Title: Vacation

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Star Wars

Rating: G

Spoilers: none

Disclaimer: Contrary to what you might think, I didn't come up with the Star Wars universe or its characters. As such, I get no money from this, only innocent enjoyment. Oh, um, but Tala and Gon-Show are all mine (not that anyone else would want them)

Summary: Tala is off world taking a forced vacation. But his miserable time is soon interrupted by a call from an old friend and bit of an adventure.

Background Notes: Gon-Show and the rest of the small crew from the Aesculapius(Jedi-run medical ship) show up in other stories which are of yet unfinished though mentioned in this story and others such as 'To Be a Master'. Other stories with Tala such as 'To Old Friends' would be good background reading as things such as the space station are mentioned in this story as well.





     Vacation. That's what they called all of this. Of course, they laughed when they said it and pushed me out the door. But still, there I sat. On a beach, feeling miserable. The sand stuck to my skin awkwardly for the sun screen I'd layered on was thick and oily and smelt of nothing nice at all. It, the sand that is, was everywhere- in between my toes, in my mouth, in my crotch- everywhere imaginable. The wind kept me from burning with heat but it blew my pages and tossed more sand onto me, making it impossible to write properly. The sun was bright, bearing down on me; a sun-burned bald spot was not the greatest souvenir I could want for my vacation.


     It was required for healers to take a leave of absence, yes a vacation if you want to call it that, every several years. I tried to bargain by simply cutting my duties in order to stay on world, but they forced me off, sent me to the most popular vacation planet. Like a fool I had welcomed the spare time during which to write, but I was not getting much of that done and was uncomfortable on top of it all. I longed for my office, my couch. I longed to curl up in coolness under a comfortable blanket and sprawl papers out on my side table, the one Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan built me as a thank you gift. Most of all, I longed to be back with my stethoscope and test tubes. Back with my patients to take care of. There was no one who needed me here.


     With a sigh, I packed up and slung my bag over my shoulder. I walked back, dragging my feet through the sand, scraping the side of my foot on a sharp rock hidden just under one sand drift. I bent down, holding my foot with both hands, wiping the sand off as best I could, blowing on the cut to clean it out. Then I closed my eyes, sending an intense wave of healing energy there. It took a few moments, but when I opened my eyes, it had stopped bleeding and started to scab over. There was still a bit of pain as I walked. Times just got better and better here, didn't they? At least I hadn't gotten seawater in the cut. There, that was something to be thankful for.


     My bungalow was on the edge of the beach, a perfect location for watching the mesmerizing pink and purple sunsets but a terrible place to stay. At least, I wasn't enjoying it. The ocean salt filled the open, airy dwelling, a smell and taste and feeling in the air that intensified with every breeze. It was either warm, sticky, and musty or it was chilly and disturbing. The bed was a swinging hammock, very unsteady and unnerving- I chose instead to lie the blankets and pillow on the floor to sleep more stably, quite reminiscent of the uncomfortably hard bunks of the Aesculapius.


     As I rubbed the sand from my arms and legs with a damp cloth, my com buzzed with an incoming message. Hair ruffled, face shining in sweat and sun screen, I let the machine record the call rather than answer it. How important could it be? I wasn't allowed business calls while on vacation. Probably just some advertisement about an obnoxiously loud conga party down on the beach that night or an all-you-could eat seafood buffet with undercooked everything. When I'd cleaned off sufficiently, I leaned over the panel to view it.


     The face looked worn, aged for its forty-something years but familiar. What had it been, ten years since I'd seen him? Surely more than that? It seemed like a lifetime ago. The image danced before me, talking. "Tala? This is Gon-Show... um, remember me? From the Aesculapius? Look..." his image rubbed its nose. "I think I've come down with a little something and I just haven't been able to shake it with the normal healing trances and techniques. I know you're off world... but you're somewhat close by and..." was that a holographic blush? "I need someone, Tala." The image rubbed its nose again, then lifted its arm, burying his whole face into a large sleeve and shook forward with a sneeze, sound briefly muted. When the arm was lowered and the man's attention was returned to the transmission, he continued. "I need a healer. Someone who understands Jedi. I'm sending my coordinates in case you are willing to leave and can secure transport. Please, Tala..." The man rubbed at his nose once more, then gave a quick, embarrassed, "Thanks" before ending it. With a nod, the transmission ended. He sounded well enough, really. How bad could he possibly be? The man was stationed on a planet in the expansion region, only a few standard hours by any good cargo ship's means from the inner rim here. And I was getting a little tired of all this hot relaxing; it would do me good to have a little adventure. And at this time of year, the planet M'haeli would certainly be an adventure. Without another thought, I opened a reply-channel. The Jedi Knight's face appeared again, tissue to nose, looking a little unprepared to speak. But it lit, from relief or happiness or something else I could only guess at. "Tala!" it exclaimed.


     "Hi Gon-Show, how are you?" silly question, but best to start out softly and slowly.


     "Not very well." Obviously it had been a silly question. "You remember the time everyone on the ship got sick except for you?"


     How could I possibly forget? I nodded, remembering well as I, the only well officer, managed to run the ship, make the stops, finish the inventory, and take care of my sick comrades and captain at the same time. "You have the sniffles?" I asked sympathetically in my most sympathetic healer voice. The man was too far away for me to sense him properly, clearly. Perhaps if I were a true Jedi that would not be an issue, but he was simply too far away... and he had his defenses up.


     The man nodded. "I feel horrible. All stuffed up and sniffley and my chest and throat and head all hurt. And..." he stopped, holding his hand up to motion a delay in the conversation. He paused, panting. Then suddenly, muffled into a tissue came a loud, booming, "KARCHUFF!" Another pause as the man sat perfectly still, in place. Then, "KURCHOFF!"


     Ah. I remembered those well also; they nearly shook the whole ship- no wonder he was worried about not being able to recover quickly. "Arnup'tchow," I blessed him. "Let me find transportation and I'll be there. Can you find some tea or should I track that down as well?"


     The Jedi Knight shrugged, rubbing at his nose. "I dunno."


     I nodded assuring him it was all right. "Just take it easy. I'll be there soon."


     He sniffled into the tissues, "May the force guide you here safely, Tala." And he said it with such an odd look in his eye, as if it were to mean something much different. I couldn't quite place it.


     With a smile, "May the force be with you." After I terminated the connection, I shook my head. Poor guy.


     I was a little hesitant as to where I could actually find transport to M'haeli. It was a popular refueling point for many star systems... perhaps I would get lucky. There were a number of bars at which to purchase umbrella and flower-adorned drinks as well as other trinkets such as holocards, key chains, illegally acquired properties, or tropical wenches. With the number of tradesmen likely to be there, chances were that one of them had to be passing through the expansion region on his way to the outer rim or even wild space. As I mused over the problem, I showered to clean the rest of the sand and lotion off, then packed up my belongings. Better to look ready to go than need to double back for my things. And as I'd only packed a bag of the basics for my vacation, there wasn't much to carry.


     My first and hopefully last stop was a small but popular place that reminded me of the central square of my old space station. There was a floating band fully equipped with hovering cage dancers with chains around their necks. There were many private tables which glowed random colors, beautiful even in the daylight. The whole place was open on two sides, and the high ceiling was merely bushels of large leaves strung together. A few shifty-eyed men sat at the bar, drinking and keeping to themselves. That, I decided as I built up enough courage to barge in, was where I would begin.


