Obi-Wan stared at his reflection morosely, scowling at his hair, which showed a distressing tendency to clump up in wayward tufts instead of the even brush of hair a proper Padawan wore. Perhaps if he put some styling paste on? But then the water hadn't seemed to help matters at all...
"Padawan!" came his master's voice from outside the door. "Have you been taken ill?"
Obi-Wan winced and tugged his tunic down over his hips, running a wet hand over the frizzy end of his braid once more. "No, Master! I'm coming, Master."
He'd just have to hope for the best.
"There you are," his master said, when he emerged from the fresher. "I thought I was going to have to stage a rescue."
Obi-Wan flushed. "I'm sorry, Master. I won't take so long next time."
"It's all right, Padawan," his master said, laying a warm hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry so. Bellan doesn't bite, no matter what the rumors say."
Obi-Wan smiled weakly. "Of course, Master." His master smiled at him, and Obi-Wan fell into step, behind his master and to the left.
Maybe, he thought, if he was very quiet and respectful and behaved properly, Knight Morai wouldn't notice him. She would probably want to talk to her former master about the mission she'd just completed. Maybe it would be top secret, and they would ask Obi-Wan to grant them some privacy.
Yes, and perhaps a flock of Ter'yoril birds would swoop down from the sky and carry Knight Morai off before she had a chance to form an opinion of her successor.
Obi-Wan stifled a sigh. His master had only had two Padawans before him; he'd met Xanatos-- an experience he did not wish to repeat-- but the only time he'd ever seen Knight Bellan Morai was when she and Master Jinn had done a lightsaber demonstration for the Initiate classes when Obi-Wan was seven. It had been intended to demonstrate that one was not necessarily doomed to failure when fighting a physically stronger opponent, and the children who had watched had never forgotten it. Knight Morai had fought ferociously, the golden blade of her saber tracing the air like a comet's tail, ducking over, under, and around Master Jinn for what seemed like hours until she finally disarmed him with a neat flick of the wrist. Obi-Wan suspected that they had probably planned that-- nobody disarmed his master in combat-- but it had been very impressive, nevertheless. When he'd told Garen of the impending visit, his friend's eyes had widened.
"Stars, Obi, you're in for it now," he's said. "I hear she's very protective of Master Jinn. She hated Xanatos."
"Jedi don't hate," Obi-Wan had said. "Besides, Xanatos Turned, remember? It's no wonder she didn't like him. She probably won't even notice I'm there."
Bellan Morai looked down at her chron and sighed. After a time, she had to admit, one came to miss living on Coruscant, but nothing sentient got any pleasure from the Sith-spawned traffic in the space lanes on the way there. She'd been waiting for a landing window for three and a half hours, and after all, one could only meditate so long.
She called up her messages again, hoping there'd be something new since the last time she checked. Debriefing notice, lunch appointment, an announcement for a new seminar in unarmed combat... and the welcome-home note from Qui-Gon that she'd read at least twelve times since it had arrived the previous night.
You probably know this already,he had written, Master Yoda being what he is, but pretend for my sake that it's surprising news. I've finally given in to my Master's painfully unsubtle urgings and taken on another Padawan. His name is Obi-Wan Kenobi.
She had all of Kenobi's records that were accessible from outside the Temple, and several that weren't supposed to be. She'd spent most of the night going over them, but it hadn't been very productive, and Qui-Gon's note wasn't helpful. She read the relevant bit again.
I admit that I was at first reluctant to take him on, a reluctance due almost entirely to my own stubborn insistence on viewing every Initiate I met as a potential Xanatos in embryo. My inability to move past my own mistakes nearly cost me dearly, but the Force, aided in no small degree by my revered former master, contrived to show me my error-- and very thankful I am for their interference. Obi-Wan is turning into an excellent student: respectful, attentive, and eager to learn. I feel confident that he can become a fine Knight in time, a credit to the Order and to Yoda's Line. I'm eager to introduce you to each other; I'm sure you'll find many interests in common.
