My son?s grief-stricken face faded from me, and I wept in death for that grieved look in his eyes. He feared losing me, feared losing what he had just found. As my sight blurred to darkness, I watched as that fear relinquished itself to the reality of grief - and I grieved with him, not for my death but for his loss.
I opened my eyes to something different, my vision and senses only expanding on the moment of death. I felt the Force take me and fill me with its grace and power. I had no form, but I existed as a thing of energy, sentience and thought. And yet I was aware of my surroundings in such a way that it did not matter that I was dead, that I shouldn?t be able to see - I simply knew my surroundings to be what they were. I felt very odd - gray, old, and much too weak.
My emotions were still in turmoil, even though I had gained acceptance in my son?s forgiveness. I wanted to remember that moment forever - my son had set me free with that simple act; he had set me free from years of slavery to the Dark Side. And the fact that he was able to forgive me, after all I had done, made me realize that my son was a Jedi. He was the last of the Jedi, but he had been taught well, and I knew the Order would not die with him. My son would never turn to the Dark, would never abuse his powers - he was a Jedi.
I was in a forest, though the vibrant colors I would have expected were muted and changed. Otherwise, I could see every detail, from the smallest pebbles on the moist soil, to the tiny plants that sprang forth from the ground. Instead of seeing the forest - I saw the Force within it. I saw the energy illuminated upon everything, within everything and binding everything.
In the next moment, I found myself in a body. My own body, as it would have been had I not fought with my Jedi Master and fallen - and I was no longer young. I felt none of the aches or pains I had felt in life, only light sensations such as a breath of air, or the faint pressure of my feet on the ground, and a feeling of sensing beyond what my body physically should. I touched the Force in a way that I never had in life, that I never could have before. I reached out, to experience it more clearly.
Obi-Wan Kenobi?s presence in the Force was something I could never forget. It was bright, fiercely controlled energy distilled into a sea of calm, in the way of the Jedi. It was like a snarl undone, every thread in its place.
I turned around to see him. Distance had no real meaning, not anymore, but he wasn?t close enough to . . . touch. He looked as I had last seen him, strangely and shockingly old, with white hair and lines in his face that spoke of both joy and sorrow.
His face bore the gentlest smile.
?Master,? I said, more of a breath than a word. The title came so easily, as if twenty years had not separated us from that reality.
?Hello, Anakin,? he said, just as softly. He wore the Jedi robes I had last seen him wear, rough and old, weathered by years of use. His voice was different - less accented, more soothing, yet rougher than I had remembered. His blue eyes twinkled with kindness - and that was no different from what I had known as a young boy, not at all.
I knew well the tone of voice in which he spoke. That tone that he had used to soothe away the nightmares and frustrations of a young boy. That tone he had used to gently admonish and teach.
With a benevolent look he opened his arms, and I fell into them, distance having no meaning - I was not close enough to touch, and then I was. He felt frailer in some ways and stronger in others. Different. And I, too, felt different. The Force had given me the form of what I would have looked like.
He hugged me tightly, then let me go, taking hold of my shoulders instead. I looked into his eyes, seeking some kind of absolution.
?I never hated you, Anakin,? Obi-Wan told me, eyes bright. I don?t know how he knew my thoughts, but it seemed right that he did - as if he had a right to them. And that thought didn?t disturb me at all.
?I gave you reason.? I paused, but I could not ignore the past, act as if it didn?t happen - and some degree of honesty pushed me to speak. I saw clearly now what I had done, the darkness I had encouraged and brought into myself because of my pain, none of that distorting my vision anymore, or distorting the truth. ?I killed you, Master. I cut you in half!?
He looked at me, his blue eyes serious. ?I know, Anakin,? he said softly, meeting my eyes with an almost careful look, as if cautious of his words. ?I can remember looking at you, wondering if it was really you in that armor. When I raised my lightsaber, I can?t say I expected you to not take advantage and strike me down, but in some way, I was surprised you did.?
I let out my breath with a hitch, almost a sob. The grip on my shoulders tightened, and I struggled to speak. ?I am sorry. You were a good teacher - I loved you - love you - like a father. You were the only one I ever had. I wish . . .?
He laid a hand on the side of my face. It felt strange, to feel something other than the soft breeze of my respirator - or my tears, as I had cried when my son held me, unwilling to let go. ?It ended well, Anakin.? He smiled. ?That does not mean your crimes were nothing, but it does mean something.?
?To you?? I asked, not sure quite sure if I wanted the answer.
He cocked his head, his expression gentle, and let his hand drop. ?Yes, to me. And to others.? He smiled again, very gently as if he was afraid I would break under the force of his kindness. ?You have never had to ask for my forgiveness - you have long had it, young one.?
I couldn?t help my smile. To have Obi-Wan?s forgiveness - even, I dare say it, his love - was a gift. Then my smile faded, under the power of my own memories. ?But I failed you and your teachings - I did . . . horrific things, to you and to the Jedi.?
He shook his head slowly, flickers of pain and regret lighting in his eyes, only to subside under acceptance. ?It doesn?t matter now, Anakin. The past is the past, and it cannot be undone. I regret not seeing what was happening to you earlier, but I don?t regret a moment of time I spent with you.?
Surely I must have wept, if one can weep within the Force.
He squeezed my shoulders. ?You are a Jedi, Anakin, as you once were. And it brings joy to me that you are with us.?
I turned my head, sensing something beyond the flickers of life, the ever-varying changes within the Force. In a moment, that slight feeling surged, becoming a clear presence, and I saw Yoda. I let out my breath suddenly, harshly. The spry old Jedi Master was frailer then I had remembered, his green form bent within his robes. I knelt before him, as I had done on many occasions when I was young - and not touched by darkness.
?Returned, you have,? Yoda said simply. ?Gladdens my heart to see you well, it does.? And he tapped my shin with his stick. His ancient eyes that had seen so much death and misery - with much of it due to me - shone only with acceptance. As Obi-Wan had said, I was a Jedi once again, even broken as I was. I nearly wept again at that simple acceptance, and the joy of being with my adopted family.
I felt an arm go around my shoulder, gently lifting me from my kneeling position. I got up, slowly, feeling strange in the Jedi robes I wore. It was very different from the harsh, restricting armor I had known for so long. Obi-Wan let his arm drop, and turned away from me, Yoda moving to his side and following his action. Puzzled, I did the same.
I felt the Force shift around us, changing. I could sense that Obi-Wan and Yoda were causing it, to a certain degree. I was being carried along; my inexperience with death rendering me unable to act. I looked out at the rich forest, full of life, transformed into a village of some kind. Fires lit the area, and the faces of Rebels before us were full of jubilance.
I saw my son, standing alone, leaning against a tree. My son - a son I had never known. Obi-Wan had taken him away, but in doing so he gave my son a gift I never could have. He gave him a normal life, and parents that loved him dearly: my stepbrother and his wife. But he was my son. He looked almost as I had last seen him, in his black clothing with his lightsaber clipped to his belt. His blond hair shone faintly in the light, but the look of peace on his face was what drew my eyes. Then he looked up - and his face froze for a moment in recognition, gentling into a smile. His sister - my daughter - came up to him and hugged him tightly, looking up at him with chocolate eyes, and he smiled down at her, embracing her in return.
Then he smiled at me, just slightly with a look of contentment filling his face.
And I smiled back.
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