"Just for once, let me look at you with my own eyes."

Luke slowly peeled away the mask, his hands shaking. The light hit my face suddenly, and I blinked in response. When I focused back on Luke, his eyes were full of wonder and caring. He put a hand on my shoulder, wanting to show me what he was feeling.

"Now go, my son," I said, my speech was much slower now, and fuzzy, like my brain felt. I didn't let this get in the way of the pleasure of calling Luke 'my son'. He stared blankly at me. "Leave me!" I sputtered out.

Luke shook his head, his eyes full of fear. "No," he assured me, "you're coming with me. I'll not leave you here. I've got to save you."

I felt my spirit leaving, but I held on fast. I had to tell Luke. "You already have, Luke," I choked out. My eyes shone with sincerity, and Luke recognized it. He looked both confused and proud. "You were right," I whispered. The end was coming now . . . "You were right about me. Tell your sister . . . you were right."

Luke's eyes were full of pain, and I used the last of my energy to try and give him a smile. My eyes closed peacefully, and I let the Force draw me away from my body.

"Father," Luke said intensely as he grabbed at my shoulder. "I won't leave you!" Slowly, ever so slowly, Luke let my limp form lay down. He kept his hand on my shoulder for a moment, then slowly pulled away, knowing it would be the last time he would ever touch me.

When I was sure that Luke would be all right, I let myself go and became one with the Force. In a microsecond I was jerked into another time and place. I felt the pull, and felt the heaviness of my weight again. I opened my eyes, expecting a bright light or something like that. Instead, I found that I was sitting in a small room. In front of me was a desk, and behind it sat Obi-Wan. Not the Obi-Wan who I had murdered . . . the Obi-Wan I remembered from before I came to the dark side.

In shock, I sharply took my breath in. Obi-Wan stared at me, waiting for me to speak. I looked down at my hands, feeling something different. When I recognized my hands, my *real* hands, a thrill formed in my heart. With further inspection, I found that my body was still intact. Whatever form that had been chosen for me in the afterlife, it was before the Clone Wars.

Realizing again that I wasn't alone in the room, I snapped my head up to see Obi-Wan. A look of understanding crossed his face. "Where am I?" I asked meekly.

Obi-Wan looked thoughtful for a moment. Then he answered carefully, "You are everywhere and nowhere. The afterlife, I suppose, you could call it. There are many names."

I nodded slowly, comprehending. "Why am I here?" I asked.

"You're dead," Obi-Wan said bluntly. "You do remember dying, right?"

"Yes." I looked down at my hands. "I am one with the Force now. More strong, more powerful than ever, in your words."

Obi-Wan smirked at me. "I thought you never listened."

I looked up sharply. He was joking with me? "I was Dark," I finally settled for saying. I looked back down at my lap in guilt. "I killed so many people . . ." I choked slightly, then looked up and caught his eye meaningful. "I hurt so many more."

Obi-Wan looked away. I saw the pain clouded there beforehand though. "That doesn't matter," Obi-Wan assured me. "You were wrong-minded, but still good. There was always an innocence in you, Anikan, always--"

I exhaled deeply. "What did you say?"

Obi-Wan looked puzzled. "Hmm?"

"You called me Anakin," I said, rolling the name on my tongue, testing it. "It's been a long time since anyone's called me that," I finished softly.

"It's been a long time since you've been Anakin," Obi-Wan pointed out. There was a tense silence, but Obi-Wan finally cleared his throat and interrupted it. "You're free to roam around, you know."

I looked up questionably. He was suggesting something, but I wasn't sure what. "I am?" I finally asked testily.

"There are celebrations in your honor," Obi-Wan continued.

I sucked in my breath deeply. "No!" I cried out. I calmed down a little. "Why?" I asked. "Are they celebrating the fact that I killed millions, that I brought down the Republic? Are they celebrating that I was a machine, a mindless killing machine?"

"Negative thoughts are blinding you," Obi-Wan observed. "They're celebrating the fact that the Empire has been crushed. They're celebrating that *you*, Anakin, fulfilled the prophecies and brought balance to the force. They're celebrating that the Emperor is dead, because of you."

I nodded, accepting this. "But . . ."

