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The Jedi and His Duchess

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PROLOGUE

Draboon

The air was cold and dry as Satine frantically ran through the overgrown forest, branches whipping across her alabaster skin and catching in her fine hair, pulling it loose into wild, savage wisps. As she crested the hill and came to the base of a steeper cliff she barely paused before she began scaling the fissured boulders that led to a sheer drop. Fear pushed her onward, giving her renewed strength. She made short work climbing the cliff face; once at the top, she lay flat on her stomach and inched forward. Her heart was pounding in her chest so hard she felt it reverberate off the stone beneath her. Carefully, doing her best to be silent, she slid forward far enough to peek over the edge of the crumbling stone ledge.

Four large humanoid bounty hunters stood clustered together in the clearing with weapons drawn; two of them casually leaned against each other, laughing and snickering. The largest, a man clad from head to toe in battered metal armor, complete with a snouted helmet, was clearly the leader. He stood with his back to Satine, his massive figure looming over a young man who was curled in a heap on the ground. Even from a distance Satine could see that the forest floor had become dark with the boy’s blood.

When the bounty hunter spoke, his voice sounded metallic and brittle. “Get him up.”

A lime green scaly Trandoshan with ragged claws reached for the young man sprawled on the ground. As the youth was dragged to his knees, he hunched to the side, clutching his right arm tightly against his ribcage. The Trandoshan brutally took a fistful of the boy’s thick auburn hair and wrenched his head back, revealing Obi-Wan Kenobi’s bloody face.

Satine gripped the cliff’s edge as her eyes grew wide with fear. She clenched her jaw shut, swallowing the sob that rose in her throat.




CHAPTER 1

Coruscant – Nearly 15 Years Later

The Duchess of Mandalore absentmindedly ran a long finger around the lip of her wine glass, her gaze uncharacteristically dull while the company around her laughed and prattled on. A large group of senators, several diplomats, and two Jedi were her company for the evening, celebrating her recent victory in rejecting Republic intervention regarding Mandalorian civil affairs. She should have felt like rejoicing. Instead her stomach was in knots.

Apart from being wrongly accused and acquitted of a murder charge, she was overwhelmed with anxiety for her people, frustrated with the political squalor of the Republic Senate, and battling her own heart’s vulnerability. Satine could not wait to leave Coruscant the following morning but, in an attempt to quell her rising loneliness, she had allowed herself to be persuaded to dine with Padme Amidala. The Naboo senator arranged a festive gathering at Coruscant’s finest club; panoramic views of the glittering city beckoned while diners enjoyed delicacies and libations seated around long banquet tables.

The Mandalorian Regent was startled by several of the attending guests, but none more so than Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Jedi Master was not known for his love of politicians and he rarely attended social engagements. He currently looked bored and like it was costing him a great deal to remain polite in the face of painfully dry, political banter.

Satine had hoped to be seated next to Kenobi but had ended up directly across from him. The table was narrow but the room was loud. There was little chance they would be able to speak to each other.

She could not stop thinking about their shared past, about the terrible circumstances that had brought them together and about the devotion to duty that had ripped them apart.

Obi-Wan was just as handsome as ever, his piercing blue eyes sharp and attentive, his brow slightly arched with amusement (though not pleasure), and his left fist tucked under the opposite arm while his right hand wrapped around his beard. It was Kenobi’s usual contemplative guise; he nodded to the senator seated to his right, feigning polite interest. Satine could read the Jedi easily. Obi-Wan did not remotely agree with the senator’s views but was too well-mannered to start an argument, despite the politician’s constant jibes against the Jedi Order.

Satine quickly swallowed the rest of her bubbly wine and signaled for more. As the LEP servant droid refilled her glass she couldn’t help but sneak a glance at Kenobi. He suddenly looked up and their eyes locked; his beautiful blue orbs instantly softened, becoming round and pensive. Satine could tell that he wanted to speak to her, but she also knew him well enough to know that he would not.

The thought made her angry. Her cheeks instantly flushed and she was forced to take a deep breath to steady herself. She hated being so attracted to a man that insisted on keeping her at arms length. She suspected Kenobi was more determined than ever to keep their interactions polite and formal, though his eyes betrayed his earnestness and his conflict.

The Duchess quickly looked away from Kenobi and took another large gulp from her glass. Damn him, she thought harshly. She was a practical woman; no one would call her romantic. But Satine knew there was more to this stalwart Jedi. She had seen him flustered and overcome with emotion, she had seen him shy and vulnerable. Satine doubted that even Anakin Skywalker had seen him that way.

She could not deny that deep down, she savagely wished Kenobi would suddenly blurt out that he loved her, that his boyishly handsome face would flush as he took her hand. But she knew that would never happen. He had built strong walls around his heart. She had no wish to tempt him; she only wanted him to tell her how he truly felt just once. Whether he loved her or not, she needed him to set her free.

But he would never confess anything. He would never undermine the Jedi Code.

Satine Kryze knew all too well that Obi-Wan Kenobi would not yield.




Mandalore

“There goes another explosion,” Obi-Wan said, wrapping his cloak around his strong frame. “Master, we can’t just stand here. We’re sitting ducks.”

“Patience, Padawan,” Qui-Gon said calmly, watching his young apprentice pace back and forth across the landing platform. “We still have time.”

Not far off to the north Mandalore was in flames. Civil war had torn the system to pieces and after the Duke had been murdered by insurgents the sitting Prime Minister had pleaded for Jedi aid. The Duke’s daughter stood to inherit her father’s title and power; death threats had already begun, followed by a botched assassination attempt. The Mandalorian forces were spread too thin and could not offer the Duchess the protection she needed. Within two rotations of the Duke’s murder Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan had landed amongst the chaos.

On the platform’s far edge two figures appeared in the shadows. Qui-Gon stepped forward warily, his hand hovering over his weapon. Obi-Wan stopped pacing and took his place at his master’s side. The two figures hurried toward the Jedi. As they approached and stepped into the light, Qui-Gon noticeably relaxed.

“I’m sorry we’re late,” said the tall Mandalorian as he squared up before the Jedi. “The Kryze home has been overrun by mercenaries this very evening. You must get the Duchess away before they realize she survived the attack.” The stately man turned and gestured to the young woman at his side. “May I present the Duchess of Mandalore, lady Satine Kryze of Kalevala.”

Until now the Duchess’s head had been bowed. She quickly lifted her chin and nodded to the Jedi before hiding her face again.

Obi-Wan initially felt offended by her brusqueness, but then he saw the tears streaming down her cheeks and he felt ashamed of himself. Her father had recently been murdered and bloodthirsty soldiers that wanted her and her family dead had seized her home. Of course she was brusque.

Qui-Gon, more attuned to the young woman’s emotions, bowed to her deferentially. “We have sworn to protect you, Duchess. We will do everything in our power to keep you safe.”

“I thank you,” she managed to say, her voice trembling as she tried to conceal her tears.

The older Jedi gestured toward his apprentice. “This is my Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi. He will escort you onboard the shuttle.”

Satine looked at Obi-Wan as he bowed politely. He had kind eyes.

“Duchess,” he said, his voice far more boyish and melodic than she expected. “Whenever you’re ready.”

She turned to her Mandalorian companion. They bowed to each other formally then came close and rested their foreheads together.

K'oyacyi,” he whispered.

Satine could not bring herself to respond; her emotions were quickly getting the better of her. She nodded once before turning to the younger Jedi, holding her hand out to Kenobi.

Obi-Wan looked a little startled by the gesture but recovered quickly, taking her hand and guiding it under his arm as he led her up the gangplank into the waiting shuttle.

Qui-Gon could not suppress an amused smile as he felt his Padawan’s sudden fluster. Obi-Wan had very little experience with royal ladies but the Jedi master knew his apprentice would adapt quickly. He always does.

Obi-Wan led Satine to the back of the ship where the private sleeping quarters were located. “This is your bunk,” he said snapping on the light revealing a sterile, white room with a cot bolted to the bulkhead. “It’s not much but…”

“It’s fine,” Satine said peering into the bare room. She fiercely wiped the tearstains off her face and pushed past Obi-Wan, dumping her rucksack on the floor.

He finally got a good look at her. Satine Kryze had sharp features; her nose, brow, cheeks, and lips were strait like a razor’s edge. Though she was pink and splotchy from crying, her skin was white as snow. She was dressed in a practical military tunic, trousers, and sturdy, battered combat boots; her rough-and-tumble attire seemed to bolster her imposing comportment. She rolled her shoulders back striking a regal pose before looking at him with pale blue eyes. “You’re a Jedi knight?” she asked, her voice still shaky.

“Uh, no,” Obi-Wan said reluctantly. Something about the Duchess made him feel scrutinized. “I’m a Padawan. I haven’t been knighted yet.” He felt slightly mortified when her eyes widened with disappointment.

“You’re a student?”

“Well, no, an apprentice.”

“But you’re still in training?”

“Well, yes.”

Satine pursed her lips as a little crinkle formed between her eyes. “I see.”

She suddenly looked like she was going to cry again so Obi-Wan spoke quickly. “You can stay here for a bit if you want to be alone for a while, but you’re very welcome to join us on the bridge whenever you’re up for it.” He backed toward the door. Watching tears form in her eyes was particularly taxing on his ability to remain calm. He had felt very prepared and collected when the Council authorized this mission; he knew it would present unique challenges just like any other assignment. So why did he suddenly feel overwhelming pressure to perform well?

“I’ll go,” he said, hiking his thumb toward the door. “Unless you need something…”

She just stared at him.

“I’ll… be in uh… I’ll be in the cockpit if you need anything,” he said, finally mastering his brain.




Her father was dead.

Her mother was dead.

Her home was lost.

Her siblings were missing.

Her world was in tatters.

Satine sat on the cold floor of the tiny sleeping compartment. She’d been sobbing into her shirtsleeves for the better part of an hour. She was filled with terrible, overwhelming fear that she was unprepared to conquer.

So she cried.

She allowed herself to cry.

She tried to stay silent. She didn’t want the Jedi to hear her and think that she was weak.

There was a timid knock before the room’s metal door slid open. Obi-Wan sheepishly poked his head in. Satine could tell he had been trying to give her privacy, that he didn’t want to embarrass her.

“Pardon me, Duchess, but we’ll be landing in about an hour.”

She noticed how he made eye contact with her despite both their embarrassment.

“We’ll be staying with the ship for a day or two so you don’t have to worry about disembarking, but I thought you’d appreciate an update.” His mouth pulled up into a timid half smile. “I’m sorry to intrude,” he added quietly.

Satine sniffed and tried to look braver than she felt. “Thank you, Jedi Padawan.”

Kenobi gave a visible start but quickly repressed his urge to laugh. “Uh, you may call me Obi-Wan if you’d rather.”

The young lady’s cheeks instantly burned with a pink flush. “As you wish,” she said, quickly lowering her head, mortified.

When she glanced up again Obi-Wan was kneeling right in front of her. She had not really looked at him until now. His eyes were kind and friendly, his nose was broad and his lips were thin, his jaw was strong, and he carried himself with a confident, though not arrogant, attitude. Kenobi was extremely attractive. Satine had not known men (much less Jedi) could be so handsome. She turned pink again but this time she did not try to hide it; she needed to learn to control her behavior, so she forced herself to return his direct gaze.

