Actions

Work Header

The Jedi and His Duchess

Chapter Text

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 tenets 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 formality. 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 called “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 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 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 bounty hunter drew a 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 remain 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 beneath 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 below.

“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 room, greeting each guest 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 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 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 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 intoxicating beverage began to reduce her inhibitions, freeing her mind from its self-induced restrictions as she watched him lean against the bar.

He was well-built, his strong, muscular arms and shoulders constantly encased in armor, even in 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; 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 of 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, apprehension 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 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 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 carvings. 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 adorned with many large gems and golden finery. Her wrists were bare and tattooed with blue tribal bands that spiraled up her arms 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 ancestral 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 single 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 combination was frightening.

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 too.”

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 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 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 gently grasping 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 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 regulate 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 ascendancy. 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.

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 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's wrong with him.”

The Jedi also stood. “Duchess…”

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

He gave her 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 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 resentful. 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 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 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 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 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.

Chapter Text

Draboon

Obi-Wan timidly made his way back to the camp. He had been gone a long time and he knew Qui-Gon would question his absence. The handprint stretching across his cheek was still red and painful; his master would notice it immediately. Even so, Kenobi tried to conceal the mark by turning his head to the side and pulling his hood down.

“Where have you been, Padawan? I was beginning to worry.” Qui-Gon knelt next to the fire while he boiled water for tea.

“I’m sorry, Master. I was trying to clear my head.”

The older Jedi smiled and nodded knowingly, but then he froze and looked up at Obi-Wan. “Where is Satine?” Qui-Gon’s eyes became wide with worry. “Why isn’t she with you? I sent her to bring you back to camp.”

Obi-Wan looked down in shame. “She… She ran off.”

Jinn stood quickly. “What? Why?”

Kenobi still tried to keep his left cheek concealed from his master. “She got upset and ran away.”

Qui-Gon rolled his eyes. “You are aware that you’re supposed to protect her, not let her run off alone into a dark forest?”

His master was right. Obi-Wan had been so angry that he forgot to do his duty. He felt even more ashamed. “I’m sorry, Qui-Gon. I’ll go find her.”

Kenobi turned to leave but after only one step Jinn spoke sharply. “Stop.”

Obi-Wan closed his eyes, sensing his master’s wariness through the Force. Qui-Gon came and stood directly in front of him. The older Jedi reached up and pulled the apprentice’s hood off then he gently turned Obi-Wan’s face to the side and inspected the fierce abrasion. Chagrined, he shook his head. “This looks fresh.”

Obi-Wan could feel Qui-Gon’s disappointment. The young man suddenly felt utterly defeated; he couldn’t get a handle on his emotions, he wasn’t acting like himself, and he wasn’t being a very good Jedi.

“Are you going to tell me what happened?” Jinn asked quietly.

Kenobi couldn’t look his master in the eye. “I got angry.”

The older Jedi pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes for a moment. For Force sake, it’s like pulling teeth! “And?” he urged, fighting to remain patient.

“And I said some terrible things.” The young man sighed heavily. “So the Duchess slapped me.”

It was Qui-Gon’s turn to sigh as he shook his head again. “Looks like she hit you pretty hard.”

Kenobi gave a half-hearted smirk. “Nothing I didn’t deserve.”

Jinn crossed his arms over his chest. “What’s gotten into you, Obi-Wan?”

The young man opened his mouth and was about to answer when he froze, his instincts becoming alert. He turned quickly just in time to see Satine slowly walk out of the trees. As she made her way toward the Jedi, Qui-Gon could see she looked thoroughly ashamed.

“Hello,” she said awkwardly, barely raising her eyes to glance at them.

Jinn watched as the Duchess hunched her shoulders, looking meek and defeated, while his Padawan lowered his head and looked nervous. He sighed internally and managed to stop himself from rolling his eyes. These young ones would be the death of him. “Where have you been?”

“Nowhere. Just walking around.” She shuffled her feet.

Qui-Gon could sense that she wanted to say something but was fighting her pride. He gave her a reassuring smile. “What is it, my dear?”

She took a deep breath before she spoke. “Obi-Wan is right,” she blurted out. “I put us all in danger for personal reasons. I wasn’t completely honest with you because I was afraid you wouldn’t…” She trailed off, unable to find the words to finish.

“Let you do what you want?” Qui-Gon suggested.

She gave a crooked frown. “Yes.”

The older Jedi could feel her tension ease slightly. “Duchess, we know that you have experienced unthinkable trauma; we know that you’re afraid. And, considering we come from very different ways of life, I imagine you must be feeling rather lonely. It will take some adjusting, being stuck with a pair of austere, stuffy Jedi.” He chuckled at Obi-Wan’s resentful look. “But if we are honest and open with each other, we will stand a better chance of surviving this ordeal.”

Satine nodded, conceding to Qui-Gon’s wisdom. But then she nervously bit her lip and turned to the younger Jedi. “Obi-Wan,” she said shyly, “I’m so sorry. I’ve never hit anyone in my life. I’m so ashamed of myself.”

Her usually hard blue eyes had become soft and wistful as she tried to make peace with him. Kenobi felt his own anger begin to recede. “I’m sorry too,” he said abashedly. “I said terrible things to you.”

“Yes you did. But most of them were true.” She placed a hand on his forearm. “All is forgiven,” she whispered.

He finally turned to look at her and, as she saw the red handprint on his cheek, Satine grimaced. “I never meant to hurt you,” she said, a crinkle forming in her brow.

Obi-Wan smiled at her mischievously. “I’ve had worse.”

“I can attest to that,” Qui-Gon interjected. “Now, if we’ve all made peace, I think it’s time for tea.”




That night it was cold and foggy but the three of them gathered around the fire talking for hours. Satine sipped hot tea and laughed at Qui-Gon’s wonderful stories about his days as a rambunctious Padawan while the Jedi master sat cross-legged across from her, stoking the flames. Obi-Wan lay on the ground by Qui-Gon’s side, his hands tucked beneath his head as he stared up at the sparks thrown out by the glowing tinder. The older Jedi’s voice was deep and comforting, and every now and then he would make Obi-Wan laugh so hard tears streamed down the boy’s face. Satine couldn’t remember the last time she felt so happy. She loved seeing the two Jedi relax and let down their guard.

This became their routine; most evenings they would finish their day by gathering around the fire to share stories. Qui-Gon always led the discussions, asking Satine questions about her family and Mandalorian history. He talked about astronomy and philosophy and answered her questions about the Force. Jinn did his best to foster fellowship between them in the hopes that they would naturally grow attuned to each other.

His patience was rewarded as the three of them eventually grew to work well as a unit. Satine slowly became more confident and less nervous; she began to pull her own weight and felt less like a third wheel. Obi-Wan felt less threatened by her as she teased him less and laughed with him more. Qui-Gon was proud of them both; conditions were not ideal but neither youth complained. More times than not they were forced to sleep out in the open unless they found an obliging cave. Food was scarce and they mostly relied on what they could trap and forage. Weather was changeable and often cold up in the mountains. Yet, they worked together to stay fed and warm, often trekking long distances in a single day. Satine was not used to climbing cliff faces, hiking twenty miles, or killing her own food, but she was a survivor. Both the Jedi noticed that she had become stronger and more self-reliant.

One afternoon, as Obi-Wan watched Satine prepare a fish to be cooked over the fire, he realized how much he respected her. She had overcome many struggles, both physically and emotionally. She carried the weight of her people on her shoulders and she had just killed their dinner with her own hands. She’s a lot stronger than I ever thought.

Satine suddenly looked up and caught Obi-Wan staring at her. They locked eyes for a moment then he smiled. She blushed and couldn’t help but smile back. “What is it?”

“Nothing.” His cheeks flushed slightly but he didn’t look away. “I’m just glad I met you.”

Satine’s heart swelled in her chest and several moments passed before she was able to breathe again. “I’m glad I met you too,” she whispered.

As more and more time passed the Duchess noticed that Kenobi had become kinder. His dazzling, disarming smile was less practiced and more natural, and their conversations were effortless and relaxed, like friends. She had made a concerted effort to stop harassing him, especially when she was feeling grumpy. Obi-Wan was an easy target but he didn’t deserve to constantly be on the receiving end of her anxiety. She found herself hoping that he had grown to like her as much as she had grown to like him.




One evening Kenobi sat up later than the others; it was his turn to keep watch. He perched on a boulder, staring up at the tapestry of stars, wondering how many of them he would visit. Occasionally he hopped down and stoked the fire, doing his best to keep Qui-Gon and Satine warm. His master was deep in sleep, a cloak pulled tightly around him as he lay with his back to the flames.

Obi-Wan dropped another log on the fire and used his boot to nudge it perfectly into place before kneeling down to warm his hands. He rubbed his numb fingers and let the blazing heat thaw them. Despite the discomfort, he was surprisingly happy. He sat between his beloved master and his newest friend, smiling to himself as he watched them both sleeping.

This is what matters most, he thought. These people, this moment, it’s my life wrapped up in one instant. It occurred to him that he had never felt such serenity. His mind was quiet, his emotions at peace. There, beneath the stars, nothing existed beyond this place and time. This is the passive serenity Yoda is always talking about.

Obi-Wan’s thoughts were interrupted by a soft whimpering. He looked at Satine in the flickering light and watched as her fists tightened, clutching the blanket as she slept. Tears slowly slipped from her lashes as she rolled over onto her back, clearly lost in a nightmare. Kenobi’s heart went out to her; he wished there was something he could do to help. He silently moved to her side and reached out through the Force, soothing her emotions. Satine’s fear was powerful and evasive; every time Obi-Wan thought he had a handle on it, her anxiety would spike and it would slip out of his grasp.

The young man felt a surge of dread well up inside his chest; it pushed up into his throat, choking him. He knew it was Satine’s emotions, knew that he was feeling whatever she was feeling. Somehow they were connected. Something in Satine Kryze was profoundly bound to Obi-Wan Kenobi, as though the Force had chosen them for each other.

The fear choking him was also choking the Duchess. Satine gasped and her eyes shot open. She sat up and wildly looked around, unsure of her surroundings. “Where are they?” she sobbed.

Obi-Wan took her cold hands in his. “It’s alright, Satine,” he said. “It was just a dream.”

She looked at him with wide, unblinking eyes as tears silently spilled down her cheeks. She could not stop the violent shivering that racked her body. “It felt so real,” she finally whispered. She looked around the camp, glancing over at Qui-Gon. “There were bounty hunters. They were torturing you and Qui-Gon.”

Kenobi placed his hands on her shoulders. “It was just a nightmare. We’re all safe.”

She nodded and wiped her face with her palm. Obi-Wan crawled over to the canteen sitting just at the fire’s edge and poured her a mug of tea. He pressed it into her hands. “Drink this. It will help.” Satine sipped the hot, strong brew as Kenobi sat next to her and wrapped a blanket snuggly around her shoulders. “Try and keep warm,” he said kindly.

The Duchess was slowly beginning to calm. She stared into the sparks that crackled out of the bonfire. As she watched the mesmerizing display she realized she could feel Obi-Wan’s energy, feel his place in the Force as though it were a tangible thing; he burned warm and bright with a steady, powerful stability. Simply sitting next to him eased her. “I want to go home,” she said suddenly.

Kenobi looked at her profile, her sharp featured highlighted by the firelight. “You will,” he assured her. “Mandalore will call you home soon.”

“If there even is a home to return to.” She took another sip of tea before she spoke again. “My family is gone. My home is gone.” She turned and looked right into his gentle eyes. “What if my people are gone too, Obi-Wan?”

He understood her concerns, but dwelling on fear would not help her. "There is always hope, Satine. Even in our darkest moments, when it seems like all is lost, there’s a chance for rebirth.”

She looked at him skeptically.

Obi-Wan smiled. “I sound cavalier, don’t I?”

“A little,” she teased.

“I just want you to know that endings aren’t actually endings. They’re just thresholds, a portal to a new beginning.”

She sighed. “That’s very easy to say and very hard to believe, but I take your meaning.”

Obi-Wan shrugged. “Just don’t lose hope.”

Satine smiled and nudged him with her elbow. “Thank you.” She noticed that she could see their breath in the air as they talked but Obi-Wan had only his cloak and no blanket. She turned toward him and pulled his hands into her lap, then, wrapping them around her hot teacup, she closed her hands over his. “Your fingers are like ice cubes,” she said.

They sat like that for a long time, knee to knee, taking turns pressing each other’s hands against the warm mug. Eventually, Satine began to yawn and her eyes looked sleepy. “You should try to get some more sleep,” Obi-Wan encouraged.

“I don’t want to go back into that horrible dream.”

“Try to think of something nice before you drift off. Is there something comforting you can focus on?”

Satine bit her lip, wondering if what she wanted to say was inappropriate. “I find your energy comforting.”

Obi-Wan looked at her quickly in surprise. He didn’t know what to say.

“Is it strange that I can feel you around me like a blanket?” Satine asked quietly. “I’m not Force sensitive, but you are unmistakable, Obi-Wan.”

He suddenly felt very hot on his cheeks and under his collar. “Well,” he stammered, “I suppose I could… help you… fall asleep.”

Satine smiled but was able to stifle a laugh. “I’m not going to try and seduce you, Kenobi.”

This statement elicited a strange, unexpected emotion from Obi-Wan; he could not deny that he felt rather disappointed. Snap out of it, idiot! he shouted at himself internally. It’s forbidden!

“Can I…” Satine ventured tentatively, “…can I just sleep next to you?”

Obi-Wan’s internal alarms bells were ringing at full volume. Of course he wanted to sleep right next to Satine; he wanted to do a lot more than that – and he was beginning to suspect that she wanted the same thing. But he was a Jedi and this was getting very close to breaking the Code.

He felt truly conflicted until he looked into her shining eyes. What he saw in those blue orbs was more than just attraction; it was deeper than beauty, deeper than friendship. As he looked into Satine’s eyes he felt like he could see the entire universe from one end to the other, like he could see everything in its place and in its divine order, like she was a map through chaos.

Satine must have experienced something similar because she reached out and traced his brow with her fingertips, gently letting them slide down the side of his cheek.

Obi-Wan realized she was only inches away. He desperately wanted to kiss her.

Satine could feel his breath on her cheek. How easy it would be to lean in and taste his lips. But she truly had no wish to confuse and distract him from his Jedi training. So instead, she nestled into his side, tucking herself under his arm, resting her head on his shoulder. He pulled her blanket around them both, making sure she was snug and warm. Satine had never felt so safe in her entire life. She fell asleep in a few short minutes.

Chapter Text

Draboon

The weather in the mountains seemed to change incessantly. One day it was blistering hot in blazing sun, the next was bitter cold with driving rain. The Jedi and their Duchess never knew what to expect. One afternoon was particularly miserable; a harsh wind kicked up and blew in sideways, releasing a torrential downpour moments later. The rain had not stopped for three days and the trio was caught out in the open with no place to take shelter. They combed the forest looking for a cave or protective overhang but found little relief.

Qui-Gon was soaked to the bone, his robes hanging heavily from his muscular frame. He had given up on his cloak long ago, dragging it off and stuffing it into his rucksack. He had tried wringing out the unwieldy mantle but it was a wasted effort. The rain had soaked through his pack anyway and drenched everything inside. His every step squelched in mud and sodden leaves; they needed to find shelter soon, if for no other reason than to improve his mood.

He let his gaze drift to his apprentice walking several yards ahead. Obi-Wan and Satine trudged through the foliage, their shoulders almost touching while they conversed and laughed, seemingly oblivious to the hideous weather. Qui-Gon couldn’t hold back a frown as he suddenly realized his Padawan and the Duchess seemed to always walk and sit very close together. They were constantly side by side, and often far closer than they needed to be. It wasn’t a stab of jealously Qui-Gon felt, but an awareness that surged through him, a momentary flash that sharpened his instincts.

His initial reaction was to become concerned, but his heart quickly told him not to overreact. It’s normal, he tried to reassure himself. They’re of a similar age. It’s no wonder they’ve become close. Obi-Wan is smiling more than I’ve ever seen, and I would hate to unnecessarily impede the boy’s happiness. Besides, he would never do anything to jeopardize the mission.

But then he wondered if that were true. Though Obi-Wan was a gifted Jedi, Qui-Gon felt certain that his Padawan had never known the predominance of attachment; the young man was ill-prepared for the confusion those feelings would create. His Padawan earnestly clung to the Jedi Code more than most Jedi Masters, but Qui-Gon knew Obi-Wan was tenderhearted, that he had a natural compassion and empathy that would leave him vulnerable to heartbreak.

There’s no way to protect him from that.

As much as he wanted to guard his Padawan, he believed there was no point in intervening unless the mission was at risk. Until that happened, Qui-Gon Jinn would let Obi-Wan Kenobi find his own destiny. The Force would not lead them astray.




Obi-Wan wiped the rain from his face and cupped his hands over his cold nose. He noticed that his icy fingers were turning blue around the edges.

“We need to find a way to thaw out,” Satine said, blowing warm breath into her clenched fists while she walked.

“I wouldn’t mind a sleeping pallet and cup of hot tea,” Kenobi said, rubbing his nose.

Satine smiled and nudged him with her elbow. “Dream bigger, Obi-Wan,” she teased.

He smiled back at her, the corner of his mouth pulling up simultaneously with his sharp brow.

“If I could have anything right now,” Satine carried on, “I would want a huge feather bed and a roaring fire.”

“And tea,” Obi-Wan urged.

“And tea, of course,” Satine laughed softly. “If it would make you happy, then of course we’d have tea.”

“I can’t function properly without it.” Kenobi ran a hand through his hair, causing raindrops to spray out in all directions. He was sick of being wet. His boots were starting to tear near the toe and his hands ached with the cold. His stomach suddenly growled loudly and he self-consciously clamped his arms over his abdomen.

“My goodness,” Satine laughed. “You couldn’t possibly be hungry. You’ve been drinking rain nonstop for days.”

Obi-Wan chuckled. “Funny to think water isn’t all that filling.” He was truly starving, having agreed with Qui-Gon to cut most of their rations in half to save on supplies. They gave Satine more, agreeing that as Jedi they were trained to survive on less for longer.

Satine had no idea the two men were sacrificing on her behalf. Even so, she reached into her pocket and handed Obi-Wan a rations bar. “Go on, take it,” she said waving it under his nose. “You need to eat more.”

He didn’t hesitate. “Thank you,” he said, his eyes growing wide as he pulled the wrapper off and stuffed nearly the entire thing into his mouth.

“Now I just need to find you a cup of tea…”

Satine plowed right into Obi-Wan’s back. She hadn’t noticed that he’d stopped walking. Before them stretched a wide, rolling meadow just beyond the tree line’s edge. She saw that Kenobi’s gaze had become sharp and alert, his eyes scanning the view. She recognized this look; he had sensed something in the Force.

“What is it?” she whispered, straining her eyes to see what he saw. “Is it dangerous?”

He swallowed the last of his rations bar and shook his head. “Not dangerous but something… else…” His voice faded as he allowed himself to reach deeper into the Force.

Qui-Gon came up beside them. He had learned to trust his apprentice’s instincts, and he could see in Obi-Wan’s posture that the young man had tapped into something the older Jedi could not sense. Kenobi’s back had gone rigid and his fists were clenched at his sides. “What is it, Padawan? What do you sense?”

Obi-Wan’s eyes were wide and glassy, not seeing the world in front of him, but seeing into the Force, experiencing an imprint left by the energy that flowed through the meadow. “There’s something not right here,” he said quietly. “Pain,” his voice was barely more than a whisper. “Death.” He suddenly blinked and turned to his master. “There is darkness here.”

“But no danger?”

The young man shook his head. “Not in this moment. But something monstrous hangs over this place.”

The words sent a chill through Qui-Gon’s core. His apprentice was not prone to visions and premonition. “Do you think you are sensing the past or the future?”

