Anakin sighed, deeply.
He watched Luke, watched him fly like it was second nature. He was searching for others that might have been force-sensitive, travelling the galaxy. His son chattered away, whether it was to him, or Artoo, or himself, he didn't know- it didn't help with the guilt. Anakin shouldn't have been given this chance to linger on, to watch his children grow and learn. He had given that opportunity up decades ago, he had made his choice and yet- here he was.
He had been given another chance.
It made no sense.
Every day Luke worked to make the galaxy that little bit better, to fix the mess that Anakin had started. And maybe it would have happened whether he had fallen to the dark or not, but that didn't help the guilt. He had killed so many, wiped out entire planets and now he was given the chance to watch over his children? To linger in the light where he hadn't belonged in years?
It was wrong.
"Father?" called Luke, his mouth twisted into a frown. He had spun in his chair, was looking at him directly now. Even dead, Anakin could feel his Force signature, his light. "Is everything alright, you seem- quiet."
And no one had called him that before, that was for certain.
"Don't worry, Luke," said a voice, next to him. Anakin jumped, Obi Wan was far too good at hiding his presence now that they were a part of the Force. His hand rested on the back of his neck, a warm comfort. They were ghosts to the living, but to each other it was as if they were still flesh and blood, it was as if nothing had changed (except everything had changed).
Obi Wan had long since shifted back to his familiar look during the Clone Wars. His beard, neat and trimmed, his hair auburn with just the barest hint of grey on the edges. The old man had made Anakin uncomfortable, and Obi Wan knew it. He hadn't worn that face since the night Sidious had been killed. Anakin was glad. Obi Wan smiled, softly. "Your father is still getting used to being himself." His eyes gleamed. "And honestly, he has never been that good at listening for too long. The amount of times I would look at him and his eyes were glazed." He shook his head, "He had a terrible habit of doing it during Council meetings."
"I was tired!" argued Anakin. They all were, it was a war.
He hadn't been that bad.
The bond that still existed (somehow) between he and Obi Wan lit up with mirth, images of Master Windu calling his name to no avail, to Anakin, his head drooping, his eyes threatening to close, flashing through his mind. Obi Wan's hand moved to his cheek, his eyes gentle.
"I know you were, dear one," said Obi Wan.
Anakin's eyes widened, his breath catching. He could feel Luke watching them, but Anakin couldn't tear his eyes away to see. It had- it had been a long time since he had heard Obi Wan call him that.
A very long time.
It had always made him feel warm inside, whenever Obi Wan said those words, called him 'dear one' with such love and warmth. It still did, even more now than it ever had before. After everything, after all that he had done, Obi Wan still- he still cared. Anakin knew that already (despite how little sense it made), it was hard not too, but to hear it out loud was another matter entirely. To hear those once well-worn words again after everything- Anakin didn't know what to do, what to say. His heart beat fast in his chest, he wondered if Obi Wan could feel it too.
Obi Wan squeezed his neck, and then drifted away, planting himself in the co-pilot's seat. Anakin hardly heard what he was saying, drawing Luke into conversation.
All Anakin could hear was 'dear one', over and over again in his head.
Obi Wan chuckled, Anakin shot him a dark look.
"It's not funny, Master," Anakin hissed, glaring at the little green devil that sat next to his son. When Luke had said he had sensed something, someone that had needed him, they had all agreed he had to follow it. There were still so few Jedi in the galaxy, even with the defeat of the Empire, they remained in hiding. Too many wanted to use their power, too many still wanted them dead.
Luke wanted to change all that, but it would take time.
Of course, if Anakin had known that it was Grogu they would be stumbling across, he would have advised they leave him to fend for himself. He had survived this long, he would be fine.
Grogu stared at him, his big eyes looking innocent and young. He wasn't young, he was as old as Anakin was, much older than Luke or that Mandolorian he had attached himself too. Everyone always fell over backwards for Grogu, looked the other way when he broke the rules (which he did a lot, Anakin would know, they had been in class together). Anakin had never received such treatment. In fact, he was usually blamed for disturbing Grogu's concentration. Like the little shit didn't use the Force inappropriately every time their backs were turned.
