The field was strong.

He didn't know exactly what it was but it was strong enough to hold him back. It had held his master, and their enemy; he had known it would hold him. That didn't make it any easier.

He watched as his Master went into battle, alone for the first time in twelve years. He watched with his heart in his mouth and a lump of fear in his stomach.

It wasn't that he doubted his Master's skills, just the opposite in fact. But this wasn't any ordinary opponent. This was a Sith, trained and skilled enough to have held off both of them up to this point. And now his Master faced him alone, and there was nothing Obi-Wan could do but watch helplessly.

Or was there?

The field was still holding him back, but he didn't need his hands to reach past the barrier. Frantically he searched the area.

His Master and the other continued to exchange blows. Once the double-edged lightsaber came close -- Obi-Wan felt its warmth against his Master's skin as if against his own.

'No!' Terror for his Master lent an extra surge of power. It allowed him to spot and wrench loose with the Force a control panel on the wall near where he was trapped. Allowed him to rip it free and send it flying through the air to strike his Master's opponent in the arm, knocking him off-balance for just a split second.

Qui-Gon took advantage of the momentary distraction and landed a strike on the Sith's shoulder. The Sith snarled and spun away, lightsaber whirling. Qui-Gon blocked the blow easily.

'What would it take to stop him?' Obi-Wan wondered, frustration building. He watched as the Sith punched Qui-Gon in the face, causing the Jedi to stumble back a step.

Without thought, Obi-Wan used the Force to grab another control panel and send it flying at the Sith, even harder than before.

This time he aimed for the head.

It struck solidly. The Sith stumbled forward into Qui-Gon's lightsaber.

The fields holding Obi-Wan back switched off as the Sith fell forward onto the floor, quite dead. Qui-Gon looked up as Obi-Wan ran to his side.

He nodded his thanks.

Obi-Wan tried to compose himself as well as his Master had, but was still trembling with excess adrenaline. That had been too close. If the Sith had been just a hair faster or himself a hair slower...

It did not even bear thinking about, but he couldn't stop, couldn't get the image of what might have been out of his head.

Qui-Gon was frowning at him now and Obi-Wan searched for the words to explain, but all he managed to get out was "Master-" before his voice cracked.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, and felt the reassurance of his Master's presence washing over him. He also felt Qui-Gon's mild confusion at his reaction, but Obi-Wan couldn't explain. He couldn't say those words....

"We should return." Qui-Gon's ever-gentle voice broke through the feelings Obi-Wan was struggling to control.

His trembling increasing, Obi-Wan turned away. "Y-yes Master," he said, unable to keep his voice steady, cursing himself for this lack of control. His Master was right -- they had to return. They may be needed elsewhere.

But his emotions were not at the moment responding to logic.

His Master did not seem to notice his difficulty; or if he did, he dismissed it in favor of more important matters at hand. They had to return to the Queen.

Qui-Gon strode swiftly away without a look back.

With immense effort, Obi-Wan shoved all his roiling emotions down and affixed a mask of Jedi calm. He could fall apart later.

Right now his place was by his Master's side.

Qui-Gon hadn't said a word about it. Neither had Obi-Wan, but in the back of his mind he kept expecting his Master to take him aside and ask him about it, say something, at least ask him if he were all right.

He even expected his Master to take him to bed, as they often did after a difficult mission was completed, to reassure each other that they both had survived. It wasn't the only time they came together, but it never failed that should one have a near miss, they would do so at the first available opportunity.

But so far, despite the long hours spent on Naboo each day after helping the Queen recover her planet, Qui-Gon had said nothing.

Oh, of course his Master spoke to him, talked to him in some depth actually, but always about business, the restoration effort. Or the boy.

The boy. Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon would go on and on about him, about plans for his training when the council finally approved, about the marvels the boy had accomplished even without training. About how the boy was the future of them all.

Obi-Wan was heartily sick of the boy.

As they made arrangements to return to Coruscant, Obi-Wan realized that he was going to have to do something. Qui-Gon was going to take Anakin as his Padawan. He, Obi-Wan, would face the trials -- ready or not -- and then....

And then Qui-Gon would be his Master no more.

The thought was inconceivable, and yet seemed to be as inevitable as the passage of time. All he could do was prepare himself as best he could and do his best not to shame his Master.

Not that his Master would notice, apparently. Obi-Wan had once tried to ask about the trials, what to expect, and Qui-Gon had simply said calmly, "You'll do fine."

Then Qui-Gon had asked him about the merits of letting Anakin spend some time at the Temple -- after Qui-Gon had a chance to begin his training, of course.

The words had been like salt in a wound. He didn't want to hear about what Qui-Gon was planning after he was gone. He most certainly did not want to help make plans! It was all he could do to maintain his mask of calm while he answered non-committally and made his escape.

In a way he was beginning to yearn for his trials -- if only to stop this long drawn-out torturous end.

