all made our mistakes. It is the solution that is important now, and responsibility for it, like the original problem, must be shared."

Which brings us quite neatly back to why we are here. "I am not the one we have to convince, Obi-Wan," I say, nodding in the direction that Yoda had gone.

"Pity," he says, glancing at me with a small smile. "Convincing you of things is much easier. And considerably more enjoyable."

That draws a smile, as I feel his affection wash over me. "I can always pretend to disagree later," I offer neutrally.

"I will keep that in mind," he replies, eyes shining with love and humor. Some things never change, thank the Force.

"I look forward to it," I say, meaning every word.

He smiles at me. "As do I," he says, making the words a promise.

Then his face turns serious and I know he is once again focused on the task at hand. I also push aside thoughts of what later may hold and turn my attention back to why we are here.

Movement in these new forms is much different. It is virtually instantaneous; all it takes is a focused thought and you are there. So it didn't matter that Yoda had moved out of sight while we talked, all it takes is a shared thought of the Jedi Master and we once again stand before him.

Yoda just gives us a weary look and sighs. "Persistent you two have always been. Worse when you are together."

"I always thought we brought out the best in each other, actually," I say, glancing briefly to my left at Obi-Wan.

His appearance, as always when he is focused on someone else, startles me. That is something else that is different in our present forms: what we look like is malleable, changing depending on who we are interacting with. I have not been able to figure out if it has more to do with others' perceptions or our own subconscious assumptions, but whatever the reason the result is the same. We appear differently to different people.

So it is that for me Obi-Wan is ever my Padawan, in appearance if nothing else, while to Yoda he appears as the Jedi Knight he became after my death, at the height of his abilities. It is a form much more conducive to making Yoda listen but, I have to admit, petty as it may sound, I miss the braid.

Conducive form or not, it does not keep Yoda from scowling at us both. "My answer already you have. Changing my mind I do not intend."

"What you intend and what you will do may well be two different things," Obi-Wan replies calmly.

"What you suggest too dangerous it is."

"It would be more dangerous not to train him, to leave things as they are," I point out. "He will be easy prey for those who would seek to turn him."

Yoda's eyes narrow as he turns to look at me. "Heard this from you before I have."

"He was as right then as he is now," Obi-Wan replies. "Just because we failed in the end does not make the beginning truth any less valid."

"Cost us all dearly that failure did. Nearly everything was lost. Another such, survive we cannot."

There is something about his tone, his posture... I reach out through the Force to get a sense of his emotions. What I find both surprises me and gives me a new tack to try.

"I sense fear in you," I say quietly.

Beside me Obi-Wan starts and I can feel him reaching out himself to verify it the same way I had.

Yoda's reaction is much more subdued. He doesn't deny it, doesn't offer up a defense, just sighs and lowers his head, avoiding our gazes. Waiting for our response.

Obi-Wan's, when it comes, is calm and compassionate, and not, I believe, what was expected.

"What is it that you fear, Master Yoda?" he asks in a gentle voice.

The answer is so long in coming that I am surprised when it comes at all. "Fail once we did and all but destroyed our kind was. Plunged into darkness was the galaxy. Now ask you me to take such a risk again. What will happen if fail I again?"

"I too worried about that," Obi-Wan replies. "I waited almost twenty years for Luke to come to me and not a day of that went by that I did not worry. But I knew I had no choice. If the Jedi were to survive I knew he had to be taught and I was the only one available. Now *you* are the only one who can finish his training. Will you let fear and worry rule your decision or will you move past them and help the Jedi survive for another generation?"

Yoda is silent for a moment, wrestling with Obi-Wan's words, then he glances at me. "Formidable your former student has become."

"I have always said he is a wiser man than I," I reply, looking at my beloved and smiling slightly.

He shoots me a brief affectionate look in return, but his attention is still mostly riveted on Yoda.

"Your point you have made. Perhaps in hiding too long I have been. If here young Skywalker comes, consider training him I will."

I sense the tension easing in my beloved as I feel my own muscles relaxing. We have achieved our objective; young Luke will have his teacher.

Obi-Wan thanks Yoda and bows to him as if he was still sitting on the Jedi Council. I can see the gesture touches the old Jedi Master and so I also bow as we take our leave.

