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Shelter You (an itty bitty Side-Slip interlude)

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[When night is cold, and bitter harm

seeps like frost into your soul -

will you let me hold

your hand

in the shelter of my arm?]

 

 

"I woke you, didn’t I?  I’m sorry.”

Obi-Wan’s apology was just loud enough to carry over the rumble of the thunder.  His accent was no more pronounced than usual, which meant he’d been awake for a bit, the legacy of his Tatooine-trained habit of split sleep.

Or so he’d claim, if asked.

More likely, it was due to whatever was causing the disquiet prickling through their bond, even shielded – the same disquiet that had prodded Qui-Gon out of bed to come see what was amiss.

“Y’ didn’t,” Qui-Gon mumbled around a yawn, lying blithely and without remorse.  “Bladder did. N’ that,” he added, nodding toward the transparisteel window-wall, polarized to let in the dire beauty of the storm.  It didn’t rain much on Coruscant, but when it did? It rained.   “’m not goin’ back to sleep just yet, so …?” he finished, eyebrows raised.

A hand and a quick smile emerged from the swathed huddle of Kenobi and beckoned, as Qui-Gon had hoped.  “Your company’s always welcome. And it is your couch.”

Indeed it was.  So. Qui-Gon tugged absently at his night-robe, not awake enough to worry about dignity, and settled himself next to Obi-Wan.  

His padawan was a pile of sleep-clothes and the ancient throw-blanket Qui-Gon kept over the back of the couch, all smeared to shades of gray and indigo in Coruscant’s night light.  His hands, now that Qui-Gon could see both of them, were wrapped around a mug of something that smelled distinctly like tea.

And black tea, at that.  “’at won’t help you sleep,” Qui-Gon managed over another yawn, knowing full-well he was pointing out the bleedin’ obvious.

Obi-Wan huffed.  “It’s warm and it tastes good: those are the salient points.”  

Awake for more than a bit, if he was using words like “salient.”

Obi-Wan lifted the cup to his mouth and tipped it all the way back.  “And it’s gone, now, as well,” he said, mournful.

“Hmm, can fix that.”  Qui-Gon reached to pluck the cup away and his fingers brushed Obi-Wan’s, and he blinked.  Even wrapped around the warm heavy mug as they’d been – “Your hands are cold.”

Obi-Wan side-eyed him.  “I did mention that whole ‘warm’ thing, didn’t I?”

But Qui-Gon had already set the cup on the floor and taken Obi-Wan’s hand.  “Your hands are cold, Obi-Wan, what – ?”  

The hand slipped out of his grasp somehow and disappeared beneath the blanket. 

Thoroughly awake now, Qui-Gon stared at Obi-Wan’s profile, at the disordered hair and braids, their normally glorious copper shine colorless in the dim; at the faint gleam of the metal hoop in Obi-Wan's ear; at the bunched-up blanket, and caught the faint shiver he should have seen earlier.  “If you’re that cold, why didn’t you say something? Or turn the temperature up? The climate controls are there for a reason, you know.”

“And make you uncomfortable?”  Obi-Wan huffed again. “You run warm; you’d be miserable.  It’s fine.”

“These are your rooms too, Padawan.” 

“I’m fine, Master, really.  I can always put on more clothes.”

Which was exactly what he'd been doing, too, Qui-Gon realized now, and gave himself a metaphorical smack on the forehead.  

Obi-Wan had taken to wearing an extra layer since they’d arrived and he’d moved into Qui-Gon's rooms.  In the Temple, which was kept on the cool side against the demands of so many living beings living so close together.  

Hindsight was an annoying, unproductive thing, nipping at one’s heels; Qui-Gon let it chew for a moment before shooing it away to the Force.  Now was patently not the moment for a discussion of bodily temperature regulation. As to what it was time for – “May I share the blanket?”

Obi-Wan peered at him over the fabric bunched at his neck.  Qui-Gon raised his eyebrows and tried a “poor me” look. “There’s something of a draft.”

The look was an abject failure, judging from Obi-Wan’s expression, but the younger man opened one arm anyway in slow invitation.

Probably Obi-Wan had only intended a few inches, but Qui-Gon took the whole klik, sliding his arm around Obi-Wan’s waist and urging his padawan in close, full against Qui-Gon’s side.

And again, as there had been on Tatooine and periodically since, there was that moment of resistance, that second of hesitation before Obi-Wan relaxed, as if he needed to give himself permission to relax, to touch.  

Or nerve himself into it.   

Neither thought was the least bit comforting and Qui-Gon closed his eyes, locking his sadness behind adamantine shields.   Oh, dear one.  Your body’s not forgotten how you had to use it to survive, and may never forget.  If only there was something … 

Wishes didn’t change the past.  But -

Focus could determine reality.

“There now.  That’s much better,” he said lightly, allowing himself to take joy in this: the simple pleasure of touch, the weight and skin-sense of Obi-Wan’s body pressed against his own.

As was Obi-Wan, it seemed.  

Permission granted, the younger man had gone near-boneless, practically melting into Qui-Gon’s side.  One hand, cool even through Qui-Gon’s night-robe, rested in the safe zone between Qui-Gon’s ribs and waist, and Obi-Wan had nestled his head into the hollow of Qui-Gon’s shoulder.  He smelled like old clothes and himself, that bright lemongrass scent.

“Hmm.  All right, yes,” Obi-Wan murmured, and there was a distinct touch of the “must humor the Master” in the elegant voice.  Amused irreverence curled through the training bond, subsuming the disquiet. “You’re very warm.” 

“Result of my subspecies, I’m afraid.  Blessing or curse, depending on whom you ask.  I was 'directed' early in my apprenticeship to concentrate on the skill of regulating my body temperature.  Speaking of which …?”

“My skill at that – isn’t, right now,” Obi-Wan grumbled, annoyance creeping over the amusement.  “Which I’m attributing to the kriffing, Sithdamned spice, along with the fact that I’m rather more susceptible to cold than I was before.  At this age. The first time around.  Ugh,” he grumbled, blowing a sigh moistly across Qui-Gon’s collarbone. The amusement was back, flavored with something wry.  “I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to saying that.”

“No more will I, perhaps,” Qui-Gon admitted.  “I do know that I will never, ever, cease to be grateful for it, though; for whatever it was that happened to bring you here and into my life.  Depa asked me, you know, on the flight back, just what I thought you were.”

“I’ll bet she did,” Obi-Wan said, and Qui-Gon heard the grin in his voice.  “Dare I ask what you said?”

Qui-Gon tightened his arm in a firm hug around Obi-Wan’s still-too-thin shoulders and then made himself ease off again.  He could hold – and he would, for as long as the Force allowed him – but he could never possess. Love, but never attachment. 

“A gift, dear one; that’s what you are,” he said softly into Obi-Wan’s hair, and rubbed his cheek briefly against the silky tangle.  “A gift without peer.”

Obi-Wan’s arm slipped around Qui-Gon’s waist and pulled tight, newly-gained strength brought to bear.  “The gift is mine, Qui,” he whispered, his tone harsh but the burst of feelings in the bond anything but. 

A flare of lightning outside made Qui-Gon close his eyes, the afterimage a jagged white rip across his inner sight.  Like a scar: torn, but healing. “Share?”

“Done.”

Qui-Gon smiled.

 

*