Obi-Wan was walking along the gravel covered path that led from Padmé's villa to the lake. He was moving slowly, cautiously, using a cane to support his weight every time he posed down on his left foot.
His thigh muscles had needed a complete regeneration due to the massive damage inflicted by Sidious and were still stiff. He had hoped a leisurely walk would help to loosen them.
Obi-Wan also had another reason to take that stroll without informing anyone about his plans. He needed to think, mostly about himself and Asajj, and to be alone for a while.
Since their arrival on Naboo, Obi-Wan had had little time for himself. There had been painful physical therapy sessions, as he had learned again how to walk. There had been long meetings with the surviving Jedi that, one by one, had flocked to Padmé's villa when the news had spread that Obi-Wan and Yoda were there and it was safe to leave their hiding places. There had been the shared meditations with Anakin to help him to completely dispel the darkness inside him and avoid the guilt he was feeling that could fester and lead him on the wrong path again.
Obi-Wan had had only a few moments for himself, but even a life so busy hadn't been enough to prevent him from realizing his feelings for Asajj had taken an unexpected turn.
Since Utapau and the formation of their bond, the two of them had been almost inseparable and the closeness had brought unthought-of results.
The admiration he had felt for how she had been able to repudiate her darkness, and the gratitude he had felt for how she had helped and cared for him had given place to something else.
The previous week Obi-Wan had seen Asajj laugh when a Nubian squirrel she had tried to coax closer with nuts had finally taken the food from her hand. Her laughter had been as joyous and carefree as a child's, filling her whole face with a special light.
"She is beautiful," Obi-Wan had thought while watching her. "I would do everything to see her always as happy."
Then, a few days later, he had caught himself staring as Asajj and Anakin exercised on the terrace, not like a teacher watching if a kata was correctly performed, but as a man wondering what it would be like to peel that leather jumpsuit from her to caress the skin beneath.
He had blushed crimson – something he hadn't done since his teenage years – when Asajj had turned around and caught him staring.
This behaviour had left Obi-Wan confused and embarrassed and he had spent a lot of time meditating on it. The conclusion he had reached had left him stunned. He had fallen in love.
He loved Asajj Ventress, the woman who had tried to kill him but was also his bonded and trusted companion. He loved her and didn't know what to do about it.
On one hand, he was a Jedi and attachments were forbidden to the members of his order. On the other, Asajj and he had been tied by a Force-induced bond. Should he decide not to act on his feelings, he would not be able to stay away from her for years as he had done when he and Siri had decided not to pursue their love. Also, the recent events involving Anakin, had made Obi-Wan seriously ponder the wisdom of the non-attachment rule, especially now that the Jedi's numbers were so low.
Having reached the end of the path, Obi-Wan stepped into a small, grassy clearing and slowly, painfully knelt in a meditative position.
"Are you sure that is a wise thing to do?" Qui-Gon's voice echoed around him, both concerned and amused.
"Probably not Qui-Gon, but it's too late. I doubt I will be able to stand up again without help," Obi-Wan grimaced.
"Call for your bondmate, she will come to help you up."
"Not yet; I need to meditate first, about her and our relationship."
Obi-Wan looked at the lake as he collected his thoughts. "I love her, Master."
"You finally realized it, Padawan. I'm so glad you did."
"So you approve of it?"
"Yes, I do. But tell me, Obi-Wan, how do you feel about it?"
"I'm conflicted, Qui-Gon. The Code forbids attachments and love, but I'm no longer sure it is right. During this past month I have observed Anakin and seen how the love he harbours for his wife and children is helping him to regain his piece of mind. He is calmer, more centred and balanced now that he is openly able to be with his family. I cannot help but wonder how things could have gone had he been allowed to express his love from the start without having to keep it secret from me and the Council. Had he felt free to talk with me about his fears for Padmé, he wouldn't have been so vulnerable to Palpatine's manipulations."
"What you say is right, but you must keep in mind two things. One: had Anakin behaved with his feelings for Padmé like you did with your own for Siri, none of this would have happened. Two: there was something unhealthy in Anakin's desire to save Padmé at any cost," Qui-Gon's incorporeal voice pointed out.
"I know," Obi-Wan nodded. "Anakin was obsessed. It was his obsessive attachment that led him to his fall—but it was his pure love that brought him back. Love and obsession aren't the same thing, and Jedi could learn to cope with them."
"Wise master you have become, Obi-Wan," Yoda interjected, appearing from behind some tall bushes and hobbling into the clearing. "Agree with your conclusions, I do. For a change in the Code, the time has come. Good example to the others you and your bonded will give."
Obi-Wan was taken aback by Yoda's words. He hadn't expected the old master would agree with him.
