Twin suns burned bright in the blue skies of Tatooine; the hot, dry heat unrelenting even in the early hours of the morning. Obi-Wan gazed out across the sand that stretched out for miles in the direction of the Lars’ moisture farm. It had been three days since he’d delivered Luke to Owen and Beru; three days since he’d been able to stomach anything because once his adrenaline had finally subsided, all he’d known was grief and guilt and hate.
The Jedi, his family, were gone. Even though he’d felt the Force cry out in appalled dismay, it was still difficult to comprehend the loss. Even as he felt the pain of hunger, the suns beating down mercilessly, and his sore, stiff muscles, a part of him held onto the foolish hopeful notion that it was all just a nightmare or an astoundingly vivid vision; that he’d wake up and see the temple, standing tall and proud and teeming with life.
His soul ached at the thought of the young padawans and the knights and the masters who were lost, betrayed and senselessly slaughtered. He couldn’t bear the thought of reaching out with the Force only to be met with silence. All his life he’d been exposed to the horrors of wars and trivial skirmishes that resulted in the loss of innocent lives; he’d encountered beings driven by petty greed and cruelty, slavers and pirates and corrupt politicians, but none of his accumulated experiences could’ve ever prepared him for an emotional backlash of such a terrible magnitude.
All his life, Obi-Wan had been instructed to release his feelings to the force, not to dwell on them, only learn and move on, but he didn’t think he could even begin to comprehend the usefulness of those teachings now. How could he, when he hated the chancellor, Palpatine or Sidious with such a burning, white hot rage. It was so much stronger than how he felt when he’d witnessed Qui-Gon’s death at the hands of Darth Maul. It seemed as though the sith lord had a hand in most of his personal suffering.
As much as the Force urged him to expel his hatred and the negative emotions, he couldn’t quite shed them. A mutinous thought of feeding his hate and anger until it festered rose up only to be quashed by his horror at such a notion. Perhaps he could not completely let go of all his feelings; that had always been a particular weakness of his, no matter how many times he himself lectured Anakin on its importance, to not let one’s feeling rule them.
Anakin. A sharp, bitter pain shot through his heart. How could he have failed one of the people he loved so much so spectacularly? Perhaps he should have been more proficient at showing Anakin how much he had loved him, been quicker to praise and congratulate than to chastise and correct. Was he too firm with him or too lenient? Anakin was beautiful, so full of light and love, far more prone to wearing his heart on his sleeves and so free with his feelings. He was stubborn and ambitious, he had great fears and anger, but then again the council was far from perfect; they viewed Anakin’s attributes as failings and concluded he was dark or would be. But they cast judgement on a scared young boy who was dropped into a world that operated completely different from what he was used to.
Was he too old? Had he too many attachments and was he ruled by emotion to a dangerous degree? Obi-Wan had initially echoed the council’s concerns but after the devastating loss of his master and his subsequent knighting and undertaking of the willful boy, Obi-Wan realized that Anakin wasn’t a vicious, power hungry person destined to fall to the dark side due to an insatiable lust for destruction and death; no, he was fueled by love, if a bit possessive and yet in a way, endearingly protective. If the council would’ve taken the time to see that he was a fighter because it had long since been ingrained in him, not because he was looking for trouble. He was a very bright boy who’d grown into an exceptional young man; he was often ruled by his emotions, but his actions had been pure in intention; and though he couldn’t always comprehend the idea of the greater good, he was the most genuinely good-hearted and well-meaning person he’d ever met. On top of that, Anakin loved to create to tinker with droids and speeders and ships, he only sought destruction for what he believed to be evil.
Obi-Wan sighed and attempted to wipe away the sand that had glued itself to his skin to no avail, after years of teasing Anakin for his utter loathing of the miniscule golden grains, he’d come to appreciate and even agree wholeheartedly with his former padawan’s opinion. He felt sick with grief thinking about him, about the atrocities he was led to commit based on false promises, and how the young knight had no longer trusted him, had screamed how he hated Obi-Wan. He longed for the beautiful young man he’d lived with, fought beside, protected and was protected by in kind; he craved the affection Anakin would so effortlessly bestow upon him, the easy banter they would exchange to diffuse tension or cheer one another up.
