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In a Lonely Place

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In a Lonely Place

Qui-Gon Jinn opened his eyes and regretted it immediately, blinking at the harsh light that burned his eyes.

“Sorry about that,” he heard, and the light went away.  His eyes adjusted, and he glanced around.  He was in a room with crumbling duracrete walls and one dingy window that told him night had fallen.  Qui-Gon was lying on a bed.  Naked.  Bound.  He withheld the sigh that wanted to escape his lips.  He'd been through situations like this before, but that didn't make it any less trying. 

He pulled with his right arm, testing, and felt metal bite into his wrists.  His eyes followed the line of the cuffs, which were secured to the frame of a bed that had definitely seen better days.  There was a faint buzz in the back of his mind that spoke of an inhibitor.  That was new.  Qui-Gon knew they existed, but this would be the first time in his life that he had ever been subjected to one.  He tried to touch the Force and couldn't.  The energy that was the backbone of his life danced away, just out of reach.

Gods, let Anakin be all right, he thought, hoping his wayward Padawan had escaped whatever fate had befallen them.  Of course, that led him to the realization that he couldn't remember what had happened to him.  He had last spoken to Anakin before they had split up to investigate Outbound Flight's disappearance.  Then...nothing.  Nothing until this moment.

All of this went through his mind in the space of two breaths before he sought out the one who had spoken.  A black-cloaked figure was standing next to the bed, arms crossed, head tilted to one side.  The room's pitiful light meant that he could see no features of his captor's face.  “Where is my Padawan?” he demanded, not in the mood to be civil.

The cloaked figure didn't move, but he did reply.  “Which one?  You've had several, Master Jinn.  You do have this bad habit of misplacing them.”  His voice was soft, the hint of a broken Coruscanti accent lurking in his words.

That caught Qui-Gon's attention.  This wasn't random, this encounter.  Whoever he was, he hadn't just planned to capture a Jedi—he was after Qui-Gon in particular.  Worse, his captor's voice was infuriatingly familiar.  “You did not answer my question.”

“Your Padawan is unharmed, I promise you.”

Qui-Gon tilted his head in mimicry of the other's posture.  “Considering our positions, I'm afraid I have to harbor some doubts as to the truth of that statement.”

Laughter answered him.  “Oh, how I did miss that.  You always knew how to use words to their greatest effect.”  The cloaked figure drew closer, moving without noise, sitting down on the bed next to Qui-Gon's left leg.  He uncrossed his arms, and a pale hand emerged from the sleeve of his cloak.  Qui-Gon stared at that hand, noticing the scars that crossed the back of it, so many he couldn't count them all.  His captor touched the lightsaber scar on Qui-Gon's thigh.  Qui-Gon didn't flinch away from his hand, as he had almost expected to; the hand was warm, stroking the slick skin of the old burn without malice.  “Perhaps, Master Jinn,” his captor said, “you will base your trust on the strength of our past relationship.”  He reached up with both hands—his right hand was as badly scarred as the left—and pushed back the hood that obscured his features.

All of his breath left him in a rush as he stared at the man that sat next to him.  “Obi-Wan.”

“Now you know where one of your Padawans is, at least,” Obi-Wan said, the hint of a sardonic smile on his lips. 

Qui-Gon found himself speechless.  He had not seen Obi-Wan since the day he had Knighted him, both of them still bruised from battling that damned Sith on Naboo.  Obi-Wan had handed him his braid, stepping away, letting Anakin claim the spot that had been his moments ago...and then five years had gone by, and Obi-Wan had been absent from all of them.  The official Temple word was that Obi-Wan was missing in action, presumed deceased.  Qui-Gon had never wanted to believe it, but as time wore on with no word, no body, and no hint of him in the Force, he'd been forced to concede that Obi-Wan was gone.  Anakin had tried to be there for him during those horrible first years, when Qui-Gon had felt like he was walking around without a heart.  It was because of his current Padawan that he hadn't fallen into the same pit of despair that had plagued him after Xanatos's Fall.  And then... well, then he'd become too busy to grieve.

