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Wounded Jedi

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Obi-Wan was running as fast as he could while herding a large group of younglings. The going was painfully slow and he knew their chances of escape dwindled with every child’s slip and stumble, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave them behind while he saved his own skin. Their captors were gaining on them with every minute, but if he could just get the children to the landing strip a ship would be waiting to help them get away.

As one of the smaller younglings tripped over her own feet and tumbled forward, Obi-Wan barely slowed as he scooped the little girl up and ran with her tucked against his chest. He could see Hondo Ohnaka’s flying saucer awaiting them down the last incline. Thank goodness, thought Kenobi.

Several days ago, after crash-landing his ship on this desert planet, Obi-Wan happened upon a band of Karazak Slavers encamped near an oasis. He discovered they had kidnapped twenty children, intending to sell them to the Sith for a large profit. Obi-Wan was able to infiltrate the slaver’s ranks by pretending to be a Separatist representative who had been sent to inspect the ‘products.’ He could not leave these children to such an awful fate, and he had no time to wait for Republic assistance, so Obi-Wan reached out to Ohnaka whom he knew to be nearby. For the right price, the pirate agreed to let Kenobi use his ship to ferry the children to safety.

Things had gone sideways the afternoon before the escape when a Karazak leader returned to the camp and recognized Obi-Wan. The Jedi was taken prisoner but managed to break himself and all the younglings out in the middle of the night. They only had a small head start when the Karazaks sounded the alarm and began hunting them down.

Obi-Wan and his band of scrappy children had been on the run most of the night, evading the slavers and trying to make it to the landing strip in time for Ohnaka’s arrival. Luckily, the pirate had kept his word and was ready when Kenobi and the younglings appeared. The group slid down the steep cliff face and ran across the last tract of open ground as their pursuers began catching up. Obi-Wan saw a group of Weequays jump to attention and run up their ship’s gangplank as blaster bolts started raining down on them.

“Kenobi,” Hondo shouted, waving his arms wildly. “What have you gotten me into?”

“Things didn’t quite go according to plan,” Obi-Wan said as he pulled up in front of the wily pirate.

Ohnaka shrugged. “When do your plans ever work?”

Kenobi frowned, pointedly ignoring the remark. “Did you receive your payment?”

Hondo couldn’t help but smile. “Indeed I did.”

“Then our agreement holds?”

The Weequay was about to respond when a blaster shot grazed his shoulder, singeing his armor. “This is no time for pleasantries.”

Obi-Wan pushed the youngling he was holding into Ohnaka’s arms as he turned and began deflecting laser shots that ricocheted all around them. He quickly scanned the landing strip and noticed several other crafts that would suit his purposes. “Get the children away,” he shouted as the blaster fire increased. “You know what to do.” Hondo nodded and began corralling the children as Kenobi moved forward toward their pursuers, providing cover by deflecting the blaster onslaught.

The Weequays had about half the children on board when Obi-Wan saw a Karazak load and aim a rocket launcher directly at him. He barely had enough time to shout a warning to Hondo before the slavers fired. Kenobi’s response was instinctual; using the Force he turned and pushed all the children and nearby Weequays as far away from him as possible.

Everyone but the Jedi was thrown clear of the RPG.

The explosion erupted only a few feet away from Obi-Wan, propelling his body back several yards. He landed hard on his right side, sliding through the dust as debris and rocks pummeled down around him. He lay senseless on the ground, his ears deaf and ringing after the concussion ripped through him. Several long minutes passed before he began to regain his bearings. His left eye dragged open; his vision was blurry but he could just make out Ohnaka’s ship as it spun up into the sky and shot out of the atmosphere. At least the children were safe.

Obi-Wan tried to push himself up but winced and gasped with pain; he slowly realized that he was badly injured. Blood poured down the right side of his face and neck, staining his tunic and dripping into the dirt beneath him. His right eye was cut and already swollen shut. His right arm was thrust out to his side; he could see his fingers twitching, his muscles involuntarily shaking. Taking a deep breath was difficult; his chest ached and felt heavy. Obi-Wan comprehended that the missile must have contained a scatter bomb. Shrapnel had ripped through his entire right side from head to toe.

The Karazaks were making their way toward him, he could hear their angry shouts getting louder and louder. Gingerly, he hauled himself up, ignoring the pain that bloomed across his muscles. If he wanted to live, he had to get to one of the ships. By pure will, and some assistance from the Force, Obi-Wan stumbled across the landing strip toward the nearest shuttle. He could feel blood dripping down his leg, soaking through his tunic along his side, and pooling in the fingers of his glove. He had to find help fast or he would bleed to death.

