by ardavenport

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Obi-Wan folded his arms before him, tucking his hands into the opposite sleeves of his robe. The young Duro boy, Ntlaah-et, stared up at him for a moment, his featureless red eyes inquisitive. Then the youngling looked back toward the play area. A pair of booted feet stuck up out of the huge bulging cushion there. Obi-Wan had been right in his prediction that Qui-Gon was too big for it.

After sinking down into middle of the cushion, Qui-Gon had mischievously declared that he was stuck. Obi-Wan had immediately offered to help, but his Master had declared his Padawan too big and he would just get stuck, too. However, if the younglings helped by taking a good run and, using the Force, jumped on the cushion, that might be enough to free the trapped Jedi Master out.

The Quermian boy, Taem Goot, had tried first, but his slight body, all arms and legs and neck had landed on Qui-Gon, who had cheerfully admonished the others to mind their aim. Taem did better on his next try though Qui-Gon remained embedded in the cushion.

The Human girl, Yemma Yom had tried next. The impact had pushed Qui-Gon upward, but he sank down again. He told the younglings that they were doing much better.

Obi-Wan looked down at the Duro boy whose thoughts were a wordless confusion. He had at first fearfully stayed back from Qui-Gon during their initial game of hoverball. Qui-Gon had minded Ntlaah-et caution and not come too close, even while the other younglings played freely with the tall Jedi Master.

"It's not play," Ntlaah-et finally declared though he looked uncertain about whether or not he should be unhappy about this.

"No?" Obi-Wan asked.

The boy frowned, his lipless mouth tight. Obi-Wan sensed the confusion of young thoughts that had not matured enough to find the words that would express them.

"He only wants the Force." Ntlaah-et pointed at Qui-Gon's feet that were only shifted and bounced around a little bit when the Twi-lek girl, Mazana, landed next to them and then slid giggling on top of Qui-Gon. "When they jump. It's not play."

"No." Obi-Wan agreed. "It usually is not."

Ntlaah-et's critical stare changed to open surprise. Obi-Wan sensed the dawning realization as the boy looked at the activity at the cushion and then back up at him, that 'play' for a Jedi youngling was much more than it seemed.

The little Bothan girl, Glurf, took her turn. She jumped too far and Qui-Gon caught her furry little body easily. Obi-Wan was quite sure that he spotted some tickling before Glurf joined her clan mates.

Stepping to the spot where the others had started their runs, Ntlaah-et looked intently at the inflated gray mound and the boot soles sticking out of it. Obi-Wan sensed the Force around the boy. He ran and jumped.

Grinning, Qui-Gon popped right up from the cushion. Ntlaah-eh laughed with triumph as they both slid down to the floor and his clan mates cheered.

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(This story was first posted on tf.n: 4-Apr-2008)

Disclaimer: All characters and situations belong to George and Lucasfilm; I'm just playing in their sandbox.