AN: Inspired by different incidents that have occurred during family outings – ma famille is very evil. And since I've been mixing prose styles, I settled for a good ole third-person narrative. Don't worry, though – Obi-Wan's journal should return in vignette 6. And beaucoup thanks to oba, for betaing.

The Education of Anakin Skywalker
Simple Words

Ordinary Day
I Hate Nerf
Memories of Home
Portrait of a Stubborn Padawan
Seller of Dreams

Part IV- I Hate Nerf

Their mission had been going well, up until their hosts brought out their dinner.

Seated on two makeshift tables scattered around the campsite, Obi-Wan and Siri and their respective padawans had been expecting a meat dish of some sort. The Devaronians had made quite a show of displaying the wild nerf they had caught; their leader had detailed the hunting experience for two tedious hours.

But Obi-Wan had not realized that their hosts preferred their meat to be undercooked, to put it lightly.

"Master . . ."

He kept his eyes on the Devaronians, a gracious smile plastered on his face. "What? Do you sense something?"

A period of awkward silence elapsed, then he heard Anakin shift in his seat and sigh noisily. "No, it's not that, Master . . ."

Obi-Wan glanced around the camp anxiously, trying to catch Siri's eye. Seated about ten meters from her table, he had to strain to get her attention. She raised an eyebrow, her expression irritatingly blank, then returned to playing with her food. Ferus also seemed cautiously focused on his dinner. He saw nothing to unsettle his padawan in such a perplexing way.

"Clearly, this problem of yours does not relate to the safety or integrity of our mission in any way, for Jedi Tachi seems to have noticed nothing. Am I correct?"

Anakin picked up his fork and began to tap it on the corner of the table. "Yes, Master."

Obi-Wan turned to fix his stare on his very fidgety padawan. "Then what is it?" he asked quietly.

"It's just . . . I can't eat this."

"Anakin, what have I told you about—"

His padawan rolled his eyes, his discomfort visibly increasing. "Obi-Wan, I like food. Really. You know that. And I'm grateful that the Devaronians have provided us with a meal. But . . . I can't eat the nerf."

Obi-Wan looked at him exasperatingly. "You told me once that you love nerf. And you always eat mine."

"Yeah, well, that's 'cause it's cooked. This meat is raw! It's still bleeding, for Force's sake!"

"We must respect the customs of our hosts, Anakin. They have given us a generous meal, and to refuse to eat it would be an insult towards them."

"Master, I'm very appreciative of free food. But I'm not going to risk food poisoning just to show my gratitude. I mean, look at it!"

He glanced down at his own dish rather quickly. His padawan was slightly correct, for the meat did look very unappetizing. Picking up a knife, he prodded it tentatively, and was forced to avert his gaze when a mixture of blood, water, and slimy green liquid came oozing forth.

"It does appear to be quite disgusting. But Jedi Tachi and Padawan Olin are eating it, so—"

"They're not."

Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes skeptically. "Anakin, observe. The amount of nerf on their plates has been slowly decreasing. Normally, that indicates that the food is being consumed."

"Yeah, Master, but have you noticed how the meat seems to magically disappear before reaching their mouths? Siri and Ferus are cheating – I just know it."

He exhaled loudly. "Perhaps. I would not put it past them. But we must not make judgments, my impatient young padawan, until we have tasted it ourselves."

Anakin shook his head violently, horror spreading across his face. "No. No no no. I'm not even touching that . . . slab of grossness."

"Excuse me?"

Anakin groaned, then sank lower in his seat. "Come on, Master. It's totally gross. You take a bite, and I'll base my opinion on what you think."

Obi-Wan snuck a glance down at the meat again. Thick goop still trickled from the bloody slice, rather like slime from the mouth of a Hutt. He clapped a hand to his mouth and gulped down bile – even the memory of those giant slugs made him nauseous. "Why do I have the feeling that you are manipulating me?"

"Because I am."

"Sometimes I think that you should have become a politician, my devious young padawan."

Anakin adopted a look of wounded pride. "That hurt, Master. I'm just trying to be like you."

"I rather hope not." Obi-Wan took a deep breath, steeling himself for the task awaiting him. "Since you currently lack the maturity to try new things, I will taste the nerf. And I expect that your fears will be found unsubstantiated. Ferus has not complained about the meal."

