Anakin and Luke Skywalker

Do Little Jedi Dream of Sith Lords?

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Type: A/U
Rating: PG
Summary: Set in an AU universe where Anakin never turned to the Dark Side. Little Luke starts to dream about a man in black with a mask, a cape, and a strange breathing, who's trying to hurt him. What do those dreams mean?
Acknowledgments: Thank you, Fiona, my wonderful beta.
 
 
 
 
 
 

"Daddy! Daddy!" a little boy’s frightened voice called out. "Daddy, please!"

A few seconds later, the door of the child’s room slid open, and a tall and muscular young man rushed to the little bed, sat down on it and wrapped his arms around the small bundle who reached out to him desperately.

"Shhhhh, it’s all right, Luke. It’s all right, little one. Daddy’s here," Anakin rocked the trembling form, caressing it lovingly, pressing it to his chest and soothing the fear emanating from the small body.

"It was him again, Daddy! He was chasing after me, and I fell... and then he raised his red saber and pointed it at my face. He wanted to hurt me!"

Anakin dropped soft kisses all over the top of the blond head, holding it ever closer to his heart.

"No one will hurt you, Luke. No one! Mommy and I will not allow it."

Luke clung to his father’s light top, burying his face in it.

"But he’s always in my dreams, Daddy! With that scary mask and... and... his breathing is... is..."

"It’s only a nightmare," Anakin explained once again. "We all have them. They’re ugly ghosts and shadows, but they disappear when we open our eyes. They can’t hurt us. Only when we let them get a grip on us." The young man reached down and wiped away the tears on his son’s cheeks with his thumb.

"You promise?" Luke’s big blue eyes sought his father’s in the darkness, looking for the reassurance only a parent could provide.

Anakin met his son’s gaze, promising a world of safety in his equally blue depths.

"I promise," he bent forward and kissed Luke’s eyelids. "You should go back to sleep now, before you awaken your sister." He smiled and nodded to the bed next to his son’s.

Anakin helped his child back into bed and tucked him snugly.

"Daddy," Luke whispered.

"Yes?"

"Could you stay until I fall asleep again? Please?" A tiny hand peeked out from beneath the covers, looking for him.

Anakin took the little hand in his own and knelt down beside the bed.

"For as long as you need me, little one," he brought the small hand to his lips and kissed it. The fingers of his other hand combed through the soft strands tenderly, comfortingly.

"I love you, Daddy," Luke let out in a peaceful sigh.

"And I love you, my little angel," Anakin’s heart constricted and his eyes began to mist. Something inside him ached every time his children proclaimed their love for him. It was as if a part of him didn’t think he deserved it. Shaking off the irrational notion, he edged closer and touched Luke’s nose with his own. They rubbed them together until the little boy dissolved into a fit of helpless giggles, as he always did every time they played their private little game.

It only took a few minutes for Luke to fall asleep. Still, Anakin stayed a little longer, making sure that no more nightmares haunted his son’s sleep. He sent loving thoughts to his child through their mental link before rising to his feet and tiptoeing out of the room after checking on his daughter too. She seemed undisturbed by her brother’s dreams.

 

 

"Another nightmare?" Padme asked when Anakin joined her in bed.

Anakin nodded, lying down and holding his wife in his arms.

"The big man in black, with the mask, the cape and the strange breathing?"

"Yes." Anakin looked through the half-closed blinders, at the city outside.

"I’m worried about him, Anakin. This is getting out of hand. We should do something."

"I’ll talk to Obi-Wan tomorrow. Maybe there’s something to this that we can’t see."

"Do you think it could be a vision? A premonition?" Padme rose on her elbow and placed her other arm on her husband’s chest.

"I don’t know. But we’ll find out." Anakin’s gaze turned to her and, lifting his head from the pillow, he kissed her lips softly. "Let’s go back to sleep or we’ll be dead on our feet tomorrow."

Snuggling up to each other, they closed their eyes.

 

 

Anakin crossed the entrance of the Jedi temple. It had been months since he had last stepped in there, but it never failed to overwhelm him with its magnificence. Wisdom and peace dozens of centuries old permeated every corner of the building.

He walked through the immense hall until he reached the veranda, where fifteen younglings received the patient training of Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi.

On feeling his former padawan’s presence, Obi-Wan turned about, and a lively smile illuminated his features. His hair and beard were slightly grayer than the last time they had seen each other, but his blue eyes sparkled youthfully.

"Anakin!" he greeted the newcomer, turning off his lightsaber.

Anakin smiled back at him.

"Good morning, master."

"To what do we owe the honour of your visit?" Obi-Wan asked, squeezing Anakin’s forearm warmly.

"I could use some help from a friend."

Obi-Wan noticed the worry in Anakin’s eyes, and with a silent nod, he turned to the younglings.

"We are taking a break, children. Wait for me here."

"Yes, master Kenobi," a chorus of child voices replied.

 

The two old friends contemplated Coruscant’s skyline from the terrace, enjoying the morning breeze blowing on their faces.

"Is everything all right?" Obi-Wan asked conversationally, squinting at the sunlight.

"Quite all right." Anakin said, staring at the Senate’s dome in the distance where Padme had to be this very moment.

"The children’s birthday is coming up soon, isn’t it?"

"Next month," a little smile of pride and love lit up Anakin’s face.

"Six, right?"

"Seven." Anakin corrected.

"Seven already! Force, I feel so old!"

Anakin’s smile widened at his former master’s running joke. But the reason for his visit erased the smile from his lips.

"What’s wrong, Anakin?" Obi-Wan turned to his friend and focused all his attention on him.

"It’s Luke." Anakin said after a pause.

Obi-Wan winced at the concern in the young man’s voice.

"He’s been experiencing recurrent nightmares for the past few weeks." Anakin bowed his head a little, and looked down at his interlaced fingers on the rail. "At first it was once, twice a week at most. But lately, it’s happening almost every night, and the nightmares are getting more and more disturbing."

"Many children go through a phase of very intense and vivid nightmares during their childhood. And one day, they disappear as suddenly as they appeared," Obi-Wan offered.

"I know, and that’s what we thought at the beginning. But now I’m not so sure. It’s the same nightmare over and over again. A man dressed in black, wearing a mask and a cape, and with a strange breathing is chasing after him, with the intention of hurting him."

"Not very different from the nightmares of millions of children all over the galaxy, Anakin," Obi-Wan reassured.

"In other circumstances I would agree with you. But last night was different."

"In what way?"

"Last night, the man in black was brandishing a red lightsaber."

Obi-Wan’s eyebrows shot up.

"Still, it doesn’t have to mean something necessarily," the Jedi master tried to reason. "You’ve brought the children here quite a few times, and they’ve seen us train with our lightsabers. They’ve seen you use your lightsaber occasionally."

"I know." Anakin’s body seemed carved into stone. Only his flashing eyes revealed that he was flesh and blood. "But I fear it could be a premonition of some kind. You know Luke’s inherited my..."

"Gift?"

Anakin snorted and let out a sarcastic grin.

"I would hardly call it that, since all my premonitions have been about death and destruction."

A short silence followed.

"Do you want to bring Luke here to receive some counseling?" Obi-Wan suggested. "Maybe it could help him to get some control over his nightmares, and make some sense out of them."

"I don’t know," Anakin sighed. "This has escalated so quickly..."

"Anakin," Obi-Wan broached the subject for the umpteenth time in the last few years. "You cannot allow your highly Force-sensitive children to remain untrained. Their minds can’t cope with their abilities. They need guidance, they have to build up their minds to be able to handle..."

"No, master," Anakin shook his head adamantly. "I am training them, my way, the way I feel is best for them."

"And do you think that your way will be enough in the long run?"

"There are no certainties in this life, but I don’t want to make the same mistakes..." realizing what he was about to say, Anakin’s voice faded away.

"...that we made in your training?" Obi-Wan finished for him matter-of-factly.

Anakin looked away and closed his eyes.

"I..." he took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts together. "I’m not blaming you, master. Believe me. I don’t blame anyone for my near fall. I am responsible for my actions and my wrong choices." He sighed again, opening his eyes. "But I learned my lessons. Being a father opened my eyes to so many things! It gave me the self-awareness and perspective I always needed." He looked at Obi-Wan straight in the eye. "I only have my love and my instinct to guide me, but somehow, I know they’re guiding me right."

Obi-Wan smiled despite himself. Fatherhood had indeed given Anakin the focus and stability he had needed all his life. Right after the traumatic events that almost brought down the Republic and the Jedi, Anakin had confessed his secret marriage to Senator Padme Amidala, and the fact that they were about to become parents. Then, Anakin made one of the biggest decisions of his life. He abandoned the Order for good.

The Jedi master often meditated about the chain of events that had transpired all those years ago. It seemed unbelievable that everything had turned out for the best, when so many things could have gone wrong.

Master Yoda was particularly meditative and introspective every time they discussed the matter. Something seemed to disturb him greatly, but not even Yoda knew why.

In the end, it didn’t matter.

"If there’s something I’ve learned since I met you, it’s to trust your instincts, Anakin," Obi-Wan smiled affectionately.

Anakin smiled at his friend’s words, gratefully.

"Thank you, master." He was silent for a second before plunging ahead and saying the words he should have said long ago. "You didn’t fail me. No one failed in my training." He shrugged. "The fact that I’m full of midi-chlorians doesn’t mean that I was made for this life. Deep down, I always knew that no matter how hard I tried, I would never be one of you. Master Yoda was right all along."

Obi-Wan’s features softened, infinitely grateful in his turn for the words that he so had needed to hear.

"I value all the years I spent here, all the things I was taught. Never think that I don’t. You were my family, this was my home all those years, until I found a home of my own, with Padme first, and with Padme, Luke and Leia now." His face shone with love and inner peace. "This is what I was always meant to be. This was my true Destiny."

Obi-Wan closed his eyes and nodded.

 

 

"Master Luke, Master Leia, have you finished your homework?" 3PO asked his two little masters, entering the children’s bedroom and putting a tray with two glasses of juice on the table.

"I have, Threepio!" Leia jumped to her feet and grabbed her glass in one sweep of her arm, almost spilling its content. Her long pony-tails moved up and down, mirroring the little girl’s excitement.

"And you, master Luke?" the golden droid asked the blond-haired boy, who seemed quite busy, head bent over his notebook, the tip of his tongue sticking out in an unconscious gesture, completely focused on his slow writing.

"Almost... there, Threepio," he mumbled absent-mindedly.

"Dinner will be ready in one hour," 3PO announced, unaware of the fact that the two children still couldn’t tell the time. "Your father just called. He’ll be bringing one special guest for dinner."

"Who?! Who’s coming with daddy?" Leia asked.

"He said it was a surprise, and I wasn’t to tell you," 3PO replied, sounding a bit subdued. Keeping information, even as harmless as this, didn’t seem right for some reason. After all, one of the duties of a droid was providing information to their masters, especially when asked so directly.

"I know who’s coming," Luke said with a little smile, raising his head from his notebook.

"How do you know?" Leia turned to her brother, her upper lip stained with juice.

Luke touched his left temple with his forefinger in answer.

"Yeah, sure. Bluffing again," Leia said disdainfully.

"I don’t...!" Luke began. Then, he sighed out loud. "I’ll tell you just before they come, all right?" he compromised.

Leia smiled to herself. She knew how to play her brother like a violin. Luke had an amazing ability to know some things before they happened, just as she seemed to know when something was wrong, or right, just by touching people. It was becoming more and more difficult for her to control her gift. It was almost painful sometimes, and she was unconsciously refraining from touching people lately, just in case she picked up painful or disturbing things.

Their father had told them to come to him when they had problems with their gifts and didn’t know how to handle them. Maybe she should tell him.

Luke grabbed his glass from the tray and took a long sip.

"Wanna practise with the sticks?" Leia asked.

"Yeah," Luke nodded.

One heartbeat later, the two children burst out of the room so fast that if he could, Threepio would have blinked in astonishment at the empty room.

 

Leia and Luke were helping Threepio to set the table in the dining room when Padme walked in, smartly dressed.

"Children, your father will be here shortly with our guest. Why don’t you go and change your clothes now?"

"Okay, mommy!"

A gust of wind followed the children out of the room.

"Why can’t they just walk?" Padme wondered for the fifth time that evening.

 

"Are you gonna tell me now who’s coming?" Leia asked her brother, slipping into a light green dress, with little blue knots on top of the straps.

"I don’t know. Maybe I should keep you waiting some more..." Luke wriggled his eyebrows mischievously while fastening his cream-coloured bottoms.

"Oh, c’moooooon!" Leia pouted, hands on her hips.

"All right, all riiiiight," Luke mimicked, rolling his eyes exaggeratedly. "It’s Obi-Wan."

"Uncle Obi-Wan?" Leia’s face lit up. "Oh, that’s great! We haven’t seen him in ages!"

"Yeah," Luke agreed, smiling.

 

 

"Hello, Threepio," Anakin greeted his droid, getting off the speeder.

"It’s good to see you again, Threepio," Obi-Wan smiled at the golden droid, stepping into the terrace.

"I’m very happy to see you too, sir," Threepio bowed his head courteously. "Dinner will be ready in thirty minutes, master Anakin," he informed the young man.

"All right. Thanks," Anakin said after the retreating droid.

The two friends walked inside the apartment. Anakin put their robes away in a small closet.

"Something to drink?" he asked his former master when they entered the living-room.

"Juice will be fine, thank you," Obi-Wan nodded.

Anakin served them both, and when they were finishing their drink in a comfortable silence, a commotion made the two men look in the corridor’s direction.

"Daddy!!!"

"Hi, Daddy!!"

A bright smile, full of Light and love illuminated Anakin’s face, and before his children charged into the room, he stood up and opened his arms wide, bracing himself for the impact.

Two short, blurry forms burst in, and headed straight for the young man, falling on him. They clung to him, squeezing him as if he had been away for months.

Anakin kissed his children fervently, blinking back the tears that invariably, always filled his eyes. He was greeted like this every single day, and every single day felt like the most beautiful gift he would ever receive.

When the children moved back, still clinging to their father, they became aware of Obi-Wan’s presence.

"Hi, uncle Obi-Wan!" Leia smiled at the bearded man.

"Hello, uncle Obi!" Luke grinned happily.

"Hello, children," the Jedi master couldn’t hold back the wide smile on his face. "Come here and give me a hug!" he invited.

The two siblings readily accepted the invitation and hugged the juice out of the older man, while Anakin observed them with an impish smile on his face.

"Force, you’ve grown!" Obi-Wan said when he could take a good look at them.

"Not much. We’re among the shortest of our class," Luke pouted, looking dejected.

Anakin squatted down and brought his children close. They huddled together and all of a sudden, Obi-Wan felt like the odd man out.

"I told you," he heard Anakin say, "you still have many years ahead to grow and catch up with your friends. Besides, size doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what you have in here." He tapped his children’s chests.

Luke and Leia nodded and smiled adoringly at their father. Time seemed to stop.

"We already finished our homework, can we go out to the terrace and play?" Leia asked.

"We’ll be having dinner very soon, but I guess you can, just for a little while. Okay?" Anakin instructed.

"Okay!" the siblings said at the same time, taking off for the terrace.

Anakin rose to his feet and saw his children leave the room with a bittersweet smile on his face, lost in thought.

"They’re good," Obi-Wan said, moved beyond words by the scene he had just witnessed.

"They’re the best thing that ever happened to me," Anakin said softly. "They’re my heart and my soul, the best part of me. They’re my peace and my sanity." He shook himself out of his reverie. "I need them so much!"

"And they need you every bit as much," Obi-Wan smiled at his friend.

"No, master. I need them more. Infinitely more." Anakin’s voice lowered with emotion.

"Master Obi-Wan!" Padme entered the room, looking lovely.

Obi-Wan stood up and reached out to her. They held hands and gave each other an appraising look. The Jedi master bent forward and kissed her cheek.

"You’re just as beautiful as the last time I saw you," he complimented sincerely.

"Don’t listen to him, darling," Anakin whispered to his wife, but loud enough for the other man to hear him. "You’re more beautiful than the last time you saw each other."

"Oh, Anakin," Padme chuckled, in obvious amusement.

"You know, master? You could give a beautiful woman a complex," Anakin teased Obi-Wan.

"I’ll have to improve my social manners, then," Obi-Wan pursued the joke. "The problem is that I’m not around beautiful women often, so in the end it would be a waste of time."

The three friends shared a hearty laughter.

"Juice?" Anakin suggested his wife when they calmed.

"Please," Padme nodded.

"Master?" Anakin looked at Obi-Wan pointedly.

"No, thank you. One is enough." Obi-Wan shook his head.

"I’ll have another," Anakin said, serving his wife and himself. On his way back, he stopped by the terrace’s door and checked on his children. A proud smile softened his features as he watched them train with the sticks he had made for them.

Padme walked up behind him and took her drink from his hand, putting her free hand on his back and rubbing soothing circles on it. Anakin looked back at her with a grateful smile, took her hand in his and squeezed it meaningfully.

Obi-Wan felt out of place for the second time that evening, this time contemplating the couple’s unconscious exchange. Watching them, he suddenly understood Anakin’s words. This was what his younger friend had been seeking all his life. Love. A family. And it didn’t matter how big the Jedi family was, none of them could give him what that woman and those two children were giving him every day, even when they were apart. Warmth. Peace. Joy. Belonging. Touch. Real human touch.

He nodded to himself. Yes, Anakin had made the right decision. He was finally walking the path he was meant to follow.

Anakin and Padme walked back up to him, still hand in hand. A short pause ensued.

"I guess Anakin told you..." Padme began in her usual straightforward manner.

"Yes," Obi-Wan nodded again. "And I’m telling you the same thing I told him. Most likely, it’s a phase the boy’s going through. It doesn’t have to be a premonition of any kind." His next frown belied his words somewhat. "Certainly, the fact that he’s dreaming of a Sith Lord is... interesting, considering he’s never seen one." He looked at his younger friend. "Perhaps his bond with you enabled him to come up with such an image, adding some elements of his own imagination."

"What do you suggest?" Padme asked.

"I will study him tonight and maybe ask him a few questions after dinner. Nothing that will make him suspicious, don’t worry. We’ll see."

Anakin and Padme looked at each other and nodded in agreement.

 

Dinner was nice and pleasant, between longtime friends who cared deeply about each other, and felt totally at ease and comfortable in each other’s company. Luke and Leia behaved, eliciting a comment from Obi-Wan on how mature and grown-up they were, that earned a giggle and twin expressions of childish pride that had the adults holding back their mirth.

After dinner, back in the living room, Padme and Obi-Wan engaged in a lively conversation about diplomacy, while Anakin and the children played a three-way boardgame.

At some point, Obi-Wan and Padme realized that they were alone in the room. Laughter from the terrace drew their attention, so they stood up and went out to continue their conversation there.

Obi-Wan’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets when he faced the scene before him.

Luke and Leia were fighting each other with two flexible sticks that obviously were a harmless imitation of a lightsaber. The two children seemed to be having the time of their lives as their father watched over them, nodding occasionally at his offsprings’ technique.

"I can’t believe it," Obi-Wan muttered to himself.

"What?" Padme asked.

"He’s training them. He’s actually training them!" Obi-Wan’s jaw dropped open.

"Didn’t he tell you?" Padme’s disbelief was palpable.

"Yes, he did. But he was so determined he was training them his way, with no outside interference from the Order, that I thought he was procrastinating."

"Well, he wasn’t," Padme’s gaze turned to her family. "He’s been training them for almost two years now. He taught them to meditate first, to get consciously in touch with the Force. The physical training started only six months ago."

Obi-Wan shook his head in astonishment, unable to tear his eyes away from his best friend and his children.

"What I don’t understand," he said a long moment later, "is why are they training with those sticks. Why aren’t they using lightsabers?"

