Star Wars - Episode 1: Skin Trade
by Aya

"Isn't there anyone friendly to the Republic that can help us?" Qui-Gon

Shmi shook her head. "No. No one."

Anakin suggested, "Mom, what about--"

Shmi silenced him with a look. "No," she said again.

Qui-Gon studied the woman carefully. "Madam, if there is someone I can go

Shmi turned to Qui-Gon. "You don't want her help. She's in the skin trade."

"Skin Trade?" Padme asked.

"Slavery," Qui-Gon answered. It was a simplistic explanation but with
innocent ears about, it would do.

"Which is why you don't want to go to her," Shmi finished. "She'll own you
before this is over. Or a piece of you."

Qui-Gon turned his thoughts inward, hoping for a sign, a feeling from the
living force to direct him. He caught Padme's gaze, reading her quickly.
Two choices: risk the boy's life in the race tomorrow or...

"Can you take me to her?" he asked.

Shmi stared at him a moment then reluctantly agreed. "Yes," she said. "I
only hope you know what you're doing."

** ** **

Leaving Jar-Jar and Padme with Anakin, Shmi and Qui-Gon made their way to the
large secure compound outside Mos Espa. The desert winds kicked up large
dust clouds that made the air dry and more uncomfortable. Qui-Gon studied
his escort in the harsh sunlight. Shmi's discomfort was evident.

"What else are you not telling me?" he asked.

Shmi stared straight ahead. "Mistress Lilith is very powerful. She's an
opportunist. Her slaves are never heard from after they enter her walls."

"How does Anakin know of her?"

"Watto owes her a great deal. Much of his merchandise comes through her
sources." Shmi then faced him. "She's taken a liking to my son, Qui-Gon.
And he is too na‹ve to see her for what she is."

"Do you think she can be persuaded?"

"Only if she wishes to be."

The smooth white compound walls were at least 10 meters high and would prove
very difficult to scale. Shmi went to the view screen and placed her palm on
the surface, activating it.

"Yes?" The tinny voice of a protocol droid fizzled through the speaker.

"Shmi Skywalker to see Mistress Lilith."

"My sensors show you are not alone."

"I bring someone seeking your mistress' assistance." Shmi answered.

"Very well." A small door near the screen slid open. Shmi quickly looked
back at Qui-Gon then stepped inside.

Paradise. It was the only way to describe the compound. Waterfalls echoed
in the far corners of the compound, feeding the small streams that ran
through the courtyard. Lush green plants lined the walkways, creating an
almost decadent atmosphere. Every so often, Qui-Gon would catch a glimpse
of someone watching him. Mistress Lilith's slaves were probably curious, he

Across the courtyard was a large white building with ornate carvings and
decorations. A bronze droid stood at the entrance waiting.

"Mistress Skywalker," the droid said, "if you will follow me, my mistress
will receive you in the Aquarium."

Shmi glanced again at Qui-Gon then nodded to the droid. The door opened and
they were immediately chilled by a blast of cold air. The cool building very
welcoming after spending most of the day under the Tatooine suns. Walking
through the large halls, Qui-Gon noted the number of archive-quality
artifacts, artwork, sumptuous carpets and glasswork. Whoever Lilith was, she
had exquisite taste.

Fat fish in clear glass bowls lined the walkway leading to what Qui-Gon
assumed would be the Aquarium. That there was so much water in one place
showed not only large amounts of wealth to acquire it, but also the power to
keep it. He was even more intrigued.

The droid called the room the Aquarium and now Qui-Gon knew why. The walls
were made of large glass tanks and housed aquatic life he'd only seen in
holos. It was a peaceful room, the only sounds coming from the air bubbles
in the tanks. The furnishings were spartan but fitting: just overstuffed
cushions that littered the floor and a few tables set in a random pattern.

"Hello Shmi. It's been a while." A low rich voice filtered through the air.

"Mistress Lilith. Thank you for receiving us at such short notice." Shmi's
voice was soft and deferential.

"Of course Shmi. You're always welcome here." She stepped out of the
shadows then, her long silver hair curling softly around her ankles. Cloaked
in blue silk that set off her eyes, she moved around the room with a
predatory air about her. "Is this your friend?" she asked surveying Qui-Gon.

Shmi nodded. "He came to ask for assistance."

"Very well," she answered. "Kala!" she called. Immediately a servant stepped
out of another corner and bowed. Lilith instructed the servant, "Take
Mistress Skywalker to the arboretum, and make sure she's comfortable. Her
friend and I have some business to discuss." The servant bowed again and
escorted Shmi out of the room.

Lilith circled him and smiled. "Qui-Gon Jinn. I must have really pleased
the Gods for you to be on my doorstep."

Qui-Gon masked his surprise. "Have we met before?"

"You would have remembered it if we had," she drawled. "No, one of my many
interests is the Jedi. And you, Master Jedi, are quite notorious." She
stepped back and gracefully lowered herself onto one of the cushions,
gesturing for him to do the same. Once comfortable, she asked, "How may I be
of service?" From out of nowhere another servant brought them wine, which
Qui-Gon accepted hesitantly.

He spoke carefully, doling out information in small bits. If she were the
opportunist Shmi claimed she was, he'd need to be careful. "I need parts for
my starship, but the junk dealers here won't deal in Republic credits."

She nodded. "How many credits are we talking about?"

"Twelve thousand."

She raised an eyebrow then. "That's quite a bit of money. And republic
credits are useless out here, unless one in involved in intergalactic trade.
Like me." She sipped her wine slowly.

Qui-Gon set his glass aside with a sweep of his hand. "It is imperative that
I reach Coruscant."

Lilith laughed loudly. "Is it now. I hope you aren't trying that old mind
trick. My people are immune to it." She sipped her drink again, her smile
more firmly in place.

Qui-Gon sat back frustrated. She was unreadable, much to his chagrin. He
tried another approach. "Mistress, I must reach Coruscant with all due
speed. Surely twelve thousand credits now and another twelve once I reach
Coruscant would be more than enough to cover the parts I need. You would
make a nice profit for a bit of generosity now, not to mention have my

"And what would your gratitude buy me?" she drawled. "No, I want something
more substantial."

"And what would that be?"

"Twenty four hours of your time."

He frowned then, starting to stand. "If it's sex you want, I'm sure..."

"Who said anything about sex?" she said, silencing him with a wave of her
hand. He studied her, questioning. "Maybe I just want a Jedi Master at my
beck and call for twenty-four hours." She licked her lips then. "Or maybe
not." She set her glass aside then. "Either way it's your choice. You'll
get your parts, and I'll ... I'll get what I want too."

She unnerved him. "May I take some time to consider?" he asked.

She nodded. "Of course. Though if you take too long, my terms may change."