At least Qui-Gon knew, now, that the deceased notation in Temple logs was inaccurate.

The man who had once been the most important part of his life was paler than Qui-Gon had ever seen, and harsh lines had formed at his eyes and around his mouth.  There was another hint of scarring on his neck, but the cloak hid most of that damage.  His hair was no longer the dark red that Qui-Gon remembered, though it was hard to tell in the dim light.  It was longer, too, flowing down his neck to disappear underneath the collar of the cloak.

Qui-Gon wished he could see Obi-Wan's eyes, but the light was wrong for that.  His Padawan's eyes had always glimmered with what was in his heart.  “Where have you been all this time?”

“Here and there.  Nowhere in particular.  Nowhere you need to know about.”  He narrowed his eyes.  “I mean it.  Don't ask.”

“I thought I just did?” Qui-Gon said, not able to help it, and Obi-Wan's smile became more tangible. 

“Picky, picky.  Don't ask again.  I'm not going to tell you.”

“Then could you at least tell me why your first greeting in five years involved this?” he said, wiggling the fingers of his left hand to indicate his present state.  “It's cold in here, you know.”

Obi-Wan's eyes flickered to Qui-Gon's groin and then back again.  “Not that cold,” he said, and there was a purr in his voice that Qui-Gon had never heard before.

To his consternation, he felt a blush color his cheeks.  “A simple 'Hello' would have worked just as well, you know.”

The smile on Obi-Wan's face became a grin.  “No. It would not have,” he said, leaning close enough that the dim light in the room revealed all.

Now Qui-Gon could see Obi-Wan's eyes, and wished that he could not.  The warm blue-gray color that sometimes shifted to green in Obi-Wan's more mischievous moments was gone.  He swallowed against the sudden lump in his throat.  “Obi-Wan.  What's wrong with your eyes?”

The sardonic look faded, replaced by something harder, colder.  “Sorry, Qui-Gon.  It's a little side effect of dabbling a bit too long in the Dark.”

The Sith on Naboo had eyes like those—yellow, reptilian, and definitely not in the Galactic registry of eye colors known to occur in the Zabrak race.  It was the yellow of corruption.  A mark of the Dark side.  There was a thin line of characters tattooed across both of Obi-Wan's cheeks, black and stark against his pale skin.  It was the same kind of lettering that marked the Sith holocrons that the Jedi Order kept locked in the Archives, far from prying eyes.  Marks of the Sith.

“Force,” Qui-Gon whispered, staring up at him.  “What's happened to you?”

“I went looking for something,” Obi-Wan replied, and the sardonic little smile was back.  “To my chagrin, I found it.  Or rather, it found me.”  He stood, shrugging out of the black cloak.  “I am sorry about the cuffs, but I did need to make sure that you would speak with me, instead of just trying to lop my head off.”

“Sith,” Qui-Gon breathed out the word, making it a curse.

Obi-Wan tilted his head again, not acknowledging, not denying.

Qui-Gon was bewildered, and in truth, beginning to grow angry.  It had been bad enough, watching Xanatos succumb to the dark, ending his life in a pool of acid because his pride would not allow Qui-Gon the killing blow.  To see Obi-Wan this way burned him, hurt him in a way that he had thought he would never be hurt again.  Was he such an incapable Jedi Master that he could now count two that had Fallen by his hand?  “Why?” he bit out.  “Do I serve some purpose for the Sith?”

“Actually, yes,” Obi-Wan said flatly, giving Qui-Gon a cold stare.  “You do.  But that is not why I'm here.”

This time he yanked with both hands, testing the limits of the metal, then tried without success to yank against the bonds that held his feet in place.  “Then why!?  Why come to me at all?  If it's to kill me, then you really need to get on with it!”

