partner katas
by cimorene

Performing katas is one of Qui-Gon's favourite ways to commune with the Force, but old age and old injuries have rendered him unable to complete some of the advanced forms. Every few weeks, he takes an empty practice salle--or a deserted corner of garden--and moves slowly, laboriously through the more difficult ones, always pushing hard enough to strain, never hard enough to injure himself. He begins with solitary katas, but the real reason he requires this privacy is to stretch his old body into the shapes of the advanced partner katas, however slowly, so that his muscles will not forget them, though they can no longer carry him through at speed, even with so patient a partner as Obi-Wan.

Indeed, Obi-Wan is far more successfully accepting of Qui-Gon's slowness than Qui-Gon himself. Qui-Gon teases him that he only wastes so many hours in sparring with a partner who is less than his equal because it pleases him to get the better of his old Master; but he is not unaware that his handicap still sometimes darkens Obi-Wan's eyes with pain and regret.

This is why in his absence Qui-Gon has taken to practising alone more frequently, three times this week alone. He feels that with a little more exercise he may be able to increase his stamina, so that he no longer tires so quickly; he is impatient with spending so much time bound not just to the Temple, but frequently to his quarters, by the necessity to rest. Even a small improvement in his health would please Obi-Wan, and might help to assuage the uneasiness he has been at such pains to shield from Qui-Gon.

They have never explicitly discussed Qui-Gon's private additional katas, and they probably never will; but Obi-Wan sees his departure and his return, his fatigue, his face turning grey with exertion instead of a healthy flush. He knows all these things. Qui-Gon would spare him what little he can.

He meets Senator Padmé outside his quarters, when he returns soaked in sweat and taking careful steps, wary of the stitch in his side. "Senator!" He says warmly, with a bow more abbreviated than his pride would allow if his scar weren't already throbbing. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

Qui-Gon thinks to spare her his smell, which must be unpleasant, but she smiles and steps close, taking both his hands in hers. "Qui-Gon. Merely a visit from a friend, to a friend." Her small, neat fingers do not even wrap halfway around one of his palms, but the contact, though brief, gives him a slight shock. She glows unusually strong with the Living Force.

Smiling wryly to mask his start of surprise, Qui-Gon gestures her ahead of him through the door. "I regret that you find me so ill-prepared to receive any visitors. Perhaps you'd care for some tea while I change?"

The Senator's lovely smile becomes a little lopsided and acquires a mischievous dimple. "Go ahead," she says, "please. It won't be the first pot of tea I've made in your kitchen." Qui-Gon opens his mouth to protest, and she overrules him easily: "Your favourite blend! Go."

Perhaps, Qui-Gon reflects as he quickly showers, she is closer to Anakin even than he supposed, if she knows Qui-Gon's favourite blend of tea and where to find it. It is a rare delicacy which he drinks only on special occasions, and stores in a special small tin which was a gift from Obi-Wan on one of the occasions when he was able to obtain some of the tea on an off-world mission.

With this mission that is not likely.

"The truth is, I'm becoming more and more restless the longer Obi-Wan and Anakin's mission to rescue Senator Palpatine continues," Senator Padmé admits as she pours fragrant, steaming tea brewed to pale lilac perfection into two cups.

Qui-Gon takes the tea and sniffs it appreciatively while he debates how he should answer. He has released a great deal of anxiety to the Force over the course of the past several weeks, though he has complete confidence in Obi-Wan and Anakin's competence.

As it turns out, the decision is taken from him. Padmé pauses halfway back around his table, and to his astonishment, sways a little on her feet and then collapses abruptly to the floor as though all her bones have suddenly turned to liquid. The teapot shatters at her feet with a loud crack, and she lies among the porcelain shards with the scalding tea soaking into the rust-coloured velvet of her skirt.

He is clumsy in rising, setting the teacup aside with stupid precision, and stumbles a little as he falls to his knees at her side, far too late to catch her, to break her fall as perhaps he could have done with the Force if it hadn't happened so quickly.

When Qui-Gon touches her cheek and shoulder simultaneously, opening himself to the Living Force to assess her injury, no weakness or illness in her shows itself to him. Instead he is greeted by the vibrant glows of two unexpected additional Force presences, throbbing to the time of two tiny hearts.

Padmé has only fainted.

Qui-Gon rocks back onto his heels. Shock holds him there, immobile, for long moments. He felt far, far too much in that one Force-imbued touch designed to heal; he felt things he cannot unlearn.

The children are Anakin's.

He cannot take Senator Padmé to a Healer.

Qui-Gon lifts her unconscious form--even in his weakened state she is light, though carrying her to the couch is not as effortless for him as it once would have been.

Now that he knows what has happened and has sensed the cause, Qui-Gon has withdrawn behind heavy shields. He cannot feel those two extra lives now as he strokes her brow with a cool cloth.

But he is not likely to forget the feeling.