"Anakin and I agree on it. If we’re keeping our children away from any knives and sharp objects for fear of their getting hurt, the more reason to keep them away from something as deadly as a lightsaber." Her eyes hardened. "Children shouldn’t handle any weapons, not until they’re mentally ready and they understand the risks and dangers they entail. When they’re mature enough to deal with the responsibility, they’ll build their own lightsabers."

Obi-Wan’s heart skipped a beat at Padme’s words. He had never stopped to consider...

Just then, Luke deflected one of his sister’s blows and performed an impressive somersault. He took too much impulse, and Obi-Wan realized with horror that the child would land headfirst. His mouth opened to cry out a warning.

Right before the boy’s head hit the floor, strong arms held him around his small body and put him back on the floor so very gently.

Luke looked up at his father and smiled at him, shining with gratitude and love.

"Thank you, Daddy."

"You’re welcome, little one," Anakin smiled back, ruffling his son’s hair playfully. "Don’t let your enthusiasm get in the way. Remember. Focus. Control."

"Yes, Daddy," Luke nodded eagerly.

Obi-Wan looked at Padme in absolute shock.

"You didn’t even flinch. The boy could have easily broken his neck!"

Padme smiled calmly.

"I’m more worried about my children when they’re at school, out of my sight and Anakin’s, than when they’re training with him. The most intimate part of me knows that nothing bad can happen to them, as long as they’re with their father."

Obi-Wan swallowed hard. He didn’t expect to learn some lessons of his own that evening. He had made too many assumptions that were proving to be completely unfounded.

 

When the children were exhausted enough to ask for a break, Anakin and Padme exchanged one quick look and nod. Padme took Leia with her, on the pretext of trying to meditate a little on her own before going to bed, apart from her brother. Anakin took his son’s hand and led him back inside.

"You’re very good," Obi-Wan told the boy honestly, sitting beside him.

The child’s eyes illuminated.

"Really?!"

"Really. Your fighting style reminds me a lot of your father’s."

Luke beamed with pride, as if Obi-Wan had just paid him the greatest compliment.

"Your mother said you started training when you turned five."

"Yeah," Luke nodded. "Daddy taught us to meditate first. It’s very cool!"

Obi-Wan’s eyebrows skyrocketed. "Cool?" he pronounced the word as if he was speaking in a foreign language.

Snickering, Anakin sat down next to his son.

"Yes, master. ‘Cool’." He nudged his child’s side softly. "Master Obi-Wan’s not hip," he gave his boy a conspiratorial wink.

Luke giggled.

"No," Obi-Wan agreed, pretending to sound offended. "I’m double-hipped."

Anakin and Luke laughed out loud.

"Anyway," the Jedi master smiled affectionately at the laughing pair, "I just wanted to ask you a few questions, Luke. Do you mind?"

Luke shook his head, leaning on his father unconsciously.

"Why do you think that meditating is... ‘cool’?"

"Cause it helps me a lot. I can focus at school and when I’m doing my homework... It’s good for my mind." Luke replied with a grin.

"And fighting?" Obi-Wan asked.

"Oh, that’s great!" the child’s eyes sparkled. "I can jump around and do things I couldn’t do before. Leia and I are the best of our class in P.E.!"

"No wonder," Obi-Wan murmured under his breath. "That’s very good, Luke. I’m very happy that your father’s training is helping you so much." He paused momentarily, refraining himself from looking at Anakin, lest the boy noticed. "Just one more thing. Did something happen that you find... strange or upsetting in any way? Something you don’t know how to handle?"

Luke paled visibly and looked down at his hands. He started pulling on his fingers and gave a curt nod.

"It happened while you were meditating?"

The boy shook his head.

"While you were sleeping?"

Luke nodded.

"A nightmare?"

Nod.

"Can you tell me about it?" Obi-Wan asked gently.

The little body began to shake. Anakin edged closer to his son, trying to ease his fear.

"It’s... It’s a man. Tall and big. All dressed in black. With a cape and a mask." His frightened eyes turned to his father. Anakin reached out and stroked down a pale cheek with his fingertips, smiling tenderly. The boy swallowed hard, never taking his eyes away from his father. "He’s got buttons and lights on his chest and he breathes weird."

"Weird?" Obi-Wan asked, puzzled.

The boy’s head turned to him.

"Yeah. Loud and strong. As if he had..."

"A respirator?" Obi-Wan supplied.

"Yes!" Luke nodded emphatically. "And he’s got a red lightsaber."

"Have you told Leia about any of this?" Anakin asked out of the blue.

"No, Daddy." Luke shook his head vehemently. "I don’t want to scare her. She’s got no clue."

"And what does this man do?" Obi-Wan continued his gentle questioning.

"At first, he was just there. Standing in front of me. Looking at me, as if he wanted..." Luke struggled to explain feelings and emotions he was still years away from understanding, with words that still weren’t a part of his vocabulary. "I don’t know." His trembling increased a notch. "The last couple times, he started walking towards me. I freaked and ran, but I could feel him behind me. And I ran faster. And... and last night, I fell and he pointed his saber at my face." Luke hissed and sought Anakin’s warmth, who wrapped one arm around his child, holding him tightly to his side.

"Easy, my little angel. Easy now," Anakin whispered into the soft hair on the top of his son’s head. "No one’s going to hurt you. I promise."

Luke inhaled his father’s scent deeply, needfully, burying his face in him.

Moved to his core by the open display of love and devotion between father and child, Obi-Wan cleared his throat softly.

"Well, judging from what you said, I have no reasons to believe it’s anything but a nightmare. Your father said you’ve had dreams in the past that have come true. If you don’t think this is one of those dreams, then it’s just that. A nightmare." He patted the boy’s shoulder fondly. "It’ll pass in time."

"You think so?" Luke moved his head away from his father’s side, and rubbed his reddened eyes with his fists.

"Yes, I do," Obi-Wan nodded with conviction. "Until then, you must be very brave and hold on."

"I don’t think it’s one of those dreams," Luke seemed to withdraw into himself for an instant. "But it scares me as if it was." He looked up at Obi-Wan. "I know he can’t hurt me... here, but somewhere else..." he squeezed his eyes shut. "I don’t know," he moaned, frustrated with his inability to explain himself.

"It’s all right, Luke," Obi-Wan reassured him. "Don’t give it another thought. Millions of children around the galaxy have scaring nightmares like yours. And one day, they disappear. Yours will disappear too. Trust me."

"Are you sure?" Luke asked him with an intensity beyond his years.

"I am." Obi-Wan suddenly felt as if he was falling into the boy’s blue depths. Currents and undercurrents of time and space seemed to ripple in them, making him feel dizzy with the infinite possibilities... He shook his head, snapping himself out of the incipient trance.

 

 

Anakin whimpered softly. His head thrashed on the pillow a few times, until it quieted gradually. His agitated respiration returned to normal.

Then, a horrifying scream made him bolt out of bed. With his heart thumping wildly in his chest, he dashed for his children’s room, followed closely by an equally frantic Padme.

"DADDY!!!! NO!!!! HELP ME!!! PLEASE, DADDY!!!! DON’T LET HIM HURT ME!!!! DADDY, DADDYYYYY!!!!!" The screams were inhuman. As if coming from someone who was one heartbeat away from losing their sanity.

The dull thud of a body falling to the floor had both adults even more desperate in their hurry to reach the twins’ bedroom. When they entered, the sight before them brought them to a dead stop.

Luke’s empty bed was a total mess. The covers were flung back and dangled from the left side. The end of the sheet was wrapped around a shaking little foot that peeked from the end of the bed.

Walking cautiously around the bed, Padme and Anakin knelt down beside the two little forms on the floor.

Luke was curled up into a foetal ball. He was hiding his face in his arms and trembled and sobbed uncontrollably. On her knees beside him, trying to comfort him, Leia had wrapped one arm around her brother’s back, and stroked his shoulder with the other hand. She was asking him what was wrong and please let her help. Her white face reflected shock and fear, but she was bravely keeping them from her voice.

Tentatively, more terrified even than his children, Anakin reached out and rested one shaky hand on his son’s head.

"Luke," he called softly, almost inaudibly.

Instantly, the boy pounced and clung to his father, wrapping arms and legs around him and burying his face in his neck, as if wanting to disappear in him.

Anakin hugged his child back, closing his eyes and holding back tears. They would be of no help to Luke if he surrendered to the helplessness he felt. He had to remain strong and firm, be the rock his boy needed to get through this.

"I am here, angel. I am here," he murmured, kissing the wet cheek and beginning to rock the small body that shuddered brutally in his arms. ‘Force, what is happening to you?!’ he cried out in his mind.

"It was him again, Daddy!" Luke immediately answered his father’s question, and began pouring everything out. "He cut my hand off! He cut it off!!" he shrieked, grasping a handful of his father’s top and almost tearing it. "He said that my destiny lay with his. That I hadn’t realized my importance and I had to join him." He moved back and his swollen eyes fixed on Anakin, distraught, feverish. "He said not to make him destroy me." His grip on Anakin tightened. "He wants me, Daddy. He wants *me*!"

"He will have to get through me first," Anakin vowed passionately. He didn’t know what made him promise such a thing. Surely, a nightmare couldn’t harm anyone physically.

Could it?

"Oh, Daddy!" Luke whimpered. "Don’t let him hurt me. Please, don’t let him!" his trembling increased if that was possible, and he hid his face on his father’s shoulder, shivering with terror.

Anakin closed his eyes and cuddled his son’s head, caressing it with his own in a mutually comforting gesture. Everything felt surreal. Everything felt possible. He shuddered, and his eyes turned to his wife.

Padme was holding Leia, who embraced her mother’s waist in turn, her face pressed up to her side. Leia’s eyes turned to his and in them, Anakin recognized the exact same fear. Leia was feeling it too, even if she didn’t understand what it was.

One look into Padme’s eyes was enough. They nodded in unison and as one, they headed for their bedroom.

 

 

Half an hour later, the two children were sleeping soundly again in their parents’ bed. Luke hadn’t relinquished his hold on his father, and slept like a log, clinging to Anakin as if to a life preserver. Leia slept peacefully, her head on her mother’s shoulder, as Padme caressed her long brown hair absently.

Despite the semidarkness in the room, Anakin and Padme’s eyes met across their pillows. Anakin just nodded.

"I’ll take him to the Jedi Temple tomorrow," he whispered softly, cupping the little blond head in his hand.

Padme nodded back and let out a long, deep breath.

 

 

"The only answer I can think of is that there’s a Sith Lord out there, somewhere in the galaxy, who sensed Luke’s great Force-sensitivity somehow, and is coming after him," Anakin said, throwing out his hands in a gesture of impotence.

The Jedi master’s long silence as he stared at him made the young man fidget, and feel as uncomfortable and inadequate as when he was fifteen years old.

"Certain of that are you?" Yoda asked at last.

"I’m not certain of anything!" Anakin exclaimed. "All I know is that Luke is... special. I knew the moment I held him in my arms when he was born." His features glowed in sweet remembrance. "His mind reached out to mine and mine recognized him as if... as if it was the missing piece it always needed to be whole. Ours is a connection beyond Force-sensitives who also happen to be father and child. He completes me in a way I cannot explain." He closed his eyes and sighed. "He’s more gifted than me, and yet... so vulnerable... He’s all feeling, all compassion, all love... and he gives it freely, with no restraints."

"Hmmmmm..." Yoda seemed to withdraw into himself for a while. "No control."

"I’ve been teaching him to focus and control since I started training them." Anakin sobered quickly. "It’s very hard for him, but he’s making progress."

"Here he should have been brought. Proper training he needs. Distance from his own feelings. To tame them he must learn." Yoda’s big eyes settled on Anakin, studying him.

"That’s totally out of the question, master." Anakin’s voice and face hardened with determination. "I won’t teach my children to hold back the very thing that makes them who and what they are." He took a deep breath and relaxed. "I agree that as Force-sensitives, it’s paramount to control our emotions and not to let them rule us. Any excess is a bad thing. But that’s as far as my training will go." His expression left very clear that the subject was closed.

Yoda’s head turned to the windows. The blinders were mostly open and he shut them a little through the Force.

"Alone with him I must be. Test him I will. See how far his training goes and how deep its roots are."

"I will bring him in," Anakin acceded, rising to his feet.

 

Luke ran to meet his father when he exited the room. Anakin crouched down and put his hands on the child’s hips.

"Master Yoda wants to speak to you alone."

Luke looked in the doors’ direction and worried at his lip.

Anakin smiled, knowing very well how his boy was feeling.

"He won’t bite you," he tried to ease the tension. "You’re taller than him."

It worked. Luke chuckled and the tension ebbed noticeably from him.

"We’ll be waiting for you right here," Anakin reassured him of their close proximity. "Come on." He pushed Luke gently in the doors’ direction, with a parting pat on his butt.

Casting one last look behind him, at his parents and sister, Luke took a deep breath and ventured into the room.

 

 

The quiet and peace in the room were the first things the child noticed. But there was something else there. Or rather, there wasn’t. Overwhelmed by an immeasurable feeling of emptiness and loneliness, Luke’s mind sought his father’s, the soothing comfort of Anakin’s constant presence within him. Anakin’s response was instantaneous, and a wave of warmth and love filled his thoughts and every corner of his soul.

Emboldened, Luke walked up to Yoda, facing him shyly.

Yoda was sitting in a cream-coloured round floor cushion, looking serene and wise. Their eyes met.

Sensing Luke’s discomfort, Yoda smiled softly and gestured the child to sit on the cushion his father had just vacated, right in front of him. The boy obeyed, sitting cross-legged on it, hands in his lap.

"Very proud of you, your father is," Yoda spoke in a gravelly voice.

Luke blushed furiously and looked down for a moment, but he quickly braved the old Jedi master’s eyes.

"I love my daddy. I want him to be proud of me."

Yoda tilted his head to one side and contemplated the boy with a fond look.

"What is love?" he asked, monitoring the child’s Force aura and his every physical and emotional response.

Luke was totally at a loss how to answer. These type of questions were beyond a six year old’s grasp. Still, he tried.

"Love is..." he frowned, trying to verbalize all the feelings associated with that word. "Love is when... when everything’s good and happy. When it’s all warm in here," he touched his chest.

"Hmmmm..." Yoda mused. "And how important is it?"

"It’s the most important thing!" Luke’s face illuminated with joy.

"Hmmmmm..." the big ears drooped somewhat.

Luke could tell that wasn’t the answer Yoda expected to hear, and his joy abated considerably. He felt very self-conscious and small.

"What is love to you?" he asked back suddenly.

Yoda’s ears perked up at the boy’s boldness, and he willed back a smile.

"An emotion love is," he said. "A mere emotion like many others."

"And you don’t like it?" the child seemed almost scandalized.

"Dangerous emotions are. To the Dark Side they could lead. To control all emotions the Jedi have learned. Fear, greed, anger..." the cadence of the words was almost hypnotic.

"And love too?" Luke drew back in shock.

"Detachment we practise," Yoda explained kindly.

"Det-tach-ment?" the word sounded wrong on the boy’s lips.

"Distance from our feelings it means." Yoda made a sweeping movement with his hand. "Always in touch with the Force we are. It sustains us. It nurtures us. Weakness it is, an attachment to material things, to people. Fear of loss a path to the Dark Side is."

"So you don’t love?!" Luke paled in horror, wrapping his arms around himself protectively.

"Care we do, child. Personally involved we do not get."

Luke stared at Yoda for long moments, processing the information to the best of his ability. Then, he started nodding very slowly, his gaze moving all over the room. He shivered.

"I understand now," he muttered to himself.

"What do you understand, young Skywalker?" master Yoda asked softly.

"Why this room is so... cold."

 

 

One hour later, the doors opened and Luke walked out of the room. He looked weary. Drained.

Anakin was already waiting for him on the other side, and dropped to one knee. Luke wound his arms round his father’s neck and hugged him desperately. There was hunger for human contact in the child’s embrace.

Anakin opened wide the link that bound him to his son, and Luke buried himself in it, cuddling up to his father’s Force presence, starved for it and for the strength it provided.

‘Are you all right, my little one?’ Anakin asked tenderly, caressing the blond hair in slow, rhythmic strokes.

‘I am now, Daddy.’ Luke inhaled deeply within their bond, taking his father in, as deeply as he could.

They stayed like that for long minutes, deep in each other’s arms, until Luke felt strong enough to move back. He put his little hands on his father’s shoulders.

"Master Yoda wants to talk to you and mommy."

Anakin nodded and rose to his feet with his son in his arms. He walked up to his wife and passed on the child to her. Padme kissed Luke’s cheeks and pinched his nose playfully.

"Uncle Obi-Wan will take care of you and your sister while we talk to master Yoda," she said. "Be good."

Luke turned his head and saw Obi-Wan sitting next to Leia, who was drawing on her sketch pad peacefully. The Jedi master met his eyes and winked at him. Luke smiled back tiredly.

Padme put Luke back on the floor and the boy headed for the couch, flopping down on it. He looked up in time to see his parents disappearing behind the double doors.

 

 

The blinders were open and sunlight flooded the room. Yoda stood by the massive windows, looking out into the afternoon sky, apparently deep in thought.

"Master Yoda," Padme said out loud, waiting patiently for the right moment to come. She had known the Jedi master for many years and one thing she had learned, was that Yoda only spoke when he was ready. Not one moment before.

A soft sigh left the old lips some time later.

"Emotional he is," he stated. "A maelstrom of emotions his heart fills. Emotions too strong for him to handle." He turned about and pointed a clawed finger at Anakin. "Outrageously emotional his training is. Sentimental. Reckless."

Chastised, Anakin looked down for an instant. But a soft voice inside him reminded him that although he was going against centuries of Jedi tradition, he had chosen this path from his heart. Because despite everything, he knew he was right, never mind what Yoda thought, and the entire Jedi Order for that matter. He raised his head and met Yoda’s eyes resolutely.

Yoda’s gaze softened and he nodded once.

"But good."

Padme and Anakin shared a quick look and then looked back at Yoda.

"Strong, solid his training is. The right decision you made." He nodded at Anakin again. "The best perhaps, considering what is likely to come," he added cryptically.

"What’s likely to come, master?" Padme asked, taking one step forward.

"Uncertain the future is. Full of possibilities." Yoda half-closed his eyes. "Meditate I will. Enlightenment will come, eventually."

"And what about Luke’s nightmares, master?" Anakin asked, unable to get the concern out of his voice.

Yoda gestured for the couple to sit, as he headed back to his own cushion.

"Extremely gifted he is," he confirmed, sitting with effort. "Much like his father, in many ways. In touch with his deepest emotions he has become. Very open his mind is."

"Open to what?" Padme asked.

"Everything. The future. The past. Other times. Other places. What is to come. What could have come..."

"Could have?!" Anakin’s question echoed in the room.

The big eyes turned to the young man and seemed to bore into him.

"Meditated for a long time I have. Clouded the future seemed. As time went by the fog dissipated, but many questions remained. Unanswered questions that demand to be faced." The intensity increased. "And the time is coming."

"Time for what?"

"Illumination. It is the will of the Force for that which had stayed in the shadows to be unveiled."

"And Luke’s nightmares are the answer?" Padme was struggling to understand with everything she had.

Yoda’s eyes turned from Padme to Anakin with deliberate slowness.

"Within you the answer lies." The green depths flashed.

"Me?!" Anakin exclaimed.

"The catalyst the boy is. Fight you must not. When ready to face the Truth you are, revealed it will be."

 

 

Obi-Wan waved goodbye to the Skywalker family, and when the speeder disappeared from sight, he walked back inside the Temple.

He covered corridor after corrider, until he reached the meditation room.

Yoda remained in the same position he was when Anakin and his family had left. Quietly, Obi-Wan sat on the cushion before the tiny Jedi master.

