On retrospect, Obi-Wan Kenobi realized that he just should have said "no". It was a simple word, easy to say, one that he had said before now so what was the problem?
The problem was who was doing the asking.
He and Master Qui-Gon Jinn had returned to Coruscant after a series of adventures - more like misadventures - and missions that had stretched out over a year. Master Qui-Gon had been happy to return to the Jedi Temple, the nearest thing any Jedi had to a home, ready to relax and concentrate on training his young Padawan. And Obi-Wan had been happy to return but for an entirely different reason.
Revenge - of a sort.
A year ago, he had departed in near-disgrace for Bandomeer as part of the Agricultural Corps after having failed to impress anyone enough to take him as a Padawan learner. It had been the lowest point in his life; he had been certain that he would never become a Jedi Knight. And several of the other initiates at the Temple had not hesitated to add to his humiliation by their taunts and teasing.
Now he was returning to the Temple as Padawan to Master Qui-Gon Jinn, one of the finest Knights of the Temple, and one who had steadily refused to take a new Padawan after his last one, Xanatos, had been "lost" in battle. Lost to the Dark Side, in actuality, although few but the Council and Obi-Wan knew that. And Obi-Wan, once teasingly called Offy-Wan, was returning in triumph having succeeded where so many others had failed.
He was careful not to let any of this leak through his shielding into the training bond between him and Master Qui-Gon, not wanting to endure a lecture on the consequences of false pride on this, his first day home. Still, as he followed at his master's heels through the corridors of the temple, he could not help but be aware of the startled looks of recognition. He could not help hearing the whispered comments that sprang up as they passed, and he could not help the slight smile that hovered on his face.
Qui-Gon entered the rooms that made up his suite and gestured towards a door on one side of the common room. "That is your chamber. I suggest that you unpack and clean up - you will need to accompany me to the Council to make our report in two hours."
"Yes, Master." Obi-Wan turned towards his new rooms, bags in hand.
"Oh, and Padawan." Obi-Wan swung back towards his master, questioningly. "You might want to take some time to read and meditate on Master Yoda's writings about the dangers of Pride."
Obi-Wan flushed and bowed his head. He should have known that he couldn't hide that from Master Qui-Gon. "Yes, Master," he said quietly and went into his chamber.
Two hours later, dressed in clean clothes with his hair freshly trimmed and his Padawan braid neatly rebraided, he left their suite at his master's shoulder with his thoughts properly focused. In point-of-fact, he was a little frightened. In his short life, he had never before had occasion to go before the full Council and, although he didn't expect to be called upon to speak before them, just the idea of being in the presence of the wisest and most powerful Jedi was enough to terrify him.
They halted before the Council doors and Qui-Gon smiled at Obi-Wan. "Breathe, Padawan. In and out. Slowly - I don't think the Council would appreciate it if you passed out before them. Although it certainly wouldn't be the first time that has happened."
Obi-Wan obeyed, marveling at the calm of the man before him. "Aren't you ever - nervous about facing the Council?"
Qui-Gon considered this. "Not in recent memory. But I've spent so much time arguing with them that I suppose I've gotten over it." He turned to face the doorway, then looked back at his apprentice. "However, I've heard about a mental trick that helps."
"And what is that, Master?"
"Picture your audience naked."
A momentary mental picture of Master Yoda flashed through Obi-Wan's mind and he shuddered, then looked at his master darkly. "That doesn't help, Master."
Qui-Gon chuckled and triggered the door mechanism, entering the Council chamber with his apprentice at his back. Obi-Wan kept his eyes fixed on his master's back and his mind carefully shielded but he had to admit that Qui-Gon was right - he was so busy concentrating on not picturing the Council members naked that he had little time for fear. Then he got caught up in listening to Qui-Gon's report on their missions that he forgot about anything else. He was amazed at how his master presented the facts while neither over-emphasizing or downplaying their roles in bringing everything about.
"Well have you done," Yoda said, nodding his head gravely. "Thriving now Bandomeer is, gone the threat from Offworld Corporation."
