Title: Ghosts of the Future
Author: Maychorian
Timeframe: JA (Obi is 18)
Category: A weird mix of drama and humor, I think
Characters: Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a very odd little cantina
Summary: The universe is full of these little pockets of bizarre phenomena. Obi-Wan is a bit tired of falling into them constantly, but somehow he can never avoid them . . .
Disclaimer: Are you kidding me? You don't make profit from a labor of love! Pure sacrilege, sir!
Notes: For the "I Dare You!" Challenge. My evil darer is VadersMistress, and this is what she required:

"3 Singing pigs

Qui-Gon in a skirt at some point (he must happily wear it and you must insinuate this is a common occurrence )

Luke Skywalker must be in the background at some point. He cannot have any speaking lines, nor mime anything, nor may he interact in the fic at all, but it must be abundantly clear that it IS Luke Skywalker.

Yoda must rap and do a jig at some point (even if it is short)

A character must die in the middle of a crowded room, but no one helps or even notices him/her. (It can be a major or minor character, but it must be at least a paragraph long… And gruesome!)

A sunset

A corset

And a kiss. (It may be between any characters you like in any circumstances, and it may be a kiss of love, death, and/or platonic)

I thought about forcing you make this an angsty fic, but I shall be kind and allow you to make this any kind of fic you wish. (Triple points if you have at least one angsty scene in it, though! )"

I did my best. facetongue For your reading pleasure, two sunsets and two kisses! If one doesn't fulfill the condition, perhaps the other does?

Ghosts of the Future

"Come now, Padawan. It will be fun!"

Despite the circumstances, Obi-Wan almost smiled. He had never heard his stoic, impassive master wheedle before. Still, he could not force his lips to twist into an optimistic expression. "Better than last night? You promise?"

Qui-Gon laid his hand solemnly over his heart. "I promise. This time we don't have Master Yoda with us, trying the local brew for the first time."

Obi-Wan shuddered at the memory. The small green Master had gotten up on a table and done some kind of dance, chanting a rhythmic verse that was almost unintelligible, thanks be to the Force. The Padawan had caught a couple of lines, though, something along the lines of, "Wars not make one great, true this was and true is still./But if judge me by my size you do, then beat you down I will."

"That will automatically make it much better, yes," Obi-Wan agreed fervently. "But . . . you're sure that we have to take part in this 'cultural tradition'?"

"They won't let us into the council hall tomorrow unless we do."

"And have the rheumy eyes and weaving gait to prove it." Obi-Wan sighed and screwed his eyes shut, repeating Qui-Gon's encouraging words and trying to convince himself. "The celebration only lasts three days. And this one won't have any other Jedi, so no one will carry any tales back to Coruscant."

"That's right. Most Jedi avoid this particular cantina for some reason. I find it fascinating, though, and I'm sure you'll appreciate why once we get inside."

Obi-Wan nodded grimly. "But . . . do we truly have to take part in all of this tradition? Including the 'garments of warriors'?" He swayed slightly, letting the garment in question swish around his thighs. "It's . . . embarrassing."

Qui-Gon grinned. "Don't you enjoy it? I find the freedom of movement rather refreshing, myself."

"It's a skirt, Master."

"Kilt, Padawan. Kilt. I've been fortunate enough to be able to come to this celebration several times over my knighthood, and I enjoyed it every time. I'd come back more often if I could. Now, is there anything else you wish to discuss before we go in?"

Obi-Wan squinted up at the sign. The Shimmering Ghost. The windows of the cantina were opaque, only a slight glow visible from out here on the sunset-painted street. For some reason the name sent a slight shiver through his gut, a frisson of unease. But he could not say why, and he did not want to annoy his master with yet another one of his "bad feelings," not without something to substantiate it.

"No," he said in a small voice.

Qui-Gon clapped him on the back. "Come inside, then! And, Padawan? Do try to enjoy yourself."

Obi-Wan drew in a deep breath, but said nothing. In this case, try was probably all he could manage. Forget about do or do not.

As soon as they stepped in the doors, the young Jedi was struck by a powerful wave of ear-crushing music, loud and pulsing. The air was so thick with the scent of booze and smoke that he immediately coughed, his eyes watering. He wrinkled his nose, automatically beginning the processes in his body to purge the impurities so they would not incapacitate him, just irritate the edges of his senses. Then he blinked the tears away. And blinked again. And again.

