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Finding Balance

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Darth Vader watched the Millennium Falcon blast out of the Death Star hanger, a monolithic black statue above the crumpled robe and dropped lightsaber. His respirator hissed as he breathed out, summoning the 'saber to his hand and striding from the deck, pulling him comm. from his belt as he walked.

"Tarkin, the ship has left the Death Star, commence tracking as ordered. I will be in my quarters, and have no wish to be disturbed, is that understood?"

"Perfectly, Lord Vader, we will track those rebels, they cannot escape us," Tarkin's obsequious reply came back.

Vader cut the channel and strode into his quarters, sensing the presence immediately.

"They are away?" asked the familiar voice.

"They are away, my Master, but…"

"But you still don't see why you couldn't take the children?" his Master asked from where he was leaning against the wall, beside the door.

"Yes, Master," he acknowledged, turning.

"Because if we fail Anakin, if we are wrong, if we have mistimed this, then they will truly be the last hope of defeating Palpatine, even if it would mean handing all back over to the Light," he sighed, sneering over the last word.

"We will not fail, my Master, I am sure, we have sacrificed too much to allow him to defeat us," Vader said stoutly, offering out the lightsaber he held, the one he had picked up in the bay.

"I have missed you, my young apprentice," Obi-Wan sighed, pushing away from the wall to stand before the towering figure, and taking the 'saber before

tapping lightly on the armored chest.

"Shall we dispense with the trappings of our long subterfuge?"

Vader reached up and flicked off the respirator, before tugging off the helmet and mask, cool yellow irises gazing steadily down at Obi-Wan from a pale, yet unmarked face, under dark blonde hair cut even closer than it had been in his days as a Padawan in the Temple.

"Your curls," Obi-Wan said regretfully, stroking his fingers over the severe cut.

"They will grow back," Vader shrugged, stroking a gloved hand lightly over his mentor's weathered face.

"I am more concerned about you," he pointed out.

"Nothing that a long hot shower and a few chemicals won't take care of, for the most part. I suspect there will be more real white in my hair than I appreciate when this stuff is washed off," he laughed in dark amusement.

"It almost stopped my heart, seeing you look so old, so frail. I thought for one horrible moment we had waited too long, then of course, you Force jumped like a Antraki gazelle chased by a Rancor," he snorted.

"Whatever works, as long as everyone now thinks I'm dead, we have an advantage."

"What of Yoda?"

"He is no threat to us, he is old, weak, and trapped, he cannot get off Dagobah unless someone with a ship goes there for him. He can stay where he is for now, if we do not succeed, young Luke will need the little troll," Obi-Wan shrugged, sea green eyes darkening slightly as he looked up at the other man.

"Shower," he demanded, pulling the taller figure through to the other room, the dark bedchamber with its small, private, attached fresher.

/x/

Anakin lay on his side in the bed, his head propped on his prosthetic arm, while the fingers of his natural hand ghosted lightly though Obi-Wan's hair, now restored to its proper red/brown tones, although as predicted, laced with white, across skin no longer artificially aged, before stroking over unfamiliar scars on the warm skin of his Master's back.

"I fell, in the canyons, dodging a troupe of Tuskan raiders who were too focused for me to scare off, the first year I was laying low on Tatooine," Obi-Wan murmured sleepily, answering the unspoken question.

"I should have been with you, guarding your back," Anakin growled darkly.

"That would rather have defeated the point of lying low, apprentice mine. Besides, of the two of us, you had the more dangerous task as it was, your risk of being discovered was far higher than mine. If Palpatine were not so arrogant in his assurance that you were his…"

"He was always arrogant, he always thought he saw all, but his own Darkness was blinding him just as much as he sneered that it blinded the Jedi," Anakin growled.

Obi-Wan rolled over onto his back, looking up at Anakin in the darkness, smiling faintly as Anakin stroked his thumb idly over Obi-Wan's cheek, before leaning down to kiss him.

"I am so glad that I will never have to call that worm Master again, I am so glad to have you back."

Obi-Wan threaded fingers into short blond hair, intending to pull Anakin back down into another kiss when he stilled, eyes losing focus and shifting to a stormy grey, flecked with yellow.

"We need to leave, now Anakin," he said slowly, rolling away from him and grabbing his clothes as soon as his vision cleared.

"Master?"

"They're about to locate the Falcon's tracker, we need to be off this space station before it takes up pursuit."

"What's wrong?"

"This station is doomed, it's going to be destroyed when it reaches its destination, we need to be off before that happens."

Anakin was up and pulling his armor back on instantly, the Vader persona snapping in around him again.

"You'll probably be faster going ahead of me, you might draw attention accidentally if you're with me, people tend to notice me regardless of what I do, here, let me give you the route to the right docking bay," Anakin said, holding out one gloved hand toward Obi-Wan's forehead.

