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Diplomacy

Title: Diplomacy
Fandom: Star Wars TPM
Pairing: Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon
Summary: "Diplomacy, it is said, is the art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that he will look forward to the trip." Written for the TPM zine "Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience", published March 2005.




// Diplomacy, it is said, is the art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that he will look forward to the trip.

All Jedi are taught diplomacy; it is a parallel track to that of physical combat. One uses words, the other lightsabers, but the mental technique is similar. Attack and defense, grand gestures and subtle almost-imperceptible movements, deflecting an opponent's barbs and sending them harmlessly into the ether or zinging back at his face, dancing footwork that avoids conflict or brings one closer in-- these and more are as applicable to one realm as the other, and the best Jedi can wound or heal as easily with speech as with our well-known swords of light.

Many new (and therefore young, arrogant, and mostly untrained) Jedi assume that command of the Force plays a large role in our diplomacy ability. It is true that weaker minds can be swayed by a gesture, a thought, a Force-nudge. But the Force itself is a crude weapon for diplomacy, and less effective against sharper minds. While I have seen Force manipulation used for emphasis, felt the shifting currents of Force-energy as my Master pulled it in to back his words, it is never more than reinforcement to our primary weapons of word and tone and nuance.

My Master is, if not the best of the Jedi-- who am I to judge, biased as I am towards him and his ways?-- certainly among our top diplomats.

I, on the other hand, have much to learn still, or so I keep discovering. //


Obi-Wan rose smoothly at his Master's entrance. To any outside observer, his face was schooled into impassive neutrality, the face of a Jedi. To Qui-Gon Jinn, long used to interpreting the subtle mannerisms of one who had been his Padawan for almost five years, he was vibrating with impatience at being cooped up in the small room they shared, at being effectively caged rather than free to move and watch and listen and learn. Indeed, it had been a long day, and longer, Qui-Gon suspected, for one such as Obi-Wan who was getting none of the freedoms he was accustomed to.

But for all his impatience, Obi-Wan bowed and greeted his Master serenely, offering him some of the pale sweet tea that had been brought to their rooms recently enough that it had not yet cooled noticeably. Qui-Gon nodded acceptance, and Obi-Wan poured a cup with smooth, relaxed movements, then gave it to his Master with another short bow. Only then did he ask, in a quiet voice tinged with his usual mischief, "Did they enjoy the trip?"

Qui-Gon smiled into his tea, recognizing the question for what it was: not a reference to that afternoon's tour of the city, which Qui-Gon had been the sole Jedi representative on as Obi-Wan was at that point caged in his room, but to their mission as a whole, which could not be spoken of directly in a place where the walls were certain to have ears. "Apparently," he responded, his voice a low rumble in the relative quiet of their room, "but the fare has not yet been paid."

Obi-Wan inclined his head in acknowledgement. His eyes, normally light with a mostly-private amusement, were troubled. His next sentence, delicately worded, slipped into the more formal language of Jedi rituals. "This Padawan regrets that he could not have been of more service."

Qui-Gon regarded him gravely, and then smiled. "The damage was not great, nor was it irreparable. The Lumati understand that you are young--"

"Not that young," Obi-Wan muttered, more of an aside than a true interruption.

"--and that you intended no offense," Qui-Gon continued smoothly, ignoring Obi-Wan's comment. With a hint of wickedness, likely unnoticeable to any outside listener but as clear as a lightsaber's blade to his Padawan, he added, "Indeed, the youngest Princess is campaigning to have you absolved of all charges; she seems quite taken with you."

Obi-Wan buried his face in his hands, the tips of his ears noticeably pink. "Force preserve me," he murmured. "I don't suppose you explained to her that as a Jedi, I cannot become her..." He paused, searching for the best word, and finished, helplessly, "her anything?"

Not hiding his amusement, Qui-Gon said, "Naturally not; why would I alienate your strongest, most passionate ally?"

