My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 28

"Stop staring at me." Carth grumbled, pacing. That very short communication had not sounded good at all. It was a stupid, stupid, stupid idea to have sent Sarah and Mission in there, alone. And all Bastila did was stare at him, like she was trying to peel his skin away and look deeply within him, into his most private corners. Damned Jedi...

"She'll be fine, Captain. This is what she does." Bastila replied, serenely. "I realize you care for her, but she's an expert. I no more worry about her than I'd worry about you piloting..."

"I crashed my last ship." He tersely replied, raking his fingers though his forelock. "A crew of three hundred..."

"You did your best."

"And I'm sure she's doing her best, as well." He growled, turning his back on Bastila. Doing one's best didn't always end with success. Being an expert didn't always end with success. There was a chance that the last words he was ever going to hear from Sarah were those distant, sharply businesslike ones...the ones where she called him a name that wasn't even his. "Hopefully, her best is better than my best."

There was a dark, smoky chuckle from behind him and he spun. Sarah stood there, alive, intact, a quite pleased with herself smirk on her features. "I don't know." She breathed, moving close to him. She smelled of blood, combat, sweat...but it was all good. She was there. "I happen to find your best quite admirable, my dear." She rested a hand on his chest, under his open jacket, and all he could do was stare at her, thankful for her presence. She was walking. Talking. Breathing. Finally he managed to rest his hand over hers, pressing her palm over his heartbeat.

"Sarah."

"It's all good." She murmured, grabbing his shirt in her hand, giving it a big squeeze, and releasing it. "Got the codes. Brought the teenager and the droid back in one piece."

And yourself. What in the hell was wrong with him? He was too damned old to fall head over heels like this. It was something teenaged boys, ramped up on testosterone driven lust, gave into. It was a ride he couldn't seem to get off of...and wasn't even sure he wanted to. But he was tired...of being tired. Of growing old. Of being sad, alone. Of being so damned dependable. Where had that ever gotten him? Widowed, alone and desperate... adrift at the time in his life when he'd thought he'd be rooted and settled down. By now, he was supposed to be looking at the end of his flying career, looking forward to things long gone. He'd given up living in exchange for existing.

"You're back." It was possibly one of the stupidest statements he'd ever made in his life, and he had some brilliant moments in his past. Of course she was back. She was touching him.

"Of course I'm back." She gazed at him out of storm gray eyes, her fingers tangling up in his jacket. "Now kiss me, and we'll get started with the next part of this."

He was happy to oblige with her pointed demand, even if it did cause Bastila's stare to deepen. But he was getting tired of caring about that as well, so relieved to wrap his arms around Sarah, take her lips beneath his, and ignore the world for a moment.

"Get a room, you two." Mission chuckled, and he glanced at her as she trailed Sarah back into the Beks' base. She looked a little less bold than usual, a little...quiet, but overall, she looked okay. It was pretty obvious that Sarah had fronted the attack, but there was a concern in Mission's eyes he wasn't used to seeing.

"What's up?" He asked warily. "It got rough, right?"

"Yeah." Mission almost sounded sulky, or scolded...or both. But Carth knew that Sarah would run a tight mission, and he'd seen what happened when she threw in. She could get cold, unyielding. And if things had gone south... "But it's okay. She knows what she's doing. Guess that's why you two sent her. I guess...I just never thought I'd see someone pull that off. And I feel stupid..."

"We lied to you, Mission." Sarah stated firmly, and Carth cringed. It hadn't seemed like that large a lie...at the beginning. And most people had seen through it after awhile.

"Yeah, but apparently you two didn't lie that well. Why would you lie to me? What's going on?"

Carth flinched, and then flinched again when Zaalbar came over, standing over Mission silently. "My name is not Devid." He admitted before Sarah could throw herself into the fray. He knew already that she could be brutally honest...and this probably was not the best venue for that approach. "My name is Carth." He wasn't expecting Mission to recognize it, and she obviously didn't. "Captain Carth Onasi, Republic Navy. I was flying the cruiser that crashed recently. This is Bastila, and you already know what she is." Using the lightsaber after her release had been a pretty big giveaway. "And this is Sarah."

"Your wife."

