"From Little Acorns (Mighty Oaks Doth Grow)"
"Do I have to do this?"
"It's not fair."
"Stop whining, please."
"But how would you like it? If anyone in here finds out I've been to see a S.P.O.O.K then I'll never live it down."
"A what?" Qui-Gon asked.
"It stands for SORT PROBLEMS OUT OK. Because they always start off by telling you they will and then they never do."
"That's not going to happen." Qui-Gon remarked. "Look, what will it take you to be convinced that they are all friendly people who want to help."
"It's only deranged people that have to go visit them." Jemmy replied.
"Obi-Wan has had cause to use their services in the past. Does he look deranged?"
She looked at him in total surprise.
"I've even had to come here on one occasion. Do I appear mad to you?"
She was about to say something and Qui-Gon cut her off.
"On second thoughts, don't answer that." He said, marching her onwards.
There was an interval of about ten seconds whilst Jemmiah digested this information, and Qui-Gon could almost see the wheels turning in her mind.
"Why were you brought here?" She asked.
"I wasn't brought here." He said. "I made the decision myself."
He sat down next to her on the chair outside the room that Jemmiah's appointment was for, looking at the troubled face. Somehow he had to explain that it would be fine, that she had nothing to worry about.
"When I was young…"
"How young?" Jemmy demanded.
"Oh, I don't know. I'd been Yoda's padawan about half a year. Mace and Dex and myself were more or less the same age. Well, Dex was a little younger and Mace a little older but we were good friends. Also part of our social group was a padawan called Lydia Sheil. She had a bit of a thing about Dex."
"Naturally," Jemmiah nodded, "he's Corellian."
"Anyhow," Qui-Gon continued, "We all wanted to go out one day because we were fed up with being in the temple. We just decided that we had to get out. Of course, our masters didn't know about this."
"And what happened?" Jemmy asked.
Qui-Gon cast his mind back into the distant past. In some ways it felt as if it had happened yesterday, still vivid and fresh in his mind…
"We went to numerous places we shouldn't have. Cantinas, clubs, you name it and we went there. Eventually we went to this fairground that was doing a planetary tour. We got to the top of one of the rides and," his voice wavered a little, "Lydia fell out."
"Wasn't she strapped in?" Jemmiah asked.
"Yes, but she hadn't done her harness up properly and it managed to unhook itself when she was at the top." He breathed out. "Dex and Mace didn't see what happened but I tried to stop her from falling. I only slowed her down."
"And?" Jemmiah said softly.
"She died before they could get the medics out to her." Qui-Gon replied. "I took it all to heart. It wasn't just my idea to go to the fairground. I hate these sorts of places. If anyone was keen to go it was Lydia, but I still felt responsible. I kept thinking that if only we hadn't gone, if only I had managed to stop her from falling then she would still be alive today."
Jemmiah looked at him.
"But how could it be your fault? There wasn't anything you could do."
"Precisely." He said. "And it took a good few months of visiting the S.P.O.O.Ks as you call them for me to see that."
"You'd better not tell anyone I'm here." She mumbled.
"Cross my heart." He said. "And Del-Isa Sidatu is a very kind individual."
"Maybe," Jemmiah said, "for a head doctor."
"Talk of the devil." Qui-Gon stood up.
Del-Isa Sidatu was a tall and slender figure with long bi-colored hair like the ticking Jemmiah had seen on some of the wild rodents that lived on Nargotria. The long strands were all woven together in tiny multiple braids and then scooped up in an elaborate clasp at the neck. It immediately caught her attention.
"How did you do that?" Jemmiah asked. "That must have taken ages!"
"I'm sure I can show you." She smiled, her dark skin wrinkling at the eyes. "You like braids?"
Qui-Gon waved his hands.
"Don't get her started!" He warned. "And please do NOT discuss lipstick, rouge or hair rollers either!"
"But you looked really cute!" Jemmiah shrugged.
"If she starts doing things to my hair when I'm asleep again I'll come and find you!" He warned Sidatu.
"Hmmm. Qui-Gon in rollers. I could have done with seeing that."
"I can get you some holos…" began Jemmy.
"Get in." Jinn pointed into the room. "I'll wait here for you."
She suddenly looked nervous again.
"You won't go away?" She fidgeted.
"I'm sure Master Jinn can fins something amongst our literature to interest him whilst we have a talk." Sidatu smiled. "There's a nice pamphlet on hand weaving on the table."
Jemmiah's eyes fell upon one of the leaflets.
"Here's one that might do you some good." She said, placing it slap in front of him. "Gardening for the beginner. You're going to need it when we get out of here."
"Would you like to sit down?" Sidatu asked, watching as Jemmiah seemed to be on the edge of bolting out of the room. "Please don't be nervous. I don't eat people, despite what others might tell you." She grinned at the Corellian girl.
Jemmiah looked extremely wary but complied all the same.
"That's better." Sidatu nodded. "We won't do much in this session, just talk and get to know each other a little better."
"This session?" Jemmiah was horrified. "You mean I have to come back?"
Sidatu looked at her intently.
"That rather depends on you, doesn't it? Master Jinn made the appointment for you because he felt it was necessary for you to get to the bottom of these nightmares."
"He's just sore because I woke everyone up." Jemmy grumbled.
"Do you really believe that?" Sidatu raised a questioning eyebrow.
"Well, I got some details from Master Jinn when he contacted us, but I need to know a little more…how old are you exactly?" Sidatu asked.
"Guess." Jemmy said.