I hear Yoda grumbling fondly, "Two of a kind, they are," just as we vanish.

Or vanish to him at least. We do not vanish to ourselves; to us it merely seems like we have switched locations, going from the swamps of Dagobah to a bright airy bedroom on an indeterminate, but pleasantly climated, planet.

This place, like our own forms, is malleable; it changes depending on our thoughts, our moods, our emotional states. Since Obi-Wan has joined me, it has been like this much of the time: bright, warm, sunny, beautiful. It had been considerably darker, colder and more depressing when I had been here alone.

The thought makes me look over at him and smile. He has always been my heart, but here, now, he is, quite literally, my light as well.

Obi-Wan smiles back and walks across the room and into my arms. With a sigh, he lays his head on my shoulder as I enfold him tightly in my embrace.

"We did it," he says softly, and I can feel his smile against my neck.

My own smile turns gentle and I lean down to nuzzle the side of his face, sending him wriggling away from the feel of my beard. "Did you ever doubt it?"

He is silent for a moment then answers seriously, "I couldn't allow myself to, Master. We had to succeed, I couldn't -- wouldn't -- allow myself to think otherwise."

I am struck once again by the strength of my beloved, the sheer determination and iron will that is at his core and that carried him through times and events that would have broken almost anyone else.

Whenever I comment on it, he laughs and tells me he learned it all from me. I am not so certain; I was always stubborn and passionate about those causes which spoke to my heart, but I do not know if I could have lived the life Obi-Wan lived. Just watching it was nearly enough to break me.

Obi-Wan senses my wandering thoughts and gives me a mental nudge. When I look down at him he says, "You're thinking of the past again aren't you?"

I fear my expression gives me away because he sighs and gives me a look that's half compassion and half exasperation. "You once told me to be mindful of the present, not to dwell too long on the past or the future. I wish you would follow your own advice."

I smile at him, amused that he is using my own words against me. "The student becomes the Master, hm?"

"When the Master needs to be reminded of his own lessons, then yes," Obi-Wan replies with a small smile of his own.

I am struck suddenly by how right this is, the contentment, the love, the joy, of Obi-Wan and I being together like this. For a brief moment I just close my eyes and bask in the feelings.

Be mindful of the present indeed.

I open my eyes again and see the same awareness in my beloved's face, along with a knowing grin. I incline my head to him and say ruefully, "Your student."

"We shall have to explore this," Obi-Wan says, his smile widening into something truly wicked. On anyone else it would've made me nervous. On Obi-Wan it sends a thrill of anticipation down my spine.

But before we can "explore," the mood suddenly shifts. The sky darkens slightly and we both feel a new urgency. "Speaking of students," Obi-Wan says with a sigh.

I nod. Both of us can feel that the urgency is definitely connected with young Skywalker, that something regarding the boy is requiring our attention. Right now.

I cast out my mind in search of a location, but it remains stubbornly elusive. The lack of personal contact hinders me. It is always easier to connect with someone you have connected with before and I had left Luke's reality long before he was born.

Fortunately, Obi-Wan's connection with the boy is very strong and it takes only a second for him to determine Luke's location. "I have it."

I reach out and take his hand, letting him guide our movements, only willing myself to stay with him. Never a hard thing to focus on.

One instant we are standing in our home, the next we are... somewhere else. A cave by the looks of it. An ice cave.

"Definitely not Tatooine," I murmur.

I feel Obi-Wan's amusement at my words, an amusement which quickly fades when we both catch sight of young Skywalker.

He is hanging upside-down, his feet frozen into the ceiling above him. The right side of his face is horribly torn, and the blood has frozen to the wounds. It is quite obvious he has been attacked by some animal.

The sound of bones crunching behind us and off to one side makes me turn my head. A huge, furred, vaguely humanoid creature is crouched over the carcass of an animal, eating. It does not take much intelligence to figure out this is what had attacked young Skywalker.

A low groan brings my attention back to Skywalker himself, who is starting to come around.

His eyes flicker open and he frowns, as he tries to work out where he is and why he is in pain. I can tell the second he does; his eyes widen then narrow and he gets a stubborn set to his mouth that reminds me of his father.

