Author's Note: This is the long-awaited companion piece to Truth, though it can easily be read alone. I hope you all enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Star Wars. I wish I did, but I don't.
The Death Of Dreams
"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these; it might have been." -- John Greenleaf Whittier
When dreams die, it seems like the world dies with them.
When Father came back to the light – when he attacked the Emperor in an effort to protect me – our future lives flashed before my eyes. I saw him freed of that monstrous suit (he looked like the one holo I've seen of him, one I found in the Archives dating back to the Clone Wars) and we were laughing together, so hard we were bent double. I saw him giving Han a hard time, teasing him mercilessly, when Han asked him for for his blessing to marry Leia. I saw him walking Leia down the aisle and looking so proud, even to the point of tears, as she and Han exchanged wedding vows, and I saw him holding their newborn child – his grandchild – and fussing over him or her while refusing to let Han hold the baby himself. I saw him teaching me about the Force; I saw us fighting side by side as Jedi and rebuilding the Order together.
I did not see him die.
Even as I stand here and watch his fearsome armour burn, I still cannot believe he's really gone. He has defined my life for so long, it's strange to think he's no longer a part of it.
It's only been an hour, and even though his death hasn't fully sunk in yet, I still feel so empty, like a portion of my heart has been ripped away and I can never get it back. There is a void in my mind where his presence once was, so strong and constant, yet never intrusive. He comforted me when I was lonely, he soothed me when I was upset. He was the last thing I was aware of before I went to sleep at night, and the first thing I recalled when I woke in the morning. We rarely spoke, but that was alright. It was enough for me to know that he was there, that he loved me, no matter how vicious the battle he fought with himself.
I loved him, too.
I never told him so. I didn't really open up to him – we were fighting against each other, after all – but I assumed he knew that I loved him despite everything, as I knew he loved me.
I see you have accepted the truth, he said to me. That was when I first knew he didn't know how I felt, as I had accepted the truth months ago. Under the circumstances, I thought it best to keep him at arm's length.
He was awkward and uncertain, almost shy, as if he wanted to act like a father, but wasn't sure how.
I, on the other hand, was perfectly calm. At least on the outside. Inside, I was a mess, and I said some pretty cruel things I would take back in a heartbeat if I could.
Then my father is truly dead.
Like that. I remember how the armour went perfectly still, and how, through the Force, I felt him recoil as if I had slapped him, shocked and hurt.
Then I left.
And now he's gone.
I take comfort in the fact that he vanished into the Force, as Yoda and Ben had before him. I still speak with Ben at times; perhaps I will get to see my father again.
Yet when I reach for him, across our bond, I grasp only cold, starless space.
I ache to be with him again, so I can tell him I love him.
I feel like I took advantage of his love for me. I never told him that I loved him, too. I said that I couldn't let him die, that I had to save him – but I don't think I ever actually told him that I love him.
I love him. Wherever he is now, I hope he knows that as well as he knows his own name.
Which is Anakin Skywalker.
I can remember him vividly. I remember his hands, fumbling a bit as his fingers slid over the unfamiliar hilt of my new lightsaber. It looked almost delicate, being examined by hands too large to hold it comfortably. Despite the situation, I felt so proud when it passed his inspection.
Oh, Force . . . I find my self wishing we were back on Bespin, dueling. I'd gladly give my other hand if it meant he was still alive, even as Vader.
He did apologize for cutting off my hand. It was a couple of months ago, and I was having trouble moving the little finger of my artificial hand after I had sprained my wrist in training. It was the middle of the night and I could feel him watching attentively from the back of my mind as I struggled to fix it myself. As the hours passed, he crept forward until he was sharing my eyes. I was so focused and frustrated I did not even notice until he spoke up and told me how to fix my hand.
I jumped hugely and looked wildly around while he laughed at my reaction. It was a warm, expressive laugh, and at first I didn't know who it was coming from. I settled down and sent him a feeling of irritation, but I didn't block him.
He quieted quickly. I'm sorry, he said. For more than just startling you. There were significant overtones that made it clear he meant my hand.
