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The Fires

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1.

He wishes he'd thrown himself into the lava. He wishes Anakin had won. He wishes he were the one on the banks.

Everybody he loves is dead. He has nothing now but those two children. In this moment, he wishes he had not lived to see them. They are reminders of what he has lost.


2.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter. The past day is a haze in his mind, one that he foolishly hopes will never clear, but even so, he knows this is not where he slept last night.

His head is spinning as he attempts to push himself off the floor, and he only barely makes out a turmoult of emotions swirling through the Force. Surprisingly, they are not his own. These feel sharper and more practiced. Obi-Wan has never allowed himself to feel so deeply when others could see.

He knows they are Anakin's, but he does not know how Anakin is alive to feel them.

He walks, stumbling and shaken, towards the exit, and practically chokes at what he sees. Anakin is screaming, yelling, pacing in the middle of Mustafar, while Padmé cries to herself. But he is alive, unharmed. His face is still as clear and untouched as ever, even twisted and warped by the darkness.

"This isn't right," he says, voice weak. "I've lived through this already."

He turns frantically to the Force, pleading, begging. If yesterday was a Force vision, why hadn't he woken up before it was too late?

"Is this my penance?" he questions. "Have I asked for this?"

He expects no reply from the Force, but he does get one from Anakin, who's graciously taken on the task of answering by himself. "Penance?" he spits. "So, there are feelings in there somewhere? I'm surprised there's a truthful bone in your body, you filthy liar!"

He's not going to fight this time. He'd wished for death, and if that is what he's been given, then he will gladly accept.

Anakin's eyes, yellow and piercing, track his movement as he descends to ground level. They hold none of the familiar regard. For this, Obi-Wan is grateful, suddenly, because he knows he does not deserve it.

"Do what you wish with me, Anakin," he says. "I am yours."

Anakin's eyes widen in shock, then rage. "You can't give up this easily, Obi-Wan!" he growls. "I forbid it."

"For all your power, this is something you cannot change, I'm afraid," Obi-Wan says gently.

Anakin's anger only burns hotter, and he begins to shake, fists clenching. Obi-Wan's vision goes white at the edges, and he realises Anakin is gripping him with the Force, sick like a parasite, suffocating him. He manages a small smile.

I've truly failed you, and for that, I am sorry, he thinks, and then there is nothing.


3.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

Then, he chokes, barely stops himself from retching onto the floor. He is not undeserving of this torture, but Force, how he wishes it were physical. Mental barriers are so much easier to break, and whoever orchestrated this knows it.

He makes his way through the empty hull, cursing himself for his inability to think on his feet. By now, he usually has a plan. Then again, by now, Anakin is usually helping him. He grins brokenly. How he is paying for his sloppy mistakes.

Anakin is still yelling, and Padmé is still crying. This time, he descends without a word and waits for Anakin to notice him.

He does, almost immediately. "Showing your face, now, are you? Sick of hiding away in the shadows?"

"Hiding in darkness is more your forte," Obi-Wan quips and chuckles to himself. It comes out bitter.

Anakin does not laugh as usual. His teeth clench. "Do not mock me!" he screams. "You have no right!"

"You're right. I don't." He bows. "Forgive me."

Anakin's hysteria spirals further. "Never!" His hand shoots to his lightsaber, knuckles white. "I will never forgive you!"

He'd figured as much. Slowly, he lowers himself to the ground, so he's kneeling at Anakin's feet. "There. Now, you have the highground."

Anakin stops dead, eyes darting rapidly back and forth between Padmé's sobbing figure and Obi-Wan's position on the ground. "Stop," he chokes out. "Stop doing that."

"Doing what?"

"Everything!" Anakin says, getting no point across. He waves his free arm uselessly. "I order you to stop."

"I will not."

Anakin runs a hand desperately through his hair, his limbs growing twitchy. "What are you doing, Obi-Wan?"

"What I should have done years ago," he says simply. "I am truly sorry, my friend."

