"If you really want me to forgive you, then I will, but I don't think that there is anything to forgive. You trained me. I can't imagine a better master than you, Master. Only a fool would still believe me redeemable, so many years after I turned." I squeeze my hands and made myself meet his eyes.
"Qui-gon did," he whispers, probably half to himself.
"Qui-gon was a fool. Luke was a fool." At this, he smiles.
"I tried to convince both of them to stop wishing, hoping, believing. If Luke had listened to me-"
Neither of us can bear to finish that sentence. There is silence for a moment. It isn't uncomfortable, but I would much rather be with Padmé. I must have looked wistful, because he says, "we can talk about this later," but I shake my head slowly.
"You have this bizarre notion that you are at fault here. I have to correct you. It is my duty as your former padawan to correct you whenever you're wrong and laugh at you whenever I think about it and bring it up almost as much."
Again, Obi-wan smiles.
"I have certainly done it enough with Qui-gon."
He looks at me in the eyes, smile gone, and says, "Anakin, stop getting off topic." He takes a deep breath, and murmurs, "please forgive me, Anakin."
"If you really want me to forgive you, I still need to know what to forgive you for," I say, fiddling with hemming on the Jedi-style shirt I appeared in.
"Come on, Anakin!" he shouts, making me flinch away. His eyes are wide, nearly taking over his entire face, and his eyebrows are near his hairline.
"Obi, what are you talking about?"
"Stop playing dumb, Anakin. I know you know what I'm talking about. I also know that you blamed me for a long time. Maybe you don't blame me now, but it's because you have buried all of it. I know you, Anakin."
I look up and he continues, "I know you, and I know that there is a part of you that blames me." I'm about to cut in when he continues again, "It might be very small, but there is a part of you, and there has always been that part of you. I won't be so bold to assume the blame of the entire thing, but you shouldn't be so vain to take the fault of the whole thing either. I know you're a vain person, but can you release you vanity for just a few moments?"
As much as I want to refute everything he said, I can't even open my mouth. I want to tell him that I don't blame him at all, and I never blamed him. I want to tell him that it's so silly for him to place such burdens to bear on himself, as though they are all his own. I want to tell him that he is one of the Jedi that I always, without a doubt, trusted, but I couldn't. There has always been a part of me that blames him. When I was young and his padawan, I never thought he would let me progress like I should. I thought him jealous, but do I still blame him?
"Master, I'll admit," I swallow once before I can continue, "that there were times over my life where I blamed you. I foolishly called you jealous of me and that's why you wanted to hold me back." I force myself to look into his eyes, to look at the pain I am causing upon his face. Even saying these cruel things, I feel-good isn't the right word-but I feel content. We are talking about the things I could never talk about in life. It's stupid that we had to wait so long to speak of such easily resolved matters. Maybe they were easily (or more easily) resolved now, but as much as it pains me to even think it, I wasn't ready for such a talk. I could never handle it maturely. I would take it as Obi-wan admitting his weakness, but, in reality, it is Obi-wan admitting his strength. (I idly notice that I sound like a preacher to younglings and mentally grin.)
"Obi-wan, I know you weren't jealous of me, but I thought that you wanted to feel better about yourself, that you wanted to think you were more talented than me. Even if I did blame you then, I can't blame you now. What can I even say that remotely incriminating? That you couldn't stop me at Mustafar?" As I spoke, my volume raised, resulting in almost yelling the last question. Even with that volume, the last question was said in jest, but I don't think he is taking it that way.
"Yes," he whispers, so quietly I can barely hear it in the silent meadow. I want to take minutes, hours, years, to compose myself, to think of something really perfect, really incredible to say. I want to say something that will make everything okay again, so we'll never have a problem again. Unfortunately, Padmé never really rubbed off on me, so I'll just have to be my usual charming self.
"No one, no one ever blamed you for what happened for Mustafar," I say, my voice as deep as I could manage, trying to sound remotely stern. I want to try a Vader technique, to make him take me seriously, but I lower my hand. There is no one to choke here. I am Anakin Skywalker, not Darth Vader, and I will make myself heard through words, not violence. I chant that in my mind until I can find the strength to continue, but he starts instead.
"I was supposed to stop you. I wanted to listen to Master Yoda, who told me to-to-" He struggles with the right way to say it.
"Kill?" I helpfully provide.
