At Jade's insistence, Bastila stayed on the Ebon Hawk for the next few days, resting and rehydrating after her heat scare. Jolee kept an eye on the Knight, but gave her enough space to keep her from getting irritated. Bastila considered scolding Jade for treating her like a child when she was perfectly capable of monitoring her own health, but remembering Jade's worry for her made her less keen on chastising the soldier.
Jade had gone out to the Czerka depot and managed to purchase some vaporators, then had promptly collected Canderous and left to deliver them to the Sand People. Bastila found herself monitoring their bond carefully, listening for any sign of danger. Flashes of simple wraid attacks trickled through, but with the Mandalorian at her side, Jade seemed to make quick work of any attackers.
It became apparent that the duo would not be returning the same day when Mission bounded back onto the Ebon Hawk after a long day of Pazaak and announced that the suns had set and Anchorhead was cold at night. Bastila picked at her dinner and wondered what dangers lay in the Dune Sea after sunset, swallowing a rush of concern for her bondmate.
Jade's chuckle echoed in her mind and their bond urged Bastila to tune in to Jade's consciousness. The Knight closed her eyes and did just that, allowing the sounds and chill of the desert night to overwhelm her senses. A moment later, she was seeing through Jade's eyes. The soldier was in a room in the encampment, Canderous already asleep by her side. Outside of the small room, Bastila could hear Sand People patrolling and guarding the intruders.
"We're safe," Jade whispered, her voice calming in Bastila's ears. "Sleep well, Princess."
A smile grew on Bastila's face without her even realizing it. She desperately wanted to say something in return, but didn't know what. "Good night," she replied softly, feeling Jade's grin before she returned to her own mind. It took her a few moments to realize she was grinning down at her plate and she shook herself out of her thoughts. Bastila looked up to see Jolee smiling at her knowingly, and she frowned. "Yes?"
Jolee lifted his hands in surrender and shrugged. "Just nice to see that ol' Vrook hasn't made you forget how to smile."
Bastila could tell the older man had some underlying meaning in his words, but before she could ask, he excused himself to get ready for bed. She finished her food and went to the cargo bay to meditate, but thoughts of Jade and her mother derailed her concentration, so she followed Jolee's lead and went to bed.
Bastila sensed someone looming over her and forced herself to wake up, opening her eyes to see a freshly showered Jade sitting on the edge of her bed.
"Hey, Bas," the soldier said with a grin.
Still half-asleep, Bastila was struck by relief and was tempted to throw her arms around Jade in a hug, glad to see that Jade had returned safely. She resisted the urge and rubbed her eyes, stifling a yawn before responding. "You're back."
Jade nodded, her eyes twinkling as she watched Bastila wake. "Yep, just got here a little while ago. Got a map to the Eastern Dune Sea, and the Sand People promised to quit attacking Czerka." The soldier was obviously pleased with herself, but turned a caring eye on the woman in bed. "How're you holding up? You haven't passed out again or anything, have you?"
Bastila waved away Jade's concern. "I'm perfectly fine. Jolee and Mission have barely let me go an hour without drinking something or making sure I've slept."
Jade grinned. "Good." She was quiet for a few moments, studying the brunette fondly.
Bastila shifted uneasily, the attention from the soldier making her insides feel warm and fuzzy. She went through the Code in her head, trying to find guidance and comfort in the words.
"So, do you feel up to heading out tomorrow?" Jade asked, sounding remarkably gentle. "I can take someone else if you don't want to go, but I'd rather have you out there with me."
Bastila's heart thudded and she nodded, trying her best to remain focused on their mission. "I'll join you, yes."
Jade smiled and patted Bastila's knee. "Great. Sorry to wake you," she added, getting to her feet and stretching. "I just... wanted to see you." She grinned again and ducked out of the dormitory, leaving Bastila alone to muddle through the emotions that had risen in her chest.
Bastila double-checked that her canteen was filled and found herself something to eat that would taste better than wraid jerky, just to be safe. With her provisions packed, she headed out into the docking port to find Jade, surprised to see the soldier standing with Canderous near a swoop bike.
The Knight shouldered her bag and headed toward the duo, wondering if the Mandalorian had plans to visit Tatooine's swoop track while she and Jade were off looking for the Star Map. Jade noticed her coming and shot her a smile, muttering something to Canderous before the veteran headed back to the Ebon Hawk.
The swoop bike remained at Jade's hip, humming slightly, and Bastila eyed it uncertainly as she approached.
"Morning, Princess." Jade gestured to the bike and grinned. "Figured we could make the trip a little easier on the bike."
Bastila hesitated, remembering the Taris swoop race and watching Jade's race on the monitors there. Secondhand anxiety had flooded her senses then, and she wasn't thrilled with the prospect of being on a bike capable of going those speeds.
