How Long Will You Wait?
----------------------Coruscant, The Skysitter Restaurant, Winter Fete (Yuletime)
"It's beautiful," Brianna said, touching her fingers to the sapphire necklace Arik had clasped around her neck. She touched the cool blue stones that lay against her throat and turned her silvery eyes to his. "I hate it."
Arik frowned. "Don't say that. I just thought—"
"You thought that buying me an expensive necklace would somehow make it easier for me when you left," Brianna cut in softly. "Perhaps you thought that its beauty would distract me from the days, weeks, or years of your absence? Or that you might assuage your own guilt with such a trinket? I won't be bribed, Arik. Is that why you bought it for me?"
The young man sighed. "I bought it for you because I thought you might like it."
"Well, I don't," Brianna whispered. "Stay."
"I can't. Revan needs me. I have to go."
Arik nodded. "There's no better time."
He smiled and filled his palm with her cheek. "I'll come back."
Brianna held the hand that held her face. "You can't promise that."
"Maybe not, but I will anyway," Arik said, and took her other cheek in his hand. He leaned over their small table and kissed her forehead, each eyelid, the tip of her nose, and then, very softly, her lips. He pulled back and looked at her, wiping a tear from her cheek with his thumb. "I'll come back, Brianna. I swear to you, I will."
The Last of the Handmaidens could only nod as the Exile quickly stood and walked away, wending his way between the restaurant's lounge tables, and out into the icy night.
Carth Onasi watched the pair from across the restaurant's lounge. He couldn't help it; a morbid fascination kept his eyes locked on them, helpless to look away. He's leaving her, the Admiral thought, and took a sip of his cocktail without tasting it. He's leaving her to find Revan. He set his drink down and politely, but firmly, extricated himself from the group of officials who always seemed to turn up at every ceremony. He suddenly wasn't in the mood to celebrate anymore.
As he neared the woman Arik Endac had left—Brianna, Carth remembered her name was—the Admiral noticed she was sitting in her chair, ramrod straight, as though she wanted badly to stand but could not. Her face was composed but her eyes darted here and there, as though she were looking for an escape. As he passed her table, she made her attempt and instantly stumbled. Carth caught her easily, gripping her arm to steady her.
Brianna looked at him with wide, staring eyes. "Please," she breathed. "Not here…not in front of all these people…"
Carth nodded. Instantly, he smiled warmly and changed his grip to one that, had anyone been watching, would only appear as a gentleman offering a lady his arm, and not of a man assisting a woman on the verge of collapse. "What can I do?" he asked in a low voice.
"Air," Brianna replied. "If I just had some fresh air, I would be fine."
Carth doubted that. He'd had an entire planet's atmosphere to suck down after Revan left and so far, he mused silently, it hadn't done him one bit of good. But her eyes were mutely begging him to help her out of the public eye. She had her pride. Carth liked that.
The Admiral glanced down at the silvery slip of a dress she wore. "You have a coat?"
Brianna nodded, clutching the red material of his dress uniform sleeve without looking like she was. "I—I have a ticket…" A shaking hand fumbled at the clasp on her purse, to no avail.
With an appropriate, diplomatic-looking smile on his face, Carth guided her through the restaurant lounge to the coatroom. The clerk in that little booth was clever; he retrieved Brianna's gray longcoat by memory and did not hassle the Admiral over the ticket. The turbo-lift ride to the street was silent and heavy, and when the doors opened, Brianna released her surprisingly strong grip on Carth's arm and hurried to a bench in the restaurant's courtyard.
Carth gave her some time. He watched her sit on the cold durasteel bench, hugging herself in an embrace that was part from the cold, part grief. She rocked back and forth, taking in large draughts of air. When he thought she had gathered herself enough that his presence wouldn't embarrass her, he approached.
"Are you all right?" he asked, the question sounding trite and silly in his own ears. "I mean, should I call you a cab?"
"No, thank you. You've been kind enough," she said softly.
The Admiral smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring manner instead of a pitying one. "I can do better. Please," he added. "It's too cold out here. Which hotel are you in?"
