There was something amiss. Gabrielle entered her tiny flat, tossing her heavy cloak over the nearest chair. There was a sound that caught her attention. Water was running, but as being part of Second Banana Heaven, the plumbing was second best. She heard something else.
It was a slow, sad tune, filling the hall.
Gabrielle glanced toward it. And did a double take. Someone was in her shower. That someone, left the door to the bath open, but also left the sliding glass of the shower ajar. She caught a glance of a nude spectral body, standing under the steamy deluge. They were lathering their long, dark hair. She took a few tentative steps, hoping that the visitor would not take notice. Her vision was not clear from the rolling steam, though she could see their backside and their long tall legs.
"Xena!" Gabrielle cried, smiling. It had been a while since her dearest partner had visited. It was just the warrior's style to arrive unannounced and use the facilities as if she owned the place.
There was no response, the sad tune continuing.
Gabrielle neared closer and her foot tapped an object in front of her. It was a large boot, leather, much like Xena's, only a lighter tan, with unusual buckles. From there, she spotted a pile of clothing. Earthen hues, creams and browns, were contrasted by a shining silver lightsabre hilt.
"Qui-Gon," she said, quietly to herself. She stooped to gather up the pile of clothing, when the smell hit her, taking her breath away. It was concentrated, stale, mildewed funk. "Whew!" She suddenly clapped her hand over her nose.
The man in the shower jumped, startled. "Who's there?" He turned round, looking through the spray.
Gabrielle looked to the elder and jerked her hand up to cover her eyes. He was very nude and very visible. "Wh, what are you doing here?"
The Jedi turned back to his scrubbing. "Showering."
His nudity made her uncomfortable, her cheeks glowing red. The shower was also weeping over the tub, leaving the floor and the bath mat wet. She lowered her hand and, stepping over the pile of stinking clothing, she reached out the shut the sliding glass door.
Like a jolt of lightning, he grabbed her wrist. "Please, don't."
After the initial shock wore off, Gabrielle breathed out, deeply, shaking her head. "I, I won't."
He let go and lowered his head, going back to his ablutions. There was a short sigh. "Sorry."
The bard decided to tread lightly. "Would you like me to wash your clothes?"
"I'd like you to burn them."
She stepped to the pile and kicked them together. "What will you wear?"
He nodded with a grunt. "Nothing. Clothes are too constricting."
"You sound like Master Windu."
The statement was simple, but powerful. It was enough for the Jedi to rethink his decision. "Wash them."
Gabrielle scooped up a towel off the rack beside her tub then wrapped the offending garments. She took them to the sonic cleaner chute and dumped them in.
The water turned off. Qui-Gon snagged the last remaining towel and began to blot himself dry.
The Amazon glanced over, suddenly clenching her eyes shut. "Yeah," she said, with an embarrassed smile, "That's nice." She waved out, blindly, in front of her. "You're going to have to put something on. This is just..." She trailed off, shaking her head. "My bathrobe is on the back of the door."
The elder looked at the ethereal robe. Pink. Fluffy. A terry cotton monstrosity. "Gabrielle," he shouted from behind the half-closed door, "How long before my robe is clean?"
"About a quarter hour," the feminine voice replied.
Qui-Gon sighed, wrapping the towel around his damp hair and tying it into a makeshift turban. He resigned himself to his fate, slipping the robe around his shoulders. It was small, clinging to his wet skin, coming to mid-thigh and felt uncomfortably tight. The sensation of the material on his skin made his intangible flesh crawl. He threw open the door, panting.
Gabrielle looked at him in disbelief for a mere moment before she was overtaken with laughter. She held her hand out, as if ready to speak, but could not draw the breath to speak. She knew this Jedi Master personally. She had seen his times, from good to bad. He was her friend. But this was just too much! A grown ghost of a man, one who lived a life of seriousness and serenity, before her in a pink robe and his hair wrapped in a white towel. "I have matching slippers..." she said, between giggles.
He began to untie the pink belt.
"No! Wait... I'm," she sighed, "I'm sorry. This is just too funny. Go look in the mirror. Seriously."
He trudged back into the steamy bathroom, his wet feet slapping the ethereal floor.
The sight that met his spectral eyes made a smile crack across his chiselled features. It reminded him of his days as Quiggy Starlust. All he needed was a feathered boa and some garish make-up.
