Let No Man Put Asunder

by Juli

January 2000


They hadn't talked about it, not really. Not with words anyway.

Obi-Wan had tried --- exactly once. He had been seventeen and his body was ripe with yearnings he couldn't put into words. Couldn't define. But even then, he hadn't needed words or definitions to know that his longing was centered around his Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. He'd made the one halting attempt to speak of his desire, but Qui-Gon had silenced him by placing one large finger gently against the padawan's lips. "Shhh, Obi," the Jedi Master had said. "Everything to its season."

Which had been poetic, to be sure, but such an abstract utterance had done little to reassure a young man in the confusion brought on by raging adolescent hormones..... and something else.

The next day, young Obi had tried furiously to sweat the longing out of his body by doing a series of increasingly difficult katas. All he achieved was a set of sore and aggrieved muscles that insisted on screaming at him all the way back to the quarters he'd shared with his Master. A hot shower had put him marginally back in his body's good graces and when the weary apprentice had finally deposited himself on his bed, he was surprised to find a datapad waiting for him there.

One that was cued up to the fascinating subject of soul bonds.

Several hours and much frantic reading later, he had his answers. The reason that Obi-Wan Kenobi had been tormented all his life by feeling as though he wasn't complete was because... he wasn't. Obi-Wan was one of the rare souls that, while whole on its own, somehow knew that it could be much more if bonded to its mate. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. Such knitted souls were rare, even among Jedi.

Obi-Wan suspected that he knew who the other half of his soul was.

He suspected that Qui-Gon knew it too. The knowledgeable Jedi Master had probably been aware of their connection long before his lowly padawan had. Unfortunately, the information on the datapad had also made it clear that a Jedi Master was prevented from discussing such things with his/her own student until said apprentice was two years past legal majority. Only then, it was surmised, would a padawan be of sufficient maturity to make a wise choice regarding physical intimacy. The reason behind his teacher's reaction to Obi-Wan's earlier attempt at articulating desire was now understandable. Even by leaving the datapad, Qui-Gon had bent the rules in order to educate his student.

Remembering that tumultuous time, Obi-Wan grinned as he rolled over in bed. Qui-Gon? Bending the rules? Perish the thought!

Even Qui-Gon, however, hadn't been iconoclast enough to go further in circumventing Jedi tradition. So the next three years had been an exercise in control, every minute spent in his Master's presence tantalizingly sweet even as he was tormented by the prohibition to give into his body's desires. Just when Obi-Wan would think he would go mad with frustration, he would catch a glimpse of his craving reflected in Qui-Gon's eyes. The young man knew that he should feel remorse at the other's pain, but was instead comforted in the knowledge that he did not suffer alone. That, despite Qui-Gon's added years and experience, the older man felt the draw of the incomplete bond too.

As Obi's physical body matured, so did his skill with the Force. There were even times when the young man could see his incomplete soul bond. When he meditated at a particularly deep level, he became aware of the silver cord that represented it and, occasionally, he fancied that he could feel the incomplete and forlorn bond pulse with need.

Just like certain parts of his body pulsed with unfulfilled need.

This morning's dawn had brought the twentieth anniversary of Obi-Wan's birth and an end to the waiting. The young man gave up his mental meanderings and hopped out of bed he fully intended on starting out his birthday by pouncing his master. To his disgust, however, he soon realized that he'd awakened later than usual. To add insult to injury, their quarters were empty.

"The morning is yours," a note left on the table by his Master read. "Don't forget your afternoon lessons with Master Windu."

Great. Afternoon lessons with Mace Windu. Not exactly how he'd hoped to while away the time on this momentous birthday.

Obi-Wan did his best not to feel disappointed. Knowing at an early age that a soul bond, and all of its promised physical intimacies, awaited him, the young padawan had eschewed all lesser physical liaisons. It hadn't been easy, but a lot of meditations, time in cold showers, and.... hand work had helped him get by. Still, his body hungered badly for release and he'd planned on satisfying that hunger this morning by feasting on a Qui-Gon buffet.

"Whatever you're doing, Master," he muttered under his breath as he turned to get dressed, "I hope it's worth it."

********************************

Qui-Gon felt his padawan's frustration through their shared master/apprentice bond and grimaced in sympathy. It hadn't been easy leaving him this morning. The Jedi master had contrived to wake particularly early and had immediately gone to Obi-Wan's adjoining bedroom. Not, as had been his fantasy for years, to cement their bond physically. Rather, he crept into the young man's sleeping chamber, placed a hand on his student's forehead, and deepened the padawan's slumber.

Only after he'd insured that Obi-Wan wouldn't wake up just yet, had Qui-Gon stood back and studied his apprentice. The young man was quite a picture, skin all golden as Coruscant's dawn light kissed his lean frame, legs tangled up in the sheets, hair mussed from sleeping. It was all the Jedi master could do to not take him then and there.

"Where is your vaunted patience now, Master Jinn?" He whispered to himself as he turned away.

A promise, after all, was a promise.

Two days ago, Obi's friend, Bant, had accosted Qui-Gon in the temple corridor. The young woman was breathless with plans for a surprise party and Qui-Gon had reluctantly agreed to help get Obi-Wan to the appointed place at the appointed time. The Jedi were supposed to be humble and self-effacing, but there would be time enough for all of that later on. Let Obi-Wan enjoy the attention while it was offered.

Which explained why Qui-Gon had been forced to skulk out of his own quarters. He'd had distinctly different plans for his padawan that day and, even though the party was scheduled for early evening, Qui-Gon's arrangements would have to wait. He couldn't very well tell Bant that he'd failed to lure Obi-Wan to the party as promised because he had been occupied by loving the young man into a melted puddle of padawan goo.

And then flipping him over and doing it all again.