The question surprised the soul healer.
"Going on appearance?" She blew out a long breath. "Seven? Eight?"
"Ten." Jemmiah snapped. "I knew you'd say seven. I could have put money on it."
"Does that bother you?" Sidatu asked her.
"Wouldn't it bother you?" Jemmiah retorted. "Everyone treats me like I'm a little girl. Either that or I'm some kind of retard."
"And it makes you annoyed?"
"Too right it does!" Jemmiah bristled. "So you can put that on your list of things to tell Master Jinn after we're through here."
"You certainly don't act like you're seven. More like fifteen." Sidatu smiled.
Jemmiah stared balefully at her.
"I've got better things to do than sit here." She mumbled.
"Oh, such as?" The healer asked.
"I've got a plant to tend to."
"You like gardening?" She asked.
Jemmiah let a lazy, lopsided grin spread across her face.
"Actually, I hate it. That's what makes it a challenge."
"Now I'm confused."
"I've confused a SPOOK! Hey, that's made my day!" Jemmy chuckled quietly. "I've got a project at school. I have to grow some bulbs. Only up until this morning there was nothing to see. But suddenly it's beginning to go somewhere. I'm gonna beat Sophie Digwurt if it kills me." She spat.
"I'd like to flatten her smug face with an iron bar but Master Jinn wouldn't be too pleased so I mostly ignore her."
"Do you like school?" Sidatu asked, offering the Corellian a biscuit.
Jemmy picked out the caramel one and held it up.
"He didn't tell you my age but he did tell you what my favorite biscuits are." She smiled.
Sidatu regarded her for a moment.
"Do you want to discuss these nightmares?" She enquired gently.
Jemmiah munched on the biscuit for a moment.
"I don't like school." She said with a dazzling smile. "I hate the kids, I have no friends and the teachers are like prison guards. But I like the work. I don't mind that." She paused to like the chocolate off one finger. "And no. I don't want to talk about my nightmares."
"Because they are private. I only share my thoughts with one person." She pointed at her chest. "Me."
"Doesn't it get difficult, having nobody to confide in?" Sidatu asked.
"I'm used to it."
"On Corellia or Nargotria?"
"Told you about that, did he?"
"Don't you want to be rid of these dreams?" Sidatu persisted.
"They'll never go away. What's the point in talking about it?"
"You won't know if you don't try." The healer replied. "Are you sure you don't want to…"
"Then we'll talk about something else."
"How you get on with Master Jinn and his padawan."
Jemmiah had just about had enough.
"I get on with them just fine. I keep reminding myself everyday that I owe my neck to them so that whenever I'm on the point of saying something horrible I back down." She snorted. "Some days are easier than others."
"What about…" She looked at her notes. "Obi-Wan?"
"Yeah, he's OK. I thought he was kinda quiet to start with but he's not really. Actually, he's got quite a neat line in practical jokes. But I think you'd better not tell Master Jinn that one."
"Why are you so concerned about what I discuss with Master Jinn?"
"Because I'm only here by his good grace, and the council's. If I stuff up I could find myself dumped in some kids home before you could say May the force be with you." Jemmiah laughed. "So I'd really think carefully about what you tell him, if I were you, because you could wreck my chances of staying here."
"That won't happen." Sidatu stated in amazement.
"Won't it? You tell him something he doesn't want to hear? If you said that I was round the twist are you seriously telling me he'd keep me here?"
"I'm not going to be saying anything of the sort." She answered.
"Well, then. There shouldn't be any problem. Next question, please." Jemmiah said defiantly.
"OK." Sidatu asked. "Why do you think you get so angry?"
"Who says I get angry?"
"I asked first." Jemmiah looked at her. "Let me guess. Master Jinn. Again. Hmmm, I'll have to watch myself from now on."
"Look, Jemmiah I am here to try and help you. I'm not trying to cause any trouble between you and Qui-Gon Jinn. If you have problems we will get them sorted out. OK? But you have to let me help you."
A ghost of a smile played on Jemmiah's lips.
"You know, you were doing quite well up until you said that." She stood up. "But guess what. You blew it. Now, if you don't mind I'm going home."
"Please don't go just yet." Sidatu responded. "As I say, you don't have to answer anything you don't want to, is that alright?"
Jemmiah stood for a while, considering. Then she sat back down.
"OK." She said.
"Well?" Qui-Gon asked some forty-five minutes later. "Did she tell you anything?"
"No." said Sidatu with a smile. "And that in itself was extremely revealing."
Qui-Gon shook his head.
"Do you mind if I ask for some clarification on this point?"
Sidatu drummed her fingers on the table.
"We didn't discuss her nightmares at all because she refused point blank to talk about them. She was on the verge of walking out and then I told her she didn't have to answer any questions she didn't want to."
"She hardly spoke another word during the course of the next thirty five minutes." Sidatu grinned in defeat. "She's a sharp one alright. Definitely knows her own mind. Although she actually said very little I was able to read between the lines. She was very uncomfortable with me. Her body language was screaming KEEP AWAY in big letters."
"So what DID you find out?" He asked, confused.
"Well, she's determined to be independent. She thinks that if she confides in anyone then it's going to be seen as a sign of weakness. That and the fact that she's just not used to having people to speak to. The idea makes her uneasy. She doesn't like her classmates at school and she has nobody to play with but she doesn't seem too heartbroken by that. In fact she seems to have taken all her frustrations out on someone in particular, er…" she looked at her notes.