"And both Phendar and Gala have established stable new governments," Mace Windu added. "Thank you for your report, Master Qui-Gon. We won't keep you any longer."
"One moment - I have an additional matter to discuss with the Council alone," Qui-Gon said, and Obi-Wan knew that it had to do with Xanatos. Qui-Gon turned to smile down at his Padawan. "Go get your dinner, Obi-Wan. Your friends will no doubt be eager to see you again."
Obi-Wan hesitated, a little hurt at being dismissed but understanding that there were some things that he, as a Padawan, could not be privy to. "What about you, Master?"
"I'll get something to eat when I have finished here. I'll meet you in our rooms later and we will discuss your training sessions for tomorrow." He tousled his apprentice's short hair affectionately. "Go on, Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan grinned up at him then bowed to the Council and hurried out.
Qui-Gon watched him exit the room, then turned back to find his former master's eyes watching him with amusement. "Don't say it, Master Yoda. You were right about Obi-Wan and I admit it."
"Ah," said the aged Jedi Master with a glint in his eyes. "First time for everything there is."
Obi-Wan entered the dining hall and looked around, trying to see if anyone he knew was present. A salmon-colored dynamo appeared out of nowhere, colliding with him hard enough to knock out his breath.
"Bant!" he protested, trying to draw air into his lungs. "Take it easy! Are you trying to kill me?"
The Calamarian girl released him from her impetuous hug and smiled at him, her silver eyes bright with tears. "I never thought I'd see you again, Obi," said his best friend from his initiate days. He hugged her in return, inhaling the salty sea smell that always clung to her and grinned down into the younger girl's face.
"You should have more faith in the Force, Bant."
She reached out to tug at his Padawan braid impishly. "That's it - throw my own words back at me. Come on - all your old friends are waiting to welcome you back."
She tugged him over to a table, chattering as they walked. "Garen and Reeft became Padawans this past year." The two inseparable friends looked up with grins as he approached, making room for him at the table.
"And Bant's had an offer from Master Efret," Garen added.
Obi-Wan looked at Bant questioningly. "A Healer?"
She smiled back at him. "Not all are meant to be Knights, Obi. Master Efret says that I have a natural healing touch. I have a little time to decide still - I'm only eleven - but I think I will take it. And I won't have to leave here."
Trying to sound casual as he picked at the food on his plate, Obi-Wan asked, "Anyone know what happened to Bruck?" The boy, a month younger than Obi-Wan, had been one of the bullies that had picked on him and humiliated him before he left.
"AgriCorps," Garen said with a grin. "On Bentabeen. Bet he won't find a Knight out there to take him on."
"I don't see what's so bad about the AgriCorps," Reeft said. "At least he won't go hungry." He looked mournfully at his empty plate.
Garen grinned and poked his best friend in the side, then shared his remaining fruit. "Yeah, well I didn't see you turning down Master Turenon's offer for the Aggies."
"So what happened?" Bant asked, impatiently. "Last we heard you were on your way to Bandomeer with the AgCorps and then suddenly, a year later, you turn up here at Master Qui-Gon's back as his Padawan. And after he swore he would never take another. You should have heard the rumors that were flying last night. Did you really save Master Qui-Gon's life and make him indebted to you?"
Obi-Wan hesitated, caught between his desire to impress his friends and his certainty that whatever he said would get back to his master. After Qui-Gon's earlier warning, the last thing he wanted to do was get into trouble with the older man. "Not really," he said, with a shrug. "We sort of protected each other."
"So tell us the complete story, Obi."
Obi-Wan shrugged and began telling his friends about his adventures on the voyage out to Bandomeer, the troubles with the mining companies on the planet itself, and their missions to Phindar and Gala after he became Qui-Gon's apprentice. He tried to downplay his role and unconsciously found himself imitating Qui-Gon's manner of reporting to the Council. But it was evident from the awed looks on his friends' faces that they were impressed
"You are so lucky," Garen said enviously. "You get kicked out and find both adventure and a master, and the rest of us are stuck here doing the same old lessons."
