One-shot AU for Revenge of the Sith. While I've grown to appreciate ROTS over the years, I was always left cold by Anakin's actions as he met Padme on Mustafar. No disrespect to George Lucas, but I'd rather Anakin not be confined to that nasty suit. And while I'm tossing wishes at unicorns, I'd really prefer that he not be, y'know, an evil tyrant.
So, here's my take.
It's been pulsing like a live wire since it invaded his body. Whereas the lightness always seemed so smooth, effortless, flowing yet never overpowering, the dark side is insistent, demanding, almost goading him to use his power so others will be awed and beholden.
Where the light was about artistry and finesse, this darkness seems about raw, greedy power.
Anakin dashes from the tower amid a backdrop of rising fire, darkness surging through his veins. The scent of acrid burning seems intensified in his nostrils, the flames bitter in his mouth.
He's both apprehensive and relieved to see her.
Padme. You will help balance this masterful, terrifying new part of me.
But his wife's face… It's etched with worry, ripples of fear emanating as she closes the distance between them. Glimpsing her rounded belly unhidden should soften his anxiety, but it succeeds only in amplifying it. This power… it's so intoxicating that the shackles of Jedi teachings shed quickly. He feels utterly invincible as he reaches for his wife, pulling her into his arms with a breath of assurance that she's close, that she's safe.
I'm saving you, he reminds himself, banishing shards of light from his cluttered mind. I'll save you and our little one. I promise.
His head throbs as her elegant fingers touch his cheekbones, eyes searching his for… what? The pulse in his body is insistent now, so disorienting that he hears only snippets of her words clearly. Obi-Wan. Terrible things. Her words escape as quickly as her terror builds, her hands clutching him as his body winds tighter with this black force. There is demand in the way it readies his limbs for battle, courses with vicious purpose through the sinew of his muscle, coils for attack.
He said you've gone to the dark side.
He tries to temper his answers with the mischief of the Anakin he was before, to relieve her of upset. She's heavy with their baby; she shouldn't be distressed. But he feels her fear. He doesn't have to read it in the way her mouth drops open or the narrowing of her cobalt eyes. Her doubt and her anguish rise as if they are his own.
Why, by the will of the Sith, does he continue to hear the echo of his former master's voice in the recesses of his mind? This is not your path, Anakin.
It is his path. He cannot look back to who he was. Anakin was gullible and deceived, stripped of the respect he'd spent a lifetime trying to earn. Between the sorrow and the scars, he'd brought glory to the Jedi Order as its champion, its Chosen One, its hero with no fear, and how had he been acknowledged?
With distrust. Rebuke. Reprimand.
It's clawing at his control, the way she retreats from their embrace and looks upon him with growing suspicion. A gnawing sense of caged violence swirls through him, seeking an opening to display his supremacy. His voice lowers to an ominous octave. It is not a request when he commands her to speak no more of his former mentor. He is no longer Obi-Wan's padawan; he is the master now in every nuance except by those insignificant standards of the Jedi.
He is no longer a Jedi. He is Lord Vader of the Sith, a leader of immense influence and undisputable power.
He senses something more than her shock as she rejects him with characteristic diplomacy: "You are going down a path I can't follow!" His dark senses have sharpened; there's a tremor of betrayal inching near, heightening his agitation.
"Because of Obi-Wan?" The second he utters the name, the Jedi master's presence is inwardly confirmed. The darkness gathers like a hurricane in Anakin's chest, lashing with venom as the newly-minted Lord Vader prepares to strike, hands clenching.
He is no longer interested in Padme's protests. She has pledged her loyalty to the Jedi, to Obi-Wan, he realizes as his former master strolls cautiously from the deck of his wife's vessel, face taut.
Obi-Wan. His deceit, and Padme's, seems glaring now. How long have they conspired, cavorted, planned this treason? The images animate in his mind: His noble mentor scheming with his simpering wife, masterminding his demise. He can almost hear Padme's sultry murmurs, see Obi-Wan's gunmetal eyes dim in appreciation of her pale skin tangled in silky Nabooian sheets…
My wife! he snarls like an untamed beast from within. My home. My bedchamber!