Obi-Wan senses my thought and nods in agreement. "He is much like Anakin," he says and I can feel his fears, swiftly suppressed. For all his belief in and passionate defense of Luke, he knows the chance remains that we may lose this student to the Dark Side as we lost his father.

I fear that possibility as much as Obi-Wan does, and not, to my shame, for what it would mean for the galaxy, though that would be reason enough. No, I fear Luke turning for what it would do to my beloved. Losing Anakin nearly destroyed him; to lose the son as well...

With an effort I banish my dark thoughts. If it happens, we will deal with it then, somehow. Until then, it is a waste of energy to dwell on such negative possibilities.

Besides, the worry at the moment shouldn't be whether young Skywalker is going to turn to the Dark Side. It should be whether he's going to become dinner for that creature.

We watch as Luke pulls himself up his body and tries to yank his feet free of the ice encasing them. It becomes apparent after a few tugs that that is not going to work and he gives it up, letting himself fall back to his original hanging position.

Luke's lightsaber lies in a snow drift a couple of feet beyond his grasp; he tries to reach for it anyway.

Obi-Wan takes a step forward and then stops when he realizes there's nothing he can do. I reach out and put a hand on his shoulder in reassurance, feeling the same frustration and helplessness. It is the worst thing about our reality now -- we can watch, but are able to help only rarely, and never directly. I have just had longer to get used to it than Obi-Wan has.

"He has to get out of this himself," I remind him softly.

My beloved sighs and nods. "I know. It's just--" He stops as we both sense a stirring in the Force.

Luke has stopped struggling, instead closing his eyes and calming himself enough to be able to sense the Force, using it to reach for the saber. I am impressed; although such a maneuver would be relatively easy for a fully-trained Jedi, for someone with as little instruction as Luke has had it is a much more difficult task.

And it is not made any easier by the creature's sudden attention. Perhaps it has a rudimentary Forcesense, for as soon as Luke touches the Force, its head spins around and it gets up, slowly lumbering this way. Luke's time is running out.

But although he has to be able to hear the creature's approach, Luke's concentration does not waver. His focus is entirely on getting his lightsaber into his hand.

Obi-Wan is muttering encouragements half under his breath, "Yes, that's it, focus, just relax and let it happen, you can do it," and I find myself adding my own silent encouragement. It is all either of us can do and, while it may not help, it certainly cannot hurt.

Then, just as the creature reaches the entrance to the little alcove we are in, Luke succeeds. The lightsaber comes flying to his hand and in the next instant he has lit it and cut himself free. He tumbles to the ground, but manages to regain his feet a split second before the creature reaches him.

A swing of the saber, a roar of pain, and the creature's arm is lying on the ground while Luke is scrambling towards the cave entrance.

Beside me, Obi-Wan gives a sigh of relief. "That boy would be the death of me if I wasn't already dead."

"I seem to recall having much the same thoughts a time or two about a certain former Padawan of mine," I say, remembering similar harrowing last-second escapes I had witnessed in the past.

He looks at me for a moment. "So what you're saying is that this is payback?"

I make a show of looking wounded. "Now, Obi-Wan, would I ever imply something like that?"

"In a heartbeat, Master."

I smile and reach out to pull him into my arms. "You know me too well, beloved," I murmur, then give him a quick kiss.

"It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it," he replies with a wry smile when I release his mouth.

"Speaking of jobs, dirty or otherwise, you'd best go tell Luke about his travel plans."

Obi-Wan nods in agreement and we both focus on Luke, appearing once again by the young man's side.

Which is when we realize that being attacked and almost eaten had been the least of Luke's problems.

We are on a snow plain in the middle of a blizzard, with no sign of civilization or help in any direction. Luke is already shivering and stumbling as he attempts to continue walking. Hypothermia isn't just a possibility, it is a certainty.

And it is getting dark which will undoubtedly mean the temperature would plummet even more.

If Luke does not get some help soon, there will be no need for any travel plans.

I exchange looks with Obi-Wan; his expression is every bit as grim as mine. He can read the situation just as well as I can. The conclusion is unmistakable. We are hours away from losing the Jedi's last best hope to this forsaken wilderness.

