My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 79

Carth Onasi stared out of the screen of the air taxi he rode in, his expression calm but his mind was full. This was not how he had imagined this, dreamed of it when Sarah had slept next to him, but then those dreams had never dwelt on the idea that hospitals would be involved at the end of all of this. It was a stupid thing to overlook, to never even consider, but he hadn't. He'd supported the decision to bring Sarah here, to Coruscant, to have her cared for in the safety and security of the Jedi Temple. It had only been after he'd agreed to that when he'd been told he would be sent to Brentaal to finish his recovery and then to go through a seemingly never ending series of meetings, conferences, briefings and debriefings.

Save the Republic only to drown in paperwork. Paperwork to cover the entirety of the missions. Paperwork to cover Mission. Paperwork to cover Dustil's recovery. Paperwork on the Ebon Hawk. Paperwork on Canderous. And he was well aware that at least some of it was to give him time away from Sarah, to give him an opportunity to see things without the weight of her abilities pushing on him, to digest what had happened and to grasp what he wanted to happen in the future. But if they thought, hoped, that he was going to change his mind, they were sorely mistaken.

"Here you are, sir."

Yes, that. He growled under his breath, fighting to get out of the taxi and manage everything he had at the same time. It had been one hell of a morning, arriving on Coruscant, finding out where Sarah was, doing what he needed to do, but he was here. He fought the bags, his cover and his cane into order and managed to almost gracefully step out onto the platform in front of the hotel that Sarah had taken refuge in. Almost. He felt the attention of the two ensigns on the street immediately and he fought down another growl. His most recent haircut had shown the first strands of silver through the hair on his temples. He was still using a cane...something that his doctors feared might turn out to be permanent. And he was in uniform...he'd had a long and well decorated career before he'd gone off with the Endar Spire and Bastila. There were rumors now of more to come, but those were still just that...rumors. The Admiralty was still trying to make sense out of it all, comparing reports, ticking off boxes. But none of that mattered to Carth, if he received the Cross of Glory, then he did. If he didn't, then he didn't. The real prize for him was in that building and she was something he intended to fight for.

"Sir? Do you need a hand?" One of the ensigns asked uncertainly, torn between approaching the highly decorated captain and the obvious fact that yes, Carth could use another hand. Or two.

"If you have the time, I would appreciate the help." He answered, biting down his pride.

"Of course, sir!" She moved quickly to his side, gathering up two of the bags, obviously catching sight of the flowers in one and the cake in the other. Her companion took the other two bags, standing silently to the side. He looked like he'd rather be anywhere else than where he was, and while Carth commiserated, the kid was just going to have to learn how to deal with the brass. It was a little hilarious to consider himself part of that, but it was true enough.

They followed quietly in his wake, the young woman felt like she was bursting with questions. The hotel was beautiful, graceful, exactly the sort of place he would have chosen to put Sarah if it had been his choice. It became worse when the three of them packed onto the elevator and the heady smell of some of the finest food available in this sector of Coruscant filled the car, the flowers providing an airy undertone.

Yup, kids. This captain's on a hot date. Well, about as hot as either one of them was going to manage. If Sarah was holed up in a hotel, then he'd just have to bring that dinner he'd promised for weeks to her. He smiled, this dinner had taken on a nearly mythological state in his mind, but here he was, in an elevator on Coruscant. Alive. She'd brought them all home. He had his life back, his son back. He had hope again.

He hit the bell at her door, listening for her even though he knew that a hotel this nice would have sound proof rooms and doors...but he could feel her approach like a storm front coming in over an ocean. She threw the door open, launching herself into his chest. "Carth!" She breathed, burying her face into his coat. "I missed you."

"I missed you too, babe. Got here as quickly as I could." He turned to the ensigns, not at all surprised that the young man still had his silent expression and that the young woman was doing her best to not smile. "Thank you both for the help. Sorry to take up your time."

"Not at all, sir, ma'am. Not at all. Enjoy your day." The two ensigns turned, walking away and Carth gathered up half of the bags while Sarah snagged the other two and followed him into her suite.

"Nice. Marry a hutt crime lord when I wasn't looking?" He asked, setting the bags on the table and pulling out containers. They breathed their scent into the room and Sarah took a deep, appreciative sniff.

"It's where the Temple put me when I told them I needed space and time to sort things out on my own. Bastila comes by once a day to make sure I'm okay and to check my back, but other than that, I've been pretty much left to my own devices here. Thinking. Waiting for you. Seeing if anything has changed..."

"And has it?" It killed him to ask, but he had to know. Everything had happened so damned fast. He understood how what they'd been put through could cause false bonds to form. She'd been alone long enough to start seeing through them if that was so. He had to know. They had to go there before they could go forward. If there was a forward for them at all.

"No. I love you, Carth Onasi. If you'll have me, I mean to stay for as long as I can." She paused, frowning for just a second. He recognized her expression and he knew better than to ask, simply laying out the plates from the bottom of the bag. She didn't have the answer for his question and all it would do was disturb her. Whatever it was, she didn't have access to it.

