"Are you planning to take that boy as your apprentice, Master?" Obi-Wan put the tray of food down on the table in their cabin. They were speeding off to Coruscant with a ship full of refugees of one sort or another. Obi-Wan *hated* trade negotiations. They always left so much devastation in their wake.
"He needs to be trained, young Padawan. I shudder to think what he might do with his gift if he is not." Obi-Wan felt the force of his smile. Qui-Gon handed Obi-Wan one of the plates. Their hands touched momentarily, and Obi-Wan once again carefully shielded his response. His master was wise and powerful, with a gift that, if it did not rival Anakin's, was still counted among the strongest in the Jedi, yet he seemed oblivious to all Obi-Wan felt.
Long habit enabled him to hide his feelings even in his voice. "And what of me, Master? No Knight can train more than one apprentice."
"You no longer need training, Obi-Wan. You have long been ready to take wing on your own." Qui-Gon looked away for a moment, seeming to focus on the dull ship's rations before him.
"Then why...why have you kept me back? Others in my year have apprentices of their own now. I do not want to leave you, Master, but I do have a future..."
Qui-Gon stood up and began to pace in the tiny room. He moved so quickly his long hair whipped around his head. He seemed to avoid Obi-Wan's gaze. "I would ask you to forgive me. I have been selfish, too selfish to be a proper master to you. I should have had you promoted months ago, when I knew you were ready. But I did not."
Meal forgotten, Obi-Wan stood up and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Why did you not...Qui-Gon?" He didn't bother concealing the joy he felt saying the man's name aloud instead of simply in his thoughts. Qui-Gon turned to face him.
"Because once you become a knight, you will be gone. There are too few of us, and fewer every day. We are spread too thinly over the galaxy for two active knights to be paired. And I wanted to delay that separation as long as I could."
Obi-Wan could feel him tremble beneath his hands. "I...I am grateful, Qui-Gon. I have been dreading the day I would part from you. And now it will come upon us because of the boy."
Qui-Gon covered Obi-Wan's hand with his own. "I did not choose this time. But he needs me. He needs someone willing to break rules because he will not respond to normal training...much like you. And you know as well as I that Jedi knights tend to not...break rules. I wish...I wish I could keep you by me forever - not as an apprentice but as the equal colleague you are and always have been. Perhaps...perhaps, if you were willing, more than a colleague." At those words, Qui-Gon let go of Obi-Wan's hand and stepped back, as if afraid of what he just said.
Obi-Wan kept a firm hand on Qui-Gon's shoulder, not permitting him to walk away. "You are shielded, Qui-Gon, but...I would be willing." He took a step closer, and began to stroke Qui-Gon's hair, which was as silky as he'd imagined it all those nights. Instead of pulling away, Qui-Gon leaned into it as if he craved that touch. Taking courage from this, Obi-Wan stepped closer still and pulled his head down until their lips met.
Qui-Gon sighed and suddenly, all barriers came down. Their bond had been tenuous for a long time, as Obi-Wan needed to be allowed more autonomy. This contact should hav