My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 61

Bend with it, Bastila. Do not break. Open the windows, look at what he shows you, but do not become blinded by it. Stay with me, as you always have. I am your true master. I was there when you were just a child. The real Alek would have never done this, and he dies inside from it. I am coming. You know that...

Sarah jerked out of a fitful, restless sleep, focusing on the shadowed ceiling above her. Carth was deeply asleep in the bed next to her, resting on his stomach, his face buried in the angle of his elbow. Good, he needed to recover, to take this break before they moved on to the next step. He'd been put through so much already, she relied on him so much that it was a relief to give him a moment to catch his breath, heal his wounds, and wrap his head around what she'd done to him. It came at Bastila's expense, but there was little that Sarah could do about that; she must look the part she was going to play and the robes of a Sith Lord must be carefully and lovingly crafted. The cadre at the Academy would see any mistake, any bobble she made. She had to be flawless, playing a role that had been hidden from her. Hadn't she attended the academy on Korriban? Been 'retrained' there?

No...I was not. The only time I've been to Korriban was to secure the last fragment, the last time. I was retrained at...at...at

"Hey, babe! What the...?" She was being moved, pulled into Carth's embrace, somehow he was wide awake. "Sarah. Wake up. Shit. Please."

"'M awake." She muttered into his shoulder, and he sighed, wrapping his fingers in her hair and holding her closely. "Sorry." How long had she been out for? She had to stop doing that. Bastila had been the one who'd understood the process, who'd been trained to handle the fallout from the programming, from the damage. She held part of Sarah's soul, kept it complete. And now, she was gone.

But he smelled good. He felt good, and she felt safe where she was. "We seem to have this thing for crappy apartments on terrible worlds." She breathed into his bare skin and he chuckled in response.

"We do, we do." He agreed. "When we get through this, we'll have to make it an anniversary tradition to go find the dingiest apartment or hotel we can and hide in it for a couple of days. Just the two of us."

"Sounds like a plan." They'd downgraded from a dismal one on Taris to an equally sad one on Nar Shaddaa, waiting. Biding their time. Healing him up, waiting for clothes, waiting for a vessel headed all of the way to Korriban. There weren't that many of those to be found.When we get through this...

He was correct, they had to. One way or the other. "I love you." He had to understand that.

"Sarah, we're going to look back at this in a couple of years and shake our heads at it all. We'll raise a drink to the memories of when we went out and saved the Republic. I promise you that."

I don't deserve you. But that was the last thing in the world she wanted him to understand. She wanted, intended, to keep him through this and beyond. "You feeling better?"

"Sister, I'm not the one collapsed face down on the floor." He whispered, relaxing his hold on her enough to where she could sit on his lap instead of resting across his chest. "You gotta stop doing that to me. I know you think you need to remember, but..."

"I know. Let me take a look at you." His injuries were easier to handle than hers. He could be tended to... a nice rub down with a burn ointment and a gentle scratching on his itchy spots and he'd be better. There was unfortunately no ointment that would help fix a brain injured and glitchy ex Sith Lord.

"After dinner. You'll put me back to sleep, and I'm hungry." Good, because he'd lost too much weight, his face lined with exhaustion. And this was simply a reprieve, they couldn't lose impetus. They had to go get Bastila. Her loss was a gnawing ache in Sarah's heart. "It's your turn to order."

She sighed, crawling out of the safety of his arms against her better judgment. But he was right, it was her turn to order dinner, and she turned her attention to her choices. It was not unusual for people to go to ground on Nar Shaddaa, there was a rich assortment of rundown rooms and small apartments just like this one, and a vibrant economy in place to make it comfortable and convenient for one to stay burrowed down, no questions asked. She was in a better position than most, the majority of the people who might look for her honestly thought she was dead. The Jedi had made certain of that...to the point where even most of the Order believed that Amasri Idarn, the Revanchist, had perished on Coruscate's bridge, a victim of circumstances that she had been heavily responsible for creating. In fact, if the Enclave at Dantooine had been razed as Karath had claimed, who even still knew that she still lived? Carth. Bastila. Malak.

