This one's been a long time in the making. I started it...oh...in June, maybe, after reading the epilogue of the Revenge of the Sith novelization.
Originally it was supposed to be very short--a drabble kind of thing,
really--but like with "Blade That Was Broken," it just sort of
grew. Probably the whole thing was heavily influenced by the
novelization, particularly the choice of second-person, but at least I
wasn't ripping deliberately. Many thanks to Banui Rochon and my
dad for beta-ing this. I would warn of RotS spoilers, but since it's
probably pretty obvious setting out that 1) Padmé dies and 2) Anakin
goes evil, it's not very necessary.
You will always remember it, the moment of awakening. You will always remember the first sight of the world—at once comfortingly alien and terrifyingly familiar—through mechanical eyes not yours, the first hissing breath through lungs that do not belong to you.
And then comes pain, and the memory of fire and smoke and your own burning flesh, and it is pain. It is all pain.
You move, slowly, and it is no longer your body that responds. In your heightened awareness—the Force be cursed—you sense every electrical shiver and spark that travels your body.
But no. It is not your body. It is a machine that hangs heavy on everything left to you. It will move at your bidding, but it will never be you.
You are not you anymore.
You raise your hands, staring through these strange new not-eyes. You will your fingers to move and they obey you, curling into fists, and you know they are strong—
And they hang on your arms like dead things. They are not yours. They will do what you command—they will touch and grasp and kill—but they are not yours.
And these eyes see everything—everything—with absolute clarity. They do not close. They do not rest. They will not blind you to what you do not want to see.
You will never sleep again, you realize, understanding with a detached finality that might frighten you, were you not now so far beyond fear. Whether you need it now—and you wonder if you do not—is irrelevant. You cannot close your eyes and if you did you would see her again. You would see her through these merciless eyes that blink at nothing.
No. No. You cannot. You cannot.
You are strong now, you think. His machine is strong if the withered soul designed for it is not. His creation was made strong.
You are invincible now.
He kept his promise, you realize, and the irony does not comfort you. He told you He would make you strong. He told you He would give you power.
And that was what you wanted all along, wasn't it?
Again you fight for control.
No. You are strong. You are perfect.
Perfect as a prison is perfect. Perfect as the dark is perfect. Perfect as death is perfect.
The rage takes you now, swallowing you, and you remember the sensation, the exhilarating heat of it, the pounding rhythm in your head, the blade that sang duet death's melody with you, the suffocation of it that filled your chest and throat until you could not breathe and yet still you sang, you and your blade, of heat and light and bloodlust…
Your soul remembers. Your body knows nothing of it now. Your breath hisses, in and out, metronome rhythm stretching into eternity. It does not slow or quicken, and the only heat you know is the fire.
But the realization—the pain—that blankets your rage is cold, cold like the emptiness of deep space, and you are glad of it. There is no feeling in the cold. There is no hope or betrayal.
You always did fear hope, you think.
Perhaps you never really were a Jedi.
You were ever more comfortable in the dark, you think, even back on Tattooine—the coolness and quiet after the suns set, later the florescent glow of a nighttime Coruscant.
Everything is dark, now.
Fury stirs again, deep inside you, fury born of pain (but the fury is easier to bear). And again the cold quells it.
You are dark now.
By some luck—not the Force; what would the Force care anymore for you—you find a window that will accept your gaze and you see that you have left Mustafar. Courscant glitters before you, metal jewels beneath a leaden sky—but they are too bright, too bright—
All you see is the fire.
Reflex masters control. You flinch back, wanting—yearning—to close your eyes against it, and then despising your weakness.
You became…this…to destroy your weakness. You failed that, too.
He made you, indeed. He could not make you strong. Nor did He make you weak.
You did that yourself.
He promised power. He gave you power. But he could not make you strong.
You hate the dark—you cannot stand this clinging shadow now—but still you cannot face the light. Especially not now, now when the only light you remember is the fire.
You cannot bear the fire. You cannot bear the dark.
So your vision turns inward, shutting out all else, and there you find more shadow, deeper and more suffocating than the one you have tried to flee.
You cannot flee this shadow. You will not even try.
You know who made this shadow.
No! You cannot let your thoughts take this path!
You realize you are gripping the window's edge—tightly: your knuckles would show white, if you had blood or flesh—and you force yourself to release it and step back. You wonder by instinct if the metal has cut into your palms and then you realize: no: the pressure of your fingers has crumpled the metal.
Again, you stare.
You feel nothing, this time.