Jade saw the look on Bastila's face and reached out to her appeasingly. "It's going to be fine. It's faster than walking, and I swear I won't do anything dangerous."
Bastila pursed her lips and studied the cautiously pleading look on the former Sith's face, slightly amused at the thought of Jade pleading for anything. "Fine. Let's get going."
They walked the swoop bike to the gate and Jade fished out her hunting pass to show to the guard. He let them through without even needing to see the identification, having recognized Jade from previous excursions.
Once they were out in the Dune Sea, Jade swung a leg over the bike, keeping her foot on the ground to steady the humming vehicle.
Bastila tentatively climbed on behind her, settling herself on the bike and trying to pretend she was confident and comfortable.
Jade lifted her foot and revved the engine gently. "Ready?"
Bastila muttered an agreement, and Jade started the bike with a lurch. They shot off, and Bastila stifled a yelp, grabbing at the first thing she could to steady herself. It took her a moment to realize she'd flung her arms around Jade, but she couldn't quite make herself let go.
Jade was laughing as she slowed the bike to a more manageable speed, and she turned her head slightly to speak. "Sorry. It's got a kick to it."
Bastila scoffed, her fear slowly forgotten as she became aware of the soldier's strong shoulders steering the bike with ease. Jade's confidence was slightly soothing, and Bastila rested her head against the former Sith's shoulder. The miles flew past beneath them, but Bastila paid no attention, too caught up in how safe she felt with Jade there.
The soldier slowed the bike after a while, glancing over her shoulder at Bastila. "Doin' okay?"
Bastila nodded and reluctantly eased her hold on Jade. "Fine, thank you." The suns were hot above her, though she only noticed it now that she wasn't so focused on Jade, and Bastila reached into her bag and got a drink.
Jade followed suit, giving Bastila a smile that the Knight couldn't quite interpret, then started studying the map. She glanced up at their surroundings a few times, finally deciding on a course and putting the map away. "Ready to keep moving?"
"How much farther?" Bastila asked, wiping her forehead on her sleeve.
"Believe it or not, only a little over half an hour. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. Hold on," Jade added belatedly as she started the bike up again.
Bastila wrapped her arms firmly around the soldier's middle, easily settling back into her position nestled against Jade's shoulder. She sighed without even realizing it, feeling content and secure behind Jade. A faint mixture of amusement and affection trickled through their bond, and Bastila chose to ignore all the warnings she should have been giving Jade about infatuation and the dark side, savoring the moment instead.
They found the Star Map hidden deep within a krayt dragon's cave. Jade teamed up with a hunter she knew from Anchorhead, and together they lured the beast out of its lair and into a strategically placed minefield. The dragon didn't stand a chance and fell to the sand with an agonized roar, the sound so loud it hurt Bastila's ears.
While Jade had been recording the Star Map's coordinates, Bastila had remembered her mother's plea and looked around in the cave. She could barely see in the darkness, and the glow from the ancient map did little to help. Bastila had ignited her lightsaber and let the yellow blade illuminate the cave. It hadn't taken her long to find a frayed pack with her surname stitched into the material.
She knew Jade had seen her find the holocron inside, but Jade had refrained from asking her about it, giving the Knight space while she tried to figure out how to feel. The ride back to Anchorhead was quiet and Bastila pretended she wasn't holding onto the older woman a little tighter, trying to let Jade's strength bolster her.
The trip hadn't taken much time, and the duo walked back to the Ebon Hawk in silence, the swoop bike humming between them. Canderous helped Jade load the bike back into the ship, while Bastila retreated to the women's dormitory and did her best to meditate. Her emotions were too riotous and every part of her wanted to give in and cry and seethe and hurt. All of her training had dictated that she not let those urges get the best of her, but she was acutely aware of the chip in her pocket and her duty to deliver it to her mother. She couldn't even look at it first; there was a password on the chip that likely only her mother knew.
Jade's voice broke her out of her thoughts and Bastila opened her eyes to see the soldier hesitating in the doorway.
"Jade," Bastila greeted, surprised at the thickness of her voice.
"I felt... You're upset and..." It was as close to speechless as Jade had ever been. The soldier bit her lip and studied Bastila uncertainly. "Is there anything I can do?"
There was tenderness in Jade's voice, and Bastila scoffed inwardly; she didn't deserve any pity. Her emotions were threatening to be her own undoing, and she wanted to be strong enough to work through them on her own. Part of her yearned for the comfort Jade's words promised, but she ignored that part of her and shook her head. "I'm fine," she replied, her tone colder than she'd meant for it to be.
Jade looked somewhat hurt but remained in the doorway. "... Are you sure?"
Bastila nodded tersely, looking away. She refused to lose her composure in front of Jade and become an example of everything the Jedi were supposed to avoid.
