Obi-Wan Kenobi was great at hiding. He often considered it one of his best skills, spying on enemies undetected or sneaking around the rafters of a heavily guarded building. The thing about hiding, though, is that it’s usually a short-term enterprise. After a few minutes of gathering intel or staking out a prime battle position, it’s time to slink away or make a grand entrance. Living your entire life hiding out, however, was a decidedly different affair.
He had been on Tatooine for a little over a year, now, but he was still working out the kinks of staying inconspicuous enough to be ignored. He had tried to go into the small oasis near his home as little as necessary, but taking so long between trips made his eventual visits all the more noticeable. If he went too often, though, then he would be a regular, one that the other patrons would remember easily if questioned by any Imperial forces. He had decided to go in roughly every two weeks, at different times of the day, as to seem natural but also not so forced. He would usually have a drink and buy some supplies and try to get out before anyone started a long conversation with him. It was a lonely way to live, but it was what had to be done.
On his last trip, he had seen a thin woman with a heavy shawl pulled up over her head studiously gazing in his direction from her booth. He thought he had seen a long piece of blonde hair fall out from her head covering but he couldn’t be sure. Uneasy, Obi-Wan had left early that day, not sure if she was a bounty hunter or someone who may have recognized him from a most wanted list. He thought about skipping his next visit, just to be safe, but he had no choice. His eopie was on her last bit of feed and he couldn’t, in good conscience, delay in buying her more.
When he got to the oasis, he cleared his mind and tried to feel for the presence of the mysterious woman, but no disturbances came to him, so he went about his usual business. There was a big podrace in Mos Eisley today, so the cantina was emptier than usual, except for a few vocal gamblers who were glued to the holoscreens depicting the event. Podraces always reminded him of Anakin, even though he had not actually seen him win the Boonta Eve Classic. Feeling a twinge of sadness, he gulped down the rest of his drink and was ready to be off until he overheard some pirates bragging from a nearby booth.
“Yessir, that haul is gonna take care of us f’r quite awhile. We livin’ the high life, now!”
“And the Empire’ll never know it was us, they think some anti-Imperial wackos ripped off that starship! Even ol’ Vader won’t be able to figure it out.”
Obi-Wan had to grip the counter to keep from whirling around and immediately demanding more information. Surely, he hadn’t heard right, Vader, Anakin, was dead. No one could have survived how Obi-Wan had left him.
“He’s s’pose to be pretty powerful, though, huh?”
“Who, Vader? Load of bantha fodder, if you ask me. M’brother told me he heard he was just a trooper in a scary get-up.”
Suddenly, there was a large crash on the podrace and the pirates’ conversation turned to how much money they were going to make off of it. Obi-Wan felt sick, he had to figure out a way to verify the pirates’ story. He could contact Bail Organa, although it would be incredibly risky to both of them. Perhaps, Qui-Gon could help him; they had finally started communicating through the Force. Yes, he thought, meditation with Qui-Gon should do the trick.
He rushed home, his mind racing with numerous, alternative explanations for what the pirates had said. Perhaps, Palpatine was propping up Vader’s existence until he found a new apprentice? Or maybe Obi-Wan had heard wrong, the cantina’s Holonet had been loud.
Once inside, he immediately sat down and began to clear his mind.
Master Qui-Gon, I overheard the most distressing rumor in the cantina this afternoon. There is a chance Darth Vader, Anakin, is alive! This cannot be, can it Master? The state I left him in on Mustafar was impossible to survive. I know that I should have dealt a final blow, to erase all the doubt I now have, but I left it up to the will of the Force. I could not make that decision myself.
Is he alive, Master? I must know. It’s important for my mission, if Luke’s father is alive, he might come looking for him and-
“What in the blazes…?” he muttered under his breath. He had been so focused that he missed the presence knocking at his door, a concerning detail for an exiled man. One hand on his lightsaber, he crept towards the entrance, trying to search the mind of his visitor. It was a woman, and she seemed tired and anxious, which assuaged Obi-Wan’s fears a bit. A bounty hunter or Imperial officer would surely be more confident to knock first.
Carefully, he opened the door. It was the woman from the bar, her hood pulled up tight over her face.
“How may I help you on this crisp desert evening, miss?”
She lifted her head, pulling her hood back. Her blonde hair was longer now, even a bit scraggly, but her face was still as he remembered. She looked cross at him.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are the most infuriating person in the galaxy to find, even for a former Duchess.”
She dropped her scowl and wrapped her arms around him. His shock prevented him from immediately embracing her back, having not seen her since they had escaped from Maul and Savage Oppress on Mandalore. He had sent her into hiding with her sister, refusing to let her tell him where she was until the war was over. After Palpatine had declared himself Emperor, he never expected to see her again.
“I don’t understand, why are you here?” he finally asked, pulling back to look at her. “How are you here?”
“It’s nice to see you, too,” she said sarcastically before continuing. “I came looking for you. After I heard about what had happened to the Jedi, I feared the worst, but a few months ago, I saw your name on a Top Ten Most Wanted list and knew you had to be alive,” she explained, reaching up to cup his cheek. “I see you kept the beard, even in exile.”
“But how, how did you find me?” He was touched that she would come looking for him, but maybe he had not thought out his hideout plan as well as he should have.
“Bo and I had been trying to make our way to Theed, to see Senator Amidala, when everything happened,” she said sadly, eyes cast downward. “Of course, she was gone by the time we arrived. We made our way to Alderaan, next, to find Bail Organa, I knew he and Padme had been close. I wanted to see if he could help us find out what was happening on Mandalore. It was on the way there that I saw your poster in one of the weigh stations.”
“What number was I?”
“Hm, I would’ve thought I was more wanted than that,” he joked. She rolled her eyes at him before continuing.
“It took us awhile to get in contact with the Senator, he’s, understandably, become quite protective of his family. Did you know he has a daughter, now?”
“Er, no, I did not. That’s wonderful.”
If she had noticed his lie, she didn’t say anything, as she finished her story. She and her sister had eventually been able to contact Bail and arrange a meeting, where he told them of Mandalore’s fate (it was given amnesty, in return for becoming a base for mercenaries employed by the Empire). Bail wouldn’t tell Satine anything about Obi-Wan until Bo-Katan had left, and then, he had only revealed that he was on Tatooine.
“So, Bo and I split up. She’s making her way back to Mandalore, to see if there is any sort of underground resistance, and I came here. I’ve been going town to town, until I saw you in the cantina last week. I tried to follow you then but I had no idea you lived so far out in the wastelands, I had to secure myself an eopie to follow you out here,” she finished, finally removing her cloak. “You chose the dustiest and most desolate planet in the galaxy to live.”
“It’s not so bad, once you get used to it,” he said, inviting her to sit on his sofa. “Watching the suns set can be quite beautiful.”
“Yes, I’m sure that completely makes up for it,” she said sarcastically, sitting down. “Not that I should complain, there were very few Stormtroopers here, especially compared to everywhere else I’ve been.”
“Stormtroopers? Is that what they’re calling the clones, now?”
“Yes, although I don’t think they’re all clones, anymore. I suppose they wanted to distance themselves from the war, since the conflict is over,” she sighed.
“Shouldn’t you be happy? You’re the one who so desperately wanted the war to be over.”
“Not like this,” she said softly, placing her hand on his. “Oh Obi, all your friends. I’m so sorry.”
“Yes, well,” he trailed off, unsure how to respond. What was there to say? He and the Jedi had failed and now they were all but extinct. Satine said nothing, instead giving his hand a long squeeze.
After taking a few moments to collect himself, Obi-Wan stood up and made his way to the kitchen. “I’ve completely forgotten my manners, Duchess. Would you like something to drink? You came a long way, if you followed me from the oasis, you must be thirsty.”
She chuckled. “You don’t have to keep calling me that, you know. But yes, some water would be lovely.”
“Old habits die hard,” he grinned, pouring her water and himself some Corellian whiskey. “To old friends finding each other.”
“To old friends being found,” she smiled, clinking her glass against his.
They spent the rest of the evening catching up, with Obi-Wan doing most of the listening. The less he had to talk, the less he would have to lie to her about everything that had happened at the end of the war. Plus, he was just happy to hear someone else’s voice, for once, he’d gotten so sick of his own. When it was time to turn in, Obi-Wan insisted Satine take his bed, which was a little alcove carved out in the side of his living room, while he settled in on the couch. He still needed to discover the truth about Vader, but for the moment, Satine’s presence had calmed him enough that he was able to fall asleep faster than he had in months.
Lava, fire, heat, flashes of blue lights sparking against the backdrop of machinery, fear.
“It’s over, Anakin, I have the high ground.”
“You underestimate my power!”
“Don’t try it.”
Burning flesh, anger.
“You were the chosen one! It was said you would destroy the Sith, not join them! To bring balance to The Force, not leave it in darkness!”
Yellow eyes, hate.
“I hate you!”
“You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you.”
Mechanical limbs, black, breathing.
“Lord Vader, can you hear me?”
“Obi-Wan! Wake up!”
“…you killed her.”
“Please, wake UP!”
Shaking, erupting, yelling, suffering.
He jerked awake, immediately summoning his lightsaber before realizing where he was. Satine was gripping his shoulders, her face filled with worry.
“It’s me, you’re awake, now,” she said quietly.
He dropped his lightsaber, shaking the dream off. “Sorry, was I talking in my sleep?”
“The entire house was trembling. And,” she added, holding up one of his boots. “This nearly hit me in the face, along with one of your bowls.”
“Oh dear, apologies Duchess. Must have been having quite the dream,” he grinned uneasily, trying to play it off.
“Don’t even try that,” she said testily. “We’ve slept in close quarters plenty of times and I’ve never seen you do this. What’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing, really, I’m fine-,”
“Ben. Tell me,” she cut him off, using the secret nickname she used to call him when they had first been together. Hearing her use it for the first time in well over a decade reminded him of the numerous intimate conversations and nights they’d shared back then, and that she would not be placated by his “half-truths and hyperbole”, as she had once so memorably said.
“Satine, I will tell you, but I have to ask you something, first. Does the Emperor have a second-in-command?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
He looked at her pleadingly. “Please, just tell me.”
“Well, yes, his name is Darth Vader. I believe he’s part machine or non-human, he wears a mechanical suit of sorts. Palpatine uses him to intimidate the last of the separatists,” she explained as his face fell. “Did you know him? Was he a Jedi?”
“I thought I did,” he murmured, burying his face in his hands. “I fought him, before I came here. I thought I defeated him, but, apparently, I failed.”
She moved next to him on the sofa and began to lightly rub his back. “I’m sure you did everything you could.”
“That’s the thing, though. I didn’t. I could have ended it, but it…it was too hard. And my dream replayed it all, including all the pain I put him through. I should have seen it coming, we all should have,” he said heavily.
“You were distracted by that despicable war, we all were,” she sympathized. “I missed corruption and treachery in my own government, and with how widespread the Jedi were, it’s no wonder you couldn’t see whoever this was turning to the darkness.”
Obi-Wan knew she was trying to soothe him, but now he just felt worse. It would have been one thing if a Jedi he barely knew had become Palpatine’s lapdog, but this had been Anakin, his apprentice, his friend, his brother. He shrugged her off and went to get a drink.
“I appreciate that you’re trying to help, but you’ll never understand. This is Jedi business.”
Instantly, all the compassion drained from Satine’s face. She whipped around to face him, her eyes narrowed. “How dare you treat me like I’m some simpleton who’s too stunted to ‘understand’ you! Did you not just hear me remind you of how my very own prime minister betrayed me, that my own government and people fell for the treachery of Pre Vizsla and I had to flee from my home?! In case you’ve forgotten, my dear Obi-Wan, you are not the only one who’s on the run, here.”
He said nothing, instead keeping his focus on the bottom of his glass. He deserved the verbal barrage he was receiving.
Snatching his bottle of whiskey, she continued her rant. “After I risk my life to come see you, to come be with you, you shut me out! And for what? The Jedi, who don’t even exist anymore!”
Obi-Wan’s head shot up, twisting around to face her. She covered her mouth and stuttered. “I-I shouldn’t have said that, I’m so sorry.”
“You’re not wrong,” he sighed. “There is no Jedi council, no Order, there are barely any Jedi at all. But I owe it to them, Satine.”
“What do you mean?”
He swallowed the last of his drink, letting the liquor burn his throat. Too ashamed of what he was about to say, he squeezed his eyes shut. “I knew Vader. Fought alongside him in the Clone Wars, had numerous missions together. I thought I knew him, I thought I could protect him. I cared deeply for him, too deeply. And now, all this,” he waved his hand around in a fleeting motion. “Could have been prevented if I had just done my duty and seen him for what he was, a troubled young man who grew into a monster, one I should have taken down when I had the chance. But I didn’t, and now the whole galaxy suffers. And that’s why I remain loyal to the Jedi, above all else, Satine. Because it’s my fault there are so few of us left.”
The kitchen became so still, Obi-Wan was half-sure that Satine was a figment, conjured up by his guilt, until he felt her hands carefully take his whiskey glass away. She then wrapped her arms around him, pulling him in close to her. Overcome by her warmth, he crumbled against her small frame. He had forgotten what it was like to be embraced, how it could be both soothing and overwhelming all at once.
Still holding him, Satine whispered tenderly. “This is not your fault, Ben.”
“Satine, it-,” he protested before she cut him off.
“This is not your fault,” she repeated, this time with a lot more grit.
“Then whose is it?”
“Palpatine,” she spat, gripping Obi-Wan so tight he could feel her nails through his tunic. “That treacherous old piece of bantha fodder. I never did trust him.”
He couldn’t help but laugh. “Wow, Duchess, where did you pick up that piece of dialect?”
“Oh hush, you know it’s true. He manipulated us all and got away with it, there is no insult too low for him.”
Straightening up, Obi-Wan chuckled again. “I haven’t seen you so riled up since we quarreled aboard The Coronet. It’s nice to not be on the receiving end, for once.”
She sighed, brushing a piece of hair out of his face. “You never change, do you?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You always change the subject when I try to talk to you about anything important,” she explained, loosening her grip. “Especially when it involves your feelings.”
“Jedi are not really known for being very emotional, my dear Duchess,” he countered. “Balance is essential, something I’d assume the Leader of Neutral Systems would understand.”
“I never said I didn’t understand, my dear Jedi. Politics can be as tricky a balancing act as anything I’ve seen you do with a lightsaber,” she said, before letting go of him to pour herself a drink. “I was simply pointing out that the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
“True,” he admitted, adding. “You even called me ‘Ben’ earlier.”
She smiled. “I wasn’t sure if you’d even remember your old nickname, it was so long ago.”
“Of course I do. It’s what I go by, now,” he said nonchalantly.
“Really?” she eyes widened. “Of all the names, that’s what you decided on?”
“I always liked it, short and simple. Besides, ‘Ben Kenobi’ has a nice ring to it, don’t you agree?”
“Well, I don’t know how smart it is to go by your real last name when you’re hiding out from Imperials, but I do like it,” she agreed, before finishing her glass of whiskey.
“Kenobi is a very popular surname, I’ll have you know,” he pointed his index finger at her, which she playfully shoved out of her face.
“Yes, the galaxy is just littered with Kenobis, I’m sure of it.”
“Well, if you are suddenly the expert on this, what name have you been traveling under?” Facetiously, he crossed his arms and raised an exaggerated, skeptical eyebrow.
“A few different ones, Bo knows a Rodian who is very adept at making false identifications. The one I’m using now is ‘Vahla Johcon’, from the Yavin system. You’ll notice that it is nothing like my real name, my dear,” she smirked.
“My, my, you have really gotten quite adept at this whole ‘living in the shadows’ thing, haven’t you?”
She pushed herself up to sit on the edge of Obi-Wan’s counter, her legs dangling next to his. Despite having no support, her back stayed poised and straight. “It’s not the first time, I remember quite a lot of hiding and running around when you and Master Jinn were my bodyguards. And being dropped,” she added with a sly grin.
Obi-Wan rolled his eyes but he couldn’t help to laugh as well. “Drop a Duchess once and you never stop hearing about it.”
“Well, it did hurt, and I still have the scar to prove it.”
“Do you really, or do you just tell me that to make me feel guilty?”
Pointing her leg at him, she hoisted up her nightgown to show off a small but significant piece of discolored skin near her knee. “See?”
Holding her calf, he swiped his thumb over it. “I stand corrected.”
“I always thought it would eventually fade away but it never did,” she remarked quietly.
“I have quite a few of those, myself,” he said somberly, flashes of various red lightsaber beams and a lone blue one replaying in his mind. “Even if they fade almost to nothing, they’re never altogether gone.”
Still holding onto her leg, his gaze focused on the jagged scar. He saved her life that day, carrying her to safety from venom-mites, before losing his bearings and accidentally dropping her onto a few sharp rocks. His Force-sensitivity wasn’t as sharp as it would later become, but now, he longed for those days of inexperience and clumsiness. If he had never honed his Jedi training, or if he had stopped altogether, Anakin would have never been his apprentice, and maybe, everything would have been different.
“Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if I had stayed with you?” he asked her, his voice dry.
“Sometimes, more often lately,” she admitted, tapping her fingers against his wrist. Obi-Wan’s heart raced; that had been one of their signals to sneak off when they were younger. “I don’t know if it would have changed anything, but I like to believe we would have had a good life.”
