My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 31

Carth woke to the wonderful thrum of healthy engines vibrating. All just a dream, a marvelous and sad dream... He opened his eyes to the unmistakable click of a bolt being pulled back on a weapon. No, he wasn't in his cabin on the Endar Spire, he was in a freighter dorm. The click was from the Mandalorian seated close-by, maintaining his weapons. Not a dream. That meant that Sarah was on the opposite side of the ship, and he clenched his jaw. He'd fucked that one up, big time, but his mind had been full of Telos, and Morgana, and...

Sarah was not a child. She understood him, better than he understood himself most of the time. "Morning." He greeted Canderous, who gave him a glance. "The girls awake?"

"Two of 'em. The twi'lek was...but cried herself right back to sleep. Your girlfriend and the Jedi are awake, though. Nice flying back there, guess you're not all just hype."

"No, just mostly hype." Carth joked back, and the man gave him a half smile in response.

"Heh." Canderous snorted. "Meant what I said. Take it as that." He stared at the weapon, before nodding in satisfaction. "Dantooine?"

"I take orders from the Jedi." Carth stated firmly. And there hadn't exactly been a whole lot of time to bargain... Dantooine had been just as fine as destination at that moment as anywhere else...far away from Taris.

"Which one?"

"What?"

The older man simply shrugged. "Which Jedi? The older one, or the younger one?"

"Sarah isn't..."

"Right." The single word was heavy with doubt. "I've lived my life learning how to fight. I fought on the ground during the War. I've seen more Jedi fight than I've seen Mandalorians fight, Onasi. I know their style more than I know how to breathe...and your girlfriend is a Jedi. Why she's lying to you, can't begin to say..."

"She isn't lying." Bastila's voice was death behind them, and Carth flinched. "Carth. She isn't lying."

"She doesn't remember." Pieces started to fall into place, why Bastila watched over her so carefully. "The coma, the head injury..."

"Why tell her what she was, but probably cannot be ever again? Why burden her with that? She's recovered so much, we decided to let her be content with that.." Bastila spread her hands in supplication. "There's no sign that she retains any truly useful level of force control. She's broken."

"Ah. Sorry, makes sense now." Canderous nodded slowly. "I'll keep my mouth shut.

Carth closed his eyes, fighting tears. Just when he thought he got his head wrapped around what she was, he was hit by something else that knocked him back. "Why is she here?"

Bastila stared at him for a long moment, obviously weighing her answer. "Because, Captain, she and I share a force bond. When she was dying...in my arms, I held onto her and refused to let her go. And, to the end of our lives, I will continue to hold her. And she will continue to hold me. But you are the one she chooses. Never forget that."

"Understood." Well, no. Not entirely, but he knew he'd never completely understand exactly what she had just told him. And it was obvious by her expression that she knew that. "Is Dantooine the place to take her to, given that? She seemed less than enthused when you brought it up..."

"But still, I have to report to the Council there. And they'll want to be certain she is as well as she can be. There were..." She sighed, "flickers on Taris, faint traces that hint she may be recovering more than we'd given ourselves room to hope. If so, she needs to go."

"But." That was a second horror, one that stole Carth's breath away. "If she recovers, then she and I..." Had no hope of a relationship. How spinelessly selfish was that? Jedi did not have those sorts of relationships, even a clueless pilot such as himself understood that.

"Onasi. There is no chance that she will ever recover enough to re-enter the Order as a fully fledged Jedi knight again. She is free to pursue whatever future she can manage, and if that includes you, then it includes you. Just know I'm not going anywhere."

"Well, if that's so, you should start calling me Carth one of these days."

"Probably, and we should keep this to ourselves."

"What?" Canderous stated loudly. "I'm sorry, too many big explosions over the years have destroyed my hearing." He gave the pair of them a sly smile and picked up the next gun from the lineup in front of him. Carth shook his head, moving towards the galley. Sarah lounged in one of the chairs, one bare foot resting on a knee, and Carth studied her. Once, this had been a Jedi? A Jedi knight? ...a fully fledged Jedi knight again. There was very little room for misinterpretation in that statement. Bastila had not followed him in, her path would take her back to the starboard dorm...and Mission.

"Morning." He offered awkwardly, and she gave him a lopsided smile back. "Look, about last night. I'm sorry. I really am. I just..."

She held up both hands, palms towards him, in a universal halt motion but he kept on, ignoring it. "No. Sarah, hear me out. Please." He knelt beside her, down to her eye level. "I want to see how far we can go with this."

"And we'll get no farther than around the block if we don't both accept that we each have baggage, Carth. You have a dead wife. I have a memory loss. There will be times you have to mourn the dead wife and there will be times I will have to mourn the lost life."

Oh, if you only knew. Now he understood why Bastila had that stubbornly expressionless look so often, and he was going to have to work on his own.

"I wouldn't want you if you could let her go easily, Carth."

"Most people tell me to get over her. They say it's been long enough."

She leaned forward, resting her forehead against his, her fingers weaving in the hair at the nape of his neck. "It will never be long enough, Carth. You will never get over her. She will always be there. And..." her eyes locked with his, "That's how it should be. If she was worth it, then she should always be with you."

