I've been playing Knights of the Old Republic (yet) again lately, and something about it and the idea of the game story after the events of the Leviathan just stayed with me. This is a completed one-shot. Bioware owns nearly everything, and reviews are always welcome.
She sat in the silence and remembered a life that was not her own. She chased the thoughts as far as they would go, back to Taris and the ship that had broken apart in flames above the atmosphere and her quarters there and she tried to think further back and found herself floundering.
She had tried to cry, staring at her own reflection in the small bathroom, staring at the scar on her forehead she had always thought had come from falling off a wall as a clumsy kid. Looking at herself, her throat had closed up tight.
She remembered the soft, sinuous silence in the tombs on Dantooine, and how she had gone there and listened to it. She had pushed her fingers through the light of the star map and watched its tiny bright points dance against her skin.
She should have known. She should have guessed. She should have known something.
The door slid open, and she flinched.
"Sorry," Carth said, and he did not look at her. "I didn't…are you busy?"
Yes, she thought. Pulling together all the pieces of her thoughts, and finding the shapes that they made. "No," she said, quietly.
"Can I come in?"
She nodded. "Of course you can."
She swung her feet off the edge of the bed and settled them against the floor. She shifted, too aware of the weight of the lightsaber at her belt and the way his gaze kept jumping to it.
"Sorry," she said, and unclipped it. She must have moved too fast, because he was still regarding her warily. Carefully, she placed the lightsaber on top of the footlocker and sat again.
He was hovering, she saw, hovering uncertainly. She wanted to know why he was here, why he was standing there, looking almost the same as he always did. Almost, she thought, because that had been before the Leviathan and before Malak and before he had heard her name.
Her real name, the name she had carried before everything had changed.
"Look," Carth said, his brown eyes darting. "I wanted to talk. I don't know what about. I mean, I do, I just have no idea how to."
"I know what you mean," she said. She turned slightly, so that she could look up into his face.
"We haven't really talked. Since, you know. I've got," he said, and exhaled slowly. "All these questions. Questions that keep circling around and I don't know what to do with them. I wanted to ask you some things. If that's okay."
"It's okay," she said, and ached.
"Was it you?" he asked, blurting it out, rough and uneven. "I mean, who you are now?"
"I don't know," she said, honestly. "I really don't know. Part of me."
"Go ahead," Master Zhar said.
The hilt lay balanced in her palm, neither warm nor cold, simply waiting. She found herself smiling. "I'm guessing you won't let me slice my own foot off?"
"I promise," he said, slightly wryly.
She breathed in, and when the blade blazed into life, white-edged blue, she could not take her eyes from it. It was beautiful, and when she moved with it, twisting alongside it as it sliced the air, it felt right. She turned, and she found Master Zhar watching her strangely, his eyes unreadable.
He coughed, and said, "Very good."
"I don't know," she said again, and did not look at Carth. "I've been thinking about it. I think about things that I did – that I know that I did – and it doesn't seem like they're part of me. But they must be. Do you want to sit down?"
Carth's shoulders stiffened. "Yes," he said eventually. "Sorry."
"Stop saying that."
"I don't know what else to say," he said. He sat on the other end of the bed, his hands folding over his knees.
"I should have known," she said, and the words jarred into the silence between them. "I should have known something."
She walked into the cargo hold and found Carth working his way through a heap of crates. "Hey," he said, and he sounded pleased. "Shouldn't you be at Jedi school?"
She laughed. "Apparently I'm not quite a prisoner. So I thought I'd come bother you."
"You should be. You want to come for a walk or something?"
He grinned. "You're full of exciting ideas."
Outside, the wind coming off the plains was brisk. Thirty companionably quiet minutes took them away from the academy and through the rippling, silvery grass. She breathed in deeply and let her eyes close.
"You okay?" Carth asked, gently.
"Yeah." She flopped down in the grass and beckoned him down after her. "I think I just wanted to be outside. They're all being really good with me. Well, Master Vrook not so much, but I don't think he likes anyone or anything."
Carth laughed. "Yeah, that sounds like him."
