There is no death, there is the Force.
Long ago, there had been a cache of academics at the temple that had believed that this doctrinal platitude was not merely one line of the Jedi Code, but was, in essence, the Code itself. Over the course of his life, Obi-Wan had heard a litany of arguments both for and against the idea, pandering nuance like law in essays that no one read. As erudite a student as he had been, he'd never taken a side. Whether the saying was one part of the code or was the code itself had always seemed like a semantic nothing to him. It was truth, one of the pillars of solid truth that a Jedi could dig his fingers into when he started to fall; it, like the whole code, was a tether to the life-giving Force, and that was what mattered. It was supposed to matter.
Ben's fingernails felt fit to break. They would leave bloody tracks in their wake, smearing down that once-great pillar as he plummeted down. They'd be dirty like him, and bloody, bright, bleeding red like the sacrilegious fire that burned in Vader's hands. Hruuuum, it moved in a stiff mockery of Djem-So, a show whose sloppiness was only outdone by Ben's own antiquated Soresu. It was embarrassing how hard it was to keep up, to hold a defense with joints that screamed in their age. Master Yoda had never had this problem, Ben grit his teeth. It is you who is weak, Kenobi. Even the Force seemed to wheeze it's way through this twisted kata, a death rattle forming in its unfeeling lungs. Breathing heavily from the fight, Ben wondered if he was ever supposed to have lived this long. Maybe the Force did make mistakes, sometimes.
Ben felt Luke arrive before he saw him, and his heart clenched. He looked over at the boy, at his upturned face of fear, and knew that he'd reached the end of his path.
Faced with the end, Obi-Wan's soul diverged from itself, twin halves making turns in either direction just a moment ahead in time. There is no death, there is the Force, the first half recited, encouraging him to accept his last stand with dignity and composure. But this is wrong, said the other, haunted eyes flicking between Luke and Vader, back at Obi-Wan as he raised his sapphire blade in arthritic hands. This has always been so wrong.And even the first half of him flinched at that. Perhaps it was. But what could he do?
So much, the thought was an absinthian aftertaste. I could have done so much more.
There is no death, there is the Force, the first half reminded him. But it'd taken one step back toward its twin. They were both stepping toward each other, now, migrating into a center path that tumbled off the edge of existence. It was time.
Obi-Wan looked back at Luke, perplexed by the lack of peace he found in himself, alarmed by the turmoil. Surely this was not how a Jedi was meant to approach his death. Surely this was not how he was supposed to face his death. He, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi: Jedi Councilor, High General, grand Negotiator, Harbinger of New Hope, He who had lost everything, he who had given up his life and more for… for what, again? He supposed he'd lost that, too. He'd called it 'a new hope', years ago… Luke. Luke would outlive him. Luke would carry on the work of the Light.
And yet something in him ached, something rebelled with a mutinous shout that this was not how things were supposed to be. Maybe it'd been shouting for years, maybe it was only now that he could hear it clearly enough, now that he was staring death in its rasping, globe-eyed face.
There is no death, there is the Force. His fingernails cracked against the pillar, the tether to his life-force. But I could've done so much.
There is no death, there is the Force, chanted the first slice of his soul, hand white-knuckled around that of its twin, who lamented with bleeding fingernails: But I could do so much!
Darth Vader shuffled toward him like a macabre puppet dangling on live wires, red plasma hot and waiting to strike.
The salute Obi-Wan chose to be his last was a youngling's pose. A simple Shii-Cho stance, one of the very first he'd ever been taught in the diminutive Dragon Clan, so many, many years ago. It was a stance of defiant humility, but also of final submission. Here at the end, he was still but a learner: a small vessel, helpless, who could not comprehend how to release his redolence of fear.
Oh Force help me, He closed his eyes, twin shards of soul stepping forward into the red saber's path, soul's hands clenched in mingled peace and confusion. Force, catch me, he begged, because he was freefalling, and his hands were bloody. He fell, leaving no body and no stains on the pillar of truth.
There was death, and there also was the Force.