"It's too late," Anakin grits out. He's trembling now, hair wild, face contorted. He looks like a rabid animal. Force, Obi-Wan has finally seen him break. "You're too late."

Anakin raises the lightsaber once more.

This time, it is Obi-Wan who falls.


4.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter. Its hull trembles as he squeezes it with the Force. Nothing has changed. He is still too late.

Before they meet blade-to-blade, Obi-Wan stops to comfort Padmé. Tears are streaming down his face in time with hers by the time he pulls away.

If Anakin feels any concern, he does not show it. Instead, he looks somewhat disappointed.


7.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

He tries pleading, bargaining, acceptance. They all end the same way.


14.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

This time, he flies away.

He curls up on his bed and, through the guilt, at least contents himself with the knowledge that he won't wake in its sheets tomorrow.


23.

The attack takes Anakin by surprise. He's not able to dodge the first flurry of punches, and by the time he recovers himself, Obi-Wan's fists are already dripping in blood. Soon, they are joined by tears.


27.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

He whispers apologies into Anakin's robes as he holds him, legs cut and bleeding on the bank, life slowly draining away.


28.

He wakes up as he always wakes up.

Obi-Wan does Anakin's job for him this time. The man hadn't even needed to raise his blade.

It works about as well as he expected, which is to say, not at all.


32.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

He can't go through this again. Time is no constraint. Surely, he can come up with a plan, find something he hasn't done before. There must be variables he hasn't considered.

He stays on the floor. He has another day. He has tens of thousands of days. He wonders if he brought any brandy along for the ride.


33.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

Today (what is today?) he must do something. Today he must make progress.

He swallows down bile and picks himself off the ground. It looks the same, it sounds the same, it tastes the same (like blood and like hate), it even smells the same, lava hissing against burning rock.

He wants to crawl out of his own skin.

He walks out of the 'fighter and stands, swaying, on the red ground. Anakin is there, as Anakin is always there, panting and fuming, and Padmé is kneeling in the dust, screaming in the Force with regret and pain and disgust and heartbreak and Obi-Wan wants to be sick. "Anakin," he says, instead.

"That's no longer my name!"

He doesn't question. Anakin can't see reason, not yet (not ever?). "Then, what is? Tell me what is."

"Vader!" Anakin screams, like a promise. Obi-Wan wants to break it.

He comes to stand, then to kneel, at Anakin's feet, as if pledging allegiance to a king. "You have the right to name yourself," Obi-Wan says. "Of course you do, dear one. But you didn't give yourself that name, did you? You didn't choose it."

Anakin twitches, reels back, horrified. "Don't tell me what I did and didn't choose! You don't know me. Have you ever known me?"

"I'd like to think I have." But here he is, and that's contradiction enough, isn't it?

He's failed. If he could go back, he would fail again. His nails break his skin as he wills himself back further, further than just this day. Why now, when it's too late? He's tried, but nothing works, Anakin is beyond consolation. He's rabid with wrath and fear, even now, after so much time and no time at all, he looks inhuman, and Obi-Wan has spent the wars chaining such creatures. Such animals as this.

"Why haven't you?" Anakin begs, and he has no answer. That's the truth. They are linked, still, as Master and Padawan are always linked, and even so he cannot get a read on Anakin's true self. He'd seen a growing pit of darkness in his padawan's soul, but he hadn't even begun to guess, to fathom the possibility of Vader. The Sith is borne from his ignorance, his carelessness as a master.

"I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you." He rests a hand on Anakin's dirt-stained boot. "In every way."

"So you admit it," Anakin spits, and then turns abruptly away. "No, wait, I-"

Obi-Wan has no more lies to give. "I've loved you, Anakin, always. You have been my brother, through everything. The best times and the worst times."

This is the wrong answer, apparently, as Anakin's face scrunches up, tears brimming at his eyes. "No, you don't. You've no faith in me. And you're right not to. You're right!" He chokes, sobs. "Go, leave. Or I'll kill you myself."

He turns and runs. He finds suddenly that he cannot breathe.


