Title: Fair Days
Category: Short story, kinda H/C, a little angst, relationship, happy, fun...
Spoilers: Minor ones for the JA books
Disclaimer: All recognizable Star Wars characters are the
exclusive property of George Lucas. All others belong to me.
I have no official permission to use these characters, but
I'm not being paid for it either, so that's okay.
Feedback: Yes Please!
Archive: Early Years, Jedi Apprentice and anyone I've given permission to for previous stories. Others please ask.
Time Frame: 12 years before TMP. Between JA 10 & 11. Obi-Wan is 13.
Summary: Obi-Wan hopes that an annual event that he has loves since childhood will serve to bring he and his Master closer together. When Qui-Gon is unable to go, Obi-Wan meets up with a lonely little girl and events go rather differently then planned, but prove that all things eventually work together for good for everyone.
See? I can write nice stories sometimes. :D
Things bracketed by *'s are *italic*.
Obi-Wan Kenobi walked slowly down the fairway of the annual Coruscant traveling fair. The mobile amusement park moved around the planet slowly over the course of a standard year, making it a well-loved annual event in many cities.
The fair had been a yearly tradition for his particular Initiate group since he was six years old. It was particularly special to Obi-Wan because it always fell the week of his birthday.
Last year was the first time he had missed it in the past seven years. Last year at this time he had been trapped in slave labor on a deep-sea mining platform on the planet Bandomeer. Last year at this time no one wanted him, especially not Qui-Gon.
So much had happened so fast since then. First he was, then he wasn't, Qui-Gon's Padawan. He had seen people die before his eyes; Cerasi, innocent children on Melida/Daan, Bruck, Xanatos...
The boy felt he had aged decades in the past year. He felt confident now about his future with the Jedi, about the path he was to follow, if only he could feel quite that confident about his place with them, and about his Master.
The young Jedi had just come off of probation for the Melida/Daan incident two weeks ago. True to his word, Qui-Gon officially took Obi-Wan back as his Padawan, although he had scarcely treated him as otherwise during the probation period.
Obi-Wan knew that Qui-Gon believed he should be a Knight and at last was sure that it was a path they were meant to follow together, but lately, there was a strange ache in Obi-Wan's chest that that knowledge would not fill.
Qui-Gon was a good Master and their bond was deepening quickly, but the elder Jedi still seemed somehow... removed from Obi-Wan's life. They trained together daily, and Qui-Gon was nothing if not an excellent teacher, but Obi-Wan had had teachers before and something inside him wanted more from Qui-Gon then that.
Obi-Wan knew Qui-Gon was pleased with his aptitude and skill. Knew that the Master was pleased with the leaps and bounds he was making towards controlling the anger and fear that had initially made Qui-Gon, still hurting from the fall of his last Padawan, reject him. As a student, as a Padawan, Obi-Wan knew that Qui-Gon accepted and approved of him. But what about as a person? Did Qui-Gon even care what he was like outside the training rooms? So much of their time together had been spent in action. Obi-Wan knew that they could fight together, but it took more than a good fighting team to cement a relationship.
Perhaps that was why he had wanted so badly to share this with his Master. This fair was a part of what he had loved growing up. Part of a time when he felt sure about his place and the love and acceptance of those above and around him. It seemed like a good place to try to bring the past and future together.
Around Obi-Wan, the sounds of merriment and conversation mixed with tinny music and the whoosh of anti-grav rides zipping by with loads of happily screaming passengers. Once, this had made his blood pulse with excitement, but right now, it just sounded like noise.
He had loved this place as a child, and was more excited than he thought a 13-year-old Padawan ought to be when he had found out that he and Qui-Gon would actually be planet-side when it came around this year.
He had been afraid that Qui-Gon would think it frivolous of him to want to go and had almost been too afraid of his new Master's disapproval to ask. Eventually, Bant talked him into doing it. She would not be able to go herself because she had been selected as part of a special group who would be going to a nearby moon to witness the bicentennial eruption of a light-volcano, but she said there was no reason he couldn't go.
Obi-Wan wasn't so sure, but overcame his timidity enough bring it up to his Master.
Qui-Gon had been working over a pile of data-pads, but paused when he realized that his apprentice had a question for him. To Obi-Wan's surprise, Qui-Gon had had no misgivings about letting the Padawan attend and gave him permission immediately. Obi-Wan had been overjoyed, and emboldened enough to tentatively ask if Qui-Gon would go too.
Qui-Gon was surprised. Surely Obi-Wan would want to go with his friends, not have an adult Master hanging around to hamper everyone's fun. Figuring that Obi-Wan was being polite and respectful by not leaving him out, Qui-Gon smiled and said he would if he could, intending to find some excuse to be away if his presence proved a hindrance, then gave the issue no more thought.
When Qui-Gon's attendance was requested at a Senatorial banquet that transposed the fair dates, he did not think twice about accepting, but assumed that Obi-Wan would be glad to be rid of him for a little while.
Distinct disappointment radiated from Obi-Wan when the Master told him, and Qui-Gon quickly assured that Obi-Wan would not be required to go and should attend the fair with his friends. "Have fun," he encouraged with a slight grin. "One of us should," he teased to lift the boy's oddly despondent mood.