And who of those would talk? Carth? There was a good chance that he wouldn't, he had little to gain by it and a lot to lose. He'd only bring it up if he felt like it was his duty to. Bastila? She'd already done an amazing job of keeping it to herself, and she was involved up to her eyeballs in something that the Coruscant Temple might consider to be a flat out conspiracy, yet more dark sided shit from an Enclave apparently already considered to be tainted with it. No reason for her to talk. Malak? Who would believe him even if they heard him? And if he was gone, then Sarah could just vanish...she could just be Carth's wife. She could just be Sarah Onasi. It could all be over then. She was tired, worn.

You can rest when you've got your family out of this. Not until then. This was what the War was like, and you kept going through that for years.

Her family. Just like before, she had to tighten her focus to the tangible instead of the ephemeral. Her family. Carth. Bastila. Mission. Canderous. Zaalbar.

She ordered, choosing a hearty meal with sides of a rich dessert. If Carth was hungry, then she'd damn well feed him while she still could. The call finished, she collapsed on the bed behind him, reaching out to touch his hair. At least the apartment was clean, and quite a bit warmer than the Taris apartment had been. It was almost tolerable, except that whoever had done the decorating had a fondness for a rather putrid shade of green.

"So. How permanent are these marks?" He finally asked, his voice even and she grimaced. They might fade, somewhat, but he'd carry the reminders of Karath's torture for the rest of his life.

"They're permanent. I..." What was there to say? He had the fair complexion of a man who'd been a redheaded child, the perfect canvas for the intricate burns left behind by the overzealous use of the cage. "They might fade." Hopefully. Maybe. Doubtfully.

"Fuck my life." He said it mildly, rubbing absently at the largest patch of fractal patterning scribed on his skin, centered on his sternum. She knew it itched now, it was healing and the blisters were mostly gone. It was heading into its scruffy, peeling stage and she scratched her fingertips along the blossoming of it on his back. He sighed in ecstasy and she chuckled, "As good as sex, eh?"

"No, not even. But it's still damned good." He arched his back, growling in appreciation. "Sarah, after this is all over...what do you want? Really?"

"To marry you, be your wife, and maybe have another little Onasi." She knew she could never replace what he had lost, nor did she want to. She wasn't his late wife. Any children she might have would never be his lost son. But he'd have a family again, a wife, a child. He'd be a father and a husband again. "I have no future in the Order. I'm not even certain that they know I'm alive anymore. All of this..." She waved her hand next to his head, gesturing vaguely at herself, at him, at the apartment, "Was masterminded by the Enclave on Dantooine. And I think they're gone. I might...just..." She leaned in, pressing her lips against his ear. "Be free of this."

"Is that what you want?"

"Yes. I don't remember what I did...but I am certain I was an absolute failure at being a Jedi Knight." And she was getting a chance to leave that all behind her. To let it go. She needed to do what she could to make amends, to fix what she had broken, but after that... no. They hadn't allowed her to die, so she fully intended to live.

He snorted, shaking his head. "You really do not remember, do you?" He whispered, and she frowned, well aware he couldn't see her face. No, she didn't.

"No." She breathed and he bowed his head.

"Revan was a great Jedi. You were a great Jedi. I don't care what anybody else says. I don't care about what the Order will say. I'm going to say it. Sarah, you came when nobody else was going to help us." He was shaking under her fingertips, he was angry. "You think you failed us? Maybe we failed you! Maybe we're to blame for all of this. The Republic, the Navy. You came at our call, and we got you into this. You did what you did at Malachor for us. You did what you had to do, and that was the crack that started all of this." He turned to face her, burying his face in her stomach. "You don't take all of the blame, Sarah. I won't let you. And I won't let you or them take away what you were, and what you did for us."

"Very well, my dear." If he was willing to put up an argument as to why this debacle wasn't completely her fault, she was more than willing to let him. If he could believe that there were other factors in Revan's fall, her fall, beyond the idea that she was innately flawed, then she should consider his words. He'd been there, on the other side of it all. He understood better than she did what had drawn her into the War. He remembered. She didn't.