Brianna didn't reply but turned her head quickly away as the tears came in earnest.
"Why would he go in the middle of the party?" she asked, and he could hear her struggling to keep her voice even. "Why now? With dancing and all the Yule lights shining…?"
"Easier to slip out when everyone is occupied than later. Fewer questions to have to answer."
"Is that how she left you?"
Carth flinched as though stung, but before he could snap off an angry retort, Brianna turned and looked up at him—silvery tears streaming down her cheeks that were pink from the cold.
"I should not have asked that. I shame the memory of my mother with such a question. Please forgive me."
Carth hesitated then sat down on the bench beside her. "Revan left in the middle of the night." He smiled ruefully. "To avoid my questions. You're lucky he told you face to face."
"I don't feel lucky," Brianna whispered. "How long will it be?" She raised her eyes to meet his. "How long has it been for you?"
"Nearly three years." He glanced down at her. "It will take as long as it will take. I don't have much more to say beyond that but I can tell you this much: don't start counting the days. You'll just make yourself sick."
Brianna nodded and looked around at the darkening courtyard. Carth followed her gaze to where two figures—Atton and Mira—were locked in a passionate embrace, oblivious to everything and everyone around them.
"Do you…" Brianna swallowed hard and tried again. "Do you think you could help me back to my hotel? I'd like to go home now."
Carth nodded. "Sure thing."
He called her a cab but when it sped to the curb, she hesitated, as though she didn't know what to do with it. Carth opened the door for her and then climbed in beside her.
"Thank you," she said. "I am unused to feeling so…" she cleared her throat, "unsettled."
Carth only nodded. Get used to it.
Brianna watched as the last of the holocrons from the Secret Academy were loaded aboard the freighter. "Dantooine" was coded into the panels and the Jedi couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief as the ramp was raised. Master Marr can do what she pleases with them. I wash my hands of this place.
Brianna pressed her thumb into the signature box on the manifest and the pilot grunted his approval, his breath pluming before him in the cold, snowy air.
"Does this mean we can leave now?" asked Ulla, her tone more than a little whiny. She hunched deeper into her Padawan robes and shuffled from foot to foot.
Brianna nodded. "Gather the rest of the team. Tell them to make sure the Academy is secure and then rendezvous at the Opal Sky in ten minutes."
Precisely ten minutes later, Brianna took her seat among her chattering group of Padawans, and strapped herself in. They were young and impetuous but dedicated and hard-working when required. Between the eight of them, they had cleaned out the Secret Academy of all traces of Atris' corruption, leaving it ready for whatever Visas had planned for it. She glanced out of a viewport and watched the white dome grow smaller and smaller until it was lost in the greater white of the polar plains.
A part of me is there, locked up in the empty halls where I hadn't been Brianna, but had been the Last of the Handmaidens. I was only Brianna when Arik came. I was waiting for him then, even if I didn't know it. And now I wait again. Brianna sighed. I've come so far, only to realize I have traveled not at all.
The blaring sound of the holonews being turned on pulled Brianna from her thoughts.
"Look! It's Admiral Onasi!" squealed one of the girls. Brianna turned her head sharply. "He's a choice item," the girl cooed.
Another girl snorted. "He's old. He's what? Like, fifty?"
"He's forty-three," said Brianna softly, surprising the girls into silence. "Turn it up, will you please, Viona?"
The girl obeyed and the holonews anchor reported that Admiral Onasi would be returning to Coruscant this week after a long stay on Telos where he is overseeing the Restoration Project. The data was accompanied by images of the admiral boarding his starship. He smiled patiently into the camera, but Brianna could see the tired ache behind his eyes. The ache of waiting, she thought.
The news anchor droid finished its piece on Carth. "Shut that off, please," Brianna instructed. The girls, with barely concealed ire obeyed and the group prepared themselves for their journey to Coruscant. Brianna settled herself in her own seat and turned her eyes to the streaking light of a thousand stars streaming past her viewport, and wondered where Arik was among them.
