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Revan stops dead and rounds on Bastila, scowling. Dantooine's sun-soaked grasslands ripple in the afternoon breeze; were it not for the Force's lingering echoes of pain and terror, this could be a peaceful place. As it stands, they're here to salvage what they can of the Enclave after Malak's bombardment.

"What do you want me to say?" Revan demands. "That you're a monster, that you deliberately chose to fall, that you deserve to be locked away by the Jedi for what you did at the Star Forge?"

"I do, though," Bastila says softly.

Revan stares at her. Then she says, "No."

And she kisses her.

Bastila freezes. For the span of a hammering heartbeat, two, she stands numb and bewildered. For another ten, she sinks into it, gives herself over to it entirely. Then sense reasserts itself, and she wrenches herself away. "What are you doing?"

"I can't," Revan says. "I can't just—you deserve so much better than this, Bastila, you can't even imagine—"

"You said it," Bastila says through the vise around her throat, unable to let herself weep, unwilling to. "I killed them, I chose the dark side . . ."

"A choice made under that kind of duress is no choice at all," Revan snaps. She steps forward, closing the distance between them again. "Bastila. I don't know what he did to you. I don't know, but I can imagine. And I am sorry. I am so, so sorry you had to go through that. You are one of the bravest, kindest people I know, and he tried to break you."

"He did," says Bastila.

"No," Revan says, adamant. "He didn't. Because you came back."

"Nobody ever really comes back," Bastila says. "Not from where I went." Where you went, she doesn't add, but she doesn't need to.

Revan is silent for a long time, dark eyes searching hers, something behind them calculating, always calculating. Eventually she sighs. "You're right," she says. "But you can move forward."

"With this guilt, this poison inside me?" Bastila laughs, a bit hysterically. "How do you bear it, Revan?"

Revan smiles sadly. "One day at a time."

"You sound like Master Zhar."

Revan gives an exaggerated shudder. "I hope not!" Sobering, she takes Bastila by the hand, leads her over to the scant shade offered by a stubby blba tree. It is quiet, peaceful, serene here, but that serenity does nothing to ease the ache. Revan sits down, gently tugging Bastila with her; they lean against the trunk side by side. Bastila hunches in on herself, one arm wrapped about her knees, the other hand gripping Revan's with all her strength.

"It's okay," Revan murmurs. "It's okay to be hurt by everything that's happened."

"I'm supposed to let it go."

"Is that what the Council told you?"

"It's what the Code teaches," Bastila says. Which, they both know, is as good as an affirmative.

Revan shakes her head. "The Code has its wisdom," she says, "but it's not the only way."

"That is a dangerous path . . ."

"Let it out. Bastila, please, you're killing yourself. Let it out."

"I am afraid," Bastila admits. "I am afraid that if I do, I'll . . . fall again. And I won't care anymore. About-" You, she doesn't say. "About anything. And that . . . I can't let that happen."

Revan shakes her head. "I don't think you will. And even if you did, I would be there to catch you. Every time."

Years of training insist that she refuse, that she back away now, before she does something she'll regret. Well, another something she'll regret. But there is just too much, too much horror and self-loathing and sorrow to bear, and it goes too deep to simply meditate away—not before she drowns in it.

Bastila stands up, and Revan lets go. She starts walking. Out into the bowl of the hills, where only insects and kath hounds venture, far enough from the destroyed enclave that it might be years ago, before the wars, back when Bastila was a headstrong novice with a great and terrible gift . . .

A gift that has only brought her pain. A gift that everyone—the Council, the Republic, the Sith—wanted to use as a weapon. She was a weapon.

The Force heaves, and she sends a vicious shockwave howling over the grasslands. "I am nobody's weapon!" she shouts, as the echoes of the blast fade.

She is not a weapon. They used her, all of them, but him most of all, he took her and he broke her and she can still feel the lightning, sometimes, the lightning and the breathless pain and worse, far worse, his words, you've always wanted this you know you want this power so reach out and take it-and she shivered and cried and sniveled that she'd do it, yes Master, as you command Master-

Bastila shouts again, a wordless cry of defiance. Malak. Not Master. Malak. She has no Master, she serves no one and nothing but the Force—

Oh, but that's another pretty lie, isn't it? How she suffered for it! Believing herself to be a servant of the Light when all along she was just another pawn in the games of old Jedi and fallen heroes. Revan's pawn, in the end, for all it was not Revan's hand that moved her—she set it all in motion, made Malak into the monster he became, brought destruction and suffering down on a galaxy still reeling from a long, long war.

