You got everything you wanted, Anakin.
You saved Padm??s life.
You saved your children?s lives.
You have power.
But you?ve still lost.
I don?t know how you found this place. Or if you found it at all; the thought that this dungeon was made especially for me is somewhat disturbing. It feels old, though; the cold metal is tarnished, scratched, and filthy. The chains on my wrists are stained with blood that is not mine.
The chain does not have much length to it; it?s attached to the wall, and so I?m left here, sitting with my arms above my head, the weight of them on my wrists. It?s the most comfortable position I can manage for any long length of time.
I sense you coming before you arrive. Your presence is different now, Anakin. You were always strong and powerful, but there?s an air of darkness around you now, so thick it feels like it?s throttling you.
It makes me uncomfortable, in the sense that I want to reach out and...help you, as I always did before, calm you and help you meditate, find your center, find the Light.
You would certainly not welcome that now.
The door opens with a harsh, grating sound, and you enter. The door closes behind you, but I do not sense another living presence; perhaps it is a droid that guards me, then. I look at you, seeing the physical changes: your eyes still carry a tint of yellow, and I wonder if it?s a permanent mark. You wear dark gloves on both hands now, to hide the metal limbs I left you with. Your walk is slightly off, but I have no doubt that will fade in time; you were always excellent at adapting, Anakin.
You glare at me, and I feel...I strive for calmness, but something about you has always made me feel helpless.
You feel angry, and I feel regret.
?Where is my son? Where is Padm??? you snarl, and clench your fists.
?I don?t know,? I answer honestly.
?Don?t lie to me, Obi-Wan.?
I told you to call me that. Equals, weren?t we...
?Look at me.?
I look at you, and you step up to me; something is angering you further. You crouch, gracelessly, and stare into my eyes. I feel your forceful touch on my mind, but I?m prepared for that. You strive to break my barriers, and you are strong, Anakin. But not quite skilled enough, not yet.
As if hearing my thoughts, you say, ?Soon,? as if it?s a faithful promise.
?You will find nothing,? I tell you, knowing you will not believe me. I am not the grand manipulator you think me to be. Did you think I wanted you to fail, that I said you should not be a Master because of some grand plot to keep myself in a higher position than you? That is Sith thinking, Anakin...but I know you?ve denied that to yourself on a level that I cannot reach.
Your lips twitch, as if you want to reply but know better of it. It?s odd, Anakin, that the Sith ways have taught you when to be silent, where I never could.
You rise quickly and walk out without any hesitation. I feel you going down the hall, away, but not too far; I know I am on Coruscant, and Coruscant is where you will be, managing your fledgling Empire until you find Padm? and Luke.
I sigh, as your presence vanishes from the immediate area. It is so hard for me to sense far beyond where I am, now. You have inundated this place with darkness, and I feel blind and stifled.
Is this what the Darkness inside feels like when you let it loose...a heavy chain that chokes the life out of you?
I wake to find you coming again. You are furious.
My skin tingles.
When the door opens and you enter with graceless rage, you don?t ask me any questions.
You choke me. I struggle to breathe against nothing, and reach out for the Force, but it feels so muddled, and I can?t fight you off. Ani ? Anakin, you?re choking me, I can?t breathe, ah, the darkness...
You let me go, and you seem to watch me attentively as I gasp.
?What was that for?? I manage to get out, my voice little more than a rasp, but I am truly curious. My life has been constrained to about a meter, in which I do everything. What could I possibly do to enrage you so, Anakin? You can snap this thin thread that connects me to life at any time. We both know that.
You don?t answer me, just glare, and I feel you pull at the Darkness like it?s a comfort to you.
You stalk out, and I stare after you, confused.
My body is aching and weakening. At this rate, if an opportunity to escape came, I probably would not be up to taking it.
But I have learned to compensate for the darkness I sense in the Force, here. I almost constantly meditate. It is all that brings me solace, something which I think you never understood about me, Anakin. The price of the Force is high, but it always gives much in return.
I hold the Light to me, and like a dim glow, it surrounds me. It binds me. I am it and it is I.
You walk in quite calmly, Anakin. But I know it is a deceptive serenity that I see, a smothering cold rage instead of that which burns.
You smile at me.
I raise my chin, determined to be dignified in this, for I have an ill feeling about it, Anakin.
?I want to know all the secret codes the Jedi use,? you say. ?I know only Council members are aware of them all, and, well, I know you didn?t trust me.? You say it with an icy smile.
?I will not tell you anything, Anakin,? I reply evenly.
You frown for a moment. And you are oddly mild in this. ?Vader. I am Anakin to no one but Padm?.?
Yet I cannot help what is in my mind, Anakin. I separated you into distinct creatures, but you don?t know that. My Anakin and this other Anakin, who murdered mine. My thoughts that day when I scarred you so were not of duty, not quite, something more akin to vengeance.
Perhaps we are more alike than I realized.
And you do not tell me to call you Lord; perhaps you know I have my limits. Or my pride.
You don?t continue the conversation, simply stare at me. You don?t seem overly enraged over my refusal; you were expecting it, I suppose.
?What are the codes?? you repeat.
?Are you going to kill me?? I ask. In truth, I am surprised I am still alive. I would have thought you would want to satisfy your rage, after what I did to you.
Your eyes narrow. ?Yes, eventually.? A pause. ?Not soon enough,? you say softly.
For which of us, Anakin?
You fold your arms and stare at me. I feel the Darkness gathering around you, clamoring and ready to be used, but your intent is still not clear to me, and I wander in a darkened fog that is smothering me.
Then my bones begin to break.
The first is in my arm, and I groan, grasping for the Light and control. The second is in my leg, and I let loose a gasp at the shattering pain. I sense they are not simple fractures, and...it hurts. It hurts.
