Many Ways to Fall
Summary: With four Star Maps down and one to go, Carth – with the help of Mission – comes to terms with his feelings for Revan
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters. At all.
Author's note: This story hasn't really been beta-ed, but I trust my own judgement enough to post it. If you spot any errors, please report them to me. Any other reviews are also welcome.
Also note this story can be read as slash, between Carth and a male light-side Revan. If that bugs you for any reason (and why it should I have no idea, but I've never posted in this fandom before and have no idea how this will be received) then simply don't read it. It isn't explicit, it's simply in the way you read it, but it's there. Again: male on male subtext below the line. You've been warned, and flames will be ignored as the babblings of the terminally stupid.
Dusk was falling across Anchorhead as Carth Onasi emerged from the cantina with Mission and Zaalbar in tow. Since fleeing Taris – how many standard months ago now? – Carth had grown to regard the young Twi'lek as the daughter he never had, although he made a point never to tell her that. He did, however, make a point of accompanying her whenever she ventured into the local cantinas, as she was wont to whenever – Carth braced himself as he thought the name – Revan decided to leave her with the ship. It was difficult making sure Mission was safe if Carth had to go with Revan, leaving the youngster behind, but truth be told this entire adventure had been rife with danger from the word go. Shabby cantinas in run down spaceports were the least of their worries.
That afternoon Mission had decided to go on a fact-finding expedition, to see what could be learned from the local populace. If he was honest with himself, Carth was glad for the distraction. The recent revelations had been preying on his mind, keeping him up at night and interfering with his mood. Killing Saul should have freed him, not condemned him to worse turmoil than ever before. The thought that he had been travelling with, and learning to trust, a Sith Lord all these months was proving difficult to digest, and Carth was thankful for Mission's light-hearted banter, and Zaalbar's pre-occupation with finding the best eating place in the whole settlement. Revan was still out on the Dune Sea with HK-47 and Juhani, hunting for the star map further away from Anchorhead than Carth was strictly happy about. He wasn't about to argue, though. Revan knew what he was doing, or so they all had to believe. If they didn't, they were careering around the galaxy on nothing but hope. Mission believed, and Zaalbar had little to say on the matter beyond his life-debt to Revan; Juhani and Canderous seemed awe-struck by the revelation, while Jolee and T3-M4 maintained indifference. HK-47 was always a rather troubling droid whose opinions mattered little to Carth, who seemed to be the only person on board taking their captain's un-masking like a slap in the face.
As for Revan himself … his attempts at gleaning information from Carth had gradually stopped since their escape from Malak on the Leviathan, and since landing on Tatooine he had paid very little attention to Carth whatsoever. Perhaps he deserved the cold shoulder, and perhaps he really had gone too far with his inability to trust this time, but somehow Carth doubted it. Revan did not seem the type to get annoyed with people easily, but then, from what Carth had seen of the man he didn't seem the type to master the dark side of the force and kill thousands of innocents. He didn't really know how to perceive his captain any more, and that more than anything was getting Carth down.
Mission's elbow in his ribs jerked Carth out of his sullen silence.
"Did you see that nerf herder's face when I caught him trying to pick my pocket?" she asked for the eighteenth time. "He thought I was just some dumb kid, but I showed him! I reckon his arm'll hurt for weeks."
Carth nodded. "You were certainly very violent in there," he assured her. "Definitely put the thought of messing with you out of everyone's minds."
"I'll say!" Mission enthused. Behind her, Zaalbar grunted enthusiastically. Apparently he had enjoyed the fun and games too, especially the part where he liberated someone's dinner while Mission was centre of attention. Carth forced a smile, but she wasn't buying it.
"What's up with you, old man? The suns getting to you?"
"No, I'm fine," Carth muttered. "Let's just get back to the 'Hawk and tell the others our fact-finding mission was about as fruitful as the rest of this desolate planet."
"Hey." Mission stopped in her tracks and blocked his path. "Come on, that was a good evening! I've needed to let my head-tails down for a while, and you can't say you weren't laughing when Big Z chased that cheating Pazaak dealer right out of the door." She frowned, regarding him with more intelligence than he would expect from any sentient her age. "What's bothering you, Carth?"
He opened his mouth to form some half-truth of a reply, but a shout from the right made all three turn. Revan was coming towards them at a run, Juhani right behind him, and they both looked excited about something.
"We found it," Revan announced, lowering his voice as a couple of sentients strolled past. "It was hidden in a cave. We had to kill a dragon to get to it."
"So that's it," Juhani added in her quiet tones. "The easy part of our journey is over, and all that's left to do is follow the trail to Malak."
To his surprise, Revan fell in beside Carth as they strolled back to the ship. Ahead of them Mission and Juhani exchanged accounts of the evening's adventures, and Zaalbar lagged behind, his intelligent eyes –not to mention his ears and nose – taking in everything.