Qui-Gon watches from a distance as the man who was once his Padawan sends away his own Padawan with Senator Palpatine and a stately throng of welcoming senators. Many years have passed since the two of them found Ani living as a slave on Tatooine. Obi-Wan is now a mature and respected member of the Jedi Council and the Order's best field agent--at least until Anakin's braid is cut.

Qui-Gon thinks about Padmé and her secret for a moment and then deliberately banishes the thoughts from his mind--they can wait--and steps out of the shadows of the doorway where he's been standing.

Obi-Wan's face, lined and bearded, tanned leathery by the suns of many worlds, is still beautiful and the most living thing Qui-Gon has ever seen when it splits in his youthful grin.

"Master!" He exclaims, and crosses the space between them in three long strides to grip Qui-Gon's arms in his hands. He has never ceased calling Qui-Gon that, though the term hasn't been correct for ten years.

His hands slide down Qui-Gon's forearms to clasp both Qui-Gon's hands, and the gesture is completely different from Senator Padmé's just a few days ago. "You shouldn't have come all the way out here to greet me. I was coming to see you directly." Obi-Wan's long, slim fingers curl warmly and gently into Qui-Gon's palms, and a dampened echo of affection comes through in the touch.

Up close, Qui-Gon can see dirt smudges on his face, and a cloud reflected in the pupil of his eye. "It was a pleasurable trip," Qui-Gon explains, turning reluctantly to walk towards the nearest ground transport station, breaking the contact with Obi-Wan as he does. There is something we must discuss, he adds silently.

This close, he can feel the glow of Obi-Wan's Force presence bathing him all over, warming him slightly, even taking away some of the dull ache from the mass of scar tissue in his abdomen. He knows Obi-Wan hears what thoughts he sends and merely hopes that he will not hear also the faint soreness Qui-Gon is suffering today in penalty for his over-zealous exercise.

Years of field training together still hold fast, and Obi-Wan only flicks a glance at him in acknowledgement until they reach the Temple. Then he speeds his steps until he is walking just as quickly as Qui-Gon can manage without discomfort.

Once safely in the common room, he barely pauses to engage the door lock before he's backed Qui-Gon up against the wall next to the door and started kissing him, cloak and dusty boots and all. Qui-Gon puts one of his hands on Obi-Wan's waist, trim but firm and solid with muscle, and strokes absently with his fingertips. For all his brisk urgency Obi-Wan kisses thoroughly and rather gently--not the humiliating gentleness of fear, his fear that Qui-Gon will be hurt, but a confident, lazy, thoroughly contented gentleness that seeps into Qui-Gon's mind as their physical contact increases and mental barriers drop. You have not already forgotten. Qui-Gon puts his free hand against the side of Obi-Wan's neck and face, sliding his fingers into the soft ends of his hair.

No, of course not, just getting to that-- "--Something we must discuss?" Obi-Wan straightens and begins unfastening his utility belt.

Qui-Gon sighs and retreats to the couch to remove his own boots. "Senator Padmé paid me a visit a few days ago."

"Anakin would be interested to hear that."

"While she was here, serving me Three Blue Blossoms Blend, in fact, she collapsed. When I touched her with the Living Force I felt it," Qui-Gon recites, watching Obi-Wan briskly removing his outer tunic.

The light of the setting sun, dim and deeply orange, catches briefly in reddish eyelashes as Obi-Wan lifts his head. "What might it be?"

"She is pregnant," Qui-Gon says, and is surprised to hear his voice come out hollow. Alone with Obi-Wan, his shields have all but melted away. He reaches out blindly for skin contact, and then he lets the whole memory bleed through the palm of his hand.

"I--," says Obi-Wan, and looks wonderingly up at Qui-Gon, his face open and bewildered and vulnerable. Qui-Gon shifts his grip and wraps his hand around Obi-Wan's arm to offer some small bit of comfort. Arteries pulse against the pads of his fingers while he watches his own thoughts play themselves out, slotting quickly into place on Obi-Wan's face. She must not see a Healer, he finishes.

We can tell no one, says Qui-Gon.

Obi-Wan's mind echoes that thought back at him in multiplying ripples. No one. We can tell no one. There is no one we can tell.

Is there nothing we must do?

We must do nothing.

It's not certain, always, that Obi-Wan will agree with him. Qui-Gon wonders for a brief moment whether this is the response he truly expected, if this is as it must be, but he has been over it countless times already in his mind; the sequence is simple; the conclusion is inevitable. Anakin is the Chosen One.

They will stand by him and let destiny take its course.


Qui-Gon practices his personal variant of the Broken Sword Spiral Kata in the inner gardens while Obi-Wan and Mace try to convince Anakin to spy on the Chancellor for the Jedi Council.

"Tell them I'm not feeling well," he said in the cold grey light of pre-dawn, when Obi-Wan woke and found him already dressed in loose exercise clothes. "The invalid needs his rest."

