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Obi-Wan stands in front of the wreckage of his ship, admiring, in a perverse way, how thoroughly Maul and Savage managed to damage it. The red and grey hull sits taunting him in the Florrum dust. The council is sending Kit Fisto from Mon Cala to retrieve him and Adi. Well. Him and Adi’s corpse. Her lightsaber hangs on the right side of his belt, a brutal and damning weight.

He has failed. Again.

He can hear the raucous laughter of the reunited pirate band as they get progressively drunker in Hondo’s hall. Naturally, Hondo is throwing a banquet. He sighs. His ship won’t fly, but he can stay there for tonight. Hondo offered him quarters, but this mission has already been a disaster and he doesn’t want to have to explain to the Council his acceptance of pirate hospitality on top of everything else. He will meditate beside Adi Gallia and watch over her body. It is only right. Sleep can wait.

Hondo appears beside him. “There you are, Kenobi. Come inside for a drink. You look like you need it.”

“I don’t have time for your nonsense, Hondo,” Obi-Wan says sharply. He knows he’s being rude. He doesn’t care.

The Weequay’s eyes soften. He claps him on the shoulder. “Come. I won’t take no for an answer.”

Hondo’s arm on his shoulder blade is like a grounding rod, and he sinks into his body, suddenly feeling his exhaustion, his bruises, his sore muscles - even the ache in his heart is sharper. The last few hours, days… weeks, months… have been a blur. Umbara, Zygerria, Hardeen, Maul. Will it never fucking end?

He has just over fourteen hours before Kit arrives. He should sit vigil over Adi’s body. He owes her that at least. He…

“I don’t know how Jedi celebrate the dead, but here on Florrum, we drink!”

“You drink for everything. What kind of argument is that?”

“Yes, but for the dead, we drink more. Come.” Hondo puts his arm around Obi-Wan’s shoulders. Obi-Wan surprises himself by not flinching or pulling away—or removing Hondo’s arm with his lightsaber. He quells a wave of satisfaction at cutting off Savage's arm in the fight.

There is no one from the Council, the Republic, Coruscant… no one who knows him, except Hondo, for parsecs and parsecs.

Fourteen hours.

Enough time to get in trouble, padawan, says his sense of reason, which has spoken in Qui-Gon’s voice for twelve years.

Fuck.

He is overcome by the urge to get stupidly, blindingly drunk.

He scrubs a hand over his face and sighs. If he’s going to do this, he better at least be safe about it. Last time he attended a Weequay party, he and Anakin woke up in a cell, tied together. He reaches out with the Force to scan his environment. The pirates are happy, sloppy, intent on pleasure and oblivion. No surprises there. He reaches further, seeking malice, threat, looming violence…. Nothing. But when he brushes against Hondo’s mind, the pirate captain’s sincerity is like a glass of cold water to the face. Obi-Wan inhales sharply and blinks.

Qui-Gon would understand. Perhaps. And if he wouldn’t, well, he can add it to the list of all the other reasons his Master would have to be disappointed in him.

He lets Hondo lead him into the hall.
___

 

The liquor is bracing. He hates it. It has none of the sweetness or subtlety of brandy, or the earthiness of scotch. It’s sour and burns. Hondo is mixing his with some kind of revoltingly sugary fruit juice. And, of course, it would be too much ask for there to be fucking ice on this Sith-damned hellhole.

He openly makes a face when he takes a sip from his third cup. Hondo laughs.

“Not to your taste, Jedi?”

Obi-Wan coughs. “I think it’s getting worse the more I drink.”

“Haha! That’s how you know it’s working. Don’t worry, soon it will taste like the finest Alderaanian summer wine.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Ah! You wound me, Kenobi. Why not?”

“For one, Alderaanian summer wine doesn’t taste like bantha piss. And for two, you are, after all, a pirate.”

Hondo laughs again. “I like you, Kenobi. I’m so glad we are friends now.” He claps him on the back and smiles.

Obi-Wan raises an eyebrow. “Are we?” He drains his cup.

“Of course!”

Obi-Wan sighs and nods. The booze has poured a liquid heat through his body and he is feeling fuzzy. He gives Hondo a half smile and swallows a sardonic comment about how, in that case, Hondo should take care because that probably means he’ll be dead soon.

He sets his cup down with more force than he intended. Hondo raises a eyebrow.

“Who knew Jedi could drink? That some kind of Force-power, Kenobi?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Obi-Wan retorts.

