She was Sith. It was a mantra she repeated to herself endlessly in the moments of self doubt, a constant repetition where the words began to blur together as she sought to make them meaningful, as she sought to give them power.
I am Sith I am Sith I amSithIamSithIam-
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Jaesa felt her heart sink; she didn’t turn towards Vette’s voice and instead continued to buckle up her armour. It was a custom set that Tahrin had commissioned for her, sleek and intimidating. The armour of a Sith, of a lord of darkness, master of the deep and terrible powers of the universe. No longer hidden in the shadows of her teacher, a force to be reckoned with.
I am Sith.
“I am doing my duty,” she said instead, and the words tasted like sawdust on her tongue. Sith didn’t have duty, Sith only had ambition and lust. Sith saw duty as a hindrance, as a hurdle to overcome in a neverending quest for more power. But she did not feel the addictive rush of ambition in her veins as she dressed in the privacy of Tahrin’s quarters.
Her quarters now, she had to remind herself for what had to be the hundredth time. She had yet to adjust to the transition. The ship was still docked in the private hangar that Tahrin retained as the Emperor’s servant, and she had planned to depart quietly with only 2V for company. It had seemed a sensible enough plan when she had first begun to make arrangements- less chance of her approach to the fortress being detected if she were the only life form, and should the worst befall her, 2V could easily pilot the ship back to Dromund Kaas.
Only it didn’t feel that simple now- her hands were shaking as she tried to fasten the clips, and she wasn’t sure why. Misery stewed within her, a painful desperation that had nothing to do with fear and everything to do with a need to have this quest over and done with.
She had a duty to fulfill.
“Bantha shit you are- you’re going to get yourself killed.”
She could feel the flares in Vette’s mood- the fierce red of her anger, blazing white hot at the edges, and the seeping black of her fear. She tasted bitterness, despair, frustration, grief, all in a rush; it was so strong it was as if she were experiencing it herself. They were so entwined that Jaesa could almost speak the words Vette was thinking before they left her mouth.
She bowed her head, biting her lip so as not to sob at the onslaught of emotions, and kept fumbling with the clips on the armour.
“I am a Sith,” she said, her voice cracking. “Sith do not get themselves killed.”
“Oh, for-” Vette’s footsteps drew nearer, as she left the support of the door frame and stalked across the room. “You can tell me a thousand lies, and I’ll play dumb and let you believe it. But don’t stand there and expect me to accept that you’re running away without telling me.”
“I’m not running,” Jaesa said, spinning around to find Vette right behind her, arms crossed over her chest and her expression teetering between utterly crestfallen and unspeakable anger. Her heart broke a little, seeing the hurt on her beloved’s face, and she reached out a hand to touch her reassuringly.
Whether she was seeking to reassure Vette or herself, she couldn’t say.
But Vette pulled away, not so far that Jaesa couldn’t reach her, but enough to make it clear that she was hurting. It was such a small gesture, almost insignificant, but the weight it carried was immense.
“Vette,” she said, tears in her eyes, her hand hanging hopelessly between them. “I can’t-”
“I’m not stupid, Jaesa,” Vette said, her eyes flickering away as if she couldn’t keep eye contact; as if she were somehow ashamed. “I may not be an almighty Sith, but I can tell when you’re locking me out.”
“Vette, I have to do this-”
“And do you have to do it behind my back, never talking about, always changing the subject, making sure to be as secretive as possible?” Oh, the anger in her voice hurt, enough that Jaesa withdrew her shaking hand, hugging it to her chest. "You're just gonna sneak off and do your thing without the courtesy of even telling me you might not be coming back?"
"This is supposed to be a partnership, Jaesa,” she said loudly, her voice wobbling for a moment. “We were supposed to be equals. But I guess I should've known better than to hope when it came to a sith."
She spat the word like a curse, like it was filth. Jaesa took a ragged intake of breath; it couldn't have hurt more if she'd slapped her. She felt the first tear slip onto her cheek and she took a shaking breath. "You of course have a right to be angry-"
"Damn right I do," Vette snapped, but the bright blue of her skin had paled. There were lines around her eyes that made it seem as if she were fighting back tears as well.
It seemed hard to breathe, like there were iron bands around her chest. "And we both knew, I think, that this moment was inevitable. We even talked about it, on that first night together." When Vette didn’t answer her, she continued. “You were afraid what it would look like for a sith to take a twi’lek as a lover, and I was afraid you wouldn’t want to take a chance on me.”
Vette looked away, blinking rapidly. “We can never be equals, can we?” she said miserably; it wasn’t so much a question as it was a statement of fact, a hopeless acceptance of what the two of them had been dancing around for so long.
“You will always be first in my heart, my love.”
“But you don’t trust me,” she said pointedly. “You’ve gone behind my back and lied to me.”
“There will always be battles you cannot fight with me, dear heart,” Jaesa said, doing her best to sound unaffected, but the tears on her cheeks gave her away. What was the point? This woman held her heart so tightly, there was no chance of her ever being unaffected by her. “The fact remains that I am sith, and I will face opponents who will not hesitate to use you against me.”
“I’m not helpless, Jaesa-”
“Far from it, my love, you are one of the most competent and deadly women I know,” Jaesa said. “You have survived hardships that I can't even imagine, let alone survive with such love and humour still within me. You give me strength, Vette, because I would aspire to be as unbreakable as you yourself someday."
