Anakin sat back from his terminal and stretched.

They didn't have everything completely sorted, but they'd found the most incriminating evidence so far… and one of the most key pieces consisted of a holo-recording of Dooku testifying what he'd seen and done. When he said Palpatine would know who had given this information away, he wasn't kidding.

But they had everything they needed now. There was still a lot to go through, but if Anakin gave this to his contacts, it should be enough. It was such a load off of his shoulders, it almost made him giddy. He had to remind himself not to count the Krayt Dragons before they hatched, but with everyone they were giving this information to…

Palpatine would be ousted at the least.

He had to believe that.

(If not, plan B would be him assassinating the man, but they'd cross that bridge when they came to it.)

Reaching over, he withdrew the last data disk he'd been compiling, one of three. Then he glanced over to Master Yoda and nodded. The Grandmaster returned his nod, so Anakin hopped down and shut down his station. It would be his job to give the disks to the right people: Senator Mothma, Senator Organa and one of Padmé's friends from Before, Senator Mina Bontari of Onderon. It had surprised him to see her at the Senate building seeing as he remembered her being a Seperatist, and he didn't know her personally but he had remembered how Padmé had spoken of her. He'd vetted her himself, looking into her past and investigating every potential problem. Eventually, he had concluded that she would be an excellent candidate.

And that was it. They still had some plans to hammer out but they were done for the most part.

He had so much energy now that they were so close. The anticipation of the results of so much hard work from so many people, the idea that he'd almost reached his goal… it was a heady feeling. And terrifying. Because Palpatine would not go down easily and they had to be ready for that.

Wanting to blow off some extra steam, he bid Master Yoda a good evening and then hurried down to the training salles. He wanted to get in a bit of a work out before third meal.

While going through his katas, he went through the next week's events in his mind. First, he would have one more meeting with Palpatine, and then the Gala where he would hand off the information, and then his talk with the Council. Well, that would be next week, but he would still have to plan and prepare himself for it. He wasn't entirely sure how ready he would be, but he was also tired of keeping everything to himself. Girth was right. He needed to tell the Council, if only so he could put it all behind him and just move on – stop keeping secrets and pretending to be something he wasn't.

He never had been good at that anyway.

The workout helped, and he left the salles feeling satisfied and in a good mood. Third meal came and went with some pleasant discussion with his physical age mates and then Anakin decided to go racing. Bleersh was thrilled to see him and he ended up having a fairly successful night, although he had enough energy to burn that he stayed a little longer than he probably should have.

Which was why he was so tired the next day. Not that he couldn't function. He'd gone through entire missions on less… Master Yoda still took one look at him when he showed up the next morning to finish going over plans and sent him right back to the crèche, although not without a mild scolding about how he needed to be mindful of his childish body.

Anakin felt a little abashed, but returned to his room without complaint and took the opportunity to rest some more. Turned out, though, that he was just not tired enough to calm his mind and fall asleep, but was too tired to want to get up and do anything. Which did not bode well for the rest of his day.

Still, it was so nice to not have some pressing matter urging him on. It had been… well, a very long time since that had last happened to him. So, instead of getting up to do something, he decided to meditate, opening himself to the Force with a familiar practice and letting it take him where it would.

He didn't know how long he had drifted before he heard a familiar voice.

"Hello, Anakin."

The time traveler opened his eyes and found himself floating in a void in the exact same position as his physical body at the Temple, but in his older form. In front of him sat an old man, face wrinkled and craggy, but also timeless somehow. Two blue irises glowed in sunken eyes under no eyebrows. He had a long, white beard and wore a simple poncho with a high collar and gold inlay. Simple but elegant. He also wore a matching, conical hat and sat in a similar meditation pose to Anakin.

He knew who this was.

The Father. From Mortis. Well.