"I just…can I talk to you about this?"
"Course you can," he said, and his smile softened. "I can mock you mercilessly afterwards as well, if you want."
"Sounds like a plan." She stared down at her hands, crossed in her lap. The cuffs at her wrists were narrow and white, the tunic sleeves over the top hanging just past her elbows. Dressed like a Jedi, she supposed, or at least like an almost-Jedi, and she wondered why that troubled her. "I just, ah. Yeah."
"Well," he said, and nudged her. "Must be serious. I don't think I've ever seen you stuck for a sharp word or three."
"Thanks," she said, wryly. "Yeah. This is going to sound weird. And probably arrogant and strange as well."
"Just get it over with, woman."
"I'm using lightsabers to spar. Only with Master Zhar and Bastila. I, ah. I'm really good at it."
"No. Carth, I'm really good at it. It's a strange weapon. It's light. Almost too light. You'd think you'd be spending your whole time wondering where the blade might end up. I don't."
"You're right," he said, gently. "Very weird. Also arrogant. Why is this a problem?"
"I don't know."
"So you're good at it. I've seen you with a vibroblade. You were good with that too."
"So you think I'm going mad?"
"Completely. You're really worried?"
"Not worried. It's just got me thinking too much."
"You know," he said, his eyes on the grey haze of the horizon. "Maybe you're just good at it."
She laughed, and almost haltingly, she leaned the side of her head against his shoulder. "Sometimes you know just what to say."
She could feel the hum of the engines beneath her feet, and Carth's confused anger, and the rigid tension in him as he pried his hands off his knees.
"I don't think," he said, and his voice was soft. Softer, she thought, since they had stepped onto the Leviathan, since everything had changed. "I don't think you could have known. You weren't meant to know."
Bastila had known, she thought, and almost said it out loud.
She had lost Bastila and found herself.
She had lost herself and found Malak.
"Are you, ah. Are you remembering, you know. Who you were."
Slowly, she nodded. Carth could not quite say it, her name, what she had been, and part of her understood. "Yes. I'm remembering things. Strange things. My apprenticeship. Being young."
She spun and twisted and he matched her, his quarterstaff smacking against hers. She pirouetted away from him and said, "No. Too boring. We've done it before."
"Revan," Malak said, warningly. "I don't like that look."
"You and my master both." She flicked the quarterstaff onto its rack. Another few steps took her across the white squares of the training room and she closed the door. "Let's do it properly."
She reached for the deactivated hilt of her lightsaber. "Oh, come on. What's to be worried over? You're a lot bigger than me."
"And you're a lot faster than me." He was smiling at last, lopsidedly, and she knew she had him. "This isn't a good idea."
"Coward," she said mildly, and flicked the blade into life.
"Is that what you call it?" Resignedly, Malak reached for his own lightsaber. "Alright. Your mark, Revan."
Carth shifted slightly, and the mattress sank beneath his weight. She tried not to look at him, at the way his hands pressed against each other, the knuckles fine-boned and scarred.
"Tell me about Saul," she said, to fill the clawing silence.
"It didn't feel like I thought it would."
She remembered it, the man falling, clutching at the gaping hole in his belly. Carth standing over him, and leaning down, and the man grabbing at his wrist and saying something, something that turned him chalky.
"What did you think it would feel like?"
"I thought it would make me feel better." Carth smiled, crookedly. "I'd been thinking about it for so long. And then he talked to me about you, and suddenly everything wasn't simple."
"Was it ever?"
"No," he said. "But it was easier when I thought you were just a survivor off a ship who turned out to be a good padawan."
She felt herself smiling, thinly and coldly. "Easier for you."
"I didn't come in here for a fight."
"Why did you come, then?"
"I wanted to talk," he said, quietly. "I've been going over it and over it. It still doesn't make sense to me."
The hanging lanterns glowed, and somewhere far above, the sky was deep and dark. She leaned against the railing and breathed it in, the night-time scents of the forest.
"Hey," Carth said. "You busy?"
"No," she answered. "Just hiding."
"Want some company?"
"Sure," she said, and smiled.
