"We'll reach Mandalore in thirty minutes, duchess."

The girl's cold, pale hands clutched an open Aurebesh book in a frustrated grip. She wore a bleary-eyed expression. Closing the book with a quiet thud, she looked up to meet the young Jedi's gaze. He watched as a cloud descended over her already bleak face.

"So soon?" Her voice was like an icy thread.

"Yes. Are you alright?" It was an oft-asked question. His sole responsibility over the last few months had been to ensure her safety, and knowing whether or not she was alright had been of primary interest to him. Today, he knew the mortal danger had passed, and yet he asked all the same. Danger was still present, but it was not of a mortal kind.

"I'm fine." Her soft voice had hints of agitation mixed within, similar to the way a needle pierces a pillow: silent, but no less sharp.

"Very well," he replied all the same. "I'll leave you to collect your things." He turned to leave, a shadow falling over his young face before the duchess's voice called him back.

"Obi-wan."

He turned. Her eyes were shimmering blue orbs, full of a mysterious swirling liquid, fragile and threatening to spill over with despair. The Jedi could feel the conflict tearing through her, haunting the hollows of her lonely bones. He was not foolish enough to ignore the realization that the exact same conflict was plowing mercilessly through himself.

"Yes, duchess?"

She nearly scowled. He always addressed her by her royal title whenever he was nervous.

"How many times have I asked you? My name is Satine. We've only thirty minutes before we part, you may as well please me with the sound of my own name for so short a time."

The Jedi swallowed, wrapping his padawan braid around a pair of twitching fingers. He saw Satine glance at his hands. Instantly he tossed the braid behind his back and put his hands at his sides. He knew she could sense his misfiring nerves. She wore a despondent expression, and Obi-wan felt it twisting his insides and melting them like lead.

She stood up in the silence, her hands behind her back. Striding toward the window in her chambers, she looked out at the bright blue stream whizzing by. They had been in hyperspace for three days.

"Satine? What's wrong?" He felt foolish for asking. This moment had been approaching for almost ever, threatening to leave them scarred and cleaving for the other once it happened. He slowly sipped at the air, trying to calm his erratic heart rate.

Without warning, the duchess ran to him, throwing her arms around his neck and clinging to him like she had when he had shielded her from the shots of bounty hunters on Draboon. Obi-wan felt a few hot tears scorching his neck, and as they burned holes in his skin, he let himself wrap his arms around her, but not in the way he had always wanted to. There was still a shield around his emotions.

"I can't leave," she whispered, her small hands gripping his shoulders. His chest burned as the words left her mouth. "I've known I'd never be able to when the time came, and yet here we are." Her soft, firm voice quivered with emotion, but that made it no less fervent.

The Jedi battled the desire to bury his face in her soft, golden head of hair, finally casting it off as he took her by the shoulders and gently pushed her from him. He stared at her firmly, his expression horribly stoic.

"You needn't be afraid, Satine. The war is over, and your people will gladly welcome you to Mandalore. There is nothing to threaten your life—not anymore."

She stared at him, stunned. Was that anger? Her eyebrows collided above her long, thin nose and she let go of him, pushing him away. Shame painted her face a vibrant pink. Obi-wan sensed not only embarrassment radiating from her, but anger.

"It is not my life that concerns me, young Jedi. You really do have much to learn, don't you? That is not in the least what I meant." Her eyes were fierce now, and the combination of her arched brows and long nose gave her an almost sinister expression.

"Then what did you mean?"

There was no reason for him to ask. He already knew. Obi-wan could sense the pain inside of her, and though he desperately wanted to comfort her, he felt it was beyond his own capability. It was dangerous. He knew himself, and his feelings for the duchess were beyond any he had ever felt for anyone.

"You cannot do this to me, Obi. How could you?" The water glistened in her eyes and she clenched her fists at her sides, anger contorting her lovely features.

"Surely you can't expect me to live like this any longer—not when we've only thirty minutes before we part," she continued, all in one breath. "Force knows when we'll meet again!"

She had not yelled, and yet the tone and tremor of her voice had been enough to solidify the Jedi's fears. Three or four tears were silently dripping one by one from her lashes. Turning from him, she sat down upon her small, horribly uncomfortable bed and let herself seethe.

