He'd regretted it ever since the night of his Master's funeral. No one would have included the event as one of the many reasons for the pensive moments of meditation he entered occasionally. No one even knew it had happened. No one but him...and her.
...he'd wanted to apologize for so long. Wanted to at least talk about it, to at least describe the weight of the burden it placed on his heart. As a Jedi, he should be able to let it go, and so should she. It should be so...easy.
Of course, the moments where that particular memory touched his mind were much fewer now. Months had passed, half a year even, and his days had become filled with the activities of basically raising a child. Old pains were replaced with new ones...mainly GROWING pains...at least during the hustle of day time hours. But at night...at night, old ghosts still whispered to him...and that night...his actions...those were some of the loudest.
He hadn't expected to see her. He half-expected that no one in the Order ever expected to see her again. Even Dai wouldn't talk about it to him, and he'd grown to think that the reason for that wasn't so much to protect the greypelt as it was to protect himself. Even the large draft dog had given up it seemed. Wielder Cloudbreaker was not returning to the Temple proper, to the Order. She'd refused demands from above her, she'd yielded to no one, and still hunted her former Master with a determination and focus that perhaps only another wolf could appreciate. No one would lay a hand on Okari Moonfield. No one but her. So determined was she about that that she'd ignored his last desperate transmission...the one that told her his beloved Master was gone forever to the Force...the one that, without words, would tell her that he needed her. For all he knew she didn't even receive it.
It had been after the service, when the crowd was dispersing. When comforting nods, pats on the shoulder, and heartfelt but clumsy words were given to him and to young Anakin. A small girl had run over, handing him a strange white bloom.
"Why thank you!" he'd offered, bending over and even returning the gesture with a sad smile. The little child was a stranger, no reason did she have to show him any kindness.
The little kitten rocked back and forth on her tiny, flexible pawpads as little girls are want to do and said in a high pitched voice. "You're welcome, Master Jedi, but it's not really from me." Obi-Wan had tilted his head at her, and she'd pointed in the direction of a small market beyond the steps of the temple where Qui-Gon's funeral had been performed. Lights flickered from below and shadows bowed in and out of the tents. Still, it seemed nothing he should be interested in... "The Flower Lady. The one down there with the gray cloak and the basket. She's tha one who tol' me to give you this."
"A...lady?..." he repeated quizzically as the little girl bounced down the steps, her task having been completed. Temporarily distracted from his mourning and his responsibility as Anakin's new Master, he'd left the boy in the care of Dai Treiz and skipped down the steps into the twilight bustle of a small bazaar.
Small but colorful vendors surrounded him, selling glass flowers, tinctures, trinkets, souvenirs, hand-spun fabrics, yarns, and clothes...anything anyone could want to remember their trip to Naboo by. Still, he saw no "lady with a gray cloak and basket". And he certainly didn't see anyone selling the strange bloom he held in his hand...one he'd never seen before.
Then, as one remembers details from a cryptic dream, he saw a blur through the crowd. Gray cloak, basket full of white flowers...moving away from the center of the marketplace at a modest pace. Blending in perfectly. Too perfectly.
Trying not to draw attention to himself by changing pace or expression, he muddled through the sea of heads, arms, and shoulders, keeping his target in his sight until he reached one of the many stone sidewalks that lead down to the lake. The woman...a few inches shorter than him from what he could tell, carried a strange lanturn full of exotic oils...oils that smelled slightly familiar. Careful not to seem as though he was a threat, he closed the gap...
...and she'd stopped and turned, the hood of her cloak falling about her shoulders, brown hair gathered in a loose braid. "They are called "Spirit Song", Obi-Wan Kenobi," the spectre said, answering any questions he'd had about the strange bloom he still held in his hand. "My people consider them sacred. It seemed the only fitting gift I could give you..." The wolf dipped her muzzle apologetically, bowing slightly and pinning her ears. "...I am so very sorry."
He couldn't describe how he felt. All he knew was that he was shaking and doing his best not to crush the fragile gift in his fist. "The most fitting gift you could have given me...all of us for that matter...would have been your PRESENCE at his pyre." The young Knight was barely concealing his anger and frustration and hurt, and he saw it reflected in her eyes. "But you couldn't let HER go, could you? Couldn't just let her run to her own ends. No. If anyone catches her, it'll be you, right? The OTHER wolf, right? That's all that matters. Your damned pride as a wolf."