"They’re leaving with more questions than answers, master," he said bitterly. He had seen Anakin’s haunted eyes when they had bidden each other good-bye, and he was hurting for his friend.

"Yes, they are." Yoda’s expression, or lack of it, didn’t change.

"There’s more to this than just the nightmares of a little boy, isn’t there?" Obi-Wan knew that the more closed that wrinkled face was, the more emotion was lurking underneath.

All of a sudden, the big eyes filled with emotion as they turned to Obi-Wan.

"His best friend you are. Beside him you must be. Need you, he will." His head turned to the windows and a frown crossed his features. "Prepare you must."

 

 

‘You’ll find that I’m full of surprises!’

-------------------------

‘I’ll never join you!’

-------------------------

‘He told me you killed him!’

-------------------------

‘NOOOOOOOOOO! NO!’

 

Anakin jerked awake and sat up in bed, breathless and drenched in sweat. His wide open eyes searched the room, until his frenzied mind remembered where he was. He covered his face with his hands, holding back a sob. A strangled cry escaped him.

"Anakin?" A sleepy Padme opened her eyes and raised her head from her pillow. When she saw the state her husband was in, she woke up completely. "What is it?" she asked, reaching out and holding the side of his face in her hand.

Anakin pressed the cool palm to his burning cheek, kissing it needfully.

"Just had... a nightmare," he gasped out.

"You too?" Padme sat up and edged close to Anakin, wrapping an arm around his broad back.

Anakin leaned forward, hunching his shoulders, keeping his face away from her. For some reason, he couldn’t face her. He felt as if he had just committed the most heinous crime.

"Everything was... dark. Dark and windy. And... reddish."

"Reddish?" Padme prompted gently.

"As if I was looking through a red filter or something." He closed his eyes, trying to get rid of the images inside him, of... "His face..." he trailed off.

"What face?" Padme inched closer.

"A young man’s." Anakin’s chest constricted with a sharp, blinding pain. "Around twenty years old." He swallowed hard. "I- I was fighting him. He yelled at me, accusing me of killing someone. And then he screamed, he... NO!" he exclaimed, covering his ears with his hands, trying to shut out the desperate screaming echoing in his head. "There was so much horror in his voice, so much despair as he looked at me..."

"Ani..." Padme’s fingers wiped away the tears sliding down the moist face.

"I hurt him, Padme. Why did I hurt him?" Tormented eyes looked at her, asking a question that was beyond her to answer.

And Padme did the only thing she could. She opened her arms, offering a shelter to her beloved’s suffering.

 

 

"Daddy?" a little voice called. "Daddy...?"

Anakin shook himself out of his musings. His daughter was standing in front of him, holding a sheet of paper in her tiny hand. Her big brown eyes looked at him worriedly.

"My little Princess," Anakin held out his arms, his spirits lifting as if by magic.

Leia quickly climbed into her father’s lap and cuddled there.

"This is for you," she said, giving her drawing to Anakin.

Anakin took the paper in his hand and his eyes misted at the sight of the picture his child had brought to life. He looked big and imposing, a protective figure. Padme stood by his side, holding Leia and Luke’s hands. All of them had happy smiles on their faces as they stood close to each other. Suns and stars mingled together in the sky, as they walked through a thick forest.

"It’s beautiful, sweetheart. Thank you so much," Anakin smiled at his daughter, moved beyond words. He didn’t know how much he had needed to see a reassuring image like the one his child had just given him. Blinking back tears, he kissed Leia’s forehead several times. Then, he wrapped her in his arms and held her close.

"What’s going on, Daddy?" Leia asked in a shaky voice.

"Nothing, honey. Don’t worry. Everything’s fine," he moved back and caressed her cheek with the back of his hand.

"It’s not fine," Leia shook her head, making her pony tails jump. "I can feel it." She reached up and took her father’s hand. "You’re scared, and worried. And mommy’s very confused, and worried too."

Anakin sighed in defeat. He couldn’t lie to his children, and to Leia especially it was just impossible.

"You’re right," he smiled softly. "Something’s happening, and we don’t know the answer yet. And it’s the not knowing what’s going on that’s worrying us."

"That’s why you went to see master Yoda?" Leia asked.

"Yes," Anakin nodded. "He’s very old and wise, and we thought that maybe he could help."

"But you’re more worried now, Daddy. And it’s all so... I’m all..." Leia shuddered helplessly.

"Is there something wrong, angel?" Anakin immediately zeroed in his senses on his daughter. "Something wrong with your gift?"

Leia looked down timidly.

"Yeah..."

"Why didn’t you tell me?" Anakin asked, putting his hand under her chin and making her look up into his eyes. "I told you and your brother to come to me the moment you felt that something was wrong."

"There is nothing wrong, Daddy," Leia tried to explain. "It’s just... more."

"More, as in more intense?"

"Yes. I can tell what people are thinking just brushing past them." She settled her eyes on her father. "And this thing... that’s happening with Luke..." she began pulling at her fingers in the same manner her brother did.

"What about it?" Anakin asked in a whisper, leaning closer to his child until their foreheads were touching.

"I don’t know," she pouted. "When I touch Luke, and when I touch you... everything begins to spin and spin... I feel dizzy, Daddy. As if I was falling, and I don’t know where I’m going to end up." She took a deep, trembling breath.

"It’s all right, sweetheart," Anakin soothed her. "It’s just that as you’re growing up, your abilities are growing too. We’ll have to work harder at shielding, that’s all, so you can touch people safely."

Hopeful brown eyes looked into his, and Leia smiled.

"Thank you, Daddy." She held his hand again. "It felt so weird. It’s very..."

"Unsettling?" Anakin supplied.

"Yeah," Leia felt the meaning of the word through the physical contact.

"Want me to teach you how to shield better now? We have time until Luke finishes his homework," Anakin suggested with a smile.

"Great!" Leia jumped to the floor. "It’ll help me at school too. Come on, Daddy!"

"First, we have to put this away," Anakin said, rising to his feet with the drawing in his hands. "I want to keep it forever."

A flush of pride covered Leia’s cheeks as she followed her father.

 

 

"Master Skywalker!" a young voice called.

Anakin turned about and saw a young padawan running up to him.

"Good day, Jerron," he greeted the agitated young man when he joined him. "But I told you not to call me ‘master.’ I’m not a Jedi anymore. I’m not worthy of that title."

"Yes, you are. You destroyed the last of the Sith and saved the Republic."

Anakin fought the impulse to roll his eyes. Never mind how many times he tried to explain it, there was no way to change the minds of some impressionable youths like Jerron. To many of them, he had become a symbol. Against his will, but he had.

"I’ve been meditating, as you told me," Jerron went straight to the point. "I meditated long and hard, listening to the whispers of my heart and my mind." The young man made a short pause, plucking up his courage. He met Anakin’s eyes squarely, full of conviction. "I cannot go on."

Anakin drew in a deep intake of breath, sensing the finality of the young man’s decision. He nodded.

"We should talk about this somewhere else. I swore to keep your secret, but it will cease to be a secret if we discuss it in the corridors of the Jedi Temple."

Jerron looked around and winced, realizing his indiscretion.

"I’m sorry, master. Could we...?" he began.

"Anakin!" Obi-Wan’s voice reached them from the opposite corridor.

"We’ll talk about it soon, I promise." Anakin dismissed Jerron with a kind smile. "May the Force be with you."

"May the Force be with you, master." At Anakin’s frown, he quickly amended himself. "Erm, sir. I-I mean, Anakin Skywalker." Red-faced, Jerron walked away.

"Still calling you ‘master’?" Obi-Wan couldn’t help teasing Anakin a little.

Anakin shrugged and shook his head in resignation.

"They’re young," Obi-Wan said, as if that explained it all. "You’ll have to accept the fact that you’re the hero of an entire generation of Jedi."

"I only hope they’ll grow out of it one day. Those were the Darkest hours of my life. It’s very disturbing to be admired for the acts that almost cost me my soul, and took master Windu’s life." Anakin closed his eyes and his face twisted with pain and remorse.

"Anakin, it was master Windu’s Time. You have to stop blaming yourself." Obi-Wan’s voice oozed compassion as he fell into step with his friend.

"I will always blame myself. It was my treacherous action that allowed Palpatine to dispose of him." Anakin’s spirit trembled with grief.

"His death shook you out of Palpatine’s malign influence," Obi-wan reasoned. "Anakin, sometimes it takes a tragic event for us to open our eyes, and see the Truth. Master Windu’s life was the price we had to pay."

"I’m not sure about that," Anakin said.

"I am," Obi-Wan stated firmly, as the two friends ventured out into the veranda.

"How strange that we’re talking about it after all this time," Anakin said, turning to his friend when they reached the rail.

"Maybe we should have," Obi-Wan opined. "It’s not wise to sweep things under the rug. They tend to backfire, and often in the worst way. You did the right thing. You did, in fact, save us all."

Anakin turned his face to the early afternoon sun, soaking up its warmth and brightness.

"It truly was the turning point in my life," he murmured with a long sigh.

"Not only yours. It was a turning point in the entire galaxy," Obi-Wan’s expression turned inwards, as if listening to an inner voice. "I wonder if that’s what master Yoda has been talking about all these years," he mused out loud.

"What?" Anakin asked.

"That Palpatine’s death marked a turning point in all our lives. That our destinies would have been drastically altered if he hadn’d died at your hands at that exact moment in time."

"That’s a fact," Anakin said levelly. "For every minute decision we make, a new future is born. That’s why the future’s always in motion. We’re changing it constantly, every day of our lives." His features contorted as the images of the past surged up to haunt him once again. "If I had turned..."

"But you didn’t," Obi-Wan hastened to reassure him, reaching out and grasping the gloved, mechanical forearm. "You stood strong and firm in the face of the greatest temptation. Your insight allowed you to see beyond Palpatine’s web of deception into the core of his true intentions." He squeezed the forearm tight. "You saved the galaxy from certain doom. You saved countless lives, including your own, and probably your family’s."

"Then what’s this feeling of uncertainty that still permeates everything? Master Yoda said that the answer lies with me. But what kind of answer are we talking about? Didn’t I fulfil my destiny when I destroyed Palpatine? Why is it coming back now to torment my son?"

"Do you think that Luke’s nightmares are related to that episode, seven years ago?" Obi-Wan asked.

"This is a Dark Side menace. But I can’t tell the source." Anakin shook his head, helpless. "Everything’s vague and blurry. Indistinct."

Obi-Wan hesitated for a moment before speaking.

"Master Yoda said that you will need me. I must prepare myself."

"Prepare for what?" Anakin tensed visibly.

Obi-Wan shrugged with an apologetic face.

Anakin looked into the distince, struggling to control a sudden burst of anger.

"I wish he’d come up with something specific for a change, instead of his typical cryptic statements," he commented shortly. "They only serve to cause more anxiety," he ground his teeth.

Obi-Wan studied his younger friend sympathetically.

"Anakin, what is it that you’re not telling me?" he asked quietly after a while.

Anakin smiled ironically and looked down.

"You know? Sometimes I think that a part of me will always be your padawan." He said the words with an uncharacteristic self-consciousness.

Obi-Wan smiled and looked away.

"Sometimes I think that a part of me will always be your master." He made a pause, thick with memories. "For many years, I couldn’t find a way to relate to you. You were like quicksilver, elusive, an enigma. Your thoughts, your dreams..." He sighed. "But I wouldn’t change those years for anything." He settled his gaze on his companion.

Anakin turned to him slowly.

"Is that why you haven’t taken another padawan since I left the Order?" he asked, tipping his head.

Obi-Wan grinned fondly.

"Maybe." He raised an eyebrow. "But your delaying tactics won’t work. You forget that I’ve known you since you were nine years old."

Anakin let out a hollow laugh.

"I can’t fool you anymore, can I?" he asked rhetorically as he gave up all pretence. He got deadly serious and worried at his lips for a while. "I’m having nightmares."

The resigned, matter-of-fact admission came as a shock to the older man.

"You too?!" Obi-Wan opened and closed his mouth, looking around, totally bewildered. "B-but I thought that whatever’s going on, Luke was the focal point."

"According to master Yoda, I am the focal point of this story. Luke’s the catalyst." Anakin’s apprehension was palpable now.

Obi-Wan withdrew into himself for a moment, turning to the Force for guidance.

"Do your nightmares have any connection with Luke’s?"

Anakin pursed his lips, considering the question.

"Unlikely," he said at last. "In my dreams, I’m fighting a young man."

"Tell me about him. What does he want from you? Is he a Sith?" Obi-Wan prompted softly.

"No, he’s good." Anakin’s voice sounded infinitely gentle. "All throughout our duel, he’s mostly defending himself from me. I’m attacking him brutally, mercilessly, for a reason I cannot understand. He accuses me of killing his father and then, he screams." He squeezed his eyes shut, struggling to get past the blinding pain behind them. "His horror and grief are immense. His eyes... Oh, Force, his eyes!" he hissed through his teeth.

Obi-Wan winced, swept away by his friend’s anguish.

Suddenly, Anakin’s eyes turned to him. Desperate, supplicant.

"Please help me, Obi-Wan. I feel I’m losing my mind. A door has been opened somewhere and all my demons are crossing over. I fear what I’ll find on the other side of that door. Master Yoda said that when I’m ready to face the Truth, it will reveal itself to me. But at what price will I know that Truth? I fear for Luke, for Leia, for Padme. If something happened to them, nothing would matter to me!" Distraught, he shook his head and hit the rail with his balled fists, the very image of impotence.

 

 

"Uncle Obi!" Leia greeted the unexpected guest with a radiant smile.

"Good evening, Leia," Obi-Wan smiled back at the child, squatting down in front of her. "How’s school going?"

"Wonderful! But the teachers are giving us a lot of homework. It’s a drag!"

Obi-Wan laughed.

"I know what you mean. I still remember those days. My Jedi masters were very stern and we hardly had any time to play."

"Oh, poor Uncle Obi!" Leia’s face fell. "Hi, Daddy!" her brown eyes illuminated when her father entered the living room. She reached up her arms to him.

Anakin took her in his arms, sitting her on the crook of his elbow.

"Hello, sweetheart!" he kissed the pink cheek. "Did you finish your homework?"

"I just did, and dinner’s almost ready. I’ll ask Threepio," she kissed her father’s cheek in return.

"O-kay," Anakin smiled, depositing her on the floor again. "I’m hungry."

"Me too!" she giggled, already heading for the kitchen at a run.

The moment his daughter left the room, Anakin’s fašade crumbled. Resolutely, he took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, ready to hold on for as long as it was necessary, for his children's sake.

"She’s not...?" Obi-Wan began to ask.

Anakin shook his head.

"She can feel there’s something wrong, and Luke’s nightmares disturb her very deeply. But she’s unaffected by it, thank heavens."

"That’s... peculiar," Obi-Wan commented, "considering her great Force-sensitivity."

"Leia’s Force powers lean more towards empathy. Touch is very much involved in the way she relates to people. She can sense people’s emanations at a distance. She’s incredibly perceptive," Anakin explained. "As a matter of fact, we’ve had to work at strengthening her mental shields. Her abilities are growing exponentially."

"I’m not an expert," Obi-Wan said, "but I think I read somewhere that age seven is a very important period of a child’s life. Many things change in their minds. There’s a sort or restructuring of the brain. Maybe Luke and Leia’s powers are being oriented in the direction they will take in their adult lives. And it’s this change that’s causing all these disturbances."

"I read that too, and I think you might be onto something here, but only partially," Anakin replied. "It is because of that brain restructuring that their Force powers are also changing, growing, evolving... enabling them to feel things that were beyond their reach before."

"Did you ever measure their midi-chlorian accounts?" Obi-Wan asked.

"No."

"Anakin, this is highly irregular, to put it mildly," the Jedi master tried to reason with his stubborn friend once again. "I agree with master Yoda. This is the first time that a Force-sensitive’s had any offspring. At least, that we know of. They should have been monitored from birth, for their own good. We should have..."

"No, master," Anakin enunciated strongly. "I don’t want my children to grow up under a microscope, scrutinized like two lab rats. I want them to live normal lives, like the normal kids they are. They’re perfectly adjusted children, they have friends at school; and with my training, their abilities pose no problem to their normal development, or their interaction with others."

"But this..." Obi-Wan tried to argue.

"This situation would have arisen anyway, whether they’d have been trained at the Jedi Temple or by me," Anakin didn’t let him finish. "And there’s no way to tell if they’d have handled it better with your training or mine."

There was a short silence as the two old friends stared at each other. Finally, Anakin eased up a little, letting out a long sigh.

"Obi-Wan, try to see things from my point of view. Since Luke and Leia were born, I’ve only had their best interests in mind." He touched his chest with his hand. "I know, with everything I am, that I’m doing the right thing. I can feel it. Why can’t you accept it?"

"I do accept it, Anakin," Obi-Wan said vehemently. "But I can’t help but wonder..."

"Then trust me, if for no other reason than that," the younger man requested.

Obi-Wan looked away, fighting a myriad of conflicting feelings.

"All right, Anakin," he relented in the end. "It’s your family, it’s your decision. I will abide by it and won’t get in the way."

Anakin relaxed visibly at that.

"Thank you, master. But I don’t want you to merely yield to my decision. I want you to speak up and tell me what you think. I value your input greatly. That’s why I asked for your advice in the first place. I know you will help us."

Obi-Wan gazed upon that slightly pale face, with renewed admiration. He felt as if he was seeing his friend for the first time.

"I’ll do my best," he bowed his head, in courteous acknowledgment.

Anakin smiled at him gratefully.

"Is this a good time to intrude?" Padme walked in and joined her husband, staring into his tired blue eyes lovingly.

The couple shared one of their short and silent conversations. Anakin nodded at her with gratitude and kissed her forehead. She nodded back at him with a soft smile and inched ever closer to him.

Feeling a little self-conscious, Obi-Wan looked away.

"Master," Padme’s voice sounded uncharacteristically serious. "Anakin speaks for me too. We discussed all the pros and cons of raising two extremely Force-sensitive children on our own. We were aware of the risks, and we knew that there could come a time when we would need your help. Well, the time has come, but I’m as convinced as my husband that we’re doing the right thing. In fact, I’m now more certain than ever."

The Jedi master felt like fidgeting, and a part of his mind remembered that there was nothing more dangerous than a parent protecting their child. He could feel that power confronting him right now.

Feeling the tension in the air, Anakin burst out laughing.

"Relax, Obi-Wan. We won’t harm you."

The three friends shared a hearty laugh that immediately put them at ease.

"For a second, I’ve felt smaller than a jawa," Obi-Wan quipped.

"Your cloak could have fooled us," Anakin teased.

When the laughter subsided, Anakin served them juice and they took a seat.

"Daddy, Mommy!" Luke burst into the room. "Dinner’s ready!"

"All right," Anakin put his glass on the table and stood up. "Let’s go."

"Hello, Luke," Obi-Wan greeted the child.

"Hello, Uncle Obi!" the boy smiled up at him, taking his father’s hand as they headed for the dining room. "I’m sorry I didn’t say ‘hi’ when you came, but I was finishing my homework."

"It’s okay," Obi-Wan smiled back. "Leia said that your teachers are giving you a lot of homework lately."

"Yeah," Luke nodded resignedly. "By the time I’m finished, it’s always dinner time," he complained.

"Don’t worry, the holidays are round the corner," Obi-Wan reminded, patting the child’s head. "You’ll be free to play very soon."

"Yeaaahh!" the boy’s eyes sparkled, full of joy.

 

 

Dinner was warm and pleasant. The children ate hungrily and engaged in a harmless bread crumbs fight while the adults discussed the options.

"I ran out of ideas, master," Anakin admitted in defeat. "I’m open to any suggestions you may have."

Obi-Wan put down his fork and took a deep breath.

"I don’t know how will you take this, but..." he plunged ahead, "Master Yoda said that you are the key to whatever’s going on."