"Well… Carth said… I wanted to tell you we're leaving in the morning." Jade shifted uncertainly, studying Bastila with obvious concern. "So if you were going to talk to your mom…"
Bastila held her breath, trying not to tense. "I see." Her voice was still cool and she instantly regretted the hurt she felt through their bond.
Jade sighed. "I'm here if you need me, Bas," she promised before she walked away.
Something in Bastila's chest ached and she waited until she was certain she was alone before crawling onto her bed and finally allowing tears to fall.
The morning air was still cool, but there was already a hint of the scorching heat to come. Bastila wasn't sure she was prepared as she slipped out of the ship and headed for the city. Her thoughts were running wild, imagining different scenarios that could play out. Her stomach felt as though it was in knots as she walked through Anchorhead and every instinct was telling her to avoid the confrontation she was heading toward and return to the Ebon Hawk.
The snort of a ronto startled her out of her thoughts and Bastila jolted away, her hand going to the hilt of her lightsaber. Nearby Duros started laughing at her reaction, and Bastila felt her cheeks warm. She turned away and continued toward the cantina, berating herself for being so distracted. Ever since she'd heard news of her mother looking for her, she'd been on edge and unable to fully suppress her emotions. If the Council ever found out, they might demote her to Padawan once again.
Early morning traders were out and announcing their wares, the alien tongues carrying across the sand. Bastila ignored them as best she could, politely declining in Basic when an Ithorian came up and shoved some of his products in her face. He persisted, and Bastila finally showed him her lightsaber hilt in a burst of irritation, and the alien backed off immediately.
A groggy, confused presence flickered into her mind and Jade's voice sounded quietly in her ears. Bas? Where are you?
The Knight almost smiled at the sleepy sound of Jade's voice. She was nearing the cantina and took a moment to allow Jade to tune into her senses and see her surroundings. "I'll return shortly," she whispered.
Do you want me to come? Jade sounded considerably more awake and there was concern obvious in her voice.
Bastila hesitated at the cantina door. She weighed the options before shaking her head. "No, I won't be long. Go back to sleep."
Jade didn't answer and Bastila closed off their connection, wanting to have her energies focused on keeping calm in front of her mother. With a heavy sigh, she headed into the cantina, painfully aware of the holocron in her pocket.
The air in the cantina was stale and smelled of smoke and coffee. Dust floating in the air was illuminated by the streams of sunlight, and off in the corner, a sleepy looking Bith was playing his instrument quietly.
Her mother was in the same corner she'd been occupying when Bastila and Jade had first encountered her. Helena had perfected the art of the a haughty sneer as she studied the occupants of the cantina. When her eyes landed on Bastila, Helena's frown turned to confusion, then a decidedly blank expression settled into place on the older woman's face.
"Hello, Mother," Bastila ventured, forcing herself to walk closer to her mother so they wouldn't have to yell across the cantina. Putting off shouting for as long as possible seemed sensible, Bastila mused wryly.
"Back already?" Helena retorted briskly. "You didn't even look for the holocron, did you? Come to deny me my last wish?"
Bastila barely resisted rolling her eyes and dipped her hand into her pocket.
Helena's eyes flicked to the motion and her eyebrows rose.
"I have the holocron, Mother," Bastila affirmed, running her thumb over the chip before pulling it out of her pocket. She half expected Helena to lunge for it, but was surprised when the older woman only nodded.
"I'll admit it, I am impressed. Perhaps there's some merit in those reclusive old codgers you're with."
Bastila bristled. "Do you really think so little of the Jedi? Did you despise me that much that you would willingly pawn me off on them?"
"Pawn you off? Is that what you think? That I would sell off my only daughter to the highest bidder?" Helena looked stung. "Ignoring your family for all these years certainly has done a number on your memory!"
"I remember how you were, Mother," Bastila shot back, her eyes narrowing. "Always pushing Father to find more treasure, just so you could continuing living luxuriously. He worked so hard to provide for you, and now he's dead." Her voice stuck in her throat, and Bastila swallowed hard before continuing. "I loved him, and I never got to say goodbye. This is all I have left of him," Bastila spat, nodding at the chip in her hand, "and you want to take that away from me, too. So very well, Mother, you can have your way once again." She thrust the holocron into her mother's hands and turned to leave, frustrated by the fact that she was near tears.
"I loved your father, too, Bastila," Helena retorted. "I begged him not to do anything dangerous, to find a different job, but he loved his hunts." The older woman sighed. "He missed you, dear. It broke his heart to see you go; he wanted so badly to take you on his hunts and have you follow in his footsteps." Helena scoffed to herself at the memory. "It was too dangerous, for both of you, but he wouldn't listen. When the Jedi discovered how talented you were, I knew I had to send you away. Not to get rid of you, to protect you. The treasure-hunting life was no way to raise a child, Bastila. We were always moving, always hungry. I knew better than to think that we could care for you, and the Jedi promised us that you would be looked after."
