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You Must (Not) Let Go

Part 10

The shuttle touched dirt. Bastila wrestled with the door control, the seat harness grabbing at her as she stumbled into searing daylight. Her boots slipped in the thin veneer of mud over hard ground, the entire universe seeming hellbent to keep her from the thin figure running towards her in the distance. The figure tripped, disappearing into dense, scrubby brush, thorny leaves fat with moisture swallowing them whole. A cry caught in Bastila’s throat. She raced, lungs burning, heedless of the rocky, uneven earth beneath her feet. The figure staggered up, swayed, blood running down bony shins. Bastila shot forward, wrapping her arms around her partner’s gaunt body before she could fall again. Sera collapsed into her, returning the embrace with fevered fervour. Bastila tightened her grip, incoherent with emotion, saying her name over and over again. Sera let out a croaking gasp. Bastila’s brain kicked into gear. She fought to open her pack, bringing her water bottle up to her partner’s parched lips. Sera drank gratefully, rivulets of water spilling down her dusty skin. Bastila’s eyes darted over her, cataloguing the changes, the harm done to her beloved. She was thin. So thin it made Bastila’s insides twist in fear. There were unknown scars and the remains of chemical burns patterning her hands and forearms. The skin of her shoulders and back was red and blistered from the sun, her hair dirty and unkempt. And, most obviously, where her left eye should have been was an angry knot of scar tissue drilling into the sphere of her skull.

Sera drained the bottle, coughed, and wiped her mouth on a bare shoulder. A tired smile lit her face. “Hey.”

Bastila let out a cry and crushed Sera’s mouth to hers. Sera stiffened in surprise, then melted, tasting of dusty earth and too many days without access to a toothbrush. Behind them, The Galactic Star roared into the atmosphere, a light tremor running through the ground as it set down. Bastila pulled away, everything becoming too much all of a sudden.

“The Myndraav family systematically embezzled the pension funds of Sabos II,” she blurted out stupidly.

Sera stared at her, gobsmacked and dazed, mouth hanging open in utter confusion.

Bastila felt her face growing hot. “Sirra Ukarme,” she barreled on, “drove the entire Kothunus race to extinction because their livers contained a compound she used in her skin care routine!”

“The fuck are you on about?” Sera said, finding her voice at last.

“The Xerda of Vih’Torr changed their mineral supplier to an inferior alternative because their profits weren’t increasing fast enough. The alternative was essentially agricultural waste from one of their subsidiaries, making their nutrient paste, their largest export, basically poison!” She heard the others approaching in the distance. Without relaxing her grip on her beloved, she dug one handed for a medpac, snagging a kolto injection and the emergency blanket from within.

“The fuck has that to do with… Is this about our last fight?” Sera snorted. “You came all this way just to get the last word in-- Ow!” She hissed, clutching onto Bastila as the injection pierced her thigh.

Bastila tossed the empty syringe aside. “A quarter of the galaxy relies on that nutrient paste, Sera,” she said around the blanket held between her teeth. Sera laughed into her shoulder. Bastila scowled, ripping the blanket out of its packaging and spitting the packet out. “How many are going to grow up with congenital defects, have years of their lives shaved off to satisfy one man’s greed!” She drew the thin silver sheet tenderly around Sera’s blistered and burnt shoulders, took her head between her hands and stared intently into her remaining eye. “You are nothing like any of these people, no matter what you were before! You are the most precious thing in the galaxy to me and I will fight every single person who tries to say otherwise.”

Sera stared at her, lips parting speechlessly.

Bastila slid her hands down, grabbing the edges of the blanket hanging down Sera’s bare chest and drawing her closer until they were almost nose to nose. “We are getting married, Sera. Today! No more ‘once we’ve settled down’ or ‘if we still feel like it’. I want everyone to know--”

“Yes.”

Bastila stopped, the soft reply stealing all the breath from her lungs. Sera was smiling at her, sweet and almost shy, a pool of tears collecting in her eye. She took in the look on Bastila’s face and laughed.

“What, did you think I’d say no?” she teased. Her laughter toppled into a sob. She clapped a hand to her mouth, thin shoulders shaking as tears pouring one-sided down her dusty face. “You’re really here, aren’t you?”

“Yes! Yes, I am!” Bastila pulled Sera against her chest, their tears mingling on their cheeks. “You’re safe now. I’m never letting you go again.”

A high-pitched squealing, poorly muffled, sounded surprisingly close behind them. Bastila jumped, reflexively tightening her arms around Sera. Zaalbar was standing not far away holding a datapad up, record light blinking, a massive grin on his face. Mission was standing in his shadow, both hands covering her mouth as she bounced up and down in glee.