In a very small and distant corner of your mind (but what is your mind anymore, save the empty processes of a machine?) you understand that you want to pace, you must pace or you will go mad, but you do not move. You cannot.
This is what you must be now.
The walls around you fall away and images crowd your unblinking sight—image upon image upon image and they are all you. You, the Sith lord. You, Darth Vader. You, the future. Maybe it is genuine foresight, a last blessing of the Force you once served, or a new curse of the Dark. Maybe it is hallucination from the-Force-only-knows-what they put through your metallic veins. Maybe it doesn't matter.
You know what you are seeing, and you cannot touch the images as they parade before your vision. You can only watch them pass.
You see yourself:
The rise of the Empire, of His empire, ruling the entire Republic, gripping, clutching, controlling; subjugating planets—entire systems—reaching for more and more; you at His side—always at His side—killing, torturing, destroying. You will become the mask and the mask will become you and you will be feared and hated even by those who revere you.
And revere you they will. Your name will be second only to His, known in every corner of the Empire, and the mere specter of that name will engender terror and revulsion and utter obedience. Your name will touch every star in the night sky. The blood of hundreds of thousands—millions, even—will fall on your hands, and millions more lives will fall under your shadow. You will wield death and terror as skillfully as you once wielded your lightsaber—
And you will stand above it all, tasting neither victory nor defeat. Nothing will touch you—neither fear, nor delight, nor sorrow, nor happiness, nor anger, nor joy…
It will be like this—eternally, it will be this cold and emptiness. You will feel no pain but that frigid touch in your soul.
You see yourself:
Serving the Dark that sustains and strengthens you even as it draws the lifeblood from your metal veins. Serving Him—doing whatever He bids you, no matter the cost—for He is all you have left. Your mother is gone. Your home is gone. Your mentor—your father-friend-brother—is gone. Your wife is gone.
Everything you touch crumbles into dust.
You fought for them. Oh, how you fought for them.
There is no cause to fight anymore save when He tells you to fight. And even then it will not matter.
You will never fail Him. You cannot. But it does not matter.
You should have died there, in the fire. You should have died long before you ever touched Padmé or Obi-Wan or your mother.
Your thoughts have strayed, you realize—distantly, uneasily—they have moved from image-future to past and to all those places you did not want them to go—but somehow that does not matter either.
It will come. You cannot stop it forever. You will let it come, this one time.
You deserve this, anyway.
You remember yourself:
You were young, once. An eternity ago—eternity in ten years—you were the idealistic little boy, content even in your slavery. You were satisfied with your Podracing and your friends and your life. And then the Jedi came, and Padmé, and the Sith…
You loved her even then—
And the Sith…
Didn't that tattooed monster draw you, fascinate you, even then? Didn't his darkness touch something within you that hungered not for justice or freedom but for revenge and power?
Maybe it did. Maybe this, too, does not matter.
Again memories draw you in. Again you do not fight.
Perhaps none of it was coincidence. Perhaps the fault was not all—not only—yours. Always He was there—there when you came to Coruscant the naïve child, there as you grew into the headstrong Jedi Knight…there as child and Knight turned to hurting, desperately vulnerable young man.
And then Sith Lord.
You toy with the idea for the briefest of moments.
If the blame is not yours…if it was Him, all along…
And it was. Of course it was. Looking back has always the clearer sight—even to you.
No. That belongs to you.
Because you knew.
Because somewhere, at some junction in that winding, tortured, Dark-fogged path, you knew. And, knowing, you made your choice.
You know. It was all because of your choice—
That you killed Jedi.
That you killed younglings.
That you fought Obi-Wan. That you tried to kill Obi-Wan.
That you killed…
This above all—
That you killed Padmé.
And you betrayed all of them. Because none of it was quite good enough for you, was it? Because everyone fails, and so did you, and now all of it is gone and all that's left is darkness.
Because you wanted everything to be perfect, and now it is.
Truth shatters the last threads of your illusions, searing-hot faultlines that splinter across your mind. The cold returns, sliding in and around the heat and fire, entombing your heart's furnace in a shield of ice. Frost settles over the pain, soothing until it becomes bearable again. The dark numbness comes so suddenly and fully that you feel nothing, not even gratitude, at its arrival. Inside your mask you cannot cry—you will not cry, you will never cry again—and the memories can never hurt you again, but you know. You know.
And you will never, ever forget.
Reviews won't make Padmé less dead or Anakin less evil, but they'll sure make me happy.