Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 2 - The Face of Heroes

While the victory parade down the streets of Coruscant had seemed extravagant, the after party made it look as shabby as a Jawa's hem. The Republic Senate Building's largest and grandest banquet hall had been set aside for the evening. From the polished floors to the gently vaulted ceiling three stories above, the room was tailed in rich marbles of blacks, golds, and blues. Where the glittering chandeliers above left gaps in the lighting, delicate, flower-like lamps wrought of bright brass and smoked glass dotted the walls.

Large arching doorways, hung with brocade curtains, opened at regular intervals, while matching arched windows opened to the Coruscant skyline on the opposite wall. The room curved slightly with the contour of the senate building. It was probably at least half a kilometer long.

The banquet hall was bustling with everyone who was someone in the Galactic Republic. Hundreds of richly dressed politicians, business leaders, scholars, and other elite filled the room, like a flock of elegant—at times ridiculous—tropical birds. More than a few military officers in sharp lines of muted greens and reds mingled with the crowd, as well as a handful of even more dully dressed Jedi, almost standing out in their simple browns and creams.

Seeing Vrook Lamar in his customary crimson, leaning against a doorway and watching the crowd mingle along the expansive buffet table with his arms crossed in either boredom or disprovable, an amused smirk crossed Ev's face. At least she wasn't the only one trapped her that thought it was all a little too much.

“What is it?” Carth asked at her elbow. Someone had even convinced him to forgo his favorite Telosian orange jacket and dress like the Republic Naval officer he was.

“What?” Ev asked, startled out of her daze.

“You think something's funny,” Carth observed playfully, “I saw that look on your face.”

“Oh,” Ev chuckled and threw another look in Vrook's direction, offering no other explanation. “How long do you think this is going to last?”

“Bored already?” Carth teased, flashing a smile.

“I don't call three and a half hours 'already',” she retorted, though equally playfully.

“The chancellor's assistant did say that this would wrap up around nine 'o clock,” Carth offered.

Ev glanced at the chrono over the nearest door; more of an artistic piece of antiquated craftsmanship than anything. It had rotating hands on a circular dial, marked off with ticks for each hour. She had to study it for a moment before she remembered how to read the time. “That gives us another twenty minutes,” Ev observed, “If the chancellor makes good on his promise.”

Carth grasped her hand and squeezed it. She smiled back at him. For a few brief minute, they had managed to evade the admiration and tedious conversations of the crowd around them. Every last person in attendance seemed determined to exchange handshakes and a few words with the heroes. Despite her annoyance, Ev held up to it fairly well. Mission enthusiastically drank in all the attention, while Jolee and Kionee did their best to disappear. The others fared somewhere in between. Ev and Carth had lost the rest of their crew to the crowd long ago.

“Ah, here you are,” a graying, though upright looking man approached through the crowd with a small plate of orderves in one hand. He had steely gray eyes and a short scar at the edge of his left eye. Although Carth had never met the man before, he recognized him immediately.

“Your honor,” Carth made a curt bow.

The man laughed and reached out his hand to firmly hake it with Carth, then Ev. “None of that Lieutenant Onasi,” he said warmly, “You're just as important as I am now.”

“I'm honored,” Carth still said, in awed politeness, then turned to Ev. “Ev, this is Jerol Onasi, Acting High Governor of Telos.”

“'Acting' because I've outstayed my term, and it's still rather impossible to poll the scattered Telosians for the next election—or even campaign, for that matter,” he said jovially, but there was pain behind his fierce gray eyes.

“It's a pleasure to meet you, High Governor Onasi,” Ev replied, then glanced curiously between Carth and Jerol.

Carth caught her meaning immediately. “No relation,” Carth clarified, “Onasi was a very common name on Telos.”

The High Governor of Telos chuckled again. “Carth Onasi,” he started again, “It is good for us, and for me, to see a fellow Telosian rise out of the ashes and fight so valiantly against the Sith who took everything away from us. It gives survivors like myself hope.”