“You guys…” she said wetly, her voice distorting oddly in her excitement. “That’s so sweet!”

Sera craned her neck around the protective bulwark of Bastila’s shoulders. “Wha… Who did you bring, the entire circus?” She gasped, eye widening as she took in the sleek champagne monstrosity lounging on the hot earth. “What did you… Babe,” she said uncertainly. “Did you… did you steal that?”

Bastila scowled. “Why would that be your first thought? I could have gotten it by perfectly legitimate means.”

Sera flicked her hand out disbelievingly. “It’s a fucking solid gold ship!”

“Make sure you get all this, Big Z. It’s good for posterity.”

“Why did you bring all those people up?” Ran interjected suddenly. She was standing a little way apart, sweating and frowning in the sun. “Why would it matter what she was before? I don’t understand, none of this makes any sense.”

Bastila stiffened. She had forgotten Ran was there. She couldn’t remember, had she said anything she shouldn’t have? Was that suspicion in Ran’s voice? “Um, well, you see…” Thoughts bounced around the inside of her head as she tried to pin down exactly the right combination of words to defray the situation, to not spiral Sera into another meltdown. Please. Don’t do this to me. I only just found her again.

“Because I’m Revan, I guess,” Sera said simply, like it was nothing at all.

Bastila whipped her head around to stare in shock at her partner. Sera offered her a smile and shrugged, looking a little sheepish.