Luke falls, then struggles back to his feet, only to fall again a few meters later. Obi-Wan makes a small pained sound and reaches out towards him, only to have his hand pass right through Luke's shoulder. I reach out and gently pull him back.

"We can't let this happen!" He is shaking, in anger, in frustration, in impotence, I don't know. Possibly all three.

"We won't," I tell him fiercely. "Not without a fight."

Obi-Wan takes a deep breath, calming himself, and nods. "You have an idea?"

"I do. We find help and lead it to him."

"That's not much of a plan, Master."

"We have done more with less," I remind him as I try to think of an example. None come to mind.

It is obvious from Obi-Wan's expression that none are coming to his mind either. At least he has the grace not to point it out.

"All right," he says finally. "If it's our only chance, we have to try it."

I reach out with the Force, scanning for anybody near enough that could possibly help Luke. I can sense Obi-Wan doing the same.

At first there is nothing, just endless empty plains. Not even any lower lifeforms are in evidence; they all seemed to have taken shelter for the night.

Then, a spark. Someone is out here looking for young Skywalker. And not just any someone, but someone whom I recognize. Somehow, I am not surprised.

"Our esteemed Captain Solo is nearby," I say.

Obi-Wan first looks startled and then grins. "Perhaps Luke doesn't need our help after all. The Force certainly seems to be with him."

"Perhaps, but it is a bit off center. I'm going to have to nudge Solo in the right direction, or he might ride right on by without ever seeing him."

"Are you sure you can do that? Solo is..."

"A bit of a maverick, I know. Actually, I feel quite an affinity with him," I say, remembering my own reputation for being something of a maverick. "Besides, although he'll never be a Jedi, he has a touch of the Force about him. I will be able to reach him. He may not know why, but he *will* change direction."

Obi-Wan nods, accepting me at my word. "I will stay here," he says, his eyes going back to Luke, who is still struggling forward, falling down every couple of steps.

"He's not going to be able to keep that up much longer," I say with a sigh. "Keep him awake if you can. I'll be as quick as possible."

Before I can go, Obi-Wan reaches out and hugs me tightly. "Go," he says, when he releases me, his voice tight.

I realize suddenly that this will be the first time we have been separated since he has joined me. Suddenly my own chest feels tight as well.

"I'll be as quick as possible," I repeat, then will myself away before I can change my mind. He will not disappear just because he is out of my sight for a few minutes, I remind myself sternly, trying to dismiss the sudden dread in my soul.

It does limited good. I wonder if Obi-Wan is feeling this same... withdrawal, then imagine his face if I were ever to compare him to an addiction.

'Focus,' I tell myself exasperatedly. 'The sooner you complete your task, the sooner you can return to him.'

With that added incentive, my emotions finally settle down and let me concentrate on the matter at hand.

Captain Solo is riding a tauntaun, his eyes continuously scanning the horizon. As I watch, he stops and dismounts, pulling out a scanning device, to search with more technological means.

Between the storm, the extreme temperatures, and Luke's worsening condition, I know it is unlikely that the scanner will be able to locate him. It's up to me to point Captain Solo in the right direction.

I reach out and cautiously touch his mind, finding it much the same as the first time I had done this. That had been during what is now known as the Battle of Yavin. Foreseeing that Captain Solo's presence might make the difference, I had touched his mind to see if there were any way he could be persuaded to stay.

It is a good mind, with a passionate belief in justice and a great capacity for caring, all buried under a thick armor of cynicism. As it turned out, no persuasion had been necessary, his own conscience had already done so. And his presence in the battle did prove to be vital; Luke would not have lived long enough to fire the fatal shot if it hadn't been for Solo.

And now, once again, it appears that it is up to Solo to save Luke's life. If I can send him in the right direction.

As I slip further into his thoughts I can sense the differences from the last time. The passion and caring are as strong as ever but the shield of cynicism hiding them is much much thinner. I very much believe it is a change for the better.

Foremost in his mind right now is worry for his missing friend, that and a fierce determination not to return to base without him. It is that determination that I link into, giving a nudge to look slightly more to the west. 'That way,' I whisper. 'That is where Luke is.'