?This is nothing,? you snarl, ?compared to what you did to me.?
Remembering the agonizing, stilling pain of Dooku?s so-very-correct strikes to my shoulder and leg, I realize that?s probably true.
You reach out with your hand, a gesture.
I see lightning began to flick at the corners of the cell, and you smile at my horror. Have you grown powerful enough for this, Anakin?
If I had breath, I would say it?s not an abstract sort of pain, this Force lightning. It brings to mind every agony I?ve ever felt, from Qui-Gon?s death and your fall to the physical breaking of my body. It burns and aches and groans deep within, and I feel myself falling
my control shattering
I wish it would stop
will my scream stop it?
it won?t stop
You walk away, and I wonder how I will survive.
Anakin, I miss you.
It?s difficult to hold my arm up, to keep it from being jarred by the chain on my wrist, but neither can I stand to relieve the pressure, so I try to heal my arm first. That break is not too bad, and, though I am not nor ever was a skilled healer, I am generally adequate.
This is going to be difficult. The bone is split into two pieces. I use my good arm to support it, and struggle to knit the bone together, falling as deep into the Force as I can, becoming it as much as I can. The Force, after all, neither feels pain nor gets broken bones.
A lifeless droid drops a sealed can into the cell, and, as usual, I use the Force to bring it within my reach. It?s not much, just something to keep me hydrated and with sufficient nutrients. I stare at it for a moment, realizing I can?t let go of my bad arm to open it without undoing the healing I?ve done.
This is going to be difficult.
When you enter, you do so casually. This is getting to be a part of the routine, I suppose.
You study me, no doubt noting my somewhat-healed arm and my still painfully broken leg. I am not certain if you feel any satisfaction for your work.
You fold your arms, and speak. ?My Empire grows strong, Obi-Wan. The people love me as their Emperor, they love me as their Hero Without Fear.?
I have no doubt of this. This is you we are talking about, Anakin. Impulsive and dangerous, yes, but also charismatic. You endear people to you, even when fallen, it appears.
?The loss of Palpatine saddened them, of course.?
?It will only be a matter of time before I find Padm?.?
?And your son,? I say evenly, watching.
Ever watching, Anakin, and you see this, narrowing your eyes. ?Yes.? You smile suddenly. ?You see, Obi-Wan? Everything you?ve ever cared for is undone. The Republic is dead, and the Jedi dying like a weak disease.?
?You?ve lost all you?ve ever loved,? I retort sharply, your own strike hitting its mark.
Your smile vanishes, and a subtle pressure eases up on my throat. ?Because you took it from me!? Then you calm, with effort. ?I have my daughter. You were not able to take that from me.?
?I?m sure Bail was a good father to her,? I murmur. For all three months he had her. It had been wise to separate the twins.
Your anger burns, Anakin. I stare into your yellowed eyes, and I feel it across my soul.
?I saved them. I saved her,? you tell me, your voice scraped and raw.
Perhaps you did did, Anakin, but at what cost? I felt you stretch your presence to her while Padm? gave premature birth on that ship on Mustafar, as I struggled to help her, feeling your Master near. I felt your Darkness touch her, and Anakin, she did scream.
I feel suddenly grieved for Leia. She?s young enough that you would ignore her yet, I think ? I hope. The Sith always did prefer others to do their training for them, I muse somewhat bitterly.
?Say something,? you demand.
?I hope Yoda was able to heal her,? I say simply. Heal her from your dark touch. ?You were right about one thing; Padm? is a good woman, so uncommon in politicians.? Your defiance then, at meeting the Senator for the first time in ten years...ah, Anakin, I always was one for willing blindness. An old fool.
This takes you aback, but I?m not sure why. ?I did heal her,? you mutter.
?Darkness does not heal, it...? I struggle for words, but you don?t wait.
?The Dark Side is merely the other side of the coin, Obi-Wan. The balance.? You smile bitterly, a bitterness to match that which I try to make myself stop feeling. ?That?s what I?m about, isn?t it, my old Master? Balance.? You were supposed to be, Anakin. You were supposed to be.
You turn sharply, but then wait a moment.
?I?ll have everything I want,? you say, and leave.
I wish that were so, Anakin. But you?ll never get Padm? or your children walking down this path, because they would have to be as twisted and unrecognizable as you, and what would you have then?
I am so tired. How long can I survive, unable to move and with a food supply meager at best? If you hope to weaken me, Anakin, it is succeeding, but I do not know how far this will go. My arm is healing enough that I have turned attention to my leg, but will you give me this chance to heal?
When you arrive, I don?t say anything. There is not much to say, in and of itself. I can only respond to you, it seems.
?Did you really think I was the Chosen One?? you ask.
Does that mean you don?t think you are anymore, Anakin? ?Sometimes,? I say at last, which is the most truthful answer I can give. My opinion varied at times. When you were young, a Padawan, I sometimes wondered if Qui-Gon was right. As you matured, I knew he was.
Looking at you now, I find myself still certain that you were meant to be.
You look tired, Anakin. Your hair is dirty with sweat, and I wonder if you appear in public like this, like you?ve been practicing with your lightsaber to the point of exhaustion. The Darkness gives power, but does it give strength of will?
?You are weakening, old man.?
I smile sadly. ?Yes.?
You walk over to me, crouch next to me, and I tense, wary. You are more graceful now, Anakin ? you move more easily, you are quicker and lighter on your feet. I knew you would be.
You don?t jar my broken leg as you get close to me, and I?m not sure if that?s kindness or a lack of pettiness.
You place your hand on my throat, and I can?t help myself; I feel a flicker of fear. There is no heat of battle to distract me, nor is there any for you, and this feels...oddly intimate.