“What?” The word came out soft, confused. Like she hadn’t quite heard what Sera had said. “What?” Louder this time. Angry, disbelieving. Her hand came up, lightsaber flying into her palm as if by instinct alone. She ignited it, a blade of trembling blue pointed directly at Sera’s face. “I’m sick and tired of your games, Bastila. You are going to give me the truth right now!”

~~~

The beam of light danced violently before her eye, snapping and buzzing angrily in the hot air. She squinted, blood throbbing in her temples as the kolto worked its way through her. She leaned into the circle of Bastila’s arms, soaking in the warmth, letting it soothe the pain of her body and brain. Wait. This is important. “Uh…” Sweat sprung from the back of her head and neck, empty stomach twisting in nausea as blue flashed and wavered in a wrong, sickening pattern. “That is, like…” The big woman’s hand tightened on the hilt, wide, frightened eyes darting between her and Bastila. Zaalbar cried out in delayed shock, reaching for weapons he did not have. “It’s not what you think.”

“What does that mean?” the woman barked. “What are you--”

The muscles in her arms and legs contracted, pulling her and Bastila to the ground faster than Sera could think. There was a bang. Light blazed over their falling heads, singeing the tips of Sera’s hair. Her knees hit dirt, gravel biting into lacerated skin as gravity threw her into the soft part of Bastila’s torso. Her head came up, the hand gripping her close telling Sera that Bastila was alright. The remains of the lightsaber lay on the ground, its metal casing split like an overripe fruit peel, bright flames pouring from the exposed and ruptured power cell with the heat of every strike it would ever make. The big woman was on the ground, stunned, the right side of her face scorched and blackened with soot. Her right hand hung in her lap, limp and useless, blood running from her fingertips.

“Holy fuck!” Sera pushed herself to her feet with the last scraps of her willpower. She kicked the lightsaber away, angling her foot into the drying mud to roll over the tiny inferno. The big woman shied away from her as Sera knelt down, jerking her hand out of Sera’s grasp.

“Idiot! Stop moving!” Sera tilted her head, inspecting the damage to the other woman’s face.

“Ran, what were you thinking!” Sera could feel Bastila bristling with spiky emotions behind her.

Zaalbar roared incoherently, echoing Bastila’s frustration and fright.

The skin on her face and neck showed no sign of blistering or swelling, the soot more dramatic than dangerous. Sera gently turned the woman’s hand over. There was a shallow gash running across her palm, blisters beneath the blood forming in a pattern where the lightsaber burst. Her face was tight with tension and she was letting her hand hang, not moving her fingers at all.

“Motherfucker!” Mission exploded. She plopped down next to Sera, eyes wide. “Is she alright? Are you alright?” she said to the fallen woman.

Sera looked up at Bastila. “Have to got a…” She held her fingers loosely in a fist and made a clicking motion with her thumb.

Bastila stared at her tight-lipped for a moment. Then her shoulders relaxed and she sighed.

“Not here,” she said, searching through her pack anyway. “We’ll have to get her back to the ship.”

“Well, alright then,” Sera said, groaning a little as she made to stand.

You are not walking anyway,” Bastila said, a fierce glint in her eye. “Zaalbar, would you please.”

“Ah, come on. If you just give me a hand up, I’ll be right on my--aawrrp!” The air rushed out of her lungs as Zaalbar scooped her into his furry arms. The thin, silver sheeting around her shoulders flapped up over her head, sticking to the sweaty skin of her face. She pulled it away with some difficulty. She had to admit, they were approaching the pale gold monstrosity faster than she would have been able to manage on her own. Zaalbar ran up an open ramp. Everything went black. Sera blinked, curiosity warring with logic as she waited for her vision to adjust. She saw a narrow hallway, then Zaalbar was pushing a door open to a very white room.

“Sorry if I shook you around a bit,” Zaalbar said as he deposited her gently on a raised bed. “Mission always says I mess up her aim when I carry her.”

“Hey, don’t worry you about it,” she said, adjusting the blanket more securely around herself. “It’s greatly appreciated. Best lift I ever had.”

Zaalbar nodded graciously. “I see you’ve finally embraced Wookiee wisdom and freed yourself of unnecessary trappings,” he said with a grin, gesturing towards her bare knees.

She lifted a leg and looked down at it with some consternation. “Yeah, I’m sure I had some pants.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re back.” The classy, minimalist countertop running along the wall on her blind side creaked softly as Zaalbar leaned his weight back on it. Atop, a box the size of a heater unit sat in a corner next to a sleek wall-mounted diagnostic panel and the least dinged up bottle of oxygen that Sera had ever seen. “Things have been really topsy-turvy since you disappeared.”

“It sure has been a week, hasn’t it?” She scrubbed a hand over her face and through her hair. She felt like a baked tuber that had been dropped on the floor and thrown in the bin against the cool freshness of the bed’s sheets. “Thank fuck that’s over with. Sorry about the fuck up. Out there, I mean. Guess I don’t quite have my head screwed on straight yet.”

Zaalbar was giving her an odd look. “Uh, yeah. I don’t think anyone was expecting that. Not that you should feel any shame for speaking what’s in your heart with honesty. Um…”

Mission burst through the door, flapping her hands self-importantly at Zaalbar. “Move, move!”

He sighed and slumped off the countertop, stuffing himself into a corner of the room to get out of the way. Mission threw open the cupboards, pulling bandages and medpacs out onto the floor. Bastila bustled into the sick bay, the big woman, her face pale with pain, supported on her shoulder. The frayed cuff of the big woman’s robe was red with blood, running in a line down to her elbow. Both scowled as though they’d rather be anywhere else.

Sera sat up, her head spinning a little with the motion. “Is she alright? That was a helluva bang.”

“Her hand’s broken, I think,” Bastila said, helping the other woman into what had probably once been the doctor’s chair in front of what Sera was beginning to suspect was an actual solid timber desk. “I’m not sure how extensive the damage is. There don’t seem to be any shards in the wound.”

“It was amazing!” Mission said with fascinated horror, medical supplies overflowing from her arms. “I’ve never seen anything like it! You could actually see, there was a split, and then a pah! And then, and then the blade, it just went…” She shot her hand off into the air, spilling boxes of headache pills and condoms over the floor. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve just, I’ve never seen anything like it!”