"I believe you are enjoying this far too much." Obi-Wan's reproach was mild, but no less true for it, and Qui-Gon gave a serene smile in response to the mournful wounded look.

"I would not take delight in the misfortunes of others."

It was against Obi-Wan's training to directly contradict his Master, even in jest. "Of course not," he agreed, although he allowed himself a long narrow-eyed look that said otherwise. Qui-Gon's mouth twitched with the barest hint of a smile, indicating that he knew exactly what Obi-Wan was not allowing himself to say.

"I trust you have spent the day meditating on your earlier behaviour?"

The question was more ritual than true curiosity; Obi-Wan knew the Jedi way and, effectively confined to the single small room for most of the day, would have done that almost immediately. Obi-Wan inclined his head, the only response needed.

"What was your conclusion?"

This question, too, was partly ritual, but one that deserved a proper and thought-out answer. Obi-Wan closed his eyes for a moment, collecting his thoughts and releasing to the Force the faint threads of nervousness that coiled within him, before he spoke.

"It is impractical for any being, Jedi or no, to know the local customs for every spot in or near Republic worlds. There will always be words, gestures, behaviours, that mean one thing in one city on one world, and another even in the neighboring city, let alone another planet. Those who travel risk an unintended slight or accidental offense with every breath.

"However, the Jedi are the highest of the Republic's ambassadors, elite representatives that have a higher burden of courtesy than most. Although this Padawan has never before been to any Lumati planet, there were sufficient cultural resources available that he should have known the major avenues of respect and insult, and should have been able to avoid the events that occurred. That they did occur indicates carelessness or ignorance, both undesirable attributes for one who calls himself Jedi."

Obi-Wan paused for a moment, ostensibly to drink some of his tea, although it allowed him time to glance at his Master. Qui-Gon's expression was closed, but he did not seem to disapprove yet. Obi-Wan relaxed very slightly. As a seventeen-year-old citizen of the Republic, he was legally responsible for his actions; as a junior padawan of the Jedi, without the status and responsibilities of even a senior padawan, he was in some ways no less of a child than the four-year-old padawan trainees at the Temple. Qui-Gon, like many Masters, had chosen to resolve this awkward unbalance by re-balancing it. Obi-Wan would analyze situations and offer his own suggestions on how to resolve it, and although the choice officially lay with Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan knew that his input served its own purpose. Qui-Gon's approval, tacit as it was, meant more than he would ever admit.

The tea had, by that point, cooled to a point where Obi-Wan could down the rest of his cupful in a single swallow without scalding his mouth. Setting the empty cup down again, he continued:

"Some repair to the situation has already been made; for this, I am in your debt." This, too, was more ritual than anything else; although debts could be owed and collected among the Jedi, responsibility-debts between a Master and his Padawan tended to be in name only. "For further reparations, I will need to apologise to the head Lumati, in private if he will allow it so that I do not further stain the name of the Jedi Order; to him I will apologise, and ask him to assign punishment to match the offense. I have researched the ways of the Lumati, and this approach is appropriate for the relative status of the Jedi and the Lumati, and for my relative rank within the Jedi and his rank within the Lumati government. I do not doubt that he will respond appropriately, and I will obey any request he makes within reason."

Qui-Gon nodded, giving silent approval of Obi-Wan's plans.

"As for the Princess..." Obi-Wan grimaced slightly. "I will need to speak with her, also privately, and explain what it is to be Jedi, and why she should not grow attached to one."

"It may be too late for that," Qui-Gon rumbled, amused.

"Perhaps. Then again, I believe my apparent rebellion against her father was what endeared me to her, and my apology will doubtless detract from my desirability."

"Or perhaps you are Jedi, and nothing you say or do will mar you to her eyes."

"Force," Obi-Wan said, mildly annoyed, "is she a child, that she needs a mythical hero to come to her unnecessary rescue?"

"Children are not the only ones who dream of heroes," Qui-Gon said almost ruefully.