"You could tell them that yourself, Qui," Obi-Wan said mildly, and briefly touched the curve of one of Qui-Gon's bare arms. "The Council meeting's not for hours."

Later Obi-Wan tells him how he presented Qui-Gon's excuses and a murmur of dissent travelled around the Council Chamber, and how Yoda said "If not feeling well Qui-Gon is, rest, he must. At full strength, he should be. Soon all our strength, we will need."

After long hours of fruitlessly searching to centre himself in the Force with the kata, Qui-Gon is exhausted--breathing heavily, trying to hold himself so as to lessen the pain of the scar, but centre has eluded him all day, as though the Force twists in his grasp and pulls him in the wrong direction. He cannot perform Broken Sword Spiral anymore in any form, at any speed; the dull ache of the scar tissue has flared up again into exquisite agony, so his arms braced on his knees barely hold him upright; and the wind has turned gradually colder, stiffening the sweat and dust in the fabric of his tunic and pants, making his skin pull tight, chill and sticky.

Obi-Wan comes into the garden fresh from his assignment. He looks at Qui-Gon and senses the pain immediately--a crease forms between his eyebrows and he drops to his knees in front of Qui-Gon, tears apart the ties knotting his tunic closed and pushes it back, then lays both his hands flat on Qui-Gon's chest. His hand feels shockingly warm compared with the breeze. There's a throbbing, and Qui-Gon doesn't quite recall himself to dissolve his shielding until Obi-Wan has already worked around it; it feels like a burning cramp, but it's like a snakebite filled with venom, and every throb as a layer of pain is siphoned away just reveals another, slightly weaker pain underneath.

There should be handprints on Qui-Gon's chest by now, as many times as they have done this over the years, he thinks fancifully. The scar should have moulded itself to fit the palm of Obi-Wan's right hand.

His breathing has been deep and controlled all along, because meditation is the best way to control the pain. Qui-Gon forces isolated clusters of knotted muscles all over his body to relax and lets himself look at the memory that has come to him from Obi-Wan along with the healing. "This is outrageous; it's unfair! I'm more powerful than any of you. How can you be on the Council and not be a Master?"

Qui-Gon can sense it floating in Obi-Wan's mind, though he doesn't address the thought to Qui-Gon: Did I make the right choice, Master? Did you? He sees Anakin and Obi-Wan in the corridor of the Jedi Temple and Obi-Wan saying, "I didn't want to see you put in this situation. " "What situation?"

"Are you all right?" Obi-Wan says.

Qui-Gon nods absently, reaching out to touch Obi-Wan's face.

"Good," he says tightly, and bears Qui-Gon down under him into the grass.

His kisses are hungry, his hands in the fabric of the unfastened tunic knotted with grief. Qui-Gon's nerves still sing from the influx of healing energy from Obi-Wan; his body has been tuned to that energy--a long process, now, comprising many years--he gasps at the first touch of Obi-Wan's hand inside his loose pants on his heated flesh, gathers him carefully in the curve of his arm and rolls over to lean over him and unfasten his belt and sash, pushing his hand in among the layers of his uniform tunics.

The uniform is too complicated to remove in their haste, let alone in the grass of the Inner Gardens, no matter how isolated and private. Qui-Gon's hand unfastens the pants with the ease of long practice and slides inside to find the hard erection, tip already moist under his thumb. Obi-Wan's shoulders shake as he buries his face in Qui-Gon's neck and thrusts frantically into his hand. What have I done? he says in Qui-Gon's mind, What have I done?

Qui-Gon lifts his head and kisses him. He has no other answer, but when Obi-Wan has spent himself in Qui-Gon's hand and the grass, he lies flushed in the grass and clutches Qui-Gon closer, pulling him down to lie at full length. And Qui-Gon sucks and bites at Obi-Wan's mouth, rolling his hips down sharply again and again and rub himself in the soft-skinned crevice where thigh joins to body. The arms around him are protective; he feels deeply immersed in Obi-Wan's Force presence, and when he finds release at last, he discovers that he is warm.

"You're asking me to do something against the Jedi Code," was the last thing Anakin said to Obi-Wan, "against the Republic, against a mentor and a friend. That's what's out of place here. Why are you asking this of me?"

"Loyalty is--not a bad thing, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon says out loud, shifting to lift his weight away and sit up when he thinks that his arms will support him again. "That you did what the Council required of you is no evil."

"Had you been there--" Obi-Wan murmurs quietly, running a hand distractedly through his hair.

"I absented myself because I knew that to oppose the other Council members' decision now would be fruitless."

Obi-Wan nods and hands Qui-Gon the crumpled exercise tunic. His voice is soft and solemn. "We all," he says, laying his hand over the scar on Qui-Gon's chest, "are doing what we must."

birthday ficlet for grace, june 2005.