The response to this has been overwhelming. All I can say is thank you.
There was soft oblivion; he sank into it, and the bounds of breathing, of living, were slipping from his weary, uncaring fingers. He had scraped every last bit of strength from himself, and the body he separated from was empty, already becoming a shell.
He had done the impossible, delivered a miracle from the Force—but there had to be balance in that, too. He was bestowed the precious honor of being lit with the entirety of the Force's magnificent luminescence, so now it was only fair that his every light was winking out, and his mind's eye was mired in pooling darkness.
How he wanted to be free of his weakened, hollowed out corporeal form, to open his eyes and be not confronted by the whipping flames and lava-spray, but by the soothing encompassment of the Force. He could go there. Yes, he could disappear into its healing depths, and be whole again, be of the Force, only of the Force, at long last.
The path was laid out before him, a dark path, but he would know the way, he would be guided by the distant glow of eternity.
Yet, he had pushed too much of himself into the assault, and he could not find the energy to even begin the journey. So he lay in the darkening fog, waiting until he could vanish within it.
He thought of Anakin, and Padme, and their babies. With a feeble smile, he knew they were safe. They were safe. And that was all that mattered. All that…all that mattered…
/My sweet, brave boy/ A voice glimmered, burrowing through the darkness ever-piling/What have you done/
Obi-Wan Kenobi battled his weighted eyelids, garnering a very thin line of vision. The streaking fire and rock beds were still there, but now…now there was Qui-Gon Jinn.
He crouched before Obi-Wan, his leonine visage unharmed by time and death, his eyes still as kind, the color of them covering his body, so that he wore an ethereal blue haze around his flesh.
If there were tears falling from his eyes, Obi-Wan could not feel them. He couldn't feel much, anymore. "M-Master?"
Qui-Gon smiled, and it was the brilliant, enigmatic smile Obi-Wan knew so well, had spent the last thirteen years without. /Yes, young one./The serenity of that familiar countenance faltered for a moment, revealing lines that webbed the long forehead as the man frowned, /I'm here./
'Here', and for once, it wasn't his nightmares, where his Master had lived for so long, a corpse on a cold, alien floor. Obi-Wan was dazed by his happiness, but could not miss the slip, the instance of disharmony in the spirit of his slain mentor. "What…" He fought for breath, "What is…it?
Qui-Gon extended his hand, quivering ever so slightly at the edges, and rested it in the sweat-matted hair. /I have done as the Force has instructed me to, I followed its will, and you have followed it too, like no one else, my Padawan. / His proud smile crumpled, /But this has all come at your expense. If I could have protected you, I would have. I'm…I'm sorry, Obi-Wan./
But Obi-Wan merely smiled, overcome by the contentment he had only ever felt while in the security of his Master's care. "How can you apologize…for…following the Force?" He asked of his friend, "Besides, if any…if any fault belonged to you…I would have forgiven you…long before now."
Qui-Gon was looking into his eyes, caught between tears and laughter, /My Obi-Wan…I shall never forsake you again. Come with me. You needn't wait any longer, in this body that is failing you. Come to me, Obi-Wan. We have missed so much./
Never had he heard a more tempting offer, but Obi-Wan did not surrender to his Master's fervent wishes. Anakin had arrived, he sensed, and was rushing from a tiny, one-man fighter. Oh. He thought absently, I must have been gone longer than I thought. Obi-Wan breathed out, studying Qui-Gon's face, then murmured, "I have waited this long…I can wait…a few moments…more."
And where the otherworldly visage of Qui-Gon Jinn had been, the intense, flushed face of Anakin Skywalker now was, dripping in sweat. "Master!" The boy gasped, wasting not a second, gathering Obi-Wan close in his arms.
Obi-Wan leaned against his chest. There, he could feel the frantic heartbeat, resounding strongly against his ear. His lips, growing colder and more difficult to control, nevertheless formed a shaking little smile.
Anakin ran his hand through Obi-Wan's hair, then cupped the weary head in his palm. "Master, what—what happened?"
Obi-Wan blinked the shroud of his weakness away, eyes straying to the body not far from him. His fingers tightened around the hilt of the last Sith blade. "He's…he's not…dead yet, Anakin. You," He stared hard into the already weeping eyes, "You have to kill him."
Anakin's mouth compressed, struggling against a tumult of emotion. "He did this to you?" The anger made his voice tight.
"No," Obi-Wan whispered, "No. He didn't."
"Then what's wrong, Master?" Anakin asked through a thickly building sob, "W-What's happening to you?"
Obi-Wan's eyes fluttered shut as he grappled for the strength to explain. He feared for his apprentice's fragile capability of handling death, that his own, inevitable demise here would send Anakin back into the clamoring darkness. "The Force is taking me, Anakin." He said.
Devastation, denial, outrage, they all swirled in eyes reborn in Light. Anakin Skywalker shook his head, "Master, no. No, it can't. You said he didn't…Master, I won't lose you."
