Two flashing 'sabers struck, flaring and arcing, then separated as the combatants whirled and took up new stances. They circled warily, studying the opponent for weaknesses and openings. Then the quiet was interrupted again as lightsabers whirled and struck.
Outside the circle, two figures watched them with silent intensity.
"They fight well together," Knight Irina observed, looking up briefly at the tall man standing beside her.
Master Qui-Gon Jinn nodded, making a mental note about a move to discuss later with his padawan. "My padawan is fortunate to have this opportunity. Padawan Sedik is an excellent swordsman."
"I would imagine that Padawan Kenobi doesn't have much challenge from his age mates."
"You are right. It has been difficult to find a suitable sparring partner other than myself."
Irina nodded. "It was the same for Sedik. And, I'm afraid, it has given him an over-inflated sense of his skills. His attitude towards his previous sparring partners has been - unJedi-like, to say the least."
Qui-Gon looked back at the pair. "He does not appear to have a problem when Obi-Wan scores a point."
"He respects Padawan Kenobi. Did you know that your padawan actually told him that he wasn't sure he wanted to be Sedik's friend? And insisted that Sedik show respect towards his companions? I don't think anyone else has ever told him off, particularly a younger padawan." She laughed softly. "I think that young Obi-Wan will be a good influence on him."
Qui-Gon smiled ruefully. "Obi-Wan can be headstrong and impetuous. I hope that he won't turn out to be a bad influence on Sedik."
Irina smiled, a twinkle in her eyes. "Oh, I imagine they'll get into mischief like all apprentices do. Yourself included, Master Jinn, if what Master Yoda says is true."
Qui-Gon quirked an eyebrow. "Master Yoda been telling tales again?"
"And I never did thank you for the advice you gave me last week."
Qui-Gon nodded his head. "Sometimes these headstrong young boys need a physical reminder that they must answer to a higher authority."
"The voice of experience, Master Jinn?"
"Master Yoda is very good with that cane," Qui-Gon said ruefully.
Irina laughed. "It caught Sedik by surprise, I can tell you. He was expecting a meditation ritual, but he didn't expect to be meditating in the corner with his pants around his ankles. Took him down a peg."
Qui-Gon nodded, turning his attention back to the match. "Since the Council has given me a few months' downtime to allow me to concentrate on Obi-Wan's training, perhaps we will be able to schedule more sparring sessions between the two of them."
Irina looked at him speculatively. "And perhaps a team session? I would love the opportunity to cross 'sabers with you, Master Jinn."
Qui-Gon bowed graciously. "I would be honored."
The signal for the end of the match sounded and further discussion was ended as each Jedi moved forward to claim their apprentice.
Dismissed by their masters to seek their mid-day meal, Obi-Wan and Sedik found two of their friends already in the dining hall. Garen was disconsolately poking at his food; his best friend, Reeft, had recently left for his first mission with his master, separating the two for the first time since they had become initiates. Bant was doing her best to cheer him up but it didn't seem to be working very well. She looked up gratefully as Obi-Wan sat down next to Garen and began talking about a class assignment.
"So, anyone got any plans for the evening?" Sedik asked.
Bant sighed. "I'm on duty at the Clinic tonight." She glanced at the chronometer on the wall. "In fact, I've got to be going or I'll be late." She got up to dump her tray, waving good-bye to her friends as she left.
"What about you, Kenobi?"
"Master Qui-Gon is mediating a diplomatic conference for the Senate and won't be back till tomorrow morning."
"And mine cut me loose as well," Garen said. "What do you want to do?"
Sedik shrugged. "Anyone up for a swim? The pool should be just about empty at this time of day."
Obi-Wan and Garen nodded their agreement and the three dumped their trays. Leaving the dining hall, they took a shortcut across one of the smaller courtyards towards the pool, talking and laughing about the latest gossip circling the apprentice hall.
"Well, well, well," said a sneering voice behind them. "Look at this little group. Why are you hanging around with these losers, Sedik?"
