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Gungan to the left

The Quality of Mercy (PG)

By : Lady Moonbeam

Archived on: Monday, July 14, 2003

After falls from darkness and light, Anakin needs mercy more than anything else. And Obi-Wan is the only one who can give it to him, but will Anakin be able to take it?

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?

Maybe. Yes.

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.

"I do."

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.

Original cover by obaona. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.

Fan Fiction Rating

Current Rating is 9.26 in 82 total ratings.

Reader Comments

Add a comment about this Fan Fiction

Author: Lady Moonbeam
Date posted: 7/14/2003 8:56:10 PM
Lady Moonbeam's Comments:

Thanks to obaona, my most excellent beta-reader, who helped me in every way possible, and Digizord, who offered such a wonderful critique of this work.

I have to say that I'm honored to have this piece in the Archives. Of all the one-posts I've written, this stands as one of my true favorites, and I hope that you will enjoy it, too. Certainly I enjoyed writing it.

Author: padme skywalker
Date posted: 7/15/2003 8:10:40 AM
padme skywalker's Comments:

I loved it it was brilliant. Anakin was a great character he seemed just as if he were young again. I only hope he doesn't really kill padme.
Great Work!

Author: sniperhunt
Date posted: 7/15/2003 8:20:42 AM
sniperhunt's Comments:

Great story. I enjoyed reading it. Makes you wonder about what could happen....

Author: Nade_Naberrie  (signed)
Date posted: 7/15/2003 8:53:54 AM
Nade_Naberrie's Comments:

WOW....'s... wow. Very good.
*composes self* One thing I must comment on: I DO NOT think Anakin will kill Padme, let alone her family.
Other than that... well, you know... ;)

Author: Naboos_Princess  (signed)
Date posted: 7/15/2003 9:31:55 AM
Naboos_Princess's Comments:

This is a very profound story, Lady Moonbeam. Well done!

Author: Tycalibur  (signed)
Date posted: 7/15/2003 10:30:07 AM
Tycalibur's Comments:

A very poignant, thought-provoking piece. I would very much like to see a sequel to this, if you have one in mind.

Thanks for a great read.


Author: pencilnek
Date posted: 7/15/2003 10:36:21 AM
pencilnek's Comments:

I agree that this is a very very VERY powerful peice! It has such a realistic twist in it! You don't try to keep out any of the bad feelings at all! I love the twist in the plot too, making me wonder if it would have been better had Anakin not come home. It was very very very good.

Author: Destiny  (signed)
Date posted: 7/15/2003 12:21:58 PM
Destiny's Comments:

I'm so glad this got in, Lady Moonbeam! I really enjoyed reviewing it, and I found it heartbreaking.

*sniffles* Time to find a story with a happy ending. :p

Keep writing - you're doing a wonderful job!

Author: JediPug1  (signed)
Date posted: 7/15/2003 7:38:43 PM
JediPug1's Comments:

That was so good, it's beyond words... Thanks for a truly amazing and creative "what if" story.

Author: Jenos  (signed)
Date posted: 7/15/2003 8:33:17 PM
Jenos's Comments:

*is utterly speechless*

WOW! That, most certainly, was brilliance. A wonderful fic!

Author: LuvEwan
Date posted: 7/16/2003 9:56:24 AM
LuvEwan's Comments:

Wonderful work! An interesting alternate to Anakin's fate, with beautiful insight into Obi-Wan's amazing character. I especially loved this line:

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.

What a fantastic way to show his renewed pain.

Good job! ;)

Author: daniel skywalker
Date posted: 7/16/2003 11:40:12 AM
daniel skywalker's Comments:

this is a really good fan fic, intersting and entertaining. if only that really happened.... killing palpatine and returning to the light earlier i mean. hope he doesnt kill padme

Author: Gina  (signed)
Date posted: 7/16/2003 1:42:56 PM
Gina's Comments:

A beautifully written, heart-rending piece! Well done!

Author: Greenleaf from LakeRetreat
Date posted: 7/19/2003 12:57:41 AM
Greenleaf from LakeRetreat's Comments:

very sweet and heart-rending. Thanks.