"Anakin, you're too old to resent him still," said Obi Wan, amusement in his voice. "He is but a youngling-"
"Oh, he's more than that, he knows exactly what he's doing," said Anakin, glaring at Grogu. The other tilted his head, curiously. "Should have just left him with that Mandolorian."
"He needs to be trained," said Luke, shaking his head. "He would be dead if I hadn't of got there in time. He's not safe with them alone, even you know that, Father."
"Still," Anakin muttered, folding his arms across his chest. "Why not just summon Master Yoda and let him deal with it."
"Called, you did?" said Master Yoda. Anakin jumped, and he could practically feel Obi Wan laughing at him. It wasn't his fault that people just kept appearing, out of nowhere, with no such warning. It wasn't as if he could see them coming. Grogu perked up at the sight of Yoda, a hand reaching out. Master Yoda eyed him sadly, shaking his head. "Here, I am not, youngling."
Grogu's ears drooped, Anakin almost felt bad for him. Almost.
"You know, Master, I never asked- are you related to Grogu?" questioned Anakin, curiously. Half of the temple had wondered, none had been brave enough to ask. It hardly matter now that they were all dead.
Yoda fixed him with a piercing look, Anakin resisted the urge to shift in his chair.
He wasn't a youngling anymore.
"Related, we are not," said Master Yoda, finally. "Responsible for him, I was. Mine to watch over, after Yaddle passed. Her nephew, he was."
Anakin didn't really know how he was supposed to respond to that, how he was supposed to react to the sadness in Master Yoda's voice. He felt Obi Wan at his back, felt him lean over the chair.
"There are so few of Master Yoda's kind left, even fewer who are sensitive to the Force," said Obi Wan, quietly. "Grogu lived through his classmates being killed-" Anakin flinched. "He lived through many wars and much death, he has had to leave behind those he cares about in order to gain the training he so desperately needs. He is lonely, Anakin. He needs us, our guidance. Do not make this harder on him than it already is."
Anakin sighed, his gaze flickering to Grogu. He was watching him again, Anakin had no idea what he was thinking. "You're right, I'm sorry."
It wasn't Obi Wan he was apologising too, but they all knew that.
Grogu cooed, reached out for him too. Anakin sighed, and raised his hand. The Force moved around them, it was so much harder now that he was a part of it. He shouldn't even have been able to connect with the other side, but Anakin had been born of the Force, he had always had a greater connection to it than anyone else. The little silver ball in Grogu's hands lifted, danced around in front of his face. Anakin watched his ears twitch, his eyes light up.
Okay, so maybe he could see what everyone else saw.
He was a little bit cute (when he wanted to be).
Obi Wan wrapped an arm around his shoulders, a bright smile on his face. "That is an inappropriate use of the Force, dearest." It was a long-standing joke, Anakin always misused the Force. Obi Wan scolded him, but most of them time it was halfhearted at best. That wasn't what caught his attention though, not at all.
He had called him 'dearest'. That one was new, both in life and death. It rolled off his tongue easily, he didn't even look at Anakin to gauge his reaction. He had just said it, like it was normal, like they had always done it (they definitely hadn't).
Master Yoda raised an eyebrow.
Anakin gaped at his former Master in disbelief. He felt warm and fuzzy inside, his cheeks heating up. For all his endearments in the past, he had never said any of them in front of another Council member. He wouldn't have in a million years, but all of that didn't really matter anymore.
Anakin still felt exposed with Master Yoda studying them both, with Grogu staring, with Luke clearing his voice and declaring (loudly) that they were almost at their destination. He didn't know what to think, he wasn't even sure he could think at that moment.
Obi Wan glanced at him, "Yes, Anakin?"
Anakin cleared his throat, shook his head. He had to play it cool, it was fine, everything was normal. "Nothing, Master," he said, too quickly. His voice came out higher than usual, it was more of a squeak then anything else.
He wondered what would happen if he threw himself out of the airlock.
This seemed like a good time to find out.
The tension was heavy, it pressed down on all of them. Anakin hadn't wanted to do this, but Obi Wan said it was time. Ahsoka deserved the truth, deserved to see what had happened to him.