Obi-Wan, Sedik, and Garen turned. "Sith Hells," Obi-Wan muttered. "Mar-Tal and Veratu."
"At least they're not spineless cowards," Sedik said to his former friends, his lip curling scornfully. "Obi-Wan didn't run off and leave me to catch it alone."
"Hey, we weren't the ones sparring," Mar-Tal pointed out.
"Good thing, too," Obi-Wan said mockingly. "We would have kicked your asses."
"Oh, yeah?" Veratu growled, moving closer to them. "And I say that we'd have made you run crying back to your master like a crèche-baby. Come to think of it, Oafy-Wan, aren't you out past your curfew? The babies went to bed an hour ago."
Obi-Wan's temper flared and he took a step forward, his eyes flashing. Sedik grabbed his arm, blocking his way.
"Let it go, Kenobi," Sedik hissed. "We can't afford to get into any more trouble with our masters. I was actually looking forward to sitting down to dinner tonight."
Garen looked between the two groups nervously. "He's right, Obi-Wan. We don't need any trouble." He tugged at Obi-Wan's arm and, with Sedik on the other side, they headed towards the gate that lead to the poolhouse.
"That's right, Oafy-Wan," Mar-Tal said mockingly. "You and your friends just run along and play."
"Say," Veratu said to their retreating backs. "Aren't you missing two? Did they finally kick that skinny Reeft into the AgriCorp? What a no-talent! Just like your little healer friend."
"Yeah," Mar-Tal snickered. "I'm surprised that she managed to last as long as she did. You know, the Healers only took her in because she has no place else to go - they felt sorry for the poor little Bant."
Almost at the gateway, three backs stiffened at the same time and three bodies turned back around to face their tormentors.
"That's Healer-Apprentice Bant to you," Sedik said, a steely tone in his voice.
Obi-Wan's eyes burned with anger. "And she's got more Force-talent in her little finger than you have in your whole body."
And, as the three advanced on their prey, the two apprentices had a moment to realize that they might have gone a little too far.
Bant was surprised to see the door to the triage room in the Clinic open slightly and Garen popped his head in to take a look around.
"It's clear. Just Bant," he said to someone in the hallway behind him. The door opened wider and Obi-Wan and Sedik slipped in, closing the door behind them.
Bant nearly dropped the roll of soft bandages in her hands. "By the Light! What happened to the three of you?"
"Slight accident," Garen said. "Um - slipped in the Gardens."
"All three of you?" Bant asked, sarcastically. She surveyed the collection of black eyes, bloody noses and split lips. "And what Rim World do you think I was raised on? I'll get one of the Healers - "
"No!" exclaimed all three boys as one, then they exchanged a look.
"Difference of opinion," Obi-Wan said with a sigh.
"Do the other guys look as bad as you?"
Sedik, Obi-Wan and Garen exchanged a grin. "Worse."
Bant rolled her eyes at that. "Boys," she muttered. "Do you know what your masters are going to do to you when they find out?"
Obi-Wan and Sedik exchanged a look. "Oh, yeah, we know."
Garen shut his eyes and shuddered. "I don't even want to think about it."
"That's why we came to you, Bant," Obi-Wan said. "Can't you - um - do something and - and not put it into an official report or something?"
"Oh, yeah, Obi - get me into trouble, too."
Obi-Wan's shoulder's drooped. "Yeah, you're right. It was a bad idea." He drew a deep breath. "Well, guess I better go face Master Qui-Gon now."
"Oh Sith!" Bant swore, her tender heart melting at the dejected look on the three boys' faces. "Sit down - are you hurt anywhere other than your faces?" She grabbed a scanner and began running it over them, clicking her tongue disapprovingly at the display of bruises over Obi-Wan's back.
Sedik winced at little. "Just some bruises, nothing bad."
Garen looked down at his hands, ruefully. "And my knuckles."
