This is it, y'all. I hope you enjoy the final chapter, and thanks so much to everyone who's reviewed and read. It's really brought a lot of joy to me these past few weeks.
"We have to get out of here! Come on!"
Darth Vader stared irritatedly at Anakin. He sincerely doubted this was a place they could leave. In all probability, in fact, they were dead. All his plans had come to absolutely nothing, his son was in the same trap he had been once, and he was stuck in this miserable foggy afterlife with a past version of himself.
"I think it's this way!"
The fog did seem to be lifting, if it came to that. There were a few flickering lights, but they seemed too far away to bother with.
"Leave me here."
Anakin turned around to face him and raised his eyebrows. "No. Come on."
Had he really been this annoyingly persistant when he was younger? He'd just given someone an order- that order did not need to be repeated, it needed to be obeyed. Immediately. Upon pain of death.
He was considering what options he had for enacting this punishment on Anakin- and if killing his past self would lead to existence problems- when of all things he heard Leia Organa's voice.
"Get away from my brother."
Vader stared at Anakin.
"Did I forget to mention that?" The abomination's expression was sheepishly sarcastic.
"Padmé had twins." She had twins. He had two children. He had come so close to killing two of his children.
"Now can we go?"
There was no answer, because none was necessary.
"Finally," muttered the time traveler, jogging towards the lights.
Bad guys lied.
That had been a feature of his old bedtime stories when Luke was small, and it was something he'd believed for years afterwards.
Ben Kenobi didn't lie, and Darth Vader did.
Even after Bespin, there had been a sense in Luke's mind that even if sometimes good people were afraid to tell him the truth, and maybe bad people couldn't lie constantly, there had remained a sense that lies were bad and truth was good.
But everything the Emperor said was the truth.
Ben had lied to him, Yoda had lied to him, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru had lied to him.
And in a soothing, avuncular tone, the Emperor was telling the truth.
Vader had killed Luke's family- or at least had ordered them dead. He'd killed Ben, had almost had Leia executed, turned Han over to Jabba, had shot at Luke over the Death Star.
Luke was probably the only person in the galaxy foolish enough to believe that his father was anything other than evil.
He was not so foolish, however, that he didn't realize that this situation was Darth Vader's life or his.
And then he made his decision.
It never actually saw the light of day (or of fluorescent ceiling panels, at least), because he made it at almost exactly the same time that Leia caught the lightsaber, but nevertheless Luke was fairly proud of himself.
Because he wasn't going to kill his father on the advice of the same person who'd turned Anakin- even if Anakin hadn't said two words to him- into a monster. And he wasn't going to turn himself into a monster, either.
But it seemed that life only had room for one dramatic statement at that particular place and time, and so Luke's struggle remained internal, expressed only in a relieved smile at the sight of his twin.
His future-self seemed to have vanished, but Anakin still felt like he was caught in the middle of a sandstorm.
You aren't supposed to be out there. Stay.
If there was one thing the young Jedi was very, very bad at, however, it was following orders. Maybe he wasn't supposed to be out there, supposed to be in this time period at all, in fact, but he hadn't been supposed to fall in love or have children or ever leave Tatooine, and those decisions seemed to have worked out quite well.
The voice telling him to stay also sounded familiar, though he couldn't quite place how. Whoever it was, they were almost certainly an authority figure of his least favorite sort. Better grammar than Master Yoda, and meaner than Obi-Wan (besides, Obi-Wan wouldn't appreciate Anakin staying out of the battle now that it had already started).
Even summoning his last reserves of strength, Anakin failed to wake up.
"Let him go."
"Allow into plan person who just tackled me, I will not."
Qui-Gon sighed. "Your plan was ruined the moment Luke got himself captured, Yoda. We need to improvise, and we need to let Anakin go."
He was treated to a glare.
"I remain prepared to use violence, Yoda."
In all honesty, he really didn't. Sure, finally getting back at Yoda for all those whacks with gimer sticks had been fun, but overall Qui-Gon Jinn was a fairly nonviolent person.
"Too late it is," said Yoda sadly.
"Returned to battle, Skywalker has."
Qui-Gon smiled. That was the Anakin he'd wanted so badly to train.
It really was not a good day for plans in general.
Palpatine remained deeply irritated with himself for failing to be aware of the existence of Luke Skywalker. The concept that Senator Amidala had in fact had twins- he supposed they had to be twins, at least, unless he was losing his touch completely- was the last straw.
