DISCLAIMER: The Star Wars universe was created by George Lucas and the many authors who helped construct the Expanded Universe (EU). Bioware developed the storyline and the main characters for the game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR).
He wished she would cry.
Just a few tears, anything to show that she still felt something. He had raged at her in the main room, waved her true identity in her face like it was a weapon. She hadn't really reacted, offering little more than an apology – as if she'd made an embarrassing noise. She'd looked to the others of the crew, getting their reactions, their support, and then turning to him. Looking at him with that maddening Jedi calm and reasonability. He hadn't had much choice but to go along with it.
He could hate her if she'd cry. He could love her again if she'd cry.
"Carth?" Mission's voice, oddly timid, broke the relative silence of the Ebon Hawk's cockpit.
He turned in his seat, looking at the teenage Twi'lek as she poked her head through the entrance. Even in the dim light provided only by the navigational instruments he could see that she was on the verge of tears. "Mission! What is it?"
"Jolee asked me to get you. It's Kashele."
She still preferred to go by the name the Jedi Council had given her. The name that had been on her records, that she'd introduced herself as barely three months ago on Taris. Kashele, the oddly talented scout brought aboard the Endar Spire at the insistence of Bastila; a raven-haired, gray-eyed beauty who he'd carried, bleeding and unconscious, into an abandoned hole of an apartment to hide.
"She'd keeping all of us out of the women's quarters. It's scary, Carth, I think she's really messed up."
He'd found out quickly that she was a stim addict; she lived on adrenals and caffa, going sixty, sometimes even seventy hours without a wink of sleep, until her body simply couldn't take anymore and she was on the verge of collapse. And at that point, she'd grab a bottle of Tarisian ale and drink herself comatose. Then she'd wake up twenty hours later and the cycle would begin again.
It was the oddest, most self-destructive affliction he'd ever seen, and he'd been worried; but when he'd tried to bring it up she'd flat-out declared that as long as it didn't affect the mission it was none of his business, and she answered to Bastila, not him. It was, of course, the only time she'd ever admitted to being under Bastila's command. And she'd been right; it never affected her performance. She was still the deadliest thing he'd ever witnessed with two vibroblades. She'd been forty hours without rest when she took out Bendak Starkiller, one-on-one. She'd hopped onto Gadon's dangerously-modified swoop bike to rescue Bastila, hung over, and she'd won.
Carth stood, and quickly followed the upset teenager to the starboard side of the ship, where the entire crew stood in the vicinity of the closed loading dock, just around the corner from the room which served as accommodations for the female members of the group. It was crowded in the narrow corridor; their motley group had grown too big to cluster together in the nooks of the Hawk, especially when that group included an agitated wookiee.
Jolee was holding them back, and it showed just how much the crew respected the old Jedi that they didn't challenge him. Still, there was a strong tension in the recycled air; Kashele was the glue that held this group together. If she fell apart, so would they. She weaved them together, a pile of mismatched sentients, ferreting out their secrets, their fears, healing them all simply by listening to them as they talked.
It'd been an effective cover on Taris, although it probably wasn't a cover. Whenever he'd start to question her on her sleep habits, her chemical dependency, she'd turn the conversation around, asking about him instead. He told her things he'd never told anyone, not even the Republic psychologists. It had hurt, but it had healed; wounds made to bleed away the poison that was eating him away from the inside. She'd gotten under his skin, wormed her way to his heart, piercing the protective armour of paranoia and anger he kept there just as easily as her blades found their way past the armour of the Sith troopers they'd fought. She was open, and unjudging, and sympathetic; eyes wide with a complete lack of dissemblance, whether she was comforting a Twi'lek who thought she'd lost her best friend, or stroking Carth's forehead in a dirty Undercity tent while Doctor Forn's serum burned away the rakghoul fever.
Carth met eyes with Jolee, and saw the worry there. "What's wrong? What's going on?"
"I need you to go in there and talk to her. I don't think she'll let anyone else. She practically threw me out on my backside."
He frowned at the old Jedi. "What's wrong with her?" he demanded.
"She's upset and not thinking straight. Really bad sleep-deprivation. I don't think she's slept at all since we got away from the Leviathan."
