A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH
by MJ Mink
Gheran Darklighter was dying. Slain by his closest friend.
Anakin Skywalker wept.
There was no blood on his hands; lightsabers were as neat as they were efficient -- they cauterized as they killed.
But for all their efficiency, they didn't null pain. Gher was gasping for air, agony reflecting in the brown eyes that were already glazing over. Then came the first blood, in ripe bubbles from his mouth.
"You told me no one would be hurt!" Anakin screamed at his teacher. "You told me they were practice 'sabers!"
Ben Kenobi inclined his head, tucked his hands up either sleeve in a meditative pose, and smiled sadly. "It is every Darklighter's destiny to die for a Skywalker. It was never intended that he complete his Jedi training. He existed to become a lesson for you. They are practice 'sabers. Yours became lethal because your competitiveness turned into anger that you did not control -- again. So what I told you was true...from a certain point of view."
"From a certain point of view...?" he echoed, aghast. He turned back to his friend. I've killed you, he whispered, but I did not mean to.
Didn't mean to.... How often had he said that in his young life? Sorry, I didn't mean to....
Anger sprang up, dark and strong with resolve. He would learn control. If Gher's death was meant to be a lesson for him, then it would become one. Never again--
Gher choked. Quickly Anakin looked down and sensed the lifeforce fleeing. *No!* He reached with his mind, wove his will into Gher's slipping awareness, and joined them together.
I can keep you alive, he vowed. I can save you.
"Anakin -- no!"
Gher smiled at him. I don't think you should
be here, he said. But then, you never do what you're supposed to,
He grinned back. Life would be boring if we obeyed our teachers.
But at least it would be life. With a shrug, Gher waved. Then he began to shrink into the distance.
Gher -- wait!
He ran after his best friend from Tatooine, the friend he'd grown up with, the friend who went to become a Jedi with him. They would be heroes, shooting stars, they would take on the galaxy and win--
But Gher was going without him.
Gher -- no!
Gher disappeared into a blinding nova. Anakin ran after it, but it was shrinking. With a deep breath, he called on the Force to augment his strength, and leaped into the white heart of the dying star.
He fell for a very long time, but when he landed, he was on his feet, unhurt. He looked around. Everything was black. He began to walk, seeking an end to the darkness.
From some direction came a giggle.
He whirled in a circle, focusing his senses. The giggle sounded again, and he followed it.
One moment he was in darkness, the next he was in a bright morning. In a glade brilliant with green and gold grasses and metallic trees that chimed sweetly. A young woman sat on the ground weaving blue flowers into a ring. Her skirt puddled around her, sunlight shooting prisms across its glistening fabric. She finished her creation and placed the circlet on her head. It looked like a crown on her long brown tresses. She lifted dark eyes in his direction, but stared as though she couldn't see him.
She looked familiar...like Gher. Brown hair, brown eyes, the smooth Darklighter complexion. Could this be his pesky brat of a sister, come to chastise him for slaying her brother?
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to....
Her chin lifted, and she stared through him. Oh, Anakin, she whispered, her voice filled with such pain and regret that he flinched.
He reached out....
...It is every Darklighter's destiny to die for a Skywalker....
Rain began to fall. He lifted his face to the sky and felt its freshness on his skin. When he looked down again, she was gone. The glade was empty.
It is for the best...from a certain point of view.
Whirling, he confronted Ben Kenobi. You bastard! Anakin screamed, and drew his lightsaber.
The blades clashed, lighting the darkening sky, sparks flying from them and setting the trees afire. The grass burned. Anakin stumbled, fell. Lay on the coolness while it set him aflame.
Lightsabers were efficient, but they didn't null pain.
He woke, agony shivering along every nerve. Slowly, he got to his feet and looked around. It was very dark. He couldn't... see. Not the way he used to. A barrier had risen between him and the rest of the galaxy. He lifted his hands to his head, but saw that he had no hands.
He walked forward, off the end of the world.
The air was cool and fresh; he knew it to be the vacuum of space. Someone with quick hands was sewing silver spangles onto the fabric of the night, and eventually they became stars. He was in space, and it was beautiful. He was home. This was where he was meant to be. It was peaceful, serene, comforting --
He heard someone breathing loudly and heavily; he glanced over his left shoulder. He was certain that someone was there, watching him, but there was only more space. Still, he couldn't rid himself of the feeling.
He strode into space. The breathing followed him. He raised his lightsaber like a torch, hoping it would light his path. Its glow paled in comparison with the stars. Bright shafts of fire shot from behind him, and he could hear sounds that were impossible to hear in space -- battlesounds. A huge explosion lit the darkness, but he didn't bother to turn to investigate it; he went on.
And someone always followed him.
The stars grew fewer, their brilliance fading. His steps grew heavier; it became more difficult to raise his feet from the deck. The strange breathing grew harsher, the constant Presence became closer.
He found that he resented It.
He wanted to escape.
His rebellion grew. He began searching for a way out of space, a way back to the home he'd never had. He felt pain-- why now, after a lifetime of acceptance?
Father -- help me --!
His head snapped to the right. Who was that? Who dared to call him Father? I'm young, he screamed, I'm not ready to be a father, I'm sorry but I didn't mean to....
Blindly, he ran toward the cry. Something was in his way; he threw it aside. Touching the thing hurt badly, and he stumbled and fell.
His darkness was lifted. Blinking, he could almost make out a person. A white blur, bright blue eyes swimming with moisture, a thin face... he remembered Her, in the glade. He reached up.
A veil fell over the face, and it grew smaller, fading away. He wanted to cry No! but knew it was best that they be apart. The hardness beneath him turned hollow and he fell into flames. He fell for a very long time, but when he landed, he was on his feet, unhurt. He looked around. Everything was bright. It was day. He was surrounded by wide-eyed youngsters, but he was so old.
Gher lay dead at his feet.
"Are you all right, young Skywalker?" Ben Kenobi asked.
Anakin steeled his expression to show no emotion. "I'm fine," he replied coolly.
Which was true, from a certain point of view.