The shimmering blue image dissolved as the recording ended, receding into the delicately etched surface of the holocron. The cube glowed softly for a few seconds before dimming as it shut down in response to Revan's unspoken command.
Bastila played with a strand of her hair and hummed softly to herself, a distant look in her eyes. Having put the holocron away, Revan picked up a datapad and turned his attention to the large number of datachips strewn or arranged in little towers across their table. He frowned in distaste. Fieldwork, relief teaching in the salle, even the mindless tedium of committee work - and the Temple on Coruscant seemed to be full of committees - any and all of these were preferable to the distasteful task that now lay before him. The furrows in his brow deepened as he looked at the seemingly endless number of datachips. Youngling essays! Who knew kids these days were getting so much homework?
A chuckle from Bastila provided all the excuse Revan needed to delay marking for just a little longer. He tossed aside the datapad, reached across their table and patted Bastila genially on the arm.
"All right, Princess - what's the story?"
"I remember that food fight," said Bastila. "Someone poured juice in my hair, so I dumped a bowlful of root paste down his shirt."
"You got involved?" asked Revan incredulously. Bastila looked at him pityingly.
"Of course I did, silly - everyone did! ...it was impossible to stay out of it entirely - "
" - was that the first time you met me?" Revan interrupted. He leaned across the table and winked at Bastila. "So... what did you think?"
"It was the first time I'd met practically everyone at that table, including you, and I thought - "
"...you thought I was cultured, incredibly attractive, charming and generally irresistible?" quipped Revan, before ducking. A datachip whizzed past his ear and landed with a soft 'pfft' on the rug behind him.
"...I thought you were covered with food," said Bastila crisply. "Honestly! That was incredibly vain, even for you."
"Yet you love me. See? You like scoundrels!"
"I like nice men!"
"Ah. So, since we're together, I must actually be a 'nice man', per the usual understanding of female parlance. Therefore I am amply justified in concluding that I am at least ridiculously attractive and utterly irresistible..." chuckled Revan, leaning back in his chair. Bastila attempted to scowl, but failed miserably. She settled for a half-hearted pout instead.
"That fiasco occurred during my first two weeks on Dantooine, by the way. Really quite disturbing that my introduction to the local social scene had to be a food fight, of all things."
"It was your first week? But I gave you a nickname, didn't I? We must have known each other...!"
Bastila shook her head. "No, I was originally trained on Coruscant, which explains my accent. When my... gift started manifesting itself, the Council decided that my training should be furthered on Dantooine, so I got shipped out, together with two other girls. Like you observed," continued Bastila, "we barely socialised with anyone else for the longest time."
"Stuck-up Coruscant snobs," said Revan.
"General awkwardness, more like," corrected Bastila. "As for nicknaming me, I can only imagine that you must have read one of the posting announcements. They always include a holo of pending and new arrivals." She pursed her lips and chucked a few more datachips at Revan. "Evidently, you considered the reports of my abilities a lot of hype. 'Miss Super Battle Meditation', indeed...!"
Now look who's vain, thought Revan to himself as he leaned across the table, toppling a few datachip towers. He ignored the fallen chips and cooed at Bastila. "Or maybe I just thought you were lovely, Princess."
Momentarily stunned, Bastila sputtered. "W-what? You did? From... wh- ah, back then? You remember?"
Revan shook his head and bent to retrieve the fallen datachips. "Not a thing. But on Taris..." He looked up at Bastila, thankful that the hair falling over his eyes hid the mischief that danced in them. "...lovely, admirably cross and handy with a lightsaber... if only a little underdressed for a Jedi General... not that I minded."
"Tsk!" Bastila picked up a datapad and selected a datachip at random. Revan eyed her warily. "It's not as if I had any choice in the matter!" continued Bastila, powering up the datapad and inserting the datachip.
"Yes, well - misplaced lightsabers tend to have that as a side-effect. Hey! At least they didn't put you in, well, you know - a... metal... undergarment. With cloth trimmings." Waggling his eyebrows at Bastila, Revan moved his chair closer to her and whispered. "Pity, really. I think you'd have looked very nice. And, it's not every day one gets to rescue a Jedi princess dressed like a dancing girl..."
