AN: This is a sequel to "Dangers of Foresight". If you haven't read that at least, this probably won't make sense.
Also, there may be some triggers for the following: Torture, abuse, PTSD.
Two weeks. That's all it had taken. It wasn't the first time Siri had woken up with that strange anxiety that threatened to send her whirling back into her past (future?), but it was one of the first times she recognized it as leaking over from someone else. It was definitely the first time it had happened since she'd been released from the Healers' wing.
"Kriff it, Anakin," she practically spat as she threw the blankets off and stalked over to her closet. She grabbed her comm, her lightsaber and a long, brown robe, which she threw over her sleep shirt, before she took the few steps to the door of her room. Not wanting her master involved in this, she willed her door open slowly, with the Force instead of its power cells, before moving swiftly and almost silently into the common room of their shared quarters.
She had to deactivate the alert her Master had put on the door when she'd been brought back from the Healers' wing, but it wasn't difficult. It had been put there in case she didn't know she was leaving the apartment. Right now, she most definitely knew, even if it was – she checked her chrono – after two in the morning. She suppressed a groan as she stepped into the hall, massaging the bridge of her nose as she stalked along the nearly empty floors.
In a few minutes, she'd raced through the Temple to the initiate's wing. It consisted of a couple of hallways stacked on top of each other, each lined with small rooms for every child over the age of eight as well as their current caretaker, a sleeping hall for all children of younger ages belonging to that clan, and a couple of common rooms with desks for studying and play areas. Each clan had one such area on that floor to themselves. She headed for the Thranta Clan hall and, without any fanfare, palmed the door to the common area open.
Just as she'd expected, a small figure stood facing the windows looking over Coruscant as the lights from the city illuminated his silhouette. At ten years old, he stood firmly, with his feet apart and one hand holding the other behind his back. She could sense the darkness swirling around him and had to grit her teeth against yet another memory of the future-past.
Children screaming, crying, frozen in fear as a lightsaber came down towards each of them, snuffing them out—
"Anakin," she hissed as she stalked over to him, forcefully wrenching her mind to the here and now.
"You can feel it, can't you," he said softly. It wasn't a tone she expected from him. Truthfully, she'd been half ready to have him attack her right now. That, and the fact that he just stood there – that he wasn't pacing or running around or attacking anything – caused her to pause.
"Yes," she responded, still a little short.
"You have my apologies. I thought I had successfully contained it. The problem must be our bond."
About then, Siri finally realized that the darkness wasn't coming from him but through him. That didn't negate the fact that she still had to fight to stay in the current moment instead of losing herself to the past again, but it did calm her down immensely.
"What's going on, Anakin?"
She saw him take a deep breath, as if he'd been trying to keep his mind from whatever was causing this, and almost regretted asking. Then he let his breath out and slumped ever so slightly.
"He's doing it again."
Siri blinked. "Who's 'he' and what is he doing?"
Anakin hesitated before answering and she saw him swallow as she came up next to him. His eyes remained fixed on the city before them.
"You know how all of those negative emotions build exponentially? How they give power, but can also take control if not released? He is releasing tonight."
She squatted next to him, carefully reaching out to put a hand on his arm. It seemed like he needed grounding in the here and now just as much as she did.
"What is he doing, Anakin?"
Anakin didn't move, but she did feel him lean towards her with his own Force presence.
"I don't know exactly. Torture? Experiments? Training? Any combination thereof?"
"Can't you cut it off? Your connection to him?"
The boy shook his head minutely. "No more than I can cut off yours, it seems."
"How often does he do this?" she asked softly, her stomach clenching, definitely not wanting to hear the answer but knowing she had to ask.
"If I'm lucky, once a month or so."
He'd already been here for several months now. Somehow, she got the impression that it happened more than once a month. Had Anakin forced himself to weather this alone? Who was she kidding? Of course he had. It was just so like him.
"Oh, Anakin, why didn't you tell us? Or come to us?"
To her surprise, he snorted bitterly. "And by 'us', who exactly are you referring to? Who would I have gone to? Obi-wan? You? Yoda?" Alright before now, she hadn't really been a plausible option, what with her being in the Healers' wing (and not that keen on his presence initially). And both Obi-wan and Yoda had some nasty baggage when it came to Anakin.
"What about Master Xio?" she responded.
The former Sith frowned ever so slightly; the only sign he'd heard what she said. She really wished he'd stop standing there, staring out the window like a statue. It wasn't like the Anakin she remembered. It was more like...
She quickly shut that thought down as she waited for his answer.
