A/N: As this story closes out, I'll give a final thanks to everyone who has read, reviewed, and followed it. All your comments have meant a lot and I hope to see you in the future with my other stories. Hopefully you enjoy this final chapter. It's a bit of a break from my other chapters, format-wise. I'll admit, it's a bit of a cheat, but I really wanted to touch on these two scenes.
andaere: Just wanted to take a second to thank you for all the praise and also for the critique. As far as tense shifting goes, I have to apologize. For whatever reason, I do it a lot and it seems to be one of those things I just don't catch with a simple reread. I tried extra hard to avoid it this time around (and caught plenty with each read), so hopefully I caught them all.
Disclaimer: Wish this all was mine... Borrowed a couple lines from RotS.
Timeline: End of RotS and a bit at the end of RotJ
The Last Time
"You were my brother Anakin." A shuddering breath. Tears burned away instantly by scorching heat. "I loved you."
Anakin looked up at him. Obi-Wan wanted to look away but he couldn't. If only for the barest of moments, there was something almost light in Anakin's eyes. There was a sort of wonder there. Was Anakin really so shocked by what he'd said? Did he never really know? But then, Obi-Wan had never said so much with every single word. Nothing was held back. There was no reason to when it could be the last time he ever spoke to Anakin, ever uttered his former apprentice's name. Everything he knew and loved had been completely destroyed by Anakin... including Anakin himself.
Reality hadn't completely hit during the fight. For the most part, Obi-Wan had let his body run on auto-pilot. By sinking into the Force, it had been easy to fight with Anakin. It was no different than the countless times that he'd sparred with his former apprentice. There had been moments, of course, when reality had come rushing back- Anakin never would have tried to strangle him, sparring or not- but those passed quickly enough. At last the time came when Obi-Wan couldn't just act on instinct. When he'd gained the high ground, he knew the moment had come when he would have to either kill or be killed. He knew what he was supposed to do. As a Jedi he had sworn to destroy the Sith. The problem was, despite everything, he still couldn't see Anakin as a Sith. So he'd tried to warn Anakin and prevent doing what he had to do.
Now everything was wrong. It was all completely and utterly wrong. Anakin. Anakin, so young and strong and vibrant and mobile- always moving, always on the move- couldn't be this thing that was before him. Gone the blue eyes that had sparkled with mischief and curiosity. Red and yellow eyes, burning like this hateful planet, were all that remained. Gone bare, blatant love that was so very un-Jedi but so beautifully, perfectly Anakin. Hatred, instead, was spewed forth willingly at the man who loved him like a brother, a son.
Then it happened.
Fire leaped to life on Anakin's mutilated legs. It spread and consumed every inch of him. Though he hated himself for doing it, Obi-Wan finally looked away. As much as he wanted to hate Anakin, to loathe him, he couldn't. Obi-Wan blamed himself as much as he blamed his fallen apprentice, maybe more. This at least, right here and now, was completely his fault. No one could deny him that. Though he'd begged not to fight Anakin, he'd cut Anakin down and reduced him to a smoldering half-man. It was crueler than killing outright.
Obi-Wan forced himself to take one final look at was he'd done. What he saw was burned into his memory forever. He did not notice the rancid smell of burning flesh and hair, nor did he see the burning, unrecognizable wreck of a man. All he saw was Anakin reaching up to him. Anakin's hated metal arm was the only limb he had left and it was stretching up to Obi-Wan. It was both a futile attempt to escape the lava and a heart wrenching, silent plea for help. Obi-Wan wanted nothing more than to answer that plea. He wanted desperately to scrabble down the ashy banks and bring Anakin to safety. But Anakin was no more. There was only Vader. And so, Obi-Wan left. He would leave Anakin's fate to the Force. He forced himself, step by step, to just walk away.
He didn't make it far. Just as he climbed over the first ridge, he collapsed. He could no longer see Anakin but agonized cries filled the air. Every inch of Obi-Wan's body was shaking. Nausea rolled over him and he retched. He hadn't eaten anything since before his final fight with Grievous, hadn't wanted to eat since this all began. So his body continued to try in vain to purge itself of a sickness that was far more than just physical.
Then it all faded away and he saw everything. Every memory of Anakin flashed through his mind in an instant. Anakin as he shivered and cried his first night in the Temple. Anakin as he turned on every faucet in their quarters and watched in awe as water flowed and flowed without end. Anakin as he held a lightsaber for the first time with such reverence it might have been funny if it wasn't so absolutely endearing. Anakin as he quivered with unchecked excitement when they left for their first mission as a team. Anakin as he made faces at his master's newly grown beard. Anakin as he sat at Dex's Diner for the very first time and marveled that his master actually had friends that did something other than meditate. Anakin, unshakably strong and determined, as he sparred so soon after being fitted with a prosthetic arm. Anakin as he stopped a moment to marvel at his braid-free reflection. Anakin as he watched his Padawan with blatant pride, unaware that someone was watching him. Anakin, his brother, as he said goodbye. Anakin as he could have been, content and calm at last with wife and child.
Padme. The baby.
Reality snapped back while tears mix in a pool of bile and mud. Ragged screams continued to ring in the distance as Obi-Wan forced himself back to his feet. He ran the back of his hand absentmindedly across his mouth. Danger flashed bright through the Force. So Yoda failed then. He could linger no longer. He needed to get to Padme and make sure she was alright. He could not help Anakin any longer but that didn't mean that everything was lost. Somehow hope had been born from the most impossible of circumstances and Obi-Wan was going to do all he could to nurture it.
When Obi-Wan had left Anakin on the lava bank all those years ago, he had lost hope for his fallen brother. He had not thought that, ultimately, the Dark Side would prevail, but he hadn't dared to hope the salvation of the galaxy would also be the salvation of Anakin.
So much had happened that it was almost ridiculous to see Anakin like this. Somehow the broken, shell of a man had been restored. Padme had been right. There had still been a shred of goodness inside of Anakin and their son succeeded where Obi-Wan had failed. It had been a long and painful journey for both of them, but seeing Anakin now made Obi-Wan feel like it had all been worth it.
Every scar and injury that Anakin had ever received was gone. He was young and strong and whole again. More amazing still, there wasn't a trace of the fear, anger, or pride that had plagued him for so long. Instead, there was joy, relief, and a touch of quiet wonder. His best moments in life couldn't compare to Anakin as he was joined to the Force; he'd transcended to at last become the Jedi that Obi-Wan had always believed he could be.
Together in the Force, neither man had to apologize for past wrongs or explain themselves. Everything was understood. There was only one thing Obi-Wan had to say. It was the one word that meant more than anything and the one word he had thought he'd never say again. Obi-Wan said it all with a wide smile and an outstretched, welcoming arm.