He claws his way back to consciousness to find it is not Luke, but the Obi-Wan of his memories frantically shaking the life back into him.
“Honestly, Anakin, you’ll be the death of me,” Obi-Wan says sternly in a vain attempt to hide his relief.
“Yes, I was,” Anakin says, dazed and shaky, and bursts into tears.
It takes him an embarrassingly long time to stop crying. Anakin has lost so much in his life. His wife. His name. The chance to raise their children. His mother. His childhood friends. His childhood. The freedom which should have been his, but never was. Over the years, he has railed against their loss, but has never truly taken the time to mourn them. A lifetime’s worth of grief comes pouring out in a torrent of tears and snot.
Obi-Wan recoils instinctively from the messy emotional outpouring. After a moment’s hesitation, he reaches out. “There there.” Pat pat. “There there.”
Anakin laughs wetly through his tears. The man is just so terrible at comfort. This is the perfect time for a hug, but Obi-Wan holds himself back like he’s afraid emotions are catching. Or maybe he just wants to avoid getting snot on his clothes. He’s wearing the thick, blaster-resistant tunics he’d sported towards the end of the war, but he looks more tired than Anakin remembers. He’s not even 40, yet there are worry lines etched across his forehead and gray hairs peaking out from behind ginger at his temples.
Obi-Wan claimed once to have loved him. He’d yelled it, in fact, as Anakin laid maimed and burning at his feet. This Obi-Wan probably loves Anakin now, but that hasn’t stopped him from hurting Anakin before. On the Council’s orders, he as lied to him, used him, left him to the tender mercies of a monster. Obi-Wan’s love is worthless. He has hurt him before and will do it again, but Anakin can stop it. He struck Obi-Wan down before. It would be easy to do it now.
“Anakin,” Obi-Wan says warily, pulling back even further. He must sense the danger he is in, but he doesn’t reach for his saber. “Are you all right?”
All right? All right?! Anakin’s laughter takes on a slightly crazed note. How could he possibly be all right? He loves this man, always has, even as he hated him, even as he killed him. They have loved and hated and destroyed each other. Love without loving action is a worthless. Luke taught him that. If his son could break their cycle of love and destruction, maybe Anakin can too. At least he can try.
It takes a few minutes of deep breathing for his tears to dry. Obi-Wan hovers uselessly, torn between his desire to help and his complete inability to even understand how to do so. Anakin scrubs at his face and smears his snot-covered hand down the front of Obi-Wan’s tunic. His wordless noise of disgusted outrage is deeply satisfying.
Anakin uses Obi-Wan’s shoulder to lever himself to his feet. It’s amazing how easy it is. A great weight has been lifted from him. A hundred pounds of armor and pain are gone and feels like he could float away. Who knew the absence of pain could feel so much like ecstasy? He sways over his old master, standing with his own legs, breathing with his own lungs. The air tastes sweet.
“No. I’m not all right.”
Anakin has died and been restored, gone mad and come back out again. The Force has given him this opportunity and he will make the most of it. He will stop hurting and letting himself be hurt. He will resign from the Order, destroy the would-be emperor, and free all the slaves, starting with himself. No more masters.
“I’m not all right, but I will be.”
Anakin takes a moment to look around. The sooner he finds out when and where he is, the faster he can set things to rights. Unfortunately, their surroundings offer few clues. They are in the middle of a seemingly endless field of the sort of leafy green ground cover which can be found on literally hundreds of worlds. A Jedi transport ship sits a little way away and Anakin stalks towards it, leaving Obi-Wan to scramble after him. It feels strange walking in this too light, too small body, but he supposes he will grow used to it in time.
As he steps into the main hold, his gaze snags on his own reflection, dragging him to a halt. It is not his raw and puffy eyes which startle him so much as everything else. Is that what he looks like? Over the years, it seems Anakin has forgotten. He recalled the broad strokes, yes, the sandy hair, blue eyes, and handsomeness, but the details had been burned away. In the last year or so, he had taken to picturing his younger self as a taller Luke, but it appears he was wrong. Anakin and Luke share their chins and their coloring, but Luke’s bone structure is all Padmé. Anakin traces the line of his cheekbone. If anyone, he is a paler, masculine version of his mother.
“Anakin.” Obi-Wan appears behind him and yanks him around. “What is going on?” he demands, gripping his shoulders and giving him a little shake. “What happened to you?”
“I died,” Anakin says simply.
Obi-Wan’s face goes Jedi-blank, but the Force around him screams. “What?” he asks flatly.
“I lived the next twenty years. I died. You died. I came back.” He brushes Obi-Wan’s hands from his shoulders, heads for the cockpit, and fires up the ship’s computer.
According to it, they have just finished the mission to Utapau. They are in the final months of the war and everything is going according to his mast--no, Palpatine’s plan. The Republic’s armies occupy two-thirds of the known galaxy. The Jedi Council knows about both the control chips and the clones’ origins, but is too cowardly to do anything about it. Palpatine already controls the banks and the proposal for a system of military governors is making its way through committee in the Senate. Killing him would be easy, but doing it in a way which allows Anakin to raise his children after will be incredibly difficult.
Anakin wishes Luke were here, or even Artoo. You can always count on droids. As it stands, he will have few allies here. If Obi-Wan and the Council were remotely capable of dealing with the threat Palpatine poses, they would have done so the first time. Ahsoka is who knows where and Padmé, of course, is to be protected. She is too reckless by half and involving her will do nothing but draw Palpatine’s ire. No, once again it is up to Anakin alone to restore peace and balance to the galaxy. He hopes this time he can manage it.
“It’s not possible,” Obi-Wan says, throwing himself into the co-pilot’s seat.
Anakin looks at him sharply. What does he know? Obi-Wan has no idea the power and knowledge at Anakin’s disposal. He will succeed this time. He must.
“You must be mistaken,” Obi-Wan insists. “You must have had a vision, no, a nightmare of some kind. Death, time travel—” he shakes his head “—it’s just not possible.”
Is he still hung up on that? “With the Force, all things are possible,” Anakin reminds him. He initiates the pre-flight sequence. The transport shakes as the engines warm up. “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
Obi-Wan rubs his forehead as if it pains him. “It’s an expression, Anakin,” he says, exasperated. “The Force doesn’t work this way. If there had ever been a true case of time travel, the Jedi would know about it. No, why don’t you to tell me what’s really going on?”
Anakin grits his teeth and grips the yoke in an effort to restrain himself from Force-chocking the ignorant, arrogant man. The Force doesn’t work that way. Dreams pass in time. Wrong and wrong again. And he wonders why Anakin won’t confide in him. Maybe it’s because he is too busy lecturing to actually listen.
Something cracks under his mechanical hand, and Anakin forces himself to let go. It doesn’t matter, he reminds himself, if Obi-Wan believes him or not. The second they return to Coruscant, he will be resigning from the Order anyway. Still, he gives it one last try.
“The Force is so much more than you can possibly imagine,” he says. “Search your feelings. You know what I say is true.”
Obi-Wan stares at him incredulously for a small eternity before grudgingly closing his eyes and reaching out to the Force. A second later, he gasps, his eyes flying open wide, as his shock reverberates all around them. He looks dazed. Understandable, Anakin supposes, considering he has just upended the man’s worldview.
“Do we win?” Obi-Wan asks, breathless.
Anakin thinks of small bodies strewn across the Temple, of clones eating their blasters, of twenty years of endless war and unrest. “No,” he says and takes them up out of the world.