His breath caught. If he could just let it out, force it out, he'd be okay, but it stuck. She remained peacefully silent, stroking his shoulders, as he let it go again, soaking her shirt with his tears. He was still for a long moment before she spoke again, completely off topic, yet not.

"I don't want to go to Dantooine for some reason." She stated conversationally, as if he had not just cried all over her. "It feels like a bad idea."

Well, the great thing about having a raspy voice and a snotty nose was that he lied better. "Bastila gives me my marching orders."

"Mine, too. Doesn't mean I like them."

"Do you even remember joining up?" It was probably a stupid question, but completely avoiding questions was suspicious as well. His brain was going to hurt trying to figure out what he should, and should not, say.

"No. I do not. But I know I served." She watched him stand up and take the chair next to her, lifting the lid off of the hot plate on the table. "Where I learned to fly swoop bikes and shoot things."

"Always useful skills." He chuckled, regaining his composure and helping himself to food. "As for Dantooine...it can't be worse than Taris, right?"

"I...guess." Her hair was loose, and he smiled slightly. It was a good look for her. She felt relaxed, calm... "I missed you last night. I think I had weird dreams."

"Sorry. Did you scare Bastila with your nocturnal growls?"

"Growls?" She gazed at him dubiously, and he grinned, pointing a finger to her nose.

"You growl when you sleep. 'Who are you and what are you doing here?'" He dropped his voice as deeply as it would go, and she shook her head at his imitation. "Seriously, the first time you did that to me, I about freaked. On the edge of death, and you're growling. You do it a lot. Didn't know that?"

"Um. No. Thanks for the warning. I'll keep that in mind. When will we arrive at Dantooine?"

"Couple of hours."

"Good. I think the fact that I don't have clothing disturbs Bastila somewhat. She's not as happy about me sleeping in the buff as someone else is. Hopefully I can at least buy another shirt or two while we're there."

Well, there went Carth's mind...wandering happily towards that visual. She was really going to make him pay for last night, indeed. "We'll work something out tonight." He promised. "How's Mission?"

"Eh uh eh uh." She made a noncommittal motion. "Not happy we didn't tell her we knew the attack was coming, is aware that warning the gang would have merely meant that they would have known that they were doomed. No right call there."

No right call there. Much as Carth knew she was correct, it still sat wrong in his soul.

He finished the meal, cleaned up after himself, and sat back down in the pilot's seat, beginning the process of truly acquainting himself with the freighter. Like he and Sarah's original meeting, his meeting with the Ebon Hawk had been rushed, but he preferred to meet his ships on easier terms than fleeing Sith fleets trying to kill him.

"Surely you know the make." Sarah had followed him, taking a seat in the copilot's chair, and he shrugged.

"By reputation. Never actually flown a Dynamic before. Seems solid enough." Her only answer was a sharp snort, and he let that one lie where it fell. If it flew, then he could fly it. He didn't need to argue the point.

She sat with him in a companionable silence, apparently content to simply be close to him while he got to know the Hawk, finally dozing after awhile.

"Drop from hyperspace in 10." He announced over the ship-wide comm, and she stirred at his voice.

"To where?" Mission asked shyly from behind them, and Carth sighed. Poor, poor kid. It was difficult enough to handle this an adult, an adult with most of the cards...she'd been clueless throughout most of this. She'd just lost pretty much everything she'd ever had. He understood that feeling. And Sarah probably did as well, she'd even lost herself. Once a fully fledged Jedi knight...

"Dantooine." He was certain that the location had been mentioned several times, but he couldn't blame Mission for being preoccupied with the complete and total devastation of Taris.

"Ah, okay." She sounded numb, and all he could do was send her a sympathetic look.

"It's going to..." What? Be okay? Who would he be fooling if he went there? He, of all people, knew otherwise.

"You don't understand." Mission muttered, and he sighed.

"More than you know, Mission. More than you know. You just keep going on. Do you have anybody? At all...besides us, besides Zaalbar?"

"My brother, Griff. Except I don't know where he is. He left with a cantina floozy and never came back..."

Well, that certainly answered whether or not there was an adult out there that he would trust to take her...answered it with a resounding no. Maybe the Jedi on Dantooine could work something out...something had to be done. "Sit." He sighed, and Sarah obligingly made room for the teenager to sit with her in the copilot's seat. "About to show you something pretty wonderful that I bet you've never seen before."

Come on, Sarah. Warm up to her. She needed people who acted like people, and adults who acted like...parents. At least in the short run. It was as if she heard him, her slightly reluctant scooching away from Mission relaxed, and she sat up, placing a hand on the teen's shoulder as she studied the hyperspace tunnel flowing ahead of the Ebon Hawk.

"And we are..." He breathed theatrically, resting a hand on the throttles, "Coming out of jump...now."

The bright ball that was Dantooine rushed up to them and Mission gasped in delight. And if that was all he accomplished today, then it was a day worth living.

"Revan is..." Bastila sighed, opened her hands, and gazed up at the ceiling of the Dantooine Enclave council chamber. "Showing signs that she is coming back around, that she is recovering." That was exactly what they'd hoped for so deeply and dreaded so fully.