Obi-Wan reached out and placed a handkerchief into her hands. “I’m sorry for your heartbreak, my lady,” he said gently. “But I promise we’ll protect you.”

He was so young and enthusiastic, not yet corrupted by cruelty nor disenchanted by pain. Satine wondered how he could be so eager to sacrifice himself for her safety. Tears brimmed in her eyes as she thought of the risk these two Jedi were taking on. She didn’t want anyone to die for her.

Obi-Wan reached out and bashfully placed a hand on her shoulder. “You’re safe with us, Duchess.”

His kindness almost ruined her.

Chapter Text

Coruscant

Obi-Wan Kenobi was exhausted. He couldn’t really bring himself to eat much; his plate was empty except for something green that he did not recognize. Senator Amidala was kind to invite Anakin and him to dinner, but the last few weeks had taken an emotional toll and he would much rather be back at the temple…

Doing what? he berated himself. Sleeping? Meditating? You haven’t been doing either very much lately.

Ever since the Council sent him to Mandalore, ever since he had been back in Satine Kryze’s presence, his mind had been a trap, constantly filling him with questions and regrets about his past.

She was more beautiful than he remembered.

His heart tightened every time she entered a room.

Even now, sitting across the table from her, he could barely focus on anything else. He could feel her through the Force giving off a stable, powerful, warm energy. They did not always see eye to eye, but he respected her fortitude and her intelligence. He understood why she displayed such an armored exterior, but he had the privilege of knowing her on a more intimate level; she was noble and proud on the outside but deep down she was devoted and selfless. She could be a difficult woman, always headstrong and opinionated, single-mindedly stubborn and fierce. He had first met her when they were both young, he still a Padawan and she a ravaged casualty of war. He and Qui-Gon had been sent to protect her. The assignment had been difficult, but over time the two youths had grown…

Close? Is that what you would call it? Kenobi asked himself.

As if reading his mind Satine suddenly looked right into his eyes, her expression earnest and sad. Obi-Wan caught his breath as emotions he had not felt for more than a decade suddenly rose to the surface. He saw so much of his past in those pale blue eyes, so much passion, friendship, and pain.

What would his life be like if he had chosen a different path? Would he be sitting by Satine’s side right this moment? Would he be her husband? Her consort?

His chest suddenly tightened and for a moment his expression betrayed the pain in his heart.

He clenched his jaw and ran a hand over his beard.

Thinking about the past was foolhardy. Wondering what might have been was a sure way to contaminate the future.

Obi-Wan reached for his glass and swallowed the contents in one gulp. A droid refilled it instantly. Kenobi stared down into the amber liquid and swirled it around.

Satine was leaving first thing in the morning. Once again fate had brought them together only to rip them apart. Obi-Wan knew life wasn’t fair but he wondered why it always seemed to be so painful. As a Jedi he constantly had to repress his natural feelings in order to complete his missions. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t currently feeling battle weary. He was a man who craved action, who thrived in combat, but he hated watching his men die and he despised the political mess that had gotten them into this war.

Obi-Wan was shaken from his thoughts as the obnoxious man sitting next to him, Senator Stultus, leaned forward to interrupt Satine while she conversed with a diplomat from Rodia.

“Conflict is one of the tenants of democracy, your highness,” Stultus said loudly. He had a penchant for goading others into anger. “Conflict keeps things healthy.”

Obi-Wan watched with amusement as Satine’s brow arched. She eyed the man up and down with barely concealed disgust before responding. “Conflict may indeed prevent stagnation, Senator. But it is civically irresponsible to tout conflict and violence as mutually inclusive. If you are trying to argue that war is healthy, then I wonder how many soldiers would agree with you.”

Several guests looked at the Jedi for a response.

Kenobi could feel Skywalker bristle from across the room. His friend was sitting at the table’s far end with Senators Amidala and Organa. Obi-Wan flashed Anakin a warning look, asking the young Jedi to stay calm.

“What do you say, Master Kenobi?” Stultus questioned, elbowing Obi-Wan in the arm.

Kenobi spoke his mind but sidestepped the insinuation that Jedi were soldiers rather than peacekeepers. “Violence should always be the last resort.”

“Violence is never a solution,” Satine said, giving Obi-Wan a hard look.

He returned her glare. “As you well know, Duchess, sometimes the opposition doesn’t care what you think or want.”

“Mankind will always want to fight,” Stultus said cruelly. “It’s in our nature.”

Obi-Wan shook his head and turned away. He hated these kinds of conversations; they were a moral quagmire. Satine knew he despised suffering and cruelty but she always picked fights with him, asking him to justify his own use of force.

She seemed to forget that there was a time where, if not for his force, she would be dead.




Draboon

They landed on an isolated airstrip near the edge of a dense forest and stayed on the ship for far longer than a day or two. Their quarters became hot and humid and Satine’s agitation grew with every passing day. She missed her creature comforts, but worse than that she could not shake her anxiety. Her body was tense, her stomach constantly twisted in a nervous knot. She spent her days pacing about irritably, wishing for news from home but too afraid to ask Qui-Gon if he had heard anything.

The older Jedi seemed to keep to himself. Satine liked him very much despite his initial coolness. At first she thought he was going to be stern and boring, but as she listened to Jinn and Kenobi banter, she quickly learned that the apprentice was far more likely to play by the rules. Master Jinn was an intuitive soul, always seeking a closer connection with the Force, while Kenobi seemed to constantly bring up something call “the code.” He mentioned it so often Satine started keeping a tally in her head.

The trio tried to stay positive. They were barely a week into their isolation but tensions were already running high. The heat was taxing and when the rains began even Qui-Gon’s seemingly perfect calm became rattled. They were all crammed in the small cockpit with very little to keep them occupied. Obi-Wan was on his back under the main piloting consul tinker with the autopilot’s motherboard. Qui-Gon studied a holomap while Satine sat sideways in the back passenger seat, her legs draped lazily over the chair’s arm. Listening to the rain battering down on the ship’s metal hull was driving her mad.

“Your frustration is palpable, Duchess,” Qui-Gon said without looking up from his map.

She had not spoken much since they left Mandalore. Back home she had not been known as a quiet child, but she felt strangely shy in the Jedi’s company. However, her boredom led her quickly to anger. “What do you expect?” she said waving her arm around the tiny compartment. “It’s dull, and loud, and hot, and crowded in here.”

Obi-Wan pushed out from under the consul. He was sweating and had grease all over his face and hands. He was bored out of his head but he had been doing his best to keep his mind occupied. “You could try finding something useful to do,” he said grumpily.

Satine turned quickly and stared daggers at him. “Don’t you dare talk to me like that.”

“Like what?” Obi-Wan said, wiping oil off his chin with the back of his hand. “Like a real person and not like a Duchess?”

Satine stood up quickly. “No,” she said angrily. “Don’t talk to me like I’m useless.”

Obi-Wan’s mouth fell open but he couldn’t think of a retort.

Qui-Gon tried to calm the waters but was too grumpy for diplomacy. “Stop it, both of you.”

“If it’s too crowded in here she can go outside,” Obi-Wan said to himself under his breath.

Satine balled her hands into fists. “I’d rather go out in the rain than stay stuffed in here with your ego.” Her anger was quickly getting the better of her. She turned to Qui-Gon and unleashed more of her fury. “And your massive form takes up three-quarters of the compartment,” she snarled. “It’s amazing anyone can fit in here next to you.”

Qui-Gon forcefully repressed a grin, swallowing back a chuckle, but Satine saw the glint in his eye. Her mouth turned down at the corners as she recoiled in anger and fumed out of the craft, into the pouring rain.

“That was well done,” the older Jedi said, turning to his apprentice.

“You started it,” Obi-Wan replied defensively.

Qui-Gon’s eyebrows pulled up into a look of curious amusement as he crossed his arms over his chest.

Kenobi immediately bowed his head. “I’m sorry, Master,” he said apologetically. “You’re right. I was rude to her.” He threw his hands up and suddenly became exasperated. “It’s just so hot in here, and I’m so bloody bored…”

The Jedi master picked up the holomap again and began flipping through the settings. “You don’t need another lecture about controlling your temper,” he said casually. “But you do need to start proving that you have more self-control.”

Obi-Wan’s brow pulled together as he let his master’s words sink in. Qui-Gon was right. He didn’t have to prove it to his teacher, he had to prove it to himself.

Qui-Gon’s soft hazel eyes twinkled as he smiled but he didn’t look up from his map. “You know what to do, Obi-Wan.”

Kenobi let out a dramatic sigh and rolled his eyes before tossing his wrench loudly into the toolbox. Then he headed out into the rain.




Satine was sitting on the ground with her back up against a large boulder when Obi-Wan found her. The rain had tempered to a steady drizzle but the two of them were soaked through.

Kenobi sat down in the mud right in front of her. Satine was staring down into her lap and didn’t bother to look up at him.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his irritation not fully subdued. “I was very rude to you.”

She still didn’t look up but he could see her brow pull together, her face pained and frustrated. “I was rude in return.” She shook her head and suddenly looked at Obi-Wan with such sadness that he thought his heart would break. “Do you think I hurt Qui-Gon’s feelings?”

Kenobi couldn’t stop the little smile that softened his anger. “No,” he said gently. As the young man looked into the Duchess’s eyes, he suddenly felt a wave a fear flash over him; it was not his fear, it was Satine’s. Obi-Wan realized she had her hands twisted together and her shoulders were slumped forward like she was struggling to breathe. He knew he shouldn’t touch her; Mandalorian noblewomen usually preferred to give leave to companions, but he had never sensed such pain in another. Satine’s presence in the Force was remarkable, her energy pressing up against his Force signature as though her feelings were his own. He reached out and pulled her hands into his.

“I can sense that you’re hurting,” he said softly.

She squeezed his fingers, her body trembling with anxiety.

“They killed my father,” she suddenly whispered. “And the night I was brought to meet you, mercenaries broke into my home. They killed my mother…” She clenched her jaw to stop her tears. After a moment she continued. “I’ve never known such fear in all my life.” She looked up into his eyes. “I’m so angry, Obi-Wan. My mind is running wild, it won’t let me rest.”

Kenobi’s heart was moved. She had such heavy burdens and no one to confide in but two strange Jedi. He was flooded with compassion.

“I can help you,” he said timidly. “I… I can use the Force to settle your mind.”

She looked at him reluctantly. “Will it hurt?”

He smiled. “No.”

“Will you be able to read my thoughts?”

“No.”

The ache in her heart was more than she could bear. She was desperate for relief. “All right,” she said with a nod. “What should I do?”

Obi-Wan had only ever done this for himself and never for another person, but he was sure of his abilities and asked the Force for guidance. He scooted closer to her so their knees were touching as they sat facing each other. “All you need to do is close your eyes and trust me.”

She paused for a moment, taking a slow breath. Then she closed her eyes.

He gently took her face in his hands, his palms resting over her eyes, his thumbs caressing her brow. No one had ever touched her like this, especially not a man. Her heart skipped a beat.

Obi-Wan sensed her sudden tension. “It’s all right,” he reassured her.