Obi-Wan smiled and nodded, not letting Qui-Gon see how disappointed he was.
People moved around the Padawan, but he felt so alone. All his age-mates that had been in the group with him growing up were now either Padawans, healers, or on assignment with Agri-Corp. None of his friends were currently available to go to the fair and so here he was, by himself.
Suddenly Obi-Wan wondered if this had been a good idea. Far from bringing his past to reckon with his present and future, all it seemed to be serving to do was emphasize the uncertainty and isolation that he had been feeling.
Obi-Wan shoved his hands in his pockets and wondered aimlessly through the maze of game booths, with their brightly colored prizes gaudily adorning the walls. With a half-snicker, Obi-Wan wondered, as he always had, just what someone would do with a five-foot-tall, hot pink, stuffed Bantha if they won one.
He could win one if he had been so inclined. Of course, no booth owner in their right mind would let him try once they saw his Padawan braid, at least, not without having him first give his word not to use the Force to aid him.
Actually, Obi-Wan wasn't at all sure they'd let him try it even then. When he was younger, one of the Masters had always stood by when the initiates wanted to play a game to assure the booth owner that they were not being cheated. No one questioned the word of a Jedi Master and the initiates knew better than to try anything with the Master standing by. The skilled youngsters had still managed to walk away with a prize most times.
Obi-Wan grinned in memory. The prizes had been trifling and he had always ended up giving them away after a short time, but it was winning them that was the fun part.
He doubted they'd let him try now. Too old to be supervised by a Master, too young to be trusted on his own... once again, Obi-Wan was in an uncomfortable limbo.
Hurrying past the booths, Obi-Wan passed underneath a loop of the spiraling slam-coaster that snaked its way around the entire fair, making it one of the largest coasters on Coruscant. After flying real ships in life-or-death-situations, Obi-Wan decided it would hardly be the frighteningly exhilarating experience he remembered. Besides, what was the fun if there was no one next to you to laugh with and goad into putting their hands in the air on the stomach-stealing drops?
Feeling more and more depressed; Obi-Wan began to wonder if he should just leave. But Qui-Gon had paid for him to go and it seemed ungrateful and wasteful of him to not put his ticket to good use. It was a two-day ticket, so he could come again tomorrow.
Tomorrow was Obi-Wan's birthday.
The thought of doing this again, alone, tomorrow made a funny lump rise in the boy's throat. Deciding that this was an absolutely stupid way for him to be behaving, Obi-Wan determined to go on a ride to take his mind off his problems. The Zipper was directly in front of him, so Obi-Wan decided to try that. Frightening as a child, he had come to adore the dizzying ride in which an oblong row of cages with occupants was spun head-over-heel while the ride twirled in the opposite direction.
Qui-Gon had given him the credits to purchase a ride-bracelet that would let him on all the rides, all day for the duration of his ticket. The Master had also given him permission to use extra for food.
Obi-Wan supposed he should be happy that Qui-Gon apparently trusted him enough to give him a credit voucher and turn him loose without supervision all day. It had brightened his day at least momentarily, when, at the gate, he had learned that Qui-Gon had not merely charged the credit chip with just enough for the day's expenses, but had instead given him a chip with direct access to all the funds that the pair had allotted to them for the next month. Had that been Qui-Gon's way of saying he trusted his Padawan? It had made Obi-Wan feel very responsible for a little while, but depression had settled on him once more when he saw all the other people wandering around the fair in groups or pairs. You never went to a fair alone. Why, even most of the rides required two riders to board together.
After waiting in line for several minutes, Obi-Wan realized that this was one of those rides. You had to have two occupants per cage to board. Everyone in line ahead of him looked neatly paired off.
With an inward sigh, Obi-Wan was about to duck out of the line when he heard a youthful voice raised in frustration somewhere near the head of the line.
"But why CAN'T I go by myself?" a young girl, looking to be in her early teens argued with the ride operator. "I do EVERYTHING by myself. Do you know who I am? I've waited for half an hour!"
The operator seemed highly annoyed. "Look kid, two riders or none, the sign is perfectly clear. I don't care who you are; it's not safe to run this ride with only one kid in a cage, got it? Now either get somebody to ride with you *right this moment*, or move, you're holding things up."
The girl looked angry and disappointed. It was obvious that she had no one to call upon.
Acting impulsively, Obi-Wan called out from his place in the line. "Hey, I'm alone, I'll ride with her." He didn't care for the girl's attitude, but it was better than both of them having to miss out.
"Okay, kid," the operator nodded. "Hurry up here."
The people ahead of him parted enough to let Obi-Wan through and the operator slammed the cage door behind them.
The cage's two occupants were held in a half-standing half-sitting position on a narrow seat. A solid wall to their back, the front of the cage was made of a clear force field barely five inches away from their faces.
Turning to look at the girl he found himself riding with, Obi-Wan was surprised to see that she had blue eyes and electric-blue hair to match. The child looked human and it was obvious that that was not a natural color for her. Wild face painting of the type done at some of the fair-booths covered one side of her face. A spiked collar around the youth's neck, tight black mini-dress and oversized high-heeled boots finished off her outfit. Despite her look, she did not fill out the dress she was wearing in a way that suggested she was very old. Obi-Wan had thought her to be about his age, now he wondered.
