Carth tightened his hold on my hand, and I started losing feeling in the ends of my fingers. I wouldn't look at him. I couldn't look at him. Shame at what I'd become – no, what I'd always been – made my stomach roil, and I stared detachedly into space, swallowing hard.
"Stop it," Carth whispered.
I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to hurt him as much as he hurt me. As much as I hurt me.
"Please," Carth whispered, "just stop it."
I hated him. I hated me.
Jedi were not supposed to hate.
Sith hated. Revan hated, a black hate that consumed world upon world, life upon life, corpse after pallid corpse added to the heap of murders –
I clenched my teeth.
Was this all I was? All I would become? All I had ever been?
Pure, feral hate, seared like a brand into my very identity – a white-hot sword that burned even the hands that wielded it.
"What, Carth?" I growled, but my voice broke.
"Stop hiding from me," Carth said. "Stop letting yourself believe you are some kind of traitor. You are still my friend, and that is never going to change."
I looked him straight in the face. "Liar."
"I am being damned straight with you," Carth countered. "I know there's good in you, whatever else you are. You're still you. If Revan is really part of you, I believe you can change that. You're still a Republic soldier at heart, you're still a Jedi, you're still – you've always been –" Carth inhaled sharply. "I am so damned stupid, blast it!"
I shook my head stiffly. "Just say whatever you're going to say, Carth."
Carth took a deep breath.
"You are still the woman I love," he said.
"What?" I snapped, jerking my head around to stare at him, wide-eyed. "What?"
And I prayed he wouldn't answer. I prayed that if he did answer, it would be to bite back his words.
"I've been afraid to admit it," Carth went on. "I've tried to convince myself otherwise, but frankly, I can't do it anymore. I've always loved you. I still do. It's Revan that killed my family, it's Revan that razed Telos, and – and –"
He leaned closer to me, moving up to the very edge of his seat, and he reached for my hand, and I was too stunned to pull away as his fingers gently intertwined with my own. All the knotted insecurity and fear inside of me crumbled as he tightly squeezed my hand, a tender reassurance that nothing had changed, that I was still me, that we were still us, and there was still some kind of messed up, twisted, wild chance at us –
I couldn't speak. I just stared into his warm eyes, and all I saw in those eyes was years of open wounds screaming for a long-dead hope to spring to life.
"You're. Not. Her. I can see something inside of you, this fire that I've been missing for years – and I know this doesn't make any sense, and it is absolutely stupid of me to expect you to possibly understand, and if you told me to get the hell out of your life, I would get that, but I –"
"I can't do this," I gasped. "You can't do this." I yanked my hand from his, my cheeks flushing with fresh heat. "I'll hurt you more than I already have. I'll destroy me. I'll destroy us, like I always have. I'm living a complete lie, Carth, and I'm afraid I'm going to break –"
"I knew it," Carth interrupted, one hand raised as if to ward off a blow, the simple acceptance in his voice worse than a scream. "You couldn't possibly feel the same way, Jedi or Sith, whoever or whatever you are – I can't expect you to understand." He sighed. "I'll drop it, okay?"
"Stop, Carth," I tried to say, but I felt something wet dripping down my face. I was crying now. Crap. I was crying. I bit my lip. "Just stop..."
"Go on." Carth looked away. "I've screwed the hell up, I know. So go ahead. Yell at me. You can even swear, if you like."
"Damn it, Carth!" I punched my chair as hard as I could, and my knuckles stung. I pulled sharply away, shaking the pain out of my wrist. "Damn it! Carth, you are impossible to argue with, you know that?"
Agony shot across Carth's face, another blade slicing across my broken, ripped, mutilated soul.
"I'm sorry," Carth said reflexively. "I should never have said anything, I know. I'm sorry." He raised both his hands, as if in surrender. "You know, just forget it. Pretend I never said anything."
"It's not you, Carth, it's not you..." I choked on tears. "It's me. It's all me."
"There is nothing wrong with you," Carth said. "It's me, damn it! Look what I've done to you," he insisted, gesturing to my tear-streaked face. He rose out of his chair. "I'm... going back to sleep, okay? I'm sorry. I'm messing everything up. Just forget this ever happened."
I half-jumped from my seat, grasping his arm more fiercely than I had intended. He froze with a start, turning to face me.
"She's not dead," I burst out.
My heartbeat quickened, my breathing accelerated – and then the words formed of their own accord.
"I'm remembering more, seeing things, having memory flashes, visions, nightmares... hearing her voice every time I close my eyes..." I took a sharp breath, on the edge of hysteria by now. "I hate it! And it's not you, it's never been you, it's always been me –"
I was born for this, it seemed. Devastation and reform, devastation and reform. Destroying everything I loved, and then weeping over the bodies.
Not evil enough to hold the galaxy in my icy death-grip. Not holy enough to redeem the lost, wandering part of my soul.
I was an outsider. A pariah. An exile.
My very life, the bane of the galaxy – my very existence, my fallen justice, my hollow shell of a self, was blight upon the universe. Everything I touched, every shadow of a child's dream I pursued, always turned on me. Fantasies ran like sand through my fists. Reality, impossibly cold and hard, hit me head-on like a runaway train.
