She senses the other presence in a quiet moment.
It is almost too faint to recognize, its existence barely registering in her consciousness as she settles down to meditate, but it is nonetheless still there, and she freezes, just long enough for Neros to notice and shoot her a concerned look. “Satele?”
“It is nothing.” She forces a smile to her lips even as her thoughts race. Perhaps she is imagining things, or the source is from someone else, or…
But even so, she knows. Knows that the presence, the small life, is from within her. Knows that the child is living proof of her transgression of the Jedi Code.
Knows that her life is about to be irrevocably changed.
It is not unheard of for Jedi to have children—her existence is proof of that—but that does not change the spark of fear and panic ignited in her veins. She is sworn to the Order, sworn to protect the Republic. She is not ready for a child, not prepared to take on the extra responsibility. Not capable to handle herself in the face of the inevitable attachment.
She thinks about her mother, about the letters that she has kept since she was a child, about the longing and reminiscence and regret lingering in each word. She knows what Tasiele would say to her, has known it ever since she first read the journals left to her, the only communication she has ever received from her mother, and questioned whether attachments were worth it, in the end.
She thinks about Jace, strong, loyal, and endlessly dependable. She knows how strongly he desires for a family, knows that he would be happy to stay with her, to support her through any decision. She knows he is here for the long run, a thought as terrifying as it is comforting.
She thinks about the child. What they would be like, the best of both Jace and herself. Of her own childhood and the longing for a mother who had always been absent. Of warmth and happiness and love—a future—that frightens her with how much she wants it.
She thinks about them, the closest people she has to family, and makes up her mind.
He sits beside her, still marveling at the news. She is with child. With his child.
Satele curls against him, her expression hesitant as she watches him, and he can read the worry, the fear, underlying her announcement almost as easily as if she had spoken them out loud.
“What do we do?” Her voice is hushed, as though she is afraid someone else will hear, even as secluded as they are.
He is not sure he has ever seen Satele so rattled before, not like this, but even so, part of him can't help but rejoice at the “we,” at the fact that she is so open with him that she would dare express such uncertainty.
His smile grows as he slides an arm around her shoulders and she settles against him with a quiet sigh. “What do you want?” he murmurs softly.
He can feel her tense against him, but she doesn’t say anything for a long moment. Her eyes are wide, focused on something far beyond him, and he pulls her in closer, turning to press a gentle kiss to her forehead.
“I don’t know.” Her plaintive whisper is all the more heartbreaking for the confusion, the anguish, evident in every fiber of her being. To see her, the same woman who has always been so full of life and direction, who has been his guiding light, so lost is agonizing.
He moves to cup her face, bringing her gaze up to meet his. “Talk to me, Satele.”
This close, he can see her eyes shining with unshed tears as she draws a deep breath. “I don't know what to do. I have been part of the Jedi Order my whole life. You know as well as I what they say about attachments.” Her voice trembles. “What they would say about us.”
When she pauses, he gives her a reassuring smile, tracing her cheekbone with a light thumb. “And you know how I feel about them and their Code, so we’re even.” He cannot quite keep the frustration out of his voice, but now is not the time to debate Jedi philosophy, not when she looks more lost than he has ever seen her before.
Even so, he receives a wan smile for his attempt at lightheartedness. “That I do. I confess I sometimes wonder whether you are right. But…”
“Jace, I'm scared,” she whispers, her voice nearly inaudible. He feels her shudder against him and turns to face her fully, his heart aching at her agony.
For one long moment, he wonders if she will answer him; her mouth opens and closes without sound, an almost panicked look crossing her face, and he reaches for her hand, lacing their fingers together.
And then, so quietly that he has to strain to hear her: “Of falling to the dark side.” Her grip on his hand tightens, becomes vice-like in her desperation. “Of how much I c-care about you, about us.” Her voice catches, fear and shame dripping from her words. “If the Empire were to— If you were to— I don't know what I would do—what I wouldn't do—to pay them back.”
She is visibly shaking, eyes staring, wide and horrified, at some vision he cannot see, and he finds himself at a loss for words, can only curse the Code that has forbidden natural emotion to such an extent that she can only see the pain, the suffering, that caring would bring.
Her breathing is getting increasingly more ragged, voice straining under the need to remain quiet. “And now there's our child, too, and I know what I am supposed to do—what any Jedi should do—but I can't.” She doesn't seem to notice when the first tear escapes her control, slowly sliding down her cheek. “Jace, I can't.”
As her composure crumples, he reaches for her, cradles her as she clings to him, silent sobs wracking her frame. Her face is buried into his shoulder but he doesn't have to see her to sense the embarrassment lurking beneath her distress. “Satele, it's okay.”
When she finally pulls away, he smiles at her, gently brushing away a few stray tears. “Feeling better?”
Her gaze is tinged with embarrassment. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to—”
He shakes his head, cutting her off before she can finish. “There is nothing to apologize for.”
“But what? ‘There is no emotion, there is peace’? Emotions are human, Satele. You can't just push them away and pretend they don't exist. It doesn't work like that.” He pauses with a small grin. “And I, for one, am glad to see them.”
She offers a watery smile in return as he leans forward, brushing his lips across her cheek. “I'm glad you're here.”
“So am I.”
For another heartbeat, he studies her face, the mix of apprehension and ambivalence and, underlying everything else, affection for him. For their child.
Stars, he is going to be a father. He still can't quite believe it, that the life he has, in his most fantastical moments, dreamed of for the hazy future of peacetime might actually come to fruition. A spot of light, a source of joy amidst the chaos and destruction around them…
One that could be so easily snuffed out by the Empire.
A chill runs down his spine as Satele gets up, moves to peek out of the tent. They have always been tacitly aware that each battle could be their last, could end in losing each other. He has always been prepared to give whatever it takes to save her though he knows she can take care of herself, and now that protective urge has only been multiplied by the child she carries. By their child. The thought of losing her, of losing them both…
He would destroy the Empire, destroy death itself if it would bring them back.
She stops mid-step, offers him a questioning look. “Yes?”
He acts on instinct, reaching out and pulling her gently back into his arms. “I can't lose you either.” His eyes roam over her face, taking in each familiar feature, the ones he will never tire of seeing, before meeting her gaze. “Satele, I love you.”
For a moment, she freezes in his arms, unadulterated shock flickering over her features, and he waits, ignoring the way his heart stops in his chest. He will not regret telling her, no matter how she responds.
And then she smiles, tender and genuine, eyes bright with unshed tears, and he has never seen something so breathtakingly beautiful in his life. “I love you, too.” He watches as she reaches for his hand, lacing their fingers together, his pulse racing through his veins like liquid fire. “I've loved you for so long and never dared to say it, to feel it.”
The joy in her expression could freeze the galaxy with its warmth, with its beauty, as she shifts closer, until her lips are only a hair's width away. “But now… I would rather share my life with you than do anything else.”
And as their lips meet, all he can think about is how he wants to stay with her, together, like this, forever.