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My Pillar, My Beacon

By Hikaru Adjani

Romance / Scifi

Chapter 1

The apartment was cold and there was that incessant dripping sound from somewhere, but a search for it had turned up nothing. The man sighed, shaking his head, before resting his forehead back on the pillow of his arms. He sat on the floor, his back against the only bed in the whole place. He should do...something. For her.

He craned his neck to take another look at the woman, carefully bundled in the bed behind him. He didn't even know her name, things had gone badly so quickly, and then she'd been unconscious and beyond asking. "Hey." He tried again, knowing it was futile. Unconscious was unconscious. At least she was quiet now, yesterday had been worse than today. She'd been delirious, fretful and way too hot to the touch then, but now she was still and chilled. He glanced down at the field med screen, forcing his gaze to ignore the scarlet admonition that he should seek medical attention for her as soon as possible. She'd just have to pull through without that, he wasn't carrying her any further through the streets of an enemy held world. And he wasn't leaving her here, helpless. No, he'd wait. Just as he had been for the past three days. And he'd keep caring for her as best he could. It had to be enough. If only he could have found a better place to hole up with her, someplace warmer, safer...but the galaxy was filled with his if only dreams. If only...

He fought that back into its corner, narrowing his eyes. Oh, no, he wasn't going there, not now. He shouldn't be thinking of a dead woman when he should be fighting for the living one, his crew-mate, behind him. He stood, torn. On one hand, there was so much he should be doing... finding other survivors from the Endar Spire. Finding Bastila. Not waiting around this apartment, doing nothing.

No, not nothing. He sat back on the edge, gazing at the woman for a long moment. He was helping a survivor, for all he knew, possibly the last other than himself. And Bastila was a Jedi. If she was still alive, then she should be more capable of taking care of herself than he could. But this one needed him.

"Hey." He murmured again, resting the back of his hand against her forehead. She was trembling, chill to the touch, and he grimaced. There really was only one answer to this... much as he'd prefer to avoid the obvious. He took his jacket and boots off, cautiously sliding under the emergency blankets he had pulled from the escape pod's survival gear. He'd had barely enough time to do that, and pick her up to vanish into the corridors of Taris, ahead of any Sith patrols tracking the pod's fall. It was a wonder she had survived, the impact had been devastating, and her side of the pod had taken the brunt of it. She was a fighter, he could sense it. All she needed was a hand, someone to help pull her through. And no one had ever accused him of turning his back on someone who needed him.

Her shivering calmed down at the wash of his body heat, and he smiled slightly, staring at her profile as he relaxed. He hadn't realized just how tired he was, piloting through the Endar Spire's end had been stressful, the evacuation and crash more so, and last night had been a sleepless one. He'd been running on adrenaline, but it was quickly fading. He was prone, in a dim, quiet room. He would have through that the idea of a woman in the same bed would be a reminder, bitter enough to keep him awake, but her proximity wasn't as awkwardly disturbing as he had been counting on. He focused on her features, trying to mesh them with just a few moments of memories from the Endar Spire... when she had been awake, aware, and on her own feet.

She was not a big one, thankfully he'd been able to pick her and the survival gear up in one go, easily enough. Average height for a woman. Average build. Not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination, she had an austere, chiseled if her features had been rationed, nothing extra, nothing more. She had pale eyes when they were open, he vaguely remembered that, but as to which shade, he was uncertain. He'd been in a rush to get her, the last crew member on board the Spire, off of the Spire. The emergency lighting had been on, coloring her all in reds and pinks. If he had to guess, he'd hazard her eyes were light blue. Her hair was dead straight, true black. Again, it seemed as if she'd been given some sort of short shrift, just hair. No curls, no wave, no bounce. And the length was equally unimpressive, too long to be short, and too short to be long. That made sliding up next to her easier, he was confident that he could behave himself, and after just a moment, he fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.