Obi-Wan took a deep breath to clear his mind. “I don’t know. I’m sorry, Master. The feeling is fading.” Concern was plain on Jinn’s face; Kenobi had to admit he felt a bit rattled as well. He had never experienced anything so profound yet allusive. It was as though the Force was trying to tell him something but the message wasn’t fully formed.

“There’s a building we can take shelter in,” Kenobi offered, trying to lighten the mood.

Both Qui-Gon and Satine looked at him as though he were crazy.

“It’s a bunker,” Obi-Wan continued. “It’s down there.” He pointed to the center of the meadow where a strange mound bumped up higher than the rest of the ground. “That’s the entrance. The rest is underground.”

“How could you possibly know that?” Satine asked disbelievingly.

“I can feel it in the Force.”

“The same Force that told you this meadow was a stretch of verdant horror?” she said leaning forward with her hands on her hips. “You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t want to risk sheltering in a place you described as ‘monstrous’ not five seconds ago.”

“It’s not dangerous, Satine, it just has a residual energy.” Obi-Wan turned to Qui-Gon. “If you want to get out of the rain, the bunker will do. It’s abandoned.”

“How do you know?”

“I just… know. I can’t explain how.”

Qui-Gon arched a brow and looked at him skeptically. “How can you be sure it’s residual energy?”

“Master, I feel it in the Force; we’ll be safe. There’s no one down there to hurt us.”

A large lightening bolt rent the sky, followed by a threatening thunderclap. The rain began to increase, coming down hard and fast. The way was clear to the Jedi Master. “We take shelter.”




The bunker entrance was almost completely overgrown with grass. Qui-Gon made short work with the access panel and the rusty door slid open with a loud squeak. The trio warily pushed forward into the darkness, Qui-Gon igniting his lightsaber to illuminate the way. They stepped down out of the foyer into a large octagonal room with radar consuls, computer screens, and satellite monitoring stations lining every wall. The bunker had clearly been abandoned for many years.

“What is this place?” Satine asked.

Obi-Wan wiped rain from his face as he leaned over one of the consuls. “Looks like a terminal used to communicate with spacecraft.”

Qui-Gon squinted in the low light. “That meadow outside isn’t what it seems.”

Obi-Wan turned to face his Master. “What do you mean?”

“Look at the systems in here; the radars, the satellite surveillance. That’s no meadow. It’s a landing strip.”

Satine couldn’t stop the fear that crept up her spine. “Why would there be an abandoned landing strip in the middle of nowhere?”

“It looks military-built, but I suspect it has not been used militarily for quite some time.”

“It doesn’t look as though it’s been used at all for quite some time,” Obi-Wan said. He flipped a large switch on the wall. “There isn’t even any power.”

Qui-Gon’s senses had him on edge. “We would be prudent to assume this place has become a favorite spot for smugglers and bounty hunters; anyone wishing to keep a low profile. We must be cautious.”

Satine moved closer to the large Jedi Master. “Are you sure we should stay here?”

The fear in her eyes touched his heart. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “All will be well. The risk is worth a few hours out of the rain. Let’s find a way to get more light and heat. I think we all could do with a bit of warmth.”

The Duchess nodded and began looking around the room. She spotted a large metal box in the corner that looked like a munitions crate. She kicked it open, tipped it on its side, and dumped the contents out on the floor. She quickly dragged the box into the center of the room then began digging through desk drawers and containers.

“What are you doing?” Obi-Wan asked as he and Qui-Gon watched her with interest.

She ignored the Jedi, her eyes brightening as she found what she was looking for. In a dusty drawer she discovered an old, dry folio of flight manuals. She dropped them next to the metal box. “Obi-Wan, prop the bunker door open,” she said as she began to crinkle a bunch of pages up in the crate’s bottom. “Qui-Gon,” she said, holding her hand out to him, indicating his lightsaber. “May I?”

The Jedi looked at her warily before silently handing her his blade. She touched a dry piece of paper to the plasmatic weapon and sparks burst from the page as it instantly dissolved. The cinders rained down in to the box and began smoldering on the other dry paper. Satine handed Qui-Gon his lightsaber as she leaned over the box and began blowing on the embers. After a few short moments she had a decent fire going.

“Very clever.” Qui-Gon couldn’t keep from smiling as he returned his weapon to his belt.

The three of them instantly crowded around the flames, reaching their hands toward the wonderful heat. Steam began to rise off their clothes.

“We should get some of these wet things off and try to dry them,” Qui-Gon suggested.

Satine pulled off her sodden boots and poured several ounces of water from them onto the floor.

Obi-Wan pealed off his cloak and hung it on the back of a chair where it began dripping, creating a massive puddle in moments.

Qui-Gon untied his long hair and squeezed as much water out as he could before refastening his unruly mane into a tight bun at the back of his head.

“Can we please eat something, Master?” Obi-Wan asked.

The older Jedi looked at his dripping Padawan and realized the boy hadn’t eaten for nearly eighteen hours. He was struck by how lean Obi-Wan looked. This mission was taking its toll on all of them, but Kenobi didn’t complain despite being exhausted, starved, and cold. Jinn’s heart swelled. Obi-Wan would be one of the finest Jedi knights the Council had ever seen.

“Of course.”

The three of them took turns stoking the fire, boiling pots of rain for tea, and wringing out their waterlogged clothes. After an hour the octagonal chamber was much warmer and Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Satine all had full stomachs.




Everything was dark. He couldn’t even see his hands in front of his face.

He was cold, the deep penetrating cold that settles into your bones.

He could hear a strange sound, like something wet being scraped against something sharp. Several moments passed before he realized it was the sound of his own breathing. Each inhale was excruciating, as though his right lung were full of pins and needles.

“Master?” he whispered. He barely managed to get the word out.

A hand suddenly gripped around his throat, crushing his vocal chords. “He’s not here to help you now, boy. It’s just you and me.”

Fingers slipped into his hair and wrenched his head back while agonizing pain shot down both his arms. He tried not to scream but after a moment he couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“Tell me where she is and I’ll stop hurting you…”


…Obi-Wan sat up out of a sound sleep, his heart pounding in his chest. He frantically looked around the room. The metal crate still smoldered nearby, his master dozing next to it. Their clothes still hung awkwardly around the room. The rain still battered down outside the bunker door that was propped open, letting a dull streak of daylight into the adumbral chamber.

His nightmare’s horror still hung around him, fogging his brain. Everything in the dream felt real, especially the hand tightening around his throat. Obi-Wan instinctively reached up and touched his neck.

It was just a dream, he reassured himself. You’ve never had visions before. Why would you suddenly start now? He shook his head and took a deep breath but he couldn’t push away the idea that he had just seen his possible future.

His rumination was cut short as he realized something around him didn’t feel right.

Satine.

He bolted to his feet as he finally noticed that she wasn’t in the room. Initially, panic flooded his senses, but he mastered his fear using his breathing to release his anxiety. He closed his eyes and reached into the Force. Everything around him disappeared, the room fading away into the shadows. As his surroundings became perfectly silent, he felt Satine in the Force. She was still in the bunker, just no longer in this compartment.

Obi-Wan looked around and saw a mechanical door on the far side of the room that was partially pushed open. He tiptoed over to it, careful not to disturb Qui-Gon’s sleep. The portal opened into a dark corridor that descended far beneath the ground’s surface. He saw Satine several yards away, squatting against the wall, her cheek and hands pressed against the durasteel panels.

Kenobi silently crept toward her. “What are you doing?” he whispered as he got closer.

“I heard something,” she whispered back, looking up at him. The hallway was so dark they could hardly make out each other’s features. “There was a strange tapping sound coming from this corridor. I followed it here.” She pressed her ear against the wall again. “Listen.”

Obi-Wan followed her lead and put his ear against the cold metal. What he heard made his eyes widened and his heart skip a beat. He could just make out a series of metallic tapping sounds that skittered across the durasteel at uneven intervals, like a creature gently drumming its claws against the wall. “What on earth?”

“What could it be?”

“I don’t know, but I’m not terribly keen to find out.”

“Don’t be such a ninny, Obi-Wan,” she teased.

Kenobi frowned. “Did you ever stop to consider this could be a smuggler’s secret hideaway, and that whatever you’re hearing on the other side of this wall could be something nasty?”

“Of course I did.” Satine pressed her hands flat against the partition. “But we also can’t be certain it isn’t secretly surveilling us and reporting our whereabouts.”

Obi-Wan had to concede that she made a good point. “All right. What’s your plan?”

“I’m not sure yet.” Satine closed her eyes and tried to focus, leaning in again to listen. “It almost sounds like it’s hollow, like there’s a vault on the other side of this wall. But I don’t see a door anywhere, do you?”

Obi-Wan shook his head. “No, I don’t see anything.”

“I wonder,” Satine said, her voice becoming determined, “if I just…”

Kenobi sensed the danger at the same moment the Duchess pressed her full weight against the durasteel. The panel gave way, snapping open and shut in an instant, swallowing Satine with unfathomable speed. Obi-Wan reached for her, his fingers grazing the edge of her sleeve as she tumbled away into the darkness. The secret hatched slammed shut, trapping Satine on the other side of the wall.

Obi-Wan threw himself against the partition, pounding it with his fist. “Satine!” He pressed his ear to the wall and listened for her as the corridor went eerily silent.

She started screaming, a high-pitched shriek that echoed through the darkness.

“Satine!” Kenobi could sense the Duchess’s fear roiling inside her, spiking with each passing moment, her panic streaming into him as though it were his own. He frantically ran his hands along the panel trying to find the mechanism that would open the hatch. “Hang on!”

He froze as she let out a bloodcurdling screech, a horrible, primordial blend of terror and pain.

Obi-Wan suddenly didn’t care what was on the other side of that wall; all he cared about was saving Satine. He began kicking the durasteel with all his might. Finally, using his shoulder, he threw his full weight against the panel. It sprang open, dumping him artless on his face as the hatched slammed shut behind him. Kenobi popped to his feet and drew his lightsaber, illuminating the pitch-black compartment. The chamber was long and dark, extending far beyond his weapon’s light, but he spotted Satine about ten feet away, cowering in a corner. She was twitching and fidgeting, shrieking and yelping. As she arched back and flung something off her shoulder he realized the room was crawling with large venom mites.

The creatures had six long, razor-sharp spindly legs, one of which doubled as a stinger that packed a powerful venom. Even in the minimal light, Kenobi could see red bull’s-eye-shaped marks blooming across Satine’s neck and arms; she had already been stung multiple times.

Without a second thought Obi-Wan ran to the Duchess, slashing his way through the aggressive insects. He reached for her, his warm dry hand closing firmly around her wrist as he pulled her to her feet. Kenobi effortlessly scooped her up into his arms and hunched around her protectively. Satine desperately clung to him, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing tightly against his chest.

Obi-Wan never hesitated, his movements flawless and efficient as he made his way back to the secret door. He scanned the room as he went and noticed several large crates tipped on their sides, each teeming with venom mites. The insects began scuttling toward him, attracted by his lightsaber’s glow. When he reached the panel he and Satine had entered through, he tried to kick it open but quickly realized that wasn't going to work.

He knew there was only one way out. Thrusting his lightsaber blade through the metal wall, he began cutting a large hole that he and Satine could fit through.

“Won’t that release them into the facility?” Satine cried out.

“Would you rather stay in here with them?” Obi-Wan retorted. The venom mites were starting to gather around his feet. His nostrils flared with disgust as he fought to remain calm. “We have to get out of here.” Cutting through the metal was slow going, and even harder with Satine in his arms, but he refused to set her down into a pile of angry insects.

An electric, hot pain stabbed through his right ankle and bloomed up his leg. One of the mites had stung him. He tried to ignore the agony and focused on the task at hand. Panic flooded him when he glanced at the floor and realized his boots were covered with the bugs and that they had begun to swarm up the wall next to him.

He cried out as another mite stung him, this time higher up on his leg.

Oh gods, they’re crawling up me!

Kenobi blocked everything out of his mind except the sensations of his lightsaber in his hand and Satine pressed against his chest. He would finish this; he would save them.

He had nearly finished cutting through the wall when horrible pain tore through his right shoulder. The agony was unlike anything he had ever experienced, like a hot poker slowly pushing through his flesh. He screamed when the venom mite stung him again and again, this time in the neck. Satine grabbed the insect off his shoulder and flung it across the room. He watched as another creature crawled over his lightsaber hilt and ran up his arm, stinging him multiple times before Satine was able to swat it away.

Obi-Wan seized up and fell back against the wall as the blistering pain overwhelmed him. The Duchess could feel his arms trembling beneath her as his breath hitched. When he clenched his jaw and let his head fall back she saw three angry bull’s-eyes forming along the edge of his throat. “Obi,” she shouted. “Set me down. I’ll help you.”

He shook his head. “No, I can manage.” His strength was fading as the venom saturated his blood, but he refused to set Satine down, knowing that the insects would instantly swarm her. He reached for his lightsaber, still stuck in the wall, when the durasteel panel suddenly exploded into the room.

The dust settled revealing Qiu-Gon standing in the dark corridor. “Run, Padawan!” Obi-Wan did not need to be told twice. He stumbled from the room and ran toward the chamber near the bunker entrance. Jinn used the Force to call Kenobi’s lightsaber into his hand before running after his Padawan.

As they spilled into the room where their fire still burned, Qui-Gon slammed the mechanical door shut and bolted it. Obi-Wan’s legs gave out and as he stumbled, falling on his face, he accidentally dumped Satine brutally on the floor. The older Jedi stared down at the two youths. Satine was bent over her own leg, blood dripping between her fingers as she clamped a hand over a fresh wound. Obi-Wan lay sprawled facedown on the floor, his body visibly twitching.

Qui-Gon hurried to his Padawan and quickly rolled the young man onto his back. Obi-Wan’s eyes were squeezed shut as he fought to breathe. Jinn pulled back Kenobi’s collar and saw large red welts with puncture wounds at the center.

“Venom mites,” Satine informed him through clenched teeth.

The Jedi Master immediately went to his rucksack and pulled out the medical kit he had salvaged from their destroyed shuttle. He rummaged around until he found the antivenin pen. As he knelt by Obi-Wan’s side, he hesitated when he noticed Satine also had red bull’s-eyes on her neck and arms.

“It’s all right,” she whispered. “Please give it to him.”

Qui-Gon nodded quickly and administered the shot into Kenobi’s neck, directly into the vein. Slowly, the boy’s body began to relax, his breathing became steady, and eventually his eyes opened. “Master?”

“What trouble did you get yourself into this time, Padawan?” Jinn teased with a kind smile. He helped Obi-Wan sit up. “How many times were you stung?”

Kenobi winced. “Seven or eight.” His eyes suddenly became worried. “Satine’s been stung too.”

“The antivenin pen only has one shot. You needed it far more than she did. I’m afraid the Duchess will just have to tough it out.” Qui-Gon thumped the boy on the back before shifting over to help Satine.

Obi-Wan shook his head and gingerly touched the tender stings on his shoulder. “Nasty little things, aren’t they?” he said turning to look at the Duchess. When he finally saw her blood-soaked trousers, he scrambled to her side and leaned over the wound with his Master. “What happened?”

Satine angrily rubbed the tears from her eyes, embarrassed to cry in front of both Jedi who seemed to take injury in stride. “It’s nothing,” she said with a grimaced as Qui-Gon peeled back the tattered fabric around her wound. Her thigh had suffered a three inch jagged gash that was bleeding profusely.

“It’s not nothing, my dear,” Qui-Gon said. He turned to Obi-Wan. “Put pressure on it.”

The young man carefully wrapped his hands around her wound while Qui-Gon dug through the medical kit again. “Did I do this?” he asked Satine quietly.

When her beautiful blue eyes met his, Obi-Wan suddenly felt vulnerable. Something inside him lifted and fell at the same time. He swallowed thickly, trying to control the flutter rising in his chest.

“You dropped me,” she replied.

“I did?”

She nodded.

He felt terrible. “I’m so sorry, Satine.”

She couldn’t help but smile. “You rescued me once again and all you can do is find fault with yourself?”

“But I hurt you.”

“Not on purpose.”

“Well, no. Of course not.”

“Then please don’t apologize.”

Qui-Gon cleared his throat. “Pardon the interruption, but may I?” He held up a tiny cauterizing device. “I’m afraid we haven’t got the supplies for proper stitches.”

The Duchess looked at the tool then looked at the Jedi Master’s face. “That’s fine. I don’t like needles anyway.” She carried on talking, trying to ignore the fear that gripped her. “What were those horrible creatures doing in a place like this?”

Obi-Wan helped Qui-Gon clean her wound with a disinfectant. “They looked like they were nesting in those overturned crates. Maybe a smuggler was storing them.”

“Why on earth would anyone want a swarm of venom mites?” Satine asked, gritting her teeth.

“They’re rare,” Qui-Gon said as he sterilized the cauterizing tool. “And their venom is valuable, able to debilitate a victim without killing them, as you two so eagerly discovered.”

“Would bounty hunters use them? For weapons or poisoned darts or something like that?”

“I think that is very likely,” Qui-Gon replied. He held up the medical device and looked into Satine’s eyes. “This is going to hurt, your Highness. But it will only take a second.” The young lady nodded, but Obi-Wan could feel her anxiety. He reached out and took her hand in his, letting her hold on to him for strength. Qui-Gon sealed her wound quickly, fusing her skin shut. Satine crushed Kenobi’s hand but let out hardly more than a gasp. They smeared bacta on the injury and bandaged it.

They spent the rest of the day packing up their belongings. The minute the rain broke, they left the infested bunker, hoping never to return.

Chapter Text

Coruscant

Obi-Wan avoided speaking to anyone else at the party by stepping out onto the dining room balcony. He leaned forward over the balustrade looking strait down the building’s side; the street was several hundred feet below, lost beneath endless layers of speeding traffic lanes. The vehicles’ cacophony reverberated up the surrounding skyscrapers while a violent wind whipped Kenobi’s hair and robes out behind him. Far from restful, the bracing environment was just what he needed to combat his frustration and confusion.

What would Qui-Gon have advised him to do?

Obi-Wan’s heart sank in his chest. How he missed his master. There was an emptiness inside him that no one could ever fill, a special part of his heart reserved specifically for Qui-Gon Jinn. Obi-Wan had tried to release his heartache, tried to patch the ragged hole in his soul by focusing on Anakin and the Order and his missions. He convinced himself that he had not formed an attachment; he used the Force (and Anakin’s presence) to quell his grief. But in his quieter moments, Obi-Wan’s mind would slip back to his master, itemizing the invaluable lessons Jinn had taught him, fixating on rare moments of affection, or remembering the twinkle in those sly hazel eyes. Though he would never admit it out loud, deep down Obi-Wan knew he was attached; Qui-Gon had been the only father figure he had ever known.

In his darker hours, Kenobi found himself consumed with guilt as he recalled his master’s last moments. Obi-Wan’s greatest fear had come to pass; the teacher he loved was cut down and he had been forced to watch, standing by helplessly as Darth Maul murdered Qui-Gon. The Force had shredded apart inside him as the bond with his master was eviscerated by the Sith’s lightsaber. Kenobi had let out a primordial scream before attacking Maul, unleashing barely controlled rage. He always felt haunted by the duel with the Sith, playing it over and over in his head, wondering what he might have done to change the outcome. Obi-Wan had held back his fury just enough so when the Council questioned him he did not have to lie about not attacking in anger. The Jedi Council had scrutinized his every move for more than a year, looking for weaknesses in Anakin’s training as well as for cracks in Kenobi’s carefully constructed calm exterior. Only Yoda knew the depth of his grief and took pity on him, offering to meditate with the young Jedi Knight. The year and a half following Qui-Gon’s death had been the worst of Obi-Wan’s life.

Thank goodness for Anakin, he thought. The boy had unknowingly saved Kenobi from himself, had given him a reason to live, had taught him that life carried on despite terrible heartache. Without Anakin, he might have lost his way.