He rose then and bowed to her. "Very well, Mistress. I'll be in touch."
She nodded in acknowledgement. He turned then and the bronze droid led him

Lilith watched him leave then called out, "Semaj!" Another servant came in
and bowed. She downed her wine. "Ready my speeder, and contact Jabba. Tell
him I'm calling in a favor."

** ** **

"I'm sorry, sir," the protocol droid chimed. "I have been instructed to
accept only standard currency for entry fees. If you wish to sell your craft
first, I will be happy to assist you afterwards."

Qui-Gon stared at the droid, using every bit of his famed Jedi control to
control his frustration. He was back where he started, no money, no parts
and no options. Forcing a smile, he left the arena office.

Tatooine's twin suns were at their zenith, and scorched the mostly deserted
streets. The shifting winds kicked up small, thick dust clouds. He started
back to the slave quarters.

"We meet again, Jinn."

He turned and saw Lilith, clad in a tight blue bodysuit, hair bound in a
matching headscarf. She was seated comfortably on top of her speeder,
grinning in a knowing way. He approached her, his anger close to boiling
point. "You did that."

She looked puzzled. "Did what?"

"The Hutts won't take my ship in trade for an entry fee," he accused.

"They won't? Pity." She jumped down from her speeder. "Why would you need
an entry fee anyway? You don't look like a racer to me."

"Another option for acquiring the parts I need presented itself," he answered
in clipped tones.

"Anakin," she said in realization. "He finally got the pod running, didn't
he. The boy is a genius. Great amount of potential in him."

He drew himself up to his full height and glared down at her. "What do you

"I think it would be obvious," she said, dropping all pretense. "Though now,
cond itions have changed somewhat."

"How so?"

She leaned against the speeder, arms folded. "I'll front the entry fee, in
exchange for 24 hours of your time. If you win, you only owe me your time.
Obviously the prize money will cover your repairs. If you lose however, I
still get my 24 hours, after which I'll provide safe passage to Coruscant for
you and anyone else you wish. Either way, we both win."

Qui-Gon studied the woman. Obi-Wan ran a search for her in the republic
database after their first encounter. She was an intergalactic skin-trader,
a semi-polite term for sex-slaver. She'd been linked to several
not-so-respectable factions across the galaxy. Lilith herself was a bit of
an enigma, though her family was well known and respected. She was disowned
several years ago, though it didn't seem to bother her or disrupt her
business dealings. She created her own power base, her own rules. And now
she wanted to own him, no matter how temporarily.

There was really no choice in the matter. He spoke quietly. "Time is
commodity I do not have much of. If I delay here any longer, my mission,
already in jeopardy, may fail completely. Many people will die." He sounded
defeated, humble.

Which seemed to please her.

"Very well then, a compromise. Twelve hours immediately following the race.
It will take that long to repair your ship anyway. Then I want your word as
a Jedi you will return to fulfill the original twenty four after your mission
is complete."

He hesitated a moment. "Agreed. Twelve hours immediately following the

"And after your mission?"

"You have my word as a Jedi Knight."

She smiled in triumph. "Congratulations Jinn. You won't be disappointed."
She walked back to the arena office. "I'll contact you after the race. Tell
Ani I wish him luck."

** ** ** **

Qui-Gon and Anakin made their way to the ship where Obi-Wan waited patiently.
He first introduced his apprentice to the boy and sent Anakin inside with
Padme while Panaka supervised the unloading of the parts.

Once Anakin was out of earshot, Qui-Gon pulled his apprentice aside. "Walk
with me." He entered their shared quarters, Obi-Wan following close behind.

"Obi-Wan, something has come up," he said cryptically. "I need you to have
the ship repaired in twelve hours." He shrugged off his desert tunic and
reached for his dark brown robe.

"Of course Master, it shouldn't take more than five." Obi-Wan answered.

"No Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said, "I want it done in twelve hours. No less."

Obi-Wan sensed his master's discomfort and frowned. "What's happened?"

"I made a deal with one of the traders."

"One of the traders," Obi-Wan repeated. Then realization dawned. "You don't
mean..." he started, eyes wide.

"I had no choice Padawan."

"What do you have to do?" Obi-Wan asked. Qui-Gon felt his apprentice's
mental prodding and chose his words carefully, hoping not to alarm the young

"All she wants is my time. Twelve hours for now."

His apprentice was not convinced. "For now?" he spat. "Then what?"

"Then," he continued, "After our mission, I owe her one day."

"To do what?" Obi-Wan asked. "What does she want?"

What indeed, Qui-Gon thought. In all his years as a Jedi Knight, he'd been
called to perform many different duties, some pleasant, some not. Yet this
was the first time he'd ever been thrown off balance. It disturbed him.

Feeling Obi-Wan's gaze, he forced a serene expression. "I'm not quite sure,
Padawan." He fixed his belt and replaced the power cell on his saber. "If I
am not back in time, I want you to go to Coruscant."

"I'm not leaving you here, Master," Obi-Wan stated.

"You may not have choice."

"But Master..."

"The mission comes first." Qui-Gon exited the room and made his way to the
boarding ramp. "If I'm not back in time, take the queen to Coruscant.
Explain to the council where I am. Then come back for me."

The two Jedi started down the ramp. At the foot of the ramp waited a very
luxurious speeder. Its driver was a slight figure whose face was obscured
by a blue scarf.

"Master..." Obi-Wan started to protest.

"Obey me, Padawan." He climbed into the speeder and raised his hood over his
features. "And leave your com link open. Just in case..."

** ** ** ** **

They sat in silence for the first few moments of the trip. She stole a
glance at him, then said, "By the Gods Jinn, you look like you're going to
your own execution."

"How do I know I'm not?" he answered, deadpan.

"No trust at all? And after I'd been straight with you from the start." She
lowered her shoulders in an exaggerated sigh. "I'm truly hurt."

"I can return to my ship and spare your tender feelings," he offered.

She turned to him one eyebrow raised. "Sorry Jinn, but I'd rather you stay.
My feelings can stand a bit of tempering under you rare Jedi wit." She ran a
gloved hand over his leg.

Qui-Gon froze as the heat of her hand permeated the thick cloth of his
trousers. He said quietly, "I thought we agreed..."

"We did no such thing." Her eyes took on a predatory gleam. "Remember I did
say conditions could change over time."

He looked into her eyes, wondering what exactly he'd gotten himself into.
This was the first move she'd made against him, simple but effective. For
the tenth time, he wished he could read her, just to understand why she made
him so uncomfortable. He cleared his throat. "Lilith..."

She laughed aloud, removing her hand from his leg. "Don't worry, Jinn. Your
virtue is safe. For now." Turning her attention back to the hot sands, she
said, "You don't like me very much do you."

"I don't believe that was a requirement of our agreement."

"No," she replied. "It wasn't. But I wonder what it is about me that you
find so unpalatable."

