Recovery is a process both mental and physical, something that can't ever be helped along by patient words or soothing hands, no matter how hard you try. You can't force someone to recover if he's hiding in a dark place that's soothing because it hurts him, and you can't force him to realize he needs the light when he says he wants redemption, but what he really wants is... punishment. Shackles, scars, and slit wrists. I should have realized that's what Anakin wanted instead of light. He only wanted to kill himself, so the possibility of his recovery existed only in my mind, not his own. Should have realized that, too.
I made him flex limbs seemingly made out of scar tissue, made him talk about Palpatine and all the people he'd killed, made him sit in the sunshine and reminded him, gently, about days when he loved rain over sun because rain was something he was so unfamiliar with, even after ten years of living with regulated environments instead of Tatooine's arid heat. He plucked a violet leaf off one of the trees and said, softly, "It's too hard in the sunlight."
I didn't know what he was talking about. I never understood half the things he said anymore. Maybe the Healers were right. Maybe he was insane, or trying so hard to be that it was working. He reached coherency sometimes, and the sentences he gave then were always beautiful and fully articulate, as if he'd been struggling to mount that summit all day, and finally, knowing who he was with brilliant, damning clarity. He was more recognizable as my Padawan in those moments, but most of the time, it was all jumbled memories, building blocks scattered across the surface of his mind, and the ever-changing images that came through his malformed words held a darker meaning only visible to him.
I tried, really, I did. I tried to make them have meaning, but it was like trying to fit the proverbial square peg in a round hole. I did try so hard. He said it was hard in the sunlight, so I made sure that he was always outside when it was warm and blazing with yellow light. To make him remember. To force one of those startlingly sane reactions out of him, even if it was only a plea to be taken inside and kept in shadowed recesses.
Cruel to be kind, Obi-Wan?
It had been five years since he first killed a man and liked it, four years since he swore his allegiance to Palpatine and Palpatine alone, and two years since he threw down that promise because too many thoughts of his wife had haunted him through his turning, never letting him forget who he had been and what he had stood for. Anakin let his devotion to Palpatine shatter all over the rocks as he killed his former Sith Master and came back to me, empty-eyed, with blood-stained hands. I remember his voice, childlike, but with that utter, total lack of innocence. "Obi-Wan? Master? Can I come home now?"
Palpatine, intent on living to start his Empire, had hurt Anakin so badly in those final moments before the former chancellor crumbled that he was hardly recognizable anymore. The physical therapy was the easiest. I still have to do it occasionally, but not nearly as much as when it started out, when I had to do it every day, touch the wreckage of his legs and arms and move them back and forth like paddles, straining every last muscle. No, it wasn't like that anymore.
At first, the Healers doubted that he remembered anything that had happened in the last four years, any of the atrocities that he'd committed. He seemed remarkably awake sometimes, and he knew that I was his Master, he knew the fundamentals of the Order, he knew that he had once been married, and he asked to see Amidala in a scarily calm voice. That I didn't think he remembered. I never told him about it, either. Anakin believed that Amidala left him when he turned, and that was better. Better than the truth. Easier than the truth.
You killed her yourself, Anakin.
He didn't remember her because it would have cost him too much, but he remembered the rest of it. I knew that even before he could talk. He was always scrubbing at his hands when they let him go to the refresher alone. He'd scrub and scrub until layers of skin fell away and he bled, staining the sink. He liked it better when the blood came. He didn't know that it was his. He thought it was the blood of those he had killed, that it was finally coming off his hands, and that excited him into a seizure once.
But that was two years ago.
I was always taught that a Jedi should never hate, that if you love enough, there would never be any room in your heart to truly despise someone. And I always believed it-I thrust aside resentment after Qui-Gon's death: I saved his things in neat boxes and when I talked to his memory, I never accused him of saying the wrong things as he lay dying. When Anakin turned, I convinced myself that only Vader was real anymore, and that Anakin was dead. I boxed up all of his things, too, until he fell back into light. That was when I stopped believing in a lack of hatred. I had loved Anakin, been irritated with him, cursed his name to the skies and back, but I had never hated him until the moment he showed up at my doorstep, with that empty look in his eyes.
Because he was dead, you see. His old clothes were in boxes and his lightsaber was in the chest in my room, next to my Master's. And once he returned, I had to cut all the box strings and face all the facts that came with the harshness of the snapping twine.
For if Anakin had come back, then he had never really left. There was still some part of him that was accountable for Vader's actions, and only his madness was saving him from punishment. Punishment that I knew he should have. Punishment that I didn't want to give.
When the Council wanted to send him away to a hospital, I refused. I said that I could help him better than any medic, and they looked at me contemptuously, noting that one other moment of overconfidence on my part had ruined lives and sent Anakin into the darkness. They wanted me to give into that and admit that they were right, as I always had done before, but there must have been more of my Master in me than I had known, because I insisted. I was familiar, and if Anakin ever woke up, he would need someone he knew to explain the facts to him. Besides, he had come to me.
I had earned credentials enough to retire from active duty completely, and I did, though I suspected that if Anakin ever got better, I would be glad to have another mission again. I requested larger quarters, away from the main housing areas, and the Council granted them to me. For the most part, I stayed home, with my former apprentice and enough resentment to fill greater spaces.
Slowly, I began to see my Padawan more in the figure of the bent man I lived with, and I was frustrated by the fact that I still loved him.