Trying not to judge by appearances, the young Jedi smiled and stuck out his hand. "Obi-Wan Kenobi."
The girl nodded and gave his hand a quick, limp squeeze. "Adel Du-Brek, but it's stupid. Call me Jezi."
Du-Brek... the name sounded vaguely familiar. The ride whirred upward and swung to a halt as the next passengers loaded.
"Thanks for speaking up," Jezi said. "That guy was being such a jerk."
"He was just doing his job." Obi-Wan shrugged.
Obi-Wan sighed. This was not exactly the kind of company he relished.
"Hey, what's got you down?" Jezi inquired as the ride swung upward, only to halt again for boarding.
"Nothing," Obi-Wan evaded. "Have you been on this ride before?" he asked to change the subject.
Jezi shook her head. "Nope. But it looks wizard. Some people would be too scared, but I'm not."
Obi-Wan thought it funny that she would qualify it like that. He began to realize that the girl next to him did not seem to be totally at ease.
"Is that why you're friends wouldn't ride with you?" he guessed.
Jezi shrugged. "Don't have any friends. Not here anyway."
"Oh, you're alone then," he realized.
"Yeah," the girl said slowly, suddenly suspicious. "But don't get any ideas mister. My dad'll have your heart and vitals out if you get funny on me."
Obi-Wan smiled. "Don't worry, you're perfectly safe. I'm alone here too. Not much fun, is it?"
"Not so bad," Jezi said carelessly. "I'm used to it. My dad never has time to be with me and we're never in one place long enough for me to get to know people."
Obi-Wan felt slightly sympathetic. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Jezi shook her head. "I make my own fun. Like my new look?" she asked, smoothing her florescent hair and skin-tight dress.
"It's very... unique," Obi-Wan grasped for diplomacy.
Jezi laughed. "Yeah, isn't it? My dad'll notice this!"
Obi-Wan bet he would, but any further reply was cut short by the whir that signaled the ride was beginning.
Obi-Wan loved it, the weightless spinning, watching the ground and sky spin by with seemingly nothing between them and the seventy-foot plunge but the clear force field. At first, Jezi whooped and hollered, but by the time the ride switched directions, she was looking a little green.
When they got of the ride at last, Jezi seemed a little weak-kneed, but said she just needed to sit down for a moment when Obi-Wan inquired if she was all right.
Finding a bench, she sat down, rubbing her temples. It was then that Obi-Wan really realized how young she looked. Seeing her like this he doubted she was as old as he was.
"I'm sorry," Obi-Wan apologized. "I didn't know the ride would make you sick."
"Like you forced me to go on?" Jezi shook her head. "I'll be fine in just a minute."
"Would you like a drink?" the Padawan asked.
"Haven't got any money left," Jezi sighed.
Leaving quietly, Obi-Wan bought her a fruit-drink with some of the credits he had allotted himself for food. When he returned with it, Jezi seemed surprised to see him.
"Wow, thanks," she said, flabbergasted. "I didn't expect to see you again."
Obi-Wan shrugged. "You've got nobody, I've got nobody, at least together we could get on rides. If you want to that is," he added quickly.
"Sure!" the girl grinned, bouncing back quickly from her previous illness.
Jezi had her own ride bracelet and for the next few hours they browsed the park, riding and talking. It was not such a bad time as Obi-Wan had feared and as he looked closer, he was beginning to see that Jezi was feeling just as lonely and displaced as he was.
"You know Obi-Wan, you've been real nice to me," she said as they licked creamed-ice cones Obi-Wan had bought for them near the end of the day. "I blew all my money on this get-up without even thinking about food."
"Jezi," Obi-Wan said slowly, licking his cone. "You're father doesn't know you're here, does he?"
Jezi looked away. "Not exactly. He's at some stupid Senate banquet. Stuck me with a glorified baby-sitter and sent to go see to some dumb art show. I ditched the 'sitter and came here."
Jezi obviously expected some sort of reaction to her confession, either a pat on the back for being so bold, or a condemnation, something. Obi-Wan however, did not react at all, but kept eating his treat.
"It's not like he really cares where I am anyway," Jezi shrugged, trying to justify her actions to herself.
"Can you be so sure Jezi?" Obi-Wan inquired mildly.
"He sent me packing so he could hob-nob with those senatorial snobs didn't he?" the girl huffed. "He never pays attention to just me. He doesn't even know who I am, just so long as I'm a good little daughter, it doesn't matter to him what I like, what I think or feel," Jezi vented angrily.
Obi-Wan sucked his lip. The feeling was far too familiar, although he only felt sad, not angry. "So that's why you changed your hair and cloths, to make him notice you?" he inquired.