Author: Zilya Vader
Date posted: 7/19/2003 10:49:37 AM
Zilya Vader's Comments:

Just to puff your feathers (do you have feathers?) a little more, I agree that this was a fantastic bit.
Thank you for sharing.

Author: Archangel
Date posted: 7/19/2003 2:23:09 PM
Archangel's Comments:

How else can i put it?
That was really, really good.

Author: obaona  (signed)
Date posted: 7/19/2003 6:40:02 PM
obaona's Comments:

Moon, you know what I think of this fic. ;) I remember talking with you about your fanfics, and you mentioning this one - so I read it while we talked, and I remembering admitting to you that I was crying.

And then when I reread it to beta it a mere fifteen minutes later (in an attempt to get you to submit, of course ;) ), I wept again.

Because that's how beautiful this is.

I loved your premise. So many fics present Anakin as turning away from the dark and returning to the light . . . but in this, Anakin really did neither. He wants to stay in a world where everything is as it was, where he is carefree and happy. One cannot be happy in darkness, but can one be truly happy in the light, knowing the wrongness of past actions?

You write Obi-Wan so beautifully, too. I've always felt Obi-Wan cared for Anakin deeply, and you show this in this story. Obi-Wan loves him so much that even as he tries to get Anakin to truly turn to the light, he tries to give Anakin what he can of that world that Anakin wishes for. He loves him enough to care for Anakin, with his broken mind, and simply devote himself to making his former Padawan happy, with cake and sunrises.

I also loved the little things you didn't mention too much. Obi-Wan not thinking of Anakin as Vader, how when Anakin came back, Obi-Wan had to admit Vader and Anakin had been the same person. It bring such new meaning to the line in ROTJ where Obi-Wan tries to explain to Luke what he told him. I loved how you showed all the little moments between the two of them, simply being together. I loved how you avoided going over all the action - Palpatine's death, or Padme's. You just presented it the fact that it had happened with perfect emotion, and left it there, for us to imagine for ourselves.

This is simply beautiful, Moon. It was one of my favorite fanfics, and most definitely my favorite angst one. Amazing job. I'm so glad I stumbled upon your work. I cannot heap enough praises on it.

Author: Laura
Date posted: 7/20/2003 12:03:00 AM
Laura's Comments:

This story brought tears to my eyes. It was absolutely amazing. Congradulations on writing an amazing piece of fiction.

Author: puetschi
Date posted: 7/20/2003 3:10:17 AM
puetschi's Comments:

Certainly one of the best fanfics I've ever read. Very well written and with NO obsolete action-scenes. I like it how you portray OB1 and Ani becoming something like the "crazy-old-wizard"-tag team and the introduction of Han Solo(?).

Author: jabg
Date posted: 7/20/2003 8:16:46 AM
jabg's Comments:

A very interesting premise. Well written and thoughful, i really enjoyed it!

Author: Kat
Date posted: 7/20/2003 9:41:10 AM
Kat's Comments:

Amazing fanfic. It's heart-rending and so, so touching. I wish I could do fics like this! Congratulations!

Author: Bountyhunter928
Date posted: 7/20/2003 6:54:33 PM
Bountyhunter928's Comments:

that was great. really great.

Author: Shadowknight  (signed)
Date posted: 7/21/2003 7:30:49 PM
Shadowknight's Comments:

Nice. I loved the line:
"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."
Not saying outright that it's Han Solo but I just know that that's who it is. I think that Anakin and Han would've gotten along. I love this story. Poor Ani.

Author: The Demon Clown
Date posted: 9/2/2003 10:26:43 PM
The Demon Clown's Comments:

Wow...that's really all I can say. I want to be a writer (I'm currently writing a pretty big--4 books--storyline that I'll probably never even post anywhere, LOL) and it's fanfics like this one that make me think, "If I could only write something as (insert adjective like "emotional", "scary", "intense", etc. here, depending on subject) as that, man..." And usually, that sentence is either finished by "I'd probably be writing for a living" or "I'd actually have the guts to ask George Lucas if I could write an actual SW novel". Okay, I'm rambling, which I tend to do, but that's what good writing does to me: it makes me think at a 1000 mph, so good job, Lady Moonbeam, my hat's off to ya. :D

Date posted: 10/8/2003 12:44:12 AM

It's great!!!