"Here," he said, and passed her a wide-brimmed wooden cup. "Jolee swears it'll put hair on your chest."
"Just what I need."
"He said it, not me."
She grinned and lifted the cup. The drink flooded her mouth, rich and heady and slightly sweet.
"It's nice up here," Carth said.
"Yeah. Pretty enough once you clean all the kinrath away."
"Hah." He turned, his shoulder brushing against hers. "You know something?"
"We did well today."
"Yeah," she said. "We did."
"Of course it doesn't," she said, viciously. The anger was seeping up again, sliding through her, and she heard it in her own voice. "Because now it affects you. Now it's something that bothers you because you thought you knew me and now I am something you hate."
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to."
"What was I meant to do?" His hands clenched on the sheets. "We left Bastila behind and you were Revan and then Malak got away and nothing I'd believed is true."
She remembered how it had felt, stumbling back up and onto the Ebon Hawk, while Mission grabbed at her arm again and again, her eyes welling with tears. While Jolee barked at Carth to get the damn ship up and away from the Leviathan. While Canderous hurtled up to the gun turret and picked off the handful of fighters that spiraled out after them.
She remembered the awful, prickling silence when she had asked them all down to the main room to talk about it.
"Nothing," she said.
"That's not fair," he said, his voice rushing over hers. "I didn't mean it like that."
"Then how did you mean it?"
"I don't know."
"I thought you said you wanted to talk," she said venomously. "You're not talking."
As fiercely, he snapped, "I thought you preferred it when I didn't."
She kissed him, gently, lightly, her lips just brushing his. "Yes," she told him impishly. "It really is okay."
She felt the shuddering, warm rush of his breath against her mouth.
"Oh," Carth said. "Good."
"You're actually speechless? I'm shocked," she told him.
"Sure you are."
"I might be," she said, and then her words were lost when he kissed her back, softly and unhurried. Somehow her hands found their way to his shoulders, and his to her waist, and suddenly she wanted to push him back against the wall. "Carth," she said, quietly.
He kissed the corners of her mouth, and the slant of her cheekbone above. "I know," he said, his voice slightly rough. "I mean, I have no idea what you were going to say."
She laughed. "I was going to say I feel like I'm far too old to be feeling like this."
"Oh?" His hands slipped up her back, gently kneading, before he cupped the nape of her neck. "Like what?"
"Like I could stay here all night."
Carth grinned. "We can do that."
"That's a promise, flyboy?"
She was laughing again, and so was he, and when he tugged her down beside him, she let him. He kissed her again, and again, until her mouth felt swollen and too hot. She explored the angles of his face, and the impossibly soft skin of his throat, and the tiny scars on his temples. He threaded his hands through her hair, and the rough pads of his thumbs brushed her cheeks and her jaw.
"You know," he said. "You really are beautiful."
"And you are far too smooth." She caught his face between her hands and kissed him, deeply, twining her tongue against his.
"And I thought," she said, spitting out each word. "That you didn't want a fight."
She wanted to reach for her lightsaber. She wanted to bolt through the door and out into the corridor but that would leave her trapped inside the ship regardless.
"Why now," she said, because he was still taciturn. "Why talk to me now?"
"I think I've been staring at the inside of the cockpit for too long."
"Yes," she said, and smiled slightly.
"And I know I didn't handle it, you know. Well."
"Could you have?"
"And that is what I mean," he said, roughly and angrily. "You push and question and suddenly I'm not sure anymore. No, I don't know if I could've handled it differently. Better. Whichever."
"It's true, isn't it?" Carth asked, and his voice rang hard and implacable.
"Yes." The silence was icy and drowning and somehow she said, "It is true."
His face was ashen. His hands tightened and loosened and she found herself staring at the small scars that lined the back of his knuckles.
"Do you remember it all?"
What she had done, he meant. Where she had been. Whoever she had spoken to.
What she had done.
"I," she said, and considered lying. She could tell him she remembered some of it. She could tell him she remembered flashes, bits, pieces. "Yes," she said, finally. "I remember it all."