And she did, but- Anakin was afraid.
She stood before them, her face unreadable. Ahsoka had always been easy to read, but now there was nothing. She had grown so much, she was a woman now, a warrior that had been through hell and worse (because of him). Anakin swallowed, thickly.
He had known she was still out there, he had felt it. But he hadn't worked up the courage to see her, to reveal himself to her. It didn't matter how many hints Obi Wan dropped, how many whispers of her they heard, Anakin had stayed away. It was for the best, he had told himself. For years she had thought him dead, had mourned for him and that was a kinder fate than the truth. Anakin could still see the horror on her face, the determination to stay with him even as the Sith temple fell apart around them.
Anakin would have killed her then, given the chance.
She was better off without him. Anakin had returned to the light but that didn't change what had happened, what he'd done, what Ahsoka had seen.
It changed nothing.
But Grogu had forced his hand, he had seen her. It was to Ahsoka that they had first gone when searching for someone to train him and it was Ahsoka that had refused to do so. She had been afraid, she hadn't been able to trust herself to train someone like Grogu, someone that had attachments.
Someone like Anakin.
Obi Wan huffed, "This is ridiculous," he said, finally. Anakin glanced at him, so did Ahsoka. "Even I might age if we stand here silently any longer."
"You can age at will, Master," said Anakin, quietly.
"No, I can change my face at will to reflect any point of my life, you don't see me age," said Obi Wan, sagely. He smiled at Ahsoka, "But I do prefer this one, it is familiar, it feels like me. As you well know, I died a little older than this."
"Yes, I heard," said Ahsoka. Her voice was even, no hint of whatever she might be feeling behind it. "Vader killed you, didn't he?"
Of course, she didn't need emotion to let them know exactly how she felt.
"Well- I must say, I didn't exactly put too much effort behind it, I had already learned all that I had needed too," said Obi Wan. He waved down at himself, "I was much more useful in this form."
"It doesn't excuse it," said Anakin, hoarsely. He didn't look at Obi Wan, couldn't. "Just like my being here doesn't excuse anything I did. I found the light again because of my son, but I spent decades in the dark. Nothing, nobody, could stop me." He shook his head, held Ahsoka's piercing gaze. "I knew you were out here, I knew I had to come and see you but I was avoiding it, avoiding facing you after all these years. I'm sorry, Snips. For everything." Tears burned his eyes, but he refused to let them fall.
Ahsoka looked away, "Why now, then? Why come here now?"
"Because it was time, because I can't run away forever."
"And because our young friend told us where we might find you," said Obi Wan, softly.
"Grogu," said Ahsoka, knowingly. "He found someone? Luke will train him?"
Obi Wan nodded, "He will."
She let out a breath, "I'm glad. I'm- I'm in no position to be a teacher, I don't think I ever will be."
Anakin opened his mouth to say something, to tell her that she would be an amazing teacher, that she didn't need to let his actions weigh her down, but Obi Wan beat him to it. "And that is your decision, young one," he said, his voice gentle. "You don't need to feel obliged to do something you are uncomfortable with."
"Thank you," said Ahsoka. Her eyes found Anakin's again, studying him, as if trying to break him open and see if this was all real. "You must know Anakin, I cannot forgive you- for everything, all that you did, all that you killed-" She broke off, suddenly. Her mouth was pulled into a thin line, her eyes wet with tears. "I can't."
"Good," said Anakin, his voice rough. "You shouldn't. I didn't come here for forgiveness, I came here because you deserved to know the truth. If you wish to never see me again, then you only need to ask, I'll respect your wishes."
The forest was quiet.
Anakin itched to move, to fidget but forced himself to remain still.
Ahsoka let out a breath, "I don't want that," she said, finally. Anakin slumped in relief, Obi Wan brushed a hand over his back, briefly. "I just- it will take time, Masters."
"We understand, Ahsoka," said Obi Wan, a small smile pulling at his lips. "We are never far, if you need us. Until then, be safe, little one." He was already walking away when he glanced back at Anakin, "Come on, darling. Let's see how Luke is fairing with training his new student."