?I know you can kill me,? I say to you, because I still can, and I?m not sure how much longer that will last. ?Is that what you want from me, Anakin? An admission? You are more powerful than I, Anakin.? I pause, and add, knowing this is somewhat suicidal, ?I meant it when I said you were a far greater Jedi than I.?
You suddenly seize my throat, choking me, and your anger...
But in a moment, you release me. You grimace, then you almost smile. ?I?m not going to kill you yet, Obi-Wan. You still have to live to see your Jedi Order fall, to see the end of everything, the beginning of everything.? There is an insane light to your eyes, Anakin, like you can see something that I cannot, something wondrous and frightening at the same time.
You still want something from me, Anakin, but I?m not entirely certain defeat is it.
Perhaps there is something wicked in brotherhood, some desire to hurt when hate takes the place of love.
You pause before leaving, looking at me.
What do you want from me, Anakin?
You enter with a determined look on your face.
You stop before me and pace back and forth, your yellowed eyes never leaving my face. You stare at me with an intensity I don?t understand, the source of which I don?t know.
Perhaps it is fear that drives you; it has lain coiled inside of you for as long as I can remember, and it was my own foolishness that made me think you had let it go. But fear of what, Anakin, in this place and now?
You step over to me and I almost flinch, but you reach for where my chains are locked to the wall, and yank. I don?t know what you did, but they immediately loosen and the chain becomes slack with extra length. I fall forward, then land on my side heavily, on my bad arm.
My breath leaves me as pain spikes, and despite myself I pant harshly against the dirty floor.
You stand over me.
?I need her,? and your words, Anakin, they?re guttural, like they?ve been torn from you. ?Don?t you love me, Master? Why won?t you help me find her??
Anakin, your desperation hurts me. That you would call me that, that you would go to this, to what I know you see as stooping so low ? ??Anakin ??
You kick me hard.
?You shouldn?t need her,? I gasp out, knowing it is foolish of me, but I don?t want to lie or offer false comfort, were you even worthy of it. ?You should love her, Anakin, a selfless love. A Jedi?s love. You should let go.
?I hate you,? you scream at me, and Anakin, it takes me back to that moment ?
?I?m so sorry,? I say helplessly.
When you leave, you?re practically running. If only I could do the same.
The chain is still attached to the wall, but the length means I can lay down. I lay on my back now, waiting for the pain in my arm to fade some. It was jarred, not broken again, so that is some relief. The Force quiets and calms me, and I let it fill me, bringing warmth to my arm and leg.
It makes me astonishingly glad to be able to lay down. I feel...thankful. And vaguely angry, though I let it go, I must let it go.
I?ve been thinking about you, Anakin. About your last words to me.
You say you need her, and your pleas to me were from that desperation. I wonder, Anakin, if that was what you wanted from me. For me to love you in that consuming fashion, in the love of a parent for his child, in the familial love of brother for brother.
I think...had I known, if I could have avoided this, I would have given that to you, and not kept it hidden within myself. We all have our faults, but if mine could have healed you, could have helped you, I would have made them a virtue.
Was that my failing, Anakin? I know I failed you, somehow. I failed you.
Now, it is too late, I would suppose. Just too late.
?I killed a Jedi today,? you tell me, satisfaction dulling the constant fury in your eyes.
I have little to witness, it appears, but the deaths of my family. You included. ?How is Leia??
Your satisfaction does not fade; it vanishes, and you look at me angrily.
?Do you play with her? Talk to her? Have you already begun to teach her ??
You walk up to me and kick my broken leg. It is more than enough to stop my words, and you stare at me as I gasp for air, grasp for control.
?When is love selfless, and when is it not?? I finally manage to say, because it?s important I say it, that despite all this I try to get through to you. I don?t like feeling helpless, Anakin. But I suppose you know that.
You glare at me darkly for a few moments, then you crouch beside me, not touching me. ?I killed him slow, myself. With my troops watching. He was young, younger than I am. You would have liked it, Obi-Wan. He was brave. He assured me that the Light would win, it was fate, it was balance,? you say to me, your voice soft. ?I cut off his legs first, Master.? I don?t want to hear this, Anakin. ?Then his hand.?
?Anakin,? I whisper to you.
?I told him if he called me Lord Vader, I?d make it quick,? you say ruthlessly. ?I lied. I cut off his other hand. Then just kept slicing, Obi-Wan, like chopping up food.?
You make me sick.
?I left the torso for last, so I could listen to his screams.?
Anakin, how can the Darkness blind so thoroughly? There were those that said the Dark Side was merely the Darkness in us, but I can?t believe that. It is easier for me to believe it blinds you, not that you have blinded and corrupted yourself. It is easier, my old Padawan, to believe that when I reach for the Light, it reaches back for me.
?He seemed so surprised. Not angry, just...surprised,? you finish. ?Like of all the ways...?
?It?s odd,? I say. ?I always thought I?d die with you by my side, though I could never explain why.?
You smile. ?I promise to strike the killing blow, Master.?
You leave. That?s when I let myself vomit.
You don?t say anything when you enter.
You?re in an unexplainable rage. I choose not to speak this time. I don?t think you could hear me anyway, right now. You pause, you stay still, and I wait.
I feel the Darkness fill you, rise up in you and become like a full being, and Anakin, how is this you?
I wonder, is this fury constant? What outside of this place makes you so angry? Is it Padm? eluding your grasp? Is it ?
The lightning flickers.
I think you have connected us, Anakin. The Darkness with which you hurt me seems to remain with me, an inch off my skin, waiting for me to weaken and fail.
You enter my cell and stare at me. Your eyes are not so yellow; I wonder if that changes with how deeply you are entrenched in the Dark Side.