"No, buts. You may have trodden on the Dark Side, Anakin, but you got there in the end. I think everyone here is more concerned with the end of the Empire than with their own lives. Whether you took them or not."

I nodded again, but I still didn't feel any less guilty.

"You could see Pad--"

I put a halting hand up, not wanting him to finish that sentence. Padmé . . . my heart filled with a sadness I hadn't felt since . . . no, I wouldn't let myself think about those things. I looked up at Obi-Wan and gave him a grim, forced smile. "Let's go celebrate."

A split second later we were on a planet, watching little bear-like creatures dance, sing, and play the drums on their enemies' helmets. Yoda was already watching.

I looked at the people, wanting a disctraction from Yoda. I couldn't face him.

"Balanced, the Force is," Yoda said after a moment.

"All thanks to Annie," Obi-Wan said fondly.

I ignored them pointedly. They were forgetting Vader. They were forgetting that I had first unbalanced the sides, making the Dark Force stronger, strong enough to build the Empire.

"Pain your heart is filled with," Yoda said directly to me.

I looked him in the eye. "Do I not have a reason?"

Yoda raised his eyebrows at me. "Self-pity has always served you well."

I clenched my jaw and turned back to the people. My eyes caught a glint of gold and I gasped slightly. "Is that C-3PO?" I asked, pointing. "And Artoo! Still friends . . ."

"Yes," Obi-Wan said. "They are an amusing pair, aren't they. And, Anakin, I think there are some familiar figures coming our way."

Indeed, Luke leaned on a rock and watched us. I was surprised to see recognition in his eyes. He could see us. His face took on a smile, and I couldn't help but smile back, then share a look with Obi-Wan. A second later a girl came up from behind and slung her arm around him. He turned to smile, and I felt a warm glow set upon me.

"Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker . . ." I said, shaking my head. "An unlikely pair."

Obi-Wan gave me a long look. He must have decided not to say anything, because he turned away suddenly.

"What?" I demanded. "They're okay, right?"

Obi-Wan turned to me gravely. "I doubt that Leia and Luke will ever involve themselves in a relationship as they *are* brother and sister."

The words weighted heavy on me. Leia . . . needles . . . torture . . . I had tortured my own daughter. I had destroyed her home planet, everything she'd ever loved. I had hoped that, somehow, my daughter was unaffected by my actions but . . . And how could I not have seen it? Was she not exactly like her mother? She was a good ruler, a head-strong woman who never gave up. She never screamed during the torture . . . so much like her mother . . .

"I want to go," I informed Obi-Wan. He nodded in understanding, and we returned to the office. This time I saw that it was in the old Jedi Temple, before it had been destroyed.

"You didn't know Leia was the twin?" Obi-Wan asked quietly.

"I'm glad," I whispered. "I had her in my clutches so many times. And how could I have not seen it?"

"Sometimes we don't see things that are too painful. Somewhere you did know it was your daughter. Or, at least, Padmé's daughter, that much is apparent. Your good side was strong even in the darkest of times, Anakin."

"And the dark side is still strong even know. I feel anger. Anger at myself. And . . . fear."

"Fear of what, Annie?" Obi-Wan pressed, leaning forward.

"Fear of Padmé," I admitted reluctantly. "Fear that she has not forgiven me."

"Why do you think she has not forgiven you?"

"If I can't forgive myself -- how can she? I did so many horrible things . . . I *forced* her to fall in love with me, then ripped her heart out."

"I have forgiven you, Anakin," Obi-Wan said quietly. "You forget, you also ripped my own out."

I looked up into his eyes and felt the need to say everything. "You were my father," I blurted out. "You were all I had for so long, and I killed you. I killed everything."

"What are you afraid of, Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked again.

"I'm afraid that Padmé *has* forgiven me. I couldn't bear it then . . . I'm afraid that she still loves me. I know I'm undeserving of all these things. It would be most painful of all to find out she loves me as she did the day we were married."

"Do you still love her?"

"Of course!" I said forcefully. "I loved her forever. Every day. Even when I was on the Dark side, I still loved her. I felt guilt over what I did to her."

"You didn't kill her, Annie."