Kenobi turned and leaned his back against the balcony railing, crossing his arms over his chest. He watched the partygoers moving about the room. Dessert was being served; some guests ate standing in clusters while others lounged on sofas huddled together in the club’s center. Anakin was still sitting next to Padme but they had moved their group to a pair of settees facing each other over a low table. Onaconda Farr, Mon Mothma, Riyo Chuchi, and Satine sat with the Jedi and the Naboo senator. Everyone looked relaxed except for the Duchess. She was putting on a good show, but Obi-Wan knew her body language too well; she was exhausted physically and emotionally. Anakin said something that made the whole group laugh and a genuine smile spread across Satine’s face.

At least I haven’t robbed her of that, Kenobi thought darkly.

The balcony door suddenly clicked open and Bail Organa sheepishly gestured to Obi-Wan, unsure if the Jedi would mind a little company. Kenobi waved him over and the Alderaanian senator approached with a smile. “You’re the life of the party, Master Kenobi,” Organa teased.

“Isn’t it common practice to stand off to the side by yourself and avoid making eye contact with anyone?” Obi-Wan replied to the senator’s good-natured jibe.

Bail chuckled and held out a glass to the Jedi.

Obi-Wan raised a hand in protest. “Oh no. I’ve already had far too much.”

“As have I.” Organa held it closer to Kenobi. “It’s water.”

Obi-Wan smiled and accepted the glass. “So it’s that time, is it?”

“Best to sober up before you head back to the temple. I suspect the Council might not approve if you arrived still intoxicated,” the senator smiled warmly.

“And what’s your excuse? Afraid the Chancellor will tut in your general direction?”

Bail could not repress a snort. “Palpatine seems to be a man with few vices.” He looked down and shook his head before continuing. “No, it’s for my wife, Breha. She will not be pleased if I return home inebriated.”

“Ah, the trappings of connubial bliss,” Kenobi said with a dramatic gesture before sipping the water.

Bail chuckled again and swirled his glass. “When did we get so old?”

“Ha!” Obi-Wan said, his brow arching. “I think I was born old. When I remember myself as a boy I can hardly believe he and I are the same person.”

“I know the feeling,” Organa replied. “This war has taken a terrible toll on so many poor souls.”

“Yes,” Kenobi mused. “And it shows no signs of stopping.”

“Have you ever lived through anything like this? Anything emotionally and physically taxing for an extended period of time?”

Obi-Wan couldn’t help looking up at Satine. He smirked bitterly. “Only once.”

Bail noticed Kenobi glance at the Mandalorian regent and rather than avoid the subject he used it as an excuse to speak boldly. “Forgive me, but I couldn’t help noticing you have a certain rapport with the Duchess of Mandalore.”

Kenobi, suddenly feeling flushed, ran a finger under his collar and pulled it away from his throat. “Yes, well, I’ve known her a long time.”

“She’s a lovely person.”

Obi-Wan couldn’t stop the way his mouth turned down at the corners. “I suppose she has her moments.” The Jedi immediately regretted his words; they had sounded acidic and petty. “I’m sorry, Senator,” he said shaking his head, “that was unforgivably rude. And ungenerous. Satine… uh… the Duchess is quite lovely.”

Organa took pity on Kenobi and placed a kind hand on the Jedi’s shoulder. “You must take care, Obi-Wan. We need our friends now more than we ever have before.” He leaned closer and spoke more quietly. “Whatever bad blood is between you and the Duchess, now is the time to make peace with her. I think the war is only going to get worse. It’s vital that we hold on to what matters most.”

This gentle, unexpected advice instantly took root in Obi-Wan’s heart; he felt a heavy weight lifting from him. No matter the interfering circumstances or sense of duty, he truly did care for Satine; the lie of pretending he didn’t was crushing him to death. There had to be a way he could tell her how he felt while remaining true to himself as a Jedi. Her happiness, her friendship, their shared history, none of it should be thrown away. Truth and kindness were the answers.

Obi-Wan looked at the senator and smiled. “Thank you, Bail.”

Organa slapped the Jedi on the back, sloshing both their water glasses. “Not bad for a politician, eh?”

Kenobi smiled wryly. “I may even grow to like you.”

Bail laughed loudly and then wrapped an arm around Obi-Wan’s shoulders, steering him toward the door. “Why don’t you come and sit with your friends. We’re missing your company.”

Obi-Wan obliged.




Draboon

The rains receded, the sunshine returned, and several pleasant weeks passed without incident. Obi-Wan’s venom mite stings finally began to disappear, the fierce bullseye welts slowly reducing to bruises and eventually fading away. Satine’s cut healed well and became a benign red line on her thigh. Qui-Gon patiently endured friendly harassment as Kenobi and Kryze teased him regularly about dramatically smashing down the door and saving their skins in the underground bunker. “Leave it to Qui-Gon to make an entrance,” his Padawan would laugh, giving his master a gentle nudge.

“If I hadn’t, you two would still be stuck in that infernal compartment,” Jinn teased back. “Next time we go somewhere, please try not to get yourselves trapped in a room full of dangerous insects.”

The group made their way down the mountain toward the lowland villages in order to resupply. They bartered for salt, butter, bacta, and gossip, always keeping an ear out for any mention of Mandalore, Satine, or Jedi. They were constantly alert and became adept at protecting each other, at learning how friendly to be with the villagers, and at communicating silently when something did not feel safe.

One afternoon, while visiting a charming hamlet nestled near a babbling brook, Qui-Gon spotted two bounty hunters walk into the local cantina. The Jedi Master rounded up his charges and hurried them back into the forest. Four nights later, several shuttles flew laps over the trees, shining spotlights down between the dark branches. Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Satine nestled together under a shallow stone outcropping, their limbs cramped and stiff while they dared not move for fear of discovery. A week after that they had to go miles out of their way to avoid a small farm where a team of bounty hunters had taken up residence.

Qui-Gon began to worry that something had happened on Mandalore, something that had increased the number of people who were after them. Draboon suddenly felt very crowded. The older Jedi decided it was safest to go back into the mountains. The trio grudgingly hiked the less-traveled steeper routes, hoping to avoid any unwanted attention. After two days they were once again near the abandoned landing strip with the underground bunker, which all agreed was a place best avoided. They continued up even further until they reached the elevation just below the tree line. Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Satine stopped about an hour before sunset and made a cozy camp in a glen of aromatic trees. An icy stream tumbled by just out of sight; they caught several glistening fish and had a fine dinner paired with strongly brewed tea. No one had the energy to complain about their long journey. Despite the high altitude’s chilly temperatures, the surrounding dramatic crags and frosty peaks made for a truly magnificent view. All three of them ignored the cold, contentedly lounging about the fire with full stomachs, and happily watched the blazing sun slip behind the cliffs.

“You’ve outdone yourself, Qui-Gon,” Satine said, her feet propped up by the fire as she lay on her bedroll. She shoved her hands behind her head and sighed, unable to pull her gaze from the gorgeous sky.

“I arranged this sunset just for you, Duchess,” the older Jedi replied with a sleepy smile.

“How gentlemanly,” she teased.

“We only had to walk two and a half days to see it,” Obi-Wan good-naturedly goaded his master. “I'd hate to see what you have planned for a really special occasion.”

Qui-Gon snorted and threw his empty tin teacup at his Padawan. “Ungrateful wretch,” he chuckled.

Satine couldn’t hold back her smile, for watching Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon banter had become one of her favorite pastimes. She had come to understand that their gibes were how they showed affection for each other. Many Jedi teachings seemed austere to Satine’s way of thinking—she was glad she had been reared in an environment that did not repress normal human emotions. But, over time, she began to see how what appeared to be cold, aloof behavior was actually how her protectors kept emotion from clouding their judgment.

Even so, she adored these natural moments where Qui-Gon’s deep husky laugh and Obi-Wan’s relaxed conversation would comfort her. When her Jedi were at ease, Satine felt completely safe.

They all drifted off to sleep slowly, their arduous hike leaving their muscles taxed but their hearts light. Qui-Gon woke several times throughout the night to stoke the campfire, careful to keep the flames low to reduce its visibility. As he leaned over the logs to maneuver them more carefully into place, his gaze fell on his Padawan. The boy’s brow twitched in his sleep and his breathing momentarily shifted. Jinn reached out with the Force, trying to read Kenobi’s energy; what he felt surprised him. Fear radiated off the young man, fear and pain, spiking like an electric storm.

Obi-Wan was having a nightmare.

Qui-Gon’s concern got the better of him. He placed a hand on Kenobi’s shoulder, sending a soothing wave over the boy. Jinn closed his eyes in concentration, letting the Force flow through him, laying comfort over Obi-Wan like a shroud. It was a paternal act Qui-Gon had not needed to perform for many years. Long ago, when his Padawan was quite young, the boy had been prone to bouts of anxiety, but those times had passed quickly.

The older Jedi could not shake the feeling that revelations in the Force were eluding him. There’s something not right here. Qui-Gon remembered Obi-Wan’s glassy stare when they found the abandoned landing strip. There is darkness here, the boy had whispered as though he could see what Qui-Gon could not. The idea that his grown apprentice was suddenly experiencing premonitions and nightmares filled Jinn with unexpected dread. Was it the boy’s youth that made him more open to the Force’s message? Why couldn’t Qui-Gon access the same energy?

His gaze shifted down and again he was startled to see his Padawan’s arm extended awkwardly to the side, his hand laying open in the grass. And only a few inches away, similarly extended was Satine’s hand, her fingers reaching toward Obi-Wan even in her sleep.

Realization dawned on the older Jedi like a bucket of ice water being dumped on his head.

Qui-Gon was no fool. He had seen the friendship blossoming between Obi-Wan and Satine. Jinn had seen the twinkle in Kenobi’s eyes and the blush on Satine’s cheeks. Their feelings, though mostly innocent, were growing stronger everyday. The boy was open, his feelings raw and more exposed than ever before. Kenobi might be able to cloister his feelings from his master, but he certainly couldn’t hide them from the Force. If Obi-Wan was opening his heart to Satine, reason followed that he would simultaneously be opening his heart to the Force, making him more susceptible to whatever energy surrounded him, whether it be good or evil.

Jinn ran a worried hand roughly over his face. His Padawan’s feelings could potentially become a problem. Nightmares were only the beginning. If positive energy could creep into Kenobi’s subconscious, so could negative. The boy could be at risk for visions, premonitions, night terrors, increased temper, and even rage. The older Jedi battled with himself, unsure if he should discuss this with his Padawan or bide his time. Kenobi was strong and intuitive; he may notice his vulnerability and take action on his own to guard his heart and head. If Qui-Gon breached the subject too soon, he risked humiliating both Obi-Wan and Satine by calling to light their infatuation. Youth was a sensitive time, a time where shame was formative and could permanently shape a person’s future or change a person’s path.

No, Qui-Gon thought, There’s really no harm in holding off a little longer. Let them have their time.

However, if things took a turn for the worse, Master Jinn would have no choice but to put a stop to his Padawan’s distraction.

Chapter Text

Draboon

Food at high elevation was scarce and unvaried; the season was far too late for fruits or berries. Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Satine foraged thistles and caught fish but there was little else to curb their hunger. No one complained though all felt the weight of frustration. Their stomachs nearly always growled, and despite being accomplished survivalists, all three of them were rather sick of sleeping outside on the hard ground. Months and months had passed since the Jedi first took Satine away from Kalevala. Everyone generally accepted their circumstances without grumbling, but every now and then they all wished for creature comforts. It was only natural they should yearn for a warm bed or a hot shower or simple shelter from the morning dew.

Even so, they all worked together to keep their spirits up. Qui-Gon told funny stories and painfully dull jokes that were so terrible they were endearing. Obi-Wan shared his cloak or blanket or food with whomever was struggling most that day. Satine began teaching both the Jedi Mando’a; she taught Obi-Wan several songs that they enjoyed singing together, and she taught Qui-Gon all the rudest Mando’a phrases because they made him laugh. “Kaysh mirsh solus” (‘he's an idiot,’ literally ‘his brain cell is lonely’) and “mirsh'kyramud” (‘boring person,’ literally ‘brain assassin’) were his favorites.

Qui-Gon believed it was safest to never stay in one place for too long, therefore they wandered through the highlands, making camp in a new location every third day, sometimes up in the peaks, other times below the timberline in a thicket. Most recently they established camp near a small pond that they were thrilled to discover had a hot spring in a side pool. The trio was filthy, not having the chance to bathe for far longer than any of them cared to admit, and they were overjoyed with the idea of finally having the opportunity to get clean in hot water.

Satine and Qui-Gon started building a fire and preparing food while Obi-Wan went to the bubbling spring. The camp was just out of sight from the water, about fifty yards up a hill and through some trees, deliberately chosen to give privacy to each other while they cleaned up. Kenobi made short work removing his many layers and slowly eased into the hot pool, his aching muscles instantly releasing as he let out an audible groan. He hadn’t realized how tense his body had become; he glanced down and was surprised by the look of himself. He was still muscular but he had become extremely lean, his chest, arms, and abdominals far more defined than they used to be but with a tight hungry quality. He was covered in bruises and scrapes, and his hands looked thicker than he remembered. Living on the run, exposed to the elements had certainly changed him in ways he hadn’t expected. He examined his fingers and squeezed them into fists, causing the veins in his arms to pop up.

The changes didn’t bother him; they were indicative of his adaptability. He was stronger, both physically and with the Force. Being constantly in nature made him feel like a finely tuned instrument, as though the mountain’s living energy was brushing against his fingertips, fluttering around his every step, or whispering in his ear.

He let out a sigh and submerged himself in the steaming waters, blocking out all other sensations while he held his breath and focused on the aquatic silence. He let his arms float out to the sides and closed his eyes, opening himself to the Force. He let his consciousness slip down beneath his mind’s surface into the mental space where his meditation often led.

Heat. Ease. Calm. Obi-Wan focused on these ideas, holding them in his mind as he physically registered them in different body parts – his palms, his legs, his heart. He took time to mindfully slide from one sensation to the next.

Anger suddenly surged through him. Anger, fear, and pain.

Remember, my dear Obi-Wan, I’ve loved you always. I always will.

Kenobi’s eyes sprang open as he instantly came up out of the water.

I’ve loved you always. A woman had spoken the words; they were not part of his internal monologue and they certainly had not come from his memory. And the accompanying feelings, the choking anger followed by deep heartache, sent a chill up his spine. “The Force,” he whispered aloud, his eyes wide with shock. The Force was trying to show him something, but the message had slipped away before he could grasp onto it. Even the woman’s voice was fading from his memory. Had she said she loved him? What on earth was the Force playing at? He felt embarrassed with how quickly he wondered (and hoped) if it had been Satine’s voice. But why the anger? Why fear and pain?

Obi-Wan shook his head, totally bewildered. Perhaps I should speak to Qui-Gon about this, he thought. For the past few weeks he’d been plagued with nightmares and strange feelings that he could not explain; he’d experienced flashes—some Jedi called them visions—of conversations he’d never had.

He knew it had something to do with the Duchess of Mandalore. Obi-Wan’s heart felt tied to her, like he understood her, like she understood him, and the more he indulged his attraction to her the more he experienced these strange fissures in his connection with the Force. He worried that though the Force was stronger in him than ever before, it was exposing him to energy he never knew a Jedi could tap into. It wasn’t scary or uncomfortable; he was simply trying to learn how to control it.

He was sure his master would be able to help him.




Obi-Wan arrived back in the camp still wet around the edges, his face flushed from the hot waters. He wore his leggings, boots, and under tunic, which hung open at the neck revealing water glistening down his throat in rivulets. They had no towels for drying off so his hair was soaked and his clothes clung to his damp body. Too warm after being boiled in the spring, he carried his robe, tunic, and tabard, dumping them unceremoniously on the ground next to the fire before he sat cross-legged between Qui-Gon and Satine.

“How was it?” the Duchess asked, already reading the answer in his relaxed demeanor.

“Heavenly,” Kenobi replied with a smile. “You’re both going to love it.” He ran his hands back and forth through his sodden hair spraying his companions with water droplets.

“Go on, Qui-Gon,” Satine said, reaching behind Obi-Wan and touching the older Jedi Master on the shoulder. “You’re next.”

“Are you sure?” Qui-Gon asked. “Don’t you want to take your turn?”

“You go,” she urged. “You’ve earned it. I don’t mind going last.”

“If you insist,” he said eagerly. “I won’t be long.” He jumped to his feet and headed off into the trees toward the pond.

“I can’t wait!” Satine squeaked, clapping her hands excitedly like a child. “I’m planning to sit in that hot spring for the rest of the afternoon!”

Obi-Wan laughed. “I’m certain you’ll expire if you do. It’s really quite hot.”

“I don’t care. I simply cannot wait to get clean and rest at the same time. It’s going to be luxurious.”

“I’ll be sure to tell Qui-Gon your plans,” Obi-Wan smiled; he found her enthusiasm endearing. He had never seen her so excited. “You can take all the time you want.” He leaned forward, still dripping, and wrung out the long strand of hair located near his right ear. He separated it into three even pieces and, without looking at what he was doing, began twisting them into a meticulous, thin braid.

Satine watched mesmerized. She couldn’t help staring at his deft fingers as his strong battle-worn hands effortlessly maneuvered his hair into a Padawan braid. Her eyes drifted down to where his wet hair met his throat, still slick with water. The sight made Satine’s face turned bright red and her body suddenly became hot. She shifted closer to him. “Can I?” she asked boldly.

Obi-Wan froze, unsure how to answer. Qui-Gon was the only person who had ever braided his hair. Having someone else touch it seemed oddly personal.

“Am I not allowed?” Satine asked when he didn’t respond. “Are only Jedi allowed to braid each other’s hair?” she joked.

Kenobi couldn’t help but laugh, but then his face instantly became serious again. “Why do you want to?”

Satine shrugged. “I don’t know. I used to braid my sister’s hair. I suppose I miss how it feels.” After a moment’s consideration, and against his better judgment, Obi-Wan shyly assented. The Duchess practically glowed with happiness. “Thank you!” She scooted all the way forward until their knees were overlapping and she carefully took over where Obi-Wan left off.

“Try to keep it small,” he said.

“Don’t worry. I promise it will be perfect.”

He couldn’t help noticing how her fingers brushed against his cheek while she worked. He stared strait ahead and fought to breathe steadily, hoping not to reveal how much her touch affected him.

“Can you explain this to me a bit?” she asked.

“Explain what?”

“Why you have this braid. Qui-Gon doesn’t have one.”

“Only Padawans wear them. The length indicates your level of study; the more advanced you are the longer it is.”

Satine smiled, her voice light and friendly. “Then you must be extremely advanced. This is quite lengthy.”

“I’ve been a Padawan for a long time. I hope to take The Trials soon.”

“After that will you be a Jedi Knight?”

“Yes.”

“How soon can you take The Trials? A few months? A few years?”

Obi-Wan shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s up to Qui-Gon. He’ll decide when I’m ready. Well, Qui-Gon and the Jedi Council.”

“And what becomes of this poor little braid then?” she teased, giving it a gentle tug.

“Qui-Gon will cut it off and keep it as a pet.”

For a moment they gaped at each other until Satine realized he was joking. Then they both grinned and started laughing. “Will he name it?” she asked between giggles.

“I certainly hope so,” Kenobi said, unable to repress a snort. “What should he call it?”

“O-Braid Kenobi,” she cackled without skipping a beat.

Obi-Wan and Satine burst out laughing. She had to hold on tightly to his hair to keep from ruining the braid while they guffawed so hard tears streamed down their cheeks.

“That was worse than one of Qui-Gon’s jokes,” he finally managed to say.

Eventually they settled back down and Satine continued working until the braid was about level with his chin. She tied a small thread around the hair as she’d seen him do many times, then carried on plaiting the lower half. Growing slightly more serious she continued chatting. “You must be very excited. You’ll be a full Jedi Knight soon.”