Bant filled a pan with warm water and started cleaning up their faces. Once they were clean, she carefully opened the small Bacta tank and removed a scoopful before sealing it again. With deft, careful strokes she spread the thick liquid over their facial cuts and bruises, then over their knuckles. Obi-Wan felt the familiar tingling in his skin that told him the Bacta was working.
"All right, you know the procedure," Bant said in her best Healer voice. "It'll take several hours for the Bacta to finish healing - no bathing till then. And you don't want anyone to get a good look at you till its done, so you better lie low. You might want to start a healing trance to take care of those bruises, too."
The three boys exchanged a look. "We're dead," Garen said fatalistically.
"No, we're not," Obi-Wan said, thinking quickly. "Master Qui-Gon told me not to expect him back till tomorrow. You can contact your masters and get their permission to stay with me - tell them we're working on a special project or something. By the time my master gets back, we'll be healed."
Garen shook his head. "You're asking for a lot of trouble if Master Jinn finds out," he cautioned.
"And I'm not already? You know the saying, 'in for a dinar, in for a credit'."
"Yeah, and you know the saying, 'don't throw good credits after bad'?"
Sedik sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "We have no choice, do we? All right - I'll call my master from your quarters, Kenobi. The last thing we want are calls traced back to the Clinic." He turned to Bant, taking her hand and bowing over it gallantly. "My thanks, Healer-Apprentice Bant. And if there is anything I can do for you in future, you have only to let me know."
Bant flushed a deeper salmon color. "Glad to help you - any friend of Obi-Wan's, you know."
Obi-Wan gave her a quick hug. "Yeah, thanks, Bant. See you tomorrow."
The delegation had taken a break and Qui-Gon sat back in his chair, puzzling over the recent mental-contact from his apprentice. The boy had merely wanted to obtain permission for some friends to spend the night in their suite so that they could finish an astrophysics project for class and his mental tone had been light, but there was something not quite right at the back of his mind.
His commlink buzzed and he opened it to see Knight Irina's face. "Sorry to bother you, Master Jinn," she said with a faint smile. "My padawan asked my permission to spend the night in your suite, working on a project with Obi-Wan and another boy, and I wanted to ascertain that this had your permission."
"Yes, Obi-Wan has asked my permission as well and I gave it."
She nodded back, smiling. "Sedik hasn't put this much effort into his studies in years. In fact, I didn't know he had a special project due. See, I told you that Obi-Wan would be a good influence."
"Yes," Qui-Gon said absently. And mentally he frowned and thought, something is not quite right here.
The Healer on morning shift entered the triage room of the Clinic, logged in for her shift, and began verifying the inventory. Checking the contents of the small Bacta tank, she frowned and checked again. At least 30ccs of the gelatinous liquid were missing.
Sighing at the lack of training for new students, she sat down at the computer and began checking through the records to see when the Bacta was used. Then she frowned and went through them again, slower. Finally, she stopped and leaned back in her chair, thinking. That amount of Bacta was not that significant - they had plenty on supply - but it was a bad sign. Someone had begun stealing medical supplies from the Clinic.
She looked up the records for the last person on shift, hesitated for a moment, and then commed Master Efret.
Qui-Gon entered his suite of rooms in mid-morning and was vaguely relieved to see signs that at least three young people with healthy appetites had breakfasted there. So Obi-Wan had, indeed, spent the evening in the company of his friends.
Other than the dishes drying in the kitchenette, there was no other sign of teenage life-forms. He touched the link briefly, verifying that Obi-Wan was in class and reminding him to meet Qui-Gon in the training room when class ended, then shielded his end and changed into practice clothes.
On the way to the training rooms, he caught sight of Master Tamlin, the astrophysics teacher, and greeted him. After exchanging pleasantries, he said, "Obi-Wan enjoys your class - he was concerned that he would not have his project completed on time, but I assume that he did."
Tamlin looked bewildered. "I didn't assign your padawan any projects. Some of the students who are doing poorly have the option of completing a project to improve their rating, but Obi-Wan is my top student. You must be mistaken, Master Jinn."
