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Love heals all wounds (so they say)

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Vokara Che enters the Council Chambers in time to hear Master Yoda say, “Send him away, we must. A break from precedent, it is, but necessary, it also is.”

It doesn’t take a genius to know who Master Yoda refers to; though, as a Master Healer, Vokara Che is an intelligent woman. The Temple gossip mill churns, as it always does, and it appears that everyone, from the padawans to the knights to even the councilors are discussing the two initiates who wound up in Vokara’s domain.

“It isn’t necessary,” Vokara says, announcing her presence and her opinion at the same time. Her fellow Jedi greet her with a mix of irritation for the interruption and respect for her position.

“By Initiate Chun’s account, Initiate Kenobi attacked him from a place of anger and a misguided belief that besting him would prove his worth to a Jedi Master.” Mace Windu speaks evenly, with the measured calm which makes him a good councilor.

“And by Initiate Kenobi’s account?” Vokara asks.

Master Dooku laughs quietly from his chair. “Why bother with the account of the accused when their fate is already decided?” His derision is pointed, and even though he doesn’t look toward his former master, Master Yoda’s ears flatten against his head with the censure.

“He is dangerous,” Master Droom says. He’s a recent addition to the Council, and it doesn’t surprise Vokara that he sides with Master Yoda.

“We’re all dangerous,” Vokara says. “It’s why the Jedi Order places an emphasis on control. I’ve spoken with Initiate Kenobi.”

“So have we,” Master Droom interrupts. “He did not defend himself.”

“You hauled a scared child in front of the most austere council in the galaxy. I’m surprised he remembered his name.” Vokara gives Master Droom a sharp look, warning him against further interruptions.

“Initiate Chun’s wounds and Initiate Kenobi’s lack of them corroborate Initiate Chun’s account,” Mace says.

“And none of you thought to consult their healer?” Vokara’s sharp look is now directed at Mace. She has the sense he wants her to speak her opinion, that he’s guiding her to her conclusion. “Initiate Chun does bear the marks of a fight. But so does Initiate Kenobi. It was unsanctioned, and neither of their actions befitted that of a Jedi, but it was not as one-sided as Initiate Chun would have you believe.”

“We saw Initiate Kenobi with our own eyes!” Master Droom says.

Once, a well-meaning colleague told Vokara that instead of seduction, the Twi’lek gods gave her twice the sass. It’s true, she doesn’t have the allure that most of her species do, but it isn’t something she ever cultivated. She is brisk, she is businesslike, and she doesn’t put up with stupidity.

The glare she directs at Master Droom suggests he not speak for the rest of this meeting. “Did you look with more than your eyes?” It was obvious they didn’t. “Initiate Kenobi, through basic healing skills, some bandages, and a judicious amount of notice-me-not, successfully hid his own wounds from the fight.”

“Healing skills?” Mace asks.

“Notice-me-not?” Master Dooku asks.

“I am making an offer to Initiate Kenobi,” Vokara says, finally getting to why she came here. “If he accepts, I will train him.”

Chaos breaks out for a moment as everyone shouts to be heard over each other. There are protests. There are concerns. There are outright refusals. Master Yoda knocks his stick against the ground. Three loud raps and the room falls silent.

Vokara speaks before he can. “I didn’t come here for your permission. I don’t need it. I am a Master Healer, and it is my right to take an apprentice.”

“And you want Obi-Wan Kenobi?” Master Windu asks.

“Yes,” Vokara answers.

 

#

Vokara returns to the Halls of Healing after her meeting with the Council. She has duties to attend to and as much as she wants to find Obi-Wan and make her offer, there are things which must come first.

It isn’t until there’s a knock at her door that she wonders if delaying only gave others a chance to intervene. She looks at Mace and his offering of agaricum. He doesn’t waver under her sharp stare. She sighs and waves him in. She takes the plate, because she is hungry, but she won’t be bribed or distracted.

“I’m making my offer,” she tells him.