Another shockwave, sharper, furious, flattening the vegetation in a vast circle around her. But even that's not enough—because Revan stood by her, believed in her beyond all reason, held out her hand when Bastila deserved nothing but contemptuous pity and a lightsaber to the heart—she can't even hate Revan for it, and it is infuriating.

. . . It was her fault, ultimately. She chose to fall. She chose to succumb to the Dark, to give in to her hate and anger and—

a choice made under that kind of duress

—And what the fuck does that have to do with anything? She was in pain! She was tormented, agonized, with no way out but down! And Malak knew that, Malak forged her into the knife at the Republic's throat, counting on that self-loathing to keep her loyal—for if she believed she was worth anything, she might turn against him.

Revan believes.

Bastila's hate and anger—for herself, for Malak, for Revan, for the Jedi and the Sith and the whole damn universe—were strong, and bound up together, twisted, entangled—they still are, and she can't—

Revan believes.

Yes. She can indeed hate Revan for that.

Bastila digs deep, clawing her way to the blackest, bitterest heart of her—and sets the monster loose. Lightning rages around her, crackling over her skin, snapping at the damnably calm skies, scorching the perfectly bucolic hills—the dark side, her dark side, unleashed and angry, so angry—

But Revan believes. Revan, a false mind badly stitched atop a long nightmare, a false mind now in tatters, shredded by so many regrets and so much life, passionate, brilliant life. Revan believes in Bastila when she should have long given up on her, on even the pretence of clinging to the precipice between Light and Dark, carrying the ghosts of billions as she does.

Is Bastila weak for struggling with the ghosts of mere thousands?

Mere thousands. This is the scale, the calculus of war. Carnage.

Is she? So be it.

Bastila Shan screams, and the Force screams through her.

o.O.o

Revan intentionally closes off her end of the Force bond, trying to give Bastila her privacy. Hoping she's doing the right thing. Bastila's hurts run deep. Revan can't, won't let her quietly suffocate to death as she tries and tries to be a good Jedi, tries to follow the Code as she has her whole life.

The two of them are too alike. A pair of stubborn fools. But at least that likeness grants a modicum of understanding.

There's a place on Korriban, out in the wastes near the tombs of ancient Sith Lords, where the obelisks have been blasted to rubble and the sand is riddled with glassy veins, melted by lightning. There, the very air is sour with old deaths. And new pain, now, from Revan.

It was their last day on Korriban. Yuthura and the surviving defectors were making plans to leave. Carth was trying to reconnect with Dustil, finding it far more difficult than he wished. And Sen—for she still thought of herself as Sen—was losing her mind. Memories real and artificial warred for space in her head. The ugly cruelty of the Academy pressed down on her, leaving her dizzy and sick.

She left the Academy and entered the wastes as Sen Tethis. She returned as Revan. Not whole, not even close—her memories were, and still are, ragged tatters—but she found some kind of peace.

And now . . . now, hopefully, Bastila will find her own.

Make her own.

Revan inhales sharply as the Force convulses over the next rise. Bastila's wild, pent-up emotions roar down their link however she tries to block it. Her vision greys out. Howling thunder slices through the quiet. She gives up on cutting off the link and opens her mind, pours out all her love, all her hope.

I'm here. For you, I'll always be here.

Eventually the Force's frenzied wailing dies down, and she senses Bastila approaching. She rises, brushes the dust from her limbs.

Bastila crests the hill. Her gait is unsteady, weaving, but her eyes are clear, and she feels . . . drained, wrung-out, yet calmer. Not healed—not yet. But the way is open, the festering wound made clean.

"Revan," she says, stopping several yards away. The distance might as well be miles.

Revan waits, hands loose at her sides.

Bastila reaches up to touch her cheek, inspects her wet fingers with something like wonder. "I haven't wept in so long," she says. "I haven't let myself . . ."

"It's okay," says Revan.

Bastila nods. Hesitates. Then she stumbles forward, and Revan meets her halfway, locking her arms around Bastila in a tight embrace. She holds on as Bastila melts against her, shaking. Revan finds herself rocking slowly, back and forth, murmuring reassurances. "It's okay," she says. "It's okay, Bas."

"I love you," says Bastila.

Revan smiles into her shoulder. "Love you, too."

o.O.o

end