"I... will admit that she didn't cross my mind. I do not think I would have felt comfortable doing so the last time this happened."
"I will... consider it."
She nodded and squeezed his arm. "Good."
After a minute of awkward silence, she used the Force to pull over a small couch. "For now, you have me here. Let me help you." After all, it wasn't like she'd be able to get back to sleep like this.
"How?" he asked, still not moving. "You cannot stop the bond any more than I can." He winced at something and then closed his eyes, jaw setting firmly.
"Tell me about your racing."
For the first time, Anakin changed position, turning his head to blink at her in confusion.
"Tell me about your racing. Or something else you love to do. Mechanics. Padmé. Luke. Whatever. Talk to me, Anakin."
He still looked utterly confused. "That... will not make this vanish."
"No, but it will remind you why you fight it and it will make for a good distraction. Come on," she patted the couch in front of her.
For a moment, she almost thought he would cry, he looked so grateful, but the expression was gone in an instant. She had the good grace to not mention it.
Stiffly, he slowly lowered himself to the couch before turning to look at her. "What I love about racing... well..."
They sat there for almost three hours before Anakin slumped with a sigh. "It is finished."
Siri felt it too and also couldn't help but slump, feeling as if she'd just run a marathon. If she was this exhausted, she wasn't sure she wanted to know how taxing it had been to Anakin.
"I'll speak to your crèche master today, excuse you from classes."
He shook his head. "That won't be necessary."
"Anakin, you're exhausted."
"I have endured in the past—"
She cut him off. "But you don't have to, Anakin. It's okay to feel under the weather. And ten years old or not, you need to take care of yourself."
He didn't answer, but she still felt distinct discomfort from him.
"Why won't you take a day off?" she asked earnestly.
It took him several seconds to answer. "I am... unused... to doing so."
"I'm guessing Palpatine didn't let Vader take sick days."
Anakin winced and looked away. "No."
"I'm betting Padmé made you take sick days."
He closed his eyes again, expression so bittersweet Siri wondered if it had been worth the low blow.
"She... encouraged me to do so, yes."
"Then can you please rest, Anakin? When you wake, you can go to the remainder of your classes or you can come find me and we can start on that lightsaber training. Healthy people take care of themselves when they can. Right now, you can..."
The boy eyed her for several seconds. "This... really bothers you, doesn't it."
After a few more seconds of silence, he sighed. "Very well. On the condition that you give Obi-wan the same lecture the next time he deigns to show his face at the Temple."
Siri couldn't help the bright smile that came over her lips.
"I might need your backup."
"You have it," he replied with a wave of his hand as he rose.
"I'll put the couch back," she said as she followed his example and stretched.
"You know, you should probably get into the habit of wearing more when you come to find me," he said, eyeing her robe and sleep shirt with a raised eyebrow and a smirk. Self-consciously, she closed her robe, but brushed it off as best she could.
"As if I care," she said, ignoring the embarrassment she could feel in her cheeks. "I've dressed in worse before."
He didn't call her on that. He didn't have to.
"Thank you, Siri," he said softly before he turned to head back to his quarters. She smiled after him before she walked to the Thranta Clan's crèche Master's quarters to speak with them about letting Anakin rest for the day. They should be getting up about now anyway.
The next time she felt a touch of darkness happened to be the next day during mid-meal break. This time she walked calmly through the Temple in her normal Jedi attire heading for the lightsaber training halls. She was ready for more than one confrontation with him. She doubted he'd been up for very long and sleep wasn't the only thing a youngling needed. If he hadn't eaten yet, he was going to regret it.
Of course, that was something to address after the darkness.
She walked into the salls and found him about four doors down in an isolated room, bouncing off of the walls like some sort of gizkal. That wasn't even his normal style. She grit her teeth. He knows he should be working on his usual style!
Without bothering to knock, she stepped into the room and waited for him to stop. He turned his gaze on her as he practically flew by. Then, when he reached the wall, he bounced off of it and shot towards her. She already had her lightsaber out to catch his.
"So, are you going to tell me what's wrong, or do I have to beat it out of you?"
"You can try."
"Good answer," she responded with a wicked grin, and they were off. She ended up winning fairly easily and she could feel his frustration, even if she couldn't see it on his face. His mask was good.
"You're using form IV. Why?" she asked as she caught her breath.
"I wanted a workout." Satisfyingly, his breath was far more ragged.
He grit his teeth. "To keep my mind off of... things."
She paused for a moment, nodding. "Good idea, bad execution. You really need to keep to your form V until you can beat me."
