AN: Oh my GOD YOU GUYS, it's over! I KRIFFING DID IT! And it wouldn't have been possible without you guys. You've helped me create something awesome. This story was a living document that you guys helped shape and create. Really, thank you all so, so much for helping me do this. You're all the best.
As many of you have been asking, yes, there will be a sequel. The format is a little unclear as of yet, so give me a few days to organize my thoughts and get them down into something I'm proud of. In the meantime, though, I got a few drabbles and one-shots that I've been requested to do based on things that haven't happened in the fic, or were glossed over or went unmentioned. If you guys have things like that you want to see, let me know and I'll see what I can do.
I've gone on long enough. Please, enjoy, and thank you all so, so much. You're the greatest, and I mean that.
Chapter 117: Epilogue
The pain that Padmé felt wasn't just emotional, wasn't just from the rage of the Force that rushed through her as he husband held her in his grasp. It was her children, the twins so afraid that they began to claw their way out of their mother, a desperate attempt to save themselves as they felt death all around them, and aboard the Umbra, an hour from Alderaan, the Naboo Senator went into labor. Kenobi was blind to all else as he urged the ship to fly faster, not just for Padmé, but for Cody, who was stable, but needed something more than a bacta patch and a pain killer, and for Bo-Katan, who was certainly concussed, though she denied any injuries.
When he landed the Umbra in Aldera Universal Medcenter's emergency bay, every single doctor, patient, visitor, and anyone else who happened to be milling about dove to clear out of the way as a crazed, shirtless man ran through the hospital, carrying a pregnant woman and followed by two Mandalorians and the biggest rancor anyone had ever seen. As soon as the doctors had discovered that the woman was Padmé Amidala, former Queen of Naboo and close friend to the ruler of their planet, Prince Bail Organa, they spirited the woman away to the best, most private rooms they had, secured by the Alderaan royal guard, given what appeared to be a sensitive subject, since the young Senator had no husband to speak of.
Sixteen security droids were destroyed before the hospital stopped trying to drag Obi-Wan from the room where Padmé lay as she struggled to deliver her children. The Sith Lord paced restlessly back and forth, his golden eyes never leaving the woman's face, and he growled in irritation every time he reached out through the Force to touch the woman and found her severely weakened from the ordeal on Mustafar. It was more than a person could handle, and far more than a woman so heavily pregnant could take.
"You should have killed him," Qui-Gon whispered in his mind, his voice strong and clear, and the Sith snarled in his rage.
"You know very well I could not, you know what his death would have meant for me."
"You don't know what his life will mean for the galaxy." Kenobi scoffed, shooting a glare at one of the droids in the room as it glanced up to look at the man that appeared to be muttering to himself, and the droid swiftly returned to its work.
"And what has the galaxy ever done for me?" Lumis growled. "Why should I care what happens to it. Let Sidious do as he wishes, let him raise his new, broken toy, let him try to rule this galaxy with a hammer by his side instead of a Negotiator. It'll just make it easier for me to overthrow him when I'm ready, the galaxy will be hungry for it." Qui-Gon hissed his disapproval.
"Jedi arrogance!" Kenobi spat back, glowering and biting his tongue when Padmé shrieked in pain. "You would dare lecture me?" he hissed, his voice lowered to keep from disturbing the woman's efforts. "You made this situation, Qui-Gon, all of this was your doing. If you had just left him on Tatooine, let the boy live his life of slavery, none of this would have happened."
"Killing him would have been merciful," Qui-Gon said softly and so, so sadly, and Kenobi scoffed, but felt himself soften to him.
"I wasn't feeling merciful," he muttered. "Can you blame me?"
"General Grievous," Lumis said softly. "Barriss Offee. Asajj Ventress. Quinlan Vos." He looked over at the woman on the table, his golden eyes dull with pain that would never, ever fade. "Satine and my son..." Obi-Wan said softly, his voice just barely a whisper, and for a long while, there was silence as the Sith Lord stood and took stock of the deep, bleeding wounds upon his heart.
"No," Qui-Gon finally said. "No, I don't blame you."
"The time of the Jedi is over, Qui-Gon," Kenobi said softly. "That chapter has ended. But a new order can rise from the darkness, and it will be better, stronger than it could have been in the light." He looked over at Padmé once again, his heart pounding faster as she screamed, such an unholy thing that he thought it could send his lone rancor running in fear. "Is it supposed to be like this?" he gasped, and the voice in his mind softly chuckled. "Honestly, why do people even have children if they know how it happens!"
"Squeamish, Sith Lord?" Qui-Gon said softly, his voice filled with laughter. "You have butchered people, brutally maimed them, and hours ago, you sat back and watched a man burn. Death doesn't phase you, suffering has no effect, but you shy away from life?" Kenobi's only response was to look away and grind his teeth together, shutting his eyes as if it would block out the sound. "You know why people have children, Obi-Wan," the spirit said soft and kind, and Kenobi felt the dull ache within him.
"It's a biological urge," he growled. "We are sentient beings, we should rise above such things."
"Is that why you created a child with Satine?" The Sith's hand closed tightly, and he began to tremble with emotion that he struggled to repress.
"I needed," he growled, "to keep her safe from Sidious, we-"
"You loved her, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon said sadly. "You still do. Don't cheapen what that means because you're hurting."
"And what about her?" Kenobi growled, pointing at the suffering, weakening Padmé. "Her husband wanted to kill his own children, that isn't love, that's bitterness."