Hondo pats him on the knee, stands, and waves to a server. When the cluster of musicians sees him, a few members start chanting for him, and one of them holds up a guitar.

“Stay here, my friend. It seems we have reached that point of the evening.”

“What point?” Obi-Wan asks, brows knit. But Hondo is already moving across the room.

He hasn’t paid much attention to the music all evening, except to be dimly aware that the instruments are mainly strings and woodwinds. There’s an occasional drum and at times a vocalist has led a raunchy folksong. He is reminded of the clone troopers and their drinking songs. Cody is always trying to get him to join them, but he never has. He stands on the sidelines, smiling, proud and benevolent, but irrevocably apart. He knows Anakin drinks with his men sometimes and he doesn’t begrudge him that. It helps that it’s never gotten out of hand. But Anakin isn’t in charge of a third of GAR and on the Council.

He leans back in his chair, tilts his face up to the ceiling and takes a deep breath. He doesn’t want to think of Anakin and the Council and the GAR and Cody and Ahsoka. He just wants… He picks up his refilled cup and takes another sip. He snorts and chuckles under his breath. It does taste sweeter. Not Alderaanian summer wine, but less acerbic.

Across the room, someone is singing. He closes his eyes and lets himself drift into the music. The song is sweet and sad, about a maiden and her magic lover who has come from the sea. A lump forms in his throat. He squeezes his eyes shut against tears that threaten to escape. He is not going to cry like a drunk idiot in Hondo’s pirate headquarters. It’s bad enough that he’s here at all.

The singer’s voice has lilt that ever so faintly reminds him of Qui-Gon and his Master’s face drifts unbidden across his mind’s eye. The heat in his chest makes him think of Qui-Gon’s death blow. An ocean-tide of ancient sadness nearly pulls him under. He grits his teeth and digs his nails into his palms. Adi Gallia not ten hours dead and he’s not thinking about her, he's dwelling on his fallen Master.

He exhales a sigh that reeks of misery, resignation and self-reproach.

He is a Jedi Master. He should be above wallowing in self pity.

There is no emotion, there is peace.

Fuck. He should be a lot things.

He is not.

He takes another drink and welcomes the burning down his throat and increasing buzz. Pleasure may be beyond him, but he could do with a few hours of oblivion. Around him, the pirates are joining in the chorus with the singer, which his brain has finally determined is none other than Hondo. He notes, even in his impaired state, that more than one pirate has tears in their eyes. A few of the very drunk ones are openly weeping.

Hondo returns to their table. He slides into the chair beside Obi-Wan.

“You see, my Jedi friend, there is more to pirates than fighting!” he says, refiling Obi-Wan’s cup and then his own.

Obi-Wan clears his throat before speaking. He doesn’t want to sound hoarse. “You have a nice voice,” he says simply.

Hondo beams. “I know!” He flashes Obi-Wan a cocky grin.

“Can you sing, Kenobi?”

Obi-Wan shakes his head. “Not any more, Hondo.” He stares into his cup and lets silence fall. Hondo waits for a few breaths and then says, in an unexpectedly gentle voice, “So, this horned man. What did he do?”

Obi-Wan’s gaze snaps up and he narrows his eyes at Hondo.

“I’ve known you for years now, Jedi,” Hondo replies, unfazed. His voice is smooth and charming as ever. “Forgive me, but you seem…. A little…. How shall I say it?” He pauses. “Broken? Full of rage?”

Obi-Wan bolts to his feet. Hondo catches his arm, and when Obi-Wan looks down he sees understanding, knowing, in the man’s eyes. He shouldn’t trust it. He shouldn’t believe it. This man is his enemy. Sometimes. Sometimes, the whole galaxy is. But Hondo is not far off the mark, and he senses no ill will in the Force, so he lets the pirate captain draw him back down to his seat, where he slumps under his own private mountain of grief and responsibility. So heavy, too heavy, tonight. He feels as if he will break if he doesn’t tell someone. The Council, Anakin, Ahsoka, his men, no one knows, not really, what Maul took from him. He is very good at holding back, at deflection and silence… and hiding—even from himself.

“He killed the man I loved,” Obi-Wan breathes, barely audible to himself, but Hondo has moved closer. Their shoulders and knees are touching. The weight of his grief unfurls in his chest and threatens to suffocate him.

And then Hondo’s voice breaks through, sharp and cheerful and menacing. “Then you should kill him, yes?”