"I could have sworn he said it was for astrophysics," he said with a frown. "He said that Sedik and Garen were helping him."
"Ah," said Tamlin, "that explains it. Sedik isn't in my class - he's in the advanced group - but young Garen is struggling. No doubt Obi-Wan was helping him. Although," he added with a frown, "Garen didn't turn in any projects today."
"Perhaps it is not yet complete."
"Yes, that must be the explanation." Tamlin excused himself and Qui-Gon continued on to the training rooms with a frown on his face. Clearly there was a mystery here.
He had just hung up his cloak when Obi-Wan came rushing in.
"Sorry, Master," he gasped. "I'll be ready in a moment." Without thinking, he pulled off his tunic to change into workout clothes, forgetting all about the bruises.
"Obi-Wan!" his master said sharply, noting the mottled patches on his padawan's back. "Where did you get those bruises?"
Sith Hells! Obi-Wan swore silently, trying not to blush. "Um - sparring yesterday. Didn't even feel them till later. Oh - and we played NothaBall - I got hit a couple times."
"Was that before or after working on the special project? A project that didn't get turned in?"
"Oh. Yes. That." He cleared his throat. "I - that is - we did it - but couldn't find all of it - "
"A Sith ate my homework, Obi-Wan? That was old when I was in school."
"No! I mean, it was Garen's project - he's got some work to finish - "
"I see." Qui-Gon studied his apprentice and Obi-Wan tried not to fidget. Qui-Gon knew that something was going on, something beneath the surface. That blush - the shielding - the three of them up to something that they didn't want their masters to know about. Was it possible that this was nothing more than the curiosity of three young teens? Should he check Obi-Wan's room for blue-holos? Or - more embarrassing - was it time to have that talk with the boy?
He found himself losing his composure and looked away from the apprentice. "Padawan?"
"Is there - anything that you wish to tell me? Or to ask me?"
Obi-Wan blushed, adding fuel to his master's suspicions. "Um - no, Master."
"Well, if you ever want to talk - have questions about anything - you know that you can come to me. "
Obi-Wan wanted the floor to open up and swallow him. Here he was, caught in the act of lying to his master, and the man thought that he and his friends had been looking at pornography. And, worst of all, was threatening to have that talk. He wanted to assure his master that, like every other initiate, he had taken the mandatory sex education class when he was twelve but it was obvious that Qui-Gon was embarrassed about talking about this. Perhaps they hadn't had that class when Qui-Gon was an initiate.
"Y-Yes, Master. Thank you, Master."
Qui-Gon cleared his throat. "Well, in light of your bruises, I think we'll cancel training for today. You can spend this time improving your healing meditation."
"Yes, Master." Obi-Wan pulled his tunic back on and hurried out the door.
The door buzzer sounded and Qui-Gon looked up from his desk, then towards Obi-Wan's room. The younger man was in there, studying with the door closed. Sighing, Qui-Gon went to answer the summons. The door opened to reveal Master Efret, one of the Healers from the Temple.
"Master Efret," Qui-Gon said politely. "How may I be of service?"
"Actually, Master Jinn, I was looking for your padawan." He looked troubled. "May I speak to him - in your presence, of course? My apprentice, Bant, was on duty at the Clinic last night when some supplies when missing. She refuses to say what happened and, if we cannot determine this, she could be dismissed from the Temple. I know that Padawan Kenobi is her friend and I hoped he could convince her to speak."
Qui-Gon summoned Obi-Wan and, when Master Efret repeated his request, he turned paler and paler until Qui-Gon thought he would faint.
"I - you can't - it's not Bant's fault, Master Efret."
"Then you know what happened, Padawan Kenobi?"
Obi-Wan flushed and stared at the floor. "Yes, Master Efret."
Qui-Gon looked at his apprentice and suddenly all the pieces started falling into place. "Master Efret, did you have any apprentices come into the Clinic this morning for treatment of bruises or cuts this morning?"