He looked the nearly same as he had before the incarceration. Lines shone through deeper, the colours darker. Staring back at him, his eyes lacked the same glow that they usually burned with.
He took his hair down from the towel. Taking the comb beside the sink, Qui-Gon ran it through his long silvery hair. The tie he used to pull his long locks back was with the clothing in the wash. When he finished combing, he slid his fingers through the length. He would let it finish drying in the swirling ethereal air.
The door was nearly closed, which he could see from the mirror. He shuddered and threw it open, joining Gabrielle in the main room.
The young woman smiled at the man and patted a seat on the couch beside her. He sat, giving an incredulous smile at his pink robe.
Gabrielle opened her mouth to speak, but closed it with a sigh. She looked deep in thought for a moment. "So," she began, "How ya' doin, big guy?"
He simply shrugged his shoulders.
"What made you decide to commandeer my shower?"
The Jedi rolled the edge of the belt in his spectral fingers. "Ethereal showers are the best way for ghosts to clean themselves. Real soap and water doesn't work for us."
They sat in silence for a few tics, before Gabrielle said, "Who would have thought Jo Jo would pull it off? I didn't even think he could pick the nits off himself, and there he went defending you and Dooku."
The elder nodded, his mind a million miles away.
"He's a good guy, you know? Makes a mean banana daiquiri." Gabrielle smiled, running a quick hand through her ghostly hair. "You want a brownie?" She could tell by his graceful and consummate manner that he had not had one in some time. She knew him from his years of holovid programmes in that way, but she knew him personally, as Qui-Gon Jinn, the Jedi Hippie Master. She thought that he seemed to have more fun when he was under the influence of at least a few brownies.
Qui-Gon cocked his head to the side and looked at her, a smile on his face. "I thought that they were all sold out."
Gabrielle got up, taking a quick glance at the robe again, and made her way for the kitchenette. "They are," she began, "in most stores. But, see, I had made this little stash," she pulled out a small clay urn at the back of her cupboard, "a while back. So you and I could have a few when you stopped by."
A sincere smile crossed the elder's face. "Thank you for the generous offer." His smile faded a few watts. "However, I am going to have to pass. As soon as my clothes are clean, I need to be heading home."
Gabrielle gave him a superficial smile, her eyes, instead, showing her disappointment. "I understand. It's okay." She tossed him a packet from the jar. "Take a few home. You and Dooku can share."
He caught the wrapped square. "Are you sure? I hear that they are worth quite a bit on the black market."
Gabrielle nodded, pulling out several more packets. "You mean, cBay? Right now, they are worth almost as much as an unopened case of Clone Strike miniatures."
"Wow," the elder said, in hushed astonishment. "That's too rich for my blood." He held the snack out, handing it back in her direction.
"It's okay. Really," she said, pressing several more packs into the outstretched ethereal hand. "They are here to be eaten, not for financial gain."
"I understand completely."
Three sequential beeps sounded, followed by the sound of the door to a small dumb-waiter, beside Gabrielle's cupboard, opening. Inside it were Qui-Gon's clean and neatly folded clothes.
"All done," she said, brightly, pulling the garments from the compartment. "I have a request." She held the pile behind herself.
Qui-Gon stood, turning his head to the side, saying, "And what is that?"
"That you please, please change in the bedroom. I'll stay in here, and you go in there." She pointed to the room beside the 'fresher.
Smiling, he lowered his head, mocking defeat. He shot her a good natured grin, pointing out an accusing finger. "No peeking."
"No problem." She handed him the pile, and watched as he departed. Shaking her head, she took a seat on the couch.
A few minutes later, the man she knew exited the bedroom. He was dressed in his Jedi tunics and leggings, but carried his robe and poncho over his arm, with the pink robe over the other.
"You can keep that robe. The colour suits you."
"Keep it? Master Yoda would never let me live that down." He tossed the garment in question down the laundry chute. "I do hope no-one else saw me in that pink nightmare."
Turning to face her, he held out his arms, calling for a hug. "Thank you."
She grinned, shaking her head, embracing the big man. "Your tunic smells much better," she said, muffled by the cloth.
"Hey, Qui?" she asked, looking up into his translucent eyes. "Go home, have some brownies, and try to relax."
Loaded up with several packets of brownies and an armful of clean clothes, he left, smiling.