When he reached the shuttle the Karazaks were only a few yards behind him. As he lowered the ramp and limped into the spacecraft, he heard a sharp ping followed by searing pain in his left ear. He instantly felt strange, as though everything were moving at half speed. Steeling his mind, he closed all the air hatches and staggered into the cockpit. He made short work taking off but when he hit the thrusters, something exploded in the ship’s rear fuselage. As alarm bells started blaring in the pilot consul, Obi-Wan ran a quick diagnostic and discovered his hyperdrive was completely destroyed. The Karazaks must have hit him with another rocket. His primary engine was still mostly functioning, but he would not be making a quick getaway. Always the strategist, he used the onboard lateral cannons to destroy the remaining ships on the landing strip, and strafed the slavers just for good measure.

When he finally made it out of the atmosphere and into outer space Obi-Wan slumped against the bulkhead. His strength was fading quickly and he was starting to feel confused. He reached up and touched his ear; a tiny, pronged metal dart was stuck through the cartilage. Before he could reason out what the device was his vision began to blur. He shook his head, fighting to stay alert. He had to set his navigation coordinates before he lost consciousness or he would die in this sad little shuttle and no one would ever know what happened to him. Without a hyperdrive he would never make it all the way back to Coruscant. He looked down at his com link, hoping to send a message to Anakin, but the device had been smashed when the scatter bomb hit him. He turned to the navicomputer and entered the only coordinates his reeling mind could think of.

As he hit ‘enter,’ loading the destination and letting the computer take over, Obi-Wan slid to the floor and collapsed, his body sprawling across the cambered durasteel flight deck.

It was a cool breezy afternoon when an unmarked shuttle fell into orbit over Mandalore. The ship slowly appeared, venting coolant and oxygen, drifting into the planet’s upper atmosphere but never attempting to land. The vessel had clearly been badly damaged, the aft exterior panels were crushed in several spots and the hyperdrive was decimated, blown to bits by what looked like an external explosion.

Mandalorian security forces had been on high alert ever since the rise of Death Watch, therefore several star fighters were scrambled to intercept the mysterious shuttle. Though they attempted to hale the ship multiple times, they received no response. Finally, they attached tow cables and hauled the shuttle into port. A team of highly trained operatives met the spacecraft in the docking bay and prepared to board. Armed to the teeth, they lowered the ramp and made their way into the still-smoking ship.

Scanners indicated there was only one life form on board in the cockpit. The search team quickly made their way through the ship and discovered a young man with auburn hair lying facedown on the floor in a pool of blood. He was unresponsive so they carefully turned him over onto his back. Despite the fact that half the man’s face was covered in bloody cuts and bruises, the boarding team’s captain was surprised when he recognized the wounded verd.

“He’s a Jedi,” the captain said, his eyes wide with shock. He turned to his second in command. “Contact the Duchess. This man is a soldier of the Republic and we need to know how she wants us to proceed.”

Satine Kryze was communing with her retinue when her primary attendant handed her a holoprojector. “The captain of the guard says it’s urgent, my lady.”

The regent arched a brow as she turned and addressed the man in the hologram. “What seems to be the problem, Captain?”

“I’m sorry to interrupt, Duchess, but we’ve intercepted a ship that contains a wounded Jedi. According to the Articles of Neutrality we are required to appeal to your highness before we grant sanctuary to a non-neutral party.”

“Quite right, Captain.” Satine tried to keep her face impassive. “We’ve had no communication from the Jedi Temple. No Republic officiate is expected. But you say the Jedi is wounded?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” The captain turned the holoprojector and revealed a flickering image of a prostrate man, blood smeared across his face and neck. Satine’s eyes grew wide but she did not speak. “I believe this is Obi-Wan Kenobi. Isn’t he a friend of yours, my lady?”

Satine swallowed thickly. “He is indeed.”

“He’s badly wounded. Looks like he’s lost a lot of blood,” the captain said, turning the hologram back on himself.

“Have him brought to the palace immediately. I’ll have surgeons meet you on the east platform.”

The soldier bowed respectfully. “Yes, Duchess.”

Satine battled her fear as she stood on the landing pad with her private medical team. She had not seen Obi-Wan for quite some time and had only heard from him erratically, usually whenever he had a private moment between missions. Occasionally she received very small parcels, little boxes about the size of her palm that only contained a rock or geode along with a hand-written tag with the name of the planet that it originated from. It was Kenobi’s way of telling her where he was stationed. The most recent box contained nothing but sand; it had been delivered months ago. She tried not to despair when long periods went by before he sent word; she knew his Jedi duties often prevented him from making contact. Satine was never bitter, but she did worry for his wellbeing.