She turned her head away from him as she hissed over her shoulder, "Leave me if you've nothing else to say. I've no intention of making a fool of myself, especially if you're determined to be so obstinate. You always were, you know."

"Satine, I—" His voice fell, like a rock slipping over the edge of a cliff. He wasn't sure if he would ever get it back. She did nothing to break the silence. The padawan ran an agitated hand through his fuzzy head of auburn hair.

"Please, I didn't mean to make things worse." His tone was gentle. It always was with her. He sat beside her and placed a consoling hand on her shoulder, hoping it would make her turn toward him. It didn't.

"So I really am nothing to you apart from an assignment," she muttered under her breath.

"Oh, don't you dare," he replied, feeling an unforeseen agitation bubbling in his chest. "I did not think you would be as cruel as to shut me out like this before we are to part. You know just as well as I that you have never been 'an assignment,' Satine."

"Well then why do you treat me as such?" she spat, turning her head and facing him as he sat beside her.

"I've done no such thing!"

"But you have, just now! You're determined to treat me with cold civility! I'll have none of it, Obi-Wan! I'm not the fool you take me for." Her voice descended into deep, commanding tones.

"If I took you for a fool, then I'd be the greater one," he replied, seeing his opportunity for reconciliation. He always took whatever he could find. He could sense a warm admiration flowing through her at his words. "Please, Satine, calm yourself. I didn't mean to excite you."

They sat together, side-by-side, for five deathly silent minutes. She refused to look at him, staring instead at the ugly gray floor. Despite this, he could sense the tension within her continuously waning. She was growing calmer each minute, and eventually, she turned her head toward him ever so slightly. He could sense she was about to speak, so he watched her eyes, waiting until they found his own.

"Obi-Wan," she addressed him shyly, with a hint of fear frosting the tips of her words.

"Yes?"

"Have you…have you ever loved anyone before?"

The Padawan shuddered inside, his firm features refusing to lessen their rigidity. He knew such a question had been likely to arise at some point, especially given his unfounded devotion to the duchess. She was clever, and he knew she had not failed to notice his unwavering loyalty toward her.

And yet, hearing the question from her (and not from his master) frightened him considerably. He did not reply for some time before he quickly, sullenly muttered, "I am a Jedi. Attachment is forbidden."

"So…no, then? Lying is forbidden in the Jedi code as well, if I am not mistaken." She raised an eyebrow at him, but her statement had been far from petty teasing. He respected that testing look in her eye, as though she were a sagacious judge trying him for a crime he had not yet committed.

The Padawan reddened, and he bit the inside of his cheek. Satine's eyes were beseeching. He found it impossible to look away. He felt the chains of his resolve loosening around him, and he nearly grieved as he realized that they were falling away. There were thirty minutes left before he gave her away to her people. Only the Force knew how long it would be until they met again—if ever. His feelings were irrepressible, and he told himself that bearing them after their parting would be far easier if he confessed himself in that moment.

"I have only ever loved one."

His head almost burst as he released the words into the air.

He took her hand in his, and she drew a sharp breath.

"It is the same with me." Satine replied after a moment of silence, taking the hand that held her own and stroking it gently. It was soft, like the touch of a mother he had never known.

He studied her face as it examined his hand, and when she looked up to meet his gaze, he felt no fear, no premonition, and no indecision. The water standing in her eyes made his chest writhe in grief, and he gently raised a free hand to cradle the side of her face.

"Obi-Wan," she nearly cried, dejection and sorrow forcing a tear off the edge of a lash, "I have loved you ever since you first came to my aid. I have never felt such loyalty, such devotion, such kindness from another living soul for as long as I have lived. You alone I have loved, and I cannot allow myself to return to an inhospitable place without…without knowing you have loved me in return! How am I expected stand it?"

More solitary tears graced her face, and without a note of hesitation, Obi-Wan took her in his arms, encircling her in his fervent kindness, holding her to himself and pressing a kiss to her head. She did not weep—she never did. She only let herself relax in his arms, small droplets of water silently passing from beneath her eye lids. He held her close now, his face buried in her golden hair. Her hands went around his neck, and she trembled slightly as he held her.

