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Feedback: Is a nice break from writing papers for college—so, yes, I'd very much appreciate it.
There is no sunlight in this part of space.
Here, where the stars are only pinpricks of light against a backdrop of eternal night, the only light he receives is faint and, often, artificial. Everything seems artificial now, right down to a large portion of his body. Sometimes, if he closes his eyes, he can imagine all that's fake in his surroundings seeping into his bones, consuming what is left of him. Then, there will be nothing true, and he will be as empty as the black expanse of space before him. Sometimes, when he stares at it, he thinks he already is.
Space is indeed, as the whisperings of a long-dead woman murmur, cold, in every sense of the word.
"I always knew you'd be the death of me, you know." There is nothing in the speaker's voice to suggest that he's angry about that. Instead, where a logical person would place resent, something strangely like regret lurks, and maybe even a little pity. "Oddly, now that I'm proven correct, I'm not as bothered by it as I thought I'd be."
The gears in Vader's mechanical hands—both hands now, thanks to the man behind him—grind as he clenches his fists, putting undue stress on the prosthetics. He should be surprised to hear that voice, but ever since he looked down at an old cloak devoid of the body that just moments before had been within it, Vader has had a feeling something like this was going to happen. Equate it to a warning in the Force or just his knowledge of the character of the man in question, but he knew.
"Get out, Obi-Wan."
A soft chuckle drifts into his auditory sensors. The sound is as audible as if it weren't first being filtered through his helmet, but he somehow still misses the rawness of untouched noise. Even if his ears themselves have been mostly burned away, the inner parts are in working order; unfortunately, it hardly matters, since life without his helmet—and therefore without auditory assistance—is impossible. He will never simply hear again.
He has to wonder if the man behind him knows how that feels. Probably not. The afterlife can't have made him omniscient.
Surely the universe isn't that cruel.
"You want me to leave, and yet I'll wager that there's nothing you fear more than the silence."
"I don't fear anything anymore."
"On the contrary, I think you're consumed by your fear." Obi-Wan pauses. Vader still doesn't look at him, not willing to give him even that small concession until absolutely necessary—and it will be necessary... just not yet. "It's ironic, isn't it? The one thing you fear the most, you're now surrounded by. You're very alone, Anakin."
"That name has no meaning to me anymore," he snaps, wishing he could do more than silently cross his arms and stare out the window into the blackness of space. Even the view—so icy cold and terribly dark—echoes Obi-Wan's words. He is alone, both in mind and surroundings.
"Then why does it cause such a reaction?"
He's always hated Obi-Wan's reasoning, mostly because it's always been good.
"No matter what you say, Anakin, I think your reaction to that name merely underscores what I am trying to tell you: it reminds you of a time when you had people who loved you, and it also forces you to consider how you threw that all away. It reminds you just how alone you are."
Now, finally, he turns to look at the owner of the voice behind him. "Have you come to torture me, Obi-Wan?" he asks, his mechanical voice laced with anger and irritation.
Obi-Wan doesn't look like the last time he saw him. The man he faced on the Death Star was an old, aged version of the man he knew. This person before him now is Obi-Wan, as Anakin knew him when he first became his master, albeit without the blue glow that now shadows his figure. Jedi Robes; hair just beginning to grow out of a padawan cut; beardless face; small, easy smile that reaches his eyes—this is a young version of the man who was his master. This is a man Anakin remembers.
This is a man he once loved.
Now, in place of that emotion, all he can feel is a desperate longing for what he can no longer have, and even that is overshadowed by the bitterness eating away at his insides.
"No, you know better," Obi-Wan says gently, crossing his arms over his chest. "At least, you would have once. Now... well, now, I don't suppose you'd understand why I'd bother to try to alleviate your loneliness, even a little bit."
"You are right. I would not." Nor will he believe it. Obi-Wan's motives can't be so simple. "I have nothing but bitterness towards you now. Your presence is an irritant."
His words are answered with a sad smile. "I know. But it is better than the ache of being alone with only your own thoughts for company, isn't it."
It's not a question. Obi-Wan never did ask questions like that—he only ever asked the answers, leaving Anakin to formulate the inquiry. Sometimes, he didn't answer at all, and that was always the worst. It felt like being shut out. It felt like he's feeling now... like he's been feeling every day since he sank to his knees in Palpatine's office. And, though he'd never admit it, when Obi-Wan's presence begins to fade moments later, he can't deny that this is the first time in years that he's felt anything different, no matter how slight it might be.
As the quiet settles in once again, heavy and oppressive, Vader realizes just how right Obi-Wan is.
"Are you ever going to tell me how you're able to do this?"
This time Obi-Wan is sitting in a chair across the room, one leg casually crossed across his lap, his ankle resting on the knee of his other leg. Today, he's the same as he was when the Republic fell: parted hair that's golden-red with just a touch of gray at the temples, neatly trimmed beard, and gentle eyes that always seemed to search out every part of Anakin.
