In the Twilight Kingdom
Notes: Carth's PoV shortly after Revan leaves known space. This story has slash elements. Please review with your opinions and any constructive criticism. It is also worth noting that the title of this story comes from T.S. Elliot's poem "The Hollow Men".
Disclaimer: I do not own anything to do with Star Wars.
That year was probably the worst of my life, and what made it more agonising was that I couldn't make him understand. He knew war, but underneath it all he was still a Jedi, and he had some agenda of his own, some purpose to his existence. My only purpose was him, when he was with me, and that wasn't often enough. Not nearly often enough.
I'd fought two wars simultaneously. Start to finish. Ten years of my life dedicated to conflict, to an urge – no, not an urge any more than it is an urge to breathe – to a compulsion to protect the Republic. The innocent. A way of life – an ideal. At first I fought to protect my home and family, but after that… After Telos burned I replaced that battle with a fight for revenge. There was always something driving me from the inside. The hatred of the Mandalorians and their selfish warmongering burned within me alongside the fear of being conquered, the fear of loss.
The thing people fear the most, even those who don't realise it or would deny it vehemently, is change. We fought against that change, to protect our homes from Mandalorian dominance, for the right to live the way we chose to. That's why it hit us so hard when the Jedi turned on us. We were used to them as protectors, guides, saviours. You won't know despair until the person your cause – your life – depends on turns round and holds a blaster to your throat. Or in this case, a lightsaber. That stunned us, wounded us – turned some of us into the evil we despised, the brutal conquering destructive force we had only just repelled. In the same instant I lost my home, my world, my family, my faith… I didn't think anything could be worse than that. Nothing should be worse.
But that year… the change there was more dramatic. We went from one war to another seamlessly. We'd fought off the Mandalorians and damned if the Sith were going to stop us. We fought with everything we had, with stones and teeth and nails when we had to. But we fought. I can remember one battle – not the name though – trenched in behind some fallen trees, my squad assigned to some last hope mission on a Mandalorian occupied world. We knew all about Mandalorians, about their honour and glory, and we knew they could never win if all they fought for was honour. We fought for our lives. For our children's lives. But that battle… We were spent, and they were spent. We'd bombarded them again and again, but they gave no ground until my command was the only squad left in that sector of the planet, and the last of the Mandalorians were advancing. We had no ammunition, and we damn sure knew they didn't either. They were fist fighters, though, and they expected us to roll over and die. But we leapt out of that trench and we fought them. We could have surrendered. Retreated. But although we didn't realise it consciously, we all knew how war works. How much better it is to die in battle alongside your beliefs, your mercy, your restraint, than to linger on without them.
We took that planet, for what it was worth. I don't even remember its name.
If it had ended after Malachor V, then maybe things would be different. For me, I mean. If I quit and went home – which in itself isn't possible. Home isn't a place any more, it's a moment in time, long ago and far away. But If I left, if I found somewhere to call home like a lonely captain giving his ship a woman's name, then perhaps I could have made it work. I might be a normal person again.
I don't have to tell you about the Sith. Everyone knows – or thinks they know, and in most cases that's good enough. No one blamed Revan, that was the strangest thing. When he vanished, we found a hatred for Malak that we never felt for Revan. Revan was our saviour. Whatever else he was, he stopped the Mandalorians. We could all sense something beneath the surface of his betrayal, some truth he was keeping from us, even as we fought against him, cursed his cause, lost to him time and time and time again…
No, I could never hate Revan. Not even when I loved him, and force knows love paves a far easier path for hatred than the one it carves for itself. I hated Saul Karath, I hated Malak, and I hated the Sith. Revan was different from all of them – those that followed him. He was less like them than anyone knew.
How I came to love him is something of a mystery to both of us. I loved the soldier before I met the Jedi or the phantom behind the mask, somewhere beneath the squabbling and mistrust. The Jedi say shared trauma creates a bond, and perhaps that's true. I pulled him out of that escape pod. Maybe that was enough, or maybe – he speculated on a golden Coruscant evening – destiny had some hand in it, had bound us before we knew what we were tied to. I had no choice, he said, but to love him. I was already committed. Already entangled – entanglement being the true nature of a force bond.