     I sat down hard on the bar stool, leaving my bag at my feet and made direct eye contact with the bartender. "A round of Sematrian Sunsets on me," I offered, making it sound both generous and as if people actually ordered that sort of drink on a regular basis. If I wanted to seem bold, I had certainly succeeded as one man at the bar nearly spat out his drink in surprise, while another coughed.


     Another man turned and eyed me from head to toe. "Isn't a drink like that a bit... strong for a man like you?" He had a large gap in his teeth, shown off by a wide, mischievous grin. He was plump and wore thick khaki garments. A cargo pilot if there ever was one.


     I shook my head. "I can assure you I hold my alcohol just fine." Sure I was a skinny bookworm... but several years drifting around the universe had taught me courage meant nothing without a firm stomach to back it up.


     The man who had coughed before turned his head towards me now, his green eyes glowing, eyebrows narrowed at me. "What do you want, little man?"


     As far as height went, I was sure I could compete with anyone there, but I was much thinner than this lot by far. Still, 'little man'? Wasn't that a little dangerous to call a stranger? Good thing I hadn't made it as a Jedi. At any rate, I answered him truthfully. "I have heard that some ships from here might have passage to the expansion region, to M'haeli. For purposes of trade or refueling or whatever else." 


     A snort, and a nod. "Yes, most of us go there. Indeed, it's only a few hours away."


     "Well then... it seems I might have a choice of pilots." The glasses were plunked down and the drinks poured across the bar. As the thick liquid filled the glass as blue, it swirled and turned red and purple in streaks and puffs. It really looked like the sort of sunset they had on Sematra, if you squinted and held the glass up to your face at a close enough distance. I sighed, realizing that Sematra would have been a better choice for a vacation than this place.


     "And we have a choice as well... none of us have to take you anywhere." Said the gruff man, rubbing at his beard in an insecure way.


     I had anticipated this. "Well at what I can pay for such simple passage, I assure you that you would want to."


"So how will you choose?" asked another man, a few down from me, one bushy eyebrow rose with mean-spirited curiosity.


"How about the one who can match me in drinking, or comes the closest, gets the honor; when he's sobered up of course." I picked up my glass and whirled the contents about in it, making it snap and fizz. Colors deepening into rich golds and oranges.


     The man laughed, "Match you?" making it sound absurd that I could drink anything at all. "I ask again, how will you choose?"


     By now, I had already chosen, of course. The man sitting beside me with the thick grin looked quite familiar and I got the sense that he could be trusted... or at least the crew associated with him could. It was an odd feeling I couldn't quite place but one that I put stake into. I lifted my glass to my lips, relaxed my throat, and poured the liquid down quickly. It stung for a moment, but then felt quite pleasant in my mouth. I reached for the bottle and filled it up again, swirled, and gulped. As I caught my breath after the second I looked from side to side at companions who were merely staring at me. "Come on, boys. I've gone through two already."


     The man beside me grinned and drank down one, smiled at me with closed mouth, coughed, and passed me his glass for more. I obliged him and we both watched as the bushy eyebrow man drank down his glass as well, coughing a bit, wincing a lot, but keeping it down. The one who had called me a little man swirled his drink around, gave it a sip, then paused, not sure he wanted to drink it all. He gave it a few moments of thought and then took a gulp. It sat in his mouth a moment, and his eyes widened, watered, then darted around. His other hand snapped up to cover his mouth and he snorted desperately through his nose. Calmly, I scooped the rest of the nuts and pretzels out from the bowl to my right and slid it down the counter to him, just in time. Sick and embarrassed, he turned from us and stumbled from the counter.


     "So it is down to two," I said, reaching over and finishing the man's glass for him, then drinking my own, my fourth. "Am I to expect such slowness on the trip as this? Four to one, men." The drinking contest lasted a few more rounds, stopping as the bushy-eyebrow man gave up on number five. I'd had seven by then and was beginning to feel a little buzzed. The man beside me who I had picked before, was much more intoxicated, swaying a little on his seat, looking a little pale. I gave him a congratulatory pat on the back.


     He smiled, that same wide grin. "So, how much d'you have to pay me?" I held up a small data pad. "One hundred republic credits." That figure was virtually an insult, especially after what he'd just been through to get the job. "So low?"


     Republic credits were not what they once were, especially the further out you got in space. I looked him straight in the eyes, stating plainly, "One hundred credits for two hours of transport to a place you are going anyway is a good deal."


     There was a pause, then the man accepted the transaction. "Yes, one hundred credits is a good deal for two hours travel. And I'm going there already."


     I nodded. Good suggestiveness in this man. I hated to use it for my own benefit, but I really hadn't considered bringing so much with me on the trip in case I met with some unfortunate business. Back in the old days I would not have thought twice about manipulating so I did not have to pay at all... but still I worked out some sort of deal beneficent to both parties. I stood, bringing my bag with me. "We'll give you some time to sober up. Shall we head over to your ship?"


     The man limped slightly, and waddled not so slightly, due to his size. But it was the limp that jogged my memory of the man. He led me up a sloping hill and around a few bends to a popular docking port. On the way, we had ample time to get acquainted. "You looked familiar to me the moment you sat down," he said once we reached the top of the hill.  "Do I know you from somewhere?"


     Smiling, I answered, "I saved your leg from amputation and sewed your organs back into your side," I reached over and patted his side where I knew I'd left a slightly raised scar about a foot long. It was a soft, gentle touch, but I found myself applying a small wave of healing force to it out of instinct. Once a patient...


     His eyes widened. "The doctor on the space station!"


     "Healer Tala D'Marke," I introduced myself, and stuck my hand out for him to shake.


     The man took it with a good grip and shook my arm with it vigorously in both greeting and appreciation. "Well thank you. I'm Marcus Alreia. So what brings you this far out?"


     I didn't want to mention that I hadn't even seen the station in over fifteen years. "Vacation," I told him. "You?"


     He shrugged. "Don't really know. We were hauling cargo between the mid rim and wild space but my ship's first officer insisted we come here for just a little-- oh!" he exclaimed with quite sudden realization. "My first officer, he's sick. Just came down with something. D'you think you could take a look at him?" he sounded concerned.


     I would have at least one hour before we set out and two before arriving and that would give me something to do at least. "Sure, I'd be glad to, Captain." Truth was, I was growing quite eager to feel useful again. And there was nothing to make me feel that any better than someone coming down with something. Seemed even in vacation season these somethings were getting around the galaxy. I would gladly, nobly nurse his first officer back to health, then move on to my friend upon arrival.


     His ship was small, the bulk of it consisting of a cargo hold. The cockpit was cramped and really only big enough for two people to comfortably fit. But she was a beautiful ship, especially as she was to get me where I needed to be. I was given a spot to store my bag, and a security droid was assigned to me, to follow me about and be sure I did not get near anything I was not supposed to see. It had been a while since my days of hopping cargo ships and freighters and whatever else I could find, exchanging service and skills for passage. It had been a while since I was so untrusted as to need a security droid to shadow me. But it did make me rather nostalgic for my renegade years.


     It took me straight to the first officer's quarters by what I assume must have been the most direct route. And it waited outside as I knocked and entered at the admittance buzzer. Not the most comforting feeling in the world; I could easily have been ambushed and murdered as I walked in. But the whole situation had such a strange feeling about it that I couldn't help but trust in it all.


     I heard a sneeze as I entered, "Eachishh!" followed by some coughing which was partially drowned out by the sound of the door closing behind me.


     That strange feeling intensified, building on the remarkable fact that while I was clearly hearing symptoms of sickness, I sensed no ill parties in the room. Whoever was in there, was certainly not sick. As I walked forward, towards a lit lamp on the far side of the room, the strange feeling melted into warm familiarity and I suddenly found myself staring into the face of a man I perhaps least expected to see. "Arnoldi?"