“I couldn't rest until the Sith were wiped from the galaxy for good, after what they did,” Carth admitted. Ev was surprised by the lack of bitterness in his voice. Only sadness filled its place.

“Then I suppose you will not have rest yet,” Jerol observed, “I hear there are still Sith strongholds out there, but now that Malak and his factory are gone...” he trailed off, then refocused on Ev, “You really are Revan then? It's not some piece of Republic war morale propaganda?”

Ev nodded, then shrugged. It was a question she had gotten at least three hundred times that evening. “In a matter of speaking,” she replied. There was little else she could say.

“I see,” Jerol nodded.

“Do you think, “ Carth suddenly asked with eager nervousness, “that Telos can be rebuilt?”

The tall politician put a hand on Carth's shoulder. “I want to believe it can, “ he replied quietly, “Most Telosians lost everything in that bombardment. We have neither the resources or the money to rebuild, as such a people. We are war refugees. Other planets have been too absorbed in their own defenses and war-time struggles to offer aid, and the Republic Senate has tied up nearly everything in this war. Now that Darth Malak is gone and Darth Revan is on our side,” he made a significant look at Ev, “There is hope that the Republic can divert some of its resources to aid war-torn worlds like ours.”

“You don't sound optimistic, “ Ev observed.

“My wife also died in the attack,” he said, and seeing Carth's surprised expression, he added, “I read your bio, Carth. Since I lost her, I vowed that, for her sake, I would do everything I could to rebuild the world she loved. So I remain here on Coruscant, petitioning the senate for aid until that day comes.”

“High Governor Onasi,” a bookish woman wove through the crowd towards them. Both Jerol and Carth looked up reflexively. “There is someone who wants to meet with you,” the woman continued as she reached them, “Regarding the pending Manaan Agreement.”

“Excuse me,” Jerol said, bowing to them, “I wish you both the best.” He slipped away after his aide.

Ev scanned the crowd and looked up at the antique chrono again. “Then minutes,” she murmured. Carth didn't hear her. “At least the people are starting to thin out.” Over the tops of the crowd she noticed Kionee and some other remarkably similar looking humans at the end of the banquet hall. “Hey,” Ev said, gesturing with a sideways nod of her head, “I see a bunch of unnaturally tall, blond Nubians. Let's go meet them.”

“Kionee's family,” Carth smiled, then followed after Ev, who was already snaking through the throngs of people.

Approaching the far wall, Kionee spotted them before either Carth or Ev could offer a greeting. She called, “Ev! Carth! Come and meet my family!” She waved animatedly for them to come closer.

Carth and Ev suddenly found themselves the shortest people present, and Kionee was by no means the tallest member of her family. A man with bright eyes, a receding hairline, and a well-kept beard immediately stepped forward and shook Ev's hand. “Gad Rinnh, Kionee's dad,” he said with the same ease and formality as he might introduce himself as the CEO of Rinnh Imports. He shook Carth's hand firmly, then cracked a smile. “Thanks for taking care of my little girl for me,” he said, throwing an arm around Kionee's shoulders in a half-hug. She blushed.

“Her level-headedness as a pilot saved our lives in the Battle of the Star Forge. We wouldn't have gotten aboard the station without her,” Carth replied seriously, “She did her part in keeping us alive too.”

Kionee was released from her dad's hold to be slapped congratulatorily on the back by the shorter of her two brothers. “You didn't tell us about that, Kionee,” he chided eagerly.

“Well, it wasn't really—” Kionee started, staring at the floor and shuffling her feet.

Ev stepped in, “Would you introduce us to the rest of your family?”

“Right,” Kionee brightened up, “You already met my dad. This here is my other brother Cash and his fiance Laurel.” She gestured to her shorter brother and to the brunette woman hanging behind him. Laurel wore and elegant gown of muted gold colored silk. She was dressed far better than any of her future in-laws. Until Kionee pointed her out, Ev had assumed that she was only a casual observer and not a part of their group at all.

