|Balking At a Winter Wonderland
By Darth Ishtar
|"A holiday?" Obi-Wan said skeptically. "Are you sure that's...prudent?"
Qui-Gon sighed heavily, which was slightly uncharacteristic for a man of his patient nature, but he felt completely justified, considering that Obi-Wan was asking the same question that Yoda, Mace, An-Paj and Jemmiah had voiced as well.
"Of course it's prudent," he said through gritted teeth. "It's been quite an eventful year and our apprenticeship family has gained a very important member."
"We gained a tornado on legs, to quote you exactly," Obi-Wan reminded. "Are you sure that you and your amazing collapsible nose would want to go on holiday with her?"
"Quite," Qui-Gon protested, planting his hands on his hips. "She deserves a break just as much as any of us and it would be a good time for us to bond."
The look on Obi-Wan's face was thoroughly unreadable, but was something akin to the time that he had gotten his head stuck in a fresher for the whole hour before his oral report and was treated for disorientation from the fumes.
"You've been talking to Master Sidatu again," he accused.
"I have been doing nothing of the sort!" Qui-Gon insisted.
Obi-Wan looked far from convinced and highly suspicious.
"All right," Qui-Gon conceded. "If you must know, it was Master Berling..."
"Oh, no!" Obi-Wan brayed, his look of consternation changing to one of full-blown and rather unnecessary alarm. "I'm not going anywhere on the recommendation of Sexy Dexy."
Qui-Gon had to admit that the thought did give him pause, since Dex Berlingside was more likely to recommend a good brothel than to plan a successful family vacation, but despite his reservations, the situation was ideal.
"It's a cabin owned by the Chandrilan Consulate," Qui-Gon assured him. "Unless you know something about Senator Turot that I don't, I feel perfectly confident that it is a perfectly respectable location."
That, at least, seemed to soothe Obi-Wan's nerves, since they had journeyed to Chandrila last year and he had left with the impression that not a more civilized planet existed. At the very least, Qui-Gon guessed, there would be running water and flushing 'freshers. That alone was a vast improvement over the usual Temple vacation fare.
"And it's for holiday," Obi-Wan said cautiously. "No hidden training motives, no fifty-mile hikes..."
"I'm bringing Jemmiah along," Qui-Gon reminded. "While it would give her a good laugh, I don't espouse that sort of abuse..."
"Publicly," Qui-Gon conceded.
Obi-Wan responded with a grudging shrug, but did not contradict him.
"As it is," Qui-Gon continued as if he hadn't noticed, "we leave in two days' time, after Jemmmiah returns from school and we will not be returning for four days."
"Four days?!" Obi-Wan brayed. "But, Master, it's Jay's birthday this weekend and I can't miss..."
"You can," Qui-Gon growled, "for the good of Jemmiah."
For a long moment, Obi-Wan stared at him, the look on his face suggesting that he had been gutshot by his best friend. "That's not fair," he said more quietly.
"Neither is what happened on Nargotria," Qui-Gon reminded, patting him affably on the shoulder. "I think it will be good for her."
"We're only going for four days," Qui-Gon observed. "Why do you have three cases each?"
"We have to be prepared," Jemmiah declared.
"For a nuclear winter?" Qui-Gon countered. "You could feed a third-class system with the contents of those!"
Sending him a rather hurt look, she opened all three bags. "I have clothes, hair bows, beads, Corellian Orchid bath oil, bath soap, bath pillow, body spray..."
"There is a shower," Qui-Gon said, somewhat relieved. "Soap will suffice."
She looked rather crestfallen, but dutifully upended the bag and dumped out six bottles of bath oils before closing the bath.
"I have Snordle," she continued.
"Another bath item."
"He is an all-purpose duck," she protested indignantly, "and I'm not moving from this spot without him!"
It was amazing how the all-purpose duck only had purposes in the bathtub and surrounded by clouds of Corellian Orchid, but he said nothing.
"At least," he sniffed, "Obi-Wan can manage to be practical. Open up and show her how it should be done."
