Author's Note: This is just a short snippet about Bastila and Carth after the battle with Darth Nihilus over the planet Telos IV.
Jedi Knight Bastila Shan walked over a long foot walk suspended over a broad glass dome. She looked down at the planet Telos, its scarred surface abustle with activity since the recent defeat of the Sith fleet. Only a matter of days ago the Jedi Exile and her compatriots had slain the enigmatic Darth Nihilus, and now she had departed for the graveyard world of Malachor V.
Bastila knew that it was from that dark and foreboding planet, that scar in the Force, that these Sith had come. The last battle that took place there during the Mandalorian Wars had rent a gaping hole in the fabric of the galaxy, and in that emptiness had been bred a hunger to consume the Force and all life that was bound to it.
The Jedi Exile had been responsible for opening it, and now she hoped to set many wrongs right by closing it.
...if the last of those Sith don't kill her first.
Bastila hoped the Exile would succeed, but her thoughts extended beyond that dark, graveyard world. She thought of the Ebon Hawk, the ship that had been instrumental in forging so many bonds between people within its bulkheads, and then equally instrumental in severing them with its powerful space engines, bearing so many great warriors to so many places, so far apart.
If the Exile survived her mission she would no doubt cruise into the Unknown Regions with little T3-M4, searching for the last Jedi Knight that had taken that same droid and ship into those dark reaches between the stars, searching for that enigmatic threat that lay beyond sight.
It's been four years now Revan. Four years!
Where are you now? What should we do?
It had been five years since Revan defeated Malak on the Star Forge and paved the way for their Sith Empire to sunder. Just four years now since he had left in the Ebon Hawk with T3-M4. His ship had returned and the droid as well, but he himself was gone.
For those that had known Revan, traveled with him and called him friend there was such a void left by his absence that it sometimes felt impossible to carry on the Herculean tasks he had given them.
In obedience to Revan's request, Bastila had been doing her best to keep the Republic safe. Though barely a Jedi Knight and still lacking some crucial training, Bastila had spent little time with the few remaining members of the Jedi Order. Instead she stayed with the only other person Revan entrusted with the Republic's safety: Carth Onasi.
Now a full admiral in the Republic Navy, Carth was for the most part the same as ever: the embodiment of loyalty and steadfastness, and utterly devoted to the ones he cared for.
Like me. Bastila thought.
As Carth moved up in the ranks, and more and more of his old friends either retired or were lost in action, he began to grow closer to those friends he could still work with. Of them all, he had known Bastila the longest.
Strange how wars bring some people together even as they tear whole civilizations apart. She reflected.
Her connection to Carth had evolved much since they first met all those years ago.
Back then she had been just a calm, though arrogant, young Jedi, and he had been just another shrewd, seasoned Republic officer and war hero. She had tried to act wise and cool-headed, relying on her copious powers of the Force to legitimize her right to command, but she was unfamiliar with war and all its intricacies and hardships, and none of her experiences from before had truly prepared her for it.
Carth on the other-hand was experienced and knowledgeable about war. Though cynical and distrustful of most people after all the hardships and betrayals he had faced he was still something of a gentleman, bound to a personal code of honor that he held as the standard for a true soldier.
Back then Carth's occasionally brusque mannerisms and occasional antagonism regarding Bastila's command decisions had frequently caused her a lot of annoyance. Yet it was that antagonism and the critical analysis it evoked that had kept her and their comrades aware of their situations and wary of possible threats and solutions.
For all her power and abilities, not to mention voluminous theoretical knowledge, Bastila was rarely able to assume the higher ground against Carth's practical experience and know-how.
As Bastila stared down dreamily at the planet below, reflecting on the years she'd spent with the gruff veteran soldier, she thought back to what had happened the night before. In her pensiveness she failed to notice the approach of someone behind her.
"It'll look much like it used to before long." Came a voice.
"Carth…" she gasped as she turned around, clasping her hand to her breast where her heart beat furiously. "You scared me."
He chuckled. "I thought you couldn't sneak up on a Jedi?"
"Well if I should expect sneaking I guess I'll start keeping a better vigil." She replied somewhat acerbically.
"No reason to get defensive." He replied.
She sighed. "I'm sorry Carth I… I was just thinking."
Bastila wanted to say what it was she had been thinking. She wanted more than anything to say what it was… what she'd seen… but she couldn't say it. It was so hard for a Jedi to talk about such things, even one such as her who had strayed so far from the orthodox.
"About all that's happened... and what is happening…" was her answer.