“Nice to meet you both,” Cash said warmly. Laurel only smiled.

“And this is my older sister Roshind,” Kionee continued. Like Kionee, her sister wore pants and a simple button-up shirt. Roshind was far leaner and more streamlined than her ungainly younger—though taller—sister. Ev could tell by the fire in her eyes and her stance, even in a banquet hall, that she was a fighter.

Roshind smiled slyly and shook both Ev and Carth's hands. “Thanks for looking after Kionee,” she said, “She can be a heap of trouble sometimes.”

“Hey!” Kionee protested.

Roshind's smile broadened, “You know what I'm talking about Kinnee.”

Kionee only pouted for a moment before directing them towards the last of her siblings. He was a huge Wookiee of a man; burly, with tousled blond hair and a barely contained goatee.

“This is my big brother Everel,” she introduced him, “He runs the headquarters back on Nubia. And this is his wife Kreya.” The woman at his side was smaller than nay of the Rinnhs, but just as blond. Everel nodded in greeting, “Good to meet you.”

“You must be proud of your daughter,” Carth started, now that they all had been introduced.

Gad clapped Kionee on the shoulder and she staggered forward. “She has always been up to noble mischief,” he said warmly, “As much as I hate it, I'm not too surprised to find her wrapped up in all this. A Cross of Glory, though.”

“I don't understand why you keep just working for Dad, while you want to do so much more,” Roshind chided her sister.

“Roshind, you know I'm happy with...” Kionee protested, looking down at her feet again.

“The Republic Navy could always use you, if you wanted to enlist,” Carth offered warmly.

“No, I couldn't,” Kionee protested, “But thanks.”

“Shooting at people isn't your style, is it?” Ev observed.

Kionee smiled back at her.

“I'll let you know if I find something more up your alley, then,” Carth said.

“Oh, you don't have to,” Kionee deflected.

“Come on, Kionee,” Everel urged, “Don't turn down an offer like that from a well-connected gentleman like Mister Onasi here.”

Ev saw Zaalbar coming well before Mission burst through the crowd, but she knew the young Twi'lek couldn't be far behind.

“I like this thing,” Mission joined their circle, fingering the metal pinned to the breast of her striped silk vest. Her entire outfit had been purchased courtesy of the Chancellor's office. “I never seen any big-wigs respect me and Big Z like this before. And now they've got nothing but good to say about us and Taris.”

“It's amazing what can be forgotten in the face of a tragedy,” Gad observed, “The galaxy will forever remember a beautiful Taris.”

“And forget all that bigotry,” Roshind added.

“Everyone wanted to meet Zaalbar,” Mission continued, unaware that she had just co-opted a conversation, “No one had ever seen a Wookiee before.”

“Or heard of Kashyyyk,” Zaalbar rumbled.

“Even the head of Czerka pretended he'd never heard of a Wookiee before,” Mission laughed.

“Ah, he does like to graciously ignore many issues,” Gad paused, as if weighing whether or not to continue, “Like sentient-rights.”

A mellow chime sounded three times through the hall. With each chime, the hum of conversation grew quieter until there was little noise above a low murmur.

“The Supreme Chancellor thanks you all for attending this evening,” a female voice was projected through the hall, “Unfortunately, it is time for this celebration to come to a close. May you have safe travels to your lodgings and a good night.”

At that signal, the dignitaries all, reluctantly, began to filter through the grand, arched doorways. Many tired to catch one last look at or exchange a few final words with the heroes of the day. Eve, and all the others, bore it as politely as they could.

Among the last guests lingering were the Rinnhs. As the hall emptied, Canderous, Juhani, and Jolee reappeared at their circle.

“Well,” Gad prompted.

