There was one thing that he knew he lived for. That was nights like this.
It was an ideal one, tonight. Both his children were here, and neither of them had any more work to do that night. Their Masters were not there; they were at a meeting of some sort. There was a rumor going around the Temple that it had to do with Count Dooku, but Paqiuo did not believe it, and anyway, he didn't care.
They'd shared lastmeal, and Luke had demonstrated several new katas that he'd mastered, and the three of them together had put together a model of the Senate building. By the time Leia was applying the finishing touches to the roof and Luke was trying to work the motor to make the structure rotate, it was getting very late. Paqiuo was starting to wonder where Sil-Wan and Maul were.
"Where is Master Maul?" Luke sighed with frustration; perhaps he was wondering too. "He could get this done in a moment...okay, let's see if it works now. Stand clear, Leia." Leia backed up and Luke pressed some control out of Paqiuo's sight. The model hummed. In a moment or two, Paquio knew, it should start turning around, and part to reveal the intrically crafted interior.
The humming continued, but it did not rotate. Luke shook his head. "What now? I'm out of ideas."
"Time for bed," Paquio answered. "You and your Masters can deal with it tomorrow."
"Awwww," Leia protested, and Luke added, "But then you'll have to go!"
"Not yet," Paquio pointed out, "I still can tell you a bedtime story."
"But it still means you're leaving soon."
"I know, I know. But you know I always have to go when the night is over."
"We know," Leia agreed, but she looked sad about it too.
Each of the twins went to their bedroom. Paquio waited while they both changed, then Luke opened the door and said, "It's okay, you can come in now."
Leia came in as their father was tucking her brother in. She settled on the edge of the bed, where she would sit while the story was told. "Tell us about Obi-Wan Kenobi," she said.
"Yeah!" Luke chimed. "Tell us that one!"
"All right," said Paquio, "though now I think you two might know it better than I do."
"Twenty years ago, when I was the young King of Naboo, only newly elected, my planet caught the eye of the Trade Federation. You've heard of the Trade Federation, right?"
"Who hasn't?" said Leia. "Besides, you've told us this story before."
"Yes, I have. Well, noone knew it at first, but the Trade Federation was in fact being urged on by the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. And he had reasons of his own for wanting Naboo invaded."
"But the Chancellor had sent two Jedi to Naboo, hadn't they?" Luke asked happily. Any parts of the story that directly involved his Master, of course, were his favorite parts.
"Yes, he had," said Paquio, "and their names were Qui-Gon Jinn and Sil-Wan Kenobi. And they helped me win my planet back. But when they did, they encountered a man who looked to them like a terrible demon. He killed Master Qui-Gon. And then Sil-Wan was very unhappy, for she had loved her Master and had never told him. She killed the demon and thought he was one of the two Sith Lords. But noone knew who the other one was."
"But he wasn't even one, was he?" Leia cut in, because she had to point things out in defense of her own Master. "He was a clone, and the real Sith Lord fell in love with Sil-Wan, and came to the light for her. And he didn't look like a demon, either, once they took the genetic manipulations out of him."
"Yes," said Luke impatiently, "but that's not part of this story, is it? That's another story all together."
"Only because Obi-Wan didn't know about that. I wonder why not."
"Leia! Father hasn't gotten to Obi-Wan yet! Besides, I'm sure he found out about him eventually. I mean, we didn't know about Maul yet."
"Yes, I was just getting to that. But Sil-Wan had a little girl to train as her padawan, because with his dying breath Qui-Gon had made her promise she'd train her, so she went back to the Jedi Temple to sadly set about her task." He was thankful that neither of the children pointed out that this was their mother. Even though it had been over eight years, he still couldn't think about Anyanka without pain.
"But then," he said, "a few months later, one day, a man appeared in the middle of the Jedi Temple. It was from out of nowhere; there was a loud bang!" He clapped his hands. So did Luke and Leia. "And there he was."
"And he looked a lot like Master Sil-Wan," said Luke, "didn't he?"
"Yes, he did. When they stood next to each other, you would have thought they were twins.
And that was because he was Sil-Wan. He was another version of her, from an alternate universe. In that universe, Sil-Wan had been born as a man. But otherwise he had lived her life almost exactly as she had lived it, and he too had loved the Qui-Gon Jinn of his universe, and lost him with having never told him so. But a month afterwards when he had made a new lightsaber, he had discovered that igniting it caused him to travel from universe to universe, and he went off in search of a place where Qui-Gon was alive, and had need of him. Along the way, he found out many things, more than any person living in any one universe could have found out on his or her own.