"Satine," he said softly into her itching ears. "Satine."

She looked up. She had not cried any torrent of tears, yet her cheeks were slightly moist and her eyes a trifle red.

"Satine," he said again, as he had her attention, "Attachment is forbidden to Jedi. I have no leave to love. Only to protect. And yet…" he stopped short, stroking her cheek and finding the space between their lips closing slowly, "without love, it would seem that there would be no reason for protection. I find myself quite in love, my dear Satine. And it has been my love for you that has given me the strength to protect you these long months. I say it without hesitation: I love you."

The duchess's face was aglow, and Obi-Wan wiped her eyes of the tears that stood still on the lashes. She wrapped his Padawan braid around her finger, stroking it compulsively as he spoke. At his final words, their lips brushed. She looked at him, timidity entering her blue eyes. He nearly pulled away from her entirely as he found the apprehension in her aspect.

Suddenly, she let go of the Padawan braid, letting her hand fall on the back of his neck as her gaze wandered toward his mouth. She relaxed in his arms. It seemed to assure his own beating heart. The timorous gnawing at his chest disappeared entirely. He gently drew her face to his. Closing her eyes, her head went limp as he caressed her lips with his own for the first time: softly, gently, tenderly…beautifully.

Warm salty tears trailed from her eyes to her mouth, and the taste of them amongst the joy brought the remembrance of their coming severance to the front of Obi-Wan's mind. He came away as an almost frightened pulse raged through him, demanding him to explain—both to her and himself—what he had just done.

"Satine, I…I'm so sorry. I have worsened your pain. Forgive me, I—I didn't mean to—" His voice ceased as he noticed a flicker of contentment and happiness lighting his duchess's face. She shook her head at him almost reprovingly.

"What's wrong? Why are you smiling?" he asked.

She had a radiant smile, and Obi-Wan could not help but grin at its sheer magnitude.

"I am at least allowed some happiness when I return," she admitted, leaning into the hand that still held her cheek.

"What do you mean?" he asked, puzzled by her words.

"I will not return to my duties in the dark. I shall return illuminated by the knowledge that I am loved by the only one who matters to me. And so shall you. Remember that always, my dearest Obi-Wan, if you remember anything. I have loved you always, and I always will."

He could not find the words with which to reply. He had never dreamed that the young woman in his arms would ever feel the way he felt for her. Her love for him matched his for her, and yet knowing of her affections seemed to steal his voice and shock his brain.

"My dear Satine," he murmured, gathering her to himself and letting her rest on his shoulder.

"Oh, Obi-Wan," she whispered, burying her face in the crook of his neck. The way he could feel her short, quick breaths going in and out made him slightly nervous.

"How am I to bear it when you are gone?" she asked, making his hair stand on end.

He wanted to tell her he would stay with her forever, like this: arms around her, listening to her breathe. He wanted to remain here to stand between her and the world, to shield her from the evil he knew lurked in wait for her, waiting to pounce at an unsuspecting moment. His heart hammered for her presence alone—to be with her and guard her forever. The Force itself was strong around them, almost tying them together with knots of a mysterious throbbing, amorous energy. He felt it flowing through the both of them, practically on fire with their emotional bond. Whatever the Jedi council thought of attachment, the Force itself certainly felt otherwise. He felt that it almost wanted them to never part.

Obi-Wan's own connection to the Force would be heavily altered when she drifted away from him, of that he was sure. And yet, as much as he wished to remain, he knew his place was elsewhere.

He opened his mouth to speak, but the soft, commanding voice of his Master split the silence like a knife.

"Obi-Wan!"

Satine's head rose upright from its place in his neck, and they looked at one another, for one long, uncertain moment. He shakily stood to his feet, like a small bantha learning to walk. Resistance and longing nearly made his knees give way. She placed her hands at her side in a panic, snatching up the book she had previously discarded upon her bed. She opened to where she had left off and reclined against the steel, gray wall, pretending to absorb herself.

"Yes, master?" Obi-Wan called back, leaving Satine's chamber and ascending the stairs to the ship's hallway, which connected the private rooms to the main deck and cockpit. Qui-Gon's voice came from the latter.