She decided to trust him and relaxed into his touch. She focused on the feeling of his palms against her skin. He was gentle but confident, letting his fingers rest across the top of her head, pressing his fingertips lightly into her hair.

Kenobi closed his eyes and bowed his head, reaching out with the Force. He searched for Satine’s burning anxiety, a dark aura that wrapped around her, and as he pulled it away he replaced it with stability, with peace and strength. Satine’s head instantly became heavy in his hands as her burdens lifted. Obi-Wan pulled all of her tension and anxiety away, culling it into his heart. The pain she carried chilled him, sent a shiver up his spine, but after a moment he was able to release it into the Force just as Qui-Gon had trained him.

They sat like this for a long time, Satine allowing Obi-Wan to root out her fear and anger, allowing him to show her kindness like she had never experience. What kind of person would offer to take your pain as their own, to share a stranger’s burden? she wondered.

When Satine opened her eyes, she felt as though she were seeing Obi-Wan for the first time. He was handsome, to be sure, but she realized he was beautiful on the inside; his heart, his very nature, was compassionate. He barely knew her yet wanted to help relieve her suffering. He had not been too proud to apologize and then he had offered to care for her.

She reached out and caressed his brow, running her fingertips down the side of his face. “Thank you,” she whispered.

No one had ever touched him like that, but instead of feeling shocked or like he should pull away, Obi-Wan felt calm. The Force gave him clarity, showed him this girl’s pain then used him to help ease her sadness. And now, as this stranger reached out and touched his cheek, the Force showed him the beauty that kindness revealed. Satine’s fingers were cold as they trailed down his skin but he felt warm as their auras blended.

From this moment on there was an understanding between them. Satine knew she could trust Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan understood that the Force had brought them together. His job was to protect her at all costs, but this encounter had been a poignant, lovely example that sometimes protecting a person only required gentle kindness.

Chapter Text

Draboon

Several weeks passed and still they remained camped in the ship. Every few days Qui-Gon used his com link to make contact with a Mandalorian informer embedded in Sundari who provided updates on the civil war and transmitted messages to and from the Prime Minister. The news was never good and Satine began to worry that she may never be allowed to return to Mandalore.

Qui-Gon never withheld the truth from her, but he also made an effort to keep her distracted. He taught her to track and hunt, showing her simple lessons that improved her ability to listen to her instincts. She taught him about plants that she knew were safe to forage. Satine grew to love his gentle yet direct manners, and over time she began to see how he and Obi-Wan were well matched as Master and Padawan. In many ways they were opposites, but that seemed to make them perfect compliments. Satine enjoyed when they would crack jokes or tease each other; Qui-Gon could make Obi-Wan laugh, and it heartened Satine to see the younger man abandon his rigid reserve. With every passing day the trio became more comfortable with each other.

As the weeks dragged on, Obi-Wan became miserably bored, but he did his best to occupy himself. He worked on the ship, cleaned the weapons, prepared food, and tried to meditate as often as he could. Qui-Gon recognized his Padawan’s efforts and appreciated how the boy did not complain; even so, he could sense his pupil’s growing frustration. Kenobi’s temper was always more erratic if he was bored and Jinn wanted to avoid a flare up. One sunny afternoon, he called Obi-Wan to his side.

“I want you to take the Duchess to forage some food. You both are getting irritable and I need some time without you bickering in my ear.”

Obi-Wan folded his hands in front of him and looked down sheepishly. He and Satine had been at each other’s throats all morning. Though he didn’t exactly relish more time with her and her ill humor, he felt bad that his master had been forced to endure their arguing. “As you wish. I’ll make sure we drag our feet,” he smiled. “Give you a few extra moment’s of peace.”

Qui-Gon clapped a large hand on his apprentice’s back and chuckled. “That would be appreciated.”

Obi-Wan and Satine made their way into the trees and slowly picked through the brambles until they found a path that led north. They wandered slowly, gathering berries and nuts.

“Do you like being a Jedi?” Satine suddenly asked.

Obi-Wan arched a brow and looked at her, wondering if she was trying to tease him. She carried on inspecting a low bush while she waited for him to reply. “I’ve never really thought about it,” he finally said. “I’ve been a Jedi for as long as I can remember. But yes, I like it.”

“Do you remember your parents?” she asked standing up, a little crinkle forming between her eyes as she looked at him.

“No, they had me sent to the Jedi when I was very young.”

“You never knew them?” she asked, staring at him intensely.

He turned and faced her. “No.”

“How terribly sad.”

He felt bothered by her assumption. “It never occurred to me to feel sad about it.”

“But your life was chosen for you.”

“I’m allowed to leave if I want. The Order doesn’t insist that I remain a Jedi forever.”

She turned away and started pulling berries off another bush. “But you’ll never leave the Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You wouldn’t know what to do with yourself.”

Obi-Wan couldn’t tell if she was mocking him. “You don’t know me,” he said defensively. “You obviously don’t know what it means to be a Jedi. It’s not some game or some trivial club you join until you get bored. It’s a devotion. I had to give an oath, I had to willingly sacrifice my sense of self. I’ve stayed in the Order because I’ve made a choice. Yes, my parents chose the Jedi path for me, but I’m still a Jedi because I want to be.”

Satine stared at the young man for a long time, looking him up and down. “I don’t agree with sacrificing your sense of self. Identity is a gift; not everyone is free to express it. I don’t think it should be discarded so easily.” She could see his eyes getting wide like he was going to fight with her, so she held up a hand to stop him. “However,” she said loudly, “I cannot help but admire your devotion to a higher calling.” She came and stood right in front of him, searching his blue eyes. “Selflessness is a noble trait, Obi-Wan, but I hate to see you turn your back on what makes you unique. How can you serve others if you don’t even know who you are?”

His head was spinning. She made him feel so confused. He knew who he was. Didn’t he?

“What about you? As a Duchess won’t you be expected to live to a certain standard? Won’t you be expected to sacrifice something of yourself?”

She crossed her arms and looked smug. “I’m sure I will. But I don’t intend to forget who I am along the way. I don’t believe in accepting something just because someone says I have to. If it doesn’t feel true to my heart, at least I’ll have the fortitude to say so.”

“Is that what you think I do? Just believe whatever I’m told?”

“Doesn’t your Code forbid you from questioning your teachings?”

“No, we are encouraged to explore and interpret our lessons.”

“Then why are you always lecturing Qui-Gon about the Code? Can’t you see the difference? He is exploring the possibilities the Force provides while you stick to the Code even if it makes you uncomfortable.”

Obi-Wan’s mouth fell open as his brain fumbled for a retort, but before he could respond he was suddenly overwhelmed with a horrible sense of dread. He froze in his tracks, his eyes becoming wide and unfocused as he reached into the Force, searching for the source of his discomfort. Something cruel and sinister was nearby, circling in the atmosphere above. He quickly turned to Satine. “We have to get back to the ship.” He grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her along as fast as he could, running through the underbrush.

By the time they made it back to camp a strange unmarked shuttle was orbiting close overhead. Obi-Wan and Satine stayed in the tree cover and peered warily through the leaves. The young Jedi could sense danger. He reached out to his master through the Force.

I sense it too, Padawan, Qui-Gon replied.

Kenobi could see Jinn huddled under their ship, concealing himself under the ramp.

“What is it?” Satine asked, squinting up at the shuttle hovering just above them.

“I’m not sure,” Obi-Wan replied. “But whatever it is, it isn’t friendly.” He turned to her suddenly and took her firmly by the shoulders. “Satine,” he said, addressing her informally for the first time and without permission, “whatever happens, promise that you’ll do exactly as I say.”

She scowled for a moment but his serious eyes halted her rebellious feelings. The Jedi were there to protect her. She had to trust them. “All right,” she said quietly.

“Try to stay right behind me, as close as you can get.” He squeezed her arms, giving her a gentle shake. “The closer you stay the safer you’ll be, do you understand?”

She nodded. His intensity was beginning to frighten her. What if that shuttle contained the same mercenaries that murdered her mother? What if they had hurt someone she loved to find out where the Jedi had taken her?

Obi-Wan could feel her panic through the Force. He pulled her closer, their noses only inches apart. “I will protect you,” he said. “Whatever you’re worrying about, put it out of your mind. Concentrate on this moment. Stay by my side, do as I say, and we’ll both survive.”

He was so young but so certain. She could not deny that his status as an apprentice gave her pause; he was not a fully trained Jedi but he was responsible for her life. She had no choice but to trust him.

Suddenly, the unmarked shuttle’s airlock opened and several large, reinforced cables dropped to the ground. Obi-Wan watched as three beings leaned out the ship and began repelling to the clearing below. He recognized them immediately as bounty hunters. After the creatures disembarked, the cables were retracted and the shuttle continued to orbit the airstrip.

Kenobi watched as his master walked to greet the bounty hunters. Two stood speaking with Qui-Gon while the third wandered around the camp, inspecting the supplies scattered about.

Obi-Wan felt the change even before it happened. One of the bounty hunters drew their weapon right as Qui-Gon ignited his lightsaber. They immediately began firing on the Jedi who easily deflected their laser bolts.

All of Kenobi’s instincts told him to run to his master’s aid but he knew he had to stay with the Duchess. Obi-Wan forced himself to stay calm, conquering his fear and giving himself over fully to the Force, allowing it to guide his actions. He unclipped his weapon and held his other arm out and back, reaching for Satine. She moved in closer to him so that his body shielded her.

Qui-Gon quickly cut down two of the bounty hunters but as the third advanced on him the shuttle overhead began strafing the airstrip, its cannons firing a constant barrage around the Jedi Master. Obi-Wan wanted to spring into action but he stood his ground, knowing it was the right thing to do. Qui-Gon would want him to stay with the Duchess.

Suddenly, a second ship appeared and began firing through the treetops right above Obi-Wan and Satine. The young lady yelped and crouched down as Kenobi leaned over her, protecting her from the bolts that shattered the earth all around them.

As the torrent increased, Obi-Wan heard Qui-Gon’s voice above the din. “Padawan!” he shouted. “Take the Duchess and run! Protect her at all costs!”

His heart dropped into his stomach but Obi-Wan didn’t wait even a second before he turned, grabbing Satine’s hand as they dashed off in the opposite direction. He hated to leave his master but the two Jedi had an understanding that the mission always came first.

They had only been running a few minutes before a large explosion rocked the forest. Obi-Wan slid to a halt, Satine slamming into his back. He turned around and saw massive flames licking above the tree canopy. “Master,” he whispered.

Satine could see the fear in Obi-Wan’s eyes but his vulnerability quickly vanished as he clenched his jaw. “We have to keep moving,” he said as he dragged her on.

They whipped through the thick undergrowth, their bodies getting scratched from head to toe by thorns and brambles. Obi-Wan could sense life forms following them several meters behind as he and Satine immerged onto a sheer ridge. The Jedi and Duchess followed the path that led upward, skirting the forest right along the deadly cliff’s edge. They climbed higher and higher; Satine’s legs tired quickly with the steep incline.