So, Qui-Gon hastily donned his robes, combed his hair instead of pulling it out in frustration, and left their quarters in search of means to occupy himself for the rest of the long, long day.

********************************

With the possible exception of the party's honoree and his master, everyone enjoyed Obi-Wan's birthday celebration.

Had young Kenobi been paying attention, he might have wondered how Bant, who although a terrific friend was as broke as any other padawan, could afford all of the lavish refreshments. But, the birthday boy only had eyes for his master. Had Qui-Gon been aware of anything other than the lush promise in his apprentice's smouldering eyes, he might have felt a tense undercurrent to the Force.

Obi-Wan took another sip of from his mug of beer, the very best sweetbrew imported from Alderan. Catching his master staring at him from across the room, the padawan deliberately ran his tongue across his upper lip, slowing licking at the froth left behind by his drink. Qui-Gon looked away from the spectacle to readjust his robes. After he'd regained a measure of composure, the Jedi master ventured another glance towards his apprentice. This time, Obi-Wan was maneuvering a slice of Bardodian peach into his mouth, his blue-green eyes dancing with mischief as he slid the moist tidbit slowly in-between his lips.

Enough.

Qui-Gon motioned towards the door with his head and surreptitiously held up five fingers. Seeing Obi nod in agreement, the bigger man made his way towards the door. Soul mates could communicate mind-to-mind, a talent that would be most useful in certain situations.

But it wasn't vocal intercourse on Qui-Gon's mind right at that moment.

*********************************

Obi-Wan hurried down the temple corridor towards the sleeping quarters, the siren call of the soon-to-be-completed bond urging him to hasten. The last three hours had been infinitely more taxing than the previous three years. When Qui-Gon had shown up after Obi-Wan's training bout with Mace Windu, the young apprentice had wanted to howl with frustration when his master had suggested that they take their evening meal in the dining hall.

The wonder of having a party thrown in *his* honor had eased that irritation a bit, but only temporarily. There were thousands of sentient species in the universe and each of them had their own version of Hell. Obi-Wan Kenobi soon revised his own personal vision of it to include parties that went on and on and on.....

Obi-Wan reached the juncture where the public facilities of the temple joined the private Jedi quarters. As he turned to the hallway that would take him to the rooms he shared with his master, he felt a distinct tug on his senses. The young man stopped for a moment and then grinned when he realized that the tendril of awareness came from the nearby gardens. He'd always imagined his first tryst with Qui-Gon as taking place in the sanctity of the older man's bed. It figured, though, that a non-traditionalist like his master would find a more adventurous locale for the joining of their bodies and souls.

Changing direction, the padawan headed towards the gardens.

********************************

Qui-Gon looked around the room in satisfaction. It was a good thing he'd made some preparations during Obi-Wan's lessons with Mace, he would have been too flustered to arrange it properly tonight. A legion of candles lit his bedroom in a warm glow. Scented oil was heating discreetly by the bed, which was festooned with spidersilk sheets.

Now, all he needed was his padawan and they could get started.

The Jedi master knew his apprentice was inexperienced in the arts of love and the big man resolved to make this experience as satisfying and joyful as possible for the young man. Smiling at his own impatience, the like of which he hadn't experienced in years, Qui-Gon settled down to meditate. Let his Obi enjoy the party for as long as he'd like. Qui-Gon could wait a few minutes more.

After all, he'd already been waiting all of his life.

********************************

As Obi-Wan neared the garden, he could tell that it had been damped with a Force shield. The thought of what they would be doing to need to have their privacy protected in such a manner made the apprentice shiver with anticipation. He only hoped that he didn't disappoint Qui-Gon. The older man, after all, was a lot more experienced than he was. Soul bond or no soul bond, by definition, a virgin didn't have any previous encounters to draw on.

The apprentice easily entered the garden, the shield obviously having been keyed to admit him, and was relieved to hear the shriek of the soul bond fade. It must have recognized that the moment had arrived and eased its cries for completion. Obi-Wan stopped just within the stone archway, giving his eyes a chance to adjust from the harsh corridor lighting to the soft twilight that bathed the garden. Seeing a familiar hooded figure on a nearby bench, Obi-Wan allowed himself to sigh in relief.

Finally.

All of the waiting was over. No more dancing around one another, desperately wanting to talk of the connection between them but prevented by Jedi tradition from doing so. Finally, their bodies would forge a union that would allow the bond between their souls to connect.

Obi-Wan approached the other man and wrapped his arms around him from behind. "Master," he said, giving voice to his longing. "I've been waiting so long for this moment...."

"So have I, my young apprentice, so have I."

Obi-Wan pulled back in shock. That hadn't been Master Qui-Gon's voice. The seated figure rose and turned, elegant hands pushing back the hood of the robe to reveal the other man's face. "Senator Palpatine! I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else...." Obi's voice trailed off in confusion. He had met the politician from Naboo once or twice during his work with Qui-Gon, but he couldn't imagine what the man was doing here. Now.

"That's quite all right, young one," Palpatine's oily voice did little to reassure the padawan. "I assure you, I am the person you've been looking for."

Obi-Wan stumbled back as the uncompleted soul bond within him quivered. "I.... I don't understand...."

All of the apprentice's grace of movement left him as the robed figure of Palpatine stalked him. The senator was a plump figure of a man that spent too much time behind a desk or in committee meetings. Obi-Wan, with his Jedi training, should have been able to break him like a twig if he so desired, even if Palpatine did outweigh the padawan by a good fifty pounds. Something in the Nubian's eyes, however, frightened the young man. Something dark..... and hungry.

Palpatine reached for him and Obi-Wan turned to flee. He'd only managed to falter a step or two away, however, before the Nubian was on him. With a strength belying his fleshy appearance, the senator pinned the younger man and then flipped him so that they were nose to nose. The apprenticed tried to turn away, but strong hands grip his face, forcing him to look into Palpatine's eyes.