They will learn what it means to defile Lord Vader. Both of them.
Anakin glances at Obi-Wan with an inward smirk that translates to his yellowed eyes. Yes, Obi-Wan. You are wise to fear me.
Padme's plea goes unheard as the darkness continues to build like a tempest waiting to be unleashed. "…Come back. I love you!"
Ripe, no, eager for battle, Anakin balances on the balls of his boots as the black fury begins to seep from him, starting with an enraged accusation to his wife: "Liar! You brought him here to kill me!"
Her head is shaking in horrified denial even as his ire explodes. Her touch had once reduced him to a quivering fool, but no longer. Anakin was her lovestruck husband; Vader is her lord, and she will bow to his power, so she will never again be swayed…
I'm saving her, he repeats as he raises his metallic hand, gloved fingers slowly pinching together as she cries "No!" into his unforgiving glare. Her lovely face contorts in an expression he's never seen. Always, during times of fear, he has been the one to soothe, protect, comfort.
Never have her eyes reflected such alarm because of him. Never have her petite hands clenched at her own throat in agonized panic because of him. His fingers have navigated her supple skin at will, brushed and teased and caressed her into blissful madness, but they now threaten to extinguish her in seconds.
"Let her go, Anakin!" His former master advances, voice thundering through the chorus of eruptions. Padme's skin is turning pale as she flutters near unconsciousness. Anakin's eyes emit a sickly glow as the staccato pulse pounds in his temple.
His thumb and forefinger nearly touch as her terror flows through him, immersed so deeply that it's nearly staggering. She exudes anguish, disbelief, naked desperation to save…
I can forgive what you've done, he thinks, the rationale Anakin Skywalker would have applied completely extinct. I'll save you.
"You're killing her!"
Obi-Wan's bellow knifes into his trance. Before Anakin can unleash his powers on his new nemesis, a flash of… something… beams through the darkness in a jagged burst of light. The drumbeat in his head silences, freeing his mind to a shimmer of stunning radiance that blinds him to anything but its brilliance. Through the grime of Mustafar, through the oppressive heat of its volcanic energy, through the midnight pallor that has coated his soul, a ray of gold, so pure, pierces his addled heart.
A steady thrum whispers, calms the calamity of his mind, cleanses the darkness. One stark beat at a time, until it divides into two. The gentle rhythm calls to him, methodically hypnotizing Anakin until the clarity of its origin nearly brings him to his knees.
By the Force, there are two. My daughter. My son. Pristine and unharmed, Force signatures blazing, despite the turmoil in their mother. Despite the monster their father has suddenly become.
Alive. Innocent. Utterly dependent. The finest fragments of Padme and himself, fused mystically into beings that will transcend them both.
He could linger in this realm forever, enveloped by this fragile harmony, but the hell of Mustafar intrudes, chasing the light from his vision. As if singed by an invisible flame, the hand that holds his wife's fate springs open. He gasps as Padme's eyes drift closed in a thin line, her swollen stomach lurching toward the concrete as she crumples.
"No!" he roars, diving forward. "No, no, NO, Angel!" He catches her, draws her hands from her throat as he cradles her body. Her lips part for a ravaged breath, thank the Force, but her eyes remain closed. To the world, or just to him, he doesn't have time to ponder. Suddenly, he is nine years old again, stripped of bravado, trembling in fear as the ramifications of his choices crystallize. She had enveloped him in a cloak then, not nearly as warm or comforting as her luminous smile had been, and pledged to remember him…
What have I done?
With the three lives he cherishes most in the balance, Anakin Skywalker does not hesitate. The driving vengeance that had possessed him has dissipated in the span of a moment. In its place is his old companion, always taunting: unadulterated fear.