     The Jedi nodded, welcoming me forward to him with a wave. "Undercover," he answered with a smile. "Gon-Show is my contact in the expansion region and the outer rim, and he thought I might be of help in providing transport. Looks like it worked?" The man looked as light and bubbly as he always sounded. He could charm a saber off a Sith. His hair was a light green, hanging from his head to his chin in waves and curls. His skin was a soft peach, and rounded facial features made him always look to be smiling. The only way to determine his mood was to look into his eyes, which changed often to many shades between red for anger, purple for pleasure, and a sort of rainbow for confusion.


     Unable to keep from smiling in his presence, I replied, "Would have been nice if he'd told me. I got here by coincidence using my own means." Had it really been coincidence? Neither Arnoldi nor I seemed to believe that. I paused, scanning him very briefly. "So this means you're not sick?"


     The man shook his head. "Not at all." Then immediately read me. "Oh, Tala! You're disappointed!" He dramatically laid a hand on his heart and his eyes changed to a teal sort of sympathy and amusement.


     I nodded back. "I've had a perfectly boring vacation thus far. I badly need to feel useful again." Suddenly, a wave of fear passed through me. "Wait! Is Gon-Show--"


     "Sick?" he finished for me. "Yes, quite I'm afraid. He had to send half of his last message to me in print because he was sneezing too much. And such loud sneezes he has! Poor guy." I agreed. "I only put on this act so that you and I might have some time alone together on the journey. And I wanted to meet with you first alone so that you would not run into me another way, recognize me, and ruin my cover." He waved me to a seat and before taking his across from me, went close to the door and gave a few hard coughs and another rather juicy loud sneeze for the droid's sake.


     "So," I said, relaxing into my chair across from my friend, "why are you stationed here?"


     The Jedi explained to me all about some illegal business dealings along the trade route and how he had been sent to observe and report back about them, as first goal. He was of course unable to discuss the details and further goals of his position, but the plain certainly seemed to involve the republic directly.


     We had a brilliant chat, with me catching him up on all things back on Coruscant, and with him faking a nice variety of coughs and sneezes for the droid's benefit, until we neared the end of our journey. I had to admit, he played sick very convincingly, even if he did have a very suggestible captain. I joined the captain in the cockpit for the last leg, explaining that his first officer had a minor cold that would be clearing up rather soon. He seemed most delighted at the news but still kept his eye on me as I leaned against the back of the room, careful not to look suspicious or touch anything at all.


     The two hour journey barely lasted two hours, and we docked at the refueling station on M'haeli in no time. Arnoldi had supplied me with the coordinates of Gon-Show's residence and a rudimentary map of the general area. It didn't take long to find a hover cab passing through, and I took it into the center of town as the location directed. The trip was short but gorgeous. Flat plains of snow at least a person's height deep, spreading for miles around. When a wind rose, the snow picked up in a beautiful display of flurries dancing in swirls and twirls over the ground. The mountains surrounding the developments were quite beautiful, but so high that even leaning toward the bottom of the car's window I could not see their tops. The main city was right on the edge of the mountains, a logical spot to place a development, really, and there was no spot more logical to look for the Jedi Ambassador than in the city's great hall. There were a number of dwellings in the city, but the great hall dwarfed them in comparison. It was enormous, rising out of the snow in brilliant blues and golds, towering over everything nearby, save the mountains themselves. It was as we neared the hall that I had my first sensation that Gon-Show was nearby, so I asked the driver to indeed leave me there. I paid and tipped well and collected my bag, slinging it over my shoulder as I walked in.


     There was minimal security for the building. A simple scan of my prints proved my identity and status, and I was allowed to enter. Such an important public building seemed more of a centerpiece or showcase than a business office. As I worked my way into the center of the building, the sensation grew stronger in me, until I was entirely certain Gon-Show was there. And when I'd climbed up the stairs to the floor with the great conference room, I heard a clear voice in my head. //Tala?//


     Unable to answer telepathically, I nodded. Of course he would not be able to see me, but perhaps he could get a sense of my emotional response.


     The voice continued. //Tala, you needn't come in. I'll be done later tonight. I'll meet you at the coordinates specified.//


            But even the voice sounded uncertain and as a healer I could already sense his great discomfort. He needed medical attention. He needed rest. He needed a rescue, whether he wanted it or not. And if that's what he needed, that's what I'd give him. With a deep breath, I opened the double doors dramatically and stepped into the great conference room.


     The hall was simple but elegant and grand just the same, with high ceilings and wall moldings and the table as the center-point. The great meeting table stretched the length of the room, with gently curving sides and two bold, definitive ends. There was a giant glowing globe which hovered a good four feet above the table, covered in vast land masses, spinning as slowly as the planet itself was rotating. The globe was alive, snow falling from a point in the air onto much of it, mountains rising high off the face, and moons spun around the whole body at perfect distances, perfectly in synch. At what was the front of the room, to my left, there was a small platform, behind which were a multitude of consoles and screens that could be raised and lowered at will. And in front of these stood two officials, decked out in flowing blue robes, who seemed to be controlling the current presentation of the moment. But standing in the front against the wall doing much of the explaining was none other than my current charge, my newly-found responsibility, Jedi Knight Gon-Show. He skipped a moment in speech at my entrance, so quick that hardly anyone might have noticed. But his eyes rather than his voice did the deceiving, and many in the conference room followed his gaze to the center doors, to where I stood. I nodded, then gave a bit of a bow, wishing I'd asked someone something of the rituals of M'haeli. I'd been there once before, but never been involved in anything this formal.


     Gon-Show, as if on some dreadful cue, lifted his arm up to his face, burying his nose and mouth in the crook of his arm. "Arashhh! Karchushh!" Certainly not the loud sneezes I was used to hearing from him, but sounding quite restrained, painful, and unnatural at that. If I had not been previously convinced at his needing a rescue, I certainly was now.


     To quickly distract them from the sneezing Jedi, I spoke what I'd been rehearsing on the trip over. However, it certainly did not come out as easily and regally as the voice in my head had made it sound. "My name is Tala D'Marke, and I'm a healer for the Jedi on Coruscant. I've come to take Jedi Gon-Show to bed to rest; he isn't well."


     There were a few snickers, some confused looks, and a number of hushed conversations amongst the delegation and officials. One of the men at the front of the room spoke, "I didn't know the Jedi healers made house calls now."


     I nodded. "Oh yes, we have for some time," thinking of the Aesculapius. "When the need is there, of course." As there was now. "I am very sorry to disrupt the proceedings, and sorrier to deprive you of his fine expertise, but I assure you it is necessary and I have traveled a very long way."


     There was a bit of debate among the leaders, with Gon-Show himself insisting he could continue as needed. But when all things were said and done, I found myself pulling a sniffley Jedi out of the room by his sleeve, and restating my apologies for the disruption.


     When we got outside the room and the doors were firmly shut behind us, he sighed. "Tala, you really didn't, sniff, sniff, need to... ahhh..." He raised his arm again, burying his nose snugly in the bend. "Arushhhh! Karchushhhh! Kutchushooo!" He snuffled, rubbing his nose back and forth, sniffing strongly, pulling back with good gulp of breath. "But I'm rather glad you did."