He should eschew such deliberate, personal violence. It is unbecoming a Jedi to give into anger, to want to cause pain or death. But the frankness with which Hondo speaks of revenge is liberating and unlocks a dark wish inside him that has been clamouring for air since he learned of Maul's resurrection.

“Oh, I intend to,” Obi-Wan responds, his voice low and full of steel.

“And what do the Jedi think of that?”

The sound Obi-Wan makes is somewhere between a scoff and a laugh. He thinks that Hondo maybe isn’t kidding when he says they are friends, because this is exactly what he needs right now. Anger—at Maul, at the Code, at himself—thrums deep and dangerous in his veins.

“Are you trying to be my conscience, Hondo? Keep me on the path?” He lets bitterness suffuse his words.

Hondo cocks an eyebrow. “Maybe I’m trying to push you. I could use a man like you in my company, Kenobi.”

Obi-Wan laughs again and the room swims ever so slightly as he levels his gaze at Hondo. “I’m sure you could. Yes, that’s right, pirate Kenobi. Maybe I’ll get a patch and my own monkey-lizard. Walk around in leather pants. Give up my lightsaber. Carry a blaster on my hip.”

“You can keep your lightsaber, Kenobi. But I want to see the pants.”

Obi-Wan smiles despite himself. He has the urge to laugh hysterically.

“I’ll bet you do,” he says with an arched eyebrow. It is an automatic conversational impulse-- Obi-Wan has learned to disarm people by flirting and it has saved him and his friends more times than he cares to admit. He knows Qui-Gon would hate it—but Qui-Gon would hate a lot of things about Obi-Wan now.

There is an unmistakable glint in Hondo’s eye when he speaks again and his presence in the Force flickers with desire. “Tell me, Kenobi, when was the last time someone gave you a good fucking?”

Obi-Wan takes a long, slow drink from his cup and swallows smoothly. Lust, anger, and a dark, self-destructive part of himself that he keeps buried under his grief twine together and Obi-Wan makes a decision. He looks Hondo in the eyes, and inhales. Hondo is frozen still and holding his breath. He takes another sip and then says, with deadly calm, “I think, Hondo, the more appropriate question is when was the last time I gave someone a good fucking?”

Hondo’s eyes darken and he blows out a breath and swallows. Obi-Wan feels a flutter of satisfaction about rendering the verbose pirate captain speechless. He stands up and drains his cup and puts it down with a click. Hondo is still staring at him, flushed and agape.

Obi-Wan crosses to the end of the hall. He knows the layout of Hondo’s headquarters from intelligence reports. He doesn’t have to look behind him to know that Hondo is following. He hears Hondo give orders to his men, as he goes through the doorway to a darkened hallway leading to the residential area.

When they reach Hondo’s chambers, Obi-Wan shoves him against the wall without a word. He kisses him without any softness. Hondo’s mouth is sour, but his tongue is skilled, and he’s strong, and Obi-Wan isn’t afraid to hurt him - and isn’t that just what he wants right now? So he opens himself up to the lust and anger and desperation and a darker rage woken by Maul and pours the seething mess into his kiss. There’s teeth and tongue and Hondo moans and drags his hands down Obi-Wan’s chest.

Hondo wants this. He’s already unbuckling Obi-Wan’s belt and pulling open his tunics. Obi-Wan grips Hondo’s cock through his breeches and squeezes.

“Careful, Jedi,” Hondo warns.

“No.”

“No, what?”

“Don’t call me Jedi here.” Obi-Wan’s voice is cold and threatening.

“Alright, Kenobi. Show me what you’re made of under these monk’s tunics.” It’s a deliberate jab and Obi-Wan has to restrain himself from hitting Hondo. Hondo can tell and he smiles, eyes daring. He winks.

When Obi-Wan slaps him across the face, Hondo moans and juts his hips forward.

Obi-Wan grabs him by the shoulders and pins him against the wall. His kisses are biting, forceful. Hondo tries to get the upper hand by gripping Obi-Wan’s biceps and pushing back. In the Force, Hondo is all lust. He’s playing, goading. He wants Obi-Wan to push him.

Obi-Wan is more than willing to oblige. He breaks Hondo’s grasp, hauls him to the bed by his shoulders and throws him down. Hondo laughs, catching Obi-Wan by the waistband of his pants and pulling him down on top of him. He kisses Obi-Wan roughly, tangles his hands in Obi-Wan’s tunics, yanks them over his head and tosses them across the room. Obi-Wan shoves his knee in between Hondo’s legs, earning him a gasp and moan. Hondo jerks his hips upwards and grabs Obi-Wan’s ass and grinds their cocks together.

