torch, August 1999
flambeau@strangeplaces.net

Disclaimer: owned but not operated by Lucas. Sequel to Happening to you. Not a nice story either. Thanks to Belle and Sebastian for continuing to provide titles. Do not archive this story without permission.

A healthy dose of pain

What know you of ready?

Walking slowly down the hallway, staring straight ahead and avoiding everyone's eyes, Obi-Wan repeated Master Yoda's last silent question over and over, as if asking it for the hundredth time would somehow magically produce a different answer from the one he knew to be the truth. What did he know of ready? Nothing. He hadn't been ready for this.

He had been ignorant, stupid and blind. He had refused to see the future, and now all he could see was this hallway stretching forever, and himself walking forever, alone, booted feet whispering over the polished floor. The people around him were like shadows, his awareness of them only fleeting.

When he reached the door, he stood facing it, counting his heartbeats, until his hands stopped shaking and he could tap in the lock code. The door opened to reveal a familiar room, sparsely furnished, painfully clean. There was the long desk with its two chairs, the A'jan cipriflower, the low table where he had often knelt to serve tea in rough unglazed cups. The large windows with a view of the fourth temple courtyard. Obi-Wan stepped inside and shut out the rest of the world.

He stripped his clothes off with methodical swiftness, letting them fall right there on the floor in a crumpled, sweaty heap. Then he walked slowly around the room, touching things. The wall, one of the console screens, the edge of a cipriflower leaf. A thin line of blood welled up on his finger. He licked at it desultorily, chasing fleeting thoughts about his own midichlorian count and the relative value of inborn ability versus early training. Another couple of steps put him by the entrance to Qui-Gon's room and he stood there for a moment, finger still in mouth, staring at the closed door.

Seven times. He had been inside, in his master's private space, exactly seven times in twelve years. Obi-Wan thought about pushing the door open and going inside now; there was a part of him that wanted nothing more than disobedience, and then discovery and attention and punishment. But the knowledge that he might not even be granted that made him close his eyes and turn away, and walk blind across the floor to his own door. He stepped into his bedroom and went all the way to the far wall, then stood for a while with his eyes still closed, gathering his courage.

Knowing he wouldn't be ready, he finally gave up and just looked. There he was, staring back at himself from the mirror, naked and tired. It was time to assess, to find the truth, to see who he'd become rather than who he'd been. Yes, he still had the braid. He also had the muscles, the occasional scars, the beginnings of stubble on chin and throat.

He was twenty-five years old. He wouldn't have the braid much longer. He wouldn't be Qui-Gon's padawan much longer. Qui-Gon had chosen someone else.

Letting his eyes unfocus, Obi-Wan could see Anakin next to his own reflection, brilliant blue eyes, joyous smile. Such a beautiful boy. Such a beautiful, talented boy, with an unprecedented midichlorian count and an outgoing, sunny disposition. No wonder he charmed everyone he met. Nearly everyone. Obi-Wan shivered, feeling once again the unease that gripped him when he thought about Anakin, the feeling that there was something... coming...

Something other than this, his own personal darkness. He turned away from the mirror. He didn't know how to be ready. He didn't know how to read his own thoughts and find out what was wrong beyond this moment.

Instead he went to the bed and lay down, slumping into stillness at first and just breathing. Then he straightened out and rubbed his cheek against the pillow. Soft. Not a good place to pretend to hide. This was full of memories, from the first time to what he knew now had been the last. It had always been here, in this bed, his bed. Never on a mission. Never in Qui-Gon's bed.

He rolled over to one side and reached up over his head to the compartment recessed into the wall, opening it with a practiced flick of the wrist and taking out a small bottle, the latest in a long line procured by his master. It was always the same kind of oil, thick and scentless, gold with a faint greenish tinge. He poured out a little and rubbed it between his fingertips, aware that he had never asked Qui-Gon what it was called or where it came from. This bottle was still three-quarters full.

More oil, and Obi-Wan curled up, reached down, stroked lightly over sensitive, responsive skin and then pushed a finger into himself. It was a familiar act, he'd prepared himself so many times like this. A second finger, stroking in and out, and he'd liked it best when his master did it for him, slowly and carefully. Getting him ready. The almost physical memory of what that felt like warred with the sensation of his own fingers moving in deeper.

He would face the trials. The apprehension he had once felt, thinking about that, was a strange muted panic now. If he faced the trials and failed, he would still be Qui-Gon's padawan, Qui-Gon's failure of a padawan until Qui-Gon found someone else to train and retrain him, because Qui-Gon no longer had the time. Qui-Gon had chosen. Qui-Gon had the chosen one to teach.

Obi-Wan went on finger-fucking himself, rocking slightly back and forth with the strokes. He became aware of a soft keening, felt wetness on his face and sucked in a harsh uncontrolled breath, another. No. His other hand was clenched tight against his chest and he made it open up, slid it down, curled it around soft warm genitals. Paced his breathing to the strokes in and out until it was even and regular again.

Hush, he told himself. Hush, little one.

The light coming in through the window had shifted its angle by the time he finally lay still and quiet. It wasn't the peaceful inside-and-out calm of meditation, but it would have to do. Obi-Wan reclaimed motion, with perfect control once again, stretching and then rolling off the bed and onto his feet. He walked out into the shared room; his clothes were still piled on the floor, with utility belt and boots and lightsaber in there somewhere.

Very irresponsible.

Obi-Wan let them lie while he went into the bathroom and cleaned up. The mirror there showed him that the cut from the cipriflower had opened again at some point, because there was a thin streak of dried blood running down his stomach. He scrubbed it off.

Clean again, he gathered the dirty clothes up and put them away, and dressed himself in another set of identical padawan garments. He bent down to tug on the boots, and lingered over the fastenings. Once, Qui-Gon had stripped him of everything but the boots, and then—

Straightening up, he looked at the closed door to his master's room. It had never been locked; there had never been the need for that. Just as the door to his room had always been standing ajar, waiting for the right touch to swing it open.

It was time to go. He wasn't ready, but he would try.

* * *

Nothing left to do

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