My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 36

It was a beautiful day, one of those that invited a soul to remember why they were alive. Sarah kept pace with Bastila, wrapping the silent peace around her. She didn't feel this in the Enclave, but she felt it out here, surrounded by space, solace, and kath hounds. It was good to simply stand with someone who had, by accident or design, become integral to her life. Something she couldn't let go of. Another part of herself. She felt both less...she'd given up parts of Bastila, and indeed, to Carth...and more. They held her up. They filled places in her that she hadn't even realized were empty yet. And she was so very empty...

And Bastila was so very silent, as if she felt it as well. "What's up?" She finally asked, deciding that no, something else was going on with the younger Jedi.

"I've messed everything up, Sarah." She finally admitted, "And I'm afraid of where it goes from here. I don't want to burden you more than you already are...I have to manage this on my own."

"My understanding of how this goes is that you are not supposed to 'manage this on your own', Bastila. And I'm not so far gone that I can't at least give you my opinion...right?"

"Onasi. He doesn't trust me, he never has, but now he has reason to. He's gotten close to you, which makes what happened to the Endar Spire even more personal than it was before. If...if this is right, and we can start retracing Revan's steps to the Star Forge, he won't leave you. You've made his life worth living again..." Somehow, that echoed with sadness, and Sarah gazed at her warily. But then, Carth was a gift, a relationship that Bastila was denied in her own life. Or she was empathizing with his prior losses, devastating blows that he was only now beginning to step away from.

"I won't leave Carth." And I can't leave you.

" I know, and I wouldn't ask it of you. There are enough broken pieces between the pair of you to make a whole. It's just..."

"You don't want to travel with him. To deal with him. To depend on him. To ask him to depend on you."

"He...disapproves of me." Bastila shuddered, and Sarah chuckled. And that was it, exactly. This one sought approval from those around her. She wanted to be viewed as competent, mature, trustworthy. Carth was almost old enough to be her father, and he could just breathe all of the above virtues when he put his mind to it. Competent. Mature. Trustworthy. And then he could spice them all with a paternal weight, Sarah had seen it in action with Mission. The man had been born to be a father, a partner...which was why his losses had been so catastrophic. "And I'm sure the Council is going to want him to fly this, with the Ebon Hawk."

"Well, that sucks." Sarah sighed, climbing to the top of a ridge and staring around. It was getting dark, and she saw no signs of what they were out here looking for. She could sense it, pressing on the edge of her perception, but it was still distant. "Damn ship."

"No cabin?" Bastila chuckled, climbing up to stand next to her. "No privacy?"

"No room. I'd happily sleep in the open, as long as I had a double bed. Carth's not a willowy thin kind of a guy." And she doubted if he'd ever been, she couldn't ever imagine him being anything but what he was. She couldn't even begin to imagine him as a younger man, as a gawky teenager.

"No, no, he's not." Bastila wrinkled her nose, without thought, and Sarah only shook her head. She didn't expect Bastila to understand what she saw in him, that required age and experience, nothing that Bastila possessed when it came to this subject. "We should find a sheltered spot, Sarah. We won't make the site before dark."

"Right." Sarah hopped off of the ridge, ignoring the three meter drop as if it were nothing at all, and strode around the upthrust, looking for a covered section at its base. "You're just going to have to change his mind, Bastila. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but he doesn't entirely blame you."

There was a washed out undercut in the lee side of the ridge, sandy and dry, protected, and Sarah sat...waiting for Bastila to follow her to it.

"He doesn't? Wait, you've spoken about this? Oh, of course. You've talked with him about a lot." And that was...what? It almost sounded like jealousy, like Bastila felt left out. Sarah sensed loneliness, a wistful distance.

"We've talked. He doesn't blame you. He blames those who gave you a responsibility you weren't ready for. He believes that the council here on Dantooine failed you, and failed him in the process."

"Does he think you're ready to be the responsible one instead of me? If we're sent? Will he follow you?"

Yes. Carth will follow me.

But somehow, that didn't fill her with security, only an edge of dread. And it was as if she'd spoken it aloud, because Bastila only nodded. "Bastila, I have a question..."

"Which is?" She asked, digging out a shallow depression and setting a small fire in the sand, closest to the wall.

"I was a Jedi. Was I good?" Or simply good enough? She wasn't certain if she really wanted to know, but she'd asked it. It was out now. Had she become this because she wasn't good enough? Lost her memories because she hadn't been strong enough? Would she fail again? Fail Bastila? Fail Carth? Maybe this was the wrong question... maybe it should be if they were willing to follow him.

He doesn't understand what he will need to know to lead this. His place in this is step back, on your right. He is your bulwark. Your support. The one you turn to when you can turn to no other. But only you can lead this and have a chance at success. They rely on you, and you must bear this burden.

Bastila bowed her head, taking a deep breath, and turning on Sarah. "You." She began slowly, taking a hold of the folds of Sarah's robe, gripping the beige fabric in her fists. "Were not good, Sarah. You were so much more than that. You were amazing. You were what I dreamed of becoming. And I'm certain that you still are. I've watched you since I brought you back here. You are still loved by the Force. You are still great. You just have to be patient. Get some sleep, though. I'll watch."

"We have to do something. We can't just sit on the sidelines and let the Mandalorians tear the Republic apart! They're ours, our duty, our responsibility, our calling! The Mandalorians know this, this is why they're attacking our people! We're using the Republic as a shield, avoiding our own fight! It's pathetic. We're pathetic."

"The Republic must stand against this threat on their own, for now. Your reaction is a noble one, but it is fueled by emotion. You need to stand down, in fact, you need to return here to stay for awhile...your control is slipping. There is no emotion, there is no passion. This is the only lesson you've ever had an issue with... wait! Come back!"

No. She strode from the chambers, her robes flapping like the wings of a carrion flier behind her. Fool. Fool. Cowardly, asinine, fools.

There was a woman standing in the courtyard, she wore the uniform of the Republic Navy, her bright orange beret tucked under her armpit. She was taller than Sarah, imposing in a unyielding way, pale blonde hair cut short. "I take it by your expression that is a no."

"It's a no."

"You still with us?"

"I am."

"Then let's go. Before they decide to possibly even act to get you to stay. Oh. Right, they don't act."

Sarah opened her eyes to the light of the rising moon. For the first time, she remembered a name from the before time. That woman's name. It had been Ayala. Mundi Ayala. She'd remembered something.

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