Anakin blinked at the likely insanely powerful being in front of him. "Oh. You're alive," was all he could manage to make his mouth move to say. He almost instantly regretted saying anything. He didn't know how powerful this being was but ticking him off didn't seem like the healthiest thing to do or the wisest of habits to get into (something he probably should have learned a lot earlier… he wondered if that had to do with his slave complex too…).

Fortunately for him, the Father chuckled, seemingly amused at his comment. Then he fixed Anakin with a knowing gaze and somehow, the time traveler knew that this being knew about everything. He shifted a little, feeling uncomfortable and exposed and not entirely sure what to do or think about that realization and the meeting.

Unfortunately, the Father seemed more than ready to wait, just sitting and watching Anakin patiently. So the time traveler finally cleared his throat.

"So… why are we meeting?"

The man, still amused, raised his (non-existent) eyebrows. "Why do you ask questions to which you already know the answer?"

Anakin frowned. He'd been avoiding thinking about Mortis – not difficult; he had practice as he hadn't wanted to think about the place since he'd initially left – for many reasons, and didn't like that it had suddenly come up just when everything with Palpatine was about to come to a head. He also hated feeling like a chastised child, which he definitely did now, and so he accidentally fell back on his habits when addressing the Emperor.

"Why am I meeting you now instead of in a decade? And why like this?" he demanded in a hard voice.

The Father seemed to contemplate that for a bit. "I can reach out to you now because you have been to Mortis."

Ah, that explained how he knew about the time travel.

"Why not two years ago when I returned, then? I assume you want me to come and take over your duties, still, but you will receive the same answer today as you would have received then."

"Perhaps," the Father said with a conceding nod, "but were you ready to even speak to me then?"

Anakin opened his mouth to say something, but then paused as he thought about that. He wasn't happy about the question and the truth it exposed, but he did not want to lie here – not to this being, and not to himself.

"No," he finally conceded, looking away. "I was not stable enough then. I am unsure if I am stable enough now. Not with… the plans we are about to enact."

The Father chuckled again. "Ah, yes. My son threw quite the tantrum when he realized."

If Anakin had been in his body, his face would have paled significantly. "Will he tell Palpatine?"

The Father shook his head. "He cannot. Talented and skilled as Sidious is, and despite his own thoughts on the matter, he is not all-knowing and we can only influence the Force so much."

That… didn't make sense. "I thought you… were the Force."

The Father outright laughed at that. "Oh, no, my dear boy. We represent the Force, and in many ways we are of the Force – incarnations, if you will – and have a far closer connection than other sapient beings, but the Force does not originate from us. It will continue without us or with us, we just… regulate it to some extent, I suppose. When we are in balance, it is easier for the Force to remain in balance. Likewise, the more in balance the Force is, the easier it is for us to be."

He fell into silence for a moment, still looking amused.

"How much are you downplaying the truth to simplify the idea?" Anakin asked, deadpan.

The Father grinned (which was strange, he'd never seen the man grin before). "Quite a bit," he conceded.

Anakin sighed and shook his head.

The ancient being sobered a little. "Getting back to my initial reason for meeting you, I must say that I am impressed with how far you have healed. You have finally reached a point where you are well enough to contact sooner than I thought you would. Which is fortuitous."

The time traveler appreciated that, he did, but… that didn't change anything. He wondered how he should say that, and finally decided to simply state it. He'd never been good at subtle anyway.

"I… will not come and take over for you. I can not tie myself to one place. Not so long as Palpatine is alive."

The Father looked like he was about to speak, so Anakin hurried on.

"And even then… the idea of tying myself to one place for the rest of my life, no matter how long that life is…" he paused and shook his head. "I have had my freedom taken from me so often already. I cannot give it up like that." He met the Father's gaze steadily, gathering all of his conviction and determination.

The man's smile disappeared and he sighed. "I understand."

Anakin blinked. He had not been expecting that. "You… do?"

The Father nodded, smiling sadly. "I do, for now. Eventually, you will change your mind, but your exploits now have lengthened my time, so I can wait."