You watch me, and there is something you want from me, something I don?t think you even know you want. You always hid so much from yourself; I suppose I should not be surprised that you are doing so now. But what is hidden from you, Anakin, is hidden to me.
Do you want to be happy, Anakin? To be loved?
Darkness can never be loved. Padm? knows that as surely as I.
?I did love you, Anakin,? I tell you.
You don?t seem surprised, but your eyes narrow. It was those words that I screamed at you, as I left you lying on those black sands, thinking the lava would take you. Should I be grateful it did not?
You turn and leave. I reach for the Force and try to heal.
I sense you coming well before you arrive. Your presence in the Force was always so vibrant, though sometimes clouded and muddled by feelings you could not let go. Even swathed in Darkness it still feels that way, and I have become used to that ever-present tinge of hate and anger.
You walk right up to me, and your movements are easy. I?m sitting, able to flinch away now with the chain longer, and it takes some effort for me to avoid doing so. You stand over me.
You take out your lightsaber and turn it on, casting your face in its harsh red glow.
Should I fight, Anakin?
I cannot sense your intent.
I would rather not die passively, but neither do I want to hasten my death with a foolish reaction. So I wait, watching you, wary.
You crouch so that we are at eye-level. I still can?t stand, my leg healing but not healed.
?I want to hurt you,? you say to me.
I nod slowly, carefully meeting your eyes.
?I wish you weren?t a Jedi, Obi-Wan. But since you?ve aligned yourself with them...?
?We never wanted to be your enemy, Anakin.?
?No,? and you smile. ?But you are nevertheless the enemy because of your teachings, your ways ? don?t lie to me, Obi-Wan. I know you were planning to commit even worse treason than you did.?
?And what would you call what you did to us, Anakin?? I whisper to you, horrified again. ?Betrayal or justice??
?Justice,? you say, and swing your lightsaber down as I flinch away, and for a moment I think you will cut off my limbs as I did yours, what a horrible symmetry that would be ?
But you only burn me, lightly touching my neck and shoulder. I cry out, falling back, closing my eyes, and then I hear your lightsaber shut off.
?There now,? you say hoarsely to me as I open my eyes. ?Now we?re both scarred.?
You walk out.
It?s a curious thing, Anakin, how we hurt each other. When you were frustrated with me, you would hurt me with words. When I was frustrated with you, I would hurt you with silence.
You enter quietly, your arms folded.
I meet your even gaze, surprised at your calmness, deceptive as it likely is.
?I do play with her,? you say harshly. ?And hold her. She?s my daughter. And Padm? is my wife.?
I look at you. Now I see hints of desperation, even confusion. ?I believe you,? I say at last.
?I don?t care if you do,? you snap and step over to kick me.
I back up and pull my uninjured leg up to protect myself, probably in vain, but you stop, ready to strike but choosing not to. Is it Padm? that doesn?t believe you? A momentary kindness done for selfish reasons doesn?t ease the Darkness in your soul, Anakin. It was always your motivation that concerned me when you were a child.
The fresh pain in your eyes tells me that you have spoken to her, Anakin, in some fashion.
Then you kick my injured leg. I groan in pain, and you watch me.
Then you turn and walk away.
Can Sith feel pain? Or do they lust too blindly for power?
It?s not a question I want to ask you, Anakin.
You enter and, without pause, come to me, and then strike me across the face quite hard.
I taste blood in my mouth. You kick me, and it?s a struggle to remain passive, knowing that any resistance on my part will only anger you further.
You kick me, and then again. The Dark Side is coiled inside of you, and when you grab me by my throat and push me against the wall, I don?t dare touch your hands because they?re covered in blue fire and it hurts.
The pain of a blade is so precise, and this...Anakin, please stop.
?It was you,? you hiss. ?You turned her against me.?
I try to reply, but it comes out as no more than a breathy gargle. You did that yourself, Anakin. What kind of woman did you think your wife was? She, in the end, had more loyalty to her principles than you did.
Loyal to people, Anakin, not principles. That?s you.
Ah, and everything blurs.
Who did I say that to, Anakin? I think it was Master Windu.
My vision is gone and I can?t feel, and am I falling?
Force lightning is harder to recover from than broken bones, I?ve discovered. My body aches constantly. My neck and shoulder are stiff and the burn is constant. Tiredness is ever present.
Or perhaps that is because of my captivity. How long has it been, Anakin? I?m weakening, Anakin, and the Dark Side seems to wait to strike the final blow. Will it be by your hand, as you swore to me?
I think so, old friend.
You are so quiet when you enter that it takes me a few moments to realize you are there. I open my eyes and look at you, waiting, almost anticipating.
?I hate you, Obi-Wan. I hate the Jedi. This is all your fault,? you say, your eyes touched with red. You?ve killed someone recently, Anakin. ?If you hadn?t forbidden...It was all about control, wasn?t it, Obi-Wan? Controlling your little disciples.?
?No, Anakin,? I say evenly. ?It was about self-control.?
You give a harsh, disbelieving laugh. ?And those that reached for control another way ? just cast out? Dishonored?? Your lips twist, and I feel your hatred. ?I guess Padm? and I always knew the Jedi would destroy us.?
No, Anakin. That was the Sith. That was Palpatine. My ignorance, my arrogance. I did fail you, Anakin. ?I failed you,? I tell you, but I?m not sure you?ll know what I mean by that.
?I won?t fail myself,? you say scathingly. ?I won?t make your mistakes. Already the Senate bows to my will.?
How many did you kill to get that cooperation, Anakin? To make your eyes blaze red?
?It?s only a matter of time,? you promise me, ?before I have it all. Before I can get Padm? to understand what it is I?m doing.? You smile. ?I have her now, Obi-Wan. I caught her.?
?So she?s a prisoner, then?? I query.