"Sophie Digwurt?" offered Qui-Gon.
"Yes. I believe that was the name." Sidatu nodded.
"Oh, I know all about Ms Digwurt. She sounds utterly enchanting." Jinn rolled his eyes. "She's made some rather unkind remarks about her recently and it didn't go down very well as you can imagine."
"Yes, and that's what I was going to mention." Sidatu said. "She's still not very secure with either herself or her own position in your household."
Qui-Gon's face registered surprise.
"She told you that?"
"More or less. She was extremely worried that I was going to say something about her that might cause you to change your mind about her living with you. She's also thoroughly frustrated about other people's attitudes to her. The fact that she's so far behind everyone else in her class physically because of that wasting illness has made her a very angry young lady."
"At herself, more than anything else. I think a little confidence boosting might help."
"What about those nightmares?"
"There's not much point in you bringing her back if she's not prepared to talk. And I'm convinced that she either can't or won't. I've got two suggestions that might help.
Firstly, your padawan is what, four and a bit years older than she is? See if you can't get her to speak to him more. She seems to like him, going on what she told me. Perhaps she'll trust someone closer to her own age.
Secondly, I recommend you buy her a diary."
"To write down whatever she likes, from what she had for breakfast to how she feels after her nightmares. To deal with a problem you have to face it. If she confides in her diary it might help her through the worst of it. It's better to make your peace with a book than with nobody at all."
Qui-Gon took in the information, slowly running it through his head.
"I'd say you've got your hands full, Master Jinn. But you should be able to make some progress."
"My thanks to you." He replied.
"Not at all. I'm always here if you need to talk…"
"Oh, no. You're not getting me on that couch."
"Pity." She sighed. "Oh, well."
As he turned to leave, Sidatu called out after him.
"Good luck with that plant of yours. It sounds like you've got some serious competition."
Qui-Gon paused at the door.
Perhaps this was just what he needed…
"Halt!" Jinn commanded as the Corellian girl bounded past him through the doorway and headed for the sanctuary of her bedroom.
Jemmiah stopped with her back to him, but her arms slapped down at her side, displaying her annoyance.
"What?" she moaned.
Qui-Gon decided to overlook the sarcasm for once. He could see she was waiting for the big discussion regarding her visit to the soul healers and wondered if now really was the right time to talk.
"You left this behind." He said, pointing at the plant pot.
She turned round.
"Can I do some baking?"
Her request surprised him.
"I didn't know you could."
"Oh, yes." She nodded. "I usually prefer to let everyone else do it though because that way you get the benefit without the hard work!"
"Somebody's swapped you with my padawan." Jinn muttered. "OK. But only because I'm here to supervise."
Jemmiah nodded and headed for her room.
"Where are you going? The kitchen is that way?" He asked in confusion. "I don't know what's wrong with you. One minute you're talking about gardening and the next you want to be a chef! Have you forgotten your plant already?"
Her head shook rigorously.
"Oh, no. This has got EVERYTHING to do with my plant." She said. "And I'll be right back. I need to get some things."
Qui-Gon sighed and sank back into his comfortable chair.
He didn't know what to do for the best and he was wondering if his indecision was beginning to show. A child lacking the force was just as much a challenge as one whom possessed it. And he wasn't certain that he was coping at all well.
She felt insecure, so Sidatu had said. Qui-Gon somehow had to make her feel more involved. And her recent obsession with growing this plant bothered him too. It was as if she'd taken all her own frustrations with her lack of development and foisted them onto this poor…what kind of plant was it anyhow?
There were so many factors to consider that it made Qui-Gon's head spin.
Jemmiah returned wearing a headstrong, determined look that he did not care for one little bit.
"What are you up to?" He asked her suspiciously.
"Nothing." Jemmy replied breezily. "Corellian Rock cakes OK for you?"
"Huh..er, yes. I'm sure they'll be very good."
Now more than ever Qui-Gon was convinced that something was going on, and not entirely sure that he wanted to know what it was….
Mace appeared shortly after lunch.
"What's been going on here?" He surveyed the kitchen, which didn't seem to have an inch free of flour, broken Korrassi Duck eggs and spilled milk. Used utensils and bowls lined the work surface as far as the eye could see.
"We," Qui-Gon said, "have been baking."
Jemmiah wandered over.
"Want one?" She asked Mace, proffering the tray with the little cakes on them. She watched as he uncertainly reached out a hand.
"Are they any good?" He asked.
"Course they are." She became indignant. "I made them!"
Mace chewed for a while, forming his opinion.
"Actually, they are quite good." He sounded surprised.
"See?" she said as she looked up at Qui-Gon. "I told you I could bake. The confidence you have in me is overwhelming."
Qui-Gon took one from the tray.
"Where did you learn to cook?" He asked, as he bit into the cake.
"My mother used to cook. When she died there was another woman called Rusa who used to do the meals. I learned mostly from her."
"She taught you quite well, apparently." Qui-Gon looked equally astonished. "Even if the output doesn't quite match the input." He pointed at the collection of dirty dishes.
"What are you talking about?" She frowned, turning round to look.
As she glanced away, Qui-Gon and Mace both grabbed another couple of cakes each.
"I'll clean those up in a moment…hey! Where did they go?" She glared. "I've never seen such a bunch of Gamorreans in my life!"
"Take it as a complement." Mace said with a mouthful of cake. "And anyhow, you've got plenty more over there."
Mace pointed at the cake mountain in the corner.