He wondered just how blind he’d been to his dear one’s struggles and how horribly misguided he’d allowed him to become that he would distance himself so much from Obi-Wan and fall further into the clutches of a sith lord. He revisited his memory of that final awful encounter with Anakin and he was nearly swallowed by guilt. Anakin, while terribly astray, was not completely, hopelessly lost; he was on the precipice and Obi-Wan was unable to pull him back over to his side. In the end, though he managed to subdue Anakin by horrific means, he left him to burn, not having the courage to meet his eyes and kill him. Despite it all, he could never bring himself to kill Anakin, even if it would’ve been out of mercy, he simply could not do it. He was the worst kind of coward.
His vision blurred as tears fell down his cheeks. He tried to calm himself down, tried to relax and get control of his breathing, but he couldn’t quell the anguish and turmoil and soon was sobbing. He wailed and cried in despair until his throat was sore and he began dry-heaving, and even then he couldn’t stop. He wanted it back, everything and everyone. He wanted his master to take him in his arms and simply hold him, he wanted master Yoda to place a small hand on his head and speak in his cryptic, frustrating manner; he wanted to have his oldest friend Bant pester him about taking care of himself and force him to the healers, he’d willing venture down to halls of healing every day if he could just have that back. He wanted the conversations and easygoing comradery he’d found with Bail Organa and the friendship with Padme. He wanted Anakin.
And now he was alone. The Jedi were gone, nearly wiped out by the clones, their troops, men they’d fought beside for so long, trusted, mourned and celebrated with. His thoughts shifted to Cody and the 212th. They’d been through so much together, battles and victories, losses and triumphs. Clutching fistfuls of hot sand in his calloused hands, Obi-Wan wondered when the pivotal moment had truly occurred that would result in the destruction of the Jedi and begin the uprising of a sith empire.
An awful, terribly lonely future and a bleak existence was all he had now, penance for his failures, perhaps.
“Oh padawan mine, always bearing the brunt of things, even when they are beyond your control,” an achingly familiar baritone voice chided gently.
Obi-Wan stilled, wondering if the extent of his grief had given way to madness.
“Or I could be a hallucination, after all you haven’t eaten in days, you’re out here under the heat of two suns, and you’ve probably dehydrated yourself from shedding all those tears,” the voice of his former master helpfully pointed out. Obi-Wan made a strangled sound, it was a cross between a startled laugh and choked sob and ever so cautiously he raised his head. Standing there, looking exactly as he remembered, was Qui-Gon; from his long, brown hair and billowing robes, to his imposing height to his serene face, it was his former master for all that he was rather see-through and encompassed by a blue aura.
“M-Ma…” Obi-Wan couldn’t speak, though he wasn’t quite sure if it was because his throat was raw from crying or if it was because he literally couldn’t find the words; him, the infamous Negotiator, was at a loss for words, the absurdity of it brought a small smile to his face before he focused once more on the specter before him, who looked equally amused.
“Padawan,” Qui-Gon murmured once more, graciously granting Obi-Wan time to process.
“Master?” he croaked, daring to hope, and the Force sang; it surrounded him with a peace he was sure he would never have the privilege to feel again until the time came for him to become one with the Force. That thought gave him pause and he studied his former master for a long minute before asking, “Am I dead?” In retrospect, he very well could have been killed by Tusken Raiders after he’d dropped Luke off or perhaps the elements were even harsher than he’d foreseen and he’d succumbed to them.
“No, Obi-Wan, but not for lack of trying on your part,” Qui-Gon informed him, his piercing blue eyes shining with mirth.
“You – you’re really here. How is this possible?”
“The Force works in mysterious ways,” the old Jedi master quipped, succeeding in eliciting a small smile from Obi-Wan. “As you are well aware, my strength lied with the Living Force. I spent much of my time researching it in the archives back at the Temple and meditating. Even after my death, it took some time before I was able to fully manifest on this plane and appear before you as I am. I’ve missed you terribly, Obi-Wan.”