Anakin nodded warily.

The Jedi master bent forward.

"Are you ready to find out? Will you open your mind to it, and face it?" he asked in a gravelly voice.

Anakin ground his teeth and his eyes skittered all over the table.

"You mustn’t fear it, my friend," Obi-Wan reassured him. "Whatever knowledge hides behind that door, it can’t harm you. You can only learn from it."

Anakin’s eyes finally settled on his children who played merrily, throwing bread crumbs at each other. His features softened and a sudden peace suffused his being. His head turned to Obi-Wan.

"I’m ready," he nodded sharply. "I’m not afraid."

Obi-Wan smiled proudly and nodded back.

"I suggest we take the reek by the horns, as they say," he said.

"How?" Anakin and Padme asked at the same time.

"After dinner, when you’re relaxed and receptive, I’ll put you and Luke into a light meditative trance. Then, I’ll lower certain barriers in your minds."

Anakin’s eyes opened wide, immediately reading his friend’s intentions.

"We’ll have full access to what truly lies behind our dreams."

"Exactly," Obi-Wan nodded. "Maybe your dreams will come clearer, so that you can understand their significance better."

Anakin’s eyes turned to his wife, silently asking for her consent to proceed.

Padme hesitated, not needing the Force to realize the potential danger of lowering certain barriers in one’s mind, albeit temporarily. But she also knew that their options were very limited. She shook her head helplessly, unable to decide.

Anakin held his wife’s hand in his own, and turned to the waiting man.

"I’ll agree to this procedure on one condition."

"What condition?" Obi-Wan asked.

"The condition that you stay over. I want you here, should there be any... complications."

"I will stay," Obi-Wan nodded.

Anakin turned to Padme again and squeezed her hand. Padme’s eyes met his and she smiled tremulously.

 

 

After dinner, they discussed the way they would carry out the experiment, while the children played a boardgame, oblivious to the adults’ preparations.

Anakin observed his children, focusing on the aura of joyful happiness they radiated. He filled his soul with it and met Obi-Wan’s eyes. He gave a single nod that his old friend immediately understood.

"Children," Obi-Wan called the siblings.

The twins turned their heads to the Jedi master, and seeing that he wanted something, they stood up from the carpeted floor and approached him.

"Yes, Uncle Obi?" Leia asked for the two of them.

Obi-Wan bent forward and spoke as if he was sharing a secret with them.

"Your parents and I have come up with an idea to try and help Luke with his nightmares."

Luke stiffened at the very mention of his nightmares, and Leia inched closer to her brother protectively.

"It’s very simple," Obi-Wan explained. "With your father’s help, I’ll put Luke into a light meditative trance." His eyes settled on the boy. "Your dreams should present themselves in a clearer way if your mind’s more open to them."

"And what about me?" Leia asked, sounding a bit upset. "I want to help Luke, too."

"I know, sweetheart," Anakin intervened quickly, drawing the child close. "But this time you can’t."

"But I wanna help Luke!" Leia protested.

Anakin put his hand on his daughter’s shoulder, grounding her.

"Do you know how?" he asked.

Leia’s eyes dropped and her shoulders sagged.

"No, I dunno," she admitted, almost pouting.

Anakin kissed Leia’s forehead.

"I’m very proud of you for wanting to help your brother, but this is the only idea we’ve come up with. If you ever think of anything, anything at all, let us know, okay?"

"Okay," the child said in a weak voice.

"Good," Anakin smiled and rose to his feet. "Now you sit here with Mommy and draw a little."

"Okay," Leia repeated, grabbing her drawing kit reluctantly and sitting next to her mother.

The young man dropped to one knee and grasped the child’s upper arms.

"You’re already helping, honey," he assured her. "I don’t want you to feel like you’re doing nothing." He caressed the soft cheeks. "Now concentrate very hard, and send us all the good vibrations you can muster. That will help us."

"Really!?" the girl’s eyes illuminated.

"Really," Anakin smiled broadly. "Reach for the Force and follow your heart."

"I will, Daddy!" Leia promised, kissing her father’s cheek and quickly opening her sketch pad.

Anakin stood up and exchanged a knowing look with his wife. Padme nodded proudly at him and mouthed the words ‘I love you’ and ‘be careful’.

Anakin nodded back at her and kissed her lovingly on the lips. Then, he held Luke’s hand and followed by Obi-Wan, they went out to the veranda. It was the most relaxing and peaceful place of the apartment, with the soothing sound of the running water in the fountain, the soft golden lights illuminating it, and the comfortable couches and floor cushions scattered all around.

It was where Anakin and the children used to meditate when they wanted to get in touch with the Force particularly deeply.

The three contemplated the evening sky, mostly dark by now, the speeders flying in the distance, and the million buildings surrounding them.

Anakin took a deep breath, plucking up his courage, and looked down at his child.

"Ready, Luke?" he asked, putting his hand on the blond head.

The boy looked up at his father and met his caring blue eyes. He let out a little smile, cuddling up to Anakin’s side, and nodded.

The blind trust and the unconditional, absolute love he saw in his son’s eyes brought a lump to Anakin’s throat.

‘My little angel. The most perfect and beautiful part of me. I’ll give my life to help you.’ The thought came to him unbidden.

Luke’s features softened and his eyes clouded. Without looking away from his father’s eyes, he kissed the back of his hand and pressed up harder against him.

Obi-Wan witnessed the wordless exchange in silence, overwhelmed once again by the intensity of the love between father and child. Luke had an amazing effect on Anakin. His mere presence acted like a balm to his father’s psyche.

 

Since he had known him, Anakin seemed to live in a perpetual state of mental turmoil. Always pushing himself in his personal quest to be more, bigger, better. He was harder on himself than any of the masters had ever been, Yoda included.

He had feared for his friend. He had feared that one day, his passions and his search for power would lead him in the wrong direction.

But whatever Anakin’s ambitions had been, they had ceased to exist by the moment he revealed his secret to the Jedi Council.

He would never forget that day for as long as he lived.

Anakin had entered the chamber exuding peace and calm, more confident and self-assured than they had ever seen him. Like a man who’s finally in control of his destiny, who knows who he is and what he wants out of life.

He explained the situation in very few words. He was married to Senator Padme Amidala, and they were only a few weeks away from becoming parents. He had been deceiving the Council since the beginning of the Clone Wars, and the deception had been preying on his mind for years. Now that he had fulfilled his destiny and destroyed the Sith, he felt he was free to follow his feelings, as they had been teaching him since he was nine years old.

He didn’t belong there. He had always felt he wasn’t meant to be a Jedi. He was meant to be a husband, and a father. That was what truly gave meaning to his life. And when his child was born, his family would be his first and only priority, forever.

He thanked them for all the years of training and patience, and then, with quiet dignity, he took off his Jedi cloak and unclipped the lightsaber from his belt. He put them both on the floor before them, and with a gracious bow, he left the chamber, and the Order, for good.

No one moved for several minutes. It had been a real shock and it took them a while to process.

Obi-Wan was the first to react. He looked at master Yoda, who only nodded at him. Jumping out of his seat, he summoned the lightsaber on the floor and ran after his friend.

Anakin was already in the hangar. Padme waited for him, standing by a speeder. For the first time, he saw the evidences of her advanced pregnancy. Her thick robes had managed to hide it, but now that he knew, it seemed unbelievable that he had failed to notice it.

He called Anakin’s name, and the young man stopped and turned about. They studied each other for an instant and then, Obi-Wan took hold of the gloved hand, put the lightsaber in it and closed the fingers around it.

"May the Force be with you and your family, my friend. With the blessings of the Order. I wish you all the joy and happiness in the world."

Anakin’s eyes misted and his chin quivered. He clearly didn’t expect such massive understanding.

Obi-Wan reached out and squeezed the strong upper arm.

"Let me know when your child is born. I will be honoured to be ‘Uncle Obi-Wan’ to it."

Anakin’s face glowed, and letting go of all restraint, he clasped the older man into a fierce hug.

The twins were born three weeks later, and he was introduced to them when they were two days old.

He saw the change in Anakin the moment he entered the medical centre’s nursery. The young man was holding Luke in his arms, unable to let him go. The baby’s tiny hand held his father’s forefinger, and he sucked the tip in his sleep. Anakin raised his eyes to his friend. They were full of tears.

"This is what I was born for, Obi-Wan. For this. For them," he gestured to Leia, who slept peacefully in the crib next to Luke’s empty one.

Obi-Wan’s heart sang with joy at the immense happiness filling his friend’s soul. The latent restlessness and aggressiveness were completely gone, and an infinite calmness had taken residence in his spirit.

Anakin bent over the bundle in his arms and caressed the little face with his nose, sniffing at it and raining soft, delicate kisses all over it. There was something so basic, so primal in that caress that it hit Obi-Wan in the guts.

Luke’s eyes suddenly opened, and Obi-Wan gasped at the deep, crystal blue that greeted them. He didn’t know if babies so young could make out any shapes, but he got his answer when Luke’s eyes fixed on Anakin and a radiant smile appeared on his round, chubby face.

But it was nothing compared to the smile that illuminated the face of the baby’s father.

"Good morning, little one," Anakin whispered to his son. Blond fleece, almost invisible to their eyes, dusted the vulnerable head that Anakin tenderly kissed.

Luke released the fingertip in his mouth, and rewarded his father with a happy chortle.

"I thought human babies didn’t smile until they were a few weeks old," Obi-Wan’s amazement knew no bounds.

"I thought so too," Anakin nodded. "But he smiled the moment the droid gave him to me right after he was born. He opened his eyes, looked at me and just... smiled." He paused, dropping another kiss on the tiny nose. "My greatest blessing. My most wondrous miracle!" there was a catch in his voice that immediately sobered the Jedi master.

"Did something happen?" Obi-Wan asked worriedly. "How’s Padme?" it suddenly dawned on him that they were in the nursery, not in Padme’s room. He had the feeling that something very serious had transpired.

A deep shudder crossed the young man’s body, and he raised his eyes from his son to his old friend.

"I almost lost her, Obi-Wan. My nightmares came true," he trembled like a leaf at the memory. "She had a massive haemorrhage after Leia was born. She needed three transfusions until the medical droids stabilized her. They still don’t know how she survived," his eyes misted and he looked away. "But I do know." His voice dropped.

"How?" Obi-Wan asked hoarsely.

The young man smiled ironically.

"It was the Light," he uttered in the softest voice, his gaze turning to his son in his arms and his daughter in her crib. He shook his head in shame. "I thought love wouldn’t save her. And love was the answer." He held Luke to his chest and met Obi-Wan’s eyes. "The children and I created a... I don’t know how to explain it. A circle of Force. We linked our lifeforces, and somehow channelled them into Padme." The wonder in his voice soon gave way to his darkest tone. "He lied to me. The answer lay with the Light, not the Dark." He ground his teeth and snarled. "He wanted my soul, and he knew I’d have given it to him willingly to save her... to save them."

Luke let out a short squeak that immediately shook his father out of his black thoughts.

"It’s all right, my little angel." Anakin quickly focused on his son, and kissed the diminutive hands that reached up and touched his face. "The Force saved me from making the most dreadful mistake of my life, and now I have you three by my side. The only thing I need." He caressed the pink cheeks with his fingertips, learning every tiny feature by touch alone. "I’ll never underestimate the power of love again."

Obi-Wan watched the scene, too blown away to speak. He was seeing it with his own eyes and he still couldn’t believe it. Anakin and his son were linked. They seemed to have bonded at the most basic level. And that bond had allowed the baby to call on his father’s nurturing nature, driving him away from his anger.

 

The child was the father’s natural balance. His spiritual equilibrium. He had been from birth. He responded with calm and unconscious soothing thoughts to Anakin’s fears and his innate tendency towards pessimism and negativity.

Emboldened by his son’s total faith in him, Anakin made towards the floor cushions. He sat Luke on his favourite one and brought two more close, placing them in front of the boy. He sat down cross-legged on the first and gestured Obi-Wan to take the second.

Obi-Wan got himself comfortable and looked up to see father and son staring at him expectantly.

"This is what I call an attentive audience," he cracked, trying to get them all to relax. He didn’t know what to do, exactly, so he resorted to humour. It had always worked with Anakin, and it didn’t fail him this time either.

Luke and Anakin smiled and relaxed visibly. But before he could start, Anakin spoke first.

"Please, give me a second to prepare Luke," he asked.

"Certainly," Obi-Wan said. He set out to watch with vivid interest. He was very curious about Anakin’s approach and technique when training his children.

Anakin turned to his son and concentrated solely on him. It was as if only the two of them existed. His voice dropped to a soft, seductive whisper.

"Remember our lessons, Luke. Open your mind gradually. Gently," Father and Son’s eyes closed and they bent forward, edging instinctively close. "Reach out and look for me. Little by little, until you find me. Control it. Steady." The young man smiled. "Good. Now focus on our bond. Do you see it?"

"Yes, Daddy," Luke’s voice sounded different. Lower somehow, and filled with quiet, barely restrained joy.

"Open up to it, little one," Anakin instructed. He reached out his hand and brushed a long caress all along the side of the child’s head. "I’ll meet you halfway." He took a deep, cleansing breath.

Obi-Wan saw it the moment Father and Son’s minds touched. A soft, golden glow enveloped them, and their faces seemed to light up from within. A sublime peace radiated from them, and swept away the Jedi master like a tide.

"Go ahead, Obi-Wan," Anakin murmured all of a sudden without opening his eyes. "We’re ready."

Obi-Wan quickly pulled himself together.

"Right, ahhh... Listen to me. I want you to do exactly as I say." He paused. "But you must trust me," he added as a second thought.

"We trust you," Anakin and Luke said at the same time. Their voices sounded like one, and Obi-Wan couldn’t tell one from the other. It was the eeriest thing he had ever seen.

"All right." He closed his eyes and touched the Force within himself. He entrusted it to guide him, even if he didn’t quite know what he was doing. "I want you to visualize a door in your minds. It’s the door that keeps your conscious mind apart from your unconscious. I want you to open it."

Luke and Anakin’s respirations accelerated abruptly, in obvious apprehension.

"You have nothing to fear," the Jedi master hurried to reassure them. "Whatever lies behind that door will only come to you in your dreams. It won’t affect your daily lives. You’re perfectly safe."

Anakin and Luke nodded very slowly, in understanding. Their respirations returned to normal.

"Now, let your minds resurface again. Take all the time you need, and open your eyes," Obi-Wan instructed softly.

The Jedi master watched entranced how Luke and Anakin’s minds separated and became single entities again. It was almost a physical thing. Their connection dissolved progressively, until they opened their eyes and looked at each other with an intensity that left the older man speechless.

No, the connection wasn’t broken, Obi-Wan realized in a moment of insight. It was still there. Latent, dormant, binding them together every minute of their lives, ready to be opened fully the moment either of them needed it.

It was an umbilical cord, a mystical union between their minds and souls. A union the father needed as much as the child.

"You did it, Obi-Wan," Anakin said in a low voice, staring at his son, who smiled at him and nodded excitedly.

"I-I did?" Obi-Wan blinked. He couldn’t believe it had been so easy.

"The simplest approach is always the best. Your idea of visualizing a door and then opening it was brilliant. It worked."

Obi-Wan smiled, delighted.

"I’m very happy to hear that."

"Let’s go back inside and tell mommy," Anakin encouraged Luke, who quickly jumped to his feet. Nothing had changed. He was the same energetic, bouncy and vibrant child.

"I suggest for you to go to sleep early," Obi-Wan advised Anakin on their way back inside. "Let’s see if there’s something different about your dreams this first night, with the door just open."

Anakin nodded in agreement.

They entered the living room at the exact moment Leia was showing her just finished drawing to her mother. Padme took the sketch pad in her hands and looked at the little girl’s drawing with a smile. She did a double take and the smile disappeared from her face. A deathly pallor covered her features and her eyes looked up, meeting Anakin’s, who rushed to her side with a sinking feeling of foreboding.

Padme passed on the pad to him with trembling hands. Anakin looked at it and his body became instantly rigid.

"What is it?" Luke and Obi-Wan asked at the same time. Luke hurried to his father’s side.

Anakin swallowed hard and fell to one knee, showing the drawing to his son and Obi-Wan, who walked up behind the boy.

Luke let out an anguished whimper, and held on to his father’s arm for support and protection. Shuddering already, he met Anakin’s eyes and nodded.

Obi-Wan stared at the childish drawing of a big, masked man dressed in black, wearing boots, gloves and a long cape. Green, red and white lights and switches adorned his chest. And he brandished an ignited red lightsaber in his right hand.

 

 

The youngest Skywalker was bombarded with questions after her drawing proved that she was also involved, but her answers only raised more questions.

Leia had been dreaming about the man in black for a while, but for some reason, he didn’t evoke the same feeling of panic he evoked in her brother. Sure, he was scary, but she could control her fear and stand up to him with no problems.

In her dreams, she saw herself as a sort of leader, issuing orders to many people who seemed to ‘work’ for her.

The only thing she found scary was the strange, white, masked ‘soldiers’ who wielded big weapons. Their faces looked inhuman and angry, and made her want to run.

Obi-Wan, Anakin and Padme looked at each other, sharing the same thought. The Republic’s Clone Army.

But it made no sense. The Clone Army didn’t exist anymore. Of course, the child could have seen them in old holos, but it still didn’t explain why she felt personally threatened by them in her nightmares.

There was more to this mystery than they could fathom, and they were no closer to solving it.

Finally, after putting the twins to bed, the adults also retired, with a growing feeling of trepidation in the pits of their stomachs.

 

 

‘You must choose!’

‘I have the power to save the one you love!’

‘Become my apprentice.’

‘Unlimited power!’

Beads of sweat covered Anakin’s forehead as he tossed and turned in bed, moaning weakly and fighting the Darkest, most horrifying memories that were surfacing after lurking in his mind for seven years.

But then, something changed. There was a sudden shift in his mind, and he experienced a strange feeling of vertigo. He was swept away in a wild current, and spiralled down into the blackest hole. When he thought he was going to lose his mind, he was deposited elsewhere. A place of fire and mayhem, out of an insane man’s worst nightmares.

‘You have allowed this Dark Lord to twist your mind, until now you have become the very thing you swore to destroy.’

Anakin sat up with a spasm, letting out the most bone-chilling scream. The scream of someone on the verge of total madness, trying to escape by crying out into oblivion.

Padme thought her heart was going to stop beating at the ear-splitting, inhuman sound that threw her out of sleep.

Anakin screamed until he thought his vocal cords were going to break. Nothing could stop the gaping horror consuming his mind and his thoughts, the blackness closing in on him, the full realization of what he had become.

"DADDY! DADDY!!!! DADDY, PLEAAAAAAAAAAASEE!!!!!"

The echo of the abomination devouring his son’s soul shook the young man out of the claws of the monster that was devouring him. He ripped the covers off him and darted for his children’s room like a raging beast, ready to tear apart anything or anyone threatening them.

Just outside the siblings’ bedroom, he encountered a shadow. He growled at it like a wild animal, and was pleased when the shadow jerked back. Only then, a small part of his brain recognized his former master, but right now, apologizing was the last thing in his mind. His naked chest heaved savagely, his nostrils flared and his pupils dilated, getting ready for the fight that only would end when the danger to his children was pulp at his feet.

The door to the twins’ room slid open, and Anakin charged inside.

Sitting in his little bed, Luke shuddered and shivered, all drenched in sweat, eyes glazed over, unable to wake up completely on his own. His arms reached out toward the door, as if feeling instinctively that salvation could only come from there.

Anakin hurled himself at his son and wrapped him in mis arms, mindless of his own sweaty state.

Father and Son embraced desperately, clinging to each other for dear life. Luke burrowed into Anakin’s form, cuddling up to him in an almost foetal position, as if wanting to crawl deep within him.