Kionee turned to the others and started tentatively, “I'm going to go with my family tonight. Dad's got a spare bed for me at his flat downtown.”

Ev smiled, “Have fun with your family then. Especially since you are all usually scattered across the galaxy.”

“We'll see you tomorrow morning before we leave for the tour, then,” Mission said in farewell.

“Actually,” Kionee stared at her feet once again, “I was thinking, I've really been away from stuff for a long time already. Parading around Coruscant was enough for me. I was going to go back to my life and duck out of the parades if they'll let me.” From the looks on the Rinnhs' faces, she had already discussed this with them, and they agreed.

“I'm sure they will understand,” Juhani said.

“We should probably get going,” Kionee's oldest brother, Everel, suggested, “Before they graciously kick us out.” His wife suppressed a grin.

“I guess I won't be seeing you guys again for a while,” Kionee began, “Thanks for everything and for keeping me around. It was fun.”

“I'm sure this won't be the last we see of you,” Ev said, “You have a way of getting around the galaxy.”

Kionee let out a small laugh.

“And I'll keep my eyes open for any jobs you might like,” Carth promised again and shook her hand.

“You don't have to,” she protested all the same.

“Take care of yourself, kid,” Canderous said. There was respect behind his voice.

“Kionee, promise me you won't drop off the edge of the galaxy,” Mission rushed forwards towards her, “Give me a buzz sometimes?”

This time, Kionee's smile was genuine. “Of course,” she promised, “And you can hail me on the Viridian any time.”

“Assuming you're not in hyperspace,” Cash chided.

“Thank you for your flying and your company, Kionee Rinnh,” Zaalbar rumbled. Although she didn't understand him, she still smiled back before Ev got a chance to translate.

“You'll do good, kid,” Jolee assured her.

“May the Force be with you, Kionee, in all that you do,” Juhani said.

“May the Force be with you,” Bastila echoed.

Everyone exchanged last goodbyes and all the Rinnhs hurried from the hall with ushers at their heels.

Except for the droids clearing up the buffet tables and the mess left over from the party, only their little group remained.

“They sure do know how to crash a party in a hurry,” Jolee observed humorously.

“I'm surprised they cut things off so early,” Canderous observed.

“I'm glad,” Bastila asserted, massaging her temples, “I've had enough of politely explaining to politicians that Jedi do not involve themselves with politics, and that I cannot support whatever campaign it is that they need a grinning mascot for.”

“But you'd make such a nice poster girl with that lovely smile of yours,” Jolee teased.

Bastila scowled. “Anyway,” she continued, “This is all very good for morale and such, but it is so very frivolous. The war isn't over yet, and it's about time we return to our lives as ordinary Jedi.”

“I doubt we will ever be treated as ordinary anymore,” Juhani said quietly.

“I'm ready to get out of the Republic's spotlight,” Canderous grumbled, “It's bad publicity for a Mandalorian.”

“But it is publicity,” Ev pointed out, “Which may come in handy later, you'll find.”

“So you say. Kionee made a slip pretty easily,” Canderous grumbled, “The victory tour committee won't be too happy about that.”

“You wish you had her excuse too, hm?” Jolee baited, but Canderous held his peace.

“I think she felt uncomfortable with all the attention,” Juhani observed, “As if she didn't deserve it.”

“Don't be ridiculous!” Carth exclaimed, “Without her, we wouldn't have made it to the Star Forge.”

“Perhaps true,” Juhani started.

“Of course it's true,” Carth interjected.

“But,” the Cathar Jedi continued, “She still cannot see herself as a hero. I sense she felt only that she did only what she needed to do at the moment, repaying a debt.”

“Thought she claimed no life-debt, I understand her feelings well,” Zaalbar rumbled, and Ev translated for the benefit of the others, “This crew saved her life, twice.”

“We sprung her from the detention cells on the Leviathan, then sheltered her from the Sith when we fled from Korriban,” Ev nodded thoughtfully, “She must still think she owes us one, even now.”