Bastila paused; the tone of her mother's voice had softened considerably, and she couldn't sense any deceit in the words. "You never stopped Father," she pointed out weakly, the explanation she'd been given jarring everything she'd believed out of place.
Helena chuckled bitterly. "I tried, many times. Don't you remember the fights? Oh, I begged him to stop, but once I fell ill... He was stubborn, like you, and kept trying to find new ways to pay for my treatments." The woman watched as Bastila turned around slowly. "We tried to contact you, but never got an answer."
"You know the Jedi don't allow contact with family," Bastila reminded the older woman, mulling over the things her mother was saying. "Your treatments? Are you actually...?"
"I'm dying, Bastila," Helena answered, her tone resigned. "I didn't lie about that. There's nothing more anyone can do."
The Knight's mind was spinning. Most of what she thought she knew had been turned on its head, and the relatively civil conversation had brought her answers and enough peace to let go of her resentment.
Helena sighed and studied the holocron in her hands for a moment. "I realize I wasn't a very good mother to you, Bastila. I'm sorry for that." She looked up at her daughter and frowned slightly. "I'm sorry you feel that I stole your father away from you. That was never my intention. I thought you would be able to see... But I suppose you were just a child." She shook her head and tutted. "I thought I would feel better having this piece of your father," Helena said, holding up the holocron, "but this, talking with you, this is what I really wanted."
Bastila watched numbly as her mother entered a password into the holocron and offered it to her. "Mother, I-"
"I want you to have it, Bastila. Your father would have wanted you to have it, and you deserve to remember him just as much as I do." Helena pressed the holocron into Bastila's palm and closed her fingers around it gently. "Please take it. Clearing the air between us and seeing the beautiful woman you've grown into is all I need. I'm at peace now."
She couldn't argue and tried to figure out how to speak. "Mother, I... How long?"
Helena shrugged and waved her daughter's concern away. "A few more months, maybe. Don't worry about me. I'm sure you have more important things to do."
Bastila shook her head impatiently. "No, I-I want to see you again. I want us to have a chance to talk again. To get to know one another." The words came tumbling out before Bastila had even acknowledged their presence in her mind, but the sincerity behind them surprised her.
Helena looked stunned. "I... see. Bastila, there's nothing-"
"No," Bastila interrupted, digging her free hand into her pocket. "Mother, please. Take these credits and go to Coruscant. Find a doctor. I'll come find you when... When my mission is finished."
Helena hesitated, glancing between the sum of credits and her daughter's pleading face. Finally she sighed and chuckled softly. "Just like your father. Very well, Bastila. I'll go."
The Knight's shoulders sagged with relief and she smile in spite of herself. "Thank you." The two studied each other for a few minutes, and finally Bastila spoke. "I would stay, but... My mission... I'll be leaving within the next few hours, and..."
"I understand." Helena's smile widened and she reached forward to cup Bastila's cheek in her hand gently. "My beautiful girl. Be safe."
"I will," Bastila promised softly. She couldn't quite believe the turn the morning had taken, but the promise of future conversations and reconnecting with someone that seemed to care about her for more than just her Battle Meditation had her almost excited. "When will you leave?"
"The next transport leaves tomorrow morning, I believe. I'll get a seat there and be waiting on Coruscant," Helena replied. She saw the look on Bastila's face and raised her hands in surrender. "An old woman's promise may not mean much, but you have my word, Bastila."
There was nothing but sincerity radiating off her mother and the Knight let out a quiet sigh of relief. "Good. Thank you, Mother," Bastila added quickly. "For the holocron, and..."
The older woman just smiled. "Good luck, dear."
Bastila returned the smile uncertainly, finally tearing herself away and leaving. Carth would never forgive her if she was late and they got stuck in hyperspace traffic. She left the cantina, feeling much lighter than she had when she'd entered, stepping out into the oppressive heat of Anchorhead.
Jade was sitting in the shade across the road, and she jumped up when she saw Bastila exiting the cantina. She brushed the sand off her tunic and crossed over toward Bastila anxiously. "Hey, how'd it go?"
Bastila smiled in response, and allowed her bondmate to see some of the fresh memories. Jade's eyes lit up as she realized what had happened and a broad grin stretched across her face.
"Congratulations, Princess," the soldier murmured, looking like she wanted to grab the Knight up in a hug. Jade settled for patting Bastila's shoulder. "I'm proud of you."
For some reason, those words made Bastila's heart flutter, but she just ran her thumb over the holocron once more. It wasn't just a dream, and Bastila was tempted to cheer. Jade snickered at the mental image they shared, and after an insincere scowl from the Knight, the duo returned to the Ebon Hawk.