At the question, Obi-Wan arches one eyebrow and smiles. "We'll see."
Vader wishes he could still sigh. Unfortunately, his respirator denies him even that superfluity. "I tire of your cryptic answers, old man."
Obi-Wan's beard twitches as his smile shifts into something dangerously close to a smirk. "Then stop asking questions."
He's infuriating. He always has been, and Vader is tempted to use the Force to hurl the remnants of the meeting he's just held—some papers and folders—out of the nearest airlock. It's entirely twisted that Obi-Wan is haunting him in a boardroom, ten minutes after his meeting with Imperial officers. That's too common, and Vader doesn't want this to become a habit—he doesn't want Obi-Wan to get comfortable. That would simply be wrong. Of course, there's something wrong anyway. His entire life is wrong. Really, what's one more thing?
When that thing is Obi-Wan, he knows, it's best never to underestimate anything.
"Why are you even here?" he demands, sinking back down into a chair.
Obi-Wan merely remains where he is, infuriatingly calm. If anything, he only leans back a little further into his chair, giving the appearance of comfort. Vader has to wonder if he knows that the Imperial officer who sat in that chair mere minutes before ordered the mass execution of over one thousand people. He probably does. That would be very like Obi-Wan to twist things by choosing a seat that reeks of evil, just to make a point. Something about light overcoming darkness and having the last word. It's deliberate symbolism, but Vader purposely refuses to contemplate it any further.
"You asked that last time. Don't repeat: redundancy is tedious."
"Your presence is redundant," he growls, slamming his gloved fist down on the table.
Obi-Wan's brows furrow, creasing the line of skin between them as he draws a finger lightly across the table in a gesture probably meant to deliberately indicate boredom. "Do better, Anakin. A retort like that is hardly in keeping with the standards you set during your teenage years."
"If you weren't already dead, I would kill you."
"As I've said, repetition is tedious."
He covers his mouth with a hand in what Vader knows is an attempt to hide a smile. How polite. He's all cultured tone and impeccable manners, and from the time Anakin was nine, that's what he showed his padawan. It gives Vader a little thrill of victory to realize how utterly he's discarded those bits of his former master. After all, he very much doubts that Obi-Wan would consider mass murder polite.
"Get out!" he finally bellows, rising from his chair. When he does this with living people, they cower in fear and anticipate how the Force will feel around their throat as he chokes the life out of them. He revels in the fear hiding in their eyes, in the tightness of their mouths as they make a final, pathetic attempt at courage.
Obi-Wan only stares at him with a look of muted pity.
"Are you happy like this, Anakin?" he says after a few moments. "Do you like how you live now?"
He intended to continue in his rage, but the question hits him harder than he'd have liked, and he finds himself stopping to consider it. He's not happy. He hasn't been for so long that he doesn't even remembers what it feels like. Does that make him unhappy if he can't recall what it is to be anything else?
"You never could lie to me, you know," Obi-Wan says far more gently than Vader thinks he's entitled to. "Not well, anyway. Even with Padme, I knew, but I just chose not to see."
A chill shoots up Vader's spine. Padme.
"Don't speak her name."
"Why not? Does it bother you?"
"This is none of your concern," he snaps, angrily pointing a gloved finger at Obi-Wan. He hates the way he's curled in that chair, so comfortable, in the prime of life forever in death, and just so himself. Obi-Wan is everything that he remembers him to be, and that drags forward memories of a different time.
A time when he remembered what it was like to be happy.
A time long passed.
"Maybe not," Obi-Wan agrees with a slight shrug. "But it is yours."
"She means nothing to me anymore."
"The chance of her death was the catalyst which started the reaction to make you what you are. Will you truly lie to yourself and say she means nothing?"
With a sweep of his dark cloak, he hastily turns away from Obi-Wan and stalks back towards the opposite wall. "That is irrelevant. She did mean something to me. She no longer does."
"Then why do you react when her name is mentioned? And why do you hunt the son you created with her?"
"Her son with Anakin Skywalker," he retorts, still not turning around. "Not my son. I search for him because he is strong in the Force—because he would be powerful if turned."
"And, yet, you know the Rule of Two as clearly as anyone... and I'm sure you're aware Sidious doesn't intend to be the one to die."
"Together with my son, we will overthrow Palpatine. We will rule the galaxy."
Obi-Wan chuckles softly. "I thought you said he was Anakin Skywalker's son?"
"Do not twist my words, old man."
"I don't twist them. I simply repeat what you give me... and, as impossible as it seems, you supply me with the tattered remnants of a light I'd thought extinguished forever. A light I'm sure you still believe doesn't exist."
"You know nothing!" Now, Vader spins around, intent on doing something. Anything. He doesn't know what.
It doesn't matter. Obi-Wan is gone.