Disclaimer: Not mine. Not making money from it.
AN: I'm writing this story for exactly four reasons: 1) To save as many people as I can; 2) To knock some sense into Anakin; 3) To ruin Palpatine's life; and 4) To get Snips and Skyguy to finally hug.
*Morai's Call To Hope*
*Chapter I - The Desert Between Worlds*
"Master Kenobi always said there's no such thing as luck," Ahsoka says with a grin that makes Anakin momentarily feel like no time has passed at all since she left the Jedi. And the months since then have been nothing but a bad dream.
The feeling doesn't last. His worry over the Chancellor landing back on his shoulders and the exhaustion that's been steadily filling him up for years now drowning out the brief amusement Ahsoka sparked. Still, he doesn't want to take it out on her so he summons up some vestige of their old banter.
"Good thing I taught you otherwise," he says as he once would have but when he tentatively reaches out feels only the softly glowing embers of their Force bond where once was a steady stream of warmth, she's still holding herself back. It hurts, this distance between him and his former Padawan. But he doesn't know how to bridge it so he turns around to leave and join Obi-Wan in preparation for their mission against Grievous.
"Anakin!" Ahsoka calls out from behind him and when he turns finds her staring at him a little uncertainly but with open care. "Good luck."
Anakin's lips twist up weakly and with a final look at his little Snips, though not so little anymore, he leaves.
As the doors slide shut between them he stops and lets out a shaky breath, taking a moment to fortify himself against the urge to turn back and rush to Ahsoka to beg her to come back. He's missed her, missed their constant back and forth, missed their little games over who had taken out the most droids or pulled off the more impressive crash landing, without Ahsoka around the never-ending war against the Separatists has somehow gotten even harder to bear. Especially when he sees Padmé so rarely now and even that almost exclusively only through holocomms, or even when they manage to be on the same planet there is never enough time away from the war to spend time just with each other. And with his relationship with Obi-Wan so strained lately it feels like the only friend he has anymore is the Chancellor.
He wishes he and Ahsoka had time for that talk she seemed to be promising for after she's helped Bo-Katan and hopefully captured Maul.
The thoughts rush him only a moment but before he can start walking again there is the unexpected sound of wings and the gentle hoot of a bird behind him and before the impossibility of it can fully register, its talons pierce his armor as if it's not there at all and cut into his shoulder.
There is the sharp feeling of vertigo as reality bends around him and the floor of the Star Destroyer vanishes from under him to be replaced by the black sand of an alien desert. Darkness surrounds him from every direction and the only illumination comes from the strangely bent light reflecting off the two moons above him - one large reddish moon like a threat from above and one distant and small blue one - but even that light is weak and barely helpful.
Not that it matters that much, for there doesn't seem to be anything for him to look at.
He shakes his head, trying to dispel dizziness.
Right away he senses something wrong. Even more than the change in his physical surroundings he's overwhelmed by the change in the Force around him. Where before it was the warmth of the Living Force that has always been present wherever he went, the feeling of trillions of lights from every living being across the galaxy flowing around him, there is now a coolness in the Force. It is not the Dark Side, he can tell that much but the light is more distant, like the starlight from suns that are billions of light years away.
Anakin pushes onto his knees shakily, the coarse black desert sand running between his fingers without sticking to them. He frowns, that's not right either, even dry sand sticks to your palms when it meets the moisture from human skin. Here it just drops back down as if it's not quite… real.
"Hello!" Anakin calls out not certain he wants to hear an answer but without anything else to do it's the first thing that comes to his mind to try.
For a few standard seconds there is no reply and then there come whispers from all around him.
'It is the name of your true self, you've only forgotten.' Comes a young male voice from somewhere in the distance. 'I know there is good in you.' It's the only one he hears over the waves of whispers beside it.
But before he can even begin to follow it it's overtaken by a different, more familiar voice from a new direction. 'You were my brother, Anakin.' The voice is so full of agony Anakin's heart clenches in his chest despite the constant low grade anger he's been feeling towards his former master since the Raako Hardeen incident.