Ahsoka's eyebrows had gone high on her face, as Anakin fought back a blush. 'Darling?' she mouthed, amused. Anakin shot her a look that clearly read 'shut it' and Ahsoka smirked.
There was hope for them yet.
Anakin wasn't sure if that had been Obi Wan's plan, or if he just enjoyed drawing a reaction from him. He was beginning to suspect that it was the latter. If it was, it worked, consistently.
"Have fun," Ahsoka sang after them.
Anakin took a breath, tried not let his thoughts wander to exactly what she was implying. That wasn't safe territory, not at all.
He shot her another warning look.
"Any trace of the Emperor seems to have well and truly disappeared," reported Master Windu, as they gathered in the abandoned Jedi Council meeting room.
Anakin hated returning to the Temple.
He suspected they knew that.
He couldn't avoid the things he had done, he understood that. But the Temple- that was where it had all started, that was where he had slaughtered-
Anakin shuddered, ignoring Obi Wan as he reached out to touch their bond and send a burst of warmth through him. He didn't deserve that, not here. "How can you be sure?" said Anakin, tiredly. "He didn't disappear straight away, you said that yourself."
Their ghostly forms flickered in the golden light of the sun setting. Those that remained, sat in the chairs they had once occupied, Master Windu, Yoda, Billaba, Mundi, Ti- if Anakin closed his eyes, it was almost as if he were in the past, as if he were addressing the Masters via comm. Obi Wan sat in his usual chair, Anakin in the one next to his. He was no Master, he hadn't earned his place here the first time around.
But things were different now.
They were all that was left.
Luke and Leia each occupied a seat, the only two living beings to do so. The only two living beings that could (for now). Leia was not as far along in her training as her brother, she held back, but they were working on it. She could see them now, at least.
Anakin couldn't blame her for holding back. If he had him for a father, he would hold back too.
"We searched extensively," said Master Ti, patiently. Anakin still struggled to look at her without seeing what he had done, his lightsaber through her chest. "There was nothing to find, for which we should be glad."
"Complacent, we can not be," said Master Yoda, firmly. "Watchful, we will remain. Depend on it, the future could."
"For now," said Leia, calmly. "It is the present, that is of the most concern." She was every bit the politician her mother was, Bail had raised her well. Better then he ever could have. All paid her the attention and respect she deserved, even as young as she was. "The Empire has fallen, but there are still pockets of loyalists across the galaxy. Luke can't bring peace on his own, and he needs to focus on rebuilding the Jedi Order. As long as we are not under any threat from the Sith, he can do that."
"There is no threat," said Master Mundi. "But that is why we remain, Princess Organa, to watch for such threats. The Force will know, and we are the Force now."
Leia didn't look convinced, or perhaps it just seemed that way to Anakin.
She had been raised in the world of politics, but he knew she worried over Luke, over him bearing such a burden as rebuilding the Jedi from nothing.
"There are others out there," said Master Billaba, "Others to be found, others that can help rebuild the Jedi Order. Those we know of, should be of first priority."
Windu gave her a long look, a look that Anakin didn't even know how to read (but could guess). "Ahsoka has already gone in search of Ezra Bridger, if he is out there, he will be found," he said.
"It was too late for Caleb, but it can't be too late for Ezra," she said, shaking her head. Anakin felt Obi Wan's sympathy, his understanding, through their bond. "It can't."
"It won't," said Luke. "If he is out there, we'll find him."
"Has there been any word?" asked Obi Wan, looking around. "On him, or any of the others, Cere Junda, Cal Kestis?"
They thought it would have been easy to find force-sensitive individuals but to them, the Force was everywhere. It was them, it was the trees, it was every single living thing. It was harder than they thought, it wasn't their role anymore but they still tried. It was all they could do, try.
"No," said Billaba, with a sigh. "Caleb might have been able to find his padawan, but he is still lost in the Force, I have not been able to retrieve him yet, his spirit is not ready." Anakin could almost feel her pain, he glanced sideways, Obi Wan met his gaze.