     "Arnup'tchow. Come..." I looked around for somewhere we could go to sit for a moment. I needed to assess his ailment a little more thoroughly and he was putting up quite a defense at present. Jedi colds could sometimes be dangerous, passing from Jedi to Jedi telepathically. But usually healing trances and normal meditation prevented frequent transmissions. For beings who were not as skilled at healing and resistance, a Jedi's cold could pass to them easily and linger in a very powerful state. I certainly could not blame the man for putting up such a nice force field of sorts. "Come, let's sit a moment." I dragged him to a window seat, setting us both on the cushion sideways, face-to face.


     He shivered, sitting back against the wall. "Thank you, I needed a moment's rest."


     I nodded, looking him over, sensing him. Something was making him uneasy, and it was neither his work nor his health. "Are you all right?"


     He shrugged, wiping his nose with a bit of his cuff, clutched in his fist to direct it. "They're at it again," and he nodded rather nonchalantly towards the window. Seeing nothing wrong with the window itself, I peered out of it, gazing upon simply ordinary blankets of snow over the lawn. "Look down," he added, and as soon as I'd done so, I pulled right back in surprise. There were men, dozens of men, scaling the walls.


Alarmed and concerned for our immediate safety, I quickly inquired "Can they get in?" Whatever the answer, I still inched back from the window.


     Before he could answer my question, or perhaps in lieu of his answer, there was a giant explosion on the side of the building. I forgot completely about safety and jumped to look down, concerned for the lives for the men. And though they were all backing off, not one looked at all wounded, and no damage had been done to the building.


     Gon-Show shook his head, sniffling. "They try this every day. Sometimes they manage to chip off a little paint, but there's never any further damage... done..." He drew a sharp breath and raised his arm. "Karashhhh! UhhhShushh!"


     "Arnup'tchow." The unnaturalness of his sneezes was starting to worry me. I dug a handkerchief out of my pocket and handed it over with a smile. A concerned, worried smile, but a smile just the same. I reached up, placing my palm against the curve of his forehead, under a layer of bouncing bangs. "You're fighting a fever," I stated, pushing his bangs up, flipping them back, then letting them fall forwards into place again.


     He nodded. "And it's winning. I'm much worse than I let on." He didn't look so great, but he didn't look feverish either. His nose was a bit pinkened at the end, his eyes a bit tired, his skin a bit pale. But his face was bright, alert, his hair neatly combed to his ears and parted down the middle.


     I stood, tugging him to his feet. "Come. Back to your quarters with you, then."


     He shook his head. "I am glad for the moment's rest, but I do need to mediate the remainder of the proceedings for the day. I'm the appointed delegate. I need--"


     "And I need you in bed. If you could handle this yourself, you would not have called me all this way to you. I'm the healer here, and I say we're going to your quarters so you may lie down."


     "Tala..." he didn't get a chance to finish, raising his arm again, wheezing a moment before the sneezes struck, "Ershahhhh! Kurchashhhh!" A pause, he froze, waiting, freezing. "ehhh-KETCHhhhh!"


     "Arnup'tchow." I dug another handkerchief out. It smelt of sun screen and beach but was otherwise clean. I doubted that he could smell much of anything in his present condition anyway. "Here you go."


     He took it, wiping then blowing his nose delicately, and handing it back. But after that, I refused the gesture and insisted he keep it. The poor guy looked beaten. "Back to bed with you, Gonsh."


     Hesitantly, he agreed to rise, and then gave me a nod. "I have a hover car in the back lot if you can drive." He snuffled into the handkerchief as we headed out towards the lot. "And Tala?" he looked up from the ground to me. "Thank you for rescuing me."


     I patted him on the back of his head. "You can thank me when you start feeling better." Though I had a feeling he would need to feel worse before he could begin to feel any better. "Besides," I added as we took a hover platform over to the car, "my vacation was getting a little stale." I helped him climb into the vehicle, then he used a hand to help me in.


     It had been a while since I'd driven a hover car, and certainly not one of this particular make and model. He helped me familiarize myself with the controls and then sat back, sniffling and trying not to fall right to sleep; he needed to tell me where to go after all. And even as I jerked the car forward out of the space and sailed it with a few bumps toward a highway, he remained rather calm and trusting, giving me directions then dozing in and out of sleep. In was filled with snores and heavy breathing. While out was accompanied by sneezes. Neither sounded very pleasant for him, and I was glad when I found myself parking at what he said would be his residence. The small building was in a government housing sector, where apparently they put up important dignitaries and the like. There were a large cluster of similar-looking dwellings as far as I could see in any direction, and patrol cars zipping around a fair distance above them all. I reached over and shook him gently to wake him. And once he had coughed a few times and blown his nose, we were all set to disembark.


     I took my bag with me and he opened the door by swiping a card and pressing his face close to a retinal scanner. "They once used hand scans for identity matching," he told me as it processed with a loud whirring. "But this presented two problems. First, it can get so cold here that most of us get bundled up in poofy coats and thick gloves. And second, there was a visiting dignitary from an outer-rim planet who had no hands, just tentacles and fins." I certainly couldn't blame them for the coat and gloves issue, outside the car, standing outside the building, it was freezing. The wind tore past us, not caring that we stood in its way, and a light layer of snow was continuously falling; it was a sharp contrast to the heat of the beach, that's for certain. The door finally clicked open, and we quickly slipped in. "Welcome to my house," he said, depositing his robes on a rack by the door. "Excuse the mess, I'm sick."


     To call his place a mess would have been kind. To the left was a sitting room with couch, vid console, entertainment unit, and some chairs. There was a small table in the middle, the surface of which could not be seen for the plates and bowls, utensils and cups, and the tissues layering everything. The couch and floor had their share of used tissues as well, but they were mostly covered in blankets and items of clothing. There was a kitchen just past the sitting room, with dishes piled in the sink and trash bags sitting out on the floor though tied up. "You are the same Jedi who lived out of a trunk on a tiny med ship for so many years, right?"


     He nodded, taking my light coat and hanging it neatly in an almost empty closet He shrugged out of his own, letting it fall to the floor of the closet. He sniffled, rubbing his nose with the handkerchief. Gon-Show folded it, then turned it over, searching for a dry spot. His eyes narrowed, his breath raced. And he lifted what he had to his nose and mouth, steadying himself with a hand on the wall. "ARASHHOO! KURCHUSHHH! KETCHUHH!"


     Now, that sounded more like the Jedi I remembered. "Arnup'tchow. I'll go get a drink for you. I want you to go to your bedroom and sit down on the bed so I can take a better look at you. I'll join you in just a moment." The man obeyed, heading to the right where two doors stood ajar. One was the 'fresher by evidence of the shower stall and toilet I could make out. The other had a bed peaking out in the open doorway.


     The contents of his fridge were dismal, sparse at best. There was a bit of juice left, enough for an almost full glass for him. His fever was high, and he was dehydrated, whether he could tell right now or not. He was using his powers well to suppress his symptoms but that was only prolonging the illness and he wouldn't be able to continue along that line much longer.


     When I got to his bedroom, I found him sitting on the bed, bent forward slightly, with arms in his lap to prop him up, and his eyes closed. He looked up as I entered, and rubbed at his nose rather roughly.


     "Just relax, Gonsh, I'm here, ok?"


     He nodded, "I've been fighting this cold for so long. I just want to feel better." He accepted the drink and sipped it, then wiped his nose on his cuff, perhaps having given up on what I was sure was now a completely used handkerchief.


     "Well, to feel better, you're going to need to stop holding back so much. Can you tell me what you've been doing to control this?"


     Gon-Show nodded. "I've been meditating a lot, started out just a few minutes in the morning but that wasn't enough and I'm up to much longer now. Three hours in the morning. Two at night before bed. Sniff, sniff! I didn't want the delegates to find out, but the cold just kept getting worse and worse."


