The shiny silver valet droid waved one appendage before the entry panel. The door slid open. Obi-Wan walked in while Qui-Gon dismissed the machine.
It was a small, but nice room with a balcony overlooking the city-jungle below. There was no outer wall at all with the living space open to the outside air. Obi-Wan noted a control panel and a line of force field emitters on the wall next to the balcony. He presumed that they could activate an enclosure if they wished. It likely activated automatically if the weather turned foul. Light shone in from a cloudless aqua-tinged sky. Everything had a slightly greenish tinge to it from the light of the planet's primary star.
Obi-Wan put his travel pack on the sleep couch closest to the balcony. Then he looked up, silently asking permission. Qui-Gon nodded and put his own pack down on the other sleep couch. Obi-Wan sighed, now feeling embarrassed about his caution. Did he really think that his Master would send his thirteen year-old apprentice back to the Temple because he had taken the wrong sleep couch?
This was their first official mission away from the Jedi Temple since the demise of his predecessor,
Xanatos, Qui-Gon's former Padawan. It could hardly be called a mission, Obi-Wan thought. Qui-Gon was simply to represent the Jedi at a formal dinner of dignitaries from the local region of space. Then they would return to the Temple. That was it. His only duty was to stand by Qui-Gon's side and say nothing.
Obi-Wan had not said anything about it, but he knew that this mission was a test for him. He was still on probation with the Jedi Council and technically he was not even Qui-Gon Jinn's Padawan. That status would be restored only when he had satisfied the Council. After making the mistake of leaving the Jedi Order and betraying Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan Kenobi was determined to make no more mistakes.
The room that they had been assigned had the conveniences of a com, a desk, two chairs, two full-body chairs on the balcony, a private fresher, a clothes refresher and a potted leafy green plant on the desk. Qui-Gon touched a panel by the fresher and the mirrored door slid open. Even with his tall Master filling the doorway, Obi-Wan could see that it was small.
Qui-Gon asked Obi-Wan if he needed to use the facilities; he did not and he shook his head. Qui-Gon took his robe off, dropped it down in front of the clothes refresher and began loosening his belt. Tunic, undertunic, pants, boots; Qui-Gon took everything off and left it all in a pile before he went into the fresher, the mirrored door closing behind him. The one thing he kept was his lightsaber which he took with him into the fresher.
Obi-Wan went over to the clothes refresher and stared down at the pile left behind for him. Grimacing, he supposed that there were some things for him to do on this mission. He just had not expected his Master's laundry to be one of them.
Obi-Wan bent down and separated the boots from the mass on the floor. He put the belt with its pouches on the small table next to the clothes refresher, which he activated. He carefully read through the selections before choosing a moderate cleaning cycle. Jedi clothes were very sturdy. He might have picked the most thorough setting without any damage at all, but he did not want to risk it with an unknown machine, and neither one of them was very sweaty or grimy from their trip.
Picking out the smaller things first, socks, undertunic, and undershorts, Obi-Wan fed them into the machine's slot. It hummed and clunked in the usual way and shortly the cycle light blinked green. Obi-Wan peeked in the output compartment and saw a small pile of folded clothes waiting. He fed in the tabards next. While those were being processed, he laid the finished things on Qui-Gon's sleep couch. Then he picked up Qui-Gon's robe. It did not look particularly dirty or wrinkled though the hem was scuffed. He put it aside. He would clean that last and finish the things that Qui-Gon would want to put on first.
He next fed in Qui-Gon's pants and tunic. They were large and would take more time, so he picked up one of Qui-Gon's boots and cautiously poked his nose in it. He hastily pulled his head back. They definitely needed some attention.
Obi-Wan sat down on the floor with the offending boot. He had to unbuckle the multiple straps on the side to get his arm all the way down to the bottom. He wanted to make sure that the clothes refresher would not have any trouble getting down into them. His Master had very big feet. He placed the sole of the boot next to his own. He was not surprised to see that Qui-Gon's feet were more than a third larger than his own. And he had always thought his own feet were big!
He reached for the second boot to get it ready for the machine as well. When he finished, he held it up. The outsides certainly needed a polish, but they were more complicated than his own boots, with many straps and metal fittings. They might take longer for the machine to do, and he needed to clean his own clothes as well.
The cycle light was blinking green again. He took out the folded, clean clothes and put them next to the others. He changed the settings on the machine to accommodate the boots and put them in. Just as he activated the new cycle, Obi-Wan noticed a wad of off-white fabric on the floor next to the clothes refresher. Annoyed, he realized that Qui-Gon's obi had been kicked aside. Now he would have to clean it when he did his own tunic. He reached down to pick it up.