"How are you doing?"
If Carth was surprised at the question he didn't show it. A small shrug was his failed attempt at indifference either way, but Revan was too sharp for that.
"I know we haven't spoken much lately, but I still value your presence with us. And I'm still concerned about your wellbeing. That counts for whoever I am and whatever my name is."
"You really don't remember being Revan, huh?" asked Carth.
"A few snatches of unimportant things. No more than I remember about being a baby."
"Uh-hu." Carth walked in silence for a moment. "Revan was a master tactician," he said after a while. "What if this is some big scheme. What if me and all the others are part of your master plan?"
Revan smiled. "Come on, Carth. If you really believed that you wouldn't be saying it to me."
"My point is, how am I supposed to …? No, forget it."
"I said forget it."
Revan stopped in his tracks. When Mission and Juhani peered curiously at them, he waved them on. Zaalbar trailed after them as they reluctantly headed back to the Ebon Hawk, obviously curious to know what was going on. After a moment, Revan turned on his heel and started strolling down a side-street, and Carth could do nothing but follow.
"We've got an issue here," said Revan over his shoulder.
"Look, I don't want to be a nuisance." Carth cursed himself for lagging behind, and picked up his pace until he was level with Revan. The Jedi amused himself by staying one step ahead, enjoying the expression on Carth's face.
"You're not a nuisance, but you are a concern. I need your utter faith in me, Carth."
"And a week ago you would have had it. You earned it. But this … this is going to take some getting used to … Revan."
"For me as well."
Carth conceded this point with a nod. "I appreciate that. I do. But I've confided in you enough that you must realise how difficult this is for me. I've lost enough over the years, and I can't easily trust anyone. Once I do, should anything happen to shake that trust …"
"You still think I'd turn on you? Return to the dark side? Betray the Jedi?" Revan kept his tone light, conversational, and his stance nonchalant. The streets were emptying, but they still had company. The Jedi was no fool, and knew the right inflections to use and the right swing to put in his step so that passers by would take them for nothing more than Anchorhead citizens heading to a cantina or home from work. Carth found himself thoughtlessly falling into step with Revan, as if walking down the road with the most infamous man in the galaxy was an entirely natural and sensible thing to be doing. He had to admit, while his logic brought him time and again to the conclusion that Revan was still the enemy, his gut told him otherwise.
"I don't know," he admitted. "From what I've seen … If I can truly believe that the Jedi have the power to change a person's identity, I'd have to say they've been successful with you. What I doubt is whether the Sith Lord is truly gone, and the only identity in there is the one you've demonstrated since we landed on Taris. Mission is happy to accept that you've completely changed. I've seen enough to know what change isn't permanent."
"What can I do to show you otherwise?"
"I don't know if there is anything you can do. This is another hurdle I have to get over myself."
Revan walked along in silence for a while. Carth no longer knew where they were, but Revan's sense of direction was unnervingly accurate. A broody silence had fallen over the Jedi, and Carth struggled to find words to fill the still night air. Before he could think of anything to say, Revan laughed a short, low chuckle.
"It's ironic, really," he murmured. "Our companions … Some I trust, some I respect, and some I am fond of. A couple have earned two of these things. You're the only one with three out of three, and you do not offer any of the three back to me…"
The walk back to the ship was uncomfortable for Carth, who had a lot to digest. Not only did Revan trust him, but he respected him too. Carth's deep-seated paranoia kept trying to suggest Revan had said those things on purpose, to soften Carth and weaken his resolve, but that didn't feel right. Revan had walked with his back to Carth several times on the way home, Carth was armed with a blaster at each hip, and while the chances of a republic soldier defeating the ex-Lord of the Sith were slim, that was still a lot of faith Revan was putting in his ability to deflect blaster bolts from behind. The only other option was that Revan really did trust Carth to come to the conclusion that there should be no enmity between them. It was also true that Revan seemed calmer and more at peace with himself than ever, a trait not common amongst those inclined towards the dark side.
The Ebon Hawk was full of activity when they got back. Mission was talking animatedly to anyone who would listen, and had somehow got Canderous into conversation. T3 was making a fuss about something but fell silent when Revan patted him, and everyone else seemed generally enthused now that the end of the quest was in sight. Even the numerous Gizka plaguing the ship were chirpier than usual, so that only Carth felt tired and introspective. Revan touched his shoulder briefly as they reached the main hold, then left his side to sit next to Jolee and pester the old man for stories. There was food and drink on offer, and once Mission found something she deemed fashionable enough there was music too. Carth didn't even attempt to join in, and skulked off to the cockpit to mull things over some more.
He didn't get much time to himself, however. Mission opened the door barely moments after Carth sat down, and her curious face peered round.
"Mind if I come in?"
