Seated in a comfortable chair next to neatly-drawn curtains, Obi-Wan is oblivious to the faint alarm sounding somewhere within his living quarters. As he reads, his thumb traces an unconscious pattern over the textured paper, the leather of the book cover soft against his fingers.
The beeping sounds again, penetrating the dream-like world of the novel, and Obi-Wan looks up with a frown, turning his head to scan the room for the source of the noise. Just as he's beginning to wonder if he imagined it, the beeping sounds a third time and then he spots the comm unit, half-hidden beneath a stack of folders, blinking a faint red streak onto the polished surface of the dining table.
Thinking it unlike Bail to be forgetful, Obi-Wan reluctantly closes the book and places it on the arm of the chair. He crosses the room to the table, clears paperwork out of the way and flips the small device open, his finger hesitating over the activation button as he glances to the wall-chrono. It seems unlikely that the senator has only just realised what he's left behind; their meeting ended over three hours ago. His friend should be halfway to Alderaan now.
Obi-Wan activates the unit. "Bail?"
Obi-Wan frowns, detecting a faint sound of breathing. "Hello?"
But it's not Bail. The reply is a question; the voice unmistakably female.
"Are you free tonight?"
The phrase is infamous, and for a moment Obi-Wan wonders if he might be dreaming. Although he's heard the rumours, he has never given much thought to the existence or non-existence of the notoriously elitist group known simply as The List. Surely Bail wouldn't be involved in something so...decadent.
"Hello? Is there a problem?"
Obi-Wan hesitates. "Erm, sorry, I'm not-"
"Can you be at the Galactic in one hour?" The voice is sultry, seductive and unfamiliar. And she sounds real enough...
He clears his throat, still not quite believing this is happening. "You don't understand, I-"
"Sorry, I didn't get that. The Galactic, one hour?"
As Obi-Wan turns around, his gaze comes to rest on the space to the left of the door. The empty space, where, even now, he still half-expects to see Anakin's boots. Below two layers of fresh paint, faded mud-splashes still are visible on the wall, the only evidence that his former Padawan had ever been here at all. Obi-Wan bites his lip against the hollow feeling in his stomach.
"Hello? Look, if you're not available I can just..."
She's about to hang up.
"No, I am... available." The reply slips out before he has time to decide precisely how much of a bad idea this is. He turns away from the door to glance at the chrono, tapping his fingers on the table. "I'll be there in an hour."
Bail contacts him the following day. When Obi-Wan offers to send the comm unit over to the senator's office, amusement is audible in the senator's reply.
"Perhaps you should keep it."
Obi-Wan shakes his head at the other man's holo-image, but a small smile twitches at his lips, spoiling his attempt at innocence.
"Did someone call?" Bail asks, leaning forward in his chair.
"And you met her?"
Obi-Wan says nothing, but crosses his legs and props his chin on one hand, allowing the smile to break across his face.
"You old devil!"
They laugh, and Obi-Wan feels a lightness in his chest. It must be evident on his face, because Bail looks at him with a knowing smile.
"Then keep it. Enjoy yourself, for once, my friend. And for goodness sake don't worry about the bill. Just charge everything to my personal account." Obi-Wan opens his mouth to speak, but before he can protest, Bail has signed off.
Four standard weeks later, and Bail is still off-planet. Four weeks, and four calls on the comm unit. Four subtly-lit, expensive bars in Coruscant's most exclusive districts. Four tastefully-decorated hotels rooms, and four beautiful women. Intelligent, successful, assertive women, not the least bit intimidated by him, and absolutely unafraid to tell him exactly what they want.
If they recognise him they make no comment; the rules stipulate no names, and minimal conversation. Glamorous and exclusive as The List may be, within the hotel room rank and status become irrelevant. There is only sex.
Uncomplicated, convenient, unattached sex.
It is, ironically, quite consistent with Jedi philosophy. But for Obi-Wan, with his tendency to extend his own morality beyond the simple restrictions of the Code, it is strange, new, and somewhat liberating.
It is also welcome distraction from the problems he would rather not think about. Even though, in the back of his mind, he knows those problems are not going to go away.
He needs this, but it is fantasy. An escapist fantasy.
The fifth time the comm unit sounds, reality makes an unscheduled appearance.
In the bar of Coruscant's Hotel Zero, Obi-Wan sips his second Corellian whiskey, and glances towards the door for the third time in as many minutes. He's beginning to wonder if his proposed companion for the evening might have changed her mind when the bartender slides a slim envelope beneath his fingers.
Inside he finds a keycard, and a neatly hand-printed note.
Room 510. I'm waiting for you.
Obi-Wan raises an eyebrow. In his admittedly limited experience this is unusual; the other women have always met him in the bar of the arranged hotel. He drains the remainder of the drink quickly, ice cubes tinkling in the glass.
After a short elevator ride he finds Room 510, knocking softly and listening for a second before sliding the card into the slot. The door unlocks with a click and slides open.
He steps inside, finding the room lit dimly by a single table lamp, his eyes adjusting to the darkness as the door slides shut behind him.
She is stood by the window, her back towards him, a knee-length black dress clinging to her petite body. Her dark hair is short, ends flicking outwards above her shoulders, and the exposed skin of her neck and back gleam in the low lighting. She turns her head slightly to the side as she hears him enter the room, her face hidden in deep shadow so he can't make out her features. He loosens his tie, and silently he slips off the jacket of his civilian suit and walks to the table where two glasses stand next to several bottles and a bucket of ice.
"Drink?" he says quietly, scooping ice into the glasses and twisting the top off a bottle of expensive Alderaan cognac.