     I nodded, quite impressed at the time and effort he had expended to cover his ailment. I often advise the Jedi to meditate daily towards healing. A good healing trance at the start of a bug can usually drive it away completely, or at the least decrease its severity. But very few every follow my advice to the letter; even Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, when given the chance, choose to sleep rather than meditate with a constantly runny nose and the sneezes. But this man was a great example to them all. "So you learned something on the Aesculapius after all? And to think, I always thought you were just the hired muscle." I checked out his eyes, nose, mouth more carefully.


     He smiled, giving a cough. "Tala, can you help me... to give in?"


     Ah, good for him. Admittance was always the hardest part. He didn't look or sound too bad at all, but he knew that as soon as he gave into it, stopped fighting and allowed it to run its course, it would not be such a pretty picture. I nodded, taking his hands in mine, sitting down on the bed beside him. I closed my eyes and pushed gently, sending a warm wave of healing to him. And he pulled, easing the wall down slowly, carefully. And eventually, it did come down, toppling over.


     I didn't realize how long it had taken until I opened my eyes and saw the change of light that was streaming through his bedroom window. An hour and a half is what it had been. When Gon-Show opened his eyes, he sniffled and coughed. "I feel horrible," he croaked, raising a hand loosely. "ehhh-ERASHOO! KETCHUSHOO! KARCHUSHHH!" He wiped his hand on his pants leg and groaned.


     When I sensed him this time, he seemed far worse. Everything ached, everything was hot. His temperature had risen in addition to having his fever displaying symptoms now. He shivered a little, sniffling. I stood and brought his blanket up around his shoulders, rubbing his arms through them.


     He pulled away from me, cupping both hands to his nose and mouth, rather panicked. "ehh... heh-KATCHOO! CHUSHHH! KUTCHUSHH!" But the sneezes did not stop at three, and as he sneezed again, the blanket fell from his shoulders, and he fell forward in place. He steadied himself with a hand on the bed, holding the other tightly over nose and mouth. "ARR-SHUSHHH! KETCHOFF! KARCHUFF! KESHESHHH!"


     Sensing he was quite finished for the moment, I picked him up so to speak. I eased him back, reaching over him to the tissue box and setting it on his lap. I forced a tissue on him, and tugged the blanket back around his shoulders. "There you are, Gonsh." I held my hand against his forehead, then his cheek. He needed more liquids, and he needed rest.


     He snuffled with a yawn, which turned into a firm shiver. "You did't habbed to brig addy of that tea you gave us od the shib, did you?"


     I shook my head. "I'll take a spin around the town a little later and pick up some food. But we'll be hard-pressed to find any Ryanth Root all the way out here at this moment of time." At least not in the stores. "Besides, until your fever drops all you're allowed are juice and water. Teas like that have caffeine and will just dehydrate you more in this condition."


     He nodded. "Cad I get udder the covers? Are you fidished yet?"


     I shrugged. "I'm all done, but wouldn't you like to get changed first?"


     He snuffled, taking up another tissue and blowing his nose. "I just wadt a dap," he said, sounding simply exhausted.


     I tried not to laugh at his stuffy pronunciations. Poor guy. "If I were to use your car to go buy some food and such, would I be able to get back in here without waking you up?"


     Caught between the answer and the warm, inviting bed, he froze in thought. Then, he nodded, pushing off, standing up. "I cad brograb you a guest card."


     I escorted him back over to the door. He leaned on the wall as he entered a variety of commands into the panel on its side. Before long, his eyes closed, and his fingers slowed on the keypad. He pulled back, covering, turning away from me. "AR-CHUSHHH! KETCHUSHH! HEPTUSHHH!"


     "Arnup'tchow," I said softly, patting his back. I was inconveniencing him; not a good start. "Look, it's all right. I'll just go another time--"


     He shook his head, rubbing his hand on the back of his neck. "I'b ub, just let be do this while I still have the edergy." The guy certainly did have a point there. I allowed him to continue, and not moments later, he pulled back, motioning to the eye reader. "Give it a try."


     I stepped up to the plate, and immediately I could feel the scanner zipping out against my eye. It was a strange sensation, like a tickling on my eyeball itself but just on the outer portion. And as quickly as it had begun, it was over. I stepped back as numbers and words flew by on the panel's screen.


     Gon-Show entered in a few more commands, then out of the plating at the bottom shot a small, sleek card. "The database has information of everyode frob the rebulic id it, so I dod't deed ad official to verify. You're cleared add... add ready." He forked-over the card and leaned on the wall again, burying his face into his arm. "KERCHESHH! KEHHCHUFFF! KAHCHISHHH! HERCHARSHH!"


     "Arnup'tchow." I patted him on the back as he snuffled into his sleeve. After ducking into the kitchen briefly, I returned with a tall glass of water. With a hand on the small of his back, I eased him back into the bedroom. "Now, I want you to take that nap." He was striping off his shirt as we walked, undoing his belt, leaving the clothes on the ground in a trail. "And I want you to drink this entire glass of water by the time I return." He nodded, and promised he would. Off came his trousers, then his socks and underpants. I did my best to look away as he rummaged through his drawers for clean items to sleep in, though it wasn't anything I'd not seen before; I was a doctor after all. I helped him on with the clothes and pulled back his blankets, straightening them out. "You'll be all right by yourself if I leave?"


     He eased into the bed, and I covered him up. "I'll survive." He didn't sound too happy about it, but I sensed he was at least being honest.


     "All right. Drink up and get some sleep. And above all, relax. You need to let it run its course now." I paused, tucking the blankets around him, patting his shoulder. "I promise I'll be back in no time at all with goodies." The Jedi Knight nodded, sniffling into the pillow, closing his eyes.



He would be all right without me, I wasn't worried about that. What I was growing worried about was driving his car alone and acquiring the items I wanted. I started out by finding the closest clinic that was big enough to have rare medicines. I zipped over there, barely missing a freighter ship passing through to refuel along the way. But I arrived with the car unmarked and unscathed and parked carefully next to an emergency vehicle that didn't look like it had seen much use.


     To say the place was crowded would be an understatement. But to say it was packed would be a bit of an overstatement. What it was, was busy. There were just barely enough seats for waiting patients, and both droids and nurses seemed quite disproportionate. I headed for the main desk, which was built on a platform in the center of the room to make it stand out among the sick. The receptionist looked down at me through two sets of glasses. "Yesssss?" she let the snakish sound die down to a soft hiss before stopping.


     Seemed I was starting to get used to introducing myself. "My name is Tala D'Marke. I'm a Healer for the Jedi on Coruscant. I was wondering if I might speak professionally with a medic or doctor for a few minutes about some supplies I need?"


     Predictably and unfortunately, she shook her head. "It's a very busy afternoon, and all the doctors are occupied for the rest of the day. If you'd care to make an appointment we can see you in a week."


     Well, that simply would not do. I looked her straight in the eyes, concentrating. "Where are their offices?"


     She stared straight back, not blinking or moving. "Offices down the hall to the right. Exam rooms to the left. Labs and supply rooms straight back."


     I reached up and patted her hand. "Thank you. I'll go see them now then."


     The woman nodded. "Very good, you do that."


     I'd already decided to make it up to them for that, and I was feeling bad for needing so much of a busy doctor's time. From my years on the space station, I knew what pains unscheduled interruptions could be. Through the double doors and at the end of the hallway I turned right, and headed right into the empty office of a one Dr.Brunum. He or she had a very unthreatening-sounding name, I thought. I took a seat in front of the desk and sat back. All there was left to do was wait and rehearse what to say in my mind.


