With thanks to Sophie Santack for the excellent advice. Because of something someone said, and because of what I wish someone had said to me in response.
Short story, heavy dialogue, no apologies.
It was just one of the many things Obi-Wan had had to learn the hard way: you never, ever, read about yourself on the HoloNet. It just wasn’t worth the trouble. You certainly never took to heart anything said about you on the HoloNet. But, while learning it himself – during an unpleasant and long-running incident that had culminated in Anakin threatening the reporter responsible with grievous bodily harm – it had not occurred to him as a problem that would affect too many other Jedi. Among many other if not necessarily greater things, it stands to Obi-Wan’s credit that he realized this omission, and worked out what to do about it, both in the same three seconds after entering the Archives early one morning.
At her usual study desk, tucked in the corner at the end of a row, and sitting, as usual, compactly occupying only half of the bench seat, Nasriel Threeb was, unusually for her, using the external-data-enabled terminal instead of her preferred paper-copy books to read from. As her Master wandered silently along the row of shelves, he noticed two other unusual things: first, that Nasriel was barely shielding her mind at all, and second, that the emotions thus laid open to view were dominated by anguish.
Looking up, not in the least surprised to see Obi-Wan there, Nasriel shook her head and gestured to the screen, where the gaudy emblem of the Galaxy’s largest news and gossip provider headed a long scroll of text. “He – he said – he called me a -”
“Oh.” The Master leaned across to study the HoloNet article. “Oh.” Sitting down beside his Padawan, he put his arm reassuringly around her. “Who told you about this?”
“It was ‘Diit. It’s not that, it’s – I’m not! Am I?” She started to cry, turning awkwardly to hide her face in his shoulder.
“Laugh,” Obi-Wan said softly, and then, when Nasriel looked up at him in shock, repeated the injunction, with more force. “Laugh.”
“Wh – why?”
“Because you have to laugh. If you don’t laugh you’ll just keep crying.”
The girl bared her teeth in a brave attempt at a smile, but dissolved into misery again. “I can’t!”
Obi-Wan placed one hand under her chin, turned her face to look at him, even as salt tears ran slippery over his fingers. “There must be something funny in this. You just have to find it.”
“I’m not a – he doesn’t even know me! He just -”
“That will do for a start. Isn’t it funny how someone who’s met you for – what, maybe five minutes? – thinks he knows enough about you to tell the Galaxy?”
“Yeah. I guess.”
“Isn’t it funny how wrong the HoloNet can be – and how much everybody blindly believes everything the reporters say?” Obi-Wan tapped a few keywords into the data terminal, bringing up another HoloNet report. “I want you to see this. This is a few years old now, but I still think it’s one of the stunners.”
Interested in spite of herself, Nasriel scrolled swiftly through the article, turning when she reached the end in mixed horror and amusement. “Did they really – was this serious?”
“Oh yes.” Obi-Wan chuckled. “In hindsight, I rather like that one. Not that I thought it very funny at the time, of course.”
“Surely nobody could ever believe that you – dear Force, Master!”
“They did. For a while, anyway.” Nasriel’s head was leaning on his shoulder, almost comfortable but still unhappy. He turned back to the first article. “Now, find one thing in that to laugh about. Anything.”
“There’s… he spelled Saalis with a double isk, not a double aurek.” She smiled faintly. “And he called me an ignorant -”
“Precisely. And in answer to your earlier question, Padawan… you certainly are not.” Quietly, he closed the data terminal. “Oh – I still want you to find something to laugh about.”
“I stopped crying, okay?”
“Okay.” Obi-Wan glanced sideways at her. “How many Corellian smugglers does it take to change a glowpanel?”
“I don’t know. How many?”
“None. When the room’s dark, you can’t see them cheating at sabacc.”
Nasriel groaned, then changed her mind and laughed outright. “Master Obi-Wan, that’s so bad.”
“Why are you laughing, then?” When she didn’t answer, he changed tack. “Come on, bad jokes are a Master’s prerogative.”
But Nasriel wasn’t listening. “How many Corellians… that’s hilarious!”
“I said laugh, I didn’t say have hysterics over one of the worst cantina jokes in the Galaxy!”