There was a flicker in those amber eyes, there and gone, but it was enough to tell Qui-Gon that his Obi-Wan was not completely lost.  Not when he could still grieve.  He turned away, and Qui-Gon was left to stare at him, to take in the reddish-gold hair that now hung to the middle of Obi-Wan's back.  When he shed the cloak, Qui-Gon saw black tunics that were a mirror to the white that Obi-Wan had once worn as a Jedi.

When Obi-Wan turned back to face him, there was a new expression in his eyes that kicked Qui-Gon's adrenaline into high gear:  predatory.  There was no other way to describe it.  He did flinch, this time, when Obi-Wan reached out to touch him, running his fingers up through the fine hairs on Qui-Gon's leg. 

“Did you know,” he began to say, a conversational lilt to his voice, “that I have thought of you this way often?”  Obi-Wan walked around to the other side of the bed, his fingers drifting across Qui-Gon's toes, then back up, along his right leg, over his knee, just grazing his thigh...

Qui-Gon felt his breath catch.  He'd been misreading the predatory expression, thinking he was about to have a fight on his hands.

It seemed that Obi-Wan had a fight of a different sort in mind.

“I didn't know that, no,” Qui-Gon admitted, trying to keep track of Obi-Wan's hand and watch his face at the same time.  “Really, considering the way you and Quinlan acted...”

Obi-Wan uttered the same soft laugh that had greeted Qui-Gon upon awakening.  “We did have you lot fooled, didn't we?  Quinlan and I enjoyed each other's company, that's true.  But he had his eye on someone else...as did I.” 

Well, that certainly explained why Quinlan Vos had wound up spending most of his time in Cin Drallig's company.  It didn't explain this.  “But—then why—”

Obi-Wan cut him off by placing his finger to Qui-Gon's lips, pressing gently.  Qui-Gon caught the whiff of some expensive oil, one he'd only ever encountered among Coruscant's elite.  “You had moved on, Master Jinn.  You had other...concerns.”

Anakin.  He was speaking of Anakin.  Qui-Gon looked up, seeing the muted spark of rage in those amber eyes, and felt anew the grief that had struck him when Obi-Wan's flag in the Temple duty roster had gone from MIA to PKIA before his name had been removed from it.  “Then why now?”

“Because the opportunity presented itself,” was Obi-Wan's cryptic answer.  The rage in his eyes vanished as if it had never been there.  He reached out to touch Qui-Gon with both hands, and flesh that was warm and calloused was pressed against Qui-Gon's chest.  “I knew a long time ago that I would never truly get your attention unless I tied you up and then sat on you for good measure.”

Oh, gods.  Sith or no Sith, Qui-Gon was forced to admit that the very thought was enough to make his heart race and his cock take notice.

That mischievous grin that he had once loved to see was there now.  “See?” he said, and that purr was back in his voice.  “Worked like a charm.”  He lifted his hands, pulling his tunics up over his head and dropping them to the floor.

Qui-Gon found himself staring at the web of scars that crossed Obi-Wan's torso.  They spoke of horrific things, the ideas twisting his stomach like a vibroblade.  “Those are lightsaber scars,” he whispered, stunned.

Obi-Wan didn't seem to mind.  “Some of them.”  Without further comment he pulled down the dark leggings he wore, revealing more pale skin and more scars.  He'd been barefoot, which was how he'd managed to move around the room without noise.  Now he stood next to Qui-Gon, naked, one eyebrow raised in response to Qui-Gon's wide-eyed stare.  “See something you like?”

“I used to,” Qui-Gon said without thinking, and winced at the flash of genuine hurt that appeared in Obi-Wan's eyes.  “I—” he licked dry lips, taking in the hard muscles and slim lines that had always made up Obi-Wan's compact frame.  Those were unchanged, time only adding fluid grace and the harsh white and red lines that crossed him from head to toe.  His face was untouched.  The only other thing that seemed to have escaped the Sith's notice was Obi-Wan's cock, which was half-erect, resting on a thatch of darker red hair.  “I possibly might find something to like,” he dared to say, almost certain that death was not what his former Padawan had in mind for him.

