Timeframe: Starts in the middle of ANH, then goes back to the time of TPM.
Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, original characters, minor appearances of others.
Summary: AU, of course. After being killed by Darth Vader Obi-Wan Kenobi gets a chance to change the past. But at what price?
Disclaimer: The Star Wars galaxy is property of the almighty GL.
live according to race, colour or creed
While we rule by blind madness and pure greed
Our lives dictated by tradition, superstition, false religion
Through the eons, and on and on
Oh yes we'll keep on tryin'
We'll tread that fine line
Oh we'll keep on tryin'
Till the end of time
~ Queen "Innuendo"
He stood straight, unwavering, looking at the dark nemesis in front of him with steady gaze of clear blue-green eyes. His doom in the form of a black warrior – Darth Vader – towered over him, giving off waves of hatred and… remorse? No, he must be mistaken. The old man's teary from exertion eyes sought the soul behind the dreadful exterior, his senses searched for the light that once shone so brightly. But tired eyes saw only the black breathing mask, devoid of any expression, incapable of transferring feelings even if they were there. And the old man's senses only found darkness where promise had once been. He could feel no hope left in this shell of a human being.
There was no hope for mercy. But mercy he did not need – nor did he want.
His life had come to its end, here and now.
Here and now…
A small unnoticeable smile of remembrance quirked his lips.
/You will die, Obi-Wan./ The old training bond flared to life for the last time.
At least Vader was giving him the right to die in battle – if this could be called a battle. The last gift of the loving apprentice? Sarcasm never left him, not even here, on the brink of death – or rather passing into the Force as was Jedi's belief. But they both knew there could be no capturing the old knight. There was only death waiting for him, unless a miracle happened. But he was too tired now, body and soul, to believe in miracles. It pained him that the one to bring death to him would be Vader – Anakin, the once – and still – beloved apprentice with whom he never found understanding.
Anakin, Anakin. You were so talented, you still are. Why didn't you learn when I taught you? Why did you choose the worst side of yourself? Why…
But there were too many whys – unanswered, hanging in the eternity he was about to join.
Obi-Wan turned to where he sensed Luke's excited presence that was rapidly imbuing with painful shock. The boy was strong in the Force, he already knew what the outcome of this battle would be – intuitively, no more – but he knew nevertheless and didn't want to believe it. Obi-Wan could sense the struggle inside him, could hear his unvoiced denial.
Too bad he had to leave the boy alone.
No. He did not pick that arrogant yet kind in the heart smuggler and the Wookie for nothing. They were the right choice; they would take care of his charge until he found the way to contact Luke – if he ever found it.
All the thoughts took mere moments to run through his head, fast as light. Obi-Wan turned back to his angel of doom, his black angel of death, how fitting. He would die, but the wheels of the giant machine of causes and effects had already come into motion. His reflection, caught in the shining black of Vader's helmet, smiled back at him.
My poor, poor Ani…
Crimson deadly lightning rushed to him, unstoppable. Force screamed its warning – the warning he did not need. He held his lightsaber steadfastly in a salute. Time slowed to a snail's pace. It dragged by millisecond after millisecond. He waited, waited for the end – or would it be the beginning?
Abruptly time dashed forward again. Blazing bar of pure energy reached him. He fought the urge to close his eyes. White-hot searing pain enveloped him in an agonizing embrace. The Force that was flowing around him seconds before now rushed to flood him, to sooth him with calming waves. Like an ocean… Like calm blue waters of an Alderaani ocean…
Darkness clouded his vision for what seemed infinity. Time was of no essence.
Pain abode slowly until there was no pain at all – as there were no feelings. He sighed with relief. It was over. Everything was over now. Darkness slowly dissolved into something else. He still could not see anything but there were colours, he knew. They were burning with brilliancy, but he didn't know what to name them – they were unlike anything he had ever seen before.
"Greetings, Obi-Wan Kenobi," an unexpected voice called from behind. Obi-Wan turned sharply. "We were waiting for you."
Speaking was a man clad in black cloak falling down his body in soft folds. His raven-black hair barely reached the shoulder, framing the pale but attractive face. Startlingly light bluish-grey eyes watched the now-dead Jedi with something akin to interest. Fine features were lit by a light smile on thin lips. There was only one thing Obi-Wan could tell for sure – he had never seen this man before.
"Greetings. Would you mind introducing yourself since you seem to already know my name?"
"Of course. I am Tarius."
Obi-Wan inclined his head politely more out of habit for he could not feel his body – and had strong doubt he still had one.