Rich lot of rubbish he's spouting today, thought Bastila, fighting the urge to retort. She treated Revan to a mildly condescending, aristocratic smile and congratulated herself for having maintained her composure in the face of such shameless propositioning. Then she continued with her perusal of the datachip's contents. Having failed to elicit any feisty response from Bastila, Revan slouched in his chair like a recalcitrant schoolboy whose homework was about to catch up with him.
Bastila tsked and stabbed an accusing finger at the screen of the datapad. "What atrocious grammar...! Have you seen this?" she exclaimed. Revan shook his head morosely. "How many did they give you to mark?" demanded Bastila.
"Too many," moaned Revan, cradling his head in his arms.
"How many have you actually - oh. I see." Bastila frowned. "Revan! You're using me to procrastinate!" Found out, Revan grinned at Bastila cheekily as she tapped him peremptorily on the head with the datapad. "Well, too bad. I want to visit Mother, and I plan on getting there in time." Bastila prodded Revan's legs with a foot. "And you're driving me there."
Revan sighed in resignation."Yes, General..."
Helena Shan was in a particularly undiplomatic mood, as Revan and Bastila soon discovered. No sooner had they seated themselves than Helena commenced interrogations.
"When's the date?"
Revan and Bastila exchanged glances. "Uh - um, date? Mother? You mean as in going out? ...I, well, we're past that already, I think - " Revan leant over and whispered in her ear, and Bastila's mouth formed a silent 'O'. She picked imaginary crumbs off her Jedi robes while trying to think of an answer.
Helena harrumphed. "Obviously not. Well, I never!" She turned a pair of piercing grey eyes towards Revan. "Aren't you going to do something about this?"
It was there again. That caught-in-the-landing-lights-of-a-Corellian-freighter feeling. Revan tried to smile reassuringly. "Yes, ma'am. I will."
"Just make sure I'm still alive to see it."
Bastila frowned. "Mother, please - don't say things like that... we have so much to catch up on, you and I -"
Helena rolled her eyes. "I am dying, Bastila. Soon, I will go to join your father."
"The doctors said you had at least half a year...!"
"Medical professionals tend to be inveterate tellers of white lies," said Helena ascerbically. "But my body can't lie. I feel so, so... tired. I know it's nearly time."
"Mother...!" cried Bastila in frustration. "Must you be so dramatic?"
"You're a Jedi, girl," interrupted Helena matter-of-factly. "I dare say you'll find it easier to let me go. But understand how difficult it is for me to let you go... again."
"But, Mother, you're all the family I have left -"
Helena gestured impatiently at her daughter. "I just need that peace of mind! To see you properly cared for. Just like the last time here... on Coruscant. You, your father, and I. So difficult. So long ago. But you were so young then. I doubt you understood how it felt."
"I - I do understand, and I'm sorry I was so rude before..."
"And now, as then, I can't stay long..."
Frustrated, overcome with guilt and suddenly reminded of events she'd long tried to forget, Bastila burst into tears.
The communications console in Carth's apartment buzzed loudly, shattering the stillness of the room. The huddled form on the couch stirred briefly and directed a well-aimed rubber ball at it. The buzzing stopped abruptly. Grunting in satisfaction, Carth relaxed into the comfort of the couch once more. Now, just to ease back into slumber, and pick up the strands of dreaming where he had been so rudely interrupted... He began to nod.
Bzzt! The communicator buzzed afresh, putting paid to Carth's hopes of continued dreaming about the sunny beaches of Glee Anselm. "Frack!" Stumbling blindly towards the console, Carth punched a button and fumbled for the remote communicator, which he stuck in his ear before staggering towards the blinds to pull them shut. "Onasi," he said gruffly. "...eh? Canderous? Oh! Sorry... sorry, man... frack!" The Republic officer tripped over a fallen stool, and landed heavily on a knee. Muttering to himself, Carth kicked the offending stool aside and collapsed on the couch again. He continued to talk.
"I'm okay, I'm okay - damned furniture, keeps getting in the way... Canderous? He moved out last week. No, we didn't fight. Uh... somewhere 'more central', he said. Meaning nearer the Orange district - bars, I'll wager. Heh heh heh. ...eh? Oh! Didn't I tell you? Dustil's coming home - yeah... yeah... tell me about it. Frackin' relieved... stayed on Korriban and all, had me worried sick - been ages since... yeah. Sure, sure...! Anything, bro..." Shutting his eyes against the stray rays of light that had broken through the blinds and were getting brighter by the minute, Carth tried to concentrate on what it was Revan was saying. Helena... the usual dramatics... Bastila very upset: only right to push things on a little earlier... wait, what?