His finger slipped in between layers of fabric. Surprised, he held the obi up and explored the opening. Was there a hole for him to repair, too? His fingertips touched something and he pulled out a pale blue, folded flimsiplast. Surprised, he realized that he had found a pocket. Obi-Wan had never heard of anyone having a pocket in an obi before. Obi-Wan only had small pockets inside his tunic. Or he used his belt pouches if he needed to carry anything with him.
Horrified, Obi-Wan looked at the freshly cleaned clothes on the sleep couch. He had not checked for any pockets before putting everything into the clothes refresher. Anything hidden in a pocket could have easily been damaged.
Putting the obi and the flimsiplast note aside on the table, Obi-Wan went to the stack of clothes. Would it do him any good to check them now? Whatever damage that might have resulted was done. And would Qui-Gon be offended by him going through his private things? But he should have done that before cleaning them anyway.
Obi-Wan picked up the undertunic. He had to know if he needed to apologize for anything. He carefully unfolded it and checked, front and back. Not finding anything, he carefully folded it again and put it down.
He picked up the undershorts. He could not think of why Qui-Gon would have a pocket in them, but if there was a pocket in his obi, then they could be anywhere. He held them up, then turned them around and inspected the other side. He found nothing.
Then, unable to resist an anatomical comparison, he held them up to his own torso. Frowning at his own, lesser proportions, he folded the undershorts again and put them back with the undertunic.
Carefully probing fabric and seams for pockets, he checked the pants, but he found nothing. The same was true for the tunic. Obi-Wan sighed. He had not destroyed anything. He quickly refolded everything the way it had been before.
His eyes turned to the robe that he had laid aside. Obi-Wan knew that many Jedi concealed pockets inside their robes. Anything could be hidden in that pile of brown fabric.
Obi-Wan picked it up and held it out. He did not see anything, but the dark, heavy cloth was perfect for concealing things, and the slightly greenish light from outside just made the robe look darker. He put it on.
It only came down to Qui-Gon's ankles when his Master wore it, but it piled up at Obi-Wan's feet when he looked at himself in the mirror on the fresher door. The sleeves hung down past his knees. Obi-Wan's hands fumbled inside them, looking for concealed openings. It was easier to search when he finally pushed them back enough for him to get his hands out the ends. Huge folds of fabric hung off both of his arms.
He finally found what he was looking for, two concealed pockets in each sleeve, but they were empty. Obi-Wan was simultaneously disappointed that he did not find anything interesting, and relieved that he had not violated Qui-Gon's privacy. He grasped the edges of the robe and held it open in front of the mirror. He did not see anything. Looking for side pockets, he used his hands to probe the seams. There were two more pockets in the body of the robe, but like the ones in the sleeves, they were empty.
Obi-Wan looked back at himself in the mirror. He tugged the robe into place like he might his own. He reached up and pulled the hood up over his head. He solemnly looked back at himself from under the oversized hood. Other than the size, Qui-Gon's robe was not that much different from his own lighter brown one, but it was the robe of a Jedi Master, the kind of robe that Obi-Wan hoped to wear himself someday.
Something thumped inside the fresher.
Suddenly panicked, Obi-Wan tried to throw the robe off, but he got tangled up inside the masses of fabric. Finally freeing himself from it, he started to push it into the clothes refresher before he remembered the boots. The indicator light was blinking green and he took out the newly cleaned and shined boots, reset the machine and began again to feed the robe into the clothes refresher.
The last of it had disappeared when the mirrored door slid open. Qui-Gon stepped out, wearing a long, simple poncho that had come from the fresher. It hung off his shoulders almost down to his knees and it had local monograms on the corners. He had trimmed his beard and combed his long, brown hair, which was neatly tied back. He nodded approval at the folded, clean clothes on the sleep couch. Qui-Gon put his lightsaber down on the table. He noticed the obi and the flimsiplast.
"Ah," he said, unfolding the light blue sheet. "I forgot about this." He tucked it away into one of his belt pouches. Then he invited Obi-Wan to take his turn getting cleaned up for the evening. Obi-Wan pointed out that he had not cleaned his own clothes yet. Qui-Gon shook his head.
"I will clean them for you, Obi-Wan. Your task here is to observe, but you are not here to wait on me," he instructed, his tone light.
