Obi-Wan gazed pensively across the cityscape of Coruscant at the colors of the setting sun splashed against the darkening sky. He stood motionlessly in the vast corridor of the Jedi temple with his hands clasped in his sleeves and considered with great dejection how much has changed in the past year. The scenery which usually defused all his stress and concerns, now only accentuated the enduring pain of watching his dearest friend lament. He remembered the old adage that dictates time heals all wounds, and understood that just as the sun must retreat behind the horizon, so must all things come to an end; that though the mesmerizing colors remain against the sky long after the sun is gone, eventually they too must disappear. Obi-Wan wished it were so for the agony his dear friend endured. Sadly, after so many months, there was no sign of hope. Time, it seemed, would never be enough.

Two months ago, it had come as a shock to all members of the council when Anakin finally re-emerged after months of solitude. He had appeared lessened and yet fierce, like a once powerful entity now with a broken spirit. Obi-Wan remembered straightening in his seat when Anakin passed through the chamber doors, knowing what he was there to do. There was no sign of difficulty or regret when Anakin spoke. He appeared numb and vacant as if he were mindlessly carrying out orders for a higher power. Obi-Wan remembered how Masters Yoda and Windu listened with heavy hearts and accepted his resignation on the condition he would return as soon as he was able. There was a sense of finality permeating the air when Anakin nodded and turned in his lightsaber. His calling was to be a Jedi Knight and yet it was something that paled against a new desire that was impossible to achieve but strong enough to hold sway. Anakin could no longer serve the Order or the Republic as he once did. It was a sad but an expected move considering his continued suffering.

Obi-Wan took a deep breath and sighed as he remembered when Anakin first told his plan to resign. He was caught off guard. The decision seemed drastic and rash. Anakin wanted to devote his all time and energy to investigating the tragedy that appeared to be systematically dismantling him. In an effort to reason with him, he reminded him that his emotions would impact his judgment and his findings negatively. Obi-Wan reminded him that Padme would never want this for him and the children wouldn't want their father to go on like this. He reminded him the Chancellor had appointed the best detectives in the Coruscant Security Force to make a thorough determination while the Jedi were spread too thin to focus on the matter. But it just irritated him more. Anakin snorted and said Padme would want him to know why this happened and the children would understand. Realizing his determination now matched the depth of pain in his friend's eyes, Obi-Wan did not press and instead resigned to assist in any way.

"Of great value and weight, are your thoughts, Master Kenobi." A familiar old voice carried comfort in its tone.

Obi-Wan turned his head towards the voice and met the wise brown eyes of Master Yoda. He was seated in his hoverchair, floating high enough to be eye level with him. "I couldn't help thinking of him today."

"I know." The diminutive Jedi answered, nodding his head. "Deny it, I can't, that I too think of him…from time to time." Yoda looked through the window at the view of Coruscant and continued, "Confident I am though, of his recovery and his return."

"Master, he has been like this for nearly a year. You don't really believe that, do you?"

"I do."

"I'm not certain of that. He has lost a lot, Master. His children are gone. Padme is…gone. And he's resigned from the Order. He has nothing left but this investigation that has now become a method of torture."

Yoda sadly cast his eyes downward as his ears slightly drooped. "Consumes him this great pain does. For him, nothing else there is." He looked back at Obi-Wan, "Nothing, but the desire to find reason where there is such pain."

"I can't help feeling there must be something I can do to help him through this."

"Nothing more can you do." Yoda turned to continue along the corridor. "Advise him, you can. Be there for him, you can. But find his own way, he must. And find it, he will."

At first, there was nothing but darkness. A darkness that was unforgiving and withholding. It was a darkness that was infinite and cold. And then an ambiguous form appeared before him and slowly gained resolution until the image became distinct. As soon as her face became clear, he felt as if he was home again after months at war. To feel the smoothness of her skin under his fingertips, to smell Nubian flowers in her hair, to hear the sound of her joy was like nothing else in life. She smiled at him and called his name.

