My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 33

It was an odd and awkward dinner, filled with long drawn out silences, and Carth treated it as he did any other formal dinner with the brass, he suffered, answering the questions directed at him as clearly and concisely as possible, but otherwise keeping his mouth shut. He knew he was being measured, and as the captain of the Endar Spire, he'd been expecting it. But he'd done exactly what he'd been told to do... by the Council, by Bastila. He hadn't known enough about what his mission was supposed to have been to figure out where it'd gone wrong. His orders had been clear, do whatever Bastila had told him to do. And she'd said, "Go to Taris." He had. There had been no way that what he'd had at his disposal was the equal to Malak's fleet, deployed there.

And it certainly seemed like Sarah stewed, volunteering nothing to the conversation and picking half heartedly at her food. Bastila looked like she'd be prefer to be somewhere, anywhere, else but where she was.

Bastila was too damned young for this kind of responsibility, she should have never, ever been in charge of him, his ship... and it had gone badly. He felt sorry for her, he really did...but he desperately hoped he wasn't about to be drafted to be her pilot, again.

But here they sat, staring at each other, saying the absolute minimum, picking at food and praying that it would all be over. "Sarah." The smallest of the Jedi Masters, Vandar, said when the silence grew very long. "Bastila says you are doing much better than you were the last time that we saw you."

"You saw me...when?"

His gray green ears perked at her intently. "You were brought here early in your recovery, before the hospital. Stabilized here, as was Bastila... the bond between you was newly forged. If you...did not make it... we needed to be there for her. And for you, of course. About that..." He glanced around the table, but the others seemed more than willing to let him do the talking. "We'd like to see you in the morning, alone. There are things we must know..."

And her stewing expression fell into downright mutiny. "Then ask them here. In front of Bastila. In front of Carth."

He chuckled softly, reaching across the table to pat her hand. "They aren't questions to be answered with words, Sarah. We want to see how well your recovery progresses. How well your link with Bastila has weathered the trauma you've experienced recently. And you were injured on Taris, another head injury." His ears drooped expressively, his gaze intent on her face. "You have people who care for you, Sarah. I do. Bastila does. And now I daresay Captain Onasi would be more comfortable if you were checked over by a healer? Or would he say you were not that badly injured?"

Carth hated to be cornered, manipulated, and held between a fuming Sarah and a Jedi Master. "I would say that she was that badly injured." He finally admitted, doing his best to ignore Sarah's stark gaze. "I still have the medical pad I used on her... It has the data."

"That would be most helpful, Captain Onasi, if she's willing to let us use it. Perhaps you'd be willing to try to convince her later...she does seem to want to leave now, however." She was gone as if that was a dismissal, leaving Carth to trail in her wake. What a mess, a true mess. But he couldn't just sit there and lie... he'd be a whole lot more content if they did check her over, and he couldn't deny that.

What a terrible, terrible end to what had been such a glorious day. It hit him hard, suddenly, and he lost the will to chase after her. He should have just let her fall asleep next to him, sated and happy...locked the door against Bastila, refused to go...refused to let them wake her up. But no, he had to be such an obedient sort, and it had bitten him in the ass, again. He went to the courtyard instead of following her into the wing that their room was in, moving out into the cool night air and admiring the Ebon Hawk at rest before him. He loved ships, each and every single one...and this one was a good one.

He climbed the ship with ease, stretched out on her dorsal surface, pillowed his head on his arms, and stared up at the star spangled night sky above him.

It felt like he was alone forever, but he'd have to guess it was less than an hour before she climbed up to join him, gazing at him steadily until he chuckled and stretched his hand out in her direction. He was not, repeat, not going to apologize to her... he'd been used against her and he knew it, but his answer was honest. He wanted her to be seen to, and if the Jedi Masters on Dantooine were willing to, then he wanted it done. He made no excuses for that.

"You changed." He said by way of greeting, a little disappointed. She had looked so lovely at dinner, in spite of her glare.

"Wasn't about to climb a freighter in those clothes. I thought you liked them...intact and clean." She was wearing the shirt she'd bought on Taris, he'd last seen it on Bastila. Of course, by now, Bastila probably had Jedi robes again and didn't need it anymore.

She sat next to him, hugging her knees and staring up at the same view. "This place, it just doesn't... I don't know, it 's like it's grinding at the edges of my perceptions. A constant nagging that just will not let up. It makes me nervous, and those Jedi made me feel... bad. I can't explain it. I know I've been here before, and they know what I don't...what I can't seem to bring up again."

"And that's why I'd like to have you seen." He sat up, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and stroking her hair. "It's not right that you've lost your entire life. If they can help in any way, restore any of it... I'd consider it worthwhile. And you were badly hurt on Taris. You can't deny that to me." She was one of theirs. They had a responsibility to her, for her care. If she'd been hurt like this, taking on Revan... His stomach clenched at the idea. The time-line fit, he realized in a sudden epiphany. She'd been a fully fledged Jedi Knight, dying in Bastila's arms, just over a year ago.