"Any hints to the location of the Star Forge?"

"Yes. She and Malak came here, they took their first steps to it from here. Her dreams are of a hidden temple east of here. That's where she took Malak. They found...something there. Her memories are...disrupted, flowing. But I am concerned as to the speed of her recovery. It was as if the first moment she left our control, it accelerated. And she's made regrettable decisions, which I need your help to fix." It was so difficult to make that admission, Revan was her responsibility, but she'd never, ever imagined that a recovering Revan could be quite so natural.

"Oh?" There was a weight of disapproval under Master Vrook's single syllable, and Bastila squirmed internally, dropping her eyes to Master Vandar , hoping for his support.

"She's developing a rather...earthy...and inappropriate attachment to a man. He needs to be rescued from her at the earliest possible moment."

"Rescued from her?" Vandar gazed up at Bastila, tilting his head and twitching his ears. "She holds him against his will?"

"Ah, well... she has used a minor force bonding...at the beginning. I believe she was injured on Taris, and during the time he cared for her, she may have attached to him... Now, I believe the relationship is pretty much consensual. She is not...holding him, no, but it's a crime to keep certain things from a hero of the Republic. He deserves better from us!"

"Hero of the Republic?" Master Zhar, usually even tempered, but often curious. He could fall either way on this one, and Bastila wasn't sure she wanted to trust him. "And does this hero of the Republic have a name?"

"Captain Carth Onasi."

"Onasi. A good man, yes." Vandar scrunched his face up, pondering. "What he did on Serroco was a stroke of genius and a truly decent act. He believed in Zayne Carrick when no one else did. A man who tries to follow his heart, even when it takes him on a difficult path. A pillar."

"He's lost his wife, his child, his homeworld. He is vulnerable."

"But now, he lives again. He hopes again?" The small master seemed transfixed by her words, his bulbous eyes thoughtful.

"Yes..." Bastila hissed the word out. "I'm not comfortable with this." Whatever this was, exactly. Certainly they weren't going to let Revan keep him, were they? "And anyway, Revan needs to be brought back into the Enclave. She is waking up. She can't do that out in the open, the Sith will sense her. And she cannot do that out of our field of view..."

"Agreed with that part." Zhar murmured. "If Revan reawakens, she must be kept here. She must do it under supervision. But she has finally started to show what we must see, through her bond with Bastila. Disturbing her may throw that process off, for all we know, this relationship has been part of the catalyst to pull her back from the shadows."

"Bah." Ah, sanity from Master Vrook. She'd been counting on that. "Revan's more visceral urges have always been one of her weaknesses. She led Alek astray with them, ignored the rules and gave into her baser desires. Are we to be surprised she's done it again?"

"No. It is a return to one of her usual behaviors. As noted, she returns to herself." Vandar was still deeply in thought, and Bastila knew he was following the flow and weave of the Force to weigh the value and threat of Revan's attraction to Captain Onasi. "She has always sought a deep attachment to a single man in her life."

"Which destroyed Alek." Vrook stated coldly.

"Alek was a Jedi, almost Revan's equal. His actions were his own. But that is not a valid concern here. Onasi is. He is no Jedi..." Vandar, still following things through.

"He has a flicker of force sensitivity. Never consistent enough to consider him for training. He is a truly gifted pilot...the force is within him, however. It is reflected in his heart." Zhar, the record keeper. Zhar, who had given the final okay to the Endar Spire's crew list...

"So he is alive to the force, yet not far enough on that path to walk into the shadows. His age?"

"Thirty eight. The same as Revan." Again, Zhar answering the concrete questions he would have seen the answers to in Onasi's personnel files.

"We promised, when we set Revan on this path...not of her own choosing, that we would give her all of the support she required. Taking away her chosen pillar would not be doing that. It is also cruel to a man who has begun his first steps back into life. Onasi is not Alek. Assuming he will fall as Alek did is an argument without merit. And, quite bluntly...so what if he does fall? He will not become a Dark Lord of the Sith. He could become an Admiral of the Sith, but nothing more. The risk is too high. Take him from her, and she will fight us...when we need her to listen to us the most."

"She cannot be retrained as a Jedi with a lover on the side." Vrook growled.

"She cannot be retrained as a Jedi if she refuses to deal with the people who took her lover away from her. If she runs from us. It will already be difficult enough to convince an almost forty year old woman with no memories that she can be trained as a Jedi, when every fool knows we can only train children. We need her as content as possible. We have already stepped outside of the orthodox with Revan, because we decided any chance at finding the Star Forge was worth it. Any chance. We break every rule to get this done, that's what we agreed at the beginning, when Bastila brought her to us."

Bastila bowed her head, already knowing the battle was lost. I'm sorry, Captain Onasi. I tried. I really did.

A small, clawed hand grasped her fingers and she stared down at Vandar. "Have faith, Bastila." He breathed, "Have faith in that one's heart. He will be the difference between what came before, and what comes now. He is a pillar of strength. And a beacon of hope. Revan must have him, or this is doomed. Don't ask me why, for I do not know the answer. That part is obscured, but I have seen him coming since this started."


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