Slowly and with the attitude of having all the time in the world, showing the padawan just who was in control of the situation, the senator leaned in for a kiss. Obi-Wan gagged as he felt the older man's tongue worm its way past his lips, but, try as he might, he couldn't get his jaws to clamp down on the invader. For that matter, he couldn't get his body to obey any of his commands and his mind gibbered with the need to call out to Qui-Gon. He tried to reach out to the Jedi Master using the master/apprentice bond, but was stifled by the Force shield around the garden.

Palpatine released his captive's mouth in order to trail sloppy kisses and love bites down the smaller man's neck as his broad thigh thrust between Obi-Wan's slender legs, giving him better access to the young man's body. One hand easily held both of the apprentice's wrists, giving Palpatine a free hand to deal with their clothing.

As his body was attacked; overwhelmed; and eventually, penetrated, so was Obi-Wan's mind. The young man retreated from the physical reality of what was happening to him and focused inwards. To his horror, the bright and shining cord that had symbolized his incomplete soul bond with Qui-Gon had instead become joined with a black, tarry rope. The two cords, one bright and one dark, merged and intertwined, linking him to the man callously riding his body.

The soul bond was complete.

"No, no, no," This couldn't be happening. The bond was meant for Qui-Gon and only Qui-Gon. Not this toad from Naboo.

As the young man sobbed in despair, the older man finished the coupling and collapsed breathlessly on top of the padawan's limp body. Seeing Obi-Wan's tears, Palpatine patted his new soulmate's shoulder.

"Well, that wasn't so bad, pet. Don't cry, child. Now that the soul bond is complete, we'll never be truly apart."

The senator's voice became colder as he repeated the last bit for emphasis. "Ever."

********************************

Qui-Gon gave up meditating; the inner serenity that usually came so easily for him just couldn't be found tonight. Where was Obi? Surely the party wouldn't last this long.....

The Jedi master reached for his student along their master/apprentice link, but found nothing. Absolutely nothing. Alarmed, Qui-Gon decided to go look for his errant padawan and reached for his robe. Just then, a cold draft blew in from the open window, extinguishing all of the candles that he'd so carefully arranged earlier.

As the malignant breeze circled the room, Qui-Gon could have sworn that it laughed at him

****************************************

Like a disturbance in the Force, Qui-Gon Jinn's quietly desperate journey through the Jedi temple caused ripples of concern to wash over its inhabitants. Creche attendants felt a sudden to need to check on their young charges. Apprentices inexplicably found themselves reaching out to their Masters for reassurance. Lovers clutched one another even more tightly than sweethearts normally did.

Despite years of rigorous training and decades of hard-won experience, the tall man didn't even realize that his concern was leaking through his shields and into the Force, coloring the emotions of those surrounding him. After the malignant gust of wind had made its chuckling way out of his quarters, Qui-Gon's alarm over his padawan's tardiness had given way to un-Jedi like panic. Without really being aware of his actions, the Master had quickly drawn on his sleep pants and attempted to follow the strange breeze that had become the only link to his errant padawan. His hunt was doomed before it even started even Jedi couldn't track the wind.

As he lost hope of pursuing the odd breeze, Qui-Gon resumed his attempts to reach Obi-Wan through their training bond or through their as yet uncompleted soul bond. Again and again he sent his psyche out through the Force to try and touch his apprentice's mind, to no avail. To his relief, however, he also didn't sense the sharp sundering that would indicate the young man's death. That reassured the Jedi Master until he realized that he also wasn't encountering the signs that would indicate that Obi-Wan was unconscious or even shielding him out.

Obi-Wan was just....... gone......... as if he'd never existed.

His long strides soon brought Qui-Gon back to the dining hall, the location of the party and the last place he'd seen his soon-to-be-lover. Most of the party-goers had left and, judging by the dimmed lights and soft murmurs coming from the shadows, those that remained were involved in intimate celebrations of their own. Qui-Gon called upon the Force and concentrated. There in the furthest corner. Not Obi-Wan, but perhaps a source of information.

Moving silently, the Jedi Master reached out his long arms and plucked his target from the arms of her companion.

"Wha ?" Bant blinked up at him in confusion, the liquid cheer she'd imbibed earlier inhibiting use of the Force to enhance her vision. Her comrade took one look at Qui-Gon's stony countenance and fled.

"Where is Obi-Wan?" In his impatience, Qui-Gon started shaking the young woman. "How long ago did he leave? Where did he go?"

"I I don't know! He left shortly after you did." Bant's voice betrayed her confusion. "We thought........ I mean, we all knew what Obi had planned for tonight........ what he'd hoped for....." Her voice trailed off as she realized that, despite her friendship with Obi-Wan, it wouldn't be prudent to tell a Jedi Master that it was public knowledge among the padawan set that his apprentice had planned on seducing him.

As he realized that this avenue of investigation was going to be useless to him, Qui-Gon felt a wave of despair threaten to overwhelm him. He tried to tell himself that he was on Coruscant, in the heart of the Republic, and that no danger could befall his beloved here. Still, something told the Jedi Master that he was already too late.............

"Master Jinn, please," the young woman still in his grasp said with a gasp. "You're hurting me."

With her words, Qui-Gon realized that, in his overwrought state, that he'd continued to grip Bant harder and harder. It was a wonder that he hadn't crushed the delicate girl. As gently as he could, given the circumstances, he released the female apprentice. "I'm sorry."

Bant briskly rubbed her hands up and down her arms. "It's all right. Master Jinn, what's wrong? Has something happened to Obi-Wan?"

"That's what I'm trying to find out."

Her brow furrowed in concern as Bant tried to reason her way past the alcohol she'd consumed earlier. "But what could happen in the Jedi Temple?"