“Mmm.  Well.  I guess we'll just have to find out, won't we?”  Obi-Wan stepped closer, bent down, and lapped at the hollow of Qui-Gon's throat with his tongue. 

Qui-Gon breathed in, catching the scent of Obi-Wan, one that he had missed for five years.  Even as muscles tensed and fluttered over the ghostly touches that Obi-Wan was offering, he wondered.  Could he really go through with this, ignoring the Darkness that he could sense? 

Then Obi-Wan bit him with sharp teeth, not hard enough to break skin, and Qui-Gon decided that he didn't really care.  This was one Moment.  He would think such long thoughts another time.  He shuddered as those warm hands went back to his chest, soothing circles of motion that ended only when Obi-Wan's head moved lower and caught his nipple with a hot tongue.

Qui-Gon gasped and pulled against the bonds, wanting just to grab and plunder the mouth that was working on teasing him to distraction.  Obi-Wan hummed against his chest, a sound of pleasure that vibrated against his skin and made his groin burn with want. 

He blinked and that mouth was there, hot breath stirring him, lifting him, and Obi-Wan made an approving sound before dipping his head.  Qui-Gon watched in breathless fascination as that long, agile tongue licked him from the base of his shaft to the head of his cock, taking away the first hint of pre-cum on the edge of his tongue.  Obi-Wan closed his eyes, looking very much like a feline who had just caught his prey, his lips wet and glistening in the dim light.  “You taste exactly as good as I thought you might,” he was whispering, the words so faint Qui-Gon had to fight to hear them.  “No one could smell as good as you do and not taste like heaven.”

Before Qui-Gon could formulate a reply, Obi-Wan's head lowered again, and warm, moist heat enveloped his cock, bringing him to full hardness, and his hips jerked once before Obi-Wan's hands reached down to hold him in place.  The feel of those firm hands, the tongue that was dancing just under the head of his glans...  He wanted to say something, but words had gone away.  There was only heat and suction, pulling on him, and then he whimpered when that heat vanished.

He looked down and met Obi-Wan's eyes, for a moment confused when he thought he saw shifting colors.  Obi-Wan was grinning at him, that same feline smirk of satisfaction on his face.  “Don't worry.  I did say that I was going to sit on you.”  He climbed onto the bed, lipping Qui-Gon's navel as he did so before straddling Qui-Gon's hips, both of his hands resting on Qui-Gon's chest.  For just one moment their cocks rubbed, and he moaned at the surfeit of sensation that offered before Obi-Wan moved, raising himself up with one of his hands gripping Qui-Gon's cock.  He lowered himself down, surprising Qui-Gon, and then he didn't give a flying fuck because that was slick skin he was encountering, oiled and waiting.

“Force, what did you—”

“Shut up,” Obi-Wan said, swatting him in the stomach with his free hand, and Qui-Gon did shut up because he was forgetting how to breathe.  It had been so damned long since he'd had anything like this, hot and tight, slick, that wonderful ring of muscle clenching him even as Obi-Wan sank down fully onto Qui-Gon.  He realized that Obi-Wan was going to control this entire encounter because he didn't have enough slack from the bonds to thrust—he threw his head back in frustration, and felt Obi-Wan's amusement even through the stupid inhibitor.

He looked up at Obi-Wan and was further distracted by the open-mouthed bliss on Obi-Wan's face, his eyes squeezed shut, those soft gasps furthering his ardor.  In that moment the scars were nothing.  Obi-Wan was beautiful, that inner light visible, not yet destroyed by Darkness.

“Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon whispered, wishing to hold this Moment, wishing that Obi-Wan would hurry up and move.

He smiled.  “Pushy, pushy,” Obi-Wan said, and then he did move, rising and falling in a slow, undulating rhythm that made Qui-Gon's heart race, made him fight the bonds that held his hands and feet because he just wanted to touch the man who was driving him mad.