"Why, yes. Two. Injured playing NanthaBall."
"A lot of that going around," Qui-Gon said, looking at Obi-Wan briefly. "I believe that I know what has happened, and I believe that our time would be better served to go over this one time - with all the culprits."
A short time later, one of the training rooms was filled with six apprentices and their attendant masters.
"What is this all about, Master Jinn?" asked Mar-Tal's master.
"My padawan was about to explain to Master Efret and myself why Healer-Apprentice Bant should not be dismissed from the Temple for stealing medical supplies." He had been watching Obi-Wan's friends and noted that both Sedik and Garen's heads snapped up at that. "Obi-Wan?"
Obi-Wan drew a deep breath and fixed his eyes on the floor so that he wouldn't have to see the looks on the faces of his friends and his Master as he betrayed them. Briefly, he told about the fight and about going to the Clinic. He told them how he convinced Bant to treat them without logging it. Then, finally, he told them about the cover story created so that his friends could avoid their masters till the Bacta had done its job.
There was silence when he finished, then Sedik said, "Master Jinn?"
"Yes, Padawan Sedik?"
"It wasn't Obi-Wan's fault. He - we weren't going to fight. But then they insulted Bant - she's our friend."
Bant glared at Sedik. "You don't need to protect me, Sedik! I may not be a fighter, but I am perfectly capable of defending my own honor!" She drew herself up and said, firmly, "And Obi-Wan didn't make me cover for them - I did it to keep them from getting in trouble. It was my own decision."
"We all were in on it," Garen said firmly.
Qui-Gon looked over at the other two apprentices. "Padawan Mar-Tal, Padawan Veratu, do you have anything you'd like to add?"
"We were just talking," Veratu grumbled. "We didn't mean anything by it."
"Shut up, Ver," snapped Mar-Tal.
His master cuffed him on the head. "No more from you, young man." He looked over at Qui-Gon. "Master Jinn, what to you propose to do now?"
Qui-Gon considered. As the senior Jedi present, it was up to him to recommend a course of action to the Council. "Master Efret, will Bant be charged with theft?"
He shook his head. "No, I see no evidence of willful misconduct, merely a case of thinking with her heart instead of her head. I imagine that cleaning the entire Clinic on her hands and knees will cause her to think next time."
"In that case, I propose that no formal action be taken. I shall report the incident and recommend that each master be responsible for dispensing his or her own discipline. Are there any that disagree?"
The five other masters agreed and departed with their respective apprentices in tow. Bant paused a moment to hug Obi-Wan and whisper, "You are an idiot - but thanks," before following her master.
Alone in the training room, Qui-Gon turned his most displeased look on his young apprentice and Obi-Wan swallowed hard. He knew that he was in serious trouble with his master.
"Padawan, I suggest that you go to our rooms and meditate in the corner while you wait for me."
"But, Master - "
"Now, Obi-Wan! Before I give you a taste of what awaits you later."
Obi-Wan flushed and bowed his head, obediently leaving the room. With dragging steps, he made his way to their suite and went into the corner. Leaning his forehead against the wall, he wondered what had possessed him to deceive his master, to lie to him. That was one of the most serious misdeeds, one that warranted use of the belt. A tear coursed its way down his cheek.
Qui-Gon entered the room and saw his Padawan standing quietly and obediently in the corner. He sighed inwardly; he didn't mind the mischief, the high-spirits, but he couldn't allow the boy to deceive him.
He sat down and meditated for awhile, seeking to calm his anger. When he felt that he could control his wrath, he opened his eyes.
"Obi-Wan, come here."
Obi-Wan drew a deep breath and left the corner, sitting down across from his master, head bowed.
"All right, Padawan. Tell me what this was all about."
"I have no excuse, Master. I deceived you deliberately. I not only got myself into trouble but my friends as well. I deserve to be punished."
Qui-Gon recognized the self-blame that Obi-Wan was swimming in and decided to play the other side. "You were trying to protect the honor of your friends."