After a moment, Kenobi again suddenly stopped, his eyes sharp as his head ticked to the side. He turned just in time, his keen instincts serving him well, as a large bounty hunter immerged from the trees behind them and began firing a blaster. Obi-Wan easily deflected the shots as the bounty hunter advanced toward them, forcing the two youths closer to the dangerous drop. Satine was right on the crumbling edge and she clutched onto Obi-Wan, grabbing him first by the shoulders, but as her feet began to slip over the side she instinctively clutched her arms around his waist.

Kenobi was stuck in a terrible spot. He could not attack the bounty hunter without leaving Satine vulnerable and he could not back up any further without killing them both.

“All I want is that girl,” the bounty hunter suddenly snarled. “Just step aside and make this easy for all of us.”

Satine’s heels were no longer on solid ground, her tiptoes the only part of her still on rock and soil. She wasn’t sure the Jedi knew how close they were to falling. “Obi-Wan…” she whispered, her entire body shaking with fear.

Kenobi sensed Satine’s terror right as the bounty hunter suddenly pulled out a strange gadget and fired it and his blaster simultaneously. Obi-Wan deflected the shot, the laser bolt ricocheting off his lightsaber and striking the bounty hunter in the chest killing him. However, at the same time, the strange gadget released a carbon cable attached to the creature’s wrist consul. The cable wrapped around Kenobi’s arm, coiling tightly from his elbow to his fingertips. He dropped his lightsaber right as Satine fell over the cliff’s edge, pulling Obi-Wan over the side with her.

It all happened so fast he wasn’t sure how he managed it. He grabbed Satine by the wrist with his left hand and held on for dear life as they fell. Their bodies jerked to a violent stop, their limbs flailing out as their backs slammed into the mountainside.

They were dangling about ten feet below the ridge, Satine hanging from her wrist, her delicate bones being crushed in Kenobi’s iron grip. Obi-Wan looked up and saw his right arm still tangled in the dead bounty hunter’s cable. It was excruciating. The weight of Satine pulling him down was causing the cables to cut into his flesh as his arms were pulled in opposite directions. He looked down and saw nothing but jagged rocks hundreds of feet down.

“This is not good,” he muttered under his breath.

Satine had been stunned by their fall and was beginning to regain her bearings. She shook her head and opened her eyes. Looking down, her boots hovered over an abyss. She screamed, panic flooding her as she squirmed, trying to grab onto Kenobi with both hands. “Help me!” she shouted. “Please, Obi-Wan!”

The more she wriggled the harder it was to hold onto her.

Obi-Wan looked down and their eyes suddenly locked. Satine was certain she was going to die. He could feel her fear as though it were his own.

“Please,” she screamed again. “Obi-Wan please don’t let me fall!”

He tightened his grip and tried to ignore the incredible pain ripping through his entire body. “Satine,” he shouted, commanding her attention. “Stop moving!” She went limp, looking up at him with desperate eyes. He gritted his teeth, taking a deep breath. There was no way out of this. Their only hope was the Force. He reached out for the familiar power, feeling the rocks beside him, the trees above, the air brushing over his skin. He pushed off the wall and as they swung back toward the mountain he maneuvered them around. “Grab onto something!” he shouted right before they slammed face first into the wall. Satine reached out with her free hand and frantically clutched a tree root that was poking out of the rock.

“Satine,” Obi-Wan shouted, trying to make sure she could hear him over her own panic. “You have to climb. I’ll keep hold of your wrist, but you have to work you way up to me.”

She nodded, trembling, but immediately put her mind to the task. She found footholds, then, as she carefully pushed up, Kenobi pulled her, using the Force to bolster his strength. She grabbed onto a new hold, her fingers gripping into the crumbly rock. Slowly and methodically they worked their way up until finally they rolled over the edge onto solid ground. Obi-Wan saw the dead bounty hunter’s body wedge against a tree, the cable wrapped around his arm still attached to the man’s wristlet. If not for that carbon cable, they would have fallen to their deaths.

The Jedi and the Duchess sprawled on the ground, grateful to be alive. As Satine fell against Obi-Wan’s chest she suddenly gasped and looked like she was going to be sick. Large tears welled up in her eyes and began streaming down her cheeks. Wave after wave of her fear washed over the young Jedi, quickly overwhelming him. She began sobbing as her adrenaline spiked. Obi-Wan pulled her into his arms, crushing her against him. She clutched at him desperately, crying against his tunic, squeezing her eyes shut.

“It’s all right,” he tried to sooth her. “You did beautifully.”

He lay there holding her for so long both his arms went numb. Eventually her body stopped trembling and her sobs calmed. He refused to release her until he was sure she was steady.

When Qui-Gon appeared at the forest edge, Obi-Wan felt incredible relief. His master ran to them and knelt at their side, gently pulling Satine away from Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon wrapped a cloak around her shoulders as he observed her and Obi-Wan’s battered appearance. “What on earth happened here?” he asked as he helped pull his Padawan up into a sitting position.

“We fell,” Satine said, her voice meek and shaky.

Qui-Gon looked between the two. Even his apprentice looked shaken. “You fell?”

“Yes,” Obi-Wan said quietly while he gingerly inspected his arm still wrapped in thick cables. “We fell over the cliff’s edge.”

The older Jedi felt a stab of fear. He looked more closely and saw Satine’s bruised wrist covered in finger-shaped red and purple marks and dark splotches. He could sense Obi-Wan’s pain shuddering across their Force bond. Qui-Gon turned to the young man and began inspecting his wounds.

“Obi-Wan saved us,” Satine whispered.

“No I didn’t. We had to work together.”

“No,” she said firmly. “You saved me. I was too panicked to think.”

Qui-Gon sensed the shared fear flowing between the youths. He reached out and pulled Obi-Wan’s right arm into his hands. He slowly began to unwind the thick cable, careful around the torn flesh. His apprentice’s arm looked ghastly – a wicked bruise coiling from elbow to fingertips – and it trembled in Qui-Gon’s large dry hands. “You are hurt, Obi-Wan.”

The young man shook his head. “I’m all right, Master. It’s just a bruise. I can treat it when we get back to camp.”

The older Jedi suddenly looked very tired. “I’m afraid there is no camp. Our ship has been destroyed.”

Chapter Text

Coruscant

Obi-Wan was slightly drunk as he stepped up to the bar and ordered another drink. Dinner had finally finished and the party guests were mingling about, chatting in small groups before dessert was served. It was the perfect time to slip away, but instead of leaving the bourgeois club he wandered to the back where a long dark bar stretched from one end of the room to the other. He slowly sipped a neon blue liquid, letting it burn the back of his throat before leaning forward over his glass to steady himself.

“Are you sure you should be drinking so much?”

He turned to see Satine effortlessly glide up next to him. He was in no humor to bicker and he was tired of her trying to provoke him. His inebriation made him less than diplomatic. “Must you always be so difficult? Can’t you simply say ‘hello’?”

Her instinct was to immediately become defensive, but then she saw the way his brow pulled together. He looked exhausted and blurry eyed. She softened her tone. “You’re drunk, Obi-Wan.”

“So what?”

His uncharacteristically brazen tone worried Satine. She placed a hand on his arm. “Obi, are you all right?”

He looked at her sharply, stifling the urge to laugh sarcastically. “Are you?” He leaned in closer to her face. “I think you finished an entire bottle of wine on your own.”

Satine’s mouth turned down at the sides but she stopped herself from saying something rude. Instead she slipped her hand inside Obi-Wan’s as it lay on the bar. “No, I’m not all right.”

She had never touched him this way in public. He tensed looking down at their intertwined fingers. “Well, I’m not either,” he whispered.

Her eyes widened with surprise. For Kenobi to admit such a thing meant he was either quite drunk, making fun of her, or in real turmoil. She could not read his face. “What’s wrong?” she asked quietly.

Obi-Wan almost blurted out his feelings right then and there, but at the last moment he realized how badly he could hurt Satine if he told her how he felt. Telling her that he cared for her, that he had always cared for her, then refusing to act on those feelings would be incredibly cruel of him. He had no wish to hurt her.

Why don’t you just act on your feelings then?

The unbidden thought popped into his head as he felt her thumb run over his knuckles – a delightful sensation.

He visibly shivered. Don’t even pretend to think that way, Kenobi. He gently pulled his hand away from hers.

For a moment she looked like she might cry, then, sniffing and lifting her chin proudly, she took his drink out of his hand and walked away sipping it.

Obi-Wan ran a hand through his hair and ordered another round from the bartender.

Kenobi hated being so conflicted. He was a Jedi through and through, but Satine made him wish he could have two lives, one where he still attended his duties, and one where he was free to love her the way his heart knew was right. She deserved better than simple, aloof friendship. But that meant either leaving the Order or breaking his vow to the Jedi. He knew what Satine wanted from him; he knew she wanted the truth. But he realized he hadn’t yet made up his mind. If he had, he wouldn’t feel so confused. He wanted Satine as much as he wanted to remain a Jedi.

What did the Force want from him? What was it trying to tell him?

He watched her move through the guests, greeting them each warmly, making genial, easy conversation. She was incredibly graceful and elegant, her beautiful couture clothing billowing and draping around her curves effortlessly.

Kenobi snorted into his glass. He could remember a time where she was not so perfectly tailored and her manners were not so studied. He had loved her muddy combat boots, her awkward formality, and the real friendship that bound them together. Sometimes he envied his naïve younger self, wishing he could step back into his youth for just one day; if he could only experience that joy one more time, he knew he wouldn’t waste a second.




Draboon

Obi-Wan winced as Qui-Gon applied a bacta pad to his aching arm. Cuts and bruises crisscrossed the back of his hand and wrist in purple and green spirals.

“We don’t have enough for both you and Satine,” the older Jedi said quietly.

Kenobi careful flexed his fingers, testing their strength. “It’s all right, Master. I’m fine. Use the rest on her.”

The young lady’s wrist was completely black and blue, bruised and sore from where Obi-Wan held on to her when they fell over the cliff. Jinn smiled to himself. His Padawan was selfless by nature. “You need to be strong enough to protect her.”

“I can still protect her.”

Qui-Gon arched a brow, not convinced. He gripped Obi-Wan’s wrist tightly in his large hand. “Make a fist,” he said.

The young man looked at Jinn apprehensively, but he did as he was told. He curled his fingers into a tentative fist; it was painful but he fought to keep his face neutral.

The Padawan did not fool the master. “Tighter,” Qui-Gon demanded.

Kenobi squeezed his fist as tightly as he could.

The older Jedi could sense his apprentice’s discomfort; Obi-Wan fought to breathe through the pain but was unable to hide how his muscles trembled. Qui-Gon released Kenobi and looked into the young man’s eyes. He was worried about the boy. “You need more bacta than we have and you need a Force healer.”

“Well, considering our ship was blown to smithereens, I don’t see us getting either of those things very soon.” Obi-Wan pulled his arm away gently, refusing any more bacta. “I can manage, I promise. Please, Master, leave the rest for Satine.”

Qui-Gon arched a brow. “It’s Satine now is it?”

Obi-Wan’s ears suddenly reddened but he remained collected. “The Duchess.”

Jinn couldn’t help but smile. “Do you like her, young one?”

The flush began to creep down Kenobi’s neck. “I suppose so. She’s a bit difficult sometimes.”

“She has a strong mind. It’s a gift, especially for one born to lead. When she returns to Mandalore she’ll stand by her beliefs, of that I have no doubt.”