The smaller man stepped into the contact without hesitation, making Anakin swallow a knot of love, protectiveness and pure joy that he was so trusted by this man, he could kill him with a thought in this position, and he trusted him not to, and that was why Palpatine would never wrest his loyalty from Obi-Wan. He gently implanted the route to the docking bay, and indicated Vader's private ship, and Obi-Wan vanished out of the door while Anakin pulled on his mask and helmet, remembering to turn on his respirator before stepping out into the corridor in a swirl of black.

"Tarkin, I am returning to Coruscant on urgent business," he barked into his comm. as he walked.

"But, my Lord, we have just discovered the location the escaped rebels fled to."

"Good, as soon as I am clear, follow them, you will retrieve those plans and capture the rebel leaders, failure will not be tolerated," he commanded, privately wondering how the idiotic Moff was going to manage to lose the station to the rebels, not that it mattered much, he supposed, as long as it was destroyed.

"Yes, my Lord Vader," Tarkin replied, vaguely huffily.

Vader boarded his ship, scanning quickly, and sensed his Master's muted Force presence in the passenger bay, barely registering, except to someone intimately familiar with it. He must have dropped himself into a deep trance to make sure sensors picked up no life signs other than the one that belonged here, should anyone be looking when they left. Firing up the engines, he lifted off, guiding the ship out of the bay, and away from the station, which lumbered into hyperspace as soon as they were clear.

Setting the autopilot to hold their position for the moment, he headed back into the passenger compartment, finding Obi-Wan lying on his back on one of the benches, his hands folded over his stomach, still as death. He shuddered at the thought, and reached out mentally, lightly brushing over his Master's shields, letting him know they were clear of the Death Star, and then headed back to the cockpit, pulling off his helmet and mask as he went, putting them aside. It would take at least half an hour for Obi-Wan to surface from that deep, and there was no point in setting a course until he had his Master's instructions, he might not be ready for them to head to Coruscant yet.

Instead, he used the Force to pop open a secret panel in the wall of the cockpit, pulling out a heavily shielded box, and sitting down in the pilots seat before flipping the lid open to reveal a partially disassembled lightsaber, the crystal and the power cell nestled separate to the pieces of the handle. He had been guardian of this lightsaber for a very long time; it was time to finally finish assembling it for its rightful owner.

Obi-Wan moved into the cockpit just as he was finishing it, and he looked up with a smile, holding the hilt out to him.

"Your lightsaber, my Master," he said with a smile.

"You kept hold of it, all this time?"

"Of course I did Master, it was yours," he said simply.

Turning the hilt away from Anakin, and the controls, Obi-Wan activated it, watching the crimson blade extend with a faint smile, his eyes distant.

"What are you thinking?" Anakin queried softly.

"Nothing much, just wondering how things would have been different, if I hadn't turned when I did."

"We would have destroyed each other," Anakin said with soft certainty.

Obi-Wan looked up, studying him for a long moment, and then nodded slowly, deactivating the blade and clipping the 'saber to his belt, beside the blue bladed one he had carried for so long.

"You are correct, my apprentice, we would indeed have destroyed each other," he agreed, a flash of Mustapha darting across his mind, the feeling that that would have happened regardless of which side of the divide Obi-Wan was on, and it would have been much the worse for both of them. He had planned Mustapha carefully, he had seen it coming, and prepared for it; the thought of the real Anakin being mutilated that way, truly turned into the cyborg monster the clone he had substituted there had become, made him feel sick.

"But it didn't happen, it will never happen, I would sooner die than hurt you," Anakin said intensely, possessive protectiveness surging around him.

"And I you, my apprentice, and that is why we stand a better than average chance of defeating him, because we stand strong, together. The Sith have always failed before because there is nothing but suspicion, mistrust, jealousy and a desire for power between the Master and apprentice. He may be powerful, steeped longer in the Dark side than even I have been alive, but he stands alone."

"Together always, my Master," Anakin swore, his eyes burning bright gold with the intensity of the vow, and just for a heartbeat, Obi-Wan's own eyes flared gold in response to the surge of dark, wild energy, his own Darkness briefly breaking free of the shields that had hidden it for so long from Yoda and the other Jedi, not to mention Sidious himself.

"Are we going to Coruscant now, Master?" Anakin asked, turning back to the controls as Obi-Wan slid into the co-pilot seat.

"Yes, we're not ready to confront him just yet, we need time to allow our bonds to settle back into place properly, we've been apart too long, but soon, soon we will take him. What excuse will you offer for leaving the Death Star and returning to Coruscant so conveniently before its destruction?"

"I will have to report to him finding and killing my former Jedi Master, he wanted to be personally informed of any Jedi I encountered and executed."

"He won't be suspicious, if you don't bring a body back?"

"No, I never have before, I always took…" he fell silent, his eyes flicking to Obi-Wan's belt, were two lightsabers hung.

"You took their lightsabers?"

"Yes."

Obi-Wan unclipped his Jedi lightsaber and held it out to Anakin without hesitation.