"Daddy, oh, daddy!" he sobbed, his voice muffled in his father’s chest. "Don’t let me go!! Don’t let him kill me! Please, Daddy! It hurts so much! It’s killing me!"

"It’s all right, my angel. Daddy’s here and you’re safe now. I will destroy anyone who dares to hurt you." Anakin’s voice came out startingly calm and soothing. The young man himself was astonished at the calmness in his voice. His heart felt about to explode and the fear was making his teeth chatter, and yet, he was all serenity when comforting his child.

"He was throwing lightning at me, Daddy! It came out of his fingertips and he was killing me with it!!"

Anakin’s blood ran cold in his veins at his son’s words. His eyes quickly looked for Obi-Wan’s, and in them he saw the same shocked look that had to be in his own.

He cupped the boy’s head in his palm and kissed it fiercely.

"Who was throwing lightning at you, Luke?" he asked, holding the child tighter to him, begging his forgiveness in his mind for forcing him to talk about it.

"S-s-someone!" Luke exclaimed. "Someone old and so... evil, Daddy! It made me sick! He was like the Dark Side itself."

"Did he say anything?" Obi-Wan pushed the boy gently, meeting Anakin’s eyes apologetically. It broke his heart to terrorize the child further, but he knew that if they didn’t get to the bottom of this soon, Luke and Anakin’s sanity wouldn’t hold on for much longer.

"He—he said..." Luke grabbed his father’s upper arm and squeezed it until Anakin winced. The young man’s eyes filled with tears and he tightened his already crushing embrace, desperate to reassure his son that he would do anything to keep him safe. "He said that if I didn’t turn I would be destroyed. That I was a young fool and I was paying the price for my lack of vision. And then he raised his hands, and..." he closed his eyes and sought his father’s warmth with a keening wail.

Anakin hissed in empathetic pain. Taking a deep breath, he slowly brought down his lips to the little ear and whispered into it secretively.

"This person, is wearing a black cloak? Is he covering his head with the hood?"

The boy nodded against his father’s chest.

"Are his eyes yellow?"

Luke’s head moved from his hiding place and the boy’s eyes met his father’s. They were red and swollen, full of tears that trickled down his flushed cheeks. He nodded again.

Anakin bent down and wiped the wetness away with his own lips, wishing he had the power to put an end to his son’s torment.

Luke flung his arms round his father’s neck and trembling like a leaf, he spilled it all into Anakin’s ear.

"H-he’s got big bumps on his forehead and..." he bit his lower lip, afraid to say the words out loud. Somehow, talking about it made it real, made it a part of his world. "His face’s all pasty white and covered with lines. Ho-horrible lines and... and his teeth are... rotten. His smile is..." He shivered again and buried his face in Anakin’s shoulder, wanting to disappear in him and never come out of his father’s invulnerable circle of protection.

Anakin did his best to hide his own tremor from his son, but this was much more than he could take. He looked around him, looking for a safe anchor to ground him, for a steadying force that made reality stop spinning.

Leia was sitting on her brother’s bed, next to them. She had wrapped her arms around her bent knees and she was rocking herself. The look in her eyes spoke of total helplessness and confusion, fear and... something else. He reached out one arm to her, and the little girl threw herself at him. The siblings clung to their father as their only anchor, their only shield against this unnamed menace that was closing in on them.

 

 

It was 3:25 AM, and Luke and Leia were the only ones sleeping in the Skywalker home. All of them had ended up in the living room, determined to cast some light on this madness one way or another.

Anakin was sitting on the centre of the big sofa, with his children sleeping on him, heads resting one on each of Anakin’s thighs. The young man had one arm around each twin, protecting them from the Force only knew what. Obi-Wan and Padme were sitting in front of Anakin on two armchairs, closing the circle.

"You know who this Sith Lord is that Luke was talking about, don’t you?" Obi-Wan asked without preamble, bending forward.

Anakin’s eyes raised from his children to Obi-Wan, and after a brief pause, he nodded.

"It’s Palpatine, isn’t it?"

Anakin stared deep into his former master’s eyes, and nodded again.

Obi-Wan blew out all the air in his lungs in a most explicit gesture, and leaned back in his seat.

"We were right," Anakin said out of the blue. "Everything comes back to that moment in Palpatine’s office, seven years ago."

"How?" Obi-Wan asked in puzzlementh. "Luke’s not related to that moment in any way."

"There’s something I didn’t tell you, either of you." Anakin’s eyes moved from Obi-Wan to his wife.

"What is it?" Padme asked, reaching out and clasping her husband’s hand on Leia’s shoulder.

Anakin’s features contorted with a million grimaces of pain, of terrifying memories that still haunted him, after all those years. Bringing those feelings under control, he calmed down gradually, after one long look at his sleeping children. He braved Obi-Wan’s eyes.

"When Palpatine was fighting master Windu, he cast Force lightning at him, but master Windu deflected it back to him through his lightsaber." He felt a revolting nausea in the pit of his stomach. "His skin got all pasty white. His face began to change, to smoke before my eyes. It filled with deep lines, so deep that they outlined his skull below. Two big bumps appeared on his forehead and his eyes became... yellow."

"Holy Force!" Obi-Wan exclaimed. "Just like in the old tales!"

"And what did you do?" Padme asked, squeezing his hand tight, in silent encouragement and support. "Did you kill him then?"

Anakin hesitated, shame creeping up his soul. He had reacted too late, and a life had been lost.

"No, I didn’t. He kept saying that he had the power to save the one I loved, that I had to choose." He closed his eyes and shook his head. "He begged me to not let master Windu kill him." His eyes looked for his wife, desperate to be understood. "I asked master Windu to stop, that Palpatine had to stand trial, that cold-blooded murder wasn’t the Jedi way. And when it became evident that master Windu was going to kill him anyway, I..."

"You severed his arm and then Palpatine killed him." Obi-Wan quickly finished for him. It made his heart bleed to see guilt devouring his friend. He couldn’t begin to imagine the horror that had transpired in that room for those few minutes. The destinies of the galaxy, the Republic, and probably the Jedi Order, had been decided at that very moment, with Anakin’s brave choice. He felt unspeakably remorseful for leaving Anakin alone at the most critical moment of his life. He had been little more than a padawan, a confused young man consumed by a million conflicting emotions, torn between his duty, his principles and the greatest temptation, facing the greatest Sith Lord that had ever existed, a man he had befriended since he was a child. "Anakin, it’s all right. We understand what it took you to open your eyes and realize that someone you thought you knew, was only a front, an illusion that successfully fooled us all for decades! We all let you down, but you proved yourself; and through your actions, you purged yourself of your demons."

"I was this close, Obi-Wan!" Anakin exploded, holding his thumb and forefinger one centimetre apart from each other. "I felt the beast inside me coming to life, singing in my veins, promising everything I had ever wanted and more!" His eyes blazed passionately and he bared his teeth. "I *wanted* to give in to my anger and release all the frustrations I had bottled up for years! I wanted to wipe everything out! Oh, you have no idea. The power, the freedom of letting go! No more restraints, no more rules, no more self-control. Everything in me was screaming to surrender and be free! I felt myself succumbing... willingly. It felt so damn good!"

Padme and Obi-Wan shivered simultaneously, for a second seeing it all through the look in Anakin’s eyes. The seduction, the obscene lure of the Dark Side.

"And what stopped you?" Obi-Wan asked weakly. His mouth was dry.

Anakin returned to the reality surrounding him with a little shudder. He blinked and swallowed hard, focusing again on the here and now. On the precious weight of his children in his lap.

"I... I don’t know," he said honestly. "After master Windu’s death, I broke down. I was frozen, poised on the very brink of committing myself to the Dark Side; and I looked at Palpatine. At the... creature in front of me. I saw him, devoured in body and soul by the Darkness, enslaved by it, and I went all cold inside. I suddenly realized that this was how I would end up one day, devoured by the monster that lurked deep inside me, unable to escape." He paused briefly and his eyes flashed with anger. "And he knew it too. He knew and still wanted me to surrender myself to him, so he could enslave *me*." His gaze softened just as fast. "Somehow, I knew that the moment I yielded to the hate in me, love would have no place in my heart anymore." His eyes turned to Padme, frightened and infinitely ashamed. "I would lose you, as surely as if you died in childbirth, as I had dreamed."

Padme’s eyes clouded. She took a deep, shaky breath, and interlaced her fingers with his.

Anakin ground his teeth, holding back tears and making a superhuman effort to keep control. His eyes turned to Obi-Wan and he straightened himself in his seat.

"The next thing I remember is standing in the middle of the chamber, my ignited lightsaber in hand, and Palpatine’s body lying at my feet, sliced in two."

A deathly, shocked silence followed Anakin’s full confession.

"In what way does Luke fit in all this?" Obi-Wan murmured, mostly to himself, in a hoarse voice. He was more desperate than ever now to understand.

Anakin’s arm brought his son closer to him automatically. Luke mumbled something in his sleep and cuddled up to his father with a sigh.

"Luke whispered to me that he’s dreamed of an old man with yellow eyes, big bumps on his forehead and deep lines on his face, throwing Force lightning at him."

Padme covered her mouth with her hand to keep a cry from escaping her lips.

Obi-Wan looked away and brought up one hand to his beard, too appalled for words.

"He-he couldn’t be dreaming of Palpatine," he said at last. "Only you saw him in that state, for a few minutes, seven years ago," he reasoned.

"Believe me, master, he *was* dreaming of Palpatine," Anakin nodded emphatically, leaving no room for doubt.

"What if he’s taken the image from your mind, through your bond?" Padme ventured to ask, even knowing she was the last person who should be speaking.

Anakin smiled sweetly at his wife, very pleased with her speculation. He shook his head gently.

"No, there’s something else here. Something..." he trailed off, at a loss for words. "Obi-Wan, what do you say?" he asked his old friend, who had been silent for a little too long, pulling absently at his beard, deep in thought.

The man’s blue eyes turned to Anakin’s and promptly refocused.

"More and more, I’m convinced that we already have all, or most, of the pieces to sort this out. We simply don’t know how to put them together. We don’t even know what the pieces are. But they *are* there, in our faces."

Anakin looked down and frowned, in profound concentration. He ended up nodding in agreement.

"For example..." Obi-Wan began.

"For example?" Anakin echoed, bending slightly forward.

"It was the first thing that struck me about tonight’s episode. It wouldn’t have occurred to me if I hadn’t witnessed it personally, but I find it odd now, looking back."

"Well?" Anakin’s eyebrows arched, full of curiosity.

"Why does Luke turn to you for comfort?" Obi-Wan finally managed to put into words something he had been turning over in his mind for a while now. "It is my understanding that most children call out to their mothers when they’re having a nightmare. But Luke always calls out to *you*. Why?" he threw out his hands vehemently. "Why does he always seek reassurance from you after his nightmares?"

Anakin and Padme turned to each other immediately, mouths dropping open, realizing the truth in Obi-Wan’s statement.

"I can’t believe it escaped us until now!" Padme exclaimed.

"You’re absolutely right, master!" Anakin confirmed, breathless. "They’ve only had a handful of nightmares in all these years, but every time they woke up afterwards, they called out to Padme."

A gut feeling, a dreadful intuition, made its way through Obi-Wan’s wall of denial that had been preventing him from seeing the only logical answer. His stomach churned, and he felt the bile rising and burning a path up to his throat.

"Obi-Wan, are you all right?" Anakin asked, his voice full of worry at the sudden paleness on his friend’s face.

Obi-Wan’s eyes moved all over the room, elusive. He couldn’t let Anakin see his face. He couldn’t let him suspect. At least, not until his hunch was proved correct.

Yoda’s words to Anakin started making sense now. Even the questions that had been plaguing him all these years...

"Ahhh, yes," he cleared his throat, and did a brutal effort to calm down and present a composed face to his friends. "I think we’ve reached a stage where I strongly recommend for us to continue with these proceedings at a more controlled environment. The Jedi Temple." He turned his head and met Anakin and Padme’s eyes. "Should things get out of hand, we can control the situation better there."

"Do you expect things to get out of hand?" Padme asked, her brow furrowing in suspicion.

"I think we’re on the verge of a momentous discovery," Obi-Wan said sincerely, "and things got pretty out of hand tonight," he pointed out sensibly. "Whatever happens, it’ll be safer there. I guarantee you that."

Anakin and Padme looked into each other’s eyes and had another one of their silent conversations. Finally, their features softened in unison and Anakin turned to his old friend.

"All right, master. We’ll be there tomorrow."

 

 

"You stay with Luke at all times." Anakin told Padme, who stood beside him next to the table where he was going to lie down. "Should he wake up after another vision, he’ll need you with him. I will be all right," he reassured her, squeezing her hand.

Padme squeezed her husband’s hand back with a tremulous smile. She couldn’t shake off the awful feeling that something very serious was going to happen today.

"Remember that you must close up your bond with Luke. You mustn’t leak into each other’s minds," Obi-Wan reminded him with an apologetic face. He could only imagine how it would feel to lose such precious connection. The emptiness. The unfathomable silence in their minds.

"Daddy..." Luke grasped Anakin’s hand nervously. He was aware of the importance and necessity of what they were doing, but he was clearly overwhelmed and afraid of what would come out of it.

Anakin dropped to one knee and held the little face in his hands.

"Don’t worry, my son," he smiled down at the concerned blue eyes, so much like his own. He caressed the pink cheeks with his thumbpads and kissed the boy’s forehead adoringly. "It will be for a very short time, I promise." He moved back and met the apprehensive gaze with utter calm and infinite love. "And remember that even though you can’t feel me here," he touched Luke’s temple, "I am *always* here," he touched the child’s heart. "Always."

In a burst of emotion, Father and Son embraced, tighter and more desperately than ever.

Anakin closed his eyes, trying to control the wave of emotion choking him. He cupped the blond head in his hand and dropped a string of endless kisses on it.

‘I love you, my son. My Light, my life, my heart, my soul. My little angel.’ Anakin bid goodbye to his child in their minds. One last, profound mind-touch, before utter silence befell them both.

Luke petted Anakin’s head, sliding his little fingers through his father’s hair in a somewhat incongruous gesture for a seven year old. For a second, he seemed older than his years. He burrowed his face into Anakin’s neck.

‘I love you, Daddy. I love you so much! I love you forever,’ he whispered into his father’s mind, soaking up his warmth and scent, as he used to do when he was a baby. Moving back, he took Anakin’s head in his small hands and kissed his eyes, almost like a blessing.

Anakin went all soft inside. If he had his children’s love, then he didn’t need anything else in the universe.

"We have to close up our bond now. Don’t be afraid. It will be for the duration of the experiment only," he caressed the now slightly pale cheeks with the back of his gloved fingers.

Luke nodded assent and kissed the caressing fingers, pressing the mechanical hand to his face.

Watching them both, it occurred to Padme that Luke seemed to have a curious predilection for his father’s prosthetic hand. He always grasped it when they were going out, he always sat at Anakin’s right and draped his father’s arm around his shoulders, he kissed his hand at the least opportunity. He treated his father’s artificial limb with a tenderness that defied description.

Father and son doubled over with a moan when Anakin closed up the link binding them together. Luke swayed on his feet and reached for his head, shutting his eyes against the pain.

"Oh, Daddy. It hurts!" he groaned.

Anakin held the little body to him, passing on to it all his strength.

"I know. I know, my baby," he nuzzled the uneven fringe, trying to assuage both their pain through physical touch. "But when Obi-Wan puts you to sleep, it won’t hurt anymore. I promise."

"And what about you?" Luke asked.

Anakin smiled and leaned his forehead on his son’s.

"Master Yoda will take care of me. He’ll put me to sleep too." He met the boy’s eyes. "And then, we won’t have any more scary nightmares," he smiled confidently. "But we have to be very brave and do as we’re told. Obi-Wan and master Yoda know what has to be done. Everything will be fine, you’ll see."

Luke swallowed hard and hesitated visibly. But then, he kissed the tip of his father’s nose and nodded sharply.

"Okay," he simply said.

Anakin hugged his child one last time, summoning up his courage through the pure, intense contact.

"I am so proud of you, Luke," he whispered into the little ear. "Never forget how much I love you, my brave little one."

"I love you, Daddy," Luke whispered back thickly. "I’m always here, with you," he touched his father’s chest.

Fighting the impulse to never let go, Anakin pushed the boy back, passing the little hand to Obi-Wan, who took it in his own with a nod, and a fierce promise in his eyes.

A subtle coughing sound at their backs announced Yoda’s presence in the room.

"Ready, are we?" he asked, his green eyes sweeping the vast room. He watched through slitted eyes Anakin’s final caress to his son, and pursed his lips in disapproval.

"We are ready, master Yoda," Padme answered for them all, her eyes flashing for an instant.

"I’ll take Luke to the other room now," Obi-Wan said, indicating with his head the adjacent room where the younglings used to train. It was bright and warm, and Luke’s great sensitivity would pick up the soothing waves left by other Force-sensitive children like him. He would feel comfortable there. Comfortable enough to let go without any resistance.

Anakin sat down on the low, narrow table where everything would happen for him in just a few minutes, and watched his son go with his best friend. A shooting pain in his heart made him wince. His fault. It was all his fault. And he was dragging his son, his daughter, and his wife along. Force, he would give his life to spare them this!

He was afraid. Afraid that what they found out today would change them all forever. Afraid of who would they be when the experiment ended.

When they reached the door, Luke turned about and looked at him. Composing himself, Anakin tipped his head and smiled lovingly at his child, holding back the instinct to open the bond between them. The effort to keep it shut when it was crying out to be opened again was draining him.

Luke’s eyes drank in the sight of his father, but he forced a shaky smile and a little wave of his hand. Only the door closing after him and Obi-Wan severed the connection crackling between them.

Anakin sagged and drew in a painful intake of breath, bringing one hand up to his chest in a most explicit gesture.

"Daddy..." Leia’s weak voice snapped Anakin out of his self-imposed prison of guilt. Tears rolled down the little girl’s face. Tears of fear, of raw emotion and distress. She had managed to hold on until then, but it was evident that now that everything was starting, it was too much for her to handle.

"It’s all right, sweetheart," Anakin smiled down at her, kissing her forehead time and again and sliding his fingers through her long dark hair. "Everything will turn out for the best."

"Oh, Daddy!" she choked on her words and clung to her father’s neck.

"I know how helpless you must be feeling, my little Princess. But you must not worry. Strengthen your mental shields so you won’t get our emanations. Try to meditate and reach for the Force within you. If you stay focused, it will help us," Anakin reassured her. The tremor in the tiny body brought him awfully close to the breaking point. He moved back and took Leia’s chin in his hand, determined to keep control.

"Really? It will help you?" the child asked, hopeful.

"We’re all connected, honey," Anakin reminded her, holding her hands in his own. "We’re all one in the Force. If you stay calm and channel that peace and calm through to us, it will be an immeasurable comfort to Luke and me."

Leia took a deep breath and her face lit up with joy at the thought of being useful to her father and brother, in some small way at least.

"I will help you, Daddy. I’ll do everything I can."

"Thank you, sweetheart," Anakin forced a final smile, kissing the top of her head. "Now, I want you to go with mommy and master Ayla Secura," he looked up and nodded at his wife and the Twi’lek Jedi. "Master Secura will stay with you until the hypnosis session is over. I want you to paint the most beautiful drawing for Luke and me."

"Luke always says that my drawings are silly," Leia pouted.

"But you know he doesn’t mean it," Anakin pinched the little girl’s nose. "He likes them a lot."

Leia giggled.

"Yes, I know." She looked up at Ayla Secura, who watched them both with an indulgent, affectionate smile. She looked back at her father, all serious now. "May the Force be with you, Daddy."

Anakin framed his daughter’s face in his palm.

"May the Force be with you, darling." With a final smile, he stood and met Padme’s eyes. A universe of meaning passed between them, and moving close, they shared a soft parting kiss.

