Gliding through the Temple corridors, Qui-Gon narrowed his focus until he could feel Anakin's heartbeat and began materializing at the boy's side. The Master wondered where he would end up this time and was pleased to find himself standing in one of the small meditation gardens on the ground floor of the Temple, just off a cluster of Master/Apprentice quarters. Anakin was sitting cross-legged before him, eyes closed and face calm as he practiced his afternoon meditation in a grassy alcove. His eyelids twitched at the Master's arrival, and he shivered.

"Are you cold?" Qui-Gon murmured, pushing back his robes and kneeling beside the boy.

Anakin shook his head, didn't bother opening his eyes. "I felt you there, that's all."

"Do I feel cold to you?"

"Kinda, sometimes. Not COLD cold, but like somebody opened a door and let the breeze in. Depends on how close you are, and how you sneak up on me." Anakin grinned and broke off all efforts at meditation. Scooting across the grass, he leaned against a tree and scowled across at Qui-Gon, who settled back comfortably against his own tree folded his arms. "You know that drawing of Obi-Wan's you told me about last night?"


"Did you dig it out of somewhere after telling me that story, because my Master came flying out of his room this morning, waved it at me and yelled about it. I didn't even know what it was at first. You didn't tell me it was that small."

" you?"

"Yeah. He thought I'd been pawing through his private stuff and told me to stay out. I know better than to do that -- or at least not to get caught. I'm not stupid, and leaving it sitting out like that would have been really dumb if I was trying to sneak." Anakin concluded his observation with an eloquent shrug.

"And what happened when he yelled at you?"

"I yelled right back." The grin accompanying that small fact was unrepentant. "Told him I hadn't been in his boring old room, and besides, he'd wake up if I went in there while he was sleeping. He could feel through our training bond that I wasn't lying, so then he said that he was sorry for accusing me and shouting, but he still didn't look happy."

Qui-Gon thought for a moment. "I suppose that now Obi-Wan must find another explanation for how that drawing migrated out of his closet."

"He was snarly in practice today--not at me, just in general," Anakin relayed. "Are you going to keep bugging him like that?"


"Oh that's just wizard." Ani's shoulders slumped and he glared at Qui- Gon. "Well, I hope he doesn't keep blaming me for stuff you do. I get in enough trouble for what I do. And hey, I figure you owe me another story because you made my Master yell at me."

An elegant eyebrow arched. "You do, do you?"

"Yeah. And make it a good one, because he yelled a lot."

"A lot?"

"Well, not in words, exactly, but he felt like he was yelling. All day."

"Ani, it's only afternoon."

"Then it was a really long morning."

"Padawan, you are pushing your luck."

Folding his arms, Qui-Gon sat in silence for a moment, until his companion all but squirmed in place. Once the Master was certain his audience was wondering if he'd get his story or if the Jedi would refuse, Qui-Gon began.

"Whenever we made forays into Coruscant, I gave Obi-Wan a few credits to purchase something for himself. Hard black jicklish is one of his favorite treats, and more often than not his few credits were exchanged for those ugly black, spiral tubes."

"That stuff is gross. It looks like--"

The eyebrow rose again, and Anakin subsided with a meek, "Sorry."

"On this particular afternoon, we returned to the Temple commissary for our mid-day meal. Obi-Wan was saving his jicklish for after lunch."

"I bet that part was your idea."

"Waiting until after he'd eaten? It might have been. Obi-Wan inhaled his portion with the usual Padawan speed and began gnawing on the jicklish as we were leaving the commissary. His friend Bant was on her way in as he was on his way out. They stopped to talk for a moment, while I continued a short distance and waited discreetly for their conversation to be concluded.

"'Can I have a bite of that?' Bant asked, waving a webbed hand at the candy.

"'Sure.' He handed it over, and Bant wrestled a large bite off of the end of the hard, sticky tube before returning it to Obi-Wan. My Padawan was horrified when three of Bant's teeth came away, deeply imbedded in the jicklish. She tucked the mass into her cheek and grinned at him, her usually toothsome smile now featuring three black spaces where her front teeth usually resided.

"'Thanth a lot, Obi-Wan,' she lisped, not seeming to notice the loss. 'You're a great friend.'

He stared at the candy and then at her. I heard the horrified 'Bant!' clearly from where I was waiting.

"Oh, my teef. Thorry. Here, lemme get thooth outta there f'you.' So saying, she casually flicked the intruders out of the jicklish. They pinged across the hallway and skittered away on the flooring, never to be seen again.