"How does that not count?"
"Then let me add: Until you can beat me consistently."
He frowned at her stubbornly, but didn't dispute her point.
Sighing, she deactivated her lightsaber. "Anakin, if you don't tell me what's wrong, please consider telling Master Xio today."
The mask cracked ever so slightly with a slight furrowing of his brow. Then he sighed and deactivated his own lightsaber. "I... watched the news. They found... bodies."
Siri's own brow furrowed in puzzlement. "Anakin, this is Coruscant. It's rare when they don't find bodies. It might be different if the local law enforcement would let us help, but you know how they hate Jedi interfering."
He shook his head. "This is different, if only due to the sheer gruesomeness. The... the pain they must have gone through. And there were very few physical incisions. It is as if they... spontaneously combusted from the inside."
Oh. So he means they found Sidious' victims. So soon? The man was either getting careless or he wanted them found. A warning, perhaps? Received and acknowledged then. That son of a bantha.
"Can..." she started, but decided to rephrase the question. "Is there a technique that results in spontaneous combustion?" She was almost afraid to ask. That was a fairly common reaction when it came to Anakin Skywalker, apparently.
Anakin closed his eyes and looked away. "A couple. As you can imagine, none of them are... pleasant for the victim."
Siri had to sit down. Her stomach demanded it. "I see. Well, that would be... difficult for anyone to see." Although she'd expected a stronger stomach from Anakin.
Actually, now that she thought about it...
"So, what's the real problem?" she asked.
Anakin stared at her for several seconds. She met his scrutinizing gaze as coolly as she could. It worked because finally, he shook his head.
"I could have stopped him."
Well, Siri had to admit, she wasn't expecting that.
"What makes you think that?"
"There is always a way."
"But you would have had to confront him."
He didn't look at her, his jaw set firmly. "Not necessarily. We could have set up a distraction."
"And just who would you have taken with you to set as a distraction?"
"And you would be alright with potentially exposing the fact that Yoda, and thus the Jedi in general, know about him? And I'm still recovering. I wasn't exactly in the most focused state of mind last night, as you well know, not to mention I don't have the lightsaber skills to protect myself from him if something went wrong. Now, I'm all for doing the right thing and protecting or helping people – even at the cost of my life – but I can't trust myself or my judgment right now. Especially during times like that." Ugh, how she hated admitting that aloud. "Not to mention it's not exactly unlikely you would have exposed yourself."
"So?!" Anakin practically spat.
Siri was taken back slightly by the heat in his voice. So when she spoke, she made sure her own tones were quiet but firm. "So? You know very well that you cannot barge in there without a plan. We could lose you to him again. Or he could kill you and everyone who went with you. Or he could turn it against you simply because he would know your identity. And that's if you happen to know where to go. Do you?"
Anakin shook his head in frustration and sank to the ground next to her. "I should be able to stop him."
The older Jedi scrutinized the younger for several seconds, frowning. She sensed there was something deeper here and it took her a few minutes to find it.
"Anakin," she said slowly, "you are not enabling him by not stopping him. I'm sorry that people had to die in horrible, painful ways. I hate it too. I really do. But there are very good reasons why you need to remain here and not let him know how closely connected you are."
"I know," Anakin responded, his voice barely a whisper. "But it doesn't feel right."
Siri sighed. "No... it doesn't. But I am... proud of you for feeling that. Painful as it is, it's a good step for you."
He'd drawn his knees up, hugging them to his chest and burying his head in them. "I never stopped feeling it. Not completely."
At that, Siri smirked. "Then Luke was right, wasn't he?"
Anakin glanced over at her, brow furrowed slightly in a silent question.
"There was always good in you."
His forehead smoothed out and he stared blankly at her while she smiled softly at him. She could swear she saw the corner of his lips twitch into the ghost of a smile.
"I... still think you should talk to Xio about this," Siri said softly. Somehow, Anakin seemed to slump further.
"Perhaps you are... right."
There was something in how he said it, how he hesitated, that tipped Siri off and she frowned again.
"There's something else, isn't there."
The arms around his knees tightened. "It's silly."
"Somehow I doubt that."
He shook his head. "There's nothing I can do about it."
"Anakin... you don't have to tell me, but you do need to tell someone."
Silence. She wanted to sigh, but she didn't. Instead she waited, either for his decision and dismissal, or for his voice.
"I... just... ha- don't like that he's – that we're connected still."
"You can say 'hate' in that case," she replied.
He relaxed ever so slightly. She chalked his lack of control up to his physical age.
