|Balking At a Winter Wonderland
By Darth Ishtar
|"I don't suppose," Obi-Wan murmured from somewhere under the blankets, "that you could fake a coma?"
"I'm not fond of those," Jemmiah groused, her nose wrinkling in distaste, "nor wasting illnesses, pie-eating contests, and Sophie Digwurt."
Obi-Wan lapsed into a confused silence at that, then let out a heavy sigh. "All right," he said cautiously. "Now that that's established, what are you willing to do?"
"A song and dance?" she suggested idly. "I know a few about a woman from Marse who was a pain in the..."
"We want to dissuade him," Obi-Wan yelped, "not send him into a coma!"
She sulked silently, but didn't disagree.
"Where did you learn that song, anyway?" he demanded.
"From Digwurt," she said triumphantly. "Qui-Gon encouraged me to find something that she was good for..."
"Fine," he said hastily. "How about an injury? He'd be sure to relent in case of you coming to harm."
"Why not you?" she grumbled. "I'm of a more delicate composition..."
He snorted in disgust. "That's horrible!" Obi-Wan declared. "Who told you that? Digwurt again?"
"No," she sniffed, "An-Paj."
Obi-Wan seemed to nod in understanding, since it sounded like something Bluebutt would say. "So, fancy a fall?" he pressed on.
"I don't fancy anything of the sort," she snapped. "Why can't you?"
"Because Qui-Gon would say that I'm lacking a skull fracture and therefore can suck it up and set a good example."
"I don't think he'd say 'suck it up,'" Jemmiah corrected.
"No matter," Obi-Wan said dismissively. "He's worse than a mothering vrelt when it comes to you and it's time for you to take advantage of it..."
True to their word, the dawn broke over the horizon with clear skies and air that warmed the lungs. Obi-Wan was slightly chagrined to find that he found himself invigorated by the prospect of some good exercise.
That is, until he caught a glimpse of Jemmiah's face. If looks could kill, she might have committed a genocide before they finished Qui-Gon's porridge. He was tempted to give his Master the same look when he started singing that blasted song about "My knapsack on my back." If the man could have carried a tune with a binary loadlifter, it wouldn't have been so insufferable.
As it was, by the time they got suited up for the day, exchanging the mounds of parkas and scarves for something more lightweight. Jemmiah even looked exuberant for a few moments when she got to put on a pair of blue snowpants and a white jumper, with only a single cap on top and a pair of mittens that were the perfect size for snowball-forming.
Or so she had been assured by Obi-Wan.
If he hadn't known better, however, he'd have thought that he was suffering from a mood disorder because every time he had something to be cheerful about, something gave him reason to grouse loudly. It wasn't so much the need to be heard as his efforts to not be drowned out by the mountain wind.
The day that had started out so well was now turning positively arctic, but Qui-Gon didn't seem to have noticed. He probably thought the two of them turning blue from the cold was them holding their breath in excitement.
"I don't see why we are doing this," he was currently grumbling in a rather vain attempt to keep his face from freezing solid.
Ahead, Qui-Gon was whistling jauntily, scaling the rocks without seeming to put an ounce of effort into it. It wasn't fair to either of the youngsters being dragged along on this adventure to have him setting such a pace.
"Master," he called, "I don't want to question your judgement but is this little hike up the mountains strictly necessary?"
"Yes it is," Qui-Gon insisted, even though he was starting. "It's a good strengthening exercise. Apart from which the view is quite spectacular."
If this was the easy part of the climb, Obi-Wan could have cared less how spectacular the view was. He simply wanted to avoid frostbite and certainly impending insanity.
"Yes, but to climb something just because 'it's there?'" he countered. "I'm not sure that it makes a good reason for doing something. I could stab myself with my lightsaber because it's there, but you don't catch me doing it…"
Jemmiah made a strangled kind of sound that suggested that she would have giggled if her lips hadn't been frozen shut.
"As well for you that you don't."
There was humor in the man's voice. Either he was a complete lunatic at the moment or he was actually enjoying this. Of course, those two could be equally true in this case.
"That would be a shocking misuse of temple equipment," Qui-Gon continued pragmatically. "Killing oneself with a lightsabre constructed on Temple property could get you thrown out of the order."
It was such a temptation to respond with a well-chosen barb, just to drag his delusionally enthusiastic Master back down to ground level again, but given the man's unstable condition, he couldn't be sure that it wouldn't do some semi-permanent damage. In addition, other than Jemmiah's encouraging amusement at his last suggestion, she had remained completely silent. He couldn't tell whose side she was on.
"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon sighed as he turned to cast a reproachful look in his Padawan's direction, "I don't understand why you are so unhappy with this. You can learn a lot from an exercise like this. It's good for both the mind and the body."