The security forces’ shuttle appeared on the horizon and sped toward the palace. Satine took a deep breath to steady herself as the ship landed and the airlock opened. A squad of six men carried Kenobi’s limp body down the gangplank to the waiting stretcher. When she saw him her heart dropped, her emotions quickly rising to the surface. His handsome face was streaked with blood, large gashes stretching across his brow and cheek. Her poor Obi-Wan; what had he gotten himself into this time?

She clenched her teeth against the gasp that caught in her throat, forcing herself to remain composed as she hurried to his side along with the surgeons. Placing a hand on Kenobi’s left cheek, Satine leaned in close to him. “Obi,” she whispered. His eyes remained closed but his head nearly imperceptibly lolled toward her as he pressed his cheek into her palm. “Obi-Wan, can you hear me?” she asked, gently rubbing her thumb across his skin.

His left eye barely opened as he reached his hand for her. “Satine?”

She wrapped his gloved fist in her fingers and squeezed. “We’re going to take care of you, my dear.” She caressed his sharp brow. “Should I contact the Jedi? Do you need a Force healer?”

Obi-Wan managed a slight nod. “Anakin,” he mumbled.

Satine squeezed his hand again. “Of course we’ll contact him as well.” She nodded to the medical team and they proceeded inside.

Droids administered an IV and began a blood transfusion while the surgeons inspected Kenobi’s wounds. They shined bright lights in his eyes and began a full body scan to check for internal injuries. They peeled his tunic away from his neck, revealing a ragged gash intersecting older scars. Satine could not bring herself to avert her eyes when they pulled off his tabard and began cutting through his bloody tunic. As they removed the shredded fabric from his body she saw how his chest and right shoulder where peppered with fine cuts. She praised the gods that Obi-Wan was not conscious when they wrenched his glove off his swollen fist. His arm had taken the brunt of the blast; there was shrapnel sticking out of his wrist and hand, and several of his fingers were broken.

The Duchess had finally seen enough. She turned away and held up the holoprojector, entering Skywalker’s serial number. He did not take long to answer.

The young man looked surprised to see Satine but he quickly concealed his shock and bowed to her.

“Duchess, to what do I owe the pleasure?” he asked kindly, his voice light and friendly.

“Thank you for speaking with me, General Skywalker. I’m afraid I have grave news.”

Anakin’s face immediately became stern. “What’s wrong, my lady? Are you in danger?”

She shook her head, “No, dear boy. I am well. It is on Master Kenobi’s behalf that I contact you.” She saw panic flash across the young man’s face. “Obi-Wan has been badly injured. He is here on Mandalore.”

Skywalker’s eyes grew round and concerned. “Mandalore? I wasn’t aware he was visiting your system.”

“He wasn’t. He simply appeared on our doorstep, as it were. He is not conscious and has been unable to explain how he came to be in this condition, but I contact you now in hopes that you and a Force healer will come to our aid.”

“Of course. We’ll come immediately.” His panic had not yet subsided and he used considerable effort to control his voice. “Please, can I see him?”

His boyish tone melted Satine’s heart. No wonder Obi was so fond of the young man. “I think perhaps now is not the best time…”

“Please, Duchess,” Anakin interrupted. “I need to see him.”

She sighed resignedly. Stubborn Jedi. “Very well, but I warn you, it is an unpleasant sight. You must prepare yourself.”

He took a moment to steady his nerves before he gave her a slight nod and she turned the holoprojector toward Kenobi. Skywalker’s face barely registered any emotion but Satine noticed his quick intake of breath.

Anakin stared at his master for a long time before he spoke again to the Duchess. His eyes were intense and determined. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Obi-Wan moaned but did not open his eyes.

“It’s the soporific,” one of the surgeons explained to Anakin. “Sometimes it makes people emotional.”

The young Jedi furrowed his brow. He was not sure he agreed with the doctor. Something about Obi-Wan seemed off, like his Force signature felt dull; it made Anakin uneasy. When he had first arrived in the room he had been horrified by his friends appearance, but as the healers cleaned Obi-Wan and treated his wounds, Kenobi began to look more like himself. Skywalker had faith that his friend would be back on his feet in no time, but the energy radiating from Obi-Wan concerned him.

Anakin hovered near his master’s bedside, trying to stay out of the medical staff’s way but refusing to leave the room. He watched as Kenobi’s right hand was strapped down and his fingers were splayed and splinted; the Force healer and the surgeons worked together to remove the shrapnel and mend the wounds.