Since Revan had left the Republic, Bastila had often felt the pull of the bond she had formed with him. Over the years of his absence the bond had weakened, but it would hold until one end of the connection was lost. Every now and then she felt it tugging, calling to her across the vast expanse of space, though from whence it came and how from how far away it came calling, she could never tell.
Yet now there was another presence that tugged at her from somewhere closer to home. She felt it now, but held herself steady, working to avoid being controlled by her feelings.
"Dustil contacted me recently," said Carth, desperate to break the tension he felt building in the air.
"He says he went to the planet Dantooine and found three Jedi Masters murdered in the grove of the old Enclave. He said they were stripped of the Force, made empty by some technique of the dark side."
"You don't think… the Exile?" Bastila asked.
"No. No I don't believe that," was Carth's immediate and resolute answer. "Anyone who leaves the Jedi Order to protect innocent people and comes back to ask for forgiveness when all their compatriots go on to follow the dark side…" he spoke carefully and measured his words. He risked speaking ill of their absent comrade. "…she's a repentant sort of person, not the vengeful type. I don't think she would've done such a thing."
"There are so few of us now Carth…" was Bastila's answer. "Was Dustil alone?" She asked. Carth assented with a nod.
Bastila often found herself concerned for Dustil's well-being. Though the young man was nearly the same age as her, she mostly thought of him as a baby brother. The young Onasi had considerable talent in the Force, and his experiences of the Sith under Darth Malak's rule gave him and her a bit of common ground: they were both seeking redemption after treading a dark and twisted path. Dustil had worked with Bastila to help her seek balance in her mind while she in turn had worked to help him cultivate his Force potential to its full capacity.
"I didn't like it that he was out there." Carth replied. "But he's his own man and not one of my soldiers, so I guess I can only give my opinions, his choices are his to make."
"Well I hope he's following Bindo's example and keeping a low profile." She rejoined.
Though Bastila had helped Dustil a fair deal since his redemption, the boy's greatest influence had been the cranky old Jedi Knight, Jolee Bindo. The old man had never sought to return to the Jedi Order, but he had taken it upon himself to help fellow outcasts to understand their place in the Force.
The mission from all those years ago with Revan, Canderous, Juhani, Chieftain Zaalbar and Mission Vao had made them all into something of a family, and though Dustil only joined them after the greater ordeals were concluded he was still considered one of the group.
"Hmm," Carth smiled.
It was nice to see a little bit of the harshness in Carth's face soften. He was still prone to lapse into despondency over all the trials and tribulations of his life: the betrayal of his mentor Saul Karath, the death of his wife Morgana at the start of the war with the Sith Empire, and then finally the departure of Revan at the end of the fighting all weighed heavily on his heart. The time spent onboard the Ebon Hawk before Revan's departure had helped the veteran soldier learn to cope with his loss and open up to those he traveled with. Bastila was pleased to see it still carried him along.
"I still can't believe what we just had to face," he stated. "I'd never have thought such power was possible if I hadn't seen it for myself."
Bastila shook her head. "Such power isn't possible Carth. Not unless you surrender yourself to it completely. That monster was pure personification of ambition and hunger. He was a mouth that consumed the Force and all life bound to it."
"Either way, I'd never have conceived the notion of anything like it existing." He said.
"Let us pray the Force never becomes so wounded as to create such a thing ever again."
"Well I'll keep my ears open. Let you know if I hear it happen." He answered.
Bastila smiled. She believed him, a number of things suggested that Carth did indeed have some incipient connection to the Force.
The first clue was Dustil; Force-sensitive children most often came from Force-sensitive parents, Bastila's father had been a weak Force-sensitive himself. During her adventures with Carth and Revan Bastila had noted other hints to his connection. Carth had seemed almost precognizant of the dangers that lay ahead of them. He made it sound like it was just a gut feeling, a soldier's innate sense of battle or impending danger, but the accuracy of his feelings and instincts had to be more than coincidental.
Bastila had taken it upon herself to train Carth in the ways of the Force, and they'd spent many nights practicing lightsaber forms, training basic actions like the stillness of mind, even Force Push. Carth was mediocre at best, but Bastila thought it better to cultivate what talents he had and make them as strong as possible.
"I don't know Carth…" She stated and looked out the window.
"About what?" He asked.
She sighed before continuing. "I just don't seem to know anything these days. I don't understand why he just up and left us. What are we supposed to do?"
Carth's head dipped a few degrees before he spoke. "Well, follow orders is my plan."
"But how? The Jedi are so few now. And the Order seems powerless against this new threat. At least when we were fighting Malak we had an enemy that was out in the open, where we could see the attack coming and plan accordingly, but now…"
She was stalling, skirting the issue that was really on her mind. So she turned to the matter she wished to discuss with him.