Obi-Wan’s thoughts returned to the conversation he and Satine had before the bounty hunters attacked them. “Yes, I’m certain she’ll be a resolute leader.”

Qui-Gon sensed confusion suddenly flutter across their Force bond. He had been about to tease his Padawan for possibly becoming smitten with the lovely young woman, but he could see real conflict in Kenobi’s eyes. He softened his tone. “What is it, Obi-Wan? What’s troubling you?”

The Padawan took a deep breath, not sure how to talk to his master about the disconcerting questions plaguing his mind. “Do you… do you think we’ve sacrificed our identity to become Jedi?”

Jinn was extremely shocked by the question; it was not at all what he had been expecting. He took a moment to seriously consider his response before speaking. “I think as Jedi we make many sacrifices. We have sworn to serve a higher power for the greater good of all living creatures.”

Obi-Wan did not seem satisfied by the explanation. “Satine… The Duchess told me that she believes identity is sacred and that to abandon it is wrong.”

Qui-Gon began to understand. “And what is your identity, Padawan?”

“I don’t know. I’ve always thought of myself as a Jedi. But am I something else? Is there more to me under the surface?”

The older Jedi’s heart swelled at his apprentice’s innocence. Obi-Wan was no stranger to violence; as a result, in many ways he was overly serious for his age. But Qui-Gon had grown exceedingly fond of the youth’s gentleness and his innately skilled introspection, especially for one so young. Jinn placed a hand on Kenobi’s shoulder. “Obi-Wan, identity and individuality are not always the same thing. I have never met a man like you. You’re truly unique, gifted with the Force to be sure, but kind and selfless in ways that even you cannot see.” Qui-Gon smiled as he spoke. “You may identify as a Jedi – a vocation that will certainly demand much of you – but that does not change your individuality. Your nature is unavoidable. The Jedi cannot change your generous spirit or your power or your devotion to your friends.” He touched his fingertip to the young man’s heart. “Everything you are is already inside you. The Duchess is right; turning your back on your nature would be a betrayal of the Force. But luckily, I think your identity as a Jedi is well suited to your nature.”

Obi-Wan nodded, feeling slightly reassured, but Qui-Gon could still sense unrest.

“It seems Duchess Satine is challenging you, my friend.”

Kenobi looked at his master hesitantly. “She’s certainly not afraid to tell me what she thinks of me.”

Qui-Gon chuckled. “Do you find that frustrating?”

“Sometimes. I feel like I understand her, Master, like I can sense what she needs without her having to tell me. But then she’ll snap at me.”

The older Jedi listened carefully, becoming very still and quiet. Kenobi’s admission had struck Qui-Gon as highly significant, but he could tell the boy did not yet understand the importance of his feelings.

“It’s so irritating when she acts all high and mighty,” Obi-Wan suddenly gushed, “but I understand she’s trying to feel strong. She is almost constantly suffocated by fear, so I try not to let my temper get the better of me when she’s rude. I don’t get the sense that she wants to be mean, but she’s so stressed that she can’t help it. I don’t blame her.”

The boy’s brow pulled together in agitation. “What if I had dropped her?” he whispered, almost to himself.

Qui-Gon looked startled again. “Padawan, you must not begin to doubt yourself.”

Obi-Wan’s eyes became wide and glassy. “She was so afraid. She thought I was going to drop her. She thought she was going to die.” He rubbed a hand over his handsome face. “I felt every inch of her fear as though it were my own.” He looked into his master’s eyes. “It was so horrible. Is that the kind of fear most people live with? How can the universe be so cruel?”

Qui-Gon understood his apprentice’s pain. “Unfortunately, yes, there is a great deal of suffering and fear in the galaxy. But as Jedi, we have been given a gift; we can release our fear into the Force and by doing so we can carry the burden’s of those not as strong. Because Jedi do not live with fear, we are able to serve others. Do you understand?”

Obi-Wan nodded. “Yes, Master.”

“But you are still troubled?”

“I’ve just never felt fear like that before. It was… upsetting.”

“You two shared a moment with an intense emotional exchange.”

“Yes.”

“You did your duty. You protected her. And now you have a chance to take that fear and learn from it. I know that you are capable of facing your fears, but perhaps you will be able to help the Duchess learn to master her own. Perhaps the Force has brought you together so that you may teach each other.”

Obi-Wan snorted. “I don’t think she’d like to hear you say that.”

Qui-Gon smiled. “Well, maybe you should keep the sentiment to yourself. Offending her would not be prudent. But open your heart, Obi-Wan. The most valuable lessons are often the most painful. Perhaps the Force is trying to teach you something about fear and compassion.”

The younger Jedi felt grateful for his master’s good counsel. He didn’t know exactly what the Force was trying to tell him, but Qui-Gon was right; this was a good opportunity to open himself to possibilities and be receptive.

Chapter Text

Coruscant

Satine tried to ignore Obi-Wan as she mingled with guests, casually chatting and laughing as though she didn’t have a care in the world. She carried his drink and slowly drank from his glass, enjoying the thought that both their lips had tasted the blue liquid. The strong beverage began to reduce her inhibitions, freeing her mind from its self-induced restrictions as she watched him lean against the bar.

His body had grown leaner, his strong, muscular arms and shoulders constantly encased in armor, even in more casual settings. He had grown used to war, to standing his ground, constantly dressed for combat.

His disarming smile and sharp gaze were just as captivating as ever; even as a young lady she would get butterflies in her stomach if he smiled at her and this had always infuriated Satine. She hated being flustered by something as typical as a boy.

But she was certainly feeling flustered now. She wanted to take his hands in hers, pull off his vambraces and gloves, and feel his long deft fingers twine through her hair.

She wanted to pull him to her and feel his nervous breath shudder over her lips right before she kissed him.

Satine was shaken from her daydream as she watched a lovely female Twi’lek approach the handsome Jedi and strike up a conversation. To her horror, Kenobi smiled and laughed and politely ordered the alluring creature a drink.

The Mandalorian regent felt such sickening jealously that her jaw fell open as her eyes became hard and angry.

The Twi’lek suddenly shifted her shoulders and tilted her head, giving Kenobi a seductive smile as she boldly placed her hand on the Jedi’s forearm. Obi-Wan arched his brow, looking amused. He was no fool; he was well aware that females often found him charming or attractive. Satine watched as he politely slid his arm away and behind his back. The Twi’lek was not discouraged. The shapely woman moved closer to the Jedi, clinking her glass against his as she pressed her hips against his side.

Satine was ashamed at her own envy. Watching Obi-Wan with another woman was pure torture.

The Twi’lek placed a hand on his chest then leaned in and whispered in his ear. The Jedi responded with diplomacy honed in warfare; he smiled and looked flattered, he said something that made her laugh, then she touched her glass to his again and swallowed the contents in one gulp. She leaned across Obi-Wan, deliberately pressing her body against his as she set her glass on the bar before walking away.

The Duchess had seen it all before. Kenobi was so careful and complimentary; he could make women feel desired while gently declining their advances. Satine snorted angrily to herself. She had seen him much less controlled in similar circumstances; she had seen him flustered and unsure. There had been times where his good looks were a liability and he had not yet developed skills to protect himself against it.

This was not the first time Satine had been forced to watch other women desire Obi-Wan.

It made her feel covetous and resentful.

It made her feel sick.




Draboon

Qui-Gon was cataloguing what little supplies he’d been able to salvage from the destroyed shuttle when Satine approached him. She knelt by his side and looked at the collection of bandages, ration sticks, and mismatched technical gear.

“It isn’t much, is it?” she said quietly.

He leaned back on his heels and sighed. “No.” He tossed an empty canteen into the pile. “We’ll be fine for a few days, but we need medical supplies and clean water.”

Satine bit her lip nervously.

Qui-Gon could sense her agitation. Between Obi-Wan’s unrest and the Duchess’s nerves, Jinn felt like he was caught in the middle of a hormonal maelstrom; the youthful tumult generally amused him, but occasionally it wore on his patience. “Do you have something to add?” he asked, working to keep his tone gentle.

“Yes, actually.” She looked up into his soft grey eyes. “But I don’t think you’ll like it.”

The Jedi snorted and shook his head. “My dear, you are free to speak your mind.” He nudged her good-naturedly in the arm. “And as a regent you will have to get used to people not liking what you have to say.”

She couldn’t hold back a crooked smile; She liked Qui-Gon more and more. “Very well.” Satine sat on the ground facing him. “We need essentials. Obi-Wan needs bacta, and, as you say, we need water. I know where we can get it.”

Jinn arched a brow but waited patiently for her to continue.

“There’s a citadel not too far from here, at least I think there is. I’ve never been there, but my mother…” Qui-Gon saw pain flashed across her face but she instantly pushed on. “…my mother told me stories about the tribe that lives there.”

The Jedi could not deny that his curiosity was piqued. “What is this tribe called?”

“The Morrígan.”

“I’ve not heard of them,” he said with genuine interest. “What did your mother tell you about them?”

“They’re a tribe a women, a self-contained community that has existed for hundreds of years. They are fearsome warriors and their queen, Maeve, is cunning and crafty. Men are not welcome among them unless they are slaves or servants, but it is said that females of any species may seek sanctuary within the citadel’s walls.”

“And you think we should go there for supplies?”

“Yes, I think if I ask for help at the gate, they will welcome us.”

Qui-Gon searched Satine’s eyes, sensing there was something she was not telling him. “Why did you say I would not like this?”

The young duchess bit her lip before she spoke again. “You would have to pose as my servants. And you would not be allowed to carry your weapons.”

“You’re right, that is an unacceptable risk,” Qui-Gon replied. “It’s out of the question that you should go anywhere without an armed guard.”

I would carry our weapons; I could keep your lightsabers on my belt. At the first sign of trouble you’d be able to reach for them with the Force.”

“What if we get separated?”

“I don’t see that being a risk. It’s a simple plan; we get in, we get out. Over and done.”

Qui-Gon ran a hand methodically over his beard, contemplating the risks. “All right, Duchess, tell me your full plan.”

“You and Obi-Wan pose as my servants. We appeal to Queen Maeve for supplies. If she agrees, we’ll be asked to offer something in exchange. We make our trade and then we’re on our way.”

“What do you have that you can offer a queen for barter?”

“I have some money, but if that’s not what she wants, I also have a Morrígan relic, something that she will certainly want back.”

This Jedi paused, concern plain on his face. “What kind of relic?”

“It’s nothing to be concerned about,” Satine said. “It’s just something that I think the queen will find enticing.”

“And how do you know that she can be trusted? Won’t she recognize you? We were just attacked by bounty hunters, indicating there’s a price on your head. How do you know this crafty queen won’t turn you in for a ransom?”

Satine suddenly looked like she might falter. “That’s going to be a risk no matter where we go,” she said quickly. “Do you agree that Obi-Wan needs bacta as soon as possible?”

The older Jedi nodded.

“We could head toward the village in the opposite direction,” Satine continued. “It might afford us more protection, but it is also twice as far as the Morrígan citadel.”

Qui-Gon smirked. “I see I’m not the only one who’s been studying the holomaps.”

Satine crossed her arms and smiled. “No indeed.”