Obi-Wan reached for his old Padawan's hand, and brought it around the wicked cylinder of Sidious' weapon. "But it hasn't taken me yet. There is time…for us…but first…" He made certain their gazes, both helplessly tearful, were solidly connected, "First you must kill him."
At once, he felt Anakin's grip taut on the saber. And he felt the anger radiating from the body, the soul. Obi-Wan slowly, steadily exhaled. "Anakin, there must be no malice…in what you…do here…if you are…to…to… live forever…in the Light."
"Anakin, this is…the last test. The last thing…I-I can teach you. Let go of me…and kill him…don't do it…for me. Do it…because…because it is the will of…the Force."
Anakin bowed his head, and succumbed to his pain, crying until his shoulders shook.
The tears dropped to cleanse Obi-Wan's face. He felt them, sliding down his skin, and knew that it was the hate being poured, so that when Anakin took up his task, he did it as a true Jedi would.
Obi-Wan allowed his eyes to close again. In the black of his drifting mind, he waited.
Soon, he was placed with great gentleness on the ground, and the sound of booted feet crushing through the rock was heard. A crisp click, and quick buzz, and then, that towering voice of evil and chaos and greed screamed out—and ceased to exist.
The Emperor, the prowling creature, Darth Sidious, final Lord of the Sith, was dead.
The Light sang a beautiful aria, as it never had.
Scarcely a second later, he was in the warm shelter of Anakin's arms again. Then…then he felt something, something as close and familiar to him as his flesh, wrapped around his freezing form. "Oh," Obi-Wan sighed, doing what he could to draw the cloak even nearer. He gazed up with dimming vision, into the face of his brother. Despite all that had happened, there was a new, bright gloss in the beloved eyes of Knight Skywalker, "Anakin, you…" He smiled, "You're a father."
Anakin sniffed and nodded, hand sweeping through his teacher's hair again and again, "Y-Yes. Twins, Master. Padme and I…" He actually grinned, "We had twins. A boy and a girl. Luke and Leia. They're beautiful. They're the most beautiful things I-I've ever seen." He rested his fingers along Obi-Wan's temple, "You have to come see them, Master. Padme too. They're all waiting for you. Padme, she was so worried. I came back as soon as I knew she was alright. But I…" He choked, "I was too late, wasn't I?"
Obi-Wan smiled, "No." He murmured, dulcet voice beginning to give over to the Force's pull, "You've done what you…you were meant to do. Y-You saved the children."
Anakin shook his head, pressing it against Obi-Wan's, "And y-you've saved us all."
"Anakin," Obi-Wan whispered, even lower than before, "Th-There is nothing to…keep you…from the Light…except…your fear. But you…you will overcome. I kn-know you will." He smiled, even nudged it into a grin, "H-Hero Without Fear."
"Master…please…just try to—"
"There is…no more fight in me, Anakin. I-I gave it to the Force," He clasped the trembling fingers, "And s-so, I've given it to you. There…There's nothing else I could ever…want…except…except…" When he searched for enough air to fill his lungs, he could take merely a scrap, "that."
"Master," Anakin whimpered, crying in earnest, "There has to be another way. I can take you away from here, to the med center—"
"There is…only the Force's way, Padawan."
Anakin hugged him close, and shuddering, against his ear, "Master, what will I do without you?"
Obi-Wan sagged against him, knowing that there was nothing left, and the last moments were finally trailing away, "You will walk out and away from this Hell," He told Anakin, "And you…you will live the life you…were meant to." He shook, "You will be the…the Anakin I knew…the Anakin I loved…and will l-love…f-forever…"
Anakin inhaled, wiping the sweat reverently from Obi-Wan's face, "I l-l-love you. You're a father, too, O-Obi-Wan. My father," His mouth quivered, "And my brother, and my best friend…and the only Master I would ever want or need…and…"
But Obi-Wan had heard all he needed to hear. With the sole drop of energy remaining in him, he rested his lips against Anakin's cheek, pressing a kiss there…and completely, truly, let go.
He walked the final road on his own feet, passing from one existence into another, into the arms of the one he had lost…and into the eternal embrace of the Force, where he was to be forever, and where he had been to begin with.
'He is respected throughout the Jedi Order for his insight as well as his warrior skill. He has become the hero of the next generation of Padawans; he is the Jedi their Masters hold up as a model. He is the being the Council assigns to their most important missions. He is modest, centered, and always kind.
He is the ultimate Jedi. –Star Wars Episode Three: Revenge of the Sith, by Matthew Stover
And here is where I say good-bye, to fanfic writing, at least. I will still be gobbling up other stories, by the wonderful authors around here, but I think it's time for me to pursue other things. This is the right time, not when I'm feeling doubtful of myself, but on a bit of a high note; I've never had such a well-received fic before. It's amazed me, and I'm so grateful to those who gave their comments.
So thank you so much to everyone who has read and reviewed over my time here, and gave me the self-esteem needed to write my heart out.
Thank you again.