Obi-Wan looked at him for a long time before giving a small, wry smile. "I suppose not."

***

// There are other sayings about diplomacy: that it is the art of saying one thing and meaning a second. In less charitable versions, the truth is a far-distant third to either speech or meaning.

This perception is not entirely inaccurate.

My apology to the Lumati went smoothly enough; I might not be the best diplomat among the Jedi, but any trained Jedi is among the best diplomats in the Republic, and I can talk well enough when I try. But speaking with the Princess... that was another matter entirely.

It didn't help that the punishment her father chose-- knowing full well what he was doing, from the expression on his face when he decided-- involved me spending the day with said Princess, as her bodyguard.

When he informed me of this, I bowed, and accepted the punishment, and did not in any way indicate the vast number of things I would prefer to have done. //


***

"Do you find me attractive?"

Obi-Wan blinked at the question, but carefully kept his face impassive. "With respect, m'kelshi," he said, using the Lumati term of respect for one of the Princess' stature, "your father assigned me to be your bodyguard. It is a duty that I can perform regardless of... attraction."

"Oh, I know that." The Princess gave him an exasperated look. "I was just wondering. Do you find me attractive?"

Obi-Wan bit back the first response he was tempted to give, and instead gave the question due consideration. The answer would have been easier if the Princess were a child; she was still young enough to have a girlish innocence to her, but not young enough to dodge the question on those grounds. It would have also been easier if the Lumati were a non-compatible species, so that he could have given a simple, truthful response: Not to my eyes.

But she was, to Obi-Wan's eyes, pretty, and saying otherwise would be both untruthful and undiplomatic. Reluctantly, he said, "Yes, but--"

"Oh, good," she said, interrupting him with blithe, breathless enthusiasm. "Do you want to be a prince? My father says I need to marry, and that the one I marry will be a prince, at least until I become Queen, and I think you're nice, and anyway we've never had a Jedi prince, and that would be just the best thing ever, and--"

Obi-Wan felt a laugh bubbling up inside him, almost against his will. He stifled it, but couldn't prevent the grin that spread across his face as he held up one hand to stop the endless flood of words. "M'kelshi, may I speak?"

"--furthermore I was think-- oh. Yes, speak." The Princess fell silent, impatience vibrating through her body.

Obi-Wan gave her a slight bow, stalling for time as he tried to think of the best way to say what he wanted to say. Finally, he settled for a quiet, straight-forward, and barely truthful answer: "I regret to inform you that I must decline your offer." He spoke with a deliberate reluctance, as though implying that he wanted to accept, and that his reasons for declining were not his own. "Please understand that this is not my choice; Jedi are not permitted to form close personal relationships, regardless of personal feelings or political reasons."

It was not true, for the most part. It also had very little to do with Obi-Wan's true reasons for declining.

"Oh." The Princess looked stricken for a moment. "Can't you break the rules?"

"Even if I could," Obi-Wan said gently, "it would not work. The restriction on relationships is not some form of punishment. A Jedi devotes his life and heart and mind fully to the service of the Jedi Order. Any personal relationship would come a distant second, by necessity, which is not a healthy environment for relationships."

"I wouldn't have a problem with that," the Princess said, almost sulkily.

"Wouldn't you?" Obi-Wan curved his mouth into a smile that he did not feel. "And would the Lumati people also have a similar lack of problem with a prince who was never on the planet? Jedi travel, m'kelshi, in service to the Order. There are always missions, always responsibilities; and Jedi cannot be bound to a single planet, as their services are owed to all Republic worlds."

She had a stubborn expression still, but it was softening somewhat, as she adjusted to the new information. "You could resign from the Jedi?" she suggested. "There are thousands of you, anyway, aren't there, so no one would miss you, right?"

My Master would, he thought, but did not say. "It is not a job, m'kelshi; it is a life. I cannot resign, cannot become not-Jedi any more than you can become not-princess."