Two days later, Carth Onasi came to the Temple on Coruscant as part of an official call to go over some security issues with Visas Marr. Brianna felt the admiral's presence in the enclave before she saw him. I know him easily through the Force, she thought, and berated herself for the soft, fleeting comfort the thought gave her. She berated herself again when she found that she was idling in the hallway outside the chamber where Carth, Visas, and several other Republic officials were meeting.
Here I am, loitering like an overeager Padawan, she thought and slipped away before the door could open. I will be strong and not burden him with my troubles. She went to the Arboretum and sat in the dusky twilight on a bench beside her favorite fountain to clear her mind.
As she watched the dying light of the day touch the droplets, turning them into little sparks, she found the old grief over Arik was swelling in her anew. She never could seem to grow used to it, she mused. Its sharpness would subside for a while but then roar to the fore again, and when it did, it was just as sharp and biting as it had been the night Arik left.
"Force help me be strong," she murmured.
"And patient," came a soft voice of the gathering dark of the fading afternoon. "Don't forget patient."
Brianna eased a sigh of relief. I don't care if it is unseemly, I'm so glad, she thought, and stood up to greet the Admiral.
"It's good to see you again," she said, rising from her bow.
"You too," Carth said. "I didn't mean to interrupt you—"
"No, it's all right," Brianna said. "I wasn't doing anything that I couldn't be interrupted from."
"Praying for strength? Sounds kind of important."
"Perhaps. I'd rather talk with you. Will you walk with me?"
"Of course." He held out her arm and she took it, and they strolled through the Arboretum.
The night was falling quickly and the little forest was thick with the chirping sounds of insects and the rushing water of the various fountains and streams. For a bit, they spoke of Jedi matters and Republic matters, and all manner of polite niceties until their jaws were stiff from it. Neither felt satisfied, and it was the young woman who spoke first.
"I realize I hardly know you," Brianna said, "but our shared…dilemma, I suppose you could say, has drawn me toward you." She turned to look at him as they walked. "I hope you don't mind my saying that, but I'm glad you're here on Coruscant."
A smile flickered at the corner of Carth's mouth. "No, I don't mind you saying that," he said with obvious relief. "I feel the same way. You get it. Not many others do, and I sure as hell am not going to go around crying in my juma."
"No, but it is good to talk of things that trouble us," Brianna said.
There was a silence and then Carth said, "I miss her."
"I know," Brianna replied. "I can see it in your eyes. And what about me?" She stopped and faced him. "Can you read my face and see that I am pining for someone?"
Carth smirked. "Is that what we are doing? Pining?"
Brianna thought for a moment. "I think so," she said, and they continued walking. "I don't like it. I don't like the feeling that there is a part of myself that is not my own. It is tied up in him—in missing him, in worrying about him, and wondering when and if he's going to come home. And I cannot get that part of myself back until he comes home." She shook her head of short, silvery hair. "It is not right."
Carth nodded as they passed a small fountain shaped like a star, and a blooming moon iris that filled the air with a sweet, pungent aroma. "Yeah. That just about sums it up."
"It is unpleasant."
"To say the least. For me, I hate feeling like…"
"Like half a man. It's a pride thing," Carth added dryly.
"But that is exactly right. I feel like I am half a woman," Brianna said, and then straightened her shoulders. "And now I've changed my mind, and I don't want to talk about them anymore."
"Fine by me," Carth said. "What do you want to talk about?"
Brianna frowned. "I'm not sure. Life. The universe. Everything."
Carth chuckled and laid his hand over the small one that was tucked in his arm. "Oh, is that all? How much time you got?"
Brianna smiled but it quickly faded. "Have you ever thought…?"
"Have you ever thought of starting over? Of…giving up on her?" This last was like a whisper on the wind, and the last of the afternoon sunlight disappeared, leaving them in moonlit shafts of silver and long shadows of black.
Carth frowned. "I thought we were done talking about them."
"We are. Now we're talking about us."
Carth sighed and released her hand. "No," he said. "To answer your question. No."