"Give him time," said the deep voice of Qui Gon Jinn. His body flickered in and out of existence, was difficult to see without squinting. His physical form was difficult to manifest, but it would come. It would take time, but it would. "He will hear your voice Depa, he will follow it."
She sighed, but said nothing more.
"I don't trust Sidious to stay dead," said Anakin, willing his voice not to shake. "I killed him and yet you all informed me you had felt his presence for a brief moment after. He hid what he was from us for decades, he hid his intentions from us, I would not put it past him to hide from us now."
And if he still lived on, even in death as they did. If he was still out there, what was stopping him from coming back? What was stopping him from coming for him? Or his children? Or Obi Wan? Or any of the children out there that could sense the Force?
"Nor would I," said Windu, his eyes fixed on him. "So we will remain watchful. For now, there is no threat."
It didn't fill Anakin with confidence.
A chill settled over him, the fear creeping into his veins. He didn't want to fall again, he wasn't sure he could but if anyone managed it- it would be him. He didn't want his children to fall, he didn't want to have to watch and be unable to do anything.
Anakin felt his heart clench, his breath quicken. But he would deserve it, wouldn't he? He had made so many others suffer, it was only fair he suffered too. Not through them though, they didn't deserve it. They shouldn't have to suffer for his crimes anymore than they already had.
'Hush, Anakin,' Obi Wan whispered, into his mind. There was a soft brush against their bond, a comforting touch. 'It'll be okay, I promise.'
Anakin struggled to keep his face neutral, to at least pretend he listened to whatever the new Council spoke about now. 'You can't promise that, Master,' said Anakin, back to him. 'Sidious could still be out there, he could-'
'If he is, he will not touch you or the children,' Obi Wan said, fiercely. 'It is done, your time with him is over now. You're safe now, beloved. He will not take you again.' Anakin sucked in a sharp breath of air, all eyes in the room turning to him. For a moment, he forgot how to breathe. His heart stuttered, and he turned his head. He felt the full force of Obi Wan's gaze on him, then. That did nothing to help him remember how to breathe.
Qui Gon chuckled.
"Oh, for the love of the Force," Master Windu muttered. "Must they do this here."
"Ah, let them be, they have many years to catch up on," said Master Ti, her voice light.
Anakin could feel himself flushing, he dragged his gaze away, forced himself to sit up straight in his chair. "I don't what you're talking about, Master Windu," he said, his voice even. He also didn't really understand what was happening, why things between he and Obi Wan were suddenly charged, or why no one seemed particularly surprised by it.
It had never been like this before, they had bantered, maybe there had been the barest hint of flirting (Anakin couldn't help himself, Obi Wan brought it out of him). They had always been close, everyone knew it. That bond shifted over the years, as Anakin grew to a friend and an equal, both of them touched by war. There had been love and friendship, but not this-
Anakin never imagined (hoped) there could be this.
"Of course you don't," said Windu, and this time he did roll his eyes. Anakin's mouth fell open, Master Windu ignored him (he was good at that). "This meeting is done, we will meet again in a few months time if necessary. Dismissed."
And then he was gone.
He certainly had no desire to stick around, and the others followed. Luke and Leia took their own leave, slipping out of the room. Solo had been left in charge of Grogu, as far as he knew. That was bound to go well. Anakin was distinctly aware that he and Obi Wan were suddenly alone. He turned his head, a pout forming on his lips. Obi Wan was sprawled in his chair (how the Council allowed him to sit like that, he didn't know), holding back a smile.
"Master," said Anakin, as if that was all he needed to say, as if Obi Wan would understand (he would).
Obi Wan tilted his head to the side, "Yes, Anakin?"
Anakin groaned, "Don't play games me, what are you doing? I don't-"
Obi Wan pushed himself to his feet, held a hand out. "Come, let's take a walk." His voice was soft, it didn't stop Anakin from wincing a little. He would take a walk with Obi Wan anywhere else but not here, he couldn't- "I have missed the Room of a Thousand Fountains, it's been a long time." And he sounded so wistful, Anakin couldn't help but get out of his chair, take a hold of Obi Wan's hand (if he held on a little too tightly, Obi Wan didn't say anything). Obi Wan studied him, his eyes roaming over him. "You don't have to, if you really don't want too, dear one."
