I am indebted to ArgenteusDraco for many of the ideas in this fic and to the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Dark Side Sourcebook for the quote in the seventh paragraph.
Obi-Wan Kenobi spun on the axis of the universe.
As he turned back toward Darth Vader, the dual lightsaber-hums filled his ears with their familiar music. The charged smell augmented neon intensity—but still the fight felt staged and surreal. He and Vader battled in slow motion.
They were not the Force anymore; it was merely an extension, like a sword, of their hands, a crude repetition of what it had been on Utapau and Mustafar. They slashed and parried slowly, like an old man and a droid, finally like what they truly were. No longer were they more than the sum of their parts. Obi-Wan felt that his memories were the strongest part of him now.
He had never expected to have another chance to die this way.
"Death is not the worst possible defeat," said Cin Drallig, Jedi Battlemaster. "It is much more likely that you'll get your arm lopped off by a lightsaber than be neatly killed by one, so use your footwork and your wrists l like I told you; don't get hit!"
Thirteen Padawans sat intently on the mats in front of the Battlemaster. The room had no windows, but was hung with pale orange curtains. Outside, Coruscant's sun was setting over the Padawans' last class of the day in the Republic's decadent age.
Seventeen-year old Obi-Wan was remembering another memorable quote from a lecture a few weeks ago. It had been a very complicated lesson on Jedi morality, most of which Obi-Wan had whiled away looking at the back of Siri Tachi's head—the quote was "People acting out of love are in no danger of falling to the dark side. But a person who acts out of the need for love risks everything."
Seventeen-year old Obi-Wan wondered if that quote, or the general Jedi stance on love, could ever be applied to weapons. Love of combat?
Kit Fisto would understand that. The Nautolan Padawan sat near Obi-Wan now. His black eyes' expression were incomprehensible even after Obi-Wan's lessons in aliens and mind reading, but Kit's twitching tentacles and rapid breathing expressed his restrained enthusiasm as surely as a small human smile. Obi-Wan was torn between wanting to duel him for the fun of it and being too frightened to ask. Kit smiled like a shark sometimes, like 'I know something you don't know--and it will most likely kill you.'
The snap-hum of an activating lightsaber interrupted Obi-Wan's thoughts. It was Cin Drallig's saber, but he was beckoning to a group of older students. Another teacher ordered Obi-Wan's group to get into a line for drills. Obi-Wan adjusted his tunic and wondered if the rule of nonattachment applied to the Jedi Order and ideals as well.
Before the Battle of Naboohad a name it was, for Obi-Wan, an essence and a trial by fire. Essence--the fact that someone wants to kill you does not fade after enough time. It remains. It was the devilish Sith fully striving to inflict pain and oblivion upon him—to inflict the Force—
They battled across the silver floor. The dark lord seemed to lead the battle, but as two against one it was even—the Jedi knew this. Obi-Wan's breathing was regulated, and he did not tire or think frightened, angry thoughts.
Semi-translucent barriers slammed between the Sith, Obi-Wan, and Master Qui-Gon.
Obi-Wan had to watch as his best friend died.
Combat was leisure no longer after he saw the close reality of death. He had to learn about enjoying his training all over again upon his return to the temple.
For a long time swordplay held no beauty for him. Like a gun-shy man he avoided it and believed himself unworthy of Jedi mastery despite his victory. After Naboo, with Qui-Gon gone, Obi-Wan almost returned to his pre-knighthood fear of rejection, older students, and the future.
Two people in particular helped him through the post-Naboo wasteland; Master Kit Fisto, who had also recently gained an apprentice, and Anakin Skywalker.
Kit combined attitudes of victory and ferocity. When Obi-Wan saw him first the alien was finishing with a dueling droid. Usually Jedi worked sword fighting with others, but Kit's lightsaber hummed, sizzled, and the sleek automaton fell to pieces, cut diagonally from hip to shoulder. Kit turned around, a distinct, ferocious, white-toothed smiled on his green face, and Obi-Wan began to back away. Kit's charisma, though, reassured him when they began to talk.
They kept each other's company often after that, gently working on combat until Kit won, still smiling but wider now, or discussing Forms, philosophy, and the dark and light sides. As the casual training escalated Obi-Wan could defeat him sometimes and not shiver at the thought of burning. Kit would not forget or gloss over the horrors of war. War was not a game. It was to be avoided, moved with, and smiled at as if you knew more than it did.
The Clone Wars, appropriately, were Anakin's heyday. His combat style was very human and theatrical. Obi-Wan could not impose his own style upon Anakin, but he instructed him in the basics.
Anakin aspired for a seat on the Council, while Obi-Wan, if asked what he 'aspired to', would not have known what to answer. As he grew more united with the Force it wanted only for him to succeed in whatever task he was set. After a particular adventure he accompanied Anakin on he decided that a death such as freezing in space or being made into the lining of the nest of an animal, both fates which he had narrowly escaped, was not for him. He would die as he had lived, by the lightsaber.
He never foresaw a real fear of dying alone and in bed, certainly not as a member of the Jedi order. On Tatooine there were some frightening moments in the dark when he was sure his heart was beating too loudly. He still had hope that Luke, or Obi-Wan's few contacts in the Rebellion, would need him and another successful plan would be built, now for the liberation of the Empire's citizens.
He had thought about fighting Anakin, but had not expected it to happen. Obi-Wan was an old man now, and Anakin-called-Vader was the second most powerful man in the galaxy, indeed in the known universe.
Under the two scorching suns Obi-Wan kept up with his training. It was what he had always done. It was what Jedi did. The rumors called them super-human, and it was almost true, not only in terms of the Force but because they grew used to physical exertion and betterment. They were skilled in such things, and by no means had had to exchange them for intelligence or wit. Obi-Wan had only gotten to know the sedate life on Tatooine.
The Jedi were peace-professing warriors without the faith in peace to cease the practice of war. Now that's too cynical, Obi-Wan thought as he meditated on the top of a cliff on Tatooine, a few months before he would go screaming to meet his destiny. We were—are—were?—not responsible for breakouts of war. Life bred war. If one could ever separate life and the Force, it was in that the latter did not stop the former from generating war.
That too sounded cruel from so many points of view, but it did not when Obi-Wan remembered how Kit Fisto balanced goodness and lethality. It did not feel cruel when he emerged from a victorious battle against fellow Jedi in practice or Confederacy droids in real life, when he could smell his own sweat plus ozone, seeing everything so vividly…so happy to be alive.
Memory moves as fast as thought. A lifetime of lightsabers came and went in his head, bringing Obi-Wan back to the present. He stood in the gray corridor in the Death Star and felt nothing like he had on Mustafar. The Force had bent so close that it almost sang to them at times, but destiny was not horrifying and repugnant today. Obi-Wan knew exactly what to say to the face of death.
He was glad to get another chance to die this way.