Not that Solo hears the words. It doesn't work that way. But he will have a sudden hunch that he should search in the direction I indicate. And being a man that is used to listening to his instincts...

Solo's head comes up and he stares off into the distance with a frown. Then he stuffs the scanner back into his pack, swings back up onto his tauntaun's back and rides off.

Slightly to the west.

Directly towards where young Skywalker is.

Mission accomplished, I will myself back to my beloved's side.

Only to find that Obi-Wan is busy. In my absence, Luke has finally succumbed to the cold, collapsing face down in the snow, and Obi-Wan is talking to him, trying to keep him awake.

"Luke," Obi-Wan calls softly, then, when there's no immediate reaction, more loudly, "Luke!"

With great effort, Luke manages to raise his head. I can tell the second he becomes aware of my beloved's presence, for Obi-Wan's appearance changes to what he looked like when he had died.

Young Skywalker stares for a moment and you can see the disbelief on his face. "Ben?"

There is a brief pause and I can almost see the wheels turning in Obi-Wan's mind as he tries to figure out what to say that would keep Luke awake and aware the longest. What he finally decides on doesn't surprise me.

"You will go to the Dagobah System," he tells Luke. I agree it's the right choice. The best way to keep Luke awake is to engage his mind, make him think. Cryptic pronouncements will do just that.

"Dagobah System?" Luke repeats, sounding puzzled, which is good, and more than a little out of it, which isn't.

I can sense Obi-Wan's increasing worry but it doesn't make it into his voice as he continues with his instructions. "There you will learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master who instructed me."

I raise my eyebrow at the last but don't comment. Besides, there are more important things to consider at the moment, like the fact that help is less than a minute away now. "Solo is here," I say softly, knowing with his attention so entirely on Luke, Obi-Wan may well miss the Captain's approach.

I feel his silent acknowledgement and watch as he begins to fade from Luke's view.

"Ben?" Luke reaches out in a mute plea for Obi-Wan to stay. "Ben!" he calls again, with the last of his strength. He passes out just as Obi-Wan vanishes entirely from his view and Solo rides up.

Melding back into his usual form Obi-Wan takes the few steps necessary to bring him into my arms. "He'll make it now," he says with a sigh.

I nod, feeling the same certainty that he does. The urgency that brought us here is now gone.

"Home?" I ask.

He nods and we both let ourselves fade from the frozen wasteland.

A thought brings us back to the sunny room that I've come to think of as home. Obi-Wan remains in my arms as we materialize, which is normal enough. The desperation of his grip, both emotional and physical, most certainly is not.

"Beloved?" I ask, as I gently tip his face up to meet my eyes.

"I am all right," he assures me, and indeed, I can feel his desperation easing as he spoke. "I just need a moment to regain my center."

I nod silently and give him that moment and more, curbing my curiosity about what has brought this on. I know that when he has regained his calm, Obi-Wan will tell me. In the meantime I just hold him, projecting all the comfort and love that I am able.

Finally Obi-Wan sighs and steps back, though not entirely out of my arms. "I'm sorry," he says. "What happened hit me harder than I had expected."

"That is not too surprising," I answer, with a small encouraging smile. "To leave someone who is calling for you with the last of their strength is never an easy thing."

Indeed, the times I have had to do something similar still burn within my soul.

Obi-Wan looks startled. "That wasn't what I meant. Not that hearing Luke call for me was easy, but I was prepared for that. But I wasn't prepared for how it felt to be separated from you."

I blink. "You felt it, too?" I finally ask, remembering the panic and dread I had experienced on the brief foray away from my lover's side.

"If you mean stark terror and a sudden irrational certainty that you had just vanished out of existence, then yes, I did," Obi-Wan replies with a touch of humor. He quickly sobers though and asks, "I take it was the same for you?"

"Oh yes. I nearly returned the second after I had left your side, the feelings were so intense."

Obi-Wan frowns and gives me a worried look. "This could become a serious problem."

"Perhaps," I say, pulling away enough to settle myself on the bed and pull Obi-Wan down beside me.

Blue-green eyes gaze at me in surprise. "You don't agree?"