Yoda looked at him with sorrowful eyes. "The Jedi are almost no more, my fault is." Obi-Wan tried to protest, but the diminutive master raised his hand in a silencing gesture. "Too old I am. Too rigid. Too arrogant to see that the old way is not the only way. These Jedi, I trained to become the Jedi who had trained me, long centuries ago—but those ancient Jedi, of a different time they were. Changed, has the galaxy. Changed, the Order did not—because let it change, I did not. To repair this, we must now, Master Obi-Wan. Everything changes, and the Jedi change must too."
"Yoda is right, Obi-Wan. The Jedi need to evolve. Your bond with Asajj was Force-induced. The Force does nothing on a whim. Perhaps your purpose is now to teach a new way to the Jedi. I'm sure your bonded will be happy to help you," Qui-Gon concluded, humour colouring his tone.
"Master?" Obi-Wan asked, surprised by the last line.
"She loves you too, my friend, and just like you she doesn't know what to do. She is afraid she would offend you if she made her feelings known. You will have to make the first move and let her know how you feel."
Asajj was on the balcony of her assigned room, enjoying the sun and the fresh, pure air, storing away those sensations, so she would be able to recapture them when she would have to return to Coruscant, along with Obi-Wan and the other Jedi.
"It is really a beautiful place, is it not?" Obi-Wan's voice called from behind her and Asajj rushed to wrap her bathrobe tighter around her body. She had taken a shower to wash the sweat formed during her training with Skywalker, and since dinner was hours away, she had not yet redressed.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you," Obi-Wan added when she failed to reply, lingering on the threshold.
"No, no," Asajj hastened to answer with a slight smile. "Come in, I was enjoying the sunset."
Obi-Wan crossed the room to the balcony and she noticed with relief his limp was less noticeable.
Once at her side, he posed his cane against the wall and folded his arms on his chest. "Such a serene place," he commented.
"Master Yoda and I are considering establishing the new Jedi Temple here."
"Here?" Asajj turned to face Obi-Wan, surprised.
"Yes. It's a friendly environment, strong in the Living Force, away from Coruscant and its politics but still close enough to the capital to be easily reachable. It would be the ideal place for the Jedi to heal from the horrors of the war and the Purge, to train and to grow their children." Obi-Wan explained.
"Their children?" Asajj repeated, wondering if he was referring to the padawans that were to come or to children born from the Jedi.
"We have decided to lift the ban against attachment. From now on Jedi will be allowed to keep in contact with their family of origin, marry, have children—but they will be also taught how to control such attachments so they don't become obsessions."
Asajj's mind was abuzz with possibilities, but she forced herself to stay calm and not let her longing leak through the bond.
"What made you change your mind on this?"
"Well, our numbers are very low, only eighty knights or so, and if the Order wants to survive, we need Force sensitive children to perpetuate it. The removal of the ban should encourage the knights to create families and maybe will convince those parents that refused to give us their children because they didn't want to lose them to reconsider their decision. Also, Anakin's story shows what can happen if someone chooses to pursue something natural but forbidden. Anakin's fear to be discovered and the lies he had to say prepared the ground for Palpaltine's temptation."
Asajj nodded. "This is quite logical. I think you made a good decision."
Obi-Wan smiled slightly. "I'm relieved you approve, because Yoda and Qui-Gon believe you and I will have to set the good example for the other Jedi."
"What?!" she almost sputtered.
Obi-Wan shifted his weight and Asajj noticed for the first time how tense he looked.
Suddenly Asajj's heart started beating faster as she remembered the conversation she had with Padmé a few days before. Was it possible?
"Asajj-" Obi-Wan stopped, took a deep breath and started again. "Asajj, I must say something to you. Something has happened during the time we have spent together. My feelings for you have deepened and changed. Maybe it was because of the bond. Maybe this started long ago, when we tried to kill each other and failed. I find I don't really care about the why and the when. I love you, Asajj, and I would be honoured if you chose to pursue a relationship with me."
Asajj's breath had caught in her throat during his speech, but she released it after he stopped talking, as she smiled.
"Obi-Wan," she said calmly, "I love you too. As you said, it might have started long ago, but what really matters is the here and now. I love you, my bond-mate, and I look forward to spending my life at your side."
A slow smile spread on Obi-Wan's lips, reaching his eyes and setting his whole face alight with joy. Asajj had never seen him smile like that before, but she vowed in that moment she would do her best to make sure he would always smile like this.
Silence fell on the pair, as they watched each other, their emotions travelling back and forth along the bond, because it was easier for them to express them that way than using words.
Then, slowly, little by little, their faces got closer until their lips met in their first kiss.
Around them, the sky coloured with the yellow-rose colours of the sunset, but for Obi-Wan and Asajj, that was only the beginning.