This is the last chapter. I apologize that it's taken me this long to get it up…my school started up this last week, and so I've been trying to adjust to early mornings, homework, and a social life again. But here it is. Thanks so much for reviewing, all of you! Virtual hugs and chocolate from me.
A word on the title of this chapter…it came in an epiphany one day. Is this what the title of number six really means? I always thought it was referring to Luke, and his becoming a Jedi being the beginning of the new Order, but is it really talking about Anakin and his redemption? Just a thought. Maybe it's obvious, and it's just taken me sixteen years to realize. But anyway. Enjoy, and goodbye for now!
The Return of the Jedi
"I'll have to help you this time," Obi-Wan said.
"Help me do what?"
Obi-Wan tossed him a sidelong glance. "I spent twenty years learning how to do this, so don't feel bad that you don't know how."
"Don't know how to do what?"
"I learned from Qui-Gon himself, and he spent fourteen or so years learning, and he's teaching Master Yoda, who of course is picking it up quicker than any of us, and he's only been training for less than a year…."
Anakin crossed his arms, feeling faintly aggravated. "Master. Please. What is it you're going to help me do?"
"Hush, Anakin, there's no time. We're running a little late."
"Some things never change," Anakin muttered.
Obi-Wan shot him another look, but maintained a dignified silence. In another moment, they had joined Yoda, who was tapping his stick impatiently on the ground.
"Late, you are," he said. "Ready, he is."
"Not quite late," Obi-Wan said. "I've been explaining a few of the specifics to Anakin…"
"Actually, he hasn't explained anything," Anakin started to say, but Yoda interrupted him.
"No time for this, young Skywalker. Make haste, we must. Waiting for us, he will be. Appear first, I will. Follow, Obi-Wan will. Prepared, are you?"
Yoda nodded once, and a smile crept up his wrinkled, peaceful face. "Bright you are, Anakin Skywalker."
Anakin blinked, but before he could reply, Obi-Wan had gripped his shoulder. What felt like a warm breeze ruffled his hair, and a hand flew to his chest. Something was pulling at him; a pleasant, warm sensation, but compelling and impossible to ignore. "What is that?"
"Hush, there's no time. Master Yoda."
Anakin humphed in irritation, and Yoda was gone. A second later, Obi-Wan squeezed his shoulder, and he too had vanished. Anakin waited.
Endor. Stars. Forest. Music. Fire.
Anakin blinked as his eyes adjusted to the new, strange light, and glanced down at the ground, trying to rid his eyes of the fire spots dancing in his vision. When he looked back up, there was Luke. An involuntary grin stretched across his face, and he looked down again, trying to compose himself. He met his son's eyes again, and recognized the love and acceptance in them. And then his daughter was there too, smiling, happy, tugging Luke away to the fires and music and dancing. As his son turned to leave, he looked back at Anakin and smiled again. There was something like a promise in his young face, and Anakin knew it as the same look that Padme had often given him. The one that meant love, forgiveness, and family.
Anakin watched his son until he had faded into the shadows and light around the campfires. Then he looked over at Obi-Wan; Yoda had gone. "How long has it been since I left?" he asked.
Obi-Wan shifted his weight from one foot to the other awkwardly. "Actually, they're celebrating the demise of the Empire."
"Oh." Anakin reflected on this. That could certainly put a damper on his chances at joining the party. "They're celebrating my death."
Not sure how he felt about this, Anakin stared up into the stars, and the voice of a half-remembered little boy reverberated in his memory. I'm going to be the first one to see them all!
Well, he hadn't really seen them all. But that had been a childhood dream; an unachievable fantasy. A little bit of the darkness crept back into his heart. Was his redemption a fantasy too? A dream, a vision. Unattainable. Unreachable. Impossible.
"Or, no. Not really."
Obi-Wan was watching him, the look on his face a little too understanding. The Jedi Master nodded at the celebrations. "They're not celebrating your death. They're celebrating the death of Darth Vader."
"I was Darth Vader."
"Yes?" Obi-Wan raised one eyebrow in a your-point-is? gesture.
"So it's my death they're happy about."
"Do you really believe that?"
Anakin opened his mouth to reply, but Obi-Wan cut him off. "Think about it before you answer. And in the meantime, let's go back."
He reached out and grasped Anakin's arm lightly, and Endor faded. But it didn't disappear, not completely. As Anakin blinked, trying to focus, a brilliant world opened up before him.
Oceans, lakes, rivers, forests, plains, deserts, mountains, beautiful cities, villages, sunsets, stars, suns, moons; wind on his face, the smell of salt and sand in his nose, and the soft sound of a living earth in his ears. Everything changing, moving, shifting, breathing…
"Do you see what I see?" Anakin breathed.
Obi-Wan laughed. "Of course. It's been here all the time, Anakin. This is the Force." He flung out his arms and threw back his head to catch an unseen wind. "This is everything. This is home!" He closed his eyes, a broad smile on his face. "I've been waiting a long time to share it with you."
"You'll have to share with me, too."
"Padme." Anakin turned, and she was there, reaching for him. He gathered her into his arms, feeling as if redemption wasn't impossible after all.
"You've been taking good care of him, I hope?" Padme asked over his shoulder. Obi-Wan laughed softly.
"Yes, my lady. The best of care."
"I thought you might. He's a good man, isn't he?"
"One of the best," Obi-Wan replied.
Anakin pulled back, kissed Padme on the forehead, and then let her go. And then he walked away. Padme began to voice his name, but Obi-Wan's quiet murmur quieted her.
Anakin walked into the Force. It was a moment before he recognized his surroundings; the lush greenery and sparkling blue lakes of Naboo. Where he had spent some of the happiest days of his life. Padme's words entered his head again. Do you want your guilt more than you want me? Do you love your pain more than all of this?
And the answer was an overwhelming no, of course.
Then why haven't I let it go?
Do you really believe that they are celebrating the death of Anakin Skywalker? Obi-Wan's voice said in his mind. Or have you still not separated you and Darth Vader?
He searched for an answer, but came up with nothing. He felt no anger, no sadness, no bitterness, no hate. After living for so long with a constant variety of these emotions, the loss of them was a little disconcerting. But it wasn't unpleasant, and as he contemplated how he did feel—peaceful, happy, content, free—he wondered again why he insisted on clinging to feelings of guilt and shame.
And so he let them go.
It was that simple.
He stopped, turned, and focused on the bright, brilliant lights that were Padme Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. They were standing side by side, waiting for him.
He broke into a jog, and then a sprint.
His family was waiting.