"As you have said many times, Master, we only fight when other means of resolution have failed. We should have walked away." He drew a deep breath. "And I should have told you right away, instead of hiding what I had done. I have no defense for my actions."
"Very well." Qui-Gon rose and settled in his chair. "Come here, Padawan." Obi-Wan reluctantly rose and approached the Jedi Master. "Give me your belt."
Obi-Wan slowly unbuckled his belt, removing his lightsaber, and held the belt out to his master. He swallowed hard as he watched the older man set it next to him for later use.
"Over my knee, Padawan."
Obi-Wan unfastened his pants and pushed them down, then leaned over his master's lap. Qui-Gon settled him into place securely and flipped up the long tunic to bare the younger man's bottom.
"All right, Obi-Wan, what is this spanking for?"
Obi-Wan flushed. This was the part that he had hated the most last time - hanging bare-assed over his master's lap, recounting his sins and waiting for the hand to strike. Well, maybe not the most.
"For fighting on Temple grounds." He winced as Qui-Gon's hand made firm, hard contact with his backside.
"As you yourself just pointed out, there are better ways to settle differences than brawls with your fellow padawans, whether on Temple grounds or elsewhere." Qui-Gon punctuated his words with additional swats. "What else?"
"For - for trying to hide it from you. Ow!"
"And how did you hide it from me, Padawan?"
"I - uh! - I convinced Bant not to log our visit to the Clinic, which got her into trouble."
"That was not a kind way to treat a friend, was it?" Qui-Gon asked, not pausing in the spanking.
"What else did you do to try to hide the fight?"
Obi-Wan blinked back the tears that wanted to form. "I pretended that we - Sedik, Garen and I - had to work on a project. So we could avoid their masters."
"You pretended, Padawan?" The voice was stern, not accepting any deviation from the pure truth.
"I - I lied to you."
"What else did you lie about?"
"When you - when you asked about the project, I lied again. And again when you asked me why I was stiff and bruised."
"Three lies, Obi-Wan. Do you know how I feel about lying?"
"Yes, Master," Obi-Wan said miserably. "This is going to be bad, isn't it, Master?"
"Well, I wouldn't count on sitting down anytime soon, Padawan." He picked up the belt and folded it to the right size, then brought it down across the backside before him.
Obi-Wan drew in a sharp breath as the belt cracked across his bottom. Sith, but it stung! Another stroke alongside the first, then another, and Obi-Wan choked back a sob. How long was this going to go on?
Qui-Gon heard his apprentice choke back a sob and continued to lay stripes across the upturned bottom. Then he went back over the reddened area again a second and third time, one for each lie. By this time, Obi-Wan was sobbing openly and squirming, trying to get away from the punishing belt, in between pleas and promises.
Qui-Gon applied one last stroke and then dropped the belt to the floor. "All right, Padawan. It's all over." He rubbed his hand soothingly over the sobbing young man's back, helping his apprentice calm down. When Obi-Wan had finally gotten to the point of hitching breaths, Qui-Gon helped him up.
"I believe some time in the corner would be beneficial as well." As Obi-Wan started to pull his pants back up, Qui-Gon said, "Leave them down for now."
Obi-Wan stared at him, horrified. "What if someone comes in?"
"You had better hope that no one does." Qui-Gon pointed to the corner, a look on his face that brooked no disagreement.
Obi-Wan shuffled over to the indicated corner and tried to focus his attention on something other than his flaming bottom. His master hadn't hugged him like last time, and Obi-Wan was afraid that this time he had destroyed Qui-Gon's affection for him. Tears ran down his cheeks as he wondered why he had been so stupid. If he had just confessed what he had done to begin with, odds were that Qui-Gon would have set him to doing meditation exercises or extra training. Even if he had gotten a spanking, it wouldn't have been as bad as the one he just received. And Qui-Gon would have still loved him.
