the grace of deception
How you can love something too much...how jealousy can turn you to evil...and how the one thing you hated most will be that which saves you...
It was a lie. Every word.
This is the happiest moment of my life...
And so easy to say. Each syllable smoothly coated with deception. What else could I tell her? That I was afraid? Angry? That I felt betrayed?
That I didn't want to be a father?
It would have broken her.
So I lied. Told her I was excited, happy...fulfilled.
But in truth, I was miserable. I'd always been selfish. Everything centered on me. I'd taken up the mantle of Jedi as if it were my Maker-given right. My training was always endured with a sense of entitlement, an I am the Chosen One attitude. Looking back on it now, I realize how frustrating it must have been for Obi-Wan. And while the moniker of saviour of the galaxy created a sense of awe with the younger Padawaans, the older, more experienced Jedi were not impressed. Certainly, they respected me for the sake of the Prophecy...but I knew how they felt. I was not to be trusted.
And the denial of the title of Master only infuriated me all the more.
But it didn't affect my self-centered obsession. My inability to let go...my egotistical sense of this is mine...mine! The narcissistic jealousy which governed my heart. And whereas Padme was concerned, I was terribly so. The last thing I could possibly tolerate was sharing her with anyone...not the Senate, not her family, not Obi-Wan...no one, let alone a baby.
Again, when I was alone, that selfishness reared its ugly, twisted head.
This baby would usurp all her time, attention...devotion. I was jealous of it...and it was a part of me. It. I was calling this child 'it', as if the baby were merely a simple thing, an object. Instinctively I felt the baby would be a girl, for which I was partly relieved. I could far better tolerate a miniature version of Padme than a son. As odd as that sounds, I knew I would never be able to watch her adore another man...even my own son. My competition. My enemy.
And then the dreams. How many nightmares must I endure, watching her die again and again for the sake of this unwanted child? It was killing her, it would kill her and that was something I could not allow. It was killing me, as well. Destroying everything I had worked so hard for. If they'd denied me the title of Master in spite of my accomplishments, then I would certainly never earn it now. Not with a secret marriage and an un-sanctioned child. I would be thrown out of the Jedi Order. Cast off, humiliated, and turned away from that which I want most.
Because of this child.
I hated it.
And I knew that my teachings were to let go, let go of that which you hold onto, but that was impossible for me. Mother, Padme, my rank and title...these were things which I felt...no, knew I was entitled to, could not let go of...deserved.
So I turned my back on the Jedi Order, and embraced a new future. One in which Padme and I could rule, without the meddling, pathetic dogma of the Jedi.
I just needed to get rid of that baby somehow. For Padme was already obsessing over it, and begging me to leave with her, go someplace where no one knew us, raise the child in relative obscurity.
Didn't she realize how impossible that was for me? I may not have been able to admit it openly or speak of it, but no one in the universe knew how selfish I could be more than myself. I had no qualms with that. Although, then, perhaps I was seeing it less as egotism and more, again, as what was owed to me. I was the Chosen One...no being in the Universe could take that away from me.
Especially a child.
But things turned out rather different than I had expected, proving to me, once again, that the universe has some sort of warped sense of humour and maybe none of us, not even the Chosen One, can entirely foresee the future.
And even though my Master told me that I was responsible for Padme's death, I knew it could not be so. Obi-Wan had been there...so he was responsible. Must have been a party to it. He killed my love...or, I thought, realization dawning over me, it was that child's fault. It had to be. The offspring which I had no love for had taken her life. It was better to believe that. I could fool myself into thinking that baby had killed her rather than Obi-Wan. At least small part of me had loved Master Kenobi. I felt nothing for the child.
So much the better it hadn't survived. So much the better I had never taken an active interest in choosing a name for it, no matter how hard Padme had tried to encourage me to participate. She'd always believed I was too involved in the war, too caught up in the politics of the times to be completely focused on such mundane things as naming the baby, but in truth I was simply not interested. Whatever she named it I would hate it...hate it for taking her away from me. How could I love something, no matter how small and innocent, which would creep like a thief in the night into the arms of my wife and steal her love from me? How could I pronounce any name with affection? So Padme left me to my thoughts and I left her to the choosing of a name.
And now it was dead. Gone. The both of them, mother and child. But the only one I mourned was Padme. As far as I was concerned, the baby had never existed at all. I could not think of it, the murderer of my love, or I would go insane.
So I spent many long dark years brooding in my anger and the realizations of my failings, but never thinking of that child. Padme still lived in my heart, though she was never mentioned by name, but the baby that never was never crossed my mind.
My hatred of it was still too strong to even brood upon it.
And then, again, the twisted sense of misfortune that was often bestowed upon me visited me with a vengeance.
It was alive.
The child, Padme's joy...the baby that never was...was.
Alive and well and causing the Imperial Navy some serious trouble.
