GalaxyPink: Now comes the epilogue!
PorcelainHeart94: I'm glad you found interesting the part about Padme possibly making different choices if her circumstances had been different. That was a point I was really trying to drive home, and it was also a large part of her eventual forgiveness of him. Thanks for reading and commenting!
T-man626: Thanks so much for making an exception and reading. I'm also glad you enjoy the use of dialogue from the movies. I like to play with lines and use them in different ways than how Lucas originally wrote them. It's always fun for me when I can slip something in.
HPGal3: Yes, sorry about Leia. :)
Estora: It's very strange how there are shades of Anakin in Vader, and yet he's completely different, isn't it? That always fascinated me. I'm also glad you found the bit about Palpatine "foreseeing" things funny. That bit of the movies always made me want to slap him. It's such a lazy excuse for why Luke should fall, but I kind of appreciate it because it makes me dislike Sidious all the more for his excessive presumption and arrogance. Also, you're entirely correct when you say this story isn't entirely (or even mainly) about Padme and Obi-Wan. They just happen to convey a lot of what it is about. Okay, lastly, thank you so, so much for the detailed reviews. I LOVE reading them—it makes me feel as though someone is taking the time to notice the little details I work hard to include (both in this and Fire and Ice). Thank you!
ObiBettina7: Yes, the whole thing with Anakin and Obi-Wan both being on the side of the light again does pose a problem as far as who gets Padme, doesn't it? At least, it would if corporeal laws still applied in death. :) I hope the explanation I give works for you.
pronker: Haha, yes, and here we go with the blue glowy zone! Also a favorite of mine! ;)
Disclaimer: I make no money off of this.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed!
Again, thanks for your patience. The last part took me a while to edit to the point where I was mostly satisfied (I'm almost never completely satisfied). Thank you so much for taking the time to read!
Obi-Wan had been right: it was peaceful here.
Here in the Force, where nothing hurt, and she was no longer herself, but more herself than ever. It was a world of paradox, and Padme loved it.
How odd that, here, it was possible to ache for the loss she knew her children were feeling, yet not feel the pain of that ache. She desired to soothe it, but it no longer hurt her. Was that what pure love did? Did it drive out everything else?
Was that the true nature of the Force?
"Yes. But in life, it's easy to complicate pure love with other things."
Anakin looked young again, but somehow far more untainted than he ever had in life. Though he looked the age he was when he fell, the scar over his eye had vanished, and where there had once been gleaming metal or a leather glove, there was now an organic arm. And the light—that was best of all. It shimmered in his eyes and on his face, giving the sense that whatever had pulled him down had irrevocably lifted.
This was Anakin Skywalker as he should have been.
This was the Anakin Skywalker she had loved in life, even if she'd never fully seen him.
"I would know," he teased with a light, easy quirk of his eyebrow, so nonchalant and cavalier. He was still Anakin Skywalker, even now—he hadn't lost that.
"Yes, you would know."
Neither had Obi-Wan lost his dry manner and sarcasm.
Anakin glanced over at him, grinning. Some days, Padme could hardly believe that all three of them had just entered the Force—not when they'd been there forever. They had become forever, and time spun around that. They were the eternity ahead—they knew the eternity ahead, just as they knew everything that had happened.
It made things simple. There was no need for a reconciliation between them, because it had already happened, even if it had not.
It was a curious concept. How odd that she'd never comprehended how restraining time was until she was no longer bound by it.
"I want to see the children," Anakin murmured, arms crossed as his eyes danced with something suspiciously close to anticipation.
"You just did," Padme reminded him, though she couldn't quite hide the pulse of happiness inside her at the thought of looking at her children again. They'd already joined her here in the Force, but yet they hadn't. Again, a curious concept, and one she couldn't explain in terms of the finite. They were alive, and yet they were with the Force. It was that way for everyone. Death was only a loop. Everything was only a loop. It simply was what it was.
And it was good.
Anakin shrugged. "Experience the moment again. It was a good one."
"Or perhaps another," Obi-Wan suggested.
She smiled. "You've already experienced them all."
"Yes," he agreed, "but also none at all. It never gets old." His clean-shaven face twisted into a smile. "I want to feel the first time."
And they did. Again… and also for the first time.
Her son was so handsome. He looked like Anakin. She could admit that now without feeling as though her chest were constricting with pain, but only with a vibrant sort of happiness and affection. And Jinn—Force knew, he was Obi-Wan's child. And hers. Also hers. Luke, Leia, and Jinn were all hers.