The trip back to Coruscant was short, and painful. Qui-Gon spent the time with Anakin, teaching the boy... whatever it was he was teaching him. Obi-Wan kept to himself, telling Qui-Gon when he asked that he was focusing on his trials ahead.

Qui-Gon had left him alone then, and never once... never once did he even reach out for him.

The universe was beginning to seem a much colder and lonelier place.

Obi-Wan spent as much time as he could in meditation, trying to work through his feelings and come to terms with the apparent new order of things in his life.

It wasn't pleasant and it wasn't easy. Whenever he managed to achieve the proper meditative state, he found himself struggling with an excess of emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. More than once they had shot him from his trance in a near-panic.

In his unwelcome privacy, he despaired of passing the trials. Without even a grip on his emotions, how could he hope to control the Force? He would have no chance at passing, fumbling like a first-year apprentice.

Try as he might, though, he could not get himself under control. He could not even figure out *why*.

Yes, he was upset about losing Qui-Gon, but he should be able to ignore that for at least a few days....

But even when he slept, he found himself struggling against dark shadows and sitting bolt upright in bed. Perhaps it was a good thing he was not sleeping with Qui-Gon.

Because of the dreams, by the time they reached Coruscant, on top of being miserable, Obi-Wan was also exhausted. He found himself unable to even reach a meditative state, much less maintain it, and his control of both the Force and his emotions was eroding swiftly.

As soon as their ship landed, he headed for the Temple, going directly to the Fire Gardens. Normally he preferred the Water Gardens, or the rooftop view of the sky. But right now he felt as if his world were dissolving, and the hidden rage of the flames was calling to him.

As he sat before Master Roky's "Torithian Flame" display, he tried once again to find his center of peace. Perhaps the fire could burn away the turmoil within him. He stared at the flickering ever-changing flames and tentatively reached inside himself.

Almost instantly he jerked back, as the chaotic storm his emotions had become tried to overwhelm him and suck him down.

This wasn't going to work. Simply meditating wasn't exorcising his emotions, and he *needed* them gone. He closed his eyes in frustration.

A moment later he started in surprise as his Master sat beside him.

Obi-Wan quickly slammed a lid down on his inner turmoil. "What are you doing here?" he asked, his tone made abrupt by his struggle with his emotions.

Qui-Gon looked at him, surprise clear on his face and in the bond Obi-Wan could yet feel. He wondered bitterly when, and who, would break it.

"Where should I be?" Qui-Gon asked reasonably. Then he added in a much more serious tone, "Tell me why you are fighting so hard."

Trying to recover some of his normal aplomb, Obi-Wan amended, "You don't usually frequent the Fire Gardens. Besides I thought you were occupied with the bo-Anakin."

"He is being taken care of. My concern is with you," his Master said calmly.

For a moment it felt right, it felt so familiar that Obi-Wan wanted to drown himself in it. But he would be losing it in a few days; it would be better to start letting go now.

Wouldn't it?

"I am fine," he said with what dignity he could muster, turning slightly away from his Master. He hoped Qui-Gon would take the hint and leave him alone.

Instead he felt a hand on his arm. The touch was warm.

"Talk to me, Obi-Wan," his Master encouraged. It was not a command, he could refuse if he liked. If he could.

"I-" To his horror his voice cracked, just as it had after the fight back on Naboo. Where this all started.

He felt the hand on his shoulder tighten slightly, and felt his Master's concern and love buffering against the emotions he could not face. He could feel himself trembling as he made a last ditch effort to hold onto his barriers. To no avail. A harsh sound -- half like a moan, half like a sob -- escaped him.

Arms went around him immediately, and the sensation of comfort was so strong, so long thought gone for good, that Obi-Wan lost all control.

Turning and burying his face in his Master's shoulder, he stopped trying to fight his emotions and instead let them all out, hoping he could still trust Qui-Gon to hold him together.

Frustration, grief, fear, anger -- wordlessly they all poured out, shaking him in their brutal grip as they buffeted at his Master. Obi-Wan couldn't have controlled them now even if he wanted to. All he could do was hold on and hope the tempest would end.

As the storm raged, he felt his Master's arms circling him, holding him firmly. He heard his Master's voice, speaking to him over the din of his own heart. And he felt more emotions, not his own, tumbling in to mix and tangle with his own. He didn't try to recognize them, barely able at first to do more than withstand them all.

But eventually the force of them died, and though the feelings were still there, he found himself able to breathe once again and contemplate facing them.

He was shocked to find, among the emotions he'd felt from his Master, guilt.

Astonished he pulled back and stared at Qui-Gon. "Master?"

"I am sorry I have neglected you, Obi-Wan. Had I not been so focused on the boy, I would have realized the severity of your distress sooner." Qui-Gon brought his hand up to Obi-Wan's face, and all Obi-Wan could see in his eyes was sincerity.


