Cover Art by the Dragongirl.
Adagio for Strings by Escala, from Escala.
All sound effects are from Free Sound, and are published under a Creative Commons license. See end notes for specific effects used.
[A rustle of robes, as Obi-Wan seats himself for meditation. He is so very tired, and nearly at the end of his mental and emotional resources, or else he would never attempt this, but...well, when your entire world has come to an end, even small hopes seem worth grasping.]
Obi-Wan: Master Qui-Gon?
[A pause, as though waiting for a response. None comes.]
Obi-Wan: I...oh hells, this feels utterly ridiculous. I don’t even know if you’re here, let alone if you’re listening. I can’t imagine I’d have stayed around to watch after death if Anakin had made as much of a mess of things as I have. But, well, Master Yoda did say that you’d been trying to make contact, so I suppose it can’t hurt.
[A sigh, of deprecation, and more than a little self-disgust.]
Obi-Wan: No, it’s more than that, I know. Look at me. Nearly everything I hold dear in life has been destroyed. The Republic. The Jedi. But even now, I’m dissembling. Like a child, avoiding the unpleasant truth, as though not discussing it will somehow keep it at bay.
The truth is, Master Qui-Gon, that I’m not sure I want you to be hearing this, because I don’t know if I could face your disappointment if you know what I’ve done, how I’ve failed to live up to your teachings. I was blind, and weak. I failed to see what was happening, out of fear, and out of love. And now the democracy I swore to serve is overthrown, the Jedi Order is gone, and Anakin…
[A hitch in his breath. When he continues, it sounds as though Obi-Wan is just barely resisting the urge to cry.]
Obi-Wan: The medics tell me he may never wake.
[A hissing breath, as he attempts to regain control of his emotions.]
Obi-Wan: It’s all my fault, Master. I should have listened to the Force, and never left Anakin alone with that man. I should have asked Anakin what had him so worried. I should have been there, should have supported him, so he never felt like he had to trust a politician over me. Instead, I ignored all the signs and warnings, and left him vulnerable that...that Sith.
And he was vulnerable, though not, I think, as much as that creature hoped. From what Master Yoda and I saw in the security footage, Palpatine tried to enlist Anakin’s aid in battling Master Windu. In a room strewn with the bodies of Council members, he honestly seemed to believe Anakin might side with him! I couldn’t tell from the footage what leverage that monster thought he had, but he clearly misread the situation severely. Anakin may not be conventional, but he is more of a Jedi than many of us could ever aspire to be. Of course he refused to Fall.
The Sith, though...I think it was a surprise to him. He certainly took the rejection badly. He...there’s no other word for it. He tore Anakin apart. I have seen many great Masters in battle, but I’ve never seen anyone move as fast as the Sith did in that recording. And he didn’t just use a lightsaber, oh no! He used some sort of Force-borne lightning. Like the kind Dooku used during the war. The combination of the two...it was devastating. Anakin's skill with a lightsaber has improved these last few years, but he was no match for that kind of onslaught.
[Quietly, and full of horror] And when the Sith was done, when Anakin was a wreck of a man lying at Palpatine’s feet...well, the whole Galaxy knows what came next. He left Anakin, chained and unconscious on the steps of Temple, while the clones he has suborned marched inside and slaughtered every last being. Even down to the younglings, Qui-Gon! And that monster...he broadcast it all. As a demonstration of what would befall the enemies of this new Empire of his.
[Almost whispered, as though Obi-Wan can't quite bear to speak these words aloud] And I could do nothing! I was nowhere near Coruscant, and by the time I got there, Anakin would have been dead. He would have died alone, on the steps of our desecrated home, while all the Galaxy looked on, all because I couldn’t kriffing well couldn’t see what was happening soon enough to prevent it!
[A gasp, followed by several low, hissing breaths. Once he has regained his composure, he continues.]