"...Obi...I came...I came across lightyears to be here...I'm sorry I wasn't standing there with you, but I couldn't...this is the best I could..."
He was crying and snarling at the same time, and she'd never forget that image. "You know that's a feeble excuse, Wielder. Okari is in the past. She chose her path and it left the Order's and yours. I would have been there with you til the Force took me...and I thought...I thought you promised me the same."
"I...I know it must seem like I've abandoned you, Obi, but there are things you don't know...things you CAN'T know...I promise I'll explain one day...that you'll know one day...but I can't right now..."
"Then you never will, Wielder." The boy she'd once known said it with definite finality and in the voice of a man. "This...thing...we had was dangerous from the beginning...but I thought it was something special...that it was worth making an exception for. Worth breaking the Code for. I thought we could do what so many others had failed to. To love and to be Jedi...but now...now I know that is not the case. From now on, you owe me no explanation and I seek none from you. Whatever happens is the will of the Force...not the will of my heart."
He'd turned and left her then, giving her one last glare before disappearing up the rise and back into the market and then into the temple. She'd offered no rebuttal, and he'd given her no chance to even change expression before he'd turned his back on her as he felt she'd so figuratively turned her back on him.
The young man replayed it in his mind so many times in the days after that. Then, it became ritual to do it just a few times a week. Then just a moment a month. After that, the pain had just become an empty ache. And he was sure he could deal with that.
Then, just as odd as the sight of her in the twilight market had been, he saw her in one of the gilded halls, all of day burning brightly around her. Siri was her escort, and the posture of both of them seemed to practically scream that they were none too happy about their roles. Had she been caught? Had she come back? Had the Council convinced her to return? And was Okari with her?
The months had changed them both, but as he closed in on her, he decided that, though he now sported no braid but had traded it for a beard and longer hair, she was the one who had changed the most.
Her eyes reflected a cold austerity the boldness of the daylight around them, and they stared at him unwaveringly. It had been a long time indeed since she'd last given him THAT look. The look a wolf gives anyone who dare challenges her place. She was giving him no quarter, no consideration...just as he'd essentially asked for the night he laid his Master and his love for her to rest. Her posture was strong and sure, her tail curled like a great flag of confidence behind her, arms folded neatly in her Master's old cloak.
And then, they were but feet apart, and he was gawking, and Siri was giving him the most unimpressed look he'd ever seen her give...and he'd seen her give plenty. "The Prodigal Knight returns," the hare said, gesturing with a sweeping movement of her arm to Wielder whose muzzle barely twitched into a second of a snarl before smoothing over once more. "Well don't stand there in our way like a brain-dead bantha, Obi-Wan! What are you doing?"
"He's not in "our" way, Knight Tachi," Wielder replied, monotone, coolly, as she stepped to the side and in front of the slightly taller hare. "I do not require your guidance through this Temple. I know the way to the lift." Without a moment's pause, she'd continued on her way through the hall as though it had only been a handful of days since she'd last placed paw upon its floors.
"You might be turning yourself in," Tachi retorted, voice stern but building in volume, "but that does not mean that you are welcome to go about as you please here..."
"It doesn't please me to be anywhere in here right now, I assure you. Leave me in peace, Siri, or you will regret it," the wolf replied, barely canting her head in the direction of the much more outwardly aggressive woman. That being said, Kenobi sensed that it was Wielder...this strange and new Wielder...who had the true upper hand. "I did not have to return. All of this is my choice for now, and I choose to not have you hold my hand and walk me to school. Now run along and do whatever it is your betters have you doing these days, little rabbit. If you want to continue measuring dicks, we can do that after the Council has their turn with me."
And so she had proceeded to walk towards the lift that would take her to her judgment. Siri's lower jaw was practically on the floor, and Obi's was clenched in disbelief. Once the wolf was out of sight, he did his best to smooth over what had just happened with Tachi but only managed to give her someone to spit her ire towards, and so his attempt and salvaging the odd exchange was ruined. After that, he was left, once more, to his own thoughts.
She didn't even say anything to him. Only gave him that strange look. That faraway stare that spoke volumes of distrust, defiance, and all the things he'd never wanted to see in her eyes. But as he thought more about it...as the image somehow grew clearer to him, he realized he'd seen sadness in there too, and, maybe, if he had the chance, that was a feeling he could relate with...one they still certainly shared.
Digital sketch of Obi-Wan and Wielder about half a year after Qui-Gon's death. Not so happy things happen. Will describe moar later.