“That's crazy,” Mission complained, “She's just—” Mission dropped off as she saw an all-too-familiar sandy-white Bothan woman approaching: assistant to the Supreme Chancellor, Essra Imlium.

“Well, heroes of the Republic,” she began brightly, “I hope you enjoyed your evening.”

A polite, yet halfhearted chorus of “Yes we did,” “Great!” and “It was wonderful,” drowned out Jolee's mumbled complaint of, “Too noisy.”

“Good, I'm glad to hear it,” Essra replied succinctly. Already, as if out of thin air, she held a wide datapad and tapped at it thoughtfully. “Now, let's get down to business. We have numerous bids for your next stop on the victory tour. Corellia being the loudest voice, though, Alderaan filed their petition first. So, as to avoid some political tangles, Chancellor Cressa thought it prudent that we let the heroes themselves chose the next site. No one can refuse you that right. Perhaps we could next visit one of your home planets. Lieutenant Onasi, I'm sorry that it slipped my mind, but you said you were from...?”

“Telos,” Carth answered, just a little tensely, “You won't want to bring your parade there.”

“Ah, no, we wouldn't. My apologies, “ Essra replied, flustered. “Then Mister Canderous Ordo, where—ah—“

Canderous chuckled. He seemed to enjoy just how much he intimidated all the Coruscanti politicians. None seemed to know what to do with him.

“Never mind,” Essra murmured, her fur rippling agitatedly. “Now, I do remember that you, Kionee Rinnh, are from Nubia,” she started again and glanced around the group, realizing for the first time that Kionee was missing, “Where did Miss Rinnh go?”

“She decided to bow out of the rest of the tour and return to her day job,” Ev explained.

“Well,” Essra did very poorly at hiding her irritation for someone as immersed in politics as she was, “I guess I will have to take Nubia off the list then. They hadn't even requested to be part of the tour anyway. Mission Vao, I have not been able to find any data on your home planet. Perhaps you would like to visit the planet of your people, Ryloth?”

“Never been to Ryloth in my life,” Mission replied flippantly.

“Then where were you born?” Essra asked.

“No idea,” Mission shrugged, “But that doesn't matter. Taris was my home. It's where I grew up.”

“I see,” Essra pursed her wide lips, “Mister Zaalbar, I hope you understand, but we cannot bring a full tour to your planet. It is not a member of the Republic and does not have sufficient facilities for docking or housing.”

“The Wookiees would not want another invasion of outsiders anyway,” Zaalbar rumbled.

“Pardon?” Essra's ears perked up.

“Oh, Big Z just says that the Wookiees wouldn't want a bunch of people to come anyway,” Mission informed her.

“I'm glad you are not offended then, Zaalbar,” she replied, “That leaves the Jedi. I understand you all left your homes at young age, but perhaps the citizens of your home worlds would appreciate a hero’s return after all these years. Where do you consider to be your home, Jolee Bindo?”

“Kashyyyk,” Jolee answered curtly, eyes dancing in amusement.

“The Wookiee world?” she asked, expecting the old man to be joking with her.

“That's the one,” Jolee replied with a half-smile, “And you already established we can't bring our little party there.”

“Right. So, Bastila Shan,” she asked, “where are you originally from?”

“Talravin,” she answered tersely, “But I have no wish to return there.”

“I see,” Essra taped the edge of her datapad impatiently, “Then, Revan Roan'evrue Pell—”

Ev winced, “Just Ev, please.”

“Where are you from, Ev?” Essra asked again, stressing the nickname.

“That's a very good question,” Ev replied enigmatically, eyebrows raised. It did not need to be common knowledge that her redemption was not a voluntary one, and the price she paid for it.

Essra waited for a clearer answer, but when the silence drew out too long, she gathered herself again and focused her attention on Juhani, not hopeful, “Is there a planet in your history that we might visit?”

