Title: Caught

Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Star Wars, after episode 1 and before episode 2

Characters: Anakin, Obi-Wan, Tala
Parings: Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan mentioned, nothing specific
Rating: G
Warnings: none
Spoilers: none, but it might help to read “The Jabberwalk” and “New Friends” (my stories)
Disclaimer: This is not my universe! I don't get paid! Not a cent! This is just for fun!
Summary: Healer Tala makes a house call one evening when a friend gets sick. Some angst, some fun character development. Tala is caught between being a healer and being a friend… Obi-Wan is caught in his own way as well.

Further Summary: Mainly, me using poor, sweet Obi-Wan for my own amusement. *pats the lad on the head* See? He doesn't mind at all.

Comments: Please!!!






            Heading back from dinner, Tala could sense something powerful and irregular as soon as he walked into the healing dome. Nothing seemed amiss, no new patients lined up to be seen, no instruments out of place. Dinner was not settling right in his stomach, either; he'd sensed something wrong all day, and this feeling now clenched it. Perhaps it was time to make a call of inquiry to Master Yoda. He headed across the way to his office, bumping right into an energetic but familiar new Padawan learner. The bump winded them both for a split second, but long enough for Tala to reach down and pat the boy on his very fuzzy little head. “It's been so long, Ani!” He gulped down another mouthful of air, feeling much recovered, dinner settling a little better to know the powerful feeling was Anakin Skywalker. “What's it been? Months surely?”


            “A year and a half, actually,” came the reply, a bit shy and hesitant. The boy clearly was not injured or ill, as if someone of such remarkable healing talents could easily be. And it was not time for yearly physicals.


            Tala walked to his office with the boy at his heals, not asking him to follow, but knowing he would just the same. “You don't call, you don't stop by,” he droned as if complaining, but with a firm grin plastered onto a weary face; it had been a long day. “What am I to think? That you're doing something important like learning and training, hmm?”


            Anakin smiled widely and Tala could sense how proud he was of himself. “Yes, I have been.” In just a year he'd managed to learn as much as to take him to and above other Padawan learners his age. He was a quick study, not to mention how much his powers to feel the force helped him in his pursuits. Having not gown up at the academy until now seemed not to have hindered him a bit. “But I came about Master Obi-Wan—“


            Quickly, succinctly, “Head cold?”


            “Exactly.” Nodding. “How'd you know?” Curious. He always sounded curious; that was a good trait in a Padawan.


            Tala was already packing a small bag accordingly. “They're pretty regular with him, I'm afraid, and it's been quite a long while since his last. Besides, it's the season for sniffles— that's all I've seen walk through that door today. How long? How bad?” He didn't expect a good answer, really, but it didn't hurt to know what he was getting into. Plus he'd been asking the same questions all day; it was his job, after all.


            However, Anakin did shrug. “I think he was trying to hide it for some time. But he's been in bed for hours today, during the day. I don't know how bad he is but I sensed—“


            “Ah, all right.” Obi-Wan was no fool. If Anakin was around to perhaps catch a cold from him, he certainly would be keeping his defenses up. Not communicating through telepathy, not letting Anakin sense him. If Anakin detected anything at all through that, something must have been strong enough to worry the boy. “I'll go see him.” He tossed the knapsack over one shoulder and laid a hand on Anakin's back. “Hurry on back to your room now. We'll be all right, hmm?”





            There was no response from the Jedi Master at his door, so Tala permitted himself to use the medical override and barged right in. “Obi-Wan? Obi?” he called out into the dark quarters, “It's your favorite healer come to see you!” The sitting room was too neat, the kitchen untouched. Which meant Tala headed straight for the bedroom. “Obi?”


            A snort pierced the silence. The bulge under the covers stirred briefly. Then another snort in the way of deep, regular snores. He settled down on the bed, knapsack at his feet. Tala hated to wake him, but there wasn't much of an examination to be done when the man was asleep under multiple layers of blankets. So he reached out, gently rubbing what part of Obi-Wan he guessed was his side or back. “Wake up, Obi-Wan.”