"I'm here, Obi-Wan. In the cockpit. Could you come help me with this? I think there's something wrong with the compressor, but I'm not sure what."

Obi-Wan, hands fidgeting at his side, made the short journey to the cockpit, finding his master clumsily fiddling with wires underneath an electric panel. The young Jedi grinned. His master had never been very good with machinery. His wiry brown hair was falling all over his face as he frustratedly tried everything he could think of to cure the electrical malady.

"Here, master—allow me," Obi-Wan obliged, a slight laugh adding sarcasm to his words.

"How simple it always is for you, my Padawan," Qui-Gon huffed, laughing quietly to himself as Obi-Wan agilely fitted the wires in place, bypassing the compressor as he had done time and time again whenever the electric inner workings threatened to shut down. He shoved the stray wires back inside the panel, shutting it carefully. Suddenly, Obi-Wan could sense concern clouding his master's thoughts toward him.

"Are you alright, young one?" Qui-Gon broke the silence, a fatherly disquietude illuminating each of his features. His sullen expression touched Obi-Wan. The young Padawan knew that his Master was aware of everything with regard to his student's feelings.

"Yes, Master. I…I am uneasy. I feel a disturbance in the Force."

Qui-Gon grinned unexpectantly, and Obi-Wan felt caught in his own half-truth.

"Always with the half-truths, my apprentice. You fear for the duchess."

"Yes, I—"

"That she will never know of your true feelings for her," Qui-Gon finished. He raised a questioning eyebrow at the young man, silently asking if he had hit the mark. Obi-Wan sighed under his breath. He had utterly lost his sense of repression and composure.

However, much to Obi-Wan's astonishment, the Jedi Master did not rebuke his apprentice. With the assurance of a sage's touch, Qui-Gon put an arm on the young knight's shoulder, his gaze neither condescending nor angry. Obi-Wan realized that his master understood. The Padawan bit his lip, his ears begging to hear some of the aged man's wisdom that always comforted him in a bout of pain.

"You have a good heart, Obi-Wan. I see that you are not afraid of your feelings," Qui-Gon said, his mouth softening into a light smile. "You see, my young apprentice, I have known of the feelings between you and the duchess for quite some time now."

Obi-Wan felt a slight twinge of fear at these words, nevertheless the look of empathy on his master's face allowed his limbs to relax again.

"I am proud of your actions toward her, Padawan," Qui-Gon continued. "You respect her, honor her, and you have not allowed the feelings you harbor for her to cloud your judgement."

The young Padawan felt pride surging through his breast at his master's words. He wanted more than anything for Qui-Gon to continue.

"There is something I want you to remember, Obi-Wan. Though the Jedi Code may forbid attachment, your heart never will. It is an impossibility. You can never deny your heart the liberty of forming attachment. It works of its own accord, whether its owner is Jedi or not. As Jedi—as keepers of the peace—love is of quintessential value to us. You see, we would have nothing—and no one—to keep the peace for if love had no place in our souls. Do you understand my meaning?" Qui-Gon's eyebrows were understanding, serene, and at ease. Obi-Wan felt relief cooling his anxiety, like a summer breeze blowing against wet skin. His master's answer reminded him of his own words to Satine moments earlier.

He nodded in response to his master's question.

"I do, master. I don't think I've understood anything more clearly than I do this."

Suddenly, they came out of hyperspace with a horrifying lurch, and the foreboding sphere of the planet Mandalore came into view before them, looming in the middle of vast, black space like a gypsy's cloudy crystal ball. Qui-Gon cast a solemn smile upon his apprentice.

"Ah, here we are at last. If I were you, I would prepare the duchess for her arrival. There will surely be a crowd waiting for us when we land." He stopped a moment, hesitating as though trying to decide whether he should add a final thought.

"Master?" Obi-Wan sensed Qui-Gon's hesitance.

"Trust your feelings, Obi-Wan. They are there for a reason, young one. Do not ignore them."

"But Master, I wondered something: what if I were to remain with the duchess on Mandalore? Would the Jedi council not forbid it if I were to stay behind following her return? As an extra precaution?"

Qui-Gon's eyes looked upon Obi-Wan with pity, and he pressed the young man's hand in gentle comfort.