"Please," she replies, and he glances up to see her kicking off her shoes, small feet sinking into the plush, dark carpet. His head is already buzzing from the alcohol, and now anticipation tingles his skin, tendrils of arousal beginning to curl around his thighs.
"You didn't want to be seen in public?" he asks, trying to sound nonchalant as he pours their drinks.
"Simpler that way." Her voice is low, but prickles with something familiar.
He can't place it. She's walking towards him. He holds out her drink, looking up a split-second later-
Her hand moves to cover her mouth, and simultaneously he gasps, nearly dropping the glass.
"I.." he stutters, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks. He doesn't know where to look, and it should certainly not be at the loosened lacing at the front of her dress, but he is entranced by the sight of her slim fingers playing with the flimsy material there. Her hand is pale, almost white, and her nails are not expensively-manicured, but bitten and short.
The fingers lift to push a thick lock of hair back behind her ear, drawing his attention back to her face. She smiles softly. "Well, this is a surprise."
The distinctive expression couples with the calm tone of her voice to convince him that yes, this really is her, and Obi-Wan closes his eyes for a moment, embarrassment replacing shock. "Senator Ami-" he begins, but the words are stopped by her finger on his lips.
"Shh," she says, leaning closer, a mysterious glint in her eyes, "no names, remember?"
His own eyes widen as her finger slides over his lower lip, his voice managing little more than a whisper of protest: "we can't-"
"Can't?" She removes the glass held loosely in his fingers and places it on the dresser. "Or won't?" She looks up at him, her expression a captivating mixture of defiance and vulnerability: the tilt of her chin says you want me, whilst her eyes implore him: please.
"No. I mean, it's not that I don't..." he stutters, "it would just be a little-"
His fumbled protest is halted by a kiss.
Her lips are soft but insistent, and tastes of alcohol mixed with sweet muja-fruit. He is caught in the moment, powerless. Desire floods his body as she sways against him, sliding a hand into his hair, moving her lips over his, moaning quietly when his hand presses into the small of her back, drawing her closer.
She sucks his lower lip gently, then releases it to flick her tongue inside his mouth, lifting her leg and rubbing against him, and the next second he is kissing her deeply, tongue swirling against tongue, walking her backwards towards the bed-
And then he remembers who he is, and, more importantly, who she is, and, horrified, he disentangles himself, pushing her away.
She looks at him for a moment, her large brown eyes swimming with hurt. Then she nods, and turns away.
He reaches to place a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry... It's just, this is far, far too complicated..."
"Don't worry about it." She shrugs him off, walking to grab a drink from the dresser and downing the contents.
He sighs, sitting down on the end of the bed and rubbing a hand over his eyes, wondering why he feels disappointed, that familiar hollow feeling returning.
The mattress sags as she sits down beside him. He takes the offered drink and downs it, not looking at her. "I should go."
"But you don't want to," she says quietly.
He looks up at her, surprised to find that she's right. "No," he says, trying to clear the memory of her lips from his mind. "Returning cold and lonely to the Temple isn't very appealing, I have to admit."
This time, when she smiles, it is with genuine amusement. "Hungry?"
He laughs and shakes his head, then pauses, mock-serious. "Ravenous."
Her laughter fills the emptiness that had begun to grow inside him. She leans to the bedside cabinet and grabs the room-service menu. "Then let's eat."
Just a little over an hour later they're still sitting on the bed, him crossed-legged at the foot, her with her back against the headboard, a tray containing mostly-empty plates placed between them. Lubricated by alcohol, their conversation has meandered between talk and debate, carefully skirting around anything too professional, or too personal.
Obi-Wan frowns at the cognac bottle shaking the last few drops into a glass. "You know," he says, "I have to admit I am surprised to find you're involved in this."
"You disapprove?" She teases, "But I could say the same, and I don't have any particular reputation to uphold. I seem to remember someone telling me about Master Kenobi steadfastly refusing the advances of all the women flinging themselves gratefully into his arms at the end of every mission."
Their eyes meet and her face suddenly grows serious. She bites her lip.
He looks down, fiddling with his glass, unable to resist voicing the question that forms. "Have you seen him recently?"
She pauses before speaking. "At the Senate?"
"Why would I?"
"I don't know," he says.
Because I thought you were one of the reasons he left.
Obi-Wan doesn't quite understand the jealousy that spikes through him in response to that thought. He's losing it. Must be the alcohol...
"Have you?" she asks.
"Have you seen him?"
He shakes his head. "Not for several months. Last I heard he'd taken a job with an engineering firm. Intelstar Corporation, I seem to recall."
"And you've not tried to contact him?"
He sighs. "No."
What would I say, when he refuses to speak to me? Did he want me to beg him to stay? To accept the blame for his failings? To justify his behaviour to the Council, again and again?
She pushes the tray out of the way, and shifts to his side. "You're tired." Her hand reaches to cup his cheek.
His skin tingles with the contact, helping the troubling thoughts fade away. There is concern in her expression as their eyes meet, and he realises he has never before seen her like this: stripped of the make-up and formal garments marking her rank, in the the absence of immediate danger, no mission, no duty, no distractions...
Her hand is still on his face and she's watching him: expectant, but unsure. He raises his own hand, intending to move hers away, but somehow it finds its way to her face instead, and her eyes flutter shut as he runs his thumb over her cheek, eyelashes dark against her skin, lips full and pink...
"So beautiful," he whispers, finding himself swaying towards her.
"We can't do this," she replies, arching her neck as his thumb moves along her jawline.
"I know," he tilts her chin towards him, and his lips descend, stopping millimetres from hers, "but I don't think I can help it."