Obi-Wan’s left hand suddenly clenched into a fist as his head rolled toward Skywalker. Kenobi’s eyes opened, their piercing blue burning with intensity, and he looked directly at Anakin. The younger man immediately sensed that something was wrong. Skywalker grasped his friend’s uninjured hand and leaned toward him. “Master, can you hear me?” Kenobi’s fist tightened, crushing Anakin’s fingers in an iron grip. “What is it, Obi-Wan?”

The Jedi master groaned again as his head fell back, his jaw tightening as he squeezed his eyes shut. Anakin turned to the surgeons and Force healer, holding up a hand as he spoke. “Please stop for a moment. Something isn’t right. He’s in too much pain.” He gently touched Obi-Wan’s brow. “Calm down, Master. Try to tell me what’s happening.”

When Kenobi finally spoke his voice sounded tight and pained. “Is that thing still in my ear?”

Anakin’s gaze immediately became focused as he pushed his friend’s hair aside revealing the small metal dart piercing Kenobi’s upper helix. “What the hell is this?” he said taking the projectile in his fingers.

Obi-Wan grabbed Anakin’s wrist. “Cut it out,” he pleaded.

One of the Mandalorian surgeons leaned over to have a look. “We did try to remove it but none of our shears could cut through the metal.”

Skywalker moved even closer and inspected the dart. It was pronged on the backend, and each prong was piercing Kenobi’s skin. Anakin had heard of such devices but he had never experienced it himself. He suddenly understood his friend’s desperation.

“Anakin,” Obi-Wan interrupted his thoughts, “rip it out.”

The younger Jedi nodded.

The surgeons all protested. “Wait just a moment, young man,” one interjected. “This is not proper procedure…”

Anakin ignored them all. He took firm hold of the dart and ripped it from his master’s ear in one swift motion. Kenobi’s entire body immediately contracted and he took a sharp breath. He inadvertently clutched a fist into Skywalker’s tunic and held on for dear life as wave after wave of pain flooded him.

Satine had been watching from the observation room and she burst in. “What do you think you are doing?” she shouted.

Skywalker patted his friend on the chest, holding him down firmly. “Is that better?” he asked catching Obi-Wan’s eye. Kenobi only managed to nod. Anakin turned to Satine and the medical staff. “You’ll need to give him a moment. He’ll settle down once his Force levels out again.” He handed the dart to the Jedi healer. “It’s a Force suppressor. The prongs release a chemical at timed intervals. Makes it nearly impossible to handle pain.”

“Why is he seizing like that?” Satine asked, her voice tinged with concern.

“When you’ve been cut off from the Force, it’s very uncomfortable to suddenly reconnect with it. The sensations can be a bit intense.” He smiled at Satine. “Don’t worry, my lady, it’s nothing he can’t handle.”

The Duchess looked archly at the young man but did not retort. She knew full well what Obi-Wan could endure.

Obi-Wan slept for nearly two days. On the third day he finally felt strong enough to stand and was approved by the Force healer to return to active duty. Anakin had been good enough to bring him a spare change of clothes that they kept stored aboard the Twilight. He only had on his black base layer – a tight, smooth compression fabric that provided insulation under his tunic and tabard – when his door suddenly opened and Satine swept in.

She stopped abruptly when she saw he was not fully dressed.

“Forgive me,” she said, momentarily lowering her eyes. “I should have knocked.” She knew Kenobi would not be embarrassed, but she also knew that a Jedi’s clothes were not just practical, they were symbolic. It was hardly appropriate to see a knight without his tunic and tabard. Even so, she could not help but smile wantonly at his narrow waist and broad shoulders. Obi-Wan’s body was lean and strong, and Satine always felt that the many layers of his clothes hid too much of his fine lines. The sleek, black undershirt left little to the imagination, hugging each muscle and contour, causing the Duchess’s pulse to rise.

“My lady,” he said, bowing deferentially.

Satine waved her hand flippantly. “Oh please, none of that, Obi,” she said stepping toward him quickly.

As he watched her approach, time seemed to slow while his heartbeat quickened. Months had passed since he had last seen her, and now she was suddenly in his arms, her body pressing against him as his hands slid around her hips drawing her closer. She wrapped herself around him, lifting up on her tiptoes as her face tucked into the crook of his neck. “Satine,” he breathed her name as the floral smell of her hair intoxicated him. He spread his hands across her back and pulled her tighter against him.

