My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 20

"You're a sight for sore eyes, Mission!" Sarah frowned at the sheer level of noise, supposedly wookiees could be quiet...stealthy hunters amongst the wroshyr trees. If so, she'd love to see...or hear... it happen, it would be a new experience. "You came. How?"

"It's great to see you too, Big Z! You didn't think I'd forget about you? Mission and Zaalbar, together forever." Her voice faded abruptly off when the huge, male wookiee enveloped her in a giant hug, smothering her in hair.

"Who's that with you?" He asked, catching sight of Sarah and Carth, half turning to place Mission on his other side, away from them.

"These are my new friends, Big Z. Without them, I never could have got you out." Mission crowed, gesturing at the pair of them.

"I'm Sarah, and this is my husband, Devid." Sarah greeted, waving back towards Carth. He gave a slightly goofy grin and a jaunty salute in answer, and Sarah wasn't sure if she wanted to slap him for it, or kiss him.

" You know the language of my people? That is rare among your species, I'm impressed. And your partner?" Zaalbar stared at Carth, who merely gazed back, uncomprehendingly.

"Husband." If she wrapped herself up in it, if she believed it, then he'd believe it. As for Carth, he'd been flinging it around easily enough...

"Mate? You are a mated couple?" That question carried weight, but Sarah was stuck. Back out of the lie? Or own it? Play semantics, knowing that the word he used meant married at its heart, but came across as mate? Wookiees were devastatingly faithful...

"Yes."

"Ah. That makes this easier. "You have both saved me from a life of servitude and slavery."

Sarah didn't quite like exactly where this was heading. She just wanted them to help her get the engine accelerator...not this. If what she was fearing came to pass, she had just gotten a wookiee forever. And a teenaged twi'lek to boot. "Look, don't worry about that...all we need is a little help."

"My life is yours, you have saved me from a fate worse than death and the only payment worthy of that is my lifedebt. I will swear it to you, and your lifemate. Your family, Sarah."

Rescue me, Carth. Butt in. Any time now would be good. But no, that one was oblivious, watching closely, but not getting the majority of the conversation. He was looking for a threat, not for this... I should have never admitted I understood, but no, I had to go and show off.

"That's not what we're looking for, at all." Again, she tried to put the brakes on, to slow it down. Some of her hesitation must have finally filtered through Carth's thick head, because his returning gaze was concerned and wary.

"A lifedebt? Are you sure about that, Big Z? Think about it carefully, you had better be sure about this."

"I am sure, Mission. This is an issue of great importance to me. Because of our great physical strength, Wookiees are being used as slave labor on our own homeworld. They see us as brutes and animals to be exploited. Over the years, slavers have taken many of our people. We must always be on guard against raids against our villages. When the Gamorreans captured me, I thought I was doomed to a life of servitude. I have been saved from such a fate, and the only way I can repay that is through a lifedebt."

"Big Z swearing a wookiee lifedebt to you? Wow, this is major. Do you realize what it means?"

Yes, unfortunately Sarah did. And by Carth's suddenly still expression, he wasn't nearly as lost as he had been just moments before, back when he was blissfully unaware of what was going on over his head.

"A lifedebt is the most solemn vow a wookiee can make. It means he'll stay by your side for the rest of your life, wherever you go, whatever you do, Zaalbar will be with you." Mission continued, as if Sarah had replied, and replied in the negative...and her words merely confirmed exactly what Sarah was dreading.

"In the presence of you all, I swear a lifedebt. Forever after, I will be by your sides, Sarah and Devid. May my vow be as strong as the roots of the great wroshyr trees of Kashyyk." Zaalbar intoned, and Sarah felt something catch, something...click...on the edges of her perception. It was almost audible, tangible.

"I guess this means you're stuck with me, too. Wherever Big Z goes, I'm going. I almost lost him once, It's not going to happen again." Mission stated, stubbornly, jutting her chin out. There was fear under her bravado, anxiety, but she was doing her best to hide it.

Yep. That was definitely, absolutely what Sarah was afraid of. Somehow, in one well intentioned fell swoop, she'd gained a wookiee. And trouble wrapped up in a twi'lek teenager's body. Things had just become a lot more complicated than they had been...which was saying something, indeed. She sighed, walking back to Carth and leaning her forehead against his chest. Her vision was filled with orange...just orange...

"Sarah? Want to fill me in, here?" He asked, resting his arm across her shoulders, creating a pocket of near privacy when he placed his forehead against her hair. "Wookiee lifedebt? To you? Those are nothing to take lightly..."

"To us, my dear husband. You, me, to our family."

"Oh. I mean...oh. Um... we'd be honored?"

"Yeeeeeaaaaah. And we apparently get Mission as a plus one as part of the bargain."

He was silent for a long moment, a silence she was beginning to recognize. It wasn't that he had no words, it was that he did...but wasn't sure she'd appreciate them at all. "Good." He finally stated, and she glanced at him through her eyebrows. "Somebody needs to look after her. This just proved it."