"We functioned this time, did we not?"

"Yes, but-"

"Even though we weren't prepared?"

"Well yes, but-"

"So, if we were able to function this time, don't you think we will be able to do so again in the future, when we will be prepared?"

Obi-Wan sighs. "Of course we will do what we have to, but-"

"But it would be easier if we did not have to deal with the panic," I finish for him.

"Yes." I wait for the "but," but this time it doesn't come.

"Obi-Wan, you said it yourself: we will do what we must, whether it is easy or not. And when, really, have things ever been easy for us?"

"But shouldn't we at least attempt to do something about this?"

It is my turn to sigh. "Perhaps we should. But the only way I can think of to work on this is to spend more time apart." I lay a hand against his cheek as I look into his eyes. "And I find I am too selfish to want to do that," I admit softly. "We have spent too much time apart already."

Obi-Wan's expression softens and he leans into my palm. "I cannot argue with that," he says, equally soft, raising a hand to my cheek in a mirror of my gesture. "And I cannot say that I do not wish to be selfish in this case as well, but-"

I quell the urge to sigh again in exasperation. Much as I admire that iron will, I would rather not have it turned against me. "You know, there was a time when you didn't argue with my decisions," I complain.

My beloved's mouth quirks upward into an impish smile. "Oh? When was that?"

Thinking about it, I realize he has a point. Obi-Wan has always argued with me, even back when he had first become my Padawan. And he won more often than this Jedi Master's pride should like to admit, if my pride in him wasn't of equal or greater size.

But he will not win this particular argument. We have both suffered through too much pain and separation to court it unneedfully now.

"Obi-Wan," I say, letting my conviction shine through, my determination. "We will not do this. *I* will not do this. If a need should arise, like it did today, I will do what needs must be done. But otherwise I will not separate from you."

He stares at me for a long moment and I briefly fear he is going to continue the argument. But then I feel his muscles begin to relax and catch a glimpse of the beginning of a rueful smile on his lips. "Yes, Master," he intones obediently with a huge, put-upon sigh.

'Brat,' I think fondly, lying back and settling Obi-Wan against my side contentedly. He squirms around briefly trying to get comfortable, then suddenly goes boneless with another sigh, this one full of contentment.

This is the closest thing we get to sleep -- relaxing utterly and just letting our minds drift. We can do so for hours, days even. Perhaps longer; time here has a strange elasticity that I confess I am still not entirely used to.

So I am not quite sure how long we lie here in silence, though it feels like perhaps a little over an hour.

It is Obi-Wan who stirs first. He nuzzles the side of my throat, his arms tightening around me. "I do not want to leave you, either," he says quietly.

"I know," I respond, my own arms tightening around him in return.

"I do not want you to think otherwise."

"I don't," I assure him.

"I know we will both do what is necessary. I just wanted..."

"To be sure. Yes, I know, Obi-Wan."

He falls silent for a moment and then whispers, "I can't fail again."

"Obi-Wan." I lift his face up so I can see his eyes. "We won't let that happen," I tell him, putting all of my own iron determination into my words. "We didn't let it happen today and we won't in the future. I promise you. If it is in our power, we will succeed. Together."

'Please, beloved,' I think, looking earnestly into his eyes. 'Remember that we share this burden. Don't try to take it all on your own shoulders.'

Obi-Wan does not respond right away, but neither does he look away. He just continues to look into my eyes as if searching for an answer there.

Finally, he nods slowly. "Master Yoda did say we were more formidable together."

I feel my mouth curve up into a smile. "I believe what he actually said was that we were worse together."

Obi-Wan shrugs. "From a different point of view it means the same thing." He smiles back.

"Brat." I say it aloud this time.

Obi-Wan just smiles wider.

I sigh and pull him down for a kiss. "Together?" I ask, when our mouths finally part.

"Together," he agrees and settles down against me once again with a sigh.

Again we lay in silence, basking in each other's presence. Then I remember something I had been meaning to ask about.

"Obi-Wan?"

"Yes, Master?" came the drowsy reply.

"Would you mind explaining, Padawan, why you told Luke that you were trained by Master Yoda?"

END