“I was so worried,” she said, her voice brittle with fear. “Months with no word and then suddenly you appear without warning, looking at though someone tried to rip you to pieces.” She squeezed her eyes shut and wound her fingers into his hair. “Don’t ever do that to me again, cyar'ika.”

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “Thank the gods you found me.”

She pushed back and looked into his eyes. “When they carried you off that ship you looked dead.” She traced the bruise encircling the corner of his right eye. “You were a bloody mess.”

“I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am,” he said cupping her face in his warm dry hand. His fingers were bruised and each knuckle was bandaged to prevent him from over extending his tendons, but his bones were mended and his mobility would return in just a few weeks. He ran his thumb back and forth over her cheek. “You saved my life.”

“You saved your own life,” she said archly. “We simply put you back together.” She took his chin firmly between her thumb and forefinger and lifted his jaw, turning his face to the left then to the right. He was still covered in cuts and bruises, his bottom lip was split near the corner of his mouth, and he even had several stitches in his eyebrow. “You’ve made a right mess of yourself,” she said disapprovingly. “I’m sure whatever you were doing, it was worth sacrificing your good looks.”

He rewarded her tease with a halfhearted smile. “It was.”

She tapped his tender eyebrow and he winced. “These bruises are rather becoming,” she said roguishly. “There’s something ruggedly handsome about them.” She let her palms slide down his shoulders to his chest, running over his taught muscles. She slipped her hands under his arms and slowly drew them down his sides, wrapping her fingers around his tapered waist and pulling his hips against hers.

He did not speak but he lifted his chin and gave her a warning look.

Satine was usually a woman who valued propriety and decorum, but when she was around Obi-Wan Kenobi she often found herself feeling wolfish and libidinous. She nearly always wanted to elicit a response from him, to prove that she had as much command over him as he had over her. Causing him to shiver or swallow nervously or catch his breath was highly gratifying and she could not help but count it as a small victory every time he reacted to her touch. Today was no different. She slid her knee between his legs and moved forward until she was fully pressed against him.

He clenched his jaw and took a deep breath. “Don’t play this game,” he said quietly.

“Game?” she countered. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She let her hands drop further until they were pressed against the tops of his thighs.

Obi-Wan suddenly took hold of her wrists in an iron grip. “Someone could walk in at any moment,” he warned in a harsh whisper, his eyes sharp.

“Is a woman not allowed to touch her paramour?”

He gave her a crooked half smile. “Is that what you call me?”

She squirmed her wrists free from his hands and pushed her fingers into his thick auburn hair. “Obi, aren’t you happy to see me?” She kissed the corner of his mouth, right next to his split lip.

“Of course I am,” he said, barely keeping control of himself.

She felt him harden against her thigh and she smiled at her victory.

“Your Duchess has need of you,” she smirked.

He took her firmly by the hips and gently pushed her back a step. “Unfortunately, I’ve already been recalled to Coruscant to be debriefed by the Council.”

Satine’s expression immediately fell, her eyes became wide and sad. “What?” She brushed her fingertips across his bruised brow. “But you’ve hardly had a chance to rest.” She wrapped his bandaged and aching hand in her own. “You’re still injured.”

“Not according to the Jedi healer. I’m to report to the Temple immediately.”

Her expression was quickly becoming angry. “And you can’t even spare one single day? You can’t grant a few paltry hours of your time?” She pulled back out of his grip and clenched her fists in frustration.

Obi-Wan wanted to stay. He wanted to wrap his arms around Satine and never leave her side. But his duty demanded he be elsewhere.

“Please, my dear,” he said reaching for her hand. “Let’s not part in anger.”

Her brow pulled together and her nose scrunched up. “Don’t you ever miss me?” she suddenly whispered, her voice a mixture of ire and rejection.

Obi-Wan immediately stepped forward and took her by the shoulders. “Of course I do.” He stooped slightly to face her. “I miss you so much sometimes I feel sick.”

She instantly looked skeptical. “I don’t believe you,” she said sternly, like a regent addressing her court.

Kenobi rolled his eyes. “Haven’t I made it perfectly clear how I feel about you? And can’t you see the dangerous line I’m walking? I’m going to have to face the Council and explain why in a moment of dire need I sought you out rather than the Jedi. If they discover our relationship, my life in the Order will be over.”

Satine quirked an eyebrow and hazarded a potentially incendiary comment. “Would that be so terrible?”

Obi-Wan frowned. “It’s the only life I’ve ever know.”