Like how heavy the armour had been, the black polished armour that encased her and kept her apart from the world. Like how it had felt to be breathing in the waiting silences of the Dark Side in the tomb. Like how she had forced Malak to his knees, her name on his tongue, and her lightsaber at his throat. Like how she had gone to the Star Forge that first time and walked among its ancient empty chambers.
How she had sat in the sand, on the Rakatan world, and stared at the white-edged waves as they rolled.
"The temple," she said, when she felt Malak's footsteps behind her.
He paused, and his shadow swam across the rushing foam. "You're certain."
"Yes." She did not turn. "Sit down."
He obeyed, sitting cross-legged beside her, his big hands pressing into the sand. "Revan," he said. "Can you feel it?"
He meant the surging waves and the exhilaration and the temple that rose up against the sky behind them, and she could feel it all.
"Will it work?" Malak asked.
"Where's your confidence run off to?" She grinned. "I got us this far, didn't I?"
"We will get into the temple, and then we will get into the Star Forge, and I will hear none of this weakness from you."
"And the language," he said. "The words carved into the walls. The creatures here."
"I'll reach into their heads and I'll pull out their words and they will tell me what I need to know," Revan said, and her smile widened. "Or did you have a better plan?"
"No," Malak admitted, wryly. "I didn't."
"You know," Carth said, and she flinched out of the memories. "It all happened so fast. I just never, well. You fought Malak. What was it like?"
Haltingly, she asked, "Can I be honest with you?"
"Even if you don't like what I say. Just give me the time to say it."
Silently, he nodded.
"When Malak," she said, and the name fell strange and stony from her lips. "When he stepped through those doors, I knew him. I don't know how. Even before he started talking. There was something about it. Him. I don't know."
"He had his lightsaber in his hand and he was holding it just the way I knew he would. He fought the way I knew he'd fight. And now, thinking about it, I wonder if he knew the same thing about me."
"How would he?"
"We sparred together. We trained together. We went through our apprenticeships together. We went to the Mandalorian Wars together."
"And you went off to find the star maps together," Carth said. "Sorry."
"Stop apologizing," she told him. "It's true. We did. It was my idea."
"What did he say?"
"That it was a great idea," she snarled. She stopped, and pressed her hands together. "He had his reservations."
"And the fight?"
She almost wanted to growl at him to leave her alone with her thoughts, but no, she had wanted this, she had demanded this, this tenuous honesty, even if it meant thinking of the Leviathan again.
"Blue?" Malak asked, and laughed. His eyes narrowed. "I don't remember that being your favourite colour before."
"I don't remember before."
"Oh, you do," he said, softer. The red glare of his lightsaber sent the shadows fluttering. "You do. I can see it in you, Revan."
"Not my name," she ground out.
"It's always been your name. It still is. It's at the heart and core of you."
Somehow she wrestled the anger aside. She wanted to leap at him. She wanted to hurl herself at him and slice him apart until the rage subsided. She wanted to drag the red lightsaber from his hands and carve his head open with it.
"What did the Jedi do to you?" he asked. "How have they made you their pet?"
"I don't know."
"Why do you stand for it? Revan," he said. "This isn't you."
Lightly, she balanced her weight and gauged the distance to him. "And what is?"
He laughed again. His hand tightened on his lightsaber hilt, ever so slightly, and she knew that meant he was about to move. She lunged for him, her blade meeting his in a sweeping arc.
He was strong, punishingly so, and when he shoved back against her, she felt the muscles in her shoulders locking up. She darted back from him and ducked the brutal swipe of his lightsaber. She rolled upright and blocked again, and twisted beneath the crossed bright lines of the blades. A solid kick to his thigh made him stagger, and a follow-up lunge made him lurch away.
Malak spun away from her, and she closed the distance. Three strokes clashed against his blade, and when she wrenched free, her hilt snapped hard against his.
He was fighting as he always fought, all dogged heavy strength and the unyielding weight of his frame and horribly, she wondered why she knew that.
His lightsaber met hers again, dipping in low and vicious and she jerked away. Another blow drove her back and back and the buzz of the scarlet blade filled her head.