"Never?" Brianna asked. She sat down on an elegant bench carved with twisting vines. "I don't mean to imply I condone…betrayal. I just don't know how long I can continue like this. Alone, and with a part of myself a stowaway on his ship, wherever he is, light-years away." Brianna cast her eyes to the ground. "I don't want to love anyone else but—Force forgive me—sometimes I feel it's too hard to love him." She shook her head. "I shame the honor of my father with such weakness but…" She glanced up at Carth who was standing with his hands in his pockets and watching the moon come out from behind a wispy cloud. "Do you feel the same?"
"Sometimes," Carth said, "but to betray her…" He ran a hand through his hair, and turned to Brianna. "I read you loud and clear, no kidding, I do. But…"
"You have many unsaid thoughts now," Brianna commented.
Carth gave a short laugh. "And you are very direct." He sat down on the bench beside her. After a moment, he said, "I had a wife before, and she died."
"I'm so sorry to hear that."
"So was I. It was in the war—the Mandalorian war," he said. "You were probably too young to remember."
"I wasn't that young," Brianna puffed.
"Well, it seems like a long time ago, and to this day, the things that grieve me the most are all the things I told her I would do but didn't. She died and took all those un-kept promises with her and there's not a damn thing I can do to change that." He sighed and looked at Brianna, and she could see his rich brown eyes taking her in. "You are very beautiful. Incredibly so. And especially now, with the moonlight touching your eyes like it is." He laid his finger tips to her cheek. "You look like an angel. But I promised Revan I would keep the galaxy safe for her and I promised that I would wait." He dropped his hand. "I want to keep them both."
"I wish I had made a promise to Arik," Brianna said, her eyes full. "But I didn't, and now I feel so…untethered. As though I am just hurtling about through space, hoping to crash into someone else." She blushed. "Someone like you."
"You can make the same promise," Carth said softly. "It doesn't matter that he's gone now, you still can. It's what he'd want. Believe me, it's what I would want."
Brianna wiped her tears and nodded thoughtfully. "You are very wise for a non-Jedi."
Carth laughed. "Thanks. I try."
"Now I think you should go."
The admiral's smile collapsed. He appeared as though he might protest but then nodded. "Yeah, you're probably right." He stood up and offered a bow. "It was good to see you again, angel. Maybe we can visit again sometime, seeing as we're practically neighbors.
Brianna swallowed hard but kept her eyes hard and her face firm. "I don't think that would be a good idea anymore. We have promises to keep."
Carth raised an eyebrow. "So you've made yours then?"
"That's good," the admiral said. "It's what he'd want you to do."
The Last of the Handmaidens watched Admiral Carth Onasi fade into the dark of the Arboretum and she sat for long moments after he was gone as a pair of thoughts battled like Echani duelists in her head:
I promise you, Arik, I will wait for you…
You look like an angel…
Brianna tore her gaze from the viewport that showed the hazy yellow-brown of the Coruscant twilight. She looked around to see ten pairs of eyes watching her, waiting for her to continue.
I can't do this anymore. I can no longer pretend that I am the person they see here. I am a fraud.
"The lesson is over for today," Brianna said. She grabbed her Jedi robes and threw them over her shoulders. "Class dismissed."
She ignored their questioning glances and knocked aside their gentle Force probes, and left the Jedi Temple. How can I teach them the Echani style? How can I show them what it is to move and think like a true warrior when I am riddled with weakness?
Without knowing where she was going, but guided by a growing sense of desperation, Brianna rushed along the busy streets. Speeders and other pedestrians whizzed by, but she paid them no mind. She walked with her head down and her strides long, feeling as though she were trying to outrun her grief. Or perhaps I am running toward something. Force, let it be something that can free me from this…
Brianna breathed thanks to the Force for answering her plea when she rounded a corner and crashed squarely into Carth Onasi. He was alone, dressed in civilian clothing, and carrying a parcel from some shop.
"Of course," Brianna said, after steadying herself. "Of course, it's you."
"Yeah, it's me," Carth replied with a gentle—if perplexed—smile. "Hello, angel. What brings you out here?"