Obi-Wan offered a sheepish smile that was completely devoid of reassurance and complied, only to reveal.
"One spare tunic and a five-day supply of custards?" Qui-Gon moaned. "Have I taught you nothing?"
They didn't bother to argue, only sighed and dragged their bags back to their respective bedrooms.
It was going to be a very long weekend.
Other than the usual fight over who got the front seat, which Jemmiah got by virtue of Obi-Wan being "too old not to know better;" and the customary trip to the 'fresher, which occurred ten minutes after Qui-Gon had reminded them for the last time to use the 'fresher before they left, the trip was going without a hitch.
The Temple speeder was hardly top of the line, since it was provided by some of the more annoyed bureaucrats to plague the universe, but it had the unique virtue of having a functioning heater. Jemmiah was curled up next to it, half-turned in her seat for the express purpose of tossing takkini chips at Obi-Wan while he tried to finish his history essay with a distinct air of superiority.
"I have no time for childish games, Jemmiah," he said with stiff formality, jabbing at the keys of his datapad as if he were performing a very hostile version of acupressure. "A proper Jedi must devote his attentions to the Force first, his education second, and his personal follies third..."
"You disagree?" Obi-Wan sniffed.
She schooled her features into a look that suggested that she was suffering from a terminal illness. "Simeon warned me that you'd be boring as table salt when you turned fifteen," Jemmiah said sagely, "but I never thought it would be this bad."
"It's not his fault," Qui-Gon interjected apologetically. "There's a point in every Padawan's life when he actually starts paying attention to the boring discourses his Master has been spewing and becomes something close to insufferable. You just happen to be witnessing it first hand."
"Maybe that's why no one ever has an extra apprentice," Jemmiah mused, pausing in her chip-hurling to ingest a few pensively. "It's cruel and unusual punishment to whoever would be the third wheel."
"Undoubtedly," Qui-Gon agreed.
Glancing back to the young man who had his nose about a millimeter above the screen of the datapad, Qui-Gon sighed. "Obi-Wan, it's a holiday. You can put off your work for the duration of the ride."
"And when I find my essay unfinished five minutes before class?" Obi-Wan protested.
"Fake a cerebral hemorrhage and turn it in the next day," Jemmiah suggested. "From the way An-Paj talks about you, it wouldn't be too far-fetched."
Sighing with the dramatic flair that only an overwrought fifteen-year-old could muster, Obi-Wan dutifully saved the document and packed it away into his book bag.
"Fine," he said brusquely. "If you want some family time, you come up with a topic of conversation."
"I've got one," Jemmiah piped up helpfully. "Weird talents!"
"Jedi don't have those," Qui-Gon said a little too quickly.
"I beg to differ," Obi-Wan contributed. "Simeon has this toe trick that is the talk of the town."
"Only because there's nothing talented about that trick," Qui-Gon responded with a heartfelt shudder. "It is simply unnatural!"
"I've heard some of the female Knights talking about Master Berlingside's talents," Jemmiah mused. "Is it really true that..."
"I don't want to know what the female Knights are saying about Dex's talents," Qui-Gon roared urgently.
Obi-Wan and Jemmiah didn't respond, only shared rather conspiratorial grins. Obi-Wan stuffed a chip into his mouth.
"I can fit thirty-six of these into my mouth at once," he boasted.
"I'd like to see you try," Jemmiah shot back.
"Oh, no you don't!" Qui-Gon protested. "The last time he tried, he had blisters for a month afterwards!"
“I remember that,” Obi-Wan said with an air of fond reminiscence. “There was a carnival fund-raiser for the Padawans’ retreat that week and I was supposed to be manning the kissing booth…”
“Only because I knew nothing about it,” Qui-Gon reminded. “Why Master Berlingside thought it would be a suitable activity for a thirteen-year-old boy…”
He broke off, looking thoughtful.
“No, I know the answer to that,” he admitted, “but it doesn’t make it right!”