Obi-Wan grinned. "Doesn't Master Yoda always say that a Jedi makes his own luck? And you'll get your chances for adventure, too - probably sooner than you think."
"Speaking of which," Reeft said with a sigh, "my master will be expecting me for practice shortly."
They disposed of their trays and Obi-Wan noticed that several of the other Padawans were watching him intently, talking among themselves. Something about them made him feel a little uneasy but he ignored them, following his friends out of the dining hall. Then the Garen and Reeft went off together while Bant and Obi-Wan slowly walked towards his master's rooms.
"So, are you happy now, Obi?" she asked, studying his face intently.
Obi-Wan nodded. "Master Qui-Gon is a good teacher. He can be - complicated to understand, and not the easiest person in the world to talk to, but he is very fair. I'm learning a great deal from him."
She nodded. "You've changed a lot, Obi-Wan. When you left you were uncertain - about your future, yourself, everything. You were all feet and elbows, too, and so self-conscious about that. And now you're sure of yourself. You're growing up."
"And what about you, Bant? Are you going to be happy as a healer, or is this something you're just resigned to doing?"
"I want to do this, Obi. I think I'll be a good healer - it makes me happy to think about doing things to make people well." They stopped outside Master Qui-Gon's suite and Bant gave him another impulsive hug. "I'm really glad that you are back, Obi-Wan." Then she hurried down the hallway towards the initiates' rooms.
Obi-Wan keyed the door lock and entered, slightly surprised to see the lights on in the common room. Qui-Gon was sitting at the table, reading a datapad and sipping a cup of tea, and he looked up with a slight smile for his apprentice.
"Ah, there you are, Obi-Wan. Did you have a pleasant meal with your friends?"
"Yes, Master, I did. Thank you for allowing it."
Qui-Gon raised an eyebrow at Obi-Wan and gestured for him to take a seat at the table. "I have no objection to you spending time with your friends, Obi-Wan, so long as your responsibilities and theirs are met first. The friends you make now will be your allies and comrades-in-arms when you become a knight. Never forget that, my Padawan."
"Good. Now, I have outlined your studies for the next few days here. You have fallen behind in your philosophy studies - not your fault, Obi-Wan, as we were rather limited in our resources. And I want to take you through the first two Forms as well, until you get them perfect. They may be basic, but they are the building blocks for everything else. And we must build upon a firm foundation."
Obi-Wan nodded and focused his attention on the pad in his master's hands, and forgot his earlier disquiet in the dining hall.
Obi-Wan stopped in the hallway and turned, wondering who had called him. He had been busy the last few days with his studies and practice so he hadn't been able to spend any time with his friends. In fact, he had been so exhausted, mentally and physically, that he had fallen into bed each night. But today was a holiday on Coruscant and Qui-Gon had given him time off from his studies so he was on his way to find his friends.
His eyes widened as he saw the three boys coming toward him. Two of the boys, Mar-Tal and Veratu, were his age-mates and had been friends of his tormentor, Bruck, but the other was Sedik who had a reputation as one of the up-and-coming Padawans. Just being seen talking to him was enough to boost one's social status and everyone aspired to be one of his companions.
He inclined his head respectfully to the senior Padawan. "Padawan Sedik."
The tall, dark-haired boy smiled at him. "There's a fair in Memorial Park and we thought we'd go. Want to come along?"
Obi-Wan found himself smiling back, basking in the warmth of that friendly smile. "I'd like that. I'll need to ask my master for permission first - "
Sedik looked surprised. "It's not after curfew, Obi-Wan."
"Temple rules state that no apprentice may leave the grounds without the permission of his master."
"Those rules are for crèche-babies," Mar-Tal said scornfully. "My master lets me come and go as I please."
Obi-Wan flushed slightly at the sneer - he didn't want to be thought of as a crèche-baby - but said firmly, "I must check with Master Qui-Gon first."
Veratu started to speak but Sedik held up his hand, silencing him. "Stop. If Obi-Wan says he must get permission from his master, then he must. It's just that - " He hesitated and shrugged. "We want to catch the shuttle and we don't have time to wait. Maybe we'll see you there, Padawan Kenobi."