“I was born on Cathar, which was decimated by the Mandalorians,” Juhani answered evenly, “And I was raised on Taris.”

“Ah, another for Taris,” Essra mumbled, “Then none of you are from planets that could host the tour?” None answered her. “Fine, it's Corellia then. I'll tell them that's what you all decided. At least the Alderaanians won't complain as loudly,” she muttered, “Come, the shuttle to your accommodations is waiting.”


***


Mission was practically asleep on her feet by the time they reached their guest rooms in the senate apartments. Even VIP shuttles were at the mercy of traffic and even VIPs themselves were subject to the formal greetings and small-talk with nearly everyone they met in the hangar bay, the lifts, and the halls.

They were finally able to extract themselves from their admirers and Essra when Mission demanded openly of a Sullustan senatorial party, through a wide yawn, “Do we have to talk to the whole galaxy before they'll let us go to bed?”

Bastila and Ev made amends for the tired teenager and excused the whole party. Zaalbar scooped up Mission and carried her the last stretch down the corridor, depositing her in her own room. She only uttered one weary protest. Exchanging only a few short goodnights, everyone slipped into their own room.

Ev, however, lingered outside of Carth's open doorway.

“Goodnight beautiful,” Carth murmured softly and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“Is that some Telosian Red I see you have there?” Ev asked slyly, craning her neck to see over his shoulder into the room.

“What? I'd think you would be tired of people fawning over you by now and wanting the privacy of your own bed,” Carth teased.

“Oh, I don't know about that,” her eyes brightened and she closed the space between them, “It depends on the source. And besides, HK is going to be awful company, after we didn't let him come to the party. But, it couldn't be helped. You know his party manners.”

Carth stifled a laugh and stepped away from the doorway. “Well, come on in then,” he said, “It wouldn't be right for me to drink all of it myself. Though, do Jedi drink?”

Ev raised an eyebrow and shot him a mischievous grin as he latched the door. “What are you asking me for?”

“Fine! Who am I to question the 'Prodigal Knight'?” Carth teased. He searched for two glasses and a corkscrew.

“Oh please!” Ev shot back.

Carth chuckled and poured out the wine, smiling to himself. He handed one to Ev, then glanced around the room. Each of them had been given a luxurious suite of rooms. The narrow reception room was lined with couches and low tables while two doors on the left wall led to an unnecessarily extravagant refresher and an equally lavish bedroom. The walls of each were decorated with tasteful but benign art; probably Alderaanian. At the far end of the reception room, a door opened out onto a sheltered, private balcony. Without saying a word, Carth ushered Ev towards it.

Outside, the Coruscant nightlife was as busy and neon as ever, but the senate apartments were set apart from the worst of it. Even still, a few fireworks flared and sparked not far away.

Ev sipped at her wine. “This is good,” she mused.

“I don't know where they found a good Telosian vintage like this,” Carth agreed.

“Thoughtful of them,” Ev said, and they both fell back into silence. Ev leaned her head against his shoulder and Carth slid his arm around her waist, hand resting comfortably on her hip.

“What do you make of all this?” Ev broke the silence at last.

“Of the blissful extravagance of Coruscant?” Carth asked, “Or the blissful confidence of it's populace in our victory?”

It took Ev a moment to respond, “The second more than the first, but I'd happily listen to your opinion on anything.”

“Aren't you accommodating tonight?” Carth observed with a smile.

“Of course I am,” she grinned back.

“Well,” Carth started, “I'm glad they made the Battle of the Star Forge public knowledge, and I'm glad they're all celebrating. Up until now, it looked like the Sith were winning. The Republic needed a major victory like this one, but it's not the end of the war, and I'm not sure how many people deep in the core worlds realize that.”

“The Jedi do,” Ev said.

“And so does the Republic military,” Carth agreed, “But I worry about the civilians' attitude of finality to the victory at the Star Forge.”