“And I you, Qui-Gon.” Obi-Wan stared at the infamous maverick Jedi, content to just drink in the sight of him. Tears welled in his eyes, but this time there was no accompanying feeling of utter anguish, instead it was a sense of giddy elation that he’d thought himself incapable of ever feeling again. There was an air of wistfulness there as well, a possible future that he hadn’t let himself think about for years. Being more proficient in the Unifying Force, he’d wondered, not for the first time if he should’ve meditated more on his visions and not simply washed his hands of them as Yoda and his own master would so often advise him; ‘Dreams pass in time,’ and ‘Always in motion, the future is.’ Being consistently instructed to remain focused on the present, while necessary in many situations that required his full attention, seemed to have worked spectacularly against him in the end. Perhaps then he could’ve changed things, prevented horrible events, saved those he loved from terrible fates.
Sensing his former master’s familiar presence much closer, Obi-Wan looked up to see Qui-Gon just before him, and even though he was kneeling, the man still towered over him. He watched with rapt attention as the old Jedi raised his hands to Obi-Wan’s face; though he wasn’t quite touching him, there was a tangible pressure, not what he’d longed for but more than he’d ever hoped to have again. It was soothing, as though he were brushing away his tears. Launching himself forward, Obi-Wan passed right through his old master and ended up sprawled out on his stomach with a mouthful of sand. Propping himself up on his elbows, he was greeted with the sound of Qui-Gon’s laughter, something he’d committed to memory, but was never quite the same as the real thing. After everything, he supposed that that was how his life would be, a lonely existence with only fond memories to keep him company through it all; that he’d revisit them like reruns of old holovids.
“Well, it’s nice to know that one retains their sense of humor in the afterlife,” Obi-Wan muttered, a wry smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
“Forgive me, Obi-Wan, but that was truly not my intention. Although we may speak and you are able to see me, I am sad to say that we cannot touch.”
“Ah… yes well, as unfortunate as that is, I am still grateful for what has been granted to me.” Wiping his face with the sleeve of his tunic, he took a deep shuddering breath and sighed. “So, why are you here, Qui-Gon? It couldn’t be you’ve opted to spend your afterlife with me here in this miserable place, keeping me company until I die, not that I would oppose of course, it’s just…”
The phantom feeling of a hand on his shoulder had him looking up and into the kind face of the man who once meant everything to Obi-Wan. “If that was your fate, I would, but that is not what the Force requires of you.”
“There’s a chance for you to change things.”
“H-how? What could I possibly change now?”
“The past, of course,” the apparition answered, his tone infuriatingly nonchalant. That was one aspect of his former master that never ceased to annoy him; in retrospect, that was probably where he got it from.
“Oh, of course, I’ll just change the past, it’s that easy, right?” he drawled with biting sarcasm.
“It’s the will of the Force.”
“If changing the past is the will of the Force, then what was the point of letting it all happen in the first place?!” Obi-Wan exclaimed, chest heaving as his anger dissipated as quickly as it rose to the surface. “What was the point?” he demanded, his voice cracking on the last word.
“I don’t know, my Obi-Wan, I wish you could’ve been spared such suffering. All I know is that the Force is granting you the opportunity to go back and prevent this future. You will no longer be ignorant to just how corrupt the Republic is nor how fallible the Jedi are.”
He was being offered the choice to go back in time and stop horrific events from ever happening. He could save Anakin. And Padme; he could find a way to prevent the clones from betraying the Jedi. He had to expose Palpatine and the council had to change their views. Thoughts and plans flew through his head; it was such a wonderful yet daunting opportunity, he would have to orchestrate events so that they would play out accordingly, he had to communicate better with Anakin, they’d become distant in many aspects before his former padawan’s fall and Obi-Wan was going to rectify that first and foremost.
But it was a question of when exactly he would be sent back. Glancing up at Qui-Gon, a wondrous thought began to form, but the other man gave him a sad smile and shook his head.
“Alas, my dear Obi-Wan, it was my death that truly brought you and Anakin together; you were always meant to be with one another, it is crucial that some things don’t change. But I shall always be with you, through every step of the way. It most certainly won’t be easy, but I have the utmost faith in you, listen and trust in the Force, and in yourself.”