"Sorta," the girl shrugged. "The outfit and face thing's new. The hair I did a couple days ago. Boy! You should have seen him flip. It's irridian gel though, won't come out or be dyed over for at least another three weeks. That's why I'm not at the banquet with him now," she said bitterly. "Couldn't have people seeing me like this. Well fine! I didn't want to be at that stupid, boring old thing anyway! I just want to have a little fun. Tomorrow's my birthday you know? Not like he'd care." There were tears in Jezi's eyes that she was trying hard to deny.
Obi-Wan stopped short. "Tomorrow's my birthday too," he said quietly. "I'll be fourteen."
"I'll be eleven," Jezi snuffled, roughly wiping her eyes on her arm.
*Eleven...* Obi-Wan was left staggering. He knew she was young, but *that* young?! Her father was probably worried sick by now.
"It's probably a good idea if we start heading home," he remarked lightly.
Jezi looked sad. "I guess..." she said heavily.
"Where do you live, I'll take you?" there was of course, no way he was going to let a little girl like Jezi try to get home all alone.
"We're staying at the Coruscant Interplanetary Hotel on Alderaan avenue," the girl sighed. "Suite 47, Ambassador Alador Du-Brek."
"Oh, the Ambassador from Benii," Obi-Wan remarked, realizing that her last name had been familiar to him because Qui-Gon had mentioned her father as being one of the speakers at the weeklong banquet. It was ironic that Qui-Gon and her father were probably together right now.
"Yeah, how'd you know?" Jezi asked as they left the park together.
"My Master is at the same function. He told me that your father was to be one of the speakers," Obi-Wan said simply. Jezi already knew he was a Jedi from earlier conversations, so there was no need to explain the whole "Master" situation that so many people had trouble grasping.
"Hm! Imagine that," Jezi shook her head. "What are the chances, right?"
Obi-Wan nodded and attempted to hail an air taxi. "You know, Jezi, it's really not too wise to run off like that though," he said quietly. "I'm glad we met and we had a lot of fun, but... the people you meet may not always be, well..."
"You mean I might not always be so lucky as to run into a Jedi," Jezi said plainly.
"There's a lot of strange people out there Jezi, I know you're strong, but all they'd see is a little girl all by herself... I don't know about Benii, but Coruscant's not necessarily a very nice place."
"I know," Jezi admitted slowly. Earlier she would have blown him off with another "Whatever," but by now she liked the Padawan and knew that his concern for her was sincere. "Don't worry, I'm sure after this my Dad won't let it happen again. Probably put chains on me or something..." she mumbled. Looking around, the girl seemed to be taking her last breath of freedom.
"Hey Obi, let's not go back yet, let's go have some more fun. I'm gonna be in trouble anyway, might as well make it count!" she suggested, attracted by the glitter of the city at night.
Obi-Wan shook his head. "I don't think that's such a good idea..."
"Oh come on!" Jezi prodded.
"No, we really need to get back," Obi-Wan shook his head firmly.
"All right then, but you'll have to catch me!" Jezi laughed and dashed off.
"Jezi, wait!" Obi-Wan called, but the girl did not. Taking off at a run, Obi-Wan overtook her quickly. Grabbing her arm he halted her flight.
"Jezi, what do you think you're-" he started to ask, half annoyed, half laughing.
"Just one more thing Obi," she pleaded. "Let's just go into one of these clubs. I've always wanted to see the inside, then we can go. Please?"
"No," Obi-Wan shook his head firm, but gentle. "You're too young, we both are, we'd be booted out so fast you'd think we were in hyperspace."
Jezi was determined however and she could be stubborn. "Better let go," Jezi warned with a mischievous glint in her eye as she struggled to free herself from Obi-Wan's grip. "If you don't take me into one of these clubs why, why so help me, I'll scream! I will!" she teased, getting a little wild.
Obi-Wan thought she was kidding. "Come on Jezi, don't ruin a good day," he tried being diplomatic. "Let's go..."
Suddenly she started screaming.
"Jezi!" Obi-Wan shouted in alarm. "Stop that!"
"Not until you take me!" she hissed and screamed again, grappling playfully with Obi-Wan.
"Stop it!" Obi-Wan commanded, trying to pull away from her. At that moment, Jezi lost her balance on the ridiculously high-heeled boots that she was wearing. Slipping and falling, she grabbed Obi-Wan and before he could stop them they ended up going down together. Obi-Wan landed on top and Jezi hit her head on the ground with a loud thud.
She didn't move.
"Okay, what's going on here?" a loud voice demanded. A rough hand closed on the back of Obi-Wan's shirt, yanking him to his feet. That's when everything started going wrong.
"What'd you do to her? What's going on?" the bouncer for the bar they had been in front of demanded. Hearing Jezi's screams had brought him out just in time to see what looked like a struggle between the older boy and the little girl, ending up with the girl knocked senseless on the pavement. Jezi's wild looking get-up did nothing to assure the man that these were responsible people.
"Nothing, this isn't what it looks like..." Obi-Wan started to explain as he tried to pull out of the choking grip the man had on his tunic.
The bouncer did not respond well to that and punched the boy in the face. "Sure it isn't, little bastard! She's just a baby!"
Obi-Wan was caught totally off guard and didn't even duck. Stunned, the Padawan wiped his bleeding lip with the side of his hand.
A Security officer arrived then and also demanded to know what happened.
