The whole family helped build Anakin's funeral pyre. Obi Wan knew that Ani would have liked to do it himself, but he found that idea neither healthy nor particularly feasible since his son's hands and arms had been damaged by Palpatine's Force lightning. He thought it rather fitting that all of them should be involved, since the victory belonged to no one person. By tacit understanding, the assembled group allowed Ani to light it, even though he had to have Luke's help to get his fingers to open and close around the torch by then.
Watching them together gave Obi Wan a bittersweet satisfaction, even as the rising flames filled him both with relief and a sense of immeasurable loss. He watched the fire grow, consuming the prison in which his friend and brother had spent the last half of his life, and he was immensely glad to see the hateful armor disappear. Even after Anakin's eyes closed for the last time, he had been struck with the odd sense that his old apprentice wouldn't—couldn't—be truly free again until the armor was destroyed.
Although he knew it was irrational, he found that he couldn't leave until the fire burnt itself out. Eventually, the rest of the group filtered away, respectfully giving him and Padme privacy to say their final farewell. Most of them went to the victory celebration in the Ewok village. Yoda wanted to take Mara Jade back up to the Fleet, where he would be better able to watch over her. Luke volunteered to fly them up, and surprisingly, he managed to convince Ani to come with him and have his hands looked at. Once they left, Obi Wan and Padme stood leaning on one another in silence until the bright orange glow of the fire faded, dwindling to a faint but insistent red smolder of still-active embers.
"How are you doing?" Padme asked him softly.
He drew in a breath, considering his reply, and then shook his head in mystification. "I don't know. I think I should feel worse than I do. I miss him. I wish…a lot of things. Too many. But, I'm glad. He would've been miserable. And I think it would have broken Ani's heart. You don't spend almost thirty years immersed in the Dark Side and come out again unscathed. He never would have fully been our Anakin again. I…know it would have broken mine."
"I think you're right," she sighed, resting her head on his shoulder. "But you know something else?"
"Mm?" he glanced down at her, arching an eyebrow in a silent emphasis to his question.
"I have a feeling we'll see Anakin again."
"Oh, my love…" Obi Wan chuckled softly. "I don't doubt it. I don't doubt it at all."
After the initial joyous welcomes they received, Ani felt a bit out of place at the victory celebration. As Padme's son, he knew how to conduct himself and play a part at social gatherings, but as soon as it seemed socially appropriate, he withdrew, watching from the edge of the trees as his friends and family savored their moment of triumph. Luke left him alone for a while, but eventually, he drifted over and leaned against the tree beside him.
"You all right?" he asked.
"No, but I will be," Ani smiled.
"Do you wanna talk about it?"
"Which part?" Ani asked ironically.
Luke shrugged. "I dunno. Any part?"
Ani drew in a breath and frowned. "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been there."
"Well, I was there. That's the point of a team," Luke replied.
"I know…I just…it scares me."
"Do you think I was lying when I told Uncle Anakin that we get our greatest strength from each other, Ani?" asked Luke, giving him a look that was suddenly far more wizened than the elder brother thought he had the right to be.
He shook his head. "I know you weren't."
"We're not perfect. The minute we start thinking we are, we're dangerously close to the Dark Side. You don't have to stand alone as long as you're still willing to stand. That's what Uncle never understood," Luke said gently.
Ani gave him an ironic smile. "How'd you get so smart?"
"Good teachers," Luke shrugged. Then he turned and looked over his shoulder as Leia came up behind him. She slipped her arms around him, giving him an affectionate squeeze.
"Mom and Dad are coming," she told them.
Luke turned and started off with her, then paused and looked back at Ani. Leia hesitated, turning around again when they didn't follow.
"You coming, Ani?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'll be along in a minute," he promised.
"Well, don't stand here by yourself all night," Leia told him with a faint edge of sterness.
"Oh, I'm not alone," Ani replied, glancing toward the trees. The twins followed his gaze and all three Kenobi children smiled as the spirits of Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu, and Anakin Skywalker shimmered into sight. After a moment or two, Mace and Qui-Gon stepped back, slowly fading out again. The twins took the hint and drifted back to the party with a joint wave, leaving Ani alone with his namesake.
"So," he began slowly. "What happens now?"
"You can go home if you want," Anakin said. "Back to your farm. The war isn't over, but not everyone has to stay on the front lines."
Ani nodded. "I'm going to take Jareth to see his mother. Then we'll go back. Me and Isaly and the boys, anyway. Shmi wants to stay with Han and Leia for a while. But I meant…what happens now…to you?"
"The Force is returning to a place of balance," Anakin replied. "Master Windu and Qui-Gon won't be around as much. Their tasks are complete. I…have a great deal of atonement to make."
"So I'll see you again?" Ani asked.
"Oh, yes, nephew. You're not rid of me yet," Anakin promised.
"Good," quipped Ani. "Because it would have been really shoddy of you to just pop in once or twice and then never be heard from again, you know."
"Have you ever known me to do anything the easy way, Ani?" Anakin asked.
"You have a point, Uncle," Ani laughed.
Anakin chuckled as well. Then, his expression shifted, becoming serious. "Thank you, Anakin. You are…without question, the son of Padme and Obi Wan Kenobi."
"You would have done no less for them, Uncle. Or for their son. You owe me nothing," Ani inclined his head.
"I love you," Anakin said softly.
Here it is, after more than two years. The final chapter of One Path. I would like to thank everyone who has stuck with the story for so long, especially to those readers who have loyally stuck it out through my writer's block and personal difficulties over the years. To those of you who have taken the time to leave thoughtful feedback, both positive and negative, I can't express how much your comments have meant, especially at those times when I wondered why I was continuing with this. Also, of course, my collaborative partner and fellow Evil Genius, Aruna7.
I would like to address recent comments about Anakin/Vader's death in One Path. I realize that many people may have hoped that he would survive, but in our opinion, the merciful choice was to end his suffering and let him become one with the Force. We made a point of discussing how unhappy he was with life in the suit and how much would have to be done in order for him to have anything approaching an existence independent of it. Also, after such a long time immersed in the teachings and philosophy of the Sith, it would have been unrealistic to expect that he would have been able, emotionally, to make a successful transition into life outside the Emperor's grasp. He was tired, and frankly, except for the Kenobis, no one in the galaxy would have trusted or welcomed him. Our goal from the outset was to keep this story true to the intent and spirit of Star Wars. I won't apologize for maintaining the story's integrity, and I hope that whether the ending makes you happy or not, you will have found this story to be a journey worth taking.
I know that there are some questions left unanswered here, most notably the fate of our Mara Jade. I had considered writing an epilogue of sorts to close things up, but ultimately, I feel that things are better left the way they are. Aruna and I do plan for there to be a sequel series to One Path entitled The Kenobi Way, and I want there to be some surprises in store for those of you who decide to brave the waters of this 'verse when it moves beyond the film saga.
For the present, I have to say that, while I love the GFFA and the universe of One Path, I have decided to take a hiatus to focus on my original work. I will be compiling and moving all of the author's notes and responses to specific reader feedback over the next few weeks, as well as a list of the existing "missing scenes", One Path music videos, and other things of interest. Currently I plan to begin work on The Kenobi Way in January of 2010. I have no idea when the series will end up being posted, and while I know that some may be disapointed, I really feel that this is the best thing for me and for the story. I want to be able to give it the care and attention that it--and you as the audience--deserve.
Until then, may the Force be with you.