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while the bright world goes barreling on

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Once, in an ungoverned moment, he calls her by the wrong name. He feels the hurt lance through her and he almost stops what he's doing to apologize. But she doesn't stop: if anything, she grips him tighter between her thighs, and kisses him harder, her sharp teeth scraping his bottom lip. So he doesn't apologize; he keeps going, and his mistake is shortly forgotten.

It comes back to him later, when they're lying next to each other on his spread-out cloak, with only a film of sweat between their skin and the desert night air. He rolls over onto his side and touches her neck. She turns her head and looks at him, her eyes deep and dark in the flickering torchlight.

"Don't say it," she tells him. Her voice is low and tough.

"Sabé…"

"Don't, please. I'm not angry. When you said her name … for a second, it was like she wasn't really gone. I was, but she wasn't. Just for a second." She smiles at him. "I was trained to take her place, remember. Dying for her was always a possibility. It would have been an honor."

They're quiet after that. He rests on his elbows, watching her, and she returns his gaze. This is the last time, he thinks, and he doesn't need the Force to tell him that she's aware of it too. Since the fall of the Jedi and the Empire's rise, they've managed to steal a few moments for themselves, but if they keep meeting like this, if they try to be anything more than what they are - guardians of the generation still in its infancy, the generation that may redeem this one - they'll give themselves away. The Emperor's spies could be anywhere, even a remote desert world like Tatooine. They're certainly on Alderaan.

They had their chance, and they lost it. It happened so fast, they didn't even notice until it was over. What they're doing - what they've done - was always about history, one last scene tacked onto a story that had already played out. He'll never see her again. She'll go back to Alderaan, where Bail Organa and Queen Breha will give her new orders, and he'll never see her again. Until the end of his life, he'll be right here, waiting for Anakin and Padmé's son to grow to manhood.

He's sorry - for their lost chances, for the hurt that he senses, despite her denial - but he doesn't say it; he doesn't think that he has to.

Minutes pass, and the shadows spread as the flame on the wall begins to die down. Obi-Wan shivers, and he knows that Sabé must be cold too. Stay, he wants to tell her. Stay the night. I have a lifetime of solitude ahead of me. Give me one more night. Without thinking, he starts to reach for her but she rolls away, is on her feet and stepping into her discarded skirt before he can retract his hand. He watches her dress, trying to memorize pattern of freckles on her shoulder as she puts on her shirt, the curve of her neck as she twists her long dark hair into a messy braid.

Then she's in the doorway, looking back at him over her shoulder, and he knows she's memorizing him too. He holds his breath.

A moment later she's gone, and the sand sighs as her feet pass over it. He bows his head, the skin over his shoulders stinging with her absence. He remains like that for a long time, until the sky begins to lighten. When at last he lifts his head and pushes himself up off the floor, his joints ache and he moves with the stiff gait of a much older man.

11/16/2016