Obi-Wan felt the withdrawal and said, quickly, "Wait. Perhaps - I mean, it's a holiday, after all and it's not like we'll be out past dark - "
Sedik smiled at him. "Come on, then. The shuttle leaves in a few minutes." He linked his arm with Obi-Wan's and led the way to the air-shuttle that waited at the entrance to the Temple.
Obi-Wan was flattered by the attention and couldn't help smiling as he saw that he was getting admiring looks from the other apprentices as they passed. Still, deep inside, there was a little voice that told him that this was a mistake. He squashed down that little voice - he was fourteen, not a crèche-baby, and he wasn't doing anything wrong, really. Still, he made sure that his shields were firmly in place so that his master was unaware of what he was doing.
The four boys arrived in the large green preserve that had been set aside in the center of the city to provide amusement and enjoyment for all the populace on Coruscant. In honor of the holiday, a large fair had been set up and they amused themselves by strolling through the booths, looking at the games and food and trinkets for sale. Obi-Wan had attended past fairs under the close supervision of the crèche-master when he was younger and now enjoyed the freedom of being able to do whatever he wanted. Or he would have enjoyed it if it hadn't been for the nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach. Not wanting to be thought a baby, he pasted a smile on his face and followed the other boys as they wound their way through the crowded paths.
Mar-Tal glanced over at the skill-games and grimaced. "Too bad we can't play. Bet I could win a prize easy."
"That's exactly why they don't let Jedi play," Obi-Wan pointed out. "And even if we didn't use the Force to win, they would never believe that we won through skill alone."
"Are you always such a goody-goody?" Veratu asked him, scornfully. "Bet you follow every rule your master sets down, dutifully chanting 'Yes, Master' as you do."
Obi-Wan flushed a little but said firmly, "I respect my master and try to follow his wishes."
Sedik smiled at him ruefully. "Not always easy though, is it? I love and admire Master Irina but sometimes I think that she's forgotten what it's like to be young. I mean, what's wrong with having a little fun? Soon enough we'll be Knights and have to follow the Code - why shouldn't we kick up a little till then?"
Something didn't seem quite right about that, but Obi-Wan was already stinging under the accusation of being a "goody-goody" so he just nodded.
Sedik leaned towards them conspiratorially. "What do you say we make our own fun?"
Mar-Tal grinned. "What did you have in mind?"
Sedik tapped the hilt of his lightsaber. "Why don't we play a little? Two teams."
"Are you crazy?" Obi-Wan burst out. "With all the people here - "
"We'd go to a more secluded area, stupid," Veratu said, rolling his eyes.
"But it's forbidden!" Obi-Wan protested.
Mar-Tal shrugged. "Then go back if you don't want to play. I'm sure that we'll see you around - sometime."
Obi-Wan hesitated. He knew that this was wrong and a panicked feeling in his stomach told him that Qui-Gon would have his head if he found out. On the other hand, having been an outsider all his life, he ached to belong to the inside crowd.
Sedik put a friendly hand on his shoulder. "Look, if mock-combat bothers you, we'll just do some drills. No one could object to us going through our warm-up exercises in a quiet corner of the park."
Obi-Wan drew a deep breath. Something told him this was still wrong but it didn't seem as dangerous. He nodded. "Okay."
Sedik led the way to a quiet section of the park and activated his lightsaber, turning it down to training levels. The other boys followed suit and they went through their kata, starting with the First Form and moving onto more difficult moves. Obi-Wan watched the others out of the corner of his eye and saw that, while Mar-Tal and Veratu dropped out during the Third Form, Sedik was still going strong into the Fourth Form. Obi-Wan moved into the Fourth Form as well, enjoying the opportunity to practice the more acrobatic movements after a week on the first two Forms.
He came out of a leap and a tight forward roll, landing lightly on his feet, and heard a slight smattering of applause. Startled, he looked around to see that they had gathered a small group of onlookers. Before he could deactivate his lightsaber, Sedik crossed over to him, a big smile on his face.