“You could have a new life,” she said softly. His expression suddenly looked lost, so before he could reproach her she continued. “I know that is not what we agreed. I know you will stay in the Order and I will love you as I always have – fleetingly.” She would never ask him to give up something that defined him so completely, though she recognized that the very act of loving her defied his Jedi oath.

Over the past months, Kenobi had finally come to terms with his own duplicity. He loved Satine as much as he loved being a Jedi. He could no sooner turn his back on one truth than he could the other. Therefore, he had decided to honor them both as wholeheartedly as he could. Constantly pulled in two directions, he kept two sets of vows and tried his best to be a good man.

“I never get to have you for as long as I want you,” Satine said sadly.

He brushed the back of his hand across her cheek before pushing his fingers up into her soft hair, pulling her closer. She nuzzled his neck and he kissed the tip of her nose. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“I know,” she said resting her forehead against him, shaking her head resignedly.

Placing a finger under her chin he lifted her lips to his. He barely brushed against her when he suddenly felt Anakin’s Force signature approaching.

Obi-Wan and Satine jumped apart just before the door slid open and Anakin burst in like a frenetic ball of energy.

“Ah, Duchess,” the young man said looking pleased. “I’m glad you’re here. I wanted a chance to thank you again for helping my careless friend,” he clapped Obi-Wan forcefully on the back, “cheat death one more time.”

Satine greeted him warmly, her regal aura in place once again, masking the true pain beneath her smile. “I’m glad Mandalore was able to be of service. The Jedi have always been friends to the Kryze family. I’m gratefully for any opportunity to repay the kindness they have shown me in the past.”

Anakin turned to Obi-Wan. “Well, Master, barring any more run-ins with pirates or slavers, we’re ready to return to Coruscant. The ship’s fueled and prepared for takeoff.”

“Very well,” Kenobi said pulling his tunic over his head. “I’ll be ready in just a moment.”

Skywalker looked between his half-dressed master and the Duchess. His brow pulled together for an instant before immediately returning to his eager smile. “Uh…” he could not repress his smirk. “…take your time, Obi-Wan. We’ll leave whenever you’re ready.”

“I’m ready now, Anakin,” Kenobi said as he straitened his tabard and wrapped his belt around his waist. “Let’s go.” Obi-Wan secretly brushed his hand against Satine’s as he walked past her and headed to the landing platform.

As Obi-Wan and Anakin approached the ship, Kenobi’s heart was battling his head. It had been more than six months since he had even spoken to Satine in person much less felt the warmth of her skin. If only the blasted Council had not recalled him so quickly.

He could not repress little details that flitted across his mind – the way the Duchess’s mouth turned down when she became indignant, the way her eyebrows lifted when she felt hopeful, and the dejected way she averted her eyes when he had walked out the door yet again.

He frowned. A few paltry hours. Satine was right; it was never enough…

Obi-Wan was so lost in thought that he plowed right into Anakin’s chest. The younger man had turned around to find his distracted friend lagging far behind. He stood watching Kenobi, watching the struggle that was plain on his face, and did not offer a word of warning, intentionally allowing Obi-Wan to walk clean into him.

“Oh!” Kenobi said jumping back. “Pardon me.”

“Got something on your mind?” Anakin teased.

“Actually yes,” Obi-Wan stammered. “I uh…” He squared his shoulders and tried to look dignified. “I want you to return to Coruscant without me.”

“Without you?”

“Yes. I have some loose ends I need to address before I return to the Temple. Inform the Council that I will arrive most likely late tomorrow.”

Anakin crossed his arms over his chest. “What loose ends?” he asked lightly. “I’ve already confirmed that Hondo delivered the younglings to the location you specified. All their families have been notified and are en route to retrieve them, just as you asked.”

“It’s… I… I simply want to make sure things here are settled properly. I’m worried that leaving Mandalore so quickly appears…” Kenobi searched for the right term. “…ungrateful.”

Skywalker could tell his friend was hedging and finally took pity on him. “You want to spend some time with Satine, don’t you?”

Obi-Wan’s eyes sharpened for a moment while he searched his Padawan’s face. Anakin knew Kenobi and Satine had a history, but Obi-Wan had never divulged his current entanglement. He realized Skywalker wasn’t looking for an explanation. Gods bless you, Anakin. “Just one more day,” Obi-Wan quietly admitted.

Anakin smiled. “Take two.”

As tempting as the suggestion was, Obi-Wan did not want to push his luck. “I can’t. The Council expects me to return today. I’m already flouting their orders by being one day late. If I am two, I will arouse considerable suspicion.”

“Whatever you think is best,” Anakin said knowingly.