Her children were together, attending a celebration at the rebel headquarters, though certainly not for the reasons everyone else was. Everyone else present was celebrating the death of the Empire, and the end of the monstrosity Darth Vader. But not Luke, and Leia, and Jinn. They had left the main building where the celebration was in favor of an abandoned hanger… and they weren't celebrating at all.
They were grieving.
Rather, Jinn was—the other two were burying their hurt in favor of helping him. Jinn was still a child, too young to deal with any of this, and it was nearly beautiful how he was letting his sister rock him gently while he cried into her shoulder.
"Shhh," Leia murmured, face dry and eyes dead. "Jinn—" She had nothing to say that could truly help, and she knew it, so she simply stroked his hair and rocked him more while Luke sat beside her quietly.
Luke's eyes were so dull. Padme could feel his pain.
It would have hurt, had she not known it would fade.
"And it will, Mom," he said simply from behind her.
She, Obi-Wan, and Anakin all glanced over their shoulders, giving Luke—the Luke who was in the Force—their momentary attention. What a sight they must have made, all looking back like that, probably a little like a choreographed holovid. "Hush, Luke, your ruining it."
He just laughed. "We all know it's the next part you three want to see anyway."
"It's not as good without the buildup," Obi-Wan reminded him. "Pain makes happiness even more beautiful."
They turned back just in time to watch Leia press her cheek to her brother's head, holding him even more tightly. Leia was so strong, hiding her own pain in order to fight that of others.
"Her mother's child, at least in that," Anakin commented absently. Obi-Wan gave a small nod of agreement, hand smoothing over his chin as he watched his children.
"Why'd they have to go?" Jinn choked out, tear tracks staining the skin of his face. "Both of them."
From where he was seated beside Leia, Luke sank his fingers into his hair and pulled tight until it stuck out in tuffs from under his hands. Padme instinctively moved to comfort him—to show him that there was no reason for it to hurt anymore.
Obi-Wan's hand on her arm stilled her. "Wait."
"They did what they needed to in order to keep us all safe," Leia murmured, pushing a lock of reddish hair out of Jinn's eyes. The piece of hair was wet with tears.
"Isn't Vader anymore," Luke whispered.
Anakin sighed. "Never should have been. Might have saved the world a lot of grief."
Obi-Wan waved him off. "We wouldn't have gotten Jinn, then. Besides, it all turned out all right in the end." That was simply what forgiveness was… and it was impossible to hold grudges when those mistakes seemed such a small blip in time in the expanse of eternity.
"He died saving us," Luke murmured.
Jinn jerked back away from Leia, as if burned. How he looked at Luke—it was a touch insane, and quite obviously on the verge of blows. "HE KILLED MY FATHER!"
Luke threw himself to his feet, meeting Jinn as they both lunged forward. When they stopped, it was inches from each other, Luke still taller, but Jinn every bit as angry. It wasn't a fight either of them truly wanted. Brothers, nose to nose like that, angry—it wasn't pleasant. It never could be.
Padme waited contentedly for it to pass, knowing what came after.
Luke was the first to strike a blow: it sent Jinn reeling back, blood dotting his lip where Luke's fist had struck. "Don't ever say that!" he seethed, cheeks spotted with an angry red flush. "Obi-Wan Kenobi was my father just as much as he was yours!"
"Force, Anakin," Obi-Wan muttered, giving his friend a light shove as the watched, "it's a blessing that he learned to control that temper better than you did… at least eventually."
Leia stepped between the two just as Jinn launched himself at Luke. She managed to catch him, pushing him back away from his brother. "It's not—Jinn, Luke, it's not like that. You know it's not."
"I know that he's defending the man who killed my father!"
Anakin snorted. "Not exactly."
"It's a difficult distinction to make, Anakin," Obi-Wan reminded him. "At this point, it was a bit of a challenge for anyone other than Luke to separate Vader and Anakin."
Always at it, those two, even in death. It was playful—never mean, but always affectionate. Padme let herself just listen sometimes to the sounds she was once sure she'd never hear. Obi-Wan never completely gave up hope that he'd have this someday, but the easy bond these two had in death—it was beautiful, and sometimes it still hard to believe.
It was hard to believe they were all together again.
It wasn't like it had been in life. In life, there was the relationship between man and wife, father and son—things that would have created a problem. Both Obi-Wan and Anakin couldn't have had her. But here—it was so different here. Intimacy was different. It was soul on soul, pure love meeting affection—the kind of bond they had here transcended any sort of physical need. There were bodies, but there were not. It was all different—inexplicable—but it made it possible for all three of them to intertwine, separate essences, but together through the Force in death.
