Beta: A huge thank you to cariel for cleaning up this tale for me and for ensuring that it did not become the disaster that I feared it would turn into. You freaking rock! Also thanks for the title I had no idea what to call this but this is perfect!
Disclaimer: George Lucas and Lucasfilm own Star Wars and all such related. No profit is intended from this fan-generated material.
Author's notes: This was written for citizenjess as part of the jedi_mistletoe exchange.
The first time Asajj Ventress met Obi-Wan Kenobi, she was under orders to release a toxic nerve gas on a Naboo moon. It was the first mission she had received under the tutelage of Lord Tyranus and Asajj could not fail. She did not know the nature or the reasons behind her master's decision, she did however, know better than to question it.
The Jedi Knight was hardly noticeable by her standards. He was shorter in stature, entirely too hairy for Ratattaki tastes and he lacked the passion of battle. He was not a warrior in any sense of the word and Asajj could not be bothered with him.
That was until he, on the verge of death, had defeated her in battle.
Obi-Wan was not the first person to defeat her nor would he be the last. Yet his victory was not showcased with arrogance, taunts, insults or even displays of pride.
Unlike his predecessors, his concern was solely on saving the lives of his troops and the people they were ordered to protect. This man was not like any of the other Jedi that Ventress had fought and destroyed.
Nobility and honour were more than words to him; they were his life.
Asajj learned Obi-Wan's name when she encountered a month after they clashed lightsabers. Her mission was to collect an antidote for the bio weapon known as swamp gas. This time, it was personal. Every time she closed her eyes, Asajj could see the faces of the Gungans who died from the gas and hear their screams. It haunted Asajj and she needed closure. The antidote was meant for her masters. They never explained their reasons and Asajj never bothered to ask. Dirge was placed under her command and together they were to finish what they had started. This time the Jedi Knight was ready and waiting for her. Obi-Wan brought along his colleagues; this was an insult that Asajj could not tolerate.
Trained in the art of murder, the Jedi claimed they only wanted to end the war, yet the keepers of the peace never hesitated to draw their lightsabers at every opportunity. Their arrogance and self-righteousness proved to be their undoing and Asajj was quick to end their lives.
Only Master Kenobi remained. Their battle was far more complicated and it left no room for error. Blades clashed, while their feet followed the steps of a private sword dance. It was with great skill and focus that the two of them fought along the edges of the cliff that overlooked the valley where Obi-Wan's colleagues now lay dead.
After a long battle, Obi-Wan escaped with antidote firmly in his grasp. In his wake, he left a furious Ventress who swore that she let him live because her master had ordered her to do it.
It was easier to blame it on orders than to admit to the truth.
"Your mission is to remove Anakin Skywalker, whatever the cost. "
It was a strange order, one that Asajj had not anticipated. In the past, her mission had always been to break Skywalker to transform him into the very thing he sought to destroy. Asajj never knew what was more laughable, that Anakin was considered a noble Jedi or the idea that he even had honour to violate. His master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, was another matter entirely.
"You will have everything you need to accomplish this mission and will be placed in command of the Separatist armies. Do not disappoint me, child. "
It was the first time she saw fear in her master's eyes. Beneath the ice of his steely gaze, his vulnerability revealed itself in such a way that Asajj could not ignore it. The great shamans and oracles of her people claimed to be able to see their deaths through visions. In that moment, Ventress knew Dooku had foreseen his own demise.
That night, Asajj dreamed of her own future. She would not die by Skywalker's hands as Lord Sidious had hoped, nor would she fall prey to her own master's blades as she had feared. Ventress knew she would one day die. She never imagined it would be in the arms of General Kenobi.
Obi-Wan's blind loyalty to their ungrateful and spoiled Chosen One and the corrupt Order never ceased to amaze her. The more Asajj learned about The Negotiator, the more she desired to know. Obi-Wan Kenobi was a living contradiction and Asajj needed to know why. It was more than just questions she needed answered; it was about finding her own place in a war that she did not understand.
The explosion of a transport on Jabiim brought Master Kenobi to her. She would make him pay for her suffering, for the loss her true mentor, Ky Narec, her ruined future as a Jedi, and even for the war. Trapped and poisoned in the dungeons of her monumental palace, Obi-Wan had nowhere to run. His abilities were stunted by the toxins she forced into him and she destroyed his lightsaber. There was little hope of the great warrior making it out alive.
Using weapons of torture, Asajj hissed her rage at him and made her attacks. With a Sith's mask over his face, only his eyes were visible to Asajj. The sorrow, compassion, and disappointment she saw in them would haunt her without mercy. Furious by her vulnerabilities, Ventress swore that she would break Obi-Wan Kenobi. There would be no mercy, no reprise, only suffering and then death.