He felt his master’s love wash over him; it mingled with the Force to a dizzying degree. The sand began to rise up and whip around him as the winds picked up to a worrying speed. Echoes of Qui-Gon’s voice sounded through the abrupt darkness and he strained to hear what was being said, instructions? Warnings? He still had so many questions, doubts, and worries plaguing his mind; he was about to call out to his former master again, when he was consumed by a sharp, unrelenting pain before he sank into blessed blackness.
* * * *
He couldn’t hear, no that wasn’t quite right, there was a persistent ringing in his ears and there was the familiar sound of a battle going on. Straining to listen, he could pick up blaster fire and explosions, orders were being barked out left and right in familiar voices. As Obi-Wan slowly made his way back to consciousness and became aware of just how much pain he was in, he immediately wished he hadn’t.
His head, frankly he wasn’t sure it was on straight or even right-side up; his head was heavy, and he could feel a warm wetness running down the side of his face. When he tried to move, both his shoulder and his side screamed or that might’ve been him; even though he could barely open his eyes, he was pretty sure that his shoulder was dislocated if not broken, and his side was tender and burning, and possibly gushing with blood. He was half-tempted to use a sleep Force-suggestion on himself when he heard shouting, it persisted in repetition and volume and suddenly there was a presence beside him.
“…al …bi … al… ase … ond …ir!”
Whoever it was sounded muddled, as though they were far away; not only that, but they sounded worried, panicked even. It wasn’t in his nature to ignore when someone was so evidently distraught; so with great resignation to the undue amount of pain he was about to subject himself to, he cracked his eyes open and immediately regretted his decision as he was met with stabbing pain and the sensations of his other injuries seemed to intensify. Miraculously or perhaps annoyingly to be more precise, his hearing sort of just returned, and the onslaught of sounds only served to add to his headache.
Glancing around, he saw rocks and dust and oh, droids, well. Instinct on his observations alone made him want to move, but experience instructed him not to chance it. A sudden, painful pressure on his throbbing side drew his attention to the right and he froze. White armor, splattered with orange, oh. The helmet was angled downward, focused on his wound, gloved hands, coated in red, were alternating between his side and the communicator on his wrist. Memories of his last interactions with the clones, with his own troops, the 212th flashed through his mind and he stiffened. The action drew the clone’s attention, his head snapped up and he lunged forward so he was hovering just above Obi-Wan’s face. The injured Jedi flinched back even as he could read the worry radiating off the clone.
“General Kenobi sir, can you hear me? Please respond, sir,” the achingly familiar voice demanded. This clone, his friend, had been ordered to kill him and he’d tried, only that wasn’t right, because here he was, trying to staunch his wounds and keep him awake. Had they tracked him down? But weren’t the clones killing the Jedi, so why waste the effort on him? Was he to be interrogated? Tortured? His confusion must’ve been visible, because the clone trooper stilled, slowly raising his hands in a placating gesture before removing his helmet. Dark hair cut short, sharp prominent features and warm amber eyes were revealed. Obi-Wan absently noted the fact that Cody signaled to their position while he inspected his shoulder and head wounds.
The blaster fire had gradually died down and was replaced by the sound of stampeding footsteps from several people. More clones surrounded him, all donned in white armor, some decorated with orange, others with blue. A few of them stood with their backs to him, forming a protective circle, while the rest crouched down beside him and – upon further inspection – two other clones that were sprawled out behind him, injured, but alive as he could sense their life signatures. His wariness was slowly ebbing away as he began to relax in the familiar company, well, it was that or the blood loss and head injury were getting to him; he’d never been accused of having a sense of self-preservation so perhaps it was arrogance or it was just that he couldn’t find it in himself to care anymore.
“General, sir, just hold on, we’re –”
“Commander,” one of the clones interrupted, “He’s here.” Following the soldier’s outstretched finger, Obi-Wan could just make out a flurry of black and blonde flanked by white and blue in the distance.
