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The Foundling

Chapter Text

Negotiating with planets attempting Republic membership was always entertaining. Though less likely to turn into a fight for his life as many of his other missions were, the diplomatic dance was always complicated, since as a Jedi he was not the neutral party he usually stood as during negotiations.

Stewjon’s application for Republic membership had been going through the planetary government for over three centuries, but had only recently passed. The Senate had agreed to hear their application much faster than they normally would; Stewjoni goods were considered potent luxuries desired by the rich and famous, and nearly all the Senators were more than willing to grant the system membership so long as those goods became more readily available.

The problem was that the Stewjoni were hesitant to do anything that would increase their planet’s connection to the galaxy; Dooku couldn’t exactly blame them, since they didn’t want their people to end up like Ryloth’s: regularly captured and enslaved for their beauty. But negotiations finally seemed to be going somewhere. The Stewjoni had brought in a consultant – a young Stewjoni woman who had traveled in the wider galaxy and even married a non-Stewjoni. Her promotion of the wider galaxy did wonders in convincing the Stewjoni leadership to move forward – if slowly – towards a full Republic membership.

“Master Dooku?” a voice came from behind him. He turned to see the consultant – Aika Lars, that was her name – approaching him with a non-Stewjoni man holding a toddler.

“Mistress Lars,” he greeted.

The woman smiled.

“Master Dooku, this is my husband, Cliegg Lars, and our daughter, Obi-Wan. I – well, we – we think she’s Force-sensitive.”

Her husband snorted.

“The toys floating across the room to her were a dead giveaway,” her husband snorted.

“She can tell what we’re feeling even if we’re in different rooms,” Aika continued. “She talks about the future like it’s already happened.”

“She knew the cat was going to die and where we’d find the body, three weeks before it happened,” Cliegg added.

“She knows when people aren’t good people to be around,” Aika said. “She threw a toy at one of our neighbors – without touching it – and it turned out that the neighbor was a criminal.”

“And she told us this morning that we were going to take her to see Master Dooku,” Cliegg said. “We’d never said your name anywhere around her.”

Dooku stepped towards them and gestured to the little girl in Cliegg’s arms.

“May I?” he asked.

Aika said, “Bena-bee, say hello to Master Dooku.”

The auburn-haired little girl poked her face out from her curtain of hair and said, “Hello, Master Dooku. I wanted to meet you.” She held out her hand for him to shake.

“Hello, little one,” Dooku replied with a gentle smile. She was much younger than he’d ever known any of his Padawans, but he’d spent time in the crèche with his Master as a Padawan. He knew how to handle babies. He reached out and shook her hand.

As soon as their hands touched, a vision exploded through his head, of a copper-haired girl standing with his first Padawan, his hand on her shoulder; the girl, slightly older, with copper hair braided into a crown with the exception of a long braid over her left shoulder; the girl and Qui-Gon, back to back, lightsabers drawn. Dozens more scenes rushed through his head in an instant of his first Padawan and the toddler before him as she grew to a teenager and then to a young woman. The final vision was of the copper-haired young woman, Padawan braid gone and her hands resting on the shoulders of a blond boy with his own stubby Padawan braid. He looked up and smiled at her, and the young Knight smiled back.

The world faded back into view, and he could hear Aika Kenobi saying, “Master Jedi? Are you alright? Master Dooku?”

“I am fine,” he said, shaking his head in a vain attempt to clear the remnants of the vision from it. He noticed that he was still holding the toddler’s hand, and she looked just as shaken as he was.

“That was me,” the toddler said bluntly. “And the nice man. I’ve seen him before. You know him.”

It wasn’t a question.

“Yes, little one, I know him,” Dooku said gently. “His name is Qui-Gon Jinn, and he was once my Padawan, as it looks like you will someday be his.”

“We were right, then?” Cliegg asked, sounding resigned. “Our little girl’s going to be a Jedi.”

“She is,” Dooku said. “She’ll need to go the standard tests of course, but she and I just shared a vision of her future as my former student’s apprentice, and I believe we saw her with her own apprentice at the very end. Obi-Wan Lars will one day be a Jedi Knight.”

“Kenobi,” Aika said. “Obi-Wan Kenobi is her name, not Lars. It would have been Bena Lars, if I weren’t Stewjoni, but we name our daughters matrilineally, and our sons patrilineally.”

“My apologies,” Dooku said, giving a short bow. “I had forgotten. It was my understanding that your last name was Lars as well…?”

“Only when not on Stewjon,” Aika said. “I may be a bit of a rebel, leaving the planet and all, but not that much of one. Do you need to take Obi-Wan with you now?”