You lash out, much as I expected, and then wait for me to regain my breath.
You prod my injured leg. ?Tell me, Obi-Wan. Was it difficult, maiming me? Or was it just another of your Jedi duties??
I have a feeling my answer will determine whether I keep my limbs intact. I look at you for a moment, and I feel your impatience at my silence. ?I let go of my...attachment.?
?So you see, my old Master? It?s not compassion that you embrace, but cruelty,? and your smile is painful.
But that?s not true. It was not cruelty, Anakin. I had no choice. Yoda said...Yoda told me that you were gone, and I believed him. I believe him. I only hope that, by fighting you on Mustafar, I?ve weakened you and lessened your dark burden on the galaxy somewhat.
?You?re just like any other pathetic fool, Obi-Wan. Reaching for power ? all the Jedi did, while teaching cruelty from up high. You didn?t even reach for power well.??
You?ve been so twisted, Anakin. And you know me so well; your every word hurts me, because it is you saying it. How can I remember that you are not who you are, when I see the pain and confusion in your eyes, marks of a boy I once knew?
You?re learning cruelty, Anakin, but I hope not from me.
I say nothing, and you leave me.
You are leaving me alone, Anakin, and I wonder if you feel my torment, if you know the power of your words to me.
Was I wrong to do as I did, to go after you? You were and are a grave threat, but Yoda spoke to me of fighting the wrong battle with the Sith, and I...Love is the counter of hate, and Jedi love. But we let go of it. Is love still love when it can pass away?
I have no answer.
I sleep, eventually, and I dream: ?Could you kill me and love me at the same time, Master? That?s all I ever wanted of you.?
You come to me.
You arms are folded, and while you have entered, you don?t approach me. ??Where would the Jedi hide, Obi-Wan??
I look at you. ?Why does it matter? You have Padm?.? Not that I truly think that?s any reason for you to leave the Jedi alone.
?But I don?t have my son,? you say, and your voice is trembling, because your control over your rage is weakening.
Ah. So Padm? kept him from you. ?I don?t know, Anakin.?
?Not Anakin,? you hiss, but don?t pursue the matter.
There is a silence between us. You pace in front of me, and I know you detest showing that sign of indecision and nervousness. I breathe deeply, feeling the Dark Side press uncomfortably close. You are preparing yourself by stirring up your emotions, instead of letting them fade and allowing the Force take their place.
Though I can feel nothing physically, my breath becomes short. You stop pacing and stare at me, but there is more focus than rage in your eyes.
That, oddly, unsettles me.
I can?t breathe.
Then the pressure truly begins ? I feel pressure on my mind, but not just on my mind, also on my presence in the Force, my connection to the Light. A dim candle is easily blown out, but I will fight you, Anakin.
It is not just my knowledge you seek; it is my impressions, my connection to the other Jedi, my opinions and observations, all of which lead to a reasonable conclusion of where the Jedi are. Of where your son might be.
But I think Padm? was smart enough not to give your son to the Jedi, Anakin.
I will fight you.
I will fight you.
I fight you.
Can a battle be half won and half lost? Perhaps when it is of the mind...
?Nothing,? you snarl. ?There?s nothing. You are nothing,? you say to me. But there are tears in your eyes, Anakin. You are weeping.
I can?t give you what you want, Anakin. You want absolute control; absolute power, even over your family. None of us can have that, Anakin. Not even you.
You leave, and I almost call after you.
Why did you have the foresight to break one leg and one arm on each side of my body, Anakin? It makes lying down so uncomfortable.
It is the darkness in the Force that bothers me most about this place, but the physical darkness does not help. I find myself staring out at nothing. I can?t see anything. I suppose that?s just what darkness is.
Can I love you as the monster you are? For the pain I see, the conflict I feel, can I reach out and love you anyway? My love for Anakin, the boy I knew, has never ceased; but what you are now...
I think...I believe, Anakin, that I love you regardless.
You?re still Anakin. You are twisted and used and blackened, like the sands I left you on, but to say that you are dead is denial. You?re still here. I still love you. I will fight you, and if need be ? if I could, but I don?t believe that?s possible any longer ?? I will kill you. Because it is right, not simply because it is my duty. I cannot let go of what I am, I will not become anything else. But I can love you.
I know this will only hurt me. That I should let go of it, that I should give it up to the Force, to its will. But its will made you.?
I think this is what love is, Anakin. That which does not pass away.
Your breaths come quickly as you enter. You?re upset, over what I don?t know, however...You pace my narrow cell, walking the full length of it as I cannot. It is a curious thing, Anakin, how you do this, how you persist in showing me your uncertainty, as if I could soothe your worries away as I once did.
Tell me how to help you, Anakin. Help you as you need help, not as you desire it.
?You were with Padm? through childbirth.?
?Yes,? I confirm.
?Were they small? When they were born??
Surprised, I just stare you for a second, then I nod. ?All children are small,? I say softly.
?She?s very protective of Leia,? you say anxiously. ?She doesn?t even like me holding her. Why is that, Obi-Wan??
I pause, considering how to answer. ?You?ve killed children before, Anakin.?
You stare at me. ?Not my children.?
?Yes, yours,? I snap. ?As all of the children of the Temple were your family.?
?I did it for them,? you say lowly, your breath coming out as a hiss.
?You did it for power,? I say, knowing that I am provoking you. I love you, Anakin, but I can?t sit here and say nothing. This wasn?t what you were supposed to be.
You smirk. ?How do you know that, Obi-Wan?? You cock your head. ?It?s not as if you know what love is. Jedi don?t love, after all. They have no attachment.?
?Padm? evidently doesn?t agree with you on what love is,? I say evenly.
Your expression flattens, your eyes darken.