I would never get anywhere. I was caught in the push-and-pull, a victim of the war inside, tugged between Light and Dark, Dark and Light, all powers failing me as I fell into the gaping abyss that was nothing and no one.
I was a slave to the in-between.
I swallowed hard, my voice half-strangled by tears. I glowered at Carth, and I waited for him to inevitably shove me away, to tell me how he could never trust me, how he could never trust anyone, how all I'd ever done was re-open the countless scars he'd been trying to heal.
"I hate me," I said.
Carth looked me straight in the face. His eyes filled with something very raw, and so terribly real, and so dead honest, I flinched away from him when he spoke.
"Then you're not Revan."
I dropped his arm. I backed away several paces, and I stared at him. Words wouldn't come.
"You're changed," Carth said. "You reformed Kashyyyk, you rescued Manaan, you made peace with the Sand People on Tatooine... You've risked your life for me, for Bastila, and for everyone else on this ship. Revan would never do that."
My head reeled blindly, a mental tornado tearing me apart from the inside out.
I collapsed back into the pilot's seat, burying my head in my hands. Everything hurt. My muscles, my head, my soul –
I was too numb to cry now. I froze up inside. I closed my eyes, swimming in my own darkness.
I blinked once, twice, but the image before me would not fade.
Behind my closed eyelids, all I saw was an expressionless Mandalorian mask. And I was so afraid to take it off, so afraid to look at what lied within – a web of scars, of wounds still raw and bleeding, of calloused skin afraid to feel again.
"Don't," Carth pleaded.
He walked forward, taking the seat beside mine. He didn't have to reach for my hand this time. I reached for his, knotting our fingers together, clutching his hand as tightly as I dared. I kept my eyes closed. If I opened them, if I saw what I was doing, I'd pull away from him again.
"Don't hate yourself," Carth said.
I bit my lip, forcing myself to open my eyes so that I could stare him down. "You hate me."
He chuckled. "What are you talking about?" he laughed, his mouth curving into that wry, sarcastic smile I was growing to love. "I hate Malak, and Saul, and the Sith, and the war, but I could never hate you. Believe me, I tried." He sighed. "I thought... that I could hate you. I thought I already did, and I wanted to, but –"
I gave his hand a squeeze. "I understand."
"I knew you would," Carth murmured distantly. "You always have."
There was a lengthy silence.
Carth stood up. "Thank you. For understanding." He turned away. "Goodnight. We both need our sleep," he said, and moved towards the door.
I was out of my chair before he reached the threshold. He turned to face me, startled, and I caught his hand again, and I clutched it even tighter. I leaned forward, resting the palm of my free hand against his bare chest, and I so expected him to pull away, almost wanted him to pull away, because this was a dream, because he could not love me, because I did not deserve to be loved anymore.
But Carth didn't pull away.
I looked at him, at all the pure honesty on his face, and I felt the tears start again. Reassured now, but craving final assurance, I released the hand that I was holding – I reached up towards his face, resting my hand on the back of his neck, sliding it up, entwining my fingers with his soft hair, and still, he did not pull away. I leaned closer to him, and I felt him lean closer to me, felt him pull me closer, felt myself allow him to pull me closer, but I had closed my eyes.
And then I was kissing him.
My lips and Carth's lips were moving together, each caress more passionate than the last, and I felt my other hand stretch up to rest against his cheek. All the raw, unsheltered emotion between us, embodied in every kiss – all the pain of our arguments, the joy of our agreements, the peace of our quiet conversations together, now distinct and clear and real in this moment, every kiss a promise that I am not finished living yet.
I don't know how long I was kissing him. Forever and a moment would have felt the same.
I do know that I was the one who finally drew back, short of breath, my heart hammering lightly against my ribs. But I didn't dare release my grip on him – my right hand, entwined in his hair; my left hand, resting against the warm skin of his neck.
"I love you," I whispered, saltwater streaking my hot cheeks.
Carth smiled. I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen him smile.
"I always knew," he said.
A/N: The end.
Thanks so much to those of you who have reviewed this. If, by any chance, you've favorited it and/or subscribed to it (but not reviewed,) please do. It means a lot to me.
If you enjoyed this, I have another Star Wars fanfic that takes place during and after Order 66. It's titled Why I Breathe, and it's deep in progress, moving towards its end. It revolves around three Jedi OCs of mine – Padawan Julia Star, Padawan Aaron Earthshaker, and Jedi Knight Kherev Ra'shah – as well as a rogue clone called Thirty-nine – as they attempt to not only survive the chaos, but find meaning in a bleeding world. If you ever get bored, maybe check it out/review? Just saying. Why I Breathe is the largest fanfic project of mine, and feedback on it means more to me than feedback on anything.
P.S. That little blurb about "devastation and reform" was directly inspired by a song of the same title, by the band "Relient K". You should check it out. It's absolutely awesome!
The song that I would actually designate as the overall theme for this story is "Let It Burn" by Red. Look it up if you're in the mood for an epic rock song!
Thanks again for the feedback.
May the Force be with you!