torch, December 1999
flambeau@strangeplaces.net

Disclaimer: this is not the copyright infringement you're looking for. Title by W. H. Auden. Many thanks to elynross. Please send feedback. :-) Do not archive this story without permission.

The entirely beautiful

"May I have this dance, ved'Jedi?"

Qui-Gon recognized the music; it was a simple six-step, a dance for individual couples. Probably one of the last dances of the night, he thought with some relief. After a long day of listening to political manifestos and a long evening of eating as little as possible of twenty-seven elaborate courses, he wanted nothing so much as to withdraw to the guest suite for some peace and quiet. He smiled down at the veddia Arfin with as much good grace as he could muster. "Certainly, my lady."

She smiled back, and her thin features looked almost impish. "It has been a tiresome day, hasn't it?" Putting her hand on his arm, she swung them both out onto the dance floor, weaving an easy path between the other dancers. "I find that a little simple rhythmic exercise always takes my mind off my troubles."

"Your faction is ahead on points," Qui-Gon said, following her movements. "It may have been a troublesome day, but I think your troubles are nearly over."

The Jantha custom of literally keeping score in debates did simplify some things. This mission might be boring, but after Ehraal, he was grateful for a little boredom. Qui-Gon looked over the veddia's head towards the other end of the room and saw that Obi-Wan was standing with a group of electoral candidates for the progressive party, listening silently to their discussion. Although it didn't show on his face, fatigue was evident in the lines of his body. Yes, boredom and safety would do very well, until Obi-Wan was fully recovered.

"We shall see," veddia Arfin said and spun them around in a graceful swirl, her long yellow sleeves flaring, the movement becoming part of the dance. "Troublesome days such as these must be commonplace to you."

"All days are different," Qui-Gon said. And any day in which his padawan did not nearly die in a fire was a good one, he thought. When he closed his eyes he could still see the burning building, could hear the screams of the trapped children. He much preferred to look at the crowds of Jantha politicians and listen to the measured beat of the music.

"Yes, but not all days are interesting." The veddia smiled. "I believe it is our duty to make them as interesting as we can... the days and the nights. Would you care to continue this dance in a more private location, ved'Jedi?"

The suggestion was so lightly, casually made that Qui-Gon almost missed its implications; then he saw the glint in her eyes. He returned her smile, but not the pressure of her fingers. "I'm afraid not, my lady," he said. "I already have a... permanent dancing partner."

"My apologies." Veddia Arfin's body language turned a shade more formal. "It was my impression that Jedi usually remain unbonded, to be free to do their work. Is it not difficult for your partner to spend so much time apart from you?"

Qui-Gon shook his head. "My partner is here with me," he said.

It only took her a moment to figure it out. "Ved'Jedi Kenobi?" Qui-Gon nodded. "But — how can you bear to — he's so ugly," she said, her voice and face for once completely unguarded.

Qui-Gon stared blankly at her, sensing her spontaneous honesty and completely baffled by it. He turned his head. Obi-Wan was still standing at the other end of the room. Was still Obi-Wan, the same warmly shining presence that had brightened Qui-Gon's life for the past seven years. At a loss for how to answer the veddia's outburst, Qui-Gon settled for saying, "I believe it is time for us to retire for the night, my lady. If you will excuse me...?"

"Yes, of course." She didn't meet his eyes. The next turn took them to the edge of the dance floor once more, and veddia Arfin took her hand from Qui-Gon's arm, stepping away. "Thank you for the dance, ved'Jedi Jinn."

"My lady," he bowed to her and waited for her to walk off. Then he went around the dance floor and came up behind Obi-Wan, putting a hand on his shoulder. Obi-Wan nodded and slipped away from the group. Together, they crossed the room and went out through the large double doors, into the fresh air, and turned left onto the outside staircase.

Their room was on the fourth floor, and they walked up slowly. A slight breeze was blowing, fluttering their sleeves. On the second landing, Qui-Gon stopped and pulled Obi-Wan close, taking his face in one hand and tipping it up. He looked, long and carefully, until a corner of Obi-Wan's mouth twitched and his remaining eyebrow quirked up in mild amusement. "What is it, master?"

Qui-Gon leaned in and kissed Obi-Wan's left cheek, feeling a hint of late-night stubble against his lips, and then the right one, gentling his mouth against the scar tissue. He remembered seeing Obi-Wan come out of the flames, a man made of soot and fire, all his remaining force energy concentrated on shielding the children in his arms.

"I love you," he said, brushing his lips against Obi-Wan's, wondering fleetingly how the veddia Arfin had come to be so blind. "Will you share my bed tonight?"

Obi-Wan's smile deepened. "Yes."

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