"A mother's love is infinite," the spirit said. "And she knows her children will have you."
Obi-Wan was silent for a moment as he looked at the woman on the table, the medical droids stabilizing her and beeping excitedly. "You should have been there," Kenobi muttered almost absently. "You should have seen what your student had become, you should have been there to tell him how spectacularly he failed you."
"I didn't need to be there for that," the spirit said. "He already knows. And I wouldn't be able to manifest there anyway. The Dark Side is too strong on Mustafar. Though, I did try. I don't know if he heard me. And if he did, I don't suspect he would have cared."
"But you can manifest?" The voice chuckled gently.
"I can. Dagobah was good for me, and Master Yoda helped anchor me." Kenobi sighed heavily.
"Fantastic. I'm going to be haunted forever."
"Is that such a bad thing?"
"...I might not mind so much." Kenobi quickly brushed Qui-Gon away when Padmé screamed again, this time trailing off into gasps and pants from effort as the pain temporarily stopped, and Obi-Wan rushed to her side, gripping her hand tightly when the medical droid held up a tiny infant, the little thing red and crying, a fearful, trembling presence in the Force, and Obi-Wan quickly took the child from the droid, placed his thumb on the boy's forehead, and calmed him. Kenobi felt immediately the warm, desperate grasp of the Force from the child, and the Sith Lord closed his eyes and projected calm and safety through the connection that he already felt with the infant, a silent promise that he would be protected, no matter the cost.
A moment later, the Sith shielding the infant from his mother's screams, and the second child was placed in his arms. He had been worried, the babies born a full month early, but they appeared to be healthy, and when Kenobi held the two of them together, their fear subsided and they calmed, reaching out to grab the man that would be their father, secure and safe within the protection his considerable strength afforded them. Their tiny presences', still small from the terror they had endured, slowly began to unfurl, and Obi-Wan could feel the strength of the Force within them, pure and powerful and wrapping around his being, filling him with sympathy and comfort for his grief, the tiny hands supporting his weary heart. Luke and Leia.
He loved them already.
"Ni kar'tayl gai sa'ad," Obi-Wan said softly as he clutched the infants to his bare chest. I know your names as my children.
"Obi-Wan." The call was weak, barely a whisper, but it cut through his consciousness like a knife, and the Sith turned his attentions toward the pale, weak woman and she smiled at him, a small, pained thing, and reached up with a shaking hand to stroke the heads of her children. "How are they?" she asked softly, her voice trembling from residual pain and effort from her task.
"Good," the Sith said quickly. "Healthy. Strong. Beautiful. Twin stars in the darkness of the Force. They're going to be magnificent." One of the medical droids reached out to take the newborns, and Kenobi drew back, wild and ferocious as he clutched them tightly to him, gold eyes glowing dangerously as he snarled. Luke and Leia wriggled in his grasp, but seemed otherwise unaffected by the violence of his protection.
"Sir," the droid intoned. "The infants must be checked for any complications to ensure their health."
"No droid is going to touch my children!" he growled, low and dangerous, and the droid slowly rolled backwards, mindful of how many others had been reduced to scraps for crossing the man's violent temper. "Send me Cody and Bo-Katan, they'll take the children where they need to go." The droid stared at him for a moment, its gears whirring, and a series of short beeps sounded as it rolled away to do as it was told. Soft, exhausted gasps and the quiet whir and beeps of monitoring systems were the only sounds in the room as Kenobi stood close to the woman, the small rise and fall of tiny chests in his arms as the twins stirred, small hands grasping against the raised, dark scars that covered him, the physical reminder of what he had endured.
He hissed in pain when Padmé's hand reached up and ran along the blackened burn that crossed his chest, the surrounding skin blistered and raw and painful to the touch. He looked down at the woman, and all he felt from her was pain, deep and emotional, a profound sadness for what she knew was lost to her forever. "Is that from a lightsaber?" she asked softly.
Kenobi nodded, and instantly regretted not lying to her when she turned her face away from him and quietly cried. "It isn't so bad," Obi-Wan reassured, but her breath hitched when he said it. He was lying, of course, and she knew it. When everything was secure, when what had to be done was done, he'd get it treated. It was deeper than he had previously thought, and it hurt to breathe. The pain eased slightly and a sly smirk crossed his face when he thought about how badly it would hurt for Darth Vader to breathe. The pain must have been exquisite.
"What happened on Mustafar?" Padmé asked, her voice trembling, hesitant and reluctant as if she didn't actually want the answer. "Is Anakin dead? Did you kill him?"
"...that would very much depend on your point of view." The answer was evasive, he knew. How easily he slipped back into words, assuming the mantle of Negotiator that he had been so long before. Before the war. Before his friends were dead. Before his love and his son had died. Before he almost lost himself to insanity and darkness. It felt...good to reclaim something of his old self. The grief would never end, the pain would never cease, but perhaps he could go on after all. The woman's eyes narrowed. She wasn't so bemused by this as he was, and he cleared his throat, sobering slightly. "Anakin Skywalker is dead. Darth Vader is all that's left." It was another lie, but she didn't know it that time. Anakin wasn't dead. Not yet. But he would be very, very soon.
"Is this what the Dark Side does?" she hissed, angry and grief-stricken. "It warps and twists everything good and makes it rotten. Look what it did to Anakin." She glared up at the Sith Lord. "Look what it's done to you!" She bit down on her lip, guilty as soon as she said it as she looked at the Sith Lord so carefully holding her children. "I'm sorry..."