I doubted whether the force had any place in our relationship, since I had never felt it, and he reminded me of the adrenaline fuelled battle rush, of the sight of my newborn son, of waking up the day after a storm and seeing the sun shining again, all new and polished. That, he said, was the force. Then he kissed me on the throat as he pushed his fingers through my hair, and that was the force. And we drank wine made from water that had been frozen under the ice caps of a distant moon for millions of years, and we eavesdropped on the opera we were supposed to be attending in the building across from our hotel, and we made love on the balcony, in the starlight and the city smells. And that was the force. He showed me I didn't have to be able to manipulate it to be able to feel it. And he showed me how inextricably entwined I was with him.
It was the worst year of my life, but he made it… not bearable. Never bearable. But somehow worth it. If I could just have him one more time, spend one more moment with him, each second we spent apart was justified. I have never loved anyone the way I loved him, and I wished that I could wish I gave that kind of physical devotion to my wife – not just sex, but a bodily compulsion to love, to follow, to lead, to commit. But I couldn't even think it, never mind wish it. Revan found a part of me that no man or woman ever unearthed before, and I think it was the same part that drove me in battle. The part that wanted to kill to stay alive and – towards the end – to feel alive. I wanted Revan in me, on me, around me because he invigorated me. Justified me. Gave me something to dedicate myself to, to fight for – and with – to believe in.
Without him, there was nothing else.
You've seen them, because they're everywhere, those waifs, those ghosts that call themselves veterans. They wander from world to world, no longer calling themselves Mandalorian or Republic or Sith or Jedi. They are only veterans, war leftovers – not survivors, because no one survives war. Not entirely. Your body might get out alive, and if you're lucky you might have some sanity left intact, but a bit of you dies with every man you kill and you never get to find out how many bits you started out with, so that you kill until you die and you die because you killed.
I'm not a mercenary, I'm an officer. I have a salary and a home and my own command ship. Take them away and I'd be the same man. Give them to a veteran begging for money on Nar Shaddar and he wouldn't be able to change either.
The point is… you learn to fight a war, and then you learn to live with war. It's not a reversible process. There's no learning to live without it. My life became empty after the civil war ended. Nothing left to fight for, to die for, to kill for, nothing left except Revan.
And the thing with relying utterly on someone is that if they do not rely on you in equal measure, you will get hurt. He left me alone for long periods as his memories returned to him, when he visited places he had been to or people who had known him. He never took me with him, even when I begged. Especially because I begged. He wouldn't let me meet the Revan he had once been, but he needed to know that man himself, so I was left alone with inspections to do and reports to read and training to supervise. And an empty flat, and a cold bed, and a deep, desperate dread that Revan would look too deeply into himself and rediscover the heart of his darkness. But mostly I was left with myself, my own detachment, and a gnawing, aching, dizzying futility. Without war, and without Revan, I didn't know what I was.
We argued the day before he left. That's somewhat of an understatement – we fought. He lost his temper for the first time since I knew him. I broke things because I wanted to hit him but I couldn't bring myself to do it. He ended up with tears streaming down his cheeks, and he slammed the door as he left. I can't even remember what we were fighting over now, and I doubt that it mattered then. We both had things that made us want to scream, and we were each the only person the other could trust with our emotions. But like I said, he had his own agenda.
I saw him again, once, briefly. He charged me with keeping the Republic safe, and then we kissed with the same intensity with which we fought. And then he was gone into the void, leaving me on my own again, but not quite so alone. I found myself with a purpose, a cause once more. He didn't want me to follow him, made it clear, made it almost impossible. Almost impossible. He could have eradicated the 'almost' if he wanted, but he left me clues, hints, tantalising traces to follow or ignore at whim.
I worry about him. Night and day the thought of him consumes me, and I imagine him finding himself on distant world, discarding his Jedi robes and walking once more as a Sith. It's in him, somewhere, no matter how hard I pretend that it isn't. Jedi aren't gods, they're just people with the same chemistry in them as anyone else, the same hormones and triggers and lusts. Between the emotion and the response falls the shadow. The trick to surviving is knowing where to shine the light, and where to shut your eyes.
One day I'll find him, I think. That's how it has to go, because of destiny and quantum – and because of love. I just have to hope that when we do meet again, he's still the him I knew – and I am still the same me.