He knew that.
But Obi Wan wanted to help, he wanted him to heal. Anakin could do anything, if Obi Wan was at his side. Warmth flooded the bond and Anakin closed his eyes.
He swallowed, thickly. "Just a quick look."
Obi Wan smiled.
He was so tiny.
Anakin hung over the cot, stared down at his grandson. Leia was never surprised to see him there anymore, Anakin spent a lot of time in the nursery. He couldn't help it, couldn't help but keep a watchful eye over the baby. He couldn't touch him, but sometimes Anakin could swear Ben would look at him, that his voice alone was enough to soothe his loud screams in the middle of the night.
He was just so tiny, with all his little toes and fingers, his wide, dark eyes blinking around at the world.
Had Luke been that small?
Had Leia been that small?
Anakin hadn't worked up enough courage to ask yet. Obi Wan would know, he had been there the day they had been born after all. He didn't bring it up, either. Anakin knew it wasn't a day he liked to think about. The day the twins were born, was also the day that (as far as he was concerned) Anakin Skywalker had died.
He blinked away a vision of fire and light sabers clashing, of Obi Wan looking at him in grief, of his skin burning.
Anakin felt no anger towards his Master for what he had done, for walking away. If the situation were reversed, Anakin knew he wouldn't have been able to kill Obi Wan either. He hadn't seen him much, he realised. Not since Ben had been born and Anakin spent his time haunting the nursery. It was odd, really. Anakin thought he would want to see this, to see some good come into the world again.
They had found Ezra.
They had found Cal.
There were other younglings, too. The Temple was coming back to life, even if Anakin still avoided it if he could. The galaxy was healing from the terror he had reined down upon it. Light was returning now that the dark had been defeated. It was meant to be a happy time, Obi Wan was meant to be happy.
And it wasn't that he was unhappy, it was just- he was acting weird, he had been distant. Anakin knew Obi Wan, or at least he thought he did. He didn't even scold Anakin for staying in the living world for as long as he did, for not looking after himself.
It took energy to remain seen in this plane of existence, even ghosts needed to rest on occasion. There was a place, made within the Force, where most of them resided. It was easier to feel what was happening from there. Anakin couldn't explain what it was exactly, how it came to be, but it was as if they could create a life for themselves there. Obi Wan's home was almost exactly the same as the apartment they had once shared in the Temple.
Anakin often drifted back there.
He needed no other home, and his old room had already been there waiting (it was as much a mess now, as it was back then).
But usually, they went back there together. Usually, Obi Wan wouldn't leave him to himself for this long (least of all now, when they were closer than ever).
"Are you still here?" said Leia, incredulously. She leaned against the doorframe, her face stern. Her dark hair was out, curled down her side. Ben had his mother's eyes, Anakin had decided. His daughter shook her head, "I'm sure you have other places to be, father."
Anakin smiled at her.
It had taken Leia a long time to call him 'father'. It still made him warm inside, a rush of affection running through him. He tried not to show it, she would only roll her eyes.
"I like it here," said Anakin, peering down at Ben again. He waved his fingers, made a face. Ben's eyes followed the movement in interest. Anakin grinned, "Besides where else would I go?"
Leia gave him a long look, crossing the room to sit in the chair next to his. He couldn't feel her warmth, he couldn't feel her life, but he could feel the Force moving around her (more and more every day). "Perhaps you should be wherever Obi Wan is these days. I haven't seen him in a week, which given that I have seen you every day, is something that strikes me as odd."
"We are not always joined at the hip, Leia," said Anakin, rolling his eyes.
But she was right.
She was too observant.
Even sleep-deprived, having just given birth, she was too observant.
Anakin let his mind wander, pulled at the bond between he and Obi Wan. Anakin hadn't wanted to ask why, he had noticed, of course. It was hard not too, but Anakin feared he knew exactly why Obi Wan couldn't bring himself to spend too much time with the baby.
It was because of him.
It was always because of him.
'Master, where are you?' Anakin whispered, into the Force, into the space between them. 'Are you avoiding me?' He was vaguely aware of Leia leaning forward, cooing at the child she had brought into this world.