Obi-Wan closed his eyes, savoring the touch, and the feelings. Maybe things were not as hopeless as he had thought. Something deep inside him began to breathe again for the first time in days.

"I thought I was going to lose you," he said softly. "During the fight back on Naboo, I mean. And then, when it was over, I thought I *had* lost you, even though you were still here. Still alive."

He felt his Master's surprise, and immediate, wordless reassurance that such a thing had not, and *would* not happen. "Not as long as I have a say in it," Qui-Gon whispered softly. He still held him tightly, and Obi-Wan made no move to gain his release, despite the rather awkward angle he was leaning at.

He was in his Master's arms, and there was no place else that he needed to be.

The flow of words though, now that he started, refused to abate. "You seemed so distant, so... preoccupied with planning Anakin's training. Planning what to do when you got rid of me."

If anything, Qui-Gon's embrace grew tighter. "Get rid of you?" Obi-Wan could feel his Master's shock at the suggestion. Then, softly, "I was trying... I thought you would help me train Anakin, as we would be remaining together. You will be a Knight, and though not yet a Master, the Council would have no objections."

"I thought..." Obi-Wan shook his head. "You never said anything, never mentioned me in your plans... I thought that-"

His Master arched an eyebrow and Obi-Wan wondered, for the first time, what he might have missed. "I asked what you thought concerning every step I want to take. I believed your silence to indicate your preoccupation with your trials."

Qui-Gon raised a hand, still holding tightly with the other arm, and brushed his fingers through Obi-Wan's short hair. "It has been a long time since you and I misunderstood one another so badly. Forgive me, love."

"Always, Master," Obi-Wan replied huskily, leaning into the caress. He reached up and touched Qui-Gon's face with one finger, tracing his features idly. "It was partially my fault as well. I should have said something sooner."

"Tell me, Obi-Wan." Again the soft words were not a command, but he found he could obey them, finally.

"The fight. With the Sith. You were fighting for your life and all I could do was watch. You almost died!" He could hear in his voice the echo of what he had felt standing trapped in the airlock.

"I did not die, Padawan." Again the words were gentle, but the tone was one which he could not doubt.

"It was so close, though, Master. If he had been a second faster after he hit you, or I had been a second slower..."

"But he was not, and you were not." His Master's voice was soothing, and though Obi-Wan was still trembling, he found the fears beginning to die away. Becoming more manageable, at least, which let him see beyond them.

"I wish we had been able to have this discussion when it happened," he sighed.

"You could have come to me," Qui-Gon told him. Before Obi-Wan could do more than begin to feel guilty, Qui-Gon added, "And I could have asked when I first sensed your fear."

"You had other things on your mind." Obi-Wan did his best, but couldn't keep the accusation totally out of his voice.

"I did," Qui-Gon replied, and the repentance was clear. "I allowed my concerns for Anakin to distract me. I believed I would know if you were truly in need of my help. Yet you did not ask," his Master reminded him. Somehow it didn't feel like censure.

"I...did not want to ruin whatever time we had left. You were already so distant I didn't want to take a chance on pushing you further away."

Qui-Gon replied by pulling Obi-Wan back into a two-armed embrace. "I thought you knew we would be together." His Master's words were distant, as much to himself as to Obi-Wan. There was silence, then Qui-Gon sighed. "There is much we have failed to say, in so short a time. Have I failed to let you know how I feel, that you could doubt me so?" Qui-Gon turned his gaze to his apprentice.

Obi-Wan felt his face redden in shame. At that moment he felt his Master's love so strongly that he wondered how he could ever have doubted it. But doubt it he had.

He tried to think back to exactly why he had doubted, what had shaken his certainty of his Master's feelings for him. And he kept coming back to one thing. "You didn't ask me what was wrong."

Small and petty perhaps, but that had been the beginning.

"Obi-Wan." His Master's voice was strong and almost sharp. Obi-Wan found himself listening closely. "Soon you will no longer be my Padawan and I will no longer be your Master."

He felt a sharp resurgence of love, countering the brief stab of remembered fear those words had caused so recently.

"We shall be equals, and you will not require my guidance in all things. You shall be as responsible for coming to me, as I shall be for coming to you."

"That will take some getting used to," Obi-Wan admitted. "You have been my Master for half my life."

"Yes. But you will learn, you must. We both must." Qui-Gon leaned over then and placed a kiss on Obi-Wan's head.

"I will learn," Obi-Wan agreed. "Just be patient with me when I stumble?"

"I will, Obi-Wan. If you remember that I love you with everything I am. Do not doubt it."

Obi-Wan let those words and the emotions they carried wash over him and sink into his heart. He knew they would stay there forever. "I won't Mas...Qui-Gon. Not any more."

Qui-Gon placed his hand beneath Obi-Wan's chin and raised his head for a tender, probing kiss.

Obi-Wan cooperated happily, feeling lighter and more contented than he had in days.

He had found his center of peace in the Fire Gardens after all.

Its name was Qui-Gon.