"I'm here to offer you a deal," Tarius continued, lowering himself onto a chair he pulled goodness knows where from.
"What kind of deal would that be exactly?"
"Oh, it's pretty simple." Tarius folded his fingers together and leaned forward like a school-teacher about to explain new lesson. "If we reach an agreement here I get you back through space and time to where all of it started, put you back into your own body, leaving all your memories to you, and you're free to act as you deem fit."
Obi-Wan watched the man, incredulous. Could it be a gift from the Force? Could it really be that simple? I, with all my experience back then when I still can correct all the mistakes I've made! I could prevent the rise of the Empire, the fall of the Republic and of the Jedi Order. I might even be able to save Qui-Gon…
The prospect was incredible, shining with Light and unspoken possibilities. And still he hesitated.
But which part of my happiness about it is a noble wish to make everything better and which is the egoistical desire to correct my own mistakes? Who can tell? Like with Luke. Was I only following the Force's will, or was it also my chance to correct mistakes made years ago? Could it be that in my attempts to right the wrongs I fail again?
Life had taught him a lesson the hard way, and he had learned it well. But had Tarius said 'agreement'?
"What are the terms?"
"Needless to say, appropriate price is implied."
"Say… you grovel at my feet."
Obi-Wan fought to keep his face straight but knew he was losing it. It would be against all of his beliefs, it would be against himself…
"Just kidding," Tarius laughed before Obi-Wan could get any further with his revulsion, though his frighteningly light eyes were still serious, never lighted with mirth. "Still proud, aren't you?"
"What is the real price?" He suddenly found the urge to punch the man's slimy face hardly resistible.
"Pain." Tarius started to polish his fingers as though it was his first and foremost concern. "You didn't expect to get everything for free, now did you? Still, you have a choice here. It is either you bear the pain… or those around you."
"I choose myself."
"Not so fast," Tarius laughed again, eyes sparkling. "The choice should be made on the spot in due time. But I take it you agree to try."
Obi-Wan smiled. "As someone I know says: 'Do or do not. There's no try.' So I will do ."
"Think as you wish." Tarius stood up from his chair. His face had lost some of its friendliness, Obi-Wan noted. "Enough of this idle talk."
He waved his hand slightly, slim, aristocratic fingers brushing the Force as though it were a huge dog, urging it to bend to his will. The Force arched with an inaudible moan, splashing colours around the two people who were no people at all. Colours twinkled and pooled in patches of matter, stretching, growing, merging to form a solid if slightly rippled picture around the two. One look at the scene was enough for Obi-Wan's breath to catch in his throat, and his heart to start racing.
"Generator Core Room in Theed," he whispered, unable to make his voice any louder. It had been so long since the last time he visited Naboo… since the last time he had been here.
Tarius frowned, "Something's missing. Ah, yes."
Another wave of his hand, this time a powerful swipe, and three figures came into existence. Obi-Wan gasped.
They all looked like statues frozen in motion in awkward poses. The Dark Lord of the Sith, frightening in his raw, innate power, wielding the two-bladed lightsaber, radiated hatred, fanatical obsession. Dark waves of Force tainted with anger rolled off of him in surges, visible from where Obi-Wan now stood.
A young Jedi trapped hopelessly behind a wall of red energy, free to watch, powerless to intervene. Himself. Obi-Wan took a moment to scrutinize the once-his-own visage more to gather his runaway thoughts than to really look at the face he had seen billions of times in mirrors. An odd feeling settled at the pit of his stomach.
He then turned to the third occupant of the room, turned with trepidation, slowly, almost reluctantly. Qui-Gon.
Obi-Wan's heart missed a bit, aching with a surge of old pain. Here he was, alive if motionless. The picture of dignity, the visage of his Master who never was perfect but was no less loved for that. Even stopped in mid-air, caught in a flash of the moment he still possessed the grace of a lion. He too radiated power, natural power, but it was not tainted by darkness. Unable to hold himself Obi-Wan made a step towards him, forgetting about Tarius who was watching with lazy curiosity. With aching gentleness he brushed long flowing hair, traced the familiar jawline.
"Oh, Master," the broken whisper filled the dead-silent room with hushed echo. "Why did you…"
"Enough!" Tarius suddenly barked, startling Obi-Wan.
Suppressing a surge of anger the Jedi turned to him. "All right. What should I do?"
"You?" He thought he saw a sneer on the man's face. "Fight, my dear Jedi. Fight."