            Another snort, a cough. Then a pained, grumbled, “Go away. I'b sick.”


            “You're sick? What a fortunate coincidence! I'm a healer.” He rubbed a little harder at the bulge. “Come on, roll over for me.” No response.


            Well, no direct response at least. He did sneeze twice, “ehhIhhhshhh! EhhhCheshhh!” and rub his nose with his palm. When Tala's nudging did not cease, he whined, “I wadt to sleeb.”


            Tala had come prepared. “I know, Buddy. But as my old Jedi Master would say, 'You can sleep when you're dead.'


            This elicited only as much as a head turn. “I'b guessig he din'd say that to his batiedts, though.”


            A laugh, trying to keep it light and get on Obi-Wan's good side. “Very true. But you know my saying.”


            He seemed reluctant, but curiosity won out with the question, “What's that?”


            “I say,” he leaned over, grinning. “That if you don't roll over and let me take a look at you, I'll tickle you.”


            With the decision practically made for him at this point, Obi-Wan sighed, sniffled, and rolled over. They looked each other over for a moment, acting as if they weren't doing just that, as old friends do when they see each other after a long while. But whereas Tala looked about the same to Obi-Wan, Tala was inspecting Obi-Wan on a mostly medical level; he did note the thick stubble that was growing into a beard and the strands of hair grown out on their way to a longer length than a Padawan's hair cut. But that was second to the tired eyes, the chapped nose, the pale skin and flushed cheeks. As if knowing just what Tala was frowning at, Obi-Wan restated, “I'b sick.” Simple, but accurate.


            “What a surprise.” A smile for his friend, and a soft pat on the cheek. “Because I'm here to make you feel a little less sick. Can we start by having you open your mouth for me?”


            He did, reluctantly, sniffing strongly before and after. Red, raw, sore throat. The man had been coughing quite a bit. But as Tala pulled back from looking in his mouth, there was a more visible concern. “Your nose is running, Buddy. Here.” Tala pulled out his own handkerchief and handed it over. “Blow your… er… after you—“


            Ehhhhehhh! Achhhahhhh!


            “—sneeze. Arnup'tchow. Here, take it.” He waved the handkerchief a little closer.


            Sniffling, Obi-Wan refused. “I've got tissues sniff, sniff, snort, subwhere…” he looked around rather drowsily but desperately. His nose was running all the more now.


            Tala gave the offered handkerchief another wave, right into Obi-Wan's face. “Take it, Jedi. I made a house call for a reason.”


            Obi-Wan took it, blowing his nose thoroughly, which took quite some time. “Thags, buch better.” Apparently feeling much better as well, or at least a little better, he pulled himself up into a sitting position against the pillows and headboard. Tala thanked him, and he mumbled a 'you're welcub'. He sounded tired, but also as if he were suddenly thirty years younger, as an innocent child with his first cold might sound. Tala had known Obi-Wan through many colds, and knew how the man could turn into a baby when sick. He wondered how Qui-Gon had dealt with him in this state. He wondered how Anakin had dealt with him this day. He wondered as he checked the man's nose and ears. Stuffiness and irritation in one, all clear in the other.


            Obi-Wan dabbed the handkerchief to his nose while Tala moved on, looking in his eyes and feeling his cheeks, neck. “Lie back down,” Tala ordered, helping accomplish the task by pulling the covers up, half standing to do so. “Feel kinda feverish? Chilled?”


            An affirmative nod.


            “Well then, I want you to stay warm under the covers, ok?” It didn't hurt to order him with a bit of stern reasoning; especially if it helped Obi-Wan feel more taken care of.


            “Kay, sniff, sniff!


            Tala hesitated, then bit his lip and asked as nonchalantly as he could, “Can you lower your force field? I can't read you as well with your defenses up like this. I promise not to get sick. You don't need to keep them up to protect me.”


            This time, Obi-Wan hesitated. And he seemed to make no attempt at lowering anything.


            Approaching it carefully, “Have you let your guard down since he died?”