“As long as I pass the trials.”

“You will,” Satine said, absentmindedly brushing his cheek affectionately with the back of her fingers. “I know you’ll pass with flying colors.”

Obi-Wan’s heart thudded in his chest. He enjoyed this moment’s gentle intimacy; he liked how close the Duchess was sitting, liked the way she had just touched him, like that she wasn’t timid. But he worried what Qui-Gon would think if he saw them sitting face-to-face with their knees overlapping. Obi-Wan was certain his master would find their closeness inappropriate.

“And what becomes of this marvelous hair once you’re a knight?” Satine asked, not noticing how her touch had affected the Jedi. She ran a hand through Kenobi’s forelock. “You would look quite handsome with longer hair. Would you grow it as long as Qui-Gon’s?” she said with a broad smile.

“There’s no way I could compete with that head of hair,” Obi-Wan laughed.

“His hair is quite lovely,” she said, “but so is yours.” Satine tied off the very end of Kenobi’s braid. “There, all finished.”

“Thank you,” he replied as he turned to look at her. He hadn’t realized she was so close, and they were both startled to find their lips were only inches apart. Each froze, unsure whether to pull away or move closer.

Time seemed to stop. Obi-Wan could feel Satine’s breath as her top lip brushed against his. He wanted to kiss her but knew he shouldn’t.

But he didn’t pull away.

And neither did Satine.

Her heart was pounding. Obi-Wan’s mouth was practically touching hers; he smelled like fresh water and mountain air and tea. He was intoxicating. She couldn’t help herself as she gently ran her thumb over his chin and up his jaw before she quickly kissed him, letting her lips linger on his just long enough for him to kiss her back.

It was a small, simple peck, but Satine drew away with wide eyes, cupping her hands over her mouth as though she couldn’t believe what she had just done. “I’m so sorry,” she gasped.

Obi-Wan’s mouth hung open in shock. It had all happened so quickly he could hardly process what he felt.

“I’m so sorry, Obi-Wan,” she stammered. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

“I… it’s…” he couldn’t make his brain work while contradictory feelings consumed him.

Satine had kissed him.

The Duchess of Mandalore had just kissed him.

He should not have allowed that. But he had wanted it more than he cared to admit. Wanted it and liked it. He couldn’t help but feel that it was over far too quickly. He wanted to kiss her again. But he was a Jedi who was not supposed to grow attached to anyone much less the person he was assigned to protect.

“I really shouldn’t have done that,” she said again, shaking her head, still hiding behind her hands.

“Why not?” he managed to ask. He wasn’t sure if she was sorry because what she had done was inappropriate or because she didn’t really have feelings for him.

“Because you’re a Jedi. I know you’re not supposed to kiss people. I shouldn’t have done that. I have no wish to put you in a compromising position.” Her face had turned bright red.

“It’s all right,” Obi-Wan said, finally recovering the power to think and speak. He reached for her hand. “Satine…”

“Satine!” Qui-Gon’s voice suddenly boomed cheerfully from the tree line.

Kenobi quickly pulled his hand away from the Duchess as she stood and turned toward the older Jedi. She did an admirable job of pretending nothing untoward had just happened.

“The pool is all yours,” Qui-Gon said as he approached.

Satine threw her arms into the air and squealed. “I can’t wait!”

Qui-Gon gestured with his chin, “Go on then.”

Obi-Wan stood up to greet his master. “Shouldn’t someone watch her?”

Both Satine and Qui-Gon turned to stare at him questioningly. “That doesn’t seem entirely appropriate, Padawan.”

“No…” Kenobi stumbled over his words, “I meant… shouldn’t someone stand guard?”

“I’ll be fine,” Satine said with an appeasing smile. “It’s only a short distance away.”

“She’ll be just through those trees,” Qui-Gon assured Obi-Wan. “She can call out if she needs anything.”

Satine affectionately squeezed the older Jedi’s arm and flashed a brilliant smile. “I’ll scream if I see anything suspicious,” she laughed. Then she half skipped, half ran to the hot spring.




Obi-Wan watched as his master sat near the fire and wrung out his long wet hair. Kenobi was terrified that Qui-Gon would be able to sense the way his heart was pounding, sense his nervousness and excitement.

Satine. Not two minutes ago the Duchess had leaned in and kissed him. Her lips had been soft and gentle, and though it only lasted a moment every detailed seemed burned into his memory. He wondered what it would be like to kiss her cheek, to kiss her neck, to run his hands through her hair and…

No! he interrupted his own thoughts. Don’t start thinking that way. It will only make things worse.

But she had made him laugh, had tried to encourage him, had brushed her fingers against his cheek. She had made him feel like himself. That’s why he suddenly felt uncomfortable around Satine. The Duchess put him at ease in a way that made him feel complicit, and he worried the change would be visible on his face, especially under Qui-Gon’s merciless scrutiny.

How was it possible to feel like two contradictory paths were right? Obi-Wan knew he belonged with the Jedi. But now he was beginning to wonder if he also belonged with Satine. Was the Force trying to bring them together? Or was the Force trying to test his oath, trying to make him prove he was a Jedi by tempting him to go astray?

No, he thought adamantly. She’s not a temptation. That made her sound like a forbidden fruit and he hated to label her as something so lascivious. She’s just my friend.

Friends don’t kiss, idiot.

“Padawan!”

Obi-Wan, startled from his thoughts, looked up and saw a concerned Qui-Gon staring at him. “Pardon?”

“You’ve been glazed over watching the fire for a long time now. You even seemed to stop breathing.”

Kenobi flushed. “I did?”

“Yes. Were you having a vision?”

The young man went to pull at his collar and froze awkwardly when he realized there was nothing to pull on – he still only had on his undertunic that hung open at the neck.

Qui-Gon’s eyes narrowed warily. “Obi-Wan, what’s wrong? Something is troubling you.”

“I… I’m sorry, Master.” He could not bring himself to admit what had happened between him and the duchess. Confessing without Satine’s consent felt like a betrayal of her trust. He suddenly felt very conflicted, like he was being torn in two; he was failing as a Jedi – true Jedi did not allow themselves to be corrupted by confusion. “I’m sorry if I’ve let you down. I am doing my best.”

Qui-Gon’s expression softened and his brows lifted. “Let me down? I never said you let me down.”

“But I should be doing better.”

“Young one, we all have room for improvement, but I don’t understand why you’re being so hard on yourself. Where is this coming from?”

Frustration sharpened Kenobi’s features. “Never mind. I’m being stupid. Forgive me.” He stood quickly, hoping to hide his face while he composed himself. Satine had rattled his self-control and now he was afraid he would blurt out everything to Qui-Gon all at once.

The Jedi Master also stood and took Kenobi by the arm before the younger man could walk away. “Something has happened. Tell me.” He watched as his Padawan’s jaw clenched, the muscles in his cheek and neck becoming tight.

Qui-Gon lowered his voice, trying to calm his apprentice. “I know you’re having nightmares. And I can sense more tension in you than normal. Let me help you.”

His Master’s presence tempered Kenobi’s discomfort. He needed Qui-Gon’s help to understand his visions, to stop the nightmares, but that didn’t mean he had to confess his feelings for Satine. “Yes,” Obi-Wan admitted. “Master, I need your help…”

A shrill cry suddenly echoed off the trees. Both Jedi froze, locking eyes, neither sure what they had heard.

Once again a desperate scream rose up over the treetops before it was abruptly silenced.

“Satine!” Obi-Wan’s realization was laced with fear.

The Jedi immediately leapt into action, grabbing their lightsabers and breaking into a run. “You go through the trees,” Qui-Gon shouted. “I’ll go around.”

Obi-Wan bolted through the forest, covering the distance in only a few minutes, and slid to a stop near the hot spring’s edge. Satine was nowhere in sight but some of her clothes were scattered around the shoreline. He scanned the surroundings, desperate for any sign of where she’d gone. He could sense fear hanging over the water like a pall. Panic began to rise in his chest but Obi-Wan forced it down and instead closed his eyes, reaching into the Force for guidance, clearing his mind of questions.

Instantly he felt Satine’s presence.

His eyes sprang open and he sprinted forward, letting the Force guide every step, keeping a hold on his connection with her like an invisible thread. Obi-Wan skirted the water’s edge and continued down the mountainside, running at a full tilt. He was single-minded, ignoring everything except his wish to find Satine.

The young Jedi could see a break in the trees ahead. He knew it was where he would catch up with the Duchess. He leapt over a narrow stream, increasing his speed until he burst out of the trees, lightsaber ignited.

Kenobi skidded to a stop.

He was in a small meadow. A shuttle was parked on the far edge. And only a few yards away a bounty hunter stood facing him, holding a blade to Satine’s throat. The massive man had a hand twisted in her hair, positioning her in front of him like a human shield. She was barefoot and only had on her trousers and undershirt, having clearly been taken by surprise while she undressed near the hot spring. Her face was bruised and her lip bleeding. This bounty hunter obviously had no qualms about roughing up his quarry. “That’s close enough, boy,” he growled.

This monster had already hurt Satine and she was terrified. Obi-Wan’s anger was building in him faster than he could control. The thought of anyone laying a hand on the Duchess made his blood boil. “Let her go,” Kenobi said through gritted teeth, taking a step closer.

The bounty hunter wrenched the young lady’s head back further and drew blood with his blade, causing her to cry out in fear more than pain. “I’m not messing around. You take one more step and she’ll pay for it.”

Obi-Wan froze, unsure what to do. “Surely she’s worth more to you alive than dead,” he suggested.

“I didn’t say I’d kill her,” the man grinned cruelly. “Now, lower your weapon or I’ll cut off her ear.”

Kenobi did as he was told.

The bounty hunter slowly began backing toward his ship. “You follow me, and I’ll cut her so badly you won’t recognize her.”

Obi-Wan’s heart was in his throat. He felt helpless.

And enraged.

He wanted this bounty hunter dead.

He looked into Satine’s eyes, hoping she’d give him a sign of what she wanted him to do. All he saw was fear. He knew he had to be patient and wait for the right moment. Obi-Wan watched as the muscular man dragged the Duchess onto his ship. As the shuttle door closed and the vessel slowly began to liftoff, a spike of terror surged from Satine into Kenobi. The Jedi could feel that the bounty hunter was hurting her again.

Qui-Gon appeared, running out of the trees. “What’s happened? Where’s Satine?” he panted as he pulled up next to Obi-Wan.

Kenobi didn’t even look at him before he broke into a full run. “Be ready!” he shouted as he sprinted toward the shuttle.

“Padawan wait!”

The young Jedi ignored his Master, thinking only of rescuing Satine. Calling on the Force he leapt more than thirty feet up onto the ship’s starboard wing. Igniting his lightsaber, he drove the weapon into the fuel line and the stabilizer, causing black smoke to instantly erupt under the engine. He cut a hole in the airlock and forced his way into the fuselage. Satine lay sprawled on the floor, electrobinders on her wrists and fresh bruises on her face. While the bounty hunter was struggling in the cockpit, fighting to keep the ship stable, Kenobi made his way to the Duchess. He pulled her to her feet and quickly cut off her restraints before maneuvering her to the airlock. The ship was going down hard and fast; he had no time to waste. Without a moment’s pause he simply threw Satine out the door, her shriek disappearing with her body as she fell from the shuttle.

Alarms were ringing and the engine was roaring. The shuttle went into a spin, throwing Obi-Wan against the door. He fought the centripetal force, using all his strength to inch toward the opening. Right as he was about to escape the doomed ship, massive hands grabbed him from behind and dragged him back. One meaty fist wrapped around his throat while the other took him by the forehead, wrenching his head back. “Where do you think you’re going?” the bounty hunter screamed as he began squeezing the life out of the Jedi.

Kenobi remembered his training and acted quickly. He elbowed the man under the ribs and threw his head back into his assailant’s nose before lithely slipping free and once again igniting his lightsaber. The man was a ruthless monster and Obi-Wan wanted to make him pay for what he had done to Satine. He had never been so angry in all his life. He stared at the bounty hunter, ready to act, but then through the windshield he saw the ground coming up at the cockpit. He only had enough time to shield his eyes with his arms as the shuttle slammed into the ground, metal screeching and glass shattering as he was thrown forward into instant darkness.




Qui-Gon held Satine in a tight embrace, crushing her against his chest while she shook like a leaf. “You’re safe now,” he whispered, tightening his grip. While he tried to sooth her, his eyes were glued to the shuttle that had gone into a wild spin, hurtling toward the ground with his Padawan still on board. He expected to see Obi-Wan jump to safety, but as more and more time passed Qui-Gon feared something terrible had happened. He watched in horror as the shuttled pitched forward and crashed nose first into the earth, scraping up large tufts of soil, smashing through trees, and sending metal flying in all directions. When the wreckage finally came to a stop, resting on its side with the airlock pointing skyward, Qui-Gon set Satine down in the grass and sprinted toward the flaming wreckage.

The Jedi Master scrambled over the hull, sliding to the shuttle’s opening, and stared down into the destroyed cabin. “Obi-Wan!” he shouted. He scanned the debris, fear growing in him as his eyes rested on a limp form hanging across the overturned pilot’s seat. “Obi-Wan!” he shouted again. Qui-Gon squinted into the darkness, trying to make out the details. He breathed a momentary sigh of relief when he realized the body wasn’t his Padawan’s.

“Master?” a weak voice came out of the shadows followed by a cough. A pile of packing crates clattered over revealing a bruised and rather shaken Kenobi. He stumbled forward toward the bounty hunter and checked for a pulse.

“Well?” Qui-Gon asked.

“Dead,” Kenobi said dispassionately. “Good riddance.”

His apprentice’s compassionless reaction sent a stab of worry through the Jedi Master. In fact, everything about how Kenobi had conducted this rescue struck Qui-Gon as reckless. He pushed the thought aside and reached his hand down to the young man, hoisting him up and out of the burning ship. They slid down the hull together and as they came to rest on the ground Qui-Gon clutched Obi-Wan’s shoulders, inspecting him from head to toe. “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” the young man said, brushing his hands down the front of his shirt to clean the dirt off. “Thank you, Master,” he said deferentially with a slight bow. “Is Satine all right? Where is she?”

Qui-Gon pointed. “Behind you.”

Obi-Wan moved to turn around but before he was able Satine punched him so hard in the face he fell all the way to the ground on his back. “You threw me out of a flying shuttle!!” she screamed, her voice rent with anger and fear as she leaned over the young man. She went to hit him again but Qui-Gon pulled her back.

Kenobi scrambled to his feet and stared at her with wide eyes. For the first time he considered how frightening being thrown from a flying spacecraft would have been for her. “You weren’t in any danger,” he offered weakly. “I knew Qui-Gon would catch you.”

Both Satine and the Jedi Master stared at Obi-Wan with disbelief. “You threw her out of the shuttle?” Qui-Gon asked, his voice tinged with anger. He looked down at Satine who was both seething with rage and trembling with adrenaline. He wrapped his arm around her protectively. “You didn’t jump?” he asked her.

Satine shook her head. She was so angry that she didn’t seem to notice the hot tears running down her face.

“I knew you would catch her,” Kenobi tried to explain to his Master.

“I didn’t know what you were planning,” Qui-Gon silenced him. “How could you be so reckless? How could you put Satine in such danger?”

“Because I have faith in the Force,” Obi-Wan’s temper flared. “I knew my plan would work.”

“You nearly got yourself killed.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“What do you call that?” Qui-Gon waved his arm at the destroyed shuttle.

“He was hurting her!” Obi-Wan suddenly exploded. “What was I supposed to do? Just stand by and let him take her?”

“You were reckless, young one,” Qui-Gon replied, his tone becoming hard, though he refused to raise his voice. “And your defensiveness proves you know it.”

“Don’t fight,” Satine said quietly. “Please don’t fight with each other.” She didn’t pull away from Qui-Gon – he could feel her shaking in his arms. “I trust you,” she stuttered. “I trust Obi-Wan.”

The Jedi Master looked down at the young woman who had put her faith in them, this strong Duchess who had just been thrown from a spaceship as it was taking off and was now trembling like a terrified Loth-cat. How had they reached this moment? “Your confidence warms my heart, my dear, but perhaps Obi-Wan took too much liberty with your trust.”

She nodded agreement but then said, “I’m sure he thought it was necessary.”

Obi-Wan’s expression fell. He knew both Qui-Gon and Satine were right, he had been reckless. But what other choice did he have? “I stand by my actions,” he replied.

Qui-Gon set his jaw, trying to calm the anger in his heart. He decided to redirect his feelings into positive action. “There’s no time for this. We can’t be sure this bounty hunter was working alone. We need to move on and we need to do it fast. You head back to the camp and pack everything up. I’ll take Satine to the hot spring to gather her belongings.”

Kenobi gave his Master a hard stare.

“Do it now, Padawan.”

The apprentice turned and headed off to do as he was told.

Chapter Text

Draboon

Qui-Gon walked them for hours until they were all thoroughly exhausted. No one spoke for the rest of the day, their natural camaraderie hindered by the angry tension causing discord between the Jedi. The hour was late and the sun had set long ago; the trio had spent the last few hours fumbling through the darkness. Qui-Gon was trying to get them as far away from the crashed shuttle as possible. He knew it was only a matter of time before it was discovered, increasing their risk of being hunted by a search party. They only stopped walking when Satine finally begged the Jedi Master to let them rest for the night. In an effort to conceal their location from any nearby patrols, they decided to go without a fire. Satine slept sitting upright, nestled against Qui-Gon’s side with his arm and cloak draped over her shoulder. Obi-Wan, his emotions still heightened and agitated from his run-in with the bounty hunter, sat by himself in the dark under a nearby tree. The Jedi Master knew his apprentice needed time alone, which was just as well; Qui-Gon needed time to let his own frustration subside.

After a few short hours of uncomfortable, fitful sleep, they awoke and carried on walking, their freezing cold muscles aching with exertion. The Jedi still were not speaking to each other; Obi-Wan was angry for being criticized and Qui-Gon was disconcerted by his Padawan’s carelessness. By mid afternoon Satine could take it no longer. As they approached a crystal blue lake, which the Jedi Master seemingly intended to pass by without stopping, she dropped her bag on the ground and refused to take another step. “Enough,” she said, crossing her arms stubbornly. “Walking us to death is not an acceptable alternative to encountering a bounty hunter.”

Qui-Gon turned to look at her but did not speak. He was too exhausted to argue.

“We are safe here,” Satine continued. “This spot is as good as any to make camp. It doesn’t matter how far we walk or where we end up, Qui-Gon. We will always be at risk.”

He nodded in response. She was right. And they all were tired. This spot was as good as any. He scanned the shoreline and saw a huge flat boulder on the eastern edge. Gesturing for the others to follow he made his way toward it.

Satine wondered how long the two Jedi would remain silent. Their energy was tense and awkward; she felt caught in the middle, understanding both men’s viewpoints. Qui-Gon wasn’t wrong; Obi-Wan had been reckless. But Obi-Wan had saved her life; despite disliking his technique, he had rescued her from what most certainly would have been a horrible fate. She wished she could think of a way to make peace between her two protectors.

As they trudged to the large flat boulder, Qui-Gon suddenly froze and squatted low to the ground; the others followed his example.

“What is it?” the Duchess whispered.

“There’s a cave,” Qui-Gon responded, his eyes sharp as he surveyed the area.

“Do you sense danger?”

“No,” he said cautiously. “But I think it would be prudent to investigate before we settle in. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.” He shrugged out of his pack and tossed his cloak aside. “Padawan, stay with the Duchess until I return.”

Obi-Wan made no response other than looking strait into his Master’s eyes for a moment. It was enough for Qui-Gon. He quickly stood and moved toward the cave.

Obi-Wan and Satine crouched together in the brush for many silent minutes. “I hope it’s going to be safe,” she finally said.

“It’s fine,” Kenobi replied flatly, hardly concealing an eye roll. “It’s perfectly safe.”