When the doors closed after Leia, Padme and master Secura, Anakin closed his eyes and turned inwards, looking for his calm centre. He sat cross-legged on the narrow table, concentrating deeply and reaching for the Force within him.

Yoda cocked his head to one side and observed the young man communing with the Force. His expression conveyed a blending of respect and censure in equal parts.

"Anakin, we’re ready," Obi-Wan’s voice came over the intercom.

Anakin’s eyes blinked open and somewhat sluggishly, he reached for the button.

"Is Padme there with you?" he asked.

"Yes, I’m here, Anakin," Padme’s soothing voice took over. "Leia’s with master Secura now, pencil in hand and drawing away."

Anakin let out a small amused smile. Drawing was like a ritual for their daughter. It helped her to relax and gather her thoughts together when she was nervous or upset. He was beginning to suspect that drawing was also an outlet for her Force gifts. The way she communicated things she couldn’t verbalize otherwise.

"No matter what happens to me or with me, never leave Luke’s side," he repeated for the umpteenth time.

"We won’t," Padme reassured for the umpteenth time too. "I love you," she said emphatically, her accent full of that blessed feeling and... something else. Something that sounded like... challenge? Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Yoda pursing his lips again, and realized for whose benefit those words truly were. He bit back a smile.

"I love you, Daddy!!" Luke’s cry echoed through the intercom.

Anakin bowed his head to hide his mirth. His shoulders shook helplessly.

"I love you, little one," he declared when he pulled himself together. "I’ll see you soon," he said to both his son and his wife.

"Soon," Padme reiterated meaningfully.

The communication died and Anakin resumed his cross-legged position on the table, facing Yoda. Something in him went cold.

It wasn’t fear, but a combination of feelings. Uncertainty, apprehension, anxiety... All of a sudden, he felt cut off from all those he loved, from those who loved him. He felt like a lost child facing his greatest fear with no outside support. It had been years since he had last felt like that, and it unsettled him to his soul.

It wasn’t Yoda’s fault. He knew the old master only wanted to help. But there was such an unfeeling coldness in Yoda’s demeanour, in his approach to the Force and feelings in general, that it chilled him. It had chilled him – and repelled him - all his life.

That almost forgotten feeling returned full-force. He strengthened his own shields, trying to compose himself. He needed all the concentration he could muster. Every other feeling had to be put aside for it would only be a hindrance. Only when he achieved that calm state of mind, he felt Yoda’s approval in the air, like a cool breeze.

"When ready you are, lie down you can," Yoda’s voice sounded almost hypnotic.

With a nod, Anakin complied and got as comfortable as he could on the narrow table. He did his best to relax and open his mind to Yoda. Not an easy thing to do because a part of him resisted again and again. Yoda’s mind was too foreign, too forbidding, nothing like the soothing, welcoming and infinitely loving place that his son’s mind was. A sanctuary for his restless thoughts to find solace and comfort. Luke’s mind was his natural home. Yoda’s mind was so perfectly ordered, so perfectly logical and imperturbable, that there was nothing in it for him to hold on to. It wasn’t cold, it wasn’t warm. It was as immutable as Time and space. It chilled him to the bone.

‘Fear not,’ an incorporeal voice whispered into his mind. ‘Nothing to fear from this knowledge you have. Only learn you can. Open your mind then, and see beyond the limits of our universe.’

A gentle command, whispered at a lower level than his mind could perceive, brought down the final barrier. All compartments within his mind crumbled. He was totally receptive and open to whatever waited for him outside.

Instantly, Anakin was swept away by an overwhelming feeling of vertigo and nausea. He spiralled out of control, more violently than in his last dream.

‘From what you are about to see, detach yourself you must. Distance yourself, Anakin Skywalker. See and learn.’

Anakin’s respiration accelerated dramatically.

 

 

"Deeper, Luke. You have to go deeper. Deeper... until you’re not in this room anymore," the cadence of Obi-Wan’s voice was rhythmic, mesmerizing, but also gentle and caring, coaxing the little boy into letting go and moving wherever his mind wanted to take him.

"I’m afraid," Luke replied in a weak, frightened voice. His little body tensed like an arrow on the table, and his closed eyelids squeezed even tighter.

Padme bent forward in her chair, watching the scene like a Rodian hawk.

Obi-Wan rested his bent arm on the table, directly above the boy’s head, protectively.

"You have nothing to be afraid of, Luke," he reassured. "You’re a mere spectator, like a viewer watching a holo. Step back from everything you’re about to witness, distance yourself from it."

The child relaxed fractionally, but his right hand grabbed the edge of the table until his knuckles went white.

"I see... I see something," he suddenly said.

"What? What do you see?" Obi-wan asked.

"I-I don’t know. It’s all noisy and windy around me. It’s like a huge, wide tube; a deep well, but full of small windows and blinking lights all around."

"Anything else?"

"I’m entering a dark chamber now. I’m cold and sweaty. I’m very tired and afraid. I’m looking for him."

"Who?" Obi-Wan’s ears pricked up.

"Him... I know he’s here, hiding somewhere..." the little body jerked on the table. "He’s here! He’s attacking me with his lightsaber!! He’s so big, so strong! I can’t hold him back!"

Padme and Obi-Wan shared an intense look.

 

 

"Where are you?" Yoda asked in a very low voice.

"I’m in Palpatine’s office," Anakin replied, breaking out into a cold sweat, "seven years ago," he swallowed with great difficulty. "I-it’s happening again! Palpatine’s begging me to not let master Windu kill him, that he has the power to save the one I love."

"What do you do?"

"I ask master Windu to stop, that it isn’t the Jedi way. I tell him that Palpatine has to stand trial, that I need him. But he won’t listen. He’s going to deliver the final blow. I... I have to stop him!" Anakin’s respiration became loud and ragged. "Force! I cut off master Windu’s arm!" Anakin winced and his head thrashed on the table. "No! Palpatine’s throwing Force lightning at him! He’s falling out of the broken window!!! NO!! NOOOO!! He’s dead! Dead!!"

"And Palpatine?" Yoda’s eyes bored into the stiff form flailing on the table.

"His face’s all deformed now, pasty white, two big bumps on his forehead... his eyes are yellow... compelling... staring at me... looking into me..."

"And...?" Yoda prompted persuasively.

"He asks me to become his apprentice. I- I’ve collapsed and dropped my saber. What have I done? Master Windu’s dead because of me. I’m dying with guilt, but at the same time... I’m burning inside with anger. The Jedi are to blame for this! I did as I was told, I betrayed my principles for them, and they still don’t trust me! They never did and never will! They never cared. I’m alone. I have no one to ask for help. I only have myself to trust." He pounded the table with a balled fist. "I’ll show them!! I’ll become the most powerful Jedi ever, the way it’s meant to be, and I’ll show them! I’ll save Padme and they’ll pay. They’ll pay for what they put me through, for tormenting me with impossible demands that I cannot meet. I’m sick of being afraid! I’m sick of hiding! I’m in command! No more hiding! This is who I am! Let go. Let go and become your own master! Your own master, and take revenge!"

Yoda’s eyes closed with finality and he nodded, oh-so-slowly.

"And to Palpatine’s proposition, what your answer is?" he asked in a raspy voice.

"I tell him... I..." Anakin’s voice suddenly became weak and hesitant. Almost childlike.

"What? What do you tell him?" Yoda insisted.

Anakin’s body lurched as if he had been electrocuted.

"NO! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!"

 

 

"He’s pushing me back! I fall and he points his saber to my face!" Luke whimpered and cowered on the table.

Obi-Wan bent forward, almost touching the little boy now.

"Easy, Luke, easy. He can’t hurt you. Relax. Just relax and tell us what you see."

"He tells me that I’m beaten, that it’s useless to resist. To not let myself be destroyed as Obi-Wan did."

Obi-Wan jolted back at those words, as if they had struck him physically. And they had.

Behind them, Padme stiffened in her chair, eyes open wide.

But before their thoughts could go any further, Luke continued.

"I fight him with everything I have and I hit his shoulder, but he still forces me to retreat," Luke began to whimper again. "I’m so close to the edge! If I step back a little bit more, I’ll fall. But he’s not stopping. He’s... He..." the boy’s face contorted with a blood-curdling scream. "He cut off my hand!!!! He cut it off!!!!!"

Padme bit her lower lip and covered her face with her hands, eyes filling with tears that promptly streamed down her cheeks.

"I lost my saber. I’m defenceless now. I have nowhere to go. He’ll kill me!!!"

The sudden pause felt deafening in the room.

"But he doesn’t. He lowers his saber and talks to me. He tells me that I haven’t realized my importance, that I’ve only begun to discover my power. He asks me to join him and he’ll complete my training. With our combined strength we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy."

"Luke, remember that you’re not a participant in what you’re seeing. You’re only seeing it happen. It can’t harm you in any way," Obi-Wan gently reminded the boy. Despite his outer calm, the little body was still trembling, living those moments with excruciating intensity.

"I know," Luke replied, releasing the edge of the table and beginning to twist his hands on his belly. "But it feels so real. He feels so real!"

"Is he the Sith you see in your dreams? The man in black, with the mask, the cape and the respirator?" Obi-Wan took a deep breath.

"Yes."

"And who are you in your vision?"

"I’m... older."

"Older?" Obi-Wan’s eyebrows arched.

"I’m 21."

Obi-Wan started to pull at his beard in an unconscious gesture. He should have realized sooner. The child’s vocabulary had widened gradually. He was definitely talking like an adult now.

"Tell us about yourself. About your life."

"I’m an orphan. I lived with uncle Owen and aunt Beru on Tatooine until the Imperial troops killed them. I accidentally received Leia’s message asking for help, and after rescuing her I joined the Rebel Alliance. We’ve been fighting the Empire for three years. Darth Vader is Emperor Palpatine’s right hand and main henchman. Obi-Wan told me he betrayed and murdered my father, and since then I’ve been looking forward to this moment. Master Yoda asked me to complete my training first, but I had to save my friends." The long explanation left the boy breathless, and the tension returned to his small body. "But I’m beaten," he moaned. "Vader’s going to kill me now. He’s playing mind-games with me, trying to seduce me. He wants me to join him and turn to the Dark Side!"

"What does he say, exactly?" Obi-Wan managed to ask when he put aside his own disturbance at the boy’s revelations.

"I tell him that I’ll never join him, but he reaches out to me. He tells me that Obi-Wan never told me what happened to my father," Luke’s face flushed with blind anger now. "The bastard! He’s daring to talk about my father now! He killed him!! But he tells me that he didn’t... that... that he..." Luke froze. His tiny body became so rigid that Obi-Wan and Padme feared it would snap.

"Luke?" Padme made the attempt to stand up, when a cry of sheer horror burst from the child’s throat.

"He tells me that he’s my father!!! NO! NOOOO!!! That’s impossible!!!"

Padme collapsed on her chair. Every drop of blood in her veins ran cold. Her face went ashen and she withdrew into herself, shivering with shock and denial.

It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be!!

 

 

"NOOOOOOO!!!! I committed myself to the Dark Side!!!! I pledged myself to Palpatine’s teachings!!" Anakin’s body shook brutally. His head tossed from side to side, as if trying to escape himself, desperate to run away from the horrific truth he had uncovered.

"Detach yourself you must, Anakin Skywalker," Yoda insisted once more, using the Force to keep Anakin on the table. Despite his deep state of hypnosis, he feared he would snap out of it just from the shock of what he had discovered.

 

 

Leia gave a sudden start and in a spasm, she scribbled a straight, deep line on her paper.

Master Secura turned her head sharply, and leant towards the little girl.

"Are you all right, sweetie?" she asked softly.

Leia looked straight ahead, unblinkingly, for a few seconds, as if seeing or listening to something far away, beyond her physical senses. Then, she returned to her drawing, more vehemently and feverishly than before.

 

 

"He tells me that it is the only way," Luke sobbed and moaned endlessly. "But I can’t turn! If I do, I might as well be dead. Dead inside like the monster in front of me. I’d rather die. Die before turning... It’s my only option." The little body went slack for an instant. "I let go and fall down the shaft. I’m expecting to die, but I don’t. I’m clinging to a weather vane, but I won’t be able to hold on for much longer. Leia... Leia, hear me..."

Obi-Wan and Padme’s eyes had locked onto each other, unable to look away, a silent message and a million searing emotions flowing back and forth between them.

Since the night before, when the blinders had come off at last, the Jedi master had been preparing himself for this. But being prepared for something and experiencing it firsthand were two totally different realities. There were no words, no feelings, to describe what was happening in that room at that very moment.

"Leia heard me and came for me. We escaped the Empire," Luke went on, oblivious to the adults’ mental turmoil. "But how will I live with this? Obi-Wan and Yoda lied to me deliberately. Why? Why didn’t they tell me?" Tears rolled down the pale face, pain escaping the little body in waves. "He’s my father. My father!"

 

 

Anakin was one heartbeat away from losing his mind. His body, his soul, his very essence, were petrified of the atrocities he was witnessing one after another, in an insane slideshow of gruesome scenes he was performing with cold-blooded, ruthless, inhuman precision.

The Jedi and younglings he massacred in the Jedi Temple. The slaughter of the Separatists on Mustafar. The seductive whispers into his mind egging him on, fulfilling a latent dark part of him, feeding it with the lust for power he had always craved... to protect those he loved, even at the expense of the Universe itself, if it came down to that. Now, those goals had coalesced into a single-minded purpose that consumed him whole. And he allowed himself to be consumed, knowing he would appear on the other side, stronger and more powerful than he or anyone, Jedi or Sith, had ever been.

But in the sane spark that barely survived in that crucible of Darkness, an innocent little boy watched, horrified, the acts of the Beast in the name of Love; shrinking with fear under the onslaught he felt powerless to stop.

In the midst of that mindless carnage, Padme and Obi-Wan tried to make him reason. But the Beast wouldn’t listen anymore, too far gone to hear anything that wasn’t its own voice. It only served itself now, long past the point of no return. It wanted more. It demanded everything, and those who tried to hold it back would be wiped out like the blind fools they were.

"You’ve changed. I don’t know you anymore."

"You’re going down a path I can’t follow."

"Come away with me. Leave everything else behind while we still can. I love you!"

"LIAR!! You’re with him!!" the Beast spewed, Force-choking the very being he had sworn to protect and cherish above all others.

"You turned her against me!!" Aflame. It was all aflame. Burning up.

"You have done that yourself," Obi-wan replied calmly.

"You will not take her from me!!" Blazing tongues of fire licked at his thoughts. Red-hot hatred. Revenge!! Complete destruction!!!

"Your anger and your lust for power have already done that. You have allowed this dark Lord to twist your mind, until now you have become the very thing you swore to destroy."

"If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy." Those who didn’t bow to the Darkness would be annihilated. For the greater good.

"Only a Sith deals in absolutes. I will do what I must."

"You will try."

Sanity crumbling, Anakin’s only thought now was escaping. If he watched any more, the fire within would devour him until there was no trace of him. The Beast was him. HIM!

"NO! NO!! That is not me!" he fought back. "It can’t be me!! I love Padme! I love our child! I’d die before hurting them!! This can’t be me!!"

But he couldn’t run away from the Truth. He couldn’t run away from what was happening. For it was happening. Not here. Not now. But somewhere else. Somewhere...

Images from hell zoomed past him. Images of a vicious fight between him and his former master and best friend. Impelled by Darkness, his only thought was destroy. Destroy. Destroy! Take revenge. Rule! Master! Conquer it all and be free at last!

Until, blinded by his own fanatical obsession and self-satisfied arrogance, he made a fatal mistake. And Obi-Wan didn’t fail.

Sickened to the deepest part of him, Anakin watched what was left of his body being consumed by fire. A deserved end for the flaming dragon consuming him from inside as well.

But it was far from over. Not even then would he be granted some mercy.

From the remains of Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader emerged. While his wife and his child died, a monster was born. Beyond humanity, beyond salvation, beyond the principles he had stood for all his previous life. He only served himself now, and the barren altar on which he had sacrificed everything that had ever been precious to him.

Years passed before his mind’s eye. Years of bloodshed and mass destruction he carried out unhesitatingly, glorying in every snuffed out life, that only fueled his hatred and buried him deeper in the perversion he had succumbed to.

Until, one day, one name changed it all.

Luke Skywalker.

Luke. The name he and his wife had agreed on, in case their first child was a boy. The name of the immensely Force-sensitive pilot who had blown away the Empire’s ultimate weapon.

A maniacal search ensued. Darkness boiled inside him. Darkness and an infinite anger at the final betrayal. It all came to the forefront and had its climax in the deflagration of rage and insanity when he engaged in a lightsaber fight with his own son.

"NOOOOOOO!!!!!! Oh, Force!!!!! Help me!!!! IT CANNOT BE!!!! I’m fighting Luke!!!! He’s the young man in my dreams!!! My grown-up son!!! Force, don’t let it happen!!! Don’t let me do it!!!! PLEASE!!! PLEASE, DON’T!!!"

But nothing and no one could stop what was transpiring.

Anakin struggled frenetically on the table. He fought the demon inside him committing the most unspeakable crime - brutalizing an idealistic child, punishing him with hateful blow after hateful blow, that resonated within the innocent young man’s soul in a relentless assault of implacable sadism.

"DON’T LET ME DO IT!!! PLEASE, DON’T LET ME HURT HIM!!!! FORCE, NO!!!! LET ME DIE FIRST!!! NOT TO MY SON!!! NOT TO MY ANGEL!!!" Tears carved a burning path down Anakin’s cheeks, but he didn’t feel them. He didn’t feel anything but the sound of his heart and his spirit, breaking into a million bleeding pieces.

"NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! I CUT OFF HIS HAND!!!! NOOOO!!!! HOLY FORCE, NO!!!!" Collapsing into an endless chain of sobbing and moaning, Anakin made the sudden attempt to get off the table, but Yoda restrained him again by using the Force.

It was breaking the old master’s heart to see the magnitude of the horror of Anakin’s tale in the young man’s contorted face, in his frantic struggles to escape. But they had to go through it. The Force demanded for the Truth to be uncovered fully, for everyone’s knowledge and understanding. They couldn’t go back now. Only when everything was out in the open they could begin to see the whole picture, and the lessons that had to be learned from it.

Anakin’s arms flailed helplessly, searching in vain. The edge of his hand hit inadvertently the intercom. Finally, his arms dropped on his belly.

"It is done." There was total devastation and hopelessness in his voice. "I told him who I was and what he was. He escaped, broken and destroyed. He preferred to die before turning and joining me. Like his mother before him." More tears spilled from Anakin’s ravaged eyes. "But our paths will meet again. They will. They must!"

 

 

Padme and Obi-Wan gave a start when Anakin’s rough, muffled voice filtered through the intercom. Luke gave no sign of hearing his father’s voice. He was too deep in the trauma he had uncovered to acknowledge the dearest voice of all.

"It’s been months and I still bleed inside every time I remember..." tears streamed down the pale cheeks, unheeded. "I have to face him again. Yoda and Obi-Wan keep telling me to do what... must be done. But I can’t. Even after what he did to me... I can’t hate him. I tried, but I couldn’t." The child brought up one hand, covering his heart. "For some reason, my mind keeps turning back to his words, to his every gesture, and somehow..." he sighed. "Images, flashbacks... I see him in my dreams, reaching out to me, as he did back then. And only now, I begin to see... He didn’t kill me. He could, when I refused to join him. I was powerless, unarmed, defeated... and he turned off his saber and reached out to me instead. He called me ‘Son,’ he asked me to come with him. His mind reached out to mine with... longing? What is this? What’s my heart trying to tell me?" the sweet face lit up somewhat, as if a new hope was blossoming inside him out of nowhere. "He stood for what was just and right once. He was a good man. He loved. Where did that love go? Could I... rekindle that spark again and... save him? Am I a fool for even wanting to try?" A bitter smile played across his lips. "Maybe I am. But even if there’s no hope for him, I can’t do it. Force help me, cause even now, after everything he’s done, I... I love him."