Every instinct that the Jedi had taught him was loudly insisting that he grin, make a small joke, and send Satine to bed, alone. He heard Yoda lecturing him on making attachments and how they were a dangerous distraction, he remembered Qui-Gon kindly but firmly admonishing him, obstinate that he was better off to let Satine go. But, he also recalled Anakin, teasing him aboard The Coronet, calling Satine Obi-Wan’s “girlfriend”, prodding him to open up about their old relationship. Maybe if Obi-Wan had never listened to his old masters, that bright, funny, young man would still exist, and he would have his own family, his own “good life”. Gazing up at Satine, he squeezed all of those old Jedi instincts out of his mind.
“Do you think we still could? Even just for a short time?”
Sliding off the counter, Satine looped her arms around his neck and asserted. “I think we won’t know unless we try.”
With no hesitation, he wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her. It had been almost two decades since they had last embraced, a long goodbye the night before he and his master left Mandalore, but now, all that time felt like nothing more than a short interruption. As they stumbled towards the bed and clothes were cast off, Obi-Wan gave himself fully over to Satine, letting himself get truly lost in her presence in a way he had never been able to before. Tonight, it was just the two of them, all tangled limbs and messy hair, with none of the guilt and fear that had defined their previous dalliance. He would still have to deal with the Vader revelation in the dawn, but for now, he could pretend that he’d never left Mandalore, never watched his mentor die, never raised the man who would betray them all, never lost so much. Her appearance was a gift from the Force, it had to be. What else could explain how she’d arrived at the exact moment he needed her? As his head hit the pillow and she grinned devilishly above him, he swore to himself that he’d try to make her time here worth the while.
Obi-Wan awoke the next morning to a loud crash in his kitchen, which considering his small home, may as well have been the bedroom. Throwing on his robe, he went to investigate.
Satine was perched on a footstool, trying to reach something in the pantry, and evidently, failing.
“Do you need some help?”
“I’ve got it, thank you,” she replied hastily, hopping down with a large pan in hand. “Do you even use this? It looks like it’s never been touched.”
“Not really, I usually eat ration bars.”
She shook her head. “I’ll never understand how you can eat those. There’s nothing to them, don’t you miss actual cooked meals?”
“I can get by on them,” he shrugged before raising his eyebrow at her. “Wait, are you going to cook? Since when have you ever cooked for yourself?”
“I’ve learned to do a lot of things since I left Mandalore,” she said simply.
“Color me impressed, Duchess.”
“I told you to stop calling me that,” she reprimanded before rifling through his cabinets for ingredients. “Goodness, you would have no idea anyone lived here judging by this kitchen. How long did you say you’ve been here?”
“A little over a year.”
“A whole year and you have a house this threadbare? What have you even been doing this whole time?”
“Oh, a little of this, a little of that,” he boasted, theatrically twirling a fork she had laid out. “Going out nightly, being a reckless partier, letting hundreds of beings see me in good lighting, the usual stuff for a man in hiding.”
“You’re not funny,” she huffed, pointing a kitchen knife at him. She had given up on finding any substantial food and was chopping up some fruit. “Seriously, what do you do out here? It’s so desolate.”
He plucked a piece of the deb-deb she had cut up. “I’ve been writing, meditating, keeping up with my Jedi exercises, just in case someone less bloodthirsty than yourself were to find…me.” He had to pause to remember not to say “him.”
“Writing? What about?”
“Oh, mostly Jedi stuff. I don’t know what, if any, of the Temple is left and all our records were stored there. Our history needs to be preserved. Unfortunately, it’s been hard for me to remember everything. So many wars and conflicts…,” he trailed off, suddenly very interested in the tines of his fork.
Satine gave his hand a comforting squeeze. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s alright, I’m not upset, just…,” he wasn’t sure how to finish the thought. The irony of the Jedi, designated peace keepers of the galaxy, having fought in numerous wars had never been lost on him, but it was especially painful now.
After a bit of silence, Satine promptly stood up and dusted off her clothes. “Well, I think that is enough of that for the day, we have enough else to do. Come on, get dressed.”
“What? What in the blazes do we have to do?”
She motioned to his naked walls and furnishings. “Look at this place! There’s so much to done!”
“Yes, we’ve established that I don’t have much, so what’s there to do?”
“Everything! If you’ve been here a year, I’m correct in assuming that you plan to be here for awhile, yes?”
He nodded, she continued. “Then we need to make this place a home, my dear Obi-Wan. Not just a replica of some generic bunk from a starship.”
“But I don’t really have much to work with, and besides, I’m not spending money on doo-dads and things just to make this place prettier.”
“So unimaginative,” she shook her head, smiling all the same. “All that time you spent on Mandalore and you learned nothing about art and design.”
“In fairness, I was pretty occupied by my duties,” he grinned in spite of himself.
Laughing, Satine went about arranging and rearranging Obi-Wan’s modest belongings. He honestly had no idea what the point was to any of it, but just having Satine around and watching her attempt to make a wall decoration out of a handful of rocks she found outside was worth the confusion.
Later that day, after she had finally exhausted all of the decorating possibilities Obi-Wan’s meager furnishings allowed, Satine curled up in his sitting chair with a dusty book she had found.
“Is that a paper book?” he asked, shocked. Flimsiplast had all but replaced paper in the Inner Rim centuries ago.
She nodded. “I found it tucked behind the sofa. Seems to just be a children’s storytelling book, but fascinating all the same. I wonder if these are still popular here in the Outer Rim?”
“Perhaps. Technology is quite outdated here, many of the droids I’ve seen are models that came out before I was born.”
“I suppose that explains why you came here,” she commented, still leafing through the book. “Less tech, less opportunities for your face to pop up on a Holonet broadcast.”
Shifting in his seat, he tried to reply convincingly. “Yes, I remembered how isolated Tatooine was from a previous mission with Master Qui-Gon. The Hutts control everything out here, they don’t seem to care about political allegiances unless it impedes on their ability to make money.”
She stared at him with a skeptical eye. “Really? You’ve dealt with these gangsters before and you thought it would be safe to hide out here? That does not seem very intelligent, Master Jedi.”
He cringed inwardly, realizing how ill prepared he was for questions about this. He trusted Satine, but if something were to ever happen to her, if the Empire was to find her and interrogate her, she could be forced against her will to reveal anything she knew about him. It was dicey enough that she knew where he lived, he absolutely couldn’t risk Luke’s well-being by telling her about the real reason he was on this desert planet.
“Well, we weren’t dealing with the Hutts directly when Master Jinn and I were here. It was right before the Battle of Naboo, we had helped Senator Amidala, then Queen Amidala, escape from the Trade Federation. We landed here looking for a new hyperdrive for her ship,” he explained, pointedly leaving out the detail about the exceptional young slave that his Master freed.
“Ah, I see,” she said, a flicker of grief in her eyes at the mention of her friend. After a moment of silence, she spoke up again.
“Tomorrow I think I am going to go back to the oasis and buy some supplies, would it be alright with you if I borrowed your eopie?”
“Of course. And where are my manners, I should have introduce you two,” he stood up, opening the door for her to go out to the eopie’s pen. She followed, grabbing a handful of feed that he kept by the entryway. “Satine, this is Rooh.”
Rooh was grazing lazily against the backdrop of the setting suns. She had found a nice little patch of desert lichens to munch on and didn’t seem interested in the store-bought feed Satine was offering her.
Sensing her frustration, Obi-Wan reached through the Force to find Rooh and urged her to come towards them. Eopies were famously stubborn but a little prod here or there was all it took for him to get Rooh to trust him. Soon, she ambled over to the couple, using her long snout to gobble up the feed Satine had brought her.
“I forgot how gifted you were with creatures,” she said, giggling when Rooh’s tongue tickled her palm. “Handy out here, the eopie I rode on yesterday was quite glad to be rid of me when I dismounted.”
“Did you wrangle it yourself?” he asked, chuckling. “My, my, Duchess, you certainly are a long way from the Mandalorian palace.”
“Well, I had some help, but none that required payment, as I didn’t want to leave any sort of money trail. This is not my first day on the run,” she pointed out. “And believe me, my dear Jedi, I am quite aware of how far from my old life I am.”
Hesitantly, he reached for her free hand. “I believe that’s something you, I, and much of the galaxy have in common.”
Tapping her fingers against his wrist, she gazed out at the sunset. “I hope we can all get back to it, someday.”
Obi-Wan said nothing. The war was over and the only hopes for the Republic were barely old enough to walk. ‘Someday’ was quite far into the future, if at all.
The next morning, Satine and Rooh left early to beat the midday heat, leaving Obi-Wan alone for the first time since he had learned of Anakin’s, no, Vader’s survival. There were no more excuses or distractions, he was going to have to deal with this, especially the debate on whether to tell Owen and Beru Lars. Meditation would surely settle his mind.
After shutting out all the natural and artificial light, he sat cross-legged and began to clear his mind and take slow, steady breaths.
Is it important that Owen and Beru know of Darth Vader? They already know that keeping Luke safe and off the radar of any Imperial forces is important, and no one in the Empire knows that he exists at all. I fear telling them may lead them to act out rashly or refuse to be Luke’s guardians any longer.
Although, if I did not tell them and they found out some other way, while unlikely, is still possible, they could shut me out, and not allow me to train Luke and be in his life. And as Luke’s adoptive parents, do they not have a right to know? Satine would think so, her proclivity for honesty is admirable, and all these secrets do begin to wear.
He let the Force envelop him and opened his mind to whichever direction it would guide him towards. It was maneuvering him towards the truth, transparency, but there was a block around it, no a man, tall, long hair pulled back from his bearded and weary face.
“This way knows only pain, Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon’s voice echoed.
“Master! But the Force is leading me towards it, should that not be the way I choose?”
“Your connection to the Force is tenuous right now, my old Padawan. It is pointing you down a path that should not be tread.”
“My connection to the Force? I have been keeping up with my exercises, how has it been strained? Is the Dark Side near?”
“Not the Dark Side, but a distraction, something, someone, who is leading you astray.”
“Satine? Certainly not, her arrival came at such a needed time that I am convinced that the Force guided her here. I am not so sure that I would be so at peace with the knowledge of Anakin’s survival without her here to lift my spirits.”
“As it was twenty years ago, it is not simply her presence, but your attachment to her companionship. You almost left the Order for her once, there would be no coming back if you went through with it this time. You have seen first-hand what romantic attachment can do to Jedi, we cannot afford another betrayal like Vader’s. We will become truly extinct.”
“But were we not just as treacherous to Anakin? Had we approved of his and Padme’s union, maybe he would have fought for us, not against us. As upset as I am over Anakin’s treason, I often feel as though I failed him more.”
“Jedi cannot stew over the past, we must be mindful of the present and any interference that may arise. You would be wise to remember that.”
As the pale blue outline of Qui-Gon began to fade, Obi-Wan tried desperately to stay in contact. “But Master, if we do not learn from our past mistakes, are we not doomed to repeat them? And what should I tell the Lars about Anakin?”
“Luke’s father is gone, Obi-Wan. That’s all anyone needs to know.”
Qui-Gon’s spirit dispersed and any hope of further meditation was lost. Mind reeling from their conversation, Obi-Wan stumbled to his door to get some fresh air. It felt as if there was a rancor sitting on his chest, he could barely breathe and his stomach was so upset he thought he might be ill. He had been so happy, so content, over the past couple of days, had that really sent him down a dangerous path? His connection to the Force didn’t feel any different, he couldn’t understand why his Master was so insistent that he was losing his way or why he refused to listen to his point of view. Was this how Anakin felt every time Obi-Wan had lectured him on some Jedi philosophy? Ignored and patronized? Stomach lurching at the thought, he crumbled against the outside wall of his home, sinking onto the hard ground.
Obi-Wan had quarreled occasionally with Qui-Gon over their long mentorship, most of the time over Obi-Wan’s own ignorance or Qui-Gon’s defiant spirit. Even when he and Satine had begun their young affair all those years ago, Qui-Gon had mostly ignored it, at least until it became obvious that his padawan’s feelings for the duchess were much more than simple infatuation. And even then, he had never been so dismissive, choosing instead to gently remind Obi-Wan of all the dangers of attachment and that the fear of loss could lead to the Dark Side. Qui-Gon was never the steadfast rule follower that many of the other Jedi were, a trait that kept him off the Jedi Council, what had changed since he had become one with the Force?
He haphazardly picked up a rock, ready to throw it to act out his frustration. But just as it was about to leave his hand, the silhouette of it caught his eye and he stopped. It was shaped a bit like an hourglass, albeit a blocky and lopsided one. His mind transported him to a year ago on the Tantive IV, when a similarly shaped item had been pressed into his hand by one of his dearest, and most missed, friends.
“Obi-Wan … there … is still good in him. I know there is … still …”
All his resentment and confusion from his communication with Qui-Gon melted into overwhelming despair and regret. If only he had been more trustworthy, Anakin could have talked to him about his marriage and his growing family. Of course, Obi-Wan had known that he and Padme were no mere acquaintances, but he thought not talking about it was the preferable way to go. He could feign ignorance to the rest of the council, but also allow his two friends to be happy; it seemed, at the time, the best option. He had, stupidly, not taken into consideration that Anakin despised dishonesty, even if it had been in his best interest. But maybe, if Obi-Wan had been more candid with him, more openly welcoming of his non-orthodox relationship, maybe he would have never betrayed the Jedi. And maybe he would have known the significance of the small, wooden pendant Padme had given him in her last moments, and maybe he could have watched a happy husband and wife show their children what it meant to them, instead of letting it be buried in a cemetery on Naboo.
Clutching the rock, he let the rough winds of the Jundland Wastes whip sand and dust against his face. The comfort he had found in Satine’s insistence that this had not been his fault dissipated, replaced by a truth as hard and cold as the desert nights: This was his responsibility. Not only to watch over, and eventually, train Luke, but to guide him as the one to restore balance to the Force. He could not fail him like he did his father. It was going to be different this time. It had to.
When Satine returned later that afternoon, Obi-Wan was busy cleaning out Rooh’s pen. He had not gone inside since his failed meditation, instead keeping himself occupied outside in the harsh desert air.
“Did you two lovely ladies have a successful shopping trip?” he asked, helping Satine off of the eopie.
“For the most part. The food options are deplorable out here, but I was able to get some seasonings and dry goods,” she said, petting Rooh affectionately. “She did well, didn’t try to buck me off or anything.”
Obi-Wan reached through the Force to praise Rooh, he had prodded her this morning to be nice to Satine and it looked like she had delivered. “Good girl. Here, Satine, let me help you.”
As she was handing him her knapsack, she gasped. “Goodness, have you been outside all day?”
“Most of it. How can you tell?”
“Because,” she said, wiping a thick layer of dust off his face. “You are filthy. And, by the looks of it, sunburned.”
He winced, his tender skin crying out in pain at her touch. “I didn’t realize it was that bad out here.”
She stared at him incredulously. “Whatever you say, Jedi Master Kenobi. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”
After securing Rooh’s pen, they headed towards the door, where Satine motioned for him to give her his cloak.
“Take it off here, lest you drag half the desert in with you.”
He obliged, shrugging it off and letting her shake the sand out before they went inside.
“Hey, you have something in here,” she said, rummaging around in the cloak’s pockets and pulling out the significantly-shaped rock. She went to toss it on the ground, but he lunged forward to stop her.
“Oh, that’s mine,” he said, clasping his hand around hers before she could let go.
She eyed him suspiciously. “Really?”
“Yes, I thought it would make a nice centerpiece to a decoration, don’t you think?” Obi-Wan sometimes wondered what it said about himself that he was such a quick liar.
Taking another look at it, she murmured. “Hmm. Well, it is a unique shape.”
“Nothing,” she said, depositing the stone back in his palm. “I’m just happy that you’re finally listening to me.”
“No one ever said I wasn’t teachable, Duchess,” he smirked as she kissed his cheek.
“Not about everything,” she sighed, making her way inside. “How many times have I told you to stop calling me that?”
“Old habits, my dear,” he said, turning the rock over in his hand a few times before pocketing it in his tunic.
Over the next couple of weeks, Obi-Wan and Satine settled into a pleasant routine. She busied herself with art projects and books, while he would retreat to the basement to continue his Jedi history documentation. Holocrons were created, packing thousands of years of tradition and records into a few small cubes, while the downstairs was also home to a fat stack of hand-written notebooks, most serving as a backup to the holocrons while the rest were of a more personal nature. Old memories and dreams filled the margins of one, while another was addressed “For Luke”, just in case something were to happen to himself. The final notebook was blank, save for two words: Lesson Plans. Obi-Wan was saving that one for later.
In the evenings, Satine would attempt to cook (it was far from the best food Obi-Wan had ever had but he was grateful for a hot meal) and they would share an after-dinner drink, pressed up together on the couch. This easy intimacy was all new to him, even when they were together as twenty year olds, it had been filled with hushed declarations and hidden embraces, and no other person Obi-Wan had been with lived with him. It was odd having someone else around the house to help with chores or to make small talk with, as it’d been months since he’d had a significant conversation with anyone that wasn’t Rooh. Sometimes, he missed his solitude, but every time he thought about her leaving, his stomach would turn. He knew he should ask her how long this visit was going to be, but he never could bring himself to do it. Surely, she would tell him whenever she was ready to go and he would deal with the fallout then. Qui-Gon probably wouldn’t approve of his method, but he hadn’t appeared to him since their disagreement, and Obi-Wan wasn’t certain that he would until Satine was gone.
But all in all, he was grateful for her company. It was the first time since Mustafar that he felt like his old self again, something he previously thought might not be possible. In fact, he thought he might be able to forget all about that horrid lava planet until one night, Satine set aside her drink and looked very seriously at him.
“I have to ask you something and it may be a bit…awkward, if that’s alright.”
