But in it the end, it proved an impossible situation. The representative from Kessel made one demand too many, and the Noghri stood up, stepped onto the conference table, and shouted, “I would advise you to have some heart, sir. You have set a few ultimatums, now let me establish one-”
“There is no need for you to do so on the table,” Qui-Gon interrupted. “Please sit down.”
The Noghri turned on him. “You Jedi! On their side, I don’t doubt!”
Qui-Gon held his hand up and started, “We are not on any side...”
“What fool do you take me for? You come from the same place they do, and we are the outsiders! I know you would rather we have stayed to die with our world!” And he leapt down onto Qui-Gon.
Instantly Obi-Wan had taken a hold of him to pull him off, and the three of them fell to the floor together, where in short order the Noghri found himself pinned down by the two Jedi. “Please calm down,” Qui-Gon told him.
“I assure you,” Obi-Wan added, “we are all sympathetic to your plight.”
“He isn’t!” roared the Noghri, pointing at the man from Kessel.
“I admit I am becoming less so,” the other man replied. “This behavior will not get you the shelter you seek in our space.”
“Do not be so hasty, either of you,” Qui-Gon admonished. He eased his hold on the Noghri; Obi-Wan did the same. “I think we should take a break until you both have calmed down.”
“I need to calm down?” asked the indignant Kessel representative. “I think I am perfectly calm.”
“You are worked up and you are not considering the situation with the best of your reasoning. Obi-Wan, let him go.”
Released, the Noghri glared at them, and for a moment it looked like he was going to attack again. But he only growled, “We will have what we need, by whatever means necessary. Keep that in mind, all three of you!” and turned away.
The Kessel representative stalked off, and Obi-Wan knew Qui-Gon was right in that they both needed to calm down. And the two Jedi themselves were surprisingly bruised; the Noghri was a strong being.
The tiny conference room was left empty, so they stood up several chairs which had been knocked over and sat down in two of them, next to each other. Then without thinking, Qui-Gon moved to heal a bruise on Obi-Wan’s face. It was only when his fingers brushed against Obi-Wan’s skin that they both remembered the danger. A danger acknowledged, spoken of, and only a few days ago agreed upon as being unavoidable.
Obi-Wan knew he ought to think of something-anything-other than Qui-Gon’s fingertips generating warmth through his skin, both intended and otherwise, or the cool feeling of his hand covering where the bruise had been a moment before. He shouldn’t lean into the hand; he should ignore how close Qui-Gon’s face has suddenly come to his own. Some part of his mind was betraying him.
Relief and disappointment when his master pulled hastily away, muttering an apology, which was more than Obi-Wan could bear. “Please, don’t be sorry on my account.”
“And why should I not be so, my padawan? Merely because you dislike the idea of causing me trouble?”
“I have caused you enough. Were I stronger in mind-”
“I would have to be likewise for this not to be painful to me.”
Obi-Wan felt hopelessly ashamed, of both his own feelings and of provoking the feelings he knew his master to hold for him, and of the frustration that beneath it was lurking, wanting what he should not want.
“You cannot do this.” Qui-Gon’s hands were back, on either side of his head, pulling it up, forcing Obi-Wan to look into his eyes, seeing his shame, his desire, his endless concern for the other reflected there. “I have seen this build up in you, since we talked. You will destroy yourself if we go on this way.”
Obi-Wan felt his heart drop and grow cold, for his master’s meaning seemed obvious to him. “We must separate?”
“No!” A soft, shocked exclamation. One another moment’s thought, Qui-Gon continued, “Perhaps that is what would be wisest. Certainly is looks like the most practical course of action, but perhaps selfishness clouds my judgement, makes me think less of the arguments for it than of the possibility of it only increasing our pain. But there comes a time, I think, when one must stop second-guessing one’s thoughts and just think.”
“And what do you think, master?”
Qui-Gon’s only response was to bring Obi-Wan’s face up to his own.
It was the most delicate of kisses; Obi-Wan felt more of the air on his lips than the lips of his master. But he chased those lips as they made to depart, clasping his hands to his master’s head even as his master’s fell away from his, knowing that things had in those last moments gone too far for him to not insist on having this, for good or ill as it might be.
If there was any hesitation left on Qui-Gon’s part, it did not last in the face of Obi-Wan’s taking the aggressive. He gave way, opening his mouth, moving his arms around Obi-Wan, pulling his apprentice close to him.
Then stopped at the sound of footsteps, remembering where they were, and who they were. “We will make this as small an indulgence on our parts as possible,” said Qui-Gon as they went about the task of healing their bruises, now business-like. “If we can keep our minds as clear as possible otherwise, I cannot see this as anything but the best thing we can do.”