Or perhaps not. Perhaps the last straw was the fact that, Vader and Anakin having woken up, the Emperor was now surrounded by five angry people, three of whom had lightsabers and one of whom had a blaster. (Its aiming mechanism was broken, but the Sith had no way of knowing this).
Still prepared for emergency, however, Palpatine shot a blast of lightning that knocked Luke Skywalker off of his feet. Organa had run forward, but she was completely untrained and her strike was easily parried.
Now Vader was sufficiently distracted, having stepped over to help his son to his feet. The boy was shaking his head slightly, clearly still in pain.
Served him right.
There were also blaster shots burning into the floor, walls, and desks surrounding him, but this was more of a minor distraction than anything. But they were a distraction.
As Palpatine looked slightly down to block a bolt coming too near him, Anakin yelled some word of advice and Organa managed to trap his saber under her own. He would have to outlaw the teaching of fencing to students of anything anywhere. It must have been part of Alderaani royal curriculum.
It was not really what he would've chosen to be his second-to-last thought.
His last was an internal shriek of rage and one final outpouring of lightning as his former apprentice stabbed him through the heart.
And then collapsed.
Luke Skywalker stood on the bridge of the Executor, staring out into space.
Anakin walked up to him. "I'm… I'm sorry."
"My father died on the Light," said Luke almost absently. "Don't be sorry."
"You almost died, and I wouldn't have even had a conversation with you," said Anakin, apparently attempting to set a record for guiltiest tone of voice. Luke had just spent quite some time in bacta recovering from some lightning-related injuries and a lightsaber wound to the side that had gone unnoticed during the final fight.
Anakin was almost glad that Luke had been unconscious, actually. The time-traveler had managed to intercept the "Darth Vader's Dead!" card and bouquet sent to him by various of his compatriots among the Rebellion, but the near-unending stream of holograms from the still-ongoing victory party in the Fleet weren't what the man needed right now.
He was also still trying to get used to the concept of no longer having an evil-future-self. Even if he had turned back to the Light, the fact remained that he'd died. Even if Anakin had managed to get him back in time to start fighting again, he'd just died again.
Anakin was fairly sure the foggy place had been the afterlife, anyway. It had been sort of nice, if one could ignore the whole "dead" factor.
Then two figures materialized on the deck beside Anakin and Luke.
"You need to go home now, Anakin," said Obi-Wan.
"Thank you," added the other figure. It was once again the foggy-place version of his future self, minus the color-changing eyes.
Anakin didn't quite know how to respond to the thanks- he still felt guilty- and instead turned to Ben. "Home?"
"To your version of the timestream," said Obi-Wan. "It's rather complicated, and Yoda claims he's too busy to fully explain it, so he clearly doesn't understand it either. This future- here- stays here, with the past intact and whatever happens next. You go home, and sort of create another future, and they exist side by side. Fraternal twins, if you will. But you really need to leave now. I wasn't even supposed to let you wait until Luke woke up."
Anakin closed his eyes. He clapped one hand on Luke's shoulder, and the man turned around from his conversation with transparent-blue-Anakin. "Good luck. Tell Han and Leia I'm sorry I had to go without saying goodbye."
Luke smiled. "I will. Tell mother hello."
And with that, Anakin Skywalker faded.
"Yes!" said Mace Windu. "This does mean I can go back?"
He'd gotten trapped in the ethereal realm by attempting to follow Anakin. ("Skywalker! You're going the wrong way!"), and was heartily sick of the place.
"Return, you can," said Yoda.
Another Yoda entered the scene. "And-"
"Too late," said the first Yoda. "Gone, he is."
A few visions of the future filled the second Yoda's mind. Mace returning to the Temple and immediately riding over to the Senate building to slice the Supreme Chancellor's head off, Obi-Wan shooting General Grievous, a brunette woman and a tall, scruffy man standing at an altar while a middle-aged Anakin scowled in the front pew (mumbling something about carbonite and the right idea), and overall happiness.
"Fixed this up, we have," he said. "But enforced, I still feel attachment rule should have been."
A third Yoda ambled onto the scene. "Just because the joy of my relationship with Yaddle you will never know, does not mean bitter you must be!"
The first Yoda sighed. "Still in better shape than mine, your worlds are."
Suddenly there were many versions of the short green Jedi Masters, all shaking their heads.
"My world, requires assistance next it does!"
"My world, in worse shape it is!"
And so it went on. But far away from the bickering green Jedi, there was a bit more happiness then there had been in the beginning.
Their mission had been accomplished.