Author: MutantJediBouer
Date posted: 1/26/2004 10:26:23 PM
MutantJediBouer's Comments:

WOW. What an odd, but very good, perspective. I never would have thought about anything like that. What an amazing story. The way it was narrated by Obi-Wan was great, Ani's action's, the portrayal of feelings and emotions... Wow.

Author: solojones  (signed)
Date posted: 7/17/2004 1:24:32 PM
solojones's Comments:

That was a really awesome story! I've read some of your work before, and never failed to be impressed. I think you're one of the consistently best fanfic writers I've come across. This is a really sad AU, but at the same time, kind of happy. Horrible things have still happened, and they've clearly scarred Anakin especially badly.

But right now, he's happy. The opening and closing comments by Obi-Wan were just brilliant...he's come to realise that some things, you never get over. Maybe it's just better for Anakin to live in blissful ignorance now. Awesome, moving AU piece!

Author: ninjaking
Date posted: 10/6/2004 7:54:29 PM
ninjaking's Comments:

i loved it shows that even a man like vader needs forgivenes

Author: Ani-maniac
Date posted: 11/12/2004 11:30:14 AM
Ani-maniac's Comments:

That...was...incredible. Wow. As an Anakin fan, I have thought of several...well, million stories about Anakin and the different results his actions could have created. But I never thought of one like this. It was awsome. You did a great job of showing what could have happened to Anakin if he lived with such guilt. I was curious to see if you had other ideas concerning Anakin. If you do, PLEASE comment. I'd enjoy hearing... well reading them. Keep writing such great stories!!!!!

Author: Rhaya  (signed)
Date posted: 6/3/2005 4:14:31 AM
Rhaya's Comments:

Amazing...absolutely brilliant. I have been sitting here staring at a blank screen for well onto 20 minutes trying to write something. I came to the site to find inspiration and you've certainly given me that.

Author: Enigma_X
Date posted: 7/2/2006 11:05:41 PM
Enigma_X's Comments:

I think I've read this story at least half a dozen times, and every time I do, I cry. Sometimes I bawl, and sometimes I just get wet-eyed. It always- always- affects me. I've never been able to figure out exactly why, but it does.

Author: jarogue
Date posted: 8/30/2008 6:21:17 PM
jarogue's Comments:

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww poor crazy anakin. way to pull my heartstrings, man!!

Author: Rachel
Date posted: 9/14/2009 5:36:35 AM
Rachel's Comments:

Hey, I just wanted to say that this was the first fan fiction I ever read when I was 11 and I didn't know what fan fiction was. I thought this story was beautiful and I didn't understand why it didn't correspond with canon but I loved it and I read it so many times that I actually knew it off by heart (because when I was 11 I was an even bigger nerd than I am now). For six years I've remembered that first line and I suddenly thought, hey why not look it up? It's still amazing. Well done.

Author: andaere
Date posted: 6/19/2010 6:57:19 PM
andaere's Comments:

Wow. I'm just sitting here, stunned and spellbound, trying to keep the tears away and write something coherent. Even though I finished this minutes ago I'm STILL fighting back tears (and I'm only fighting them because there are only people in the room).

This is such a heart-wrenching story. And it's one hundred percent UNIQUE, which is really saying something. I love the world that you've crafted with just a few words. I love every glimpse of crazy!Anakin and caretaker!Obi-Wan. Every sentence of this story is indescribably beautiful. As is the idea. It's not too hard to believe that if Anakin had turned back to the Light (well, earlier than he did), he would have gone insane. Or at least hidden himself from everything, staying in the safety of childlike innocence and insanity instead of facing what he'd done.

Obi-Wan's situation was heart-breaking, too. You portrayed his feelings really well - how at first he separated Anakin and Vader, but when he found out they were one in the same he wanted to resent Anakin. But then he still loves Anakin, and as much as he sometimes wants Anakin to face up for what he's done, he'll still give Anakin cake and sunrises. And now you've got me tearing up again.

Long review short, this is definitely the best Star Wars oneshot I've ever read (and I've read a lot). I think I'm going to put this on my eReader, even though I promised myself I'd only put full length stories on it.

Thank you for writing this. :)

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Archived: Monday, July 14, 2003

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