Carth fairly barked. "You are joking! Do you have any idea what's involved in a wedding?" He smacked an open palm into his face and rubbed avidly, before tugging at the thick hair which crowned his forehead. "Revan, you cannot possibly be - oh, my goodness you are serious - two weeks? You want me to help you get married in two weeks? Oh, why not tomorrow, or the day after! ...buddy, for the record... okay? Weddings mean guests. Guests mean... yes, precisely - invitations, food... program... stuff... you remember that shindig? Yeah, Dantooine - well... yes, toned-down of course but still - wait. Wait a second..."
Carth sat up on the couch and started flipping a credichip over his knuckles. All interest in spending his day off in a semiconscious state evaporated instantly as a thought presented itself to his imagination. He decided to pursue the suggested line of inquiry.
"Hey. Man to man. Be honest. It's been a couple weeks since the victory party, enough time to... you know? And you can... you know, use the Force, right? To... I mean, you're a Jedi! So...are you very certain that you're... ah, speeding things up... only because of Helena Shan? I mean, I'm not saying you're lying, bro. Pretty damn sure you're not. But a man can have reasons, and... reasons. You savvy? ...hey look, I - I'd be the last to judge you, right? I mean, you would totally have my sympathies... been there, done that... Anyway, you wouldn't be the first young couple to - okay, okay, your woman's not, she's not - you sure? I mean, I'm not going to laugh at you... I'd be happy, happy for you, bro! ...means the ion cannon's working -"
An uncomfortable silence filled the Gallery of Contemplation. Vandar Tokare had convened a Masters' meeting at short notice, to debate the merits of a recent, somewhat... unusual request. His audience had just been acquainted with the particulars, and they were now carefully considering the matter. The aged Jedi watched amusedly as the youngest Masters strayed successively farther into the recesses of the Gallery, ostensibly to study one or other of the many antiques displayed therein. He was well aware that they were, in fact, trying to avoid making eye contact with him, the most senior being present. Typical! thought Vandar. Three hundred years, and nothing changes: give the young a chance to speak, and they all shut up.
He twitched a hairy ear and coughed politely. "Masters, come back. We will talk now." The Jedi who had managed to sidle up closest to the exit cast longing looks at the door before grudgingly shuffling back to where their wizened colleague was seated.
"Now." Vandar relaxed into his hoverchair, and nodded genially at the Togruta seated directly across from him. "Our friend from Shili will be the first to honour us with his views."
Pulling his cloak around him for security, the Togruta cleared his throat nervously. He disliked public speaking, and dreaded being put on the spot. "I, ah... well. It's only a room he, ah... she - they... um, want. For... a private function."
"A wedding," said Vandar Tokare. "They did say. How feel you about that?"
"I... think... well, as long as they keep it... fairly quiet?"
Vandar nodded. "I see. Master Hulis?" An elderly Human looked up from contemplating her lightsaber hilt. "How feel you about Bastila and Revan's request?"
The old woman's eyes glistened in the soft light. "You know my family, Vandar. What do you think? The Order well remembers my husband and martyred daughters... Barrison, my son-in-law, was himself a great hero of the Order." She sighed wistfully at the memory of long-lost family. "But, as they say, times have changed. Perhaps I, and my kind, are only relics."
A general murmur of agreement rose from five Masters seated to Vandar's immediate right. "Rules are rules," said one. "Attachments are forbidden to Jedi," said another. Their three likeminded colleagues - a Nautolan, a Miralukan and an intricately-tatoooed Mirialan - rapidly chimed in.
"We can't make exceptions..." mused the Nautolan. "...but they're heroes of the Republic, not to mention the Order -"
" - so what?" cut in a portly Miralukan. "No disrespect to you or your deceased family, Master Hulis, but we - the Order - can't have... can't afford double standards! How will we enforce discipline in future?"
"He is right," observed the Mirialan, while admiring the tattoos covering the back of his hands. "My students would certainly want explanations - and you know what adolescents are like. Awful."