“On one hand, it can't hurt for the general populace to relax, thinking that the war is pretty much over,” Ev agreed, ”They can focus on rebuilding rather than trenching in, in fear of attack.” She caught herself, “Though, they shouldn't let their guard down to the Sith that are still out there.”

“That, and if the civilians start thinking that the war is finished,” Carth argued gravely, “We may have trouble keeping the funding we need to actually finish this war.”

“That's what I was thinking,” Ev admitted, leaning more heavily against Carth's shoulder, “Though, at least the Jedi don't have to be accountable for our funding, battle for battle, the way you military buffs do.”

A silence fell between them again. Speeders and transports whizzed past. There was music somewhere in the distance.

Ev put down her empty wine glass on the wide railing beside her. “They're talking about sending us back to the front already,” Ev admitted, staring out into the darkness, “As soon as the victory tour is over.” She sighed.

“To where?” Carth asked.

“The Glythe System, if they haven't changed their minds,” Ev replied. Her voice had lost all luster. “What about you, Admiral?”

“My superiors haven't been specific yet,” Carth admitted, “They won't promote me officially or give orders until we're done with this tour, but I suspect I'll be replacing Admiral Thonsen, who died in action against the Sith in the Luire System.”

Ev sighed again. Carth held her more tightly against his side.

“The Jedi won't like this, will they?” Carth sighed too.

“My discussing the war with a naval officer over a glass of wine?” Ev asked, feigning cluelessness.

“I meant—” Carth started.

“I know of several Jedi masters who have been known to out-drink a certain Corellian commander. I will hardly be in trouble for one glass of wine,” she continued.

“Ev, not—”

“Or if you mean divulging my next mission to someone outside the order,” she blazed on.

“Ev!”

“They'll get over it,” she flirted.

“Ev,” Carth spun her around to face him, “Why do you have to be so frustrating?”

She drew closer and put a finger to his lips. Smiling mischievously, she replied, “Someone has to get you going now and then.”

The warmth of the breath and her bright eyes was intoxicating. Pressing a hand to the small of her back, Carth drew her against him and kissed her. She reached up and ran her hands through his hair. Finally, they broke apart. Both turned back to the Coruscant skyline and stared blankly out, breathing heavily.

Carth grasped at one of Ev's hands between both of his. “Ev, I love you,” he confessed.

Turning to meet his gaze, Ev replied, “I know. And I love you.”

“Ev,” Carth began, then cleared his throat and dropped down onto one knee. ”Will you marry me?” he entreated.

Ev's face flushed with a smile, but she quickly grew serious. “You know what you're getting into?” she asked.

“I know who you are and what that means,” he replied, pleadingly.

“But do you?” Ev asked darkly.

“You're Revan, the hero of the Republic, one of the most powerful Jedi,” Carth replied, “They will send you all over the galaxy until all the Sith are gone, and probably even then some.”

“There's more than just that,” Ev looked gravely down at him and put her other hand on top of his. “As Revan, they will send me to the darkest, most dangerous parts of the galaxy, places from which I might never come back,” she explained.

“You defeated Malak, you can handle—” Carth argued.

“Carth, every Jedi will meet her end someday, and I'll have my chance at that more often than the average Jedi,” Ev interrupted firmly, “And then there's that our marriage would have to be kept secret. The Jedi Council doesn't trust me anyway. They'll be watching me even more closely because of that. We'll have to be extra careful.”

“Don't trust you? You just proved your loyalty and dedication on the Star Forge,” Carth protested indignantly.

“There is a darkness in me, Carth, that I cannot entirely repress, that I cannot hide. The Council knows that and they fear it,” Ev continued, “I will never be completely free of Darth Revan.”

Carth started at his hands on hers. Without looking up, he said quietly, “Ev, I will never understand the Force like you do, or the Jedi, but I do know this; I love you, and I'm willing to go through anything for you to be my wife.”