"Nicely done! My master wouldn't let me do Fourth Form till I was fifteen - and, truth to tell, I would have fallen on my ass. You've got natural weapon-sense, don't you?"
Obi-Wan shrugged, remembering that a Jedi didn't brag. "So Master Yoda says."
Sedik snorted. "Yeah, well, if you can't believe Master Yoda, who can you believe? What do you say we run through a practice match? I'd like to have the opportunity to cross blades with you, Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan was flattered and told himself that it was only a few feints, barely more than practice drills. He moved into a defensive position, signaling to Sedik that he was ready. Sedik attacked first, blade slashing up and then down. Obi-Wan easily parried, circling as Sedik prowled around him again, looking for a weak spot in his defense. Obi-Wan watched his opponent warily, not letting himself be distracted, focusing on the center of the body and letting it telegraph Sedik's moves. He whirled safely out of range from the next onslaught and moved in to launch his own series of blows that Sedik also parried easily. Their blades met, locked, then they pushed away and took up their defensive stances again.
Obi-Wan was barely aware that the crowd was growing, totally focused on his opponent. Sedik settled into a defensive mode and Obi-Wan went on the attack, feinting, striking, and moving away as he probed for an opening. He aimed a low swing then switched abruptly and somersaulted over Sedik's head, bringing his saber down to lightly strike the older apprentice's back. He landed and rolled, taking up a defensive posture, aware of the applause from their audience.
Sedik laughed and shook his head. "You caught me fairly with that one, Kenobi. But watch out - I'm going to get my revenge now."
Obi-Wan grinned back. He was in his element, moving better than he could ever remember in practice, enjoying the feeling of admiration from the crowd. Sedik was a challenging opponent and, after a week of boring drills, he relished the sheer fun of this encounter. "Come and get me," he invited. He took the defensive mode again, ready for Sedik's next launch.
Suddenly, a voice rang out through the crowd. "That will be quite enough of this! Put up your swords!"
Stunned and startled into obedience, both Obi-Wan and Sedik obeyed. Obi-Wan's back was to the crowd but he could see Sedik's eyes widen. The crowd, including the other two apprentices, quickly dispersed while Obi-Wan wished that the ground would open up and swallow him. He didn't have to look around to see the large figure behind him. He would recognize that voice anywhere.
"Oh, Sith!" muttered the older apprentice, giving Obi-Wan a rueful grin. "We're in for it now." He held out a hand to Obi-Wan and the younger apprentice numbly grasped his wrist in the formal handshake. "Good fight, Kenobi. Remember - I'll want a rematch to try to even the score."
Obi-Wan nodded, unable to speak, and felt Sedik move past him towards his waiting master. And then he was alone.
No, not quite alone.
"Come, Padawan. You and I are going to have a long, long talk."
Qui-Gon was silent all the way to their suite, a fact that did little to reassure Obi-Wan. As the door closed, Qui-Gon removed his outer cloak and hung it up, then sat cross-legged on the floor. He indicated that Obi-Wan should sit facing him.
Qui-Gon reached out to take the young man's hand in his, looking solemnly into his face. "Obi-Wan, I want you to know how much I value you, how much I care for you. Over this past year, you have become like a son to me. Do you understand that?"
Obi-Wan met his eyes squarely. "Yes, Master."
"*Nothing* will ever change that. Not even if you broke the entire Jedi Code and burned down the Temple. I would still love you." He let a hint of a smile enter his eyes. "Needless to say, I would be extremely unhappy with you if you did either of those things."
Obi-Wan grinned. "Yes, Master. I expect that you would."
"I hope that you also understand that your behavior today is something that I cannot allow and cannot condone."
Qui-Gon's voice was stern and Obi-Wan flushed, dropping his eyes to stare at the mat. "Yes, Master. Are - are you going to punish me?"
"No, Obi-Wan, I am not. I am going to discipline you." Obi-Wan's head jerked back up and Qui-Gon smiled. "Yes, there is a difference, Padawan. Punishment inflicts a penalty for misbehavior, whereas discipline attempts to teach you a lesson."
