Title: Song of Myself
Characters: Ferus Olin, Fess Ilee, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Leia and Luke offstage. Han, too.
Time: Ferus is forty.
Disclaimer: I make no profit from this fanfiction set in George Lucas' Star Wars.
Summary: Ferus sums up his life as Fess Ilee. After switching to subtraction, multiplication and division, he doesn't like the answer, difference, product or quotient, either.
Ferus Olin awoke on the morning of his fortieth Lifeday and counted his wrinkles. There were seven that he could see in the 'fresher mirror: three creases around his left eye and four creases around his right. In no way was he unhappy about this, he told himself. His identity of Fess Ilee had no claims to Jedi vigor, no expectations of consummate skills, no hope at all, as a matter of fact. Since he had curried political favor with Bail as part of his cover, his interest in pretending to be a botanist had come to a standstill; even the most hardened Jedi in the Force would have consulted the Council for retraining or perhaps requested a soul-searching retreat on Ragoon-6. This planet of Alderaan was like Ragoon-6, broad plains, sweeping vistas of mountains and inspiring views. Leia provided the focal point for both the Unifying and the Living Force on Alderaan to Ferus; it was as if no one else could claim his attention for long. He supposed that was the reason Fess Ilee had no friends besides Bail. The Force was blocking Fess' or Ferus' or Ilee's or Olin's --- Ferus heaved a breath to center himself --- receptiveness to friendly overtures. Ferus thought glumly that he would not want the sort of friend that Fess would attract. Ferus had not been good at Jedi conundrums in Temple classes.
"Force, be with me today," he grumbled.
The Force. How had it led him to this pass, Ferus wondered, and why did it not help him when he felt this low. He stretched out his back, belched and sighed. Guardian to Leia, precious little girl and now precocious, snotty fifteen year-old, his presence in the Court was unquestioned, but Leia actively despised his adopted persona. Her scornful looks made him want to slap her sometimes and he supposed that was what parents felt like doing, and some even did. Ferus would not ever slap Leia because he had no standing with her and because he treasured the memory of her baby coos the first time that Bail had placed her wriggling form in his arms that had ached to hold her.
"Master Siri, you did not reach forty Standard. How would you have handled this day?" Ferus whispered to the mirror. He felt safe in speaking in the guest room; Bail kept it for his use alone when he slept over at the palace. It was not any failing of Bail's that made Ferus double-check the room for listening devices each time he spent the night.
He couldn't blame Leia now for not looking beneath the seeming with him. She had had no Jedi training and in fact, if he did not sense within her an overpowering potential for great things, he would have said she was a normal fifteen, brash and shy all in the same breath. If she had been a Padawan in the Temple, he might have been her instructor. He had always liked the Cotillions that the Temple had staged for Jedi unity before the war; Master Siri enjoyed the gavottes, he admired the smooth stateliness of the minuets. He would have liked to have taught Leia the measured steps, nudging her awkward, stubborn feet with the Force to match his own slow, precise footwork. He would have bowed to her, she would have bowed to him at the practice's end, her tunic front slipping open as she bent over rather than show the proper grace performed from the knees, head level after a slight inclination, her eyes meeting his in mutual respect from behind her fan. Since Breha's passing, no one but Bail gave him any respect in the court.
I'm Ferus Olin cum Fess Ilee, one of the last of the Jedi. Hanger-on at the court of the Organa royals. Generally good for nothing, I am. Force, you have let me down or I have let you down, I don't know which. At the last communique with Obi-Wan, he noted that Obi-Wan's face had been scoured to years beyond his true age by the sere winds of Tatooine. What a pair we are. If Vader does show up despite all our precautions, what exactly can we do to stop him? Scare him into shivers by our moral authority? He is younger than I am by two years. He would have to respect me. Ferus laughed aloud, completely in character as Ilee, a jovial sort. He was still smiling as he brushed two fingers over the spot where Roan had last kissed him, remembering.
Ferus stared at his hand, not laughing now, and thought about slapping and tickling and all the other things that hands could accomplish, the things that he had almost forgotten how to do. Both of Anakin's lost hands had been curiously soft when touching him in the salles' training exercises. Ferus hadn't expected that. He wrenched away from the memory of both Vader and Anakin and thought about his scheduled conversation today with Obi-Wan. Encrypted in oblique Jedi references and subtext, the message would clot his mind. Of course, it suited Obi-Wan's contained style. Ferus sucked in his stomach, straightened the ties to his sleep pants, checked the thatch on his chest for more sprouting gray hairs and when his holoemitter chirped, he was ready. He took a tack from Obi-Wan's succinct mannerisms and broke right into what was important.
"What could we do, O-Siri, if he came despite all our caution?"
"We should do our best. It is all anyone can do."