He looked her up and down, reaching out with the Force, trying to gauge her emotions. “Why do I get the sense that there’s still something you’re not telling me?”

She swallowed nervously. “There is something else. As I’ve said, men are not welcome among the Morrígan. From what my mother told me, men are forbidden from speaking in the queen’s presence. You and Obi-Wan would have to be completely silent.”

Qui-Gon slowly lifted his chin as realization dawned on him.

“You would have to allow me to speak for all of us. You would have to trust me.”

“We’d be placing our lives in your hands.”

“Yes.”

The Jedi stroked his beard while examining their options. Satine was right; they needed supplies soon. The citadel was two day’s journey whereas the village was four and a half. He knew they would be taking an incredible risk, but if it worked, they could gather supplies and information, better preparing them to confront the challenges that lie ahead.

“Very well,” he finally nodded. “We go to the Morrígan.”




Their journey was long and uneventful as they followed the river north through the forest. At the end of the second day, just as the sun was setting, the citadel wall appeared near the edge of the trees. It was a gigantic structure, stretching miles in both directions. The trio followed the parapet until they came to the main gate where Satine pled her case with the sentry standing guard. They were told to wait while the sentry ran off to confer with the queen.

“Now, you’re sure you know what you’re doing?” Obi-Wan asked the duchess, his voice little more than a whisper.

“You’ve already asked me that about two hundred times,” Satine hissed back. “Can’t you just shut up and trust me, just as I have trusted you?”

Obi-Wan’s eyes widened. “No need to be so rude,” he said with a grimace.

Qui-Gon stepped forward and put an end to their bickering before it exploded into a full argument. “This is neither the time nor the place for quarrelling.” He rested his hands on the young lady’s shoulders and sent a calming wave over her through the Force. “Duchess, we trust you. I understand that you are nervous, but remember who you are. Think of this as your first test in diplomacy, a practice run for when you rule Mandalore.” He could see the confidence return to her eyes.

He gave her shoulders a squeeze then turned to Obi-Wan. “Remember your training, Padawan, and all will be well. Keep your mouth shut and your ears open.” He unclipped his lightsaber and held it out to Satine, gesturing for Obi-Wan to do the same. As the Duchess attached the weapons to her own belt Qui-Gon looked at his apprentice. “I can sense that you are uneasy.”

“I don’t like this plan, Master. It’s not that I don’t trust Lady Satine, I just have a bad feeling about this. Something about it feels dangerous.”

“Danger has never stopped us from doing our duty. As I said, remember your training. If things go awry, the Force will show you what to do.”

Obi-Wan frowned but didn’t say anything.

At that moment the sentry returned and addressed Satine. “The queen has granted you an audience to make a formal plea. Come with me.”

Before turning to follow, Satine looked at her Jedi companions and quietly whispered, “Remember, not one word.”

They were led through the main courtyard, a grand cobblestoned space surrounded by buttressed towers, and up a short flight of steps through an arched doorway. They entered a dark, smoky hall with a massive vaulted ceiling covered in ancient carving. Dim lamp droids hovered along the walls casting long shadows. At the head of the room was a large hearth with a raging fire burning brightly, filling the hall with a sweet, spicy, woody smell.

Queen Maeve, presiding over her retinue, sat draped across an ornately carved wooden throne, one leg lazily hanging over the chair’s arm. She wore long elaborate robes and a very fine cloak bordered in fur. She had multiple piercings in each ear and her neck, hair, and fingers were ordained with many large gems and golden finery. Her wrists were bare and tattooed with blue tribal bands that spiraled up her arm and disappeared under her cloak. She was beautiful, extremely tall, and imposing even in her reclined position.

Obi-Wan immediately noticed one of the Morrígan queen’s necklaces, a large round tribal shield hanging down to the center of her armored breastplate. The pendant was identical to one he had seen Satine wear, one that she kept concealed beneath her military tunic. He was instantly suspicious and worried that the Duchess had lied to them. His incisive instincts told him Satine was tied to this tribe somehow but that she was still an outsider. He could feel danger fluttering in the Force. No matter what the Duchess thought, they were not safe among the Morrígan.

“You are most welcome, my dear,” Maeve addressed Satine, her refined voice echoing off the walls.

The Duchess stood in the center of the room and bowed formally. “I thank you for seeing me, your highness.”

“We always welcome weary travelers,” the queen looked each of them up and down with piercing eyes. “And you all look weary indeed.” Maeve snapped her long slender fingers and a lady approached Satine carrying a tray with food and drink. “Refresh yourself while we discuss your needs.”

The men were offered nothing.

The duchess took the glass and sipped; the burgundy liquid was warm and sweet. “You are very generous,” she bowed deferentially again.

“You are not from these lands,” Maeve said sitting up, her golden hair tumbling around her shoulders as she narrowed her eyes. “Yet you are familiar to me.”

Satine felt Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan bristle behind her, their concern for her safety palpable. She immediately tried to redirect the queen’s attention. “I am in need, mistress. My servant is injured,” she waved a hand casually at Obi-Wan, “and we need clean water.”

“Simple requests,” Maeve said, pushing up out of her chair. As she approached she seemed to glide across the stone floor, her robes effortlessly billowing around her. She walked right up to Satine and looked into the young lady’s face.

The Duchess did not flinch nor look away. Remembering that she too was royalty, she returned the queen’s penetrating stare.

“Hmmm…” Maeve arched her brow knowingly and then pushed past Satine. She stood before the two Jedi, and, placing a hand on her chin, evaluated them. “Your men are particularly handsome,” she said, her eyes lingering on Obi-Wan.

Kenobi felt her desire from across the room and his resulting nerves nearly overwhelmed him. Maeve looked at him the way a predator looked at its prey. He almost expected her to lick her lips. He had occasionally been teased for his good looks but he never thought they would be used to singling him out in such a dangerous way. He wasn’t sure if it was smarter to display defiance or deference, so he simply stared strait ahead.

“How do you keep them under control?” the queen asked. “The young one seems particularly hot blooded compared to the old one.”

Old one? Qui-Gon almost laughed out loud at his own resentment.

“They have each sworn an oath to me,” Satine said. “They are men of their word.”

“Ha!” Maeve barked, her laughter ringing off the vaulted timber above. “There is no such thing. Men make good servants, nothing more.”

Satine did not agree but bit back her retort, knowing it was wiser and safer to allow the queen her opinion in her own court.

Maeve stealthily strode toward Qui-Gon, her massive height reaching nearly the same as his own. “Still,” she said speaking to Satine while appraising the older Jedi, “you have chosen well. They seem to be of very strong stock.” She gently placed her finger under Qui-Gon’s chin and studied the line of his jaw. “Handsome to say the least.” She arched a brow and smiled at him.

Qui-Gon recognized her aura immediately as a haptic manipulator; the moment she touched him he felt drawn to her, as though something deep inside him were telling him that Maeve would be a rewarding paramour, as though she were specially made for him. He took a deep breath and pushed the feeling away. It was chemical trickery and it made him nervous that the queen would use her powers to trick Satine.

His fear for the duchess was quickly replaced by fear for his Padawan as Maeve walked behind Qui-Gon and made her way toward the young man. Obi-Wan had no experience with haptic manipulation; Maeve had the power to influence each person differently, therefore the Jedi master didn’t know how to warn his apprentice what was coming.

The queen came up behind Obi-Wan and slowly walked around him, scrutinizing every inch of the boy. “This one is particularly handsome, my dear. Wherever did you find such a fine looking creature?”

Satine felt a mixture of fear and jealousy stab through her as the queen reached out and ran her fingertips along Kenobi’s angular brow. The young man barely control a flinch, his lip giving the slightest twitch as the Morrígan slowly traced his mouth with her thumb.

The Duchess wanted to scream out, wanted to wrench Maeve’s hands away from Obi-Wan, but she dared not speak out of turn. The queen had a reputation for brutality if provoked into a rage, and considering the Morrígan’s current proximity to Obi-Wan, Satine had no wish to put him in further danger.

Therefore, the Duchess ground her teeth and held her tongue as Maeve pulled Obi-Wan a step away from Qui-Gon. The queen had sensed the young man’s displeasure and it emboldened her; she took him roughly by the chin and turned his head to one side then the other. A smiled played at the corner of her mouth as she spoke again to Satine, still keeping her eyes on Kenobi. “He doesn’t like being touched,” she said. “He’ll give you trouble, my dear.” Maeve felt the boy clench his jaw and watched his eyelids flutter as he fought to repress his annoyance. She leaned in closer to his face. “Easily angered,” she mocked. “I like that.” She released his chin and let her fingers trail down the side of his taut neck before they followed the curve of his tunic to where it crossed under his tabard in the center of his chest.

Obi-Wan was completely unprepared for such unpleasant attention. The instant she touched him he could tell something wasn’t right; he could tell she was manipulating his feelings. He felt wanted, not like she desired him, but like she wanted to possess him. The woman was predatory and rage boiled just under her surface, ready to lash out and choke him. The sensation was horrible.

Obi-Wan was far too embarrassed to look at or reach out to Qui-Gon over their Force bond. Instead he wished he could turn into smoke and disappear. Kenobi couldn’t understand how one person would dare touch another without consent, but he did not want to put Satine or Qui-Gon in danger so he tightened his jaw, and resisted the urge to fight back.

He suddenly locked eyes with Satine, and the young lady instantly felt how uncomfortable he was; she realized they could feel each other’s horror. He didn’t look away as Maeve pulled open his tunic and slowly slid her hand inside his shirt across his chest.

The queen enjoyed the young man’s quick intake of breath and the way he struggled to control his displeasure.

Qui-Gon felt his Padawan’s disgust crash around him like a wave breaking on the shore. Obi-Wan was using all his energy to maintain self-control while resisting his instinct to rip away from the queen and reach for his lightsaber. Jinn could feel through the Force that Maeve was far less gentle with his apprentice than she had been with himself. He watched Obi-Wan clench his fists at his side as he fought off wave after wave of discomfort. Maeve wanted him submissive and Kenobi didn’t dare give her the satisfaction.

Satine was boiling with rage as she watched the Morrígan run her hands along Obi-Wan’s body. “Please, my lady,” she found herself nearly shouting. “I thank you for your admiration. I indeed selected my servants with care. But if we could return to the matter at hand.”

Maeve looked at her archly before she shoved Kenobi aside and walked toward Satine. “You are fond of him,” she nearly laughed. “I don’t blame you, my dear.” She draped an arm around Satine’s shoulders and turned her toward the fire. “You younglings could teach each other a thing or two.”

The duchess blushed to the roots of her hair.

The queen reached for two goblets of wine and handed one to Satine. They clinked glasses and sipped. “Now,” Maeve said loudly, “tell me Satine Kryze of Kalevala, exiled Duchess of Mandalore, why have you really come here?”

Satine instantly recoiled in fear.

“Did you actually think I wouldn’t recognize you?” Maeve took another casual sip of wine. “You look just like your mother.”

Dozens of guards appeared around the room, strong muscular women wearing armor, blasters on their hips, and swords across their backs.

The Jedi tensed, waiting to spring into action.

“Do you really only seek water and bacta?” Maeve’s voice was light and playful but her eyes were hard and unwavering.