"This kid attacked that little girl. I saw him, she screamed and he knocked her out," the bouncer told him.
Obi-Wan shook his head, still slightly dazed. "No, that's not what happened, we're friends, really, it was all an accident!"
Unfortunately other witnesses questioned reported having seen what looked like Jezi fleeing with Obi-Wan giving chase. When he caught her there was a struggle, she screamed and then they went down. To an outsider it looked very bad.
"Please, just wake her up, she'll tell you I wasn't attacking her!" Obi-Wan was beginning to become alarmed.
A second Security officer who had been checking Jezi looked up then. "Not a chance of that happening to soon. She's out cold, may have a concussion. We've got to get her to a med-center."
Obi-Wan felt sick. "Will she be okay?" he managed to ask.
"We don't know that yet," the officer said darkly. "Hey Jalen, you know who this girl is," she added. "This is Ambassador Alador Du-Brek's daughter. They've had an APB out on her since this morning."
"Are you sure?" her partner asked, his face darkening.
"Absolutely. "With this hair, she's pretty hard to miss."
"Then it looks like you're under arrest under suspicion of assault *and* kidnapping," the officer said calmly.
"There's been a mistake," Obi-Wan protested, still in a state of disbelief. No one was listening to him.
In a numb daze, Obi-Wan felt them pull his arms behind his back and clap them into a set of binders while one of the officers repeated his rights. An emergency vehicle arrived to whisk Jezi away to a med-center while the officers guided Obi-Wan into their patrol unit and took him down to the station.
Scanned, ID-ed and booked, Obi-Wan was put in a questioning room. He was not alone there for long.
It seemed that when Jezi's guardian realized she was missing, the poor lady had panicked, called Coruscant Security and reported the little girl kidnapped.
Ambassador Du-Brek had been contacted and spent an anxious day as the Security combed the city for the girl. Oddly enough they never checked the fair, because her father had insisted that Jezi, or Adel as they called her, would never have run away and must only have been taken by force.
The Ambassador was notified that his daughter had been found, but was en-route to the med-center. He was told that her attacker was an older man, but the boy's age was not given and Mr. Du-Brek got the mistaken impression that he was quite a lot older, was in custody. Immediately the influential Ambassador sent a team of special agents to handle the case. They came with strict orders not to rest until they had either a confession, or enough evidence for a conviction. Ambassador Du-Brek was not about to let this slip through the cracks of what he considered the flawed Justice System of Coruscant.
The Coruscant Security were not over-fond of having someone go over their head like this, but were bound to obey when the special team arrived to take over Obi-Wan's questioning and investigation.
When asked, Obi-Wan told his story very clearly and concisely, but the three men grilling him were not about to give up so easily. They couldn't prove that he had kidnapped Jezi, but they had multiple eyewitnesses who attested that he had chased and assaulted her.
Again and again they asked him the same questions, or different ones, picking at his story and trying to find a hole to tear open. They were trying to get him to tell them conflicting stories by multiple questioning, but Obi-Wan was too organized for that. Besides, his story was true, so it didn't change.
After two hours of intense questioning, the thirteen-year-old Jedi was beginning to wear ragged at the edges. His head throbbed from the rough treatment he had received earlier and it was not aided by the bright lights glaring on him, or the fact that his questioners refused to let him have anything to drink until he came up with answers for them.
"Okay, so let's say you didn't kidnap the girl, you met her at the fair," one man said and Obi-Wan hoped they were finally getting somewhere.
"Right," Obi-Wan nodded.
"You meet her there, she's alone, attractive, vulnerable, so you befriend her. When night falls you say you'll take her home, but when you get her alone you tried to assault her, she bolted, you chased. There was a struggle and she got knocked down. Wasn't that what happened? Wasn't it?!"
"NO!" Obi-Wan shook his head in exasperation, rubbing his temples. He was acquiring a smashing headache. "How many times do I have to tell you?!" his patience was gone. "I was trying to take her home! She didn't want to go, she was teasing me, it was an accident that she got hurt," Obi-Wan pleaded for them to believe him. He was getting very worried about Jezi. What if she wasn't all right? Was it his fault? How could he have handled it better?
"Please, I am a Jedi Padawan. We protect and defend, which is why I was trying to take Jezi home. I wouldn't go around assaulting little girls!"
"That's what you say. How do we know that? How do we know what you would and wouldn't do? When did you leave your home this morning?" the man got back to the questions like a broken disc.
Obi-Wan groaned and sunk his head in his hands. They were getting nowhere. "I told you already."
"Then tell us again!" the man pounded his fist on the table, becoming frustrated with Obi-Wan's endurance.
"This morning when I left the Temple with my Master. We parted just outside, he went to the Senate banquet and I went to the fair," Obi-Wan recapped testily. "Look, if you'll let me contact Master Qui-Gon he can speak on my behalf, please just let me call him," Obi-Wan begged for the hundredth time.
"You get to make calls when we get answers," the man hard-balled.
Obi-Wan was becoming irritated. "I am a citizen of the Republic. Under Coruscant law, I have the right to make a call," he protested. "And even if I am innocent and don't think I need it, I have the right to have council here when you question me!"
