AN: So, this is kind of, sort of a companion piece to my other Star Wars fic, Heat, in that it's written in the same style, and that they kind of overlap. It isn't really necessary that you read Heat before this one, or after this one...but it might be kind of cool if you do (shrugs). Anyway, just a little one-shot about Obi-Wan's thoughts during that oh-so-epic battle that we all know and love. I spent a lot of time watching and re-watching that scene, studying it and looking for little insights into the mind of the wonderful Mr. Kenobi, so hopefully it paid off. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own anything Star Wars related. I wish I owned Ewan McGregor.
This is what it feels like to be Obi-Wan Kenobi...finally understanding.
It seems odd to him that, now, between flashes of blue and the whirring and the buzzing that fills his ears, the only thing he can think about is Qui-Gon. His mind, always an easy, Force-blanketed void during battle, is filled with the words of his former Master, spoken so long ago.
Don't you see it, Obi-Wan? The balance, the symmetry...it's beautiful, Padawan.
He cannot remember the context in which those words were spoken; however, he knows it really doesn't matter. He has visited far corners of the galaxy, and has been to remote planets with white, sandy beaches and towering waterfalls. He's seen exotic jungles, immense cliffs that plummet into crystalline ocean waters, fiery flower petals on ancient trees, mountaintops enveloped in permanent cloud cover...and yet, he realizes that he's never truly understood beauty until this moment.
Qui-Gon had a connection to the Living Force that Obi-Wan has never quite mastered, or comprehended. His Master always spoke of living in the moment, trusting your instincts, seeing the beauty in the ordinary, in balance and simplicity. He was always bewildered by Qui-Gon's desperate insistence that Anakin be trained. Now, he understands.
Anakin is symmetry, in the simplest sense of the word.
Obi-Wan's hands are moving faster than should be humanly possible, his saber a blur before his eyes as he thrusts as blocks. It is impossible to tell, however, who is thrusting and blocking, and when. Offensive and defensive attacks are lost in fluid movements that aren't even mentally acknowledged, just carried out with consistent predictability. He recognizes Anakin's attacks without actually recognizing them, anticipates them mere milliseconds before they are put into motion. He knows Anakin's every move.
It is far from lost on him, though, that Anakin is doing the same.
He can't kill Anakin...not because Anakin is his brother, his best friend, the one person he's devoted the majority of his time and effort to over the course of his early adult life...not because he won't kill Anakin, but because he can't. He realizes this early on, as his former apprentice flips and spins, movements filled with an inhuman wrath that Obi-Wan can feel through the contact of their sabers and in the Force surrounding them. Anakin's power is obvious, fueled by rage and darkness. He has transcended any plane of ability that Obi-Wan can even imagine reaching.
And yet, Obi-Wan knows that, although he cannot kill Anakin, the fallen Jedi cannot kill him either. He accepts the fact that Anakin is stronger; however, if he has learned anything from Qui-Gon, it is that physical strength is subject to the will of the Force, as well. Despite any advantages that either man claims, they are equals in this duel, and perhaps this duel alone.
Sith versus Jedi. Dark versus Light.
Their movements are extensions of one another. As Anakin parries, Obi-Wan's block fits perfectly into the trajectory of his saber. As Obi-Wan spins, Anakin calculates the exact moment their weapons will meet again. When Anakin gains the upper hand, his pride and his fury delay Obi-Wan's demise. And as Obi-Wan stands over Anakin, ready to deliver a fatal blow, he fully expects Anakin's counter attack, and is not surprised when they are locked, once again, in an equal battle moments later.
It nearly takes Obi-Wan's breath away.
He realizes that, at one point, their feet are barely moving, arms twisting and sabers flying in way that resembles some kind of abnormal yet elegant dance. It's almost graceful, and Obi-Wan can't help but think that Qui-Gon would find this extraordinarily beautiful, if not for the fire in Anakin's eyes and the fear in his heart.
Beauty can be found in the unlikeliest of places, my Padawan. Even in death, there is balance.
Sabers are abandoned, momentarily, as Obi-Wan calls upon the Force, pushing it towards Anakin while his former apprentice, as expected, follows suit. Their hands hover next to one another, and Obi-Wan briefly believes that if he can just grab Anakin's hand, take it within his own like he had when Anakin was a child, all of this could stop. It almost seems, for an instant, that Anakin is reaching out to him, as well, trying to take hold of something familiar. If their hands would just meet, folding into one another, a perfect fit...
Obi-Wan is launched away from Anakin's outstretched hand, roughly colliding into the control panel as Anakin lands, in a similar fashion, on the opposite side of the room.
And the dance continues.
The heat is intense as they travel outside the control room, and for a split second, Obi-Wan's resolve falters. He trips as Anakin shoves him, caught off guard by the unexpected and harsh action, contrasting with the perfection of his attacks thus far. He looks into Anakin's eyes as he backs away, and he knows that, until the day the Force takes him, he won't be able to forget that terrifying glare.