"Yes." He looks at me, straight in the eye. The way his eyelids drooped, the way his forehead was crinkled, I long to tell him that I didn't want this talk now, but I couldn't, I wouldn't, stop this now.
"I wanted to listen to Master Yoda, but I also wanted to listen to Padmé. She told me that you were doing nothing dark. I didn't know what to do, Anakin. I didn't want to fight you at all. You know, I asked Yoda if I could take on Palpatine instead, so I wouldn't have to fight you, so I wouldn't have to think of what had happened." His voice breaks, and he looks off into the distance, seemingly registering none of the beauty of the landscape.
"Obi-wan, I can't imagine the position you were in, but know this-" I take a deep breath, preparing for a long monologue to try and shake him back into the Obi-wan that I know he is. He isn't this person, someone who looks like he's about to break down in tears any moment; he's just...Obi-wan.
"Obi-wan, Master, I blamed you so much when I was growing up. I was resentful; I was jealous; I was an annoying snot-nosed kid who thought he was better than everyone else. Then, there was you. You had infinite patience; you were incredibly wise for your years, and you could seemingly put up with everything. I was jealous of you, so I thought that you must be jealous of me. I just wish I could change everything. I think I can honestly say Mustafar was one of the worst days of my life and not because of the whole 'losing my body' thing." As I mention that, he shudders.
"As angry as I have been with you, I think that there is nothing more stupid. I can't think of a time when I should have been angry with you." It looks like he is about to butt in, so I quickly finish up. "If you want me to forgive you, then I'll say it, 'I forgive you', but know I forgave you a long time ago."
Obi-wan looks at me, a smile growing upon his face.
"I forgive you, too" is all he says to me. For a moment, we just stare at each other, but then, one of us (and I couldn't tell you which of us) starts a tight hug.
"You know, Master," I finally say, "you're the best father I could have had. I'm so glad I was your apprentice."
"I'm so glad you were my apprentice, too, silly padawan," he says, grinning widely.
Suddenly, there is a soft 'pop' again, and Padmé and Qui-gon are back with us. I jump back and gracefully fall into her arms. She laughs, tucking back a strand of hair behind her ear. Unwillingly, I pull away. After all, I shouldn't be distracted right now. I mentally rolled my eyes. As if having her near me wasn't distraction enough.
"So now that that's settled," Qui-gon opens with a grin.
"Did you listen to everything we said?" I ask, but neither of them will even look at me. I groan loudly.
"Moving on," Qui-gon says, "now that we have that over with, can we get onto a few more important things?" I raise an eyebrow, a gift I have perfected while I was Vader. (I had a lot of time on my hands. Somebody had to listen to all of those Imperial reports, you know.) I try and hold back the shudder that's inevitably coming because I let my mind drift to those twenty years, but it doesn't arrive. I'm not sure if that's good or not.
"So, what's so important?" I ask.
"You're dead," Obi-wan says.
"Yes, thank you for reminding me. What about it?"
"Well, you've spent all of your time dead here. Aren't you remotely curious about the rest of the universe we're in? About death?" Qui-gon seems to have perfected the art of talking down to people without the people realizing it. Even though his tone is a mix of lightheartedness and patronizing, I don't mind. I absentmindedly note to myself that I have to learn how to do that.
"Okay, so, I'm dead. Yippee for me. Now what?"
Qui-gon laughs at my sarcasm, and I see, out of the corner of my eye, both Obi-wan and Padmé are trying to hold in grins. Just seeing her, standing there, makes me want to go over to her. I don't deny that urge and quickly close the few paces between us, grab her hand, and give her a light peck on the cheek.
"What happened to that little boy on Tatooine who wanted to explore all of the star systems?" Even though the question was deep, I just respond with a cheeky grin and the statement, "he gave up."
Ignoring my blatant annoyingness, he starts talking again, apparently giving up on my teenage-esque behavior.
"The world that we now, well the only word I guess that fits is, 'live' in is like another galaxy, except it's a different universe. It's very similar to life, but there are a few differences. We don't need anything to sustain ourselves like food or sleep, but most people like eating and sleeping." Obi-wan looks over at me pointedly, when his master mentions food.
"I hate to sound cruel or abnormal, but why is this any different from where we just were? If there are so many creatures, obviously more because everyone who is dead is here, then why aren't there more wars? Isn't this just a fancy version of where we just were?"