Dooku hesitated. Technically the answer was that he should report the finding to Acquisition Division immediately, but after what he had seen, knowing that this child would one day be his grandpadawan, he wanted to take her to the Temple himself.

“Not until the negotiations have concluded,” he said. “I do not doubt her acceptance into the crèche, where she will live with other Force-sensitive younglings until she becomes a Padawan learner.”

“Is it good for the children, this crèche?” Aika asked. Dooku could sense her worry for her child.

“It is a good thing,” Dooku said, smiling reassuringly at her. “I’m sure you have noticed that your daughter is different from other children – too much and not enough at the same time. She doesn’t fit in with children her own age.”

“She didn’t start talking at all until she was nearly two, and when she did it was in full sentences and she sounded more like a six-year-old than a two-year-old,” Cliegg said. “She could speak in Basic, Stewjoni, and Huttese, which Aika and I used when we didn’t want her to know what we were talking about.”

“I think she picked up Bocce from the spacers as well,” Aika added.

Dooku nodded. “It is the same with most younglings. They talk later, but better than children their own age. They progress at an academic level more rapidly than other children. They pick up languages at a rapid rate, and can keep track of dozens of languages when most humanoids can only manage a single dozen. They will have the equivalent of doctoral degrees in their chosen fields by the time they are Knighted, which in humanoids normally occurs between twenty and thirty Galactic Standard years of age. They usually achieve their doctorates two or more years before their Knightings, so that the last years of their apprenticeships can be devoted to their positions instead of their studies.”

“It is not an easy life, being a Jedi,” Aika said quietly. “My older brother was given to the Order, as was a younger cousin. It’s how I recognized the signs in Obi-Wan. Neither of them are alive anymore.”

“No, our lives our not easy,” Dooku said quietly. “But we do good all the same. We serve the Republic, and we serve the people. We do our best to save lives, not take them, even at the cost of ourselves.”

“It is not the life I hoped for my daughter, when she was born,” Aika admitted. “I had hoped she would have a quiet life, find love, have a family. But Jedi are forbidden the latter two, and I have never heard of a Jedi having a quiet life.”

“There are plenty that do,” Dooku said, “but I doubt she will be one of them. My line is not known for quiet lives; rather the opposite, in fact.”

“Sorry, your ‘line’? What does that mean?” Cliegg asked.

“You said Jedi were forbidden families – in a way, that is true, but in another way it is not. We make our own families, you could say. Our crèchemates are our brothers and sisters. Our Masters take parental roles, and our students are our children. Young Obi-Wan will one day be my Padawan’s Padawan, my grandpadawan, which means that she is part of my line, my family,” Dooku explained.

“Who else is part of your family?” Aika asked.

“I have had two Padawans; Qui-Gon Jinn and Rael Aveross. Rael’s first and only Padawan died young, and he swore to never take another. Qui-Gon trained Feemor Stahl to Knighthood and is currently training Xanatos du Crion. Feemor just took his first Padawan, Jai Maruk. My master was Master Yoda, the Grand Master of the Jedi Order,” Dooku explained.

“You’ll look after her for us?” Cliegg asked. Aika nodded as well, looking hopeful.

“I give you my word, as a servant of the Force,” Dooku said with a bow.

“And she’ll be able to contact us occasionally?” Aika questioned. “I know my brother came to visit a few times, and he would comm us occasionally. My cousin did the same.”

“She will, though not until she is older. Barring emergencies, contact is forbidden until students are ready to become Senior Initiates, at which point they are allowed to visit their homeworlds in order to decide whether they wish to return to their families or continue on their paths as part of the Order. Once they have made that decision, they are allowed as much or as little contact as they wish,” Dooku explained.

He noticed one of the other diplomats approaching.

“If you’ll excuse me, it seems that someone else wishes my attention. If you would like, I can meet with you again to discuss and further questions or concerns you may have?” he offered.

The couple exchanged glances, speaking in the way that only those intimately familiar with each other could.

“We’d like that,” Aika said. “Would you like to come to our home? For dinner?”

“As one of the outside diplomats, I’m not supposed to venture down to the surface,” he apologized.

“That’s not a problem,” Aika said breezily. “We live on the station. Most mixed couples do, not that there are a lot of us.”

“Obi-Wan was born on the surface, but we usually only travel down to visit Aika’s family,” Cliegg added.

“I would be honored,” Dooku said, bowing again.

“Dinner’s at five normally, but we’re pretty much having it as soon as Aika’s done with the negotiations lately,” Cliegg said. “Just come with her at the end of today, and I’ll make sure everything’s done. You allergic to anything?”

