Anakin frowned at his idiot grandson all but praying to the warped remains of his old mask. “Why bother asking me here if you’re not even going to listen?”
Obi-Wan coalesced beside him, shaking his head. “A Skywalker ignoring the wisdom of his elders?” he tutted. “I’m shocked, just shocked.”
Anakin turned away to hide his smile. In the grand scheme of things, they had been enemies for longer than they had ever been friends, and, yet, somehow in death they had fallen back into the easy camaraderie of the war years. It was amazing all the things you could forgive when you were one with the Force. “He’s a Solo,” Anakin pointed out once he’d gotten his face back under control, “and I always listened to the wisdom of my elders.”
“Yes,” Obi-Wan agreed dryly, “and then you went and did whatever you wanted regardless.”
There was a time Anakin would have argued about it. Back during the Clone Wars he would have insisted he had only done it when he’d known his way was right, or maybe he’d have rattled off a few times his failure to follow orders had saved the day. He didn’t now though. Retrospect had blunted his pride and death had made him wise. “My biggest problem was figuring out which elders I should have been listening to.”
As he left to answer a summons from his mater, Ben, or whatever ridiculous name his grandson was calling himself these days, touched Vader’s mask with a look of reverence and longing. The second he was out the door, Anakin launched himself at the horrible little shrine to all the worst mistakes of his life with a wordless snarl, only to pass through it like a breeze. Without Ben here, he didn’t have enough of a tether to do anything. Of course, even with him there was nothing Anakin could do to pull the boy back from the dark.
Obi-Wan just sighed. “Yes, you Skywalkers do seem to have trouble with that one.”
“Don’t,” Anakin warned. He wasn’t entirely sure which one he was speaking to, his grandson or his son-in-law. He wasn’t even sure why he bothered. Ben summoned him all the time, but never seemed to hear him, and Solo was about as Force-Sensitive as a post. Neither one listened now. Ben just hardened his heart as his father kept walking towards him with his hands open and his eyes shining with love. The man had to know how this would end, but he just kept coming. This was why the Jedi had cautioned against attachments. Love left you vulnerable just as often as it gave you strength.
Solo’s body tumbled from the catwalk as the last of the light drained from the sky, dragging the world down, down into darkness. Anakin felt his children’s grief reverberate through the Force as Solo’s companions screamed out their rage in a hail of blaster fire. Luke had screamed like that when Vader, when Anakin, had cut Obi-Wan down. Ben was reeling back from the wound at his side and his own horror over killing his father. Anakin hadn’t felt that killing his mentor, his brother. He hadn’t felt much at all.
“Why did you let me do that?” he asked the ghost at his side.
Obi-Wan shrugged. “I was tired,” he confessed quietly. He didn’t say of what exactly, but Anakin could recall the sheer exhaustion of living in a war zone where everyone you loved was either dead or against you. “I thought it might help.”
Anakin laughed humorlessly, still looking down after Solo’s body. He’d wanted to help too, for all the good it did anyone. “Help who? Me or Luke?”
Obi-Wan sighed and wrenched him around. “Both,” he said, gripping Anakin’s shoulders in a way that wasn’t quite a hug but maybe could have been one once. “I thought it would help you both.” He gave Anakin’s shoulders one last squeeze before strolling off down the catwalk. “Of course, in the end, I was right.”
“Luke was right,” Anakin insisted as he followed Obi-Wan out into the snow. “You were just an idiot.”
The call of the Force pulled them to where Ben and a girl were fighting. The glow of their lightsabers cut through the gloom. Ben’s was a poorly constructed monster spewing flickering red along the blade and both sides of the hilt, but the girl’s was was an eerily familiar bluish-white. “Is that my old saber?”
“Looks like,” Obi-Wan said in that unflappable way of his, but Anakin couldn’t quite wrap him mind around it. Last time he’d seen it had been back on Cloud City as it fell along with Luke’s hand. Somehow it looked right in her hands now.
The two of them were surprisingly well matched. The girl had clearly never used a lightsaber before, but she obviously had training in some other weapon, a staff maybe. She wielded it like one. Ben had the proper training and experience, but she was fueled with righteous anger while he was bleeding out from self-inflicted grief. The power of the dark side swirled around them, egging them on. The girl took the offensive, slicing Ben, disarming him, knocking him down.
“She’s going to kill him,” Anakin realized with a sense of horrified shock.
“Hm, possibly,” Obi-Wan said like they were discussing the weather instead of his namesake’s life.
“No,” roared Anakin and tore the ground asunder. He couldn’t let his idiot grandson die when there was still the slightest hope that someone, someday, might help him regain the light. He couldn’t let the darkness swallow this girl the way it had swallowed him when he’d hunted down the bandits who’d killed his mother.
The whole world seemed to flicker like a bad hologram, and it occurred to him that he might have overextended himself. “Anakin,” came Obi-Wan’s voice, as if he was calling from a great distance. “Who are you trying to save?”
“Both of them,” he said and the world switched back on again as Obi-Wan lent him his strength.
Ben was still sprawled on the ground where he’d fallen, and, on the other side of the chasm Anakin had created, the girl looked like she was trying to decide if she could jump it. “Rey,” Obi-Wan called to her, “save your friend. Go!” She must have heard because she glanced in their direction before fleeing off into the woods.
“You better get out of here too,” Anakin told his grandson tiredly as the world faded in and out. He didn’t know how much longer he could stay here. It would probably be awhile before he was strong enough to manifest again.
“Well, would you look at that.” Obi-Wan’s voice was filled with wonder. “He actually listened for once.”