Qui-Gon answered sarcastically. "Perhaps it's your profession. Or your
attitude. Or the fact you manipulate people to get what you want..."

"I don't do anything you haven't done before Qui-Gon Jinn, so don't get
sanctimonious with me." Her voice was sharp. "We both use all the skills
and resources at our disposal. We both play the game to win, whether it's you
waving your hand around and making people think they want to help you, or me
calling in a favor so someone thinks they need me to help them. The only
difference between us is that my way is overt. You knew you were manipulate
d. Can you say the same about your last victim?"

Her words stung. Jedis use their skills for the good of all, yet sometimes
those skills deprived individuals of their free will. He thought about Boss
Nass. Should he have asked, rather than influenced the Gungan to assist
them? And with Jar-Jar? Who was he to interfere with Gungan Law?

No, he told himself. What he did was for the greater good. If he hadn't
influenced Boss Nass, they may not have made to the Queen in time. As for
Jar-Jar, Qui-Gon was saving the Gungan's life.

"Jedi's do not use their skills for profit or power. They use them for
peace." She snorted then. "Peace? I believe that, Jinn. Is that why you
carry such a powerful weapon? For peace?"

He studied her, feeling more unsure now than before he was a padawan. Trying
to regain some control, he countered, "For one who claims to have an interest
in the Jedi, you don't seem to have much respect for us."

She glanced at him then turned back to the desert. "I have as much respect
for Jedi as I do for the Hutts. They serve a purpose in the grand scheme of
things, but are too arrogant to acknowledge their connection to others. They
preach on and on about the living force that flows among us, yet do nothing
to further the bond between the cretins and the chosen ones." She looked at
him then. "Which is why I like you, Jinn. You are unlike any Jedi I've ever
met. Finis bragged about you..."

"Finis?" Qui-Gon nearly shouted.

"Vallorum," she answered. "We go way back." Taking in his shock, she added,
"I do have some respectable connections, you know."

Qui-Gon stared at her, wondering just how far this woman's reach went. He
knew she was powerful...

"You are a dangerous woman."

"Thank you, Jinn. I'll take that as a compliment." She gave him a sidelong
glance. "You will find I make more allies than enemies, and grant more
favors than threats. It's the only way to survive in this business."

"But you do more than survive. You prosper."

She turned her attention towards the shifting sands. "You make it sound like
a bad thing. I put a legitimate face on a practice that has been around for
centuries. That I make a tidy profit from it is just a fortunate side

They rode in silence a little longer when she said, "Your apprentice wasn't
too pleased with you."

Qui-Gon shrugged. "It isn't the first time. And probably won't be the

"Did you explain our arrangement?"

"As best as I could."

Lilith stifled a chuckle. "From the look on his face, I'd bet he thinks I'm
taking you to an intergalactic brothel to service my customers for twelve
hours." She waited a beat, then... "Of course, I could make a small fortune
off the two of you. With his hair and those eyes...

"Leave Obi-Wan out of this," he said, his voice menacing.

She just laughed. "Bravo, Jinn. I was beginning to wonder if you were
passionate about anything."

He bit back another comment and turned his attention to the shifting sands.

** ** ** ** **

They entered the white marble walls and went to the hangar. Qui-Gon counted
three ships, one of them a Nubian similar to the Queen's. Pit droids and
mechanics scurried around, running along the speeder until it came to a halt.
She exited the craft, handing the activator to a waiting servant. They all
bowed and moved the speeder into the hanger.

The first thing Qui-Gon noticed was the lack of fear or resentment coming
from any of the servants. They all regarded Lilith with the same mix of
respect and deference, quite contrary to the uncomfortable a pprehension Shmi
felt. Qui-Gon found this contrast extremely confusing.

"Come," she said, leading him out of the garage. "My people will be waiting
for me."

He followed her out of the hangar across the grounds to the courtyard.
Qui-Gon was impressed by the sheer opulence of the compound. The white
marble walls hid lush fruit trees brought from across the galaxy as well as
fragrant flowers that scented the air with their rich perfumes. Small streams
of water bubbled softly over rocks and under small footbridges. More fish
swam carelessly in the small reflecting ponds scattered over the grounds.
The green canopy of leaves shaded the entire garden, creating a cool oasis in
the desert heat.

Several servants waited for her in the main courtyard. A dark man bowed
politely, then said, "Mistress Lilith, the communiqu‚ you were expecting has
arrived. It is in your office."

"Thank you Semaj." She gestured to Qui-Gon. "This is Master Qui-Gon Jinn.
He is my guest today. Please see we are not disturbed."

"As you wish, Mistress." Semaj bowed again and walked off.

The bronze protocol droid spoke then. "Mistress, your afternoon meal is
waiting in your chambers as you requested."

"Thank you 04, that will be all." She removed her scarf and gloves and
handed them to another servant, then led Qui-Gon inside.

The servants bowed as they walked past to Lilith's private chambers. She
nodded in acknowledgement, not breaking her stride. Again Qui-Gon felt no
bitterness from the servants. He felt no fondness either, just wary respect.
It made no sense.

She palmed the lock. The door slid open with a hiss. She called to another
servant. "Kala." The pale-blue skinned female came forward and bowed.
Lilith nodded then instructed, "I've already told Semaj, but please make sure
we are not disturbed unless absolutely necessary."

"Yes mistress." Kala bowed again then left them.

Qui-Gon gave her a suspicious look. "No parading your pet Jedi around for
the slaves?"

Lilith glared then. "I did not bring you here to humiliate you Jinn. If I
wanted that I would have done it long before now."

"Then why did you bring me here?"

She stroked his muscular form with a leer. "You'll find out soon enough."
So saying, she sauntered into her rooms.

** ** ** ** **

Her rooms were simple but elegant. While the other parts of the complex were
tastefully sumptuous and decadent, these rooms were uncomplicated:
overstuffed black and white chairs and divans, slick black tables, white wall
coverings, and thick black carpets. Large black bowls of Kessel vanilla
lightly scented the air.

Lilith walked to one of the tables and poured two glasses of chilled
Alderaanian wine and offered one to Qui-Gon. He took the glass and set it
aside untouched.

"Still don't trust me Jinn?" she asked. "Expecting me to poison you or
better yet, drug and ravish you?"

"I prefer not to drink wine today if you don't mind."

"Suit yourself." She set her glass aside and went to pour him some water.
"You can sit Jinn. I don't mind."

"I would prefer to stand."

She chuckled. "You aren't going to make this easy, are you Jinn?"

Qui-Gon replied, "I suppose it depends on what 'this' is."

She handed him the glass. "You would prefer to stand, you would prefer water
to wine, what else would you prefer?"

"I would prefer to return to my ship," he answered.