            A head shake, and another child-like reply. “Dot really. I…”


            Tala barged in here as well. “Shhh, Obi. If you don't feel like it, then don't. I want you to be…” what was the right word? “Comfortable.” That wasn't exactly it, but close enough.


            He nodded. “Baybe later?”


            Laughing, keeping it light. Pressure was not the right thing to layer on right now. “Maybe.” He tucked the blankets tightly around Obi-Wan and felt his forehead. Without being able to sense him fully, he'd have to rely on his friend's truthfulness. “Then tell me, and be painfully honest, how do you feel?”


            A pause, then an answer, “I feel like I'b goig to die.” He reached out from underneath the blankets and quickly covered his nose and mouth. Eyes closed gently. Face relaxed, then tightened. “Ehh-ahhcheshhh! Ehhchishhhh!


            “Arnup'tchow.” Fever. Chills. Sneezes. Runny Nose. Congestion. Coughs. Sore throat. Aches. Swelled lymph nodes. Headache. Oh yes, not surprising that he would feel like he were dying. But he certainly would not be doing any such thing. “I promise, you won't be dying on my watch. And I've got a good night planned.”


            A cough, two, three. He blew his nose.


            Tala continued. “A good night starting with strawberry-vanilla ice cream and another blanket to balance out the cold.”


            Obi-Wan smiled, eyes soft and thankful. “You rebebered.”


            “Your favorite flavor? Of course.” Said as if it were a detail mentioned just a few minutes ago rather than quite a number of years. He moved to get his bag and leaned against something quite hard and uncomfortable. “Ah! Here are the tissues. Just use and toss, don't worry about it. Or your nose will get worse there.”


            “It's bad?” He rubbed his chin, scraping dry fingers against the stubble, then pulled lose pieces of hair behind his ear.


            Tala pretended to be preoccupied with preparation. “Not good,” was the reply. “But not too bad… yet.” He handed over a bowl of ice cream and spoon. Then he draped an extra blanket over the man. “So… how long have you been feeling this sick and sniffley?”


            With priorities in order, Obi-Wan took a few bites of ice cream, letting them linger and melt in his mouth before swallowing them down. Then, he looked to answer. “What day is it?”


            Tala's hesitation came in trying his best not to laugh at his friend when answering.


            Obi-Wan's came in the calculating once the answer had been given. “Thed three days sidce by dose started ruddig add sniff, sniff, SNIFF, add the sore throat add all that. It did't really get bad udtil this bordig.” He paused in devouring the ice cream long enough to rub and blow at his nose again. Not seconds later, he swallowed and put the bowl down entirely and reached for the tissues. “'Scuse be… I… ehhh… ehhChishhh! Achhishhh! Etchishh!


            “Arnup'tchow.” He took the tissue from a rather disheveled, sniffling Obi-Wan and supplied him with another. “I'll clean up and take care of the mess. You just blow your nose as much as you need.” He levitated the tissues about into a nearby trash can and straightened the covers. “And I need you to keep drinking. Have you been feeling dehydrated?”


Obi-Wan nodded, finishing up and returning to his ice cream. It was no wonder, with all of this sneezing and such. “I could use sub juice. Sniff, sniff!


            “Sure, I'll go get you some. And I've got some holovids for later if you want to look through them. We can just take it easy and rest tonight.” After as busy a day as it had been in the healing dome, a restful night sounded good to him as well. He headed into the kitchen, putting the juice mix he'd brought in and taking out the nearly-empty pitcher of juice at the same time. There was enough for a glass or two, then he'd make some more before leaving. On the way out, he took the liberty of calling Anakin up on com.


            “Hello, Healer Tala.” The little holographic image of Anakin from the waist up danced in front of him, breaking into blurred pieces every few seconds; the quarters of a Padawan were never very equipped. Good excuse to spend more time with one's master, really. Though Tala knew Obi-Wan never needed an excuse where Qui-Gon was concerned. Speaking of which, Anakin looked concerned. “How is he?”