His screams of pain would fill the air, just as hers did all those years ago at the hands of Osika Kirske and his men. It would only be a matter of time.
With whips, blades, Force attacks and even lightsabers, Asajj beat on his flesh, until even meditations could not provide him with a brief reprise. Leather ropes bound his wrists and ankles were soaked with his blood and dried to cut his flesh further. His skin hung off in strips off his body, intermingled with blood and the torn cloth of his garments. Many of his bones were broken or fractured, yet there was no end to the torture unleashed. The onslaught of her attacks were without mercy or reason.
He watched her every move, and listened to her every word, searching for the weight behind them; the driving force that had transformed her into the person she had become. The weapons she used were ancient, carefully carved, and bore stories of another time and place. Culture, clearly, was more important to her than most would have believed.
After days of constant suffering, Obi-Wan finally found his moment. Through bloodied and bleary eyes, he met Asajj's grey-blue orbs and in them, the truth was revealed. The hate was nothing more than a mask, a carefully woven cover to shelter the innocence, the pain, and her desperate longing for hope.
"This is not your fault. None of it is your fault." His words were barely audible.
The Force attack that followed was her most vicious yet.
Three weeks of constant suffering, pain, and torture finally ended with the burst of a weakened water pipe. Obi-Wan's patience had paid off, as did years of training and experience. His abilities to touch the Force had been severely limited due to the toxins fed into his blood, but not to the point of eradication.
The escape that had followed changed everything, for both Obi-Wan Kenobi and his captor, Asajj Ventress. There was no denying defeat, no illusions of vengeance or blood lust. The Jedi had done more than just made his grand escape, he had broke the hardened Asajj Ventress. There was no satisfaction found in the slaughter of the last warlord, Osika Kirske, no rage at the theft of her ship. There was only sorrow and despair.
It was not enough for the Jedi Knight to steal her ship, destroy her home, and unleash an age-old nemesis. He had to take the only thing she truly cherished: it was the first gift she had ever received in her young life and it had been given to her by the one man she had loved like a father. The tears were unexpected, burning hot and filled with a lifetime of buried pain. Falling to her knees, Asajj tried to regain some semblance of control, but it was too late. The past could no longer be ignored.
I may not be able to remain with you any longer, but I know you will become a great Jedi. Never doubt yourself, Asajj, or your destiny. Even the greatest leaps of faith begin with the smallest of steps and remember, I will always be proud of you— She could still recall her mentor's final words to her, the way his hands shook so violently as he struggled to give her the lightsaber, and the humble pride she saw in his eyes in those final moments.
It was the first time Asajj ever questioned her decisions. It would not be the last.
Asajj's body was no longer her own. Her skin crawled, leaving her nerves pulsating and desperate for release from the pain. Suffering had taken on a new meaning when she emerged augmented from the bacta tank. Ventress's masters said the rage would give her the strength necessary to defeat her greatest foe: Skywalker. But it was not Anakin she sought to destroy.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, the curse and blessing in her life, the Jedi Master that embodied both chivalry and nobility, all of the romantic ideals that Asajj secretly loved, but believed no longer existed. His presence was a reminder of how far she had fallen and how trapped her life had become.
The battles that ensued between Master Kenobi and her became almost a daily habit. What had once been a curiosity had long since become an obsession. Asajj now lived for one thing: to defeat the great Jedi Master.
The fight was too short for Asajj's tastes. Even with the manipulation to her body and her rage, she could not keep up with Anakin and Obi-Wan attacking her at once. In truth, she was tired of the war, the battles, and the endless need to spill blood.
Dooku's betrayal marked the end of it all.
As if in a dream, she could almost see her parents shouting at her as they did that fateful day so many years ago, demanding she run away, to get to safety. Even as a youngling, she could run quickly, but in the end, Osika Kirske and his men were much faster and stronger than she was. The memory made her blood run cold. Desperately, Asajj tried to make her retreat to the shuttle where he had escaped. Surely, her mentor would not abandon her, not like this, not after all she had done for him.
A droid set its laser sights on her and the lasers seared her flesh, leaving no room for doubt. She was truly alone.
The sight of the warrior woman drowning in bacta, strangled by tubes and augmentations had left its mark on Obi-Wan. He wanted to free her, but Anakin, ever eager, wanted to end it all. Obi-Wan could not allow it.