'Rebellions are built on hope.' Comes another unfamiliar voice, this time female. Anakin gets back on his feet, looking around for a direction.
'I didn't betray my Jedi,' whispers the voice Anakin immediately identifies as belonging to his second-in-command.
"Rex?" Anakin tries and takes an uncertain step toward where he thinks the voice came from.
There is nothing again, though for a moment he thinks he hears the heavy sound of mechanical breathing pressing on him from all sides and then; 'You're reckless, Little One. You never would have made it as Obi-Wan's Padawan. But you might make it as mine.' His own voice comes back and Anakin has to swallow at this reminder of his own failure. But the voice was the slightest bit more clear than the ones before it so he follows it.
'When I was out there, alone, all I had was your training. And the lessons you taught me…' And it feels like he's finally following some kind of direction because as he's rushing forward the next onset of whispers all come from Ahsoka.
'I know little guy. I miss him too.'
'Your name is… Chewbacca?'
'My older brother taught me.'
'The last time I saw him he was rushing off to save the Chancellor.' He hears and the voice is so clear that Anakin twists around to correct his direction at once.
'Ahsoka!' Comes someone's scream of terror. 'No!'
"Ahsoka!?" he calls out panicked and stumbles to a halt as the empty darkness around him is interrupted by the sight of two white desert trees leaning on each other for balance and Ahsoka in the space between them with her back to Anakin. Her form is the slightest bit frayed though, making her look more like a mirage than reality. And yet something in the Force tells him this is the first real thing he's seen since he landed in this dark, whisper filled desert.
She looks older. Her lekku reaching almost past her waist.
'Perhaps I was wrong.' Comes a low mechanical voice from deeper within this Force created mirage, the words accented by the rhythmic hiss of some kind of breathing apparatus.
'It wouldn't be the first time,' his Padawan replies and past her shoulder Anakin glimpses an imposing figure cloaked all in black, there's a red lightsaber in their hand poised and towering over the flinching body of a boy fallen on the ground.
At Ahsoka's voice the figure turns.
'It was foretold that you would be here, our long awaited meeting has come at last,' the Sith says and something about the tone of it lands uneasily in Anakin's gut.
'I'm glad I gave you something to look forward to.' Is Ahsoka's cutting reply.
'We need not be adversaries.' The Sith extinguishes the light of his saber. 'The Emperor will show you mercy if you tell me where the remaining Jedi can be found.'
'There are no Jedi.' Ahsoka snaps and Anakin feels it like a direct laser hit to his chest, he senses the attention of the Force shifting toward him, edged and burning with its focus. 'You and your Inquisitors have seen to that.'
'Perhaps this child will confess what you will not,' the Sith taunts and turns back toward the boy he'd been about to kill before Ahsoka had interrupted him.
'I was beginning to believe I knew who you were behind that mask. But it's impossible, my Master could never be as vile as you.'
It's as if the ground beneath Anakin's feet vanishes again and he drops to his knees, horror overtaking him at the implication in Ahsoka's words.
"No," he chokes out, "it can't be."
But the Force is beginning to spin insistently around him, drawing his attention to the Sith and urging him to look. Even in this world out of time where the Force is almost unrecognizable it is knocking against his shields and screaming its truth.
'Anakin Skywalker was weak, I destroyed him,' the Sith spits out hatefully and Anakin tries to grasp at the hope it brings him, tries to shake off the recognition igniting within him but it's too late. He doesn't want to believe but he sees. The Force is almost deafening.
He wants to close his eyes and cover his ears but he's too afraid to look away, like a child he looks on afraid that as soon as he stops something horrible will happen.
'Then I will avenge his death.'
'Revenge is not the Jedi way,' the Sith - not Anakin, it's not him - says in a way that makes Anakin unable to tell if it's meant to be mocking or bitter.