“Well, that’s quite the thing to spring on someone right before bed,” he replied, taken aback.
“I know, I’m sorry,” she apologized before straightening up. “This is just something I’ve been thinking quite a lot about and I need to know your thoughts.”
“Well, alright, go ahead.”
“What is your plan, here?” she asked, waving her hand around to his house.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, what is your plan? Are you waiting on more Jedi to come together to try and reinstate The Order? Bo and I heard whispers of a rebellion movement before we parted ways, are you a part of that? And what’s to become of all those history lessons you’re working so hard on? Are they for new Jedi, are you looking to train someone?” Her face was sympathetic but her tone was remarkably unemotional. Obi-Wan was briefly reminded of why he normally did not care for politicians.
“Well, honestly, none of that,” he said semi-truthfully. Luke was his mission, his only reason for even staying alive, but he couldn’t tell her that. “I came here to be unseen and work on preserving Jedi tradition. If and when the Force wills me to apart of something bigger, I will let it guide me, but until then, this-,” he imitated her arm movements. “is my plan.”
She was incredulous. “After everything that has happened, you’re going to do nothing?”
“What exactly am I supposed to do? Palpatine won, and with his resources so vast and commanding, it’s not like a handful of Jedi could even make a dent in his Empire. And besides,” he bristled, starting to get annoyed. “Since when do you prefer action and fighting over taking a neutral stance and doing nothing?”
“Nothing?!” She stood up, angrily balling her hands into fists. “Yes, standing up to the gross bastardization of democracy and war is absolutely ‘doing nothing.’ Leading the Council of Neutral Systems and ensuring the survival of billions of beings from senseless conflict is surely ‘doing nothing.’ Rooting out corruption and betrayal from my most trusted advisors is the very definition of ‘doing nothing.’ Protecting my people, an entire planet, from the scars and ravages of a past civil war, was nothing, nothing at all!”
Obi-Wan could feel the fury radiating off of her, like the heat from a ship’s engine. He knew provoking her righteous anger would steer the conversation away from his true mission, although he did feel guilty that he had probably hurt her feelings.
“Of course not, that’s not what I meant. I’m just saying that I find it utterly bizarre that after all these years, you’re the one encouraging haphazard rebellion and fighting. I may not care for how it happened, but the galaxy is relatively peaceful, now. Perhaps we should take that as a sign and embrace it.”
Red blossomed furiously across her pale cheeks and into her eyes. He braced himself for another deserved verbal lashing but instead when she spoke, her voice was steady, if raw.
“You are, quite possibly, the single most infuriating being in the entire galaxy.”
Without another word, she stormed out into the desert, not bothering to shut the door behind her.
Obi-Wan wondered if he had, perhaps, taken this too far. Sure, his secret was safe, but he had expected Satine to tear into him some more before dropping it and going to bed. They had gotten into more than a few rows over the years, he was used to their arguing leading to some tense silence and eventually, reconciliation. This seemed different, though, and her declaration was echoing loudly in his mind.
He followed her outside, expecting to find her with Rooh or stewing by the front stoop but instead she was nowhere in sight. Heart-racing, he tried to feel his way through the Force, reaching out into the desert for her or anything else’s presence. However, the Force directed him back towards his home, albeit at a higher elevation than where he was standing. Opening his eyes, he finally spotted her, perched on top of one of the large rock formations behind his house.
“Satine! Are you alright?”
When she didn’t even acknowledge his presence, he hopped up to her, using the Force to guide him. He was impressed that she had gotten up here on her own, it was quite a jagged climb.
Joining her on the boulder, he noticed that she was, in fact, not alright. Her face was tear-stained and dusty and there were large, red gashes on both of her palms.
“Satine, I’m-,” he began to apologize while reaching for her injured hands but she pulled away.
“I want you to listen to me, Obi-Wan, I want you to listen very carefully and not speak until I’m done.” She waited for him to nod before continuing.
“Losing Mandalore to the control of Maul and his criminal empire is the biggest failure of my life. Not an hour goes by where I don’t think about two dozen or more ways I could have prevented that atrocity and saved my people. I blame myself fully for their success, what if I had compromised with Death Watch and allowed some of our warriors to continue their tradition? Would they have been able to fight off those bastards? I’ll never know, now.” She wiped her cheeks with her sleeve. “I ache every time I remember a piece of Mandalorian art or history, terrified of what might have happened to it under the current Imperial rule. I weep every time I think of Bo and Korkie and the rest of my family for the same reason. Failing my planet has impacted every single action I have taken over the past year and will continue to do so until the day I die.”
She took a moment to collect herself, steadying her breath. The cuts on her palms must have been agonizing, Obi-Wan thought.
“You and I, despite our occasional differences, have always been very alike. My commitment to the Mandalorian people was matched by your commitment to the Jedi. It was a big part of why I fell for you all those years ago, and why we parted ways when it was time. I know you told me you would have left the Order for me, but I cared too much for you to ever ask. Your devotion to your kind has always been one of the things I admire most about you, even now, as you try to preserve their history in your basement.”
Sitting up a little straighter now, she focused in on his face, her eyes peering into him like he was some sort of visual puzzle. He rather wished he was facing down a battalion of battle droids right now, at least he knew what to expect from them.
“If my hurt about Mandalore is the size of this boulder, than yours over the Jedi must be the size of his planet. So, your insistence on doing ‘nothing’ is not only a blatant lie, but insulting. You cannot sit there and honestly tell me you’re not irrevocably changed by the loss of your people and that you would not do anything to get them back. And you most certainly cannot tell me that we should just ‘embrace’ this new regime, a regime that destroyed your entire culture, and the only family you have ever known.”
A scorching wave of guilt washed over him, so heavy and overpowering he had to shut his eyes. Everything she said was true, she had cut right through his lies, but he had no idea how to respond. As a Jedi, he had always pushed his feelings of loss and grief away, they were too distracting and they too easily led to the Dark Side, but here Satine was, laying out all her regret and heartbreak in the open and stronger for it. He could feel her resolve emanating off her, even without the Force. He had never admired her more nor understood her less.
“I’m sorry,” he choked out. He hadn’t even realized he was crying. “I don’t know how to do any of this.”
“Oh Ben,” she comforted, wiping his cheek with the back of her hand. “I know you don’t but I do. I can help you, I just need you to be honest with me.”
“I can’t…can’t tell you everything,” he admitted, clearing his throat. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that I don’t trust anyone else.”
“I understand. I just want you to not fabricate a bunch of offensive nonsense about how we’re better off, sitting on this filthy rock in the middle of nowhere while a despicable megalomaniac destroys the galaxy.”
“Fair enough,” he nodded before taking a deep breath. He was going to have to be meticulous in his phrasing. “I am here, on Tatooine specifically, waiting…waiting for an event. When that happens, I will take on my responsibility to help restore the Republic and the Jedi Order, but it may take years.”
Satine looked as if she was expecting more to the story and sighed when she realized he was done talking. “Well, thank you for telling me that much, at least.”
“I’m sorry, this is…not easy,” he said, trying to explain. “It’s dangerous not only for you or me, but for others, as well. I must do what I can to keep everyone safe.”
“Always trying to be the hero,” she smiled wearily at him. “I suppose it wouldn’t be ‘us’ if secrets weren’t involved, somehow.”
“At least this time, we don’t have to be the secret.”
“True,” she agreed, reaching for his hand. She winced, having forgotten about the nasty cuts on her palms. “Infernal rock, whatever the reason is for you being out here, it better be a good one.”
“It’s hardly my fault you decided to climb up here,” he pointed out before standing up, holding his arms out for her. “Would you like some help down?”
Standing up, she smirked. “As long as you don’t drop me this time.”
Obi-Wan sighed. “My, that joke never gets old.”
After picking her up, he hopped easily down from the boulder and went back inside. He reached through the Force for the medical kit and brought it to him to dress her wounds.
“You’re quite good at that,” Satine commented as he cleaned up the gashes.
“One of the clones taught me, Kix I believe his name was. Very proficient medical trooper.” He paused, his fingers stilling on her palms as he remembered the last interaction he’d had with his clone troops. He didn’t blame Cody and the rest, but that hardly meant that the reminder of attempted murder didn’t sting.
“Are you alright?” she asked, shaking him out of his reverie.
“Yes, sorry. Sometimes the war feels like a lifetime ago, but others…,” he trailed off, refocusing on her bandages.
After a beat, Satine spoke softly. “May I ask you something?”
“Because that went so well earlier,” he snorted before noticing her tear-stained glare. “Apologies. Of course you may,” he added humbly.
“What happened to them?”
“Ahsoka, Anakin, Padme,” she clarified, voice wavering the tiniest bit on the final one.
“Oh,” he said in a knowingly sad tone. “Well, Ahsoka left the Order, months before the war ended.”
“Oh, really?” Satine brightened ever so slightly. “So, she survived? She’s alright?”
“Frankly, I have no idea,” he said truthfully. “I thought about trying to find her, once, but she’s much better off without a fugitive Jedi interfering in her life, whatever it may be.”
“I see,” her eyes dimmed downward again. “When she wasn’t on the Most Wanted list I saw, I feared the worst. I do hope she’s safe, wherever she is.”
“Who was on that list, do you remember?”
“Maul,” she spat, reflexively curling her fingers into fists, despite her injuries.
“You know the galaxy’s in bad state when he and I have the same enemies,” he laughed hollowly. “Who else joins our illustrious company?”
“There was one at the top who was green-skinned, and he had quite large, long ears.”
Obi-Wan chuckled. “Yes, Master Yoda would be Public Enemy Number One.”
“The only other fugitive that stood out to me was Quentin Boss. His hologram was quite handsome.”
He nearly dropped Satine’s half-bandaged hand, his heart leaping into his throat. “’Quentin Boss’? Handsome? Do you mean Quinlan Vos?”
She shrugged. “That may have been it. He had a yellow tattoo across his face,” with her free hand, she drew an invisible line across her nose, just under her eyes. “Do you know him?”
For the first time in, months? Years? Obi-Wan Kenobi yelped for joy. He and Yoda weren’t the last Jedi, and if Quinlan was wanted by the Empire, that meant he had not fallen to the Dark Side again, something that Obi-Wan had feared after his brief but terrible alliance with Count Dooku. Despite the heavy night he and Satine were having, Obi-Wan suddenly felt as light and giddy as a child.
Taken aback by his uncharacteristic burst of cheerful emotion, Satine cocked her head in confusion, albeit with a slight smile. “So, I would hazard that’s a ‘yes’.”
“Yes, yes,” he nodded, taking a few deep breaths to center himself. “Quinlan is a dear friend, and a formidable Jedi. All hope is not lost now that I know he is somewhere in the galaxy, undoubtedly stirring up trouble.”
“I didn’t realized that hope was lost in the first place.”
Hope wasn’t lost, it was just in diapers, he thought to himself. “Apologies, I’ve let myself get a bit too maudlin in my old age. I suppose the desert brings it out in me.”
“Along with your ability to ignore my inquiries.” There was the politician’s voice again, steely and with little sympathy. “I’m sorry to cut your celebration short but I asked you about three of our friends, not just one.”
He cursed inwardly. He used to be so much better at steering conversations to his liking, being alone for so long really had done a number on his negotiating skills. Or maybe Satine just knew him better than he wanted to admit.
“I’m just trying to spare your feelings,” he lied, knowing that it was his own he was attempting to keep at bay.
“Must I run down all of my hardships for you again? Perhaps, I should keep a list of them on a piece of flimsi to show you every time you forget,” she bristled. “I’m not a fool, I know that whatever you’re keeping from me is painful, but I must know.”
“But why? If you know them to be terrible, why do the details matter?”
“Because it’s important to me. Shouldn’t that be enough?” she asked, not bothering to hide the hurt in her voice.
Should it? Obi-Wan had no idea. The Jedi wouldn’t agree. Inquisitive padawans were often just told to refer to the Jedi code, whether their questions were about philosophy or a meditation technique. It didn’t matter if the query was consuming their days and nights, Jedi weren’t supposed to be so narrowly focused. He recalled Master Jocasta Nu dismissing his search for Kamino in the Jedi archives. It didn’t matter that he had the correct coordinates or that tracking the bounty hunter was of grave importance, the archives said there was no planet, so there was no planet.
He finished wrapping Satine’s injured hands but had not let go of her right one. Focusing his gaze on the stark, white bandage, he realized, not for the first time, that she was right.
“Darth Vader, the man we talked about on your first night here?”
“What about him?”
His voice was barely above a whisper. “He…he is what happened to them.”
“But why Padme? She was a senator, she had nothing to-,” Satine stopped, her eyes widening. “So, it was true.”
Using her free hand, she tapped her fingers knowingly against his wrist. “They were together.”
He nodded, swallowing a lump in his throat. “She followed him to Mustafar. That’s where it all transpired.”
“You were there?” she asked softly.
“She tried…she tried to save him,” he choked, fully dissolving into heaving, wracking sobs. He had never cried like this, not even when Qui-Gon died. Jedi were supposed to grieve quietly and be joyful for the departed becoming one with the Force, but now, all of the pent-up anguish was crashing over him like a waterfall. It terrified him.
Wordlessly, Satine pulled on his hands, gesturing him next to her on the sofa. He obliged, furiously trying to quell his emotional outpour.
“I’m s-sorry,” he stammered, wiping his face with the sleeve of his cloak.
“Don’t.” She snatched his forearm, pulling it away from his face. “Let it out.”
Shaking his head, he wriggled out of her grasp. “No, I’m fine, I just need to do some breathing exercises.”
“No, you’re not. And no, you don’t.” Gently, she cupped his face and forced him to look at her. He had not met her gaze for most of this conversation, only catching fleeting glances while he tended to her cuts. Her normally alabaster cheeks were covered in red splotches and there were bits of dried tears forming at the edges of her eyes. But she was clearly not ashamed of her current appearance, and her poise was as regal as ever.
“It’s okay to be upset,” she swiped a thumb over his cheek. “Let yourself have a good cry, it helps.”
“I told you, I don’t know how to do this,” his voice cracked. Nothing in his near-forty year lifespan had prepared him for having a “good cry.” He knew the expression but had never understood it.
“And as I told you, I can help.” She threaded her fingertips into the edge of his hairline, a normally comforting gesture that he currently felt he didn’t deserve. “Scream, cry, throw something, have a pity party, just let all of this out. You can’t keep all your pain locked up forever.”
“That’s not the Jedi way,” he argued.
“Then leave the Jedi,” she blurted out.
He did a double-take. “What?”
“Leave the Jedi Order,” she repeated. “You told me once that you would have left it for me if I’d given the word. Here I am, giving the word.”
“That is completely preposterous, I’m all they have left.”
“I’m not saying you can’t go back. Just, for the night, pretend I asked all those years ago,” she pleaded gently.
Obi-Wan opened his mouth to protest but the words died in his throat. He couldn’t say no to that, they both knew it would be a lie. And he was so tired of lying.
Nodding, he felt his eyes stinging with fresh tears. She was finally giving him the out he had desperately wanted decades earlier, even if it was purely symbolic. He reached into his cloak, pulling out his lightsaber, ready to set it aside, but before he could, Satine placed her hands alongside his on the Jedi weapon. Together, they set it on the end table next to the sofa, temporarily out of sight and mind. It was a small gesture for a concise weapon, but the weight that it lifted off Obi-Wan’s chest was gargantuan. For the first time in his life, he didn’t have to worry about disappointing any Jedi, and he could allow himself to feel with no fear of repercussions.
Taking a deep breath, he dropped the emotional shields he’d erected long ago, and he forced himself to focus on all of his pain and regret, of Anakin’s betrayal, the destruction of the Jedi, the deaths of so many friends. The sensation bubbling inside him was horrible, like a toxic sludge, and it took every ounce of him to not use his Jedi instincts to just push it out into the Force and forget about it. Yoda had told him after the purge that despair was a form of attachment and to just let it go, which, at the time, had been helpful in refocusing his mind on trying to save Anakin and Padme. But after so many months of being alone, of horrific nightmares, of his whole existence revolving around his penance, all of that despair had boomeranged from the Force back into his heart. His breathing started coming in short, ragged breaths, as if he had just performed an exorbitant physical task, while his chest physically ached. He’d been beaten, whipped, tortured, shot, burned, but nothing that ever felt like this. Clutching his face in his hands, he wailed, the guttural sounds emanating from his throat ugly and alien to his ears. He wanted this to be over much sooner rather than later.
Satine, whom he could sense had been doing something in the kitchen, returned to the couch.
“Here, drink this,” she pushed a warm cup of tea into his trembling hands.
He immediately obeyed, grateful for anything to curb this horrible sensation. He was embarrassed by how greedily he gulped it down, but when the heat soothed his raw throat, he didn’t want to let up. It wasn’t until he did stop that he tasted the prickly burn on his tongue.
“Is there whiskey in this?” he raised an eyebrow at Satine.
“Not much, just a splash or two. I can make some without it, if you like.”
“No, it’s good.” He swirled the last bit around in his cup before taking a much more civilized sip. “I haven’t made any tea in awhile, but I’ll have to remember this blend.”
She frowned, concerned. “You haven’t? You love tea.”