It is not the anger in Anakin's gaze that unnerves him, however. It is the emptiness behind the anger, the lack of soul and the darkness within him. In a moment of pure desperation, Obi-Wan grabs Anakin's hands as he prepares to attack, spinning around and pushing him towards the ground with all the strength he can muster. He feels Anakin's knees beginning to buckle, and dares to hope that perhaps their spontaneous actions have broken the symmetry. He dares to hope that some part of Anakin Skywalker, the Anakin Skywalker that he used to know, will shine through, and understand that, at this moment, Obi-Wan is trying to help.
Anakin pushes against him, eyes blazing, and there is balance once again.
"This is the end for you, my Master."
Something about the words make Obi-Wan gasp, a barely audible intake of breath that is caused, not by fear, but by realization. As Anakin speaks, the Force stirs within Obi-Wan, whispering as a mental breath inside his mind, one that sounds absurdly like Qui-Gon.
This symmetry is broken...
He knows that this is true. Anakin's fear, his anger, is taking over. His next actions will be rash, his movements uncontrolled, his attacks uncalculated, and Obi-Wan accepts this with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. They were once two halves of a whole, a Master and Padawan team, The Negotiator and The Hero With No Fear, compliments to one another.
As Anakin leaps over him, he contemplates his next move, closing his eyes briefly as he understands the weight of this moment. In a matter of seconds, the balance will cease to exist, and one of them will be doomed to die.
I am so sorry, Padawan.
They duel once again, Obi-Wan now on the defensive against Anakin's frenzied and uncoordinated strikes. With one final blow, their sabers connect, and Obi-Wan holds them there, for an instant, stuck in time as equals, the symmetry between them threatening to bring him to his knees. Anakin's furious gaze burns into him, and he lets himself look upon his former Padawan one last time, wishing that the Force would allow him just one more moment with Anakin as his brother.
The symmetry is broken...
He looks away, no longer able to meet Anakin's eyes, and leaps backward, landing with poise on the hill behind him.
"It's over, Anakin. I have the high ground."
A shrill warning rings out in the Force, making the hair on the back of Obi-Wan's neck stand on end, despite the sweltering temperature. He feels the wrath pouring off of Anakin in waves, and he knows that his previously spoken words could be no farther from the truth.
"You underestimate my power."
I'm so sorry.
"Don't try it."
He is painfully close to begging as Anakin prepares himself, gathering the Force with such intensity that Obi-Wan can sense the darkness swarming around him. He feels as if the very ground beneath him is dropping away, the balance that had once held his life together crumbling to pieces. He turns his attention inward, grasping desperately to his own hold on the Force like a drowning man clinging to his last hope of survival. His mind becomes remarkably clear, and he watches Anakin as if he were moving in slow motion.
Oh, Anakin. It didn't have to end like this.
A bounding leap, the likes of which Obi-Wan has never seen before...
I truly have failed you, haven't I? That was never my intention, Padawan. I always wanted the best for you.
A familiar figure, draped in black and clouded in misery, sailing towards him with the speed and fury of a Tatooine sandstorm...
Qui-Gon had such faith in you. As did I, Anakin. As did I. I trusted you beyond all else.
I'm so very sorry.
Goodbye, my friend.
With one fell swoop and a resounding echo in his mind, Obi-Wan feels the symmetry shatter into pieces around him, and swears he feels something inside of him snap as well. Anakin drops to the ground with a sickening thud, rolling towards the lava as a cloud of ash surrounds his disfigured body. He watches, with a painfully large lump in his throat, as Anakin's form drags to a halt, the sound of flesh scraping against rock ringing loudly in his ears.
He stumbles backwards, the distinct hum of his lightsaber absent as the comforting blue light disappears. Anakin moans, an agonized sound that cuts into Obi-Wan like a knife. He feels dizzy without the balance of Anakin's presence, the precision of their partnership...even the near perfection of their dueling forms would be more welcome than this shaky new reality.
As Anakin looks up at him with red eyes, fiery and filled with rage, Obi-Wan cannot stand it anymore. He feels as if he is about to explode.
"You were the Chosen One!"
You were my Padawan...
"It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them!"
A legend, Anakin, that's what you were going to become...
"Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!"
Not leave me in darkness...
He is exhausted as he trudges slowly up the hill, absently picking up his lightsaber as he turns his back on Anakin. His limbs are weary, his mind empty, his chest tight and painful. He cannot help but turn back, as he reaches the peak of his ascent, traces of guilt beginning to make themselves known.
"I HATE YOU!"
Why, Anakin? Oh Force, why?
The guilt threatens to swallow him now, and he cannot speak for a long moment, watching Anakin struggle to remain conscious through the overwhelming anguish that must be coursing through his body. When he does finally find his voice again, his words are filled with pain, and there is no hidden meaning behind them. Obi-Wan, for the first time since this horrible game began, says exactly what he means.
"You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you."
As Anakin's body beings to burn, he does not have the courage to remain watching.
This is my fault.
And as he walks away, blocking out the sound of his apprentice's tortured cries, he finds himself wishing for that symmetry again. The balance, the perfection, the beauty...
He will bring balance to the Force...
Without Anakin, he finds himself desperately lacking in equilibrium.
Without Anakin, he is only one half of a whole.
Without Anakin, there is no balance.
At least...not for him.