“Anyway,” Obi-Wan continued in exasperation, “I couldn’t stop puckering my lips because of the blisters and Master Yoda thought I was so eager that I was practicing for the event. He refused to take my name off the duty roster when Qui-Gon found out.”
“So, you were the highlight of the show, I’d imagine,” Jemmiah said wickedly.
“Quite,” Qui-Gon snorted. “With a face like his and that sort of enthusiasm for the activity, they were queuing up around the building to take their turn with him. Some even bought multiple tickets.”
“Ewwwwwwwwww,” she snickered. “Who’d want to kiss a scrub-brush?”
“Many people,” Obi-Wan protested. “That is, until one of the Chancellor’s daughters got a hold of me…”
“Don’t remind me,” Qui-Gon groaned.
“She was so enthusiastic about it that she popped half the blisters in my mouth and ran away screaming about the Jedi plague.”
“So, they had to refund all the tickets?” Jemmiah queried eagerly.
“No,” Obi-Wan lamented. “They weren’t allowed, so An-Paj made me rinse with antiseptic while we told the girls that I was doing lip exercises to increase my stamina and then sent me out to finish the remaining hundred!”
“Oh, the cruelty,” she said, mouth endeavoring eagerly to keep from grinning. “And that’s why you haven’t had a girlfriend since?”
Obi-Wan turned roughly the color of the takkini chips that decorated his tunic. “Not exactly,” he mumbled.
“It’s because, after that, he was rumored to be…easy,” Qui-Gon explained.
Jemmiah’s struggle against her mouth was abandoned as she dissolved into giggles, drawing a stern glare from Obi-Wan and a slight smile from his Master.
“So,” she gasped once she had regained control of her senses, “what’s your special talent?”
Qui-Gon regarded her for a long moment, obviously doubting the wisdom of divulging such information, then returned his gaze to the road. “I can sing the Jedi anthem in seventeen languages,” he said rather shyly.
“Pah!” Jemmiah snorted. “You’re no fun at all!”
“Sadly, I am not,” Qui-Gon agreed with a smile, “but it’s a better torture method than half the weapons in the galaxy.”
By the time they arrived at the cabin, Jemmiah had finally talked herself into a coma and Obi-Wan had dozed off in the middle of his essay’s third draft. Of course, the conversation had largely consisted of “Are we there yet?” and “Master, she’s poking me again!”, but it could have gone worse. Qui-Gon shut off the speeder carefully, then climbed out to prepare the cabin for their arrival.
When he opened the needlessly ornate door, however, he found that it was wholly unnecessary. Someone had built a fire in the fireplace recently enough that it was still blazing cheerfully. The refrigeration unit, upon further inspection, was filled with enough food to feed the Gamorrean army for three weeks, which would, undoubtedly please Obi-Wan a great deal. The comm unit had a range that could reach the other side of the planet without the slightest bit of effort.
Best of all, however, there were four bedrooms, all nicely heated and outfitted with more heavy blankets than a person could ever need without a severe case of hypothermia.
His previous misgivings about the idea of being stranded in the middle of nowhere disappeared quickly enough, so he returned to the speeder, ready to get his two sleeping terrors tucked in for the night.
It was difficult to tell if there was actually a person in there.
Certainly, the pile of jumpers, parkas, snowtrousers, scarves, and fuzzy caps, complete with a garish bobble, could have been inhabited by an eleven-year-old Corellian girl, but then again, it could have been simply a pile-up of her snowgear.
Obi-Wan squinted doubtfully between the scarf and the hat and could swear that he saw a pair of reproachful eyes glaring back at him, but it was hard to tell. With that option eliminated, Obi-Wan poked an experimental finger into the general area of the pile's midsection.
"MMPF UMPPPH MPPPPPPPPPPPH!"
Or, at least, that was what it sounded like. Beyond that, he was unable to understand a thing she was saying.
“Sorry?” he queried. “I didn’t hear you.”