Sarah woke in a strange place. In a strange bed. With a strange man's arm slung over her hips. And she felt like she had come out fifth best in the world's worst bar fight. No, worse...this felt like death, barely dodged. She fixed a stare on the sleeping man with her, wary. He was only vaguely familiar, she'd seen him before. She should be able to place a name to him, as well. But she didn't know him. She ran through what she did know in her mind, carefully cataloging her surroundings. Man. Check. Bed, check. It wasn't truly large enough for a couple, especially since her rather cozy companion was not a small one. There were no blankets, only crinkly and pathetic reflective emergency foil panels. She was still mostly dressed. He was still dressed.

And she was in a spare, dingy apartment. That was wrong. She was supposed to be on a ship... Surely she hadn't gotten intoxicated enough to take this guy, or be taken by this guy, to some truly cheap ass place like this? And get drunk enough to have the shit beaten out of her...? That made no sense, she'd never been that sort of woman. Certainly the man was appealing enough, but she didn't sense that the obvious was the truth...

He shifted, grumbled, and opened his eyes. Utter confusion crossed his face, stunned denial, and he sat up. That was a maneuver she wasn't willing to try yet, and she made a protesting cough when he let all of the warm air out. The apartment was not only dingy, it was freezing. "I don't know who you are, but lie back down." She muttered, and he obliged, awkwardly trying to find where to put his limbs without actually touching her again. "I.. uh... This isn't what it looks like." He sputtered in a hurry, watching her warily. He had a nice voice. Nice eyes. Not bad, not bad at all.

"Then what is it?" She should remember. All she was certain of was that he was blameless, she remembered...him. Grabbing her wrist, pushing her towards the escape pod. "We evacuated the Spire."

His expression was openly relieved, thankful. It gave him a boyish, earnest look...or maybe that was just how he always looked. He didn't seem to be that young, but he looked it. "You remember. After your concussion, I wasn't sure..."

The pause said it all. He hadn't been sure she was going to wake up, much less remember what had happened. "Yeah. We did. Our pod crashed, or was shot down... I'm betting on the latter. You were injured."

"How did I get here?" Wherever here was, exactly.

"I carried you." He gave her a slight smile, two loose locks of hair falling over his brow. "I have to admit, though, that I never caught your name. It's been a little...bizarre...watching over you without knowing it."

"Sarah. And you're...?"

The relief faded slightly from his face, his eyes were measuring, concerned. "Ah. Carth. I'd shake your hand, but that would let your heat out."

Carth. Carth. Carth...Onasi? She'd been cared for by, and was now giving an eye to the great Carth Onasi? It figured. "We're on Taris, Captain Onasi?" It was a little late to try to glue that back together, but she'd give it a decent try.

"Carth. Please. I mean...hell, we're in the same bed, we should be on a first name basis."

Yeah. Hell. What better way to put it? "Taris?" She questioned again, and he nodded.

"Yes, we're on Taris." He sat up, carefully tucking the foil in around her. "Now that you're awake, we'll be able to see just where we're sitting. It's imperative that we meet up with Bastila and get her off of Taris."

"How long has it been?" She sensed it had been long enough, and his expression confirmed it.

"You've been out for three days. Yesterday wasn't bad, the day before was the worst. I though I was going to lose you." His voice made it obvious that he would have considered that a terrible blow, even though he barely knew her. "Glad to see you open your eyes." He stared for a second, and then chuckled. "I thought they were blue."

"Nooo." They were gray, actually. "Three days. And we're it?" That couldn't be. If they had lost Bastila, then it was all over. That was a blow they might never recover from...

"I don't know, I haven't left here. Been lying low." He studied her, growling slightly when she tried to get her elbows underneath her to sit up. "Not yet." He passed her her own blaster pistol back, shrugging into his jacket and boots. "I'm going to go see if I can't find us some food and maybe some intel."

He was gone in an instant, the firm snick of the locks setting the door behind him. Sarah let him be gone for a good bit before she painfully managed to sit up and took stock of her aches and pains. There was a med screen on the floor beside her, and she caught it with a foot, turning it so that she could see its readout. Either Onasi had tampered with it, or he was telling the truth. It had been running non stop for over seventy two hours, charting her progress over that time, and what she saw was sobering. She had just come way too close to dying, and she owed him her life.

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