“Mustafar, you know,” he stopped, shaking his head. “Of course you don’t know, no one knows that hellhole. It’s a mining planet, volcanic, covered in lava. And boiling, bubbling water…,” he trailed off, remembering the first night in his new home. He’d put a kettle on, trying to find some sense of normalcy amid all the upheaval, but he made the mistake of waiting by his stove for it heat up. The typically subtle sound of the percolating water throbbed in his ears, every tiny pop amplified a hundred-fold. He’d tried to put his focus elsewhere, using the Force to steady his breath and mind, but when he poured the boiling water into his mug, a drop splashed onto his skin. The burning sensation may have been fleeting, but it was enough to instantly take him back to the bank on a lava river, watching the person he cared about most, the same person who had just spent a good amount of effort trying to kill him, be engulfed in flames. Despite how rare water was out here, he’d dumped the rest of his kettle out and switched to whiskey.
“I’ll make it for you, then,” she said, resting her hand comfortingly on his forearm.
This small but kind gesture made his stomach tighten; he didn’t deserve it, didn’t deserve any of Satine’s compassion, but he couldn’t turn her away.
“I…I would appreciate that,” he stammered, struggling to not burst into tears again. Dammit, he thought he was past this, wasn’t one “good cry” enough?
“Oh Ben.” She took the empty teacup from his trembling hands, setting it alongside his lightsaber on the end table. Wrapping her arms around him, she reassured him. “It’s alright. I’m here, I’ve got you.”
He crumpled into her, burying his face in the crook of her neck, thankful for the warm darkness of her embrace. They barely moved for some time, except for Satine threading her fingers through his hair. Throughout his life, he could only count two beings whom he had thought truly knew him; his master and his apprentice. But now, he realized he was wrong. Qui-Gon had known him well enough to entrust him with his dying wish, but not well enough to know what hardship he’d asked of him. Anakin was like his brother, but even then, he did not trust him enough to come to him about his relationship with the senator from Naboo. Satine, on the other hand, knew exactly what he needed at this exact time. No words, no promises, no lies, nothing fancy – just a cup of tea and a hug.
Chapter 3: Satine
She’d never seen him like this before. The year they’d spent on the run had been filled with exhaustion, stress, and danger, but the young Jedi padawan had taken it all in stride. Of course, that had been years ago, almost two decades before he would lose so much.
Satine had come to Tatooine in an attempt to start over. Her failure at protecting her home world had left her without purpose or direction. More than anything, she wanted to return to Mandalore, to try and set things right, but there was no obvious peaceful resolution, at least, not yet. Bo-Katan, of course, had a dozen increasingly violent ideas for retaking their planet away from the Empire, all of them horrifying. She was running on survival auto-pilot, just trying to make it through the day until she found something to do, someone to help. Then, in that dingy weigh station, she found her purpose, on a Most Wanted list. There, at number eight, was Obi-Wan Kenobi, the only man she’d ever loved, still alive. Now, she had a plan: find someone who would help her locate him, reunite, discover his plans for defying the Empire, and then do it together.
She thought the first part would be the hardest. It took weeks to curry the good favor of Senator Organa, and three times as long to make her way out to this dust bowl of a planet and begin to search for him in earnest. And once she did spot him, she still had to bide her time and wait days for him to return to the small oasis where she’d seen him in the cantina. She knew she couldn’t risk revealing herself in public, even if there was little Imperial presence on this Outer Rim planet, anything out of the ordinary could be reported to them, by anyone. So, she’d waited, staying in the cheapest, filthiest, and only inn she could find, until he finally reappeared, buying feed and grabbing a drink in the same cantina as before. Having asked a young girl to help her secure an eopie to follow him home, her plan had finally fallen into place.
She wasn’t naïve, she knew that the rough talk they’d had on the first night was only a sliver of whatever hurt he was hiding. How could he not be devastated? But she knew the Jedi had their own ways of dealing with grief, and she didn’t want to push it, even though every night he awoke her from talking in his sleep. He never seemed to remember it in the morning, though, eating a piece of fruit like he hadn’t just spent all night mumbling about “killed younglings”. She almost said something when she came back from shopping to find him horribly sunburned and protective over an odd little rock, but decided to let it slide, for the moment.
When days and restless nights went by and he continued to act like everything was fine and mentioned nothing about what the hell he was doing here, Satine realized she would have to be the one to bring it up. Carefully, she constructed a plan: do it at night, when there are no excuses for chores, don’t let “The Negotiator” run circles around the conversation, make him listen, no matter the cost, and then, maybe, he’ll finally open up to her.
She wasn’t sure what she should have expected, although she had to admit she hadn’t prepared herself for this. Oh sure, the deflections, the insistence on doing things “the Jedi way”, and even his attempt to make her so angry she’d drop it, all of that she predicted, but there was one thing she hadn’t counted on: her big mouth.
Satine prided herself on being thoughtful with words, it was an invaluable attribute of being a politician, but, on occasion, her passion would override her better instincts. So, when she told Obi-Wan to leave the Jedi Order, even just for the night, it was something she had thought dozens and dozens of times, but never planned on expressing. It was incredibly selfish, how could she ask him to do that, now? But, much more shocking than her impulsive plea was his agreement. His confession on The Coronet hadn’t been a half-truth or hyperbole, after all.
Now, as Obi-Wan snoozed peacefully on the sofa, his head on her lap, face tucked into her hip, she questioned everything. What if she had asked him to stay, all those years ago? Would his gifts with the Force have been able to help her find the traitors in her midst years earlier? Would he have been able to avoid the horrors of the Clone Wars altogether? If he had left, he would have never met or angered that horrid Maul, and he would’ve had no reason to come to Mandalore in the first place, there was a chance she would have never had to leave.
Of course, all of her wondering was for naught. She hadn’t asked him to stay, and heaping more regret on her conscience wasn’t going to do anyone any good. Her plan was still on track, they could do this, they could be happy together as they waited for whatever this “event” was to transpire. It was just going to take a lot more work and time than she anticipated. As the suns’ rays began to peak through the windows, she found herself looking forward to it, in a way. She wasn’t able to save Mandalore, but maybe, she could save Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Having spent most of his life traveling from one end of the galaxy to the other, Obi-Wan had developed a very peculiar internal clock. He could sleep just about anywhere, but usually only for four or five hours before his eyes slammed open and any hope of further rest was lost. Residing for so long on Tatooine had forced his body to adjust to not only sleeping in the same bed every night, but also in the same time zone. This had led to the unfortunate habit of sleeping in late – unfortunate because the longer he slept, the more time he’d have for nightmares of stepping over slain padawans and burning yellow eyes.
Satine’s presence, first house-shaking night notwithstanding, had eased his unconscious mind somewhat. The nightmares were still happening, but they were less intense, and he could handle them. Terrible dreams came with Jedi territory; it was something all of them learned to deal with. Well, almost all of them.
So, when Obi-Wan awoke, eyes puffy and filled with crust, head throbbing, feeling like his mouth was packed with fuzz, it took him a few moments to realize that for the first time in ages, he didn’t remember any of his dreams. Huh. So that’s what that kind of sleep was like.
It also took him awhile to realize that he was on his sofa, in his regular clothes, and that despite the symptoms, he was not hungover. Blearily, he recalled the intensity of the previous night, the conversation, the emotional nudity, the follow through on a promise. Eyeing his lightsaber on the table, a jolt of shame struck his heart. He did not regret what he’d done, only that he felt that he had to do it.
Also on the end table, however, was a teacup. Warmth quickly replaced the guilt in his chest as he remembered everything Satine had done for him. Normally, others taking care of him made him feel inadequate and weak, except this was different, somehow. Their initial relationship as adolescents had been intimate, of course, but not in this way. The connection he felt to her in this moment was as strong as the ones he’d experienced with his both his master and his apprentice, and neither of them had ever done something for him like she just had.
Glancing around his small living room, he chuckled softly when he caught sight of his saving grace - curled up awkwardly in a chair, hair haphazardly strewn over her face, and snoring. Rarely had she ever looked so undignified, and in Obi-Wan’s eyes, so beautiful.
Grabbing a bantha-skin blanket from the sofa, he wrapped it around her thin frame. A significant part of him was terrified of their strong bond, but not because of the old Jedi adage about romantic attachments. His fear was that he would never be as good for her as she was for him. He was determined to try, though.
After a quick shower and some fresh clothes, he tiptoed into the kitchen. He wanted to make breakfast but after taking stock of their ingredients, he soon realized he had no idea what he could cook. He remembered Qui-Gon telling him of a spicy roll dish Shmi Skywalker had served him that was popular on this planet, maybe he could try that.
Thirty minutes and a lot of muttered swears later, Obi-Wan had two small misshapen rolls with the texture of sand to show for his efforts. He silently promised to be much more appreciative of Satine’s cooking in the future.
“What in the blazes are you doing in here?” Satine yawned, shuffling into the kitchen, the bantha blanket still wrapped around her shoulders.
“Trying, and failing, to cook you breakfast,” he sighed. Master Yoda’s favorite saying rang in his head, but it would be completely unfair to call his attempt at breakfast “doing” anything.
“Oh, I’m sure it’s not that bad,” she placated him before taking a small bite. Obi-Wan did not have to use the Force to read her true reaction, it was written all over her grimacing face.
He poured her a glass of blue milk. “Utter failure, I told you.”
After taking a healthy sip, she patted his hand. “It’s the thought that counts.”
With another sigh, he began to clean up. It was amazing how much of a mess he’d made in such a short amount of time, every inch of his counter space seemed to be covered in soypro. “Thankfully, we still have some fruit, so not all hope for breakfast is lost.”
“Is it technically still breakfast at this time of the day?” she asked, pointing to the chronometer - it was just past midday. Goodness, how long had they slept for?
He rubbed his chin. “Perhaps it’s more of a late brunch, then.”
“I never pictured you as much of a brunch person, Mr. Ration-Bars-For-Every-Meal,” she teased, grabbing some pallies to replace the sand rolls.
“Nonsense, brunch is an excellent negotiating venue. Supply people with enough hearty food and light cocktails, they’ll be cooperating in no time.”
“Was that really one of The Negotiator’s tactics?”
“Occasionally. It was much more useful before the war, when the debates were over ship requisitions or droid production and not the lives of millions of beings, though. Also,” he added after a beat. “If I can’t call you ‘Duchess’ anymore, you can’t call me that.”
“If you actually remember to not call me Duchess, then I will stop, Negotiator,” she smirked.
He sighed. “I walked right into that one, didn’t I?”
Once again, she patted his hand. “You absolutely did.”
After they finished munching on a plate of pallies and deb-deb fruit, Obi-Wan walked back over to the couch to grab his errant boots.
“Where are you going?” Satine asked him.
“Rooh must be starving, she’s probably tried to eat through her fence by now.”
“Oh, she’s fine. I fed her this morning,” she informed him, heading towards the dresser.
“You did? When? You were passed out in the chair when I woke up.”
“Just after dawn.” She kept talking even as she changed clothes. “I was still up and figured she wouldn’t mind an early breakfast.”
He was agog. “Why in the universe were you still awake at dawn?”
Satisfied with her clean garments, a simple navy blue skirt and purple top, she began twisting her hair into an intricate braid in front of the small mirror on the dresser. “I wanted to make sure you finally got a decent night’s sleep and apparently my lap makes a great pillow.”
A pang of guilt struck the pit of his stomach. That must have been terribly uncomfortable, why did she let him sleep like that? “Why didn’t you just wake me up or get up off the sofa earlier?”
Still braiding, her fingers apparently unencumbered by her bandaged palms, she spoke plainly. “I told you, I wanted you to sleep well, for once.”
“But how did you know that I don’t sleep well?”
Turning around, she sighed. “We sleep in the same bed, for one thing, and another, you talk in your sleep.”
He cringed. “I do? I’m so sorry.”
Securing the unfinished plait, she cupped his face in both hands. “Yes, and stop apologizing. I know this is all still new to you, but this is what people do for one another when they care about them. I help you, you help me, it’s simple, really.”
“I help you?” he asked meekly.
She rubbed her chin mockingly. “Let’s see, you’ve let me stay in your home, use your things, ride your eopie, indulged my decorating and cooking, and made me feel like I had a home for the first time in over a standard year.” Dropping the imitation of him, she squeezed his shoulders with a kind smile. “Of course you’ve helped me.”
He frowned. “But I’m happy to do all of that.”
“Just as I was happy to watch you sleep soundly.” She kissed his cheek before turning back to the mirror to complete her braid.
Obi-Wan felt, not for the first time in her presence, like a moron. Her explanation was as clear as day, how had he not figured it out on his own? He thought about blaming Master Yoda but perhaps that was petty.
He stayed rooted to the spot as she finished up her hair, slightly mesmerized by her dexterity. When she was done, she moved past him to grab her dirty laundry but he stopped her, gently gripping her arm.
“Satine, may I ask you something?”
“What’s your plan?”
The corners of her lips twitched. “My plan? Well, it was to find you.”
“I suppose I’m waiting, like you.”
“Waiting for what?”
She sank down onto the bed. “I can’t go back to Mandalore. I may not be in the Top Ten of the Most Wanted list, but I was the leader of the Neutral Systems and I’m certainly on there somewhere. Even though I wasn’t against the Republic, and thus, the Emperor, I wasn’t on their side, either. For months, I have tried to think of a way I can help my people, through debate and negotiation, but the Empire is too powerful, and Mandalore is under too much scrutiny for not being aligned with Palpatine during the war. So, I am waiting for something, an event or a crack in the Empire’s hold that will allow for some sort of compromise to be made for my people.”
Obi-Wan sat next to her. “That’s why you wanted to know what I was up to.”
“Partly,” she conceded. “I also wanted you to open up to me.”
He let out a small chuckle. “Got more than you bargained for, there, didn’t you?”
Satine reached for his hand and laced their fingers together. “No.”
He sat there silently, gaze focused on their interlocked hands, thoughts swirling. His mission to protect and train Luke was the most important of his entire life, could he accomplish that and be with Satine as well? His Jedi instincts, along with Qui-Gon, told him no, she was too much of a distraction. But he remained convinced that the Force had brought her here in the first place, what if her presence wasn’t a distraction but necessary? He promised himself it would be different this time, what if she was that difference?
“I need to show you something,” he said finally. “We’ll have to take Rooh, so you’ll want to wear boots.”
He expected a line of questioning or even a protest but instead, she simply said, “Okay.”
It didn’t take long for them to get ready, all they needed were shoes and a couple of Obi-Wan’s long cloaks to protect from the suns. He also grabbed his lightsaber, with only a small twinge of guilt.
Rooh grumbled a bit about having two passengers instead of her usual one, but she also seemed happy to have the exercise. Using the Force, Obi-Wan promised her an extra large dinner and her grouchiness subsided quickly.
Although he hadn’t made this journey in a few weeks, Obi-Wan and Rooh navigated the Dune Sea with familiarity and ease. Avoid the edges of a well-known Sandpeople camp, wait for the bantha herds to pass by, stay in the shade of rock formations whenever possible, and use the suns to head east. It was a long and sometimes boring trip, but there was a beauty to this desert and hearty life-forms that endured it.
He was surprised that Satine wasn’t asking him more questions about where the hell he was taking her, but then again, eopie-riding wasn’t exactly primed for conversation.
Finally, after a couple windy and wordless hours, he prodded Rooh to stop by the edge of a small cliff. He usually went closer, but today he brought his macrobinoculars so they could keep their distance.
After helping her slide off of Rooh, he handed Satine the long-range viewing device.
“Do you see that small farm?”
Peering through them, she nodded. “Yes, what about it?”
“That farm is why I’m here.”
She lowered the macrobinoculars and stared at him, puzzled. “I don’t understand.”
“A lovely little family lives on that farm. A doting aunt, a formidable uncle, and a very young, very gifted boy.”
He took a deep breath. There would be no turning back, now. “Gifted with the Force.”
Eyes widening, she nearly dropped the macrobinoculars. “How do you know?”
“His family history.” He laid his hands on top of hers around the device. “He is what I’m waiting for, or rather, for him to learn how to walk and talk first.”
“And then you’re going to train him to be a Jedi,” she finished, comprehension dawning on her face. “I was right, that’s what you’re doing with all those notebooks. That’s your plan.”
“Mission, technically,” he clarified. “A mission I will be on for many, many years. I do not know what the Empire’s official stance on Force-gifted children is, but I can only imagine the horrors that will follow younglings like Luke in this new era, if they are discovered.”
“So, you’re here to protect him, as well.”
He nodded. “He is my priority, both his safety and his eventual training. But,” he swallowed. He couldn’t believe how nervous he was. “I don’t think I would like to do it alone.”
“Are…are you asking me to stay?” she asked, usual steely political tone wavering just the tiniest bit.
“I understand it’s asking a lot, and that you may need some time to think it over. I’ll respect your decision, either way.”
Satine looked out over the cliff, towards the Lars farm again, but without the macrobinoculars. He turned to leave her alone with her thoughts, but she reached for his hand, motioning for him to remain. She stood as regal as ever, back straight, chin out, gaze laser-focused, even as the wind picked up and whipped her cloak around. When she spoke again, there was no wavering.
“You were right. You do have a good reason.” She glanced at him, a smile forming on her face. “Now, we both do.”
Normally, Obi-Wan would have been embarrassed over how much his heart surged, but at this moment, he didn’t care. “Are you sure?”
Nodding, Satine pulled him into her, wrapping her arms tightly around his shoulders. “Yes.”
After quickly using the Force to set the binoculars down, he squeezed his arms around her waist and pressed his forehead against hers. “Thank you,” he breathed.
“Thank you for asking,” she whispered back.
“If-if something happens with Mandalore, I understand if you’ll have to-,” Satine cut him off.
She pressed her lips against his in a tender, long kiss. When he’d promised that everything would be different, this time, this certainly wasn’t what he’d planned on, but as he kissed her back, he thought it was oddly fitting. A secret relationship had torn him and Anakin apart, and now another one was, maybe, hopefully, going to help his son survive.