"You know what you must do, Obi-Wan, and I will leave the decision entirely up to you. Remember yourself, young one. Things are not always what they seem, no matter how badly we wish them. Trust your feelings, but do not forget to take into account your purpose. Always put your purpose over your own feelings."

He was right, and Obi-Wan knew it.

"Now," Qui-Gon continued, "prepare the duchess for our arrival. She is undoubtedly nervous to be reunited with her people, and I suggest you encourage her to some degree."

They were entering Mandalore's lower atmosphere at a frighteningly swift pace, the clouds around them were already parting to reveal the inhospitable, decimated land below. From the monitor on the dashboard, Obi-Wan could tell that Sundari was only a few miles from their current location.

Obi-Wan obeyed his master's request, running from the cockpit toward the long hall of private rooms in the main deck. His heart was beating so fast he feared it might leap out of his throat at any moment. Knocking quietly as he reached her chamber door, she uttered a quick "come in," and Obi-Wan entered, finding himself once again in her presence.

"What did Master Jinn ask?"

Obi-Wan had completely forgotten about that.

"Oh, the compressor malfunctioned. My master was never good with wires," he joked. She smiled, and Obi-Wan saw that it was hardly genuine.

"We came out of hyperspace just now," she said, pushing a strand of her bright hair behind an ear.

"Yes, I'm afraid we did. And we've already cleared the atmosphere. We will be landing any moment now," he replied. She came toward him with her hands behind her back.

The ship jolted beneath their feet, throwing them off balance. Fierce Mandalorian winds were toying with the ship as it made its descent. Obi-Wan instinctively put his arms around her to keep her from falling, as he had been accustomed to doing for so long. She held his shoulders, supporting him with her own elfin hands.

The ship battled with the wind for five minutes more. The duchess and the Jedi clung to one another as the turbulence shook the vessel. Satine let her head rest on Obi-Wan's chest, trying to drink in the smell of him and memorize its somber mixture of soot, sweat, and tea. He held her close, his chin resting on her head and occasionally pressing a kiss to her hair. Each held the other with an air of fierce protection, as though the shifting of the ship was somehow fighting for their separation.

With one final jolt, his heart sank and the limbs holding her ached. They had landed.

He released her as she let go of him and flew to the window. Sundari—the home she had not seen during months of hiding—was outside, throngs of people watching for her arrival. Women were crying, men standing with their arms over their chest wore scrutinous faces, and children waved banners of Mandalorian pride.

"Here I am at last," she mused, loosening the curtains and letting them fall over the windows before anyone had caught sight of her. "How home as changed," she muttered, turning back toward Obi-Wan with a fearful glance. Her parents were dead, her young sister had vanished, and mercenaries were after her throne. The Jedi could only imagine the burden that now lay on her heart.

"Mandalore has its ruler once again," she said. "All thanks belongs to you and Master Jinn, Obi. It seems that my people are certainly grateful for your protection."

"With all due respect, duchess, I think I am more grateful for your safety than the entire planet of Mandalore with its denizens of devoted citizens. Allow me to see you off. Please," he almost begged.

Her eyes were misty once more as he looked upon her. He placed his hands at her waist, staring hopelessly into those weary, watery eyes. She looked unwaveringly into his face, her brave, steady resolve striking beautiful terror into his heart.

He kissed her one last time before the journey's end, this time a bit more passionately. He traced little circles on her cheeks with his thumbs. She leaned into him, deepening the kiss. He drew her closer to himself, his hand at the small of her back and closing the gap between them completely. Feeling her smile against his lips, his head grew horribly light. She ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it almost playfully. One of his hands supported the back of her neck, fingers skirting timidly through the forest of her golden locks.

How long a time it had been. A time of running, fleeing, shielding, guarding. With every blast from the weapon of a bounty hunter, his head swam. As he deflected each beam with his lightsaber, his only thought had been her. How many times had he screamed "Run, Satine!" over the last few months? How many times had he asked "Are you alright?" How many times had he thrown his old, tattered cloak over her gaunt shoulders to keep the Draboon winds from freezing her thin, lithe frame?