"I'm not at my best, haven't been for years. The Power comes and goes, it is faithless, sometimes I almost ha---"
"The Power is under no obligation to be good or kind to you or to me or to anyone, Feri-Wan. Surely your teachers taught you that." Ferus also hated when Obi-Wan was right. Siri lay all the Jedi information at his feet and it was not his place to pick and choose what he would believe about the Force. The Jedi had been studying it for millenia and shared knowledge freely. Ferus examined Obi-Wan's spare frame, standing in pale blue sparkles on his palm. He dialed up the resolution, zoomed in and then out again.
"You've gone completely white."
A chuckle was all that Obi-Wan could manage nowadays. Ferus hadn't heard him laugh in nearly two decades. Darra's death had killed Obi-Wan's laughter, as far as Ferus knew. "How like you to notice such things, thank you for telling me. My mirror has been broken for years."
It was enough that the wounded look in Obi-Wan's eyes faded for even a brief time. "You're welcome."
Ferus thumbed his moustache, not looking at Obi-Wan's thinning one. It was as if his own grosser eating habits had added fullness to his hair as well as his body. The silver streak in his forelock had widened and the streak's contrast to his straight dark strands made him happy in an absurd way. Like it's the percentage of me still Jedi, he thought, but Obi-Wan is all over pure and white and clean to his core. Eh, enough poetry.
"So, how goes the vaporator?" Last season the machine had given up the ghost. In their communique, Ferus tried to console Obi-Wan and even to troubleshoot the problem with him, but after a few minutes Obi-Wan had calmed back to his normal serenity. The worn Jedi had looked off-range to someone outside the holoemitter's scope, someone or something that had returned the man to his accustomed peaceful state; Ferus could have sworn that Obi-Wan was meeting someone's eyes, hearing someone's voice, reacting to someone's soothing words. Had the old man a companion, even for a single night? Or had Obi-Wan gone round the bend?
"It's fixed, thanks to you."
"Oh, well. My time slicing in the Potentate's service was good for something, I see." Before he could think of another thing to say, Obi-Wan beat him to it.
"Has Laylay been a brat lately?"
"You know what I mean."
"I'm sure that I do not."
"Use your imagination. Think of our mutual acquaintance at the same age."
Anakin. 'Brat' did not quite describe him, but then Obi-Wan had lived with the boy and knew him best. Anakin belonged to Obi-Wan as much as anyone could belong to anyone. Ferus' own relationship with the rival from his Padawan years paled in comparison. "She is obstreperous and sometimes loud. She weeps over dead pets. She cherishes her friendships fiercely. She has a favorite aunt to whom she confides things, Onan tells me. I would never call her a brat."
"I know you are loyal. I am not questioning that. I need to know if she and my charge synchronize in any way. It may be important."
Luke and Leia were twins as well as complete strangers. If they ever met, their Force-signatures would be so attuned as to present mutual attraction. Ferus supposed that Obi-Wan was thinking ahead to forestall anything inappropriate between the two young people. He placed his hand over the scar that Vader had bequeathed him. "What has Wormie been up to lately?" he asked, stalling as he wondered how to put Leia's latest actions into perspective and into words suited for a Jedi Master's ears.
Obi-Wan looked shifty. "Nothing outside any fifteen's regular rebelliousness." 'Rebel.' It was their codeword for 'this is important for the future of the galaxy.'
"Tell me, O-Siri." Ferus made himself comfortable. Surely the incident could be nothing tremendous at this stage of the game. The Rebellion had regrouped after Operation Moonstrike's disaster, slowly, slowly gaining strength, but the time was not yet ripe for major tactics. Even with his own spotty Force perception, he knew that. Ferus stretched out on his narrow guest bed, placing the holoemitter next to his pillow. He lay on his side, regarding Obi-Wan steadily.
"What are you doing?"
"The reception went late last night. I'm tired. Go on, go on. I'm listening." Obi-Wan looked discomfited at their simulated closeness. He pulled back from the holoemitter and turned partly away.
"If you're not taking this seriously --- "
"You know me better than that."
Obi-Wan's tiny blue lips pursed. "I'll tell this only once. My charge made a still and got himself and his friends drunk. He lied about his involvement to Larzinsky the Elder. Larzinsky the Minor cleaned up the mess and came to me for help. I admitted to Larzinsky the Elder that I had given the younglings some of my liquor. We had a quarrel, and he didn't do like last time. There was a great deal less yelling." Obi-Wan turned full-on to Ferus, forgetting his reserve. For a moment, it looked like Obi-Wan's head was on the pillow next to Ferus'. "Larzinsky the Elder is mellowing, the Minor told me later." He smiled and leaned in. "And he is nearly exactly our mutual acquaintance's age. There might be a chance of --- well. No use speculating, because hope is --- "
" --- as useless as despair,' yes, I memorized the saying in the Enclave." Now it's my turn, Ferus thought. He cleared his throat.
"Laylay was unnecessarily rude to me last night, that's all. It was at a banquet."
Obi-Wan stroked his beard. "A state occasion?"