“All heavy objects secured?”
“Kitchen knives properly stored?”
“Basement door securely locked and password coded?”
“Surfaces completely free of sand and dust?”
Ben Kenobi peered up from the piece of flimsi he was reading off of. “Absolutely not.”
Satine Kryze crossed her arms. “If I had to keep every speck of dust and sand out of this house, I’d never get anything else done.”
“If a grain gets in his eye and he’s permanently blinded, then we’ll know who to blame.”
She sighed, grabbing hold of his shoulders. “Ben, it’s going to be fine.”
Rubbing his chin, he looked back down at his list. “It will once I double-check all of this. Maybe we should change the code on the cellar trapdoor, it’s possible he could figure it out.”
“He’s two, I very much doubt he can guess, read, or spell ‘Cato Neimodia’.”
“But what if he did and he fell down the stairs and hurt himself and then Owen and Beru would never let me see him again and it’s the true end of the Jedi Order as we know it?” He bit his lip. “I’m going to change it.”
Gripping his shoulders tighter, she forced him to stay put. “Stop. Breathe.”
Her steady and steely tone finally got through to him, and he obeyed, taking several slow, deep breaths. He exhaled as many of his anxieties into the Force as he could, but he couldn’t completely shake the nervous energy that radiated through his body. Today was going to be one of the most important days of his new life, one that would shape the next decade or even decades of the entire galaxy.
Today was the day he was going to babysit Luke for the first time.
Ever since he had brought the infant Luke to the Lars farm two years ago, he had repeatedly extended his offer to watch him anytime they might need it. The Lars had yet to take him up on it, citing the physical distance between the two homes, but Ben suspected there was more to their reticence than just inconvenience. So, he continued to offer up his services to no response, until finally, three days ago, he got the call.
Owen and Beru had business to take care of in Mos Espa, something about upgrading their vaporators, and their friends that usually watched Luke when they were busy were off-planet.
“It’ll just be for a day, he’ll have to stay overnight because it’ll be after dark by the time we get back. Think you can handle that, Kenobi?”
“Why yes, Owen, of course. I’m delighted to see him again.”
“Don’t get used to it,” Owen had grumbled before clicking off the communicator.
From that moment on, Ben had gone on a tear, toddler-proofing his entire dwelling and trying to remember every drop of childcare he’d picked up at the Jedi temple. He’d never watched over a child this young and he cursed his younger self for being so disinterested in them at the time.
Satine was faring slightly better, she was close enough to her nephew and children’s causes that she had more of an inkling of what to expect than he did, but Ben could tell she was hiding some nerves about the situation as well. Arguably, this going well was as important to her as it was to him.
After another rundown of the checklist, and triple-checking the trapdoor, Ben sensed a speeder approaching.
As they waited outside for the speeder to make its way up the sharp incline to the front entrance, Satine nudged him.
“Which name of mine did you give them?”
“Did you tell them I was Vahla or Satine?”
He cringed. “Um. Neither.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Well, then who did you tell them I was?”
“I didn’t mention you at all.”
“In my defense, there wasn’t really time for it, and I didn’t want to answer too many questions when they could still rescind their offer.” When he realized this did not placate her one bit, he added. “You can yell at me after they leave.”
Her expression promised that she would, but Ben put it out of his mind, because he was seconds away from seeing Luke again.
“Owen, Beru!” he shouted, rushing to help them with bags once they parked. “So lovely to see you again.” He extended a hand to greet them, which Owen responded to by handing him a large bag.
“Be careful with this one, it has all his food in it.”
Beru, who was fiddling with something in the backseat, shook her head apologetically. “Hello Ben. Owen’s just upset we have to upgrade our vaporators, we’d been hoping to get another season out of them.”
“I understand, no apologies necessary,” he swallowed, trying to keep his demeanor calm and collected as Owen kept producing bags for him to hold. Goodness, how much stuff did a toddler require?
“This one has his bed, it’s pretty simple-,” Owen started before rounding on Ben. “Who the hell is that?” he hissed, having finally noticed Satine standing awkwardly by Rooh’s pen.
“Oh, um, Owen, Beru, please meet my, uh, my companion, Satine. Satine?” he beckoned for her to join them.
Owen and Beru shared uneasy glances. “And I should trust her with Luke because…?”
“Because I trust her,” Ben said before adding in a low whisper. “And because she was friends with Luke’s mother.”
This did not seem to satisfy Owen Lars one bit, but Ben felt Beru’s mind ease through the Force. Padme must have, at least, made a good impression on her when she and Anakin visited all those years ago.
“I am honored to make your acquaintances, Mr. and Mrs. Lars,” Satine greeted warmly once she approached the group. “I assure you, Luke will be in safe hands while you’re away.”
“Hmmph,” Owen grunted, giving her the once over. “Are you like him?”
He pointed a thumb towards Ben. “You know, a Jedi.”
“Oh! No, not at all, but I promise-,”
Owen interrupted her. “Good.”
Satine, completely taken aback, eyed Ben but he just shrugged. If Satine not being a Force-user got him in better graces with Owen Lars, he’d take it.
Finally, Beru emerged from the backseat with a squirming, mumbling, fussy two-year-old in her arms and it was only through the Force that Ben didn’t drop all of the bags. Between the messy straw-blond hair, bright blue eyes, and pouty expression, he was a spitting image of Anakin Skywalker.
“You must be Luke,” Satine smiled, kneeling down to make eye contact with him. “My name is Satine, you’ll be staying with me and Ben while your aunt and uncle run some errands.”
“I dun wanna,” Luke frowned, clinging to his aunt’s dress.
“We’ll be back in the morning, sweetheart,” Beru comforted him, giving him a squeeze before setting him down. “Remember what we talked about, about what good little boys get to do if they behave?”
Luke’s face lit up. “Podrace!”
Ben’s heart jumped into his throat.
“Yes, that’s right! We’ll all go to the Darklighters to watch the Boonta Eve Classic next month on the Holonet.”
Oh, thank the Force.
After handing Ben one final bag (this one filled with toys, apparently), Owen ruffled Luke’s hair, his gruff exterior melting for the first time. “Be good, kiddo.”
“Ok,” the toddler shrugged, suddenly very interested in a pile of small rocks by his feet. The Lars’ exchanged familiar, exasperated smiles, as if this was a regular occurrence. Ben found himself blinking away tears and he wasn’t really sure why.
As they turned to leave, Owen turned back to Ben and gave him a warning. “No funny business, Kenobi. I mean it.”
“I promise you, he’s in capable hands-,”
He cut him off. “I mean none of this Jedi nonsense.”
“Oh, well, he’s a bit too young for any real training, anyway.”
“No, none period. When I said don’t get used to this, I meant it. You’re not ever going to train him. End of story.”
Ben opened his mouth to protest but Owen was already in the speeder, backing it down the front path of his home. He couldn’t be serious, could he? Ben was not sure of much in this galaxy, but he was sure Luke would be a Jedi, Owen would have to see that. But that debate would have to wait until tomorrow, because now, the true test of babysitting had begun.
As the three of them made their way towards the house, Luke gasped when he saw Rooh.
Satine laughed, picking Luke up. “Yes, that’s an eopie. Her name is Rooh.”
“Hi Rooh!” Luke waved, opening and closing his chubby fingers.
“If you ask nicely, I bet Ben would let you meet her.”
“Really?” he asked, his eyes as wide as moons.
“Yes, really,” she nodded to Ben, who was finishing setting all the bags down just inside the doorway.
He swiveled his head between the adults, pointing excitedly at Rooh. “Can I? Pleeeeeeease?”
“Oh, I suppose so,” Ben smiled at him before glancing up at Satine. “Trade?”
“Just don’t take too long, I’m not unpacking all of that alone,” she warned, handing Luke over to him.
He nodded, adjusting Luke in his arms, and already having to blink away some tears as he held Anakin’s son for the first time since he’d brought him to this planet. Now that he could get a better look at him, he was able to notice that he wasn’t quite Anakin’s doppelganger. While his eye color was Anakin’s, their big and round shape was all Padme. He briefly wondered what his sister must look like at this age, was she Padme all over with hints of Anakin? Maybe he could ask Bail for an update, that wouldn’t be inappropriate, would it?
“Rooh!” Luke whined, hands stretching out towards the eopie and shaking Ben out of his reverie.
“Sorry, my boy, old Ben gets a little caught up in the moment now and again. You’ll understand when you’re much, much older. Now, let’s see if we can get Rooh to come say hi.”
As he stepped up the edge of Rooh’s pen, he reached out to her through the Force, urging her to be extra gentle. She responded with her usual grumpy acceptance, slowly making her way to them by the fence.
“Woooow,” Luke gasped as the eopie lumbered over to them. Carefully, Ben stood Luke up on the top of the waist-high fence while still holding on securely to him. Once Rooh was close enough, Luke was able to reach out pet her head.
“She smells funny,” he giggled, still totally in awe of her.
“Now, now, let’s be nice to her, she is letting us pet her. It takes most eopies weeks to gain the trust of a new being.”
Luke patted her on the forehead apologetically. “Sorry Rooh.”
Amazingly, through no prodding of Ben’s, Rooh bowed her head, a sign of eopie acceptance, towards Luke.
“Well, you certainly didn’t inherit that skill from your dad,” Ben whispered proudly. Anakin had never had the best luck with creatures, having preferred ships and machines, much to Ben’s consternation.
Luke ignored him, too enthralled by Rooh to pay attention to anything else. Ben realized he’d have to resist anymore parental references once Satine was within earshot, he never had divulged Luke’s heritage to her, just that the Force was strong in his family. It had been too long to tell her, now, and he stood by his initial judgment that keeping the circle small was essential for Luke’s safety.
After a few more minutes of incessant petting, Rooh decided she’d had enough interaction with people for the day and ambled back to her favorite resting spot. Scooping Luke back up in his arms, Ben carried him inside.
“Let’s see what Satine’s up to, shall we?”
Despite her earlier protest, she had unpacked nearly all of the half dozen bags, and was currently setting out some art supplies on the floor.
“Now, you know those are for him, not you, correct?”
“Oh hush. I’m just making sure he has an array of activities to choose from.”
Ben set the boy down gently. “Well, Luke, what would you like to do?”
With zero hesitation, Luke grabbed a well-worn toy starship and began spurting nonsensical noises that Ben guessed were supposed to be like a ship’s. He had to bite his lip to keep from grinning; of course Anakin’s son loved playing with starships.
Hiding her disappointment over her ignored art station, Satine scooted over next to Luke, grabbing a slightly disfigured clone action figure to examine.
“Can this one fly your ship?” she asked.
“No. He needs two arms,” Luke said in between zoom and pew-pew noises.
“Well, we can make him another arm.”
He shook his head. “Name is One-Arm.”
“Oh, well, okay.” She picked up another figure, this one even more worn out than the ship. “What about this one? He has two arms, and it looks like he’s seen some action.”
“No, he hates flying.”
“Does he now?” Ben asked, joining them on the floor. “Why’s that?”
Luke shrugged, still much more intrigued by his ship than this conversation. “What Unca Owen said. It’s dad’s.”
Ben’s heart began beating very, very quickly.
“This was your father’s toy? That’s pretty special,” Satine commented. “Guess he wasn’t into starships as much as you, huh?”
Luke didn’t respond, too busy dive-bombing his ship towards the floor before narrowly turning the nose upwards and away from crashing. Undeterred, Satine selected another ship and asked him to show her how to play, which finally got the toddler’s attention. While they swooped through invisible canyons and mountain ranges, Ben gingerly picked up the faded action figure. At one point, this had been a human soldier, but the paint and facial features had deteriorated so much that it almost resembled a Muun. There was no way this character wasn’t supposed to be a pilot, though, it was wearing flight gear and carrying a nav device; he had to assume Owen had told Luke otherwise in an attempt to dissuade him from following in his father’s footsteps. It was obviously made for younger children, no small bits or parts that could be swallowed, and it had a very limited range of movement. Anakin would have likely grown out of it early, had his mother been allowed to collect a salary and buy her son more age-appropriate toys. As he ran his fingers over the shabby figure, Ben’s heart ached, thinking about Shmi holding onto it over the years. He wondered if she, and by extension the Lars’, had kept anything else of Anakin’s. Besides his lightsaber, which was packed securely in a trunk, was this the only possession of Anakin Skywalker’s that was left?
“Ben?” Satine was waving her hand in front of his nose. “Are you alright?”
“Hmm?” He finally broke his gaze with the toy to look up at her. “Yes, sorry, fell into a bit of a meditation trance, there.”
“If you’re quite done, Luke needs your help.”
“He does? Well, my boy, how can Ben Kenobi be of service to you?”
He chuckled. “Oh. Well, then, come along.” As he led Luke to the bathroom, Satine caught his eye, her expression a very clear indication that she was going to ask him about his interest in a dusty old toy later. He gave a slight nod to acknowledge the ensuing conversation, which had become their shorthand over the standard year since her arrival. After Satine had accepted his invitation to stay, they’d had a long talk about how they would make it work. Ben promised to be more open, to not bottle his emotions up, while Satine promised to accept that he couldn’t always tell her every detail. (And to make tea, but that was a given.) So far, it was working quite well for them, Ben especially, even if it went against so many of his Jedi instincts. He was sleeping better, and he found that his more peaceful mind made communicating with Qui-Gon’s spirit easier. His Master still was not completely comfortable with Ben’s relationship but they both enjoyed being able to talk with one another again too much to let it get in the way.
After finishing up in the bathroom, the rest of the morning and early afternoon continued on with the typical joys and frustrations of caring for a toddler. Thrown food, sticky fingers, adorable smiles, temper tantrums, a near collision with the humidifier unit, and more toy starships and speeders than Ben had ever seen. When it was time for Luke’s afternoon nap, he and Satine braced themselves for protest, but were pleasantly surprised when he went down without a fuss. Ben was tempted to join him, but he’d never be able to rest knowing what kind of mess was in his kitchen.
As he wiped down the counters and the stove, he marveled at how filthy they’d gotten after just one meal time. How in the blazes did parents deal with this every day?
“You missed a spot,” Satine chided, bumping him with her hip as she passed by him on her way to the sonic dishwasher.
“Har-har,” he rolled his eyes while subconsciously scrubbing a teeny bit harder.
“I still can’t believe he got mashed deb-debs on the ceiling.”
“Neither can I. On the bright side, his aim is impeccable.”
“That should make Jedi training easier, at least.”
“Yes,” he replied, Owen’s heated whisper echoing in his mind. Surely, he could convince the boy’s uncle to change his mind. He’d negotiated with warlords and tyrants, there had to be a way to make it work with a strong-willed farmer. He could make compromises, like only training Luke at the Lars homestead or even delaying lightsaber training until he was in his early teens. Luke’s instruction was going to inevitably be non-traditional anyway, Ben could make a few more tweaks to his eventual tutelage.
“Another ‘meditation trance’?” Satine was leaning with her back against the counter next to him, arms crossed, and raising a skeptical eyebrow.
“Something like that,” he sighed, running his fingers through his hair.
“Anything you can talk about?”
Still fighting off his old Jedi instincts of half-truths, Ben had to grip the counter to steady himself and remember his promise, even if he knew she wasn’t going to like this. “It’s Owen…he doesn’t think I should train Luke.”
“But isn’t that the whole reason you’re here?” she asked, incredulous.
He nodded. “I suppose he’s just worried and trying to protect him from the Empire, but it’s still troubling.”
“But still, does he not know all the sacrifices you’ve made to be here, to help Luke, and rebuild the Jedi Order? How you’ve uprooted your entire life and given up so much? All for this one boy?” She was indignant, her voice rising to perilous nap-disturbing levels, and Ben couldn’t blame her. She’d placed all her bets on him and his mission, and what was it going to mean for her if he couldn’t accomplish it?
“I’m not sure he likes me well enough to care about any of that but I’ll come up with some other way to convince him,” he reassured her. “The Force works in mysterious ways, sometimes, but there’s absolutely no way Luke is not becoming a Jedi.”
“Let me help, he seemed to like that I was not a Jedi, maybe I can be a sort of mediator,” she suggested.
It was such an obvious idea that Ben cursed himself for not realizing it sooner. This was the reason the Force brought her here, it was so clear now.
“That,” he grinned, tapping his fingers against her wrist. “Is a most excellent idea.”
Pleased with herself, Satine smirked. “I know.”
“Smugness is not very becoming on you, my former Duchess,” he teased, moving his body so that he was hovering directly over her.
Flattening her palms against his chest, she teased right back. “I don’t quite believe you, my former Grand Negotiator.”
Tipping his head down, his nose brushed against hers. “You don’t?”
She ran her hands up his chest until she could loop them around his neck. “Not in the slightest bit.”
Just as Ben was about to take their flirting to the next level, he suddenly sensed that he was no longer the only Force-sensitive being in his kitchen. Body petrified, he turned his head to the right to see Luke standing less than a meter away, arms crossed in annoyance.
Satine, who had no such clairvoyance, was busy whispering decidedly inappropriate nothings into his left ear.
“Satine,” Ben croaked, still frozen in abject horror.
“Hmm,” she hummed in between soft kisses to his neck, still completely unaware that they were not alone.
“We have company.”
“What?” She finally stopped, swiveling her head around before spotting the grouchy looking toddler and all the color instantly drained from her already pale face. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. The three of them stood there for what seemed like hours but was really just a few seconds, silently agog, until Luke finally made his demand.
And like that, the tension broke, and Ben and Satine both cracked up with hysteric, nervous laughter, with Satine burying her face in his shoulder.