Obi-Wan stared at Bant, then across at me. His eyes were pleading, as if he were seeking advice. Having had a tooth race past my foot, I was feeling as startled as he looked, and I had no advice to give him; none of my diplomatic encounters had prepared me for this sort of thing.

//Perhaps it would be wise to simply ignore it?// I ventured through our training bond. Obi-Wan nodded slightly, acknowledging my words.

"'Uh, here,' he said, somewhat weakly, and pushed what was left of the candy into Bant's hands. 'I don't want any more, and--and, uh, I'm really sorry about your teeth.'

"'You're giffing thith to me?' she squeaked.

"'Yeah,' Obi-Wan insisted. He crammed hands into his sleeves and backed away before she could try to give back the jicklish. "See you later, all right? I gotta go."

"He rejoined me at record speed, falling into step closely beside me, and we continued on to the practice salle. As we were warming up, my all-too-quiet Padawan looked up with huge, worried eyes. 'Master, I didn't mean to pull out her teeth.'

'You know, Obi-Wan, Bant is Calamarian.'

"'Yeah. And now she's a Calamarian with no front teeth.'

"'Once a Calamarian reaches puberty," I continued, "he or she sheds teeth with alarming regularity, growing replacements throughout their lifetime. I would venture that your friend is growing up, my Padawan.'

"He stared at me while stretched over his left leg. 'You mean her teeth are supposed to do that? Not just her first teeth? They're all supposed to fall out like that?'

I nodded.

'I didn't pull out her teeth?'

'I would venture that the jicklish did that in any case, and not you personally. But no, this was not an unlooked-for event.'

'She's gonna get more teeth?'

'Very soon, if the new ones haven't already moved into place.'

'And she didn't tell me that? I thought I broke--I thought she was going to look like that forever.' He narrowed his eyes and bounded to his feet. 'I'll be right back, Master.'

"'Where are you going?'

"'To get back some of my jicklish!'

"And he was off. So you see, Padawan, Obi-Wan has always been a bit possessive about his things."

Obi-Wan looked up from his datapad as Anakin entered their quarters. Rubbing the tension from his neck, the knight frowned as Anakin repeated something Obi-Wan had seen him do a few times before; Ani reached for the door's controls and delayed its closing, as if he were waiting for someone to enter the room behind him. The problem was, no one was behind him.

It was fast becoming an irritating habit.

"Padawan, why do you insist on--"

"Here." The boy interrupted, coming to the table where Obi-Wan sat and shoving a packet of hard, black jicklish toward him. "Master Qui-Gon said that he's really sorry you were upset enough to yell at me this morning because of something he did. He didn't mean to make you mad. He said to give you this, and that you shouldn't share with Bant this time."

Obi-Wan stared at the jicklish, all intentions of questioning Anakin blown from his mind. When he looked up again, Anakin had continued on to his room and was delaying the door's closing there, as well.

Laying a hand over the jicklish, Obi-Wan stared at it for a long moment, heard his Padawan's words once more. "He said to give you this...."

Obi-Wan snatched back his hand and glared at the gift before returning his attention to the datapad. He would not think about what Anakin had said; the boy had an overactive imagination. But it was difficult to concentrate on the dry information at his fingertips when the usual discordant sounds began filtering through the closed sleep-chamber door. Much clanging and banging came from the vicinity of Anakin's room. Behind the clanging came what sounded like the murmur of voices-- Anakin's, as he always talked to his projects, and one much lower than his Padawan's. It's rumble was all too familiar to Obi-Wan. So familiar that he almost rose from his chair and went to listen at the door.

//It sounds like....//

He shook himself from that contemplation. Surely, it was only the vibration of another power tool of Anakin's, useful for rebuilding the pit droid he'd managed to put his hands on. The boy chattered incessantly to himself or to the droid--he had to, for who else would he be talking to, alone in his room

And yet... that voice... Obi-Wan could hear it just over there, behind that closed door.

//Stop this,// Obi-Wan ordered himself. //It's not who you think it is, it can't be. It's just memories, imagination, wishful thinking. It's just because you were thinking of him again. Anakin misses him, too, but once someone is dead, they're dead. Gone to the Force. After that... there's nothing.//

Pushing the jicklish further away, Obi-Wan tried to go back to the report he was reviewing. Tried, but did not; tried, but could not. After only a few minutes, he sighed and laughed at himself, then reached ruefully for the candy. He'd always associated the smell of jicklish with those special morning outings on Coruscant at Qui-Gon's side.

Tearing open the packet, he broke off a piece. Sucking on it thoughtfully--and carefully keeping it away from his teeth--Obi-Wan set aside his work and let his mind drift back to an earlier, happier time.


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