I wonder if I should regret my words, and then you walk out without saying another word.
There is no emotion; there is peace.
There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.
There is no passion; there is serenity.
There is no death; there is the Force.
This is what we strive for, Anakin. This is what you were supposed to strive for. And what do the words mean?
Is my love grounded in peace, in serenity? This is what I must strive for. Because I can?t let myself believe that all of you is dead.
You enter and stare at me. I watch your eyes; they have always revealed more than you intend. They are different, Anakin, and I am surprised. I see glints of blue, as if the sickening, the poisoning of your body and self has eased somewhat.
I am suddenly certain that is because of Padm?.
?How is Padm??? I ask softly.
Your eyes narrow; you are uncertain of my intent, for once. ?She is well,? you answer. ?As is Leia.?
There is something formal and controlled in your words, in your tone. I feel that this is the face you present as Emperor. You never did detest politics as much as I did, but I always thought that was your idealism speaking for you.
?Why are you here, Anakin?? I ask.
You frown at me. ?Why the concern for Padm?, Obi-Wan?? you ask at last. ?And Leia??
I pause to consider the question. There are two answers, one easy to define, one...less so. ?Because...it seems like they?re all I have left of you,? I say finally. ?Because they deserve to be cared for.?
?I?m more now than the man ? the Jedi ? that I was, not less,? you snarl, a growing anger in your eyes.
I shake my head. ?Then tell me, why have you lost all that you cared for??
?I haven?t ??
?I somehow doubt that Padm? has been totally accepting of your new Empire, given her loyalty to democracy.? One that she and I share, ironically.
You look down for a moment, clearly forcing yourself to have control. ?Why is she this way, Master? I love her.?
?I wish love were enough,? I whisper.
You step up to me and crouch to so you are at my eye level, your face twisted with controlled fury. In my sitting position, I lean forward, but you don?t flinch back, just watch me warily, still angry, always angry. I reach out, and I can hardly believe I?m doing this, but I reach out and touch your face, and you?re alive and warm. My chains are cold.
?I wish it were enough,? I reiterate.
You slap my hand away and sneer wordlessly, and then you rise to your feet.
?Don?t try to manipulate me,? you mutter, and leave.
The sensation is unusual enough that it wakes me; someone is near, and it?s not you. I sit up, and reach out with my senses, with the Force, struggling against the dark tide. I sense a mind, a controlled, focused mind, but one without much independence.
I?m suddenly breathing hard, tense and trying to reason, to calculate. My eyes are wide open, though I can see little, hardly even the dimensions of the cell. Could I control the trooper?s mind to escape? I reach out, then recognizing I am being foolishly tentative. If I am going to act, I must act swiftly and without hesitation, without gentleness.
And yet, what remains outside of this prison? I don?t know where the remaining Jedi are, and it would probably not be wise to be with them anyway ? why further endanger them through your wrath for me? I would have to get offplanet without being detected, without being sensed by you, and you still are very familiar with my presence in the Force.
I ease into the trooper?s mind, studying it. All troopers have certain common characteristics ? and trained behaviors that override all else, I can?t help but think, remember ? but each mind is subtly unique through the different experiences each has had.
Yes. I can manipulate this mind.
But should I?
Why do I feel such doubt, Anakin? Why does leaving you seem wrong? Why do I think of my stay here as willing, when all I am is...
I no longer know what I am to you, though. A prisoner, certainly, and oddly a sort of confessor, one who can judge but not act. A pitiful man? A Jedi? I know what you are to me, and I still glimpses of that Anakin I knew, shifted and molded into this horrifying mask of the Dark Side. Where does my power lie?
I suppose it has always been with you. When you truly fell, we were separated.
Should I leave you now? You were a strong Jedi, you should not have fallen. I trusted you not to fall, to do your duty, to fulfill the prophecy. To be the man I knew you to be, brave and loyal, with a good heart. How did I not know you still needed a guiding touch...or perhaps even less than that, a nudge, a reminder, no more? But do I comfort myself, in thinking your fall was so precarious, so undecided?
The clonetrooper is moving on, feeling oddly ashamed, as if caught where he shouldn?t be.
I let his mind go.
And I wait.
I am lightly dozing when you arrive.
You stare down at me, and I blink at you, struggling to wake fully. Your expression is fierce, but your gaze strangely flat.
?I killed the stormtrooper,? you say matter-of-factly. ?I?m sure you?re aware that I keep everyone away from here. Can?t mindtrick a droid, after all.? You pause, smiling. ?So tell me, Obi-Wan, was it fear that kept you from escaping??
?I don?t know what you mean,? I deny, staring into your eyes without flinching.
Your eyes narrow. ?So you deny your weakness?? The idea seems to amuse you.
?I do nothing of the sort,? I say evenly. It wasn?t weakness. What it was, entirely...you always followed your instinct, your heart, and that was something that the teacher learned from the student.
?You stayed,? you state darkly, and there is a hint of confusion in your eyes.
I almost speak, then stop myself, the only words I can think of not expressing my thoughts. So I nod.
You step over to me. ?Are you suicidal, Obi-Wan? I can?t really see that of you. I always thought you wanted to die fighting, not in a cell that you couldn?t leave because you were too afraid. Too afraid of me.?
?You think I fear what you can do to me?? I ask sharply. ?What is there left, Anakin? Tell me, Anakin! What is there left?? My voice rises, becomes unsteady. All I can fight for is what is left of you.
You rock back on your heels, momentarily startled by my emotion. Your face twists into a sneer, but I can tell it?s half-hearted. ?You?re just an old fool.?
?Perhaps I always was,? I say slowly.
You meet my gaze, and there is skepticism in your expression. ?Why, Obi-Wan??