Satine had temporarily retired to her private quarters in an attempt to wrangle her emotions under control before her afternoon meeting with a diplomatic special council. She hated that Obi-Wan had so much power over her fluttering heart. He had the ability to shake the bedrock under her feet, to reduce her to a dewy-eyed schoolgirl. She was a Duchess for Force sake!

Above all, she hated the angry tears that burned down her cheeks. She knew Obi-Wan had a duty to the Republic and she loved his honor that kept him true to his cause. But a natural part of her wished he had chosen her over his duty, just this once.

The massive glass doors leading to her private balcony suddenly opened from the outside, interrupting her solitude. Satine nearly jumped out of her skin with shock; she ran to the far side of the room and backed against the wall, fear clutching her heart. Assassination attempts were not unheard of, especially since Death Watch’s rise. She was just about to scream for her guards when Obi-Wan parted the long, gauzy curtains and walked off the terrace into the room.

Satine’s mouth fell open. “What on earth do you think you’re doing?” she hissed. “I could have had you killed.”

“Hardly likely,” Obi-Wan said, brushing dirt from his shoulder. “Your guards are no match for me,” he swept his arm toward the balcony door, “clearly.”

“How did you get up here?”

“Through the garden,” he said matter-of-factly.

“But it’s more than a hundred feet down.”

Obi-Wan arched a brow. “I’m a Jedi, Satine.”

They looked at each other for a long moment. When she finally recovered from her initial shock she spoke again. “What are you doing here? I thought you’d left Mandalore.”

He took a few steps toward her. “You asked me to stay.”

Satine could not believe her ears. She glared at him. “I did, yes.”

Obi-Wan continued moving closer. “You seem displeased,” he said knavishly, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.

“I’m not displeased, I’m confused.”

He was only a few feet away now. “Why?”

“You never do what I ask…”

She had barely gotten the words out before Obi-Wan quickly closed the distance between them, one hand smoothly sliding around her hip while the other cupped her cheek, guiding her mouth to his. He pulled her body against him as his kiss deepened. His lips were full and warm, moving deliciously against hers as she slipped her tongue into his mouth. She felt him bristle at first – she always forgot how shocking intimacy could be for a Jedi – but after a moment he yielded to her desire and they fell back against the wall, his hands exploring every inch of her curves.

Satine had heard many rumors and assumptions over the years, conjectures that Jedi were like monks and could not possibly be proper lovers. She smiled to herself whenever she heard such talk. Obi-Wan was an exceptional lover; his connection to the Force made their intimacy even more powerful, especially when he seemed to know exactly what she wanted. But what she loved most was when Obi-Wan demanded her attentions, when she could sense his needs and when he satiated them with confidence. He was no longer a timid boy, and his ability to render her speechless was one of the most private pleasures she had ever known.

Obi-Wan pushed his knee between her legs, forcing them apart as he simultaneously pulled open her dress’s high collar. He slowly kissed his way down to her clavicle as he pulled her hips closer to him, dragging her tender body up his thigh. She twined her fingers through his thick auburn hair as a shiver ran down her spine. Obi-Wan placed a warm, lingering kiss to the pulse point on her neck before whispering, “How I’ve missed you, ner riduur.”

Hearing her own language spoken by his beautiful voice was enough to undo her.

He knew full well that Satine enjoyed teasing him, that she liked to needle away at his self-control and elicit a response that gratified her. What she did not know was that he took equal pleasure in doing the same to her. He had grown to love slowly working her into a frenzy until she was nearly delirious with desire. Hearing her whimper his name did things to him that he had never imagined possible.

Pressing her against the wall, leaving her body nowhere to retreat, he slipped his hand beneath her long, petal-like skirts. “Why does a Duchess need so many layers?” he teased as he slid his palm up her thigh and between her legs.

“Political armor,” she said laughing breathlessly. He scooped her up, holding her effortlessly with one hand, the other still lost beneath the folds of her dress. She wrapped her arms around his neck, clutching him against her as he slowly drove her mad with his skilled fingers.

“Obi,” she moaned, tightening her fists into his tunic. She let her head fall back and would gladly have allowed him to do anything he wanted to her, but she suddenly remembered her meeting with the diplomatic council. “Damn,” she nearly shouted. Satine took hold of Obi-Wan’s shoulders and pressed him back. “Though I truly adore everything you are doing, my love, I am late for a particularly important state meeting.”

Kenobi’s mouth fell open and his eyes became round with shocked. “What?”

Satine pushed him further away and shimmied out from between him and the wall. “I’m sorry, Obi. I simply cannot avoid my duties.” She stepped in front of her looking glass to fix her hair and straighten her headdress.