"Time's up, Padawan." Qui-Gon announced. Obi-Wan gingerly pulled up his pants and refastened them, turning towards his room. "One moment, Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan swallowed hard, avoiding his master's eyes. Here it comes, he thought miserably. Here is where he tells me to pack up.
Strong arms wrapped around him, hugging him. "It's all right, brat."
Obi-Wan couldn't help the sob that escaped him and he clung to his master. "Then - you forgive me?"
"Of course." Qui-Gon patted his young apprentice's back soothingly. "You paid the penalty, all is forgiven. But I hope that this lesson will not be forgotten."
"No, Master," Obi-Wan said, from the depths of his heart. "I swear I will never lie to you again."
"I certainly hope that you keep that pledge, my Padawan. Perhaps you should spend tomorrow meditating upon the choices that you made and how you will prevent these consequences in the future. In writing - at least five pages in length."
Obi-Wan decided that making a protest over this additional punishment would not be a wise move at this point and merely sighed. "Yes, Master."
"Good." Qui-Gon released his apprentice and smiled at him. "Now I suggest that you get a warm shower and then we'll see about dinner."
Obi-Wan lay on his stomach on the floor, his eyes closed, focused totally on the moment. Following dinner, a meal he had eaten reclining on the floor on a pile of cushions, Qui-Gon had instructed him to remove his tunic so that he could work on the stiff muscles in Obi-Wan's upper back. The older man's hands massaged and soothed stiff muscles, eased healing into the remaining bruises, and left Obi-Wan feeling like a boneless puddle on the floor.
The door buzzer sounded. "Come!" Qui-Gon called out, sensing who was on the other side of the door. Obi-Wan started to collect himself but one hand on his back stilled him and he gave up the effort. Qui-Gon glanced up briefly at Mace Windu before returning to his task.
"Good evening, Mace. Have you eaten yet? We've got plenty of leftovers." Qui-Gon gestured at the table.
Mace shook his head, smiling. "Thanks, but I just dropped in on official business. The council has a mission for you - here are the details." He handed Qui-Gon a lightpad. "Sorry to interrupt your training schedule but this is very important and you already know some of the parties involved."
Qui-Gon wiped the oil off his hands and took the pad, glancing at it briefly. "Very well. We will depart in the morning."
Mace glanced over at the apprentice who had propped himself on one elbow with a noticeable wince. His lip twitched and he said blandly, "Will your padawan be able to perform his duties?"
Obi-Wan flushed and Qui-Gon glared at his old friend, noticing the look of mischief with misgiving. "Obi-Wan will be fine," he said quellingly.
Mace nodded. "Very well. We'll have your transport standing by in the morning." He turned towards the door and then said, casually, "Padawan Kenobi, sometime you might want to ask your master to tell you the story about the time he conned a certain friend of his into a midnight raid of the orchard gardens."
"Mace," Qui-Gon said warningly.
"As I recall, he fell out of one of the trees and broke his collarbone - a fact that he tried to hide from Master Yoda for three days. If I recollect correctly, Qui-Gon ate his meals standing for the better part of a week."
Obi-Wan grinned and glanced over at his master. "Really, Master?"
Qui-Gon glared at Mace. "You're not helping. And - as I recall - Master Yoda is still trying to figure out who put those fish into the Council's drinking water during the Annual Celebration and Purification. Perhaps if I dropped a little hint - "
Mace raised his hands in a gesture of surrender, chuckling. "All right, I'm going. Good night, Qui-Gon. 'Night, Padawan."
As the door closed behind Mace Windu, Obi-Wan opened his mouth and Qui-Gon turned to glare at him. "One word, Padawan, and I'll make that paper 10 pages instead of 5."
Obi-Wan grinned. "Yes, Master."
"Go to bed, Obi-Wan. We will have a busy morning."
"Yes, Master. Good night, Master."
Obi-Wan dragged himself to his feet and headed towards his room. And, as he drifted off to sleep, he wondered just exactly how to get Master Yoda or Master Windu to tell him more about his master's padawan pranks…