A/N: Yes, I obviously have no imagination when it comes to titles:P This was written as a prequel of sorts to A Reason
(tsk tsk, shameless self promotion). I'm not entirely happy with the fic, but yada yada time constraints yada yada.Anyway, enjoy!
* * *
“General, the Mandalorians will crush us if we don’t so something,” The captain’s voice was measured, but I could hear subtle note of strain.
“We just need to wait until Revan arrives with reinforcements,” the words found their way out through gritted teeth. My head pounded heavily, faint whispers creeping through the walls I erected around my mind.
Blue Squadron, report! Blue Squadron, do you copy?
Tavv, my boy, your dad loves you…
General, act now!
A single mind at the centre of a pulsing web of lives. The pain thrummed dully through my nerves as yet another fighter was exploded in a self-limiting fireball, extinguished as soon as the oxygen tanks combusted and their load was gobbled up by the greedy flame.
Think about it, Lei. There is the slimmest of chances that we will survive if we do not use what is given to us. The outcome of losing this war is far worse than the cost of using this weapon.
Revan. There isn’t enough of us. There isn’t enough of me.
“Corporal.” The coarse tremor which had taken up residence in my hands did not go unnoticed, and I gripped the handrail tightly to hide it. “Final preparations for Shadow, stat. Captain, send a signal to pull out of the area of effect immediately.”
The Zabrak’s voice was so quiet that it was almost lost in the hubbub. “Weapon will be ready in t=300 seconds and counting down.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and let my walls collapse, focusing on a single word. Withddrawwithdrawwithdrawwithdraw…
Little lights going out in the red murk.
“The Mandalorians are giving chase.”
I can’t make it out!
Helix Squadron is still in there!
Lei, half the fleet is still in there!
“Activate it now.” I’m sorry.
Green light pulsed irregularly, and then the darkness welled up and the screaming began.
They saturated me as they were sucked out into the vacuum, they died in a messy decompression explosion of bodily parts, they had their heads smashed it by the wreckage sucked into the mass shadow generator.
Their last thoughts and feelings saturate me, every nerve fibre glowing white hot in agony while I drown in them. The captain’s distress is the last distinguishable emotion added to the volatile mixture as an asteroid clips our ship and we spin out of control.
I hear him screaming my name as the cauterizing light that streaks through my mind coalesces into a single crystalline moment of pain.
And I am falling.
* * *Revan
Why do we try to express our grief through such foolish, futile gestures? My hand touches my own chest from time to time, astonished by the hollowness within. A few soldiers were hurrying to meet us as we exited the shuttle. What do I care for these people? I hate them. I hate them because they survived and she didn’t. I hate myself for orchestrating her death so beautifully, pushing her off the edge.
The lieutenant babbled on about the ship being damaged by a stray asteroid and estimated losses of ninety percent. I had expected it. I think she knew that I was forcing her into a corner. But she knew that the war had to end.
Malak was shaking my shoulder. . “Revan, at t=-10 hours, Mandalore challenged you to a duel on the surface of Malachor V.”
Almost the end.
“Bring me to the general.”
Words spurt forth in irregular bursts from his mouth; my dead voice is lost in his shaky one.
“Bring me to your general now
!” my lips curl into a snarl, and I think of how she would chide me for making such faces.
I follow him blindly through the corridors, hardly aware of where I am, the mask hiding me from them and hiding them from me. Once, I could have found her anywhere in this universe. A memory surfaces, unbidden: Padawans training blindfolded while the droids fire blaster shots randomly into the mess. She and I stand apart from the others, never missing a shot, always moving in perfect synchrony.
The white fluorescent glare dazzles me for a moment, but as my eyes adjust, I see her.
Connected to all manner of machines.
She is not dead.
And I am by her side, taking the limp hand in my own, so afraid to crush her fragile bird bones. The tube connecting her to the ventilator pulled her mouth askew, and she drooled a little. I wipe it away with my finger, and stroke her cheek gently. The right side of her face was sickly swollen green, and when I brush against it, I feel the broken bones grinding against each other.
Malak is talking in my ear, insistently, “You must be on the surface of Malachor within 14 hours, and end this. We need to leave now.”
Some of what the medic was saying registered, “…had to put her on the ventilator a few hours ago. No cerebral activity detected at all. Brain stem activity steadily decreasing… no apparent reason. Trauma can’t explain…”
What do I say now? What good is being sorry? What is done, is done, no matter how much I wish I could undo it. I bend close to her and whisper, “I will see it through to the end. I promise.”
* * *Revan
The shuttle skimmed lightly through the gloom, searching for the Mandalorian camp. The ship’s searchlight illuminated the wreckage of thousands of ships littering the bare rock and raw chasms.
It was the Jedi who taught me this detachment. I look upon these ships with indifference; the lives snuffed out here are incapable of arousing any sort of emotion. Only she would have felt every loss keenly. In that sense, she was a terrible Jedi. But that was also what drew us to her. She was so intensely alive.
I suspend myself, this aching, weak human, and let thie coldness take over as we disembark. The chill of the air acrid with smoke and fumes cannot compare to what I can achieve within myself.
Mandalore waits with a few of his men… presumably members of his personal guard. Only a faint stain of the darkness which drove them on this mad war remains. They were cruelly used, and now that they failed, they have been abandoned.
His thoughts float clear of the impenetrable suit of armor. He wonders at how I am unaffected by the extreme cold. There is an oddly childlike tone to his thoughts; the intruders damaged his mind more than they had intended. I do not doubt that it is not going to save him now. I will make him understand what he did.