"I just wish I knew something Carth. I wish someone would just… tell me something!"
Carth thought of speaking, but thought better of it before he let a sound escape his open mouth. His mind had flitted to the night before, but still he was afraid to speak of it.
The night before he had been in the training room with Bastila just after they had had a sparring match with real lightsabers. She had been nice enough to use a single-blade instead of her lightstaff, so he had been able to at least stand his ground in the bought.
With blasters Carth had no equivalent, but despite years of practice, he still didn't have melee weapons down well enough to completely match someone with Bastila's skill and power.
After the training match, the two had sat on the floor and meditated, clearing their minds and relaxing.
The Battle of Telos with Darth Nihilus had taken place only couple days before and everyone was exhausted from the fight, but the two of them had needed the exercise to clear their heads.
However, as they sat there meditating, something unexpected, and indeed embarrassing transpired.
Since Carth's subconscious thought controls were undeveloped they were prone to slip from his grasp despite his focus. On that training floor his thoughts had gone somewhere they shouldn't have, and he'd had no control to keep them from Bastila as she meditated.
From their seated positions, Carth's mind had turned to the sparring match.
He'd seen himself and Bastila fighting with lightsabers, thrusting, reposting, parrying, unhindered and without pause.
His mind was focused on her movements. Her lithe, sinewy body moving around strikes and lunges, and retaliating with such strength as only one with the Force could ever use.
Her full-body suit stetched tight over her athletic body and emphasized her graceful curves. Carth's thoughts then stripped away the sabers and focused on him and Bastila moving around one another, ducking, weaving, dancing in a frenzied yet graceful manner. The gap between them closed until they were almost touching. He thought of her body against his, and imagined the smooth skin and taught muscles beneath her suit... what they might feel like to the touch.
At the height of their bought, when the imagined Bastila was perspiring and her chest heaving, Carth had broken his concentration and snapped his eyes open to find the real Bastila looking at him, her eyes wide.
She wasn't really staring at him as much as just looking intently. She didn't seem either positively or negatively affected by what she had seen, just simply aware. Her eyes were speaking without judgment, just an unequivocal non-verbal statement: I saw it too.
Carth left the room slowly and resolutely. His eyebrows had sloped down and out, making him look no more than mildly apprehensive. He didn't leave hastily or fearfully, but slowly and methodically as if it were any other evening, any other meditation, any other vision.
He had left. Nothing was said.
"It's all so new to me Carth," Bastila said, breaking Carth from his trance. Whether or not she had listened to his reflective thoughts just now didn't matter; to one who knew him as well as she did he was as easy to read as a holobook. Her thoughts were on the same matter.
"I… I don't know what to say Bastila…" he conceded.
"How about the truth." She didn't say it accusingly, merely as a suggestion for how he might proceed. She turned from the view of Telos and faced the admiral.
Carth looked down on Telos and sighed.
How does a man in his forties tell a woman in her twenties that he's fallen in love with her?
How indeed could either of them pursue anything along such lines with all that was taking place?
Their dearest friend, who had in his way loved the girl, was gone. He was out somewhere beyond the Rim, fighting on a battlefront that neither the young Jedi nor the Admiral could detect, and there was no way of knowing what had become of him.
How could she ever trust me to love her so completely? Carth accused himself.
Though he had moved past his wife's death and the pain of having to start over in his relationship with his son, Carth was still not free of his nostalgia for his old family. A man could not be divided between two families. What would Dustil think if he found that his father had fallen in love with another woman? Dustil cared for Bastila, but how could he ever see her as the lover of his father?
And to do something so selfish! Carth berated himself.
This was neither the time nor the place for such feelings. There was a war going on despite what the Senate on Coruscant felt. Soldiers and Jedi were still needed to police the Republic, mopping up the dregs of the dark flood that had swept through Republic space like a wave of horror and death for many years now. As far as the government was concerned, the flood was over and nothing more needed to be done. For Carth and Bastila and other mindful individuals of the Galaxy, the waters had yet to recede, the nightmare was far from over.
In such a tumultuous time, with such dangers facing them on all sides, where was the time to indulge in the selfish ways of love?
And how could I slight Revan so? Carth further challenged himself.
Bastila had fallen to the dark side before the final battle with Malak, and her redemption had come about because of her connection to Revan. He had drawn on their Force bond, told her that he loved her, and brought her back from the edge of despair and oblivion. She had admitted to loving him too, and until he left for the Unknown they were never apart after that event.