I love his voice; it's something else about him I can recall with stunning clarity. His real voice, I mean – the one I hear when he speaks directly into my mind. It's so rich and expressive. I have a very difficult time equating it to the man who also speaks in a flat, synthetic bass. They are as different as light and dark.
That's probably the point.
Anyway, I followed his instructions, and my hand was as good as new in less than five minutes. Amazed, I asked him how he knew what needed to be done. Did he have a prosthetic limb, too?
He withdrew with a hasty goodnight, ignoring my question.
Earlier today – Force, but it seems so long ago! -- in the elevator that carried us up to the Emeror's throne room, he asked if my hand still gave me trouble. I told him it didn't, which was true, and then I asked again how he knew how to fix it.
Again, he didn't say anything. The rest of the elevator ride passed in tense silence.
Now I know how he knew what mechanisms to fix in my arm. He did have prosthetics of his own – four, to be exact, all of them about half his entire arm or leg. They were left behind inside the suit when he disappeared into the Force.
I examined them closely before laying them out carefully inside the suit and burning them. My replacement is lightyears ahead of his. They are purely metal; padding in the suit gave them shape, rather than the synthskin I have. There are no pain sensors in any of the; there are barely any sensors at all in the legs, which end in clawed toes only vaguely resembling a human foot. Also, the metal is weak – from the look of them, Father had it reinforced numerous times. The right arm – the one I cut off – looks like it might have been fairly decent, but the mechanisms in the joints of the rest proved to be slow to respond. The servodrivers and pistons in the arms had been adjusted to provide Father with superhuman strength.
Overall, my first reaction was, How annoying. My second reaction was, How did he ever live with these for over twenty years? My third reaction was, No wonder he knew exactly how to fix mine.
I wonder why the right arm is so different from the other limbs. It must have been received at a different time than the others; it's hard to tell whether it was before or after the other three. I feel even worse about depriving him of it; it is clearly the best one in the bunch.
I still can't believe I cut off his hand at all. He may have cut off mine, but I forgave him months ago, after I came to terms with the revelation that he was my father. It was just . . . he was saying such horrible things, especially about Leia, and he was blocking me from his mind for the first time since Bespin so I couldn't tell if he meant what he was saying or not and I just snapped. I ran at him and attacked him and it was only when I cut off his hand, after he tripped and fell and I wouldn't stop beating on him, that I realized: in trying to force my father back to the Light, I was falling to the Dark.
It's like he was at the bottom of a hole, and I was at the top. I wanted to help him get out, but in doing so I began to climb down into the hole myself, and if I'm not careful, neither of us will ever reach the top again.
Once I realized that, I knew I had to get back to the top of that hole again, even if it meant starting over at the beginning of the rescue plan I had come up with to save my father. Looking back, it wasn't much of a plan, and it definitely didn't go as I imagined it would, but it required I stay firmly entrenched in the light, even if it killed me.
It didn't kill me, in the end.
In the end, it killed my father, Anakin Skywalker. The man I was desperately trying to save.
According to him, I did save him. And I suppose he's right. I did save him, in the way I had originally intended to.
It just wasn't enough.
Not for me, anyway.
Damn that suit! It imprisoned him for years, kept him alive but alone, and when he actually had something to live for, it killed him.
I'll bet the Emperor designed it to be susceptible to Force lightning, just in case he found an apprentice he liked better. It would be far easier, I imagine, to simply short out the systems of the suit than to attempt to run Father through with a lightsaber or some such thing – and the Emperor doesn't really seem like the kind of person to favour the Force choke like Vader. No, he is – or was – rather fond of the lightning, I think.
As un-Jedi-like as it is, I'm glad the Emperor is dead. I can't believe we ever thought Vader was evil. Next to the Emperor, Vader is a saint.
Saint Vader. Oh, Force, I'm finally going insane. I can only imagine what Leia would say.
I wish Father was here. I miss him.
I haven't seen or talked to Leia since I told her about us and Father. I wonder how she's taken everything; she was still in shock when I left her earlier.
I wonder if she told Han.
