"No, my father didn't fight in the wars. He was a navigator on a spice freighter."
"That's what your uncle told you," Ben interjected. "He didn't hold with your father's ideals. Thought he should have stayed here and not gotten involved."
The old man's face remained impassive. His expression never betrayed the fact that he was wincing inside with every word he was saying. Long, endless years he had been waiting for this moment. This one, single moment in time that would put this idealistic, naïve young man on the path that would take him to his Destiny. A destiny that would either save the galaxy or doom it to eternal Darkness.
Losing the Father had disgraced and condemned them all, but losing the Son would make sure the Light was defeated for many generations. Perhaps forever.
For years he had been pondering what he would tell the boy when the moment came. He had considered a dozen possibilities. From the outright, horrible truth to the whitest lie. In the end, he had given up and trusted the Force to guide him to the response that would help Luke best.
Honestly, this wasn't the story he'd have voted for at first, but closing his eyes momentarily and begging forgiveness of the unsuspecting young man, he went with it, praying it took them all to the higher truth that would make the lies worthwhile.
'Points of view, indeed,' he told himself with irony. 'Yes, Anakin. You taught me the most painful, valuable lesson on points of view. One my own dogmatic, unyielding beliefs would have never allowed me to see. Poor, blind old fool.'
Luke turned his head from 3PO's arm to him.
Even the droids had completed the circle. He could only hope that this was the sign that they were already walking the right path.
"You fought in the Clone Wars?" the boy asked, an unmistakable glimmer of awe and admiration in his eyes and his voice.
"Yes. I was once a Jedi Knight, the same as your father." Obi-Wan got a faraway look in his eyes. His memory took him back many years. Years of horror, war and bloodshed. But also years of honour, loyalty and friendship. The years he had felt more alive, he suddenly realized.
His introspection seemed to affect Luke somehow. The light in his eyes dimmed abruptly, and the quiver of admiration in his voice became one of raw pain as he looked down.
"I wish I'd known him."
A pang of brutal grief lanced through the old man's heart at that. That broken voice spoke of a need so immense that Obi-Wan's senses couldn't fathom. Spoke of a love that had never been given the chance to exist. A love so bright and right that could redeem even the blackest soul.
'Maybe even...' his heart skipped a beat.
Could it be possible?
But a second later, the awful truth, the merciless reality they lived in destroyed that tiny ray of hope.
Still, he couldn't turn his back on the child's desperate need. A need that had never been soothed with the balm of one sweet memory. He couldn't deny Luke his right to know his origins, what he was and where he came from.
"He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy. And a cunning warrior," he said, his voice impregnated with memories so thick he could almost brush them away with his hand. "I understand you've become quite a good pilot yourself," he smiled at Luke, unable to hold back a gentle praise for the boy's abilities.
Yes, Luke was very much like Anakin. So similar, and in so many aspects, that it almost frightened him.
Except for one thing. Luke hadn't a bone of pride and ambition in his body. Greed and the need for empowerment weren't a part of his make-up. He was content with what he had, and harboured no feelings of controlling everything and bending it to his will.
Maybe that was the one trait he didn't share with his father that would make all the difference. He had to believe that or he wouldn't have the courage to do what... he had to do.
Luke raised his eyes to him and a soft blush covered his cheeks. He gave him a one-armed shrug and a shy smile, and continued repairing Threepio's arm with the utmost care, as if afraid of causing the droid any pain.
Another trait the boy had in common with his father. His respect and consideration even for a droid's feelings. Both of them treated them as living, sentient beings; to the point of defending them vehemently before others. And the strangest thing was that the droids seemed to respond to them. They had always lasted longer with Anakin and Luke, and they always functioned to the top of their capacity, even when damaged. There seemed to be an eerie synergy between the Skywalker men and machinery.
He only had to look at Artoo and Threepio to see they had already sort of bonded with the boy. Even after disobeying him and putting them all in mortal danger, there was real fondness in the blue droid's beeps to Luke.