She took a quick swallow of wine. "Unacceptable." She studied him a moment.
"Qui-Gon Jinn, I own you for the next twelve hours. You may be my guest or
my property. It's your choice."

"Our agreement was for 12 hours of my time willingly given so I suppose I
should accept gracefully," he said quietly. "As for guest or property, I
believe I choose property. I didn't particularly enjoy being your guest last
time. At least I know you treat your property well."

She exhaled hard, her frustration evident. "Property it is. Since this is
all you see in me, then this is all I will show you." She sat up quickly,
bracing her elbows on her knees. "Strip."

He glared at her. "Excuse me?"

"First rule of the Skin Trade: Always inspect the merchandise." Her voice
was sharp, all business. "Remove your clothing." Qui-Gon hesitated. Her
voice took on a dangerous quality. "Either you do it or I do it for you."

He had no doubt in his mind she was capable of carrying out the threat.
Slowly, he removed his dark brown outer cloak. "You must enjoy this," he

She raised an eyebrow. "Not particularly," she replied coolly. Lilith stood
quickly and took the cloak from him, slipping it onto her shoulders. Then
returning to the divan, she kicked off her boots. "Usually I have Semaj or
Kala do this before I make my purchases. I never enjoy this violation."

And for some reason, he believed her.

She watched him remove his belt. "Hand me your saber." Again he paused.
Holding out her hand, she said, "I will put it somewhere out of the way. It
will be safe."

Qui-Gon slowly set the saber on a low table near him. "You'll forgive me if
I prefer to keep it nearby."

She lowered her hand slowly. "As you wish. Though you will leave it here

"I would prefer not to."

She finished off her wine and shifted into a more comfortable position on
the chair. He felt her appraising him, and felt exposed, though still fully
clothed. He shot a glance at her. Her face was blank, her eyes cold.

She waved her hand. "Continue." He stood silently, watching her. Setting
her own glass aside, she took his discarded wineglass, she added, "Please."

He slowly removed the sash and first layer of tunics, feeling the color rise
in his cheeks. Control Jinn, he told himself. You area Jedi Knight. Peace,
serenity. It did not help that she showed no outward reaction, no leer, no
smug grin, just a cold blank stare.

"I remember the first time I had to do this," she said. "Very unpleasant."

He pulled off the second set of tunics. "I should think you would be used to
having men and women disrobe for you," he challenged.

"True, but I was thinking of the first time I had to disrobe for someone,"
she responded. "It's the reason why I choose to leave this task to my

For the first time, he saw her gaze go distant. "What happened?" he asked

She looked at him, face still blank. "I was fourteen," she said. "My mother
brought me downstairs and had me disrobe for my prospective husband. A
politician. Always bogged down by one scandal or another. My father offered
one of his daughters as a trophy bride in exchange for certain... favors.
Mother brought us all downstairs and had us disrobe for the man so he could
make an educated choice." She snorted then. "And I was the winner, if you
can call it that." Turning her attention back to Qui-Gon, she said, "Boots."

Qui-Gon kneeled and slowly undid the buckles of his boots. "Where is your
husband now?"

"The seven hells of Kashyyk for all I care. Dead for certain."

"How did he die?" he asked.

She looked at him squarely and responded, "I killed him."

"You killed him?"

"Well, that is the unofficial story, the one everyone believes." She
gestured with her glass. "Actually, he was killed by a servant of mine. But
since it enhances my reputation, I never bothered to protest."

Qui-Gon removed a boot. "Surely your family would have said something."

Lilith drawled "My family, as much as they hate to admit it, enjoy having a
rogue among them. It's good for appearances. They made such a production of
disowning me, but I still get trivial communiqu‚s from my mother begging me
to change my ways, return to the loving bosom of my family and asking for yet
another blonde man-servant. It's rather amusing."

Qui-Gon removed the second boot. "Why was he killed? Your husband, I mean."

She took another sip. "My dead husband had a disgusting penchant for young
boys. He made the mistake of attacking one of the servant's children. I
came upon her as she stood over my husband's mangled body. She'd bludgeoned
him with a rather expensive but revolting piece of statuary. I sent her into
hiding and dealt with the authorities myself. Since he was a senator at the
time, naturally an investigation took place." She smiled faintly. "It was
handled by a rather interesting Jedi. Ki was very thorough. A very nice

Qui-Gon studied her. "Ki?"

"Ki-Adi Mundi." At his surprise, she smiled in earnest. "Would I shock you
if I said he still visits me quite a bit? Always frustrated with one part of
the council or another or by a certain Jedi master who chooses to disobey the
rules." She put her glass down, her expression blank again. "Last tunic
please. And your trousers."

He stood again and stripped off the thin crŠme-colored undershirt. He paused
a moment as she lay back on the divan, appraising him again. He undid the
ties and let his trousers fall to the floor and stepped out of them. Wearing
only his white drawers, he withstood her inspection, drawing in deep breaths,
gathering the force around him, trying to regain his center, his balance. It
wasn't working.

She let him stand for a few minutes, not really paying attention to him.
Finally she moved, reaching for his wineglass again. She finished her drink,
set the glass aside, then walked over and circled him, his cloak enveloping
her body.

She ran a practiced hand across his chest. "Very nice, Jinn. I wasn't
joking when I said I could make a small fortune from you." With her nails
she traced light patterns across his skin, the pad of her fingertip circling
his nipple. His breath caught sharply as she switched hands, tracing his
nipple with her other fingertip, cold and wet from the condensation on the
wineglass. She raked the soft hair on his chest, tracing it down his body,
across his stomach, pausing at his drawers. Moving to face him she slid two
fingers into the waistband of his drawers. "Unfortunately, these have to
go." She then slid the cloth down his body, easing the garment over his hips
and letting it fall to the floor. She stepped back and surveyed him again,
her eyes roaming the length of his body.

He stood stoically, his shaft already half erect, his breathing deep and
controlled. His body was betraying him, much to his chagrin. You are a
Jedi, he thought. Focus on serenity, peace...

She stepped forward and cupped him gently in her hand, watching his eyes for
a reaction. He felt himself respond and did everything in his power to
control it. She did nothing else to encourage his response, but simply felt
him with soft delicate fingers, her eyes not breaking contact with his. He
let out a breathy moan.

"Very nice indeed," she whispered. Moving behind him, she traced the crease
between his leg and his groin, sending more shudders through him. He could
feel her warm breath on his back, and took deep breaths to remain calm. She
ran her tongue across the small of his back...

And sputtered in disgust. "Gods Jinn, do you bathe?"

"Of course..." he stammered, his lust quickly replaced by embarrassment.

She stepped away from him, unconvinced. "Come." She took several steps
before she realized he wasn't following. She turned and said sweetly, "I
would like you to bathe, Master Jinn. I would rather you not reek of sand,
sweat and other such nonsense." She raised an eyebrow then and added,
"Unless you would prefer to spend the day smelling like a dead bantha."