            “Sick, indeed. But he'll be all right. It's just a bad head cold. I'll sit up with him tonight. No need to worry.”


            Was that a sigh? It was difficult to tell through the broken communication. “I'm glad to hear it. Thank you.”


            “Thank you for letting me know.” Obi-Wan sounded like a case, a patient, not as he really was. “I'm always glad to help out my friends.” A little better. They bid each other good night and good luck and Tala headed back to the bedroom, following the sound of sniffles.


            What he found was Obi-Wan attempting to get up, pulling back blanket after blanket as if each were heavy and made of lead. “Was that Adi? I've godda… sniff, sniff… I've godda check over his, uh… his rebort add side-off od… ehhh…” his struggle to get up temporarily halted as he raised a hand and wavered just short of a sneeze. He steadied himself with a hand on the bed as he sat back down on it. “ehh… ehhChishhoo! HhhhKetchooo! ahhChoo! Sniff, sniff! Sniff! Uh… side-off od his bortfolio… Adi?” he croaked, nose running, standing up again.


             Tala was quickly attached to his arm, trying to guide him back into bed. “Not here; he was on the com with me.” He eased the man back onto the bed, surprisingly easily. He didn't seem to be putting up much of a fight despite the desperation that sounded in his voice.


            Obi-Wan shook his head. “I deed to call hib thed. I've adother rebort to file by… what day is it agaid?”


            Smiling, pulling blankets up over his legs. “Obi, Buddy, if you don't know what day it is, you've no business checking or writing anything.”


            He shook his head. “But I—“ he didn't have the time to finish as an urgent communication rang through his quarters. He stood, glancing at the tagline of the sender's signal while blowing his nose as clear as possible. As he walked out, he pulled his Jedi robes from the chair. As he walked into the main room, he pulled them on over his head. It all took a matter of seconds, like a blur, and he shook his head to clear himself up a little. After a cough and a run of his fingers through his hair, he answered it, leaning over the desk and the panel. “Yes?” He shivered strongly, then straightened to thrust his hands into the common front pocket of his robes.


            It was a small group of Jedi masters, Yoda and Yarel in the foreground from what Tala could make out from the other room. Tala purposely pulled back so as not to hear what was assuredly a sensitive matter of utmost secrecy. But he did happen to hear select words and phrases from Obi-Wan. There didn't seem to be much variation of the subject matter among: “Fight” and “Droids” and “I'll take care of that right away” and “I'll tell the boy.” He noticed Obi-Wan selected his words carefully to sound much less congested. When the call was over, Obi-Wan staggered back to bed, flopping down on the mattress with his robes on and pulling the covers up. He hugged them to his chest, coughing with exhaustion and snuffling into them. “I'b godd die,” he whined. “EhhhChooo! Ehhahhchishooo!


            Tala sat back down on the bed, reaching over to tend with a tissue. “No, you're not going to die. Hold still, let me wipe your nose, you little baby. Now blow for me.” He held the tissues in place and rolled his eyes. Then alternated, changing tissues and holding them for blowing until the man was satisfied. “You're just sick. And now you're under doctor's orders to stay in bed and take a break from work.”




            “Shhh!” He eased the robes off over his head, then tucked him back under the covers. “Now drink your juice and I'll put in a video. It's as simple as that.”


            “Tala,” he croaked, then cleared his throat a few times. “I don'd deed a daddy.”


            With a strong sigh. “No, what you need is Qui-Gon.”


            Absolute silence.


            Tala clarified, sure that Obi-Wan wouldn't be the first to speak, “Have you been sick even once since he died? Sick without him to take care of you?”


            A shake of the head.


            “You've never been a sick Jedi Master before. You're caught.” He took a deep breath. “Caught between being your normal needy self and trying to do your job as Qui-Gon would. Well,” He wiped the stunned Obi-Wan's nose for him. “I'm here to tell you to relax and be yourself. Don't push yourself, or I will officially suspend you from duty.” He paused, then wiggled fingers at Obi-Wan. “Or I'll tickle you.”