"It's the nightmares," Mission added, her face and her voice coloured with worry for the woman who was quickly becoming an adoptive sister – very nearly an adoptive mother – for her. "They're back, except a lot worse."
It was on the trip to Dantooine that her reasons came out. During the bombardment of Taris they'd had no time to stock up on things like stims and booze, and she'd been forced to cold-turkey it during the entire six-day trip. There was only so much caffa could do. She'd fought to stay awake, ignoring both Carth and Bastila when they recommended she sleep, sidestepping their questions with all her considerable charm. Eventually, though, nature won out, and she'd fallen asleep in the middle of a hand of Pazaak with Mission. At the time, Carth had been pleased, glad to see her receiving some natural rest.
Until she'd woken up, screaming, just a few hours later.
Now, HK-47 was nearly berserk, promising several varieties of horrid death to anyone who came near the Master. It took several minutes to assure it that none of them meant harm to her, and eventually it was Canderous who convinced it to wait in the nearby swoop-bay where it could still hear the goings-on. The two of them began to speculate on ways to slaughter the Jedi Council as revenge, and Carth briefly wished he could participate in that conversation, as he had some rather heartfelt suggestions himself. Juhani waited at the door to the bay, watching the others in the hall, but one hand rested by her lightsaber as she made sure the droid did nothing more than just threaten.
Carth sighed in the slightly less-crowded corridor. "Why me? I'm probably the last person she wants to see right now."
Jolee scowled at the pilot. "Don't be stupid. You're the person she most wants to see right now."
I don't want you hurt protecting me, Carth. She'd told him that in Hrakert station on Manaan. Then she'd lumbered out into the ocean, alone, with nothing but a plasteel suit and a sonic emitter to protect her from the Firaxa and the giant sea beast which had come out of the rift.
He didn't want to see her. He was scared he wouldn't see Kashele anymore, that instead it would be Revan looking back at him. That was who he thought he saw when they'd revealed her to the rest of the crew. It was hard to tell apart the visage of a person calm and at peace from the person who simply didn't give a damn. Which one waited in that room?
"Bastila was able to put her into some kind of trance, to let her sleep without dreaming."
"I know. I can probably do the same, but I need to get close to her to do it, and she won't let me. You've got to calm her down enough to let me near."
She'd woken up screaming, terrifying Mission, and Carth and even Bastila had come running. She'd scurried away from their touch, huddling in the corner like an animal, sobbing, until she'd eventually calmed herself enough to stand and drink some more caffa. She refused to discuss the content of the dreams with them, even when Bastila pressed. At the time, Carth had been surprised by the normally-aloof Jedi's concern; she'd seemed even more distressed by Kashele's suffering than Carth. When the older woman had lost her battle to stay awake twice more, with similar results, Bastila had stepped in and used the Force to put her into a restful trance, dreamless. They'd woken her only for food and water.
I think I'd be hurt worse if I didn't try. Carth nodded wordlessly to the older Jedi. He would help. He'd promised to do so, and his word meant something.
As he made to step by, Jolee suddenly grabbed his jacket and pulled him close, with shocking strength. "Don't screw this up," the old man hissed.
He blinked, surprised, at Jolee's angry visage. He was speechless, and could only nod again. Jolee let him go, and Carth continued down the corridor.
He hadn't seen her since they'd escaped Malak and the Leviathan. He'd gone looking immediately after their brief revelation in the main room. He'd come down this corridor, looking for her... to accuse, to apologize, to rant, to seek forgiveness... he didn't know what he'd been after. It hadn't mattered; the bunk area had been empty, and the only sound had been her, locked away in the tiny refresher, retching. He'd retreated without a word, fleeing like a coward to the cockpit.
As he entered the darkened room, he did some brief calculations in his head. If Jolee was right, if she wasn't able to get any rest at all before the nightmares came for her, then she was probably running with well over a forty hours of sleep deficit. She was way beyond the ability to think properly if that was true.
Wonderful. He was walking into a dark room to try to talk down a crazed Jedi.