Was she teasing him? He watched her body language, not quite knowing what to

She smiled then. "Did you want me to lead you to the baths? I assure you I
won't take you by the hand."

He blinked, catching her smile. She was teasing him. He stepped forward
slowly and picking his saber up off the table, followed her out.

** ** ** ** **

The bath consisted of a small pool where one would clean off the desert
grime, and a larger pool for soaking. She handed him soap and a washcloth
then moved behind a large screen.

Qui-Gon lowered himself into the hot water, relishing the sensation. His
whole body sagged in relief as he allowed himself to relax. Simple
pleasures, he thought, exhaling fully, feeling his tense muscles unwind.

She'd changed into a large black towel wrapped around her body, fastening it
under her arm. Her hair was artfully piled high on her head. Returning to
his side, she knelt on the floor by the pool, taking her position next to him
and reached for his hair tie. He stiffened slightly, but did not pull away.
Loosing the brown mane, she ran her fingers through it. Gently, she began to
massage his scalp. He leaned back into her hands, relaxing again.

Reaching for a large pitcher and basin, she teased, "Did I hear a lusty sigh,

"After spending the night on a dirt floor, then the first part of the morning
pulling a pod racer, this is a welcome experience," he answered honestly. He
sighed again as she poured warm water over him, soaking his hair thoroughly.

"I'm happy to have finally pleased you," she said lightly. She poured a
generous amount of soap into her hands and began to work it into his mane.
"Is there anything else you would welcome?"

He said half-heartedly, "I would ask to return to my ship..."

"Which I would decline," she replied, slowly washing his hair.

"Then I would say nothing more at this time." He leaned further into her

"As you wish." She finished quickly, massaging the nape of his neck a bit
before rinsing his hair thoroughly. She then moved back and leaned against
one of the many chairs in the room, watching him scrub the grime from his
body, rolling his shoulders under the water, willing them to relax. He faced
her slowly, curious. She said nothing to him, but her lips curled into a
faint smile. It was the first time that day he did not feel hunted.

Once clean, he moved to the larger pool and lay back lazily. She'd gone to
the outer chambers, leaving him alone in the bath. Thoroughly relaxed, he
closed his eyes and drew the force around him again, slowly reaching a
meditative state. He wanted to regain a semblance of control.

He wasn't quite sure how long he'd been there when she touched his shoulder
and handed him his communicator. He shook himself out of his reverie at the
sound of his apprentice.

"Master, are you there? Please respond." It was Obi-Wan, his anxiety
evident through their force bond as well as in his tone.

"I'm here padawan," he answered in a soothing tone. He didn't hear Lilith
drop her towel and slide into the pool.

"Master, are you alright?"

"I'm fine Obi-Wan," he answered, turning away from the center of the pool,
looking for her. Lilith quietly moved behind him and began to comb his hair
gently, pressing her body lightly against his back. He stiffened, his body
already responding to her soft touch. Gently, she pulled the comb through
his hair, following with her fingertips, carefully working out the snarls,
smoothing her hands over the wet mass. Obi-Wan's voice faded as he let the
sensations overtake him.

He couldn't remember the last time anyone combed his hair, let alone the last
time it affected him like this. In the past, his lovers pulled or twined
their fingers in his hair, not that he minded. But this time, he felt more
overwhelmed by the mere sensation of the comb running through his hair. Her
hands in his hair were erotic, more enticing than her soft breasts pressed
against his skin. What little control he managed to gather in those few
moments alone began to crumble under her ministrations.

"But master, I sense..." Obi-Wan's voice crackled through the comm.

"I will contact you later padawan." He closed the link and set the device on
the shiny tile floor. Breathing in deeply, he asked, "What are you doing?"

"I'm combing your hair." Her voice was deep, soft. "Was I disturbing

"No. Yes." He stammered. "What do you want from me?"

"Are we going through this again, Jinn?" she said teasing. "You are my
guest, my property, whatever you want to call it."

He faced her then. "You've done everything to seduce, terrify, anger and
embarrass me. I may be a Jedi, but I am still human. What do you want from

Her eyes were deep blue, clouded. "Nothing." His expression was stony, his
eyes searching hers. She looked away quickly and moved to the side of the
pool, setting the comb aside with a sigh. "Dry off," she said. "Our
afternoon meal is waiting."

He watched her exit the pool and was rewarded with a view of her smooth back,
nicely rounded buttocks and long slim legs. The water shone on her body,
glistening in streams that traced paths on her pale skin. Grabbing her
discarded towel, she dried off quickly and, still nude, slipped his simple
cloak over her shoulders again. His mouth went dry as she shook her head,
loosing the mass of silver hair that fell in waves down her back.

Lilith returned to the pool and held another towel, waiting for him to exit
the water. He took it from her and began to dry himself. She took her
discarded towel and began to rub his back, shoulders, and arms. He wondered
if her ministrations would go elsewhere. Part of him hoped they would. But
as quickly as she started drying him, she stopped.

Throwing her towel onto a nearby chair, she went to a small white cabinet
along the wall and pulled out a pair of loose blue silk leggings. Tossing
them on to a nearby chair, she instructed him, "Put these on. I'm having
your other clothing cleaned and mended." Her cold, business-like demeanor
was again in place.

"Thank you," he said dumbly. Pulling on the silk, he picked up his comm and
saber and followed her into the next chamber.

The table was set for two, with elegant black plates, eggshell-thin glasses
of deep, rich wine and a tall vase of rare black and white orchids. Spicy,
exotic aromas filled the room, nothing like tasteless food pellets he shared
with Anakin this morning. His mouth watered as he realized how hungry he

She took her seat gracefully then gestured to the chair next to her. She
watched him sit, her eyebrow showing her interest.

"You're not used to wearing silk, are you Jinn," she said candidly.

"Why do you say that?"

"Because you move differently," she said, arranging the dishes just so.
"Even without your clothing, you still move with an unshakable confidence, a
steady, even stride. Silk feels different on your skin than that heavy
fabric of your robes, doesn't it? It warms and cools at the same time, and
almost caresses you every time it brushes against your skin. It's more
intimate. It sensitizes your skin, electrifies your body." She filled his
glass with water, then met his shocked gaze. "Am I right?"

He felt that shock of heat through his body at her words. How did she do
that, he wondered. Was it what she said? Or how she said it? How did she
know how to shatter his legendary Jedi control?

He responded quietly, "You are right that I don't have much silk in my own
wardrobe. I find it difficult to maintain, especially with my lifestyle."
He took his glass and finished the water in deep swallows. Then looking at
his plate, he searched for the utensils.

She unfolded two napkins and dropped one in Qui-Gon's lap, placing the other
in hers. "I hope you don't mind. I requested a meal traditional to my home
planet. Have you ever been to Maralis?"