Vette crossed her arms miserably, vulnerability in her expression. "If I'm supposedly the strong one, then why can't I help you? Why can't I come with you? Why won’t you even talk to me?"
Jaesa didn’t doubt that by this point Vette knew what she was doing; her questions were too direct, her timing too good. Whether she’d managed to drag the information out of the encrypted files she’d stored them in, or she’d weaseled it out of Quinn- though she had sworn him to secrecy- it didn’t matter. The fact that Vette had worked it out was just another testament to her determination and ingenuity.
Who knew- maybe Tahrin had told her, sequestered away at a private villa outside Kaas City as she was. Her master had offered to assist her, and had taken her desire to face this challenge alone without question, but she showed her support in peculiar ways sometimes.
It was not outside the realm of possibility that she might have told Vette.
"This man,” she began softly, “this monster I must face- he will not hesitate to use everything against me that he possibly can.” She shuddered, trying to push the implicit horror of that statement aside, knowing of the atrocities he had already committed against other light sided sith. “That includes you, my love, and I don't know if I could stand strong while he hurt you."
When she reached out again, Vette didn’t move away from her, and instead leaned into her touch where she brushed her cheek. She closed her eyes, misery written all over her face. "You seem rather bent on the idea that I'll be the one getting hurt,” she said, turning her face into the palm of her hand. “That's pretty telling of how much faith you don't have in me."
Jaesa felt her lip tremble. “I would give anything to keep you from being hurt, Vette,” she said quietly. “I would gladly take every blow intended for you, every strike aimed against you, if only to see that you never suffered again.”
Vette’s brow furrowed, her eyes squeezed tightly shut as if she was fighting back tears. “And I’m not allowed to want the same for you?”
It was too much; her weak attempts at staunch aloofness finally crumbled, and she was already crying before she had her arms around Vette. She could feel her lover trembling, quiet sobs making her shoulders shake, and Jaesa felt like the most wretched fiend for bringing her to this point. All she wanted was to love and to cherish her, to protect her at all costs from the bitter truths of the galaxy, and here she was only making it worse.
She buried her head in the curve of Vette’s neck and wept; there were a thousand awkward apologies on her tongue, but nothing seemed satisfactory to soothe the hurt that she had caused. She had broken Vette’s trust, and made her feel unwanted; it did not matter that it had been in her overzealous attempts to protect her. The hurt was still real, regardless of how it had been caused.
When Vette turned into her, Jaesa met her lips with hers, kissing her desperately and trying to convey all the love and despair that she felt for her in that moment.
She could taste tears, and she wasn’t sure if they were hers or Vette’s; it didn’t matter, really. She clung tightly to her, her forehead pressed hard against hers, trying to imprint the feel and smell and taste of her onto her very being.
“I’m so sorry, Vette,” she whispered miserably, “I’m so sorry. Please stop crying.”
“You’re a jerk and I hate you.”
Jaesa laughed weakly, relieved at the familiar return to teasing. “I am a jerk,” she conceded, rubbing noses with her until she laughed as well. “But you kinda love me.”
“Nope, pretty sure I hate you.”
“Is there any way I could woo my way back into your affections?”
“Nope, it’s a lost cause,” Vette said, and her smile wobbled. “Just like my heart.”
When she started crying again, Jaesa held her, whispering quiet promises as her own heart broke in response.
“I don’t want you to die,” Vette moaned, her fingers clinging tight to the collar of the armour. “Why’d you have to be such a stupidly pretty, morally upstanding jerk? Why couldn’t you have been an asshole like all the other sith? Or at least not so cute and tempting.”
“Well maybe you’re the jerk, because here I am supposed to be concentrating on my goals of not dying, but you keep distracting me.”
They lapsed into silence, both sniffling, both unwilling to let go of one another. The hurt was still there, the wound still fresh, but they’d gone a ways towards healing it; it was a start, if nothing else.
Vette made a gross sniffling noise and rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. “If you don’t come back, I’m going to find you and kill you myself,” she said grouchily, resting her forehead on Jaesa’s shoulder. “So you go kill that asshole and get your own ass back here.”
Jaesa ran her hands soothingly down Vette’s lekku, breathing in the scent of her. “And if I don’t come back, I’ll know I died trying to make the galaxy a better place for you,” she said, smiling despite the tears slipping silently down her cheeks. “I know that you have greatness in you, and-”
“Stars, don’t give me that maudlin crap if you don’t want me wailing all over you again- if you die, I will never forgive you, you hear?”
“Duly noted, dear heart.”
Vette shuddered, and straightened, but she didn’t quite pull away; there was a spark of anger in her eyes, and Jaesa dared to hope she saw pride in there as well. “Well,” Vette said finally, her tone resigned if nothing else, “how were you planning on getting there?”
Jaesa swallowed back the surge of relief. “I need a pilot,” she said, her voice cracking.
“And I’m assuming the pilot isn’t allowed to come along to the main event.”
“This is my fight, dear heart.”
Vette nodded. “Then let’s make sure we get you there on time,” she said. “Ain’t no love of mine gonna be tardy to her fight to the death.”
Jaesa winced. “Your support is... appreciated.”
Vette winked at her, the mischief coming back into her expression. “I call it like I see it, hon,” she said. “You are a big bad sith, after all.”
“Your big bad sith,” Jaesa corrected.
“Always,” she replied instantly, leaning in to kiss her. “Never doubt it.”