'Avoiding you?' replied Obi Wan, almost immediately. 'I am not avoiding you, dear one.'
'Then what are you avoiding?'
There was silence, stretching too long, too painful. Anakin could feel Obi Wan flinch, could feel him starting to pull away. Anakin concentrated, grabbed a hold of his retreating signature before he could. 'You don't want to see Ben, why?' he pushed.
'He already has someone watching over him, he does not need-'
'But I do,' said Anakin. 'I need you, I always need you.' He steeled himself, Leia looked at him, curiously, Anakin just shook his head. He would tell her later. 'You saw my children come into the world, you should see my grandchildren too, Obi Wan. You are as much a part of this family as anyone else.'
There was a flash of fire behind his eyes, he heard himself screaming.
Obi Wan retreated, quickly. His shields went up with a resounding echo, and Anakin winced at being cut off so suddenly. 'Master...'
'I'm sorry, my love.'
Anakin sucked in a sharp breath of air.
And then Obi Wan was gone, the connection snapping.
"Father?" said Leia, carefully. "Is everything alright?"
Anakin didn't know how to answer that, didn't know how to process it all. He had felt Obi Wan's grief, his guilt. Anakin had never said it out loud that he had forgiven him but he thought that was obvious. It had seemed obvious to him, after all. Perhaps it wasn't, perhaps Obi Wan still drowned in his guilt and despair and had just been hiding it all this time (that was very like him).
He loved him, he mourned him, the children were just a reminder of all that he had lost. Anakin closed his eyes, pained. He shouldn't have let this go on as long as he did, he should have known, he should have seen it the moment he'd had his back turned and Obi Wan had disappeared.
For all the time they had spent together, they had discussed the things that mattered remarkably little.
Anakin would fix that.
He would fix everything.
"I have to go," said Anakin, quickly. Leia blinked, confused, but didn't question it. She nodded, gave a wave. Anakin didn't have the time explain.
He had to find Obi Wan.
Anakin kicked the sand, angrily. He hated this planet, he hated the sand, he hated that Obi Wan had lived here by himself for decades. The little moisture farm stood atop the cliffs, isolated, as far away from civilisation as one could be. Of all the places for him to hide, Anakin hadn't expected Obi Wan to come back here.
It had been days since Anakin had gone looking for him.
He hadn't made it easy.
Obi Wan was so shut off, Anakin couldn't feel him at all. It didn't matter if he yelled or screamed, the bond had remained silent.
He hated that too.
It had been silent for long enough, it had been broken for a time, Anakin didn't want to feel that again. Never again.
"Obi Wan!" Anakin didn't care that he let the anger seep into his voice. He hated Tatooine, even in death. He shouldn't have, he knew but just because he had joined with the Force, that didn't mean he had suddenly become a saint. He was good, but he wasn't that good. "Where are you old man? It's hot, and there's sand in my boots." That was a lie, the sand was of the living, and he wasn't of the living anymore. But that wasn't the point. "OBI WAN!"
There was a sigh, and Obi Wan appeared in front of him. His hands were tucked into the sleeves of his robes, his face was old and weary. It was the face of the man that had gone into exile here, the face of the man Anakin had killed. He winced, the anger inside him deflating like a balloon.
"Master," said Anakin, weakly. "You've been avoiding me. For real, this time." Anakin wanted to reach out, wanted to link their hands together.
Obi Wan sighed, "I'm sorry, Anakin." And he sounded so old.
"It is still me, if not the me you are used too," said Obi Wan.
"I know," whispered Anakin. "But- but that's what you looked like when I killed you. You weren't even that old, Master and yet you had aged far beyond your years. Because of me, because of what I did."
"It was my failure that led us down that path," said Obi Wan, shaking his head. "My failure to save you, my failure to kill you, to end your suffering." Anakin took a step forward, but Obi Wan stepped out of reach. "It was easy to forget with you at my side once more, bright and beautiful as you have always been but- the child, your grandchild, only reminds me of the last time I held a baby, of that dreaded day-" His voice broke off, his face shifted into the one Anakin knew far too well. Younger, but still just as broken. "I failed you, Anakin. I failed you and I can never forgive myself for that."