Brianna floundered for a moment, then anger blazed in her eyes. "To find you, apparently. Why is it that when things become difficult, you come into my life and make them harder?" she demanded. She could hear the irrational, fervent tone in her voice but she couldn't help it. What is this? she demanded of the Force. Some sort of test?
Carth was watching her with a bemused expression that only angered her further. A cantina's flashing neon caught her attention and she squared her shoulders. "You know what I'm going to do? I am going to get drunk," she declared.
The Admiral raised an eyebrow, amused. "Oh, really?"
"Yes, really," Brianna said, thrusting out her chin. She hadn't realized that was her plan until she had said it, but she felt no need to share that information with him. "Yes, I am going to get good and drunk. You are free to join me, if you'd like, but please do not try to stop me."
Carth held up his hands. "I wouldn't dream of it. But angel, have you ever been drunk before?"
"No," she said, uncertain. Then defiant: "But I don't care."
"You will tomorrow," Carth remarked. "Believe me. But since I can't let a lady drink alone…"
The cantina was decent—not too shabby and not too sterile. "It's a good place to get drunk in," Carth had said as they took a booth toward the rear.
"So what's this all about?" Carth asked after they had each quaffed three potent cocktails—Corellian whiskey for him, juma for her. "What's going on, angel?"
"Don't you know?" Brianna asked. Her words were sticking together. "And don't let me drink three drinks and then ask me what's wrong with me."
Carth nodded. "You're right. I should have taken you back to the Temple. But I was glad to see you and didn't want to cause a scene."
Brianna snorted indelicately. "'Cause a scene.' Just what do you take me for?"
Carth was about to make a wry comment when he realized the alcohol was making him slow to react—Brianna had sidled next to him; close enough so that he could feel her warm, juma-tinged breath on his cheek.
"Do you think of me when we're apart?"
Carth choked and took a sip of whisky to kill the lump in his throat. No, angel, I don't. I think of Revan everyday, all day, until I see you. Only then do you banish her from me for a little while. But that's not what you want to hear.
"Sure," he replied. She moved closer.
"I think about you all the time," she purred.
She's lying, he thought, but damn if she isn't so beautiful.
"I'm tired of being alone," she said. The alcohol was stealing her grace, and she spilled juma on the table as she reached for another sip. "There is a reason you and I keep meeting, Carth. The Force wills it." She dragged her fingers up his arm in a way he was sure was meant to be enticing but felt clumsy instead.
"Brianna, I'm old enough to be your father," Carth said.
"Hardly," she insisted, and pressed her breast against his shoulder. "Make me forget, Carth, and I promise I'll do the same for you."
Carth felt his resolve weakening. She's young and she's gorgeous and she wants me. I'd be a fool to say no.
"No, angel," he said. "You're drunk and we're both lonely as hell and that's all that's happening here. There is no Force or will, there are just those sad facts."
Brianna seemed not to have heard, for suddenly she slid onto his lap. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed his ear, the line of his jaw, the nape of his neck.
"Sshhh, don't you want to?" she breathed between kisses. "I need to. I don't want to be lonely. I want you…"
Carth stifled a groan and caught her hand as it wandered toward his groin. "No, angel. Don't."
Brianna flew off his lap as though he'd shocked her. "Why not?" she demanded in high-pitched shriek that drew the attentions of more than half the cantina's patrons. Tears were welling in her bleary eyes and then streaming down cheeks that were flushed with alcohol. "What's wrong with me?" she demanded. "Am I so terrible I can't compare to the mighty Revan?"
Carth rubbed his eyes and held out his hand in a placating gesture. "No, that's not it. Calm down, angel, and let's—" Oops, wrong thing to say, he mused as Brianna's face contorted with that self-righteous rage Carth believed was only worn by women when they are told to 'calm down.'
Brianna gaped at him for a moment with a booze-induced loss for words and then clambered out of the booth. "And just how long will you wait?" she demanded. "I'll tell you, however long it is…when it's over…I won't be there for you to cry to. I won't."