"No, I haven't." He smoothed the napkin over his legs.

She took another small pitcher filled with warm water and gently took his
hands, moving them over a small basin on the side of the table. She poured
the water over his fingers. "When entertaining an honored guest, it is
customary to feed the guest from ones own plate. It symbolizes trust and
generosity." Pouring water over her own hands, she added non-chalantly, "It
is also the second thing any good Skin Trader is taught."

Setting the pitcher aside, she took a small slice of bread and spooned a bit
of a red stew on it. Then she held it out to him, her hand under to catch
any stray drops or crumbs. He bit into it hesitantly, feeling the heat of
her hands under his chin. The stew was delicious, spicy and rich, the bread,
sweet, lightly toasted. He chewed slowly, savoring the flavors. She popped
the rest of the bread in her mouth, and smiled. Finishing quickly, she
asked, "Well?"

He nodded. "It's very good. Obi-Wan would love it."

"How long has he been with you?" she asked, preparing another slice of bread.

"Since he was thirteen. He'll be ready for his trials soon."

"So I gathered." She served him another bite. "My brother-in-law wanted to
be a Knight. He's a farmer with the agricorps now. I've tried to help him,
but he refuses." Her voice dropped an octave as she mimicked, "Lilith, you
are too corrupt. I would rather slave away in these fields than be poisoned
by you. Perhaps one day I'll be proud to call you my sister." Her tone was
mocking, but Qui-Gon saw how the words effected her.

He stilled her hand with his. "That is probably why he wasn't chosen. Jedis
do not pass judgement."

"But you do," she replied softly. "You've judged me by my profession and my
attitude. You don't trust me. Even now, though we have a deal, if I opened
those doors and said you could leave, you'd gather your things and go.
Wouldn't you?"

On the mark again. He stung from her candidly spoken words. But before he
could apologize...

"It's alright," she said, serving him again. "I don't expect you to trust me
Jinn. I haven't trusted anyone in years. It's safer that way. One of the
primary rules of the trade."

"Are there any other rules?" Qui-Gon asked, hoping to turn the subject.

"Never become emotionally attached to the merchandise. Goods are always

"Have you ever had that problem?"

She served him another bite. "No. But I have learned the hard way how an
emotional attachment can cripple you." She took her napkin and dabbed at his
mouth. "Ready for the second course?"

"Yes please," he answered. He watched her prepare a vegetable dish,
seasoning it with oils and spices. "Was it a slave?"

"Was what a slave," she asked, serving a forkful of warm leafy greens to him.

He chewed and swallowed quickly. "Was it a slave you were attached to?"

She ignored the question. "Are they too spicy? I can mix more..."

He touched her hand gently. "Lilith..."

"No," she said softly. "He isn't a slave. None of them are."

"What do you mean?" Qui-Gon didn't need the force to tell him she was

"Do you know why I rarely go to Coruscant?" she asked. He shook his head.
"I'm tired of being an embarrassment to my acquaintances." She offered
Qui-Gon another serving. "The last time I tried to visit Finis, he had me
thrown out of his office and escorted out of the capitol. He then sent me a
message that I was never to see him or be seen with him in public again, that
it would damage his career. When he finally contacted me, he apologized, but
was sure I understood his position." Taking a bite herself, she added, "Ki's
the same way. Avoids me like the plague in public, can't keep away in
private. Now I let them make all the moves. It's easier that way."

He watched her refill his glass, wondering how much that admission cost her.
She opened herself, exposed another weakness to him with those few words,
more than he would have if their positions were reversed.

He took the fork from her. "You'll forgive my clumsiness. I haven't served
anyone this way in a long while."

She watched him spear the greens then serve them to her as she did to him,
one hand offering, one hand underneath. She accepted, her smile genuine.
"You're doing fine."

** ** ** ** **

They spent the rest of the meal talking about past adventures, the worlds
they'd visited, worlds they hadn't. Qui-Gon knew she was a shrewd
businesswoman, but found her diplomatic skills rivaled that of a Republic

She recounted with a smile, "So there I stood, my associate hiding behind me,
which was difficult enough considering he was over two and a half meters
tall, and I'm trying to explain to an irate father that his daughter paid for
the evening's entertainment, no strings attached. He kept insisting his
daughter had tainted my associate and must make things right. And during all
that I'm resisting every urge to say, 'Alright, have him.' He's whispering
to me about how bad she smelled, her peculiar preferences, the lot. I'm
trying to keep from laughing out loud. Finally my associate said something
about rancors, damsels and parasteel harnesses, and I couldn't help it. I
screamed, then acted completely outraged that this person would defile my
associate with her lustful ways and insisted we leave at once and notify the
proper authorities. Naturally the father begged me to reconsider. We ended
up leaving the system with three times the agreed on fee and a quiet request
to return from the woman's mother." She wiped her tears, still laughing. "We
laughed all the way home."

Qui-Gon laughed heartily. "I've never found myself in a similar situation,
but I doubt I would have handled it with such style." He finished his water.
"Where is your associate now?"

She filled his glass again. "After that fiasco, he had enough to repay me.
Now he's one of my contacts in the Corellian system."

"Repay you?" Qui-Gon asked.

"Yes," she answered. "All of my people are able to repay my investment in
them by working for me in one capacity or another. After the debt is repaid,
with ten-percent interest, I transport them to where ever they wish to go.
Most choose to continue working for me. It's a very equitable arrangement."

"Which is why once they enter the compound, none of your slaves are heard
from again," he noted.

She gazed at him thoughtfully. "And why I am hesitant to encourage more than
a professional relationship with any of my people until after that debt is
paid. It makes leaving easier for them." A bell sounded in the distance.
She dabbed her mouth with her napkin again and stood. "Come. The zenith
chimes have sounded."

Qui-Gon stood, collecting his comm and saber. "Where are we going?"

"I don't allow anyone to work during the zenith hours. I usually spend the
time in bed."

Qui-Gon stopped short. "Lilith..."

"Courage Jinn," she teased. "I'm not that repulsive, am I?"

Hardly, he thought. She was still wearing his cloak, which fell in soft
folds around her body. Her breasts pressed against the thick fabric in hard
peaks, the edges barely covering the dark circles of her nipples. Her skin
glowed under the severe brown fabric. She smiled knowingly and took his
hand, leading him into the bedchambers.

The chamber mirrored the d‚cor of the outer rooms, with white wall hangings,
black tables and chairs, the scent of vanilla in the air. The bed was
enormous, with white curtains, oversized pillows and soft blankets.

Lilith climbed into the bed, moving to the center and asked, "Join me?" She
lay on her side, propped on one elbow, brown cloak falling open. Her hair
barely hid her breasts, a rosy nipple peeking through the silver mass.