“Not at all,” Dooku replied. “I thank you for your kind offer. I shall see you tonight. If you will excuse me.” He stepped around Cliegg and the toddler – his future grandpadawan! – and greeted the next diplomat determined to occupy his attention.

Chapter Text

It was several more long hours of minutiae before the session ended for the day. Aika managed to appear at his side almost immediately afterwards.

“Dinner?” she asked.

“Certainly,” Dooku said. “Allow me to return my notes to my room, and then I will accompany you.”

“May I walk with you?” she asked. “I know the back ways from where we house guests to where other residents live that are faster than the main thoroughfares.”

“I am fine with that,” Dooku replied. “I don’t suppose you know any faster ways to the guest quarters from here?”

“Unfortunately not,” Aika replied. “They didn’t make any back ways around the public areas. Have you had much time to view the station while you’ve been here?”

“Not really,” Dooku said. “Most of my time has been spent in meetings – either with the Stewjoni government, or holomeetings with the Senate committee or the Jedi Council.”

“That’s a pity,” Aika replied. “Magros Station is one of the largest stations of its kind in the galaxy. It’s got quite the interesting history, if you look into it.”

“Would you be willing to share some about it?” Dooku prompted.

Aika smiled before launching into her explanation.

“Stewjon naturally has two moons, Nathom and Magros, but Magros was pretty much a really big rock, so the originally builders of the space station chose it to anchor the station, which is why it became known as Magros Station. The original moon is still part of the station, though it’s been carved down to the last kilometer of diameter. Magros is over four thousand years old and has maintained a steady population for most of that time. During the last great galactic war, Stewjon went into complete isolation again, and Magros was half blown up. The planetary shield around Stewjon held, however, and our people were spared the war.”

She continued her chatter as they made their way to his rooms, and then picked it up immediately again once he returned from putting his notes away. The back way she led him from the guest quarters to the residential area involved three dubious-looking access passages, one ladder that he wasn’t sure was capable of bearing their weight, and a turbolift so old and shaky that he spent the entire ride preparing to catch them with the Force.

“It’s not as decrepit as it looks,” Aika said with a small smile, obviously noticing his hesitancy. “We just don’t fix the aesthetic issues because it means guests stay where they’re supposed to.”

“An ingenious solution,” Dooku allowed.

“Aaaand, we’re here!” Aika announced, turning a corner and stopping at a door. She quickly punched in a key code and opened it, gesturing for Dooku to proceed her inside.

He stepped inside and was instantly greeted by the smell of roasting meat. He heard the door shut behind Aika only a split second before a tiny human missile collided with his legs.

“Hello, young one,” he said, smiling down at the toddler clinging to his knee.

“Hi,” Obi-Wan replied, before releasing his knees and running for her mother instead. Aika caught her before she hit her knees and swept her up into her arms.

“Hello, my darling,” she said, planting a kiss on the top of Obi-Wan’s head. “Have you been good for your father?”

“She was, until she tried to convince me that Master Dooku would enjoy Ferroan spinach topped with chocolate sauce,” Cliegg called from the next room.

“Force-sensitive she may be, but Obi-Wan still follows the lead of every other toddler the galaxy over and does not like eating her vegetables,” Aika said with a dramatic sigh.

Obi-Wan blinked innocently.

“But everything’s better with chocolate,” she pointed out.

“Not vegetables, Bena-bee,” Aika told her firmly.

Obi-Wan let out a sigh just as dramatic as her mother’s.

“Fine,” she grumbled.

“Can I take your cloak, Master Dooku?” Aika asked, even as she managed to shrug off her own while carrying Obi-Wan and hang it on the hooks behind her.

Dooku slipped his arms out of his cloak them gestured with both his hand and the Force, causing his cloak to jump out of his hand and onto the hook.

Obi-Wan clapped in delight.

“Dinner’s just about ready,” Cliegg said as they stepped out of the small mudroom into the kitchen. The room was a bit cramped, but that tended to happen on space stations where space was a premium commodity. “Take your seats and I’ll bring it out.”

Aika led him over to a square table on the other side of the kitchen counters. She placed Obi-Wan in a child’s highchair, and then gestured for him to take a seat. He took the one across from Obi-Wan, as it seemed to be the least used. He suspected that the Lars parents were used to sitting on either side of their toddler in order to help her with her meal.

A moment later, Cliegg emerged from the kitchen with a pair of plates. He set one in front of Dooku and the other in front of Obi-Wan.

“Sit down, darling,” Aika said, grabbing his arm. “I’ll get the last two.”

Cliegg did as ordered, taking one of the seats between Dooku and Obi-Wan.

“Dinner tonight is plicto steak, mashed sweetroot, and Ferroan spinach. Yes, Obi-Wan, you must clear your plate of spinach before you can have dessert.”