The Emperor brought me the news, and in him I sensed some kind of treacherous glee as he told me. If anyone could have known how I felt about that child, even all those years ago, it would have been Palpatine. He knew the jealousy I felt for it, the anger at being trapped, the hatred. These were all things, undoubtedly, which he used in his quest to turn me, and they were all his obedient servants. I fell with a surprising ease, and a terrifying sense of belonging. He knew that hatred for that child had never left me.
And now, he watched to see how I would react. Had the years mellowed me at all? Reconciled me to some sort of fatherly joy in the news that I had a son, and he was alive?
His name was Luke. Dragging up old memories which I desired to leave buried, I searched my mind for that name. She'd mentioned it, once or twice, as a possible name for it...for the baby. It wasn't a name I was familiar with, but in any case, I didn't care. That was what it was named now. Luke. A boy...she'd been right all along. A son. For a moment, I tempted fate and allowed myself to imagine what it would have been like had she lived. Everything I had been afraid of...jealousy, hatred...and the inability to share her with the boy flooded my mind and I was overcome with anger at a future that never existed. Even in a perfect universe with Padme still alive, that child destroyed everyghing. Luke. It was better, I mused darkly, that she had died...although to me the preferable alternative would have been the death of the baby.
I was powerless to change anything then.
But I was not so leashed now. I could kill him, kill that which I hated most. Take the life of the murderer who'd taken Padme's. Destroy Luke.
For although my desire to be rid of him was purely personal, I'd believed Palpatine would wish to dispose of this son of Skywalker for other reasons as well, starting with the boy's ability to aid the Alliance in the Rebellion and ending with his powerful potential to overcome the Sith Lord. So he had to die, he must die.
Padme needed to be atoned for. I needed to have vindication.
But I was mistaken. He wanted him. Palpatine actually planned to use the boy, to turn him as he'd turned me. To make him an ally.
I felt sickened. How could I stand side by side with this most despised child? Worse, how could I watch my Master pay heed to him? I'd already had to live through the possible hell of sharing my wife with the unwanted child, but to endure the very real torment of losing the full attention and approval of my Master to him was more than I would be able to bear.
And yet, I was ordered...commanded by my Master to find the boy and bring him before his Highness. It was, I realized, Palpatine's cruel sense of humour revealing itself. He knew how I hated Luke...it was difficult for me to even think the name. How I wanted him dead. And I had to convince him to join us. The Emperor's slow smile was no comfort to me as I strode away in a storm of my own jealousy, seeking out this child I could not love. Searching for Luke.
And I found him. It was easy to do. He was mind-numbingly predictable. A lot like Obi-Wan, in that regard. On Bespin I'd laid a trap for him which he willingly charged into. Watching him for a moment as he crept cautiously into the carbon-freezing chamber, I was able to take him in for the first time. Small and slight, like her, the rest of the boy was Anakin. That made it easier to hate him. It was like peering into a clear pool of water; the image of myself only slightly distorted by the ripple of his mother's contribution to him, looking at Luke was like seeing Anakin at his age. It didn't encourage any sort of paternal instinct in me...only more anger. If anything, it made it harder for me not to kill him then and there. But I had my orders from my Master. I must take the boy to him.
He fought well, I had to admit it, even begrudgingly. My plan to encase him in the carbon backfired, and I had then to concede him to be the most worthy adversary I had encountered in years. But each time he parried, each time he met a swing of my lightsabre with his, I let hatred roil around my heart. He killed Padme, he killed Padme, he killed Padme...this mantra echoed again and again in my mind, matching every thrust of his lightsabre with the words.
I changed tactics. Decided to use our family connection for my benefit. The boy was obviously attached to his Father, that much was certain, and the memory of him. Perhaps if he knew that Anakin was alive, in a manner of speaking, it would aid in turning him.
It was a lie. Every word.
Join me and together we can rule the galaxy as Father and Son...
And so easy to say. And I was right back where I was some twenty odd years ago, using lies to my advantage to obtain what I wanted.
But he was clever, the child I hated. More sharp than his mother and far less trusting of me, to his credit. But in this instance, there was truth in the lie. I may not plan on keeping the boy by my side, but the certainty of his parentage was never in doubt.
Again my inability to completely foresee the future betrayed me, and I watched with a dispassionate sense of I could care less as Luke jumped off that ledge and as far away from me as he could get.
The feeling was mutual.
I had no desire to be near him. For all I could see was Padme, and the sight of him enraged me. I wanted nothing more than to thrust the tip of my lightsabre through his heart...I'd had to settle for cleanly slicing off his hand instead.
Perhaps I'd get my chance.
I just had to wait.
And the chance came sooner than I'd expected. I listened with a sense of disbelief as my Master told me that Luke's compassion for me, in short, the love he had for his Father would make the boy seek me out. This was inconceivable to me...the child had only known that his Father was still alive for a short time, but apparently he'd developed some kind of misplaced affection for me. It was ironic, in a dark way, and I could not return the sentiment. I still hated him.