Is that your refrain, Anakin? Do those that love you always confuse you so? You seem not to understand Padm??s refusal of you, though I don?t know how complete that truly is. The rightness of your decisions must be all so clear in your mind, for it to be so clouded to us.
I shake my head silently and close my eyes, taking a deep breath to quell the emotion rising within.
A scuffle and you?re here, next to me, and staring into my eyes as I finally gaze at you. ?Tell me. I demand you tell me.? But you don?t threaten.
?Because I wish love were enough,? I say softly. I wish you loved, Anakin, not in this desperate manner that consumes you utterly. All love is consuming, I suppose, but yours destroys more than it protects.
You stand up as if rejected, a kind of hopeless pain in your eyes. ?I love Padm?,? and the words almost seem to come from nowhere, but I know what you?re thinking of, that?s my Anakin I see in your blue eyes, tainted with yellow.
?Then love her more than you love anything else. Make it for her, Anakin. A selfless love.? As I hope mine is for you, for all that I want you back as you were, to the boy I knew, to the man I respected.
You shake your head, and your lips curl in derision. ?Don?t lecture me.?
You walk away, as you never did as my student ? as you never could, then.
I sigh and place my head in my hands, this gentle curling in on myself a comfort.
You enter silently and stare at me suspiciously. I rise from my position lying on the cell floor, and look at you.
You say nothing to me.
?Anakin?? I ask at last. More silence, and there is a growing emotion on your face that I can?t identify, some complexity that I am not used to seeing. I wonder if you will hurt me again; my leg is almost healed, but there are other ways to cause me pain that I remember distinctly.
You walk out.
I wake to someone coming, and it isn?t you, or a wayward stormtrooper.
It is a mind I recognize, a soothing warm presence. I rise to my feet, awkwardly on my sore ? but healed ? leg. The door opens, and it is Padm? standing there. She looks so different from when I last saw her. Thinner now, the curls of her hair tangled and in the way. She holds a bundle in her arms, and I step forward, but am stopped by my chains.
?Padm??? I whisper.
?Obi-Wan,? she returns, voice calm, but her breathing uneven. ?There isn?t much time. We have to go.?
This is an escape from you, Anakin. ?I can?t,? I blurt. ?He?ll know, he?ll sense it. You have to go, Padm?, run as far as you can.?
She shakes her head, and her jaw clenches as her eyes fill with tears. ?I need help, Obi-Wan. I can?t do this alone. I don?t know how to escape off a planet unseen ? I?m not a Jedi, I?m not a soldier.? She looks away briefly, and when she meets my gaze, there is a command there to obey.
I hesitate. I can?t hesitate. ?Do you know how to get these chains off??
?I think ? I think there?s a control,? she mutters, and almost moves off to go find it, distracted and fear in her eyes, but instead she pauses. She steps forward, holds Leia out to me, and I take her, this...perfect baby. Leia looks up at me and I look down at her, seeing brown eyes, but somehow your spirit.
I look up, but Padm? is gone.
I stare down at Leia, thinking of you. How did Padm? escape? How could that have escaped your notice? Do you already sense what is occurring? Your senses must be attuned to this place, for you to know when someone even wanders near. I am nervous and hopeful, but I can?t feel those things, this is dangerous, I wonder if Padm? realizes how dangerous. How close to the brink of breaking or shattering or...rebuilding you are, beyond what is recognizable to Padm? or I.
What should I do, Anakin? Once I stayed; now I hold a child in my arms, your child, but we who love you can?t trust you for that alone.
My chains abruptly go slack, and Padm? returns a few moments later, and there is no more hesitation in her step, some inner balance reached.
I reach out for the Force, for the Light and feel it reach back for me, and I wrap it around the three of us. There is no invisibility in using the Light Side, but it will muddle your senses, if you reach out with Darkness.
Padm? doesn?t reach for Leia, her hands trembling, and I carefully let the chains slip off my wrists, then nod to Padm?. She nods back, as if to assure herself of her own confidence, then she sets off, me following. We move slowly ? I am weak, my muscles unused, and Padm? walks with a strange uncertainty. I don?t know how to get out of this place, but I assume that she does.
?How did you escape?? I ask.
Padm? shakes her head, ?My ? my handmaidens, they were working with some Senators.? Bail, I automatically think. ?They were careful, never coming when Anakin was around...?
?Luke is safe?? I ask, desperate in my own way.
?Yes,? she sighs, and smiles, glancing back at me.
We are running from you, Anakin. Would you realize, will you realize, that I don?t love you any less for that?
I almost ask her if she still loves you, but I see the pain in her eyes as she glances around for marks she has memorized in these dark halls, and I know I have my answer. She begins to run, her gait as unsure as mine, but I sense that even still my body is more accustomed to this than hers.
Then I sense you.
You are alone. Deliberately, I sense. But we are still in this prison, inside these blank walls and blank doors. I reach out for Padm? and she stops running. She?s breathing hard, clearly weak.
?He?s coming,? I say. ?Are you all right??
She shakes her head in dismissal, but there is a helplessness in her eyes. ?We can?t get out??
?No.? I wish. I wish.
She nods. ?Luke is safe,? she says, looking at me. Her skin is pale, she looks so fragile, but behind that I sense her renewing her strength, her will to live on. This is not the end, not for her. ?Safe,? she murmurs, and steps close to me, touching Leia?s face. Leia is awake, but not upset, and I feel her clumsily reaching out in the Force.
It?s startling, Anakin, how much she feels like you when you were young.
Now you are furious. Your rage burns in the Force, and I instinctively reach out for Padm? and Leia, trying to shield them, be a break in the wave of your fury.
I turn, and you?re standing there.
I see betrayal in your eyes, rage ready to be obeyed in the fact you hold your lightsaber in your hand. I wonder if you feel betrayed by both of us, or if only Padm??s escape hurts you, surprises you.