Her arms waved, but he couldn’t tell if she were trying to free her mouth from the scarf or trying to hit him. He pulled the scarf down and she gasped theatrically for breath.
“I said,” Jemmiah repeated grouchily, “that I can’t breathe!”
Obi-Wan sighed sympathetically. “Master?” he called.
“Yes, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon responded wearily without bothering to wait for the question, "it’s necessary and if you want to survive your next trip to the Healer’s, you’ll let me do exactly what An-Paj ordered.”
“Blasted bluebutt,” Jemmiah muttered. “I’ll die of heat stroke before he’s satisfied!”
“Not when the temperature is so low that your sweat could turn you into a glacier in two seconds flat,” Qui-Gon countered.
“Really?” Jemmiah said keenly. “Can I try?”
“NO!” they both said hastily.
She went back to sulking, or at least, as much sulking as a walking ski-shop could manage.
“All right,” Obi-Wan said at last. “I think I’m suited up, so I’ll help you waddle outside.”
“How kind of you.”
He took hold of her arms, applying alternating pressure on each so that she tilted to the right enough to move her leg.
“I’ll be out soon,” Qui-Gon called after them. “I just have to retrieve something for this sniffle of mine."
"No sniffling!" Jemmiah protested loudly as Obi-Wan steered her down the front steps. "This is a holiday and there's no such thing as sniffles!"
"All right," Qui-Gon laughed from behind a handkerchief. "I'll just fail to mention it."
There was a slight screech, then a series of thuds, followed unexpectedly by a loud giggle.
Obi-Wan turned a slightly sheepish grin on his master. "Well," he admitted, "there's one advantage to all that gear."
"Which is?" Qui-Gon was afraid to ask.
"She might have broken a few bones if those hard steps had been able to get through the jumpers to her body."
Qui-Gon shook his head, then turned his back, suddenly in need of something for his headache.
Qui-Gon managed to extract his crooked nose from the wad of tissues that seemed to be affixed to its point long enough to send a vaguely woebegone look in Jemmiah's direction. She recognized this as one of the rare looks Qui-Gon used when he was actually willing to admit to a wrongdoing but didn't want to take the blame.
"I was paying attention to you," he assured her.
"No, you weren't!" she protested. "You bundled me into the middle of a parka mountain just so you couldn't hear whatever I said!"
He could see Obi-Wan's slight grin from the corner of his eye and was sure that Jemmiah would have caught sight as well. The young whelp was not helping matters at all.
"I didn't mean to contract a head cold," he said patiently. "The snowball you shoved down my tunic probably did not help."
"You can blame Obi-Wan for that," she said smugly. "He probably had me under a mind-trick..."
"I did not!" Obi-Wan protested. "Betting you a decicred that you wouldn't do it doesn't count as a mind trick."
"It does when you're gambling with a Corellian," Qui-Gon countered. "No harm done, however."
Both sets of shoulders sagged in palpable relief, drawing a slight smile from him. "That does not mean, however," he continued, "that there are not consequences."
"That makes no sense," Jemmiah reasoned. "If there's no harm done, there's no punishment."
"Punishment, no," he agreed genially, "but this has demonstrated that we all have an excess of energy."
"Unless you count sneezing as energy, I don't think you have any," Obi-Wan said helpful.
"That will be cured by the antihistamine," Qui-Gon rejoined. "As it is, there are some rather magnificent hiking trails in the vicinity..."
He was cut off by a very juvenile chorus of groans, but he pressed on undaunted.
"...And I think it would be an excellent opportunity to enjoy the fresh air."
"Do you realize," Jemmiah interjected, "that I can't move three feet in that pile-up, much less up a mountain?"
"The weather is supposed to be quite pleasant tomorrow," Obi-Wan mused. "Maybe we'll be able to outfit you in something closer to a bathing costume."
Jemmiah very demurely stuck her tongue out at him, but did not argue further.
"Be sure to get a good night's sleep, then," Qui-Gon suggested. "We'll wake with the dawn and return when we're all a little less high-strung."