Padme was beyond speech, beyond any coherent thought. Her emotions were storming inside her, raw and torn. Incredibly, the only source of peace and calm in the room now was... Luke. Suddenly, he seemed to have come to terms with everything he had learned. Whether that peace came from the older Luke he was channelling or himself, she couldn’t be sure. He relaxed on the table for the first time in quite a while, and a hopeful, poignant smile took over.

Obi-Wan swallowed the big lump in his throat and composed himself as much as he could. Deep inside, his emotions were running rampant. Luke’s tale had blown away every preconceived idea, every illusion of an stable ground he had ever known. Even if the little boy’s tale had nothing to do with them, with their lives and their reality, the mere thought of what could have been, was enough to freeze the blood in his veins.

"What do you do?" he managed to ask, in a hoarse voice that hurt to hear.

"I surrender myself to him," was Luke’s answer. "I ask him to come with me. I know there is good in him. I tell him I will not turn and he’ll be forced to kill me. I urge him to search his feelings and let go of his hate." The child’s face fell. "But he tells me that it is too late for him." The little body shuddered. "I want to tell him that it’s never too late, that everything is possible if we have the courage to stand up and make it happen. But he won’t let me." The boy pursed his lips in frustration. "I’m disappointed but still hopeful. I won’t give up. For the first time, I feel I’ve really seen him. I’ve seen the man beneath the mask, not the Sith Lord. I have faith in him. When he allows himself to look into my heart, he will see the truth. I’m ready to die for him and his freedom. I’m at peace."

Padme bit her lips and fresh tears glided down her cheeks.

 

 

"I take him before Palpatine. I don’t want to, but I do. My will is not mine anymore. I gave up on everything freely, when all I wanted..." Anakin’s sigh felt like the whisper of a universe collapsing into itself. "Doesn’t matter what I wanted. I’m a slave now, as I always was." His voice was barely audible. "There’s no hope for me. There’s no hope for him. There’s no hope for us. I am truly dead, as my son wisely said. Dead inside. I can only watch as Palpatine begins the seduction of my son to the Dark Side. And oh, turn he will."

Yoda watched the young man’s complete defeat, seeing it all so clearly now.

Anakin Skywalker was all passion, to the point of obsession. Obsessive about his feelings, about doing things right, about not disappointing, about always being the best. Pushing himself mercilessly. But when he went to the greatest extremes - to the point of renouncing his principles and his own sense of morality for what he thought was right - and failed, his own self-absorption prevented him from seeing the Truth. His own imperfections blinded him to it, and to the solution.

Anakin had always been a danger, to himself and the others. And the Truth they had uncovered today was the most brutal proof of that.

 

 

"Palpatine is cunning and insidious. He set a trap for the Alliance. He leaked the information for us to attack, and he was waiting for us. I’m watching ship after ship being blown into oblivion. I feel helpless, and he’s laughing at my pain, at my horror, goading me to give in to my anger and strike him down. And how I want to give in!" the child’s hands turned into fists and his body tensed up again, seething with the anger his other self was feeling. "And that’s exactly what I do. But then, my father blocks my blow." He bared his teeth. "So this is what it was about all along. Fighting my father again."

 

 

"Luke only fights me enough to defend himself from me. He reaches out to me time and again. And all that I am, wants to take his hand and hold him to me, to my dead soul. But I’m so used to the Darkness that I don’t know how to do it. Indeed, what’s left of me for Luke to save? I’m an empty shell, like the suit I now inhabit. I refuse the outstretched hand and threaten to turn Leia instead. The daughter I never knew I had, until now."

 

 

"NOOOOO!!!!! You won’t touch her!!!!" Luke jerked more violently than ever, impelled by the Force. "If this is what you want, that’s exactly what you’ll get, you sick monster! Fight me! Fight me, instead of threatening to corrupt what you should love and protect above all things! Come on! Fight me if you can!! You can’t hurt me any more! I dare you to try and hurt me!! Come on and fight me!!"

 

 

"Luke strikes me down and cuts off my hand. He’s beside himself with anger. He points his saber to my throat as I did once before. He’s on the edge of the same abyss from where I fell. And with everything I am, I hold up my hand, trying to stop him from tumbling down. No, Luke! Don’t make the same mistake I did! Power is an illusion. I thought I could master it for my own benefit, but it mastered me. We can’t prevent things from happening, no matter how hard we try. We can only master ourselves, if we are strong enough. It took me all my life to realize this truth, but I do see it now. Pull back, my son! Save yourself!" Rivulets of tears soaked the collar of Anakin’s tunic. He reached up his left hand, trying to touch the ghost image of his grown-up son in his mind.

 

 

"And when Palpatine urges me to kill my father and take his place at his side, everything becomes clear. My unrestrained emotions have taken me to the brink of my own destruction. Not my father’s fault, not even Palpatine’s, but my own. My prosthetic hand and my father’s stump are all the proof I need to know what the right path is. Forgiveness, compassion and love are the only way. The only Truth. Not only for the others’ sake, but our own."

And with those words, Luke calmed down as he hadn’t done since the hypnosis session started. A soft, choked cry left his lips.

"I throw away my lightsaber, thanking the Force for showing me the way. I am a Jedi at last, like my father before me. Palpatine’s simmering with anger, but seems to accept my decision. Indeed, he has no choice."

 

 

"I try to sit up, but I can’t. Luke’s beaten me in every way. Still, I struggle to see, for I’ve felt a sudden, dark shift in the Force. I’ve felt that dark rush before, the few times that..." Anakin froze. His members got so rigid, so stiff, that the joints protested, a heartbeat away from snapping.

Yoda inched forward, ears pricking up and nostrils flaring.

The sudden scream resounded through every wall of the Jedi temple.

 

 

Father and Son’s twin screaming blended together through the intercom.

"Palpatine’s throwing Force-lightning at me through his fingertips!!!" Luke cried out, recoiling physically. "I feel as if my very soul was trying to escape my body, so much it hurts!! I can’t make it stop!! I can’t run away from it!! I’m dying!! Palpatine’s killing me!!!"

"And where’s your father?" Obi-Wan asked through the throbbing ache in his throat, wiping away the wetness on his face.

"He’s... He’s standing next to Palpatine, watching me being killed!" the horror in the little boy’s face and voice was indescribable. For a terrifying instant, both adults had the inescapable feeling that it wasn’t Palpatine’s Force-lightning that was killing Luke, but his father’s indifference.

A small hand reached out, mimicking his older self’s gesture.

"Father, please!! Help me!"

Padme burst out crying at last.

"Anakin, please. Please!" she moaned, an iron fist crushing her heart in her chest.

 

 

"Palpatine’s killing my son in front of me!!" All of Anakin’s boundaries had been breached already, but this one pushed him beyond the point of no return. "Luke’s reaching out to me, begging me to help him, but... but I’m doing nothing!!! I want, I need to help him so badly that it hurts to breathe, but I’m just standing there, looking from my son to Palpatine and back, doing nothing!!!"

Anakin’s respiration was loud and ragged, reminiscent of a terminally ill man. Sweat dripped down his forehead in burning droplets. His eyes were tightly shut, fighting the vision in his mind, fighting to change it, to save his son by sheer force of will.

"Oh, my little angel. My precious son! Forgive me!! Forgive this wreck of a man, this unworthy creature of Darkness. Force, I can’t take it anymore!!"

Yoda couldn’t believe it when he found himself looking into Anakin’s wide open eyes.

There was no recognition in the flashing blue depths. Total madness had taken over.

The old master only had a second to wonder at the power that had allowed Anakin to snap out of his deep state of hypnosis on his own. He reached out a calming clawed hand, only to find himself being thrown backwards by a brutal Force push, and hitting the farthest wall of the room with a murdering strength.

 

 

Obi-Wan and Padme flinched at the pounding, bone-smashing sound of Yoda’s body hitting the wall.

Obi-Wan jumped to his feet, leaving the boy writhing on the table in physical and emotional agony. Something told him that even though he was breaking his promise to never leave Luke’s side, it was the right thing to do.

"Stay with him, Padme!" he instructed, dashing for the connecting door that slid close after him.

Padme rushed to her son’s side and stroked the boy’s fringe soothingly, casting anxious glances at the closed door, a part of her dying to be there, helping her husband. She could just begin to imagine the horror Anakin was going through, and it was the "just begin" that frightened her the most.

"Keep the faith, Luke. Everything’s going to be all right. Your father won’t fail you. He won’t. Ever!" she hissed with absolute conviction, kissing the sweaty forehead.

 

 

Leia gave a start that startled Ayla Secura. She looked straight ahead, as if seeing through the walls separating her from her family. With focused determination, she put her drawing aside and leapt to her feet, heading for the door at a run.

Master Secura caught up with her before she reached the door, and grabbed her arm, holding her back.

And then, the child exploded. She struggled to break free from the Jedi master’s grasp.

"I have to go!! I have to go now!!! Let me go! Let me go!!!" she cried out.

 

 

Obi-Wan burst into the room and froze in his tracks. It hit him through every pore of his body. The feel and smell of it almost made him retch.

The fear. The insanity consuming his friend’s soul, devouring the last spark of reason that still hadn’t caved in under the barrage of horrifying scenes that had been dug up.

Darkness was close. Awfully close. It was rising from the depths of Anakin’s fears, ready to take over when all hope died in the younger man’s soul.

Without thinking, he reached out.

"STAY BACK!!!" Anakin shouted, crawling backwards like a wounded animal. His bloodshot eyes were open wide, almost popping out of their sockets. "Don’t get any closer!! Not-one-step closer, you hear me?!"

Out of the corner of his eyes, Obi-Wan saw Yoda getting to his feet painfully, rubbing his lower back and reaching for his cane on the floor.

"It’s all right, Anakin," he put out his hands reassuringly, focusing all his attention back on his friend. "Everything’s all right now. Let us help you."

"Help me? Help me?!" Anakin shrieked. "How could you possibly help me? Do you have any idea what I’ve done? What I became? What I am?"

"I do know, Anakin," the man’s blue eyes filled with compassion. "Luke told us everything."

The mention of his son brought Anakin’s delirium to a fever pitch. His eyes closed and an ocean of tears bathed his face.

"My angel! How could I do that to you? How could I stand back and watch as you were being killed? What kind of sick monster am I?"

Obi-Wan bit his lower lip, wondering what could he do. Wondering how much horror could a person’s mind take before snapping.

"I can’t conceivably know what you’re going through, my friend," he answered sincerely, his voice breaking with emotion. "But you must believe that we have been allowed to know this for a reason. That there’s a lesson to be learned from all this."

"A lesson?" Anakin snarled, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "What lesson?"

"The hardest one of all. That one man’s single decision at a single moment in time can change the destiny of an entire galaxy forever." Obi-Wan tilted his head to one side, seeing the pieces fall into place at last. "So often I’ve wondered at how incredibly well everything turned out seven years ago, when so many things could have gone wrong. This is the way the Force showed us what could have been if you had turned."

"Could have been?" Anakin let out a barked laugh. "You still didn’t get it, did you, master?" he almost spat the words.

Obi-Wan paused, suddenly taken off-guard.

"This is no what-could-have-been, Obi-Wan," Anakin spewed the words derisively. "This is a different universe, as real as the one we live in. A universe where I turned to the Dark Side and became the beast who murdered his own wife, destroyed millions of lives, tortured his own daughter, mutilated his own son, and stood beside his master watching his flesh and blood getting killed. That is me!!" the nastiest smile crossed his features, turning them into a grotesque mask of self-hatred and revulsion.

Obi-Wan staggered back, thunderstruck by the revelation.

"Yes, master," Anakin hissed. "When you put us in that trance, you opened fully the door between both universes, enabling our minds to look directly into it. That’s the Truth that has been waiting patiently for seven years to be unveiled." He held out his arms. "Behold your Chosen One!! The Hero without fear!!" he screeched, in an appalling display of sheer hysteria.

 

 

Like one possessed, Leia tore out the drawing she had just completed from her sketch pad and left the room at a run, before Ayla Secura could stop her.

 

 

Padme winced and bowed her head, holding back her crying. She didn’t want Luke to hear her cry. He had been strangely silent since Obi-Wan’s departure. An eerie aura of peace and contentment surrounded his small form now, a striking contrast with the nightmare taking place only a few metres away.

Her heart was breaking with every word leaving Anakin’s lips. Her beloved husband was on the verge of losing himself for good, and she couldn’t let that happen. Anakin needed his family beside him. He needed to feel their love, their faith in him, their acceptance of who and what he was, here and in any universe.

She could see it all so clearly! She could feel it with her heart, with her soul. The very talents the Jedi had ceased to tap from for far too long. The very things that had almost turned Anakin against them. The same conflict that had guided many young padawans to their door, seeking Anakin’s counselling when their feelings and their training felt in direct contradiction to each other.

How could compassion and caring exist without any personal involvement? How could justice exist without the most basic understanding of human nature? Of its many frailties and faults? To master something you have to understand it first. That’s where true compassion lay.

She was very fond of master Yoda. He was good and wise. But she couldn’t condone some of his teachings. The inflexibility of his ways, his unbending righteousness had caused great harm. It had scarred Anakin very deeply and damaged his perception of himself. Always wondering what was wrong with him, with his immense capacity to feel and his inability to control his emotions when they got the better of him. He had needed help to cope with those feelings, not lecturing and criticism.

The twins’ birth had been a blessing. A miracle that had saved their father in the nick of time.

In spite of her love for him, she knew that only another Force-sensitive could truly help and understand Anakin. Luke and Leia had become Anakin’s focus, the calm centre he had always sought. Only through his children had Anakin managed to master himself at last. Being needed so utterly, so completely, had liberated her husband from his self-centred tendencies. Only then had the young man blossomed as a totally selfless being.

Luke and Leia were everything to Anakin. In training them, he had also trained and come to understand himself. The siblings’ absolute love for their father had been Anakin’s salvation.

How could such love be wrong? How could such love be banned and dismissed as dangerous, or even irrelevant and unnecessary?

Love could save the most corrupted soul. Love could redeem the unredeemable. Anakin had to be made to see that!

But the children couldn’t be allowed to see their father in that state. The shock could leave a mark on them forever. She was the only one who could do it. The only other one who could reach Anakin in the dark place where he had retreated into. And it had to be done now, before it was too late and her husband did something terrible, something that couldn’t be undone.

She bit her lips in torment, looking from her son to the door, and back to the child. She had never felt so torn.

Right then, as if answering her wordless plea, the outer doors opened, and Leia burst into the room, followed by master Ayla Secura.

 

 

"Anakin, even if that is true," Obi-Wan had finally managed to pull himself together, and was fighting tooth and nail to reach his friend, "it is not you. Not here. Not now." He closed his eyes and shook his head sharply, willing the right words to come to his aid. "All of us carry a demon deep inside. A monster that can break free the moment a certain line is crossed. You crossed that line in the other universe, and stood strong and firm in this one. The lesson to be learned is that every word we say, every action we take, every decision we make, is important. Everything we do has consequences, even if we can’t foresee them at the time." He sighed softly. "That’s why we train, that’s why we meditate. To find the balance inside us that keeps us from tipping over the edge, and being consumed by our own inner demons. Demons we all have. All of us!" he reached out once again.

"But how will I live with mine now that it has been revealed to me?" Anakin’s eyes darted all over the room, elusive, erratic. "How will I face my family, knowing...?" He looked down at his gloved hand. "I killed the younglings. I Force-choked Padme." His body was wracked with sobs that made him double over. "I lived a life of destruction and moral depravity. I killed you. I tortured my own children... Force!" he looked up at the ceiling, endless tears streaming down his face. "Now I know why I ached inside every time Luke and Leia told me how much they loved me. I felt as if a part of me didn’t believe I deserve their love. Now I know why Luke cried out to me after his nightmares. Now I..." He covered his face with his hands, crying desperately. "I can’t, I just can’t!" he shook his head.

"Yes, you can!" Obi-Wan exclaimed, daring to take one little step forward, closer to the hunched form on the floor. "You’re the bravest man I’ve ever known. Fight! Believe in your right to live a happy life, now more than ever! That will be your victory over Palpatine. Hold on to your love for your family. Trust in their love for you. Let it guide you through this!"

But Anakin wasn’t listening anymore. His Force aura and his features darkened dreadfully as he lost his remaining grasp on reality.

"Do this you must not," Yoda stepped forward all of a sudden, reaching out to the young man in a stunningly tender gesture of compassion.

Anakin’s lips crooked in a sickly hint of a smile.

"And you dare to say that?" he sneered disdainfully. "You, who a few moments ago was convinced that I was a danger to myself and the others?" A glimpse of infinite sadness peeked through the raging madness.

Utter shock appeared in the old creature’s face at the realization that Anakin had read his innermost thoughts without him noticing. But following the feeling of shock, something else crept up. Something he couldn’t remember having felt in a very long time, if ever.

Shame.

Defeated, Anakin looked down and shook his head.

"But the fact is that you’re right," he said, his voice disturbingly quiet all at once. "My own imperfections were blinding me to the Truth. And to the solution." His body stiffened as the last speck of hope died within him. His eyes looked up and stared into the distance, completely devoid of any expression and warmth. "The only solution," he repeated, his thoughts turning inwards.

"NO!!" Obi-Wan cried out, knowing instinctively what his friend was thinking.

Anakin stretched out his right arm in the direction of the small table in the farthest corner of the room. The lightsaber – his lightsaber - he had brought that morning for no particular reason, jumped into the air, heading straight for the open palm waiting for it.

 

 

"Leia! Master Secura!" Padme called, holding out her arm to them earnestly. "Come here and stay with Luke! Take care of him and don’t move!" she squatted down and held the little girl’s shoulders, shaking them for emphasis. "Don’t move!"

"But mommy...!" Leia started to say, waving her drawing at her.

"No, Leia!" Padme ordered. "Stay here and take care of your brother!" her flashing eyes effectively silenced the child, who still scowled at her mother in frustration.

Padme sprinted for the connecting door without looking back.

On the table, Luke wept softly now, seemingly devastated with grief.

 

 

Padme broke into the adjacent room to the sight of Anakin’s lightsaber describing an arch in the air, and being ignited through the Force.

Obi-Wan’s first instinct was grabbing Anakin’s gloved arm with both hands and bringing it down, that way preventing the young man’s hand from seizing the lightsaber.

Anakin cried out, enraged; but changing tactics in a flash, he quickly reached out his left hand. The handle came to rest on his open palm like a graceful bird, and he swung round the saber in a smooth movement. Then, he moved back in haste, free from Obi-Wan’s grasp now.

It took a few seconds for Obi-Wan to realize what Anakin had done. He just stared at the severed prosthetic arm in his hands, unable to believe what he was seeing.

"ANAKIN, NO!!" Padme yelled.

At the sound of her voice, Anakin stopped in his frantic escape.

Their eyes met, and something moved behind Anakin’s madness. His chin quivered, and his eyes glistened with the excruciating pain that not even her could ease.

"Please, don’t do this!" Padme begged, reaching out both arms to him. "The children need you. I need you!" she implored with all the force of her breaking heart.

Anakin shook his head, unable to see past the single thought echoing in his mind.

"You’re everything to me. But I have to keep you safe, Padme, don’t you see?"

"Safe from you?" Padme said the words for him. "Anakin, you don’t have to protect us from anything, let alone you. We love you!"

A poignant smile crossed the young man’s face.

"Love’s not always enough, angel. You don’t know the things I did in the name of love."