"No, they're truly there," Qui-Gon murmured close to his ear. "Amazing, isn't it?"

Obi-Wan nodded mutely, his eyes spanning the length of the cantina and back again. Everywhere, in random spots, mingling ignored and unnoticed with the crowd of celebrators, were . . . shimmering ghosts. It truly was the only word to describe them. The solid bodies of those on this plane passed through their translucent companions as if they were not there. And they could not be. But they were.

"Someone once explained to me that the temporal fabric has been rubbed thin here," Qui-Gon said. "I know it doesn't make much sense, but that's what he said. Strong emotion in the past caused images to be impressed on the material of space and time, and they reappear at irregular intervals. At times this place can be quite crowded with ghosts—at others, it's almost empty. The regulars here are accustomed to it, as you can see."

At the bar, two translucent ghost-images were locked in a passionate kiss, and Obi-Wan glanced away, blushing. It didn't seem right to look on, as they apparently believed themselves to be alone. Ghosts danced on the floor to a beat that did not match the music being sung by the sweating band in the corner—Obi-Wan spared a second glance for that band, as his first passing look had made him believe that three pigs were singing on stage. Gamorreans. They had hired a Gamorrean band.

This place just got stranger by the second.

"Let's get a drink," Qui-Gon said, moving toward the bar. "Jawa juice?"

"Please," Obi-Wan said faintly, paying very little attention. At this moment it wouldn't have made much difference if his master had placed a glass full of engine coolant in his hand. He wouldn't have tasted it, either.

Qui-Gon immediately struck up a conversation with a fellow patron—Obi-Wan was always amazed by the older Jedi's ability to talk to anyone, about anything. They discussed the celebration, the parties and parades, the grand history of Admanta, and the magnanimity of the government in declaring these three days half-off on all alcoholic beverages. It was the biggest to-do of the year, and every citizen took part.

The people of Admanta believed that the Jedi Order had been born on their planet, back in the misty dawn of time too far back to be recorded, and though this had never been proven, they still insisted on celebrating the mythical event. Open invitations were made to every Knight, Master, and Padawan who could possibly come, and though many were drawn away by duty, many also found that they could make time for it.

Obi-Wan had been almost intimidated by the delight that met them at every turn, the schoolchildren offering little cakes in the shape of lightsabers, the women throwing flowers, the men raising cheers. He was used to the people of a planet being hostile to the presence of himself and his master. This grand hospitality was far more disconcerting.

But of all the strange sights the Padawan had seen on this strange planet, this little cantina took the gold statuette with the purple ribbon.

He watched people of the past spin and cavort, dance and run, talk, scream, laugh, cry, and leave for quarters unknown. Most were human, the dominant race of Admanta, but he also saw Twi'leks, Bothans, Dralaniks, Shistavenen, Gand, races he could not name, and even a Wookiee or two. Sometimes the images faded out in mid-movement, vanishing like a holomessage with the feed suddenly cut off. He began to get used to it all, but only barely.

And then came the most terrible of all. Obi-Wan's breath caught his throat as he watched a Gotal run across the floor, terror in his face, a brutal-faced human in hot pursuit. The human caught the Gotal and threw him to the floor, ignoring the flailing fists that caught him on the side of the head. A flash of metal, glaring wickedly bright despite the flimsiness of the image, and blood began to pour from the Gotal's neck, pooling beneath his head and upper body as his struggles weakened, then stilled, his eyes still gazing sightlessly outward. The human stood, grim satisfaction on his face, and wiped his knife on his filthy vest before turning on his heels and disappearing.

The worst of it, at least to Obi-Wan, was that no one around even noticed. The life-and-death struggle began and ended without the slightest murmur of sound. The bright spill of blood left no impression on the dark cantina floor, nor indeed on the people crowding all about, dancing and laughing and making drunken romance to their companions.

Obi-Wan turned toward the wall and leaned his temple against the cold plaster, feeling suddenly sick. It seemed suddenly to him that he had not seen the past, but the future. A galaxy where murder was allowed to take place without comment or glance seemed entirely too feasible, slithering in the darkness just beyond his touch. He wanted to curl inward and close his eyes, denying the frightening possibility, but it was all too real, and he could not move.

Without his consent, his eyes opened again. And here were more images assaulting his vision, but these seemed much more substantial. They were real enough to touch.