What, indeed?

Qui-Gon was saved from putting words to his half-realized fears by the entrance of a Temple guard. "Master Jinn? You're wanted in the Council room." The guard gulped as a set of piercing blue eyes fixed upon him and he hastened to add an explanation.

"It's about your padawan."

*************************************

You have to watch the quiet ones.

Mace Windu reminded himself of that old axiom as he watched his old friend approach. It took a lot to push the quiet ones beyond their limits, but when you did, well, they tended to do a lot of damage. Despite his reputation for being unorthodox, Qui-Gon Jinn was normally the epitome of Jedi serenity. But as the big man approached, it was obvious to anyone Force sensitive that his composure was as long gone as a whore's maidenhead.

And it was going to get worse -- a lot worse -- before it got any better.

Mace planted himself in the entrance to the Council room. He owed it to Qui-Gon and to Obi- Wan to make this as painless as possible. An impossible task, but surely every little bit of compassion would count for something.

"Stop, Qui." Mace held up a hand to stop Qui-Gon when it seemed that the taller man would barrel right over him. "We need to talk before you go in there."

"What about?" Qui-Gon gritted out between clenched teeth. "All they would tell me was to report right away and that Obi-Wan would meet me here."

The dark-skinned Jedi struggled to find the right words. "Qui....."

"Is he all right? Has there been some sort of dispute over the bond? I know he's my padawan, Mace, but the Council has known for years that we're soul-twinned." Qui-Gon loomed over the slightly smaller Windu. "It's been torture on us both, but we've waited the requisite time." Qui- Gon's voice gentled a bit. "You, of all people, know how difficult it's been...."

Mace closed his eyes, being more familiar than he'd like with the pain waiting for Obi-Wan's majority had caused. "It *is* about the bond, old friend, but not the way that you think...." To his shame, Mace found himself unable to continue. A Council member, even one as newly appointed as he was, should be stronger than this.

Qui-Gon saw the grief in his friend's face and pushed past him. Enough delay; Obi-Wan was to be here. Council be damned, his bondmate would soon be in his arms. Explanations could wait until then.

Qui-Gon hastily entered the Council room, eyes quickly scanning the large space for sight of his padawan. His glance briefly fell on a knot of gathered Council members, but he quickly categorized their presence as unimportant and continued his visual search. For a moment, his eyes were captured by the sad look in Yoda's ancient gaze but Qui-Gon tore himself free of even that contact. As much as he loved and respected his old Master, Obi-Wan was paramount in his heart.

In the end, it wasn't his eyes that found his beloved. Rather, it was his ears that enabled him to locate the young man. Just when the tall Jedi Master became convinced that Obi-Wan hadn't yet arrived in the Council's chamber, he heard the dulcet tones of his love's refined voice softly saying his name.

The sound was coming from behind the cluster of Jedi Masters that he'd discounted so quickly before. Two strides from his long legs and Qui-Gon had reached the group, shouldering venerable Council members aside in his haste to reach Obi-Wan. Although they were normally mindful of their dignity, Qui-Gon received no rebuke as he shoved the most highly ranked Jedi out of his way as though they were peddlers in a fish market. Until, finally, the bodies in front of him parted, to reveal Obi-Wan........

........ held firmly in the embrace of a man Qui-Gon found vaguely to be familiar.

At first, Qui-Gon was relieved at the visual evidence that his bondmate was unharmed, despite the vague apprehension the Force had been feeding him for the past hour. But then the Jedi Master looked closer and saw the paleness of the young man's face. Were those tear tracks on his cheeks? As he stepped towards his padawan, Qui-Gon once again tried to connect through their training bond but met with stark silence.

"Obi-Wan?" The young man looked uncharacteristically fragile at the moment and, despite of his worry, Qui-Gon took care to address his apprentice gently.

Obi-Wan, who had been staring morosely at the floor, immediately lifted his head upon hearing the familiar voice. "Master!" The apprentice made a move towards Qui-Gon, but the other man's arm immediately came around his waist and pulled him back, trapping the padawan against his side.

"What is the meaning of this?" Qui-Gon growled, stalking forward. His memory finally had placed a name to the face: Senator Jusicad Palpatine, from Naboo. A middling bureaucrat from a small system, Palpatine had never been one to draw much attention to himself. For the life of him, Qui-Gon couldn't reason out what the politician was doing with his hands on Obi-Wan -- but it only took a heartbeat for Qui-Gon to realize that he didn't like it. Not at all. And, if he read his padawan's facial expression correctly, Obi was every bit as unhappy about the touch as his Master was.

As the Jedi Master reached forward, intending on breaking every finger if necessary to release his soulmate from Palpatine's embrace, he felt himself hit a soft Force wall. He whirled, to find that Yoda had approached him from behind.

"Master," Qui-Gon asked of the small green being, who had been his own Master years ago, "I love you dearly, but if you continue to keep me from my bondmate, we shall see who is truly stronger in the Force."

Yoda didn't rise to the implied challenge. Instead, he reached out a hand to his former padawan. "Bonded Obi-Wan is, Qui-Gon, but not to you." When Qui-Gon just looked at him in disbelief, the diminutive creature continued. "Formed a soul bond with Senator Palpatine, Apprentice Kenobi did." Yoda's ears drooped. "Unexpected, this is."

"A surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one." Palpatine had kept one possessive arm around Obi- Wan's waist and, as he spoke, his hand snaked down to stroke the young man's hip in a proprietary gesture.

"Obi?" Qui-Gon refused to believe it, not until he'd heard it from his beloved's lips himself.

The young man tried to meet his Master's gaze, but quickly blushed and dropped his eyes. "Master, I'm sorry," he whispered in a voice broken with emotion. "I'm so sorry."