"In a different universe, Anakin. Not here. You’re talking about someone else’s life, not yours! And even if it is still you, even if you committed all those crimes in that universe..." she swallowed her tears bravely, "I will never believe that you could turn your back completely on all the love that was a part of you." Determination hardened her features. "You’re not a danger. No more than you were seven years ago, or could be ten years from now. You never know what the future will bring, but committing suicide because you could turn... that’s absurd and you know it!"

Anakin bowed his head, not knowing how to make himself be understood.

"Padme, you know how many problems I always had controlling my emotions, my anger! I was arrogant and self-centred, and it almost cost me my soul. But now, after everything you and the children showed me... if I ever harmed you..." he moaned, images flowing back in a whirlwind of horror. "You can’t possibly understand... I revelled in taking life! Hatred filled my heart like the blood in my veins! Nothing existed but a hunger for power that nothing could sate! Love was a puny word. Love was a weakling’s dream. I was so beyond redemption..." he met her caring eyes with his own dead ones. "You’re not safe! Not now, with this monster at large inside me!"

"There is no monster at large inside you, my love," tears ran freely down Padme’s cheeks. "You mastered it years ago. I only have to look at you when you’re training Luke and Leia. How you answer their every question about the Light and the Dark. How you tell them about love being the only answer, the only Truth. How you try to help all the padawans that come to you looking for advice when their training fails to answer so many of their questions." She reached out once more. "Please! Don’t give up on everything now!"

Breaking down, Anakin collapsed to his knees.

"Oh, Force! Help me!" he cried out. "Somebody help me to live with this! With the look in my son’s eyes when I mutilated him and told him I was his father! With the sound of his dying heart when he was being killed in front of me and I did nothing to help him! With the knowledge of killing my wife, and my best friend, and a million innocents!"

Padme closed her eyes, devastated by the sight before her, for once not knowing what to say, how to soothe a knowledge that would drive any sane man over the edge.

"Let us help you, Anakin," Obi-Wan pleaded then, taking a hesitant step forward. "Let us try and repair the damage we caused." A thousand teartracks covered the older man’s face. The last few minutes had opened his eyes to the role the Jedi had played in this tragedy. Their responsibility in reinforcing Anakin’s insecurities instead of teaching him to deal with them. Their limited understanding of the Force. How they had turned it into an unquestionable dogma, an immutable reality, instead of an always evolving, always changing Truth with many different meanings. One different meaning for every Force-sensitive out there.

Instinctively, Anakin had found the key when training Leia and Luke. He had used a different approach for each twin, encouraging both children’s different gifts, helping them to find their own answers, the ones that worked better for them. He was guiding them through the ways of the Force, not indoctrinating them.

And now his friend was suffering because of them. So out of his mind that he couldn’t be reasoned with. Convinced that he was a threat to his loved ones, a threat to all.

The balance within Anakin’s mind had shattered, and he couldn’t think of a way to restore it, to make him trust himself again. He wanted to scream with helplessness.

"You can’t help me. You can’t change what I am, deep down." Anakin smiled bitterly, raising his lightsaber and holding it out in front of him, putting up a barrier between them. His eyes met his wife’s and they softened with love. "Tell our children how much I love them. Tell them I will always be with you. Tell them it’s for the best." The sun framed his face in a halo of golden light. "I love you, Padme. I’ll love you forever."

A lifetime of memories was shared in the second’s eternity the visual contact lasted. Then, closing his eyes, Anakin turned about and ran away.

"NO!" Padme and Obi-Wan yelled in unison, breaking into a run after him.

Anakin went out to the veranda and stopped when he reached the rail. He contemplated the city around him, the gloriously blue sky, and basked in the warmth of the sun on his skin for the last time.

His mind lit up with the beautiful, smiling faces of his children, and holding that image to his heart, he raised his weapon and turned the handle inwards. His eyes fluttered closed.

"FATHER!!"

Half-child, half-man’s, the voice came out of his worst nightmare. Losing his grasp on reality once more, Anakin spun around.

There, in front of him, stood Luke and Leia. Luke was one step ahead of his sister, reaching out to him. Leia clutched a sheet of paper in one of her small hands, and trembled from head to foot. Behind them, breathless, Padme, Obi-Wan and Yoda backed up the two little ones.

"Don’t do it, Father," Luke begged, his voice holding the same qualities of his older self. He still hadn’t been able to shake off the remnants of the trance he had snapped out from when he had felt the danger to his father.

The sweet face glowed with the love that came up from the core of the child’s being. Love that no heinous crimes could kill, in any universe.

"Put it down, Daddy. Please," he asked, taking another step forward, unafraid.

And the sight of his children awakened Anakin to the brutality of what he was doing. His big form began to shake, until he was shivering savagely.

"No. Holy Force, no!" he moaned, dropping to his knees again, destroyed. "Help me! Somebody help me!" the lightsaber deactivated and fell from his nerveless fingers.

Luke crossed the distance separating him from his father and hugged Anakin’s head to his chest, burying his face in the wavy blond hair.

Anakin’s arm encircled his son’s waist, and embraced the little boy for all he was worth.

Leia rushed forward too and her free hand caressed her father’s back soothingly, transmitting all her love through her fingertips.

"Open our bond, Daddy," Luke asked, sliding his fingers through Anakin’s hair softly, slowly, adoringly. "I need it." He kissed the bent head. "I need you." He closed his eyes and whispered directly into his father’s ear. "I love you."

Surrendering to the love bursting in his heart, Anakin’s mind opened like a flower to the morning sun. Luke’s fragrant love enveloped him, flooded him, swept him away in a wave of transcendence that made him soar.

Father and Son’s souls merged in an explosion of Light that shone brighter than the brightest star. Obi-Wan and Yoda were thrown backwards by the shockwaves and the overwhelming beauty of the restored bond, that pulsated through the Force like a vibrating heartbeat.

"There’s nothing in this universe or in any other that would make me stop loving you, Daddy," Luke breathed the Truth that defined him as a human being.

Anakin went limp in his son’s arms and tried to move away, remembering his monstrous acts. Luke wouldn’t let him go, and held him ever closer.

"How can you bear to touch me, to love me, when I allowed you to suffer, to die before my eyes?" Anakin bit his lips until he drew blood.

"But you didn’t, Daddy," Luke’s voice was shaking with emotion. "You saved me. Didn’t you see it?"

Anakin shook his head, pressing up his face to his child’s warmth, not wanting to hear, to know anything. He just wanted to die in his beautiful boy’s arms. That would be more than he deserved.

"You said you’d destroy anyone who dared to hurt me, and you did. You killed Palpatine to save me." Luke dropped a kiss on the side of his neck.

"I didn’t," Anakin groaned in infinite remorse.

"You did!" Luke exclaimed vehemently, forcing his father to look at him. He moved back and took the ravaged face in his little hands, in a breathtaking display of tenderness. "You grabbed him, and held him above your head, and threw him down the shaft."

"It’s true, Daddy. See?" Leia’s soft voice brought Father and Son back from their private universe.

Leia showed them her drawing. In it, the man in black with the mask and the cape was holding a cloaked, hooded figure above his head. Force-lightning came out of the creature’s fingertips, hitting the Sith Lord and a huddled young man on the floor, also dressed in black, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Anakin stared at the drawing as if looking at his last chance at redemption, his last chance at finding something that made him worthy of the life he had in this universe.

Luke’s hands turned his father’s face back to him. Tears covered the boy’s cheeks and he tightened his hold on Anakin, as if reassuring himself of his father’s presence.

"But you died to save me, Daddy. You gave your life for me and I was alone again. I lost you right after getting you back!" he pressed his face up to his father’s, sobbing helplessly now.

‘Oh, sweet heart of mine! You love me *there* too! What did I do to deserve an angel like you?’ Humbled and overwhelmed beyond description, Anakin brought the little body closer to him, starved for the physical contact, starved for his son’s love.

Luke moved back again and smiled at his father through his tears. His lovely face was radiant with joy and something... sublime. There was no other word for it.

"But then, something happened, Daddy. Something that..." he looked away and a deep, ecstatic sigh left his lips. He closed his eyes and cleared his mind, letting it come to him. As purely and naturally as it had come to the other Luke.

As if in a trance, he reached out and cupped the stump at the end of Anakin’s upper arm.

Anakin looked down at himself. He wasn’t even aware of having mutilated himself, and the sight came as a complete shock.

But the strangest thing was that there was no pain. His son’s touch felt unspeakably soothing, as if he was cradling his very soul in his hands.

Luke felt the Force rippling inside him and he opened himself to it blindly, letting it do as it wished.

The Light was love. And love was Light. This was what his father had been teaching him all this time. Only now that he was feeling it sing in his veins he realized it had been whispering to him all his life, every time he touched his father’s prosthetic arm, every time he held his hand and kissed it.

He sent his love through his tingling fingertips. And the more love he sent, the higher the Force sang within him.

Gasps of shocked disbelief burst around them, but Luke didn’t hear them.

Anakin’s eyes flickered closed too and his head lolled tiredly onto his child’s shoulder. Helpless as a baby, he entrusted himself completely to his son’s care. His soul opened wide to the boy’s guidance, and he let his angel’s love and infinite goodness wash over him, and cleanse his tainted essence.

Their souls drifted together in perfect communion.

This was the Force in its purest form. Vital, dynamic, rich. Feeding from those who tapped from it from their deepest, most profound emotions; and feeding them in return when they bared themselves to it, innocent as children.

The intensity of the union gradually diminished, and they slowly became aware of their surroundings again. Unwilling to separate, Father and Son snuggled up to each other one last time, before opening their eyes.

The blue of each other’s eyes called out to them like a beacon. They smiled and kissed each other’s tears away.

Anakin reached up and stroked Luke’s cheeks with the back of his fingers, savouring their silky softness, melting at the endearing flush that covered them. He traced the arch of a blond eyebrow with his thumbpad reverently.

Suddenly, he stopped. And stared at the hand caressing his son’s face. His right hand.

His flesh and blood right hand. At the end of his flesh and blood right arm.

He turned his hand around, studying it, unable to believe the miracle.

His eyes raised to the keeper of his soul, the guardian of his sanity, the healer of his spirit. And his body.

"The other Luke got his daddy back this way too," Luke said, beaming with joy and kissing the tip of Anakin’s nose. "They’ll have each other forever."

Tears filled Anakin’s eyes once more. But these were different tears. They were healing tears, tears of hope. This angel’s unconditional love and faith in something no one would have ever considered possible, the redemption of a Sith Lord, had saved Anakin Skywalker. Both Anakin Skywalker.

Luke smiled happily at his father, ignorant of the far-reaching implications of what he had done, of what it meant to him, to his sister, to his father, to the entire Jedi Order. To the Force itself.

But Obi-Wan and Yoda did know. Anakin and Luke had started a revolution; a new, higher understanding of the Force, freeing it from the shackles their unyielding beliefs had been imposing on generations of Jedi for centuries. A wrong, sterile path that had numbed their ability to commune with the Force and was slowly, but inexorably, taking them to a moral and emotional void.

A new future was dawning. Brighter, kinder, and hopefully, wiser.

It was already there, right before their eyes. In the heartfelt, loving embrace of that young couple and their children, and in how their love was resonating with the Force, energizing it, filling it with harmonious sounds and colours, that would remind them forever of what the Light truly was.

And the Darkness too.

 

 

THE END.

 

 

EPILOGUE. ONE MONTH LATER.

 

 

Padme smiled at the man coming down the speeder that had just landed on their terrace.

"Master Kenobi," her smile widened and she opened her arms.

They hugged warmly, in an embrace full of significance. It was the first time they were seeing each other after that fateful day. So much had changed in everybody’s minds and hearts since then, and the physical connection seemed to put everything right again. Obi-Wan nodded against her shoulder, acknowledging the thought crossing both their minds.

"Is this a good time to intrude?" he asked when they moved back.

"Of course it is!" Padme gestured for them to walk inside the apartment, and they fell into step beside each other. "You’re always welcome, you know that," she chided gently.

"I know," Obi-Wan crossed his arms and hid his hands in the wide sleeves of his brown cloak. "But all of us needed time to... process and come to terms with what happened. I’m aware that Anakin will need more time than any of us to heal, and I wasn’t sure how long would it take."

"He will never heal. Not completely," Padme admitted, looking down. The pain in her voice was palpable. "But he’s trying. For the children, for me. And for himself as well."

"How is he?" Obi-Wan swallowed the lump in his throat.

"He’s got bad days and he’s got better days. On the bad days, he seeks comfort in meditation and training Leia and Luke. That helps more than anything. The children are the best medicine for him."

"How did the children take..." Obi-Wan trailed off, not knowing how to verbalize what he wanted to ask.

"They’re just fine, thank heavens," Padme nodded to herself in vast relief. "It was those recurrent dreams and not knowing what they meant that disturbed them. But now that they know, they’ve put it behind them and moved on with no problems."

"Children’s capacity to accept what it is and move on is a true blessing," Obi-Wan said gratefully.

"It’s a reality that’s got nothing to do with theirs," Padme shrugged. "And from what Luke said, things are already on the mend in that other universe."

Obi-Wan nodded, deep in thought.

"Maybe that’s another one of the positive lessons to be learned from this."

"What?"

"That things will always turn out for the best, in any universe. That even after the longest period of Darkness, Light will prevail in the end."

"And Anakin will always be the key to every universe?" Padme asked when they entered the living room.

"He’s the Chosen One," Obi-Wan simply said, sitting down on the couch.

Padme walked up to the large windows and stared out.

"The Chosen One," she uttered after a while. Resentment filled her voice.

Obi-Wan turned his head and looked at her compassionately. He could understand her anger. To a certain degree, he shared it too.

"He is," he stressed softly. "We can’t escape our destiny. It will find us eventually."

"But what purpose did it serve that Anakin found out who he became, what he did, in a universe that has got nothing to do with our own? What lesson could he possibly learn from the knowledge that he turned to the Dark Side and committed the most horrible crimes?" she bent her head. "It’s damaged him forever."

Obi-Wan let out a long sigh. He stood up and joined her by the large windows. Immediately, his eyes were drawn to the three still figures outside sitting down on the floor, on small cushions.

Could it be the same spot where he had put Anakin and Luke in a light trance just a month ago? It seemed unbelievable. A lifetime ago.

He fixed his gaze on the three figures. Anakin was sitting at the apex of the triangle that Luke and Leia completed in front of him, sitting very close to their father. They were holding hands, and little smiles illuminated their features. They looked at peace.

"Maybe the lesson wasn’t for Anakin to learn, or not solely for him," he said after a while.

"What do you mean?" Padme turned to him, deadly serious.

A poignant smile crossed the older man’s face.

"I mean that maybe the lesson was for the Jedi to learn," there was infinite regret in Obi-Wan’s voice. "And Anakin was the only one who could teach it to us. Final enlightenment could only come from him."

Padme regarded him through slitted eyes, pondering his words. Regrettably, she had to concede the truth in his statement. She nodded heavily.

"He paid the highest price for this... enlightenment."

Obi-Wan winced and his eyes misted.

"If it is true what they say, that every cloud has a silver lining, something good has got to come out of this," he said some time later, unable to look away from his friend and his children.

Padme followed his gaze, and a sweet warmth spread inside her.

"Luke’s healing gift would have taken longer to be uncovered, that’s for certain," she mused out loud.

Obi-Wan had to smile at that.

"Luke could only be a healer. Even if his gift is unprecedented, and our ability to use the Force has diminished through the years, it was written all over his Force aura, in his nurturing nature, in the way he is and loves and cares. So completely, so unreservedly." His features darkened somewhat. "Our self-complacency prevented us from seeing what has been right in front of us, as it prevented us from discovering the Sith Lord who lurked in the Republic’s core for decades." A hopeful smile lit up his face then. "Luke was essential for Anakin to fulfil his destiny."

"Destroy the Sith?" Padme cursed her incapacity to understand these matters. She was always feeling her way through those enigmatic sentences.

"He did that before Luke was born in this universe," Obi-Wan pointed out. "But it took Luke’s influence to do it in the other universe." He worried at his lip. "Maybe... Anakin still has to fulfil his destiny as the Chosen One. And Luke was the catalyst in both universes, only in different ways."

"Fulfil it how?" Padme felt a strange trepidation in her chest. As if something momentous was waiting for them to acknowledge it.

"Guiding the Order to a new awareness, a higher understanding of the Force."

Padme raised one eyebrow.

"Why do I have the feeling that there’s an ulterior motive for your visit?" she wondered out loud with a lopsided grin. There was no malice in her words.

Obi-Wan had the good grace to blush.

"I’ve meditated long and hard these past few weeks, looking for a reason that justified the horror Anakin went through."

"And?"

"There’s one persistent image that won’t go away," Obi-Wan turned and faced her. "Anakin at the Temple, training the younglings. Anakin teaching us, illuminating us, guiding us all through the ways of the Force to the next level, a higher level of awareness the Jedi should have reached centuries ago."

Padme looked away, mouth dropping open. She avoided his gaze until she gathered her thoughts together.

"So, you’re saying that Anakin leaving the Order was a mistake, and this was how the Force got him back on track?"

Obi-Wan wouldn’t have phrased it that way, but Padme’s insight was so uncanny that he stared at her, eyes wide open, in complete astonishment.

"Basically, yes." His thoughts turned inwards for a moment, searching for the right words. "Anakin felt what the right path was, but the inflexibility of our ways, our unwillingness to open up to a new understanding of the Force frustrated him greatly. His impatience and arrogance didn’t help either. He tried to adapt and become what we wanted him to be, but in time he realized it was a lost battle. He would never meet our expectations. He almost turned trying to meet them, so he gave up. Indeed, it was a dead end, because it was only a matter of time before the truth about you came to light, and the Council expelled him." He shook his head, deeply ashamed of where the Order had stood just a few weeks ago.

"But he was wise enough to train his children according to his beliefs," Padme said proudly.

Obi-Wan nodded and smiled in fond remembrance.

"I told him once that he was strong and wise. That he had become a far greater Jedi than I could ever hope to be." He snorted and shook his head again in self-deprecation. "Force, we’ve been so blind! I pray we haven’t damaged him beyond repair, and we haven’t lost the light that was destined to guide us."

Padme reached out and squeezed his forearm reassuringly.

"You haven’t."

Obi-Wan met her intense gaze and for some reason, his heart missed a beat.

"What do you mean?"

She smiled softly.

"Anakin shared it with me last night. He’s been having visions."

"What... kind of visions?" the older man’s mouth was dry all of a sudden.

"Visions of himself training the younglings at the Temple. Visions of himself guiding you all to the new awareness you seek."

Obi-Wan raised one trembling hand and covered his mouth. His eyes reddened and tears streamed quietly down his face.

"And is he... willing to follow that path?" he asked in a thick voice.

"As you said, he is the Chosen One. The one who would bring balance to the Force. It was his Destiny, was it not?" Padme’s smile was radiant.

Obi-Wan nodded, tears rolling unstoppable down his cheeks. His eyes were riveted on the now rising figure. One look was enough to see the change in his young friend. His bearing, his movements, more sedated and calm. The absolute peace he exuded. It was... prodigious. This was the Chosen One in front of him. Not the awe-inspiring, perfect spiritual leader they had expected; but an imperfect, flawed, fallible man, forged in the harshest trial that would have broken a lesser being.

Pride gone, the pure essence of Anakin Skywalker had blossomed. The experience had purged him from his Dark Side and enabled him to accept himself. For wasn’t there where true wisdom lay? He was ready now to meet his Destiny, knowledgeable about all human frailties and miseries, and capable of rising above them, ascending to himself and becoming that which he was fated to be from birth.

Love was written all over the handsome face as he held his children’s hands in his own. The touch seemed to revive a part of him. His eyes turned to Obi-Wan, as if he knew he had been observing him all along. The determination, the passion in them took the Jedi master’s breath away.

Anakin gave him a knowing smile and nodded.

And everything was as it should be, at last.