"You aren't wrong," Kenobi said softly. "Your view is simplistic, yes, but the Dark Side changes people, as knowledge and power often does. I feel," he said, holding the twins close and looking at them, ignoring the sound of the door hissing open and the soft, uneven sound of footsteps, "that there is a place for bad men. An important place. Sometimes, death pays for life. And when the time comes, you're going to want a bad man by your side." He scoffed softly. "Good men won't do what needs to be done. If they did, the Jedi would have ended the Clone Wars years ago."
"And you think that's you?"
He looked at her with a mix of pity and sadness and slowly nodded. "I will do what I must, yes."
"My Lord," Cody said, a wry smirk on his face as he limped toward the Sith, "you're going to traumatize the children if you don't put a shirt on." He held out his arms, wincing as he shifted his weight, and Bo-Katan quickly moved to help support his weight. "Give them here, sir."
"We'll keep them safe, Kenobi," Bo-Katan quickly reassured him. Obi-Wan carefully passed the children off to the Mandalorians, smiling softly when the twins' tiny hands grasped his fingers. "I've called the Death Watch," she whispered as she took Luke and frowned, biting down on her lip as she looked at him. Her sister's son should have been the first infant she ever held, not this one, but she could see how much they mattered to the Shadow King. "They're coming here to escort the Mandalorian relief effort back to my territory. There are thousands of refugees here, and Bail Organa says he'll be coming with more by the end of the day. We'll be transporting most of them back to Mandalorian Space."
"You'll need to make a statement about Palpatine's Empire soon," he softly warned. "You don't want to be seen as a threat to him, though I suspect he will need to spend some time securing the space closest to Coruscant before he ventures into the Outer Rim. We have a little time to get established."
"The galaxy is a small place when you're being hunted," Cody said softly, a faint smile on his lips as Leia wriggled in his arms. "How do you intend to avoid your Master and Skywalker carrying around two babies and a high profile Senator?"
"He isn't my Master, Cody," Kenobi said absently as he reluctantly slipped his fingers out of the twins' grasp. "And I have an idea of how to go about doing that." He took a deep breath and held it, and to the Mandalorians, the Sith Lord looked...distant. Sad, as if he was looking at something very far away, lost in the Force and searching for guidance, as he so often was. His attention quickly snapped back at them, a forced smile on his lips. "Go, take the twins to have them cleaned and checked. We won't stay here long."
The two soldiers bowed slightly, holding the infants close, and Bo-Katan walked beside Cody as he slowly limped out of the room, his wound wrapped but not yet fully tended to. The clone would be fine, much to his relief. He'd need a good friend like that going forward. Obi-Wan looked back at Padmé, medical droids surrounding her as they scanned and prodded and administered medical treatments for something they barely understood.
"You too," he commanded the droids. "Out."
"But sir," the med-droid exclaimed, the lights of its eyes blinking in the mechanical approximation of shock. "Senator Amidala needs medical treatment immediately. She is in need of weeks of intensive recovery. Her health is poor, and she must be tended to."
"I will tend to her," he growled. "Get out." The droid was silent for a long moment, calculating and measuring the current command with its programmed directives, and finally, the Sith Lord was ruled as the higher authority. It issued its commands to the other droids, and they soon rolled away, the lead med-droid ambling out of the room reluctantly and vocalizing its protests all the way out the door. It hissed closed, and Kenobi tapped the console beside the door to bolt it shut, his other hand raised in the air to short circuit the monitoring devices, and he looked over his shoulder at th despondent woman, his eyes burning with resolute sadness in the expressionless mask of his face.
How long had Padmé been a tool of the Sith? How long would she unwittingly continue to serve? Her place in Sidious' plans were far from over. Vader would never stop hunting for the wife he obsessed over, would stop at nothing to kill the Sith Lord that took her, would be relentless in the search for the child he fathered, either to raise it or kill it, if it proved to be corrupted in his eyes. Sidious would use this, of course. Out of his grasp, Padmé was a source of further darkness, a way to continue to warp and twist what was left of Anakin Skywalker, a way to further Vader's rage against his Master's escaped apprentice, and should he manage to get his hands on the woman, she was a leash, a cruel, effective way to keep Vader submissive and obedient for fear of what harm may come to her if he did not obey. The same thing applied to the child she bore, an infant brought into this world a slave to the machinations of Darth Sidious.
Obi-Wan had felt the fear in Vader on Mustafar, deep and primal and consuming, and knew that Sidious had learned his lesson from Satine. Kenobi had been allowed to keep his Mandalorian goddess, and it had made him willful and defiant. Sidious would keep Padmé and her child, children, if he knew, and sooner or later, he'd find out. For all that he was, Sidious was no fool, and ambition would be enough to capture a woman and her child, no matter how well they were hidden, no matter who stood to protect them. As Cody had said, the galaxy was a small place when you were being hunted, and even now, Obi-Wan could feel it closing down around him, the Force itself gripping him in warning, a painful reminder of what he must do.
Vader had said he had seen visions of Kenobi killing Padmé, but Obi-Wan had quickly dismissed them. After all, poor Anakin had been corrupted by Sidious, and the Sith Master was known to play mind games. What's more, Kenobi had always been gifted in foresight, and not once had he seen what Anakin had, though Obi-Wan had always seen final outcomes, and it was his duty to find a way to reach it or avoid it. Anakin's vision seemed to be more a nightmare than anything else, a way for Sidious to prompt the boy's hard and fast fall, but the moment Darth Vader set foot on Mustafar, everything had become clear to Kenobi. He knew what he had to do.