Satine swallowed thickly before she could bring herself to speak. “No, I… I wanted to see if you looked like her.”

The queen’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Like whom?”

“Like…my mother. You are cousins are you not?”

Maeve took a deep steadying breath and lifted her chin proudly. She was quiet for a long time before she finally spoke. “I loved her like a sister,” she said. “Until she ran off and married that fool.”

“I thought, perhaps…” Satine suddenly realized she had made a mistake in coming to the Morrígan as the words tumbled out of her mouth, “…I could stay here with you.”

“I’m afraid that is out of the question.”

“Why?” She didn’t know why she was bothering to argue. She had no wish to stay in this conniving, nasty place. Deep down she knew she was seeking a safe haven, but the Morrígan could never serve that purpose.

“There is a bounty on your head. Housing you would put my people at risk. I am unwilling to do that, even for the love of your mother.” Maeve snapped her fingers again and another servant appeared at her side. “Collect a generous portion of rations, water purifiers, and medical supplies for the Duchess. Have it brought to the gate immediately.” The servant scuttled away and Maeve turned back to Satine. “It would be best if you left quickly. One can never be too careful. I will take my payment and you will be on your way.”

Satine nodded, fighting the emotions rising quickly in her chest – feelings of disappointment and self-loathing. She had to press on; she had to finish what she started. “I have brought you something…”

Maeve interrupted her. “I will give you everything you desire in exchange for the boy.”

Satine, Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan simultaneously turned to the queen in shock.

Before anyone had a chance to resist, four guards appeared around Kenobi pointing weapons at his chest and back.

“That is unacceptable,” Satine said boldly. “He is my personal servant and he is not to be bartered like a kilo of rations.”

“Nonsense,” Maeve said dismissively. “Men are not brought before me unless it is understood that I may select one if I wish. I would take either one but I prefer a man without a beard. The younger one will be far more in keeping with my tastes.”

Obi-Wan began to feel real fear. The situation was quickly getting out of hand. He knew that he and Qui-Gon could reach for their weapons at any time but neither wished to harm anyone. He hoped Satine could salvage the situation in time, that they could still receive their supplies and be on their way with no bloodshed.

Maeve turned to Satine and pulled her close. “There is a price on your head, my dear; a quarter of a million credits. By the end of this rotation it will be double that. And by the end of the month it will be more than a million. I should turn you in myself for such a fine bounty.” She rotated Satine to look at Obi-Wan. “He is proud and stubborn and needs to learn his place. He is nothing to you. Give the boy to me and I’ll forget I ever saw you.”

Obi-Wan’s vivid blue eyes sharpened as he looked at Satine. She could sense that he was angry with her for placing them all in such danger.

“I can’t agree to these terms,” she whispered.

Maeve snorted. “I am merely showing you a simple courtesy. This is my court and I reserve the right to claim my reward as I see fit.” She snapped her fingers and the guards suddenly grabbed Kenobi, all four of them ramming him in the ribs with electrojabbers.

The young Jedi cried out and went limp, rasping for breath as the guards began to drag him from the room. He looked up and locked eyes with Qui-Gon. “Master,” Obi-Wan gasped weakly.

“Stop!” the queen screeched. Maeve’s eyes instantly became like ice, her rage making them sharp and terrifying. She stormed across the room and signaled for her guards to halt. “You dare to speak in front me,” she hissed taking Kenobi by the chin. “You will learn your place.” She brutally slapped him, her massive ring cutting him across his cheekbone.

The blow was so forceful it took Obi-Wan a moment to recover, but when he did he actually smiled. “I’m afraid you’ve got your work cut out for you,” he taunted.

Satine took a frantic step forward. “Obi-Wan,” she shouted desperately, “do not speak another word.” He clearly underestimated the queen’s rage.

Her warning came too late.

The Morrígan queen signaled her guards and Kenobi was kicked in the back of the knees, falling hard to the stone floor. The four guards quickly twisted one of his arms behind him while they extended his other arm out to the side. One guard grabbed him by the hair and wrenched his head back while another put a blade to his throat.

Qui-Gon moved so quickly Satine barely had time to register what was happening. Using the Force he pulled his lightsaber off her belt and held it up, ready to defend his Padawan.

At the same time Maeve drew a dagger from her robes and placed the tip against Obi-Wan’s throat, right below his chin.

Satine ran between them all. “Stop this!” she screamed. “No violence, I beg you!” She turned to Maeve. “These men are my guards. Please don’t deprive me of my protection,” she cried desperately.

The queen instantly turned her rage on the young duchess, advancing on her quickly, her massive height looming over the slight Mandalorian. “It is shameful the way you rely on these men,” she spat. “Do you really need their protection?” She grabbed Satine by the wrist and shook her violently. “Can you not protect yourself, you scrawny little thing?”

Satine cried out in pain, but something suddenly changed inside her, something angry and broken and desperate. She shoved Maeve away from her as she cursed in Mando’a. “Clearly!” she shouted. “I need their protection! I cannot protect anyone, much less myself!”

Maeve became silent as she watched Satine warily. Something about the Mandalorian’s tone gave her pause.

“They murdered her right in front of me and I couldn’t do anything to stop it,” Satine confessed.

The queen’s expression instantly softened. She took a step closer to the duchess. “Your mother?” she whispered.

Satine could only nod as she fiercely blinked back her tears.

“She’s dead?” Maeve asked, her heart clearly moved by unexpected emotions.

“Yes.” Satine’s voice trembled but she refused to let herself cry. “Insurgents killed her not long ago.” She pulled herself up proudly and stared down the Morrígan queen. “I had hoped to find some sort of comfort in your company, some sort of closure,” she said, her voice growing stronger, “But you’re a cruel, rageful person. You’re nothing like my mother.” She reached into her tunic and pulled out the shield pendant she wore around her neck; it was identical to the one hanging around Maeve’s. Satine unclasped it and threw it into the queen’s hands. “I offer you this relic in exchange for supplies. I will be leaving with both my men.”

Maeve turned the beautiful pendant over and ran her thumb across its intricate details. “Only three of these were ever made. One for each of the three houses of Morrígan.” Maeve had grown quiet as she looked at the burnished medallion.

“My mother wore is everyday.” Satine had grown steady and confident. The threat of violence had given her conviction, had shown her what needed to be done. She had taken control of herself and the situation.

Queen Maeve looked at the young duchess and saw a shadow of the cousin she had once loved. She gestured to her guards. “Release him.”

Obi-Wan was dropped unceremoniously to the floor. He dragged himself up quickly and went to his master’s side, trying not to double over from the pain in his ribs.

“Take your men and go,” Maeve said, not looking up from the pendant.

Satine bowed respectfully and as she moved to leave the hall the queen suddenly grabbed her by the arm.

“The price on your head will not be lifted, Satine,” she whispered earnestly. “They want you dead. They will not stop until all three of you have suffered. Go into the mountains where you will be harder to track. Live off the wares the forest can provide. Do not seek help from anyone if you can avoid it. You’re very life depends on your ability to disappear.”

The warning frightened Satine.

“Your mother was precious to me,” Maeve suddenly whispered. She pulled open Satine’s fingers and set the pendant in her palm. “This is yours by birthright. Take it.” She looked into the girl’s eyes. “Never come back here. For the sake of my peoples’ safety, you must never come back.”

Satine nodded, feeling the weight of the moment, the importance of the pendant, and the desperation of her loneliness all in one remarkable instant.

“And get one of those men to teach you how to protect yourself.” With that, the queen pushed her away.

The Jedi and their duchess ran through the courtyard back to the main gate to collect their supplies. Maeve had been generous, providing more than they had requested. The trio left the Morrígan citadel and headed back into the moonlit forest.

Chapter Text

Coruscant

Mingling with politicians was taking its toll on Satine so she slipped behind a row of service droids and stealthily crept to the very back of the restaurant. There was a dark passageway draped in heavy curtains that led from the bar to a series of private clubrooms where more indulgent activities took place. The long, opaque drapes provided the duchess with the perfect place to hide for a few moments. She made her way down the corridor and slipped into the shadows behind a massive velvet arras.

Satine leaned against the wall and closed her eyes, rubbing her hand across her forehead. This was not how she hoped to spend her last night on Coruscant. Padme had been so kind to her, she did not wish to insult the Naboo senator by leaving early, but Satine wished she could retreat to her own apartment and climb into bed.

The Duchess was startled from her thoughts by the sound of boots approaching. She pressed herself further back into the shadows hoping to remain invisible. After a pause, two men began speaking in hushed tones just on the other side of the curtain where she was hiding.

“We should be going.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s getting late and we should return to the Temple.”

“Have you received an official summons?”

“Well…no…”

“Then I’m staying here.”

“I’m leaving.”

“Why?”

“Because this is not exactly my idea of fun.”

“It’s a party!”

“So what. It’s stressful.”

“Are you drunk?”

“No!”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“I’m just tired, Anakin. I’m going home.”

“Master, stay. Try to relax a little. Try to forget about the war for just a few hours.”

There was a long silence before Obi-Wan spoke again. “Alright.” His voice sounded reluctant. “But just so I can keep an eye on you.”

“Whatever you say,” Anakin snorted. “You know, I’m not your Padawan anymore.”

Obi-Wan’s voice sounded sad. “Yes, no need to remind me.”

“Why don’t you find Duchess Satine and have a little chat. Talk about the good old days.”

“That’s the last thing I want to do.”

“Stop moping, Obi-Wan,” Anakin teased.

“Shut up.”

Skywalker laughed and Satine heard him walk away, leaving Kenobi alone. She could reach out and touch him he was so close, but he still didn’t know she was there.

The curtain was suddenly pulled back and Obi-Wan looked down at her. “Lurking in dark corners?” he asked dryly.

"How did you know I was here?" she blurted out artlessly.

Kenobi merely pointed a finger at his own chest. "Jedi," he said arching his brow. "Why are you back here?"

She sighed. “I just needed a moment to myself.”

He nodded. “I understand.” But instead of leaving, he took a step toward her and let the curtain fall down behind him, concealing them both in the shadows.

“What are you doing?” the Duchess asked, arching a brow.

He stared at her for a long time before answering. “I don’t know.”

Satine was sick of his facetious comments; her heart was too exhausted to struggle through another hyperbolic conversation so she rolled her eyes and began to push past him.

He stopped her by gentle grabbing her forearm. He didn’t turn to face her; they just stood there side by side. Even in the low light she could see his chest moving methodically up and down as he tried to control his breathing.

“I can feel that you’re angry,” she finally said quietly.

He gave her a sideways glance but didn’t speak.

“I can read you like a book, Obi-Wan.”

“I know,” he said, his voice quiet and deep.

“You’re bored and irritated. This evening had been a burden to you rather than a respite. But that’s not what’s bothering you.”

His grip around her arm tightened and he pulled her a few inches closer. “No, it isn’t.”

She turned slightly toward him and looked up at his sharp, handsome features, his thin lips, his broad nose. But his sad downcast eyes made her heart sink in her chest. “Why are you so angry with yourself?”

His gaze darted up to search her features. “How…?”

She allowed herself a slight smile. “Like a book,” she whispered, giving him a gentle nudge.