Obi-Wan bent down, his gaze questioning, and without even knowing for certain why, Qui-Gon nodded in response.  Obi-Wan smiled, touching his lips to Qui-Gon's, and Qui-Gon opened his mouth to accept what was offered.  Obi-Wan tasted of sweetness and morning, and there was nothing Dark in this, not in this kiss which felt more innocent than any he had ever shared.  Obi-Wan's tongue touched his lips, questioning, and Qui-Gon smiled and teased that tongue with his own, granting and sharing, and then their tongues slid together, and that combined with the sensations overwhelming his cock made him groan into Obi-Wan's mouth.

Obi-Wan pulled back, just a moment, and Qui-Gon's breath caught; Obi-Wan’s eyes were blue, tinged with green.  There was no trace of that amber taint, but there was a hint of searching there as Obi-Wan gazed at Qui-Gon's face, and then he closed his eyes.  He kissed Qui-Gon again, that nimble tongue seeking and gaining entry...

...and then Qui-Gon felt the tang of metal on his tongue.  Before he could even think, Obi-Wan drew back, leaving that metal on his tongue.

Qui-Gon tongued the bit of metal into place along his gumline.  His mind was full of questions, but most of them were obliterated by the new rhythm Obi-Wan set, going down and coming up, the sounds of skin clapping against skin the only sound he heard and the only one he cared about.  Qui-Gon pulled against the metal that bound him once again, a growl of frustration escaping him.  All he wanted to do was break free, clasp his hands around those slight hips and plunge further into that tight pocket of hot, slick velvet.  Even just to reach forward, to grasp that cock that bounced, teasing, with each rise and fall.

Then Obi-Wan grabbed his cock, and Qui-Gon had the visual feast of watching Obi-Wan's eyes drift closed, his lips parted in pleasure as he rode Qui-Gon Jinn and stroked himself to orgasm.

Heat and light were building behind his eyes, his groin full of  tingling almost-pain, and it was Obi-Wan's sharp cry that made him fall over that longed-for edge, his vision whiting out as hot liquid fell onto his stomach.

Obi-Wan whispered something that could have been a curse, or could have been Qui-Gon's name, and then slumped down onto Qui-Gon's chest, his breath coming in gasps.

Qui-Gon realized he was breathing just as heavily, and felt sweat run down his forehead and into his hair.  He felt stunned, and aware, and...love.  Yes, of course he loved Obi-Wan.  He just had never realized how much, and how much of that love was for the man, the Jedi, not the Padawan he had once known.

That thought was enough to break his serenity where passion could not.  Obi-Wan was not a Jedi.  He closed his eyes, surprised by the keen of grief that welled up in his throat, so soon on the throes of orgasm.  What the hell was he going to do?  He and Obi-Wan could not do this, not while they walked paths that opposed each other.

He was startled out of his thoughts by Obi-Wan punching him in the shoulder.  “Are you always so damned unstable after sex?”

He could be honest in his answer.  “Only with you,” Qui-Gon whispered.

Obi-Wan sat up, and Qui-Gon felt a glimmer of remorse when his spent cock slipped from its place.  The amber was back in his eyes, and that damned sardonic smirk had reappeared.  “What am I going to do with you, Qui-Gon?” he asked, and there was a musing tone to his words that told Qui-Gon he already had something in mind.

He smiled, knowing that things had changed, and now was not the time to speak of it.  “We could always do this again,” he offered, then wiggled his fingers.  “Without these, of course.”

“No,” Obi-Wan said, shaking his head, the genuine smile an odd contrast against the reptilian chill of his eyes.  “That wouldn't be a good idea.  You're still a Jedi Master, after all, and I'm...” he trailed off, lifting his shoulders in an abbreviated shrug.  “You know how it must be.”  His hand brushed the side of Qui-Gon's neck.  “Find Anakin and go home, my former Master.  You won't find Outbound Flight.”