With one act, the twins would be hidden forever, the knowledge of their birth erased, Vader's ferocious hunt ended before it even began. He could free Padmé from the Sith. It could be done. It would be done. It must be done. For the sake of Luke and Leia, the children the Force was so keen on protecting, for the children he would raise, and for their safety, there was no cost too high. Obi-Wan had failed so, so much in the course of the war, but he would not fail Luke and Leia. He couldn't. He promised.
"No matter the cost," Padmé had said to him, "do what's best for Luke and Leia." He knew what he had to do, had known it for hours, and now, it was time. She was weak and injured, and because of her close connection to Bail Organa, Alderaan would be one of the first places that Sidious and Vader looked for her. She would be a slave again, tortured and abused, but Kenobi could free her.
Never in his life had he felt like more of a snake.
"Death pays for life..." he muttered under his breath as he slowly approached her. Padmé's fate had been sealed the moment Anakin Skywalker laid his eyes on her so long ago on Tatooine. There was no other way. Vader would know about her children, or at least about one of them. Luke and Leia would never be safe. Sure, Kenobi would be hunted, but he could survive that, could evade that, could make Sidious paranoid in looking for the wayward apprentice, could make him jump at shadows until Vader was strong enough, and that alone would occupy a vast amount of time, to say nothing of the Empire he had to run. Sidious had his hands full, and with nothing to look for, the twins would be invisible to Vader. There was no better option, no safer solution than this one, but a price had to be paid for it.
Kenobi laid his hand on Padmé's cheek and carefully looked her over, the woman far past the point of exhaustion and mired in grief for what she had lost. "I'm sorry..." Obi-Wan whispered, brushing back the damp curls of her hair. "I couldn't protect you. I did try, but it seems as though the Force has other ideas."
"This Force of yours is a cruel thing," she said, her voice sounding almost bitter, and Kenobi chuckled softly.
"It can be, yes."
"So," Padmé whispered, a tremble in her voice that she couldn't keep out, and Obi-Wan sent calm through the Force, feeling the woman relax underneath his touch. "What now?"
"Now," he whispered, "I take Luke and Leia, and I train them in the ways of the Force."
Padmé's eyes narrowed in anger. "In the Dark Side? In the thing that destroyed their father?"
"If they wish it," he said softly. "I was a Jedi once, I don't have to teach them the ways of the Sith. Just...the Force." He smiled softly as the idea struck him. "They should follow their own path. The Force will guide them and protect them, as it always has. As will I."
"But will they be safe?" she asked desperately, clinging to his hand as tightly as she could, and Kenobi leaned over and swiftly kissed her cheek.
"I promise you they will be," he said firmly. "No matter what, no matter the cost. I may be hunted, but nobody will even know Luke and Leia exist. They'll be free of Sidious, at the very least. I can give them that." A small, sad smile crossed Kenobi's lips as he leaned over her. "You can give them that..." Padmé's body trembled, her hand tightening in his, her eyes speaking the question that went unsaid: How. Obi-Wan sighed as he kissed her forehead. "You're their mother, Padmé. Their father will hunt for them for as long as you live, but if he doesn't know they were born, if he thinks they couldn't have been born..."
"You can do that?" she asked, her eyes wide, innocent and trusting, and Kenobi could feel his heart freeze, his entire being hardening into grim resolve. She wouldn't be a tool to be used, not anymore.
"I promised you I would do what's best for Luke and Leia," he said softly, stroking her cheek and leaning down close to her. "No matter what. And I will." He smiled as gently as he could, but it never reached his eyes. "Do you trust me?"
Padmé nodded, her eyes closing as Obi-Wan brought his lips over hers, kissing her with fierce abandon. She gasped as she felt him shift over her, the weakness of her body leaving her feeling flushed and lightheaded, and for just a moment, she could feel cool metal press against her stomach. Without a moment's hesitation, Lumis activated his lightsaber, the red blade hissing as it pierced through soft flesh and the cold metal of the table, the Sith's lips over hers stifling her gasp of shock, her thin body, weakened from childbirth and pain at the hands of her husband tensing and shaking, but only for a second.
Life left her quickly, painlessly, a far better thing than the suffering she would have endured in the hands of the Lords of the Sith, his included. He had failed so many, and perhaps he had failed Padmé too, but it didn't feel like failure, not this time. Her life was a small price to pay to end her suffering, to free her from the Sith that had used her without mercy to further their own plans, to exact their revenge, and for a moment Obi-Wan felt a pang of pity for Anakin Skywalker. He may have been manipulated, but his love for her had been real. Warped and twisted by the end, but it had started off as something else entirely.
But above all else, her life had bought safety and freedom for Luke and Leia that would have been impossible otherwise. Vader would have no knowledge of his child, no wife to hunt, and in such, they would be free of Darth Sidious. Life paid for in death. It was a fair trade, and though it had hurt to do it, Lumis would have done the same again.