He didn't stay in our universe for long. He had been traveling through many universes very quickly when he came to ours. While he was here, he met only with Master Yoda, who always knew his incredible story to be true, and with Sil-Wan, and a little bit with her padawan. He told both of the first two something very important.
To Master Yoda, he identified the Sith Lord as none other than the newly elected Chancellor Palpatine, whom he had fought and defeated in other universes. He had, in fact, spurred the Trade Federation to invade his own planet to cause turmoil in the Senate, forcing me to call on a vote of no-confidence on the previous Chancellor, in an attempt to get Naboo the aid it needed. That's how he had gotten elected." And if he hadn't been identified, Paquio didn't want to think about how much guilt that would have caused him. "The Jedi called him to the Temple and confronted him, and in the end were forced to slay him.
To Sil-Wan he told something not quite so important for the fate of the galaxy, but in her life, it was possibly the most important thing she ever learned. Although Obi-Wan had never shared love with his own Qui-Gon, he had met many other Qui-Gons, all of whom had loved their Obi-Wans or Sil-Wans as Obi-Wan and Sil-Wan had loved their Qui-Gons. One, a female Qui-Gon of all things, had said to him that she couldn't imagine being her and not loving him. That Sil-Wan's old Master had loved her was, to Obi-Wan, beyond doubt.
When Sil-Wan too believed it, it brought her closure, and gave her strength to face up to her life, and to the trials she would endure in later years. And she would need all the strength she could get." Being brought face to face with Maul had been hard enough, but it was good that she'd learned to love him in time. When Anyanka had turned and betrayed them all, it was Maul who had consoled her, supported her, and restored her to her previous confidence and ability to go on.
Just then they heard a the doorchime, and Paquio called, "Come in!"
Sil-Wan peeked in, Maul behind her. "Ah, into bed I see," she said. "How goes the story?"
"We were just finishing up, actually," said Paquio. "I'll see my daughter back to her own bedroom now." He kissed Luke goodnight and scooped Leia up as she giggled.
Leia's smiles lasted until he was tucking her into her own bed, with Sil-Wan and Maul waiting outside. Then she looked very serious as she asked her father, "You will come and see us again soon, won't you, father?"
"As soon as I can. You know that, Leia." He kissed her, whispered, "Good night. Sweet dreams," and quietly walked out of the room, turning the light off as he went.
"Paquio," said Sil-Wan when the door was closed. "Sit down."
Her tone was very grim; her earlier smile had completely vanished. Confused and frightened, Paquio did as she told him. She and Maul sat down as well.
"We just returned from a meeting with Master Yoda, Master Windu, Master Gallia, and some others," Sil-Wan said. "I hope you won't be offended if I refuse to name them at this point. We had a discussion that we agreed, at the beginning of the meeting, to keep to ourselves, but near the end, we also agreed to tell you this much:
We are now certain that Count Dooku has set up operations in an ancient Sith construction on a moon in the Yavin system, in the Outer Rim. We have identified a number of allies he has with them, among them, Anyanka."
Eight years. It had been eight years since anyone had heard anything of Anyanka. The last record of her was a week after she had nearly killed Paquio, nearly been killed by Sil-Wan, and fled Coruscant, when she had checked into a charity hospital-under another name-on Alderaan and given birth to the twins. They only knew it was her because before slipping out, not an hour after delivery, she'd left a note naming Paquio as their father, and the hospital had contacted him. Why she had done this noone was sure.
"We weren't able to agree on how far we should include you now, in our plans. I told them that you weren't happy staying here on Coruscant, and that we should ask you to come with us there. Master Yoda supported me, but Masters Windu and Gallia are both opposed. The others are divided. We finally decided to ask you first. If we asked you to come to Yavin with us, you might have to directly fight Anyanka, and I feel it is very likely that one way or another, you would more like than not lose your own life. But these days, Paquio, I'm honestly not sure if that's not what you want."
"Why don't you point out what you pointed out to the others?" Maul interrupted. "That if Paquio comes with us to Yavin, there's a chance seeing him again could cause Anyanka to turn back?"
"I wish I believed it as much as I seemed to back there," sighed Sil-Wan, "It's not impossible, I know, but remember, he tried to do it eight years ago and failed."
"Who says he wouldn't have succeeded if you hadn't followed him and destroyed his credibility in Anyanka's eyes? I know what she's been through these past eight years, Sil-Wan, and I agree with Paquio that there's still good in her. At least there was when she left the children in the hospital; if she was completely gone she would have taken them with her and raised them in the darkness the same way Sidious raised me." His voice turned heavy as he spoke this last bit; the scars would remain with him forever.