Qui-Gon smiling at him, his hair graying, his face tired, but his eyes bright.

A boy with sandy hair in the Padawan cut, running toward Obi-Wan with his hands out in delighted greeting.

Siri Tachi, bleeding in the wreckage of crashed starship.

A bounty hunter in Mandalorian armor shooting at him through a sheet of rain.

A pale woman who trapped herself in an iron-hard corset, holding two red lightsabers with curved handles, her eyes like deep pits, portals that peered into nothing at all.

A gout of flame rising from lava, the flash of a blue lightsaber.

A young man standing in the desert, looking out at a double sunset. His hair was blonde and his eyes were blue, and longing danced behind them, longing to be out somewhere, out and doing. And Obi-Wan knew that he was meant to help this young man accomplish his goal.

Obi-Wan gasped and doubled over, hiding his eyes against his knees. Too much. Too much. Ghosts of the past were bad enough, but he could not deal with these ghosts of the future. The currents of time and possibility swirled about him with mocking strength, daring him to deny what would be.

"Master," he whispered, and grimaced to himself, knowing that there was no way that that feeble plea could have been heard above the thumping of the Gamorrean music.

Master!

In a heartbeat Qui-Gon was there, a strong arm wrapping around his bowed shoulders, a large hand covering his head like an oddly-shaped hat. "Obi-Wan?" The voice was both low and sharp with urgency. "What's wrong? Are you sick?"

"I need . . . need to get out. Need to leave. Can't . . . can't stay here . . ."

"Did someone spike the Jawa juice?" Qui-Gon wondered aloud, amusement lacing his warm tone. Obi-Wan groaned, and the master hushed himself contritely. "All right, all right. Let's go. I've got you, young one."

Obi-Wan was shocked by his sudden weakness, the trembling of his limbs and the bending of his knees. But Qui-Gon supported him without effort, getting him out of the cantina in less time than it took to enter. He could have carried Obi-Wan like a child with very little trouble, the Padawan knew without resentment, but he allowed him the dignity of staying on his own useless feet.

Once outside, Obi-Wan still wasn't comfortable until they had gotten half a block away from the cantina, and then he just leaned against the wall with his entire right side, his eyes drooping in exhaustion, seeing nothing of the lamplit streets, hearing the firecrackers that went off at regular intervals as if the sound carried through miles of water. Whatever had happened in there had sapped him completely in a shockingly brief time.

The large hand, gentle and callused, brushed over his forehead and temples, and Obi-Wan blinked slowly. He could feel the touch of Qui-Gon's mind on his own bruised, shaky one, careful and brief. "Wha . . . wha's wrong?" he asked sluggishly.

"You have a mild case of mental shock, as if you were attacked suddenly by too much, too quickly. Your shields are holding, but they can't take any more. What happened?"

Obi-Wan blinked. The images were fading like snow dropped into water, melting and vanishing as he watched, merging with the larger flow of the Force. "Ghosts," he managed. "Past, future. Not happy. None of it was happy, I don't think. Can't really remember." He raised heavy eyes to look blearily at his master. "Sorry I ruined your evening. Shoulda been in there having fun lots longer."

"Oh, Obi-Wan." He was pulled home to a warm, solid chest, and closed his eyes with a weary sigh. "I'm the one who is sorry. I should have realized that most Jedi stayed away from that little marvel for a reason. It must have interacted with your connection to the Unifying Force somehow—I never had such a problem, obviously. We're supposed to be enjoying the celebration together, and I certainly can't blame you for my own lack of attention and research."

Obi-Wan smiled against the rough fabric. It was like Qui-Gon to blame himself for something that was no one's fault. He was suddenly completely and utterly content, glad to be Qui-Gon's "young one," not too old to be drawn into a quick hug after a trying experience. Soon enough he would be a man and a Jedi Knight—already he had reached the age of majority on many Republic worlds. But he liked it here.

The future held too many ghosts.

"Come now." A rough, tender kiss was pressed to his forehead as Qui-Gon pulled away, still keeping a supporting arm around him. "I think it's back to the hotel for us, at least for tonight. We'll have one more night to get in all the celebrating we want."

Obi-Wan heaved a mock sigh and let his master lead him away. "But will we still wear the skirts, Master?"

Qui-Gon chuckled more heartily than the remark merited, as if relieved to still have a reason to laugh. "Kilts, Padawan. Yes, we will wear the kilts."

(End)