"Ferus has a cold," Anakin remarked, snickering disrespectfully. "He can't smell, and all he's been doing is sniffling and sneezing. He's so out of it right now that he could walk by a rotting carcass and not even blink."

His padawan leaned forward, setting his elbows on the table. "Besides," he whispered conspiratorially, "Ferus Olin is the perfect apprentice. He always follows orders, and he would never consider putting his needs before those of 'the mission.' He's an annoying overachiever. I bet if he wasn't cheating, he'd actually eat this . . . blob."

"Anakin," Obi-Wan said warningly. "Not again. I am terminating this discussion. We should be eating, not gossiping about our fellow Jedi."

Anakin frowned, his eyes downcast. "Fine. You eat; I'll keep my thoughts to myself. Force be with you, Master – I think that slab might be from the Dark Side, though, so that might not be much help."

"Thank you. Your optimism is much appreciated."

Obi-Wan turned back to the meat, cleared his thoughts, and stabbed the slice delicately. More ooze dripped from the blood red tissue – ignoring Anakin's stifled giggles, he squeezed his eyes shut and cut off an ample piece.

And against his better judgment, he raised the fork to his mouth and began to chew.

Revulsion overtook him immediately. The nerf wasn't merely bad – it was absolutely vile. Choking back the urge to gag, he tried to swallow some of the gooey liquid to see if it alleviated the taste. It only made the sensation worse. Torn between whether to spit out the meat and wash his mouth thoroughly, or gulp down the partially chewed mush and accept the gastric consequences, Obi-Wan forced it all down . . . and nearly lost consciousness in the process.

He grabbed his cup, pouring cool, soothing water down his throat in an attempt to rid the sickening flavour from his mouth. He was aware that Anakin was gloating – and Siri, no doubt, was shaking her head at his stupidity. But he didn't care about that. All that mattered was that he keep himself from retching.

"Told you," Anakin whispered knowingly.

"Eahmayuck!" Obi-Wan replied.

He drained his glass, then forced his tongue to form intelligible words. "I am not disputing your original claim, my artless young padawan. I agree that the nerf is inedible, and not something a humanoid stomach can tolerate."

Anakin grinned. "It was just intuition, Master. Man cannot live by reason alone."

Obi-Wan assented gravely. "I have slowly been coming to that realization. But thank you for the repetition."

"So, if we can't eat it . . . what do we do?"

He looked around the camp thoughtfully, noting that the Devaronians were distracted – chasing down an escaping youngling, it seemed. "We dispose of the meat quietly and discreetly, then thank our hosts for their delicious and satisfying meal."

"But Master! That'd be lying! Wouldn't that be considered a rather selfish action?"

"Absolutely not. We are protecting our own personal health, and – through that – a greater good. Even Master Yoda would agree with that."

Anakin nodded, scoping out their table and the surrounding campsite for a decent hiding place. "There's some bushes over by Ferus's table. Could we . . . ?"

"Hmm. If we bury them, it might disguise the scent." One of the Devaronians hollered to the others, apparently spotting the missing child, and they began to run towards the cooking fire. Obi-Wan rose, grabbed his plate, and started to sneak towards the bushes. "Hurry, before they return."

He weaved around rocks and pieces of equipment, ducking down once he reached Siri and Ferus's table and making sure their hosts were still occupied. He heard Anakin drop down behind him, then watched as his padawan quickly dug a small hole with his fork.

"A little deeper, Anakin . . ."

"It's fine, it's fine, throw 'em in!"

Obi-Wan flipped the pieces of nerf into the hole, then used his knife to help Anakin fill it back in. Spreading the dirt around, he leveled it off then smiled with relief.

"Ah. Excellent. Now, back to our table."

They stood up, turned around, and found themselves caught in Siri's frigid blue stare.

"Busted," Anakin muttered.

Her eyes flicked from their soiled clothing to their empty plates to their plainly embarrassed expressions. Her lips quirked into a half smile, and she winked. "Lovely disposal site, Obi-Wan. I was about to tell you that our hosts have offered to bring us more . . . appetizing . . . entrées. But since you and Anakin seem to have put away all your nerf, I'll just tell them that you two aren't hungry anymore."

She strode off jauntily, heading towards the returning Devaronians. Anakin stared at her retreating figure and groaned. "Master, I really hate nerf."

"So do I," Obi-Wan said, shaking his head and following her with his eyes. "So do I."


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