The soft thrum of the lightsaber ceased when Kenobi felt the last of her presence in the Force fade away, and he felt a stab of pain deep within him. Nothing felt good about this. Of all the murders he had committed, and there were many, this was the first one he hadn't wanted to commit, hadn't chosen to do. For the sake of the twins, for the future of what would be, the Force had led him to this point, forced him to make this sacrifice, and it felt hollow. He never wanted to hurt Padmé, and she didn't deserve what she got. She should have been safe in his care, but he had failed her in even that, like he had failed Satine and his own child.
All of this, the situation that led to this point, was created by Sidious, and, to degree, by himself in his blind desire for revenge against Anakin Skywalker. Her death was a mercy, and it was only right that he be forced to give it to her, a small way that the Force bit back, and it hurt. Her sacrifice wouldn't be wasted. Padmé's children would be raised in safety because of her unwitting sacrifice, and Obi-Wan wouldn't squander that. Luke and Leia would be loved and protected, no matter what, perhaps not raised in the way he'd have raised his own dark son, but he'd do his all to be a father to them, as he had promised Padmé Amidala. The Sith Lord looked her over carefully, planted on last kiss on her lips, and left to seek out his children.
The Emperor stood still, silent, seething, his hands folded behind his back as he impassively observed the surgical room below. The procedures were painful, and he could hear the screaming through the thick glass that surrounded his observation room. Good. Failure should be met with pain and suffering and anguish, and Vader's would be forever. Sidious had expected to arrive on Mustafar to find Lumis dead and Vader triumphant, the burning desire to liberate his wife, his pure, raw hatred boiling within him and his powers bolstered by the deaths of a thousand Jedi driving him to achieve victory over the insane, established apprentice. Sidious had given Vader the tools he needed to succeed over Lumis, the knowledge of how to trip up his tenuous footing and plunge him into insanity, a thing that should have easily been bested by brutal, uncompromising might.
Or, alternatively, he expected to find Vader dead, the boy's career as a Sith prematurely ended, the instinct to protect bested by a man that had nothing left to lose, and without the Sith, Lumis truly did have nothing. Lumis and Vader, two powers so strong that even Sidious couldn't control more than one. Together, they could have been a fearsome thing. Vader's reckless strength could be tempered, focused, directed to make for a powerful weapon against those that stood against the Sith, and Lumis' careful, subtle manipulations could be turned to unite a galaxy, a smooth, dangerous inspiration that could make people yield willingly to the Empire. Together, none could oppose them, each of them a storm of a different making that when combined, could tear the galaxy apart.
They had turned each other, each responsible for the darkness that lay in the other. It was beautiful. It was art, a masterpiece. Until it wasn't. Until it was broken.
Sidious expected to come away from Mustafar with a powerful apprentice, the stronger of two vergences, one born, one made, the victor of a confrontation that had been foreseen in the depths of the Force for years, before Obi-Wan Kenobi had become Darth Lumis, before Anakin Skywalker had grown to be a man. He came away not with the victor, the Dark Side triumphant, but the one who had failed, the man not killed, as was the duty and the right of the Sith, but left to live, to suffer, and Darth Lumis had walked away, condemning Sidious to an apprentice that was a shell of his former self, a fraction of what he had been, a shadow of his once infinite potential.
Lumis had the audacity to deny Sidious what was his by right, had stolen from him what had been the claim of Sith Masters since Darth Bane instituted the Rule of Two. The strongest of what the Dark Side had to offer belonged to the Sith, to be raised and crafted into stunning masterpieces of darkness, forged by hatred and cruelty, rising to become apprentices on the shattered remains of all those too weak to achieve victory. And Lumis had won, had broken the might of Darth Vader on the sharp edges of his fury, and in defiance of the line of Sith he was destined to follow, Lumis left, leaving Sidious with the raw slab of darkness from which he would carve his masterwork hopelessly shattered in the ashes of Mustafar, and in walking away, had branded himself a Sith Master.
It was an insult, bold and defiant, as Lumis had always been, and in breaking his chains, he had shackled Sidious, chained him to the apprentice that he had chosen, and that was the most bitter sting of all. He had gravely underestimated his insufferably clever apprentice, hadn't seen how close to mastery he had come until it was far too late, and now, Vader would never be the same. A cyborg, a man confined to a suit that served as a prison, a leash, the collar of a slave, the Dark Side flowing powerful and strong through flesh that burned with the searing agony of Mustafar, but those limbs, cold, false, dead to the Force, would never know the rush of Force lightning, a chief weapon of the Lords of the Sith. He would be a brutal weapon, a powerful apprentice, but never so strong as he could have been were he whole.
Lumis needed to be destroyed. There could only be one Sith Master, and a loose end such as that could topple an Empire, much as Maul had brought the Mandalorian Empire crashing to its knees, a single point of unfinished business undoing everything that Lumis had fought for in an instant. It would be some time before Vader was recovered, strong enough to rival the rogue Sith Lord, though Sidious was reluctant to elevate him so high. Doing so with Lumis had only come back to bite him, and in Vader, he saw a servant, half a man that not even the Dark Side could make whole. He had a galaxy to secure, anyway, a monumental task to unite every system under the banner of his Empire, a task that required patience and time, lest he lose it all, though the matter of his rogue apprentice had to be solved immediately, before the boy disappeared into the vast expanse of a galaxy in chaos after war had ravished it. He would be found. He knew Lumis to be a covetous creature obsessed with ruining Anakin Skywalker, consumed with taking everything that was his, and with Vader's defeat, Skywalker's wife would still be his. Lumis was far too lustful, prideful to let that go.