     I didn't have much time for that, though, as a white-coated figure I could only assume was Dr.Brunum walked in. He had a stack of folders in his hands and looked quite beat. "Who are you? Why're you here?" He narrowed his eyes at me. "I don't remember you being one of my patients. I'm Dr.Barnum," he pointed to his nametag, "are you looking for one of the other physicians?"


     I shrugged. "Looking for whoever can help me. I'll just take a few short minutes of your time." With a deep breath, I introduced myself as a Jedi Healer once more. Then I went on to explain my situation. "I've traveled all the way out here to take care of a sick Jedi Knight who's been an ambassador helping with the peace negotiations. He's got a very high fever and terrible congestion." I leaned in to emphasize the importance of my request. "I would be grateful to get just a little bit of Ryanth Root for some tea."


     He laughed, sitting down at his desk. "And why should I believe you?"


     I shrugged. "Because I could very easily use a Jedi mind trick to get you to walk over to the supply room six doors down and get me anything I needed. And because of all the things I could possibly request, Ryanth Root is certainly not the most harmful. And," I put a hand on the table. "And because I'm a Healer." I dug around in my pocket, pulling out my identification card and the two health cards I always carried, one from the space station, the other from the Aesculapius. They were universal medic cards, etched in metal with the standard seal of an interworld medical association right beside the information.


     The man, still wary, and rightfully so, ran my identification card through his computer. "Your identity and authorization clears," he said, handing it all back to me. He sat back, relaxing, from what I could sense. "So what was it you needed?"


     "Ryanth Root, for tea."


     He nodded, but did not speak. From the look in his eyes and his furrowed brow, it seemed he was thinking quite hard about this. Which meant that they did indeed have some.


     And which meant it was time for me to make my offer. "Look, I'll make it easy for you. The root. I don't need very much, just enough for a few doses. I'll gladly pay for its value. And I'm most willing to work a few hours here just to help out. It seems a bit busy out there and I'd be happy to check out a few patients in exchange. My charge is currently taking a much needed nap, so I can spare the time."


     While he seemed to be thinking during the first half of my deal, his eyes lit up on the second half. Quickly, he stuck his hand out. "You've got a deal. The root's difficult to come by these days out here, but for the staff assistance alone we would be glad to part with our whole limited supply."


     I smiled, squeezing his hand as I shook it firmly. "I really don't need much, but thank you."


     "Well, what you need, you'll get." He had the widest smile I think I've ever seen on a man. "Now..." he handed me a section out of his stack of folders. "I'll watch your first of course and we'll take it from there. All right?"


     Laughing, "All right." As much work as this seemed, it would certainly be nice to deal with non-Jedi patients again. Don't get me wrong, I am fortunate for my position and my friends, and I enjoy my work. But most sicknesses are rarely seen, so the majority of patients I see suffer from minor sprained wrists or at most broken ankles from training mistakes. It would be good variety, a nice change of pace. Just what a vacation was meant for.


     As we walked out together, he stopped me, looking inquisitive. "So this Jedi has a head cold?"


     I nodded. "Some sort, with a fever. I expect it's just a tough virus that's going around."


     To which he asked, "Ryanth Root?" It was true, there were a number of known herbs and manufactured medicines that claimed to ease the symptoms of a cold, some much easier to come by especially with things as they were now with trade.


     "Just my style, I guess. Everybody has their favorite treatments." Just out of curiosity, I thought to ask. "What's popular here now-a-days?"


     The good doctor laughed. "Pretty much anything we can get; cold season has hit pretty hard this year. We usually prescribe some mild painkillers for fever... trimeniziene or plankyon... then herbs like Bondizi or Fother to lessen symptoms..." he went on and I took mental notes.


     Dr.Barnum called the first of my patients out from the waiting room and introduced me on the walk to Examining Room 4 as a remarkable visiting doctor from Coruscant. Then he waited outside the door, listening as I took a look at the patient. But I worked as I would normally, eager to show my skills.


     With my first patient, it did not seem I would be lucky enough to get some variation. He was dressed in sweats, hands buried in the pockets, trudging in rather reluctantly with a pale face and a discouraged expression. "So how are we today?" I asked, patting the examining table lightly to indicate where he should sit.


     The man shrugged but hopped up onto the table, legs spread, trying to look at ease. The tough guy type. "My wife brought me in. It's just a sniffle."


     How many times had I heard that just before a patient got sick on me? Still, I nodded and started slow to match him. "How long have you had it?"


     "Three days," he answered as he cleared his throat. It sounded scratchy, sore. And he looked embarrassed, and perhaps a bit annoyed with himself at the same time.


     I attempted to reassure him, put him at ease. "Well, I'm sure your wife was just being overprotective."


     It had the anticipated reaction- the man gave a light chuckle and relaxed around me. He looked a bit worn out in all, his breathing heavy, and I found as I neared that I could sense everything in him from an upcoming sneeze to a mild fever. As I laid a hand on his stomach for his heartbeat, I felt the flash of his ailment run though me unrestrained. What he had was certainly more than a small sniffle.          I left him for a moment, taking a few tissues from the box on the counter and handing them over in perfect timing.


     "hehh-tshhhett! heh-shheshhh!"


     "Arnup'tchow," I replied, rather preoccupied with sensing the extent of his congestion. It hadn't yet settled in his chest, but it was worsening. I'd forgotten how much easier it was to sense non-Jedi; I simply needed to be a few inches away.


     "What's that?" he asked, sniffling into the tissues he held in one hand.


     "What's what? Oh, the bless you. It's from a planet much further out than this one, from a very medically aware tribal culture."


     He nodded, eyes closing, looking panicked, expectant, raising his tissue-clad fist to mouth and nose. I turned and beckoned the tissue box over to me. I let it settle on the exam bench beside him. He was in mid-sneeze at this point, with a deep, heavy, full breath in. "Hehhhh-heshooo! heh-Tishh-uhh!" He pitched forward, swaying weakly in the aftermath as he caught his breath and rubbed his nose. I took my hand and eased him back. Unsteadily he leaned back, coughed, and then opened his eyes, suddenly looking much weaker and much more tired all around.


     "Let's incline this for you, all right? You'll be more comfortable as I finish examining." He nodded, seeming in no position to disagree. The ends of the exam table had hinges and could be raised or lowered as the occasion saw fit. I held his shoulders with both hands gently, comfortingly as I used what few powers I retained from being a Jedi to force one end up a few notches. Then I guided him to turn, and lean back, which he did with a sigh and a shiver, crossing his arms over his chest. He was weak, unsure of himself, and I began to feel glad his wife had had the sense to bring him in. "Felt feverish at all?" I was a little unfamiliar with the more primitive medical tools displayed on the counter in the room, but I did know how to use the thermometer.


     He nodded. "First hot, then cold, then both at the same time." I nodded, understanding and conveying my sympathy through my eyes as I gently guided the thermometer into his mouth, below his tongue. I counted the time out in my head, using the natural sense of rhythm I had always been thankful for. He was very good about the wait, closing his eyes, sniffling quite a lot, but not making any other sounds. Well, not until I placed my hand on his forehead. It had been my attempt at cooling him a little there, making him comfortable as he waited, at least helping his headache a bit. But when I did so, he expelled a rather abrupt gasp, and flinched so that I quickly retracted. He opened his eyes and shook his head. "Fesh goot," he managed around the thermometer, looking over at my hand. I believe that translated to 'Feels good.' So I laid it back on him gently, and he closed his eyes again, looking much more comfortable.


