Clouds of steam rose from the cup as Nasriel poured in the boiling water. It was still quiet as she handed the mug to Obi-Wan. “Master Jados always used to prescribe hot tea as a remedy for nightmares,” she commented, wondering to herself why she was remembering Master Jados tonight, when it still hurt so much. Obi-Wan wrapped his hands around the cup, absorbing its warmth. Nasriel sat down with a second mug. The long burnouse she had seen hanging on one of the hooks at the door of the quarters was wrapped around his shoulders, but he was still barefoot. He sat down, then looked down at his mug. “I’m sorry I broke down like that,” he said softly. Nasriel glanced down, following his line of sight, and then decided to ask.
“Do you have nightmares often?” she said. “I thought we Jedi weren’t supposed to cry, weren’t supposed to feel. Do you always cry in the middle of the night, when no one will see you or hear you?”
“Yes, and no.” Obi-Wan replied succinctly, too tired to draw the veil back into place. “I think the last notable time I cried was when all those children died at Melidorn last year. I was there at the time, and… I wound up in the infirmary due to something Vokara called burnout. It wasn’t. It was grief. If everyone ever tells you that I’m a perfect Jedi, don’t believe them. I’m too emotional, too sensitive… I couldn’t save Qui-Gon. I couldn’t stop Dooku. I couldn’t even help those children. All that calm confidence… it’s just a mask. This is who I really am, Nasriel. I’m the orphaned Padawan, given a Knighthood I didn’t deserve in recompense for the fact my Master couldn’t be there. I’ve loved people more than, perhaps, you might think possible.” Obi-Wan stared down into the swirls of steam rising from his mug. They drew him inward, like the mists and changing colors of a scrying glass. But he knew better than to be pulled in. He looked back at his Padawan. “People place too much value and emphasis on emotion, Nasriel. Some go to the oddest lengths to try to find inner peace, but while they do that they miss the most important part. They miss life itself. You may be afraid; the important thing is to learn to let go of your fear. You may be upset, but you have to learn to work around it. It is better to try and to fail, than to give up and be successful. The whole ‘there is no emotion, there is peace’ does not mean that you feel nothing. It means that you keep on trying, even when the night is darkest and your own feelings betray you. This might sound a bit like a noble speech, but it’s down to earth, in the blood and mud, so to speak. It is not about not having emotions, but about learning to cope with them.” Obi-Wan paused. “Am I making any sense at all, or should I go back to bed?” Nasriel grinned suddenly.
“Please don’t.” she said. “I kind of like your philosophy in the middle of the night, Master.”
Obi-Wan chuckled. “Cheeky scamp,” he said fondly, though the laughter did not quite dissipate the deep sadness in his eyes. Slowly, he sipped at the tea, watching her the entire time. Nasriel began to feel uncomfortable. “Do you ever dream of Master Jados?”
Nasriel’s head fell forward onto her arms, and she replied in a trembling whisper. “No, Master. I wish I could. I wish I could. I can only ever dream about Masters Sala and Vareng… but not since I’ve been with you. You’ll know about it if I ever dream about them again, believe me. Just ask Telcontir for all the embarrassing details – he’d love to fill you in.” Nasriel raised her head suddenly, eyes wide, and said with an effort, “Would you excuse me for just one moment, Master?” Not waiting for a reply, she stood and walked quickly out of his room. He heard the rattle of door control keys as she slipped into Ben’s rom, and her hasty, hushed enquiry.
“No! Get out of here. Not that I know about, okay, Witch?”
She glided silently back, a stricken expression in her eyes and horror in the corners of her mouth. “Ben says you never used to have nightmares until a few weeks ago.”
“Not so often, anyway.”
Her hands flew up, covering her face, and she whispered, almost to herself, “No, no, why didn’t I think of that? I’m so stupid! I should have known it would backfire.” With difficulty, she worked her way back to lucidity, and explained. “Master Sala knew somebody who said he could do magic. I wanted to test him, to prove him a fraud, so I asked for a spell to take away my nightmares and give my Master bad dreams instead. It was supposed to be Master Sala,” she cried in anguish. “Not you. Dear gods, not you.”
Obi-Wan laughed. “Nasriel, magic isn’t real. This all comes down to being careful what you wish for. And you’re not a witch. I’ve known people who claimed to be, and they were much nastier than you could ever be.”
“How so?” Nasriel said, half-flatly, half-bitterly. Obi-Wan laughed again; the sound was like the mirth of water over tumbling stone. It sounded real, but Nasriel could see a faint whisper of pain in the depths of Obi-Wan’s blue-gray eyes.
“You have a good heart, Nasriel.” he stated simply. “I believe in you.”
Nasriel froze, not believing what she had just heard. “You do? What does that even mean?”
Obi-Wan flashed her a slightly impish grin as he sipped at his mug. “And I’ll thank you to not wake Ben up again. It’s still the middle of the night, remember? And though he sleeps like a log –” here he paused a moment and muttered something under his breath that sounded like ‘lucky rascal’ – “unlike me, and apparently unlike you, a disturbed night of sleep cannot be possibly be good for him.” The blue-gray eyes dimmed somewhat, and again he looked horribly, painfully tired. “Let’s not bother him with demons that aren’t his, and let’s pray that he never has to face them, like we do.”
“Yeah.” Nasriel tried to smile. “Demon number one right now is the history test tomorrow. I can’t even remember how to spell Sequipaladien – he was some ancient king of somewhere – and that’s the main focus of the test. As you would know if you had looked over the notes for the lesson you are supposed to be teaching in the morning. I wish there was some rule that Padawans with a tortuous personal history didn’t have to study the history of everybody else.”
“Ben hasn’t studied either, has he?”
“You may yet escape. We have all been summoned to talk to Chancellor Palpatine tomorrow. Now go to bed.”
Nasriel paused at her chamber door. “Thanks. I mean,” she laid one hand on the Close button, and said the next words quickly, as the door slid to. “I mean, I love you.”