I wonder how he took the news. I'm sure his reaction would have been a sight to behold.
I'm also sure it would have been even better if Father was still alive for me to introduce to him. Han would have a heart attack.
I'm sill in a state of shock myself, over both Father's death and the fact that we won the war. Our lives are going to be incredibly chaotic for the next few months, as a Republic is restored to the galaxy again.
It's funny, in a way. I am one of the most prominent members of the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and yet I have never really cared about what type of government is in place in the galaxy. It was the way it worked that I didn't like. If the higher-ups in the Empire had displayed morality and integrity, I may even have become a loyal Imperial myself.
And perhaps, if that had been the case, Father and I would have discovered our relationship sooner, under happy and peaceful circumstances. We would have had years together, instead of moments. Maybe – most likely – he would not have died at all. In this fantasy Empire, the Emperor would be a fair and just man, with only the best interests of the people in mind, rather than his own twisted agenda and lust for absolute power.
Corrupts, power does, I remember Yoda saying in one of our may conversations about the Dark Side after my failure at the cave. Corrupts absolutely, absolute power does.
I recall how Father asked me to join him, to help him overthrow the Emperor and rule the galaxy with him. What would have happened, had I accepted his offer then? Would I slowly but surely have brought him back to the Light and enjoyed a glorious reign at his side? Or would he have managed to turn me to the Dark for a reign of terror?
At least he would still be alive.
I wonder, too, as strains of celebratory music reach my ears, how long it will take the galaxy to realize that the Republic has been restored and the Empire is no longer in effect. I remember how, as much as a year after the events, people on more distant planets still didn't know about the Death Star, unveiled to the public for only a few hours as it was, much less its destruction and the destruction of Alderaan. Such a resounding defeat for the empire didn't make the HoloNet, of course, and some places couldn't even get the HoloNet, so we were professional storytellers, for a while.
I often think about Father's life at this point in time. I'm not sure how he survived the Death Star's explosion, although every time I think about that battle, I recall the heavily modified TIE fighter that Han sent spinning into space. That must have been him; no wonder he froze Han in carbonite. The thought of him tinkering with his TIE as I did with my Skyhopper on Tatooine makes me smile.
Sometime in the three years between the battle at Yavin and our duel on Bespin, he must have discovered that I was his son. Considering he nearly shot me me down at Yavin, I sincerely doubt he knew any earlier than that.
The discovery must have shocked him. I mean, how often does a person find out about a child he never knew existed, much less that said child is all grown up and fighting against you in the largest galactic war since the Clone Wars?
I wish I could have seen his reaction.
If he was still alive, I could have asked him to share the memory with me and I would be able to see it.
He did it once. Shared a memory with me, I mean. Wedge had been complaining about needing to get his mother a gift for her birthday, and I was depressed, thinking that at least he had a mother who was alive and well. Father picked up on my mood and sent a soothing feeling through our bond. As I lay in bed, unable to sleep despite his efforts at cheering me up enough to relax, I dared to ask him about Mother. He went quiet and stayed silent for so long that I had given up on receiving a reply. Then, a bright image flooded my mind, so vivid I felt like I was he one who had lived it.
In the vision, I was sitting in the middle of a meadow of bright green grass. A waterfall of clear blue water roared in the distance, and the sun shone warmly from a beautiful periwinkle sky. I was sharing a picnic with a pretty, brown-haired woman in a fancy golden-yellow dress. I couldn't take my eyes off her. She was laughing at something I'd said, her brown eyes twinkling intelligently, as if she was thinking of a reply.
The vision disappeared as quickly as it had come, and as the darkness of my room swamped my eyes, I realized that I had been Father, in the vision. The pretty lady had been my mother, as Father remembered her. It wasn't Leia, which had been the first thought to pop into my head.
Now I know why Leia came to mind so quickly. My sister is the spitting image of our mother.
I tried to ask Father about the vision, but he replied only with vicious irritation. Knowing better than to push him when he was in a mood like that, I rolled over and fell asleep.