"Uh-uh. They're not for us." Jemmy shook her head adamantly. "They're special. I'm taking them to school tomorrow."
"A peace offering?" He asked.
"Well…not exactly. But I'm sure SOMEONE will take them. You see, I know of other Gamorreans who like to eat just as much as you do."
"I'm very pleased." Qui-Gon said in relief. "It's an extremely good way to patch up a quarrel. I'm impressed. Infact, just to show you how impressed I am with your maturity I shall do the cleaning up."
"N-no. That isn't necessary." Jemmiah began nervously.
"Take him up on it." Mace insisted. "Qui-Gon thinks that padawans and dishes were made for each other."
"But I made the mess. I should be the one to…"
Again Qui-Gon was pleased with her grown-up attitude.
"I insist. And Mace will help me, won't you?"
"See. He agrees." Qui-Gon pointed at the chair. "You can sit down and watch some holos if you want."
"Thanks." Jemmy blinked.
Mace grumbled something as Qui-Gon threw him a dishtowel.
"Precocious little thing, isn't she?" Windu muttered as he put on an apron.
"I only wish my padawan had such a mature attitude." Qui-Gon said proudly. "Wash or dry?"
"Should have guessed." Jinn rolled his eyes.
Jemmiah put her hands over her face.
She didn't think Qui-Gon would be so keen to commend her maturity if he'd known what exactly she'd put in that second batch of rock cakes…
"So, what did you come round for?" Jinn asked as he plunged his hands into the water. "Come to admit defeat over your plant?"
"Is yours doing any better?" Mace shot back.
Qui-Gon felt himself becoming defensive.
"I haven't had the time to even consider it." Qui-Gon remarked testily. "I've had other things to contend with."
"Such as taking that one," he nodded at Jemmiah, "to see the soul healers."
Mace looked at the Corellian girl out the corner of his eye.
"Difficulty letting go of the past and a certain degree of apprehension as regards the future, I would say." Qui-Gon summed up the meeting with Sidatu rather succinctly.
"Will she be alright?" Mace asked.
"Why are you so interested?" Qui-Gon said not unkindly. "When I first brought her back you were one of the main opposition to her staying."
"I thought you were taking on too much." Mace said firmly. "I had nothing against her whatsoever. I was just concerned that you were leaping into this without any consideration at all as to the effect it would have on all three of you." He held up his hands. "You were right and I was wrong. I admit it."
"Thank you. Although there have been times when I began to wonder if you weren't right after all. Like last night when she challenged me about going to bed as I instructed. And when I found out the reason behind it I felt extremely guilty."
"Not easy, being a parent." Mace smiled.
"Talking of which, when are you going to take another padawan?" Qui-Gon smiled. "When are you going to get your new dishwasher installed."
Mace flicked the dishtowel at him.
"I've never understood why you insist on hand washing this stuff." He brandished an old style egg whisk. "What's wrong with getting all the modern luxuries and appliances of modern technology installed?"
"Because," Qui-Gon replied, "It's a good way of learning discipline."
"You need discipline?"
"Not for me, for the padawans" His face became clouded. "Not that it did Xanatos any good."
Mace dried one of the bowls in silence for a moment.
"Yoda seems quite friendly with young Jemmiah." Mace stated casually.
"So? He was my master. It's only natural that he would want to keep an eye on her and Obi-Wan." Jinn frowned.
"He thinks she's important." Mace said bluntly.
"Important?" Qui-Gon's head snapped round to meet Windu's. "In what way?"
"He's seen something, hasn't he? That's why he was so firmly on our side when I took on the council over her custody."
"Perhaps." Mace nodded.
"And Yoda told you this?" Qui-Gon stopped what he was doing. "You know too, don't you?"
Mace replied carefully.
"I think we might have some problems in the future and that Yoda is convinced that it is important to make sure that we keep a watch over your ward."
"What sort of problems?" He asked. "The Jedi order?"
"Bigger than that, possibly." Mace said, drying a sieve with the cloth.
"That is no answer at all." Qui-Gon actually looked upset.
"It's the only one I can give you." Windu replied.
Silently they both continued their tasks: one to dry and the other to wash. Thinking thoughts that neither of them wanted to think. The future of their order seemed so secure…didn't it? That anything should happen to destroy that stability was incomprehensible to Qui-Gon.
"This is like the old days." Mace commented as he tried to break the gloomy quiet that had ensued.
"What is?" Jinn grunted.
"Us washing dishes. Usually it was for punishment."
"I got to wash far more dishes than you." Qui-Gon remarked.
"No you did not!" Mace retorted. "It was nearly always your fault but I got caught!"
"Nothing's changed in that respect." Qui-Gon smiled slightly. "I always used to complete my punishments faster than you because," he splashed some water at Mace, "I was better at everything than you were."
"No you weren't!" Mace looked annoyed.
"Yes, I was!" Jinn shot back.
"I'll bet I can get that silly plant to grow faster than you." Mace let his voice climb so that Jemmiah could hear him.
"I'll bet you can't!" Qui-Gon grinned.
"200 credits say you can't!"
Jemmiah walked over to them with her plant pot in hand.
"You'll both have to go some to beat me!" She grinned.
A day and a half later Qui-Gon glared into the soil of his plant pot.
Why wasn't it growing? What was he doing wrong?
Sith, he was beginning to sound like Jemmiah…
"You put this in the same time as your one?" He indicated the bulb with a sweep of the hand.
"Yup." Jemmy nodded. "Well. A day later. I did my one at school but it was easier to take the others home as bulbs and then plant them."