"I understand, Master. How - how - "
"There are four methods of discipline that I can apply. First, I can restrict you to your chamber except when you are at lessons. This would include remaining behind on Coruscant if I was sent on a mission." His eyes were on Obi-Wan, watching the color fade from his Padawan's face. "Personally, I think that this would be too harsh on you. You are too solitary as it is, and you would learn nothing from this."
Obi-Wan nodded, relieved. "Thank you, Master."
"Second, I could assign you additional lessons - reports, drills, and so forth. The problem with this is that you enjoy such things, so I don't think that you would learn anything from this either.
"Third, I could turn you over to one of the Temple officers for disciplinary chores. I imagine that scrubbing the Council Chamber on your hands and knees or cleaning each rock in the Meditation garden by hand would be an effective lesson. Unfortunately, we are often away from Coruscant for long periods of time and discipline is less effective when delayed.
"The fourth option is physical discipline."
Obi-Wan's eyes widened. "You mean that you would beat me, Master?" he asked, horrified.
"Certainly not. I would spank you."
"There's a difference?" Obi-Wan asked ironically. He remembered with a shudder the feel of the crèche master's strap across his shoulders the one time he had incurred Master Timones' wrath.
"A big difference. A spanking would involve my hand or belt applied to your bare backside for the purpose of teaching a lesson, not to cause pain."
"Pardon me, Master, but that sounds quite painful."
Qui-Gon smiled. "Well, I never said that it wouldn't hurt, Padawan. But the purpose is to teach you something. Tell me, when you were beaten did you learn anything?"
Obi-Wan reflected. "Just to avoid Master Timones when he was in a bad mood."
"Exactly my point, Padawan. I would never spank you in anger or simply because I was in a bad mood. A spanking would always occur as a result of your disobedience. We would discuss the incident first so that you would understand what the spanking was for and it would be followed by a period of solitary reflection. I believe that such a method can be a highly effective, immediate form of correction."
Obi-Wan stared at his master, horrified by the thought. "Did you - did you spank either of your first two Padawans?"
Qui-Gon shook his head. "My first apprentice responded better to being restricted to chambers, and Xanatos - " He sighed. "Xanatos was very good at deflecting trouble. He always managed to convince me that someone else was responsible. I spoiled him, I'm afraid. A mistake that I will not be making with you, Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan sighed. Yet another score he had to settle with Xanatos when - not if - they met up again. "Which method do you plan to use, Master?"
Qui-Gon studied his Padawan. "I believe that I will let that choice be yours. I trust you to choose the method that will be the most effective on you."
Obi-Wan tried not to smile. He knew which one he would choose - being assigned additional lessons and drills. He could do that standing on his head. He opened his mouth, intending to speak, then saw the look in his Master's eyes. Trust. Pure, unadulterated trust. And he knew that if he chose this option Qui-Gon would agree but would be disappointed in him.
He closed his mouth and thought again. Option one he dismissed immediately. He didn't mind spending time in his chamber but the thought of Qui-Gon going into danger without him terrified him. It reminded him of those vague nightmares where Qui-Gon was alone, fighting desperately, and Obi-Wan couldn't get to him and knew that something dreadful was about to happen to his master.
So that left options 3 and 4. Being assigned menial tasks in the Temple or being spanked. He shied away from the last one. Being given menial tasks was not unknown to him - all initiates had spent some time performing such tasks. It was hard work but not unendurable.
What would be unendurable would be the time away from his lessons. And the wait. It was sometimes months before they returned to Coruscant and the idea of having something hanging over his head the entire time would be excruciatingly painful.
Which left the fourth option. A spanking. He found himself staring at Qui-Gon's large hands and swallowed hard at the thought of them striking his backside. He had no doubt that it would be very painful, very humiliating. On the other hand, once the spanking was over he knew enough of Qui-Gon to know that the incident would be closed.
"You - you wouldn't - spank me in public, would you?" he asked hesitantly.
"No. Any discipline would be conducted in private."