Fear for his wife. Fear for his unborn children. Icy, clenching fear that this delicate conversion back to the light will last no longer than his turn to the dark.
He has failed them all, he knows. Like he failed Qui Gon, and Obi-Wan, and his haunting failure to rescue his mother.
Even as Padme manages the shallowest of breaths, he cannot comfort her with the hands that nearly ended her life. Palms cupped and empty, he leans forward to brush her ashen skin with his lips, his shame pronounced in the grim set of his mouth.
"I… I'm… Forgive…" he stammers, but there are no words to atone for what he's done. Slowly, Anakin stands, lifts his wife gently from the ground as he flicks his lightsaber toward Obi-Wan. It clanks obtrusively on the tarmac, skitters to rest a few inches from his former master's boot. From the set of Anakin's stare, Obi-Wan cannot be certain whether he will abscond with Padme or…
"Take her," Anakin states in neither a request nor a demand. Obi-Wan eyes the unlit saber, takes note of Anakin's defenseless state. Could be a trick of the Sith…
Except… Anakin's eyes resemble a Naboo stream, clear and free of turbulence. He no longer twitches with barely controlled energy; the menacing chasm Obi-Wan sensed in the Force hours ago has quieted.
He looks a bit like the scamp Obi-Wan first encountered on Tatooine – clever and bold with promise, eyes too wisened for one so young.
"I am a person, and my name is Anakin!"
So much has changed, and so much hasn't changed at all, as Anakin speaks in a low, deliberate tone. "Regardless of what I have done, I beg you to save them." His voice falters for a moment, overcome, as he scans his wife's face. "I tried, but I – The things I believed – " Life, dark and light, drains from him as his mouth trembles and his hands clench around Padme. "They are innocent. Please save them, Master, because I cannot!"
Innocent? Obi-Wan yearns to snap. Like the younglings in the Temple? Like your Jedi brethren left defenseless by unprovoked attacks?
Anakin senses Obi-Wan's hesitancy, and his desperation escalates. The balance of darkness and light teeters recklessly in his consciousness. Now, with pristine clarity, he understands what he must do, the one thing he could not before, but is his family's lone chance for salvation…
"I deserve no forgiveness," Anakin grits. "I will regret the choices I have made for the rest of my days and willingly accept whatever retribution comes to me. My fate is sealed."
For the first time, he actually feels the sweltering heat of Mustafar, perspiration sheeting his body as it clings to Padme's. So lifeless, so pale, yet his children's Force signatures thrive even in this forlorn place.
Force, give me the strength to follow your teaching as intended, this one time…
"I know you feel them, Master. Our twins will soon be born and Padme may die because I have failed her miserably. Take her to the nearest med center. She is weak but alive, and our children are restless to meet their mother."
"And what becomes of you, padawan?" Obi-Wan questions bitterly, eyes narrowing as he continues to circle Anakin in a defensive posture. "You continue as Sidious' willing mercenary?"
Obi-Wan's stance does not falter as Anakin takes the first steps toward him. Padme has not stirred; her essence withers as he pleads with the famous Jedi Negotiator. Not for me, Anakin implores of Obi-Wan through the Force. For her. For them.
"No." A grimace of shame crosses Anakin's face. His shoulders sag, but his hold remains firm on Padme. "I-I don't know what happens next. They won't have to worry about me; neither will you. I won't be near."
He will not see his children as they enter the world – with robust squalls and wayward kicks, if their signatures are any indication. He will not know if either shares his crystalline eyes or his mother's birthmark. They will be his, but he won't be theirs.
Obi-Wan surveys him with critical eyes, searching the crevices of this man who he has known – and loved as his brother – for what feels like a lifetime.
"Who are you now?" the Jedi master demands, hand loosening on his lightsaber. Still at the ready, but unneeded, perhaps. "Anakin or Vader? Jedi or Sith?"
Anakin's demeanor seems to shift at his former master's question. The deadly calm crumbles, chest beginning to heave as the magnitude of what he has done reverberates in his soul.