She rested her hands on his shoulders, drinking in his proximity. He was all she had left, she couldn't do this without him. His weight behind her was the only thing that counterbalanced her, kept her off of the edge. She'd looked in the mirror last night, she knew what she saw there. Losing Bastila was a blow she was not fending off with ease, leaving the bond open exposed her to Malak's attempts to warp Bastila to the dark side. There was nothing faint or obscured...the eyes that peered back at Sarah from the mirror were yellow. Pure, clear, bright yellow, the exact same shade of Bastila's lightsaber, seething with the same brilliant power as that instrument threw off. And likewise, Sarah's bond to Carth was left wide open, exposing him as well. But it had to be done. He was their final rock, the anchor that held them tight. He had to stand fast.

"Dinner." She sighed, sensing the soul enter the stairwell, their apartment number loudly carried on its thoughts.

Sarl appeared the next morning, balancing two long boxes on his shoulders. "Milord." He greeted, and Sarah gave a slight smile...not amused at his greeting, but the well tamped down response that Carth gave it. He'd have to get used to it, and used to it fast, because it was going to be coming out of his mouth on Korriban. "I understood that time was a limitation..."

Of course time was a limitation. Sarl would be happiest with months to work with, and endlessly deep pockets to fund it. She'd given him a week and only moderately deep pockets. If the Dantooine Enclave had indeed fallen, then all she had was all she had.

"I'm certain you did the best with the constraints I put upon you." She breathed, letting him into the apartment. If he found anything amiss with finding his Dark Lord and her Consort holed up in a gunk green apartment, he certainly didn't let it show.

"I did, milord. Please take off your clothes and close your eyes." That did it for Carth, his snigger was entirely audible, but Sarl did not lower himself to a reaction. Sarah sighed, peeling out of her clothes and standing in her underwear, her arms above her head, her eyes closed. She could read Sarl like an open tab on a datapad, his only thoughts, his only plots, were that she adored what he'd created for her. Nothing else. She was swallowed in warmth, in a weight that smelled wonderfully of the kolto rich waters of Manaan, and then that weight was settled on her shoulders and hips, then a hood was rested on her hair. She could feel Carth's amusement flee, he was awed into silence. "Oh, my." He stated softly. "That's...beautiful."

Sarl chuckled, well pleased. "Open your eyes, milord."

This had better be right. This had better be good.

She opened her eyes and blinked. She'd been chasing something that wasn't even a real memory...just a vague understanding deep in her mind, until she saw it actually on her. This wasn't what she'd worn as Revan, not even close. It wasn't what she'd worn as a Jedi Knight. It was something else, something entirely different. Opulent, detailed, a luxury in materials, pattern, and handiwork. It fit like a gown, mostly iridescent black, rippling with a bluish sheen, but the detailed cutwork into the upper section showed the backing of coral leather beneath it. It was split in the front, edged with the pearl trim she'd purchased on Manaan, a bright flash of coral under panel showing. The hood was deep, obscuring, and precisely weighted to stay in place.

"Do I deserve to keep breathing, milord?"

"Depends." She only half joked, admiring the perfection of detailing and trim on the chest, swinging to make certain that the weight did not affect her range of movement, wrap around her legs. It most certainly did not hinder anything and she gave a sharp, approving nod.

"Ah, of course. Your consort. Here." He moved to open the other box, and pulled out a swath of the same black leather, starkly plain. "Fewer expectations with this one. Much more practical." He shrugged, helping Carth into the long coat. "But still prized. Which is believe was what we going for?"

"Yes." Carth looked dubious, but he was a man who'd lived most of his adult life in some form of uniform or another. To yank him out of his comfort zone and toss him into a hand tailored shark leather coat was bound to cause him a moment's pause. Or a whole hour's worth of pauses, judging by his expression.

"Ah, good. You can hide a multitude of guns in it, and other things."

"I look like a Hutt crime lord's enforcer." Carth muttered, the thinnest edge of mutiny clinging to the syllables as he fiddled with the wide collar. "Or a pro gambler."

"Or a Dark Lord's consort." He needed to wrap his mind around this, and he needed to do it now. It wasn't like she was asking him to do this alone, he looked downright normal compared to what she was wearing. Anyway, he looked damn good in it...good enough to eat. "Thank you, Sarl. I do not forget."

The tailor bowed gracefully. "Of course you do not, milord. Welcome back." He gave her one last look, measuring his work, and then turned those eyes onto Carth. He nodded slowly, content with what he saw, and left quickly. Sarah waited for him to be well gone before she turned back to Carth, who was staring at himself in the mirror.