She swayed and Carth reached out a hand to steady her but she ripped her hand away.
"Don't touch me!"
Carth's eyes darkened. "How are you going to find your way back to the Temple? You're plastered." He rose to feet, muttering curses under his breath. "Let me take you back."
Brianna straightened and thrust out her chin. "No! I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, and even if I'm not, I don't want anything to do with you!" To prove her point, she spun on her heel, intending to walk smartly out the door. Instead, she spun a bit too fast, lost her balance, and would have crashed headlong into a neighboring table had Carth's reflexes been a half a second slower.
"Change your mind?" Carth asked, looking down at the woman in his arms.
"No," she said stubbornly, reaching for him again.
He pulled away. "Me neither," he said softly.
Brianna's eyes filled with tears and her head lolled on his chest. "I just miss him."
"I know, angel," Carth said, stroking her short, silver-white hair. He heaved a sigh. "Come on. Let's get you home."
"It's beautiful, Moza," Brianna said. The Ithorian gurgled with pleasure.
/Yes, we are particularly proud of this grove/ he said. /Chodo says it is the most successful yet. /
Brianna nodded and let her eyes drink in the vibrant greens of the copse and the flowers that bloomed in bright spectrums. She turned her face up to the sun and let it warm her skin. "It has changed so much since I was last here."
/And you had a hand in that change/ said Moza. /When you purged the Academy of the toys of the dark side, you freed the energy around it. This grove thrives because of your work. It is why I brought you here; to show you the fruits of your labor. /
Brianna couldn't help but swell with pride. "I'm glad I could help."
/We thank you, and those who toil to restore Telos to its natural state thank you/ Moza said. /This grove has become a place of rest and meditation for the workers of the Restoration Project. It is a symbol of what can be accomplished and bolsters the spirits of those who grow weary. It is not often easy to see progress when it comes in small increments. This grove shows what we are capable of, and what we are achieving. /
Brianna's smile widened.
/Many workers visit here/ Moza continued/but none more than Admiral Onasi. He comes here often but I do not sense that he has achieved the solace he is seeking. /
The Ithorian inclined his enormous hammerhead toward a bench partially obscured by the dripping branches of a willow tree. Sitting on the bench, his head bowed, his shoulders rounded, was Carth.
Brianna's pulse quickened and then her cheeks burned as she remembered how she had shamed herself the last time they had met. Her first instinct was to ask Moza to escort her out of the grove, but she quelled it. I will not run like a chagrined little girl. I will face him.
"He seems unhappy," she mused to Moza after studying Carth for another moment. "If you won't find me terribly rude, I believe I'd like to speak to the Admiral."
Somewhere on the Ithorian's face, a smile lurked. /Of course. I leave you in peace. /
Moza quietly retreated, and without the peaceful aura of the Ithorian beside her, Brianna's pulse quickened again, but she resolutely approached the bench upon which Carth sat.
He looked up as her shadow fell over him and a smile came to his tired face. "Hello, angel," he said, and Brianna noticed dark rings under his eyes, as though he hadn't slept for many nights.
"Hello, Carth," she replied softly. "You don't look well."
He sniffed. "Maybe not, but you're a sight for sore eyes. When did you get here?"
"Yesterday. I came to see how the Restoration Project was faring. I didn't expect to see you."
"Well, I am one of the head coordinators."
"I meant, I didn't expect to see you here."
Carth's tired eyes darkened. "Oh. So you weren't scouring the planet for me?"
"No. But I am glad to have found you. I wish to apologize for my behavior last time we met."
"I wish you wouldn't," he said.
"I've decided I like you better when you're throwing yourself at me. I should have taken advantage. I was a fool not to."
Brianna stiffened. "That is a very dishonorable thing to say."
Carth shrugged. "Not at all. I was hoping you'd do it again. Throw yourself at me, I mean. I don't think this time I'd be so unaccomodating."