The Duchess turned and gave him a stern look. “He’s being smart to check.”

“He doesn’t need to. He can search through the Force.”

“Your attitude is very unattractive, Obi-Wan,” Satine huffed, completely fed up with his sulking. “Stop pretending Qui-Gon is overprotective. He’s being thoughtful and deliberate. And, whether you like it or not, he’s right about yesterday – you acted rashly. Swallow your pride and make peace with each other. Please! You’re both being extremely irritating and neither of you are acting very Jedi-like.”

Obi-Wan’s mouth turned down at the corners. He knew she was right but he didn’t respond.

She rolled her eyes and turned away to watch for Qui-Gon. Ridiculous! she fumed internally.

Master Jinn returned after a while and gave the all clear. They set up camp in the cave’s mouth, enjoying some proper shelter with the added benefit of a truly spectacular view. The lake was long and deep with granite peaks converging on the far end. The air was still and restful, no harsh icy winds that were common at higher elevation. It was the perfect spot to enjoy a little peace.

While the sun was still high and warm, Qui-Gon arranged for Satine to bathe in the lake. “I’m afraid the water will be quite cold compared to what you were supposed to enjoy with the hot spring.” Satine didn’t mind and was pleased to clean the sweat and dirt from her body while the Jedi stood guard nearby with their backs to her. They refused to leave her unattended this time.

For supper they caught a few fish and boiled nettles for tea, but nothing seemed to satiate their burning hunger. After the meal Satine wandered away from the Jedi and explored along the lake’s edge. She needed a moment for herself, and the dramatic mountains and sparkling sky were just the thing to restore her spirits. She climbed onto a rock surrounded by sturdy trees with whispering leaves, and stared out at the setting sun.

How has my life turned into this? she thought. Her losses had been great – her family, her home, even her people – but with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan by her side she had found a new sense of belonging, an alliance that relied on absolute trust and brutal honesty. She couldn’t imagine having a friendship like this with anyone on Kalevala, especially not with a Duke as a father. Satine found it amusing that her exile could be interlaced with such startling contradictions; she had experienced both exquisite fear and pure pleasure. She believed Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s fellowship allowed her to be her true self.

Obi-Wan.

Why did she feel drawn to someone she knew she could never have? His friendship was invaluable, and he was endearing and powerful and distractingly handsome. But there could never be anything between them. She felt almost certain that even if he cared for her he would never succumb to his feelings.

The trees suddenly rustled and she saw Kenobi walk by just beneath the boulder where she stood. “Satine?” he called.

She watched him for a moment, keeping herself concealed behind some branches as she tried to dispassionately evaluate him. Obi-Wan had broad shoulders and excellent Jedi posture. His movements were elegant and controlled but the spring in his step seemed to reveal the effort required to contain his ebullient energy. His eyes were sharp as he scanned the area. “Satine?” he called again.

She leaned forward and spoke quietly. “I’m here.”

He spun around and looked up at her. “Are you all right?” he asked after a slight pause.

“Yes.”

He could tell she was feeling pensive and introspective, that she wanted to be alone, but he had his duty to attend. “Qui-Gon doesn’t want you to wander off by yourself.”

She was too tired to be irritated so she simply nodded her agreement.

“I won’t bother you,” Kenobi said crossing his arms. “I’ll just stand here.” He turned and leaned his back against the boulder.

They kept silent company for a long time, staring out at the marvelous view. Satine wished she could stay in this place forever; she had never seen such beauty. She also wished both Jedi would sit with her – even when she wanted to be alone she found herself missing them.

“Are you and Qui-Gon finally on speaking terms?” she ventured.

“More or less.”

She rolled her eyes. “That means ‘no.’ You can’t let things stay this way, Obi-Wan. You must make peace with him.”

“I will, but not right now.”

“Why are you waiting?”

“I appreciate the notion of not letting the sun go down on an argument, but you don’t know Qui-Gon like I do. He needs time. He’s far too angry right now. And so am I. If I tried to apologize, it would feel insincere.”

“You just don’t want to swallow your pride.”

Instead of getting annoyed he turned toward her and leaned forward against the boulder, a gentle smile playing across his lips. “Haven’t you learned to trust me yet? Haven’t I proven that I know my own mind and my own skills?” She nodded, acknowledging he had a point. “I know my Master, Satine. I will know when the time is right to make peace.”

She had to concede. Though the Jedi’s disagreement made her uncomfortable, she realized it was not her place to intervene in their relationship.

“Can you see the sunset from down there?” she asked in an effort to show they were still friends – even if he had thrown her out of a flying spacecraft.

“Not really.”

“You’d better come up here then. I’d hate for you to miss it.”

He scrambled up the rock and stood by her side. “Goodness,” he said in awe, “I’ve never seen colors like that.”

The rocky peaks looked black against the pink and orange sunset, and a sliver of moon was beginning to show where the gloaming met the burnished horizon.

Satine felt her chest tighten, her emotions piqued by the extraordinary solar display. “Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?”

Obi-Wan looked at her. “No.”

Slowly, she realized he had not been talking about the sky. She turned to meet his gaze; they shared a long knowing glance but neither had the nerve to say anything.

Finally he looked away. “I want to tell you things I would never tell anyone else. Do you think that’s strange?”

“Not at all.”

“Things I wouldn’t even tell Qui-Gon.” He fixed his eyes on the moon as his confessions nervously tumbled out. “I’m so confused lately; I don’t understand my feelings.”

“Are you certain you don’t understand them, or are you simply not supposed to acknowledge them?”

He cleared his throat and swallowed thickly. They both knew deep down he was not confused, he was afraid to admit the truth, afraid to defy the Jedi Code. “I’ve been on many missions, I’ve visited many planets and met all kinds of beings. I’ve been responsible for other peoples’ lives. But I can’t understand why this mission feels different to me.”

“What do you mean by that? What’s different?”

He looked at her, his gaze earnest and intense. “I can’t bear the thought of you being harmed.”

She smirked. “But you didn’t care in the past if people you protected were harmed?” she teased.

He didn’t even break a smile. He was dead serious. “I feel like if anything were to ever happen to you, a piece of me would die.”

His confession’s gravity was not lost on her. She became serious as well. “Don’t say that if you don’t mean it. A Mandalorian would never say such a thing lightly.”

He just looked at her, his face calm and his eyes steady, no signs of doubt.

“I feel the same way about you,” she said quietly. “Have you ever felt this way about anyone before?”

He blinked and quickly looked away again, as though he were not supposed to admit this out loud. “Only Qui-Gon.”

“Not your mother? Or father? Nor anyone in your family?”

“Qui-Gon is my family. He’s the only parent I’ve known. Before he became my Master I was just another boy studying at the temple. When he agreed to train me I finally felt like I belonged with the Jedi, like I belonged with him. I’ve been with him since I was thirteen years old.”

“Does he know you love him?”

Obi-Wan snorted and shook his head. “No. We would never say such things to each other. Attachment is forbidden by the Jedi Code.”

“Yet you are attached.” She shrugged.

“He practically raised me; he’s like a father to me,” Obi-Wan said quietly. “It’s easy to love him.”

“Yet he’s never heard you say so.”

The young man shook his head.

Satine sighed. “You silly Jedi and your austere ways.” She smiled encouragingly. “Tell me why he’s so easy to love.”

Kenobi could not hold back the grin that broke across his face. “His energy in the Force is steady and calm, yet full of life. He puts people at ease; he makes them feel safe, like his connection to the Force wraps you in a protective bubble when you’re by his side. He’s a mixture of strength and comfort and joy.”

Satine was beaming while Obi-Wan’s expression grew more and more buoyant. “Yes,” she said with a laugh, “Yes all of that is very true. I must admit that I adore him.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Kenobi said nodding. “I know he’s very fond of you as well.”

She gave him a side-glance. “And you, Obi-Wan? Are you fond of me?”

Satine could see him weighing and measuring his answer, gauging how much to risk. He answered her in Mando’a. “I would die for you, Satine.”

No man had ever sworn anything to her, much less his life. And for the very first time, Satine Kryze truly felt like a Duchess.

She took a step closer as they turned to face each other. “I would never ask that of you.”

“I would endure anything if it kept you safe.”

She smiled, amazed that this particular Jedi would make such a confession. “My champion,” she whispered, reaching out and trailing her fingertips along his brow and down his cheek.

Without another word, and before he could stop himself, Obi-Wan leaned in and pressed his lips to hers. The world seemed to dissolve until nothing existed but the two of them. She melted against him, sighing as he gently kissed her. Obi-Wan savored every sensation, drinking in the heady smell of her skin while lingering over her tender lips. Yesterday Satine had given him a sudden, nervous peck; today, he made sure they both had their fill. He slid the back of his hand up her bare neck, noting how it elicited a shiver and caused her pulse to quicken, before cupping her cheek and firmly pulling her closer. Satine pressed into him, her hands resting on his chest as a small moan escaped her throat. Kenobi found the sound intoxicating; he deepened his kiss, wrapping his other arm around her back and dragging her body fully against him. She looped her arms around his neck after running her hands through his thick auburn hair.

According to the Jedi Code, Obi-Wan’s behavior was inappropriate.

In this moment, he did not care.

Instead of breaking their embrace and returning to propriety, he flouted the Code by giving in to every feeling of lust and desire he’d repressed since Satine had first touched his cheek months ago. All he wanted was to kiss her, to touch her, and she responded in kind, driving him mad with longing. They wrapped around each other as their passion escalated.

“Obi-Wan?”

Kenobi froze as the sound of his Master’s voice instantly ripped him back to reality.

“Satine?” They could hear Qui-Gon approaching through the trees. “Where are you?” the older Jedi shouted.

Obi-Wan’s eyes fell and he suddenly looked extremely troubled. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. Satine could not tell if he was apologizing to her or to himself, but he pulled away, agitatedly running his hands over his face and through his hair. “No no no…” he whispered frantically.

The Duchess didn’t know what to think. She had no wish to be a distraction and interfere with Obi-Wan’s path as a Jedi, but she had also never been kissed like that. No man had ever been so passionate, and she certainly had never desired anyone as much as she desired Obi-Wan. But now he seemed extremely upset; in fact, his conflict was palpable. She grabbed him firmly by the arm. “Control yourself,” she hissed.

He looked at her and nodded gratefully.

“We’re here,” she called out to Qui-Gon. “Is anything wrong?”

The Jedi Master appeared out of the trees. “There you are,” his deep voiced and warm tone reassured Satine that he had not seen what transpired between her and Obi-Wan. “You should both come back to camp now,” he said. “I want us all settled in before nightfall.”

“As you like,” Satine said lightly, hopping down next to him.

Obi-Wan made no move to follow, keeping his distance from his Master, fearing that Qui-Gon would be able to read his unrestrained thoughts.

“Aren’t you coming?” the older Jedi asked firmly.

“I’ll be along in a moment,” Kenobi replied, turning away and taking a deep breath.

Qui-Gon frowned, assuming the young man was still acting out in frustration from yesterday. “Very well.” He and Satine made their way back to the cave.

Chapter Text

Coruscant

Anakin was in his element. As always, his connection with Senator Amidala was undeniable; the two laughed and smiled and innocently touched hands. Obi-Wan knew Padme was the only person who could ever truly make his Padawan happy, so he turned a blind eye to their obvious intimacy.

Ex Padawan, he reminded himself.

The one thing Kenobi could not abide was Skywalker’s arrogance, an unattractive trait that he had never been able to quell. Acknowledging your strength was acceptable, but openly bragging about it bordered on ignobility. However, none of the senators sitting around the table seemed to mind. In fact, several of them actually cheered as the young Jedi launched into a raucous retelling of the second Battle of Geonosis. Anakin was loudly reenacting skirmishes from the Point Rain campaign, using plates and silverware to recreate the Geonosian terrain.

“Here are my troops,” Skywalker said as he took Padme’s drink out of her hands and placed it strategically on the table. “Here are Ki-Adi Mundi’s troops,” he said maneuvering Bail Organa’s fork into place. “And here’s Obi-Wan.” Skywalker turned to Satine. “Duchess, may I?” he gestured toward her martini glass. She smiled, amiably handing it over. Anakin held the glass over the table and dropped it right in the middle, letting it shatter.

Everyone grew silent for a moment then burst out laughing.

“Obi-Wan and his transport were grounded while Ahsoka and I fought our way through that gun emplacement.”

Kenobi tried to laugh along with the others but he honestly didn’t think it was very funny. He had lost most of his platoon that day. Skywalker hadn’t seen Obi-Wan’s men hold off the majority of the Geonosian forces with only a third of the invading Republic troops; he hadn’t seen their lines break as the bugs closed in on them; he hadn’t seen the small squad form up and gather around, ready to fight together to the bitter end. While the battle had simply been another adventure for Anakin, landing at Point Rain had been one of Kenobi’s most harrowing ordeals.

Satine had not quite understood what Skywalker was implying, and after seeing a dark look cross Obi-Wan’s eyes she spoke up. “Dear boy, not to bring the mood down but are you saying General Kenobi’s forces were shattered?”

“In a matter of speaking,” Anakin replied, stifling another laugh as a rapacious smile played across his lips. “Obi-Wan’s transport was shot down almost immediately. He spent the entire campaign laying in the dust while the rest of us did the hard stuff.”

She watched Kenobi’s mouth flatten into a strait line. They were in mixed company, and though she could tell Obi-Wan was highly offended, she knew he would not say anything to defend himself.

“If you don’t mind me saying so, that doesn’t sound much like Obi-Wan,” she ventured lightly, trying to keep her tone from descending into confrontational.

Anakin carried on, oblivious to the offense he was causing. “Our first experience on Geonosis wasn’t very pleasant and I think those memories might have made him overly cautious during the second invasion.”

“You’re forgetting to mention that during the second Battle of Geonosis Master Kenobi sustained severe injuries to his torso and left leg,” Mon Mothma said quietly. “I read the report.”

Satine looked at Obi-Wan and then gave Anakin a hard glare. “I beg your pardon, but you made it sound as though he had been lying about eating biscuits.”

Anakin waved her comment aside with a flourish. “You know how particular he is. Never a dirty uniform, never a hair out of place. He might be a brilliant tactician but he’s never been eager to sacrifice his body for his duty.”

“Is anyone ever eager to do such a thing?” The Duchess of Mandalore actually had to swallow her rage. Anakin was still very young and extremely naïve. She could not hold his youth against him, but his current accusation against Obi-Wan was downright coldhearted. She looked at Kenobi, her eyes imploring him to defend himself, but instead his expression begged her to let it go. She set her jaw and lifted her nose as she turned back to Anakin. Her palpable anger silenced the others sitting at the table. “Master Kenobi is fully capable of fighting his own battles and certainly doesn’t need a pacifist to defend him, but let me say that you are entirely misguided – and ill mannered, might I add – for mocking your Master’s reserve and mistaking his self-control for cowardice…”

“I never meant to imply he was a coward…” Anakin blurted out, seeing his mistake too late.

“Then perhaps you should choose your words more carefully.” She required unflinching self-control to keep her voice steady and calm. “You clearly have no respect for what Master Kenobi has endured, though as his Padawan I would assume you have seen the scars first hand. He is far stronger than you will ever know.”

Anakin’s face betrayed his self-reproach. Satine was right; he had seen the scars on his Master’s chest and neck and arms. Once, as a boy, he had asked Obi-Wan how he received them. The older Jedi told him it was nothing to worry about, that he’d simply gotten into a little trouble during a mission when he was young but that he was fine. Anakin wondered how Satine knew about them. He glanced at Obi-Wan who’s brow was severely arched as a hand hooked around his chin. His master was too diplomatic to reproach him in front of these prominent senators, but more so he was too humble to come to his own defense. Anakin grimaced and shook his head, embarrassed. He looked at Satine and bowed. “Forgive me, your highness. You’re right. I’ve been disrespectful to my master and to all of you here.”

Obi-Wan hid his mouth behind his fist and looked as though he wished the floor would open up and swallow him whole.




Draboon

Satine’s stomach growled loudly, giving a fizzling gurgle before turning into a strange noise that almost sounded like a creaking door. Mortified, she clamped her arms over her abdomen and squeezed, hoping to silence the miserable racket.

Qui-Gon, sitting across the fire from her, chuckled. “Not to worry, my dear,” he said kindly. “You aren’t the only one with a loud stomach these days.”

For breakfast they only had weak tea made from leaves that had been steeped far too many times and one fish to split between the three of them. Obi-Wan took a few bites of food before passing the rest to Qui-Gon and Satine, claiming he wasn’t hungry. He gulped the last of his tea and lay back across the flat rock where they had built a fire near their cave. “What I wouldn’t give for the Temple commissary right now,” he sighed.

“I thought you weren’t hungry,” Qui-Gon grunted into his teacup, giving his Padawan a sidelong glance. The two still hadn’t spoken about what transpired with the bounty hunter, and their interactions remained frosty. The Jedi Master had decided this was to be their last day of silence. He would send Obi-Wan and Satine on a mission to find food while he climbed out of the tree line and headed for higher ground; he needed to make contact with Mandalore and the surrounding peaks made it impossible for him to send a clear transmission. When they returned to camp in the evening, Qui-Gon planned to have a conversation with his student about several things, including the young man’s temper, his dangerous use of the Force, and his growing attachment to the Duchess. Kenobi’s escalating lack of control worried the Jedi Master; years ago he had seen a former Padawan go astray and he had no wish to relive the heartbreak with his current apprentice. He intended to speak with Obi-Wan, not to reprimand him, but to make peace and offer him help. The day apart would do them all good and they’d reconvene a happier bunch.

Obi-Wan and Satine packed a backpack with supplies and water before heading out of camp. Qui-Gon watched them go and noticed the Duchess slip her arm through Kenobi’s just before the two disappeared into the trees.

The Jedi Master frowned.

Let them be young and impulsive, he finally decided. It can’t possibly last. They might as well be allowed to enjoy what they can. Qui-Gon was no stranger to ardent desire, but he was old enough to know it rarely ended well when a Jedi fell in love. One way or another, tension snaps the tie that binds two hearts.

Tucking his arms into his robes he turned and headed up the mountain.




Obi-Wan and Satine wandered through the forest arm-in-arm, enjoying the sunshine, neither daring to acknowledge how easy and natural being alone together felt. Though he remained alert with the Force, they were able to relax and take their time. Qui-Gon would be gone for hours and he told them there was no need to hurry their return as long as they came back before dark with three day's worth of rations.

Though it was sunny, the seasons had turned; cooler temperatures joined with a chilly breeze and shorter days. The air was crisp as leaves fluttered down from the trees. Obi-Wan and Satine gathered bright red berries and large black nuts that thrived in the cold.

“I’ve forgotten what it feels like to have a full stomach,” Obi-Wan said as he gently pulled the husk off a dry pod. “I want to eat six loaves of bread in one sitting.”

“Why didn’t you eat the fish at breakfast?” Satine questioned.

“It just didn’t seem appetizing.”

Satine laughed as she opened a small satchel and added a few more berries to her growing collection. “I miss fruit,” she sighed. “Real fruit with real juice. Not these sour little red things.”

“You looked terribly sad when you said that,” Obi-Wan chortled. “You must really hate those berries.”

“I am sad.” She whirled to face him. “Aren’t you sick of fish and dull tea and small portions?”

Obi-Wan's expression fell. “Of course I am.”

Satine immediately regretted complaining. “I’m sorry,” she muttered, looking away. “I know lamenting our situation won’t improve it.”

He closed the distance between them and took her hand in his. “Why don’t we head downhill a bit and search for a warm thicket? We’ll probably have better luck finding food.”

They suddenly locked eyes and each blushed to the roots of their hair.

Goodness she’s pretty, he thought.

Why does he have to be so handsome? Her heart skipped a beat.

“Very well,” she said, squeezing his hand. “Let’s try it.” She couldn’t help but wonder if their days would be like this if he wasn’t a Jedi and she wasn’t a Duchess. The energy between them was open and unaffected, as though they didn’t have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Satine liked it more than she cared to admit.