"Got news for you kid," the man said quietly. "This investigation has been taken out of the hands of the Coruscant authority. You're under Benii law now, and you've got no rights to anything," he said icily.
Obi-Wan felt a cold shiver pierce his stomach.
"We've been nice up to now, but you push us and we'll exercise the rights *we* have under Benii law in regards to the questioning of uncooperative criminals," he threatened.
One of the men moved behind Obi-Wan, pulling his arms back and fastening them to the chair he was sitting on.
Obi-Wan had a very bad feeling about this.
A sharp slap jerked Obi-Wan's head to the side.
"You can't do this!" Obi-Wan protested, both frightened and incensed. On remote worlds when on dangerous missions, he would expect to be treated like this, but here in the very heart of the Republic, not ten miles from the Jedi Temple? He would never have expected justice to malfunction so terribly here.
"Watch me," the fellow said calmly, backhanding Obi-Wan the other direction.
Ambassador Du-Brek had been called in the middle of his speech with the horrible news that his daughter had been kidnapped. No one at the banquet knew then what was going on except that the Benii Ambassador had left abruptly. When Qui-Gon did find out that evening, he sought the distraught man out to offer his assistance. Alador Du-Brek had met Qui-Gon on several other occasions of state and while he insisted it was not necessary that the Jedi trouble himself with the search, it was a comfort to him to have the Master present. So Qui-Gon remained.
As night fell, the Jedi found Alador near tears. "She didn't want to go," the distraught man whispered. "It was her birthday tomorrow. What if I never get to see her celebrate another?"
"Do not lose hope yet," Qui-Gon comforted wisely. "I have a feeling that all is not yet said or done." The Jedi did not know why, but he felt compelled to stay with the Ambassador, as if their futures were meant to entwine for this time. Why, he did not know, but he trusted he would find out.
Qui-Gon stayed with Alador until the news came that Adel Du-Brek had been found and rushed to the med-center. And her assailant was in custody. When the Benii Ambassador dispatched his special forces, Qui-Gon had a bad feeling about it and told him so. Alador thanked him for all his help, but said he would handle it in his own way.
Qui-Gon accompanied the Ambassador to the hospital and was relieved to see that the little girl, although interestingly made-over, was going to be just fine. She had had nothing worse than a bump on the head, only they had given her a sedative to keep her asleep while the healing agents worked. That would keep her out for several more hours. Eventually, Qui-Gon left, since things seemed to be working out. He took an air-taxi back to the Temple. No doubt Obi-Wan was wondering where he was. The air-taxi he took had the news playing. The broadcast caught his attention when they said that the identity of Adel Du-Brek's alleged kidnapper had just been leaked to the public. Someone named Obi-Wan Kenobi with alleged connections to the Jedi.
On Qui-Gon's command, the air-taxi did an abrupt U-turn and headed post haste for the Security station where young Kenobi was being held.
Obi-Wan jerked as the lead question man pressed a thin, pen-shaped object to the Jedi's neck for the dozenth time, releasing a small, painful electric jolt.
They seemed to prefer this to outright beating him, because it left no marks to create bad press later.
Obi-Wan grit his teeth, but the pain was getting bad. He was confused and distressed. He still did not understand how all this could have happened. Did they really want him to confess to something he hadn't done? Where was the justice in it?
Pressing the stick against the boy's neck and leaving it there, the man determined to make Obi-Wan cry.
Obi-Wan tried to twist away from the painful touch, but the other two held him still.
The pain washed over Obi-Wan in waves, bringing tears he could not help to his eyes.
Suddenly, it was gone. The door burst open and someone grabbed the arm holding it to him away, twisting it behind the questioner's back and pressing them man against the wall in one smooth, but forceful movement.
"Master!" Obi-Wan choked back a sob that he felt was too weak for him to show.
"Master Jinn I protest! I told you! You have no authority to be back here!" A security officer called, running after the Jedi into the room.
Qui-Gon turned on the officer with ice in his eyes. "And these men," he said fiercely, brandishing the instrument he had taken from the questioner. "Have no authority to use torture to question a boy who has been proven guilty of no crime!"
The officer's eyes widened at the sight of the device. It was obvious that they had not realized what was going on in here. Alador entered then.
"Master Jinn, what...?"
"Ambassador," Qui-Gon bowed quickly. "There has been some mistake. The boy they are holding for your daughter's assault is my apprentice. I do not know what happened, but I can assure you that Obi-Wan did not try to harm your daughter, which is more than I can say for what your men did to him."
Alador looked completely flustered. "But-but this is just a child!" he sputtered when he saw Obi-Wan, still cuffed to his chair. "I thought... I mean, I never would have authorized... for a child! Your apprentice..." the Ambassador sat down heavily.
"Oh Gol I've made a mess of things!" he moaned, sinking his head in his hands.
"Somebody get that kid out of those cuffs!" he ordered brusquely. "I've just come from the med-center. Adel woke up. She told me everything that happened. It seems young Obi-Wan here was telling the truth and we owe him a huge debt, and apology."