"I as good as did! I watched. I stood there, frozen, and watched as the one person who I cared about with all of my being was tortured to death by my Master. She looked at me, Obi-Wan and--" I felt tears spring to my eyes. I let them flow. It had been so long since I'd been able to cry. The feeling was welcome with open arms. "--she forgave me. She still loved me. I loved her too, and I let her die."

"What's done is done, Anakin. Everything turned out all right in the end. Now you need to find her. You need to tell her how you feel. What good is the past? All that matters is now, because now is eternity."

I smiled at his wise words and wiped at my cheeks. "You are still my father," I told him gently.

He smiled warmly at me. "And you, Anakin, are still my son."

I smiled back, then closed my eyes. I focused on the Force and sought out Padmé's presence. The connection between us was still deeper than words, and I found her easily. She was in our home, the one we had inhabited for such a short time on Naboo. I traveled mentally there, and when I opened my eyes, the familiar living room met me.

There was a sound from the bedroom. "Annie?" a soft voice called out. A soft voice that I recognized. I panicked. I couldn't face her -- not now. I began to prepare but-- "No. Don't leave."

I slowly turned around, and Padmé was there, standing at our bedroom doorway, as beautiful as ever. Her face was filled with joy, with longing, with . . . forgiveness.

I stumbled backwards. "Please don't look at me like that," I said, unconsciously repeating her words from one of our first meetings.

"Like what?" Padmé asked.

I turned away from her and walked to a window. Outside was a scene perfect in every way. A waterfall in our own front yard. "Don't love me."

Her presence came closer, and she was mere inches from skin to skin contact. "You can't command the impossible."

"Don't love me," I repeated more firmly. I turned around to face her, and got caught up in her eyes. "It has brought you nothing but pain. *I* have brought you nothing but pain."

"You also brought me love," Padmé said. "You brought me Leia. She was . . . she was my everything." Padmé looked away.

"See? Pain," I said, nodding to her face.

"You were on the wrong path, Anakin," Padmé reassured me. She put a hand on my arm. The electricity so familiar filled my senses. "I know you're good. I always knew you were good. Palpatine took advantage of someone so innocent and young and . . . pure."

"I was never pure."

Padmé smiled wickedly at me. "True," she admitted with a suggestive shrug. "But you were where it counted. You were but a child, and he kept you for a toy. That wasn't *you* Anakin."

"It was I who broke your heart," I burst forth with. It had been laying so heavily on my heart. I needed to get it out in the open. "It was I who . . . who . . . cheated . . ." Tears sprang to my eyes and I broke the connection of our eyes.

Padmé's emotions became painful at the memory. She moved her hand up to cup my cheek and gently led my face back to look into her eyes. "You were brainwashed. I was too upset to realize at the time. If I . . . If I had only forgiven you then, would all of that had happened?"

"Let's not dwell on the unpleasant," I interrupted.

"This coming from you!" Padmé's eyes sparkled.

I smiled at her. "Yoda said that I wallow in self-pity. I can think of a few other things I'd rather wallow in . . ."

Padmé grinned at me. "I love you," she said softly, her gaze becoming intense.

"I love you more," I reiterated. "And this time I won't mess up. I want to live eternity just loving you."

"And, just think, soon we'll have Leia and Luke with us," Padmé said.

"I hope not for a long time!" I said. "They need to live long, happy lives. So do we for that matter."

"We will," Padmé assured me. She brought the hand on my cheek to the back of my neck and pulled my head down firmly. What choice did I have but to oblige? I met her lips in a kiss that quickly turned passionate with longing and finally having. Padmé could always make everything better. I smiled against her lips, then pressed against her more forcefully. She could also inflict common sense upon people.

I pulled away suddenly. "You're sure--?"

Padmé laughed and nodded. "You won't give up will you?"

"It's just hard to believe . . . after all I did . . ."

"Forgive and forget. I forgave years ago, and you keep reminding me!"

I smiled and kissed her again. There were other, more important things I wanted to remind her of.

* * * * *

AN: Personally, I think it's a bit weird. I wrote it anyways though. Reviews are a great way to reassure my insecurities. Sorry about spelling and grammer and any facts that aren't correct. At least this time I spelled Obi-Wan Kenobi's name right! I feel like I'm really growing as a person . . . *wink*

I have resolved to write one fic a day until the new movie comes out to occupy myself. I have no idea if this will work out, but we'll see.

~Haley