     His temperature turned out to be one hundred and twenty-seven, but I had treated beings from M'haeli before. "Slight fever," I informed him, taking my hand down. I didn't need to examine him any further as I could sense him quite clearly, so I dispensed with the usual routine check. The man looked tired, and so comfortable that I feared he might fall asleep then and there. So I attempted to keep him awake while I disposed of the used supplies. "What do you do for a living?"


     There was a sneeze coming, and I could sense it, but he didn't seem to mind or perhaps was yet unaware of it. "I work out in the mines, regulating the work and... and..." he could certainly feel it now. I handed him a tissue and patted his arm comfortingly as he heaved a deep breath. "heh-Tushh! hek-eshhhh! huh-Teshhhh!"


     "Arnup'tchow." More tissues were handed over for blowing, then I disposed of them promptly.


     "And safety," he said weakly.


     "Excuse me?"


     "I regulate work and safety," he clarified, sniffling.


     Feeling silly not to have understood the first time, I continued with my line of questioning. "Well, is there anyone to take your place? Because I'm going to advise you stay home for the next three days, at least until your fever goes down."


     Sniffling, he looked up at me, "I'b sick?"


     Nodding, "Just a little more than a sniffle. I'm going to recommend some meds to take to lower your fever but the least you can do is just rest, stay warm, and drink a lot of fluids." I handed him a small slip of paper with a prescription based on the meds Dr. Barnum had mentioned and my signature. I sensed him once more and smiled, writing him out a second prescription. "This one is to be filled by your wife. You need to be pampered and kept in bed." I signed it as well.


     He smiled, folding and slipping them into his front pocket. "I think she can handle that."


     "Good," I sat him up, stuffing some tissues into his hands for the trip home. "Feel better, buddy." And I sent him a small, subtle wave of healing energy.


     He swayed, hopping down from the table, but I wrapped my arm around his shoulders and held him steady until he was more stable on his feet. "Thanks," he said, "I feel better already Doctor..."


     "Healer," I corrected him. "Healer Tala D'Marke."


     The man nodded, rubbed his nose, and made for the door. He paused, leaning against the doorframe, lifting hand to nose and mouth. "heh-Cheshhh! Heh-Teshhhh!"


     "Arnup'tchow!" I called out, as I washed my hands thoroughly in the sink.


 "Healer?" he called, turning in the doorway, leaning back into the room. I stopped the water, drying my hands with a paper towel, and looked up with a nod. "Can you take care of me the next time I get sick?"


     I laughed. "It's a bit of a distance for me to travel, but," I pulled out a third prescription sheet and scribbled my contact information thereon. "You can call me any time, all right?"


     The man nodded his thank you, taking the prescription and heading down the hall, escorted by Dr. Barnum, who assured me I could have as many patients as I liked for as long as I wanted to work.


     In the span of two hours, I saw six patients with some sort of cold or flu virus, set four broken bones, stitched up three minor cuts, delivered some breathing therapy to one young woman, applied some ointment to triplets with rashes, and treated a case of the hiccups. In all, it felt quite rewarding to be needed again. I left with a dozen thank you's on both sides, my promise to return again on my next vacation, directions to the nearest food store, and a large canister of crushed root. 


     I found the grocery store without a problem, and the items I needed weren't too difficult to find, either. There wasn't much in the way of tea, but there were a number of different juices. The variety in the store was quite interesting, both foods that were typical to any store in the republic, as well as many interesting foods native to M'haeli, and also an assortment of exotic foods to be found only in the expansion region. And not everything here could easily be paid for using republic credits. I suddenly began to wonder what sort of trade deals were going on in the area, and began to feel glad that Jedi Arnoldi was keeping an eye on things.


     I had no trouble getting back into Gon-Show's residence, and made sure to lock the door behind me once I entered. Before I could make my way to the bedroom to see if the Jedi was awake, my question was answered for me. From the bedroom I heard two rather loud sneezes, "KARTCHASHHH! KERCHESHHH!" Then telepathically, I heard, //Tala?//


     "Yes, it's just me!" I called into the bedroom in answer. "I'll just put the food away and then I'll be right with you." And I was, brining with me a tall glass of juice and ice for him. "How're you feeling?" I asked, rather disappointed at my inability to sense him as well as my last ten or twenty patients.


     Gon-Show managed to sit up in bed, propped on one elbow as I entered. "I fidished the water." He nodded towards the empty glass on the night table.


     "Good job. I'll go get you some more, and I've brought some fresh juice for you right now." I helped him sip a little, then eased him back down on his back. I sat on the edge, feeling his forehead, his cheeks, his pulse. "Fever's rising," I remarked. "I'll get you a nice cool cloth for your head, ok? Are you warm enough? Did you manage to get some sleep while I was gone?"


     He nodded, sniffling, and looking a bit overwhelmed at my many questions. "I could use sub bore... sleeb..." he reached over to the tissues, brining a wad of three to his nose and mouth. "KAHCHESHHH! KERSHESHOOO! KERHECHHHHAH!" snapping forward for each, and then falling back against the bed in exhaustion and frustration. "By eyes are hot and burdig with tireddess." Not to mention dehydration, I sensed. "But by dose... just keebs ticklig." Before he could sneeze again, he gave his nose a good blowing and a good rubbing.


     I nodded. I didn't want to give him tea just now; he needed more fluids to help bring down his fever and tea wouldn't help for that. But there was something I could do. I retrieved a damp cloth from the bathroom, and another pillow from the linen closet therein. I gently applied the first to his forehead, and gently eased the other under his head. He sniffled, rubbing his nose with his wrist. But before the sneezes could work themselves up, and before he could say anything else, I urged him to close his eyes and take a deep breath. With one hand on his forehead and the other on his chest, I eased him into a light sleep, which was the best I could manage with such a strong Jedi as he. At least he'd get a little more rest.


     Gon-Show's bed was enormous, perhaps the standard size for standard housing, anticipating occupants who are a couple. But I took advantage none-the-less and, bringing with me my writing notebook and pen, I lay down on the bed opposite the Jedi Knight. I monitored him closely, despite the fact that I was finally getting some quality writing done. I pulled down a blanket or two when I sensed he was too warm, and re-dampened the cloth on his head quite frequently when it matched the temperature of his forehead.


     After a while, I put my notebook aside completely. He was slipping deeper into a fevered unconsciousness, and beginning to move about a bit in bed, restlessly. He would call out mentally as well as mumble or grunt every so often. Nothing I could recognize, just fragments of words or phrases in different languages. I did my best to keep him cool, especially his neck, forehead, cheeks. And I talked to him softly, soothingly, trying to comfort him. I wet his lips and tongue with ice cubes, careful not to let him choke on the water. And while I felt helpless against the virus running through him, I also felt very glad that he had called me to be with him through it. It scared me to think of my friend attempting to go at this alone.


     After a few hours of worry, his fever finally broke. I kept the blankets down and wiped the sweat off his face. He could use a change of clothes, and a change of sheets for that matter, but I hesitated to wake him up before he was ready. He woke on his own late at night, long after I'd had dinner beside him, long after any decent movies would have been on. He looked startled for a moment, disoriented, confused as to my presence. //Tala?//


     "There now," I comforted him, patting his leg. "Your fever finally broke. You'll start feeling better very soon." Truth was, he probably had another day or two of congestion to deal with, but that was certainly less worrisome. I helped him drink down half a glass of water slowly, then suggested he get changed for bed while I changed his sheets. "Hungry?" I asked, stuffing his linens into a hamper and unfolding fresh ones.