You don?t speak for a long moment. Then you turn to Padm?. ?How could you do this to me, Padm??? you whisper.
?Because I want our children to be safe,? Padm? says, her voice shaking, but outrage in her eyes. ?Because I wanted our children to be safe from you. Look at what you are, Anakin, look!?
Your lightsaber snaps on. ?Give me my daughter,? you demand, turning to me, deliberately turning away from Padm?.
I exhale slowly, unsure of what to do. I turn to Padm?, and hold Leia out to her.
?No,? Padm? says, looking at me, then glaring at Anakin. ?If you kill Obi-Wan, you will have killed family. Will you kill my daughter? My son??
She says what I do not dare.
But she is your wife, Anakin, and you stare at her, and you look so absolutely helpless, because what you demand is only worth something when freely given. ?I love you,? you say. ?I love our children. How could I not love our children??
?How did you stop loving freedom, Anakin? The Jedi? Will your love for us pass away one day, in some decision of our imperfection?? Padm? whispers. She holds out her hand, and you stare it as if it unfathomable.
You step back, confusion running rampant ? I can sense it, Anakin, your control is shattered. Your control was always shattered by Padm?, and now I see that this is not a bad thing. The influence of those around us, Anakin, those that love us and those that we love...How often did I strive to be a greater Jedi because of my love for my Master? Or yours for me, as the father you always wanted?
?How long do you expect her to stay, Anakin?? I ask. ?To love when she is not certain of your love for her, when everything that she knew about you is gone or twisted??
?Shut up,? you snarl. ?You don?t know anything.? Your grip on your lightsaber shifts, as it did when you were my Padawan and I would warn you about showing your intent - where you are going to swing, how you intend to attack...
?I love you,? Padm? says, her voice breaking. ?But you?ve broken my heart. What am I to do, Anakin? I don?t know you anymore.?
?You don?t understand,? you insist, briefly glaring at me, then returning your gaze to Padm?. ?You don?t understand,? you plead. ?I have power now. Power to save you, power to do what is right.?
?Power to consume you, to blind you,? I interrupt, reckless now.
?Why can?t you see?? you shout, the rage in your voice equally matched with pain. ?I have tried ??
?I don?t believe you, I don?t believe you,? Padm? says, her voice low. Your fury builds at her words, at her further attack of you. You reach out as you did on Mustafar, and Padm??s hands go to her throat.
?Anakin, stop!? I yell. ?Please, Anakin.?
Padm? gasps for air.
?Anakin, you can?t love and hurt what you love,? I say desperately, and I?m tightening my hold on Leia, hoping I can protect this small child. Can your own child enrage you? I never saw glee on your face when you killed the initiates, but Anakin...
You let Padm? go. She breathes deeply, massaging her neck, but there is something steady in her eyes now. ?How can I love you?? she mutters, and a tear slips down her cheek.
?Anakin, if all this is true, if what you say is true, then you haven?t lost the reason you were fighting for,? I say. ?If all that remains, reach out, Anakin. Reach out to her and your child with your love for them, if you love them.?
?I don?t have to ?? you snarl.
?Prove it to her, Anakin,? I insist, looking at Padm?, who looks back at me with desperate, uncertain hope in her eyes. Speak, the emotions in her eyes almost seem to say. Say what needs to be said.
You look at Padm?.
All this weighs on how much you love her; whether, indeed, you still love her at all, or if only desperate need remains.
I feel the Force shift as you touch it, as it comes to you as easily as it always has. You touch Padm??s mind, and though I know she can sense nothing of this beauty in silence, that which is the Force, I feel emotions rising in her. Love, hope, uncertainty, fear.
You shut your lightsaber off, but I don?t move. I don?t dare move. Leia is still and silent in my arms, her eyes wide and her fear oddly quiet.
You step forward, to Padm?. She seems unafraid in this, and I admire that. She reaches out to you, her hand open, and you take it. But the Force does not tell me what I want to hear, what I hope to sense. Still, you teeter on this precarious moment, and I wonder, was that all it was, Anakin? Was your fall determined by the slightest movement, the barest fraction of uncertainty?
Can you fall back to us, Anakin?
Your mind alights on Leia?s. You squeeze Padm??s hand, and look at Leia.
Your eyes fill with tears, tears of regret. Helpless love flails from your mind, and I gasp aloud at the force of it. Padm? stares at the both of us, breathing hard in near panic, in near hope.
Selfless love, Anakin.
Your surrender crashes into the Force, and you collapse. Padm? falls with you, holding onto you, and you cry into her arms, as she doesn?t hesitate to stroke your face and kiss you, and love you.
You reached for the Light in your love, Anakin, but you never thought it would reach back. You grasp it weakly and clumsily, seeking comfort from it, and Padm? tries to soothe you to calmness. This is more than what you wanted, Anakin, it is what you needed.
I kneel beside you, and you reach out. I take your hand, and you squeeze it so tightly it hurts, but I don?t care. I hold Leia in one arm and you in the other.
It is a precarious hold you have on the Light, that I sense, but there is something solid for you to hold onto: Padm? and Leia. Your son, soon, I suspect. And I think, there is emotion now, later there must be reason, because reason guides when emotion is out of control, and you must learn that as you didn?t ? couldn?t? ? as a Jedi, to hold to reason as well as love, as well as Padm?.
But no. Meaningless, I think. My thoughts are fractured, out of control, these are merely snippets of plans and dreams. You are crying and holding onto me, and I can?t help but weep. You are the man that I respect, the boy I raised, and I love you. I love you.
I hope now. I hope.
Original cover by obaona. HTML formatting copyright 2005 TheForce.Net LLC.