77.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

It won't stop. He's tried so long, so hard, and it won't stop. He's decided it will never stop, that the Force has given him a fitting punishment for failing so miserably, so utterly and completely. Every day he does the same thing, in infinite variations. He begs, pleads, fights, screams, and cries. He's beaten Anakin bloody and left him burning, and in equal parts, he's let Anakin win, let himself sink into the fires. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, only the same durasteel, every death. No peace, no rest, no eternal joining with the Living Force, only the taste of metal and the sight of his greatest mistake.

This time, as he descends the ramp, he calls Anakin by his name, perhaps his true name. Anakin's shoulders rise in recognition, and he whips around, eyes narrowed, honing in directly on Obi-Wan's bruised figure. He inhales to scream out another insult, another accusation, but his voice goes raw on the ash in the atmosphere, wheezing, low, and broken, and Obi-Wan feels his stomach sink to his feet. He's heard this voice, in his nightmares, his visions. The Prophecy, the Son.

Fates have willed it this way.

"Vader," he says, again.

As if on some unseen stage cue, Anakin tightens. His mouth thins, the sulphur colour of his eyes bleeds deeper, and his presence in the Force goes cold. So cold it burns as surely as the fire around them. "How do you know this name?"

Obi-Wan laughs, hollow. "You doubt my skill in the Force?"

"You cannot know it! You cannot!"

"But I do."

Everything sweet in Anakin has gone sour, every seed rotten and dead. "Then it is the last name you will ever hear."

Nothing will ever change. He is certain of it.


123.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

He slides himself down the ramp and sits, cross-legged, on the floor beneath him. After long enough, Anakin approaches him himself. Obi-Wan regards him. "Do you love me?" he asks, and receives a look that suggests he's gone mad. He wouldn't be surprised.

"No," Anakin says. "How does it feel? Bad, isn't it? Like dying. After this, you'll beg for death."


124.

"Do you love me?" he repeats. The reaction is the same.

He wants it to differ, however minutely. He wants the parameters to rearrange.


125.

"Could you love me?"

Anakin snarls like a beast and grips Obi-Wan by the throat. Obi-Wan lets him. "How could you ask me that? How dare you ask me that, after all you've done!"


126.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

He doesn't sit at the ship's base now, but comes to overlook the flowing river below. Anakin stares, confused, for a good minute, and then begins to pace, muttering to himself like he is the one who's lost his mind.

Obi-Wan bends down to grab a stone, turns it over twice in his hands, and then throws it to the lava. "Have you ever loved me?"

Anakin begins to growl. "What, what did you just ask me?"

He offers out a tendril, a vine, that curls over his mental walls, and allows Anakin to see he is asking with no ulterior motive. "Have you?"

"Once." A pause. "Not too long ago," Anakin finishes, and returns to viciously pry at the corners of Obi-Wan's head, to tear desperately at the fabric of their bond. "I don't need this burden anymore."

It sounds like he's convincing himself more than anyone.


258.

He wakes up as he always wakes up.

"Did it ever rain on Tatooine?" He doesn't imagine it did. "I was thinking of staying there."

Anakin seethes. "You know just where I will never return."

"Yes, I do."

It doesn't matter now. He will never escape this place.


296.

"Where will you go, after this?"

"Where my Master commands."

"Of your own volition, Darth Vader. Where will you choose to go?"

Anakin glares a sharp knife, and snaps, cutting, "Anywhere but here."

"I share your feeling, cherished one."

This is not the correct response, either.


311.

"Come with me, to raise your children."

That gets a rise, a peak on the upwards spiral of unbridled hate. "I will raise them without your pitiful, useless guidance."

"I do not doubt it. Humour me?"

"Why should I?"

He wants to cry, or to crumple to nothingness, to fade into the ash that swirls around them. "I don't know," says Obi-Wan. "Perhaps you shouldn't."


349.

"Have you ever wanted to do something different?"

For a brief moment, the rage quells, and is replaced by a familiar curiosity. "Like what?"

"Something outside of the Jedi Order."