“Can’t it wait?” he asked, still looking flabbergasted.

“I’m afraid not.” When she was satisfied with her appearance she turned back to him. “It’s only for a few hours.” She took him by the hand and guided him across the room toward an interior set of massive doors. “You can hide yourself in here,” she said pulling open the portal, revealing her bedchamber. “Sleep and rest your still-healing body. No one will disturb you, I promise.”

He looked completely at a loss and she couldn’t help but laugh.

“When was the last time you relaxed, Obi-Wan? For fun?”

He arched a brow at her. “Never?” he sounded confused.

She pushed him playfully through the door. “Try it,” she said smiling. “You might like it.”

More time had passed than Satine had intended; the diplomats droned on and on for hours but all she could think about was the Jedi waiting in her bedchamber. When the meeting finally adjourned she had to forcibly restrain herself from running back to her rooms. She quietly pushed open the door, fully expecting to find Obi-Wan asleep in bed, but she was shocked when she discovered he wasn’t there. For a cursory moment she thought the room was completely empty, but then she spotted him off to the side, in the sitting area located near a massive set of bay windows. He was sound asleep, sitting up on a settee, facing the beautiful view of Sundari, the sun setting blood orange on the distant horizon.

Satine laughed to herself as she observed his posture. His head had fallen back against the high-backed couch; his right leg extended out in front of him while his left was bent, falling open at the knee; his arms were crossed over his chest, his vambraces and gloves piled next to him. This was as close to relaxing as Obi-Wan Kenobi was capable of. The war had made it nearly impossible for him to let go of his tension, constantly remaining alert and vigilant, ready to spring into action.

She slipped off her shoes and padded toward him on silent feet. As she got closer she saw his chest slowly rise and fall and she realized he was even snoring quietly. “Suum ca'nara,” she whispered to herself with a smile. Satine eased onto the settee next to Obi-Wan, careful not to wake him. She studied his face in the warm evening light, trying to commit every detail to memory, every sharp angle, every line and every curve. She had never met a man to rival Kenobi’s looks. When she had first met him he was fresh-faced and boyish, always smirking and ready to laugh. Now that he was a man he had grown mature and contemplative, and he tried to hide his still-youthful good looks with a trimmed beard, but he never lost his droll wit and earnest sense of justice. Obi-Wan was as handsome as he was kind.

As her memories flitted back to their youth, Satine could not resist reaching out and touching his cheek, still black and blue and peppered with fierce scratches. A cut stretched from the bridge of his nose to just under his eye; his split lip had begun to bruise; his right eye was no longer swollen but was speckled with contusions. She could not deny that he looked even more irresistible, his injuries a testament to his physical strength and endurance. She leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to his scraped cheek.

He did not stir even a little.

A mischievous thought suddenly took hold of her and she moved even closer to him. Carefully, she slowly undid his belt and let it fall to the side, then she gently straddled him, tossing her skirts out so that they draped over both their hips. She reached out and slowly pulled his tabard back, then she loosened his tunic and pulled his stiff, high collar open. She let her fingers run down the fabric’s edge, tracing his warm flesh as far down as his sternum. Satine pushed her hands inside his shirt and ran her palms over his chest, tracing the taught muscles. Desire flared in her and she nuzzled into his neck and began kissing him. As her tongue played over his pulse point he woke with a start.

He blinked up at her, his soft eyelashes fluttering. It took him several moments to regain his bearings, but he quickly succumbed to her attention without a word, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her closer.

Satine wanted to pleasure her Jedi in a way he would never dare ask for. He nearly always pleased her exactly as she desired, using the Force to read her aura, but tonight she knew exactly what he wanted and she was determined to leave him satisfied. Her fingers trailed down his chest and slid beneath his waistband. As she took him firmly in her hands, Obi-Wan moaned and let his head fall back. She leaned forward and placed her lips on his, drinking up the heady smell of his skin and enjoying the sound of his elevated breathing. She could not bear waiting any longer. Satine guided him slowly, mercilessly sliding him all the way inside her until he filled her completely.

“Fucking hell…” the Jedi who never cursed suddenly gasped out. His grip tightened around her as they found their rhythm together. She gently kissed each cut and bruise before running her fingers through his perfect, thick hair. She gave Obi-Wan every attention he deserved, allowed him pleasures he never thought he was entitled to. Hours passed and by the time night had fallen and Sundari lights glittered outside the window, Satine and Kenobi collapsed exhausted onto the floor, never having made it to her bed.