My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 67

Carth slept peacefully, swathed in cool silken sheets. It had taken a bit to get him there, he had so much going on in his brain, but she'd managed anyway. He was still recovering, he needed his sleep before they ran out of time. He needed to be at the top of his game going into...well, whatever the hell they were going into. All she knew was that it wasn't nearly over and that he still had a major part to play in it all. "When this is all over..." She whispered to the room, smoothing his hair. "You and I are going to go on a vacation. To some place really, really nice."

Dustil was awake in the next room, she could feel him thinking, pondering, and she stepped into the room with him...moving to stare out of the window instead of facing him directly. He was lying on the couch, and had been staring at the ceiling until he'd sensed her presence. Now she had his full attention. "This was all just a ruse." He sighed, and she glanced back at him. He'd sat up, then he stood, moving to stand beside her. "I'm not your apprentice, am I? You are here for the map. I haven't figured out why you have my father with you, yet, but you're not here for the reasons you gave Uthar. And you're not staying."

He must have a master. He can't have a Jedi master, they'd never take him. He's too old, he was too old when he came here. And he's been here too long, there's too much of Korriban in him now. I will not leave him here, which means he will never have a Sith master. He needs both...or neither. He needs me.

"This is all just a ruse." She began slowly, and although his face remained still, his eyes fell. "I needed the map. There is no Darth Augural. Never has been. We're not staying. However, you are my apprentice. I take that duty seriously, Dustil."

He moved slowly, cautiously, resting the tips of his fingers on her cheekbones and tilting her head to stare into her face, into her eyes. "Those aren't faked." He stated. "You are Sith. You are a Sith Lord."

She shrugged. Figuring out just what she was could be confusing. She wasn't precisely certain, herself. She understood the latter parts, from when she'd ceased to be Darth Revan, she understood the beginning parts, when she'd become Amasri, Jedi Knight. It was the middle part that was obscured, hidden, incomprehensible. How did I fall?

"Not faked. I..." Was what? A Jedi? No. A Sith? No. I am the woman that loves your father. And he loves me. "It's complicated." Well, that was putting it mildly, but truthfully.

"My father is not a complicated man."

He is more complex than you give him credit for. "You look at him through the eyes of the child who knew him as a father. But you are no longer that child. And he is no longer that father." Carth was still a father, still his father, but he'd never be the father he had been again. And Dustil would never be the child he had been, again. They had to build from where they were, not where they had been.

"He wasn't there when we needed him."

No, he wasn't. Carth's attention had been locked on the big picture, the War, his duty. He'd been forced to make a choice where neither of his options were the right one. "Your father would not have survived had he been on Telos during the bombing." Dustil had survived because of his age. Carth would have been executed. He'd be dead, gone. By then, the last thing Karath had needed was his own protegé, a prodigy, alive to threaten his rise as Admiral of the Sith Fleets. There was too much chance that he could have come to Revan's attention. Sarah smiled at the idea, but playing with what could have been was not getting anything done. What mattered now was that Carth was here, alive. Dustil was here, alive. And she was here, alive.

"So can I ask?"

"Ask what?" He was being impertinent, but she was more than happy to hear it. If he went into a new apprentice's shell, she couldn't get him up to speed fast enough to depend on him. He needed to be a partner, a resource. Questions were good. Opening up to her was as well.

"What is my father to you? He's about the last person I'd see in this...whatever this...is."

"Your father is my companion, my pilot, my consort, my rock and my light when things get dark." Right now, Carth shouldered the spiritual weight of not just one, but two Jedi slipping under the dark side.

"The darkness is not something to hide from." Dustil began dubiously, and she snorted in answer.

"Not something to hide from, correct, as if one was a child hiding from shadows under the bed. It is something to be accepted, even embraced...at the right times. You can't find the stars during the daylight. But it's damned hard to see in darkness, Dustil. That's when you turn on a light, to see everything that is around you. If you know both the dark and the light, you see the stars and the world. But you have to already know that, because you have not fallen." He'd been here for years. If he didn't have doubts, held within his soul, he'd be Sith. His eyes wouldn't be brown, darker than his father's, they'd be pale. He had his father's complexion, pale, but it wasn't tinged with gray. He'd been putting up a fight for himself, that much was obvious, and now she was there to help. "You're never going to do well here. Korriban is a pit for you."

That, at least, was true. If he was meant for it, it would have already happened. It was time to get him out of here. And if he'd lost someone to the Academy, then he should have few remaining misconceptions about just what it was, and what it did. "I'm not saying that your father was, is, perfect. He was put in an untenable situation, and you paid the price for it. As has he. It's not easy to have to balance a calling, duty, responsibility and such against what one wants in life. Surely by now, after here, you understand that there are certain people who possess vital skills and having that affects their entire lives. Force skills, piloting skills, leadership. It's all the same, Dustil. Your father's gift, his ability to fly, to lead, has been as much of a burden and a curse as it is any sort of blessing. Just as yours are. Just as mine are. He did what he thought was right. He answered the call." And Carth had paid dearly for it. Dustil was old enough to begin to grasp that now.