"I am a Jedi!" he rejoins heatedly, unshakable pride dripping in his tone. "And a human being. A slave. A father! A husband. A Sith. A son. A pod racer. A brother. A murderer. An innocent!"
He enunciates each distinctly, eyes unwavering from Obi-Wan's. The Jedi master, for all of his impeccable training and instinct, cannot fathom which of the categories his former pupil embodies in this moment. A smattering of all, he realizes, which could have been the problem all along.
"I am all of these people," the boy from Tatooine booms, "and I cannot banish the pieces of me that contradict the ideals of your precious Order!"
At once, Padme utters a quavering moan, her head burrowing into Anakin's chest. She stiffens, still not conscious, as Anakin feels the first spasm ripping through her abdomen. A surge of energy rises within the Force, innocence reaching with purpose for something, someone of likeness.
"There's no time!" Anakin frets, striding toward Obi-Wan, who, having also sensed the twins' initial foray into the world, immediately accepts Padme into his arms. He knows Anakin can subdue him with a mere flick of his hand; the marks staining Padme's throat are stark reminders.
"I'll take her." Obi-Wan is already walking briskly toward the Nabooian ship, Anakin following at a cautious distance. The animosity between them has not abated, but an unspoken truce holds as Obi-Wan reaches the gangplank.
Anakin reaches a faltering hand toward his wife's still form, and Obi-Wan does nothing to shield her.
"I do love them, Master. If that is my failing as a Jedi, so be it. I hope they'll be my salvation as a man." Anakin brushes his fingertips over Padme's swelling middle, a slow glide, savoring a tiny ripple of hands and toes nearly ready to be unbound.
"Sith don't love, Anakin," Obi-Wan reminds pointedly, but it's a gentle rebuke, something for his former padawan to ponder during the next months that Obi-Wan predicts will be both solitary and brutal.
The droids have joined them now, Artoo's multitude of beeps and whistles mingled with Threepio's excited suggestions to "exit this terrible place this very moment."
Neither man knows quite how to acknowledge that a once-resolute bond has unraveled to a tenuous filament.
"May… may the Force be with you, Master," Anakin offers, voice as low and hollow as Obi-Wan has ever heard it.
Obi-Wan cannot look away from those eyes – once so vibrant with boldness and mischief. Though returned to a cool cerulean hue, the Jedi master wonders if Anakin's eyes will ever show such life again.
"May you find the peace you need within the light of the Force," Obi-Wan finishes, turning with Padme in his arms and not a look back. Within moments, as the Nabooian starfighter disappears above the shadows of Mustafar, Anakin curls into himself, head bowing as his shoulders fall.
He collapses to his knees on the tarmac, palms coated with soot as they come to his face in dazed relief and desolation. Only the Force itself can judge him now. He has done something of which he was once incapable, and he hopes, prays, wills that it is enough to save his family.
Train yourself to let go... of everything you fear to lose, Master Yoda had counseled.
As Anakin kneels on the tarmac, fingers digging painfully as they'd once clawed the sand near his mother's buried corpse on Tatooine, the remnants of his choices reverberate. Mercifully, he senses the steady rhythm of Padme's breathing and the awe-inspiring strum of twin heartbeats in her womb.
Yet Palpatine's thirst for vengeance already roils through the Force.
Anakin rests his face in palms filthy with grime and recrimination, regulating his breath. Palpatine's fighter draws closer, yet he is strangely unafraid. He must stay long enough, just long enough…
It will set a course for the rest of his life, he guesses. Dangling himself as provocative bait for the Sith lord he has now renounced. Draw Sidious just close enough so his family can remain hidden. Obi-Wan will see to that.
It is the only way he can protect them now.
He rises, squares his shoulders until his cape billows majestically in the stifling wind. Palpatine's ship will land in four minutes. He will be in the air within two.
He has finally let go.
I'm a feedback junkie, so if you took the time to read, please take the time to let me know what you think of this. There could be more, if anyone's interested. :)