After Vader had been recovered from the ashen lava banks and brought to Coruscant to begin his...recovery, Sidious had stormed Mustafar, tearing Lumis' home apart in search of some secret the boy had kept, some hidden place where he had honed his skills out of the sight of his Master. He found a laboratory, dark, sinister, sprawling and completely destroyed by the wild, violent strikes of a lightsaber clutched in the hand of a furious, grieving man. This had been the place where Lumis had made the Sithspawn he was occasionally seen with, but none of that mattered. None of the knowledge was there, only the tattered remains of a place that had once been used to corrupt the living into servants of darkness.
He found his consolation in the dungeons where he had found the husk of a Jedi Master, still living, but only just, a gaping wound in the Force torn deep within him, and Sidious had quickly packed him away to be brought back to his scientists, where he would be dissected in hopes of unlocking the secrets of the immortality Lumis had discovered. He had also found Wilhuff Tarkin, the man chained and tortured and barely conscious, and Sidious also had him packed away for immediate transport back to Coruscant. The man was a vital part of his plans, an ally far too useful to be discarded, the cold, brutal calculation to Vader's powerful rage, a combination that would cull the galaxy into submission.
Sidious had also found, perhaps ironically so, the mangled, gibbering Maul, his first apprentice, also beaten by Obi-Wan Kenobi, also reduced to half a man, cruelly alive by the grace of the merciless Lumis, and it was too great an opportunity to pass up. Sidious had dragged the frantic, fearful Zabrak back to his ship, a second shell of an apprentice to the Sith Master. He had learned what a danger it was to have more than one apprentice, both from the conniving alliance between Dooku and Lumis that helped set loyal Kenobi against his Master, and from the confrontational, explosive, brief dual apprenticeship of Lumis and Vader, but this wasn't the same. Maul and Vader were both half of the men they used to be, and together, they made one apprentice. Both these men had ruined Lumis before, through the deaths of Satine and Quinlan Vos, and perhaps they could be united in their rage against him to bring down the pretender, the false Sith Master that Lumis had become.
He looked down below to where Vader and Maul lay on operating tables, screaming as the painful procedures to attach cybernetic limbs and stabilize unstable bodies concluded, and slowly, after nearly three days of working, the medical droids began closing Vader into the suit that would be his life support, his salvation, his prison, his hell. The man was still and silent, pain rendering him nearly unconscious as a black mask was lowered over his face, hissing as it was sealed and bolted to the helmet on his head. With a sigh of satisfaction, the Emperor slowly walked out of the observation deck and headed to the operating room to greet the new form his apprentice had taken.
One of his royal guards handed him a datapad as he walked, citing a matter that he should be made aware of, and Sidious watched closely as the recorded news broadcast played over the holonet showed the image of Mand'alor Bo-Katan, her Death Watch by her side as she announced Mandalore's full support of the new Empire, showering them with praise not only for ending the vicious, brutal war her sister had been so opposed to, but for the swift and complete execution of the Jedi, an order that the Mandalorians had a long history of opposing in the most violent ways possible, and the woman vowed to aid in the hunt and execution for any Jedi that remained.
The legitimacy of this was suspect at best, at least so far as their support went. Even after Satine, the Mandalorians had been supportive of Lumis, though he had conditioned them to accept the rule of the Sith Empire when it came to pass. If Lumis was at the head of their considerable army, now was the time to attack them, before Imperial might had the chance to become established. It was possible that Bo-Katan did this on her own, but regardless of why, this was a relief. In time, Sidious would test the Mandalorian support for his Empire, but for now, this was just one less thing to worry about. He'd have to contact her soon. Between Mandalorian fervor and Vader's hatred, Sidious could see a swift end to any surviving Jedi. At least that was legitimate. Not even Lumis wanted the Jedi Order to survive.
But more importantly was the broadcast live from Naboo, where the entire planet mourned the death of Padmé Amidala, beloved Senator and former Queen, dead from what the hospital had reported as "causes unknown," the casket holding her body marched in a somber parade through the streets of Theed to be laid to rest in the tomb reserved for the planet's monarchs. Sidious had felt the chill grip him as he listened, his already slow pace slowing even further as he shuffled toward the operating room. She was the last link to Lumis, the only way that Sidious knew how to find the man for certain. Vader would have hunted her, tracked her down to the ends of the galaxy to get her back, and Lumis would have been with her. He had to be. And now, she was dead, turned from the perfect control for his new apprentice into merely a point of pain and a dead end, her usefulness to the Sith finished in a whimper.
"Causes unknown," he growled, his voice contemptuous as he entered the brightly lit, sterile room where Vader and Maul had underwent days of painful surgery. The Zabrak lay in a medically induced hazed, sedated to keep him from thrashing in his frantic, maddened state, his insanity nearly as complete as Lumis' had been. It would take years to undo what Lumis had done to him, to reintroduce anger and hate where now only fear and submission existed. But Vader lay still, the room echoing with the sound of his deep, regulated breathing, pendulous and ominous, a thing that would one day come to be feared as the sound of death approaching. With the tap of a button on the side of the table, the mechanics whirred as the steel bed moved to a vertical position, Vader held in place by restraining cuffs around his wrists and ankles.
"Lord Vader," Sidious said slowly. "Can you hear me?" There was silence, save for the sound of his breathing, so long that Sidious thought the man couldn't hear, that the helmet had not been applied properly, that the auditory channels weren't functioning, but a soft groan of pain, low and reverberating in the vocal modulator of the mask, indicated otherwise.
