******

Somehow, Obi-Wan found himself following the Senator out of the ship and into the building. He listened to the man as they walked. Such a kind man the Senator was, Obi-Wan decided, somewhat dazedly. As busy as he was, he was trying to help Obi-Wan with his problems.

"If you join me, you can have all the things you have dreamed of but could never possess," The Senator was saying. "I know of your feelings for your master. And I know that he will never love you. I have foreseen it."

Horrible, tearing pain filled Obi-Wan at those words, made worse by the fact that he knew it was true. Hadn't he always known that Qui-Gon would never feel anything more for him than mild affection? Hadn't he always known that his master would never look at him as a lover or even as someone to love?

Growing despair was strangling him where he sat...and when had they sat down? But Palpatine was sitting next to him, speaking to him in that gentle voice.

"Now, now, it's all right. I can help you, my young one. He can't love you, not as your master, not as who you are, that is true." The Senator smiled and for just a second, Obi-Wan was afraid of the man, a sense a warning clamoring at him through the Force. But then it was gone and Palpatine was speaking again. "But I can help you."

Obi-Wan swallowed thickly. "How can you help me?"

"Let me train you," The senator purred, his voice rasping over Obi-Wan senses like velvet. "If I train you, why, then he will no longer be your master. And I can help you get him, little not-Jedi. Just let me help you."

Obi-Wan agrees.

Obi-Wan doesn't agree.