Ani

In an instant, she was wrapped in his arms and his nose was penetrated by the scent Nubian flowers. She moved her hands gently up and down his back; a gesture that she often used to convey that things would be okay. He kissed her as if he would never see her again. Unbidden, the tears began to pour down his cheeks. He couldn't help mixing expressions of love and apology together. There was much to apologize for. There was much of his love that needed to be expressed. However, in this place that they met, time was not forgiving and didn't allow for much more than muttered words, and a passionate kiss. They both knew this. Deep pools of watery brown eyes looked up into his. She shook her head slowly and spoke painful words just below a whisper…

Not yet

He knew what it meant, but how he wished he could remain there with her. She shrank from him, sadly diminishing in the quiet dark that surrounded them. And slowly the pain in his chest returned…the pain of a reality he could not escape. There was still much he had to do…

Anakin jerked himself out of his sleep. He looked around and discovered all of Coruscant was around him. He was sitting in an easy chair that he had hauled out to the middle of the docking pad on the verandah. He looked down and saw the gleam of the moonlight on a half empty liquor bottle that lay in his lap. He leaned forward, and rested his head in his hands and silently beckoned the force for mercy.

Every time he slept, he would dream of her. He would be reunited with Padme briefly and then pulled away from her by cruel existence. Eventually, he mused, he would permanently ease his pain and free himself of the dread of waking up. For now all he had was a temporary pain reliever, which was evident in the bottles that littered the verandah.

Anakin raised his head and stood up, knocking aside an empty liquor bottle lying faithfully beside his feet. He was shirtless, barefoot and his tawny hair disheveled. He hadn't shaved in a few days and proof of that was apparent in the shadow appearing on his face. The state of the tortured hero was laid bare before the eyes of Coruscant…And Anakin couldn't care less. His lean muscular body didn't show any signs of neglect, and rather reflected a body that was able and a spirit that was impotent in the midst of grief. Anakin moved to the very edge of the platform. He curled his toes to grip the edge and looked down at the city below…and that feeling emerged again. It would be so easy, too easy to end the misery, to finally force the nightly reunions into one permanent session of lovemaking and eternal bliss. He wanted so badly to be free of feeling lost and hollow. He could be with her again and never have to worry about being parted. There would be no anger or misery, no hurt or fear. But his mind's eye saw the faces of Luke and Leia and the pain that would be passed on to them if he satisfied this feeling. He grimaced.

The former Jedi turned from the edge and slowly walked inside. The apartment was now a home of continuous torture and trauma. Padme was in every inch of it. He would walk into the sitting area and see her there on the couch smiling up at him. He would go into her office and see her behind her desk working. He'd see her on the balcony, brushing her hair, swollen with their children. She was there on the steps to the bedroom, beckoning him with a curling finger and a mischievous gleam in her eye. After she died, he refused to sleep in the bedroom. He could never find the strength to ascend the steps leading to the bedroom. It was the last place they were together. The memories are more intense there, and so the pain. Anakin would close his eyes against the shimmering and fading images in an attempt to maintain his sanity, but the sound of her laughter and the sound of her voice would infiltrate his defenses. The walls would betray him and the sounds from the past would echo like ripples in water. Every decibel of it was like a pin prick to his heart. The desire to touch her again would reawaken and the inability to satisfy it brought the pain of her absence. He endured this repeated agony because he blamed himself for her death. He walked through the halls of that apartment as a living lamentation of Padme Amidala Skywalker. Several times a day their last encounter would replay in his mind and the only way to ease the pain was to drown in the intoxicating elixirs he kept behind the bar.

Weeks after Padme's death, Ruwee and Jobal offered their help with the children. Luke and Leia were only four years old and Anakin was too distraught to care for them properly. Though he loved them more than life, he felt they deserved better and decided it would be best if they remained in the care of their grandparents. Against their better judgment, Anakin would not give up the apartment nor would he join the children on Naboo. Instead, he resigned to keep in touch when he could.

Anakin did not go to the funeral. Nor did he attend the memorial service or her wake. It was too painful and too public. No. He waited until the crowd and sensationalism died down. He didn't bother going to her grave site. As far as he was concerned, she wasn't really there anyway. There was no body to bury. On a rainy night months after her death, he visited the statue erected in her honor in the Theed palace gardens. He spent hours there, staring into her likeness, wishing he could be with her once more, crying and begging her to forgive him. Before leaving, he swore a blood oath that he would be devoted to finding out the truth behind her death. Anakin could not and would not accept the Security Force detectives' "freak accident" ruling. He decided to throw himself into the investigation because he owed her that much; electing to remain frozen in time, self-confined in a prison of grief, allowing it to dismantle him piece by piece.