Damn that bastard. Just another sin, another crime, committed by a traitor. Another check on a list long since called due...Revan was dead. Bastila had killed him. Over. Done.

"You were with Bastila's strike force. You were brought here after you were injured. Of course you've been here before. And it was traumatic, stressful..."

"Where are you guys? I can hear you!" Mission called from the ground, and Sarah sighed in disgust. He only gave her another quick squeeze before he stood up and walked to the edge, looking into the darkness. "Up top."

"So much for rolling around on top of the Ebon Hawk with you." Sarah grumbled when he sat back down next to her. He gave her a sideways smirk, and she simply stared back. "Didn't I do a good enough job earlier?" He asked, knowing that she'd had utterly no intention of inciting another encounter with him up here. She just didn't seem to like Mission.

"I... Don't be silly."

"She's just a kid." He whispered into her ear. "Who's lost everything. We're all she has right now, give her some slack."

"You're a nice guy, Carth Onasi." She sighed in something that sounded suspiciously like defeat. "She's surrounded by Jedi..."

"You've dealt with those before, and you wonder why she's out here looking for us instead?"

"True."

Mission had made the top of the freighter and she gave them both a smile."What are you two doing up here?" She asked, and Carth returned the smile paternally.

"Sitting here admiring the stars with my favorite lady." He noted. It was truthful, and he'd already discovered that Sarah was not immune to honey...at least when he used it. "Where's Zaalbar?"

"Don't know. Said he wanted to smell the grass, maybe even find a tree. Are there even trees on Dantooine?"

"Yes." Sarah answered quickly and firmly. "Some, they're called Biba trees."

"Great. It's good for him to see something other than Taris." She sat pretty far away from the pair of them, dangling her feet over the edge, staring upwards at the vaulted sky. "I never thought it looked like that." She finally said, and Carth sighed. Taris had been no place for her, and he was relieved that she was away from that. He had no idea where she was going from there, but at that moment, she was better off than she'd been in years. "So what now?" She finally asked the question that he didn't really have an answer for.

"Not sure, Mission. I'll do my best to see that things work out for you, I promise. But I don't know where I'm going tomorrow, much less anybody else." And that bothered him... it was entirely possible that the Jedi Council could, would, keep Sarah here. And send him away on their next fool's errand.

"Whatever you are thinking..." Sarah growled, in that voice...in her nocturnal bad ass snarl... "The answer is no, Carth Onasi. No."

Mission made a slight squeak, staring at her in disbelief. He knew the feeling, it hadn't been easy to hear that voice, the first couple of times. Now, it was just a part of her.

"You promise?" He asked, relaxing back on the Hawk's plating and filling his visual field with nothing but stars.

"I swear. I will not stay here if they send you away. I don't know what they want from me, but I'm certain I can become a huge nightmare headache if I want to be."

He laughed, that was something he was sure of as well.

`,`,`,`,`,`

Bastila took a deep breath, her hands on Revan's shoulders. The bond was loud, clear, strong...Revan slept and her walls were down. The intimacy almost hurt, and Bastila had to struggle to keep her face still while her instincts were in turmoil.

Protect her. Throw her in the freighter, and run with her. Onasi would be up for it...

She leaned forward, resting her forehead against Revan's, letting it all wash over her. This ran contrary to everything that she was supposed to be, supposed to want. The force itself held her in a relationship, tied her to another person. Was this okay? It seemed like all of the rules had just been thrown by the wayside. No deep relationships...except for Revan, of course. With Revan, all of just became a muddled mess. Bastila was supposed to lie, manipulate, use. Not only to use Revan, who had committed sins, but Onasi, who had not. How was this any different than what Revan had done during the War? She'd justified it using the same rationale as the Dantooine Council was currently using...but what she'd done was 'wrong'. Whatever it took to stop the Mandalorians, she had done it, all to protect the Republic. And now, the Council was doing whatever it took to stop the Sith, to find the Star Forge. It was the same. All the same. Was she the only one who saw it? She'd love to be able to ask the one who had once known the best...but she couldn't ask Revan.

Vandar stood on the other side of the airy room, his eyes locked on the medical pad that Onasi had relinquished to him. If he sensed Bastila's doubts, he gave no outward sign. "Was it bad?" She sighed, already knowing the answer.

"Yes. She should have died. She did not...again."

"We're going to have to tell her."

He turned his head slightly, capturing her out of the corner of his eye. "Tell her what, Bastila?" He asked, hopping down and moving over to the side of the cot. "You are the one who has taken responsibility for her."

"Tell her that she was once a Jedi knight. It's the only way she'll accept any sort of retraining." Bastila immersed herself in the flow of Revan's sleepy dreams, touching, feeling, sorting them out.

"Risky." He muttered, placing a hand on Revan's chest. "Onasi is already starting to put the pieces together. If he can, she can. She will."