Aika returned a moment later, setting Cliegg’s plate in front of him and hers in front of the last chair before taking her seat.

Cliegg and Obi-Wan both seemed to be watching Aika, so Dooku did as well.

“May this food restore our strength, giving new energy to tired limbs, new thoughts to weary minds. May this drink restore our souls, giving new vision to dry spirits, new warmth to cold hearts. May the stars guide our paths forward,” she said.

That seemed to be everything, as the Lars family immediately picked up their forks and began to eat. Dooku copied them.

Cliegg and Aika began asking questions about Jedi training over dinner, so it took Dooku longer than it should have to notice what Obi-Wan was doing.

Every time she stabbed her fork into her spinach, she moved the fork to her mouth, but the spinach wasn’t moving with it. Instead, she was knocking the spinach off with the Force before she could eat it and levitating it around the back of her parent’s chair – which parent depended on which was paying less attention at that point – and placing it in the piles of spinach on her parent’s plate.

So far, Dooku had noticed her doing it three different times, and considering how much spinach was no longer on her plate, he suspected she’d done it several more times than that.

The level of finesse displayed was impeccable. He’d seen senior initiates who didn’t have as much control.

“Little one,” he finally said, holding up a hand to stall Aika’s next question. “I do believe you are meant to eat your spinach, not pass it off to your parents.”

The piece of spinach currently hovering behind Aika’s chair froze, even as Obi-Wan blinked at him with innocent blue eyes.

“What do you mean?” she asked. She then purposefully stabbed another bite of spinach and ate it. Dooku still caught her grimace as she chewed and swallowed.

“I’m talking about the piece of spinach currently hovering behind your mother, and the fact that you’ve been moving bites of spinach to your parents’ plates the entire meal,” Dooku said calmly before eating a bite of his own spinach.

Aika and Cliegg both turned to look at the green mass floating in the air. Obi-Wan had tried to move it, but Dooku was easily able to grab it from her. Strong she may be, but she was still just a child.

“Obi-Wan!” Aika scolded, even as Dooku floated the spinach to a napkin. The girl did at least look shame-faced upon being caught.

“Daddy just said I had to clear my plate of spinach,” Obi-Wan pointed out. She scooped up the last bite of spinach, stuck it in her mouth with a grimace, chewed, and swallowed it. “There. All gone. I can have dessert now.”

Aika turned her furious glare to her husband instead.

“She is right,” Cliegg admitted weakly.

“A little diplomat already,” Dooku said, resisting the urge to laugh. He had used the exact same method on politicians before: following the wording of what they said instead of the spirit in order to gain the best outcome. The fact that little Obi-Wan was doing it already…well, she was certainly going to bring Qui-Gon as much trouble as she did joy.

“Little diplomat or not, following what Daddy said instead of what he meant means you only get a half-portion of dessert,” Aika said firmly.

Obi-Wan pouted. It was adorable. Dooku already knew that he’d be hard-pressed not to spoil his latest grandpadawan – even if she didn’t actually have the title yet, and wouldn’t for nearly a decade.

“I do have one more question,” Aika said over dessert – white chocolate bread pudding, according to Cliegg.

Dooku gestured for her to go ahead.

“I know that Jedi Padawans all have the same haircut. However, hair is very important to the Stewjoni. We do not cut our hair unless we have been enslaved. Will Obi-Wan be forced to cut her hair?”

“The Order makes exceptions for cultural differences,” Dooku soothed. “Her hair will remain long unless she is enslaved, and even if she is, she will be rescued soon after.”

Aika grimaced tightly.

“Slavery…it’s a horror story for Stewjoni. We know how valuable we are to slavers. We are beautiful, and since we tend to be so isolated, we are rare. I was lucky to avoid it while I traveled the galaxy, but there are those who are not so lucky. It is hard for a Stewjoni to escape if we are ever captured. We are biologically more susceptible to…certain methods…than baseline humans are. If a slaver knows what they are doing…the captured Stewjoni would never want to leave.”

“We look after our own,” Dooku said firmly. “If Obi-Wan was ever captured, we would not stop looking for her until we had rescued her or had proof she was dead.”

Aika nodded solemnly.

“I am glad for it. That kind of life…it is nothing that we would ever want. I’m told it’s horrible, being trapped inside your own mind by your own hormones.”

“I swear to you, Cliegg Lars and Aika Kenobi-Lars, that I will do everything in my power to assure that Obi-Wan never faces such a fate,” Dooku said firmly.

“Thank you,” Aika breathed.

"So," Cliegg said, obviously trying to lighten the mood, "do you like the bread pudding?"