"I won't be needing it anymore," he said, shrugging. Allowing Anakin to use it to convince Palpatine that he had defeated Obi-Wan was better than destroying it.

/x/

Palpatine lounged on his throne staring out into the Coruscant night, watching the traffic streaming by, his subjects, going on about their lives as they had always done, provided they bowed to his will, of course. He heard the door hiss open and turned, eying the bulky, black armored figure who stepped in coldly.

"You left your post, Lord Vader, the Death Star has been destroyed, what excuse do you have?"

"A Jedi was with those who came to rescue the rebel princess," Vader said, going down on one knee and holding out the lightsaber, and hoping Palpatine didn't notice he hadn't addressed him as 'master', he wouldn't, ever again, unless he had to.

"Who? Who did you kill?" Palpatine asked gleefully, leaning forward to snatch the lightsaber.

"Obi-Wan Kenobi."

"Finally, you brought down your former master, and without losing any limbs this time," Palpatine cackled spitefully.

Anakin remained silent, waiting for Palpatine to dismiss him or torture him, or give him orders.

"Tell me, my apprentice, give me all the details of his death," Palpatine demanded.

Gritting his teeth mentally, Anakin told him about the battle in the hanger bay, embellishing slightly where he could, but making sure to mention that Obi-Wan's body had vanished when the lightsaber hit him, just in case someone else had already reported that to Palpatine, Anakin knew the sleemo had spies everywhere, even among his 'loyal' forces.

"Good, good, they should all be gone now," Palpatine cackled, turning back to face the windows again.

"Get out; I will summon you when I have new orders for you."

Anakin returned home, co-incidentally or not, the same apartment Padmé had once lived in, he had often wondered if Palpatine had had malicious reasons for assigning it to him, or if he had honestly thought it would please him to live there. He had long since messed with all of the security systems so that he would know if anyone was actively monitoring him, and the place was swept daily for bugs by droids he had built specifically for the purpose, so he felt safe enough calling out the moment he entered the apartment.

"I'm back, Master."

Obi-Wan wandered out of the reception room, now dressed in black pants, black boots and a black shirt, his hair slightly damp, indicating he had showered while Anakin was gone.

"How did it go?"

"He accepted my reason for leaving the Death Star, which has indeed been destroyed, although he didn't say how, and then he demanded a blow by blow account of how I killed you," Anakin snorted, pulling off the helmet and mask, and starting for the bedroom to work his way out of the armor.

"How do you hide the fact you don't need the armor when he decides to spy on you?" Obi-Wan asked curiously, following.

"The cameras are set to force info-loops into the system if it goes to active monitoring, that is, the moment the cameras are switched on. The sweeper droids take care of any other surveillance, so as long as I stay away from the balcony, I'm fine. As long as you only ever come and go from the landing bay here, he won't see you on the hall monitors before we're ready to put him out of our misery."

"Good, that's good to know. Luke destroyed it, by the way."

"Master?" Anakin asked, totally thrown by the sudden shift in direction.

"The Death Star, young Luke destroyed it, two photon torpedoes at the weak spot, just like another Skywalker I know. He will most certainly be the head of the new Jedi order."

"I do not want to be on the opposite side to my son, Master; can we not bring him to the Dark side?"

"No, no my apprentice we cannot. Balance can only be achieved when the Sith and the Jedi coexist Anakin; that is where both sides have always failed before. Each thought balance could only be achieved by the chosen one, you, choosing one side and annihilating the other, this is not so, you stand with me, in the Dark, and yet your children are the future of the Jedi. That is balance, there is no Darkness without Light, and there is no Light without Darkness. Do you understand, my Anakin?"

"I understand, my Master. The difficulty we face will not be in killing Palpatine, it will be in convincing them that they should not then kill us."

"Just so, Anakin, just so. I do not know which will distress Luke more, that I lied about his father being dead, or that I faked my death right in front of his eyes," Obi-Wan sighed.

"You know him better than I do, Master," Anakin pointed out without a single sliver of resentment or accusation.

"Yes, and that barely at all, your step-brother was somewhat truculent when it came to allowing me any contact at all with the boy," Obi-Wan hissed in disgust. 20 years on that kriffing rock with barely a glimpse of the boy he was meant to guide onto the Jedi path, the only thing he had agreed with Yoda over in a very long time, not that he would have told the troll that; it was almost enough to make him wish he had been the one to strike the death blow, to Owen Lars at least, Beru had always been a sweet natured girl, too good for that ill tempered oaf.

"Come to bed, Anakin, there is nothing more that we can do tonight, and I cannot think of a more enticing way to reaffirm our bonds," Obi-Wan sighed, pushing it all aside for now. Focus on the moment, as Qui-Gon had always insisted, first things first, solidify their bonds, kill Palpatine, and then worry about convincing the Jedi, aka Luke Skywalker, that they were not the enemy. Simple, he snorted to himself, pushing Anakin down onto the bed.

tbc