It did not matter; Asajj broke free from her restraints and made her attack. She was intent on ending things herself. Her body was altered and broken, yet to anyone else, Ventress was very much a living weapon. To Obi-Wan, it was obvious something had changed. Asajj fought of out instinct, and desperation, not hatred. Now it was Anakin, not Asajj, who was intent on making the kill.
Asajj never did have a chance to respond or make her defence. Dooku had abandoned her. The rush of emotions poured from her in waves while powerful images from her past flooded Obi-Wan's thoughts. It was unintentional, a connection formed from desperation, fear, and the need for assurance. Asajj was finally ready to let go; she just did not know how.
Everything happened all at once: the droid's attack, Anakin's killer blow, and Asajj's desperate attempt to escape. Panicked, Asajj tried to resist Obi-Wan's assistance. The shard of metal she grabbed in defence fell free as Anakin's lightsaber found its mark.
Obi-Wan swiftly took her into his arms when she collapsed. There was no judgment, no anger, only compassion and concern.
When Asajj met his gaze her eyes bright with emotions neither were ready to embrace. "The pity is gone from your eyes," she whispered. The discovery clearly surprised her; his assurances that she would be healed did not. It was not the words of warning that caught him off guard, rather the calloused fingers that grazed the edges of his beard. With a whisper of hidden, yet sincere, gratitude and a hint of a smile, Asajj breathed her last breath.
It was the first time Obi-Wan had ever seen hope in her eyes.
What began as rivalry became a pilgrimage.
It had been one year since Asajj Ventress let go of the darkness and returned to the Force and five months after the Republic's demise when Obi-Wan planted tiny seeds of the rare desert trees known as Ascica. The tiny plants were hardy and required little care, yet they were treated as though they were his most treasured belongings. Each one was carefully trimmed, groomed and was given arid soil as necessary. The process was long and arduous, but as the years passed, the great Jedi found great peace and pleasure in caring for the small saplings. The flourishing little orchard was more than a monument to a slave who had finally found freedom through peace; it had become a symbol of hope, for both Obi-Wan, and the many weary travellers who sought refuge beneath their branches.
Though Anakin's descent and transformation into Darth Vader remained a burden which Obi-Wan carried, these little trees gave hope for the future. For the locals, the trees were a miracle and a mystery.
Four years of soul searching and cleansing led to Asajj's rebirth. Through the caring hands of her fellow tribesmen and the compassion of their elders, Asajj was physically and spiritually healed. She spent another two years exploring the galaxy to learn its wisdom and embrace its beauty. The last year, was spent searching for the man who changed everything. It was Asajj's final wish to thank him in person. She owed it to Obi-Wan.
It was spring on Tatooine when Asajj's journey led her back into the Jedi Master's life. Upon their reunion neither of them spoke. Through their eyes, a million words were exchanged.
Obi-Wan invited her into his home and together they shared a pot of tea. It was the finest brew Ventress had ever enjoyed. Not even Dooku, a self-titled tea connoisseur, could steep such a perfect mix of bitter herbs and sweet spices. The silence between them was comfortable, peaceful, leaving Asajj contemplative and at ease.
Asajj did not know how much time had passed when Obi-Wan gently broke the silence. "There is something I want to show you." The weight in his voice could not be ignored. She rose to her feet just as he did and followed him without hesitation.
It was more than a small garden. It was an orchard, a little forest, in the middle of a desert. Had she not seen it with her own eyes, Asajj would have considered the idea absurd. The trees were stout, strong, and filled with white blossoms. The soft scent of fresh leaves, wild flowers, and spice greeted her senses. There was no grass, bushes, or other flowers, surrounding them, only these strange trees that stood guard as if out of some legend. After years of travelling the galaxy, it was in this place, this arid desert world, that Asajj Ventress had found beauty.
Obi-Wan remained silent by her side, allowing her to take it all in. She did not ask why he brought her to this place or even how it came to be. The emotions she felt from him, as subtle as they were, said all that needed to be said.
It was not the trees that caused Asajj's hands to shake or her vision to blur with unshed tears. It was the immense amount of love and care that had clearly gone into these saplings. It was the fact that this little forest had been planted and groomed in honour of her memory.
"I don't know what to say." The words were barely a whisper. She did not trust her voice not to waver.
Obi-Wan did not respond as his blue eyes met Asajj's own. In them, she saw that words were not necessary; he understood. He had always understood her, even when she did not fully understand herself.
Strong fingers, weathered and worn from long hours in the desert suns, embraced her calloused, pale fingers as together they watched the leaves dance and quiver in the desert wind's gentle caress.
After a lifetime of sorrow and pain, violence and loss, the two warriors finally knew peace.