That took Anakin back. "Lengthened… your time?"

"Yes. You have initiated some changes in the Order – the most significant force for Light currently in the galaxy – that encourages balance. You have also gone a long way to stop the Sith from encroaching too far and taking too much, as they are wont to do. And while there will still be problems in the future and the balance is still uneven, it is more manageable now. For that, you have my thanks."

"I… didn't do it for you," Anakin pointed out hesitantly, wondering where this was going if the Father didn't want to persuade him to come to Mortis.

The man nodded. "I know, but I am grateful nonetheless."

"Why have you contacted me, then?" Anakin asked carefully.

"Palpatine."

The time traveler winced, then glanced around. "Can… your son hear us right now?"

The Father shook his head. "There is too much light here for him to have any control or knowledge of our discussion."

Anakin looked around the void they were in. Swirls of light and dark reminiscent of a galaxy or solar system being born moved around him in calm patterns.

"I see," he said with a frown. "Then where is your daughter?"

"She cannot attend either as there is too much darkness."

Anakin paused and tentatively reached out. It took him a good several moments to realize that he could feel both the light and the dark. Instead of the normal mesh of both coming together he was used to, the different energies felt… distinct, as if they couldn't combine or nullify the other here.

"What?" he asked, confused.

The Father sighed, held up his hands and drew the Force to him in concentration. On one side, the area above his hand became dark. Negativity poured from it in radiating waves. Over the other, though, the space became light. Pure joy and love so concentrated it almost overwhelmed Anakin swirled outward from it.

The Father sat there, one eyebrow raised as if to say, 'see?' while Anakin tried to find something to say but couldn't. Finally, he managed to get out one word: "How?"

The being smirked a little. "Strange you would ask that when you have done this before yourself."

That took Anakin back. "When?" He could not remember a time when he had wielded the light and dark at the same time. He… didn't think it was possible, honestly.

The Father looked at amused. "In your past, when you first visited Mortis. You made both my son and daughter kneel before you simultaneously, thus passing my – or my other self's, I suppose – test."

The time traveler opened his mouth to protest, but found he couldn't. His memories of Mortis were… fuzzy at best, but he… he did remember that, but he thought it had been a fluke. He'd just been so desperate at the time to have the two of them stop fighting so Obi-wan and Ahsoka would be safe.

"Admittedly that was not to this extent," the man said, gesturing to each hand with his head before releasing whatever he'd been doing. The light and dark both vanished and a tenseness in Anakin's shoulders he hadn't been consciously aware of relaxed. "But it still happened.

"Do you remember what you did at the time?"

The time traveler… did, but vaguely as he'd been more focused on other things at the time. Could he do it again? Did he want to?

No. No, he didn't.

He shook his head. "Why does it matter? I will not touch the dark side again," he stated. "Another reason why I cannot take over for you."

The Father frowned, looking far more like the old man Anakin remembered. "I am not the only being in the universe who can duel wield both sides of the Force."

That… was indeed true. "Perhaps," Anakin conceded, "but even if I have done so before, it is not sustainable for me – a mere human, Chosen One or not."

"It is," the Father insisted. "And you can."

Anakin felt his frustration rising. "I tried."

Because he had. Right after he'd turned, he'd tried to use the Force like normal, tired to be both light and dark. It hadn't worked then, so why would it work now?

The Father looked frustrated. "Is the current Jedi Way the only way to approach the light?"

Anakin frowned. "Of course not."

"Then why would the Sith Way you know be the only way to approach the darkness?"

The former Sith had known that too. He'd seen what the Nightsisters could do – to some extent at least. So what was the Father getting at? Was he implying that the Jedi and Sith codes were inherently flawed? More so than even Anakin had realized? But still… valid? Anakin felt like he'd missed something.

"I see I have pushed you," the Father said quietly. "Forgive me. It has been… quite a long time since I was at your development level. I do know that improving mental health does not make one ready to face the truths of the universe. However, there is little time.