************************************

Obi-Wan? Soul bonded to Palpatine?

As ludicrous as the idea sounded, the heartbreak contained in Obi's voice confirmed Yoda's announcement. "How could this happen?" Qui-Gon asked, reeling as the enormity of the situation sank in.

"Master, I'm so sorry," If possible, Obi-Wan became even more distraught when he saw his mentor's anguish. The young man attempted to say more, but his lips wouldn't cooperate. His kiss-swollen lips moved but no sound come out, the apprentice apparently too upset to give voice to his feelings.

The sight tore at Qui-Gon's heart and the big man put aside his own pain in an attempt to comfort his beloved. "Obi," his effort to reach his apprentice was again rebuffed by a invisible Force wall.

"Interfere, you must not," Yoda said, compassion making the old Master's voice even more gravelly than normal. "Verified the bond, we have."

Qui-Gon ignored the diminutive Jedi and focused his will on penetrating the Force-born wall that was keeping him from Obi-Wan. For a moment he felt the shield waver but then the presence of another Force practitioner was added and the barrier doubled in strength.

Glaring at the Council now, Qui-Gon gathered himself to renew his attempts. Yoda met the threat in his former student's eyes with a calm gaze of his own but, finally, the smaller Jedi gave a sigh that seemed too big to have come from his small frame. He knew from experience how stubborn his former student could be.

"Learn the hard way, he must," Yoda said as he waved at Depa Billaba to discontinue her reinforcement of the Force shield. "Harm the boy, he will not."

"What about the senator?" Even Piell asked quietly as they watched the tall Jedi Master approach the newly mated couple. "This.... disappointment.... has provoked Qui-Gon. I sense that he is precariously close to the Dark Side at the moment."

If anything, Yoda's ears drooped even more at his colleague's grave assessment of the situation. "Harm Palpatine, Qui-Gon will not. Bonded to Kenobi, the senator is. Protect his soul mate, the padawan will." The old Jedi Master closed his eyes, trying not to imagine Obi-Wan being forced to protect his new mate from his Master and what the repercussions of that act might be.

For the moment, the situation seemed to be calm as Qui-Gon approached his student with outstretched hands. "Are you all right?"

Palpatine, the tall Jedi ignored completely.

The gentle concern in the older man's tone freed Obi-Wan's voice. "Master, I don't know what happened! I'd left the party and was coming to you but I felt.... something.... call me from the garden..."

The senator responded before Qui-Gon could by wrapping his arm around the apprentice's now- trembling shoulders. "And I was waiting for you there, right, Pet?" The comforting words may have been addressed to Obi-Wan, but Palpatine's steady gaze rested on Qui-Gon.

The Jedi Master snarled at the sight of the plump senator's hands on his beloved and he quickly moved to tear them away. Without thinking, Obi-Wan reached out to block him, knocking his Master aside with such force that the taller man had to stagger to maintain his balance.

Stunned, the padawan looked down at his hands as though they betrayed him. The young man slowly lifted his head to look Qui-Gon in the eye. "Master, I'm sorry. I - I don't know why I did that..."

That action, more than anything else, convinced Qui-Gon's heart that what his colleagues had been trying to tell him was correct: Obi-Wan truly had soul bonded to Jusicad Palpatine. The Jedi Master wanted to reassure his padawan that it would be all right, that he still loved him and would cherish Obi-Wan in whatever way was left to him, but Qui-Gon could not force the words from his mouth.

He'd never lied to his student before and he had no intention of starting now. Although he still loved his student with all of his heart, their current situation was far from "all right" and might never be all right again.

Obi-Wan mistook his teacher's silence as reproof for his instinctive protection of Palpatine. Ashamed, the young man half turned away, trying to hide from Qui-Gon without becoming further enmeshed in the senator's embrace. As the padawan moved, however, Qui-Gon's eyes were drawn to a streak of color marring the creamy beige hue of the young man's pants.

"What is this?" The tall man hissed, realizing that the streak of color was blood.

Obi-Wan's blood.

Qui-Gon had always been taught that the power of the Force was infinite, but at the moment, it seemed entirely too small to contain his anger. He made to lunge at the senator again, but was immediately confined and gagged by a series of Force bands. The Council, it seemed, was going to take no chances of a physical attack.

Oblivious to the silent battle taking place between Qui-Gon and the Council, Palpatine looked at stain sullying his new lover's backside and clucked in dismay. "Most unfortunate. I'm afraid that this is my fault." The senator smiled urbanely at the Jedi surrounding him. "I thought myself years past the pleasures of the flesh. But, with the bond insisting on consummation, our mating was a little too.... enthusiastic." The senator's smile wavered as he realized that not only did Qui-Gon look ready to fillet him, so did the rest of the Council.

"Acceptable, this is *not*! Newness of bond, excuse is *not.*" Yoda thumped his walking stick against the floor in emphasis. "Soul mates, you are. Cherish Apprentice Kenobi, you must." The Jedi Master's bulbous eyes narrowed. "If it again occurs, to coital techniques class, you will go." By this point, Yoda had hobbled over to the senator and proceeded to emphasize his next words by strategic pokes of his gimer stick. "Teach it myself, I will. Enjoy it, you will not."

A faint blush could be seen on Palpatine's pale skin, evidence for the first time in this encounter of an emotion other than smugness. "You're right, of course, Master Yoda. This never should have happened and, I assure you, it will never happen again." The senator's fawning voice took on the vaguest edge of steel. "But you would do well to keep in mind that I am not one of your Jedi. You'll find that I'm not so easy to bring to heel." He nodded his head towards Qui-Gon's figure, standing so rigidly a few yards away.

"Hmphhh." Yoda's grunt was as eloquent as only Yoda's could be.