It had been the dreams which had sold her on the idea. She hadn't been keen on becoming a Jedi; the responsibility had worried her, and she didn't like the idea of being beholden to the Council. She was a scout; she understood duty, but was also fiercely independent. But they had promised to teach her how to repress the dreams, how to get through a night without the use of stims or alcohol. It was like waving water in front of a man in the depths of the Tattooine desert.
He'd been there, listening secretly, when the Jedi Masters had convinced her to describe one of her dreams. It had chilled him to the bone. There's a figure, pure blackness and evil... it hates me, hates that I'm alive when it's not... it freezes me, freezes everything, and then it... it reaches into my chest and grabs my heart, and I want to die, but I can't die. And I'm cold and I'm burning and I'm numb at the same time. And I'm bleeding, it looks like blood but it's actually pain, and I'm trying to get help, but everyone I touch gets blood on them, and it burns like acid and hurts them terribly... and... Do... do we really need to discuss this?
He advanced into the room, squinting in the dim light afforded by the large status screen on the wall. "Kashele?"
Receiving no answer, he reached for the control to bring up the lights. A hand intercepted his wrist before he could touch it; another wrapped around his head to cover his mouth, stifling his gasp of surprise. He was pulled backwards, toward the wall, to press against a warm body.
"No! No no no... no light, no light... you'll make her hungry. Hide, hide!" And she pulled him down to the corner she'd been crouched in, sitting him down between her legs, his back to her chest, her back to the wall in more ways than one, and she wrapped her arms around his body, clutching him desperately.
Carth stiffened slightly. Her touch frightened him, he had not forgotten who and what she was, try as he might. He cursed himself, and fought down the reaction. She was holding him tightly but not harmfully; the fact she hadn't sent him into the wall using the Force said something. Slowly, he reached up and took her hands, loosening them slightly so he could turn to kneel and face her.
She stared back, wild-eyed, her hair an ebon Tarisian tangleweed around her head. She was so tired her eyes were blackened as if she'd been beaten, and even in the dim blue illumination he could tell they were bloodshot and glazed. They darted about, looking for threats in the shadows of the room. She might be hallucinating, Carth guessed.
This was the Dark Lord of the Sith? The most powerful master of the Dark Side since Exar Kun?
This was what the Jedi Council called mercy.
After that day with the Council, after she began her Jedi training, she'd been happy... truly happy. Repressing her dreams was one of the first things they'd taught her, and she'd taken to sleep like a lost lover, napping at any opportunity. It had amused Mission to no end, and if Kashele had been kind and understanding beforehand, now she was sweetness and light, a ball of optimism and cheer that effected everyone, even the dour Canderous. Where once Carth feared she and Bastila would come to blows before they left Taris, Kashele never once had an unkind thing to say about the Padawan.
Nothing held more terror for her than the phantoms behind her own eyes. If she could beat them, then Malak and the Star Forge would be a trivial joke.
Malak had had a far more deadly weapon than the Star Forge, of course. He'd given Kashele's terror a name, given it her own face. Shown that some of her dreams weren't dreams at all, weren't confined to her own skull, but had very much been out into the real world and had harmed a lot of people. Neither blaster nor lightsaber could have done more damage.
"Kashele?" Her eyes snapped to him, seeing, but not really seeing. "Everyone's worried about you." He winced at the inane attempt at comfort.
"Worried," she replied, her voice raspy. He wondered when the last time she ate or drank was. "Worried about me, about me, worry worry, I'm fairly worrisome... which me do they worry about, and which do they worry for?"
Carth was confused, and could think of nothing to say, his mouth just hanging open. She took the hands which held her own and pressed them to her head, and instinctively he let his thumbs smooth back her tangled hair.
Suddenly, still holding his hands, Kashele began knocking her head against the hard metal of the bulkhead behind her. "No, no, Kashele!" He grabbed her tightly, forced her to be still. "You're hurting yourself, don't do that."
"I've got monsters in my head, Carth... I'm supposed to fight her, I'm supposed to fight Malak, I'm supposed to make things better, but she's in my head and I can't get her out... can't get her out... and we have to help Bastila but she's with him and she's in here with her, and they're both hurting her and I can't get them out!"