I had ordered the others to stay behind as I knew that the Mandalorians would honour the duel. They faced this with stubborn courage. A few optimistic souls still harbored some hope that Mandalore would defeat me and that they would be redeemed, but the others were more realistic. At least Mandalore will die by the hand of this worthiest of opponents. Aay’han
, they thought. We mourn and we celebrate.
It’s not aay’han
. This is kyr
. This is the bitter end.
The lightsaber hilts are heavy in my hands. One is familiar, down to every last groove, fitting the calluses on my right hand perfectly. The other is new and untried, but my hand does not waver.
Mandalore’s instincts take over, and he aims the heavily modified rifle at me, but I leap clear as the blaster scorches the bare rock that I was standing on. I land behind him, sabers scraping across the armor plates impregnated with cortosis. The Force lifts me clear again as he turns on his heels, and the purple saber finds its way between the plating at the region of his shoulder. He utters a sound of unspeakable agony as the saber cleaves his left side, and I pull him towards me.
“This is only the beginning of the kyr
. Your race will die a slow death, and it started at my hands, Mandalore.” I choke out the words, thinking of her lying in that cold medbay, so precipitously close to dying. “You will never again take up arms against what so many have given their lives to defend.” The last words I breathe out into his ear, the mask reverberating with every syllable. “I will make it so.
The red saber comes up, and the helmet of Mandalore spins through the air.
* * *Exile
I fall into my body with a shock, and I feel myself startle. Slowly, my senses return to me; the heavy warmth of a quilt, someone shifting my limbs which are leaden with sleep. As my vision returns, the lights on the ceiling and the blood vessels of my eyelids paint it red. I throw an arm over my eyes, and begin to sink back into the quiet dark.
The first thing that jars me into wakefulness is the thirst. It scratches at my throat, cracks my lips, lingers in my mouth. My hand reaches for the water bottle that I usually keep by my bedside, coming up empty. I rouse slowly, and then I remember…
I nearly lose my balance as I bolt upright, and knock over the stand beside the bed. Heedlessly, I try to run on, but something is hindering me. My eyes slowly focus on a ventilator, now disconnected; a urine bag on the bedside which my mind neatly filed under ‘Does Not Bear Speculation’; and the cannula on the back of my hand. The medical officer has raised his voice in panic, and it leaps another 20 decibels when he sees me tugging at the cannula, and it comes off messily. Next is the plastic tab on my finger. That causes me even less pain. These organic hurts are so mild compared to what I had been experiencing. But now, nothing.
My feet know the way as I lurch through the corridors. He has to be at the bridge. Please don’t let him have left. My feet pound the cold floor with a percussionist’s precision, thud thud thud, 240 beats per minute. The medical officer is racing after me, despite my limbs’ reluctance to obey and my heart fluttering wildly against my ribs, I easily keep ahead of him. Some of the crew have stopped to watch this spectacle, their mouths and eyes forming perfect O’s.
The soldier at the threshold grabs my arm but I hear Malak’s voice but I see only him, looking out at the wreckage which we have wrought. My vision is fading into the kind of static that people generally only see on plasma screens set to the wrong channel. By the time it clears, the guard is gone and so is Malak and he is looking at me.
There is so much that I want to say to him, but I remember that he is the responsible for this, and I am paralysed. Then my blood pressure plummets further and I lose my balance but he catches me.
This existence is so broken.
“Come here.” He cradles me close, and I cry into his neck. I barely notice that I am shivering until wraps me in his cloak.
I need to know. I need to know why.
“Revan. Revan, look at me. Please.” I fumble at his mask, but he pulls my hand away. Always so gentle.
After a long moment, he takes off his mask, but keeps his eyes averted. I could see the vivid blue venous plexus under his pale skin, my fingers lightly brushing it as if to tell myself that it was not a hallucination. His sharp features seemed even more pronounced now, with a hawkish cast over his face.
He raises his eyes slowly, and the dark lashes frame golden eyes. I state the obvious, “You’ve fallen.”
Where did we go wrong? We only meant for the best, and here we are, both broken and alone. I’ve never felt so…solitary.
“It’s not too late. Don’t do this.”
He does not say anything, but I know the answer. It’s strange, how we’ve never been this close physically, and never have been so far away.
“Revan.” My vision wavers as tears well up and trickle over the edge, a puny salty waterfall. “Why? Why do we do these things? We’re such small beings, and we wage our minute wars and bring only ourselves to grief.”
He has no answer for me, save squeezing my hand. He has decided. He must have thought about this, in all the months that we were away from each other. He sought this. The many times that he abruptly vanished from his ship, the wearied shrug of his crew when I questioned them; these things begin to fall into place.
“Do you regret it?” his voice was quiet, his breath soft on my cheek as he spoke.
“I don’t know. It’s…I think that it was inevitable that we should be so wounded. But I did not really comprehend how terrible it would be. Yet, if we didn’t join them, they would have been overrun, and the Republic would be written out of history.”
“Yes. You chose the best that you could.” He kisses the scar above my left eye-- remember this? Then he tightens his arms around me. “It’s not your fault. Just remember that. We chose this. Every single person who gave their lives while we were in command knew the risks. They knew what they were fighting for.
He continued in a voice tight with emotion. “It’s not for you or me to bear the guilt of all this pain, because we would be denying them what they deserve. They had the courage to face their bitter ends with eyes wide open.”
Lifting my chin so that I looked him in the eye, he said gently, “Do not deny me my choice. I go to my own bitter end. I just wish… that yours will not be thus.”
Gently brushing his lips against mine, he layered sleep around my mind despite my efforts to resist.
Dream of me.