"You're telling me to forgive my father." A thin thread of mutiny rose in Dustil's words and Sarah shook her head. That was something she couldn't tell him to do. Only time could work that magic.

"No. I am not. I am asking you to consider the situation and to ask yourself what you would have done in the same circumstances. I cannot force forgiveness." Not truly. She could probably work at an unwilling facsimile of it, but she could not craft the truth from manipulating him. "But." His brows rose at the steel in her voice, his attention locked on her. "Your father is not negotiable. Messing with him is messing with me, and I fully intend to keep him."

"Understood." He paused, watching the same view as she was, the Valley bathed in moonlight and shadows. "Although I do not understand how it came to be..."

"And you won't. For now." It was one thing to give him a little, to trust him a bit, to let him know where he stood...and where he didn't stand. But the whole story was just going to have to wait for more secure surroundings. Not Korriban. Not the Academy. "Get some sleep."

He nodded, returning to the couch and she returned to where she belonged, at Carth's side, in their bed.

She woke to the smell of caf and food, and she opened an eye, puzzled. Carth had barely shifted during the night, his breathing was still deep and even and he showed no signs of waking up. But she definitely smelled food and after the evening before, she was famished.

She slid out of the bed, wrapping herself in a handy under-robe and stepping into the front room. Dustil was awake, dressed...although he was only in trousers and shirt...no boots or uniform tunic. And he was holding a carafe in one hand and a tray in the other. "I...uh...peeked in and realized my father was not going to wake up." He said, giving her a strained half smile. He was trying to hide the visual, but by the effort, it hung foremost in his mind, screaming for her attention. What he'd seen left few doubts as to just how comfortable she was with Carth, and vice versa. They'd been together long enough to work out how they preferred to sleep together, and night clothes had never been part of the deal. When Carth was off of his game, injured, exhausted, he tended to sleep on his side or his stomach, turned away from her. Her usual response to that was to plaster herself against his side or his back, forehead resting against his shoulder or back. And the image foremost in Dustil's mind was exactly that, he'd seen nothing truly embarrassing to her, but he was having some difficulty working his mind around finding his naked father in bed with a woman who was not his mother. It was funny as hell. That's right, kiddo. Your dad sleeps with your master. Get over it.

"Thank you." She sat at the small table, helping herself. He watched her for a moment before sitting next to her, taking a piece of toast and picking it into small pieces. He seemed both intent on her, and a world away. She didn't push, eating in silence.

"What now?" He finally asked, "Unless your plans are to take over the Academy?" He didn't bother to bleed the doubt from his voice, and she smiled.

"No. I have utterly no interest in the Academy. We will be leaving Korriban on the next available transport headed in the direction I need to go." Leaving Korriban, and never returning. It was a choice now, a decision to be made...and she'd made it without even thinking.Bastila cannot wait.

"And that direction is?"

"Nar Shaddaa." To drop this farce, scrub her face clean, pull the jeweled pins from her hair, pick up her ship and her crew family and take the final step. The Star Forge.

"I'll go see about making arrangements." He stood up, moving away to pick up his tunic. She opened her mouth to protest, but then silenced. She was the Lord, his master. It was her place to make her desires known...it was his and his father's place to make them happen. And the farce wasn't over yet, things could still go very badly here. If Malak realized that she was here with Carth and no ship...it would all be over. But how could he not know? He'd been summoned to Manaan after they'd been captured. Why else would she be there?

Trap, trap, trap. All just a trap. It had to be. But they'd already come so far that to turn around, to abandon this, seemed like such a waste. They'd lost Bastila, and Sarah couldn't live with that. And even if she could, then what? She wasn't a Jedi. She wasn't Sith. She wasn't Amasri. She wasn't Revan. She'd betrayed the Empire. She'd betrayed the Republic. She'd burned every single bridge in her life, or had it burned for her. There was nowhere for her to go to, and certainly no place to take Carth to. Had she agonized over Malachor like this? Doubted herself then?

Yes.

And she'd still done it. Because she'd needed to. And she needed to do this, to see it through to the end. After that, she could try to fit the pieces of her life together. But now, she didn't have that luxury. They had to just keep going.

"Ugh. Ah, shit." Well, that was Carth...awake and sparkly. She moved to the doorway and surveyed him. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, scrubbing his fingers across his face and through his hair. " Why didn't you wake me up?"

"I went to all that fuss to get you to sleep last night." Well, it had actually been early this morning, and she felt no guilt over what she'd done to him. He needed rest, he needed to recover, and she had a younger, less battered Onasi to get her breakfast and make her arrangements for her. "Dustil is seeing about the schedule to leave Korriban."

"Do you trust him? I mean, Sarah...if you do because he's my son, he hasn't been that in a long time. More than enough time to break here." The words wounded him, but he forced his way through them and she rested her arm across his shoulders.

"I know that better than you do, Carth. Let me be the one to watch and judge him. You...you need to treat him like he's your son. I will be the one to treat him like he's a young Sith fresh out of the Academy."


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