"But that was eight years ago," said Sil-Wan, "and now it may be too late."
"I don't care," said Paquio, who had had trouble hearing anything past "come with us there." "Even if there was no chance at all I'd rather go and die by Anya's hand, now, then stay here on Coruscant any longer, and if there is that chance...tell your group if they refuse to take me with them I may follow them on my own."
"You mean that, don't you?" It was strange to see Sil-Wan look at her with such astonishment, especially after all these years. "But they'll never think you do."
"Then they'll find out otherwise. You know I mean what I say, Sil-Wan." He spoke in what he thought as his "King" voice, that steady, certain tone that even back when he'd been fourteen his advisors had recognized as meaning his mind was made up and they were to abide by his decision. Though it was hard to believe that the two Jedi couldn't detect how much he was shaking inside, even if it was as much in anticipation as fear, because anything was better than his life now.
Perhaps it was that last belief Sil-Wan sensed most as she nodded gravely. "I do. Very well, then, I'll tell them that."
He felt a twinge for Luke and Leia, and especially how they would fare without him. But they would be all right. Already their Masters were far more family to them than their father.
Then he realized. "Sil-Wan, Maul, if you two are going to Yavin, then that means...Luke and Leia..."
"You know how padawans are raised here in the Jedi Order, Paquio," said Sil-Wan firmly. "They are old enough."
"But..." Paquio had to protest. He had to. "Sil-Wan, I know there's a chance that if and when Anyanka sees me again, she might just become determined to kill me herself. I don't care; I'm willing to risk that, but you can't put Luke and Leia into that kind of danger! They're still only eight!"
"Calm down, Paquio," said Maul. "Nothing's been decided yet. If you really think it would be more dangerous for them than for most, we'll submit that to the Council. At the very least, I think Yoda will listen."
"He had better," said Paquio. He rose.
"You really are determined about this, aren't you?" asked Sil-Wan. "I don't think you ever got over her."
"Would you have 'gotten over' Qui-Gon Jinn?" Paquio asked, letting her hear his disappointment that she failed to understand, that he would've expected better from her. "If he hadn't died, but if this had happened to him instead? Could you have turned your back?"
"No," said Sil-Wan immediately. "But...you remember what I told you about alternate universes? About meeting another version of myself?"
"I told them that story tonight; they love hearing it. But I'm certain my relationship with Anyanka went the same way across the universes. It's the exact same thing."
"You do know what Obi-Wan said about Anyanka in every other universe he came across?"
"That she was a boy in them, yes. I don't care. Maybe I was a woman in some of them. He didn't say anything about me, did he? But man or woman, I'm sure I loved her whether she was a her or a him. Good night." And not really trying to hide his anger even on the surface anymore, he walked towards the door.
He was walking through it when he heard Maul murmur something, and he ended up looking back just in time to see the longtime couple kiss. Maul had his hands in Sil-Wan's hair; he was stroking where it was losing color. He turned away and felt a stab of envy. Neither of the two people he left behind had led at all an easy life; in fact, they had both endured far worse traumas than he had. But they had come out of it content, and if they were both still alive at the end of this one, they would become content once again, with time if not immediately.
Briefly he had wondered what had happened to that Obi-Wan Sil-Wan had met, if he had ever found his Qui-Gon and his new home, or if he had just gone from universe to universe with slowly fading purpose...was he still out there somewhere now, as listless and tired of life as Paquio was? Or had he managed to find at least Sil-Wan's level of happiness, if not better? She was one of the luckier Sil-Wans, he still thought. Had he ever met any other Paquios, or female Paquios, who had perhaps come to better fates than his? Killed immediately by their Anyankas and spared this, at least? Or even able to turn her(or him) back, or having never lost her(or him) in the first place?
Outside the Jedi Temple the Coruscant night wasn't too dark, with all the lights from the cars and buildings, but they still looked menacing. Paquio got into his vehicle and wished that just once he could walk home, or anywhere. Feel solid earth beneath his feet. He hated looking down, though the driving required him to. Coruscant felt like a hollow place to him, almost like a space station.
It was a little more bearable to him now, though, now that he knew he wouldn't be here much longer. Hopefully he would be making this particular trip, back from the Temple to his apartment in the Senate District, for the last time, and when he next traveled these lanes, it would be on his way off this planet forever. Perhaps if he was very lucky he would finally return to die and be buried on Naboo. Even if he didn't, and even if he still never saw the woman he still loved again, this last journey would be a sweet one.