It was the same speech that he'd heard any time he resisted chores or insane training stunts. Qui-Gon would drink paint-solvent if Yoda told him that it was good for both the mind and the body. Of course, given the fact that Qui-Gon had grown up to be this irrational, Obi-Wan would probably do well to strenuously avoid anything of the sort.
"Master Berlingside took Kryztan to the lakes at Korrassi for his training exercise." Obi-Wan lamented.
There were two things guaranteed to inspire a response from Qui-Gon and both involved thinking that the Sexy Dexy approach to training was the will of the Force, but his Master showed remarkable restraint. He even managed to maintain a good-humored tone of voice when he spoke again.
"I think that probably had more to do with Master Berlingside wanting a vacation than any training for Kryztan."
Undoubtedly, but it still wasn't very fair that Kryztan had come back with a nice tan and Obi-Wan would have wind-burn for the next year.
Qui-Gon stretched his arms wide, sucking in a long breath of contentment. "This is the most wonderful place, padawan. There are hardly any other people about. The occasional tourist using the repulsar lifts to get around but that is it."
He suddenly fixed Obi-Wan with a shrewd look. "You're still sulking because of that remark I made about the Iced Vanilla Kiosk, aren't you?"
"No," Obi-Wan protested, voice as stiff as if he were speaking with a blaster at the small of his back. "Not at all, master."
"C'mon, Ben!" Jemmiah needled in a kind of exhaustedly jubilant stupor that sounded suspiciously like Qui-Gon.
Perhaps she was being mind-tricked, even though her companions could attest to the fact that she was anything but weak-minded.
"Think about it!” she pressed on. “Who puts an iced-vanilla kiosk right on the top peak of a mountain! It's not like they're going to get much business, is it?"
"Okay, there's no need to be quite so chirpy." Obi-Wan groused.
It had been bad enough to be tempted and tantalized before realizing that he was, in fact, being taunted. Now, however, the pipsqueak was Sithbent on rubbing it in.
"I can't believe you fell for Master Jinn's promise to buy you a container when you got to the top!" the eleven-year-old crowed. "I mean, you're usually so smart! You know your problem?"
"I'm sure you're going to tell me." Obi-Wan retorted angrily.
"You love food too much."
Qui-Gon made a noise that was nearly identical to Jemmiah’s, indicating that he was exercising his bad habit of enjoying his Padawan’s torment a little too much.
As for his 11-year-old friend, Obi-Wan had no idea what had happened to the scheming little vrelt from the night before.
The vrelt was currently grinning like an idiot. "This snow stuff's fun, isn't it Ben?"
"Not particularly." Came the gruff reply.
"Awww, look…you're not mad at me for laughing at you, are you? Here…"
She chucked something at him that looked highly nutritious and just as highly unappetizing. "You can have this. I don't want it."
The ubiquitous good cheer wouldn’t be half as irritating if there were something other than snow in every direction.
Well, that wasn’t a fair statement. There were also ice, razor-sharp rocks and towering cliffs.
It all amounted to a place that no sane person would want to visit, much less call spectacular.
"Are you really enjoying yourself?" demanded Obi-Wan testily. "Tell me the truth."
She considered for a moment, surveying the surrounding landscape with a thankfully familiar expression of distaste. "Naaaah, it's kind of boring," Jemmy conceded reluctantly, "but I don't want to upset Master J. He likes this kind of thing.”
Her finger circled her ear conspiratorially and he nodded understanding.
“But between you and me,” she said in a nerf-whisper, “when you've seen one mountain you've seen them all. And I'm not fond of mountains to start with…"
"Why?" asked Obi-Wan.
"I…I just don't like them."
There was something in her casual dismissal that suggested she wasn’t telling the entire truth, but it was best not to press.
"Come on,” she suggested. “We'd better follow or else he'll be two whole valleys ahead of us or somethin'…"
It wasn’t fair. Qui-Gon would bend over backwards to make sure Jemmiah was all right, even if it grated on her sometimes, but when his long-suffering Padawan was in need, he was expected to fend for himself or, even worse, lectured on improper concentration on the Living Force.
Obi-Wan decided that enough was enough. What was the point in having the Force if you couldn't use it to help you every once in a while? Spotting a large rock just a few paces ahead, the padawan gathered the force around him, feeling his muscles clench tightly with concentration, then propelled himself forward into an impressive forward leap. Acrobatically tucking himself into a ball, Obi-Wan performed what in the training rooms would have been a perfect summersault, aiming for a landing on the rock -
- and missed his footing on the icy surface, slipping back and sitting down with an "oomph!" noise, winding him slightly in the process.
She sounded either scared or politely restraining hysterical giggles. "What was that s'posed to be?"