But yet, Artoo knew... he shuddered and looked at the droid, begging him wordlessly to remain silent and let the truth about Luke's father take its own good time in revealing itself. Until the boy was ready to accept it and act accordingly.
"And he was a good friend." An infinite sadness settled upon Obi-Wan's soul. Sometimes, during his most despondent moments, he wondered if even their friendship had been an illusion on his part. If he had... But no, it had been real once. Strong. Solid. And they had relied on it to protect each other and survive.
It was because their friendship had been real that the betrayal of it had hurt so much.
Everything had collapsed like the most fragile house of cards. And now, the responsibility for his elders' failure rested on those innocent, inexperienced shoulders.
It was time.
With a deep intake of breath, Obi-Wan rose to his feet.
"Which reminds me I have something here for you."
Luke cast him a quick look before putting the final touches to 3PO's arm.
Obi-Wan opened a wooden trunk and took out something. A metallic, cylindrical object with a few switches, flawlessly polished. It seemed brand new.
"Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn't allow it." Obi-Wan was struggling with every single word again. How to justify this when the truth came to light?
Given Anakin's passion and devotion for the ones he loved, it was reasonable to think that if he hadn't turned, and had his children been raised with him, he'd have wanted to train them personally. He'd have wanted them to build their own lightsabers, but in the meantime it would have given him great joy to see them use their father's first.
But Owen's obsessive fear had kept Luke away from anything that even smelled remotely of the Force. He had crushed brutally any trace of Luke's latent abilities, to the point that the boy had forgotten completely about the things he could do as a little child. Like levitating objects and seeing things before they happened, like home injuries or out of season sandstorms. Now he called precognition a "hunch", and didn't remember the time when he had visited them at the farm and he had run to him on his little legs at six, and told him he had "floated" his glass up to his hand with his mind.
So much like his father!
He prayed desperately that it wasn't as late for Luke as it had been for Anakin, being as he was twice his father's age when he started getting trained.
"He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damned-fool idealistic crusade like your father did."
Anakin did far more than follow him, seeing as he was his padawan, and some of their crusades were less than idealistic; but before the war... There had been honour then. There had been causes worth fighting for, a long time ago.
'Force, am I that much of a hypocrite that I'm justifying to myself the lies I'm telling this sweet, trusting boy? Cause that's exactly what they are. I pray you find it in your heart to forgive me one day, Luke. For it's never my intention to hurt you. But how to tell you the truth without it destroying you, without your father's evil touching you in some way, and maybe causing you to do something harsh and reckless? What's the right thing to say? What can I do?'
"Sir, if you'll not be needing me, I'll close down for a while," 3PO said then to Luke, with his customary politeness.
Caught up in a wave of searing guilt that almost brought tears to his eyes, Obi-Wan stared at the lightsaber handle, placing all his hopes on it and on what he was about to do.
"Sure, go ahead," Luke replied, oblivious to the conflict tearing the old man apart.
'We took their identities away from them. Everything they are, everything their parents were, everything they could have been together if they hadn't been separated. So many innocent lives affected by this horror. Even the droids'. So much fear in our every action! How can we hope to succeed?'
"What is it?" Luke asked, seeing the saber for the first time, and standing up automatically in reaction to it.
'Everything is in your hands now, Luke. Please, help us! Help us redeem ourselves! I know it's so unfair to you, son, but you're our only hope.'
"Your father's lightsaber." At last, one pure, unadulterated TRUTH! "This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight." He presented the handle to the boy, who stared at it with something akin to reverence.
Obi-Wan couldn't know the maelstrom of emotions taking over Luke's soul at that very moment. A device that belonged to his father! Something that had been his, something he had touched, used, wielded to protect his life! For a boy who had grown with nothing but evasive answers, reluctantly, passionlessly told half-stories, and quite possibly even lies, to suddenly be presented with something tangible was just the answer to the prayers of a lifetime. He tried to hide the tremor in his hands as he took the lightsaber from Obi-Wan. He would have cried with joy.