"You are not being at all gentlemanly," Brianna informed him, crossing her arms over her chest and ignoring the heat that suffused her face at his words. "I had a moment of weakness. I should not have done those things and—"
"Is that what it was?" Carth asked, standing up so abruptly, he startled Brianna and she fell back a step. "It was a moment of weakness? Well, hell, that's what I'm having right now. Only this moment's been going on for about six fracking years." He ran a hand through his hair and paced the small clearing.
Brianna's hard expression softened. "Is it very bad?" she asked softly.
Carth paused to face her. His dark eyes bored into hers and though he was no Jedi, she could practically feel the energy of him, pulsing and vibrating towards her, seeking to get in, wrap around, and swallow her up.
"How long will you wait?" he asked in a soft, dangerous voice. "It's been six years for me, Brianna." He took a step toward her. She took a step back. "Six years and Force knows what she's doing out there. Alone. Or with him. You ever think of that? You ever wonder if he's been faithful? If he heard your promise and made one of his own? Or do you wonder that he's broken his promise, and she's broken hers? Do you wonder what your Arik and my Revan are doing out in the last stretches of space, where it's cold and black and dead?"
As he spoke, Carth had been moving toward her, and Brianna had been moving back, but now she stopped and he stepped into her space; close enough to touch her just by taking a breath.
"That is what you wonder," Brianna whispered, unable to tear her eyes away from his. "Those are the musings of loneliness. I feel it too, but I don't wonder if Arik has betrayed me. I know he has not."
"Are you sure?" Carth asked. His fingers grazed her upper arms, sending shivers down her skin.
"Yes," she whispered.
"All right," Carth said in a low voice. "Then let me ask you this, does it matter anymore?"
Brianna closed her eyes and felt the weight of three years swell and then crash over her. From Carth she felt the residue of a similar crash—one of twice as many years—and she could feel in him the rocky shores laid bare where the pain had pounded at him before receding into a dull numbness. He didn't have much left in him, and the promise he made to Revan was hanging by the thinnest thread. Brianna knew she could sever it with a look, a touch; that Carth was standing before her now and silently willing her to help him, and that he would make it so easy for her to give in too.
I don't want to give in! I made a promise…But Brianna found herself leaning in closer and Carth's hands went to her cheek, her hair. She breathed in his exhalation and her heart skipped a beat, while another small part of her recoiled at the foreign scent of him. He is not Arik, came a thought.
"We only do this because we're in pain," Brianna protested, even as her fingers wound into his silken hair.
"That's good enough for me," he said gruffly. "Another year will pass and we will be glad we didn't let one more damn second go by." He nuzzled her neck and Brianna felt a rush of longing sweep away her doubt.
Carth is right. Arik is gone, maybe dead, and he left me nothing but a promise. Just words, she thought, her hands seeking Carth's jaw as he tilted his head down to hers. Arik left me nothing but words. Carth is real. He is here, right now. He is no phantom or memory. He is real…
Tears sprang to her eyes, but she kept them locked tight, and tilted her chin up to be kissed.
"Angel," Carth whispered and Brianna could just feel his lips brush her own when the lowing of an Ithorian sounded from behind. The two broke apart and looked around to see Moza standing before them.
/Pardon the interruption/ he said/but I thought you should know that it has been reported that Lady Revan has just arrived on Telos./ He swiveled his great head to peer at Brianna. /The one known as the Jedi Exile is with her. / The Ithorian slowly ambled away without another word.
The grove was silent for long moments, the only sounds the chittering of insects and the stirring of the wind through the trees. Carth and Brianna looked at one another, still and quiet, watching for a sign or breath or word from the other that would reveal if the promises made were to be kept or to be broken, for either way, their wait had finally come to an end.
A/N: So I finally got around to editing this a bit but the changes were minor given the delay. But I wanted to post it since I like these characters and Brianna was surprisingly more interesting than I had thought. Also, I wanted to let you all know that the finale of "Resolutions" will be posted this weekend (Sep 9th or 10th) and will be about 5 chapters long. And of course, they'll be long chapters, so be warned. ;) Thanks for being so patient and I promise I will reply to everyone too, for that's WAY overdue.
Thanks for reading!