Luke was not amused.
“Yes, my boy, juice, I can get you juice,” Ben said, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes as he extricated himself from Satine’s grasp. Continuing to stifle giggles, he prepared Luke a covered juice cup, while Satine picked the toddler up and balanced him on her hip. The color had returned dramatically to her face, instead of her usual alabaster skin tone, she was as red as a blaster bolt.
“You look silly,” Luke told her matter-of-factly.
“Well, I feel silly,” she admitted, smoothing out his ruffled bed-head.
“Oh, I just got a little carried away. Grown-ups do that, sometimes.”
Ben suddenly became very focused on juice preparation, so as not to break into hysterics again.
“Well, it’s just something that happens when two adults care about each other,” she explained, sounding only half as frazzled as he could sense how she felt.
Satine let out a frustrated grumble before putting on some fake enthusiasm. “Ben! How’s that juice coming along?”
“Here we go.” He handed Luke the durable, covered cup, who responded by yelling “Juice!” again before taking a long sip. That was one crisis averted, for the most part.
Once his thirst was quenched, Luke dropped his cup, which Ben was able to catch with ease before it hit the floor. Luke’s already-bright blue eyes lit up like the Coruscant skyline.
“How you do that?”
Ben chuckled. “With the help of a mysterious and powerful ally, the Force. You’ll learn all about it, someday, hopefully.”
Reaching towards the cup, Luke insisted, “Again!”
“Now, now, as you’ll learn, we don’t call on the Force for goofing off. It should always be treated with respect.”
While he didn’t really understand what Ben was talking about, Luke could tell that he wasn’t going to give him the cup again and pouted. “Again! Again!”
“It seems like I’ll have to make patience one of my earliest lesson-,” Ben stopped, his train of thought derailed by the fact that the juice cup had left his grasp and was hovering in the air towards tiny outstretched hands. Satine gasped, tightening her hold on Luke.
“How is he doing that?”
“Younglings usually display some semblance of Force-usage around this age, but not quite like this,” he explained, watching in awe as Luke nimbly caught the floating cup once it was within his reach.
Unaware of the significance of what he just did, Luke grinned as he, once again, threw the cup down. “Again!”
This time, Ben almost didn’t catch it, still a bit distracted by the toddler’s prowess. If he was already able to float a cup, Ben had no doubt in his mind that Luke would grow up to be a powerful Jedi, much like Anakin. He also had no doubt that early training was going to be crucial to ensure that the similarities to his father ended there.
“Do you think he can do it once more?” Satine asked, still astonished.
“Most likely, no. Younglings grasp of the Force is very tenuous and unpredictable.” He held the cup out for Luke to try and manipulate it again but Luke was now entirely focused on trying to wriggle out of Satine’s grasp.
“There’s also the matter of younglings being easily distracted,” Ben smiled as she set the boy down.
Once he was free, Luke toddled over to the stack of art supplies Satine had set out earlier and grabbed a large crayon and a piece of paper. Overcome with delight, she scurried to join him, excited to finally impart some of her wisdom. There was still cleaning for Ben to do, but this time it could wait. He absolutely had to watch Satine attempt to teach a two-year-old the fundamentals of Mandalorian art and design.
“Is that your favorite color?” she asked, pointing to the green crayon he was currently making scribbles with.
“It’s a very cool color. I always liked blue, myself. Reminds me of my home.”
“I like green ‘cuz it’s not like home.”
Satine and Ben exchanged raised eyebrows. “Do you not like home?”
“I do but it’s boring. Holonet had pictures of biiiig trees on Kashik. I like ‘em.”
It took Ben a moment to realize what he was talking about. “Kashyyyk is a beautiful planet. The wroshyr trees are quite stunning and the Wookiees are kind, wonderful beings.”
Luke grimaced, trying to repeat him. “Wore-sher? Woo-tees?”
“Close enough,” Satine smiled.
With a shrug, Luke went back to drawing swirls all over the paper, flimsi, and Ben’s coffee table. While he cringed at the destruction of one of his very few possessions, Satine clapped with delight, celebrating Luke’s “ability to think outside the box.”
Eventually, Luke got all the scribbles out of his system and declared he was going to draw something “nice” but Ben and Satine couldn’t see it until he was done.
Retreating back to the kitchen so they wouldn’t ruin the surprise, Ben wrapped his arm around her waist and gave her a kiss on the cheek. (He made sure Luke was out of view, first.)
“What was that for?”
“You’re really good at this.”
“Oh,” she shrugged. “I guess you can thank Korkie for that, I doted on him so much when he was this age.”
There was usually an aura of sadness around her every time one of her family members was brought up, but now it was more palpable than ever. “I’m sorry. I know how terribly you must miss him.”
“I just wish I knew if he was alright,” she chewed on her bottom lip.
“Maybe I can ask Bail. It may take awhile, but he might be able to give us an answer.”
She smiled up at him. “That would be wonderful.”
A few minutes later, Luke finally allowed them back into the living room.
“Done!” He said proudly, presenting them with a drawing. There were three circular shapes, one yellow, one light brown, and one that was a black outline. The yellow and brown circles had two blue dots in them just above curved lines, while the black shape had another long black oval protruding from its side. Ben’s heart surged as he realized that this was him, Satine, and Rooh.
“Oh Luke, it’s beautiful,” Satine declared, kneeling down to give him a hug, on the verge of tears.
“I don’t got Rooh’s color so I did black,” he explained, pointing to his interpretation of the eopie.
“She looks great, my boy,” Ben smiled, patting him affectionately on the shoulder.
“It is missing one thing, though,” Satine told him.
Luke looked panicked. “It is?”
She handed him a green crayon. “The artist’s signature, of course!”
“Oh,” he blushed, looking down at the floor. “I’m no good at letters.”
“That’s alright, I’ll help you,” she said kindly. As she shuffled around to kneel behind Luke to help him write, Ben felt a warm glow wash over him. Despite the circumstances that brought him here, if this was going to be the rest of his life, he was going to be a happy man.
“L…U….K…E. See, you can do it!” she encouraged, helping the toddler write blocky, uneven Aurebesh letters.
“Luke!” he grinned, admiring his handiwork.
“Now, let’s do your last name. Start with another L, for Lars.”
He shook his head. “No.”
Ben’s warm glow faltered. Surely, they didn’t, he thought.
“I got my dad’s name.”
“What is it?”
Chapter 6: Satine
She hadn’t heard right. Surely, she hadn’t.
“S-Skywalker?” she repeated weakly, purposefully not looking to Ben for confirmation. She wasn’t sure what she’d say if she did, and she couldn’t take the chance of swearing right in front of a toddler.
“Yup!” Luke nodded, fist still curled around the green crayon, waiting for her to continue helping him.
“That’s…that’s a very unique name,” she swallowed, slowly guiding his hand to make an Aurebesh “S”.
“It’s my Gramma’s too.”
“I see. Do you get to see her?” Satine knew the answer but she had to keep herself focused away from Ben.
“She’s died a loooooong time ago.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
He shrugged. “Unca’ Owen and Aunt B’ru say she was nice.”
“Well, that’s good. What about your father?” She couldn’t help herself.
“He’s gone too.”
She knew that, too. She didn’t want to believe it, but she knew it. She knew who this child’s father’s was, and, her heart clenched, who his mother was, as well.
As they finished up writing his name, her mind flooded with thoughts. It all made so much sense, how Ben knew that a Force-gifted child lived here, especially such a young one, and why he was so committed to his training. But why hadn’t he told her? To protect Luke would be his answer, but she couldn’t abide by that. A lie to protect another Jedi and their partner’s son would have resulted in her sympathy, but one to keep her from knowing that her dear friend’s child had survived? No, she couldn’t accept that.
Once she and Luke were done signing his name, he announced he was going to play with his starships again and promptly ran to the other side of the room to grab them. She heard Ben sink onto the couch, right across from her on the floor, with only the coffee table between them. She still couldn’t look at him, especially knowing the myriad of excuses he was about to give her.
“I can’t believe they didn’t change it,” he said quietly.
Alright, she could admit when she was wrong - that she had not expected.
She finally glanced up to find him staring at the floor, his right hand covering his forehead. His face was ashen and lined, as if he’d aged ten years in ten seconds. She fought the instinct to comfort him, she was still mad after all, but it wasn’t easy.
“I should have told them, then they would have used Lars,” he muttered to himself. “I told Qui-Gon the Force was leading me this way, why did he block me?”
Qui-Gon? Now her anger was rapidly being replaced with confusion. He’d died well over a decade ago, what was he talking about? Besides, couldn’t he tell how upset she was? Why was he so focused on this?
“They’ll find him, now, he’ll find him,” he kept mumbling, tapping his foot nervously.
“They are, he is, supposed to be anonymous, that was the point.”
“How could they not change it?”
“Obi-Wan!” she hissed, hoping to finally get his attention. It worked, his head popping up in surprise.
“Satine, I-,” he stopped, looking panicked at Luke sitting only a couple meters away. “Kitchen.”
And with that, he was up, walking briskly towards the very back of the kitchen. After telling Luke just to shout if he needed anything, she followed.
“Okay, just what the hell is going on?” she demanded once she joined him. “How could you not tell me? And what were you babbling on about, who’s going to find him and who is supposed to be anonymous? And what’s this about Qui-Gon? Or did he have a fake funeral, as well?”
“I’m…I’m so sorry,” is all he could say, leaning against the sonic dishwasher, eyes focused on the floor once again.
“You’re not getting off that easily.”
“I know,” he said heavily. “I just…I don’t even know where to start.”
She kept her voice down but she still made sure he could tell how upset she was. “Start here: how could you not tell me Padme’s son survived? I understand why the galaxy doesn’t know, but she was my friend and I was devastated when I learned of her and child’s demise.”
“Children,” he whispered.
Satine’s heart skipped a beat. “What?”
He finally lifted his head up. He looked tired, more tired than she could remember ever seeing him. “Twins.”
Before she could speak, he held up his hand. “Please don’t ask me about the sibling, I can’t tell you where they are.”
“I wasn’t going to,” she said truthfully, eyes unexpectedly brimming with tears. “I understand why you’re hiding them, I just don’t understand why you hid him from me.”
“No one can know who he is, Satine. Any child with Anakin’s blood running through their veins is too important to the future of the Jedi, and the entire galaxy.”
“I get that,” she said exasperatedly. “You didn’t have to tell me he was Anakin’s son, but you could have told me he was Padme’s.”
“What’s the difference? If I had told you that, you would have still been able to deduce who his father was. They were terribly indiscreet.”
She sighed, he did have her there. “Fine. It still hurts though, after all this time, you continue to be dishonest with me.”
“Satine, we talked about this, I told you that I wouldn’t be able to tell you everything, and this was what I meant. Do you honestly think I enjoy lying to you?” He was starting to get frustrated, crossing his arms and staring down the bridge of his nose at her.
She mimicked his stance, snapping back. “Why wouldn’t you? Every other person I’ve known gets a kick out of it.”
“Because I was only trying to protect Luke,” he said, his features and voice softening. “And because I am not your sister.”
“Leave Bo out of this, especially when you are just attempting to deflect the blame off yourself,” she glowered.
“I am doing no such thing. I’m only trying to help you see this from my point of view.”
She laughed hollowly. Of course he would bring up that nonsense point of view argument he so favored. “Then why bring my sister into this? You have no idea what it’s like to have sibling, let alone to have one so fundamentally opposite of yourself that she literally joined a terrorist organization that opposed your entire philosophy. You have no right to throw her name about as a way to excuse your dishonesty. Bo and I have our differences, but I love her, a concept you still seem to not fully understand.”
There was a part of her that knew she wasn’t being fair, but she didn’t care. There was no one in this entire deceitful galaxy that was more tired of being lied to than her. Between Tal Merrik, Prime Minister Almec, Pre Viszla, and the numerous other corrupt officials in her government, she had reached her breaking point. And the fact that Ben would bring up her sister, a sister with whom she had a complicated relationship, but loved nonetheless, as a way to put this back on her? She could not, and would not, stand for it.
“Am I? Do tell, Master Jedi.”
“I know exactly what you’re describing.”
She instantly knew what he was getting it and it just made her more frustrated. “Just because you considered Anakin a brother and you squabbled about philosophy, it is fundamentally not the same thing. For one thing, Anakin was never part of an assassination plot against you.”
His gaze dropped again, unable to look at her. Satine thought she had finally gotten through to him, and readied herself for an apology.
“I wish you were right, Satine,” he said quietly, voiced filled with pain and knuckles white from gripping to the edge of the dishwasher so tightly. “More than anything, I wish I could admit to you that you were right and I was wrong. But I cannot.”
“Because Anakin…,” he stopped to steady his uneven breath. “Because he tried to kill me.”
She shook her head vigorously. What the hell was he talking about, now? “What? When?”
“But you told me that’s where he was killed by that Darth Vader creature.”
“Anakin was destroyed by Darth Vader, but he was not killed.”
Her patience for this obtuse nonsense was wearing thin. She needed a drink. “Ben, please, what are you talking about?”
He ignored her, now staring towards the back corner of the kitchen. There was nothing there besides, somehow, one of Luke’s toy speeders. But the way he was staring, it was like he was looking at a being, his eyes focused a couple meters off the ground.
“Master, I have to,” he whispered. “She deserves to know.”
Satine suddenly became concerned; who or what was he talking to? Was he having some sort of mental break? “Ben, you’re scaring me. What is going on?”
“It is through the Force that she is even here, I have no doubt that her presence is what will help my mission succeed.” He was still conversing with the corner and as if she wasn’t standing right in front of him. Her heart began to throb in her ears, all of her rage and fury turning into worry.
“Ben, please.” She reached for his shoulders to attempt to shake him out of whatever what was happening.
“I’m sorry Master. I understand your disapproval but I’ve made my decision.” He nodded curtly towards the empty corner before turning back to her. Now, he held his head up and met her gaze straight-on. “Satine, what I am about to tell you can never be spoken of-,”
She interrupted him. “Stop. Before you say another word, please tell me why in the blazes you were talking to the wall?!”
“Oh,” he let out a small laugh. “I forgot you can’t see him, I’m sorry. I was talking to Master Qui-Gon.”
She gasped. It was all she could do to keep her voice down. “What?! He died fifteen years ago!”
“Well, yes, but through the Force, we’ve been able to communicate. Usually I have to be meditating, but it’s up to him, really,” he explained as if it was the simplest thing in the world and not completely and utterly insane.
Placing the back of her hand on his forehead, she asked him. “Are you ill? Did you eat some hallucinogenic berries?”
Gently wrapping his fingers around her wrist, he pulled her hand down away from his face, but did not let go. “I realize how it must sound and I promise I’ll explain all the riveting Force mechanics of it later, but please, allow me to explain about Anakin, first.”
Still utterly bewildered, all she could do was incline her head the tiniest bit to indicate a nod.
“Now, as I was saying, what I am about to tell you must be kept secret. I know how much you despise dishonesty, so I want you to understand that by telling you, I am asking you to engage in it. Thus, I am leaving it up to you. Do you want me to tell you everything?”
All of his previous anxiety had evaporated, giving way to the calm Jedi she knew so well. His grey-blue eyes were clear again, and his hands steady as they held her own. Despite the whirlwind of heightened emotions she’d only moments earlier been spiraling through, Satine suddenly felt peaceful, as if the serene aura surrounding Ben was enveloping her as well.
“Yes,” she breathed. “Everything.”
And he did.
When Ben had told Satine about Padme’s death and he’d subsequently had a crying nervous breakdown, it had taken until the next day for his burden to feel lighter and for his connection to her stronger. But now, those sensations were instantaneous. Because this time, he’d told her all of it.
Well, almost all of it. He had still not said a word about Leia or her adoptive parents, but she seemed to understand why he couldn’t, and in the grand scheme of things, it was not as important as the rest of it.
He told her about Anakin’s fall, dueling him on Mustafar, leaving him there to die, and his rebirth as Darth Vader. He explained Palpatine’s grand scheme and the Jedi’s inability to stop it. He told her about Padme’s final moments, and the pendant she’d given him that he didn’t understand. He told her about traveling with newborn Luke to Tatooine and asking the Lars to raise him. He was about to explain Qui-Gon’s newfound spiritual presence, as well, but a crying toddler interrupted them.
Ben left Satine to herself to let her process all of the information he’d just overloaded her with, while he soothed the cranky Luke and prepared him dinner. (Beru had prepared all of Luke’s meals ahead of time, they just required reheating, so they were impossible for him to foul up.)
Luke was halfway finished with his meal (well, if you could consider having half of your food on your face halfway finished) before she rejoined them. Ben could easily sense her distress but she was putting on a brave face for Luke. Using the Force, he scooted her chair closer to him, so that he could rub the back of her neck. Slowly, some of the tension oozed out of her body, but he knew it would take more than that to ease her mind fully.
After Luke finished spreading mashed vegetables around on his face, and after Ben cleaned him up, the suns were setting, and according to Owen and Beru’s instructions, that meant it was also Luke’s bedtime. As Ben readied his portable bed, and Satine helped him into his pajamas, Luke had one last demand of the day.
“Story? Hmm, let’s see what you have.” Satine began rummaging through his bags, looking for any books or storytelling holovids.
“No! New story!”
Satine glanced uneasily at Ben, obviously in no mood to attempt to come up with a toddler-appropriate story on a whim. She didn’t have to worry - he had the perfect tale ready to go.
“If you get in bed right away, I’ve got one I think you’ll enjoy,” Ben told him, beckoning for him to get under the sheets. Luke scrambled to obey, flopping into the portable bed with abound.
