My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 38

Carth had all of the vents of the Ebon Hawk wide open, every hatch ajar, Mission trailing him as he aired out the ship and gave her a complete inspection. One was to stir out the funk that every ship gained after awhile, the other was to find the inevitable contraband and make note of the repairs and upgrades she'd been subjected to. He already knew she had a lot more punch than a stock Dynamic should have. Every time he tried to tell himself that his time with her was going to be temporary, his gut told him otherwise. No, his time entrusting his life, entrusting Sarah's life, to this ship was far from done. Everything in him told him to familiarize himself with every small detail, to settle in for the long haul. And if there was indeed going to be a long haul, then he needed to attend to the sleeping arrangements. He ran a tight ship, a clean ship, used to a military schedule and upkeep. The Hawk fell brutally short of that bottom line, and she was an affront to his sensibilities. And Mission was eager to help, almost underfoot the whole time, talking nonstop, her words a flow behind him. He smiled in spite of himself, wedging up deck plates and peering cautiously beneath them. Dustil had never been this talkative, this desperate for his attention, his approval.

"Anything?" She asked, and he shone his light deep into every crevice.

"Floor crap." He muttered in disgust. When was the last time someone had power washed the sub-floor? Ever? "Ship is filthy." That was more insulting than the small fortune in illegal narcotics they'd already discovered. He could, on some level, understand that. But this...this was an affront.

"So...what do we do about it? Forget about it? I mean, it's not our ship, right?"

She's my ship. He wasn't certain why he felt that way, but he did. And she was the first that truly raised that reaction...everything before her had belonged to the Navy. He'd been a pilot. He'd been a captain. But he'd never been an owner. "We lift the plates. All of them." Time to see just how willing and eager Mission actually was to do some truly dirty work.

**************

There were deck plates propped up in a pile in the Hawk's shadow, and Sarah stared at the chaos dubiously. "What the...?" She marveled, feeling Canderous come up behind her.

"Flyboy has been taking her down to the studs since you left." Surely he has to know it's not his, right?"

No. I don't even know that it's not his. Mine. Ours. "I have a feeling that it is. We'll arrange to buy you out..."

"Hmmmm. They're not sending him back to the Navy?"

No. He stays with me. And we go after the Star Forge. Sarah didn't need to hear that from the Council. She just knew it. Now that they had some clue, somewhere to start, a Dynamic class freighter would be much more suitable than a military vessel. "No. I'm sure they're not."

"Hmmmm." He repeated, and she stared at him. "So. I've got one of the Republic's best pilots. Their main ace in the hole...Bastila. Bastila's amnesiac Jedi keeper. A wookiee. And the kid who isn't going to leave any of them alone...going somewhere interesting. Room for a gun in this mess?"

"Yes." Yes, he was supposed to be here. Just as much as she was. As Bastila was. As Carth was. Even Mission and Zaalbar. None of this was random. Things had just fallen into place. "He hasn't grounded her, has he?" With a place to go and little time to get things done in, if Carth had gone overboard with his sudden spree...

"Nah. It'd take an hour to put her completely back together again. Less than ten minutes in an emergency...you'd be walking on the sub-floor, but she'd be space-worthy. He's a cautious one." That held both approval and condemnation, Mandalorians were not known for their caution, but that sort of caution kept those around Carth alive. Always a plus, and something that Sarah valued.

"You like him. A lot."

"I do, why?"

"Because he and Mission are getting along famously. Wondering if you were in the mood for a family, that's all." His voice was even...but then, a person's willingness to adopt, to raise a child as one of their own was a virtue among the Mandalorians. It was a part of their culture, their society...their clans. Carth's immediate response to Mission was bound to raise him up in the Mandalorian's eyes...not that she even remotely thought that had even crossed Carth's mind. He was simply doing the right thing.

"She grows on me." She finally admitted, and the older man chuckled in reply.

"Then be there for them. Both. Clan, family, that is never something you'll regret. Now that you have the chance for them..." His eyes darkened slightly, turning towards the enclave. "There is something twisted in a group that denies a person that, Sarah." His lips twisted, then he sniffed the air. "You smell burnt."

"Droids. With flamethrowers."

"That explains it." He answered blandly, waving her towards the ship.

The air was thick with dust, and deep in the interior, she heard music. Carth and Mission were in the main bay, they had the music up extremely loudly, all of the deck plates were moved, and Carth was manning a power blower while Mission was re-affixing plates over the newly cleaned areas. He was bare to his waist, utterly, completely filthy, his hair sticking up madly, and he looked damned good.

*************

The weight of her stare finally permeated Carth's perceptions, and he glanced behind him. She was back... and... He switched off the power blower in concern, clicking the remote at the sound system. "What?" Mission demanded, then followed his eyes. "Sarah!" She greeted joyously, then frowned. "What the hell happened to you? Those robes were new, two days ago."

"Droids. With flamethrowers." Sarah replied with a half smile. "Cleaning house?"

"She's filthy." He laughed, waving dust around in proof. "I refuse to be called the pilot of a ship in this condition. And... Somehow, I think we're leaving in her."

"We probably are, yes."

He nodded, dropping the nozzle and pulling the particle mask from his face. "Any idea how long we have? It'll take about half an hour to get things back the way they should be."

"Bastila's in with the Council right now. We'll need to resupply, someplace with more...stuff...than Dantooine. Find anything interesting?"