Obi-Wan shook his head desperately. And he'd thought the Iced-Vanilla Kiosk had been embarrassing! His only consolation was the fact that Qui-Gon hadn't seen him do it. The padawan looked up -
Oh. Qui-Gon had seen him, judging by the way he was shaking his head.
"See?" he sniffed in a low voice. "If you'd have done that it would be a different story."
"You think so?" Jemmiah chewed her lip. "Maybe I'll give it a try!"
She whipped around so quickly that it took Obi-Wan completely by surprise, leaving him to look on, amazed, as the tiny figure made a dash towards what looked like a monstrously deep pile of snow. Quite what Jemmiah was going to do, Obi-Wan couldn't begin to hazard a guess. Jemmiah's mind appeared devoted to the notion of churning out as many new, mischievous ways of getting into trouble as was humanly possible, and the padawan didn't particularly want to get involved.
"Hey, Master J!" Jemmiah called out some feet away from Qui-Gon, waving up at him. "Is it okay if I ask for some more…"
Jemmiah disappeared from sight.
It left Obi-Wan momentarily stunned until he realized what she had done, but Qui-Gon on the other hand had raced back down that mountain faster than a nerf with its tail on fire. Typical! He ended up covered in bruises and Qui-Gon did not a thing, whilst Jemmiah deliberately took a headfirst dive into a heap of snow and his master set a new galactic record for descending a mountain without taking so much as a single breath!
"Jemmiah!" Qui-Gon called out anxiously. "Are you alright?"
She was nearly as white as the surrounding landscape when she emerged from the snow and his stomach immediately twisted in acute guilt.
"Master Jinn, can we go back down now?" she pleaded. "Please? I'm really tired."
Of course? I get iced vanilla and she gets OF COURSE?
Even more alarming was the speed at which his Master was willing to haul her free of the snowdrift and cuddle her as if she were a wounded whisperkit.
Sometimes, the man was wholly revolting.
"You should have said you were tired,” he soothed. “It's not an easy climb, you know? Especially for one so young. I'm very impressed you've got as far as you did."
Jemmiah rubbed at her ankle, pouting.
"I'm not sure I can make it back down." Her eyes fixed miserably on the snow. "I think I hurt my foot."
"Well then, I'll just have to carry you as best I can."
He shifted her in his arms so that she practically straddled his waist, sniffling dramatically all over his jumper.
"Obi-Wan, you can carry my pack." Jinn instructed, nodding down at the bag lying upon the ground. "And please, no Force tricks this time. If you break anything I can't carry both of you…"
The best that could be said for it was that they were going to be heading down instead of heading towards the stratosphere. He supposed that he ought to be pleased beyond words that he would be able to get a decent meal instead of mint cake bars inside a nice, warm building.
No doubt he would have been all of these, he thought morosely as he shouldered his way into Qui-Gon's heavy pack, had it not been for the wicked face looking past his master's shoulder, throwing him the biggest, most deliberate wink he had ever seen in his life…
“It’s a good thing we came in when we did,” Jemmiah gloated prettily, delicately inspecting the swirling snow over the top of her bandaged foot. “If I hadn’t brought us in, we might be the Abominable Snowman by now.”
“Nonsense,” Qui-Gon scoffed. “Obi-Wan and I would have had the sense to come in long before now.”
“So says Master ‘Good-for-Body-and-Mind,” Obi-Wan muttered.
Qui-Gon, still buried beneath a pile of tissues, glowered at him. "Don't you have an essay to finish?"
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan replied dutifully.
He sneezed with the force of an earthquake, making both his charges cower. "Good," he sniffled. "If you wouldn't mind watching our young invalid until the appointed bedtime, I'll be getting some well-earned rest."
"Yes, Master," he repeated.
Qui-Gon was halfway to his room when he turned back. "And you can have some iced vanilla for your trouble," he concluded.
Elated, Obi-Wan turned back to Jemmiah to gloat over their victory, only to find that she was looking more terrified than he had ever seen her.
"What is it?" he asked immediately.
"It's Qui-Gon," she whispered shrilly. "I think he's dying!"
After the initial shock wore off, the absurdity of that statement set in full-force.
"Nonsense," Obi-Wan protested. "He's sniveling like an initiate, but he's not terminal!"
"He's offering you food," she said in a hushed voice as if attending a funeral. "He's either out of his mind or on his last legs."
Something cold was settling in the pit of his stomach and he didn't like it at all.
He wanted to say ridiculous, but couldn't bring himself to do so.
"All right," he said, struggling to keep his voice steady for her sake. "Once he's asleep..."
A loud snore interrupted their conversation.
"Now," Jemmiah urged. "Ben, I think he's really sick!"
"You stay here," he instructed. "I don't want him going strange in front of you..."
"He's offering iced vanilla," she reiterated. "You can't get more strange."