"I hate it," he says softly. "I despise it. I... don't want anything to do with that man anymore."
She frowned. Hadn't he volunteered to be his 'gopher' for the Ambassador program? Then again, she had heard that Palpatine himself hadn't taken any of the younglings as an aid.
"I can't say I blame you there," she responded, leaning her head back against the wall, suddenly feeling tired herself. "The sooner we can make a case against him, the better."
Anakin snorted. The action seemed both forced and genuine simultaneously (and only Anakin or Obi-wan would be able to pull that off). Still, Siri figured that the issue hadn't been really addressed. So she thought back on what he'd said. Wait, was he feeling... guilty?
Siri withheld a groan. "Anakin it's completely understandable that you share a bond with him. You share one with me, due to the fact that we time-traveled together, most likely. You share one with Obi-wan and Ahsoka – don't deny it, I saw you in the crèche with her age group the other day."
"Yoda made me," he muttered, not looking up.
"Right," she replied with a raised eyebrow and a teasing smile. "It's logical to assume that if one bond from the future is still there, they all are."
His arms had tightened again. He looked so small, sitting there against the wall in something similar to a fetal position, stalk still, as if any movement would suddenly give him away. It suddenly hit Siri that while Anakin had made some incredible progress, they still had a long way to go before he was even remotely healthy.
She wondered briefly what that said about her own state of mind, but dismissed that thought for now. Right now, the person her Obi-wan had asked her to watch over needed her help. So help she would.
So she finally voiced her thoughts. "You feel guilty about it, don't you. About the bond you have with him."
"It's different," he muttered, sounding suddenly young again. Young and small and lost.
"How?" she asked gently. Sometimes it amazed her how her own attitude towards him had changed so much in just a few months. Before she'd merged with her younger self, she doubted she could have been this – hopeful? Open, maybe? – towards Anakin.
He lifted his head to look at her, and the boy was gone, replaced by a pained, 40-year-old man. She wondered how he could handle the emotional whiplash... then realized, he really couldn't.
"My... bond," he practically spat the word, "with him is... different."
His mouth thinned into a hard line, but he took a deep breath and went on. "It is born of darkness, made of darkness, held with darkness – everything about it reeks of darkness." For a moment, she wondered when he'd decided to wax poetic before dismissing the thought. His words definitely got the point across.
Still, he added another thought on, as if it were a death sentence.
"It's very existence is a reminder that the darkness within me is still there. That it always will be."
That part of me is still Darth Vader. Siri frowned and glanced around. She was sure she'd heard that, but Anakin's mouth had remained in that thin line.
After a moment, she chalked it up to their bond (stupid, unpredictable thing) before contemplating her next words very carefully. She could tell him that of course the darkness was still there. Did he really think it would just leave after two decades of immersing himself in it simply because he wanted it to? There was a reason that the teachings said the darkness would forever dominate one's destiny (although she thought that 'dominate' should be changed to 'affect' personally). But she sensed that he wouldn't really take that well right now – and that he very likely had already come to that conclusion himself, as frustrated as he was with it. She'd already pointed out that he still had all of his other bonds, and – no matter how different – it really wasn't unreasonable to think that he'd still have his darker bonds too. Maybe she should have worded that one differently. Well, what was done was done.
She thought about the advice she could give, or something she could point out that would help to put things into perspective for him and bring him out of his guilt, but nothing came to mind. This was why she wasn't a mind-Healer, kriff it! She really had no idea what to say.
So she cleared her mind as best she could, and went over the conversation they'd had for the last few minutes.
He wasn't looking for advice, she realized. What he needed, right now, was that support Master Xio had talked about. Part of her still wanted to cringe away, but the rest of her shoved that to the side. Her attitude had changed towards him and she would prove it by helping him as best she could.
"Just because that bond is there doesn't mean you're still dark," she said softly.
"Yes, it does," he responded. "How could it not?"
"Because if you were still dark, you couldn't use or feel your bonds with me or Obi-wan or Ahsoka."
She took his silence as a good thing. It felt like he was listening.
Slowly, hesitantly, she reached over and laid a hand on his back. He flinched away, and she withdrew it immediately.
"N-no, it's... it's... okay. I... um... don't mind." And the 10-year-old was back. Forget giving him emotional whiplash, this whole thing would give it to her.
He went back to his former position. She wasn't sure whether she should actually put her hand on his shoulder or back again. He seemed like he wanted touch, but his reactoin had scared her just as much as she had scared him. Was she doing the right thing?