Anakin moved again, closed the distance between them. Obi Wan remained still, even as Anakin clutched at his arms, as he looked down into those blue-grey eyes. "But I forgive you," said Anakin, softly. "I forgave you for that a long time ago, I don't blame you for what happened, it wasn't your fault. I should have been stronger-" Obi Wan opened his mouth to argue but Anakin glared at him. "But I know it wasn't all my fault either, we were manipulated, Master. We've been through this, many times! I can't change it, neither can you but- it's time for us to move on. I know that's hypocritical coming from me, but it's true. You need to move on, and so do I. This is a new life for us, we can't let ourselves be weighed down by what happened. I don't want too, I just- I want to watch my children grow, I want to watch my grandchildren grow, I want to do what I can to make up for what I did, and I want to do it with you."
"Anakin..." Obi Wan breathed. The bond between them opened, piece by piece. Anakin could feel Obi Wan again, could feel his warmth and love. Anakin let out a breath, leaned forward to press his forehead against his.
"I want to do it with you because you're my best friend, my soul, my heart, my everything," said Anakin, the words tumbling out of him. His cheeks felt flushed, and he clenched his eyes closed. "I love you, which I suspect is what you've been trying to tell me all this time with you're incessant flirting." Obi Wan chuckled, Anakin sent him a flicker of annoyance through the bond (his every flustered moment, his every blush). "Because it changed, didn't it? Some time during the war, you started looking at me differently. I wasn't a child, I was a man, your friend, an equal. Things were different, but then everything went bad and now- well, now I'm here, and you're here." Anakin opened his eyes, pulled back enough to look at Obi Wan. "Right?"
Obi Wan moved his hands to rest his hands on Anakin's waist, his grip firm, grounding. Obi Wan's eyes swam with emotion, as did their bond (happiness, love, amusement, relief, guilt, sadness). "Mostly," he said, "I always loved you Anakin, since you were my padawan and beyond. That love changed, obviously, but I didn't realise how until you were gone, dearest. By then, it was too late."
"It's not too late now," Anakin whispered.
Obi Wan raised a hand to his face, brushed his fingers against his warm cheeks. "No, it isn't." His voice was gentle, and Anakin wanted to lean into it, wrap himself around it. Obi Wan chuckled, "I was never adverse to this, darling. I just- unwanted feelings got in the way of my plan, that's all."
"Your plan of embarrassing me into confessing my love for you?" said Anakin, wryly.
"I think it was working quite nicely."
Anakin rolled his eyes, "There were faster ways, Master," he said, his voice low. Anakin leaned down, pressed their lips together. Their bond lit up immediately, Anakin could feel it. Obi Wan moved, his hand gripping Anakin by the neck, pulling him impossibly closer, deepening the kiss. Anakin made a noise (a moan, a whine, he couldn't be sure), warmth consuming him.
The Force sang, perhaps it had been waiting for this as long as they had.
Obi Wan broke the kiss first, even as Anakin chased after his lips, needing, wanting. Obi Wan humored him, pressed a single chaste kiss to his lips, smiling. "Yes," said Obi Wan. "I suppose doing that might have been faster, but I did enjoy seeing you blush, dear."
As if on cue, Anakin blushed. He groaned, buried his head against Obi Wan's shoulder. His Master laughed, a hand stroking his hair. "You're lucky I love you," Anakin grumbled.
"Lucky, indeed," said Obi Wan, softly. There was a long moment where neither of them moved, Anakin didn't want to move, neither did Obi Wan. Even surrounded by hot, dry air, even with the sand blowing around then, Anakin was happy. He was comfortable, content. He had all that he needed, all that he had ever needed. "Come," said Obi Wan, eventually. "I think I would like go and visit my namesake."
Anakin pulled away, studying Obi Wan. "Are you sure?" he said, carefully. "You don't have too, if you're not ready-"
"It's okay," said Obi Wan. He slid his hand into Anakin's, linked their fingers together. "I think I'll be okay now."
The Force was brighter than it had ever been before.