A/N: Wow, I've really divided opinions, even more so than when Leia rejected Anakin's apology way back at the end of Ch 13 and I thought that had provoked strong reactions! Many of you still seem to be enjoying the story but quite a number seem to be totally and utterly devastated with Anakin dying. I am sorry to have upset you, but his reasons for giving his life are explained in the same scene and also in view of how I plan for this story to conclude, I stand by my decision of what happened. Having said that, after this story is complete I might be persuaded to write an alternative ending next year depending on demand. I originally envisaged two other possible outcomes – a Happily Ever After of sorts, or a much, much darker one. Let me know if you're interested in reading either of these.

Now for today's update. PLEASE NOTE, THIS IS A VERY SHORT CHAPTER! There's one more full-length chapter to go after this, but this is an extremely short one dedicated for a single scene. Something of this nature deserves to stand on its own. Might be good to find a quiet moment to read it, if you can.

Disclaimer: SW not mine.


For family

Chapter 21. ... rises a phoenix

No sight, sound, nor smell. No taste, no touch. But a sense of something.

Definitely something.

Fleeting whispers of sensation, indistinct and intangible. Nothing more than a sense of the ethereal.

Gradually, oh so gradually over an indefinable length of time, oblivion evolved into awareness, like the hazy awakening from slumber where there is no determinable point when sleep stops and consciousness begins, just a seamless flow that slowly transforms into something else.

With awareness came an extraordinary sense of self, made remarkable precisely by its reinstatement highlighting its previous absence. And with it, the sense of the ubiquitous something became something more, into something familiar, and it prevailed until, finally, it became something that could be named.

The Living Force. Luminescent, alive, and astounding, a brilliant wash of life and energy of such lustre as he had never known. He marvelled, he was awed, he was humbled.

It might have been a second, or it might have been a lifetime. Time held no meaning here as his soul soared in rapture amidst an ocean of the very essence of life.

There came a voice. A voice from a time long past, long lost to the fog of old memory that he could not have recalled it if asked, but still instantly recognisable now that he heard it.

'Anakin.'

It pierced like an arrow, straight and true, right back to the time of innocence before there had been any inkling of darkness, when there was only the blazing aspiration to free his mother and all the slaves of Tatooine, the dream of being the first one to see all the planets amidst the vast blanket of stars.

He might have turned, it was difficult to tell in this place where there was only the Force, but somehow he homed in on the voice, brought its owner into focus.

He was greeted with a sight he had never thought he'd see again. The long, greying, brown hair half secured back, the moustache and beard that was an integral part of the face, the same loose Jedi robes. But what struck him the most were those eyes – kindly eyes touched by the sadness of seeing too many wars, wizened by experience.

The apparition shimmered, luminous as Obi-Wan had been. 'The Force is with you, Anakin.'

That voice! Its gentle tones soothed over him, as comforting and familiar as if he'd heard it only yesterday.

'... Master Qui-Gon ...'

'Much you have seen, but much there is still to learn.' Qui-Gon tilted his head thoughtfully, his beard shifting with the light-hearted smile that held no judgement, only compassion and the fondness that might have been for a son. 'After all these years we are together again, here at the beginning and end of all things. Perhaps now, at last, I'm meant to teach you, Anakin.'

Anakin couldn't help but stare in wonder, feeling as though he'd been thrown once more into his nine-year-old self when he'd crossed anew onto the path of destiny and the whole galaxy waited to be explored.

Buoyed by the warm gaze of the man who might have been his father, Anakin held dear the memories of his mother, wife, children, and the man who might have been his brother, and walked whole-heartedly from the darkness of his past into his new future.

He didn't look back.