It was times like that, and like when he helped me with my prosthetic hand, that convinced me I could save him, that my dream of his redemption wasn't just wishful thinking on my part. Even the case of chronic crankiness that flared up after an act of kindness could not diminish my conviction that he could come back to the light, that maybe he was already on his way.
I wonder when he started to think like Anakin again. Was it when he found out he was a father? When he cut off my hand? When I stopped blocking him from my mind?
Another question I'll never know the answer to.
Did he want to die? I don't blame him if he did. He was tired of agony and loneliness, and it seemed like living became more of a chore than anything else with each day that passed. He would have lived for me, given the choice, I know – but at the same time, I think he was relieved he didn't have to.
He was smiling as he died, smiling at me, his eyes shining with love.
Whatever I had expected him to look like, he didn't live up to it. I've known the suit sustained his life (against his will?) for most, if not all, of my life, yet the ghostly skin and half-healed scars still surprised me.
His eyes didn't, though. Well, they did, but only because it was like looking into a mirror, they were so like my own. Gazing past the horrible, overbearingly disfiguring scars I could also pick out similarities in our facial structures.
It was his voice, though, that truly broke my heart. I've heard it as a frightening growl as he made threats through the vocalizer; I've heard it as smooth as silk, weaving through my mind as he speaks to me over great distances. As different as they are, both can be related to a man of great strength and surety. But this voice, coming from a broken shell of a human being, was coarse and pain-filled, barely more than a whisper. Sentences were difficult for him; he had to stop every few words to catch his breath and rest his damaged vocal cords, now that the systems that had aided them were out of order.
I almost wished I had left the mask on.
The worst part, though, was feeling the life drain out of him. I could feel it join to the Force, but it was a cold comfort.
And so here I am, all alone, watching the fire that consumes my father's armour and mechanical limbs. I have read in Ben's journals about the funeral of his Jedi Master, Qui-Gon, who had been the one to insist Father train as a Jedi. It seems fitting that I cremate Father – or, at least, his armour – as Qui-Gon was cremated. It's like closing a circle.
It hurts to watch the flames gently lick at the black suit. My heart squeezes painfully inside my chest, as if attempting to hold back tears, which is ironic because they are streaming freely down my cheeks. I don't understand why my heart hurts so much; it is only an organ that pumps blood throughout the body, after all. There is no reason for it to react to emotion like this, as if it is trying to kill me, too.
My stomach hurts, too. I haven't eaten since breakfast, nearly twenty-four hours ago now, and while my stomach writhes with agony within me, it insists it does not want any food.
That's alright. It doesn't seem right to do something so mundane, so alive, at a time like this. It would be sacrilege, almost like wearing black on Tatooine.
The fire burns low now; I watch as it disappears completely. There is nothing left but gray ashes that cool as the wind stirs them. The forest is silent, as if the woodland creatures, too, are mourning the passing of the Chosen One. I cannot even hear the celebration anymore.
The Force seems to bow, as if greeting a prince or king. Nothing like this happened when Ben or Yoda became one with the Force. Was my father really so important?
It appears so.
Once again, I reach out through our bond for him. This time, instead of space, I touch a light so bright I feel the need to shield my eyes. A joyous, carefree laugh reaches my ears as the wind tangles through my hair, and a strong hand grips mine.
I look around wildly, searching for him frantically, but he's not there. I'm still alone.
But it's a start, I tell myself, and although I am still drowning in grief, I know he'll be with me, always, if not in the way I had imagined.
The wind buffets the ashes of the armour and pyre, scattering them into the wind. I bite my lip, not wanting them to go; they're the last of the physical evidence that I have of him. At the same time, I know Father would want them to blow away, all over the galaxy, so that he can be free in death as he never was in life.
I raise my arms above my head and close my eyes as the ashes blow, and they thread through my widespread fingers and catch in the lines of my palms. They twine about my hair and gently kiss my face as I tilt my head to the sky. The ashes sitting on my eyelashes sweep against my cheeks and brows as I open my eyes to gaze at the sky, where I imagine I can see a figure walking. I welcome him.
I welcome my father.