Obi-Wan nodded. While he took off his own clothes and put them on the table, Qui-Gon retrieved another poncho for him from the fresher. Obi-Wan put it on and pushed his boots aside so that Qui-Gon would not trip on them. He picked up his own lightsaber.
"Do you have any pockets?" Qui-Gon asked. He examined Obi-Wan's tunic.
Obi-Wan froze in the doorway as Qui-Gon probed his tunic. The older man's fingers extracted a shiny, red-streaked black stone from his tunic. His Master's eyes fixed on it as he held it up. Obi-Wan strongly felt the memory of the day Qui-Gon had given it to him for his thirteenth birthday, soon after he had first become an apprentice. Before he had betrayed Qui-Gon.
"Just that," Obi-Wan answered. Qui-Gon nodded and lowered his head as he separated his own belt from Obi-Wan's pants.
Obi-Wan ducked into the fresher, the door sliding shut behind him. Sighing with relief, he put his lightsaber on a shelf by the basin. Then he turned around and bumped into the basin when he jumped back in shock.
Seen from inside the fresher, the door was completely transparent.
He could see everything in the outer room.
Qui-Gon was bent over the clothes refresher, checking its progress. His head turned toward Obi-Wan, a knowing smile on his lips as he carefully laid the stone down on the table, his fingers lingering over it.
His heart pounding, Obi-Wan gulped. In the outer room, Qui-Gon turned to his own clothes and began sorting through them. Obi-Wan's panic lessened as he sensed only peaceful amusement from the older Jedi. He averted his eyes as he went about his business in the fresher. He kept them lowered as he quickly and efficiently cleaned himself and his hair. He did not want to compound his mistake by spying on Qui-Gon.
Obi-Wan knew that technically Qui-Gon had been spying on him, but it did not feel that way. He was still on probation. He expected to be watched and evaluated. Still not looking toward the door, Obi-Wan rubbed lotion into the calluses on his hands that he got from many hours of lightsaber training. He knew Qui-Gon could sense his own guilt through their bond, but he felt only calm in the next room. Obviously Qui-Gon did not think that he had done anything especially serious, but Obi-Wan felt differently. He had been careless. Would it be something more serious the next time he slipped?
He put the bathing poncho back on, picked up his lightsaber and left the fresher. Now dressed, his eyes closed in meditation, Qui-Gon sat cross-legged on the end of his sleep couch. He opened his eyes.
Obi-Wan approached and bowed his head. "I apologize for taking liberties, Master."
Qui-Gon inclined his head in acknowledgment and invited Obi-Wan to sit next to him.
"I accept your apology, but it is unnecessary," Qui-Gon replied after Obi-Wan was seated next to him. "You certainly did nothing wrong by checking my pockets for anything I forgot."
Obi-Wan did not reply at first, unwilling to risk falling into new mistakes with words that would trip him up. Qui-Gon remained serenely calm, while the tension in Obi-Wan built up. It seemed that silence was just as much a trap for him as words were.
"I don't wish to make any mistakes. Again," Obi-Wan finally admitted, lowering his eyes.
"Ah." Qui-Gon nodded. "And yet you will. As shall I." He reached behind him and picked up his now-cleaned robe. "We learn best about each other from our mistakes." This was a common Jedi phrase. But Obi-Wan knew that if it were completely true in their case, then they should already know each other's life story by now. Qui-Gon settled the robe, a big, dark brown lump, in his lap. "What did you learn, Obi-Wan?"
Obi-Wan looked down at the robe.
"I should be more aware of my surroundings," he answered, looking up into Qui-Gon's dark blue eyes. Qui-Gon stared back, blank-faced, obviously surprised. Obi-Wan felt the pull of a smile on his lips. Whatever answer his Master had expected, that had not been it.
"What did you learn, Qui-Gon?" he asked, again catching him off-guard.
Then Qui-Gon smiled back. He lifted the robe and Obi-Wan realized that it was not folded, like the other cleaned clothes. Underneath, was his own much smaller, lighter brown robe. Now, it was Obi-Wan's turn to be surprised. The rest of his clothes lay neatly folded on the other sleep couch. Next to them was the stone, a dark spot on the covering of the sleep couch.
Qui-Gon held both robes by the collars, holding them up together. "It is as important for me to look to my past as it is for you to look to your future." Then he put his own robe down; it spilled out of his lap, down onto the floor. He took Obi-Wan's robe and put one arm though a sleeve. The end of it came down just past his elbow.
"But the past, it seems," Qui-Gon said with a wry smile, "is very much harder to fit into."
– END –