“There's more, Carth,” Ev said, almost reluctantly.

Looking up at her, he asked, “What?”

“I don't know,” she shrugged her shoulders heavily, “No one knows what is still locked up inside of me. It could me more dangerous for you than to me. I don't want to endanger you unknowingly.”

Carth swallowed the lump in his throat. “Whatever comes, I'll love you. And, if need be, I'll always be there to save you from yourself. I'll never go back on that promise,” he vowed. Squeezing her hand, he repeated, “Ev, will you marry me?”

For a fleeting moment, there were tears at the corners of her eyes. “Yes,” she answered at last. Her sly grin returned to her face, and she admonished, “Now stand up and let me kiss you.”

Carth had no trouble obeying. When they pulled apart again, Ev grinned at him and said, “You're going to have to tell Dustil about this. He has his right to refuse his consent.”

“Dustil?” Carth's face was a mix of pain, shame, and fatherly love, “You've seen him? How is he?”

“He's at the Jedi Temple now, along with eight or ten other Sith trainees from Korriban, all training to unlearn Sith teachings and become proper Jedi,” she replied, “I haven't had much of a chance to talk to him, but he seems to be having a good time and adjusting well.”

Carth relaxed. “I wonder when I'll get a chance to see him again,” he wondered, “There's so much I'd like to say, so much I want to work out.”

“I'll see if I can't find a way,” Ev promised.

“Thanks,” he squeezed her hand in his.

“And we have to find a quiet little non-Republic system to marry us where neither the Jedi nor the press will get word of it,” Ev continued.

“How about Kashyyyk?” Carth suggested.

Ev thought on it for a moment then nodded, “Kashyyyk will do. Thought we'll have to do it quick. Now that Zaalbar is a hero, the galaxy's eyes are on his planet. I wouldn't be surprised if it started making moves to join the Republic very soon.”

“You think so?” Carth asked, “It would give them protection from slavers like Czerka.”

Ev nodded, “Especially if Zaalbar heads up the effort himself.”

“Zaalbar wouldn't...” Carth started, then stared at Ev questioningly.

“Don't give me that look,” she said, “Yes, I do plan to give him a push in that direction. Like you said, it would be good for the Wookiees. Zaalbar is intelligent, firm, and cares for the welfare of his people. On top of that, he has seen more of the workings of the galaxy than probably any other Wookiee. The circumstances are right to give it a try, if the Wookiees can be united.”

Carth nodded.

Changing subjects abruptly, Ev started again, “I think Bastila should be my maid of honor. Juhani can be a bride's maid, and, well, Mission is too old to be a flower girl. She'll have to be a bride's maid too. We'll have to ask Zaalbar about wedding procedures on Kashyyyk.”

“How is it that you know so much about weddings?” Carth asked.

“You know I can't answer questions like that. Where did I learn anything?” Ev shot back playfully. “Now what do you say to Canderous as your best man?”

Carth snorted and Ev laughed.

“I have some good friends from Telos in the navy that would stand up for me,” Carth suggested.

“Be careful who you invite beyond our crew,” Ev cautioned, “The world can't get out, even as rumors. So, as a backup, how about HK-47?”

Carth lifted her up off the floor, laughing, and kissed her again. He put Ev back down, still shaking with mirth. “You're going to be the death of me,” he grinned.

“I hope not,” she smile back, caught off-guard by a yawn.

“I love you, Ev,” he whispered, as if anything louder would shatter the moment.

She simply smiled back at him, and that was enough.

Ev yawned again and Carth caught himself yawning too.

“Are you or aren't you going to invite me to stay the night?” Ev asked shortly.

Carth's smile broadened into a grin. Offering his arm to her, he replied, “As long as you promise not to get yourself into trouble for this.”

“I will slip away before the first light and leave you pining for me,” Ev replied mischievously.

“I can handle that,” Carth grinned.

- Next Part -


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