Qui-Gon frowned.  “Why not?”

Obi-Wan tilted his head, a wry twist to his lips.  “Because I destroyed it.”

“Obi-Wan—” Qui-Gon said, and then the sharp feel of something piercing his skin stopped him.  He looked up at Obi-Wan, on the brink of panic as he felt cold, dead weight seep into his limbs.  “What are you—”

“Shhh.”  Obi-Wan leaned down enough to press his lips against Qui-Gon's, his tongue darting out just enough to tease with the touch.  “Goodbye, Master Jinn.”

When Qui-Gon awoke, he was still on that same bed in the same room, but the gray light of morning was filtering in through the dirty window.  He was no longer bound by the cuffs.  In fact, there was no sign of them at all.  He was dressed in his tunics, and his cloak was flung over him, blanketing Qui-Gon from the room's chill.  He reached for his lightsaber and found nothing.

He sat up, finding his belt in place, as it should be, but his lightsaber was gone.

He sighed, feeling abused and baffled by the events that had befallen him.  There was a painful burn in his arms and legs from where he had been stretched too long in one position.  That was what told him he had not dreamed the previous night, even if his sensitive nose could have missed the scent of sex that was still heavy in the air.  He rubbed his wrists, finding ligature marks where the cuffs had pressed into his skin, and then dropped his head into his hands.  “Obi-Wan,” he whispered, knowing the other was long gone. 

The buzz of the inhibitor was gone, too, though he had never felt the device on his body.  That meant that they were tiny, a new weapon in a strange cold war against the Jedi.  The others would have to be warned.  The Force was there as if he had never been absent, taking the muzzy feeling from his head, warming him like no blanket ever could.  He touched it, searching for Obi-Wan's presence, but he knew he would not find him.

There was one other thing he had—the square bit of metal that Obi-Wan's agile tongue had slipped him in such a unique manner.  He reached into his mouth with one finger, rubbing up along the outside of his gums until he found the tiny bit of metal.  He drew it out of his mouth, noticing the data etchings along the side.  A memory chip, standard for the readers in use throughout the Jedi Order.

He stared at it, wondering if he dared to look at its contents, afraid of what he might learn.

His data reader was still in his belt, so he unfolded it and powered it up, slipping in the data chip once it had time to dry.  The reader's viewscreen brought up file content information.  One item was listed, a holographic message that had no name.  Qui-Gon hesitated for a moment before he opened the file.

He had expected to see Obi-Wan, but not this way.  His former Padawan was still wearing black, but his eyes...his eyes were the same blue that had once graced Qui-Gon Jinn's life.  The moan in his throat was a stifled wail, because he could read those blue eyes, and they were full of pain.

“If you're viewing this, well, I hope there's nothing on that reader that you care about, because you need to destroy it when this is done,” Obi-Wan was saying, tight-lipped.  “Smash the thing to bits, burn the bits, scatter the ashes to the wind.  Take a disintegration rifle to it, if you can find one.  If anyone finds a trace of this message, it endangers my life, your life, and the life of your Padawan.  Before I left your company, I destroyed the listening devices that were in the room, so it's safe to listen to my little confessional here.”

That was one way to make sure Obi-Wan had Qui-Gon's undivided attention.  “What I'm about to tell you originated on a Need to Know basis, and if I was still in contact with the Council, they'd bitch and moan about how you're not supposed to be part of this.”

Qui-Gon almost dropped the reader in surprise.  The Council knew that Obi-Wan was alive?  What the hell was going on?

“Knowing you, you have a lot of questions.  I'll try to answer some of them.  But, Qui-Gon:  what I have to say to you, you must not speak of it to anyone else, save Master Yoda.   I think the two of you are the last people left in the galaxy that I trust.  I stopped briefing the Council because I couldn't take the risk any longer, and because anything I said to them in the past somehow got back to the Sith.”