Obi-Wan hisses. He can’t say he finds Hondo to be a beautiful man, but he has a certain charisma and he’s drunk enough that he just doesn’t fucking care. The cock rubbing against his is electric: it has been so long since anyone touched him this way. He can feel Hondo’s delight and desire in the Force and that’s hot. He’s a bit disgusted with himself that he’s so turned on by being wanted, but the feeling is soon lost in the morass of self-loathing and shame that’s been growing with his rage.

He wants power over this man in a way he’s never felt before. He thinks it’s twisted that his cock throbs when he imagines pinning Hondo down and fucking him until it hurts, but he can’t help himself. He can’t help anything any more. And anyway, Hondo is thrilled, writhing beneath him as Obi-Wan shoves his hands up his shirt, pinches nipples and scrapes nails down his chest. He rips Hondo’s pants and boots off in one fell swoop and Hondo laughs.

“Good work. That’s Jedi efficiency!”

Obi-Wan glares at him.

“Sorry, sorry. I got carried away!” Hondo sits up and pulls his shirt off. “That’s better. Now you can use those nails more freely, yes?” He grins. “Or teeth.”

A growl escapes him and Obi-Wan seizes Hondo’s leaking cock and pumps, leans over and bites his jaw, neck, nipple, squeezes his fist, jerks his knee against Hondo’s balls. Hondo fists a hand in his hair and Obi-Wan growls again and bites harder on Hondo’s nipple.

“Ahh! Maybe a little too hard, Kenobi.”

Obi-Wan freezes for second. His tightly wound control is fraying and unravelling. He breathes in and out, trying to reclaim some kind of balance, but the alcohol is strong and he is drowning in a well of feelings he never should have opened. Hondo releases his hand clenching Obi-Wan’s hair and gives his bicep a reassuring squeeze.

“It’s fine, Kenobi. Keep going.”

Obi-Wan swallows. He soothes the nipple with his tongue and sits back, a little stunned. Hondo grips his cock through his leggings and then reaches his hand under the waistband to stroke his erection. Hondo’s palm is smooth and warm and his cock throbs under the fluctuating pressure. Obi-Wan jerks his hips and gasps. He’s already leaking. He wants more pressure, more heat. He sucks two fingers on his right hand as he ruts into Hondo’s hand.

“That’s it. Now. Where are you going to put that?”

His answer to Hondo’s smart-ass comment it to grab him by the hips, flip him over, and pull his ass into the air. He slides his spit-soaked fingers into Hondo, who groans and pushes his ass against Obi-Wan’s hand.

“Such a gentleman, even in bed, Kenobi?”

“Shut up, Hondo.” He fucks Hondo’s ass with his fingers until he feels him relax. He spits into his left hand and coats his cock, stroking.

“Is this what you want?” Obi-Wan demands, withdrawing his fingers and lining up his cock to Hondo’s entrance.

“Ah! One second.” And then he’s hit in the face with a small foil packet. “No offence, but I don’t know where you’ve been.”

Obi-Wan barks out a laugh. “Fair enough.” He unwraps the condom and slips it on. He slaps his cock against Hondo’s cheeks and Hondo moans and opens his legs wider.

“Don’t.” Obi-Wan warns.

“What?”

“No lightsaber jokes.”

“Hah! So you can read minds sometimes, yeah? Ok, Kenobi, no lightsaber jokes. Just fuck me with that magnificent cock of yours.”

And so he does. He pushes into Hondo, sinks his fingers into his hips and starts pounding. Hondo’s enthusiastic cries go straight to his cock and he lets his body’s instincts take over.

He can’t do this anywhere—lose himself, open, relax his control. Everyone around him is under his command, depending on him, even most Jedi. Not that there’s any comfort to be found at the Temple anyway - only cold duty.

But Hondo is warm and openly enjoying himself. Delight and pleasure radiate from him in the Force. It almost breaks Obi-Wan’s heart because he hasn’t felt that kind of delight or joy....since… since Qui-Gon was alive.

He has moments with Anakin and Ahsoka, but never open—he’s always, always the Master. He is tired and angry and so lonely, so lonely. He loses himself in a punishing rhythm, chasing his release in oblivion that waits for him at the end of the push-pull-push-pull of his cock in Hondo’s tight heat. He lets the war and misery and violence and rage and grief fall away, lets his mind go blank from the raw physical sensation.

For one bright second, he’s just Obi-Wan.