The Nautolan frowned. "The problem is that they're actually making, well... you know the story - he fell for her, she fell to the Dark Side, he went looking for her, brought her back - what I mean is that those two are actually making it work."
"And that worries you how?" asked Vandar.
The Mirialan cut in before the Nautolan could reply. "It worries him, worries all of us, because - obviously - those two are making what we've been teaching... well, it's contrary! And," continued the Mirialan enthusiastically, "even if there were truly exceptions to the rule, wouldn't acknowledging such exceptions only tempt others to dabble in... developing affections for others - amongst other things - to see if they fell into the exception as well? I think -"
A cheerful voice interrupted the Mirialan's rhetoric. "Hello, Masters!" The assembled Jedi turned to the speaker: a lanky, freckled woman in field gear with a smear of engine grease across her nose. Her thick mane of bright, orange-red hair was gathered up in a bushy ponytail. As the woman waved at the little assembly, a small shower of nuts, bolts and assorted spare parts disengaged themselves from the folds of her clothes and fell to the floor.
"Oops...! I thought I'd dusted myself off properly, this time. It's my astromech droid, you see," said the woman apologetically as she bent to retrieve the items. She sneezed. "I say, this floor is dusty...! Are you guys having a discussion? I seem to walk into these things - what's up? Anything important?"
There was something irresistible about the woman. Perhaps it was her infectiously sunny disposition, her ability to put others at ease, or the fact that she radiated genuine friendliness and was instantly likeable. None of the Jedi present could bring themselves to rebuff her or exclude her from the discussion.
Vandar smiled broadly at the woman and beckoned her over. "Just a little meeting, my dear. We are trying to decide if Bastila and Revan may hold their wedding in the Temple premises."
"More precisely, whether those two should even be allowed to get hitched to start with," corrected the portly Miralukan.
"It's not exactly encouraged, as you know," added the Mirialan.
Master Hulis regarded the woman affectionately. "I haven't any problems with it, child. Be the last to."
The flame-haired woman looked astounded. "But it's not positively disallowed!" She tilted her head to the side and looked at the Mirialan curiously. "You're thinking about Ruusan, aren't you? Oh, pish-tosh...! That was political expediency writ large, and anyway, none of the provisions dealt with Jedi getting married. It was all about armies, and property, and military titles... really boring stuff, if you ask me."
"But there is a rule against attachment, Master," said the Miralukan, tugging at his belt. "Which puts marriage out of the question."
"Frankly, I don't see anything wrong with Jedi getting married," mused the woman. "And I don't think it's necessarily the case that all attachments are evils to be avoided, or that attachment can be completely avoided. ...my parents, for example. Didn't have very long together, and that was a real bummer for poor old Mum. Horrid! Worst day of our lives. Still! Mum did right, didn't she? Fantastic woman, fabulous Jedi. And Dad was a real good man, too. Would've been a great Jedi, had he lived. So much for marriage being a bad thing..." She chewed thoughtfully on a strand of hair. "And Dad wasn't the only man Mum loved, either. Poor Mum! Such terrible bad luck in men! But she didn't go loopy or Dark, did she?"
The dissenting Masters exchanged perturbed glances. "You do not think that marriage would pose a danger to discipline? To the very foundations of the Order?" they asked.
The Miralukan interrupted his colleagues again. "Or prove a snare to one party or the other? Especially those two. ...they both did fall, remember."
"No, certainly not...! It's not wrong to want someone to love. Or to love someone, for that matter. Me, I'd be worried the day a Jedi failed to love. Didn't they actually save each other? I thought that was so sweet when I heard it. Made me all warm and fuzzy inside."
"Brought a tear to my eyes, it did," interjected Master Hulis.
"You think that they be allowed to hold their wedding here?" asked Vandar. The woman nodded enthusiastically.
"Weddings are great!" she laughed. "I remember mine, best day of my life - don't we all need something to cheer us up now, anyway?" Her communicator beeped and she fished it out for a look. "Golly! Look at the time - I've got a class -" Turning on her heel, the woman hurried out of the Gallery. "Tell them I'm looking forward to it, all right?"
Vandar returned his attention to the Masters before him. "Any objections?"
Nobody answered. Master Vima Sunrider was just too nice to disappoint.