“Just for today,” he said quietly, “let’s pretend like there’s nothing to worry about.”

How did he seem to always know what she was thinking? “I would like that,” she replied, pulling him closer as they walked along.




A few hours had passed before Obi-Wan and Satine stopped to rest near a brook. He waded in the water lazily trying to catch fish with a cowl tied to some sticks while Satine sat under a tree. She had found honeycomb in an abandoned wild beehive and was currently cutting it into smaller pieces, placing it in tightly sealed containers. They cooked what Obi-Wan caught and packed it away for the journey back. They agreed not to eat anything they foraged until they had collected Qui-Gon’s required three day’s worth of food. Just as they were about to carry on walking, Obi-Wan suddenly froze and stared up into the tree branches above their heads.

“What is it?” Satine asked fearfully.

Kenobi squinted, shading his eyes as he gazed up into the leaves.

When he didn’t reply Satine spoke more loudly. “Obi-Wan, what’s wrong?”

Without a word he quickly dropped his pack on the ground and started climbing the tree, nimbly pulling himself up into the swaying branches.

“What on earth are you doing?” Satine cried, gazing up after him.

“Just a moment,” he shouted.

She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “I suppose you’ll let me know if you find a bounty hunter up there?” she mocked.

“Please don’t be dramatic,” his disembodied voice floated down from the treetop.

After a few minutes his legs appeared as he sat on a branch just above her before flipping over backwards and landing on his feet in front of her.

“Speaking of dramatic,” she said, her brow arching severely. “What was that all about?”

“This.” He reached into his tunic and pulled out a beautiful purple jogan fruit.

Satine’s eyes instantly widened as her mouth watered. Real fruit. She hadn’t eaten real fruit for nearly five months. “However did you see it all the way up there?”

“I saw the purple color.” Obi-Wan offered it to her and smiled. “It’s for you.”

She looked at him in disbelief, her heart suddenly tight with emotion.

“You said you wanted fruit,” he said placing the fragrant delicacy in her hand.

She stared down at the pretty purple stripes and lovely red leaves; it looked delicious, its sweet aroma wafting in the breeze.

“You found it,” she said trying to hand the fruit back to him. “It’s yours. You should eat it.”

“I can go without food longer than you. My training taught me how to ignore hunger.”

Obi-Wan’s stomach suddenly growled so loudly he actually took a step away from her out of embarrassment.

Satine smiled, struggling to hold in a laugh. “Did your training teach you how to stop that horrible noise from betraying you?” She grabbed a knife and cut the fruit in half. “We’ll share it,” she said holding the larger portion out to Kenobi.

He let her place it in his hand. “Thank you,” he said quietly.




Obi-Wan and Satine meandered through a narrow ravine near a roaring river. The Duchess let her fingers trail along mossy rocks as her companion described life in the Jedi Temple. She loved the sound of his melodic, clipped voice and the way he would occasionally roll his R’s. Satine walked along in front of him until they came to a fallen tree that led across the river and connected with the path on the other side. Kenobi stepped in front of her, never halting his description of the sacred Jedi tree that grew in the Temple courtyard as he reached for her arm, wrapping his strong hand around her tiny wrist before carefully guiding her to safety on the other side of the rushing rapids. Satine marveled at his concentration.

He didn’t release her as they followed the path away from the water; instead he let his hand slip down and he twined his fingers through hers. She squeezed his palm to indicate her happiness.

“The Temple sounds beautiful and restful,” she said.

“It is,” he replied. “I love the feeling I get when I walk through the doors, like I can let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.”

“That’s the feeling you get when you’re home,” Satine said.

Kenobi was surprised to find he had never thought of it that way. “I suppose you’re right.”

“I wish I could see it someday.”

“Perhaps you can,” he said enthusiastically. “I’d take you to the Room of a Thousand Fountains. It’s a huge garden where Jedi go to meditate. It’s a special retreat within the Temple.”

Satine was enchanted by the idea. “Does it actually have a thousand fountains?”

“Uh…” Kenobi’s mouth turned down at the corners. “I don’t know.”

“You didn’t count them?”

They laughed and the Duchess hugged Obi-Wan’s arm against her. “I’m glad we got to spend this day together,” she said, leaning her head against his shoulder.

“So am I,” he said tightening his grip on her.

They walked out of the trees into a clearing surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs nearly thirty feet tall. Sun filtered through the leaves and long grass, casting deep shadows. It was a beautiful spot and the couple slowed their pace, enjoying the open space and the lovely light.

“If only we weren’t on the lam, this would almost be romantic,” Satine sighed.

“On the lam?” Obi-Wan snickered. “Are you a bank robber now?”

She chuckled. “How would you describe it then?”

He thought for a moment before saying, “Absconding?”

“Hmmm,” she arched her brow. “Very dignified but it makes me sound like a coward.”

“Hardly,” he tutted. “What about decamped?”

Her nose wrinkled. “Too underwhelming. It needs to sound more audacious.”

He smiled. “Ah, you mean something befitting a Duchess?”

“Exactly.” She did her best to appear regal and looked to Kenobi for approval.

He clapped slowly. “Well done. You’re looking down your nose at me with just the right amount of disdain.” He tucked her arm under his again as they continued walking. “How about evade?”

“Oh I like that. Makes it sound like I’m outsmarting them. Let’s go with that.”

“Very well. We are romantically evading the… uh…the…” his words slowly died before he finished his sentence and he abruptly stopped walking.

The Duchess felt his body tense against her arm as his eyes grew wide and sharp. She knew that look. He had sensed something. Obi-Wan’s muscles had become so rigid and his energy so hard that she instantly felt afraid.

“What is it, Obi?” she asked. He looked into her eyes for what must have been a fraction of a second, but in that short moment she saw fear followed by anxiety that resolved into resignation. He knew she was in danger, he couldn’t protect her from whatever was coming, and he only had one option if he was going to keep her safe.

Obi-Wan pulled Satine around to face him. “You need to keep going,” he said, his voice firm and determined, making it clear that he would brook no argument. “Don’t stop for anything. Do you understand? Not anything.” He shrugged out of his rucksack and strapped it to her back.

“Please tell me what’s happening,” she pleaded. “What did you sense?”

“I don’t know exactly. But it’s close. Very close. And it’s dangerous. You cannot be here when it catch up to us.” She turned back to face him after he finished with her pack. She watched his fingers brush over his lightsaber, knowing it was how he reassured himself.

“Run until you find Qui-Gon,” he continued. She nodded, fear rising up her throat as though it would choke her. Obi-Wan pulled his com link off his wrist and fixed it to Satine’s arm. “If this falls into the wrong hands it will put us all in danger. It’s not programed to communicate but it can be used as a tracker. You’d better take it with you.” He quickly pressed a few buttons and it began emitting a small signal pulse. “It will lead you back to Qui-Gon. I’ll do my best to hold off whatever is coming and give you a good head start.”

“I can’t just leave you,” she said as her body began to tremble.

He grasped her shoulders. “Don’t be afraid,” he smiled gently. “You’re strong, Satine. Get back to Qui-Gon. No matter what don’t stop. Just keep running. I’ll follow you as soon as it’s safe.”

She wanted to protest but she knew he was right. If she stayed, Obi-Wan would have to protect her and defend them at the same time. She would go and bring Qui-Gon back to help.

He gave her shoulders one final squeeze before she ran off into the trees as fast as she could.

Kenobi took a deep breath and cleared his mind; he needed to be ready for whatever was coming. He hoped Satine would be able to find her way back to Qui-Gon, he hoped his master would protect her, but he couldn’t worry about that now; all he could do was focus on the task at hand. Obi-Wan closed his eyes and reached into the Force, letting the forest’s energy whisper to life as he sought to understand the darkness that lurked in the distance. As his thoughts quieted, he felt an imbalance. He could sense Satine running away through the trees, and he could sense Qui-Gon very far away though still accessible on the other end of their Force bond. Approaching from the opposite direction he felt five distinct auras moving methodically up the mountain at a steady pace. They were not Force sensitive beings but sinister energy billowed around them like an inky shroud.

I’ve faced more than five, Obi-Wan thought. He ran his hand over his lightsaber once more.

After a few minutes he could hear them approaching, their loud harsh laughter mixed with rude conversation. Whoever these beings were, they felt no need to conceal their presence. The first of them rounded the final corner in the path and appeared in the clearing. The creature instantly halted when he saw Obi-Wan. Four more beings appeared behind him and craned their necks to see why the party had stopped.

Bounty hunters, Obi-Wan sighed internally. How delightful.

Five humanoids, some men and some alien, all armed to the teeth, filed into the clearing and gawked at the young Jedi.

“Well well well, what have we here?” the leader said, his tone light and playful. “Isn’t this a pleasant surprise?” The bounty hunters slowly began to fan out around Kenobi.

Obi-Wan flexed his muscles, tightening his arms, legs, and core, ready to leap into action.

“You wouldn’t happen to be one of those Jedi protecting that Mando princess, would you?” the lead bounty hunter asked. His tone reminded Obi-Wan of a predator that enjoyed playing with its food before striking. The man wore battered metal armor from head to toe, including a snouted helmet that made his voice sound metallic and brittle, and he was clad in an arsenal of weapons. “Hey Rwygan,” he said to a scaly Trandoshan standing on his right, “I’m pretty sure this is the one.”

The lime green Trandoshan hissed, his forked tongue testing the air. “Yeah,” he growled. “He smells like the one.”

“How about it, kid?” the leader turned back to Kenobi. “Where is she?”

Obi-Wan’s jaw tightened. For now he thought it wiser to listen than to speak, to gather as much data as he could while using the Force to evaluate all five opponents.

“Where’s the girl?” the bounty hunter asked again, his tone hardening. “Make this easy for everyone. Tell us where Satine Kryze is and there’ll be no reason for us to hurt you.”

Kenobi couldn’t keep from smirking. “You can try.”

The Trandoshan snarled and took a step toward the Jedi.

“Easy,” the leader soothed, reaching a hand out to hold the alien back. “We’re just having a friendly conversation.” He took a step closer to the Jedi as well. “Isn’t that right, kid?” All the bounty hunters began to close in.

Obi-Wan drew his lightsaber, igniting the blade before effortlessly whirling into first defensive position. “I suggest you leave now,” he warned, his brow arched in amusement. “Turn around, head down the mountain, slink back into the hole you crawled out of, and I won’t have any reason to hurt you.”

There was silence for a long moment as the leader considered Kenobi’s threat. His mask concealed his expression, but his scoff was obvious enough. “You’re pretty cocky for a Padawan,” he sneered.

Obi-Wan could feel the tension seething from all of his opponents. These men weren’t just hunters, they were out for blood. But he was confident that his training would serve him well if things turned violent. “I think you overestimate your abilities.”

“I guess you’ll have to learn the hard way,” the leader replied.

All five bounty hunters attacked Obi-Wan at once. Some rushed at him while other’s fired blasters from a distance. Kenobi did admirably well against the onslaught, using a mixture of martial blocking and defensive lightsaber moves. He shocked his attackers with his speed, spinning and flipping and deflecting their bombardment. He wounded several of them and even killed one with a single swift swipe of his blade.

That was the turning point.

At first, the bounty hunters seemed to think this encounter was a bit of a lark, assuming that a Jedi would not kill; they clearly had not considered Kenobi a serious threat. When one of their companions went down in the fray, everyone’s attitude sharpened into rabid fury. A large man in commando fatigues shouted for all the attackers to clear out right before he threw a fistful of micro detonators.

Obi-Wan managed to deflect four of the seven charges.

The other three exploded near his feet, ripping through the Jedi’s right side and throwing him violently to the ground.

Facedown in the grass, he slowly regained his senses. When he opened his eyes he saw blood running off his brow and the end of his nose. Obi-Wan fought to recover, smearing the red that trickled down his cheek before staggering to his feet. His balance was shaky at best, made worse by the deafening ringing in his ears. He lifted his weapon, ready to fight again.

Bounty hunters surrounded him and began firing sporadically. He managed to deflect a few more shots but realized too late they were simply trying to distract him. Their plan worked well. Disoriented by the blast and addled by the current attack, Kenobi didn’t sense the projectile headed toward him until it was too late. A long razor-sharp arrow penetrated and lodged in his right forearm causing him to cry out in pain, forcing him to drop his lightsaber. The arrowhead protruded through the bottom of his arm and the fletching stuck out of the top. The device was electrified and immediately sent probes directly into his nerves, latching onto him before he could rip it free. Obi-Wan caught sight of a thumb-activated trigger in the lead bounty hunter’s hand. As their gaze met, the man nodded, saluting the young Jedi before pressing the trigger. The arrow released an electrical surge that coursed through Obi-Wan, burning up his arm into his chest. He could not hold back the scream that tore from his throat. The leader did not release the trigger until the Jedi fell to the ground desperately panting for breath and trembling from head to toe.

“Easily subdued with the right tools,” the leader laughed as he approached the prone boy. “In case you haven’t caught on yet, kid, we came prepared to deal with Jedi.” He pressed a secondary button on his trigger.

Obi-Wan felt the device in his arm suddenly turn cold, then his fingers went numb as the veins in his arm seemed to turn to ice. His muddled brain slowly realized that the device wasn’t just a shock weapon, it had a far more insidious purpose. The probes embedded in his flesh were releasing something into his body, injecting a chemical directly into his blood. As the toxin coursed up his arm into his heart and bloomed across his chest, his senses began to dull.

Nothing could prepare Obi-Wan for the terror he felt when the Force receded; the sacred energy slowly slipped away into nothingness, leaving him exposed and empty. The world seemed to shrink; he could no longer feel life in the trees or the grass, he could not sense his attacker’s energy, and, worst of all, he could no longer feel Qui-Gon on the other end of their Force bond.

The bounty hunters laughed, watching the Jedi’s hands clutch into trembling fists as his eyes grew wide and frantic. “Now you’re starting to understand,” the leader mocked, using his boot to kick Kenobi onto his back. “A Force suppressor makes a Jedi nearly powerless.” The leader leaned down and took a fistful of Kenobi’s hair, wrenching the boy’s head back. “What was that you said about overestimating abilities?” He held his other hand over Kenobi’s face, letting the young Jedi see the trigger clutched in his fingers.

“No, wait…” the boy tried to plead.

The bounty hunter pressed his thumb against the trigger and held it down. The arrow in Obi-Wan’s arm instantly flared to life, sending blue electrical currants burning through his body. The Jedi screamed in agony until his throat was hoarse, but the bounty hunter refused to end the torment.




Despite the cooler temperatures, sweat streamed down Satine’s face as she ran through the trees. The packs she carried were heavy and the trail was steep, but she was determined not to stop and rest. Obi-Wan had instructed her to keep running until she found Qui-Gon. Abandoning her protector felt counterintuitive, as though she was betraying her character (not to mention her inherent Mandalorian pride), but she had promised to trust the Jedi even if that meant going against her instincts.

As she rounded a curve and came to a rocky ledge, a horrible sound echoed off the stones beneath her. Satine skidded to a stop, her heart clenching with fear. The sound grew louder.

A scream…

An agonized disembodied scream.

“Obi-Wan,” Satine whispered. Deep down she knew the torment belonged to him.

The spine-chilling cries continued.

What are they doing to him? Her stomach began to burn as terror overwhelmed her. Hearing his pain was more than she could bear. She couldn’t leave him.

Satine dumped her rucksacks on the ground, deciding it was best to lighten her load before she turned and ran back down the trail. Hopefully she would reach Obi-Wan before it was too late.




Rwygan, the lethal Trandoshan, dragged Obi-Wan to his knees. “I think it’s time you let me at him, boss.”

The leader pulled off his helmet, revealing a handsome man with strong features, piercing blue eyes, and blonde hair parted sharply on the side at a flattering angle. “Not yet, Rwygan. For now you keep your teeth to yourself.” He squatted in front of the Jedi so they were eye-to-eye. “My friend here wants to rip you to shreds, kid,” he said, gesturing toward the humanoid lizard. “Remember that ship you blew to hell a couple days ago? Rwygan’s best friend, a hunter named Ras, was inside. I’m sure you remember him.”

Obi-Wan’s nostrils flared angrily but he clenched his jaw, refusing to speak. Of course he remembered the mongrel who attacked Satine; he would never forget his grisly face.

“My name is Cai,” the bounty hunter said, reaching out with this thumb and wiping blood off Kenobi’s cheek. “You’re Obi-Wan, the apprentice. We know all about you. Where’s your Master?” When the boy refused to speak the bounty hunter smiled. “You’ll tell me soon enough. I promise.” Cai stood.

“Now that introductions are over,” a scruffy looking, heavily bearded man said sarcastically, “can we get to business? Do I need to remind you this little shit’s murdered two of our men? Enough with the pleasantries.”

Cai squared his shoulders and smirked. “You’re right,” he said tossing his helmet in the air and catching it playfully before looking down at Kenobi. “You killed two of my men, kid.” He flexed his right fist, testing its strength. “I’m nothing if not a businessman, Obi-Wan. Manpower is money and now I’m two men short. Two good men. So it’s only right that we make you pay.” He gripped his helmet by the neck hole and slammed it across Obi-Wan’s face. “That’s for Zoa, lying dead over there in the grass.” Cai lobbed his helmet to the burly man next to him then clutched a fist into Kenobi’s tunic pulling the boy so close their noses were almost touching. “And this is for Ras.” The Trandoshan hit Obi-Wan from behind, lacerating the boy’s scalp with his ragged claws, then Cai punch the Jedi in the face with such force Obi-Wan crumpled to the ground.

The bounty hunter leaned down, stepping on the arrow in Kenobi’s arm. The Jedi moaned and tried to pull away but Rwygan held him in place. “Where is Satine Kryze?” Cai asked.

“I don’t know,” Obi-Wan mumbled.

“Stop pissing about and tell me where she is,” Cai growled, his patience running thin. He pressed his boot down harder, eliciting another groan from Kenobi. “If you don’t speak up I promise I’m going make things a hell of a lot worse for you.”

I would endure anything if it kept you safe. Obi-Wan’s words from the other day suddenly rang in his ears. Perhaps he had brought this torture on himself. I don’t care. What happens to me doesn’t matter, he thought, as long as it keeps Satine safe.

Cai leaned in and spoke directly into the Jedi’s ear. “Is Satine nearby? Did you tell her to run and hide in the trees?” He ran a finger down the center of Kenobi’s nose, enjoying the way the boy shuddered at his touch. “Is she close enough to hear you scream?”




Satine’s lungs burned as she 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, was clearly the leader. He stood up and placed his helmet snuggly on his head. His back was to Satine, his massive figure looming over Obi-Wan who was curled in a heap on the ground. Even from a distance Satine could see that the forest floor had become dark with his blood.

“Get him up,” the leader said.

A lime green scaly Trandoshan with long 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.




“Last chance, kid,” Cai said.

Obi-Wan still refused to speak.

“OK,” the bounty hunter replied, lifting his hands as though absolving himself of blame. “You brought this on yourself.” He gestured to Rwygan. “On his feet.”

The Trandoshan hauled Kenobi up and shoved him forward toward the leader. Obi-Wan’s left eye was already swelling shut, and his nose and teeth ached. His right arm throbbed. His lungs hurt. He was a mess. Without the Force to protect and guide him, he felt helpless; he never realized how much he relied on the beautiful energy that surrounded all living things until he could no longer access its power. Despite being a well-built, strong young man, Obi-Wan currently felt small and vulnerable.

“All right friends, let the fun begin.” Cai backed away from the Jedi as he spoke. “Satine Kryze!” he suddenly shouted at the top of his lungs. “I know you can hear me! Pay close attention!”

Just over Cai’s left shoulder on the cliff about twenty feet up, Obi-Wan saw a blond head peek up before quickly bobbing back down. Satine! he hissed internally. He did a fine job concealing his reaction, controlling his face so his shock only registered as a quick rise and fall of his eyebrows. What the devil is she doing here? Force, don’t let them see her!