There was no doubt that Palpatine assumed that the other Jedi had acted so quickly to restrain Jinn in order to protect the senator. In truth, after Obi-Wan's earlier involuntary display, no one wanted to see what would happen if the padawan was forced to repel an all-out attack by his Master. The emotional fallout of such a battle would be too great. Better that it not happen, even if it meant some discomfort for the older of the two Jedi.

Despite the Jedi practice of releasing strong negative emotions into the Force to dissipate harmlessly, not a single one present begrudged Qui-Gon his anger. Soul bond or no, any Master would be furious of such callous treatment of an apprentice.

Mace took one look at Qui-Gon's quietly seething face and decided to enter the conversation. "Obi-Wan, are you all right?" Mace asked, recognizing that his currently stifled old friend was frantic to know how the younger man fared.

The apprentice's response was a hybrid of a laugh and a sob. "All right? I'm not not-" The padawan's voice faltered as he tried to answer the question. "I'm not doing too badly, all things considered. It's all been something of a shock. I'm sure a good night's sleep will help." Although his voice had recovered well from his verbal stumble, the young man started to tremble as he resumed speaking.

Although he admired the padawan's attempt to handle a bad situation, Mace knew that the young man's words were pure bravado his shivering proved that. "Perhaps you should see a healer and then get some rest. It has been a long day." The dark-skinned Jedi Master gave a stern look to his colleagues, daring them to refute his suggestion. Obi-Wan had endured enough for one night. More than enough.

"Yes, sufficiently discussion for one evening, it is." Yoda had recovered from his earlier pique and added his support to Mace's suggestion. "Young Kenobi, to healers must go."

"But of course," Palpatine answered. "But afterwards.....?"

Mace Windu raised one eyebrow at the loaded tone of voice used in the last part of the senator's statement. He thought that only Yoda was so good at inferring so many levels of meaning in so few syllables.

The small Jedi Master hesitated, then reluctantly responded. "Afterwards, make yourselves...... available...... to one another, you should. New, the bond is. The more together you are, the better it will be."

Satisfied, Palpatine turned towards his soul mate, quickly nuzzling the young man's neck before turning to lead him out of the room. "Come now, Precious. We have an errand to run at the healers', then we can get to know one another better. I'll have my aide clear my schedule so that I can be ...... available..... to you all night."

Docilely, Obi-Wan allowed the senator to begin ushering him from the Council chamber. The apprentice did, however, kept his face turned resolutely towards his Master, breaking his gaze with Qui-Gon only when he felt Mace pat his arm.

"I'm sorry, Obi-Wan," Master Windu said gravely when he saw he had the apprentice's attention. "I know this isn't the way you thought this evening would turn out. Try to remember: soul bonds are chosen by the Force. Trust in it."

The padawan gulped and quickly looked down when tears threatened. Palpatine took advantage of his hesitation to again tug his mate towards the door, but Obi-Wan resisted enough to plead quietly with his Master's friend. "Watch over him," the young man implored, nodding towards his teacher. "Please...."

Obi-Wan waited until he got Mace's solemn nod, a silent promise that his beloved would be looked after. Then, with one last, longing look at Qui-Gon, the apprentice allowed his new mate to escort him from the room.

****************************************

The Council chamber door closed behind Senator Palpatine and Obi-Wan Kenobi with the leaden thud of a tomb closing. The sound reverberated in the quiet room, the silence taut with emotion. Despite the tension, however, the gathered Jedi Masters waited until Obi-Wan's Force signature was faint enough to indicate that the padawan was some distance away before releasing their invisible hold on Qui-Gon.

With the expected explosive results.

With a growl, the big man strode over to the door, intent on finding and reclaiming his padawan. But, instead of flinging the unfortunate door back on it's hinges, Qui-Gon quickly found that it had been Force-closed to prevent him from leaving. No matter how hard he grappled with it, his muscles using brute strength while his mind attempted to wield the Force, the door remained closed.

Breathing in heated pants, Qui-Gon eventually stopped his efforts and put one large hand to either side of the door's frame. Leaning forward, as if strength of will alone could break down the obstacle, the Jedi Master braced himself. The Council watched silently, waiting until their colleague had controlled his rage.

"Since when," No one was fooled by the quiet tone that the big man used when he finally spoke, the anger behind his voice all the more dangerous for that its heat was cold. "Since when does the Jedi Council, the galaxy's defenders of justice, stand aside and allow a student be raped without fear of reprisal?"

"Chosen, the Force has," Yoda hobbled over to his former padawan and peered up at him with sad eyes. "Rape, it is not."

Qui-Gon closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the door. "And what of Obi-Wan? Does he not get a choice?"

"A soul bond cannot be denied. You know that as well as we, Master Jinn." Ki-Adi-Mundi's prim tone resonated in the large room.

"Still," by this time Mace had joined Yoda at Qui-Gon's side. "Given Obi-Wan's relative youth and inexperience, Palpatine must needs be gentle."

"Given time," Adi Gallia commented, "Kenobi will adapt."

Qui-Gon laughed humorlessly and turned to face the rulers of the Jedi. "So if the esteemed senator doesn't make him bleed, it isn't rape? And if he gets used to it, that makes it right?"

"You forget yourself, Qui-Gon" The warning in Mundi's tone was clear.

"I cannot... I will not... stay silent and watch my padawan be abused."

"Whether or not Kenobi remains your padawan is yet to be seen."

Mundi's pronouncement pulled Qui-Gon up short. "What do you mean?" His eyes automatically sought Yoda's but the ancient Jedi master remained silent.

"There are those who feel," It was Mace that finally offered a careful explanation. "that the Jedi are already too powerful. A senator being mated to a future Knight may make some people... uneasy."

Mace Windu's apologetic words, while adding to Qui-Gon's anger, also helped the beleaguered Jedi Master to focus. "Obi-Wan Kenobi is as promising an apprentice as has ever entered the Temple. Are you saying that you would actually deny him his vocation because of.... politics?"