Holding on with everything he was, with everything he had to the saber, Luke ignited it. The blue blade surged to life for the first time in eighteen years. All the years he had been alive. The young man held back a gasp at the magnificence of the weapon.
"Not as clumsy and random as a blaster..."
Obi-Wan's words were a fuzzy sound in the background. Everything but the lightsaber in his hand had ceased to exist for Luke.
His father had touched this. He reached out with his every unfulfilled dream and childish hope, wanting to feel the ghost of the connection that spanned eighteen years and bridged his father's hand and his own, across time and space.
'Oh, Father! What would I give to feel you. To touch you. To feel your touch. I've needed you all my life. I've so prayed for something like this! For anything that brought me close to you. And today, I finally have it. Wherever you are, a part of you is here with me now. Father, I love you so!'
A sudden feeling of vertigo came over Luke the moment the last thought coalesced in his mind. He blinked a few times and shook his head a little, trying to clear it, but that only made the feeling stronger, more focused. For a fleeting second, he would have sworn that it wasn't his hand holding the saber, but a bigger, gloved hand. He stared harder. Yes, it was a brown gauntlet with braces to hold it more firmly in place. The arm was swinging the saber back and forth, with a speed and skill that no human being could possibly muster.
"An elegant weapon for a more civilized day," Obi-Wan said mournfully, returning to his seat; unaware of what was going on behind him.
Luke's every sense started to act up. His ears began to buzz. His peripheral vision disappeared. He felt disconnected from his surroundings, from himself, as if he had entered another dimension. Even the feel of the lightsaber in his hand was different.
'I have missed you, Padme.' The whispering echo of a young male voice suddenly reverberated deep within him.
Padme? Who's Padme?
Then he heard a short, shaky, joyful sound.
'This is a happy moment. The happiest moment of my life.'
Not knowing why, an overwhelming wave of happiness filled Luke's breast at those words, and he felt like weeping. It was as if the joy in that voice had something to do with him somehow.
'I won't lose you the way I lost my mother.'
Luke's blood ran cold in his veins at the spine-chilling switch from sheer happiness to utter dread.
'I found a way to save you, from my nightmares.'
The fear in that voice resonated so intimately with Luke that it stirred long forgotten memories. Memories of his own more vivid nightmares, and how some of them had... he shuddered inside.
'Something's happening. I'm not the Jedi I should be. I want more. And I know I shouldn't.'
'The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inwards, only about themselves.'
'The Jedi are selfless. They only care about others.'
'How can you do this? This is outrageous. It's unfair. How can you be on the Council and not be a master?'
'You're asking me to do something against the Jedi code. Against the Republic. Against a mentor and a friend.'
How could people he thought upright and honourable ask him to put aside his principles, their principles, and lower himself to that level? Why were they asking him to dirty his hands, to take advantage of someone else's trust? Precisely now, when he was already so torn, when he more needed to anchor himself to the Jedi code, to their strict set of rules to keep himself from straying... And they were all but telling him that principles meant nothing when there was a greater good to be attained. Although whom that greater good benefited was yet to be seen. Certainly not the Republic or Democracy.
'Is it possible to learn this power?'
An ever-increasing rumble of anger, anguish and frustration started welling up in Luke's chest. He could tell that those feelings weren't coming from himself, but from someone else. Someone whose feelings were so connected with him that there was actually no separating line between them.
Fear. Conflict. The need to protect. To save. A love so profound that overruled everything else. Principles. Beliefs. All sense of morality. Not so different from the Jedi's demands after all. Only this time the benefit was personal. For the one he loved. For the little one who was to come from her. For them. The best part of himself.
Those feelings gradually became the most disheartening feeling of foreboding, and a sorrowful realization that he was alone with the demons devouring his soul. That he had no one to turn to, especially when that special mentor and friend turned out to be the Sith Lord they had been looking for years.