"No, it was local. The banquet was for the Rutabaga Festival Queen's coronation. I asked Laylay to dance with me. She looked me up and down as if I had the plague. She turned away without a word." Ferus blushed. He closed his tired, burning eyes. "O-Siri, what do you see when you look at me?"
"Fishing for compliments? That's unlike you."
"Be honest. You're one of maybe two beings in the entire galaxy I'd say that to." Bail was busy constantly, and Roan was forever lost. Anakin was even more lost than Roan. "I want your opinion." Of course Obi-Wan would not know his Lifeday, perhaps never even thought of celebrating anything again, ever. He couldn't, really, alone as he was in the desert. But Ferus was surrounded daily by parties and banquets and state holidays, people laughing or remembering days gone by. Ferus made it a point to always become ill on each Empire Day's celebration. No one noticed.
The blue figure that had been Siri's friend backed up almost to invisibility, swiveled his head, walked back and forth in and out of range. He stopped. "I see an athlete who has let himself go to seed."
"Don't mince words, Ob- O-Siri. Tell me what you really think." Ferus kept his eyes closed against the cheerful morning light and Obi-Wan's too-near image. He was still hungover despite using the Force to hold his liquor.
"That is my gift to you today, Feri-Wan. Make the most of it." So he did know, somehow. Ferus opened his eyes.
"Thanks. I'll treasure it."
"It's not much."
"It was a cheap shot."
"It's all I can afford." Obi-Wan rummaged and clinked and poured and hoisted a clay mug to the emitter. "To your Lifeday. To rebellious teens. To the future!" Quick as a flash, the toast was over, Obi-Wan mopping his lips inelegantly against his sleeve. "This saves me from sleepless nights, most times."
"Right, it's nighttime now in the Wastes." Ferus' brief stay with Obi-Wan had left him with no love for the acrid Jundland. His eyelids grew heavier. "I don't need to be anywhere yet. I'm going back to sleep. O-Siri, those two, what were they thinking?"
Obi-Wan yawned in Ferus' face. "Pardon. What were they thinking? What all teens think, I suppose. Exploring boundaries, not suffering fools gladly. Terrible years they were, terrible. Remember?" Obi-Wan slumped into a seat that Ferus couldn't see. Ferus dialed up the resolution and cropped out all but Obi-Wan's nodding head. Slitting his eyes, he could make believe that he had some company in his room, a chance encounter at last night's festivities that had turned into something more, perhaps. A nap sounded better and better.
"So, Laylay thinks I'm a fool?" Fess Ilee. Yes, Ilee is a fool, a toady. I'd think the same. It's no wonder Fess overeats. What else has he got? He reached out to sign off from the holoemitter, but Obi-Wan wasn't through yet.
"And my Pa--- erm, my charge thinks I am a crazy drunken wizard who subverts minors. Pass the brandy, Qui-Gon." But one drink seemed to have been enough for Obi-Wan, whose head dropped to his chest after his final hallucinating pronouncement. He's wasted in the Wastes, thought Ferus in his Fess Ilee mode; it would be something that Ilee would think and then blurt right out, looking around to see that others heard. Ilee would allow them to use his remark without crediting. Ferus was appalled and so was Obi-Wan when they awakened in a few hours and realized that they had left their holoemitters on.
"If it's traced --- "
"Calm yourself. What's done is done." Obi-Wan looked as disheveled as Ferus felt.
"Can we continue to comm --- "
"I could not bear it if we stop. Reach out with your feelings along with me."
Ferus did. "Nothing suspicious. No visions, but that was never my forte. You?"
"Our mutual acquaintance had visions and dreams and trembling nightmares. I have only glints of the Unifying Force. It says that our actions were unnoticed."
"Better leave off, then." Ferus thumbed the control, allowing the Master to have the last word as always. He waited.
Obi-Wan waited, too.
"Well?" Now Ferus was confused and cranky. It was the middle of the day and though he had no true friends on this planet except for Bail, someone might enter his room for cleaning. Bail kept a neat palace, as neat as his well-trimmed goatee. "Well? Do you have something else?"
The Master ghosted a hand towards his own control, and stopped. "Feri-Wan, Laylay has a long ways to go towards adulthood. She is guided by your presence, whether she knows it or not. Don't judge her too harshly. There is someone out there who will soften her edges. I have foreseen that much."
"I was hoping it could be me. She has beautiful manners, but doesn't use them except to strangers. I have been around her all her life." It must have been festering inside, that haughty look and hurtful silence after his request to dance with her. Pah, was he becoming adolescent again himself? Surely not; he hadn't been good at it when he was the appropriate age.
Obi-Wan looked like he understood. He smiled. "It is not you. Your place is to guard her as always, the same way as when she got herself into trouble when she was eight. She will thank you for that at some point, if only in her dreams."
Ferus reached for his first sweet of the day from the silver foil box that Bail had given him, a lone present for the Lifeday that no one else cared about or knew about.
"All right. I'll take your word for it."