Qui-Gon thought of the scars on Obi-Wan's body, and his brain put the pieces together even as he listened.

“You'll have gotten this message during our little encounter, and I hope you're listening to me and not cursing my existence.  I'm—”  He hesitated.  “All right, I won't lie and say I'm sorry for what happened, because I'm not.  Forgive me for being a selfish bastard, if for nothing else,” Obi-Wan said, looking into the recording device with a self-deprecating smile.  Qui-Gon smiled back, realizing as the image blurred that his eyes were filling with tears.  “I needed what happened between us to look like a subtle form of revenge, though believe me, it was anything but that.”

Obi-Wan blew out a long breath.  “You deserve the truth.  I think my one saving grace will be knowing that there is at least one person out there who knows that I'm not a fucking Sith.”

“Could've fooled me,” Qui-Gon murmured.

“I know it looks otherwise,” Obi-Wan continued, and his eyes grew troubled.  “It has to.”  He shook his head, and his tone was once more business-like.  “Six years ago, after you severed my braid, a few members of the Council approached me about going undercover to find the identity of the Sith Lord.  I was confused, especially since, at the time, it felt like they were asking me to go put my head under the Sith's blade.  I'd just helped you kill his apprentice, so he couldn't be thinking all that favorably of me.  Instead they—” Obi-Wan hesitated.  “It sounds ludicrous, especially right now, but these members of the Council felt that I had the best chance of walking into Darkness...and walking back out again.”

Qui-Gon frowned at Obi-Wan's image.  Code and Council doctrine had always been that once a Jedi fell to Darkness, there was no turning back.  Once you start down the Dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.  Consume you it will! was one of Yoda's most fervent maxims.  They had ditched their own beliefs for this.  “Dammit, Obi-Wan, tell me which members of the Council gave you this mission!” he railed at the screen. 

“I thought about it for days.  I knew what they were asking me to do, and I was less confident than they were about my ability to get through this without losing it.  Ultimately, though, I said yes...because of you.”

What?!

“For a long time, I have wanted a life with you, Qui-Gon Jinn,” Obi-Wan said, and though he was smiling, his eyes were once again full of that unknown pain.  “I came to the conclusion that we would never have that life together unless the Sith was found, and stopped.  So I said yes, and spent the next year trying to locate the Sith Lord.”

“Word gets around, Qui-Gon,” he said, his voice quiet.  “He found me first.  The scars you saw on my body are from my first two years in his company, when he spent his downtime breaking me.  That was when I stopped bothering to contact the Council.  He knew, every single time.  After...some things happened, he now firmly believes that I'm under his control.  He's wrong,” Obi-Wan said, his jaw set, his eyes flashing with fierce determination.  “I'm not his.  I've put a lot of time and effort into maintaining that illusion, though.”

“Tell Yoda this:  I don't know his identity.  He has spent as much time protecting it from me as I have spent protecting what's left of my sanity.  I never even saw his face, even when he was—” Obi-Wan broke off, his eyes flashing amber for a moment before returning to their normal blue. 

“My Padawan,” Qui-Gon whispered, his heart breaking.  He had a pretty good idea of what the Sith would have done to ensure a Jedi's obedience, and his Obi-Wan was nothing if not stubborn.

“It means he still doesn't fully trust me, so when the day comes that he shows me his true face...well, at that point he's either about to kill me, or I'm in serious trouble.”  Obi-Wan shrugged.  “On the plus side, all of this has earned me his Sith name.  He is Lord Sidious, and once he was apprenticed to Darth Plagueis the Wise.  He has ties to the Trade Federation, the Banking Guilds, and the Commonwealth.  And,” Obi-Wan's expression turned grim.  “He has broken the Rule of Two, Qui-Gon.  The Council has more Sith to worry about than just him.  Or me, for that matter.”

