It was a forest.
Not just a stretch of dirt paths, lined by stones, with a few trees and shrubs.
It was a forest fully grown. A spectacle of nature, covered in thick, dewy grass. When he looked up, the sky was barely visible, smothered by massive, twisting branches of leaves.
Thin streams of light broke through, shining down on his shadowed face. It was so bright his instinctive reaction was to turn quickly away?but darkness ruled the Universe, it seemed?and pure light was sorely missed.
It caressed his forehead, his cheeks, his dimpled chin. The warmth stroked his neck, craned and aching.
It caressed him, as it always had.
Obi-Wan stood there a long moment, arms limp at his side, fingers barely peeking from under his billowing shirt sleeves.
Those fingers curled up, as if to touch the worn, brown fabric of his cloak?but instead were confronted by the coarse fabric of his rumpled, periwinkle tunic.
And, as easily as he had slipped into the thoughtless trance, he shifted to awareness, though the distant gleam never quite left his sea-painted eyes.
Anyone who studied the bearded man with more than a passing glance would have detected, on some level, the faraway glaze that coated Obi-Wan-Ben- Kenobi's eyes. He appeared to always be searching for something--or someone. With every downward sweep of sooty lashes, it was almost as if?he were in pain.
He knew that well.
Obi-Wan walked on, black leather boots making small indents in the soft, moist blades. His gray leggings hung a bit loosely on him, but still provided an outline of his muscled form. The material clung to his right calf in one spot, where dark and sticky maroon seeped through.
The wound could have happened in any number of ways. A snag on a thorn bush, nick by a sharp stone. Anything.
But it was minor. He didn't feel the discomfort.
These days, it was dangerous to allow the numbing balm to ebb. It was dangerous to feel.
He raised a hand, trembling fairly, to his chest, laying his palm to his heart. He sealed his eyes as he waited for the tightness in his throat to pass.
Eventually, it did. Sometimes it took awhile, but it always did.
He journeyed forth, until the broad bands of sunlight were reduced to meager remnants, tinted pink and violet, casting a gentle incandescence on the forest.
Obi-Wan was far into the maze of trees and vines now. He stopped when he caught sight of a bed of wildflowers, growing around a deeply creased trunk.
He actually smiled, falling to his knees, like a graceful dancer sliding to the slick stage floor, with luminous perfection.
He reached around to open his pack.
Calmly, looking for all the world like a young sage in the midst of sacred ritual, he removed tiny, cream-colored candles, and lined them around the mass of blooms.
Then, Obi-Wan produced a single match, igniting it with a brisk scrape across the looming tree.
He leaned toward the first candle, which was significantly smaller than the others. Melting down, dribbles of wax dried in a ring. He placed the flame to the tender wick, and watched the flickering glow silently.
The name was a soothing, but harsh, whisper in his mind. Just to think of it was to suffer a flare of the eternal ache to the very core.
But at the same time, it spoke of a simpler time, when only fringes of evil touched the races, and he had someone to laugh with, to lean and cry on their shoulder?to love.
Tears were coursing down his rough cheeks now. He made no move to wipe them.
Obi-Wan shuddered faintly, and inhaled, moving to the second.
The pain assaulted him again. During the first stage of the Temple siege, the lanky Knight was running with a shrieking initiate tucked under his arm, and couldn?t dodge a falling pillar. His back and neck were shattered. The child wiggled out from beneath him, unharmed.
An initiate that could have been his dear friend's Padawan, if things had been different. If fate wasn't so cruel and unsparing.
There were so many to light. Companions, teachers?
His eyes drifted to the darkening horizon. Not a student. There is no candle for him.
He blinked, and bitter rivers made their descent. I wish there was. I wish---the light could be his remembrance.
Anakin Skywalker wasn't dead. His heart beat with the furious hatred of a Sith, a demon who struck his own Order with a wicked, malicious hand. Who nearly killed his bewildered, injured mentor, in a ragged and weaponless battle. Who relented at the last second, drawing back, panting, sweat a sheen on his reddened face.
He couldn't do it then.
Now, a few years later, the disdain had undoubtedly festered in Anakin.
At this moment, he would have murdered Obi-Wan Kenobi without hesitation.
Truthfully, Obi-Wan wasn't sure if he would, at this moment, stop him.
The droplets of fire crackled, returning him to his task.
There were seventeen of them, burning brilliantly in the dusk.
One sat, fresh and flawless. Waiting.
Obi-Wan sniffled, stretching to give blazing life to the cool wick.
Then, he rolled back to rest on his heels.
She had escaped the nightmare holocaust of the Temple, fleeing to some obscure planet, as all the survivors were forced to. The compassionate Mon Calamarian lasted four months before they discovered her hideaway. A cave now stained with her blood.
He was tempted to collapse, to crumple to the ground and sob for his slain family?for his dead life.
But he sat upright, back curved slightly, keeping vigil over the collection of flames.
The changing colors of the sky were dimming, to usher in another night. The wind rustled the leaves, and rippled his shirt, disturbing the soft ginger strands so that they dangled in his face.
Obi-Wan brought a hand to his mouth, eyes clenched shut.
I will not cry. I will mourn them?but I cannot cry anymore. Pain shot through his quivering body. I can't?or I'll never stop.
For a few minutes, he struggled against the welling torment in his chest, against the unbidden sobs.
He felt trickles on his neck, and gasped, snapping his head up.
Rain was pouring onto the silent forest, soaking the grass and weighing down the leaves.
Obi-Wan, wide-eyed, pivoted back to his makeshift memorial, fear gripping him. No. The candles?
But they continued to shine through the onslaught, unwavering. A golden dome encased them, almost translucent?unmistakably of the Force.
Obi-Wan's hair was plastered to his head, and water rolled down his face, tracing the line of his beautiful jaw before dripping to his thighs.
The wildflowers were protected by the radiant shield. Yet, he could see them glistening with moisture.
Obi-Wan rubbed his eyes, and studied them more intently.
Yes. Beads of wet clung to the fragile petals.
And Obi-Wan smiled, despite the pain threatening to overwhelm him.
In the midst of this secluded twilight, it seemed nature, Heaven, was offering its tears?for one who could not bear to release his own.
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