Qui-Gon was dreaming hazily of long-ago-days and impossible futures, of a smiling red-haired boy holding out his hand to be helped to his feet after an exhilarating spar, of a man with that same red hair sitting beside him on a lakeside dock, his head resting on Qui-Gon’s shoulder.
He was woken abruptly by two gloved hands, one grabbing his arm in a bruising grip and the other clamping over his mouth before he could even open his eyes.
Qui-Gon gasped and jolted, eyes flying open, and in the semi-darkness he saw Obi-Wan leaning over him, his Sithly golden eyes gleaming unnaturally in the shadows.
“Shhhh,” Obi-Wan said, so very softly, his hand still tight over the Jedi’s lips.
Qui-Gon waited. He forced himself to keep still, waiting for whatever was coming next, doubting but also trusting.
“Shh,” Obi-Wan said again, and this time Qui-Gon gave a minute nod to show he understood.
Slowly the Sith removed his hand, only to haul the Jedi to his feet, his hands on his shoulders, keeping his eyes fixed on Qui-Gon’s. There was something strange in his eyes, something cold and urgent. Qui-Gon held his tongue as he was forcibly escorted to the door — the door he had not crossed the threshold of since he had first been brought here, nearly a year ago by his estimations.
As Darth Renovan pushed him harshly into the corridor, Qui-Gon began to struggle, but still held his silence.
Obi-Wan’s face split in a snarl. With a harsh gesture, he broke the force inhibiting cuffs around Qui-Gon’s wrists, the ones he had so rarely gone without all this time. The Sith raised a finger to his lips as if the Jedi’s hesitating feet were causing a thunderous noise and gestured sharply down the hallway to where a guard droid stood waiting, electric pike in hand. “Go,” Obi-Wan hissed, and his voice was so low as to be little more than thought.
“What?” Qui-Gon hissed back, much less quietly.
The hand gripping his shoulder tightened, and a burst of agony shot through his body like electricity, pinning him to the spot. When his vision returned, he blinked dazedly at his former apprentice, who glowered at him, face set. “Go,” he said again. “Run, Jedi, and don’t come back.”
“But why?” Qui-Gon breathed, suspicion coiling in his gut. He would not be used as a tool, would not be used to distract his fellow Jedi—
“Run, Qui-Gon, and if I see you again—” Obi-Wan said. He did not need to finish his sentence. The bloodless lips, the yellow eyes, the cheeks flushed with rage, the iron posture; these all spoke much more clearly than words might have done.
And, daring to hope that he might escape whatever plan was revolving around him, Qui-Gon turned and stalked up the hall towards the droid.
When he glanced back, the Sith had gone.
The droid guided him through winding passages, narrow halls, and cramped stairwells, leading ever downwards.
It took Qui-Gon eight minutes to realize he was being led through back ways — maintenance passages and unused corridors.
It took another three for him to realize that this unintuitive route was not to confuse him, but to make it harder for someone else to follow them.
Qui-Gon took a slow breath and waited. He measured his steps carefully, treading in the wake of the wary droid guard, and bided his time until they reached a fork in the halls.
Qui-Gon grabbed the droid by its head as it turned to look each way and threw it into a wall, pinning it there with the Force. Before it could cause a commotion, Qui-Gon dove in, delving into the Force in a way he had not been permitted for so long. His senses dissolved, taking in every detail of the droid’s mechanics, its inner workings. With the flick of his wrist he disabled its voice and removed its weapon, and with another he accessed its memory drive. He activated it on the droid’s holo projector, which was built into its palm.
A moment later he had what he needed.
“Darth Renovan,” said a hooded figure, looming ominously. “Prepare for my arrival.”
A long pause.
“You have disappointed me,” the Lord of the Sith added softly.
And that was all.
Qui-Gon froze, realizations washing over him, crashing like waves.
The Sith Master was coming. He was deeply unhappy with his Apprentice. And Obi-Wan’s reaction had been to send Qui-Gon away, away from him, forever.
Because the Sith Master would hurt Qui-Gon.
And why else if not because to do so would hurt Obi-Wan?
…Because Obi-Wan cared.
Qui-Gon ran back the way he had come.
Darth Renovan stood on the landing platform, gazing beyond the setting sun, watching the dark spot on the horizon grow larger and larger, nearer and nearer.
The amber light lay over him in shafts, setting fire to his neatly brushed hair and the embellishments in his sweeping black robes.
He knew he looked pristine.
He also knew he had only hours, at most, to live — hours spent in torture in agony.
Punishment for derailing the plan to enslave the Clones to his will.
Punishment for choosing sentient freedom over his Master’s will.