'I will quickly discover the truth about this.'
Temptation. Mockery. Taunts. Knowing he wouldn't do what his blood cried out to him to do. For there was a greater good to protect. His only two reasons to live. He would do anything to protect them. Even spare the Jedi's deadliest enemy. Someone he had deeply trusted, who also turned out to be someone he didn't know anymore.
Nothing but shades of grey. No clear path for him to follow any longer. He would have to make his own path, the path that better suited his interests, since everyone was playing their own game here. The Jedi. The Sith. If he played cunningly, he would emerge victorious above all, instead of being the fool everybody tried to manipulate for their own convenience.
He would play the most dangerous game. One that could very well cost him his soul if he tipped over the edge. One that could condemn him forever. But those he loved would live. That was the only thing that mattered.
'He must stand trial. It's not the Jedi way. I need him!'
But he miscalculated. He made the mistake of thinking that he could touch the Darkness and not be tainted by it. The moment he opened himself to it, it received him with the cold, greedy embrace of a mistress, whispering wanton promises, opening the door to new, tempting possibilities that only fueled his passions, his buried ambitions of power.
And in that second of salacious contemplation and impulsive self-preservation, he realized the crime he had allowed to be committed.
'What have I done?'
An innocent life had been lost forever. One single misstep and there was no turning back. His new mistress was avid, voracious, insatiable. It offered everything he had ever wanted, absolute power to make things right, here and now.
Wasn't that what he had always craved?
'I will be the most powerful Jedi ever. I will even learn to stop people from dying!'
He hadn't been able to save his mother, but Padme and their baby's lives would be saved. If his soul was the price he had to pay, then so be it.
'I will do whatever you ask. Just help me save Padme's life. I can't live without her.'
Luke's soul shrunk at the realization of what that decision would entail, for that young man, for those closest to him. For all.
'I pledge myself to your teachings.'
What followed were the most horrific images of carnage and destruction that no sane mind could possibly conceive. Crime after crime, a relentness slaughter, executed with brutal and merciless precision. Feelings silenced and numbed, while what was once a good man died in a vengeful crusade against everything he had ever defended and stood for.
In the name of Love and Democracy.
Even more tragic, Luke could feel that love and a honest desire to bring peace to the Republic were the motivations behind his father's... his father's monstrous acts. He wanted to be understood, he wanted those he loved to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice he had made. For them.
That was why his wife's refusal to accompany him cut so deep. Her judgmental eyes, her tears of abject horror as she looked at him, turned his own remorse and horror into white-hot anger.
He wanted absolution, and now he would burn in the blazes of the innocent blood he had shed. Forever.
The last spark of sanity was consumed in the raging feeling of betrayal when it became clear that his wife and his master had teamed up to destroy him.
That was the moment the Darkness took over completely.
'You're with him! You brought him here to kill me!!'
Luke swayed when the effect of the Force-choke transmitted itself to the fetus in its mother's womb. Blood pressure, heartbeat, all their vitals fluctuated, and physical pain joined the infinite spiritual one.
Obi-Wan turned his head at Luke's unsteady falter. The young man's gaze was fixed on the blade, unblinkingly. His body was all stiff, petrified, exuding shock and horror.
Immediately recognizing the signs, the old Jedi rose to his feet.
How could it be? Luke didn't have the most basic knowledge of the Force, and no training at all. How could he have entered a spontaneous trance?
The expression on his face was one Obi-Wan thought he would never see again. Terrifyingly familiar, and terrifyingly vulnerable.
'You turned her against me!'
Luke's spirit recoiled from the insanity possessing every corner of his father's soul.
'I see through the lies of the Jedi. I do not fear the Dark Side as you do. I have brought peace, freedom, justice and security to my new empire.'
It couldn't be!! How could a compassionate, loving and high-principled soul have come to this?
'If you're not with me, then you're my enemy.'
Luke's eyes reddened and filled with tears. His chin and lower lip began to tremble, and his respiration accelerated to an alarming rate.
