I am amazed at the depth of the silence - when I know very well that it exists only within me - and at the absence of pain - mind-bending pain which was, very definitely, not absent only moments ago; but neither seems to have any meaning in this pale, shadowless place in which I find myself. In the realm of reality, there are - there must be - the sounds of lightsabers clashing, and booted feet vying for position - the grunts and gasps of desperate opponents locked in a combat that can only be mortal. My padawan - my Obi-WAn, fighting for his life and - he believes - for mine. I must hold myself to myself; he must not yet sense the truth - that it is too late for me. I must not allow the distraction to cause the misstep that might cost that precious young life - that life that has been the center of my existence for so many years. Sad that he has never known that; sadder still that - now - I can never tell him.

Strange to come to this place now - when I was totally convinced that I had so many years ahead - so many years in which to allow him to see the truth. Years in which I would train Anakin, as I trained Obi-WAn, but without all the bitterness, without all the pain inflicted by a Master too wounded and too frightened to rejoice in the gift that the Force dropped into his lap.

You are struggling, my Padawan; even in this strange, quiet place, I can sense it. Your anger is bright and pure and filled with the hunger for justice and the desire to protect; like the soul within you, it is a creation of the light. And the creature who tests you is pure darkness - unworthy of the honor of dying by your blade.

It amazes me still - as it has amazed my colleagues and our superiors - that you have never realized how brightly, how purely you burn with the raw power of the Force; it fills you and blankets you and traces the features of your mind as surely as it lights the features of your face. My Obi-Wan - my legacy.

The child of my heart.

And I prepare now to leave you, without ever having told you what you mean to me - or why you have endured such hardship at my hands. For if I tell you now - if I unburden my heart, I will only succeed in breaking yours. It will be easier, I think, if you continue to see me as cold and distant and uncaring.

Uncaring. Oh, my precious padawan, if you only knew. Did you really think that I didn't notice, all those night when you cried yourself to sleep? I sat in the darkness of my room on those nights, as I nudged your clenched little heart into slumber, and wove a web of warmth and comfort that I wrapped around you once you drifted into sleep. And on those nights when you felt so alone - whether we were in the ice fields of Hoth, or the jungles of Ord Mantell, or the deserts of Tatooine; when your fine, strong young body was exhausted from dragging corpses from a raging river, or stacking them for a funeral pyre, or digging them out of collapsed tunnels - when you were numb and desolate with grief and believed yourself abandoned - I watched over you as you staggered away from unbearable death and destruction; I wept for you as you sobbed and raged at the unfairness of Fate; I soothed you as exhaustion overwhelmed you and plunged you into restless dreams.

I was there, my padawan. I was always there. I wept with you and ached with you - and longed to comfort you - but I could not. I dared not. And there are no words to tell you how much it hurt to be so helpless in the face of your anguish.

You will never know it - and you would almost certainly not believe it if you were told - but I have loved you with my whole heart, my apprentice, my Obi. I have loved you as I never believed I would love anyone.

I have loved you so much - that I could not risk making the same mistakes I made before. I have loved you so much that I would rather you hate me - than take a chance on costing you the only thing you ever wanted.I have hurt you so badly - so many times - but every hurt, every horror you endured, made you stronger and better - made you able to endure what had to be endured.

You will be a Jedi knight, my padawan. A great and powerful Jedi, who assumes the role that destiny demands of you, without once lamenting the unfairness of it all.

And, oh, my Obi, it is so unfair. So much will be asked of you, demanded of you - taken from you. And, as hard as life and destiny will be on you, you will be even harder on yourself - for that is your nature.

I thought there would be time to tell you; I wanted to say that I never wanted to hurt you - that the look on your face when we stood before the Council will haunt me for all time - the look that said that you had been abandoned - again. Oh, my Obi-Wan, sooner would I abandon my own soul.

I just - never learned how to tell you; never found how to say it without jeopardizing my responsibility to make you the best Jedi you could be.

For I failed once, you know; I failed because I allowed the love I felt to color my judgement - to make me indulgent - to blind me to reality, and to the true nature of the one to whom I gave my affections so recklessly.

And, because I failed once, because my trust was betrayed once - I dared not allow myself to see the light and the purity of what you are - and be overwhelmed by it.

It is over - at last; the vile creature is defeated and you are kneeling beside me, and gathering me in your strong, young arms, and I am transfixed by the love in your eyes. I want only to tell you to look into my soul - to see the reflections there of what you offer so freely - but I must burden you once more, Padawan Mine - for you are the only hope for the boy, and, if he is not trained, he will destroy you. It is all for you - though you will never understand it.

"Promise me . . ."

You agree, of course. What else would you do?

Did you think I didn't know, Child? Did you think I was so blind that I couldn't see the love you gave so freely - and the broken heart you concealed behind a quick wit and a ready smile?

I always knew - and I always meant to tell you - to open my heart to you - on the day you knelt before me to have your braid severed. To make up for every wrong, every hurt.

That event will happen now, without me - and I find suddenly that the thought of that moment has rekindled the pain inside me.

There are tears on your face - and I am compelled to reach up and wipe them away, as I never allowed myself to do before. I look deep into the sea-change loveliness of your eyes - and see my dying there, reflecting the pain in your sweet young soul.

I feel the Force calling to me - and it is so beautiful, my Obi-Wan - so perfect - so filled with wonder and peace, so beloved of my heart.

Almost - almost - as beloved as you.

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