Obi-Wan: I can only be grateful that Padmé was not so hindered. [Admiringly] I wish you could see the woman she’s grown into, Qui-Gon. You’d like her. She’s like a Force of nature when she has a cause to fight for. When they’re together, she and Anakin...they burn so brightly, it’s almost painful to watch sometimes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people love each other like that without destroying each other, but rather than tear each other apart, they seem to draw strength from it.
[More briskly] And, yes, I do know I should have discouraged that kind of attachment in Anakin. I did make an attempt at first, when I thought they could still be separated without any harm done to either of them, but...it’s just...I don’t know. He’s not like us, Master. You saw it, even when he was young. He needs the love of others the way other Jedi of our species need air. And I could never give him enough to satisfy that need, or teach him how to live without it. Master Yoda was right, all those years ago. I wasn’t ready to take a student at all, let alone one like Anakin, whose needs and life experiences were so very different from my own. But Padmé was able to fill his need where I couldn’t, Master. I couldn’t bring myself to deny him that.
[A weary sigh.]
Obi-Wan: And besides, it was that relationship that saved him, in the end. Padmé was able to act, where I was not. When she saw the broadcast, she managed to contact Rex, smuggle him onto Coruscant, and arrange for off-world transport, all without alerting Palpatine or any of his cronies. And then, the two of them somehow managed to steal Anakin away in the dead of night and bring him to Bail’s ship, all while Anakin was unconscious, Padmé was heavily pregnant, and several cameras were trained on them almost every moment!
[A snort of something like humor, though there’s no real amusement in it.]
Obi-Wan: She still won’t tell me how they managed it. I suppose she thinks I’ll disapprove of the risks she took.
[More soberly] She’s likely right. I can’t bring myself to regret it, however, even though they were all in terrible danger. I can hardly stand to contemplate what could have happened, if her plan had failed. She and Rex could both have been killed, without ever getting near him. They could have been caught at the Temple, and been sentenced to share Anakin's fate. And even after they were far from Coruscant, Anakin’s condition is so precarious...Anakin could easily have died at any moment. And, Force...I’m not sure I could have survived that.
Obi-Wan: Because the truth is, Master Qui-Gon...I do love him.
[Another pause, and sound of a gasp that might nearly be a sob.]
Obi-Wan: Force help me, I love them both. And not compassionately. Not selflessly. Not as any kind of Jedi ever should.
[A sound of disgust, from deep in the throat.]
Obi-Wan: No, I...I want them. I see them together, see how they look at each other, see how they love each other, and all I can think of is how much I wish a part of that was for me.
[Slowly becoming louder] How could I do that to him? To either of them? What kind of a monster would break the trust given to him by his student for some kind of base desire? What kind of a Jedi Master would be so unable to control their attachments that they would covet someone else’s happiness like that? [Nearly shouting] Why couldn’t I have been the kind of man, the kind of Jedi, you trained me to be?
[The sound of a fist hitting a wall. Immediately after, two babies begins to cry.]
Obi-Wan: Oh, Force.
[The rustling of robes as Obi-Wan gets up, and then the sound of a few footsteps across the carpet, and the shifting of blankets.]
Obi-Wan: [softly, gently] Hush now, little ones. Shh, shh, it’s alright. I’m sorry I frightened you, my darlings. There now, Luke. Shh, everything is fine, Leia. Hush.
[These soothing noises from Obi-Wan continue for a moment. The babies’ crying eventually quiets.]
Obi-Wan: There. You can see what kind of a man I’ve become, Master Qui-Gon. I can’t even control my emotions well enough to be trusted not to upset the younglings. I’m sure if Padmé had any other option right now, I’d be her last choice as a caretaker for her children.
Obi-Wan: But there is no choice now. There’s no one else left, Qui-Gon. Padmé’s family would be in terrible danger if we commed them, and none of us would be safe on Naboo. None of the clones who’ve broken free of Palpatine’s hold know anything about child-rearing. We haven’t heard that any of the Jedi who worked in the creche survived. And none of us knows where to even look for Ahsoka. No, for the time being, Anakin needs Padmé by his side, and Padmé needs someone to watch over the twins, which means, unsuitable or not, I’m needed here.