"No one wishes to deny Padawan Kenobi the completion of his training," Of all the Jedi Council, Adi Gallia was the most sensitive to the nuances of the Republic's governing body. "But if Supreme Chancellor Valorum insists, we may have no choice."

"But even if the boy remains with the Jedi," Ki-Adi-Mundi said, "there is no guarantee that he will remain your apprentice. Not if you cannot accept his soul bond with Palpatine."

Yoda preempted Qui-Gon's heated response. "Clouded, Kenobi's future is." The diminutive Jedi master glared at Mundi. "Hasty, you are." Yoda gestured to the rest of the Council. "Leave us, you will. Private, some discussions should be."

Reluctantly, the other members of the Council trailed out of the chamber, loathe to leave the ancient creature alone with the distraught Jedi Master, but obedient to Yoda's wishes. When Mace Windu moved to leave, however, the gnome clacked his gimmer stick against the floor. "Stay, you will. Friends, now Qui-Gon needs. Not Council members."

Hearing the concern in Yoda's voice, Qui-Gon's anger left him and , drained by the emotional events of the evening, the tall man sagged against the wall. "Master, what does this all mean? My beloved torn from me, taken in pain instead of with love. Now you say I may even lose him as a student?"

"Chosen, the Force has." Yoda reiterated, his clawed hand clumsily patting his former padawan's knee in an attempt at comfort.

"But Palpatine..."

Qui-Gon felt Mace's warm hands touch his shoulder in support. "I'm sorry, Qui-Gon," the other Jedi Master said.

Qui-Gon looked down into the sympathetic eyes of one of his oldest friends. "There must be some sort of mistake..... Obi-Wan and I....... for years, we've felt our connection. The bond was *there.*"

Yoda's walking stick made a hollow thumping noise as the old Master made his way to the center of the room, the uncharacteristic pacing evidence that even his calm shaken by the situation. "Mistake, there was," the respected Jedi Master admitted. "From infancy, we knew, unbonded soul you had. Hoped, we did, that to the Temple, your bondmate would come. When Knight you became, and still no bondmate you had, sent you on missions, we did. Gave you opportunities to locate your soul mate. Worried about your sanity, we did, when no soul twin was found." Yoda's expressive eyes revealed just how personal that worry had been. Even with over 700 years of experience, the old Jedi couldn't completely disguise his love for his former student.

Yoda faltered and Windu took up the narrative. "Then, when Obi-Wan was brought to the Temple, also with an uncompleted soul bond, we assumed that your soul twin had finally been located." The hand on Qui-Gon's shoulder tightened. "I can't tell you how sorry I am that we were wrong."

"And if you weren't wrong?" Qui-Gon asked. "What if Obi-Wan *is* my soul mate?"

"The soul bond with Palpatine is real," Mace answered. "We tested it ourselves."

"Real, yes. But is it true?"

Yoda hobbled closer. "What say you?"

"What if Palpatine somehow.... coerced the bond? Or disguised its nature?"

"Impossible. A soul bond is determined by the Force, it cannot be faked or compelled."

"Wishful thinking, it is," Yoda's assessment was a bit more kind than Windu's. "Meditate, you will. Give your anger over to the Force, you should. Let go of your fear for your apprentice, you must."

Qui-Gon's voice was bleak as he answered. "No amount of meditation will make me let this go. Not until Obi-Wan is restored."

The ancient Jedi's head bowed as he heard the determination in his former student's voice. "Headstrong, have you ever been. Boundaries, traditions, push at, you always do." Yoda lifted his eyes, pinning Qui-Gon with the weight of his gaze. "Be careful, you must. Anger. Fear. Paths to the Dark Side, these are."

Yoda watched Qui-Gon shrug off Mace Windu's hand and stumble from the Jedi Chamber, not needing the Force to know that his advice had been ignored.

************************************

Palpatine propped himself up on one elbow and let his eyes feast on the sight of his bedmate. Oh, the little fool had turned away from him and was huddled in the sheet, but the fabric's silken folds revealed the lithe young body underneath.

The senator reached out a finger and gently allowed it to travel the lean curve of Kenobi's hip, pretending not to notice when the other man's breathing hitched. It pleased him for the moment to allow the padawan to think he'd managed to fool him with this semblance of slumber. He'd learn otherwise, soon enough.

The trip to the healers had been tiresome. With the prudish Jedi Council's disapproval of the manner in which he'd taken their student's virginity, it had been necessary to placate them by having the boy tended to at the Temple's facilities. Next time, he'd have his own physician see to it and skip the lecture.

The doctors in his employ, after all, were used to seeing a little blood in unexpected places.

Palpatine's wandering finger danced across Kenobi's lower back and he smiled as the padawan started to tremble. It had been a long time since he'd brought a virgin to his bed. He'd forgotten how fun giving them their lessons could be. A totally unexpected benefit to his plan, but one he was not reluctant to take advantage of.

Still, despite the enjoyment he was having from Kenobi's body, Palpatine couldn't help but picture another man writhing underneath him. Taller. Bearded.

Thinking of Qui-Gon brought a feral leer onto the senator's face. The apprentice was merely an appetizer, a tempting morsel but not the one he craved. Jinn was the feast Palpatine had been hungering after for decades.

Qui-Gon Jinn was the Chosen One.

Even after all these years, Palpatine couldn't believe that the other Jedi hadn't realized it. Qui- Gon was the youngest being ever to pass the trails. He was always questioning Jedi tradition, never satisfied with "That's the way it's always been" as an answer. Pushing at his fellow Jedi to test their boundaries, to do what they knew was right and not to simply follow the Code blindly.