“I know your boyfriend seems tough, Satine, but he’s no match for me and my men. I’m giving you to the count of five. Show yourself or we’ll make him suffer. You’ll never forgive yourself for what we do to him.” Cai casually paced around. “One!”

Obi-Wan tensed. Just stay hidden, Satine, he implored silently.

“Two!”

Obi-Wan saw movement on the cliff above. Satine’s head had popped up again. She was looking right at him. He did his best to subtly shake his head without making eye contact. He could see the conflict in her body language. Stay where you are!

“Three!”

Cai began to scan the cliffs, shielding his eyes from the sun with his hand. Another quarter turn and he would see Satine.

“You’re wasting your time!” Obi-Wan shouted.

Cai spun back to face him.

“You bounty hunters are all the same,” the Jedi sneered. “Boring, weak,” he knew what he was doing and he hoped it would save Satine from herself, “and stupid.”

The bounty hunter stared at Kenobi for a long, tense moment before he spoke. “Well, then I suppose I’d better cut to the quick.” He grabbed the gun from his hip and fired it at the Jedi’s chest.

Without the Force, Kenobi’s reflexes could not protect him.

The weapon wasn’t what Obi-Wan expected. Instead of a blaster bolt, it fired a long carbon cable with a shiny metal arrow on the tip. With cruel accuracy, the arrow pierced his chest’s right side, just under his clavicle. On impact, two prongs popped out of the embedded arrow shaft and hooked perfectly under Kenobi’s collarbone.

Cai recoiled the excess cable, pulling the line taught between him and the Jedi. He yanked it forward with all his might causing Obi-Wan to scream before falling to one knee. “I invented it myself.” The bounty hunter boasted. “A mix between a grappling gun and a harpoon. It’s the perfect tool for my line of work. I am a hunter after all.” He pulled the cable taught again, stretching the Jedi as far forward as he could without ripping the line free.

Obi-Wan’s rage helped him stay in control and remain conscious. The pain was excruciating, and he fleetingly thought that, if he managed to get out of this mess, such a wound would be impossible to treat without a Jedi healer. He gritted his teeth and tried not to fight against the hook buried under his collarbone. Fighting would only make it worse.

“Looks like Satine isn’t coming to your rescue,” Rwygan laughed. “I don’t think she cares about you, baby Jedi.”

“Better make sure,”Cai smirked.

“Good idea.” The Trandoshan’s tongue gleefully flicked through the air. He pulled out his own gun.




Satine stuck her knuckles in her mouth and bit down on them until they bled. Tears streamed across her cheeks but she remained plastered to the ground, too afraid to move, too afraid to scream. She wanted to put a stop to this horror, wanted to save Obi-Wan, but she was filled with conflict. He didn’t want to be saved. He had told her to run and she’d already disobeyed him. She knew he wouldn’t thank her for turning herself over to these monsters.

But more than that, and to her Mandalorian shame, she was also afraid. She had never seen such violence. These men clearly enjoyed causing pain; they had beaten and broken Obi-Wan in just a few short minutes. What would they do to her? Fear froze her in place.

When the Trandoshan raised his gun, Satine began to cry harder. “No,” she whispered, “please no…”

The second arrow entered Obi-Wan’s back near his left shoulder blade, throwing him forward onto his hands and knees. The scaly monster snapped the line taught and pulled the Jedi backward while the leader of the group used his line to pull the Jedi forward. Kenobi growled as he was stretched in two directions. Satine saw his chest rise and fall as he gasped for air, his head pitched forward as he tried to use his muscles to resist the sheering agony.

“Last chance, Satine!” the leader shouted.

If she turned herself over to them, they would kill Obi-Wan. What reason would they have for keeping him alive once she surrendered? But they might kill him anyway. She wished Qui-Gon were here. She wished he would suddenly leap out of the trees and rescue Obi-Wan. She wished she was stronger, braver, more ruthless. But she wasn’t any of those things. She clamped a hand over her mouth to muffle her sobs.

One of the other bounty hunters came forward and put shock binders on the Jedi’s wrists before pulling him to his feet. The leader motioned to the other men. “Let’s get moving.” They dragged Obi-Wan toward the trail and headed down the mountain, leading him by the harpoon hooks still embedded in his flesh and bone. Satine watched from her perch as her beloved Jedi stumbled weakly behind his captors and disappeared into the forest.

Chapter Text

Coruscant

The hour was very late and the party gradually began to disperse. Padme and Satine were saying their goodbyes to the guests, each doing her best to embody diplomacy despite her social exhaustion. Obi-Wan once again leaned against the bar, silently observing all the interesting interactions, when Anakin sidled up to him.

“What are you doing?” the younger man asked.

“Leaning,” Kenobi responded.

“I thought you would have left by now.”

“I’m staying as long as you’re staying, and I assume you’re staying as long as Senator Amidala is staying. Since she’s still here, so am I.”

Anakin rolled his eyes. “You’re very clever, as always,” he said, managing to sound bored before deftly pivoting Obi-Wan’s attention away from Padme. “Are you sure it doesn’t have anything to do with the Duchess of Mandalore?”

“What are you implying?” Kenobi snarled, turning abruptly toward his friend.

Skywalker took a step back, shocked by Obi-Wan’s sudden defensiveness. “Clearly you two have a history.”

“That’s all it is: a history.” The Jedi Master scowled and crossed his arms over his chest.

“I know this night has been hard on you,” Anakin’s tone softened. “It’s dredged up a lot of old feelings… a lot of pain.”

Obi-Wan’s expression fell. “Yes.” He turned away and leaned on the bar again. “We’re not supposed to live in the past.” He watched as across the room Satine shook a senator’s hand and smiled. “Dwelling on the past is the quickest way to fill your heart with regret.”

Anakin wanted to help his Master but knew there wasn’t really anything he could do. The history between the Duchess and Obi-Wan was far more complicated than he first assumed. Tension was constant and palpable, and Skywalker had no wish to make matters worse between them, but he needed to get something off his chest. “Master?”

“Hmm?”

“Master, I want to apologize for disrespecting you. I don’t know what came over me.”

Obi-Wan eyed the young man before smiling weakly. “It’s all right.”

“I’m… I’m ashamed.”

Obi-Wan knew it took effort for Anakin to make such a confession. He made sure his tone properly respected his Padawan’s vulnerability. “All is forgiven, young one.”

Skywalker smiled abashedly, thinking it funny that depending on his Master’s inflection, ‘young one’ could be either a term of endearment or reproach.

Anakin shuffled his feet and looked down, reminding Kenobi of the boy he had trained. “What is it? You may ask.”

Skywalker looked embarrassed and relieved all at once. “The Duchess said something that I can’t get out of my head. About your scars. I don’t know why I always assumed you received them in battle. You’ve had them ever since I met you, which means you must have received them as a Padawan. Now that I think of it, you weren’t really in many battles while you were a Padawan.”

Obi-Wan took a long breath, weighing his response carefully. “No, I wasn’t. The scars are not from battle.”

“And they’re not from an accident?”

“No.”

“And not from sparring?”

“No.”

“Then… were they…” Anakin did not want to be blunt but Obi-Wan was not taking pity on him. “Are they from another person?” he finally blurted out.

Obi-Wan’s jaw had become extremely tight and his brows were pulled into a grumpy arch. “I received them while protecting Satine.”

When Kenobi didn’t elaborate Anakin said, “Is that all the explanation you’re going to give?”

“Why do you want to know about this?”

“Because I’m your Padawan. I thought I knew you better than anyone. It feels like you’ve been hiding things from me; that makes me… uncomfortable.”

Obi-Wan sighed heavily. “I’m sorry,” he said rubbing his forehead. “I wasn’t trying to keep secrets from you, but I suppose there are a few things I have kept to myself, things I’m ashamed of, things I don’t want to relive.”

“Did Qui-Gon know about these things?”

“Some of them. But only because he witnessed them firsthand.” He cleared his throat awkwardly before turning to face his student. “Anakin, please accept this is not something I wish to discuss. Not because I don’t trust you but because it is extremely unpleasant for me. If you want to know more, you have my permission to ask Satine. She knows all the grim details. If she’s willing to tell you, then you have my blessing.”

Anakin, his curiosity piqued yet totally at a loss for words, simply nodded his acceptance of Kenobi’s terms.




Draboon

Obi-Wan stumbled and caught himself just before falling to his knees. The bounty hunters had walked him for hours, mocking and berating and shoving him often. He endured it all silently, trying to subdue his anger with meditative breathing methods while simultaneously favoring his injuries. Any sudden movements were excruciating; every now and then Cai or Rwygan would give their cable a harsh tug, causing the blood to drain from Kenobi’s face as the hooks in his bones went deeper. The young Jedi desperately wished to reunite with the Force; it would give him the endurance and comfort he needed. For now, he had only his strength to rely on.

Cai suddenly grabbed Obi-Wan by the back of the neck and dragged him forward, marching him to the front of the group. “You made it, kid,” he said gesturing to the view spreading before them. “Our secret little hideout.”

Obi-Wan’s blood turned to ice. Beyond the tree line he saw a long, rolling meadow with a mound in the center – the abandoned airfield where he, Qui-Gon, and Satine had sheltered in the underground bunker, the place where venom mites had attacked them, the place where the Force had tried to warn him. Something monstrous hangs over this place. In a moment of terrible clarity Obi-Wan realized his premonition had shown him his own future; he had been sensing his own pain.

Fear caused him to dig his heels in and push against his captors. Only the Force knew what these bounty hunters had in store for him and Obi-Wan was too afraid to face it alone.

“Oh come now,” Cai said tightening his grip. “You wouldn’t want to insult our hospitality.” He shoved the Jedi forward and the group made their way down onto the landing strip. Two starships were parked next to each other about thirty yards away from the bunker.

Kenobi wasn’t sure which scenario worried him more: being dragged onto the bounty hunters’ ship where they could fly away with him as their prisoner, or being held in a bunker teaming with huge stinging bugs. Neither situation was ideal.

Cai walked them past the bunker and, as they approached the gangplank of the larger ship, two men grabbed Obi-Wan by the arms and hustled him on board.

“Don’t worry, Obi-Wan,” Cai shouted after them. “We’ll wait around for a bit. Give your Master a chance to come rescue you.”




Satine had never run so far and fast in all her life. Her face and arms were covered in scratches; her hair was a sweaty tangled mess. “Qui-Gon!” she screamed. As she stumbled into the cave they were using for shelter, the Jedi Master leapt to his feet; he watched in horror as she fell to her knees and burst into tears, her entire body sagging as she sobbed.

He hurried to her and took her face in his gentle hands. “What’s happened? Are you hurt?”

She shook her head, clinging to him as she gasped for air, twisting her fists into his tunic. “Bounty hunters…” She had never been so hysterical; her adrenaline was pumping but she felt helpless.

“Calm yourself, young one.” Qui-Gon’s large hands stroked her cheekbones. “Where is Obi-Wan?”

She stared at him with wild eyes, tears still running down her face. “They took him.”

Qui-Gon’s look changed instantly, his features fell as fear gripped his heart. “Where?”

“Down the mountain, by the river.”

“Who was it?”

“Five bounty hunters. Obi-Wan could sense them coming. He told me to run.” Her chin began to tremble. “But I heard him scream so I went back.”

Qui-Gon’s eyes betrayed his deep worry.

“They did terrible things to him…” She could hardly get the words out before she broke down again.

The Jedi pulled her into his massive arms, hugging her against him. She felt comfort drape over her like a shroud as he used the Force to calm her. “It’s all right, young one. Just breathe.”

She buried her face in his tunic and tried to focus on his large hands that held her tightly, making her feel safe and stable. Qui-Gon would make things right. Qui-Gon could do anything.

When she finally settled, the Jedi pulled back and looked in her eyes, pushing her sweaty hair off her forehead. “Satine, was he alive the last time you saw him?”

“Yes,” she mumbled. “Why? What’s wrong?”

“I cannot feel him through the Force.”

She could sense the fear burning in his heart as they both realized Obi-Wan might already be dead.

“Can you take me back to the last place you saw him?”

She nodded.

“But first you must tell me everything. Tell me who you saw and every move they made.”




Cai had Obi-Wan dragged down into the cargo hold, a long narrow empty compartment stretching the ship’s full length. He then allowed his men their pound of flesh. They took turns enacting revenge for the death of their comrades, but, true to his threats, Rwygan was the most brutal. The Trandoshan was twice Kenobi’s size and had no qualms about using the claws on both his hands and feet. Rwygan even bit the Jedi several times.

When the young man finally gave up fighting back and collapsed into a trembling ball on the floor, the bounty hunters lost interest. Obi-Wan lay in a puddle of blood, barely able to breathe, wishing for cold dark unconsciousness. He was fairly certain Rwygan had broken his ribs, and his left hand and arm were covered in bite marks.

The bounty hunters were ignoring him for now and had wandered to the cargo hold’s far side where they cracked open a shipping crate full of Corellian brandy. Right as Obi-Wan was mercifully about to lose consciousness someone kicked him and used their boot to roll him onto his back. “Don’t fall asleep. The party’s just getting started.” Cai dragged the boy closer to the wall then sat down and propped his large boots on Kenobi’s legs, holding the Jedi in place. “It’s been a long day. Time to put my feet up.” He leaned back against the bulkhead and took a long swig of brandy right from the bottle.

“You know,” he said folding his hands over his stomach as he reclined, “you’re not the first Jedi I’ve hunted down.”

Obi-Wan tried to push the man’s feet off but Cai kicked him. He resolved to lay still and let the bounty hunter speak; after all, this might be the only respite he received. “Who paid you to track down a Jedi?” he asked, hoping to keep Cai talking.

“No one. I guess you could say it was a personal matter.”

“How enigmatic.”

“You’re kind of a little shit, aren’t you? Always have to give a smart come-back.”

Obi-Wan would have rolled his eyes if his face didn’t hurt so much. “Of the two of us, who is currently being used as a human footstool?” He let his head fall back, too tired to hold it up. “You’re kind of a shit yourself.”

Cai snorted. “Point taken.” He took another drink then asked, “Why are you willing to endure all this for one girl?”

“It’s my duty,” Obi-Wan replied, fighting his exhaustion. All he wanted was sleep.

“I’m sure the Jedi handbook doesn’t say anything about being tortured to death to protect a Mandalorian princess.”

Obi-Wan set his teeth, trying to ignore the ‘tortured to death’ comment. “Duchess,” he said.

“What?”

“You said ‘princess.’ She’s a Duchess.”

Cai leaned in, his voice suddenly cold. “Soon all she’ll be is dead.” He eyed Kenobi then shifted forward so he was sitting right next to Jedi’s shoulder. “Are you willing to die for her?”

Obi-Wan was afraid to say yes for fear that Cai would immediately follow through.

“Just tell me where she is. There’s no need for this mess,” the bounty hunter waved his arm at Kenobi’s blood smeared all over the metal deck. “No woman is worth this. Where is she?”

“I really don’t know.”

“But you have an idea.”

“No, I don’t.”

“You’re a goddamn liar.” Cai pushed angrily to his feet. “Rwygan!” he shouted. “Toss me the case.” The Trandoshan lobbed a small metal box across the room. Cai flipped it open and pulled out a small Syrette. He angrily grabbed Obi-Wan by the hair and forced his head to the side. “Nobody rests until you tell me the truth.” He jabbed the Syrette into the Jedi’s neck and injected a stimulant. “I’ll use as many of these on you as I need to, kid.

“Rwygan! Get over here and help me get this idiot on his feet. It’s time for our Jedi to answer some questions.”




Qui-Gon and Satine returned to the scene of the attack just as the sun dipped below the horizon. The clearing was shadowy and cold but there was still light enough to see. Qui-Gon walked back and forth, quietly taking in details and recreating the scene in his mind. He stood over a bloody patch of grass for a long time, a hand cupped over his mouth as he took mental notes. “This is where Obi-Wan was laying when you arrived?”

“Yes,” Satine whispered. She had grown extremely quiet since they left camp.

The Jedi nodded and continued walking. He made his way over to the slain bounty hunter and searched his pockets, pilfering any useful supplies. He unbuckled the man’s blaster belt and handed it to Satine.

“I don’t want it,” she said taking a step back.

“You’re going to need it,” he said placing the gun in her hands. “Please don’t argue.”

Reluctantly, Satine fastened the weapon to her waist, securing it to her thigh with the leg strap.

“Now, show me which way they took him,” Qui-Gon said.

She directed him accordingly. “Will we be able to track them now that the sun is going down?”

“It will be harder but we can do it. There are five of them, including Obi-Wan. It would be difficult for that large of a group to hide their tracks even if they wanted to. Plus,” he stepped forward and pointed to a black stain in one of the footprints visible in the dirt. “Obi-Wan was still bleeding. Even if they cross over an area without soil we’ll be able to look for bloodstains.” He placed his hands on Satine’s shoulders. “Are you up to the task?”

Her eyes burned with anger as she set her jaw. “Yes,” she said proudly. “Let’s go get him back.”

“Good.” the Jedi felt just as determined as the Duchess’s. “The Force will be with us.” He turned and began following the bounty hunters’ trail.




Obi-Wan was cold, the deep penetrating cold that settles into one’s bones.

He could hear a strange sound, like something wet being scraped against something sharp. Several moments passed before he realized it was the sound of his own breathing. Each inhale was excruciating, as though his right lung was full of pins and needles.

“Master?” he whispered, barely managing to get the word out.

A hand gripped his throat, crushing his vocal chords. “He’s not here to help you now, boy. It’s just you and me.”

Rwygan’s long claws slipped into Obi-Wan’s hair and wrenched his head back, causing agonizing pain to shoot down both his arms. He tried not to scream but after a moment he couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“Tell me where she is and I’ll stop hurting you.”

Obi-Wan ground his teeth together fighting the urge to vomit.

The Trandoshan took hold of the hook embedded in Kenobi’s collarbone.

“No! Wait!” the Jedi cried out. “Please don’t. Not again.”

Rwygan kept his hand on the hook but paused. “You ready to talk?”

“Please,” Obi-Wan pleaded. He had finally reached his limit. “I honestly don’t know where she is. Our protocol was to proceed to an unknown area if we ever got separated. I can’t tell you where she is because I don’t know where my Master took her.” He was babbling aimlessly now, saying anything to keep the Trandoshan from hurting him. “Without the Force I have no way of knowing where they are. For all I know he’s taken her back to Kalevala.”

The bounty hunter leaned down to the Jedi’s face and hissed his forked tongue across Obi-Wan’s cheek. “Smells like you’re lying.”

“No…”

“If you’re telling the truth, then you can’t help us find her, so that makes you worthless. If you’re lying, then you’re still refusing to tell me anything useful, which also makes you worthless.” He tightened his grip, causing Obi-Wan to squeeze his eyes shut preparing for the worst. “I guess that means I can just hurt you for fun now.” The Trandoshan slowly pulled the hook in Kenobi’s shoulder until the Jedi was hanging a foot off the floor, dangling from his collarbone.

Obi-Wan screamed.




Qui-Gon and Satine caught up with the bounty hunters just after daybreak. A murky fog clung to the ground and trees, making visibility difficult – all the better for a covert rescue mission.

“I had a bad feeling we were being led back here,” Qui-Gon said as they took cover in the tree line and used binoculars to scan the area. “It’s all starting to make sense.”

Satine clutched her binoculars so hard her knuckles turned white. “Didn’t Obi-Wan say he could feel death in this place?” The Jedi looked at her. She could tell by his expression that he had already entertained the idea. “Was he talking about himself?”

“I don’t know, dear one,” he replied quietly.

He felt disappointed that he could not offer her a more definitive answer. The Force had its limitations. Or at least Qui-Gon’s ability to read the Force had its limitations.