“New story!” he grinned, looking up at Ben expectantly.
“Have you ever heard about the human boy who could podrace?”
He giggled, shaking his head. “Humans can’t podrace!”
Ben smiled. “This one could.”
Once the grand tale of Ani, the boy from Tatooine who raced for his freedom and then saved the planet of Naboo from battle droids, was finished, Luke’s eyes were filled with starry-eyed wonder.
“I wanna be a pilot like him,” he yawned.
“Someday, my boy, someday,” Ben said kindly, tucking him in. “Until then, future pilots need lots and lots of rest.”
“Little boys who don’t get enough sleep don’t get to take a ride on Rooh in the morning.”
Luke’s eyes grew wide before snapping shut. “Okay sleep now.”
Chuckling, Ben gently patted his shoulder. “Goodnight, Luke Skywalker.”
After extinguishing most of the lights in his home, he joined Satine on their bed where she was nursing a stiff whiskey.
“He went down easier than I expected,” he said, quietly removing his boots.
“Probably be up at dawn, then.”
He cringed. “Oi, good point.”
Hands cupped around the glass, she tapped her thumbs on the rim. “Ben…I’m so sorry.”
He raised an eyebrow. “For what?”
She looked up from studying the bottom of her glass. “To start, for being so furious at you earlier. You would think I could distinguish between a harmful deceit and an understandable one, but I suppose I still have some trust issues to work out.”
Threading his fingers through her hair, he tucked a piece behind her ear. “No need to apologize for that. I should have been more upfront with you long ago. And besides, with all you’ve been through, I don’t blame you in the slightest for being upset with me.”
“All I’ve been through?” She shook her head. “That was nothing compared to what happened to you.”
“It’s not a competition, my dear,” he said gently. “Do not diminish your own experiences because of mine.”
She sniffed, a small smile on her lips. “When did you become the strong and steady one again?”
He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her in close. Her body was still filled with tension, but he felt her begin to relax as she shifted her weight onto his body. “Believe me, I am just as shocked as you are.”
“I’m serious. After relaying all of that to me, how are you so calm tonight?”
“Well, partially because of something you said.”
“What was that?”
“When you told me I didn’t understand love.”
She blushed furiously, voice filled with shame. “I shouldn’t have said that, I was angry and I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry.”
He held up his free hand, motioning her to stop. “Don’t be. You’re not exactly wrong. Being a Jedi, my concept of love, both romantic and otherwise, isn’t like anyone else’s. For me, love was always about protecting others and ending conflicts, being selfless to a fault. It was always about sacrifice – giving up material items, romantic relationships, even distancing myself from any sort of family, for fear of becoming too attached. For me, love meant staying away. It meant leaving Mandalore with Qui-Gon all those years ago. It meant letting Anakin have his space. It meant giving Luke to his extended family to raise. It meant hiding, so much hiding. That is, until-,”
“Until you asked me stay,” she completed for him.
He nodded. “I was completely selfish in doing that. I told myself I wanted you to stay because I believed the Force had brought you here and that there was a grand reason for your presence. But even if that is true, and I do think it is, that wasn’t the real reason I asked.”
She twisted her neck so she could look directly at him. “Then what was?”
“Because I love you, Satine. I always have, even if I didn’t realize it myself until tonight. And my love for you goes beyond wanting to keep you safe or making you happy. For the first time in my life, I want to be someone’s equal, someone’s partner. I went immediately from being an apprentice to a master, and even once Anakin was a knight of his own, that dynamic still defined our relationship. But with you, you challenge me, you teach me, you support me, and not because of a code or because someone told you to, but because you want to. I never realized how momentous that was until tonight and Qui-Gon appeared to warn me against telling you the truth. I respect his viewpoint, and there is a chance that he is right, but I couldn’t lie to you any longer. It was my way of, once again, staying away and keeping my distance. And what has that ever gotten me? So, when I decided to be upfront with you, I felt this calm come over me for the first time in years, like the Force was bathing me in light, but it wasn’t just the Force. It was my love for you.”
Unwrapping his arm from around Satine’s shoulders, he reached into his tunic pocket and pulled out the rock that reminded him of Padme’s pendant. The edges had worn down some from living in a pocket for over a year but it still retained its shape. He let it rest in the middle of his palm for her to see.
“Right after you arrived last year, I made a promise to myself. I swore that this time, with Luke and his training, it would be different. For awhile, I thought you would be that difference, your presence and your help. It wasn’t until tonight that I realized that I would have to be different, as well. It’s the only way it will work. So, no more half-truths. No more hyperbole. No more hiding.”
He clutched the rock again, briefly, before taking one of Satine’s hands and placing it on her open palm, right on the faint scar from her boulder climb. “I’ve carried this with me since I made that promise. It resembles that pendant Padme tried to give me in her final moments, and it was a reminder to keep my word.” He laid his hand over her open palm holding the stone with his fingers brushing against her wrist. He tapped three times. “I know I already asked you to stay but that was before. Now that you know everything, I understand if that changes things.”
They sat silently for a few moments, both staring down at their hands surrounding the rock. Then, abruptly, Satine downed the rest of her whiskey and let the empty glass fall onto the bed. Keeping the stone between their palms, she rotated her wrist so that their fingers could be laced together and laid her now-free hand on top. Her eyes met his and when she spoke, it was back to that steely tone he knew so well.
“What are we going to argue about now that we don’t have any more secrets?”
Ben’s face cracked into a wide smile. “Oh, I’m sure we’ll find something.”
No longer able to keep the straight face, either, Satine launched herself at him, kissing him with such power that he was sure he would have been knocked off balance if not for the Force. Straddling his lap, her fingers tangled in his hair, tugging just the right side of hard. Her lips tasted like Correlian whiskey and he wanted to feel them on his forever. Instinctively, he steadied his hands on her hips, pressing his thumbs right where he knew she liked it.
“Wait,” she gasped, pulling back slightly. “Luke.”
Groaning, he buried his face in her shoulder. “Blast. I forgot.”
She rubbed small circles on the nape of his neck. “You know, we wouldn’t have this problem if you’d found a house with individual rooms and doors.”
“Oh yes, because I had so many options out here,” he snorted.
“Well, you could construct some.”
“I’ll get right on that,” he said drolly.
“You were right, we do still have things to fight over,” she grinned, tugging slightly on his hair to tip his head up at her.
“And it didn’t take long,” he grinned back, giving her hips a playful squeeze. The sensation made her shudder, so she reluctantly pulled his hands away, although she did not let go once she had. The mood subdued immediately, despite the fact that she was still technically in his lap.
“Everything you said…I know how hard that must have been to tell me. I want you to know that I appreciate it, more than I can say,” she told him, voice mixed with honest sincerity and gratefulness.
“I should have expressed it sooner. Or, at least, figured it out sooner,” he lamented.
“Maybe,” she conceded with a smile. “But I know what I signed up for when I fell in love with a Jedi, reading between the lines, being patient, all of that. I’m quite good at playing the long game.”
“I’d say so, it’s been, what, almost two decades since we met?”
She dropped hold on his left hand so she could cup the side of his face, thumb running over his cheekbone. “Yes. And while I can’t honestly say I like how we got here, I am glad that if I can’t be on Mandalore, at least I’m with you.”
Once again, Ben felt as if he was being doused in light and any doubts he may have had about being so open dissipated. He still understood why so many Jedi believed that this kind of connection with any being was dangerous, it was messy and complicated, two things that never sat well with the Jedi Council. And maybe during the time of the Republic, this would have never worked or made sense, but everything was different, now. She was different, he was different, they were different, and this was going to work. It had to.
Having spent the majority of their lives as solitary sleepers, Ben and Satine usually drifted to opposite sides of the bed at night. Even when the temperature dropped, it was rare for them to wake up in each other’s arms. It just wasn’t how they slept, and both preferred it. Ben could rise early to get some extra meditation done without disturbing her, while she could do the same if she was feeling especially ambitious with her breakfast ideas.
So, naturally, the one occasion when they did fall asleep with their arms wrapped around one another and legs tangled together and stayed that way for the entire night, it was the same time they were awoken by a toddler jumping on their bed.
“Up! Up! Up!” Luke yelled, hopping all over the end of the bed.
Ben opened his eyes so quickly that it took quite a few blinks to get his vision to focus on the jumping Luke. Blearily, he glanced outside, noting that it must be just after dawn. Once again, Satine had been right, although she didn’t seem too happy about it. Despite wearing a modest nightgown, she had pulled the covers up tight around her neck at the sight of Luke.
“Alright, alright, we’re up,” Ben told him groggily, slowly extricating his legs from Satine’s. “There’s hardly any need for that much bouncing at this hour.”
Luke ignored him, still hopping around, while Satine muffled a groan into her pillow. Sighing, Ben realized he’d never given the crèche masters at the temple enough credit.
Despite his exhaustion, Ben agilely caught the bouncing child and carried him towards the kitchen. Satine did not follow and he couldn’t blame her.
“Alright, time for breakfast,” he said, sorting through the pre-prepared meals with one hand while he held Luke in the other. “Looks like more mashed fruit is going to adhere itself to my ceiling, wonderful.”
Luke squirmed in Ben’s arm. “No!”
“No? Well, there’s some hubba bread here, as well.”
“No!” He shook his head empathetically, pointing towards the door. “Rooh!”
Ben pinched the bridge of his nose. He completely forgot that he promised Luke a ride on the eopie last night. “Yes, yes, we’ll get to that, but not on an empty stomach.”
He pouted. “No!”
“My, my, you are going to need a lot of patience lessons,” he observed, setting Luke down in his high-chair. “C’mon, just a quick bite.”
Luke shoved the bowl of fruit away, making a “Hmmph!” noise.
“You will eat your breakfast, young man,” Ben told him sternly.
He began to bang on the high-chair’s table, yelling to be let down and Ben suddenly wondered if Jedi mind tricks worked on children, even if they were Force-sensitive.
“You will eat your breakfast, Luke,” he said again, waving his hand in front of the toddler. For a split-second, he thought it might have worked as Luke picked up a handful of deb-debs, but then the fruit was stuck was to Ben’s cheek and he realized the futility of his action.
“Luke, that was not very polite,” he grimaced, wiping the mushy fruit from his face. “And Rooh does not appreciate impoliteness.”
This only prompted more whining and a string of gibberish protests that were quickly giving Ben a headache.
“Here,” Satine yawned, handing him a cup of tea. She hadn’t gotten dressed, yet, either, having just thrown one of Ben’s cloaks on over her nightgown. “I made it extra strong.”
“Thank you,” he drank gratefully, the bitterness stinging sharply on his tongue. Normally, he preferred a much milder brew but this morning absolutely required this robust blend.
She handed him a napkin. “You still have some deb-deb in your beard.”
“Great,” he frowned, running the napkin diligently through his facial hair.
“You know, that’d be easier if you didn’t have a beard.”
“You’re not ever going to win that one, my dear.”
She sighed. “Worth a shot.”
After a brief stint in time-out and threats of being relegated there for the rest of the morning, Luke finally obeyed and begrudgingly ate some breakfast. Ben considered holding back on his promise to allow him a ride on Rooh to try and impart some discipline on the youngster, but he couldn’t quite make himself do it, even if he knew he absolutely would have been stricter to Anakin. He wondered if this was what being a grandparent was like.
Once everyone was fed, caffeinated, and dressed, Ben and Satine finally led Luke outside for his eopie ride. It was all Satine could do to hold onto him while Ben readied her saddle. After she was ready, Ben climbed on top of her, scooting back on the saddle so there was room for Luke.
“Alright, my boy, you ready?”
Carefully, Satine handed the youngster off, and Ben wrapped a steady hand around him as he settled in on the saddle. Besides keeping up with exercises and the occasional dropped cup, he didn’t often get a chance to put his Force abilities to much use out here so this was going to be a bit of a test for him, ensuring that a toddler wouldn’t fall off of a moving animal.
“I’m going to let you take her lead but be careful with it. You don’t want to pull too hard and upset her.”
Luke took the leather straps and rocked them up and down a few times. Due to his limited strength, Rooh barely even registered he’d done anything, so Ben gave her a little prod to walk slowly, very slowly, around her pen.
Cheering, Luke swung the straps again. “Faster!”
“I think this is fast enough.”
Undeterred, he yelled louder. “Faster, Rooh! Faster!”
“Once you’re a bit older than we can think about that.”
Luke’s Force capability to communicate with creatures was more proficient than Ben realized and Rooh began to trot, instead of the meandering amble he’d asked of her.
“By the Force-Rooh, slow down!”
The conflicting messages began to irritate the eopie and she stopped so abruptly that Luke nearly teetered off the side, saved only by Ben’s hold on him and his quick reflexes. His heart was beating so loudly in his ears that he didn’t make out what Satine shouting from outside the pen.
That one, he did hear.
With a gulp, he turned his head to see a red-faced, murderous looking Owen Lars standing at the edge of Rooh’s pen, alongside a worried Beru and Satine trying to placate them both. Luke, meanwhile, was yelping for joy and demanding they “go again.”
He did not foresee this going well.
Very, very, very cautiously, Ben dismounted Rooh while holding tight onto Luke. Attempting to play it cool, he cheerfully waved to the Lars as he walked toward them.
“Good morning Owen, Beru! I hope you were able to locate vaporators at a reasonable price.”
Naturally, Owen ignored his inquiry. “What in nine hells is wrong with you!? You can’t take a toddler on an eopie joyride!”
“Owen, I assure you, it was nothing of the sort. I promised the boy a ride on Rooh and we were going very slowly for most of it.”
“And then we went fast!” Luke raved, making zooming noises and waving his hands about wildly. Ben pinched the bridge of nose, desperately wishing he could communicate with him through the Force to tell him to be quiet.
“And that only happened because young Luke here willed it to. Once I commanded Rooh to stop, she did, and everything is fine,” he assured them, handing Luke off to Beru. “I promise you both, I never would have let anything happen to him.”
Owen rolled his eyes. “Sure, blame the kid for your muck-up, that’s the honorable Jedi way, huh?”
“I am not blaming Luke, I am only explaining what happened. Luke’s strength in the Force allowed him to communicate with my eopie as he wished for our ride to be a bit more exciting. I admit that I underestimated his ability, I never would have allowed him on her if I knew he could do that. And that,” he added with slightly narrowed eyes. “Is precisely why the boy needs training.”
“No.” To Ben’s surprise, it was Beru who responded. “We’ve discussed this many, many times, and it’s just too dangerous.”
“I understand your concern, Beru, I do, but it’s just as dangerous, if not more so, to allow him to grow up without honing his abilities. Untrained Force-users can accidentally hurt themselves or others, it’s why the Jedi begin training at such an early age.”
She shook her head, adjusting Luke on her hip. “He’s not going to be a Jedi, Ben.”
“But it’s his destiny, you have to understand! He is one of the few hopes we have left in this galaxy to defeat the Empire and bring back the Republic!”
“The Republic never did anything for us, why do we care if it comes back?” Owen glared. “And besides, didn’t you tell Shmi that Anakin had some great destiny awaiting him? Lotta good that did him or her.”
The Lars were playing hardball and Ben was going to have to step his game up. “Anakin was an extraordinary Jedi who saved countless lives during the war. I’m sure he’d want nothing more for his son than to follow in his footsteps.”
Owen laughed bitterly. “Be sure to tell that one to the Sandpeople around here, I bet they’ll get a kick out of it.”
Ben eyed him suspiciously. “What are you talking about?”
“He doesn’t know?” Beru whispered to her husband.
“Apparently not.” He glanced grimly at Luke. “Better not let him hear this.”
Without another word, she carried Luke into Ben’s house, leaving the two men and an oddly silent Satine outside.
“He never told you about what happened when Shmi died, huh?” Owen looked almost sorry for him, which alarmed Ben more than when he was angry.
“He told me she’d been kidnapped by Sandpeople and that she passed away after he found her. He did not like to talk about it and I didn’t press him.”
“Well, he didn’t tell us, either. We only found out later after some Jawas found the bodies.”
Satine finally spoke up. “Bodies?”
He nodded. “Whole camp of Sandpeople slaughtered. Men, women, children, didn’t matter. Most people thought it was a rival tribe or even the Hutts’ doing, but we knew the truth. They were found the day after Anakin and that girl left. And every single one of them had cauterized wounds, like the ones you get from that,” he pointed to the lightsaber hanging off of Ben’s belt. “When we said it was too dangerous for Luke to be a Jedi, we weren’t talking about just his safety.”
Ben always knew there had to be more to Anakin’s story about his mother’s death, and after what he’d seen at the Jedi Temple, he couldn’t say he was gobsmacked by the revelation. But that did not prevent his heart from breaking anew. He desperately wanted time to process this revelation, but he couldn’t let Owen leave without agreeing to Luke’s training. He breathed out all of his grief into the Force and resolved to meditate on it later.
“Anakin was a troubled young man, and many of his deficiencies as a Jedi came from the fact that he was much too old when he began his training. This is why Luke must begin as soon as possible, so we can prevent a similar tragedy.”
“Sorry if I don’t trust the man who taught the Sandpeople Slaughterer to teach Luke any differently.” Owen turned to leave but Satine called after him.
“That is exactly the reason you should trust him.”
He stopped, mildly surprised that it was Satine who spoke. She had been largely silent ever since they’d begun this debate, leaning up against the fence of Rooh’s pen, but now she was standing up straight and peering Owen dead in the eye. Ben realized it was his turn to be mute and watch a master work.
“And how do you figure that?”