His orgasm slams into him, blinding, sharp and almost painful. He is dimly aware of Hondo coming beneath him. He keels over Hondo and slumps to the side, his spent cock sliding out with a wet slap.

“Well done, Kenobi. I’m going to feel that for a week.”

Obi-Wan just grunts, kicks off his boots and crawls farther up the bed. He collapses onto his back and manages to pull the condom off. Hondo takes it from him and drops a towel onto his groin. He feels Hondo settle onto the bed and pull the covers over them.

“Goodnight, my friend,” he hears Hondo say faintly, as sleep claims him.

———

He wakes to the sound of his comm beeping and hears Hondo answer it.

“Yes, yes, Jedi Masters, Kenobi is fine. He just needed some, ah, medical attention. I don’t kill men who save my life—or my cargo.” The tiny blue Mace Windu says something, but all Obi-Wan can hear is squeaky chatter.

“Another six hours you say? That’s not a problem. Skywalker, eh? Dark hair? Kind of snarky? I remember him. I’ll be sure to relay your message to Kenobi when he wakes up in our… infirmary.” More chatter. “Of course, he’s our guest! The way the war is going out here, I want to be on your good side, yes? Have a lovely day! Night? Whatever it is over there. Ta, ta,” Hondo says, closing with a kind of sing-song cadence. He clicks off the comm and tosses it back on top of Obi-Wan’s tunics.

“Your Jedi friends, they’re very worried about you,” Hondo says, climbing back onto the bed. Obi-Wan rolls over to face him and just grunts in response. Shit. He’s definitely still drunk. He can’t have slept more than a few hours and his head feels like it’s full of cotton.

“Six hours?” he says hoarsely. “They’re sending Anakin?”

“That’s what they told me. He’s on Felucia or something.”

Obi-Wan wants to ask Hondo if they seemed suspicious about why the pirate was answering a Jedi Master’s comm, but he doesn’t want Hondo to know he’s feeling vulnerable about his choices where the Council is concerned. Though, he supposes, it’s not like anyone on the Council is going to conjure this particular scenario in thousand years. There isn’t a Jedi or a clone from here to Ilum who would believe Hondo if he bragged about it.

Hondo raises an eyebrow suggestively. “Six hours?” He runs his hand down Obi-Wan’s chest to his groin, where Obi-Wan’s already half-hard. His hips rock forward of their own volition. He sighs as Hondo begins to stroke him and then reaches up to nudge Hondo’s head downwards.

Hondo chuckles. “Subtle, eh? Okay fine, but afterwards, it’s my turn to give you a good fucking. Deal?”

His still-drunk, touch-starved insides flip over at the thought of Hondo’s sizeable cock. His body wants things and he’s done fighting. “Fine,” he answers. And then Hondo’s mouth is on him, hot and wet, sucking and licking. He closes his eyes and lays back and lets Hondo bring him to the edge. When Hondo’s tongue drifts lower, he taps the Weequay’s cheek lightly.

“That’s enough.”

“Suit yourself,” he replies with a shrug and sits back. He produces another condom from somewhere and slides it onto his rigid cock. He sucks two fingers and moves to open Obi-Wan up.

“Wait.”

Hondo raises an eyebrow while Obi-Wan turns around.

“Okay, fine. We can do it like this. I prefer face to face, but…”

“No.”

“Suit yourself,” Hondo repeats and slips his fingers inside Obi-Wan and starts sliding them back and forth. It’s been years, probably close to a decade since he’s done this with anyone, but his muscle memory is reliable and soon he’s pushing into Hondo’s fingers and craving more.

“Now,” he bites out.

“Excellent,” says Hondo, gleeful, and shoves his cock into Obi-Wan.

The feeling of fullness is overwhelming, and for a minute it feels like all the air has been pushed out of his lungs. There’s a slight pain while his body adjusts, but its transitory and dissolves into arousal. Hondo is firm, but not violent. He talks about Obi-Wan's pretty body and how he's wanted to do this for ages. He smacks Obi-Wan’s ass almost affectionately. But Obi-Wan is not listening. He isn't thinking of Hondo at all. So he lets Hondo be sweet and moves his hips in time with him, savouring the feeling of not being alone, of having his body in contact... of not being so empty.

He knows the shame will burn him alive afterwards, but he can't help it: he imagines Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon's hands on his hips, Qui-Gon's mouth in his ear, Qui-Gon's tongue down his back, Qui-Gon's cock filling him up. He squeezes his eyes shut against tears and focuses on the physical pleasure. He grips his own aching cock and strokes, imagines Qui-Gon's voice saying things that he could never say in life, probably would never have said: "You're so beautiful, Obi-Wan, so precious to me. I want you. I need you. Come for me."