"Looks good. Really damned good." She breathed, smoothing down the grain of the leather along his forearm. "Trust me on this one." It had been awhile since he'd been well enough to even consider trying to entice him, but he was fit and rested now. How many more times like this would they have? Alone? Able to take a moment?

"Not nearly as damned good as you look in that. I thought Jedi, hell, even Sith, went for the minimalistic thing. You stick out like a sore thumb."

I know. But it's right. I don't know why, but it is.

"So I do. So I do. So do you." He reached up, pushing the hood back and stared into her eyes. If what he found there put him off, he made no sign of it, cupping her face in his hands.

You know who I am now. What I am, now. Are you still willing...? His lips were warm against hers, his fingers working the sloppy knot she'd pulled her hair back into this morning. I still love you.

He buried his face in the fall of her hair, his lips against the pulse in her neck, his palm against her cheek. "I have no idea how to get you out of this." He finally chuckled. "But I guess if I'm to be your...um, slave...I better figure it out."

"Yes, you'd better."

It took him no time at all to discover the hooks hidden in the front detailing. "Ah, convenient access. I like it. Or are you supposed to wear something underneath it all?" His touch on her breasts was distracting as hell, his lips nibbling across her bare belly as knelt before her, sliding the robes down the swell of her buttocks and letting them fall to the floor.

"It's my slave's duty to lay out my clothes in the morning. Therefore I will be wearing, or not wearing, whatever he chooses."

"Niiiiiice." He breathed, sliding his hands down her ribcage, sweeping down to that part he admittedly loved so much. Well, it was a good thing he was an ass man, because she had a decent one of those. His tongue delved into her navel, then slid lower, and she grabbed at his hair. He planted his shoulder into her hips, and picked her up, heading straight for the rumpled bed. The ease with which he accomplished that feat completely banished any reservations she had as to his capacity to see this through. He was well.

He dropped her gently in the nest of faded green sheets, stripping as quickly as he could get himself out of his clothes. But then, he just stood there, staring...like he was trying to engrave the moment on his brain. Or he was having second thoughts, or trying to have second thoughts while his body betrayed him.

"Carth?" He was aroused, she knew it. She could sense it, and she could see it. He was doing nothing to hide either from her.

"Just admiring the view." He chuckled softly. "You're beautiful, you know."

Well, if he wanted to admire the view, she'd give him something to admire...while she admired him. She leaned back into the sheets, letting her knees fall open while she cupped her breasts in her hands. A muscle jumped in his jaw as he clenched his teeth, his breath hissing audibly between them. He placed his hands on her knees before running his fingertips down her inner thighs, pausing, teasing, just before things got truly interesting. But Sarah was willing to let him take his own sweet time, there was no hurry and she loved luxuriating under his touch.

He slid into the bed beside her, wrapping his arm around her and pulling her close, his erection butting into her thigh. She touched him, stroking slowly up, pushing him against her flesh. It was always a wonder how velvety soft his skin was, rolling over underlying hardness. And it was a wonder to watch his expression fade into utter stillness, entranced by her touch. She adored that look. She wanted him, wanted his hands on her, wanted him inside of her. Touch me. Taste me.

He complied, nuzzling against her chest, closing a hand over hers, tightening his fingers, her fingers, against him. "Harder." He whispered, rubbing his nose against her nipples. She arched into him, offering them up to him. First with his tongue, then with lips and teeth, he teased her, before growling and giving into a sudden sharp tugging suck. She could feel his fingers graze between her thighs, inside of her, pushing deeply within.

Yes, I'm ready.

He pulled them from her, locked eyes with her, and slowly licked his fingers clean. Yes, come on. You know you want to. And he did, opening her thighs with his knees, holding her ass in his hands, and settling deeply within her. She dug her short fingernails into his broad shoulders, chasing away the thought that she could hurt him by it. All she wanted to do was just let it happen, to tighten her thighs around his hips and wrap herself up with him inside of her. Mine. All mine. But then, wasn't she his? All his? It worked both ways.

It was amazing, rising to meet each thrust, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Yes, more." She moaned, feeling him let go and start to push her towards climax. The world spun and she went limp beneath him, and a moment later he collapsed beside her, pulling her into a deep embrace.

"Sarah."

And that was her name, forever...because of how he said it at that moment.


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