"As a kid, I dreamed of being a mechanic, of fixing things." Anakin tilts his head. "But now all I can do is take things apart."


365.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

He has counted a year in days.

He has not succeeded in a single one.


383.

"Should I give up?" he asks of the Force, and gets no reply. He hadn't expected one. "Is that what you want of me? Or do you want anything at all?"

"What are you talking about? What's wrong with you? Finally accepting defeat? That's not like you."

"Is this like you?"


397.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

He weeps, for all he has lost, and for all he is constantly losing.


400.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

This time, he is determined. He makes it all of two feet before Anakin crushes his airways and watches soundlessly as he chokes.

He will choke until the end of time if he has to.


403.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter.

As much as he wants to give up, to let himself die down to the very core, he will not. He cannot. There is too much at stake, he has seen it.

When he arrives at Anakin's side, down past the ramp, past the fitful swirls of dirt, he asks, "How can I fix this? How can I make this right?"

Swiftly, sharply, he hears, "You can't."

"What if I were to join you?" he posits, despite this response. Despite all the reasons he should not.

Suddenly, Anakin says, "That's an awful idea. No, don't join me. I will do such terrible things."

Obi-Wan is sent spinning. He knows of the Prophecy, but only the Council has any true flicker of insight into the future anymore. Everyone else has perished, most often as a direct result of his own actions in the wars. "How do you know that?"

Anakin raises an eyebrow and blinks. "How do I know what?"

"That you will do such terrible things."

"What? Where did you hear that?" Tears spill over, writing salty trails over hollow cheeks. Anakin looks physically unwell. "Have you passed your judgement so soon, oh great Master?"

"You just said it yourself."

"No- I didn't-" Anakin takes a step back. "I did. Where- I've heard that before. Before now. Where have I heard that?"

Dawning realisation sends Obi-Wan crawling into Anakin's mind, to the barrier he knows the Father, the Son, the Daughter have all wanted to remain a steady, unwavering pillar. Like a rubber band snapping back into place, it's falling away, like sand from a cliff's edge, removing itself from existence piece by piece. "You shouldn't remember that," Obi-Wan says.

"You took part in this?" Anakin shakes himself bodily. "Who am I kidding? Of course you did. Only you! Only you, Kenobi! Violating my mind without my permission. You hypocrite. You liar! This goes against every tenet of the Code you love so much. You've kissed its boots all these years, bent over backwards for it, and now I learn you've- you've completely disregarded-!"

"I didn't know what else to do. What was right. You would've driven yourself mad. Think on it. What has been taken from you. Could you have remained unscathed had it been left? Please, Anakin, I was wrong. I am wrong. I allowed it because I want the best for you." Obi-Wan coughs on his own heaving, despairing sobs. "I've just never known what that is, dearest one. My beloved Anakin."

"No," Anakin cries, sinking to the ground. "No! No, it's too late. The Son, he wanted this? Didn't he? Was he trying to prove I could never fix it? My future? What I'm going to do? Oh, gods, I've proved it myself. I didn't need him for a second. I never did." He goes wild, grabs at Obi-Wan's tunics, fingers clawed. "I don't need anyone! Nobody except you. You're always here. You will always remain, no matter what I do. I- I kill you. You kill me, and I take revenge." He begins to laugh. "Revenge is not the Jedi way. But I am no Jedi, am I? I never was. I never will be."

"You are more a Jedi than any of us."

"I am a Sith! Look at me, Obi-Wan, look! I'm as far from the Order as any of the Dark Lords."

"You have the Dark, but you still have the Light. The Light will never leave you, it will never abandon you."

"Like you will never leave me?" Anakin begs. "Like you will never abandon me?"

"Of course."

"I can't kill you. I can't do it. Those things, the things I will do, I can see that. I have always seen that. But killing you-! I- couldn't. I would die before I ever could."

"I've seen myself kill you. Leave you to burn." His eyes sting, and he clenches them shut against the acid tang. "You killed me when you were already dead. Just a ghost."