Obi-Wan watched the young man, cursing his helplessness, blaming himself for what he had done. He should have known better. After all these years, he should have known better. His thoughtlessness had set in motion a chain reaction that Force only knew what would bring.
He thought his heart would break when the tears rolled down the pale cheeks, in mute testimony to the downfall of a great man, who had taken those he loved and an entire galaxy down with him.
Just as helplessly, Luke witnessed the vicious, ruthless fight between two men who had been like brothers, who only sought to annihilate each other now. Maniacal, homicidal rage versus cool efficiency.
His arm began to tremble, showing the agonizing stress at the animalistic feelings that had destroyed what was left of his father. Their power was so overwhelming that he felt as if they were transmitting themselves from the lightsaber to the core of his being. He fought back desperately, resisting with every bit of strength he had, crying out to his father to stop and come back - knowing all too well that he was eighteen years too late. His features contorted in pain. It was as if his every thought was being obliterated by a power he couldn't resist.
Horrified, Obi-Wan saw the young man's body become so rigid that it seemed on the verge of snapping. Whatever had taken control of him, it was beyond his power to stop it. Beyond his power to do anything but watch that sweet, innocent face twist into a grotesque mask of mindless hate and brutality.
His heart missed a beat when he realized when he had last seen that same expression, and he knew he had to stop that before it was too late. Even if getting Luke out of the trance at this stage could shatter the young man's mind, and his sanity along with it.
Reaching out with a prayer, he touched the boy's arm.
The electric discharge made them both jump with a choked cry. The lightsaber deactivated and fell to the floor.
Luke stood where he was. Panting, his chest heaving savagely, his eyes looking beyond their reality and any other. He ground and bared his teeth, almost snarling.
No, it couldn't be happening again. Obi-Wan's hand reached out once more and squeezed the young man's arm, willing that caring, loving soul back.
"Luke!" he called sharply, with the authority that surviving the highest treason and a galaxy's genocide can only confer.
The young man shuddered and blinked. His eyes focused again, but his bearing remained menacing, sinister. Downright frightening.
Finally, the blond head turned. Slowly, mechanically, ominously.
The eyes were blue, but just barely. Bloodshot, bulging, almost non-human. The face was all flushed, congested, and the veins in the neck and forehead were horribly swollen.
"I HATE YOU!!"
The onslaught of channelled insanity and Darkness made Obi-Wan flinch with the excruciating memories those spiteful words brought with them.
At that, the tiniest spark of something that resembled the gentle soul that inhabited Luke's body suddenly surfaced.
And with an indescribable scream, the young man bolted from the hut.
Obi-Wan stayed where he was, unable to move, unable to breathe, unable to form a coherent thought; paralyzed by the scene he had witnessed, and failing to understand how a situation he had thought controlled could have gone so wrong.
His misted eyes turned to the lightsaber on the floor.
Despite his efforts, despite his well-intentioned white lies, the truth had found a way into that pure heart, and sullied it forever.
Now he could only pray for that truth not to take the galaxy's last hope away from the Light. Not for the Light's sake, but Luke's. He deserved so much more!
'What have I done? Forgive me, Padme. Please, forgive me!'
The old Jedi's head hung in defeat, guilt and remorse cutting deper than he could take.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The light dimmed inside the hut, awakening Obi-Wan to the time he had spent withdrawn into himself, wallowing in self-pity.
Straightening up, he reached out with the Force. It surprised him to feel Luke's presence only a few metres outside the hut. Summoning up his courage and determined to do anything to bring peace to that broken soul, he bent down and picked up the lightsaber. A strange tingle ran up and down his arm, and he stared at the now harmless weapon, a poignant look in his eyes.
He stood in the doorway and fixed his gaze on the kneeling form on the ground, thirty metres away. The cool evening breeze ruffled the blond hair, whipping it against the face that was turned away from him.
Obi-Wan walked up behind the unmoving young man and just observed him.