“We have to come up with a plan,” he said.

“I think Obi-Wan is in the larger of the two ships.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because it’s the only ship with a sentry by the ramp. And there’s no indication they are using the bunker.”

Qui-Gon thoughtfully stroked his chin. “I wonder if our venom mite friends are still in there?”

Satine couldn’t suppress a shudder. “Horrible creatures.”

“Indeed, but they could be useful. If we can trap the bounty hunters in the bunker, the mites could do some of the work for us.”

“That’s horrific,” Satine gasped.

Qui-Gon looked at her questioningly. “Would you rather fight those men yourself?”

“Well… no.”

“We have to find a way to divide the bounty hunters up so we can avoid fighting them all at once.”

“And we have to disable the ships. We can’t be certain which one Obi-Wan is on, but we can’t risk either of them taking off and flying away with him on board.”

The Jedi Master couldn’t help but smile at her. “You’ll be a strong leader, Satine. Your mind is made for strategy.”

“Hold your compliments until after the mission. If we fail or if we’re too late I’ll never forgive myself.”




Qui-Gon silently made his way behind the starships parked on the grassy landing strip while Satine snuck into the bunker and booby-trapped the interior door with an explosive. He watched from his hiding spot under the smaller of the two ships until the Duchess emerged from the bunker and gave him the signal. He marveled at her courage; she was about to be bait for a group of feral, heartless monsters. Duchess or not, Satine Kryze was a brave young women.

Once he saw she was in position, the Jedi used his lightsaber to destroy the fuel cells on both ships, immediately cutting off their power supply. Within seconds, he heard a loud angry voice coming down the gangplank.

“What the hell’s going on? We’ve lost everything including the emergency backup systems.”

“I don’t know,” the sentry said, leaping to his feet.

“Were you sleeping?”

“No!”

“You were sleeping! You idiot! Go check the outside of the ship while I check the guidance system. When we’re done the boss wants us to check the other ship as well.”

Qui-Gon pressed himself against the landing foot column, hoping to remain concealed, when he heard Satine’s voice.

“Yoo-hoo!” she called in her most sultry tone. “I’m over here, boys.”

The Jedi peeked out of his hiding place and watched closely, waiting for his opportunity.

“It’s her!” one of the men shouted.

Satine casually leaned against the bunker door. “I heard you’ve been looking for me.” When the two men launched after her, she slid through the door and disappeared into the dark bunker. As the men clambered in behind her, Qui-Gon silently slipped aboard the large starship, sneaking up the main ramp. He squatted in a corner and took stock of his surroundings. The ship was very dark due to the power loss. He had entered into a holding bay; strait ahead was a passageway leading to the crew cabins, to the right was a ladder leading up to the cockpit, and to the left was a ladder leading down into the hold. His instincts told him the most likely place bounty hunters would keep a prisoner was below decks. He took the ladder down.

He dropped through the hatch into the dank cargo hold, instantly crouching as he hit the floor, taking cover behind a pile of crates that reeked of Corellian brandy. He took a deep breath, centering himself and allowing his eyes to adjust. Across the long empty hold he could see an ion lamp glowing on the floor. A Trandoshan stood near it, fiddling with a second lamp, shaking it and banging it against the wall, trying to get the flickering bulb inside to light up. “Piece of garbage,” the alien muttered.

Qui-Gon squinted through the shadows. Just visible in the low light cast by the first ion lamp he saw a limp body curled in a ball on the durasteel floor. Obi-Wan.

The Jedi Master’s veins turned to ice. His Padawan lay lifelessly between the Trandoshan’s feet. He could only see the young man’s back, but even in the darkness Qui-Gon could see the blood smeared all over the boy and the surrounding floor.

A surprise attack was impossible; there was nowhere to take cover on the approach. Qui-Gon would have to face this head-on.

He stepped out from behind the crates and strode forward. “I’ve come for my Padawan,” he announced loudly. The Trandoshan was so startled he jumped a foot in the air, dropping the ion lamp and casting them into further darkness as it shattered on the floor. “Kindly release him and I’ll have no reason to harm you,” Qui-Gon continued.

The Trandoshan’s eyes flickered in the dim light.

Obi-Wan stirred, his shoulders rolling back as he tried to lift his head. “Mas… Master…” he managed to slur.

“It’s all right, young one. I’m here,” Jinn reassured his apprentice.

The Trandoshan hovered awkwardly, uncertain how to react. Jedi were not known for ruthlessness, but they also weren’t accustomed to seeing their Padawans broken beyond recognition.

“Back away from the boy,” Qui-Gon warned, his tone even and controlled.

In an instant the alien ripped Obi-Wan off the ground and clutched him against his chest like a human shield. “You take another step and this kid dies.” He wrapped one of the carbon harpoon cables around his fist and pulled it tight, eliciting an agonized groan from the young Jedi.

Qui-Gon ignited his lightsaber, the brilliant green blade’s light overpowering the weak ion lamp. “I will not ask you again.” He locked eyes with his apprentice, wishing he could warn Obi-Wan through the Force but he was still unable to reach him through their training bond.

Kenobi had never seen such rage in his Master; it scared him.

The Trandoshan wrapped a hand around Obi-Wan’s throat and squeezed.

Qui-Gon responded with more power than he had ever employed in his entire life. He used the Force to send Obi-Wan flying backward across the compartment while simultaneously pulling the Trandoshan forward. He threw his lightsaber out, controlling it with his mind, severing the alien’s hand that still held on to the carbon cable attached to Kenobi. Qui-Gon called his lightsaber back to him just as the Trandoshan arrived, and using one swift backhanded swipe, lopped the scaly creature’s head from its body.

As the alien fell dead to the floor, Qui-Gon ran to his Padawan. The boy lay on his back, arms and legs sprawled in all directions, struggling to breathe. Jinn gently took Obi-Wan’s face in his hands and turned his head to the side so he could inhale more easily. The Jedi Master held Obi-Wan’s cheek with his left hand and ran his fingers through the boy’s hair with his right. “Young one, can you hear me?”

Kenobi leaned into his Master’s large warm palm. He could have cried with relief. He tried to reach out with his right hand but instantly recoiled as pain shot down his chest into his arm. “Master…” he mumbled.

“It’s all right, Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon lied as he quickly evaluated his Padawan’s injuries. He had never seen such horrid wounds, and even at a glance he knew he was not equipped to treat them. “It’s going to be all right.” He pulled the boy into his arms and held him tightly.

Obi-Wan clung to his Master, grabbing hold of his tunic with trembling fingers. “I’m…” He coughed violently, his chest sounding wet and raspy. “I’m sorry.”

Qui-Gon pulled him tighter. “Why are you sorry?” he asked bewildered.

“For being careless.”

“What?”

“And then for being angry with you… for not speaking to you. I should have made peace with you right away. I’m so sorry.”

Qui-Gon placed his forehead against Obi-Wan’s. “All is forgiven, young one.”




“Yoo-hoo! I’m over here, boys!” Satine leaned casually against the bunker door.

“It’s her!” one of the bounty hunters shouted.

“I heard you’ve been looking for me.”

As the two men launched at her she slipped into the bunker’s main octagonal room and quickly rolled under the radar consul closest to the door, pulling a large box in front of the opening to conceal her. She heard the men run in, cross to the other side, and start trying to pull open the interior door that led down the subterranean corridor full of venom mites. Satine slid out of her hiding place and ran out the main bunker door, dragging it shut behind her before jamming the lock as Qui-Gon had taught her. Everything worked perfectly. She touched a button on her com link, sending a signal to a small explosive that popped the lock on the interior door. Within a matter of second Satine heard both bounty hunters screaming at the top of their lungs as the venom mites flooded the room. She felt sorry for the men until she remembered what they had done to Obi-Wan. When she thought of the horror she witness, all her sympathy disappeared and she walked away to carry out the rest of her job.

She ran to the second, smaller ship and climbed into the cockpit. She used her blaster to disable the main computer then went from one compartment to the next gathering supplies. There wasn’t much to be had – only a few protein ration packs and several power cells. She hoped to have better luck in the captain’s quarters. However, as she stepped into the passageway she walked into a large man wearing metal armor with a snouted helmet. She slammed into him so forcefully that she lost her balance and fell backwards to the floor.

“Duchess,” the bounty hunter said, looming over Satine. “So nice of you to finally join us.”

She scurried backward, frantically trying to put distance between her and her attacker, without realizing she was trapping herself in a corner. As she entered one of the crew quarters, she hit the cabin door’s lock but nothing happened.

“Power’s out,” the man said, stepping into the cramped space. “Remember?”

Satine, still on the floor, kicked him in the kneecap with all her might. He cried out and doubled over, leaving her time to kick him full force in the groin. He screamed and fell forward to the floor – armor only protected so much. Satine vaulted over him and made it out into the passageway before he caught her foot and pulled her legs out from under her. The Duchess of Mandalore wasn’t going down without a fight. She kicked the bounty hunter over and over, landing blows wherever she could. Finally, the man got a hold of her wrists in one hand and, grabbing her by the hair, dragged her from the ship.




Qui-Gon carefully carried Obi-Wan up into the main compartment where the open ramp let in more light. He wrapped his cloak around the young man before laying him on the floor, then he started inspecting his Padawan.

Obi-Wan’s face was black and blue and bloody, his nose was broken, and his eye was nearly swollen shut. His gaze flitted around erratically and his head lolled back and forth. Qui-Gon pulled Obi-Wan’s eyelids open and saw that his pupils were huge and did not react to light. Realization dawned on the Jedi Master when he noticed multiple puncture wounds on the boy’s neck, clearly made by a Syrette. He gripped his apprentice’s face and made him meet his gaze. “What did they give you?” he asked.

Kenobi’s eyes blinked out of sync before he answered. “Stims,” he slurred, barely able to speak from exhaustion.

“How many times?”

Obi-Wan tried to remember; he truly wanted to be useful. “I lost track. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize.” Qui-Gon said. “When was the last time? Recently? Are you still feeling it?”

Obi-Wan’s head bobbed up and down clumsily as he nodded. “I want to sleep but I can’t.”

“Try to stay awake a little longer for me.” The Jedi Master made an effort to keep his tone light and encouraging despite his internal desperation. Things were far worse than he had expected.

He suddenly caught sight of the device sticking through Obi-Wan’s right arm. He gingerly investigated, noting the durasteel arrowhead, the needle-like probes, and the electrical current.

“Force suppressor.” Kenobi mumbled so badly it came out as “frsss spressor” but Qui-Gon still understood. The Jedi Master was so angry he clenched his teeth until his jaw ached. His Padawan had endured too much, and these bastards knew exactly how to do their worst: withhold the Force so they could increase Obi-Wan’s suffering, then give him stimulants so he could suffer longer.

He pulled Obi-Wan’s tattered tunic open and finally addressed the injuries that worried him the most. The young man’s ribs were covered in ghastly bruises but worse still were the hooks embedded in his collarbone and shoulder blade. This is cruelty beyond imagining. He gently ran his fingers over the hooks looking for the best way to remove them.

Just as he found what he was looking for a scream from outside interrupted his concentration.

“Satine,” Obi-Wan murmured.

Qui-Gon looked back and forth between his apprentice and the door, torn between his two responsibilities.

“Go,” Kenobi said. “Go help her.”

“I’ll be back,” Qui-Gon replied as he leapt to his feet.

Grabbing his lightsaber he ran down the gangplank just as Cai dragged Satine from the other ship. Qui-Gon saw Satine bite the bounty hunter’s hand, enraging the man further. Cai pulled her to him, punched her in the stomach, and threw her into the grass. She tried to crawl away but the bounty hunter wrenched her up by her hair. Qui-Gon ran forward to rescue her but he wasn’t fast enough.

Satine elbowed Cai in the throat, broke free from his grasp, ripped off his helmet, and punched him in the face. He fell to the ground clutching his nose. As he growled and made to grab her, she pulled out her blaster and shot him three times in the chest. Cai fell dead at her feet.

Panting, Satine turned to Qui-Gon as she holstered her weapon. She was a bruised and tousled mess, having just fought the fight of her life. “Where’s Obi-Wan?” she asked as she wiped blood off her cheek with the back of her hand.

In that moment Qui-Gon thought Satine was as strong as any warrior he’d ever met. He placed a hand on her shoulder, wanting to settle her but not wanting to invade her space while her blood was up. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine. My part of the mission is complete. Where’s Obi-Wan?”

“I’ve got him just inside the ship. I’m going to need your help.”

She nodded and took a step toward the spacecraft but Qui-Gon grabbed her arm. “Satine,” he warned, his tone clearly troubled. “It’s bad.” He saw her jaw tighten. “Prepare yourself.” She nodded again and together they walked up the ramp into the holding bay.




Obi-Wan lay on the durasteel floor, eyes closed, chest heaving, his right arm draped across his torso while his other limbs fell open limply. The Duchess’s heart tightened when she saw the young Jedi and she had to hold her breath to control her reaction. She knelt by his left side as Qui-Gon knelt by his right. “Obi?” She gently ran her fingertips across his brow and down his cheek.

What had these monsters done to him?

Kenobi’s eyes opened slightly and his breathing immediately hitched when he saw her. “Satine,” he whispered. He tried to pull himself up, tried to be more alert. “Are you hurt?” he asked.

Satine exchanged disbelieving looks with Qui-Gon before shaking her head. “Am I hurt?! It’s you I’m worried about.”

“Do you have the pack?” Qui-Gon interrupted.

“Yes.” Satine pulled the rucksack off her back and began rifling through it, placing bandages and bacta pads on the floor next to Obi-Wan.

The Jedi Master leaned over Kenobi. “Young one, I want to remove the Force suppressor but it’s not wise to do so until we’ve removed the hooks from your shoulders. You’ll have to endure a little more without the Force’s protection.”

Obi-Wan nodded weakly.

“Are you ready?”

The boy’s mouth turned up in the corner, giving a crooked half smile. “I’m ready for anything.”

“Famous last words,” Qui-Gon teased.

Kenobi gave a weak snort and smiled his approval.

“How can you two be joking at a time like this?” Satine admonished as she placed the last bacta pad on the floor with their other supplies. She sighed and looked at Qui-Gon. “We don’t have nearly enough,” she whispered.

“I know,” the Jedi Master agreed. “We’ll do what we can.”

“Tell me what you need.”

“I’m afraid your job is the worse of the two. I need you to remove the harpoons. Each one is an arrow shaft with retractable hooks. On the shaft you’ll find a small button that you’ll have to press and hold to retract the blades before you pull the arrow free. Be firm, Satine. No second-guessing, no nervous fingers. Just get in there, do the job, and get the blade out. The longer you linger, the more painful it will be for him.”

Her mouth went dry. She was not sure she wanted this job but there didn’t seem to be any alternative.

“I know it’s horrible,” he tried to reassure her, “but my fingers are too large. It’s better if you do it.”

“And what is your job?” she asked, not sure she wanted to hear the answer.

Qui-Gon swallowed and averted his eyes for a moment. “I’ll hold him down.”

Satine felt the blood drain from her head. The situation was far more gruesome than she ever imagined.

“Come,” Qui-Gon urged. “Let’s get this over with.” Using his right hand he took firm hold of Obi-Wan’s left arm and clamped it against the boy’s side. Then using his left hand he gripped Kenobi’s right bicep and pressed his apprentice against the floor.

Satine steeled herself, taking a deep breath through flared nostrils. None of her proper schooling or regal education could have prepared her for something like this. She would have to find strength she didn’t know she had. Obi-Wan needed this, Qui-Gon needed her; she could not fail them. Satine took hold of the arrow shaft and slid her fingers along it until her fingertips disappeared into Kenobi’s wound. The young man immediately groaned, his body wrenching, but Qui-Gon held him in place.

“Just ignore it, Satine,” Qui-Gon said through clenched teeth.

The Duchess did her best to focus and ignore her friend’s discomfort. Her thumb suddenly brushed over a bump. “I found it!” She pressed the button and Obi-Wan shuddered as the blades retracted. Carefully, she unhooked the arrowhead from the collarbone and eased it out of the Jedi’s chest. She held her bloody fingers up so she and Qui-Gon could look at the ghastly tool. “Monsters!” she shouted as she threw the thing across the room. She grabbed a bacta pad and pressed it to Kenobi’s wound. “It’s not going to be enough,” she muttered.

“I know,” Qui-Gon said still holding Obi-Wan down. “It can’t heal the damage but at least it can stop the bleeding.” As Satine wrapped a bandage over the bacta pad to keep it in place, the Jedi Master turned to his apprentice. “Padawan,” he said gently, “You’re doing well. Just one more to go.”

They rolled Kenobi onto his side and Qui-Gon pulled the boy into his arms, holding him firmly against his chest while restricting Obi-Wan’s movement. Satine did her best to remove the second arrow but it was more difficult. The blades did not fully retract and it was much harder to get them out cleanly. At one point her fingers slipped and Obi-Wan screamed, trying to pull away. Satine’s needed every ounce of her self-determination and control to finish the ghastly work.

Kenobi eventually went limp, his trembling fists twisted in his Master’s tunic. Qui-Gon’s heart was in shreds as he held the boy against him. “It’s all right, Padawan, we’re almost done.”

When Satine finally got the blade out, tears were streaming down her face as a mixture of rage, exhaustion, and devastation created a storm insider her chest. She pressed a bacta pad to Kenobi’s wound, wrapped his shoulder in a bandage, and sat down with her head between her knees as she quietly sobbed.

Qui-Gon fought back his own despair. All of them had reached their breaking point. But he had to stay strong; he still had a duty to protect Satine and now to protect his Padawan. Obi-Wan felt small in his arms, just like when he was a boy. Jinn was suddenly overwhelmed with fatigue, fearing that if he lost control of his own emotions he would lose control of everything. He knew he should lay Obi-Wan back on the ground but he couldn’t, not yet. Instead he pushed his hand through the boy’s hair and bent close so that his forehead rested against Kenobi’s shoulder.

“Master,” Obi-Wan mumbled, “take me home.”

“I will, Padawan,” the older Jedi replied. “As soon as I can.” He rolled Kenobi onto his back and wiped sweat and tears from the boy’s face. Then he reached over and took hold of Satine’s arm. “Come here.” He pulled her around to sit next to him and placed his arm across her shoulders. She leaned against the large man and cried. “You did well,” he said squeezing her tight.

“I hurt him,” she sniffled.

“No.” He rested his cheek on the top of her head. “You did what needed to be done. You were strong.” He had no idea what it was like to be a father, but Qui-Gon imagined the protectiveness and pain and sadness and adoration he felt for Obi-Wan and Satine was as close to being a father as he was ever going to get. “We’re not done yet, my dear. I have to get this thing out of his arm. Can you comfort him while I do that?”

She wiped her eyes and nodded.

Obi-Wan was barely conscious when Satine scooped his head into her lap. She gently massaged his brow and played with his hair while she hummed her favorite Mandalorian lullabies. He leaned into her touch.

Qui-Gon pulled Obi-Wan’s arm into his lap and inspected the Force suppressor. Igniting his lightsaber, he cut the device’s head and fletching off, revealing the power core running through the shaft. “He’s about to have a reaction,” the Jedi Master warned the Duchess. He touched his blade to the power source, causing it to short out. The probes retracted and the electrical current died.

Obi-Wan’s eyes flew open as he took a deep, shuddering breath. He blinked wildly as his hands tightened into fists.

“What’s happening?” Satine asked.

Qui-Gon watched his apprentice carefully. “He’s reuniting with the Force. It can be a bit of a shock to the system.”

After a moment Obi-Wan settled down and his eyes became sleepy. Qui-Gon placed a hand on the young man’s chest. “Is that better?”

Kenobi nodded.

“Good.” Jinn took the arrow shaft and quickly pulled it from Obi-Wan’s arm in one swift swipe. He wrapped their last bacta pad around the wound and bandaged it. “Try to sleep now.”

The young Jedi was unconscious in seconds.