Were it not for Luke, I may still have had Padme with me. At the end, she'd only thought of that baby...if she'd not been pregnant it was possible she would have stayed with me. He had torn us apart...
They were only tenuous words, fragile slips of hope and what might have been, but they were all I had and I clung to them. As his love for me grew, my hatred for him deepened. I vowed to destroy him, no matter what. He would never even get the chance to turn to the Dark Side. I would see to it. Nothing would stop me from destroying Luke...the child I'd never wanted.
Perhaps my last greatest lesson was to never rely entirely on well-made plans. Never to trust implicitly in my darkest intentions. To stop trying to control the Force and just let...go. Just let go.
He came before me, as Palpatine had said he would. Dressed darkly, it was as if the boy was trying to emulate his Father in some way. Or acknowledge the Darkness which surely dwelt in him. He could not have inherited all of Padme's goodness. Some part of that boy must have retained an inkling of Anakin's hate. When he pronounced his acceptance of his parentage, I'd fairly gloated. Not because I was proud that he'd called me 'Father', but merely that the boy had realized he was just as tainted by evil as I was. That his childhood hero was something far different than he'd expected.
That he was the child of darkness.
Even then, in that moment, I still hated him.
He tried to convince me to leave with him, although I am not sure why. He claimed to sense some sort of ambivalence in me, and truth be told there was. But it was not the distress of staying with the Empire or leaving with him that battled in me. No, it was the uncertainty of whether to cut him down there and then or dispose of him in front of Palpatine. He was seeing things, I realized, in the light of love, and although they were blue like Anakin's, he would always view the world with the eyes of his Mother.
So I denied him, led him toward his destiny. Up and up to meet the Emperor, I could feel Luke's uncertainty and his internal fight to calm himself. And his belief, deep in his heart, that I would not betray him.
So much the better for me. It would be so easy to strike him down.
And, in the end, just as Palpatine had planned, I crossed lightsabres again with my worst enemy. I would not restrain myself this time. Although the Emperor wished to turn the boy, he would not stand for a second refusal, and I was given free reign to do that which I most desired.
To kill him.
As he cowered under the stairs, hid from me in a vain attempt to change my heart with his words, I hunted him down. Even as I learned there was another Skywalker, my intent never wavered. So, I'd been right, at least partly. There was a girl. And now I had my trump card. What better way to draw out this boy I hated so than with a threat to his family? I knew it would work...because it was the very thing that had turned me to the Dark Side. He was very predictable, this son of Skywalker. Love was a weakness which ran deep in his blood.
I watched at first with apathy as Palpatine attacked him again and again. The boy had sliced my hand off at the wrist, but in my mind it was merely an evening of the score. Now we were equal. It didn't change the fact that I would be able to witness the destruction of the thing I hated most, the child responsible for the death of my wife, the reason we were parted, the object of my jealousy.
And he called out to me, begging for help, pleading as a Son to his Father. But his voice fell upon deaf ears. I was already drowning in my dark glee as I watched him die.
Epiphanies can come to you at the most unusual times. The most inopportune moments and the most inconvenient of instances. To me, it seemed as if time had stopped. In my mind's eye, I saw Padme's joyous grin as she smoothed the fabric of her gown over her growing belly, burgeoning with the weight of the child she carried. And as she flashed her eyes up to me in that memory, it became clear to me how unfounded my jealousy was. That baby, that thing which had garnered none of my love was only a part of her happiness. The other part was...me. If I had learned, all those years ago, to simply let go, things would have turned out so differently. My jealousy and self-centeredness would have fallen away and I would have been able to live my life with what I loved most...Padme.
And the baby.
No, not the baby...with Luke and Leia.
I could not take back time now, couldn't change the past. But the future lay crumpled on the floor, in the form of my son, and he was dying in front of me. And even so, he was sending only one thought to me. One image in his mind and one message from his heart. Love. He loved me, regardless of the consequences. No matter what happened...he loved me.
I knew then what he'd meant to Padme. Why she'd named him Luke. He was, to her, all the best things of me and all the things I could have been. Everything she'd hoped I could have become. The enviousness I'd felt toward my son would have melted away...and I was too blind to have seen it then.
But not now.
With the new-found help of redemption I tore the blinders of Darkness from my heart. In that moment, I let go...as I had needed to twenty two years ago and allowed the Light flood my soul. My self-centeredness became self-sacrifice for the sake of my son, whom I now realized I loved more than myself.
I could sense her, feel Padme's presence around us as Luke and I struggled to find each other in that dark room. Each of us wounded and pained, we gravitated toward the other like the pull of stars caught in a black hole. He was emotional, so open with his grief and joy, that I was moved beyond words. I could only speak to him in his mind, through the Force.
And this time...this time it wasn't a lie. As he held me in his arms and I lay dying, I said to Luke, said to my son,...this is the happiest moment of my life...