Obi-Wan nodded. If he opted for the Temple chores, his misdeeds would become common knowledge on the Temple grapevine within hours. Whereas if Qui-Gon spanked him, the matter would remain between the two of them.
"I - I choose the physical punishment, Master."
Qui-Gon nodded, pleased with his Padawan for making what was certainly a difficult decision. "Very good, my Padawan."
Obi-Wan looked at Qui-Gon shrewdly. "I'm going to get one for this afternoon, aren't I?"
Qui-Gon studied his apprentice. "You know that what you did this afternoon was wrong, don't you? You left the Temple grounds without permission - "
"We just went to the park, Master."
"Do not interrupt me, Obi-Wan. You will have the opportunity to present your side. Once at the park, you allowed your friend to talk you into engaging in a mock fight. In public and without supervision. Do you have an explanation for me, Obi-Wan?"
Obi-Wan tried to meet those stern blue eyes but failed. "We were just playing, Master."
"You were showing off and in public. Around unarmed civilians, including children, who could have been injured, which was both thoughtless and dangerous."
"I tried to stop them. They wouldn't listen." Obi-Wan protested.
"Next time try harder. Or pick your friends better." Qui-Gon studied the downcast face and the mulishly stubborn set of the mouth and he sighed. He knew that the spanking would not have any effect on the young man if he didn't understand the reason behind it. "We are Guardians of the Peace, Padawan, not common street brawlers. Your behavior today does not reflect well on either you or the Temple. You let your companions talk you into doing what you knew was wrong. And you continued fighting because of the attention that you were getting, because of the cheers of the crowd. It appealed to your vanity, Padawan, and to your pride. Did it not?"
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan whispered, his throat choked with tears at the realization that he had disappointed his teacher.
"Do you have anything more to say on this matter, Padawan?"
Obi-Wan shook his head. "No, Master."
"Then let us get this over with." Qui-Gon pushed himself effortlessly off the floor mat and sat down in his favorite chair. "Come here, Obi-Wan." Reluctantly and slowly, Obi-Wan crossed the floor to stand beside his master. "Pants down and over my knees."
Flushing in embarrassment, Obi-Wan loosened the tie on his pants and pushed both them and his underwear down, then bent across Qui-Gon's knees. The Jedi master settled him more securely in place, lifted the tunic and pushed the pants further down out of the way. He braced the boy with a hand in the center of his back to prevent his movement.
"All right, Obi-Wan, what are you receiving this spanking for?"
Obi-Wan felt anger flash through him. He was hanging over his master's lap, his ass exposed for punishment, and the man expected him to carry on a conversation about the matter? "You tell me, Master."
A sharp sting, first on one cheek and then on the other, made him gasp. "Wrong answer, Padawan. I would suggest that you rein in that temper and answer my questions for I assure you that I can continue this far longer than you can." Another pair of slaps, just as hard as the first two, and Obi-Wan was trying to squirm free.
"Please, Master! Please stop! I - I've changed my mind. I'd rather take the chores."
"Too late, Padawan. Part of life is learning to live with our choices." Another pair of swats and Obi-Wan felt the tears threatening to fall. "Would you care to try answering my question again, Obi-Wan?"
"For - for leaving Temple grounds without permission." He gasped at the power behind the blow to his backside.
"That is a rule that even the youngest initiate knows. I am not an unreasonable man, Obi-Wan; I would have granted permission if you had asked me." He continued to spank the boy steadily as he talked. "When you behave in such a secretive manner, it is hard for me to trust you. Now, why else are you being spanked?"
Obi-Wan bit back a sob, trying to reply. "For sparring - in public." He nearly screamed at the intensity of the swat that followed his words.
"It was foolish and dangerous. Children were playing nearby and might have been harmed. Innocent citizens passing by would have been in danger if either of you had lost control. You never, ever draw your blade unless you have to use it. Am I clear on this?" He continued to spank the rapidly reddening bottom.
"Y-yes, Master," Obi-Wan sobbed.
"All right. What else are you being spanked for?"