"Would he have done it?" Carth asked. "Beaten you?"
"I don't know. I know that I hated Bastila for interrupting. I wanted to kill them both."
"Yeah," he said, and scrubbed a hand across his chin. "This honesty thing. Still a good idea?"
She gasped out a laugh. "You'd prefer secrets."
"No. Yes. No, since we're stuck together if we're going to make this work. If we even can."
"You think we can't?"
"I don't know what to think," Carth said heavily. "I know we have to go to Manaan. I know we have to go and find the Star Forge."
"You know," she said, smiled sourly. "I can't remember the co-ordinates. What the star map there looks like. If I could, then maybe some of it would be worth it. We'd get there faster."
"Worth it. Really?"
She hesitated. "No."
He moved, turning slightly, so that he was closer to her. "And that's true?"
What remained, she wondered, except the bitter remnants of truth? "Yes," she said. "That's true."
Her back hit the wall and she swayed slightly.
"Sorry," Carth mumbled.
"It's okay." She grinned up at him. "I'm out of practice as well."
He laughed. "That's reassuring."
Somehow they stumbled down to her cabin, and there she wrestled her clothes off and then his and there was nothing between them but heat and the slide of skin on skin. His hands on her were desperate, frantic, and she responded, arching up under him. She locked her legs around his waist and rolled them both over. He caught her against him, his fingers biting into her hips as they surged together.
Afterwards, in the soft, patient quiet, they explored each other slowly. She found old scars and a patch of skin at the back of his hip that was ridiculously ticklish. He pinioned her arms above her head and buried his face against her neck and held her there while she laughed. She lifted her legs up around his waist and felt his shuddering, wonderful response.
"Look," Carth said, much later, in that serious, uneven tone she just knew meant he was worried. "I know this has happened all, well, fast."
"Yeah. Rapid, even. All those months on Dantooine flashed past."
"Oh, very funny." He curled an arm around her and pulled her close enough to kiss her. "I'm trying to be serious here."
"I know." She traced the span of his collarbones, and the corded muscles in his shoulders. "I do know."
His head turned, his lips nearly meeting hers. "I love you," he said, softly, and something inside her broke.
She sighed his name into his mouth. "Love you," she said, and felt his arms tighten around her. "Stay with me?"
"For as long as you want me."
Words were powerful, she thought, and she remembered how Carth's words had sunk under her skin and stayed there, warm and welcome and so very wanted.
So many days and Revan's lifetime ago, she thought, when they had emerged out of her cabin and made it halfway through dinner before Mission had said something slightly sarcastic and mostly curious.
She searched for the right words, and eventually, she said, "There's something else."
"I did it to him," she said, and swallowed. "Malak. I took him to the tomb on Dantooine and I pushed and I pushed until he fell into it with me. I turned him into what he was."
"He's had a fair while on his own. Making all his own decisions."
"I got him there," she snapped. "I pushed and coaxed and mocked and kicked him into coming across the galaxy with me. Every star map took us closer and closer and then we were there. We were on the Star Forge and it was like we were home."
"What was," Carth said, and coughed. "What was Korriban like?"
"With Malak? Beautiful. The valley. The statues. It was there that we knew that we would go all the way. Or at least we thought we knew that."
She touched the stone, still warm as the sun sank beneath the dark line of the horizon. She turned and discovered Malak watching her, his eyes trained on her and his shoulders stiff beneath his black robes.
"Tell me what you're thinking."
She smiled, deliberately, in that challenging way she knew made him prickle. "Can't you tell?"
"I'm thinking that it is beautiful here. I'm also thinking it's wasted on these fools who call themselves Sith."
Malak laughed. "You don't think they are Sith?"
"I think they don't know what it means. I think they scurry around these ruins and and welcome fallen Jedi with open arms because that's all they have. If we took Korriban from them, they'd have nothing. They think that because they sometimes hear the ghosts who live in this valley that they are the same."
"Fallen Jedi." He sat beside her, the bulk of his shoulders blocking the last of the light. "And that is what we are."