Kriff it. She was just as emotionally stunted in this area as he was. She'd just ask.
"Do you... want me to touch you? I was going to... rub your back or something." It had been something her Master had done to her when she'd been particularly stressed as a new Padawan.
"If you... want."
Carefully, she reached out and rested a hand on his shoulder, and then slowly began to move her hand in circles on his upper back. He still felt stiff under her fingers, but was slowly relaxing.
"Everyone feels the dark side at some point, Anakin," she practically whispered.
He stiffened even more for a second before he sighed and all of the tension seemed to drain out of him, leaving an exhausted lump behind.
"That doesn't make you dark."
"I know." And yet, he still sounded like he didn't believe it.
"It's... okay to not like your past choices," she said, hoping that he'd read 'dark' into that.
He shook his head. "Not just 'dislike'. I hate them. I hate that I was stupid enough to make them. That I was stubborn enough to stand by them. That I hurt others so badly. I... I deserved the pain I got."
Siri bit her lip. She wanted to yell out that that wasn't true, but he needed to finish this. She could sense that at least.
"Do you know how Sith get power?"
She frowned at the non-sequitur. "Hate and anger, right?"
He nodded, his head still buried in his knees. "We... they find something they absolutely loathe and then constantly think about it, encourage the emotions and twist it. Then they link everything they come across back to those few things they loathe so much."
It worried her that he's said 'we', but she, again, kept her mouth shut.
"I was asked once, what I could possibly hate so much more than my opponent – another darksider after my position." She sensed there was more to that but didn't ask. It wasn't the point he was trying to portray. "I answered 'myself.'"
Siri's hand stopped moving in circles, but she didn't take it from his back.
"I hate myself, Siri. As much as the rest of the galaxy in the future despised me, it was nothing compared to how much I despised myself. Even now. I can't stop because I truly deserve that hatred. I hate the darkness. I hate that bond. I hate him. But because I've linked it all back to how much I hate myself..." he trailed off.
She finally sensed it was her time to talk, despite the stirrings of darkness she could feel in the back of her mind again. "You're trying to change things, Anakin. For that you deserve forgiveness."
He shook his head. "That doesn't just erase what I've done. Time-travel or not."
Her hand started moving again, in slow, gentle circles. "I never said it did. I still forgive you."
He stiffened again and slowly turned to look over at her. "But I hurt people – I killed people. Entire races in some instances! I willingly chose to follow the dark!"
"And you're paying for those decisions now. Why should you get more punishment from me?" And in that instant, she realized it was true. She really and truly had forgiven him for all of his atrocities. That didn't mean she wouldn't still be shocked or hurt if they were brought up in the future (she couldn't get rid of decades of emotion that quickly any more than he could) but she honestly felt no anger at this moment towards this man – this boy.
"Especially," she added with a smile, "if I don't want to punish you."
"How can you do that?" he whispered, half in utter confusion, half in awe. "How... how can you want that?"
She shifted uncomfortably. She didn't deserve that kind of a reaction, did she? No... she was pretty sure she didn't. It was just how she felt, after all.
She shrugged. "Well, a lot of it has to do with how hard you're working to right things. It took me a while to really see it, but you genuinely want the future to be better and are willing to give up so much for it. I'm also realizing how alike you and I are."
He blinked. "What?"
She shook her head. "Anakin, I'm a Jedi. I've made some stupid decisions that have had monumental affects. Perhaps not galaxy-wide, but I think that's besides the point. I've still made stupid decisions that I've been stubborn about. Who is to say that in the right circumstances I could have ended up like you did, even. I know hate and love, just as you do. I know despair and joy and hope and pain, just as you do. Now maybe not to your extent, but it's there nonetheless.
"I... had to learn to accept myself and who I am despite all of that. I think your task is harder, but I also still think it's possible. Especially with how hard you've worked and how far you've come."
"It doesn't feel like I've come very far," he muttered, but she could tell he was putting up a token effort at best.
"Then can you take my word for it?"
He frowned, so she decided to explain.
"I wouldn't simply change my opinion about you. But I've seen your progress. I've seen a man who, despite his past, is doing everything in his power to change the future. I see a man who has done the impossible, defied everything the universe knew – on multiple occasions – and who genuinely cares about those around him."
"A lot of good that did me before."
"Except this time, you've got help. Look, Anakin, please – just take my word for it that you have made some incredible progress and you've come so far and that you do deserve forgiveness."
For several seconds they stayed in silence.
"I... I'll try," he muttered.
She didn't quote Yoda to him. Instead she smiled. "That's all I can ask."