"I love you, Sarah. Nothing has changed for me. I want to marry you. I want to have a family with you. And..." He pulled the flowers from the bag and presented them to her with a sweeping motion. "I brought that dinner I promised. Uniform." He tweaked his coat slightly, "Flowers. Wine. Dessert. And the finest Telosian cuisine on Coruscant."

"You're a keeper, Carth." Whatever the shadow had been, it had passed, her eyes widening when he pulled the magnificent cake out of the bag. He pulled a chair out for her and she sat, watching him. "You look pretty good, considering. But the cane?"

He shrugged out of his coat, resting it across the back of a nearby chair. "Maybe short term. Maybe long term. Maybe permanent. The doctors are still in discussion mode there. Why, it turn you off?"

"No. Just concerned. You're alive and that's all that matters."

"Yeah, pretty much covers it all. You're alive and Dustil's alive, Mission, Canderous, Bastila, Zaalbar. We got out everybody we could." He knew Malak was a sore point and would always be a sore point, just like Karath was a sore point and would always be a sore point.

"How was Brentaal and the Admiralty?" She asked, opening a container and dishing a large spoonful of its contents onto her plate. She was thin, she needed to eat and he was happy to see her willing to fill up.

"Meetings, interviews, investigations, briefings. They declared me MIA, had to clear that up. Had to go over every step of the path from Taris to Lehon, at least what I thought they should know." Not one single time had the name Revan come up, except as history to the map fragment path. Every time she'd been mentioned by the Admiralty, by the Jedi who were present for all of these meetings, she'd been referred to as "Jedi Knight Sarah." And that was exactly how he had chosen to refer to her as well. If the Admiralty didn't know, he wasn't going to be the one to tell them. If they did and were willing to overlook it, he wasn't going to be the one to draw attention to it. He wanted a life with Sarah, and if the galaxy was willing to let Revan die, it was fine by him.

"Hmmm. How are the kids?"

"Fine, fine." While Bastila had stayed here with Sarah, it had made sense that he be the one to take custody of Dustil and Mission...Dustil had been obvious but Carth was on stronger legal ground than the mockup of a person called Sarah was to make the first set of requests when it had come to Mission. He was uncertain how fine a job that the Enclave had done with the creation of Sarah's fictitious background... he sensed that the decision to put her on the Endar Spire had been made quickly, in desperation. Sarah had been in bad shape when she'd been brought to Coruscant, he'd been in better shape. He had a duty station and housing, Sarah did not.

It seemed almost awkward to sit here with her and not have the imperative to find and end the Star Forge threat. They'd always had that push, that subject, that reason to be and be together. But it was a wonder as well. They finally had the time and the space to actually get to know each other without that hanging over their heads. And she was so damned beautiful that it almost hurt to look at her. He'd almost lost her.

"Would you do it again? I mean, if you knew?" She asked, twirling noodles around her fork and coating it in sauce. Her eyes were still golden, not as bright as they'd shone on the Star Forge, but they had not returned to their usual gray shade.

"Absolutely." He reached out and covered her hand with his. "I mean, yeah... I got beat up. Tortured. Shot. And I'm really getting too old for that shit so hopefully someone else is the next poor sucker tapped to save the Republic, but I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat to get what I got from this. I would have done it for just you. I would have done it for just Dustil. It gave me hope. It gave me a family. And that's all I've ever asked for, Sarah. It's all I ever needed or wanted. Have some wine. Have some cake and stop dwelling on it. We're exactly where we hoped and prayed we'd be at, and this is that date I promised you way back on Taris. Remember that?"

"Yes. I remember that." She chuckled, watching him struggle with the wine bottle until he was successful in getting it open and pouring her a glass. "I'll stop moping."

"Good. Moping is my job. Not yours." He followed it up with a thick slice of cake. "We are going to eat, drink and spend some time together." They'd done it, but he'd been in battles before...Malachor... where others had celebrated their victories for them, but those actually there did not. And for Sarah, the Battle of Lehon was going to be one of those. Let the Republic celebrate their victory for them...their celebration was that it was over and that they were all still alive. Sarah would celebrate that, but she would never celebrate killing Malak.

He ate until he couldn't consider eating another bite, his progress followed by hers. She packed down two plates stacked high with food, a slice of cake and three glasses of wine before she let out a giant yawn and swayed in her chair. "Sorry." She muttered, "Not sleeping really well lately."

"That makes two of us." The ceaseless questions had worn him down, always measuring exactly what he should, and more importantly shouldn't, say had exhausted him. His injury bothered him. And the emptiness of his bed had tied all too well into nightmares he wanted to forget...waking up sweating and panting after dreaming that Canderous had not managed to hold onto her, that she had bled out in the Ebon Hawk's med bay. That he hadn't even been there to hold onto her and tell her goodbye, like he had with Morgana. Those had stalked his nights. "Let's just go to bed, okay?"

She smiled at him, standing. "Sounds good." She breathed, leading the way into the bedroom, shedding clothes as she went. She helped him out of his and he climbed into the cool sheets, the warmth of her body pressed against his, her breath on his shoulder and the weight of her proximity a balm to his nerves. It was fine. It was all just fine. He could sleep, she could sleep. It was over. From here they started a new life, a new story, together.

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