"For - for my vanity - and my pride - "
"Correct, Obi-Wan." Qui-Gon moved down the buttocks to the upper thighs. "A Jedi does not look for glory and does not perform for the applause of the crowds. That way leads to false pride, which leads to the Dark Side. I never want to see you indulging in that kind of behavior again."
Obi-Wan was sobbing openly now, unable to reply. Qui-Gon finished off with a couple more swats, then moved his hand up to his apprentice's back, rubbing it soothingly.
"All over, Padawan."
Obi-Wan nodded, trying to choke back his tears. His ass felt like it was on fire and he doubted that he would ever be able to sit down again, but the soothing hand reassured him that he had not lost his master's love even if he had disappointed him by his actions. Qui-Gon gave him a few more minutes to settle down, then carefully eased the pants back up over the reddened flesh. Obi-Wan pushed himself to his feet, his breath still hitching with his sobs as he settled his clothes. Qui-Gon stood and folded the boy into his arms and Obi-Wan burst into fresh sobs against his master's chest.
"S-sorry, M-master. W-won't ever - ever again."
"I know you won't," Qui-Gon said softly, soothing the sobbing boy. "Although I expect that this won't be the last time that I have to discipline you."
"N-never again, M-master. I - promise."
Qui-Gon chuckled, hugging the boy. "Don't make promises that you can't possibly keep. You are young; you will make plenty of mistakes before you become a grown man. Just remember that I am always here for you, my Padawan. I will help you keep your feet on the right path. All right?"
Obi-Wan nodded, pushing back and brushing his sleeve across his eyes. "Yes, Master."
"Good. Now I believe that meditation upon your actions and how to avoid these consequences in the future would be highly beneficial."
Obi-Wan glanced down at the meditation mat and then back at Qui-Gon, an expression on his face that expressed his disbelief at his master's suggestion. Qui-Gon chuckled and placed a hand on the back of his Padawan's neck, guiding him over to the corner.
"I think that silent reflection while standing here will suffice." Qui-Gon ruffled the short hair and smiled. "I will call you when it is time to go to dinner. Or perhaps you would prefer to eat in our rooms tonight - I don't imagine that you would be comfortable sitting down to dinner tonight."
Obi-Wan glared at his master who merely chuckled and left the room. He sighed and leaned his forehead against the wall. It seemed like it was going to be a very long time till he was grown up.
Obi-Wan entered the dining hall for breakfast and looked around for his friends. He spotted them, grabbed and a tray and moved over to join them.
"Hi, Obi!" Bant greeted him brightly. "We looked for you yesterday - wanted to ask you about going to the fair - but couldn't find you."
Obi-Wan flushed. Evidently they hadn't heard about his little escapade. "Um - I was busy. Sorry."
Garen started to say something but then his eyes widened. A familiar voice said, "Mind if I join you and your friends, Kenobi?"
Obi-Wan stood up and looked Sedik in the eye. "Where are your two friends?"
Sedik looked disgusted. "They went into hyperspace yesterday and left us holding the spice. Friends like that I don't need."
"I'm not sure that I need a friend like you," Obi-Wan said frankly, hearing the gasp of his friends but ignoring it. "I let you talk me into doing what I knew was wrong. I got into serious trouble with my master because of that."
The older boy flushed and nodded. "I should have listened to you. It's been so long since anyone told me 'no' - I'm used to getting my own way." He smiled engagingly. "I think you could be good for me, Kenobi."
Obi-Wan gestured towards his friends, who were sitting stunned with their mouths open. "These are my friends, too." His voice indicated that Sedik would have to accept them as well.
Sedik grinned and set down his tray. He held out his hand. "Padawan Sedik. I'm pleased to meet you - I hope we can be friends."
Bant roused first, clasping his hand. "Healer-Apprentice Bant." The others shook hands as well, then Obi-Wan and Sedik moved to sit down. Obi-Wan winced a little as his still-tender backside met the bench and saw a fleeting look pass over Sedik's face as well. Both their eyes widened, then they grinned at each other.
"By the way, Kenobi, I still want a rematch."
"Anytime," Obi-Wan said. "Only this time, let's get our masters' permission first."