"You know there will be a confrontation?"

They were back to Palpatine again. Anakin winced at the reminder. "Yes."

The Father began to look concerned. "If you avoid the dark, you will lose."

In his body, Anakin's heart felt like it stopped. He shook his head vehemently. "I do not need the dark to win!"

The Father's face became stoic. "You do."

"I don't!"

"Then he will trigger your fall a second time."

Anakin's jaw snapped closed and his eyes widened.

"You know the truth of my words."

He… did. It had been one of his greatest fears and one of the reasons he did not want to face Palpatine.

He clenched his jaw – or whatever the spiritual equivalent was – and looked away. "Then what can I do?" he asked quietly. The idea of wielding the darkness again… it had almost sucked him in so many times. He couldn't… "The dark…" he said, but his voice faded off.

The Father tipped his head to one side and spoke once more, his voice gentle. "How did you feel?"

Anakin blinked. "What?"

"When you stopped both of my children. How did you feel?"

Hadn't they left this behind?

"What does—" he started, but the Father cut him off.

"Humor me?"

Anakin huffed in frustration, but then took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and forced himself to revisit those unpleasant memories. "I was… frustrated. Angry and scared," he said, remembering his desperation to save his father figure and pseudo-sister.

"Traits of the darkness," the Father pointed out.

Anakin frowned and opened his eyes. "But I hadn't fallen yet. I was not… wielding through those, but despite them…" he said. But something about that wasn't entirely right… what was he missing?!

"Why?" the Father asked.

"Why?" Anakin repeated, not sure what the man was asking.

"Why were you even using the Force at the time?" the Father prompted.

The time traveler blinked. "I was worried."

"For whom?"

"For Obi-wan and Ahsoka," he said.

"Is that all?"

Anakin shot an annoyed glare at the man, who just returned the gaze patiently. "That was a long time ago," he pointed out.

"But you still had other worries. What were they?"

Where was this going? Anakin squashed his frustration and tried to answer sincerely. "For the galaxy outside of Mortis that was still at war, for the commitments I had – the Jedi and the Clones and the planets at war, for… my wife."

"Why were you were worried?"

If he hadn't been used to doing something like this with Girth for the past two years, he may not have been able to say it – or even recognize it – but because he had, he finally got where the Father was going.

"Because I loved them…" he said. Or, well, "because I cared. And that was just as important – more important – to me as my frustration and anger." One hadn't outshone the other. Just like with Luke. In that moment, in that one desperate moment, he'd been able to touch both sides of the Force because he'd been able to feel both positive and negative emotions equally.

It was all about balance.

"I used the Force through my emotions – the ones I concentrated on." A dark technique with light emotions.

The Father smiled warmly. "Yes."

But he'd been doing that for over a year now, in this timeline, hoping to transition back to normal Jedi meditation soon. Was it really that simple? (Was it simple?)

"I… don't understand," he finally said, still getting that sense of missing something that he utterly despised.

The Father seemed to think about that for a moment before he asked, "What is the Sith Code? Repeat it, please."

Anakin frowned, but humored the man. "Peace is a lie. There is only Passion. Through Passion, I gain Strength. Through Strength, I gain Power. Through Power, I gain Victory. Through Victory my chains are Broken. The Force shall free me." He paused once finished, but the Father said nothing, so Anakin shook his head. "But Peace isn't a lie. Perhaps it can't always last, but it does exist. The whole code is built upon that single, false foundation."

The Father raised an eyebrow wryly. "When you touch the darkness, is peace a lie?"

"No," Anakin said slowly.

"Truly?" the older being asked. "Can you feel peace when you touch the darkness?"

"Of course not."

"So is peace a lie?"

Instead of answering that, Anakin thought about it for several seconds. He felt like he was right on the verge of grasping what the Father wanted him to understand.