'I am no Jedi.' Ahsoka ignites her twin lightsabers, both glowing pure white and attacks.
Her form is perfect, her attacks are lightning quick and her evasions twice as much so, she's almost dancing with her every move. It is a brutal dance but almost beautiful. And some part of Anakin's mind notes it proudly but the rest of him just stays kneeling and watches almost unseeing as the Togruta who is years older than the one he left behind him to go to Mandalore with Rex and their men, fights in front of him. Alone.
Alone because there are no Jedi in her time. Alone because instead of with Anakin guarding her back or fighting by her side he's- he's-
Anakin's mind blanks, flinching away from finishing the thought, still struggling against accepting the vision in front of him. Accepting it would destroy him.
His awareness sharpens as the Sith Force pushes Ahsoka over the edge of some crevice and Anakin screams wordlessly, helpless to do anything but watch. But the perspective of the mirage changes and he sees Ahsoka laying dazed and semiconscious some distance below from where she'd fallen, she looks alright, clearly having managed to slow her descent just enough to cushion herself from real injury.
"Get up, Ahsoka," he urges her despite knowing that she can't hear him.
There's a hoot that follows his own urging and he looks up noticing the convor that is sitting on the naked branch of one of the trees encircling the scene in front of him. There is something… familiar about it.
He remembers the sound of the wings that brought him here and tries to sense its nature. All he feels is a sense of pure Light coming from it and an intelligence that tells him almost as much.
"Why did you bring me here?" he rasps out, hatred swelling in his chest.
The convor just watches him.
Under him Ahsoka begins to stir with a pained gasp and Anakin's fury at being shown something he doesn't want to see is washed away by renewed worry.
"She'll be fine," he pleads though he doesn't know from where he expects an answer, from the Force or the convor, or maybe himself, after all… "he won't- I would never hurt her."
Blind and deaf to those who are watching her, Ahsoka gets back on her feet with the stubborn glint in her eye which Anakin well knows and leaps back toward the place from which she'd fallen.
In moments she's running for the Sith's turned back and jumping.
She slices for his masked face even as she's slinging away from him and landing heavily on the ground, clearly more exhausted than her quick attack alone would have had Anakin believe.
'Ahsoka!' Yells the boy from before. 'Come on, hurry!'
'Ahsoka.' The voice of the Sith echoes but the mechanical sound of it is overridden by a human voice that freezes both Ahsoka and Anakin in place. The last vestiges of his denial drop away from him, the voice is his. The Sith turns his head and reveals the cut into his mask that exposes half his face. 'Ahsoka.'
'Anakin!' Ahsoka gasps out, voice pained and horrified. Then determination blooms on her face and Anakin's heart drops in his stomach.
'I won't leave you,' she announces standing up and facing him, 'not this time.'
For a fraction of a moment Anakin thinks he sees a crack form and something almost human reflecting in the Sith yellow eye of his future self, he finds himself praying the Force for that something to survive and break free.
From behind Anakin there comes again a whisper from a different time: 'I would never let anyone hurt you, Ahsoka… never…'
But in front of Anakin comes something else.
'Then you will die,' the Sith says in direct contradiction to everything Anakin has ever promised both aloud and inside his own heart to the closest thing he's ever had to a little sister or a daughter. And every single cell of his body rebels against a time where he would ever utter those words to Ahsoka. So even as the red lightsaber ignites in the Sith's hands, Anakin rushes forward and through the fragile line of a portal separating his reality from theirs.
As the Sith's lightsaber finishes the arch of its blow instead of encountering Ahsoka's white dual sabers it's stopped by the intervening block from a blue lightsaber in the hands of the Anakin Skywalker sixteen years out of his time.
AN2: I'm trying out a new thing to keep myself motivated to finish this story. I'm two chapters ahead in my writing and until I have written the chapter after that I don't get to post. This will hopefully kick my butt into gear and also let me polish the chapters a bit better before I post them too.
Please let me know what you think though, believe me that will help a LOT too.