Growing Pains

Rated PG
Summary: Xanatos' sudden growth spurts produce different pains for master and apprentice.

Qui-Gon's eyes shot open as his ears were suddenly assaulted with caustic profanity coming from his padawan's room.

Where did a boy his age learn that kind of language? Qui-Gon wondered as he jerked aside his blankets and pulled himself over to the edge of the bed. And why was Xanatos swearing at the top of his lungs in the middle of the night?

The Jedi Master rose and carefully made his way down the hall towards the ceaseless noise which had woke him up. Without ceremony, Qui-Gon banged on the sealed door.

"Damn it all, Xanatos, what in blazing hell--" Qui-Gon paused, catching himself swearing as well. He took a deep steadying breath to calm his rising temper. It wouldn't help matters adding his own extensive repertoire of expletives to his padawan's. Xanatos was breathing enough fire for the both of them.

Qui-Gon heard a crash, then a thud. Then louder swearing. Certainly every Jedi in Coruscant was awake by now. Qui-Gon was sure the entire Temple could hear his apprentice.

"Xanatos! If I hear one more foul word come out of your mouth, I'll break this door down and--" The door suddenly flew open, startling him.

Xanatos was practically doubled over, grasping his left thigh with a look of sheer agony on his face.

"Leg...cramp," he managed to explain. Desparately, he turned back into the room and attempted to walk once more to try to ease the severe contraction. He only succeeded in a crooked, jerky facsimile of a normal walk, half-dragging and half-hopping on his malfunctioning leg.

Qui-Gon's anger was immediately replaced with sympathy. Xanatos had just turned fifteen a month ago and all of a sudden his body had decided to turn on him. Xanatos was at that odd age where aspects of childhood and adulthood were fused. Depending on his mood, one or the other surfaced and he switched back and forth between them with dizzying efficiency. He still had a cherubic, boyish face, but he had been growing like a tropical weed all season long and he was all legs now: tall, lean and angular.

Lately, Xanatos had been plagued with minor growing pains. His knees ached nonstop in varying degrees. He had also experienced the occasional leg cramp at night, but never anything as severe as this one.

Qui-Gon stalked over to his miserable, staggering, swearing apprentice and took the boy's head in his large hands.

"Xanatos listen to me," the Jedi Master began quietly, but soon raised his voice to be heard over the boy's shrieking. "Listen to me! Focus on the center of your pain and acknowledge it. Acknowledge what your body is trying to tell you."

"I...AM! It's what I"m swearing at!" Xanatos spat in reply. Unable to keep still, he tried to pull away, but Qui-Gon held him fast.

"Then accept what it is telling you!" Qui-Gon continued. "Don't fight with it! Acknowledge it for what it is, then release it. You can do it."

Xanatos anchored his eyes on his master's face. He struggled to stand upright and grasped Qui-Gon's wrists for support.

"Sssssshh," the Jedi Master soothed. "Be still. Be still."

Xanatos eyes fluttered close and he sighed. His body relaxed and he straightened a little more.

Qui-Gon passed his hand over Xanatos' furrowed brow and smoothed back a few damp tendrils of black hair. "Is it better now?" he questioned, his voice deep and calming.

Xanatos opened his eyes, nodded once, and sunk to the floor with a moan of relief.

"Oh, Master. That one really, really hurt," he whispered, his large blue eyes awash with unshed tears. Child Xanatos was surfacing now.

Qui-Gon eased himself down beside his exhausted padawan and gathered the distressed boy in his arms.

"Believe me, I know what you are experiencing," Qui-Gon began softly. "I suffered the same bouts of growing pains when I was a boy. But my master wasn't nearly as sympathetic as I am. He had a hard time imagining what it was like to grow."

At that Xanatos laughed. "Not Master Yoda. I find that hard to believe." He sighed again and lay his head on Qui-Gon's shoulder.

Qui-Gon hugged him, pleasantly surprised to be allowed to comfort his padawan in such a way. Xanatos' body wasn't the only part of him that was growing. He was quickly maturing beyond his years; becoming more brooding, cynical, and independent. The eager, affectionate child Qui-Gon knew was slowly, but steadily, disappearing. And Xanatos wasn't the only one suffering from his growing pains.

"Master, how long does it last?" Xanatos asked, pulling Qui-Gon out of his thoughts.

"Maybe a few months, it depends," the Jedi Master offered.

Xanatos shuddered at the thought. "Is there any way to stop it?"

Qui-Gon smiled. "I could refuse to feed you."

Xanatos snorted impatiently. "I meant the pain."

"Oh," the Jedi Master teased. "I thought you meant the growing. No, not really. You could try easing up on your workouts and try not to tax yourself physically for awhile, but it's hard, I know. Being a Jedi is very physically demanding. This is just something you'll have to endure for awhile. It's all part of growing up. Growing tall. I'm afraid you are going to be tall just like me."

Xanatos looked up. "I wouldn't mind so much if it didn't hurt this way," he replied in a small voice that hinted of the little boy he was growing out of. "I think I would like to be you."

"You're well on your way," Qui-Gon warmly assured him. He gazed down at the boy in his arms. When Xanatos looked up at him like that and spoke to him in that child-like worshipful way, it was hard not to see him as anything but a little boy. But Xanatos was hardly a little boy anymore and Qui-Gon knew this rare display of unabashed affection would most likely be the last of its kind. Soon Xanatos wouldn't tolerate such coddling.

Where had all the years gone? Qui-Gon sighed wistfully and recognized this paternal moment of bonding as one he would treasure in his child-raising memories for years to come.

Xanatos shifted slightly. He reached up and lifted a lock of Qui-Gon's hair. He rubbed the ends thoughtfully between his fingers awhile, then announced, "And I think I would like to have long hair too. Do you think I would look good with long hair?"

Qui-Gon smiled. "Yes."

"And a beard," Xanatos continued. "I'm going to grow a beard. Well, maybe. I haven't really decided on that yet."

"If you do, we'll be like twins," Qui-Gon said quietly. "How will anyone tell us apart?"

Xanatos grinned. "Easy. I'll be the young and handsome one," he goaded.

Qui-Gon laughed. "You already are, Padawan."

Xanatos shifted again, but this time he pulled himself free of Qui-Gon's grasp and climbed to his feet.

"I'm all right now," he told his master. "I'm sorry I woke you. Please try to go back to sleep. It's early still."

Qui-Gon nodded and pushed aside the nagging feeling that, however gently, his padawan was dismissing him. Adult Xanatos had returned. The Jedi Master rose to his feet and summoned a smile.

"I think I will," he agreed. "You should too."

"Oh, I will," Xanatos said and nodded. He turned away from Qui-Gon, then paused. "Master....thank you," he added in that quiet, small voice. "For your compassion."

Qui-Gon reached over and affectionately brushed Xanatos' fair cheek with his fingertips. He turned to go. He was glad to know for now his young padawan still sought and found comfort in the security of his embrace.

"No Xanatos, thank you," the Jedi Master whispered just as he closed the door behind him.