Qui-Gon nodded, not really paying attention.
Jemmiah watched him as he sat miserably beside the plant pot, wearing an expression half way between disgust and misery. Part of her wanted to laugh her head off at the irony and the other part wanted to tell him she knew how he felt.
"I'm NOT letting him beat me. No way!" Qui-Gon refused to countenance it. "I would never live it down. And besides…"
"You're incredibly mean with money and you don't want to pay him!" Grinned Jemmy, lying along the sofa on her front, kicking her legs up idly.
"I am not mean." Qui-Gon looked shocked. "Frugal, maybe."
"That's the same as mean on Corellia." Jemmiah replied.
"And what do you remember about Corellia?" Qui-Gon said absently, hoping to trick her into talking.
He watched her out of the corner of one eye and could see he hadn't tricked her at all. And yet she still decided to speak.
"Not much, really." She chewed her lip. "I remember we had a big garden. There was this huge tree that used to throw down acorns onto us. Father built a swing to push us on. Todd always fell off!" She laughed at the memory. "He always ran back to the house with cuts on his knees and scrapes on his head. But I was brilliant and I used to sit tight even when the swing went right up to the top so I could almost touch the branches."
"I didn't know you remembered your father." Qui-Gon looked surprised. "You never mentioned him before."
"I don't really." She smiled slightly. "He was really tall. He was just a pair of legs to me. Mother always said he was a pilot. I used to think that was pretty neat. But then she said he hadn't come back from a mission one day. They found the wreckage in the sea."
She looked at Qui-Gon in embarrassment.
"I find it difficult to get upset about him, does that sound terrible? I don't remember him at all well. And it's not easy to get attached to a pair of occasionally visiting legs."
Jinn shook his head.
"No. There's no shame in that." He replied. "What else do you remember?"
"About Corellia?" Jemmiah crinkled her brow. "Not much. We had this pet Vampki; he was a huge furry, ugly looking thing. He used to sit on my head like a hat! The size of his hairy feet was incredible, and when he jumped about you could hear him for miles. That's why we gave him his name."
"And what was that?"
"General Thunderpaws!" Jemmy giggled. "Wasn't that great? He had these massive eyebrows just like the pictures of General Zzubaki you see in history books. That was my idea."
"I thought it would be." Qui-Gon said. "And your brother?"
"Todd?" She twisted her hair around her finger uncomfortably. "What about him?"
"You only mentioned him once, as far as I recall." Jinn asked carefully. "What do you remember about him?"
Jemmiah looked at the floor for a moment.
"He was a year older than me. We used to play together a lot, but that's about it. I guess I'm worried…" She halted awkwardly.
"Worried about what?" Qui-Gon asked gently.
"That I'll forget him. Sometimes I can barley remember what he looked like."
Jinn nodded slowly.
"What happened to him?" He asked.
Jemmy chose her words carefully.
"Merdan didn't want him." She answered finally.
Ignoring the laden silence, Jemmiah tried valiantly to change the topic, pointing instead at the soil.
"So what do you think is wrong?" She asked. "You going to beat Windu or what?"
"That's Master Windu to you." Qui-Gon replied, glad to talk about something else. "And of course I am going to beat him."
"How?" Jemmiah persisted.
"I don't know."
Qui-Gon turned his thoughts back to the plant pot, at least partially, crumbling the soil in between his fingers.
Jemmiah walked over to him.
"Master Jinn." She said seriously.
"Yes?" He asked.
"Umm…don't take this the wrong way."
"It's just that," she looked from side to side as if afraid of being overheard, "I don't think staring at it is going to help."
Qui-Gon sat straight up, eyes gleaming dangerously.
"You little…never, EVER use my own words back at me!" He laughed.
"What's so exciting about it, anyway? You can't see anything happening?"
"OK, OK!" He admitted. "I was wrong!"
"Don't you think you're taking it all a little bit too seriously? It's not going to answer you back!" Jemmiah ran through to the safety of the kitchen.
"Oh, look where I've fetched up!" she smirked as she came to a sliding halt by the refrigeration unit.
"Jemmiah, leave those cakes alone until after our meal…"
Qui-Gon gave up as he saw her hand reach in for one of her rock cakes.
"Oh, yes. That reminds me." He smiled at her. "How did it go?"
"What?" She asked, puzzled.
"The peace offering?"
Jemmiah tried to think what he was talking about…
"Oh, I know what you mean!" She said suddenly as the dawn of realization fell upon her. "I have to say, that Operation Digwurt was a complete success."
"You see?" Jinn replied. "I knew you'd make it up."
"Oh, we didn't do that." Jemmy shook her head in rigorous denial.
Jemmy began to inch slowly towards her bedroom, wiping crumbs from her mouth as she went.
"Sophie is a complete swamp hog. I've never seen anyone stuff food away like her. Not even Obi-Wan."
"She has the rather annoying habit of hitting people until they hand their food over to her. Either that or she raids your personal locker. Happens to me quite a lot."
Qui-Gon folded his arms.
"You never said."
"I figured I'd give her a taste of her own medicine." Jemmy chuckled, still inching towards her room. "And I knew those rock cakes would be too much of a temptation."
Jinn closed his eyes.
"Go on." He groaned.
"Well, lets say she won't be stealing anyone's food for a long time. Let's see how a trip to the emergency dentist will curb that particular pleasure."
"What?" Qui-Gon asked in alarm.
"Those rock cakes?" Jemmy's face was apologetic but her eyes sparkled with mischief.