"She'll never accept mediocrity. She'll never accept losing Onasi. If we can't offer her competence, respect, she has no reason to listen to us. If we can't convince her that she's already accepted the leadership of the Order, she has no reason to listen to us. A truly new, adult learner is condemned to being third rate for the rest of their lives, bound by the Order, yet never to rise within it. Never to make a difference. She will never go for that." But telling her that she'd already been competent, already been adept...she only had to remember it, that was another thing.

"There is no much chance for catastrophe if she is unwilling, uncommitted. That is one of the reasons she must have Onasi. A reason to fight for, a light at the end." He studied Revan's still, calm features. "Whatever it takes to pull her back from the darkness, Bastila. Her link to us is already irrevocably damaged, nothing will ever mend it completely. She can never be a Master... if we can support her desires for a future outside of the Order, it would be the kindest way. We need her for this, but I do have her best interests in mind, Bastila. Onasi is an integral part of that." He nodded. "And I agree. We do not have the time to convince her that she is truly an adult learner, and expect her to believe us, commit to that, and then go looking for the Star Forge with you." He seemed almost melancholy, and Bastila stared at him.

"What is wrong, Master Vandar?"

He chuckled, moving back to his perch. "I miss her." He stated simply. "I miss Alek. I have so many questions about what happened to them, but I cannot ask them. Going to war, that I understood. I did not approve, but I understood. She stood before us and explained exactly why they were going to go, it was clear. It made sense. Every decision she and the Revanchists made during the War...made sense. And then, nothing made sense anymore. Until you brought her to us, I truly was not certain we were actually dealing with Revan...and not some Sith trick. Revan was one of the strongest people I've ever met and Alek could put her to shame. He was, much like Onasi, a truly decent man. He was devoted to Revan. He was devoted to the Republic. He was a student I was proud to call one of my own. He was a reminder of exactly why we were here, why we existed at all. And then he bombed Telos into dust and back-stabbed Revan. Something happened, Bastila. Something terrible. And I want to know what. But for me to know means that Revan would have to remember it...and that is something I can't live with."

"Maybe I will see it through her dreams..."

He flinched as if she'd struck him hard. "That, Bastila, is one of my greatest fears. Do not go there willingly. Do not try to incite it. Let Revan take that to her grave...it broke her. It broke Alek. Anything that can do that is nothing I want you trying to deal with."

"That's what I don't understand." She'd looked up to both of them, grown used to seeing them... Revan always in the lead, dwarfed by Alek shadowing her every step. They'd seemed so strong, so sure, so unbowed, so...pure. Everything that Bastila had aspired to be when she became a Jedi knight herself. Everything that she looked up to, and then...it had shattered. "They were mostly intact after Malachor V."

"We were expecting them to come home." She didn't need to hear his tone to know that he hadn't been looking forward to that eventuality. None of them had been... Revan and Alek were flushed with victory, the Republic military loved them, the people viewed them as saviors...everything that the Jedi should have been...but hadn't been. They had been in such a strong position, rumors whispered of a split Order, and so many people seemed to believe that a schism was both inevitable and positive. Let Revan and Alek train militant Jedi ready, willing and able to step into the breach for the Republic, and let the Order train a more ascetic, thoughtful branch. It hadn't happened, they'd come here...but they hadn't come home. They'd come to find the first steps to the Star Forge. And then they'd left... taking a large portion of the Republic navy with them. The next time they'd been seen, they were at the front of a Sith fleet headed into the Republic, any hints of what they'd been before were completely obliterated. They'd become monsters...and they were so very good at it. "Well, she's home now."

"How is she? I could feel her coming back awake on Taris. Then the visions started of what she was looking for here." That had been what they'd been hoping for, praying for. With what she'd seen in Revan's dreams, they could step on that path themselves, if they dared to. She just wasn't sure if she dared to...

"She recovers very quickly, too quickly. I will send another to follow the vision as you describe it...it's safer that way. Perhaps this first step is enough, perhaps we do not need to have her involved in this any farther. She could just go run off with Onasi, and be none the wiser." He sounded unconvinced and she did not bother to reply. "Marry him. Have a couple of babies and a home on Coruscant..." Now he was just being wistful, or was he...

"There are eddies between, around them. One moment I see just that, the next, I see tragedy, hatred, injury... Onasi a broken man. Too many variables to gain clarity through. We pay a high price if this fails, Bastila."

She nodded slowly, twining her fingers in Revan's straight, black hair. "But it is our only hope." The Dark Lord of the Sith...their only hope. Once, that had brought Bastila to a point of despair, but she realized that had changed. Her fear at being linked to such a...monster...had faded. Not a monster. And with that understanding came another fear, more closely in line to Vandar's admitted views. What had caused Revan to buckle, to shatter, to fail? It wasn't like her, even now.

"Indeed, Bastila. Revan is our only hope."


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