Of course, Palpatine admitted to himself, the insipid Jedi might have actually come to realize that the Chosen One walked in their midst if a Sith hadn't also been in proximity. Thanks to subtle manipulations in the Force, he had been able to mask Qui-Gon's true nature for years. Instead of realizing that he was the long-foretold bringer of balance to the Force, Qui-Gon was perceived as a rebel and a thorn in the Council's side. It hadn't been easy to warp the Order's perception, but he was helped in his task by the Jedi's rigid adherence to tradition.

The small minded fools' eyes were so blinded by their blessed Code that they couldn't see what was right in front of their faces.

Tremors brought Palpatine's mind back to the bed and the padawan that reluctantly shared it. For years, he'd bided his time, waiting for the perfect bait to ensure that the Chosen One became the Dark Side's ally. He'd thought Xanatos would be the perfect foil, but that failed apprentice had been too much of the Dark. Had repulsed Qui-Gon instead of drawing him in.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, however, was all of the Light and that would be Qui-Gon's downfall. As soon as Palpatine had seen Jinn's newest apprentice, he'd known that he'd finally discovered the bait he needed to trap the Chosen One.

It had taken precise timing, but he'd managed to insinuate himself between Kenobi's soul bond with Qui-Gon. The coerced bond wouldn't last; being forcefully bonded to the wrong man would kill the apprentice if nothing else did first. But the boy would survive long enough to cause sufficient pain to topple even a venerated Jedi Master.

Speaking of pain...

The senator moved closer to the quivering padawan, suddenly biting the back of Obi-Wan's neck. There would be no more pretensions of sleep. "You're not asleep, are you Pet? I thought young men were supposed to be more virile than that?"

Obi-Wan did not turn to face him. "The healers said that we shouldn't...."

Palpatine firmly grasped the younger man's shoulder and forcibly turned the apprentice to look at him. "The healers said that *penetration* would not be wise tonight." Delightful, how the boy quivered.

The senator reached out his hand and gently ran his thumb over Kenobi's lower lip. "Don't fret, Precious. There are other things we can do. I have much to teach you." His hand left Obi-Wan's lips and cupped the back of the boy's head, forcing it down while he spread his own legs. "Let's see what that pretty mouth of yours can do."

Palpatine laughed to himself as he felt the corrupted soul bond force Obi-Wan to obey. So many levels of pain...and when he got tired of plundering the young man's innocence, he had an apprentice of his own that he could introduce Kenobi to. The senator almost roared his amusement aloud when he imagined the pain that meeting would engender.

His head, after all, wasn't the only part of Maul's body to sport horns.

*********************

Obi-Wan Kenobi's world was red.

The light from Coruscant's dawn filtered through the red draperies in Palpatine's quarters, painting the room the crimson color of freshly spilled blood. Idly, a corner of apprentice's mind wondered at the choice of decorations in the chamber, too well trained by the Jedi not to notice how their worldly abstract appearance differed from the traditional stateliness that Nubian culture was known for.

Despite his training, however, most of the padawan's focus was taken up by his dilemma. Obi- Wan might be well on his way to becoming a formidable Jedi in his own right, but at the moment, he was also barely twenty years old and deeply wounded. Wounded, and without the one support that had come to mean everything to him.

Qui-Gon.

This time yesterday, he had been eagerly anticipating joining in the physical pairing that would insure his bond with the Jedi Master. Now, not only had the mating not occurred, but instead, he found himself bonded to that consummate toad, Senator Jusicad Palpatine.

Obi-Wan shivered at the thought of his new... bondmate. How could a paunchy bureaucrat from an unimportant system be the cause of so much pain? And how could Obi-Wan have lifted a hand against his Master his *Master*! in defense of his own rapist?

The apprentice swallowed convulsively, the unshed tears in his throat flavored by the bitter remnants of Palpatine's seed from the night before. After the initial joining, when Palpatine had regained his breath from rutting on top of him like a pig in heat, the senator had dragged Obi- Wan in front of the Jedi Council. Instead of decrying the politician as a rapist, Obi-Wan had found himself supporting Palpatine's claim. Still in shock from the garden attack, the padawan had been in a daze and unable to comprehend the significance of that act... until Qui-Gon Jinn had arrived.

Obi-Wan remembered how his heart had leapt at the sight of his Master, the older man stalking into the Council Chamber like an avenging god bent on justice. Surely, he'd thought then, Qui- Gon would make everything right. He always had before.

He hadn't counted on his own betrayal.

Upon seeing his teacher, Obi-Wan had tried several times to describe the forced nature of the mating. His mind shrieked the words, but before his voice could follow, the black tarry rope that symbolized his soul's connection to Palpatine rose in his throat and successfully blocked the words from coming. The gentleness and love in his Master's tone as he asked if Obi-Wan was all right was almost enough to help him break free. For a moment, it seemed that he would be able to utter the truth, but Palpatine had quickly intervened... and then the unthinkable had happened.

Qui-Gon had growled at the senator and had moved to forcibly remove Obi-Wan from his arms. But even as the apprentice's spirit internally rejoiced at the imminent rescue, his body moved to attack his beloved. Now, in the bloody dawn light, Obi-Wan looked down in a gesture reminiscent of what he'd done the night before, staring at his hands in disbelief.

Qui-Gon had trained those hands, how dare he raise them against his teacher?

Groaning in pain, Obi-Wan buried his face in his traitorous hands and resisted the urge to cry. The apprentice rocked back and forth for a few moments but then slowly straightened. Enough of self pity. Folding his legs into the traditional position, the young man schooled himself to meditate. Surely, upon further contemplation within the Force, he would find the answers to this dilemma.

He was the student of the venerable Qui-Gon Jinn, he told himself with an iron will as he settled down to concentrate, it was time he started acting like it.


Continued in Part 2

 

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