As he kissed her for the last time, he remembered how he had panicked when he dropped her accidentally as they escaped the insatiable jaws of a billion venom mites. "Satine!" he had cried, throwing himself on his knees beside her to claim her in his arms once more. He still blamed himself for the scar on her leg, and he was sure she would never cease teasing him for it.

He remembered how she had clung to him in the woods, his slight frame shielding her from the blasts of Mandalorian hunters who were after the large reward on her head. "Obi," she had uneasily uttered, watching as the hunters grew ever closer. When they were all dead by his lightsaber's blade, he asked once more: "are you alright?"

Holding her to himself now, he was relieved to find that she was alright. But he had not saved her for himself—he had saved her for Mandalore.

Her people needed her.

The Jedi Order needed him.

Their destinies were two distinct paths, and Obi-Wan knew they were called to different ways.

She looked up at him as he finally released her lips with a gentle, sweet reluctance. She stroked his cheek with shocking tenderness.

"My shining Jedi knight," she said, her smile illuminating the dark, anxious corners of his mind. As long as he lived, he would never let this moment slip from his memory. Their foreheads came together, and the Force rejoiced, knowing their bond would soon be broken.

That moment came much too quickly.

Qui-Gon's low, commanding voice from the main deck.

"Obi-Wan! Obi-Wan, bring the duchess to the main deck, if you would, please. We've arrived, and I think they're more than happy to see us."

Obi-Wan released the duchess with difficulty. She smiled solemnly into his eyes, and he timidly kissed her forehead. He offered her his arm, which she took gratefully, and they left her chamber behind, nearing the boarding ramp. As it lowered mechanically slow, it let in the warm, Mandalorian sun with a shocking vengeance. Satine blinked as the rays invaded her eyes, and Obi-Wan pressed her arm gently. Cheers from the crowd deafened them, and he felt her draw in a deep breath, preparing herself for reunion with her people. Her land.

Qui-Gon rounded a corner from the engine room, where he had securely stabilized the ship for landing and activated the boarding ramp's lowering mechanism.

"Ready, my young ones?" He laid a paternal hand upon Satine's shoulder, and her mouth turned upwards into a melancholic smile. "Your people are ready for you, your highness," he added, gesturing forward toward Sundari. Satine inhaled softly, glanced furtively at Obi-Wan, then proceeded with him at her side, her arm in his, toward the multitudes of people surrounding the ship.

"You have returned, duchess! Praise the gods!" People shouted left and right. As though nothing of consequence had occurred, Satine suddenly became the shining young woman the people wished her to be. She stood tall, her shoulders pressed back and her chest seemingly swelled with pride. She raised her hands in dignity and waved to civilians hanging from balconies and lining the streets. The change shocked Obi-Wan, but the Force did not lie. Beneath her joyous exterior, Satine was mourning—silently mourning, but mourning all the same.

Prime Minister Almec approached the trio, his hands behind his back. His long neck erect and proud, he knelt before the duchess and took her hand, welcoming her to the home she had left behind in turmoil.

"Welcome home, dear duchess," Almec said, as he gently kissed her hand. Satine did not recoil, but Obi-Wan sensed disgust radiating from her. He stayed at her side even while the Prime Minister made his welcoming remarks. Rising up in him once again, the fervent desire to remain with her flooded Obi-Wan's head, and he saw Qui-Gon could sense his inner conflict.

You know what you must do, my apprentice, he spoke through the Force.

Yes, I do, Master.

"Farewell, your highness," Qui-Gon said, bowing gallantly to the young lady. "May the Force be with you, and long may you reign, young Duchess of Mandalore," he quietly remarked. She offered him a parting grin, and Qui-Gon looked as though his heart would burst—as though she were his own daughter. She daintily curtseyed to him before turning to Obi-Wan.

Releasing her arm and taking her hand in his, the young Jedi bowed and pressed a prolonged kiss to her outstretched hand, wishing with all his heart that he could draw her to himself before the entire crowd watching them. He let his lips linger a bit on her flesh, just long enough for her to understand his meaning. She had a solitary tear in her left eye that threatened to fall, but a quick blink sealed it in its place, and she gave him an obligatory nod.

Low enough so no one could have possibly heard him, he whispered as he let go of her hand, "Goodbye, dearest Satine."