And I swear, this duty, at least, I will not fail in. I will see these children, this family, safe. The Sith will not touch them. Not while I live.
[A pause, and then a humorless snort of laughter.]
Obi-Wan: Do you know, Master Yoda wanted me to take the twins and hide them? As if Padmé would ever suffer her children to be taken from her. And can you imagine the look on Anakin’s face when he wakes if I told him I’d taken a child of his to Tatooine?
Obi-Wan: If he wakes…
[A deep breath through the nose, as if Obi-Wan is trying to maintain his calm with sheer iron will.]
Obi-Wan: I’m not sure even the Temple healers could have treated that kind of damage, let alone medics without the Force on their side. He’s recovered from the loss of a limb before, the last time I failed in my duty to protect him, but the amputation of his legs is minor in comparison to the rest. That gut wound alone would have killed him, if they hadn’t been able to grow replacement tissue for the parts of his stomach and liver that were destroyed. Rex tells me his heart stopped twice during the rescue, though whether that’s from shock from his wounds, or from that lightning attack of the Sith’s, the surgeons aren’t sure. Even if he does wake up, they tell me that exposure to lightning can damage the mind as well. There’s no guarantee that Anakin will ever truly be himself again.
[A sniff, quickly stiffled.]
Obi-Wan: [Beginning to break down] And, as if that’s not enough, that bastard of a Sith just left him out there. Left him to die of exposure, or infection, or simply the effects of his injuries, and why? To serve as some twisted example? An example of what, I ask you. Palpatine already declared the Jedi to be traitors. He slaughtered us in our home, down to the least and littlest. What more of an example could he need than the bodies of younglings rotting on the Temple floor…
[A gasp. A stifled sob. A sounds of weeping, muffled. Then, the whoosh of a door opening, and hasty footsteps.]
[He sniffs, trying to get himself under control]
Obi-Wan: What is…
Obi-wan: Oh, Force. Is it Anakin? Is he…
Padmé: No! I mean, it is, but not the way you think. He’s awake, Obi-Wan. Awake, and asking for us.
Obi-Wan: [distantly] I...oh.
[Another pause, then, more strongly.]
Obi-Wan: Oh! Oh, Padmé, this is...but you should see him first, of course. Thank you for telling me. I’ll just watch the children, while you-
Padmé: [interrupting] Oh, no you don’t. He’s asking for both of us. Neither of us is waiting to see him, Obi-Wan. Here, give Luke to me, and bring Leia with you.
[A small laugh from Padmé. Weak, and watery, but a laugh nonetheless.]
Padmé: I think it’s time for Anakin to meet his children, don’t you?
Obi-Wan: Yes, I suppose it is.
[A baby makes a small, unhappy noise]
Obi-Wan: Let me just wrap Leia a little better. It’s cold in the medbay, and the last thing we need is Anakin working himself into a panic because she gets chilled and starts fussing. Go on ahead. I’ll be right behind you.
Padmé: [snorts] You’d better be.
[The sound of the door whooshing closed. A silence hangs in the air for a moment, and then…]
Obi-Wan: [exhaled, in relief so profound it is almost pain] Oh, thank the Force.
[Another brief pause, and then a small, slightly hysterical laugh.]
Obi-Wan: I suppose you would be telling me now that I need to focus on the moment, wouldn’t you? To be thankful for what the Force has given us, rather than worry about the future?
Obi-Wan: Of course you would. Well, Master Qui-Gon, I don’t know if this was your doing. Hells, I don’t know if you even heard any of this. But I suppose, if I know what you would have said, it doesn’t much matter either way. And, if this was your doing...thank you.
[The baby gurgles.]
Obi-Wan: And now, my darling, let’s go see your father, shall we?
[The sound of a door whooshing open, then shut.]