Somebody, sure...but why Sarah? "You're such a..." What? Paladin? Do-gooder? Shining knight? Just genuinely nice guy? Decent. The idea flushed her cold, and she felt suddenly sick. "I..."

"Look like you've seen a ghost." He breathed, gathering her up into his arms. "Did you get hit? Sick again? Dizzy? What?"

"I feel like I'm falling." She forced the words through suddenly numb lips, and he grimaced, kneeling to take all of her weight instead of just most of it.

"No, no, no." He muttered, then jerked back slightly from her. "It's okay, Mission. I've got her."

"I'm such a candy ass."

"You're fine. You just need a moment." He breathed, settling her weight more comfortably into his arms and bowing his head. His eyes were closed, and she searched his face with her own...finally giving into the urge to rest her fingertips on his cheek. He snorted slightly, his lips twisting in a half smile, but did not open his eyes. "Let me know when you're better."

I'm wonderful. I'm fine, better than fine. You're amazing. I don't deserve you.

What foolishness. It wasn't like she even had him to think she deserved having him. It was all just an act. Fake. Empty. A game. "I'm good, Devid."

"Good." He helped her to her feet, deliberately avoiding the stares from the other two. "I'd love to get you to a doctor." He stated aloud, boldly.

"Cheya." She responded dismissively. Any doctor she would have trusted belonged to the Sith now. There was no way she was going to trust a street doc with this.

"You're okay?" Mission asked, shadowed by her own looming male. "You look a little pale...I guess. You kind of always do."

"Great. The twi'lek is a laugh a minute." Sarah growled. "I'm fine. Let's get going before we attract rakghouls."

"You're here to get into the Vulkar base, right? Then we're already headed in the right direction...just your luck that I happen to know the way to the back door. I mean, I have a good idea of where..." Sarah gave her a killer look and the teen gave her a cringing smile back. "I've been there before. I made it past the rancor. I can slice the security panel once we get there..." She kept talking, but Sarah was beginning to realize that she could be tuned out.

"Did she say...rancor?" Carth asked nervously, and she only shrugged. Every answer she could come up with would just get her a scandalized, horrified response from him, and he'd shut her out again. She preferred him open, happy, caring...she didn't like the shadow of recrimination that screamed his disapproval. Why did it matter? Why was she actually trying to please him? This went beyond pandering to an ally she desperately needed to keep on her side.

So what? Was it damning that she might want to keep him for a little while? It wasn't as if she was stepping on toes...he'd made it perfectly clear that he was completely single. She was pretty certain she was as well. Who was it hurting?

You don't deserve another good man.

And that idea was getting old fast. What could she have done to have that thought following her around? If he liked her, and she liked him, where was the harm?

You broke the last one you had.

How? Who? If she couldn't remember, how could she know? Was it even true? Was she simply being held to coma dreams? The remnants of delirium?

I can't do this alone.

Well, that made so much more sense. Why go through this alone, if she didn't have to? He was here. He made her feel safe. Secure.

"I'll protect you from the rancor." Even if I have to feed the wookiee to it for a diversion, a running start away.

"Uh huh. Sure you will. And the rakghouls. I'll just curl up in your arms and you can carry me through the sewers.

Sarah opened her mouth, the first retort to fly into her mind ready on her lips, but again, she yanked it back. No. No snarky comments about the impossibility of her carrying a man of his size through the sewers, punctuated by a reference to his difficulties fitting into the sith trooper's armor... "You were doing such a great job of carrying me earlier."

He laughed, resting his hand on the back of her neck. "That's nothing. You're pretty light...too light, if you ask me."

"Great, now you're calling me skinny." Well, she hadn't gone for it, but apparently he felt no compunctions about the reverse. And oddly, it did sting a little.

"Shit, no. I mean, I'm...er." He paused for a second, gathering his thoughts, his words. "I'm well aware that you're not at your best. And you are thin. I owe you that dinner, after all. The sooner we get this done, the sooner you can hold me to that."

"After the rancor. And the rakghouls."

The rakghoul were actually not that much of an issue, the pipes kept them coming straight on, in small numbers, and were well lit enough to see them well ahead of time. Mission kept a confident pace, staying close to the wookiee, and Sarah knew that Carth's assessment was all too valid. Those two couldn't stay on Taris. How they were supposed to get them off was another question altogether, but they'd need to find a way. And yes...soon. Very soon.

There was an arm in the tube-way, and Sarah stared at it warily. It was still attached to a datapad, and she delicately picked it up by the edge of the pad...ignoring Carth's fascinated stare as she did so. He said nothing when she had to give it all a good shake to convince the locked fingers to finally release the pad.

"Anything useful?" He asked when she scanned the screen quickly.

"Maybe." She sighed, pocketing it. Always a useful thing to have...and hers had gone down with the Spire. "If we can find the rest of him."


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