“Because Ben knows his mistakes and he will do whatever it takes to rectify them. He’s given up his entire life to be here to both guide and protect Luke on this journey and he’s committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure he does well by him.”
Owen wasn’t convinced. “And why should we listen to you? We don’t even know you.”
“Of course, my apologies, we were never formally introduced.” She shot Ben a quick glare before bowing her head. “I am Satine Kryze, former Duchess of Mandalore and former leader of the Council of Neutral Systems.”
That managed to impress Owen, at least a small amount. “Mandalore, huh? Only Mandalorians I’ve ever heard of have been bounty hunters. Didn’t realize your planet even had royalty.”
“A common misconception,” she conceded. “The majority of our people are peaceful, myself included. I am a committed pacifist and I abhor violence in all its permutations.”
“Then how’d you get hooked up with him?” He pointed a thumb towards Ben.
“The Jedi were once the peacekeepers of the galaxy, and Ben and his Master Qui-Gon helped protect me from mercenaries for over a year during our youth. We reconnected during the Clone Wars, where he, not for the first time, saved my life and helped me escape from a gang that threatened me and my people.” She gave Ben a small smile. “Unfortunately, I can’t go back to Mandalore as long as the Empire is in charge, so, I came here to find my Jedi knight in shining armor. To my surprise, he no longer existed.”
Ben grimaced but forced himself to keep quiet. She’d promised him that she’d help him gain permission to train Luke, and if it took tearing him down a few pegs to do it, then so be it.
“Who did you find, then?” Owen’s tone, while not exactly warm, was still a lot friendlier than it had ever been with Ben. Maybe this would work.
“I found a broken husk of a man, haunted by the horrors of war and utterly incapable of being honest with himself.”
Well, she didn’t have to tear him down that much, did she?
“You’re not exactly making a good case for him, Duchess.”
“Let me finish,” she said in a much nicer tone than she ever would have to Ben. He also noted that she didn’t correct Owen’s use of “Duchess”. “As low as Ben was, he still welcomed me into his home with open arms. He never complained about me upending his life or badgering him about what happened during the war. In fact, the only thing that ever gave him pause about my presence was what it meant for Luke’s safety. He was so committed to protecting him that he didn’t tell me of his existence for weeks, and it was only last night that he disclosed Luke’s parentage to me, something he wouldn’t have even done if it wasn’t for you, Owen.”
“You gave Luke his father’s surname, which led to the revelation. Why did you do that, by the way? We were surprised that he doesn’t go by Lars.”
“We were going to call him that, actually, but Beru thought it would be nice to honor Shmi that way. She was so great to us and my dad, and since we didn’t really know Anakin, we think of him as her grandson more than anything,” he explained.
Owen seemed to have forgotten the part about how his father bought Shmi, but Ben knew better than to upset the precarious conversation with that bit of information.
“I see,” Satine nodded before continuing with her point. “As someone else who knew both Anakin and Padme, I was completely blindsided and understandably furious. How could he keep this from me for over a year?”
Owen raised an eyebrow in Ben’s direction. “You’ve been living with royalty for a year and you lied to her? You’re braver than I gave you credit for, Kenobi.”
Ben just gave a small shrug and looked back at Satine as she continued.
“But after we talked about it, and after watching him be so kind and loving towards Luke all day, I realized why. It was all to protect him. He didn’t care if it upset our relationship, as long as Luke’s secret was safe, that was what mattered. This man cares more about your boy than you’ll ever know, and I know that he can and will help him become a well-trained and safe Jedi Knight.”
She finished with her arms crossed behind her back, a funny shaped rock being held tightly in her left hand. Heart surging, Ben reached through the fence to tap her wrist. This could work.
Owen rubbed his chin, obviously giving Satine’s statement some thought. “Alright, Duchess, I believe you when you say he cares. And Kenobi, I appreciate that you do look after Luke. But I just…I just don’t know if we can sign off on this. Shmi missed Anakin so much, I don’t know if I could let him leave like that.”
“Owen, he doesn’t have to leave. I can train him right here, or even on your farm if that’s preferable,” Ben assured him.
“But he’ll still leave, someday, right? You keep talking about his destiny, that he’ll become this big important Jedi, but he can’t do that and be a farmer.” Owen was no longer angry, instead more sad than anything. “Luke’s all we got, Kenobi. He’s all we’ll ever have. We can’t watch him grow up only to see him leave and never come back.”
Ben opened his mouth to speak but Satine beat him to it.
“What if Luke got to choose?”
“What do you mean? He’s two, he can’t even get dressed by himself.”
“Yes, what are you proposing, Satine?” Ben asked, rubbing his chin.
She turned so she could face both men, her poise still as if she was addressing the Galactic Senate. “Starting right now, Luke begins training to be a Jedi. But, he also goes to regular school and learns about the importance and value of moisture farming. He grows up in both worlds, learning the values of each. Then, when he’s of age, it becomes his choice. Does he live the life of a humble and hardworking farmer? Or does he continue his Jedi training under Ben’s tutelage? Or, perhaps, neither. It becomes his decision, and his decision only.”
“Hmm,” Owen ran his fingers through his hair. “I don’t know. I still don’t like the idea of him being around one of those,” he pointed again to Ben’s lightsaber.
“Then he won’t be,” Satine said simply.
“Now, now, let’s not get hasty,” Ben said.
She ignored him. “Owen, I told you before that I am a pacifist. I detest those lightsabers as much as you do, maybe even more so. As long as I’m here, Luke will never touch a lightsaber without you and Beru’s permission.”
She had gone too far, how was he supposed to train Luke properly without the basics of lightsaber wielding? Besides, how many times had that “detestable” weapon saved her life? The only thing holding his tongue was the aura around Owen Lars, which had gone from impenetrable to downright hospitable.
“And how do we know you’re not just saying that to get us to give our permission?”
“Because while Ben sees Luke as Anakin’s son, I see him as Padme’s,” she told him, folding her hands together over her heart. “She became a dear friend of mine during the war, and she was similarly committed to non-violence. For every lightsaber stance and battle tactic Luke learns, I will teach him twice as much about negotiation and peaceful protest. It’s the best way I can think of to honor her legacy.”
Owen believed her - Ben could feel it through the Force. Had she done it? “I’ll have to talk to Beru about it.”
“Of course, we wouldn’t want it any other way. This isn’t a light decision, please take all the time you can.”
He nodded at her before turning back to Ben. “You’re lucky you have her.”
“There’s no such thing as luck,” he smiled.
Owen rolled his eyes as he turned to head inside. “I better go help Beru.”
As soon as the door swooshed shut behind him, Ben leapt over the fence and wrapped his arm tight around her waist.
“You know that lightsaber ban isn’t going to happen, right?”
“We’ll see,” she smirked, bumping his hip before going to help the Lars gather Luke’s things.
“Maybe I’ll just have to do that training while you’re at the oasis, then,” he muttered under his breath. Rooh snorted at him from her feed bin.
“Oh hush,” he threw her an extra handful of feed as he followed Satine inside. Despite the fact that he’d only been there less than a day, Luke still somehow managed to have belongings strewn all over his and Satine’s house, and it took them all a good twenty minutes to gather everything. Once all the bags were repacked and in the speeder, it was time to say goodbye.
“We’ll talk about it,” Beru promised him, squeezing his shoulder kindly. “That’s all I can guarantee, right now, but we will talk about it.”
He bowed his head graciously. “That’s all I can ask for, thank you, Beru.”
After being buckled into the backseat of the speeder, Luke started pleading with his aunt and uncle.
“We gotta get home, sweetheart,” Beru told him after double-checking the safety buckles.
“It’s alright, Luke, we’re not going anywhere,” Ben reassured him, unable to resist mussing up the kid’s hair.
“Yes, you can come back anytime,” Satine smiled.
“We’ll see,” Owen muttered, but with less malice than usual.
As they waved goodbye to the departing speeder, Ben felt a weight lift off of him that he hadn’t even realized was there. They didn’t have confirmation, yet, but he was sure that Satine’s negotiating had done it – he was going to be able to train Luke.
Once they were gone, he wrapped his arms tightly around her, pulling her into a grateful hug. “You did it. I can never thank you enough.”
“They didn’t say yes, yet, Ben, let’s not count our dewback eggs before they hatch.”
It was not Ben who spoke. Pulling apart, Ben was not shocked to see the blue outline of Qui-Gon Jinn standing in front of them, however he was astounded that Satine could apparently see him as well, judging by her wide eyes and gaping mouth.
“Master, how are you so sure? And how can she see you?”
“Anything is possible through the Living Force,” he smiled, bowing his head at Satine. “It is good to see you again properly, Duchess.”
“She doesn’t like to be called that anymore,” Ben corrected.
“Apologies,” he said sincerely. “The first of many I owe you both.”
Finally getting past her shock, Satine managed a one word response. “What?”
“Yes, what?” Ben copied.
Hands held together under the long sleeves of his cloak, Qui-Gon inclined his head. “Obi-Wan, you told me time and time again that you believed the Force had brought Satine here and yet I remained skeptical, largely because I believed you could not be objective about the situation. After everything that happened with Anakin, I thought that perhaps being a bit stricter with the rules of the Code might prevent another tragedy.”
“I did think it was odd that you’d become such a stickler in your new stage of life,” Ben noted.
“Uncharacteristic of me, wasn’t it?” he smiled. “I suppose it was a way of dealing with my own guilt for Anakin’s fall. If I had imparted a better sense of discipline on him, maybe he’d have adhered to them better.”
“Master, you can’t honestly believe that. While your impact on Anakin was great, he didn’t know you as well as he knew me. It was my failure as a master and a teacher-,”
“Obi-Wan, stop.” Qui-Gon interrupted. “It is no more your fault nor mine nor anyone else’s. Anakin made his choices of his own accord. Yes, the Jedi could have done more, and yes, of course, Palpatine manipulated us all, but it was still Anakin who chose to ally himself with the Sith. We all need to stop blaming ourselves solely for his mistakes.”
While Ben didn’t quite believe his former master, the fact that Qui-Gon was even attempting to absolve him of his guilt was powerful enough on its own.
“Your sentiment is appreciated, Master,” he bowed his head.
“Now, where was I? Oh yes, Satine,” Qui-Gon turned his attention to her. “Words cannot express how sorry I am for doubting your importance. Now that I have become one with the Force, I sometimes find myself a bit arrogant in my abilities to see things others cannot. I had seen a vision of the future of Obi-Wan’s time here, alone, that still resulted in Luke becoming a great Jedi. I was certain that this was the way things had to be, and I tried to push him away from you. As you are certainly aware, it did not work. But today, everything changed. The vision I was so sure of has morphed into something entirely different, something, dare I say, better. That is all thanks to you and your incomparable negotiation with Owen Lars. Obi-Wan, as talented a negotiator as he may be, would have never been able to convince him on his own.” Qui-Gon knelt down on one knee, head bowed. “The Jedi owe you a future we did not think was possible. I cannot thank you enough.”
Ben could feel the swirl of emotions emanating off of her – surprise, joy, pride, humility, confusion, just to name a few, but she kept her composure, returning the bow.
“If I can help return the Jedi to their status as peacekeepers, not soldiers, I will have less regret about my own failure as Mandalore’s leader.”
Qui-Gon shook his head as if he were a beleaguered father. “My, you two do enjoy blaming yourselves for things that were beyond your control. No wonder you’re together.”
Ben reached for Satine’s hand and laced their fingers together. Despite being forty standard years old, he suddenly felt like a teenager. “Does that mean you approve?”
“Not that you need it, but yes, you have my blessing.”
“Th-that,” Ben stopped, steadying himself. “That means more than you know, Master.”
Qui-Gon reached out to affectionately clap their shoulders, and though there was no physical touch, of course, a feeling of familial warmth came over them. “Your happiness is a small victory against the oppressive nature of the Empire. Don’t forget that.”
“We won’t,” Satine promised the slowly fading spirit.
“Be well, Satine, Obi-Wan,” he smiled. “Or I suppose I should start calling you Ben, now, shouldn’t I?”
“Either is fine, Master,” Ben bowed his head as Qui-Gon’s image disappeared. “May the Force be with you.”
“And with you,” he replied just before he was completely gone.
Satine let out a low breath. “Wow.”
“It’s a little strange but you get used to it after awhile.”
“Do you see any of the other Jedi Masters?”
He shook his head sadly. “Maybe someday.”
Satine stared out into the desert for a moment before speaking again. “Do you really think I changed things? Made a difference?”
“Absolutely.” He cupped her face. “I know it’s not exactly what you would want. I know you would prefer using your prestigious talents helping Mandalore and that you’re only here because of me. But what you did here today, it will help, in the long run. I just hope someday, I can return the favor and help you return Mandalore to its peaceful ways.”
She wrapped her fingers around his wrists, tapping lightly. “I’m going to hold you to that, you know.”
“I know,” he smiled, leaning in to kiss her.
As they kissed in the light of the harsh Tatooine suns, Ben felt, for maybe the first time in his entire life, that everything would be okay. There would surely be more complications regarding Luke, and more difficult decisions and compromises to make, but he felt a sense of calm about it that he was sure was the light side of the Force telling him that it would all work out. Not only was he confident in both himself and Satine, his partner, his equal, that they would succeed, the Force was as well.
Ben Kenobi had always been great at hiding, from enemies, from his friends, and even from himself. But as he followed Satine indoors, he realized that his greatest salvation had come not from staking out a prime battle position or gathering valuable intel, it had come from being found by the very determined woman he loved.
The Force worked in mysterious ways. He couldn’t wait to teach Luke all about it.
Chapter 9: Epilogue
“…This is our most desperate hour. Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”
R2-D2’s hologram message faded and the three people sitting around the small table where a young woman in white had just been shared significant looks.
“This is it, isn’t it?” Luke asked, clutching his father’s lightsaber.
Ben (or was he Obi-Wan again, now?) inclined his head. “As we’ve always told you, the choice is yours. There is nothing wrong with a quiet life as an honest farmer.”
Luke snorted. “Yeah, ‘quiet’. You mean boring.”
“As two people who’ve lived through both in equal amounts, there are ups and downs to each,” Satine patted his shoulder.
“But you both are going, aren’t you? I mean, no matter what, you’re going to Alderaan.”
Ben reached for Satine’s hand and squeezed. “Yes.”
Luke stood up to pace around their living room. “Uncle Owen will kill me. It’s right before the harvest and he just bought those droids and now the R2 unit has to leave.” He chewed on his lip. “But all my training, this is what it was for. To make a difference. To become a Jedi and to help people, like my parents.”
He continued to pace, hands wringing over the lightsaber. “Do you think he’ll be there?”
“Luke, we’ve been over this. Anakin is gone, only Darth Vader remains,” Ben stressed for approximately the one-thousandth time.
And also for the one-thousandth time, Luke did not look convinced. “I need to talk to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, first. Even if it’s just to say goodbye.”
“Of course,” Ben nodded.
Without another word, Luke and the droids went back outside to ready his speeder. Satine finally let out a small sob he knew she’d been holding in ever since Leia’s hologram had appeared.
“That’s her, isn’t it?” she asked, wiping the corners of her eyes.
“You could tell that quickly?”
She rolled her eyes. “Ben, she looks just like Padme, of course I could.”
“She does, doesn’t she?” he smiled, eyeing the now-worn rock pendant that lay against Satine’s chest, hanging off a string necklace.
“Are you going to tell him?”
“Not now, he’s got too much on his mind, already.” He stood up, grimacing as his back cracked. He was not looking forward to space travel, again, especially with such creaky bones and tired muscles.
Satine joined him, the effort much easier for her. Time had been much better to the former duchess than it had to him, for which he had little complaint. “If Vader is there, what are you going to do?”
“Then I will fulfill my destiny,” he said matter-of-factly.
She rounded on him, eyes narrowed, jabbing her index finger right in his face. “Do not tell me that the first thing you’re going to do after we finally leave this infernal rock is martyr yourself. Besides, you made a promise to me that I intend to make you keep.”
“I won’t be truly gone, you know that,” he reached for her hand but she pulled it away. “Master Qui-Gon’s training will go to good use.”
“No. You’re not leaving that boy to fend for himself out in the real galaxy, no matter how much training he’s had. And,” she added, voice cracking. “You are not leaving me.”
He raised an eyebrow. “My former duchess, are you asking me to stay with you?”
“Yes, so you better come up with another plan,” she said, smoothing the shoulders out on his cloak. “Now, come along, we’ll need to pack.”
As Obi-Wan Kenobi readied himself to leave his home of the last nineteen years, he took a moment to meditate, seeking guidance for how to handle Satine’s request. He saw two paths ahead of him, one where he would soon give himself over to the Force and become a spectral being like his Master. The other one, where he could not see his own death, was fuzzy and filled with unknowns. The Obi-Wan of old, the one who had lived by himself in exile for a year before Satine came, would have had no problem following the first path. It would be sort of perfect to die at the hands of his former apprentice, like everything had come full circle. But the Obi-Wan that had spent eighteen years with Satine, training Luke in the evenings and hiding almost nothing, was more intrigued by this other, unclear path. He was not afraid of death, and perhaps he still would pass on soon, but he found himself unable to resist Satine’s plea. Like the less ambiguous path, this one would allow for a closing of a circle that had begun so many years ago, but with perhaps a bit more time on this side of the curtain.
Opening his eyes, he watched Luke help Satine with a bag, while Anakin’s former protocol droid complained loudly about the sand outside to the R2 unit. Obi-Wan smiled to himself. In the end, he and Satine both knew what he was going to do. It was as true now as it had been on The Coronet. All she had to do was give the word.