She curtseyed, bending her thin knees and whispering in return, "Until we meet again, my dear Obi-Wan." He heard her voice ripple with tears dangerously lurking behind her words. The two stood upright, looking at one another with grave indecision.

Disinclination was clawing at her, begging her not to turning away. The prime minister was eyeing her with an impatient expression.

"Thank you," she mouthed. Releasing her hand, he took two steps back to stand beside his master, calm solicitude enshrouding his face. Their eyes were locked in an unblinking, mesmerizing fever.

He couldn't look away. He noticed that she couldn't either.

The burden of separation settled ominously onto his back as the pain escalated. She offered a pressing smile and broke the spell before—reluctant as a sheep bound for the slaughter—she turned her back to him. With one last, loving look over her shoulder, she disappeared, enveloped by the rapturous, cheering crowd.

Obi-Wan felt the severance—cold, harsh, and deeply chiseled—and Satine's connection vanished. It was as though the Force was weeping inside of him. Spears of desperation and longing jabbed tauntingly at his chest, and he fought the violent urge to push through the crowd and walk by her side once more.

He felt her cleaving for him as their connection waned and finally died. It almost burned his brain thinking of the deep wound he had inflicted.

"You have done well, Padawan," Qui-Gon whispered, interrupting his thoughts as they turned their backs on Mandalore and walked with hunched shoulders into their vessel once more.

"Thank you, Master."

Despite the words they had shared earlier in the ship's cockpit, Obi-Wan felt that there had never been another time when his Master had understood him so little.

"We shall miss the duchess's company in the coming weeks. She did bring such light to our small company. How she could make me laugh…" he mused, tying some stray strands of grayish brown hair around the half ponytail at the top of his head.

"Indeed," Obi-Wan replied with a dull tone. He was too numb to engage in hearty conversation, much less a conversation on a topic that he wanted to forget entirely.

Satine…

...

That night he was too disturbed to sleep. He missed the nights when she had fallen asleep on his shoulder around the meagre warmth of an open fire. He wanted to return to the time when he had woken up in a fright at discovering her absence only to find that Qui-Gon was teaching her how to prepare tea properly. He thought fondly of the time she had called him Ben and spoke with such tender longing about her sister, Bo-Katan, whose fiery red hair she used to braid in the evenings after their parents had gone to sleep.

Tossing and turning on his cot, he heard her words echoing in his mind like the light splash of water droplets dripping from the cold ceiling of a moist underground tunnel: "Remember that always, my dearest Obi-Wan, if you remember anything. I have loved you always, and I always will." It sent aches down his legs and back, reminding him of all he had lost. He wondered if the Force had willed differently—and he had disobeyed it. He highly doubted that, and yet, he had never felt so sick, so lonesome, nor so agitated as he did the night after Satine drifted out of his life for nearly twenty years.

But the words she spoke, reminding him to remember of the love she always had and always would have for him and him alone, he heard them that night and every night thereafter, the gentle tones of her voice reminded him of her fervent affections and washing away the dull mourning pangs in his heart.

Even when those twenty years had elapsed, after her spirit had been forced from its mortal cage by the stroke of the Dark Saber at Maul's hand, he was reminded that Satine Kryze loved him, and that she always would. The life force within her began to wane as she lay dying on the hard floor of Sundari's ruined palace. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi held the usurped regent in his arms, listening to the words she spoke with her dying breaths—the same words she had spoken decades earlier when he had been a mere boy: "Remember, my dear Obi-Wan. I've loved you always. I always will."

Every night, she brought that remembrance to his mind. His head was haunted—nay, blessed—by the recurring dream of her presence. With that beautiful, innocent smile adorning her lovely face, she spoke the same words into his troubled thoughts night after night. That was enough to silence the nightmares and let him sleep, even if it was only for a few hours before the sun rose on a new day.


A/N: I've really fallen in love with Star Wars again, and The Clone Wars is like watching a film. Honestly, I forget it's even animated. Anyway, I am absolutely enamored by the relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Duchess Satine Kryze. I wrote this little one shot over the course of this week, editing and revising continuously. I'm still sad from watching The Lawless, so I needed to write something to amplify the angst. Hopefully you loved reading this drabble as much as I loved writing it.