Title: Wretched Hives . . .
Author: Laura of Maychoria
Summary: A conspicuous Jedi Knight needs a new identity. Fortunately, in this city it is easy to lose oneself.
Author's Note: For the "where did the name 'Ben' come from?" challenge on the JC forums.
Disclaimer: I own it all! BWAHAHAHA! You must pay me every single time you write about Star Wars! Money money money! . . . Oh wait. That was my crazy voice. It's such aliar.
Wretched Hives . . .
"Corellian brandy, please."
The bartender rubbed a finger under his nose, sniffing in loudly. His eyes were droopy and seemed to stare through the man who leaned against the bar. "Don't got the fancy stuff here."
"What do you have?"
The man waited for a moment, then leaned forward slightly, nodding his cloaked head for the barkeep to continue. "Yes. Lomin-ale. And . . .?"
"And lomin-ale. Jizz juice." The cantina worker threw an insouciant glance toward the back of the squalid area. A sink was visible on the counter behind him, piled high with unwashed mugs, sand-flies buzzing above. "Maybe some pickled gorfling water."
"What is that, pray tell?"
It seemed it would take too much effort for the barkeep to raise an eyebrow. He just stared. "Jawa home remedy. S'posed to be good for aching joints. Some pilots use it for coolant if they can't afford the real thing."
"So what'll it be?"
Oh, well. When in Coronet City . . .
Obi-Wan accepted the mug when it was handed to him, distantly grateful that it hadn't come from the sink. Though that was no guarantee it had been washed. But he supposed it was time to start getting used to the local customs. He turned his back to the bar and sipped with a confidence he did not feel. It was awful, naturally. He drank it anyway, tipping the mug upward.
"Heeey! Long time no shee, good buddy!"
The Jedi started as a heavy arm dropped over his shoulders, wrapped in thick, ragged fabric that reeked of something he didn't really want to think about. He gaze flicked sideways to a grinning, unshaven face. "Do I know you?"
The uncouth fellow chortled, spraying Obi-Wan's face with spittle and nearly causing him to pass out. The droid factories could bottle that breath as a weapon, Obi-Wan thought hazily as he knees began to buckle. It was worse than any poison gas on the market.
"Heh heh, good ol' Ben, already deep in your cups, eh?" The man tightened his grip on Obi-Wan's shoulders to hold him up. "Same grouchy ol' wizard as always. You shtill hangin' out with the moisture farmers?"
Obi-Wan locked his knees and tried to shrug out from under the heavy arm. "Sir, I assure you that we've never met before. I have only been on this planet for a few days, and the moisture farmers did not particularly want me to stick around." He finally managed to duck under the massive, log-like appendage and come up facing his assailant.
Again the moist, bubbling laughter. "Quit yankin' my chain, Ben Kenobi! It's Harva, your oldest pal! How are you likin' Mos Eisley, eh? Didn't exshpect to see you here."
Obi-Wan wrinkled his nose slightly, observing Harva's glazed, unfocused eyes, the way he seemed to carry a cloud of dust and pestilence like an aura of uncleaniness. "I must say that I've visited quite of number of wretched hives--"
"Hey, yeah, those are bad! Gotta watch out for those sand fleas." Harva scratched under his arm in demonstration.
"--of scum and villainy in my day, but this must be one of the worst," Obi-Wan finished determinedly. "Are you quite drunk?"
Harva shrugged. "Only had a couple."
Obi-Wan looked at the half-filled mug in his hand, then tipped it out on the floor. It wouldn't be noticed among the swelter of filth already there, and he had suddenly changed his mind about seeking solace in such questionable places. Harva continued to ramble about their adventures together, none of which Obi-Wan remembered.
Abruptly he glanced up at Harva, as something the drunk had said pricked his mind. "Is Kenobi a common name here?"
Shrug. "Fair t' middlin'. Ev'ry name's common here, 'cause none of them are, people come from all over the gal'xy. Why? Lookin' for a place to hide out? Not the first time, eh?"
Obi-Wan ignored the knowing grin, wink, and nudge. He looked Harva closely in the eye. "You know Ben Kenobi quite intimately, yes?"
"You know it!"
The Jedi smiled tightly and brought just a hint of the Force to bear. "Am I he?"
Again the knowing chortle. "Still with the chain-yankin'. Cut it out!"
"I've lived here for years?"
"Sure thing." But suddenly Harva looked confused. "Hey, wait a shecond. Ben's been dead for years . . ."
Obi-Wan pressed just a little bit harder. "No, I think you're mistaken."
The drink-dull eyes sparkled again. "You're back!"
"That's right. I am Ben Kenobi."
"Well, hey! We'll need to have a welcome party, y'know. Call all my friends, welcome you to the planet in style! Tatooine's not shuch a bad little place if you can't get off it . . ."
Obi-Wan sighed. "I certainly hope you're right," he murmured, too quietly for the now excitedly-planning man to hear. "Now, now, friend Harva," he said more loudly. "I don't need a party. I've been here for several years, you remember."
"Oh. That's right." Harva was subdued for only a moment. "Hey, let's have a party anyway! Drinks all 'round!"
The "party" turned out not to be such a bad thing, in the end. Obi-Wan only needed to plant a few suggestions in a few memories, and soon everyone knew that Ben Kenobi had been among their number for years and was no one to be concerned with or to report to the new Empire. He was just a harmless old coot who lived out in the Jundland Wastes and occasionally came to town for a cuppa when he felt the urge. All in all, a nice, inconspicuous identity. By the end of the night, the newly-christened Ben was almost convinced himself that he and Harva had been bosom comrades for years.
Later, he returned his little hermit's cot in his little hermit's hovel, and there, he came to a realization. Tossing and turning, scratching, unable to sleep, he understood that Harva had been right in his interpretation of Ben's irritated little comment.
"Blast! He was right about the sand fleas!"
Wretched hives, indeed . . .