Qui-Gon cautiously sat on the edge of the bed, unsure how to proceed. He
wanted her, his whole body echoed that need, his shaft already throbbing,
pressing against the blue silk. His heart raced, his breathing was heavy, a
bit of moisture formed on his upper lip. Slowly he lay back on the pillows,
hands clasped in front of him.

She chuckled then said, "No, on your side, back to me." He complied and
immediately felt her draw herself up against him, her soft breasts pressing
against his back, her hips curled up against the warmth of his backside.
Burying her face in the nape of his neck, she whispered softly, "Rest, Jinn.
You're safe." She curled an arm around his waist, drawing the cloak over the
two of them and fell asleep, leaving him wondering again what kind of woman
she was.

** ** ** ** **

"Master, are you there?"

Qui-Gon woke with a start. Lilith stirred slightly, nestling against his
back, her face buried in his hair. Her warmth on his skin, the scent of
vanilla, the rhythm of her heartbeat, all of it was intoxicating.

Qui-Gon drew his comm link to his hand. "Padawan, I'm here," he answered, a
bit breathless from the rude awakening. His heart was racing, his head a bit

"The queen wishes to know your location and status." Obi-Wan's words were
proper, but his voice was laced with curiosity and a touch of amusement.

"Advise the queen I am completing the final terms of a business arrangement."
He felt a soft, feminine giggle against his neck as her arm curled around his
waist. His body responded to her even more, his shaft hardening.

There was a marked pause then a feminine voice came over the comm. "Master
Qui-Gon," the queen asked, "how much longer will this take?"

Qui-Gon rolled onto his back, Lilith moving to accommodate him, curling up
along his side, her arm across his chest. Qui-Gon turned to her with a
questioning glance then spoke into the comm. "Your majesty, I'm not quite
sure how much longer I'll be. I will advise you as soon as I can."

"Master Qui-Gon, time is of the essence..." the queen cautioned.

"I am completely aware of the time constraints, your highness" he answered a
little more sharply than usual. "Unfortunately I cannot speed my efforts
here. You'll have to be patient." Through his mental link, he felt his
apprentice's growing amusement. Next to him, Lilith stifled her giggles in
his arm, her shoulders shaking with mirth. Taking another deep breath, he
finished, "As I said I'll keep in touch."

"See that you do." Another pause...

"Master, are you in need of assistance," Obi-Wan asked. His usual deference
was now replaced with undisguised glee. Lilith's shoulders shook harder.
Qui-Gon gave her a reluctant smile.

"No, padawan, I am quite capable of handling things here." A stream of
giggles escaped Lilith's lips. He closed his eyes, breathing deeply, trying
not to laugh. "I will contact you later." Tossing the comm onto one of the
tables, "Gods, knowing him he will bring this up with the council, or at
least to Mace. I'll never be able to explain it."

She giggled, "At least I didn't take the comm and say you were performing
admirably and that I was quite impressed with your skills in this arena."

Qui-Gon chuckled then. "Are you indeed impressed with me? I've been rude,
mistrustful, unappreciative, not exactly the proper guest."

"If you'd acted any differently, I'd have been disappointed." She stretched
leisurely, arching her back, her legs brushing his. Her body was warm and
soft against his side, one hand resting on his chest, her head on his
shoulder. "You're every bit the Jedi, Jinn. How could I not be impressed?"

They lay together in comfortable silence. Then Qui-Gon took her hand in his,
studying it, caressing it lightly with his fingers. "Why do you do this?"

"Do what?"

He turned so they were eye to eye, his voice as soft and husky as hers.
"You're not an evil woman. You are strong, intelligent, determined and
stubborn, but not as bad as your reputation makes you out to be. With your
skills, contacts and background, you would make a powerful and influential
diplomat and negotiator. Why the Skin Trade?"

"Because Jinn," she answered, "I've seen what goes on there. This is by far
more honest. As it is I have more influence now than most of the senate."
She chuckled, "Gods, I could bring down half the delegates if I chose to."

"All the more reason," he reasoned. "Your influence could make a

"I suppose I could ask you the same question," she said. "Many believe you
should sit on the council. With your experience, your skill and your obvious
connection with the living Force, I find it hard to believe you haven't
considered it."

Qui-Gon cocked an eyebrow. "You've been talking to Master Mundi too much. I
do more good out here than in there."

"As do I." She smiled then. "In the senate, I'd be just another screaming
delegate, plagued by bureaucrats, waiting for the rest of the mess to make up
their minds."

He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb, turning his attention away
from her eyes. "I think you are far too perceptive."

"You think so, Master Qui-Gon," she queried, her voice low and breathy.
"Pray tell what else do you think?" She pressed her body against his,
curling her fingers around his. The scent of vanilla overwhelmed him, as did
the warmth of her skin, her breath soft on his cheek. He felt himself grow
hard again, his heart beating faster, as a wave of heat shot through him.

"I think..." he stammered, "I think I should go, before I..."

"Qui-Gon," she whispered, moving her body on his, her eyes deep blue,
sparkling. She lowered her mouth until her lips barely brushed his. He felt
another wave of heat in his chest.

"Feel, don't think," she breathed, slowly lowering her lips to his.

** ** ** ** ** **

She kissed him softly, feeling his surprise melt away. He pulled her closer,
wrapping his arms around her waist, running his hands down the length of her
back. She cupped his face in her hands, pressing her hips against his silk
covered arousal. Another shock when through his system.


"Please," she whispered against his mouth. "Let me make love to you."

She showered him with soft kisses on his cheeks, nose, eyelids, tracing his
lips with her tongue before plundering his mouth. He barely caught his
breath before she was trailing burning kisses on his beard, nipping his neck
softly with her teeth, tasting his shoulders, the hollow of his neck. He
tilted his head back, letting her touch him, then guided her mouth back to
his, capturing her lips with his. He pulled at the heavy brown fabric
draping her body, stripping it off her shoulders roughly, loosing one arm
then the other before casting it aside. Her skin was like silk under his
hands, warm and soft. He moved to roll her on her back when she stopped him.

"Not yet," she breathed against his lips, her gaze so intense, he feared she'd
burn him to ashes. Lilith then started down his body, raining kisses on his
shoulders, across his broad chest before closing her mouth on one nipple.

He arched off the bed, stifling a moan behind clenched teeth. She laved his
nipple with her tongue softly, with velvety strokes that tugged invisible
strings in his body. Flicking the hard nub, she then blew on it cooling it
slightly before catching it again between her teeth. He buried his hands in
her hair, breathing her name like some erotic prayer. When she moved to the
other nipple, he moaned loudly, thrusting against her.

Moving slower still, she traced the thin trail of hair down his flat stomach
to the edge of his silk trousers. She nuzzled the telltale bulge in blue
silk first with her breasts then with her nose, breathing warm air on him,
heating the silk, caressing him with a feather-light touch. She caught the
drawstring of his trousers with her teeth, undoing the knot slowly, then
slipped her fingers into the waistband.