"Not my ship," said Carth.
Mission settled into a chair opposite him, folded her legs up and squirmed until she was comfortable. Carth watched silently.
"Look, I know you probably don't want me around, but I'm worried about you. You've been acting odd. I know the whole Revan thing is a lot to deal with, but you're taking it a lot harder than the rest of us."
Carth didn't have to consider his options for long. There was no way he could tell Mission to butt-out of his business, and he knew he would feel a little better if he just spoke to someone. Mission raised an eyebrow at him, and he sighed.
"The last person I trusted – really trusted – betrayed me, Mission. That's not easy to recover from. And then, the moment I started allowing myself to trust our leader in the same way … This happens, and now I can't be sure who he really is."
"Who saved your butt from Kath hounds on Dantooine?" said Mission suddenly.
"And who exposed the Sith on Manaan? And who saved your son? Because that's the only Revan I know."
Carth sighed. "That's because you didn't see the destruction he caused in the war."
"But have you really opened your eyes and looked at him lately? Because there's no way that's the same guy. Trust me."
Mission unfolded herself from the chair and headed towards the door. She glanced back at him and paused for a moment.
"He looks at you, though," she added. "All the time. He relies on you, he has faith in you, and I'm pretty sure he plain old likes you."
"Right," said Carth quietly.
Tatooine was perfectly still and silent at night, and even Anchorhead managed something resembling peace. Carth lounged on an old crate in the docking bay and stared up at the stars, knowing as he did so that billions of others had stared up at them before him. He could name a lot of them from here, had visited planets in the systems of a fair few, and knew that he still had the option of quitting this mission and catching the next shuttle bound for any of them.
Except that he couldn't. Not really.
The Ebon Hawk's hatch opened and a dark figure descended the landing platform. The head turned as the figure glanced about, then bright eyes settled on Carth.
"There you are. We were getting worried."
Revan strode across the compound, alert and serene as always. He perched on a crate beside Carth and gave his friend a questioning look. "Why all the hiding? Was it something I said?"
Carth shook his head. "I just needed some fresh air, that's all."
Revan smiled. "Jedi, remember? Lying to me is a pointless exercise."
"Okay. Well perhaps I wanted some time alone."
Revan cocked his head. "Not entirely true either."
Silence fell again for a few moments. Carth shut his eyes and inhaled sharply, and Revan leaned back, relaxing as much as he could in the dusty docking bay.
"Maybe …" Carth began. "Maybe one of the reasons I took your new identity so badly was …"
"You were wrong, okay? This afternoon, when you said I don't respect you; because I do and I always did. Right from the moment you got on that clapped-out old swoop bike to save Bastilla."
"Well," said Revan dryly. "I suppose one out of three isn't bad."
"Don't get like that. I've been learning to trust you and … well that hasn't been completely shaken. Just give me time."
"A commodity we're rapidly running out of, but for you -"
"And … for what it's worth, I know you wouldn't betray us. You've put too much into this to bail out now. And I don't think you'd fall, either. You're too strong for that."
Revan put his feet up on the crate and leaned his shoulder against Carth. He, too gazed up at the stars above them. "There's more than one way to fall," he murmured. "As, I think, we both know."
Carth glanced at the lounging Jedi for the briefest of moments, then shut his eyes again. He had been trying to fight this for a long time now, and since the Leviathan he'd redoubled his efforts. But it was no use fighting Revan. Revan did not lose, no matter what the battleground.
"So that's one and a half out of three," said Revan quietly. With his own eyes closed he could feel Carth's heartbeat, a steady pressure against his shoulder. The force could amplify things, make things clearer than normal, and he tried to share that feeling with Carth. There was no sign that the non-Jedi picked up the slight force-pressure Revan pushed against him, but he did, finally, allow himself to smile.
"I saw that," said Revan, eyes still closed.
Carth turned his head slightly to catch the scent of his companion in the night air. What Mission had said was true. He hadn't really looked at Revan at all, had almost been avoiding doing so, even when he had no clue who Revan was. But it was also true that he didn't need to look at him at all. Carth knew nothing of the force that he hadn't learned since first encountering Bastila on the Endar Spire, but he didn't need it to understand his captain. His friend.
"So we're going to work together again? No more bickering, no more doubts?"
Carth nodded. "You've got it, partner."
There was silence for a moment, then Revan plucked up more courage than he'd ever needed before. "…Two and a half out of three?"
Carth consented by brushing the back of his hand against Revan's cheek.
They sat there, unmoving, talking quietly until dawn. Neither wanted or needed sleep, and neither considered leaving. As the twin suns began to rise and a fresh Tatooine day began, the man who had once ruled the Sith and the man who would one day lead the Republic's forces sat shoulder-to-shoulder, hip-to-hip, and waited for their destinies to come to them.