His imagination takes over and for a moment he believes it. Every part of him feels like he’s unravelling. He shudders as his orgasm overtakes him, honey-sweet, like fire dripping through his limbs, desire so sharp he is still hard.

Behind him, Hondo shouts as he comes, slamming into Obi-Wan and sending another wave of orgasm through him. His cock twitches in his hand, slippery and starting to soften. He feels Hondo pull out and is grateful to be spared the wet mess of his cum. He flops forward onto the bed, drags a pillow towards him and buries his face just in time to stifle a sob.

When he wakes, he will purge the last of the alcohol from his system. He will shake out his robes and get dressed. He will don his Jedi Master mask and raise his shields and solemnly bring Adi Gallia’s corpse back to the Temple. He will bow his head in humility and he will try to atone for his failures. He will bury his shame and despair and grief-laden love beneath strata of duty and responsibility and honour. He will try to forget his ancient dream of Qui-Gon made flesh here in Hondo’s bed because it is too base and too repulsive to be associated with his shining, kind-eyed Master, and so he will bury this too.

But for now, he weeps as silently as he can into Hondo’s pillow and lets his tears loosen the knot of pain in his chest. He gasps despite himself, his body seeking air in exchange for water.

Hondo doesn’t say anything as he drapes the bedcovers over his chilled body. The Weequay pats his hair twice, so lightly that Obi-Wan wonders if he imagined it.

When he falls asleep, he dreams of yellow eyes and a red saber.

———

Six hours later, Obi-Wan stands in parade rest by his broken ship while Anakin strides back down the ramp.

“Yeah, you weren’t kidding. It’s totally fucked. There’s no way it’s going to fly,” Anakin calls.

Obi-Wan just nods and Anakin’s brows furrow.

“You okay, Master?” he asks softly, eyes full of worry. “No witty quip about how you’re a competent pilot and already told me that ten minutes ago?”

“I’m fine, Anakin,” he replies, lying through his teeth. “Are we ready to go?”

“Um. Yeah. Rex has already moved Master Gallia. We can leave whenever you’re ready.”

“Good.” He looks back towards the pirate hall and sees Hondo meandering toward them.

“Skywalker! Good to see you again,” Hondo announces, arms outstretched in performed magnanimity.

Anakin’s confusion is all over his face. “Uh. Sure. You... too. Thanks for, you know, not killing my Master.”

“Don’t you worry. We took good care of him. Couldn’t get him to sing, but what can you do? Next time.”

Anakin’s eyebrows jump and he glances wide-eyed at Obi-Wan.

“You can keep the ship for scrap metal. We’ve wiped the drives. You’ll tell us if Maul or Savage resurface in this sector,” Obi-Wan says smoothly.

“Certainly, certainly. I’d love to kill him myself, but I like my guts too much. The honour will be all yours.”

Obi-Wan inhales sharply and fights the urge to grit his teeth. He gives Hondo a tight nod.

“You’re alright, Kenobi,” Hondo says smiling. He pats him on the arm. “I’ll see you on the other side of this war. Hey, if you have the chance, kill Dooku for me, would you? Then maybe we can have another party.”

Obi-Wan snorts and his mouth twists into a half-smile. “I’ll do my best.”

He offers his hand out to Hondo and as they shake hands, their eyes lock. “Take care of yourself, Kenobi,” Hondo says, with genuine warmth and a hint of concern in his gaze.

“You too, Hondo. You too,” Obi-Wan says softly and means it. He gives a shallow bow and ignores Anakin’s subtle gasp.

As he walks through the sand and scrub to Anakin’s ship, he is grateful for Anakin’s longer strides that keep him a few feet ahead of him. He wants a last few minutes alone with his thoughts before the gravity of Maul’s escape and the inevitable confrontation with the Council become actual agenda items on his never-ending, ever-growing list.

He takes a deep breath, drawing in the scent of the earth and the wiry plants and their occasional purple blossoms. Perhaps he should have meditated here in the rocky, barren landscape, with the sun and sky so close. Perhaps the quiet wind would have brought him a deeper sense of balance or ease. But the soothing ache in his muscles and echo of fullness in his gut deliver a peace that the earth and sky have denied him for years. For the first time, he finds himself wondering whether they could ever restore what he lost on Naboo.