"I can refuse the throne," she pointed out, and Obi-Wan smiled.

"You would still be a princess, would you not? Even if you never become the queen, you are still a princess by birth."

"I suppose." She gave him a thoughtful look. "So, Jedi are always Jedi, and Jedi don't have relationships. Isn't it lonely?"

Obi-Wan's smile, this time, was more genuine. "No," he said.

It was truth, and he meant it.

***

// Diplomacy is the art of saying the right thing at the right time. In some situations, this involves knowing not just what to say, and how but what not to say.

I spoke to the princess of the Force, a constant companion to any Jedi. Deliberately I made it sound as boring as possible, while still sounding like truth. I had uncomfortable visions of her deciding to run off and join the Jedi; regardless of the fact that she was far too old to begin training, she did not have the temperament suitable to our Order.

I spoke of the Force, living, almost breathing, and always there, always faithful.

I did not speak of the personal relationships that a Jedi could have with other Jedi. //


***

"So, did you and the Princess have a nice afternoon?" Qui-Gon's smile was bland, but his eyes were sharp. Obi-Wan gave him a serene look. Later, when they could talk freely, he would tell Qui-Gon more; here in their Lumati sleeping chambers, where others might hear, he said nothing.

Qui-Gon inclined his head, and asked no further questions until they were back on Coruscant. But even there, he did not directly ask questions to start with. It was not his way.

"Did I ever tell you about the first time I got myself married?" Qui-Gon asked. His expression was perfectly serious, but there was amusement in his eyes.

"The first--" Obi-Wan stopped, and grinned. "No, Master, you didn't."

Qui-Gon gave him a small smile, and leaned back, closing his eyes. "I was younger than you, by four years, and on a mission with Master Yoda. I was..." He paused, as though searching for a word. "Eager to perform well, you might say. So, naturally, it was a complete disaster."

"Naturally," Obi-Wan said dryly.

"The Tien-ai marriage ceremony is remarkably intricate; that I did not know what was going on at the time is rather astonishing. But I assumed it was some quaint ritual of welcome, and so I did not put a stop to things until, ah, afterwards."

Obi-Wan said nothing, but he couldn't keep from grinning widely.

"I must admit, when Master Yoda found out, he..." Qui-Gon gave a brief laugh, remembering. "He gave me this look, but he just told me to enjoy my wedding night. Which, ah, for the Tien-ai is rather, ah, involved."

"I can imagine."

"It took me ten days to resolve the situation without triggering an all-out war between the Tien-ai and the Republic. By the end of it, I was rather relieved to leave that place."

"So you aren't still married, then?" Obi-Wan asked, voice rippling with amusement, and Qui-Gon gave him a level look.

"I wouldn't still be here, if I were," he said, and then shrugged. "You are lucky, Padawan, to have been able to resolve the situation before you ended up fully married."

Obi-Wan gave a wry smile. "If the Princess had been able to have her way, I might not have been that lucky." He spoke then of what he could not before, summarizing the discussion with the Princess. "I do think that if I had been the least bit willing, or even non-resistant, she would have, ah, captured me."

"But you weren't."

"No," Obi-Wan said. "Although, I must admit to not being perfectly honest with her, or at any rate, I did not tell her everything. She thinks that the Force -- which," he added as an aside, "she seemed to think was superstition more than a real entity -- she thinks that the Force is all that keeps a Jedi from being lonely." He tilted his head, regarding Qui-Gon with half-closed eyes. "I did not tell her, but there are other reasons why I am not lonely."

Qui-Gon lifted one eyebrow, regarding his Padawan with amusement. "Are there?"

"Yes." Obi-Wan grinned, almost smug. His body language-- the way he was sitting, and the intense bright nature of his gaze-- added, louder than words could have, And you know full well what they are, Master.

With a slow, lopsided smile, Qui-Gon dipped his head slightly in acknowledgment.

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