            He laughed and coughed and put both hands up. “All right! I udder… udderstad… sniff! Ub, Tala?” He held his hand up in front of his face expectantly. “Cad you bass be adother tissue? By dose is tiglig agaid…”


            Tala, catching most of the words all right, sent the box Obi-Wan's way with a preemptive blessing. “Arnup'tchow.”


            The man drew out two tissues into his palm just as he drew a sharp, deep breath. His eyes closed, eyebrows raised. “Ehhshhhh! Ahhchishhhh!” He sniffled and blew his nose. “Thags.” Tala knew the thank you was for quite a few things, least of all for the tissues.


            They settled back in bed, watching the holovid Obi-Wan had selected. Quite glad he'd seen this one already, Tala was up and down constantly, fetching more juice, more tissues, soup, ice cream, and anything else Obi-Wan could think of at the moment. Perhaps some of it just to watch Tala jump to his requests like a droid.


            Hours of sneezes and sniffles later, yawns could be added to the sick Jedi Master's list. And with them, actual embarrassed apologies. “I'b so sorry. I'b suddedly so sleeby.”


            “Sleeby?” Tala asked with a chuckle; his friend was nearly nodding off right there. If it wasn't for his runny nose and some constant sneezes, he'd already be asleep. So Tala offered, “Time for some tea, then?”


            Rubbing two fingers under his nose, Obi-Wan nodded. “While you do that… I'll be here sdeezig…” His nose twitched, nostrils flaring with the urge.


            Tala patted his shoulder as he got up. “You go ahead and sneeze. I'll be right back.”


            “Kah,” breathy, eyes squinting closed. “Kay… ehhh… heh… heh…” quite strained, sounding frustrated. Tala, now across the room, turned back, lying a few fingers against the bridge of Obi-Wan's nose and applying a little pressure through energy waves. Quickly, the sneezes came, “Ehh-ehshooo! Ahhchishooo! Ehhchishhhh! Uh!” he sniffled and blew and rubbed his nose. “AhhhKeshooo! EhhhChishhh!


            The tea did not take long at all to make and Obi-Wan was still blowing his nose when Tala returned. The Jedi reached out, accepting the tea gratefully. He sniffed to clear his nose as much as he could, wet, powerful sniffs. “Ryadth Root?”


            Tala nodded.


            Obi-Wan took a deep breath, then began sipping, careful to keep it consistent and continual; he'd made the mistake of pausing to talk a few times while drinking Tala's tea in the past and it always resulted in a multitude of sneezes. But consumed properly, this was the best cure for sneezes Obi-Wan had ever had. And it certainly had been proposed at the perfect time.


            When done, he set the empty mug aside and instinctively curled up in bed; Ryanth Root had that effect. He hugged blankets to his chest, rubbing the cloth against his cheek, clearly wanting of something. “Thag you for beig with be todight, Tala.”


            “Hey, no problem, Buddy. That's what I'm here for, hmm?” He had a sudden recollection of meeting Obi-Wan for the first time. Taking care of him then had first and foremost been his job. It became a favor to Qui-Gon but it was his job as a healer that had put him there in the first place.


            “As a healer?”


            Softly. “As a friend.”


            Obi-Wan's eyes closed, but he continued to talk. “For as long as I cad rebeber, Qui-God took care of be when I was sick… I really biss hib right… yawn… dow.”


            Tala tucked covers around him again, keeping them heavy but lose. “I know.”


            “Eved whed I was youg, he took care of be… like a father, like a friedd, or a lover…”


            And simply, “Always as your master.” Yes, that was it. A nod came from the weary head, mouth open not for speech but slowed breathing.


            Then, softly, through his mind, Tala heard, //Please try again?//


            It took Tala a moment to register and understand. But then he stood, closed his eyes, and administered a warm wave of healing energy through a hand on Obi-Wan's forehead. “Call me if you need anything at all,” he whispered on his way out. He knew Obi-Wan was already deep into a peaceful healing sleep and hadn't heard, but he also knew it didn't need to be said in the first place.