“I know. I’m not here to talk you out of it.” Mace sits near the air vent, and Vokara can’t help her smile. Agaricum is a Twi’lek dish. Most sentients find the pungent odor unpleasant. “Master Yoda said he had a plan for Obi-Wan. He wasn’t going to be left in the AgriCorps.”

“But he was still being sent there?” Vokara shakes her head. Mace’s silence is answer enough. “Obi-Wan was going to be told he isn’t good enough, punished for being a failure, and then sent away so he could fall into Master Yoda’s plan?” She shakes her head again. “What do you know about Obi-Wan Kenobi?”

Mace frowns as if he doesn’t understand why Vokara is asking. He leans back in his chair, thinking, and she gives him the time to gather his response. “He is a near-human, actual species unknown. He was left on the Temple steps as an infant. He was raised in the Temple and has shown promise in lightsaber combat. Recently, he’s become anxious and withdrawn. And most recently, he engaged in an unsanctioned fight which was supposed to result in his early release from the Temple.”

“Early release? Such a diplomat’s way of putting it.”

Mace raises his eyebrows. “What would you call it?”

“Rejection. Expulsion.” Vokara shrugs her shoulders. Both are harsh words and while Mace’s expression suggests he believes them to be too harsh, she doesn’t.

“Not all initiates are good fits to continue their path at the Temple,” Mace says. “We aren’t rejecting them. We’re guiding them toward the correct path.”

“Except you said it isn’t an issue of Initiate Kenobi being unfit, it’s part of a plan Master Yoda has.” Vokara taps her fork on her plate. “He has harmed Initiate Kenobi. You say he has a reason for it. I don’t care. Initiate Kenobi is a child, not a pawn.”

Mace takes a deep breath, but it isn’t to marshal an argument. He looks tired, afterward. “You’re correct. Master Yoda’s age gives wisdom and insight into history, but it also sets him in his ways. He sees from a distance we don’t.”

“It’s our role to offer our insights and challenge him when necessary,” Vokara says. “Our Order is only as strong as those who lead it.”

“I am grateful for your voice,” Mace says.

“And my willingness to use it?” Vokara smiles sharply. “You know my opinions on raising younglings. They should be surrounded by younglings similar in developmental age and guided by a diverse group of adults.” She gives Mace a significant look.

He meets it with an amused smile. He draws out the silence until Vokara starts tapping her fork again. “Are you asking me to help you train Initiate Kenobi?”

“Yes. You’ll be a positive influence in his life.”

Vokara is a medical professional which is why she spots the way Mace’s fingers twitch as if he wants to touch his face and hide his embarrassment. “It’s a compliment, Mace. You can’t be that out of practice with receiving them.”

He gives in and laughs, a deep, rich sound. Vokara knows it is the right choice to offer to train Initiate Kenobi, but now she knows there are other Jedi who she can count on for support.

#

There is a rumor that the healers live in the Halls of Healing which is ridiculous. They work in shifts, and they are discouraged from spending two shifts in the Halls and outright forbidden from three in a row. There is always work to be done but burning oneself out helps no one.

After her shift, Vokara goes to the Room of a Thousand Fountains, a place she heard Initiate Kenobi visits with great frequency. It takes her some time to find him inside the vast room. He isn’t by the waterfall as many of the younglings prefer. He isn’t amongst the citrus groves. He isn’t with the flowers or the most impressive of the fountains.

He’s tucked out of the way, meditating by a shallow pond. Vokara sees flashes of color as the fish dart about in the water. She clears her throat and it’s enough to draw Initiate Kenobi out of his meditation.

His arms are covered by his tunics so she can’t check on the progress of his injuries. She can see his face, though, and because she knows to look for it, she sees the shadow of bruises where he tries to project unblemished skin. He is quiet under her scrutiny, but his eyes widen just a bit as if he’s afraid. He draws his shoulders up as if preparing to defend himself.

“It’s peaceful here,” Vokara says. She sweeps her robes aside as she kneels on the grass.

“It is,” Initiate Kenobi agrees. He dips his fingers in the water and smiles as the fish mouth at his skin, curious at what’s in their water. “I’ll miss it.”

“And why is that?”