She sighed. She'd wanted Qui-Gon to take another apprentice, but she'd always imagined that he'd at least mention his plans to her before acting on them. They'd been so close in the years after Xanatos that she'd never envisioned returning from a mission to find Qui-Gon presenting her with a fluff-headed fait accompli, like a rebellious son flaunting his elopement to his horrified parents.
A ding from the comm interrupted her thoughts. "Shuttle Forcelight, this is Coruscant Traffic Control, acknowledge."
At last. "Go ahead, Control."
"You are cleared for entry on vector 342-g. Transmitting coordinates now. Please do not deviate from this vector. Have a pleasant stay on Coruscant."
She checked the navigation data briefly, then programmed the flight plan into the auto-pilot. It was an unusually good path, taking her almost directly into the Temple District. She flicked the comm on again. "Forcelight to Jedi Flight Control," she said.
"This is Jedi Control, go ahead Forcelight."
"I have received landing clearance on vector 342-g and am proceeding to the Temple District," she said. "ETA nine standard minutes."
"Acknowledged, Forcelight. Proceed to landing pad nineteen. May the Force be with you."
"And with you," Bellan said. "Forcelight out." She closed the channel and rose, gathering her luggage. She had re-packed what little she carried half an hour into her wait, but she liked to be able to leave the ship as soon as she touched down at the Temple; it was a rarity to land in a place where she could trust her hosts to see to her ship while she attended to her own concerns.
When she returned to the cockpit, the ship was approaching the Temple District, and she took it off autopilot and began to guide it in its final descent. She called up a magnified view of the landing pad, more from habit than anything else. In the field, it was always important to know what was waiting for you on the ground. Here at the Temple, it was just nice to see if anyone was waiting for you to arrive.
She smiled. In all the time since Qui-Gon Jinn had become her teacher, he had never allowed her transport to go unmet. Even after her Knighting, after they had begun to work apart more often than together, he had always made sure that she had something; if he was off-planet when she was scheduled to return, he always sent her a message, often contriving to have someone who owed him a favor deliver a box of her favorite Thyferran pepper cakes. One one notable occasion he'd even shown up at the landing pad fresh out of the infirmary, leaning on a cane and being subtly braced by a long-suffering Xanatos, who had rolled his eyes when she caught his gaze.
"Shouldn't you be keeping your Master indoors during his convalescence, Padawan?" she'd asked, grinning at him.
He'd sighed and shifted his gentle grip on an indignant Qui-Gon. "Alas, Knight Morai, I fear the strength for such a task has not been granted me by the Force." He'd returned her smile, then; it had been one of the few times that she had felt a kinship to the boy.
She pulled her attention away from the memory and scanned the landing pad as she guided the ship in. There; that tall figure was unmistakable, even from this distance, and the smaller one behind him must be the new Padawan.
What she found in his records was inconclusive. The boy had a good academic record, which might show his dedication to his calling or a dangerous personal ambition. The training Masters spoke of his need to gain better control of his anger and aggression in combat-- a telltale sign of susceptibility to the Dark Side, or simply the result of rampaging teenage hormones? More worrying still was the fact that Kenobi had been mere days away from permanent assignment to the Agri-Corps-- actually on a Corps planet-- when her former Master had claimed him. What was wrong with the boy that a Temple full of Masters had passed him over? What flaw had Qui-Gon overlooked or ignored in his sudden determination that Kenobi was the Padawan the Force had willed for him? She wouldn't be satisfied until she'd had a chance to evaluate the boy herself.
Bellan fired the repulsors and settled the ship down with a gentle thump. This one, she was determined, would not Turn, would not die, would not decide he'd rather be a merchant spacer than a Jedi; he would become a fine Knight and a comfort to his Master if she personally had to hypno-drug and Force-suggest him every step of the way.
For Kenobi's own sake, she hoped she wouldn't have to.