"A shell. Hollow. Empty. Wrong. I can't- don't let him make me- I don't want to end up like that." When he blinks his eyes open again, Anakin is looking up at him, disgust and horror and remorse pooling in his eyes. "You said you saw it, too, the future. Can I stop it?"

"I don't know. I've only ever seen to the end of this day. Never more than that."

Anakin stops. "How? Why haven't you?"

"I've lived this day hundreds of times over. Only this day. Never moving forward, only backward."

The palor in Anakin's skin seems even more obvious, now, stark against his sweat, the smeared dirt annointing his face. "You couldn't get out? Trapped in just this day? Like... a loop? In time?"

"Yes, precisely so. An inescapable time loop."

Anakin stares at him with wide eyes, a tinge of respect, a hint of being impressed, a wisp of sympathy Obi-Wan wants to grab and tie between them. "How are you still sane?"

"I'm not quite sure myself."

Anakin's attention grips tighter. "Have you ever managed to-"

"Get very far? No. Every time I think I've failed you for the last time, I get one more chance to fail yet again."

"Why?" Anakin asks, and he's honestly confused. He really doesn't know how deep the conflict will run, for all eternity.

"I don't know how to help."

Anakin looks at him like he's dimwitted. "You already have."

"I have never been more glad. You know, we can fix this," Obi-Wan promises, to himself and to Anakin. "We can do it, Anakin. Together, as one."

=.=

As they process the return of the memories, Anakin calms. He carries Padmé's form, creeping in and out of consciousness, up into the hull of their 'fighter, leaning heavily on Obi-Wan's shoulder, and slumps down against the back of the pilot's seat, dragging his two passengers down with him. They stay there, Anakin's breathing ragged, Obi-Wan pulling them close against his side, until reality fades to dreams.


2.

He wakes quickly and without thought, breaking through the barrier of unconsciousness to find himself face down on the floor of a starfighter. He is stretching, moving to curl on his side, where he envelops something warm that smells like sweat and ash.

He blinks his eyes open. Anakin is beside him, asleep, and Padmé is up and about again. She looks sickly, and Obi-Wan knows they must get her to a hospital soon, but for now she is as well as she can be. "I feel the children are coming," she says, hushed. "They'll be alright, I'm sure of it. But will you be? Will Anakin be?"

"I think so," Obi-Wan says, and rouses his makeshift bunkmate.

Anakin stretches the sleep from himself, slowly and carefully cracking joints. He looks exhausted. They all do. "You guys okay? Unharmed?"

Padmé nods and says, "The twins. They're ready."

"And the Chancellor?" Obi-Wan asks, but Anakin shakes his head.

"I renounce my service," he vows. "And nothing, nothing will stop me from bringing him to justice for what he's done." He dips his head. "I am sorry for what I've done, Master."

"As am I, my love." Obi-Wan manages a smile for the first time in an endless stack of memories, all from one day, and four hundred days. "Bringing the Chancellor to recompense, hmm? Now that, I'm positive we can do. It's a step on what's going to be a long, long path. But it is, still, a step."

=.=

"I lied," Anakin says.

Obi-Wan raises his head, where it's cradled by his knees. "About what?"

"When I said I don't love you. That I didn't and never could. I lied."

He can't bring himself to speak for many moments. Then, finally, "You remember?"

"The walls are gone now," says Anakin, rubbing at bleary eyes. "I can see everything."

"I'm glad to hear it." Obi-Wan rests a hand on his shoulder. "I meant all I said. I do love you, Anakin. You've been here, for me, unfaltering, for as long as I remember."

"I lied about so much. I'll visit Tatooine... if I really have to. You can help the kids as much as you kriffing want, Obi-Wan. Until you're sick of them, even. You're everything to me."

"As you are to me."

=.=

When he wakes up tomorrow, face down on the bunk, flying back to Coruscant, he thinks he'll sit for a while. Get up slowly and thoughtfully, having found a new hope.

He will rise to another day, away from this place, to find he and his family are remade anew, ready to right what wrongs they've set upon this world, and that is enough.


FIN.