"Did I have children?" he asked me one day, in between stretches so carefully designed to help his hamstrings. I dropped my fingers underneath his leg and rubbed the sore muscle gently. He looked at me with clinical seriousness on his face. It would have been comical if I hadn't known-- No. It was comical to see that. That look of childlike intensity on his face underneath all his dark stubble. How old was he? Thirty-four in years, something much younger in his head.
Not ready for the harder things. Not ready for this.
"No," I said.
There had been a miscarriage.
On his thirty-fifth birthday, I woke him up at dawn so he could see the sunrise creep over the buildings below us. Scarlet, gold, and pale lavender pooled through his window in waves of undiluted glow, reflecting in the hanging prisms I kept for him in the corner. Anakin watched in astonishment, as if he'd never seen a sunrise before. He kept his face against the window, absentmindedly raising his arm every once in a while to wipe off, with his sleeve, the fog his breath made. Dewy condensation remained in a sphere on the glass when he finally pulled away, eyes gleaming.
"I'm ready for my therapy now, Master," he said happily.
"Today, we don't have therapy." I started my walk into the kitchen, feeling him follow behind me in his socked feet, two steps back and always with his head down in a submissive position that he certainly never adopted in his actual years as my apprentice. I reached the table and found the light dial with my mind, forcing the rotation to go slowly so that the glow-lamps would turn on one by one, soft at first and then with brighter determination. "Today we have cake."
Anakin gave a chuckle of pure surprise when he saw the cake, its delicate layers topped with soft icing and jasberries. It was his favorite cake when he was younger. I remembered that, and every hour spent digging up old recipes from the drawers was worth it to see that exaltation on his face.
"You gave me the sunrise... and cake?" There was disbelief in his tone. Come on, Master, where's the punch line?
"The cake I gave you. The sunrise has been around for a long time." I started to cut a large square out of the cake and knew that it was hopeless, between the two of us, we would eat the whole thing anyway. I just handed him a fork, instead. "You're just not waking up early enough to see it."
He nodded like he understood and took his first bite of cake as a slow grin spread over his face. "Are we going outside today?" he asked with a full mouth. Crumbs hung on his lips.
"If you want," I said cautiously.
There was a winning thesis somewhere in that morning. Birthdays help redemption? Sunrises ease pain? When you take your former Padawan out to the gardens by the artificial lake and end up falling into the water, it'll be worth it because he'll start laughing? Eating too much cake will have you throwing up by the end of the day?
The last one, I think most people know. They just never told me.
I finally took him to Naboo. Padm? would have wanted that for him, so I hoped she appreciated the devilish long time it took me to persuade the Council to get us some leave permits, let alone permission to travel and promises to not inform the over-worried, over-worked Healers that Knight Kenobi, who was probably as crazy as his old Padawan, had decided it was a good idea to go to Naboo and stay for a few weeks with the severely incapacitated Anakin Skywalker. We found a flight with an older pilot and his young, somewhat brash copilot, a boy with loose brown hair and a quick, cocky smile. Anakin liked the boy. I insisted that he pushed my limits.
There was an old family house that a friend of mine lent me for our stay. I gave Anakin the code and let him unlock all the doors slowly, one by one, until they all were open and letting the house swell with light and fresh air. He chose a room for himself and I picked the one next door, and we filled our cupboards with new food from the stores, plump, ripe muja, cold slices of nerf, and cake-mixes.
"Is Padm?'s family still here?" he asked one morning.
They were all gone. Sola, Ruwee, the other ones that I had known only by name and a slight indication of temperament had fled the planet shortly after Anakin murdered his wife, grieving for their dead and fearing for the rest of their family. They were on Malastare now, and I received a blank transmission from them once a month as assurance that they were fine. They were always blank for two reasons. Despite what I told them, they no longer trusted Anakin and didn't want him to know where they were anymore. But most of all, they no longer had anything to say to me, the man that had helped them get away to another planet that they did not know, whose mistakes had allowed their daughter-sister-aunt to die, and who now comforted her killer.
"No. They left a long time ago."
"I would have liked to have seen them. They were nice to me a long time ago, when I..." But his speech dropped away into madness, blurry snapshots of things that didn't make sense.
The next day I took him to their old home, and he cried when he entered and turned down the bed that had been his, and stared at the empty cradles that would have been his children's. He walked from room to room in a dazed silence, plucking memorabilia from deserted rooms. A perfume bottle here. A datapad there. He gathered the remains of his old life until his arms were full and I found him a box out of misguided mercy, and then he found more.
When he was done, the whole house had bare spots against the walls, places where curios and been or places on the bed where a pillow should have resided.
"I'm done now, Obi-Wan," he said. "I think we can go home."
I touched his shoulder and led him out to the waiting speeder, the bulging boxes hugged against our chest. Amidala was dead and her family was gone. Anakin and I shared some ghosts, at least.
Recovery is a process both mental and physical, something that can't ever be helped along by patient words or soothing hands, no matter how hard you try. You can't force someone to recover if he's hiding in a dark place that's soothing because it hurts him, and you can't force him to realize he needs the light when he says he wants redemption but what he really wants is... life.
Life with no strings attached and nothing to make up for. Life without nightmares and daydreams of dying. Life where you ate cake in the mornings and watched the sunlight hang in the prisms.
I tried my best to give it to him.
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