At my outbreak, Qui-gon laughs and says, "I was getting to that. I suppose that that little boy is still in there, somewhere."
"That's a good question," he continues. "What the different is is that there are different realms, different dimensions." He looks over me, smile wide, seemingly ecstatic that I asked that.
"That's very intuitive of you to think of that. It wasn't odd of you to jump to that conclusion. Actually, I think it shows how much you have grown."
I give Qui-gon a confused look, trying to scrunch my eyebrows appropriately. To be honest, I'm surprised how easily my facial movements came back. It's already almost natural. With just a little prompting, I feel normal, more normal than I have felt in a very long time.
"You see, only people, when they have become kind, and have changed their ways to kindness, should the case be, can people come here. I think you probably assumed that. However, most of the people that can do things of the Dark Side start out decent people. In many wars, most sides believe that they are right. To solve this, there isn't just one galaxy here. No, there are more." He swallows, ending his speech, and decides to just watch my reaction. I don't really have one.
I don't understand the appropriate reaction. There are different dimensions, instead of everybody getting along. Is it that impossible for peace? For eternal love? I suppose that this is good, but I can't believe that such an ending could be for the better.
I quickly dropped the topic, desperately trying to pick up anything else. My brain is much too boggled for the moment. I think about how Qui-gon found me on Tatooine, with a destiny as a slave alone except for my mother.
"Wait, what about my mother? Where is she? Is she here? Can I see her? Why wasn't she here?" I ask, words endlessly pouring from my mouth.
The three of them share a glance. I only barely notice.
"We were wondering when you would think of her," Padmé says to me, melancholy for the first time I had arrived.
As I think, I am undeniably ashamed. As I was reunited with all of these people, how could I not think of my own mother? I thought of her for so long, and suddenly, when meeting her was a reality, the inkling somehow forced itself out of my head.
"Where is she?" I ask once more, looking around at their long faces.
"You see, Anakin, there was a bit of a problem with your mother. She has been here for many years and has been completely fine, but she is…is sick," Qui-gon says, very slowly. His eyebrows are high on his forehead, making him look as though he was pitying me, but is he?
"Sick? What do you mean sick? She's dead- how much more dead can you get?" My voice is dangerously low. In the back of my head, I register how hazardous I am getting. I try and focus, try to stay calm, but my head is starting to spin, and the people in front of me are rocking side to side in my head. Suddenly, the trees look like they could be perfect firewood, and perhaps I could use these people, these people who took my mother from me, as fuel to this potential flame.
These people, they never cared about me. This was just part of their game. I bet they go home and laugh about how they fool people into caring about them. Now, they're quiet, scared; they should be. I could just imagine how they would laugh about hurting me. Loud, ear wrenching chuckles. Deafening cackles. I let the voice in the back of my mind take over. It's so much easier.
"Anakin," the female says, yells, I don't know. Her voice is calming me, but I don't want to be calmed. I want to be angry. Why do they use such a voice to charm me like an animal? I'm not an animal. I'm a person! Am I a person? Who am I to be a person? I want to tear apart those who hurt me. Why do they want to hurt me? I want to hurt them. I quiet any other thoughts.
"Anakin," the voice says again. Stop trying to charm me like I'm a beast. I am a person, and my name is, is, is Anakin Skywalker.
All of a sudden, the landscape stops spinning, and I see only flashes of color. Brown, like Padmé's hair, yellow, like my old podracer, blue, like my eyes, white, like the temple. I see just seconds of memories, coming quicker and quicker than the one before. Before I can distinguish even a color, they come. Faster and faster, they fly by my face. I see everything, and yet I see nothing.
Then, the flashing stops, and I hear a loud moan. As I swallow, I realize that it had been me. I open my eyes, though I can't recall ever closing them and look up at three concerned faces.
"Back up, back up," Qui-gon whispers to the others, but none of them move.
"What happened?" I ask them, trying to figure out who was who. I squint at the blobs, and they slowly come into focus.
"We were going to ask you the same question," Obi-wan says, his eyes wrinkled in concern.
I look up at them and heave myself to my feet. When I start thinking about what happened, I start panicking. What did happen? Did I start going off the deep end? Am I really still dangerous?
"Help me," I croak, swallowing my pride, before promptly fainting once more, succumbing to the darkness that so wishes to eat me alive.