In shocking contrast with the state he had left in, utter calm poured out of Luke now. But an undercurrent of searing pain flowed beneath the surface, like a gaping wound that wouldn't stop bleeding.
The Jedi master winced in sympathy and dropped to his knees, not wanting to intrude upon that private pain. It was Luke's and Luke's alone. But he still needed the young man to feel he was there for him, watching over him as he had been doing from afar for the last eighteen years.
Reaching out with his mind gingerly, he was astonished to feel the Force lingering around the boy, cradling him protectively. But even more astonishing, he could feel that Luke was now consciously aware of it. And more, he was tapping from it at that very moment.
Somehow, the traumatic experience he had suffered had reawakened his awareness of his inborn abilities, and enabled him to get in touch with them.
The reddened blue eyes opened wearily, and Obi-Wan noticed the dry tear tracks on the still pale face.
"Did my father kill my mother?"
The pain in the hoarse voice sliced through Obi-Wan's heart like a knife.
"No," he replied with vehemence. "She died in childbirth of... unknown causes."
Luke's head turned to him with painstaking slowness, until he was looking at him.
And Obi-Wan saw the plea in those eyes.
"Physically, she was all right. She just... gave up."
Luke's eyes closed with a deep intake of breath and he looked away, nodding heavily in understanding.
A long silence followed. Obi-Wan studied the young man eagerly, knowing that Luke was aware of his scrutiny. Miraculously, there was no trace of Darkness in him. His aura was unblemished, not marked in any way. He had been immersed in a black pit of distilled evil, and survived unscathed. Obi-Wan felt like crying at the significance and implications of that miracle.
But Luke had paid a price. The price of knowledge, and because of it, he would never be the same. Obi-Wan could feel it. That inexperienced, naïve boy had aged a lifetime in the last few hours.
Obi-Wan's head suddenly turned and he searched the unreadable features. He had felt something stirring in the depths of that scarred soul. A new sense of purpose, a strength of will that overpowered everything he had encountered before.
And he knew what Luke intended.
"Luke, about your father..." he began cautiously.
"There is still good in him."
It was no wishful thinking, there was no hint of doubt in the affirmation. There was absolute certainty. Pure and simple.
"Luke, he's a Sith," he said, as if that explained it all. As if he expected Luke to know what that meant.
But something told him that Luke did know. He knew – and understood - better than he ever would.
The blond head turned to him once more, and the blue eyes flashed with conviction and faith.
"There is still good in him. And I will find it."
Not knowing why, Obi-Wan looked down at the lightsaber in his hand, as if waiting for an answer.
What had Luke felt? What had he seen to be so certain that goodness still lurked in the soul of a man who, for the last eighteen years, had repeatedly demonstrated that Anakin Skywalker had been merely the alias of Darth Vader? And why was he so certain that he could make a difference?
He closed his eyes for an instant, and then braved that faith.
"How?" he simply asked, almost challenging it.
A bittersweet smile lit up that beautiful face. Obi-Wan thought he detected pity in it. Pity for him. As if the answer was obvious, and he was blind to it.
"I love him."
Obi-Wan's heart constricted in his chest.
'Your mother loved him too and it didn't change anything, my boy. If anything, it sank your father deeper into the Darkness.'
But the faith in those eyes never wavered. They shone with the passion and will to fight that his mother's had lacked. Padme had given up. Luke would fight until the end.
A faith like that could move mountains, ignite suns. Obi-Wan was humbled by the enormity of it. For all the wisdom and knowledge the Jedi had prided themselves on, that boy had found a greater knowledge that didn't reside in those evanescent moral concepts, but in a higher truth that started where those concepts lost their meaning.
Yielding to Luke Skywalker's lead, Obi-Wan placed Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber in the outstretched hand.
As the two men contemplated the double sunset in a companionable silence, the shared silence of equals, softly spoken words echoed in the old Jedi's mind.
'Do not underestimate the power of a child's love.'