"What about them?"
She was within running distance of her door.
"Turns out they had real rocks in 'em."
"Two weeks." Grumbled Jemmiah with her arms up to her elbows in foam. "Two weeks of washing dishes, all because of that Digwurt creature."
"You were lucky you didn't get a whole month." He replied as he looked up from the assignment he was writing. "When Zac and I put gum in our master's boots that's what we got."
"Did you do that?" Jemmy looked interested.
"Uh-huh. But don't go getting any ideas. Qui-Gon's a great person to have on your side but not very nice when you cross him."
"So I found out." Jemmiah moped. "You know, he wasn't so much upset that I did that thing to Sophie but that I got him and Master Windu to wash the dishes whilst I sat in the comfortable chair and watched holos."
"Sounds like my master. He probably thinks your schoolmate deserved it. Not that he'd admit it."
"Actually," Jemmiah looked uncertain, "I think he's afraid to come down like a permacrete brick on me because he doesn't know how to treat me at the moment."
"The Soul Healer thing?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Yeah," she let her face slide into a sneer, "that. You know, a less honest person would take advantage of that."
"And you're not going to?" The padawan popped a chocolate into his mouth.
"What's the point?" The ten-year-old groused as she scrubbed at the scrambled egg sticking to the pan. "All that does is drag this whole thing out. And he'll just think I'm psychologically damaged and send me back to that Sidatu woman."
She stopped for a moment, lost in thought.
"I can't pretend I'm sorry for what I did. And anyhow, if I hadn't then Digwurt would have just gone on tormenting everyone for ever and ever and ever…"
"That's why you should have spoken to me."
Jemmiah was so surprised she nearly dropped the dishes back into the water.
"Master Jinn?" she stammered. "How long have you been there?"
"Long enough." He said.
"I wish you Jedi people wouldn't do that."
"All that sneaking around. It's not dignified."
"Correct. About as dignified as putting rocks inside cakes."
Jemmiah dried the pan on the dishtowel, scowling at him.
"She's only got broken teeth. It'll stop her from thieving what doesn't belong to her."
"I could have done that." Qui-Gon shook his head.
"No you couldn't!" Jemmy insisted. "Have you any idea what school is actually like? If you're the slightest bit different from all the others then they bully you. If you show the smallest trace of weakness they'll pick on you 'till the end of time. Imagine what I would suffer if I had you go speak to my teacher and tell them I was getting harassed! I'd never hear the end of it!"
"I think you're exaggerating. Children have short memories. There's always something new to fall out over."
"Master Jinn." Jemmiah twisted the dishtowel in agitation, "I mean no offence so please don't jump on me for this, but how long has it been since you were a kid?"
Obi-Wan failed to cover his snickering.
Qui-Gon pointedly ignored the question.
"She could have choked on those stones and died." Qui-Gon said sternly.
"I never thought of that." Jemmy paused for a moment. "Not to self: must get bigger stones next time."
"What was that about a next time?"
"I should hope not." Qui-Gon stared at her with his icy blue gaze. "I want your word that you will NEVER try anything of this nature again."
Jemmiah shook her head.
"I can't do that."
"Pardon?" Qui-Gon couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"I don't go picking fights with people," she said slowly, "but if someone has a go at me it is my right to defend myself in whatever way I see fit. That's what I was brought up to think."
"Who taught you that?" He asked coldly.
"My friend Nadine at Merdan's camp." She replied.
"Well, she is not looking after you now. I am." He answered. "There are ways of defending yourself that do not jeopardize other peoples' welfare."
"Speaking to the head teacher?" she said bitterly. "I'd be better off suffering in silence."
Qui-Gon was not going to give in.
"You have to learn that you cannot go taking the law into your own hands. If you think this now it will only get you into greater trouble later on. Should you never listen to another piece of advice I give you, please take this one on board."
He left her to think it over for a moment.
"How's the assignment, padawan?"
"I'm having a little difficulty."
"In what way?"
"Making the words in my mind project themselves onto the workstation."
"Hmm." Qui-Gon mused as he saw the single line on the screen that Obi-Wan had managed to produce. "Perhaps a little more of this," he indicated his fingers typing, "and a bit less of this," he scrunched up an empty chocolate wrapper, "might help you to focus a bit better."
"Have you considered what I was saying?" Qui-Gon asked Jemmiah.
"Not taking the law into your own hands." He replied relentlessly.
"I can't promise you anything I might not be able to stick to." She grumbled. "I'll do my best."
"Thank you." He nodded. "Did that hurt so much?"
"Ask me again when I come back from school all battered and bruised with my arms out my sockets and my hair set on fire." She muttered so he couldn't hear her.
He walked over to the doorway and picked up a writing implement.
"Have you finished the dishes?" Qui-Gon asked.
"Good. Dry your hands and come over here."
She stared at him distrustfully but did as she was told.
"Against the wall." He said.
"W-why?" she asked.
"Just do it, please." He instructed. "And take your shoes off."
Jemmiah swallowed but stood with her back to the wall.
Qui-Gon took the scribe and drew a tiny mark on the wall by the door right where the top of Jemmiah's head was.
"Right thank you." He smiled.
"What was that about?" she asked.
"I am going to repeat that process every month." He said calmly. "Then maybe you will be able to see for yourself how much you've grown."
"It won't work." She said sorrowfully. "I think I'm destined to be a midget."