     He shook his head. //Not really, just tired. Kinda thirsty still.// He paused a moment, leaning against the bureau. "ehh-HEHSHOO! KERCHUSHOOO! KETCHOO!"


     "Arnup'tchow", helping him back into bed, pulling clean sheets and blankets up to his waist as he sat up. "Juice or water, Gonsh?"


     The Jedi shrugged, sniffed. //Juice, I guess.//


     I got him a tall glass with ice, and a small package of crackers as well. Sitting down on the side of his bed, I felt his forehead, and let a strong wave of the force run between us as I surveyed his health. "If you wake and feel hungry, nibble on a cracker, but take it slowly. You haven't eaten a while and you still have a very slight fever." I wasn't worried about his stomach getting upset, but I sensed that he was.


     He nodded, sipping, and having a very difficult time keeping his eyes open. I finally had to take the glass from him and ease him back down in bed. //Thank you, Tala.//


     I nodded back a 'you're welcome' and flipped off the light in his bedroom.


     As I turned to leave, the sick Jedi called out for me again. //Tala, what time is it?//


     After checking to be sure, I replied, "It's just minutes away from dawn."


     //And did you get some sleep tonight?//


     "No," I shook my head, though he probably would not be able to make it out in the darkness. "I stayed up until you woke." I walked back over to him, sensing that he wanted me to stay a little longer. Soothingly, I patted his arm. "Which I'm very glad you did."


     He nodded, rubbing his nose. He needed to sneeze again. "hehhh...HEHSHOO! KARCHUFF! KARCHUSHHH!" Gon-Show sniffled into tissues and sighed. "I'b dot feeling ady better yet," he snuffled miserably.


     "I know. But you will soon. In all honesty, rest is the best thing for you now." I gave a wave of my hand, and began heating water in the kitchen. "I know you're feeling sneezey rather than sleepy. Let me get you some tea, all right?"


     His eyes flashed with recognition, and he gave me a weak smile to match. //Sure.// He pulled the blankets up higher and blew his nose a few times as I headed across to the kitchen.


     After adding the right amount of crushed root to the tea, I brought it back, handing it to him carefully. "Careful, it's hot. Don't spill." I hovered, sitting closer in case he were to nod off and drop the mug on himself.


     "KARCHEMPHH! KEH-CHESHMMPPHH!" he sneezed into his sleeve, and I reached out and steadied the mug. "KEHSHUMPH! KARCHESHHH! KARCHOO! KEHCHESHHH!"


     "Arnup'tchow," I blessed him, and put it back to his lips. "Drink continuously. You remember."


     He nodded, sniffling, sipping. "I just really... felt the urge... to sdeeze..." he spoke, between sips. Then he sniffled, setting the cup down, closing his eyes where he sat. "So sleeby."


     I smiled, nodding. "That's the medicine kicking in." I eased him down, pulling up the blankets, plumping the pillows. "Now, please feel free to call me any time if you need me."


     "You... deed sleeb, too..." he managed around yawns. His eyes were closed, and I could tell he was fighting the sleep off for just a few more seconds. "Couch... cobfortable... edough?"


     I did my best not to laugh. "Yes, I'll be just fine out on the couch, Gon-Show. And do please wake me up if you need me. Just call out."


     He gave a strong yawn that I equated to an affirmative, and I tip-toed out, switching off the lights on the way. From where he lay, he stirred, uneasy, and with a wave of his hand, the lights were back on. "I wadt theb od... udtil I fall asleeb at least."


     "All right. Sleep well, Jedi." By the time I made it out the door to his room, he was already in a deep sleep. I must admit, I wasn't going to be so comfortable as Gon-Show had hoped on the couch. I'd draped the last blanket on his bed, and the last pillow was beneath his head, helping him breathe. So I made-do with my healer's robes draped over me, and the couch cushions as very nice pillows. But compared to sleeping on the floor of a hut, this was much preferable. It only took seconds for me to slip into a meditative state, and I stayed there just long enough to relax enough, lose the worries and all that, before falling right to sleep myself just as the sun's dawn rays began to work their way across the living room.




     I woke many hours later to the sound of Jedi Gon-Show stumbling across the room and smashing his foot into my bag. The smack of foot against bag had been loud, but his loud grunt and cursing was what really drew me out of sleep. Propping myself up on one arm, I looked up and with a wave of my hand, made the very temporary pain in his foot vanish. I was groggy, and wanted very badly to go back to sleep, but instead I stood, scratching, yawning. "Go back to bed, I'll get you the juice and soup you want."


     He looked at me a moment, hesitating. Then turned and headed back to his bedroom, sniffling.


     I leaned against the counters in the kitchen, trying not to doze off while cooking. It was a simple soup, mostly broth and a few soft vegetables, nothing that would upset a stomach just recovering from a fever and dehydration. When it was done, I poured out two bowls full and carried them with juice to the bedroom on a tray.


     Gon-Show was lying beneath the covers, looking rather sick still. He was sniffling constantly, hugging blankets tightly around himself. But he managed a weak smile to see me and my offerings. "Thags, Tala."


     I settled on the bed beside him, handing over the juice first, then the soup. He took both gratefully, still sniffling, but this development of an appetite was certainly a good sign.


     He handed me back the soup as he started to reach for the tissues. I already had a few ready and forced them on him quickly. "heh-KAHSHHH! KAHCHUHHH! HAHKARSHHH!" He blew his nose and closed his eyes. "Whed's the sdeezig godda... godda... KARSHHH! KAHSHOOO! KETCHHOO!" Softly, "Whed's it godda stob?"


     "You're doing fine. You'll start feeling better in no time." I reached over and rubbed his head affectionately. "Come here," I laid his head upon my lap, moving our meal over to the bedside table, after brushing off all the used tissues. Gently, I stroked his head, even as he tensed and sneezed. If he wanted to feel sorry for himself, then I would allow him that luxury. There was nothing to do but continue with the liquids and bedrest until he felt well.


     We stayed there for some time, Gon-Show nodding off to sleep for a while every few minutes. With my meager Jedi skills and lack of sleep, I finally managed to get my notepad to float over to me in the bedroom, and I spent most of the morning working more on my latest story in between tending to Gon-Show with tissues and juice and a bit more soup as he wanted it.


     "KET-CHUHHH! KARSHOO! KARSHUHHH! KETCHISHHHH!" I rubbed tissues against his nose as he gave a half-sigh, half moan.


     "There now," I soothed him, tucking the blankets tighter around him. He snuggled closer against me. "That's it. Much better. Just relax and don't worry a bit about your sneezing. You can't help it."


     "Thag you, Tala," the Jedi said softly. "Whed I called you, I deeded a healer." He rubbed at his nose, sniffling. "But I thig I really deeded a fried."


     "I know," I told him, now rubbing his arm soothingly. He had been stationed out here for years. And while this was important, and he was one of the best diplomats I knew, I must admit I would have grown a bit lonely as well. "I am more than happy to oblige in both capacities, Gonsh."


     "I ab sorry," he said, turning, looking up at me from my lap. "I guess this is'd buch of a vacatiod for you, is it?" He sniffled more, and I wiped his nose for him before he even realized he needed it.


     "Oh, quite the contrary, my friend. This has been a perfect vacation. I have my three favorite things right here." He looked up at me curiously, and I continued rather than waiting for him to prompt me. "I get to be a writer, a healer, and a friend all at once. I couldn't possibly have asked for anything better out of my vacation, I promise."