Force bless it all, Qui-Gon thought, mind almost blank with shock.  The Sith had held that doctrine for over a thousand years.  Sidious had done what no Sith had dared to do since the time of Bane—guide more than one apprentice along the dark path. 

“It gets worse.  I do have this one's name.  I've spent a lot of time in his company.  He thinks my presence is...funny.” Obi-Wan glanced away from the recorder before looking back.  “I'm sorry, Qui-Gon.  Count Dooku has become Lord Tyrannus.”

For a moment, Qui-Gon was certain that Obi-Wan had to be joking.  His Padawan and his Master, in the hands of the Sith?  It couldn't be.  The very concept was ridiculous.

Then again, was it?  Dooku had left the Order because of the incident on Naboo, saying that after watching the Republic Senate's ineptitude that he could no longer be part of a government that would condone that level of suffering.  Qui-Gon had been tempted to join him, but Anakin had swayed him; that, and the hope that Obi-Wan would return.

“I'm sorry,” Obi-Wan said again.  “I know it's bloody unbelievable.  It—aw, hell.”  He scrubbed his face with his hand, uncomfortable in voice and gesture.  “It's not like you can go telling people this without having to explain how you know.  Just wait.  Watch.  Dooku will reveal himself in time, and then you and Anakin and the rest will be able to do something about it.”

“Watch over your Padawan, my Master,” Obi-Wan said, his gaze turning earnest.  “This Sidious—he wants Anakin, and he wants him badly.  He will let nothing stand in his path.  Not me, not Dooku, not you.  Right now he considers you a means to an end, but I don't know why, or how.  His ultimate goal is the downfall of the Jedi, and the Republic, and he wants Anakin at his side for it all.  I have faith that you can keep the Chosen One in line,” he said, flashing that cheeky, impertinent grin.  Qui-Gon couldn't help but smile back, even if Obi-Wan wouldn't see it.  “Oh, and I took the liberty of stealing your lightsaber.  I've got to have my trophies, after all.

“Qui-Gon.” Obi-Wan looked down for a long moment, then glanced back up, and his eyes were muddied, as if that corrupt amber was trying to fight for dominance.  “I've done things that horrify me.  I know I'm fighting a losing battle.  I hope to see you again, but if we do meet again, and you don't think I can be saved, please do me a favor.  I think you know what I mean.”

“You're asking me to kill you, Obi-Wan,” Qui-Gon whispered, touching the image of Obi-Wan's face with trembling fingers.  “I don't know if I can do that.”

“Other than that—well.” Obi-Wan tilted his head, his smile was back, his eyes shining with that same blue-green that Qui-Gon had just seen in the dim light of a dying lamp.  “I love you, Qui-Gon Jinn.  I carry with me the hope that you love me, as well.  I will keep fighting if you will.”

The feed went dark, though the message still showed that playing time remained.  Qui-Gon looked up, staring at nothing, and tried to figure out how to put his life back together in light of everything he had just discovered.

“Oh, and, by the way...”  Qui-Gon glanced back at the reader.  The video had started again.  “You're going to be ill in another hour or two,” Obi-Wan said, and this time his expression was apologetic.  “You'll want to visit the Healers the moment you get back to Coruscant.  I injected you with a virus—and its anti-virus—before you woke up the first time.  I needed it to look like you had suffered an attack at my hands.  You're going to feel like hell, but you're not going to die.  Once it gets back to the Sith that I tried to kill you, I will be punished for disobeying my Lord Sidious's order not to harm you.”  Obi-Wan paused, then grinned at the recorder, and the fire in his eyes lifted Qui-Gon's heart.  “What kind of Sith would I be if I didn't try to live by their damned Code?”

Qui-Gon sat back, thoughtful expression on his face.  Then he pulled the chip from the reader, brought the Force to bear, and turned it into dust.  He did the same thing with the reader, and it sparked and hissed at him in protest before the job was done.  He let the remains sift through his fingers, falling to the floor, and wondered if he would ever again see the red-haired imp who had just made off with his heart.