In Retrospect

Author's Note: am not completely happy with this. I could have written it a million times better, but now it's done I'm not convinced it's worth it. Tell me what you think.

Also – it says it in the summary, but you can never be too careful on this site. The following story is slash. Yes, that's mansex. Only read it if you're okay with this.

There were two betrayals after Malachor which Carth Onasi took personally; the one he would remember for years to come, and the one he would maliciously and thoroughly forget.

I was the one he would forget.

I guess my first mistake was assuming he wouldn't care. After all, we'd only been 'up to no good' as dear old ma would have said for – what? – a year? More? It wasn't uncommon for soldiers on such a long-term military stint to get up close and personal with each other, to put thoughts of those left at home out of their heads and take comfort wherever it was offered. The fact that we'd been taking comfort for so long never triggered any kind of suspicion that we had come to mean more to each other than twenty minutes of fumbling in the dark whenever we had the chance, but I guess I should have realised that before I decided to jump ship and become the enemy instead.

In my mind, what I did was logical. In Carth's mind, so was what he did. I was through with the Republic, and he was through with Revan, and no amount of fumbling or meaning more to each other would change that.

My second mistake … well I won't make that one again. Never tell your lover that not only are you leaving them, but also running off and joining their sworn enemy when you're in the middle of having sex. I mean it. Just … don't. But I've never been very good at picking the right time to tell people stuff, and at the time. . .well it didn't seem like such a bad plan. After all, he was relaxed, there was no one else around, and his blaster had been abandoned somewhere along the way with our clothing. The fact that he also had me completely at a disadvantage didn't occur to me until it was too late.

I could also have chosen my words better. There are ways of saying these things, after all, and since then I've thought up a great many ways I could have broken it to him gently. There's "Carth … we need to talk," or "How much does this mean to you, exactly?" Or even "Carth, love? Make this a good one because I'm hopping on the next shuttle to Sith City and we won't see each other again, at least not unless we end up trying to kill each other in battle" would have been better. And I swear, I didn't mean to be so hard on him. It just happened this way, and by the time I realised I shouldn't have said it, it was too late.

We were in his room. We were always in his room, because only the damn officers got their own quarters, and I've never been much of a one for illicit intimacy with my superior officer in front of other soldiers. Technically we were on leave while we shipped back to base after the Mandalorian War finally ended, but things had been hectic and we hadn't seen much of each other. It had given me time to think. I felt bad, of course I did, but like I said, I didn't think he'd give a crap. So many soldiers had sworn allegiance to Revan over the Republic, and I hadn't realised how much I meant to him … or how much he meant to me. But I guess I should stop spouting excuses. It's not like I can change anything.

He had me pressed against the bed, my legs wrapped round his waist, our tongues inextricably entwined, and various other body parts pressed desperately together. It was the conclusion of the same old dance. We'd meet in the cantina, have a few drinks, socialise with the other guys for a while. Sometimes we couldn't avoid being cajoled into a few games of Pazaak, and sometimes Carth would be left to glare at me all evening as I tried to win back a month's pay, or if I was on a lucky streak, or … well, a man's allowed more than one vice, isn't he? And sometimes the drink flowed a little too much, and sometimes … I've never been a one-woman kind of guy, and I saw no reason to be a one-man kind of guy either.

He tolerated my imperfections in much the same way as I tolerated his perfection. I reckon it was a case of the age-old opposites attract scenario, because seriously, that guy was a stud. I mean, I'm not bad looking, but I've been known to skip showers, drink meals, and skive from work in favour of a juicy card game. Carth was one of the good guys. A real charmer. Did stuff to his hair … I dunno. He's the guy parents want their daughters to bring home. I'm the guy they get instead, disapprove of, and cut from the will. Story of my life, really.

That night was one of those turning points in your life you never really identify until a long time after. There I was, coming home from a victorious war, making love to this amazing guy, when he starts talking about the future. While he's fucking me. Incredible! I've never been one for talking while doing it, but he had this notion that it made things more intimate. He had a real romantic streak going on there. But the future … I hadn't even got my head round the present. Heck, the past was still giving me trouble. I knew he was married, doted on his wife, hated the thought of betraying her, but that's war. You live for the moment because there might not be any more moments later on. Now we were on our way home, he wanted to know what my plans were, and that was it; I freaked out.

"I'm shipping out," I murmured, suddenly intent on prying myself out from under him. "By the end of the week … Got to .. uh, got places to be."

He quit his persistent kissing of my collar bone. I wasn't sure whether or not I was grateful for that. "Shipping out?"

"A lot of us are. You know how it is…" I was going to fashion some lie or another, but gave up before I even began. He was staring straight through me, right into my inner thoughts. Jedi train for years until they can see through a lie like Carth could.

"You're going with Revan?" he growled.

We'd already talked about it, to an extent. I said as much. He looked about ready to kill me.

"We discussed political views, Atton! You never said anything about betraying the Republic – betraying me!"

And there it was. The moment I should have realised I wasn't walking away from a casual fuck, but rather a guy willing to rethink his future for me. The kind of guy who'd look out for me if I needed it, back off if I didn't, and put up with my stupid little ways. I'd never met anyone willing to stick around before, so maybe that's why his remark slipped under the radar at the time. If I'd detected it, maybe I'd have rethought my decision. Maybe not. But at least I'd have had the chance to get out of there rather than faffing around trying to come up with some excuse for myself. I was so startled by his reaction that I couldn't form coherent sentences, never mind wrangle my way out of trouble.

I managed to get my shirt over my shoulders before he slammed me against the wall, holding me there with one muscular arm. I struggled, but it wasn't worth it. The wall had knocked the wind out of me, and besides, it'd be like struggling against gravity – more than a little futile when you're on your own and naked.

"This is not how it ends!" he snarled.

"Look, it's been great and all, but … you're kind of crushing me…"

He let me drop for a second and turned away. I considered my chances of kicking his legs out from under him and making a run for it. I'm a gambling man, but those odds were a little too much for me, and besides, I was kind of curious to see what he'd do next.

"So that makes you Sith," he said quietly. "That makes you the enemy."

"Well I dunno. It's all relative, isn't it?"

"I'm obliged to shoot you down on sight."

I found my escape route. "Well yeah. Maybe. But then you'd have to prove I was Sith, and that's a tougher job than you'd think. And then you'd have to explain why there's a dead naked Sith in your quarters. So I reckon you won't be killing me today."

He turned suddenly and pushed me against the wall again, this time with his entire body. I inhaled sharply, incapable of forgetting why I fell for the guy in the first place, even over the fear which suddenly gripped me. I kissed him, partially out of instinct, partially because I hoped it would distract him from his intentions of killing me, and he fell into the kiss like nothing had just happened.

It would probably impress you if I said I didn't let him fuck me. If I had stuck to the truth and walked away right then. We weren't compatible, and no force in the universe could have made one of us give up our convictions for the other. The right thing to do would have been denying him that false hope, but since when have I ever done the right thing when there's something to be gained from the wrong thing? There's a kind of love that exists between people who hate each other, and that was the kind we made that night. It wasn't fun, and he damn well made sure it hurt, but, well … in a way it was necessary. Occasionally I look back on it and remember everything I threw away, but more often than not I find myself thinking about all the times before that, when we lay together in silence and I could have said something, anything, to let him – to let myself – know how I felt.

But that's the thing about feelings. You never really know what they are until after they would have been useful. And most of the time life's better without them anyway. He knew that; he forgot me. I never learn my lesson, and, I think, I will always remember him.