There's no excuse for this. There's no way. Carth concluded.
Admiral Onasi was a man of principle and honor. In his mind, admitting to being in love with the woman who was loved by his friend would be like spitting on that friendship. To slight either of his friends by admitting personal feelings for one of them was in his mind a transgression of the highest degree.
However, Bastila was waiting for an answer, and though the truth was not an easy one to offer it was still the only way to answer. She would see through any lie he gave her.
She wouldn't even need the Force. Carth thought. She knows me too well.
After those few moments of introspection, Admiral Onasi straightened and turned to face Bastila. He hated himself for feeling as he did, and even more so for having no way to tell anything but the ignoble truth, but he spoke to her anyway: coldly, calmly and without hesitation.
"Bastila, I love you."
Her eyes softened, but she let nothing else about her expression change. Her poise was absolute, and she did not let her emotions unnerve her.
Carth tried to assuage the tension by speaking everything that was on his mind.
"Bastila I… I love you. I love you like… like I haven't loved anyone since my wife died, and I…" he paused to collect himself. "I'm not comparing you to my wife, I… I loved her, but what I feel for you is… it's different. It's not… not better or worse, or more or less, just different. I… I love you, I love you for you, and I… I want… I wish… that we could be together."
He stopped for a moment and let it sink in.
Bastila took a few steps toward Carth until she was less than two feet away from him. Her eyes had softened some more, and the corners of her mouth had started to curl upwards, but she stayed straight and rigid, not even allowing herself to blink.
"I know we're both protectors, we both have duties and they won't always overlap. And I know you… you love Revan and he… he loves you too, I know that. And I believe he's alive somewhere, and he'll… he'll come back to us one day… but I…"
Before he could continue, Bastila had closed the distance between them and pressed her lips against his.
Carth felt her lips touch his tenderly and resolutely. Any passion in her act was restrained, but there was no hesitancy either. Carth responded by tenderly placing his right hand on her left shoulder.
Their lips parted and they looked at each other. Out the window, the surface of Telos continued to slip past.
Bastila took a step closer and embraced Carth. She fit herself into the contours of his stiff uniform and hard muscles, and he in turn embraced her, morphing his rigid posture to hold her tenderly.
Carth would've gladly stayed like that for much longer, but decided he needed to be smart about the matter.
"Bastila we shouldn't…"
"Maybe not Carth," she assented, " But I won't keep the truth from you anymore. I've done enough of that."
She took a step back and his hand slid down her arm. She caught his hand in her own before he could let it fall back to his side.
"Yes I… I love Revan… I… I can't help but love him as I did, as I do. When someone bonds to someone else, as I did to save his life… it changes you… from the inside. And afterwards you're not who or what you used to be. The space within you doubles, and your own soul and spirit isn't big enough to fill the space anymore…"
Carth felt the crushing weight of rejection starting to settle on him, but held himself solid and upright, keeping in mind that he had expected this, known it would be this way. He would face it like a man.
"But, I don't think I ever truly loved Revan. Not the way I suppose you would imagine love... not the way you loved your wife."
This caught Carth off guard and he couldn't hide his surprise.
Bastila continued: "I did not love Revan freely. It was like… I suppose you could think of it as an… an arranged marriage. My mind was bonded with Revan's and I didn't have a choice in the matter… and when you're bonded you have to legitimize the intimacy that comes with it. We were enslaved by forces that were beyond ourselves and beyond our ability to control."
"Carth, the point is… I love you too. I loved Revan because there was no choice in what I could feel… how can you feel anything other than love for someone you understand so well… and how could I not admire someone so powerful? Revan was a force of nature, every action of his was something of the Force itself. But Carth with you…"
She could see all these sentences that used the name "Revan" and the feeling "love" weren't helping dispel the insecurities in the soldier to whom she was pouring out her heart. She took a different tact, deciding to be shorter and more direct in her speech so there would be no chance for ambiguity in his interpretation.
"Carth I love you because I choose to. I love you because I do. Not because the Force makes me. The Force loved Revan, and it channeled itself through me to him. I channel myself to you Carth! I love you!" She declared.
Her eyes were beginning to slope downwards and she almost looked ready to cry she was so desperate for him to understand.
Carth's face softened and he leaned forward. Their lips met again and Bastila cupped her hands around his lower jaw and his scraggly beard as he held her around the shoulders and waist.
Bastila let go and looked up at Carth's face. He looked stunned, but smiled nonetheless.
"So… what now?" He asked.
"Now we're here… together. No regrets." She grinned and kissed him again.
Author's Note: And I'm spent. If parts need correction please let me know.