"So," he started slowly, "you mean that it isn't peace in general or as an absolute that the code is referring to?" The Father nodded, more from encouragement for him to keep going than anything else, though, from what Anakin could sense. "When channeling the darkness, peace is a lie. I cannot ever find peace while touching the darkness."

The older being smiled. "You are beginning to understand."

Anakin didn't answer, instead mulling that over in his mind again and again… and then it clicked.

"It's a warning," he said, eyes widening. "It was never meant to be read like the Jedi Mantra at all – like a guide!"

The Father chuckled. "Why should it be read the same? The Sith hate the Jedi and everything they stood for. The wiser ones could see past that though. They influenced this."

Anakin continued to go over the code in this new light. "There is only passion in the darkness," he went on, but something didn't quite add up. He looked up. "But… to wield the darkness, must you avoid it all? Strength? Power? Victory?" He paused. "Freedom?"

The Father looked stony but felt… empathetic? Something like that. "What is set free when one channels the darkness?"

The time traveler frowned. "The darkness itself. Everything negative."

The older being nodded but said nothing as Anakin continued to work through that.

Peace is a lie when channeling the darkness. There is only Passion when channeling the darkness. Through passion, the darkness gains strength, and power and victory… the Force sets the darkness free.

Which meant…

"To wield the darkness, you have to approach it as a Jedi would approach the light… through self-control and discipline." He wasn't exactly sure how that was possible as he'd only been able to touch the darkness through negativity… but then, that would be a testament to ones self control when wielding the darkness, in that case.

The Father smiled again, looking supremely proud. "If any one of those 'goals' listed in the Sith Code becomes your priority while channeling darkness, your self control will be set free and become impossible to maintain for any normal person. When one only seeks strength, power, victory and yes, even freedom above all else, you have gone too far and have lost your balance."

Balance…

"The darkness requires balance," Anakin said, looking down for a moment in thought, and then back up. "The light is already stable. I…" and suddenly it all fell into place. Oh. Oh. "I… was never meant to balance the whole Force… was I." He didn't say it as a question.

The Father tipped his head to one side and then the other, as if weighing something in his mind. "Yes, and no. The philosophies of the dark have the most inherent problems in them, currently, but it is true that the light lends itself to stability – hence the reason why so many Jedi think the balancing of the Force is to eliminate the Sith. Even if the philosophies in general that approach wielding the light are in and of themselves just as problematic in their own way."

Anakin felt as if an entire new world had opened up to him suddenly and he couldn't seem to get enough, so he asked, "Why are they problematic?" Not that he didn't have his own ideas, but he was curious as to what the Father would say."

The man shrugged and smiled softly. "If the way to approach the dark is through balance and self control – if one does not want to lose themselves to the darkness in any case, then…" he faded off expectantly.

"Channeling the Force through light emotions is better?" Anakin concluded.

The Father tipped his head back and forth again, such slight movements but it conveyed so much. "Not necessarily better, per se, but it can certainly help Force users to build an immunity to the influence of the darkness. When one is used to truly feeling and still controlling their own emotions, it is more difficult to fall so completely to them. The Jedi code does not forbid this, currently, but many have interpreted it to a point where it is easier to simply not feel emotions than it is to exercise self control."

Anakin rested his chin in his hand, unaware of how much like Obi-wan he looked at that moment. "So you mean to say that the reason why Jedi cannot come back from the dark is because their very philosophies leave them vulnerable once they touch the darkness?"

The older being nodded. "Much like a virus in a population that has no immunity to it."

Anakin groaned. It made so much sense! "Oh, Force."

"And that is why I have come to you, Anakin," the Father said, voice serious. "I am the personification – the representative – of balance. Currently, neither side is balanced and it is creating chaos. The Force is not like a see-saw, weighing back and forth like an equation. It is so much more than that. I am siding against my son because of how much chaos and unbalance the darkness winning will begin. It will take centuries – millennia – to truly overcome it.