In life, all she'd experienced was the relationships she was capable of having. She never understood what it was to be a father or brother, to be a son. She never quite could comprehend that love. Here, it was all one thing. It was just love—every type. It was what they were.
And it was perfect. Nothing had ever been more perfect.
"Yes, well, can we step in now?" she asked, anxious for the best part.
Obi-Wan and Anakin stopped their mock argument. For a moment, they just looked at each other, grinning. "I suppose," Obi-Wan agreed finally.
Padme rolled her eyes. "That's what you always say."
"And you always ask to go speak to them early," Anakin reminded her. "It's just how it goes."
"You love it."
He nodded. "I do."
And then they faded out. No talking was necessary. They knew this part by heart after having done it so many times before, even if it was still the first time they had ever done it.
"Jinn," Leia tried to say, hand on his chest, pushing him back. Worriedly, she glanced at Luke, visually pleading for him to just stop. "He was Anakin at the end, Jinn. It wasn't Vader."
"All I want is my father and mother back!" Jinn raged, pushing against Leia. She let him go this time, watching helplessly as tears streamed down his face.
She shouldn't have worried.
Instead of anger, Luke caught him in a tight hug. "I'm sorry," he whispered as Jinn went limp, sagging against his chest and sobbing. He didn't truly want to fight. Not really, Padme knew.
"I want my parents," he choked out.
"And your parents will always want you."
This was her favorite part. This moment when the three children turned to look when they heard her voice, their heads snapping back, craning to look over their shoulders like she, Anakin, and Obi-Wan always did when Luke intruded on their conversation in the Force. Like a holovid. Like the fairy tales she heard on Naboo when she was younger.
And like those tales, her life had a happy ending.
It was why she loved this so much—because she knew her children would have that ending too.
"Mom?" Luke whispered.
Beside her, she felt Obi-Wan and Anakin materialize. Obi-Wan was appearing older, like he was when he died—like the children's most recent and familiar memory of him—while Anakin was the same as he was a moment before in the Force. She became something in between. Older than the girl-queen, but younger than when she'd died. A middle ground between what they chose. Hadn't she always been like that for them? More outwardly emotional than Obi-Wan, but far more tempered than Anakin? Neither casting duty aside for love or considering it her end all? She was always their compromise—their blend in the Force.
"Mom! Dad!" Jinn cried.
Her children. Her babies. They were so beautiful. All of them.
Somehow, they knew they couldn't touch their parents. They didn't try. Instead, they just stood and stared. All of them were crying now, but there were disbelieving smiles, and it was wonderful.
"We're very proud of you," Obi-Wan told them. "All of you."
Jinn took a step toward him. "Why did you leave?" he asked, face pinched, smile fading.
Obi-Wan took the smile Jinn had just dropped and gave a small shrug. "Where I am, Jinn, you've already joined me. Think of it that way."
"But I want you now, Dad!"
"And you have me. You always will. You will always have all of us."
Anakin, too, that meant. He was not Jinn's father, but what he was to Obi-Wan and Padme—it made him family. Jinn may not have understood it at the moment, but years later he would. Leia would accept Anakin, too. Luke already had.
Then, finally, they would all be together.
As Obi-Wan said, they already were.
Luke was staring at Anakin. "Why'd you do it?"
Anakin quirked an eyebrow and leaned casually in against Padme. "Fall? Or come back?"
"Because of love."
Obi-Wan sighed. "Anakin that's not a fair explanation."
It wasn't, of course. The children couldn't yet understand that everything went full circle. Eventually, in the place where she, Anakin, and Obi-Wan were now, cause became effect and the effect was the cause. Love started everything. Love finished everything. Anything in between was a blip, but one that was necessary for the light to have its final say. Everything that was wrong helped set up that final culmination of what was right.
In the end, even the darkness served the light.
"They'll understand eventually," Anakin argued.
They didn't now. That much was obvious, and it was enough to make Padme sigh. "He's right. You'll understand later. But not now. And you don't need to understand now. All that you need to know right now is that we all love you very much."
Leia blinked, wiping aside tears. "We love you too, Mom. Will you come back like this? You know, just every now and then?"
She smiled and leaned into the hand that Obi-Wan placed on her back. "You couldn't keep us away."
That was enough for now. They would be back. They weren't really even leaving at all. All they were doing was going back to the Force, where their children were already waiting for them.
It was just a change in reality.
Closing her eyes, Padme let her essence tangle with the two men beside her as they faded back into the light. It was so bright, shinning in her and around her and smoothing over the two presences within and beside her. Anakin and Obi-Wan. Then, moments later, the children, too. Friends. Family. Everyone that any of them had ever loved. So wonderful.
Everything was light.