"I used to think that, and look what happened to me." Qui-Gon replied. "I put it down to Yoda's gruel. For years he worried about me. Wondering if I was too thin or not tall enough for my age. I got extra helpings of the stuff. He never realized the real reason behind his extraordinary tall Rushali Blossom plant."
"You didn't?" Jemmiah laughed.
"I did. It was the only one that did like it though. All the others died."
Jemmiah smiled cheekily at him.
"If that's your secret weapon then it's not working." She grinned. "Your plant STILL isn't growing. Look at mine!"
Qui-Gon followed her gaze to the shoot that was rapidly beginning to grow out of the soil.
"There's two weeks left." He said defensively.
"But I'm going to win." Jemmy winked at him. "Master Windu has no chance. I'm afraid it doesn't look too good for you either."
He met her challenging stare.
"There's one thing you don't know about me, Tangles." He replied. "I like to win."
"I think you're going to be disappointed." She answered smugly.
"Oh, I wouldn't start crowing yet." He teased her. "A lot can happen in two weeks. And I can be extremely competitive when I put my mind to it."
"Tell me about it." Grumbled Obi-Wan.
"Nothing wrong in wanting to come first." Qui-Gon answered the boy.
"At all costs?" Jemmy asked. "Isn't that taking the law into your own hands, Master Jinn?"
Qui-Gon frowned at her.
"Tangles, I will yet be victorious. You'll see."
He reached forward with an outstretched hand and stole Obi-Wans' last chocolate.
"Sophie Digwurt's got nothing on you." Obi-Wan sulked.
The days seemed to fly past far too quickly for Qui-Gon's liking.
Jemmiah's plant had suddenly started to shoot up and up and up, putting forth a display of tiny bluish flowers.
She hadn't stopped celebrating yet.
He, on the other hand still found himself looking at a heap of brown soil that showed no signs at all of springing into life. Time and time again he found himself wondering what he was doing wrong. He watered it, he fed it, and he made sure it got enough light. He even tried meditating with the darned thing sitting in his lap.
Then Obi-Wan came back to the apartment and caught him. The grin on his face told him exactly how amusing the boy had found it.
Well, he would not give up. That was not the Jedi way. Even although Jemmiah's plant was seemingly growing as he looked, mocking his own inability to tend its companion.
When the comlink chirped he wasn't astounded to hear Windu's voice on the other end.
"How's it going Qui?" he grinned. "How's my 200 credits?"
"They are my 200 credits and they are going to stay that way." Qui-Gon huffed.
"That's what you think." Mace said.
"And how is your plant doing?" Qui-Gon asked conversationally.
The pause was extremely revealing.
"Fine, fine." He said suspiciously. "Why shouldn't it be?"
"I bet you haven't even got it to break the surface." Qui-Gon stated.
"Well, what if I haven't?" Mace growled. "Stupid plant. I've tried everything! I've drowned it in plant food; I've baked it in sunlight and floated it in water. I've even tried breathing on it! What else is there to do?"
Qui-Gon shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
"Yoda said to Jemmiah that they respond to music."
"We could always…sing to them."
"You said music, Qui. Not caterwauling."
"There's nothing wrong with my voice." Qui-Gon bristled.
"Wrong? It sound's like a Nerf in a mincing machine!"
Jinn was glad Mace could not see his annoyed expression.
"Well, I'm going to try it." He said in an injured voice.
"If anything's going to kill it off that will do it." Mace replied.
"Well, thanks Windu. I love you too. Just get my 200 credits ready."
Qui-Gon terminated the conversation and drummed his fingers against the pot and glared at Jemmiah's tall, leafy plant. He could swear it was laughing at him.
"I just want you to know that you are one ugly plant." The Jedi snapped.
"How's it all going at your place?" Zac yawned.
"Assignments, exams, assignments, missions, assignments, housework and…"
"Assignments?" Zac hazarded.
"Got it one." Obi-Wan nodded. "You are lucky that your master doesn't get field work. You get to deal with all the technical aspects of sabre practise."
"You get that too." Zac straightened his robe.
"Yes, and I'm good for my age. Everyone says so. But I could be better."
"Not as good as me." The padawan thrust his chest out proudly.
"Nobody is better than you." Kenobi grimaced.
"I know!" He smiled momentarily then let it fade on his face. "But it's not all good. My poetry is suffering."
Obi-Wan shook his head.
"Zac, I mean this with the best will in the world. Your poetry is…not very good."
"That's because I don't get the time to practise!" Zac remarked. "It's almost impossible to think up new and original verses whilst you're in the middle of a Katta."
"I suppose so." Obi-Wan grinned. "Want to grab something to eat at my place?"
"Sure. Why not?" Zac smiled.
They walked back to Qui-Gon's residence slowly, catching up on the events of the previous day.
"You know Obi, I think my muse has abandoned me." Zac sighed.
"It hasn't Zac, it's just…having a rest." Kenobi tried to reassure him. "One day soon you'll get inspiration from something and you'll be back to writing out verses of utter garbage just like before."
Zac thumped him between the shoulder blades.
"There's nothing wrong with my poetry." He laughed.
"It stinks, Zac! You know it too."
"But it's fun!"
"You just like to torture people, that's your problem." Obi-Wan shook his head as they loitered outside the door. "I swear that you've got a nasty streak…"
"Shhh!" Zac put a hand to his ear. "What's that sound?"
Obi-Wan listened carefully.
"I don't know." He looked blankly at Zac.
"Sounds a bit like…singing?"
"My master doesn't sing. Not even in the bath." Obi-Wan frowned. "What is he up to?"