"Besides the dust, grime, fasteners, loose credits, and assorted small tools? A fortune in drugs. Some guns." That wasn't all, but now was not the time...or the place... for the oddity he'd dug out of the pipe bundle crevice. Not in front of Mission's prying eyes. Not while he was this filthy. He was just certain it was meant to be Sarah's. And certain he was meant to give it to her.

"No surprise there. She was an Exchange ship, a little surprised that was all you've found."

"That's all there is. I've been up one side of her and down the other, Sarah. Except for the sub-floor dust bunnies, she's clean. And we're working on those right now." He frowned slightly, and she moved closer. He could smell burned fibers over the dust, but she looked fine. Better than fine, great, she wore a shit eating grin and her eyes were filled with a promise. And an acceptance when she glanced between him and Mission.

"Carth. She's yours, if that's what has you worried."

"Good. Good. Go check out the cargo bay. I think you'll approve." It had been easy enough to affix the dividing walls into their runners set at intervals in the floor, ceiling and bulkhead walls. Freighters often took on passengers in a pinch, and the structure was there to throw up a couple of fast cabins. It had been easy to get the cabin they wanted. Needed. It hadn't even been that difficult to get a bed large enough for the two of them to share comfortably. It took up most of the space, but that was all they needed. It wasn't handy to the heads, but it was private. She stared at him for a moment, and headed in that direction, the tattered, charred hem of her robes flowing around her. He gave her a few moments head start before going that way himself, leaving Mission in the main bay.

Sarah stood in the cabin, a wide grin on her face. "You did this?" She asked, and he shrugged, leaning against the wall

"Mission helped. How did it go? Did you find what you and Bastila were looking for? Where Revan and Malak went?" He wasn't certain what he wanted her answer to be. No meant they weren't going there, and she'd be safe...for a while. Until they crumbled. Yes meant they were going there, and had somewhat of a chance to hold off what had seemed like an inevitable defeat. At least, that's how he understood it.

"Yes."

And by the tone of her voice, she agreed with his unspoken fears. "So where are we going?" He asked softly. He wasn't afraid...for himself. Well, no...that was a lie. He was just more afraid for her. Things had finally started to look up again, and now, this.

"I'm not sure yet. I mean, I know where...except that it's not a single where. Not sure which one we go to first..." She turned suddenly, wrapping her arms around his waist.

"Hey there, sister. I stink." He teased, but rested his hand against the back of her head. It wasn't as if she was spotlessly pristine herself.

"I don't care." She muttered, relaxing in his embrace. "I stink, too." It was so easy to just stand there, awash in contentment.

"You know, when I said I hadn't found anything interesting, that wasn't quite so. Don't take this the wrong way, okay?" She lifted puzzled gray eyes to his face, and he dug in the depths of his pocket until he found it, and warily held it out to her. It was a ring, but honestly he hadn't even had the chance to take a good look at it. For some reason, he'd immediately hidden it from Mission... "It probably doesn't even fit you." He finished awkwardly.

She studied it, blew on it, and held it up to the light. There was something in her expression, she had that 'something smells bad' look again, and he wished he could take it back, make her forget all about it. "It's beautiful, Carth." She admitted, testing it on her fingers. "And it fits like it was made for me. But I'm not sure you want me to wear this." She held her hand up, and he was completely unsurprised to see exactly which finger it fit, like it was made for her.

"I do." He sighed, shaking his head and giving her a rueful smile. "I knew when I saw it that it was yours, Sarah. And that I was supposed to give it to you. You have it now."

"Do you ever get the impression that we're being fucked with? Like there are things going on, just out of sight? I know you're..."

"Sometimes. But hey, I guess if the universe, if the Force, if fate, whatever, gives my girl a ring, who am I to complain about it? While I don't know if that was what I would have bought for you, given the chance, it's still something. And it looked nice, what I saw of it. Kind of grubby for having lived in the pipe bundle for...however long it was there." It could have been there longer than Carth had been alive...the Hawk was not a new vessel by any stretch of the imagination. "So, you said there were a few places you think we're going?" He'd prefer a heads up, time to plot a way if they were out of the way places. And they had to be...

"Tatooine, Kashyyyk, Manaan...and Korriban."

His stomach dropped. Korriban? That was suicide. There was no way he'd ever consider taking Sarah there. Taking himself there. Taking Bastila there. Mission.

"Am I your girl?" She was staring at the ring, her expression uncertain. "You know I've done something wrong, right? With you? I didn't mean to, and I'm sorry. I really am..." It was disconcerting to see her like this, and Carth was certain he didn't like it. It was uncomfortable, distressing.

"Hey. I'm pretty sure I know what you're talking about, and I'm not complaining. I told you before, I want to see how far we can go with this. I want to be open to the idea. Take the ring. Consider it a gift from the ship, if you want to, but yes. You are my girl, if you'd be willing for that. But I should go help Mission, finish what I started..."

"How long is that going to take, about?"

"Eh. Less than an hour, why?"

She grinned, and a weight was lifted from him. That was the Sarah he was used to, the Sarah he was comfortable with. "Because you're going to need someone to scrub your back, of course." She laughed, striding away from him. He watched her go, before sighing, shaking his head, and returning to the main bay to finish the job of scrubbing his ship down.


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