"May I?" she purred.


She slowly eased the silk down his hips, over his throbbing arousal,
smoothing the material down his legs. Her hair brushed his shaft, eliciting
another moan from him. Removing the offending clothing, she started at his
ankles, kissing one then the other, nipping the skin lightly while running
her fingers along the sensitive soles of his feet. Rewarded with a deep
chuckle, she moved up his legs, tasting the flesh of his calves, massaging
the strong, hard muscles with knowing fingers, brushing her nails across the
backs of his knees, then following with her tongue.

He clawed the bedclothes, his breathing ragged. She murmured softly as she
stroked his body, in an exotic language he'd never heard before, whispering
elegant phrases against his skin, her voice affecting him as deeply as her
touch. She enchanted him, not that he cared. For these moments, he was
hers, willingly.

Lilith moved between his legs, pressing fiery kisses on the insides of his
thighs, lightly biting him, purring as she ran her fingertips over his sac,
cupping him gently. He breath escaped in a loud shudder. She bathed his
sack with her tongue, stroking his hard shaft with her fingers. Her tongue
followed her fingers in long strokes up his shaft, flicking the head lightly,
swirling it softly, driving him mad.

Qui-Gon's breathing became shallower, more ragged. "Lilith..." he begged.

She answered by taking his length into her mouth.

He arched up into her mouth with a shout, his shoulders braced on the bed as
he tangled his fingers in her hair again, pulling her into him. She hummed,
sending shivers through him, drinking in the moans that came from his lips.
She moved in rhythm with his thrusting as a wisp of salty fluid crossed her
tongue. She pulled away quickly, watching him writhe in the now-rumpled
white linen.

"Gods, Lil..." he breathed.

She stretched out full length against him, parting her legs slightly to let
his shaft brush her wetness. She kissed him deeply, pinning his hands to
the bed, moving her hips, stroking him with her thighs as he thrust up in
desperation. He bit her lip, drawing blood, ravishing her mouth with his
demanding tongue. She slowly straddled him, moving the head of his shaft to
her softness and slowly sheathed his throbbing cock in her.

Control, his mind screamed as he entered her. She took all of him, sitting
on his hips, her silver hair falling in a curtain around her. Taking his
hands, she brought them to her breasts, guiding his fingers. He stroked her
skin, running rough hands over her nipples. He felt like he was 17 again
with his first woman, knowing and yet not knowing. When she rocked her hips
forward, he almost spilled himself into her. And from the look on her face,
she knew it too.

She rode him slowly, deeply, pausing when he was close, then bringing him to
the brink again. Sweat covered his body as he shuddered beneath her, every
part of him crying for release. She leaned forward again, stretching out
again and kissed him.

"Qui-Gon," she whispered. "I'm yours."

He rolled her onto her back in one swift motion, covering her mouth with his,
kissing her fiercely, his tongue dueling with hers. He pinned her to the
bed coverings, and thrust deeply, moaning against her lips. Releasing her
wrists, he ran his hands down her body, tilting her hips up, never breaking
his rhythm. She dragged her nails down his back, leaving bloody trails on
his skin before digging into the soft flesh of his buttocks. The taste of
blood on her li ps and the sting of the air on his back broke through any
last bits of control he had. He rode her hard, roughly, and shouting her
name, he filled her, his body violently shaking from his climax. He lowered
himself on her again, sinking his teeth into her shoulder and wrapping his
arms around her as the spasms subsided.

It was a long while before he regained his composure, his once-racing
heartbeat now calm, even. He kissed her gently, tasting the blood that
stained her bruised lips. "Oh Gods Lil, I'm sorry..."

She placed a finger on his mouth. "Don't." She wisp of a smile curled her
lips. "If you do I'll have to apologize for your back."

He felt a soft itch on his back and smiled. Gingerly touching the bloody
bite mark on her pale shoulder, he said, "I can heal this if you like."

She shook her head slightly. "No, I'd rather keep it."

He rolled off her, pulling her against him, kissing her again. He winced
slightly as the linens touched the open welts that streaked his back. "I do
apologize for your linens. They'll be ruined."

"You can replace them when you come back."

"Would you prefer blue or white?" he chuckled.

She cocked an eyebrow. "What would you prefer?"

He caught her hand and brought it to his cock, already hard. "I think you

She gave him a throaty laugh, taking him in her hand and stroking him
lightly. "Well, I would prefer we continue this discussion in the baths."

"I don't think I can wait."

"Well then Jinn," she teased, "don't think..."

"Feel..." he finished, kissing her again.

** ** ** ** **

They made love twice more before the chime sounded that called an end to the
day. They dressed reluctantly then he sat while she combed his hair and
refastened his hair tie. His outer cloak still smelled like vanilla, he
discovered. Once dressed, made their way to the hanger, climbing into the
speeder for the long ride back.

She drove the speeder to one of the rises on the outskirts of Mos Espa. A
large gray ship appeared in the distance. She slowed the speeder, then
turned to him, her expression serious.

"Jinn, do you recognize this ship?"

"No, should I?"

She answered, "It's a Sith infiltrator." She waited for the information to
sink in, then continued. "Tell the council the Sith are active again. Do
whatever you need to do to convince them."

He stared at her. "Are you sure?"

"Qui-Gon, I cancelled a very large debt for this information," she said.
"Tell Ki it's from my sources if you need to, but no one else. Please," she
pleaded, stroking his cheek softly, "it was sent after you and your party."

He studied her eyes, dark blue, unflinching. "I'll do my best. Thank you."

She turned away and returned him to the Nubian.

** ** ** ** ** ** **

Lilith entered her offices quietly. "I apologize for my tardiness, I was
unavoidably delayed."

"Understandable, Mistress. You are a very busy woman."

She poured herself a glass of wine, then took her seat behind the large desk.
"Indeed, I am." Settling comfortably across from him, she said, "Tell your
Master I consider his debt repaid. And thank you, my lord for your

Darth Maul studied her carefully. "I will convey your message, Mistress,
though I question the wisdom of your decision."

"Really?" she answered, setting the glass down. "And why is that?"

"My master is very powerful. It would have been wiser to keep him in your
debt rather than trading it for the Jedi." He smiled wickedly then.
"Whether it be here or on Coruscant, they will fall."

She responded noncommittally. "If you say so."

He stood and walked to her desk. He picked up her wine and downed it in a
few swallows. "If you'll excuse me, I have some unfinished business headed
to Coruscant." He exited her office, his dark cloaks swirling about him.

She watched him leave, then called for her servant. "Semaj.."

Her servant answered, "Yes Mistress."

"Contact Senator Antilles. Tell him I'm calling in a favor..."


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