He shook his head and furrowed his brow, but still he did not release her arm. “I should let you walk away,” he finally whispered. “I should stop looking at you from across the room. I should stop thinking about the past.”

Satine could feel his conflict, could see it in his eyes as he fought an internal battle. Poor Obi-Wan was always so hard on himself; she could not bear to see him in such pain. Allowing her instincts to guide her, she turned to him and gently cupped his face in her hands, pulling him close so that their foreheads rested against each other. She had not touched him like this for nearly fifteen years. His skin felt warm against her fingers.

He had not been expecting it, his arms freezing in place at his sides, his hands hovering just over her hips. He wanted to wrap her up, pull her body completely against him, but he was not supposed to be having such strong feelings for another; the Jedi Code forbid attachment, forbid emotional expression, and here he was encouraging it in himself and in Satine. Her lips hovered dangerously close, the tip of her nose nuzzling gently against his. He could feel her breath on his tongue.

Just kiss her, idiot.

“I have to stop doing this to myself,” he whispered. “Why can’t I just let you go?”

Satine pulled back and peered into his beautiful blue eyes. She suddenly had a moment of clarity. By contributing to his conflict and confusion she was undermining the very thing that defined Obi-Wan Kenobi. He was a Jedi Master, he had worked hard and suffered and struggled to achieve such a distinguished place within the Order, and she had no wish to subvert his position. “Why do I keep doing this to you?” she suddenly whispered. She pressed her palm to his cheek and he leaned into her touch, then she slid her hands away. With a sad last look she turned her back and returned to the party.




Draboon

After escaping the Morrígan by the skin of their teeth, the trio spent two days hiking up into the mountains. In all that time Obi-Wan did not speak to Satine. His brow was permanently pulled tight in frustration and he seemed constantly distracted.

On the third day Qui-Gon gently tried to pry into his Padawan’s state of mind while he help tend the young man’s physical wounds. He spoke as he applied bacta to Kenobi’s wrist. “You finally seem to be on the mend.”

Obi-Wan nodded but didn’t reply.

“Does your strength feel like it’s returning?”

“Yes.”

The older Jedi waited for his Padawan to elaborate.

After a long pause Obi-Wan finally looked up. “I’m fine, Master.”

Qui-Gon knew it wasn’t true. His Padawan had grown into a self-reliant man, a highly introspective Jedi who rarely needed to confide in his Master anymore. They had become more like equals; Qui-Gon knew Kenobi still had much to learn, but in the past few years the young man kept his own counsel when grappling with conflict. Jinn had to admit he missed the days where the young boy would bashfully sit by his side and pour out all sorts of questions.

“Something is troubling you.” He finished wrapping the bandage around Kenobi’s wrist and gave him a fatherly squeeze before releasing him. “You know that you can talk to me about anything, Obi-Wan.”

Kenobi flexed and extended his bandaged fingers before giving Qui-Gon a reluctant glance. “I know,” he said.

Jinn could sense an inordinate amount of frustration and anger radiating off the young man, but Kenobi expertly kept his mental shields up. The older Jedi was still in awe of his pupil’s ability to control their bond. Obi-Wan’s powers had more than doubled in the last year, but the thing that impressed Qui-Gon the most was Kenobi’s ability to control his power. He was strong with the Force, but he was becoming wiser, knowing when and where to exert control. These abilities pleased Qui-Gon, but they made it difficult to help his Padawan when the young man insisted on suffering in silence.

“Does it have to do with Queen Maeve?”

Obi-Wan looked at his Master quickly, startled by the question. He shook his head. “I’m fine, Qui-Gon.” He stood up quickly and walked away into the trees.

The Jedi Master sighed and shook his head.

Satine, sitting on the other side of the camp, watched Obi-Wan disappear into the forest before she forcefully threw another log onto the campfire. “Why is he sulking so much?” she asked grumpily.

Qui-Gon chuckled and began packing up the bacta and bandages. “He isn’t sulking, he’s just trying to work something out in his head.”

“Looks an awful lot like sulking if you ask me.” She crossed to the Jedi and began helping him clean up. “Why don’t you force him to talk to you? We can’t let things continue this way.”

Jinn smiled knowingly. “No one can force Obi-Wan Kenobi to talk if he doesn’t want to.”

Satine looked up thoughtfully, staring in the direction Obi-Wan had walked. “I bet he’ll talk to me.”

Qui-Gon shook his head. “It’s best to leave him alone.”

“He clearly needs someone to talk to.”

“He clearly is a young man who wants to be left alone.”

Satine stood up. “I’m going to find out what wrong with him.”

The Jedi also stood. “Duchess…”

“You may call me Satine,” she interrupted him gently.

He gave he a quick smile before continuing. “Satine, Obi-Wan will not thank you for prying. Let him be.”

She frowned and propped her hands on her hips.

“Trust me. I know him better than anyone,” Qui-Gon continued. “He wouldn’t go off by himself unless he wanted to be left alone.”

Stubborn Jedi, she thought.




Obi-Wan was sitting alone on a large boulder. He methodically ran his knuckles over his lips, deep in thought. He had never felt so confused in all his life. He didn’t understand the conflicting emotions that were bouncing around inside his chest, but he was certain the Jedi Code forbid all of them.

Satine.

Just the thought of her brought a sudden rush of excitement followed by a violent flare of anger.

He jumped up from his rock and began pacing back and forth, shaking his limbs, hoping to cast off the anxiety that consumed him.

He suddenly stopped in his tracks and closed his eyes. No, he thought, taking a stern tone with himself inside his own head. Stop trying to ignore what you’re feeling. Examine it. Understand it.

He took a deep breath and blocked out his external senses, reaching deep inside his own consciousness. He formed an image of Satine and held it right in the middle of his mind.

She was….

….proud, he told himself. Stubborn. Opinionated. He felt resentment. She made him feel defensive. He didn’t like having to explain his opinions and lifestyle and beliefs to another person.

Well, that’s a weakness on your part, he acknowledged. To be a good Jedi, or just a good person, you need to be able to hear conflicting view points without feeling so threatened.

He almost smiled. This felt like progress.

He took another deep breath and focused on her again.

She was…

…smart. Very smart. Rather sly and bold. He liked that about her. But it also irritated him; her boldness is what led them to the Morrígan citadel. That was a reckless decision. He felt angry. Satine had inadvertently put him in danger, she had put herself in danger, and worst of all, she had put Qui-Gon in danger. If something had happened to his Master, Obi-Wan would never forgive himself. What if Qui-Gon had been wounded or killed right in front of me? The idea made Kenobi’s eyes spring open with fear. He couldn’t even bear the thought.

He closed his eyes again and refocused.

His anger wasn’t the only thing confusing him; Obi-Wan was struggling with feelings he had never felt for any other being. He didn’t know how to identify or comprehend them.

She was…

…beautiful… his heart lurched in his chest. Every time she looked up at him with those lovely pale blue eyes he felt like he forgot how to speak. He was drawn to her, he understood her, he was connected to her through the Force.

You should not be feeling this way about anyone!

How could he confess his feelings to Qui-Gon? His Master would not be pleased; Qui-Gon was not a stickler for the Code but he certainly would not approve of his apprentice forming attachments to the woman they were supposed to be protecting. These feelings could impair his ability to do his duty.

He suddenly heard footsteps approaching and opened his eyes just as Satine marched into the clearing where he stood.

The Jedi and the Duchess simply stared at each other for at least a full minute.

“You’ve been gone for ages,” she finally said. “If you’re done sulking, Qui-Gon was hoping you’d come back to the camp now.”

Kenobi snapped his jaw shut, his rage instantly taking hold of him again. She didn’t seem the slightest bit remorseful for her carelessness with the Morrígan. He was too angry to speak so he just stared at her.

Satine rolled her eyes and turned to leave but she stopped and suddenly spun back to face him. “Why won’t you speak to me?” she asked huffily.

He was visibly irritated, his brow pulling low while his lip pulled up. Because you’re insufferably haughty, he thought meanly.

“It’s pretty clear that you’re angry with me but I don’t know why,” she scowled as she advanced toward him. “You could be an adult and speak to me instead of trying to punish me with your silence.”

His eyes widened at her insinuation. “You certainly have a high opinion of yourself, don’t you?” he scoffed. “Are you willfully oblivious or does that just happen by accident?”

Satine’s eyes narrowed and she looked like she wanted to wring his neck.

He smirked because he knew it would annoy her. “If looks could kill.”

“Well your looks almost got you killed and that’s why you’ve spent three days brooding like a child who’s had their sweets taken away.”

“What are you talking about?” Kenobi snapped.

“Queen Maeve nearly got the better of you,” Satine said snidely as she turned to leave. “She preyed on you like a helpless puppy and it scared you to death.”

Obi-Wan grabbed Satine’s arm and twisted her around to face him. “I can handle myself just fine. I didn’t fight back because I didn’t want to hurt anyone.”

“Is that why you taunted Maeve?” Satine spat.

Kenobi tightened his grip and pulled her so close their noses were only inches apart. “What about you?” he said angrily through clenched teeth. “Why were we there in the first place?”

“For supplies.” The Duchess tried to pull away but Kenobi’s grip was too strong.

“Don’t lie.”

She suddenly stopped struggling and looked up into his eyes.

“You went there for sanctuary, for your own benefit. You lied to us, Satine.”

“I didn’t lie.”

“Omission is just as good as lying,” he said angrily. “If you don’t tell us the whole truth, we can’t protect you.”

She knew he was right. She’d been trying to ignore her guilty feelings but they were getting the better of her. Rather than concede she became defensive. “I can’t undo what’s been done,” she said proudly. “The only thing left is to move on, keep moving forward.”

He couldn’t believe his ears. “Are you completely incapable of remorse?” he said incredulously.

This angered her beyond words. She shoved him away and stormed off in the opposite direction.

Obi-Wan turned and ran a hand over his face. This encounter had not gone well.

Barely ten seconds passed before he heard her stomping back toward him. Within moments she was face to face, angrily looking him right in the eyes.

“How dare you talk to me like that,” she nearly shouted. “You’re just a Padawan. Not even a full Jedi!”

“Well I’m the Padawan who saved your life,” he nearly shouted back. “You wouldn’t last two seconds out here on your own.”

“You miserable barbarian!” she yelled in his face.

Obi-Wan laughed mirthlessly. “Who do you think you are?” he snarled. “You might be a Duchess on Mandalore, if there even is a Mandalore to return to, but out here you’re not royalty.” He put his face right up to hers. “My master and I try to treat your with the respect due your station, but we’re not actually your servants, Satine.”

Before she could stop herself, the Duchess hauled back and slapped him harder than she’d ever thought possible.

He had not been expecting it. They both froze, his head turned to the side, her hand still hovering in the air.

She watched as he swallowed thickly then clenched his jaw. When he finally looked at her she was instantly consumed by self-loathing. His eyes looked shocked and hurt, and he trembled slightly. An angry red handprint was forming on his cheek, right on top of the cut from Maeve’s ring. She was no better than the Morrígan queen. She had hit this young man; she had hurt someone she actually liked very much.

Satine backed away. Obi-Wan thought she looked like she was going to cry. For a moment it seemed as though she would say something, but instead she turned and ran off into the trees.