“My transport for the AgriCorps leaves tomorrow,” Initiate Kenobi answers. His chin wobbles, but his voice doesn’t.

“The AgriCorps only accepts initiates,” Vokara says. “And if you would like to explore that path, I will not stand in your way. But I will offer you a second path. Would you like to be my padawan and learn the Jedi art of healing?”

Blue-gray eyes study her as if searching for any sign that this is a lie or a joke. “Is this a true offer?”

“It is,” Vokara promises. And then she answers the question he’s too hesitant to ask. “You sped along your own healing which is something many Jedi can’t do even with training. No one had flagged your file to indicate your potential for healing so I didn’t observe you as closely as I should have. But I have noticed you now, and you are an initiate I would be proud to call padawan.”

Initiate Kenobi’s eyes fill with hope. His expression is almost bright enough to be painful or perhaps that is pain Vokara feels, an ache in her chest at what might never have been. “It isn’t an easy path. You will see the galaxy’s suffering and its pain, and you’ll never be able to help as much as you would like to. But you will help, just as all healers do.”

“Please,” Initiate Kenobi says and Vokara doesn’t understand how anyone thought he has an aggressive bone in his body. “I would like to be your padawan and learn from you.”

#

Vokara has enrolled Obi-Wan in several healing modules to supplement his course load. They are all basic courses in healing, in physiology, in biology, and even chemistry. There will be advanced courses to do as he completes his basic ones. It’s an overwhelming amount of information to consider which is why Vokara limits his understanding of the scope.

Healers, like Archivists, are required to hold an incredible amount of information in their heads at one time.

In addition to more classes, Obi-Wan also spends a quarter-shift each day in the Halls of Healing. Right now, she has him shadow Healer Nikita so he learns the layout, how to organize the storeroom and sterilize the equipment. It’s to acclimate him to the Halls which are a place where the Force is different.

Not everyone can be a healer and not only because of ability.

It’s something deeper. To stand in the Halls of Healing is to stand inside a concerted distortion of the Force. The Force gives and the Force takes, but healers seek to reverse the course of life or speed up a natural healing process. They shape the Force to their needs, and it leaves some with shaking hands or numb mouths or buzzing heads.

Obi-Wan hasn’t shown any ill-effects for his time in the Halls. He fetches supplies without complaint, he cleans instruments thoroughly, and he stares longingly when one of the healers attends to a patient as if he wants to do more.

Vokara doesn’t make him wait long.

The Temple runs a clinic for any who need their services. No one is turned away, regardless of their ident, or lack of it, or their ability to pay.

Today, Vokara’s patient is a young humanoid girl with red eyes and a hacking cough. She sits on the table and swings her feet as Vokara and Obi-Wan approach.

“I am Healer Che,” Vokara introduces. “And this is my padawan, Obi-Wan.”

Obi-Wan wiggles his fingers in hello.

“I’m Sharice,” the girl says.

The girl’s guardian, who sits in the chair by the door, shifts nervously as they look Obi-Wan over.

“Padawan means that Obi-Wan is my apprentice,” Vokara tells Sharice. “He’s learning to be a healer as well. He’s going to sit over there,” Vokara points to a meditation mat, “and he’s going to see what I see while I help you. But I’m the one who is going to treat you.”

“Okay.” Sharice keeps swinging her legs, but her guardian relaxes once they realize their child isn’t being treated by a trainee.

Vokara waits until Obi-Wan is seated and she can feel him slide through their bond to begin her examination. Obi-Wan hovers in the back of her mind, undeniably there, but only a visitor. He can see what she sees, can feel what she feels, and he can communicate with Vokara. It’s the perfect training tool. He can have the full experience without any of the responsibility.

“Lie down for me, please,” Vokara tells Sharice. “I’m going to do a scan.” She picks up her medical scanner and explains the settings to Obi-Wan as she selects the one she wants. She guides the scanner over Sharice’s body. She lingers on the eyes, ears, throat, and chest.

The scanner processes the information it received and then creates a report. It identifies the symptoms, and it offers probable ailments based on numerous factors. Unfortunately for Sharice, the most likely cause of her symptoms isn’t curable but it is treatable.