She was scratching at her head and tearing at her hair, her lovely, silken hair, while she babbled and ranted, making it frizz and making her look even more wild and maddened. He grabbed her wrists and pulled her forward, hugging her to him. Her small, slender frame struggled as he held her tightly. He knew she was capable of immense strength if she could focus enough to call the Force; there was no way he could restrain her if she didn't want to be.
But, then, that'd be a kind of answer, wouldn't it?
"You need to sleep, Kash."
"No, no... she's waiting, waiting for me to fall asleep so she can get me..."
"No, Kash... I'll watch over you, I'll protect you like a promised. I always keep my promises. Jolee will help, too, he'll let you sleep, like Bastila did the first trip, remember? He can do it, too. You just have to let him."
She was shaking her head violently. "He'll get hurt, she'll hurt him, I'll hurt him, everyone gets hurt like Bastila and you and Dustil and everyone..."
"We'll all be okay, Kash." He used her name again and again. She may have been Revan once, but she was Kashele now. She had to be, for all their sakes, including her own. "We need you. Bastila needs you. And you can't help her like this. Let us help you, Kashele."
She was still, staring at him, and he tried to shine his most charming smirk at her. He wasn't sure how convincing it was; she didn't change expression, but neither did she object as he stood and pulled her to her feet, where she wavered, almost drunkenly. Heartened, he let her lean on him as he guided her toward her bunk.
As he led her to the bed, they passed the mirror which hung on the opposite wall. It must have cost Davik a fortune; it was made out of glass instead of transparisteel, silvered in the traditional manner, and framed in Davik's signature purple. Kashele caught a glimpse of her own face in the mirror. She saw the pale skin, the way her scattered hair covered her head like a cloak, the frantic eyes.
Carth was caught unprepared when she suddenly wailed and clawed for his blaster. Crippling exhaustion or not, she was still wickedly fast, and she had the blaster out of the holster before he could turn around. He barely had time to see where she was aiming, and he jumped in front of her, grabbing at the outstretched weapon.
The pistol discharged, a lance of red stabbing at the mirror right between the eyes of where her reflection had been a split second before. A spot the size of Carth's thumb was blackened on the glass, scorched and melted, but a tiny amount of energy reflected off and struck him in the back of the shoulder, burning a shallow spot. It was nothing near a crippling shot, but it made him gasp in pain.
He struggled to take the blaster from her, but one arm was busy clutching her to his body, and her insane strength was unbelievable. Finally he settled for stroking the power pack release with his thumb and catching it as it fell. She continued to struggle in his embrace, making a low pitched whine like an animal. Following some instinct, he flung the pack at the mirror. It shattered, littering the floor beneath it with shards. Almost immediately, she went limp in his arms, and he was easily able to pluck the blaster from her grasp. He tossed it to the other side of the room.
Jolee had come running at the sound of the shot, HK not far behind. "She'll be okay, it was just the mirror," Carth assured both of them. He picked Kashele up in his arms and carried her over to her bunk.
As he laid her on the bed, he could hear her voice softly, "Broken, broken, broken..."
"It's just a mirror, gorgeous, just a mirror."
"No... me... me..."
Jolee came forward and touched her gently on the brow. He frowned, concentrating, and her eyes drooped and closed, sending her into a sleep where Revan could not find her.
Finally the aged Jedi opened his eyes and lifted his hand away. He patted Carth's shoulder; at Carth's grimace, he raised an eyebrow, noting the circular burn mark. Carth felt soothing energies flow through him, and he didn't need to look to know that the blaster shot was nearly healed.
"Good job, son." He turned and left the room to let the others know, letting HK stay behind, the agitated droid stalking to a defensive position in the corner of the room.
Carth looked down at the sleeping woman, gently brushing a few black locks out of her face. She was relaxed, her pretty face no longer twisted with fear and desperation. She was supposed to be completely oblivious, but the pilot could swear that she sighed contentedly as he caressed her cheek with his hand.
He wished there was some way to relieve her of some of the pain she carried. They were headed to Korriban, to the nest of the beast itself, for the final map. It was a dark place, and the people there knew how to warp pain into hate. He didn't know if she'd remember any of this when she woke; he'd have to talk to her, and not run away this time. He had to convince her, to let him carry some of the burden, to let him take away some of the hurt.
He wished she would cry.