"I think that is what we were."
"And now?" he asked, very quietly.
"What do you think?" She smiled again. "It's just a word, Malak."
"Just as red is just a colour?"
"Yes and no. Such things hold their own power, don't you think?"
"Why," he said, as softly. "Do you keep asking me?"
"To see what you say."
"Can't you read my thoughts?"
"Yes," she said. "But sometimes you remember to lie, and sometimes you don't."
"I did terrible things," she said. "I did such terrible things."
"Yes. You did."
She flinched. "Right."
Carth smiled, slowly and without much warmth. "Honesty, remember?"
"Yes," she said, to fill the stretching noiseless gap between them.
"I have, ah," he muttered. "A question. One more question. Then I'll stop bothering you."
She stared down at the tops of her knees, at the wrinkled cloth that covered them. "You don't need to go," she said, before she could think better of it.
"Did you know he was going to try and kill you?"
"Oh," she said, and she recalled it, blade bright and ferocious, the day the Jedi strike team had slithered themselves aboard her ship, the day Malak had turned tail and fired on her bridge.
Taking advantage of the chaos like any Sith should.
Taking advantage of her back turned to him, as any coward would.
"Oh, yes," she said. "It'll happen. You'll try it. Maybe you'll succeed."
"And if I don't succeed?" Malak asked.
She grinned at him. "Then maybe I'll let you live."
"And for now?"
"For now?" She looked up at the beautiful curving walls of the Star Forge. She could feel it as it whispered, silently, plying its way through her thoughts. "Now we should spar."
"You don't want to?" She reached for her lightsaber, and the blade buzzed into life, scarlet and bright and arresting.
"I did not say that."
"Good," she said, and the sudden slicing sweep of her blade made him jolt away.
He recovered quickly, regaining his stance, and he met her next stroke, and the next, and she could not quite push him back across the floor.
"Oh," she said, and smiled. "Very good."
"Of course he was going to. He was the second of two Sith."
Carth nodded slowly. "I, ah. I think I understand. I want to say thank you. But that would be very strange."
"Yes. It would."
"I'll just leave you alone, then."
She almost reached for him as he stood. She almost lunged for his wrist, hidden beneath his sleeve and she knew that it was corded and scarred and strong. "No, I," she said, and the words died in her throat. "Carth. You don't need to go. If you don't want to."
For a long moment, he stood wordlessly. As silently, he turned, and sat closer to her, the edge of his knee brushing hers.
"I don't," he said. "Want to go, I mean." Uncertainly, he smiled. "There's lots of other things I don't know."
"I don't know what to call you."
Her name, she thought. Her name as he had murmured it into her mouth and against the uneven pulse in her throat.
"My name," she said.
"I am not," he said, and laughed slightly. "I'm not calling you Revan. Sorry. I can't. Sorry."
"My other name."
"Okay," Carth said, almost whisper-quiet. He nodded. "I can do that."
His head lifted sharply. "What?"
"I don't know. I thought so many times about what I'd say to you. When we finally talked about it. I wanted to say sorry. I wanted to say that it wasn't my fault. That it was nothing to do with me."
"And now?" he asked.
"Now, I don't know. It was me. I thought that maybe I'd ask you to trust me. And then I thought how foolish that sounded."
"It is," he said, very quietly. "Right now it is. There's too much…I don't know. Can I tell you something?"
"Something horribly honest."
She found herself smiling. "I'm not going anywhere right now."
"I don't know what I want," Carth said. "Not really. I know I want to get to the Star Forge. But there's, well. Us."
"I don't want to forget everything," he said. "Between us."
"Just listen. Please."
"You don't need to say such things just because you think you should."
"I don't think I should," he said, sharply. His dark eyes fixed on her, uncertain and afraid and she wondered if she looked the same to him. "I just think that I don't want to forget everything. And I was wondering if that was something you might want as well."
"That wasn't a question."
Tremulously, he smiled. "No, I guess it wasn't."
She did reach for him then, gently, her fingers grazing the side of his hand. "Yes," she said. "I think that this might be something that I want."