"Thus I have to tell you: if you fight Palpatine with only the light as your ally – something he has worked hard to understand and counter as best he can his entire life – you will lose. If you fight Palpatine on his level – with darkness – you may win the battle, but you will still, ultimately, lose.

"You are the Chosen One, Anakin. No matter how you came into being, that is not something you can simply change. One way or another, your actions will bring balance, whether through destruction – like last time – or through construction, which is a far more difficult path in many ways."

He finished his little speech and the two of them fell into silence amidst the eddies of light and dark – of despair and hope, of hate and love…

"So…" he finally said slowly, "I have a couple of weeks – months at most – to master a completely new technique and self discipline and stop Sidious from destroying the galaxy as we know it… or potentially join him once again."

The Father smiled a little. "Essentially."

Anakin wanted to sigh or groan or just lay down under the weight of it all, and for once, he felt his physical age of almost twelve-years-old. "No pressure," he grumbled. It was never anything Vader would say – would be allowed to say – but that actually gave him a little comfort.

Vader had been a lie built on lies anyway.

To Anakin's surprise, the Father chuckled again. "Anakin, you and I both know that you work best under pressure."

Fair, but…

"I'm so tired," he said softly, shaking his head slightly.

The Father reached out slowly, leaning forward so he could put a hand on Anakin's shoulder – he looked too far away for that, but it still worked somehow. Perhaps because this wasn't the physical world?

"I am sorry this burden was laid on your shoulders, child," he said quietly. "It is a heavy burden. And I know you feel like you have broken under it's pressure more than once."

"I have," Anakin muttered.

"But you have built yourself back stronger. You can handle this, my boy, for just a little longer. Then, perhaps, you should try something new – something you can be utterly terrible at without severe consequences. Take a break and learn to relax. You deserve it."

He didn't feel like he did… but he did sense the Father was being sincere.

So he nodded. "I'll try."

The Father smiled. "Good. That is all I can ask. Now, perhaps you should go and actually sleep instead of meditating your afternoon away."

Anakin returned the smile, gave a nod, and closed his eyes, searching for a connection to his body before following it back.

He opened his eyes to the small crèche quarters he'd come to be so familiar with, and looked around. It didn't look any different than before he'd meditated. It didn't feel different… and yet, somehow, it did at the same time. He didn't fully understand how that was possible and wasn't entirely sure what to make of that. The Father had given him so much to think about that it almost made his head hurt. How could everything be the same but… not?

He blamed his tired state of mind when it took him several seconds to realize how it wasn't everything else that had changed… just him.

Anakin shook his head as he tried to understand all of it – or even some of it – but especially in his current state, he found that difficult. Which was ridiculous. He'd worked through worse before. Admittedly, usually as an adult, but a couple of times as a child too. Then again, working through sleep-deprivation as a child taking classes he could pass in his sleep and pondering existential questions that could leave the weight of the entire galaxy on his shoulders were in no way the same.

He still tried, his mind whirling with half-finished thoughts and new ideas but unable to connect them how he wanted – needed – to. Eventually he had to give it up as a bad job or begin drawing on the Force, which would undermine the reason he'd come back to his room at all. He'd simply have to think on it later.

So he forced himself to looked around intently. He sensed no danger, so after a few minutes, he laid down and managed to fall asleep not long after.

xXx

AN: Thank you to Khalthar and Quathis for their help on this. I honestly went back and forth for a while because I wasn't sure exactly WHERE this would fit as we make our way to the final peak of the story. I hope no one is seriously disappointed. I've had the end of it mostly figured out for a while (the major parts imo) and while a couple of people have guessed it, most haven't. I hope that means I'm doing my job as a writer right. I even had someone I began talking to recently figure it out simply because of how I spoke to him and my general goal/motivation. LOL That was... well, interesting, I suppose. Didn't realize I put THAT much of myself into these stories, but it also makes sense.

Anyway, thank you for reading!

Discord: discord. gg/xDDz3gqWfy (no spaces)