"Yes, Master," Vader said, and Sidious felt that the man sounded...defeated. Broken. He was, but he would be rebuilt. "Where is Padmé?" he asked, almost desperately. "Is she safe? Did you save her from Lumis?"
"No," Sidious said after a moment. "She was gone when I arrived."
"Then Lumis has her!" he snarled, his arms shaking against the restraints, his anger making the medical equipment in the room shake and groan as metal collapsed in on itself, the state of the art facility bucking under the weight of the Dark Side. "We must go after her. Now."
"I'm afraid that's impossible," Sidious snarled bitterly. "She's dead, Vader. From causes unknown."
"Dead?" he whimpered weakly, the restraints holding him clicking open, and Vader stumbled forward, his new legs nearly unable to support him. "That's impossible, she was alive, I felt her!" He snarled viciously, a terrible, savage thing through the filter of the mask. "This is Lumis' fault, he did this!" A loud, metallic thud rang through the room as cybernetic knees met the steel of the floor.
You lost Padme the moment you threatened to kill her child, Lumis had said after he defeated him so soundly, and now, Vader could hear the truth in those words. His wife, his child, dead, a grief that he now shared with Darth Lumis. Lumis may have killed her, but Vader felt that he himself was just as responsible for her death, if not more so. Or maybe she died as a result of his actions on Mustafar. He'd never know, and that was so much worse.
Vader shivered as the cold and the pain gripped him, anger and grief and self-loathing and thoughts of revenge filling the void inside him as the last shreds of light finally died.
These aren't just refugee war orphans, Lumis thought as he stood overlooking the central plaza in the city of Aldera, converted into a relief camp to aid the lost and homeless of the galaxy. These are Jedi.
There were hundreds of them, all of them young and frightened, the oldest no more than seven or eight. They came from dozens of different species, all had different levels of potential, some great, others not so much, and as Obi-Wan held the twins to him, the children nestled in the comforting embrace of fine black robes and Mandalorian armor, he couldn't help but feel as though he was looking at the future.
"You've outdone yourself," Kenobi whispered, and behind him, sitting atop the head of the Sith's mighty rancor, the great beast laying on its belly on the ground as it calmly slept, Jedi Grandmaster Yoda chuckled.
"Possible, this would not have been, without your warning, Obi-Wan."
"Dead, Padmé Amidala is," the Jedi softly countered. "How." Kenobi snarled in anger, but the Jedi remained unmoved, smiling sadly when he saw pain, not anger, within the Sith Lord.
"Don't ask me what I had to do, Jedi. The Force protects her children, but that protection isn't enough. My own failures have taught me that. I did what I had to do to keep them safe."
Yoda softly gruffed, his feet kneading at the skin of the rancor's head, and the beast began groaning in contentment. "Help, I had, in saving the younglings," he finally said. "From Bail Organa. Master Luminara Unduli. Ahsoka Tano." The Jedi smiled when the Sith Lord reeled on him, golden eyes wide with surprise.
"Ahsoka and Luminara are alive?" he gasped, and Yoda looked away.
"Contact, I had, with Luminara. Into hiding, she has gone, as per my instructions. A call, I sent, to all Jedi that live. Hide in these dark times, they must. Challenged, they will be, in all things, but persevere, they must. Trust in the Force, the Jedi will."
Kenobi slowly nodded. "Wise advice. It's been a long time since the Jedi have followed the will of the Force. It's about time they do."
"Survive, the Jedi will," Yoda sighed as he looked upon the rescued younglings, the Mandalorian Darth Watch moving through them, taking their hands, and leading them toward the ports where ships were waiting to carry them away from Palpatine's reach.
"...what about Ahsoka?" Kenobi asked, and Yoda frowned, the wrinkles on his brow deepening.
"Saved many, Ahsoka did. Heard from her, I have not. Dead, she may be, but strong in her are the lessons of Quinlan Vos." Obi-Wan tensed, clutching the twins tighter to him, and Yoda looked down to the Sith's belt where four lightsabers were clipped, one of which belonged to the Sith's fallen friend. "Alive, I believe she is."
"...I think so too." The plaza began to open up as the younglings were escorted away by the Mandalorian warriors, and Bo-Katan rushed up to meet Mandalore's Shadow King, grinning broadly and followed closely by her partner in the relief efforts, Bail Organa, the man's face sad and somber, but he held himself tall and strong. He was grieving, yes, but he was firm and resolute in his path. Trailing far behind them was Cody, the clone shouting curses at the pair as he limped along, his arm draped over the shoulders of Boba Fett, clad in the armor of the Death Watch and doing his best to keep his father's pace slow. He was injured, after all.
"We'll be ready to leave within the hour, Kenobi," Bo-Katan said. "The Death Watch is returning to Hutt Space, like we discussed." A wry smile passed over her face as she looked at the sleeping twins. "It would appear that my warriors are following the example of their King. They're going to raise the Jedi younglings to be warriors of Mandalore."
"That won't be enough to keep them safe," Obi-Wan said softly, but the woman shrugged.
"Maybe not, but at least they'll have a chance. Mandalorians have a proud tradition of adoption, and being part of a galactic relief effort, of course our Empire is flooded with war orphans. It won't look so strange, and I'll be staying on Mandalore to rule and publically support Palpatine's Empire. It should keep them off of us, for at least a little while."