"I don't know." Zac grinned incorrigibly. "Why don't we try and find out?"
Jinn felt ever so slightly embarrassed about this. Singing for one's own pleasure was one thing, not that he did a lot of that. Singing to a plant was one stage away from committal…
He shook his head and thought of the humiliation he would suffer if Mace managed to get his plant to grow and he did not. He was desperate and prepared to try almost anything. So preoccupied was he that he didn't hear the door opening behind him, or sense the presence of others within the apartment…
Qui-Gon cleared his throat.
"From Korrassi to Kashyyyk
And fair Alderaan,
And sweet Florizan
There's no girl who can match you
You are without peer…"
"But I can't afford you because you're so dear!" Finished Zac with a delighted expression on his face. "Hey Obi, you were right! My muse hasn't abandoned me!"
Qui-Gon spun round in shock.
"Er…Master, we wanted to…um, get something to eat…but I think we'll just leave you to it." Obi-Wan tried not to smile as they both edged backwards out the door, nearly getting stuck in the frame.
"Er…yes. We'll just go then, Master Jinn. I like the pot of soil. It's very…nice." Zac agreed before turning to flee.
Qui-Gon buried his head in his hands.
Now his padawan was convinced he was insane. And Zac was probably composing poems about strange Jedi masters who talked to plant pots.
He glared at the soil.
"What is WRONG with you?" He hissed. "Why don't you grow?"
Qui-Gon decided to do a little investigation and dug deep into the soil with his hands until he came across the bulb. Carefully he scraped away the soil and pulled it out.
Suddenly the answer became all too apparent.
Qui-Gon thumped his head off the table four times.
"And well you might!" Mace stormed in through the still open door. "I decided to have a bit of a look at this bulb to see what was wrong with the thing. And guess what?"
"You as well." Qui-Gon looked up. "It seems our would be gardening expert has made a bit of a blunder."
"A blunder?" Mace growled. "I bet it was on purpose! Little Corellian minx! She's sitting there somewhere having a laugh at us!"
"No." Qui-Gon said. "She wouldn't do that."
Mace snorted disgustedly.
"Then answer me this. Who else would plant a bulb UPSIDE DOWN in a plant pot?"
A few days later and Qui-Gon had sent a rather excited Jemmiah on her way to school, armed with her plant to await the final result of the contest. He hoped she wouldn't be too disappointed if she didn't do well. And hoped she wouldn't be too hard to live with should Sophie Digwurt managed to beat her…
He was astonished when barely three hours later Jemmiah turned up at the temple looking rather sad.
"Why aren't you at school?" He demanded.
"No school." She mumbled.
"Got sent home." The eyes looked up at him apologetically.
"What have you done?" Qui-Gon stared in shock.
"I haven't done anything." Jemmiah pouted. "It's not my fault! The whole class got sent home and there wasn't anyone else who could take the classes."
Qui-Gon marched her over to the sofa and instructed her to sit.
"Now, tell me." He began.
"Well," she began uncomfortably, "you know that today was the day that our plants were supposed to be judged."
"Yes, I was aware of this." Qui-Gon said as patiently as he could manage.
"It didn't happen."
"Go on." He prompted.
"You see, our teacher who was s'posed to be picking the winner…"
"Got arrested." She finished.
Qui-Gon's mouth dropped open.
"What for?" he asked.
"It seems that those bulbs he got everyone to grow were a little bit…dodgy."
"In what way?" Qui-Gon said in dread of the answer.
"Turns out they were…Lucifer Tree-Winders."
"Oh, please tell me you are joking!" Qui-Gon's voice expressed his horror.
Jemmy shook her head.
"Master Jinn, don't they make Drekk out of that stuff?" she asked.
"Yes, yes they do." Qui-Gon nodded, closing his eyes at the thought of the highly toxic and addictive drug. "It's a good thing those flowers never opened or we would have all been high as Rock Falcons."
Jemmiah looked at her feet.
"What was your teacher thinking of?" Qui-Gon was one step away from being angry. "Getting innocent young children to grow a potentially lethal drug producing plant!"
"I put in soooooo much effort into growing that thing." She sniffed. "I sweated blood over that stupid plant and they took it away so they could burn it! Tell me what the point of that was."
Qui-Gon put his hand on her shoulder.
"I think the point of this is that I am going to have to consider a change of school for you." Qui-Gon said dryly.
"No more Sophie Digwurt!" she beamed.
"Yes, well things don't happen overnight. You'll have to keep going to your present school until I can arrange a transfer."
Jemmiah kicked her feet against the sofa.
"I'm bored." She said.
"You've only got in. How can you be bored already?" Qui-Gon frowned.
"I could try some more baking."
"No thank you." Qui-Gon shook his head.
"Oh, they're coming to collect those two bulbs that didn't grow."
"The ones you put in upside down?"
"Whoops!" she smirked. "I told you that gardening wasn't my strong point. I think if you don't mind I'll give it a miss from now on."
"I'm very glad to hear it." Qui-Gon replied.
Jemmiah took of her shoes and slid back into the sofa. She hadn't been joking when she'd said she was going to give up gardening. It caused far too much aggravation, and for what? Looking out onto the fern filled balcony she didn't know how Master Jinn could find it all so peaceful and relaxing.
Qui-Gon looked relieved that the whole thing was over and she couldn't say she blamed him.
Perhaps, under the circumstances, now was not the time to tell him about the bulbs she'd planted in the temple gardens…