“You are allergic to smog,” Vokara says. “Do you know what smog is?”

“Pollution,” Sharice answers.

“Yes. The exhaust from all the vehicles in Coruscant irritates your throat and lungs. The best thing is fresh, clean air, but the second-best thing is antihistamines. I can give you a dose now. You’ll need a monthly dose. You can make an appointment with our scheduling droid when we’re finished today.”

Vokara opens the cabinet with the common medications, the ones which don’t need to be locked up. She selects the standard antihistamine, fills her hypospray with the correct amount for Sharice’s age and species and then walks back to her patient.

Sharice’s wide brown eyes look at the needle with alarm.

“It’s okay.”

Vokara hadn’t noticed Obi-Wan slipping out of their bond, but he did because he’s now standing next to her. He offers Sharice a smile and then one of his hands. “You can hold my hand.”

Sharice, still looking at the needle, slips her small hand into Obi-Wan’s equally small one.

“I like your dress,” Obi-Wan says.

Sharice looks down at the garment. It’s a multi-colored block dress which reminds Vokara more of an initiate’s painting project than fashion, but Sharice blushes with the compliment. She tugs at one of the tassels on her dress. “Thank you. My aunt made it for me. She said I should wear it when I miss her. She’s still on Brenli. That’s where we used to live.”

Vokara waits until Sharice is absorbed in her conversation with Obi-Wan to inject her with the hypospray. It’s barely even a pinch, and Sharice doesn’t notice it, too busy telling Obi-Wan about a snowball fight she had with her cousins before she and her mom moved to Coruscant to live with her dad.

“Do you like snow?” Sharice asks.

“It doesn’t snow on Coruscant,” Obi-Wan answers. “So I don’t know yet. Healer Che gave you your shot.”

“Really?” Sharice twists to look at her arm. “That didn’t even hurt!”

“I’m glad,” Vokara says. To both Sharice and her guardian, she says, “You’re all set. Don’t forget to make your follow-up appointment.”

“And you get one of these!” Obi-Wan uses the Force to call the jar of lollipops to him. He holds the jar out to Sharice.

She picks through it until she finds a rainbow-colored lollipop. “Thank you,” she says to Obi-Wan and then to Vokara. She tosses the wrapper in the trash and then sticks the sweet in her mouth as she leaves with her guardian.

“You did well,” Vokara tells Obi-Wan.

“So we don’t always use the Force to help?” Obi-Wan asks.

“When we can use medicine to help, we use medicine. That means we only have to use the Force when absolutely necessary. It’s tiring to use the Force and there aren’t very many Jedi trained to do it, so we want to spare them for emergencies.”

Obi-Wan contemplates this as he follows Vokara to the fresher to wash their hands before their next patient is shown in. “Does that mean I’m going to learn how to do surgeries?”

“If that’s where your focus takes you,” Vokara answers. “There is too much for any one being to be able to do everything, so we take specialties. Some have a specialty in Force healing, others in surgery or infectious diseases. But even within those specialties, there are specialties.”

“There’s so much,” Obi-Wan says.

He’s looking overwhelmed so Vokara herds him toward the hand dryer. “And you have an entire lifetime to learn it.”

“But what if someone needs help before I’ve learned how to help them?”

Vokara crouches down so they’re eye-to-eye, because this will be the most important lesson she has taught him so far. “That’s why we’re a team. If you aren’t confident in an area of healing, you reach out to one of your fellow healers. None of us can save the galaxy on our own.”

“Okay.” Obi-Wan nods as he processes this. “What should I start studying, then? What area are we weakest?”

“You’re still twelve,” Vokara reminds him. “Right now, you’re gaining a broad overview of everything. You won’t begin to specialize until sixteen. When your counterparts will become senior padawans and begin leaving the Temple more often, you’ll start your specialization. And don’t try to jump ahead. Keep an open mind. The Force will guide you when it’s time.”

Obi-Wan frowns, dissatisfied with the answer, but he doesn’t argue.