It was an exquisitely painful reminder of defying another Master, on Melida/Daan, saving other sentient beings from the tyranny of bloodthirsty others.
Obi-Wan would not define himself as a hero.
For so long he had cared only for his own power, for proving Qui-Gon Jinn wrong, for making himself into something beyond what the Jedi had ever believed he could be.
He had succeeded. He was wise beyond the years of Elders, with powers to rival the greatest Masters of the Order, clever and cunning and blindingly charming, able to bend people to his will by various means.
He was a villain. A corrupt politician, a predator, a mastermind, a servant to a Dark Lord.
He was going to die for the soul of compassion he had held on to beneath the surface.
For his disgust for slavery.
For his rage against being controlled.
For his love for the man he had held prisoner for months on end, at first for the triumph of seeing him laid low, and then for the pleasure of seeing him resigned…
…to keep him safe from the war, to keep him close, to make sure he still lived and breathed.
Obi-Wan would now die to ensure it.
He wanted to laugh at himself.
Brought low, once again, by his love for Qui-Gon Jinn, his need to please him, make him happy and safe and proud.
He truly had never grown beyond the rejected Padawan he had been all those years before.
Black gloved hands tightened slightly, and he folded his arms across his chest as the sleek ship descended to a smooth halt on the platform. Steam issued from the pipes, and with a soft hiss the door fell open, the ramp descended, and a black figure emerged like the hand of Death itself.
Darth Renovan, once Jedi Kenobi, lifted his chin and met the gaze of Sidious squarely.
Sidious began to laugh.
Obi-Wan was screaming.
A terrible, high-pitched, out-of-control sound that grated against Qui-Gon’s soul like fingernails on chalkboard.
If he had held any lingering doubts about Obi-Wan’s intentions in sending him away, they vanished now, as Qui-Gon raced towards the sound of the screaming.
As he drew nearer, he could discern the sound of electricity, and beneath that, the sound of jagged, cruel laughter.
Anger burned within him.
Obi-Wan continued to scream.
Obi-Wan had been taught many times to wish for death.
At this moment, all he could hope was that his death would be swift enough to save his mind and long enough to ensure that his Jedi escaped.
He was engulfed by blue lightning, real enough to make his throat tear with the force of his uncontrollable screams but not quite real enough to kill him as real lightning would in this amount.
Qui-Gon, he thought dimly. You bastard, you had better appreciate this.
And then fire exploded across his vision, and the pain ceased.
Obi-Wan curled on his side, twitching and shaking, blue light still cracking along his limbs, watching in disbelief as the platform between himself and Sidious exploded into flames, and first one, then two, then over a dozen of his own guard droids leapt from overhead, crossing the flames to descend upon the Sith Master.
A callused hand clamped over his lips, muffling his cry of shock and fear, and he was dragged backwards across the platform, away from the fire, into the shadows of the hangar bay. Obi-Wan struggled.
Hands took hold of him and hauled him to his feet, and when he could not stand, strong arms pulled him close and held him upright. Obi-Wan struggled weakly, his vision spinning nauseatingly.
The hand was still tight over his lips, and he cried out against it.
Someone sighed softly, and the hand shifted from his mouth to the side of his face, and his vision suddenly seemed to resolve itself.
Obi-Wan stared into the eyes of Qui-Gon Jinn.
His limbs betrayed him, still shaking with pain, and his vision flickered, giving the whole scene and even greater sense of unreality.
Obi-Wan’s lips parted.
“Why didn’t you run when I told you to, you fucking idiot?” he gasped.
Qui-Gon laughed and held him closer, glancing over his shoulder at the battle going on behind them.
“Run with me,” he said.
Obi-Wan stared. Golden eyes flickered dimly. “What?”
“Run with me,” Qui-Gon said again. “Run with me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, I’ll run forever if I have to, if it’s with you. Otherwise I’ll stay, like a stubborn idiot, and fight with you. Whatever you choose.”
Obi-Wan was a mess, his burnished hair and beard ruffled after torture and a kidnapping that had become a rescue, and he stared at his stupid Jedi with pure amazement.
And then he began to smile. “All right,” he said, and his trembling arms came up to wind around Qui-Gon’s neck, slipping underneath the hand the Jedi was still resting on the Sith’s pale face.
“All right?” Qui-Gon asked, sounding surprised. “You will? With me?”
“With you,” agreed Obi-Wan. “And no one else. It seems you’re destined to pull my life apart, Qui-Gon.”
“Well,” Qui-Gon pointed out very reasonably, “I wouldn’t have to do that if we would just stick together like we’re meant to.”
And so they ran.