Obi-Wan rubbed his wrists shakily. Too much had happened a little too fast and he felt as if he were lagging a few steps behind. Did this mean he wasn't in trouble any more?
"I-is Jezi, I mean, Adel okay?" he asked, his voice shaking a little more then he would have liked.
Qui-Gon silently lay his hands on Obi-Wan's shoulders and the boy felt instantly more steady.
"Yes, she's fine, although she'll have some answering to do for running off like that when she gets out of the med-center," Ambassador Du-Brek said.
Then, of course, everyone wanted to hear the whole story. Obi-Wan, who had repeated it so many times by now that he thought he would never forget it, obliged.
When they were done, the Ambassador shook his hand. "Young man, you were very kind to my daughter and I can never say how very sorry I am for how you were treated when all you did was help. I would like to reward you for your service."
Obi-Wan declined politely, but Alador insisted.
"No, please, I insist, anything you want, say it, it's yours."
"Well..." an idea struck Obi-Wan. "Anything I say, and you'll do it?"
The Ambassador nodded with a smile. "You name it, I'll do it. What will it be?"
"In that case, I would like for you to cancel all your appointments tomorrow," Obi-Wan said thoughtfully. "And spend Jezi's birthday with just her. She loves you a lot you know, but doesn't think she matters to you. Ask her about what she likes, what she thinks... and tell her the same about you. She wants to know you as more than a statesman, she wants to know you as her father. I know you're a very busy man, but there will always be meetings to attend. Your daughter won't be this age forever," Obi-Wan said quietly.
Alador smiled in genuine surprise. Touched that the boy cared so much about he and his daughter. "You are wiser than your age Obi-Wan Kenobi. I have already been thinking along that vein. When I thought I might never see Adel... Jezi, again I realized that nothing mattered more to me. It helped me put things in perspective. I will spend tomorrow with her, and a lot more besides."
The Ambassador smiled. "I must go now, they should release her from the med-center soon."
Good-byes were said and everyone departed for their respective dwellings. Once back in their rooms at the Temple, Obi-Wan flopped down on his bed, one hand resting by his head, the other on his stomach. Lying on his back in the dark the apprentice tried to order the whirling emotions that the unexpected events of the day had stirred up in him.
He felt it when Qui-Gon entered, but did not look up until the Master sat down on the bed next to him.
"Are you all right Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon inquired.
Obi-Wan sighed, but nodded. "Yes, Master. I'm just a little... tired."
"I don't wonder," Obi-Wan could hear the smile in his Master's voice. "You did well handling the situations you encountered today."
There was a comfortable pause between them and Obi-Wan was mildly surprised when Qui-Gon did not leave, but started talking again.
"That was sound advice you gave Ambassador Du-Brek today," the Master said quietly. "I sensed much emotion behind your words, but I got the feeling that it was not entirely directed at the Du-Breks' situation alone." Qui-Gon's voice was soft, but his words lingered in the darkened air after he spoke them, like the after-trails of light left by a glow rod.
Obi-Wan felt himself flush and turned his head towards the wall. Oh Force, Qui-Gon had felt that in him?
Qui-Gon felt the embarrassment in Obi-Wan's aura as the boy tried to pull tighter inside himself. Yet the Padawan was not yet skilled enough to put up shields that Qui-Gon could not see through if he really wanted to.
"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon lay his hand gently on his Padawan's where it rested on the boy's stomach. "Were you just being polite because I'm your Master, or did you really *want* me to go to the fair with you?"
Obi-Wan struggled to keep his composure. He did not look at Qui-Gon, because if he did he knew he was going to humiliate himself and start crying like a crèche-baby.
"Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon wanted an answer.
"I-I wanted you to go," Obi-Wan whispered, keeping his eyes glued to the wall. "It... meant a lot to me when I was little, I wanted, wanted to share it with you. Wanted to know if we could... have fun together, outside of training I mean," Obi-Wan's voice had trailed off to barely audible. A silent sob shook his shoulders as he fought desperately to make all these stupid emotions just *leave!*
"Oh Force I feel like an idiot!" he moaned, another quiet sob shaking his shoulders. The Padawan rolled away, burying his face in the covers and curling into a tight ball.
Qui-Gon could have slapped himself in the head for being so blind. He had known Obi-Wan seemed to be searching for something, seemed to be lacking something he needed. He had thought it was still an issue of Obi-Wan coming to grips with the uncertainties the Melida/Daan situation had caused him to feel about his path but now the elder Jedi realized just how wrong he was. All this time, what Obi-Wan had been craving was his love, his acceptance.
Certainly he had shown Obi-Wan that he thought him an able Padawan. Yet Qui-Gon still had to stop and realize that despite his maturity, Obi-Wan was yet a boy in many respects. Emotionally, the Padawan needed to know that he was accepted for more than just his abilities. He needed to know that he was loved. Unconditionally, loved.
A few months ago, it might not have been possible for Qui-Gon to fill that need. A few months ago old scars might still have reared up and gotten in the way. But things have a way of happening at the right time.
Silently, Qui-Gon rubbed Obi-Wan's ridged back for several moments, until he felt the heaving of the boy's quiet sobbing begin to subside and relax beneath his fingertips.