"An army of Force sensitive Mandalorians..." Kenobi muttered, watching as the younglings were escorted away. "It's a long term plan, of course, but in fifteen or twenty years, that's going to be unstoppable. Sidious won't know what hit him." He glowered. "Provided they don't get hunted down and killed..."
"I think actual Jedi have more to worry about," Bo-Katan scoffed. "Temple life doesn't exactly prepare one for a life on the run. My warriors will train them how to be smart and survive. They'll be alright."
"I believe you," Kenobi said, smiling widely as Cody and Boba Fett trudged up to meet them.
"You guys," Cody gasped, "are assholes!"
"Time's short, idiot," Bo-Katan scoffed, crossing her arms and looking entirely superior. "We've got places to go and an Empire to outrun."
"We need to begin our attacks immediately," Obi-Wan said softly. "I'm going to start right away in my efforts to undermine and destabilize Palpatine's rule. We want to keep defiance as an option, or his grip is going to be too strong to break away from."
"And you're going to do that with twins to raise?" Organa gasped, mouth hanging open at the idea. "Those are Padmé's children, and you promised to keep them safe!"
"And I will," Kenobi stressed. "They will stay hidden, and they will stay safe, as I promised."
"You can't keep them safe while you attack the Empire!"
"Sir," Cody said, laying his hand on the Sith's shoulder. "He's right. You can't take them with you into battle."
"Important, these children are," Yoda said. "Safe, they must be. Separate, they must be kept, in case discover them, Darth Sidious does."
Kenobi hissed his disapproval, but said nothing to object. They were right. At the very least, while he was actively engaging the Empire, the twins needed to be kept in a place of safety, and to maintain the secret of Padmé's twin birth, they needed to be kept apart in case they were found, so that if one was killed, the other may live.
He felt sick thinking about it, but it had to be done. For the twins, everything for them.
"I am their father," he growled.
"Yes," Bail said softly, "And I think Palpatine will know where to look when you have two children running around with the last name Kenobi." He extended his hand, kind but firm. "My wife and I have talked about adopting a daughter. We can care for Leia when you can't."
"And Skywalker has a brother on Tatooine, doesn't he?" Boba said enthusiastically. "He was a nice guy."
"And after what happened to his mother, I don't think Vader will ever set foot down there," Cody said. "His fall started there, right? I don't think he'd be eager to go back. And I bet we can get Jabba to keep an eye on him. We've also got Hondo and his pirates, if we need them. They can smuggle a child away without much difficulty."
Obi-Wan was silent for a long time, his arms tightening around the twins he held. "These are my children," he said softly. "I will raise them, and they will stay with me." He sighed wearily. "But...there is wisdom in what you say. I welcome the help in the times I am fighting, but I'll be back to pick them up as soon as I'm in the clear."
"At the very least, sir," Cody drawled, "they'll be well traveled."
"Yes, I suppose." Kenobi took a deep breath. "It...sounds like a plan. I'll lay low for a few days before I start making messes. Gives me some time to recover from my own injuries and I need to be with the twins for a while before they start visiting their ragtag family while daddy works..."
"I'll be keeping Mandalore Space safe for as long as I can," Bo-Katan said softly. "And my Death Watch will keep an eye on those Jedi for you. If we find any others, we'll make certain you know."
"I'll be fighting Palpatine in the Senate," Bail said gravely. "He has to be stopped, and if you're fighting him out in the galaxy, I will do what I can in the seat of his power."
"To Dagobah, I go," Yoda said. "Meditate on the Force, I must. Where it leads, where I will go. Many things, has Qui-Gon to teach me."
"He can teach you anywhere, Yoda," Kenobi said quietly, and Yoda softly chuckled.
"Worried, are you, Obi-Wan? In exile, I am not. Part of your fight, I will be, but not yet. Find in the Force, the path I must follow."
"...can I at least leave the twins with their weird, green grandpa from time to time?" A slow grin spread across Yoda's face as he slowly nodded. "We need to go," Obi-Wan said softly. "There's a lot to be done. This fight will take years and years to see through, but I promise you this. Sidious will fall. He's made some very grave mistakes, and the Force won't stand for it. None of us will stand for it." Kenobi took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "The time of the Jedi is past. They have been lost for so long, that it finally destroyed them. But maybe the Sith have been lost too."
"A new way, we will find," Yoda said softly.
"Yes..." Obi-Wan said, holding the twins close and feeling the warmth of their presence, the strength of the power they commanded. So much had transpired, so much had been lost to lead to this, the twins, Luke and Leia, chosen by the Force, created as a means to exact revenge upon the heinous misdeeds of Darth Sidious. The Sith Master had twisted the Force, bent it to his will, destroyed all that was meant to be. Satine. His unborn son. Asajj Ventress. Count Dooku. Barriss Offee. General Grievous. Quinlan Vos. Padmé Amidala. Jedi Knights and Masters. All of them, dead, and all led back to Sidious' manipulations of the Force. Even Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi Knight that stood above the rest, had fallen because of Darth Sidious, had been targeted the moment he had come into Sidious' sights as a child.
And now, the Force had given them Luke and Leia, children of a Jedi, to be raised by a Sith Lord to bring an end to Sidious. The Force had a plan. And Obi-Wan Kenobi followed the will of the Force. Always.
"Yes," Obi-Wan repeated, a smile on his face as he looked upon the children he would raise as his own, "we will find a new way."