“Mission dear, would you mind doing something for me?” Bastila said calmly as she pulled on a pair of surgical gloves and opened a fresh life support pack, hooking a stool for herself with a foot. “Would you go into the kitchen and in a cup mix together just half a scoop of instant mash with a little electrolyte mix and some hot water?”

“I can do that!”

“Shouldn’t we get her to a hospital?” Sera said as Mission charged from the room. She scooted down the bed, needing to be closer to Bastila. The big woman glanced down at the bare grubbiness of Sera’s scratched up legs, lip curling up in disdain. “Oh. Sorry.” She pulled the silver blanket further down her thighs.

Bastila stopped what she was doing and stared at her. “Darling, we can’t.”

“What, why? Are the cops involved or…?”

The big woman snorted and turned her face away, shaking her head.

Bastila shot the other woman a hard look before turning back to Sera. There was a worried line forming between her brows. “Sera… There are no hospitals to go to. We’re in the Unknown Regions.”

Sera blinked. “Uh?”

“Did you not know this?”

She blinked again. “Huh?” she demanded after a moment. “Buh… Whuh…”

Mission returned, a plastic cup wrapped in a napkin in her hand.

They have to be joking. “But that’s the wrong way! Ooh, it’s pink.”

Mission gave her a wink and a thumbs up. Sera returned the gesture, fully laden spoon already held between her teeth.

Bastila carefully squirted a drop of liquid kolto into the big woman’s wound, examining it for some sign only she knew before returning her gaze to Sera. “Sweetheart, I searched everywhere for you. Everywhere! What in the world happened? How did you get so far out here?”

Sera licked the spoon clean of the brightly coloured goop. “There was a hijacking. Some kind of fucking scam, I don’t know. I got some of the ships free, there was a fight and then…” The strangely fruity mash stuck in her throat, her body refusing to swallow. The light seemed too bright, the stink of her own sweat clawing at her nostrils. She clenched her fist around the cup, forcing the stuff down. “But this can’t be the fucking Unknown Regions! You can’t fucking sell a ship or ransom off some asshole… ah fuck. I almost spaced myself. Fucking hell.”

Mission leaned forward. “Are there people after you? Are we gonna have to get out of here quick?”

Sera cocked her head. “No, there’s no one here. Just me.” She scraped the dregs from the cup. “I know you want me to watch my sugar, babe, but this is ridiculous.”

“There’re still some leftovers,” Mission said, gesturing with the anti-fungal cream she was putting away. “If you want, I can…”

“No,” Bastila said to Mission. She pointed at Sera. “You do not have the energy to digest much. I am not losing you because you decided to gorge yourself on cream puffs!”

Sera winced. “Fuck, I was doing okay until you mentioned cream puffs.” Her stomach rumbled. “You know, I’m sure I’ve eaten a whole bunch lately. If you, if you just let me have a bit of cheese. Or even a slice of toast, I’m not picky!”

“No!” Bastila said, her jaw set stubbornly.

Sera threw herself back onto the bed. “Argh! I’m going to die!” She sniffed. “You really brought me cream puffs? All the way out here?”

“You said you had something to eat,” Zaalbar rumbled from his corner. “Do you remember when that was?”

“I don’t know. Little while ago, maybe?” She scratched her cheek, inside of her head fuzzy and soft. “Was something I found, I think.” She snapped her fingers. “Fried! That’s what they needed! Oh, fuck. My stomach! With butter and a little bit of pepper.” She draped an arm over her eye and drummed her heels rapidly against the timber supports of the bed.

“You’ve been gone for two years,” he said. “Or a little over now. I only mention it because before you said, and I’m not good with human expressions, so…”

Sera stared at him, eyebrows raised, then put her hands over her face and took several deep breaths. Then she folded her arms across her chest, gazing up at the ceiling. “Well, that makes sense.”

Silence fell over the room, cramped with so many bodies in it. Mission resumed her tidying. Zaalbar covered a yawn and settled more comfortably into his corner. Bastila was frowning intently over the other woman’s hand as she alternated between syringe and a pair of tweezers but there was a stormy tension brewing in the way she pressed her lips together. Sera reached out a foot and rubbed it soothingly along the back of Bastila’s knee. Bastila glanced over at her, surprise melting to warm affection as their eyes met. Bastila gave her a smile, a sweet curve of her lips that Sera knew so well, and returned her attention to her work, tightening her leg subtly around Sera’s foot. A warmth she’d been missing curled through Sera’s stomach. She let her eyes rove over her partner, basking in the reality that she just could, at last.

Something in the corner of her vision caught her eye. The big woman, sweat beading on her forehead, her skin pale and taut with pain, was scowling at her disapprovingly.

Sera squinted. “We’ve met before, haven’t we?” Maybe her face was just like that.

The woman hissed in a breath. “Why would I associate with the likes of you, lout?”

Definitely disapproval then.

“Sera, this is Aleran Staulkie,” Bastila said with more politeness than she was feeling if her face was anything to go by. “You met shortly after the end of the war-- please stop moving, I’m trying to make sure everything is connected in the right order and you’re not helping!”

Sera shook her finger in the air. “The roommate! Now I remember.” She looked the woman in the eye. “I’m not interested in rejoining the Jedi Order.”

“I wasn’t asking!”

Sera held her hands up. “Just so we’re on the same page.” She scratched idly at a bare patch of skin. “Uh, not to be antisocial or anything but could one of you guys point me to, like, a shower or something? I feel like I’m accreting dirt here.”

Mission popped up. “Oh! Oh! You gotta see the shower up in the master suite! It’s like…” She swung her hands in a wide circle while making whooshing noises, nearly hitting poor Zaalbar in the face. “Man, if I had known it’d be like this, I would have snuck up to the Upper City more often as a kid.”

“Shit. I guess I gotta see it then.” Sera wriggled awkwardly off the bed, wincing as her feet hit the ground. Careful to not contaminate the clean zone of Bastila’s gloves, she slid her arms around her partner’s waist and kissed the spot on her neck just below her ear. “I’ll be back soon,” she murmured softly. “Hope your hand gets better,” she said to the still-fuming Aleran, giving the woman’s shoulder a gentle squeeze as Mission shuffled her out the door.

*****

Don't completely know where I'm going with all this and don't know if all of this makes sense but I'm getting there.

I actually had a harebrained idea that I would get this done for Valentine's Day but I think that might be a bit optimistic.