Bastila coughed delicately, shaking her head slightly. Sarah remained focused, yet calm...most of her attention on the silent wookiee.

"Actually, no." It oddly hurt to admit it, and he wasn't willing to go any further. He truly could not bring himself to tell Mission just how recently he had met Sarah. "But we are...together." At least he thought, hoped, they were. Somehow, this had gone much further and deeper than he'd been expecting. And it had done it quickly.

Zaalbar growled something, shaking his light brown fur for emphasis. Whatever he said, Sarah took it well in stride, dropping her near combat stance, but Mission looked less than convinced.

"He said, names don't matter. We are who we are, what we were when we saved him. If we agree that we are together...then..." Sarah shrugged. "Nothing changes." She gave Carth a slight, mysterious smile and nodded. "And we agree. We are together. And we should be together, elsewhere. Far from Taris. Let's contact the Mandalorian, and get things moving."

"Sounds like a plan." He agreed completely. He felt uneasy, deep in the pit of his stomach. He'd thought it would go away when she returned, but it hadn't entirely. It sat back there and growled, making him nervous and tense. This was the feeling that kept his eyes glued to his scanners, made him hit an evasive maneuver, just for the hell of it. And most of the time, he was right.

"I know." She whispered as if he'd said it aloud. "We're running out of time." She pondered the idea for a second, before calling Ordo to let him know they had the codes, and to meet him at the cantina.

It took the man no time at all to reappear at the cantina, moving quickly back to the rear room. "I heard already." He said, his deep, gravelly voice marveling over the syllables. "They never knew what hit them. Still don't. Now, to get you together with Davik..." His eyes coasted over the group, and he shook his head firmly. "Leave the girls..." He waved in Bastila's direction and followed up by pointing unerringly at Mission. "Behind. Davik will never buy them as mercenaries, no matter how good they happen to be...but he will try to buy them as something else. He'll get persistent. Not what we need. You." He stared at Sarah, "With your game face on. Him." His gaze moved to Carth, "With his watchdog face on. He does it admirably. And me. Davik will buy that. Let's go."

"Right." Carth agreed into the following silence. It wasn't time to plan this, it was simply time to fly. The urge, the need, to leave Taris was becoming heartburn in his gut and absorbent packing in his mouth. He wanted out of here. He wanted to relax, sleep, shower, eat, and let his guard down for a bit. He felt dragged down, washed out. He felt just too damned old for this, even though it was obvious that the Mandalorian was at least a decade his elder, probably more.

Waiting will bring you all the rest you could ever want. Waiting will send you to wherever Morgana went..

And that was a much less appealing idea than it had been only a couple of weeks ago. It was a cop out, as well. He had people counting on him, and he'd never let down teammates, even if he wasn't sleeping with them. Being involved with Sarah took it to a whole new level, however. It took his usual commitment and responsibilities and threw in so much more. She was edging perilously close to family, something he'd rip out his own heart to see safe and happy...

I want to be with you.

It was that simple, and that difficult.

It was palpable in the air around Onasi, and Bastila breathed out in dismay. How much of this was an unwitting Revan, locking him in the same way that she had locked in Alek? But that had been different, at least then, Revan had the training to grasp what she was doing, to control it if she wanted to, and likewise, Alek supposedly had the training to see it, and resist it if he'd wanted to.

But Carth Onasi was no Jedi trained to understand and resist the will of a force user pushing him along. He was simply a man. A man who had lost too much already...

It wasn't easy to perceive Revan's workings, especially given that Bastila was still secure in one fact, Revan remained safely oblivious. So the ties she was using to bind Onasi were obscured, shadowy. And when Bastila finally saw through them, both distressingly and hearteningly few. They were there, undeniably, but not as blatant as she'd been expecting. This was equal parts Revan trying desperately to create a bond, which in itself was fueled by something more than expedience, because this had required her to open up to him as well; and the simple fact that Onasi was falling in love. The process was being accelerated, yes, but Revan wasn't using anything not given to her willingly. That would, just as it had with Alek, create a stronger bond than if she was forcing it upon Onasi against his will. He was a mostly willing participant to this, a perfect storm to create a bond as permanent as Bastila's own bond was to Revan.

We will stand together, the three of us. Or we will fall together.


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