"I'm sorry," Obi-Wan's voice came to him muffled by the bed sheets his face was still pressed into.
"No, Padawan," Qui-Gon shook his head. "I'm sorry." Turning Obi-Wan around by the shoulders, Qui-Gon pulled the boy to a sitting position.
Obi-Wan resisted, but Qui-Gon was firm and the Padawan had no choice but to let him. Tilting Obi-Wan's chin up on the crook of his finger until the boy was forced to look him in the eyes, Qui-Gon smiled gently.
"I'm sorry for being so blind to what you needed from me."
"Oh no Master!" Obi-Wan protested, horrified that Qui-Gon should think in any way that he was complaining or that his needs were not being met.
"It's the truth, I regret it, but do not deny it Obi-Wan. But that is the past now. Let us look to the present.
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan said dutifully, although he was not exactly sure what Qui-Gon meant.
"And the present requires that you and I get some sleep." A merry twinkle lit Qui-Gon's eye. "We need rest if we are going to be the first people to get to the fair tomorrow."
Obi-Wan felt a silly grin light up his face. "Really?! But-but what about the Senate banquet...?"
"It will get along just fine without me I should think," Qui-Gon chuckled. "As someone wisely said, there will always be another Senate function for me to attend, but my Padawan's fourteenth birthday comes only once," Qui-Gon paraphrased slightly, making Obi-Wan blush for the umpteenth time that evening.
Qui-Gon ruffled Obi-Wan's hair fondly. "Get some sleep."
The next day was beautiful. It was arguably the best birthday that Obi-Wan had ever had. He and Qui-Gon were indeed the first to arrive at the fair grounds.
"I'm a little lost Padawan," Qui-Gon smiled between bites of the fried dough-stick they had purchased from one of the vendors as a sort of breakfast. "It has been many years since I've been any place like this. You'll have to re-aquatint me. What shall we do first?" he inquired, delighting in the radiant glow that animated his Padawan today.
"Oh, we've got to ride the slam-coaster!" Obi-Wan said excitedly, finishing the last of his food.
Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure that's a good idea?" he queried, thinking of the delicious but entirely greasy breakfast they had just devoured.
"Oh, um, well..." Obi-Wan hesitated and Qui-Gon realized the boy was quickly reverting to apprentice mode, trying to weigh the balance of the options before him.
"Forget it," Qui-Gon shook his head. "Don't think. Let's just do it."
Obi-Wan stared at the Master with something between shock and delight. "Okay!"
Obi-Wan quickly found that even flying in combat was not exactly the same as riding a coaster and one did not steal the enjoyment from the other.
"You touched Padawan," Qui-Gon teased over the whir and clack of the anti-grav and screams of the other riders. Obi-Wan's hands had come in contact with the restraint bar during a particularly steep drop.
"Well you're using the Force to hold on, I can feel it!" Obi-Wan shot back with a smile.
After riding the coaster three times in a row, it was time to move on. Qui-Gon smiled secretly to himself, watching Obi-Wan when the boy was not paying attention. This was, perhaps, not entirely his type of thing, but seeing the enjoyment it was giving his Padawan was reason enough to make Qui-Gon happy.
They had worked hard and been through much, even Jedi needed a holiday every once in a while. It was something that Qui-Gon had forgotten over the past years, but he was remembering now.
The Zipper was next and after that the day blended into a happy blur of activities. It was really not so important what they did, as that they did it together.
When night finally came and the fair began to close the two Jedi wound their way happily, but wearily to the exit.
"I never knew having fun could be as tiring as fighting Torogian pirates," Qui-Gon said with a wry smile, watching Obi-Wan work on a bright green wand of cloud-candy. It was sheer sugar and Qui-Gon didn't know how the boy could stand to eat it, but he remembered that somehow he had managed quite well when he was Obi-Wan's age. In Obi-Wan's other arm he carried the prize he and Qui-Gon had won at one of the games.
"Has today been everything you hoped it would Padawan?" the elder Jedi inquired.
Obi-Wan nodded, his tired eyes bright. "Definitely! Thank you Master, this has been the best birthday of my life."
"You're welcome Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon wrapped his arm around the boy's shoulders as they passed through the gates and found themselves once more on the city-walks of Coruscant. "Now I have just one question for you."
"What *are* you going to do with that five-foot tall Neon-blue Bantha we won?"
Obi-Wan nearly choked laughing. "I don't know. I thought maybe I'd put it in the common area of our rooms to frighten intruders."
"I don't think so. That thing is NOT going in *my* living room."
Jedi have few personal effects and very little that is not absolutely necessary. Therefore for years to come, visitors to Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's quarters in the Temple could never quite figure out the purpose of the large, slightly dusty neon-blue bantha that sat in the corner of their common area; it's curling plushy gold horns sometimes serving as a hat-rack for guests.
Yet Master and Padawan never tried to explain, because they knew that value and worth were a funny thing. Blu, as the Bantha came affectionately to be known, was not worth a credit on the market, and had not a single practical value to be thought of. But to Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, it was a priceless reminder of a day that would live on in their memories for as long as they lived, and a bond that was formed then, and in the following years, that would last far, far longer than that.