“General Kenobi,” Cody repeated gruffly, gently taking hold of his face, “General Skywalker’s on his way. We’re regrouping and then we’ll be off…”
Obi-Wan could hear Cody continue to talk, informing him of what was going on, the next plan of action; he was reporting the state of the platoon like a good soldier, he was trying to keep him awake and calm, reassuring him, but all Obi-Wan had been able to focus on was the title he’d just used, General Skywalker. That was Anakin’s rank before he fell and assumed a new name and position. That was when they were a team, the team if one was prideful in their nostalgia. But Cody said General Skywalker, Skywalker, and the clones, his troops, his friends were here, trying to treat his injuries, shielding him from potential threats, and Anakin was there. His breathing hitched and his ribs protested, but suddenly the thought of facing him again left Obi-Wan reeling in both elation and dismay. It seemed he hadn’t any time to process his whirling thoughts before the clones surrounding him parted, and there was the young Jedi knight.
Anakin. He stood, towering over everyone, dressed in his usual black tunic; his head of unkempt, golden curls framed his unburned, youthful face, and his eyes…they were so blue, pure and uniquely Anakin; there was no trace, not even a hint of horrid yellow to mar those wonderful eyes. When those pools of blue locked onto him, the reality of the situation hit Obi-Wan, and in a moment of unbridled panic and confusion, he pushed himself away from the clones and his former padawan, scrambling backwards until he hit the solid rock of a cliff wall. His body screamed at him, protesting the quick movements; his shoulder burned something awful, and it felt as though he tore his whole side open, resulting in surprised shouts and a rather impressive litany of curses. Once some distance had been established, he held out his arm, though Obi-Wan wasn’t sure if he was warning them to stay away or reaching out and begging for them to be real.
The clones, save Cody and who Obi-Wan surmised to be Rex, backed up a bit, and Anakin approached slowly, with the utmost caution. His expression was gentle, though he was clearly worried. Crouching down before him, he reached out and placed his hand, his flesh and blood hand, over Obi-Wan’s and gave him a reassuring smile.
“A-Anakin?” he rasped, needing to be sure.
“You… you are here?”
“Yes,” Anakin answered, sounding perplexed. He beckoned for some assistance and Cody and Rex moved forward. Obi-Wan’s gaze flickered down to the blasters they were carrying before looking back up at them in a somewhat scrutinizing manner, assessing a potential threat.
“All is well, padawan, aside from you, that is,” Qui-Gon’s voice assured him, his tone gentle and apologetic.
“Master?” he slurred, blinking up at the apparition of the old Jedi who’d manifested behind Anakin, and subsequently missing the confused looks the clones traded as they glanced around for who he was addressing in his drowsy, bordering on delirious state.
“It would seem you were returned during a rather intense battle and a rather inconvenient moment for you.”
He was back, he’d traveled back in time. It really worked! He could prevent that awful future, he could save them all!
“Yes, my Obi-Wan, but first you must let yourself remember when you are. Only you have the memories of what happened. Though this is an urgent matter, you do have time. Reacquaint yourself with those you’ve lost, establish stronger bonds with those you care for. But first, allow yourself to heal,” Qui-Gon advised before adding, “and you really ought to let your men take you to a medical station.”
Obi-Wan digested his former master’s advice, trying to calm his mind. He had to make things right this time, he couldn’t afford to squander this opportunity, and that meant exercising patience and not letting his ambitions overrule his actions in such a precarious situation. He also needed to heal; his soul was practically shattered and he would use that time to ruminate on what he would do.
“Obi-Wan... Master, please?” Anakin whispered, his tone urgent and shaken. Shifting his gaze back to the young knight, Obi-Wan could see the tension practically radiating off of him; there as a wild look in his eyes and his expression was distraught and lost. This was where he would start to rectify things; reaching up, he cupped his former padawan’s face and brushed away a stray tear.
“Anakin,” it felt so wonderful to say his name and have him here and there were suddenly so many things he wanted to tell him all at once, but first and foremost given the blood loss and the darkness creeping over his vision, he settled for reassurance; content in the fact that he would have time to mend things between them and build trust. “It’s alright now, dear one, everything’s going to be alright, I promise.”
Startled shouts and barked orders lulled him into a delightfully painless oblivion as strong arms wrapped around him and held him close.