I froze mid-bite.
"Are you feeling up to it?"
I meant to nod immediately, but Mand continued to watch me intently, waiting. Had I not responded?
I finally managed to, nodding as I swallowed a half-chewed bite. I needed to see him, too. I had one thing I knew I needed to say, but would I be strong enough to say it?
Mand set the empty tray aside and stood, walking over to the door slowly, as if giving me time to change my mind. I said nothing, and when she reached the door, she looked back with a concerned, sad expression. She opened her mouth to speak but said nothing, though I had an idea what was going through her head. I expected her to give me advice, tell me to patch things up with Koril, but really, that wasn't my decision to make. All I could do was apologize, and that's what I planned to do.
Releasing a long breath, Mand finally stepped out of my room, leaving the door open as she left.
I felt ice running through my veins, which confused me. I desperately wanted to talk to him, but I was freezing up. Would I be able to speak when he arrived?
The seconds passed like agonizing eternities, but finally I heard slow steps outside my door. Some soft whispers filtered in, but I couldn't make out any words thanks to the deafening thud of my own heartbeat in my ears. I couldn't even tell whose voices they were; I had to close my eyes and draw on the Force to calm my nerves.
When I opened them, my room was still empty, but a shadow crept through the open doorway. Dressed in his finest uniform, a deep purple suit with a wide golden stripe across his chest, Koril stepped inside silently. He met my gaze immediately and held it as he approached my bed and sat in the chair beside me. I had to remind myself to breathe.
With his head lowered slightly, he rested his forearms on his thighs and folded his hands between his knees. His expression wasn't...blank, but it wasn't readable, either. He looked contemplative, as if deciding on what to begin with, but I already knew what I was going to say. I opened my mouth to start...
But no sound came out. I had frozen. Mere weeks ago I had so easily rejected and wounded the man I loved, yet trying to apologize, trying to correct my wrongdoing, I couldn't even find the strength to speak. In my mind I was screaming, but still I could say nothing, and Koril spoke instead.
"Thank you," he said quietly, "for what you did, protecting us and our ship." My body went numb.
He looked up and met my gaze again, only this time, his eyes reflected the same fear I had seen in them as he leaned over me and begged me to breathe after the explosions yesterday. "It was extremely dangerous..." Though he lowered his gaze and his voice, I could tell that he was shaking the slightest bit as he continued. "I've never been so terrified in my life."
After all he had been through...the loss of his entire family to various disasters, the invasion of his home planet, his grievous injuries at the hands of bounty hunters...all that mattered less to him than my health? I was nearly choking, desperately trying to force my voice to work...
"Elena, I --"
Surprised, he looked up, and afraid I would freeze up again, I continued pouring out my thoughts.
"I'm sorry...I'm sorry... I was wrong to leave you, to run away. I was scared. Scared of failure, scared of being vulnerable... I thought it'd be too hard, too trying for us to be together but be separated. I thought you needed to be dedicated to your job, without any distractions." I paused to breathe. "I love you...and I don't deserve it, but I ask for your forgiveness...and the chance to start over."
There, I had said it. I was at his mercy, and I was nearly breathless. He held my gaze for a long time, silent and motionless. Again, his expression was almost blank, and he stood suddenly, crossing his arms and stepping over to the window, looking out onto the twinkling cityscape turned violet by twilight. His back was to me, and though I couldn't see his face, I didn't need to; I could feel a steady barrage of emotions flowing from him.
"Paneau needed you." I had to close my eyes as I heard the pain in his voice.
I was shaking. "I know."
"I needed you."
I hardly heard myself. "I know."
I heard his boots shuffle on the floor, and when I opened my eyes, he had turned around to face me with a pained expression. His eyes were enough to make me cry.
"How am I supposed to believe you? Two weeks ago, you were completely convinced that it wouldn't work."
I drew in a long breath and released it, but it did nothing to alleviate my shaking. Tears streamed down my face as I blinked to clear my eyes.
"I was scared," and I still was, "because I had just found out...that I'm pregnant. That's why Master Noor and Mand had to protect me. I just didn't know it yet."
I had to blink my eyes clear again, just in time to see Koril lower himself into the chair beside me. The pain on his face had been completely replaced by shock as he sat motionless and silent once again. He stared at the floor until I spoke again.
"I know I should've told you, but I was afraid that..." I took a breath to finish, but Koril continued for me.
"That he'd have to become the new Ghost Heir."
I nodded. His expression was almost...understanding, sympathetic, and even a little relieved. He ran a hand through his hair and stood, pacing a bit before he finally stepped up beside me, leaning against the bed slightly. His eyes were soft, and his voice was even softer.
"Is that really why you left?"
Again, I nodded, looking at my feet. Though I had given him numerous other reasons why I was leaving, that was in the back of my mind, the backbone behind everything else I had rationalized and convinced myself of. I was scared, and I had run away.
Koril sat on a small portion of the bed at my knees, silent for a moment before he sighed and looked up at me. "Our first child doesn't have to become the Ghost Heir." I gave him a confused look. "In fact, the new Heir doesn't even have to be ours." I still didn't understand. "Deilia's offered. She and another Heir are...very close, and she thinks she may be pregnant, too."
I was still stunned. "So...we don't have to..."
Koril shook his head, and I felt a tremendous weight disappearing from my shoulders. I closed my eyes and let my head fall back onto my pillow behind me, and I had to just breathe for a few moments. The relief was wonderful, but I still felt guilty for having hurt Koril for this, especially since now I knew that it was resolvable. I should have talked with him about it; instead, I had been a coward and left. But no more, I decided. If he took me back, I vowed I'd never make any important decision without him again.
I felt him pick up my hand and gently hold it in both of his, and I looked over when he began to talk.
"You want me to forgive you, and you want us to start over."
I nodded. Though I tried to control it, I'm sure he could feel my shaking and the extreme coldness of my skin. He was focused on my hand, even as he continued.
"I can only grant you one of the two." I swallowed, though my throat was dry.
"I will forgive you," he said softly, "under one condition." With one hand still holding mine, he reached into his uniform jacket with the other, digging around a pocket for something. I held my breath.
"We don't have enough time to start over. If we can pick up where we left off," he said as he pulled the engagement ring he had given me out of his pocket, "...I'll forget any of this happened."
My tears had been silent before, but I could hardly contain my sobs. I somehow managed to nod, and he gently slipped the ring back onto my finger.
I was speechless. Though I could barely see through my tears, I saw him smile wanly as he leaned over me, brushing tears from my cheeks.
"Don't cry," he asked softly, and as I began to comply, he leaned in further and kissed me gently. It was bittersweet. Part of me had never been happier, but the other felt unworthy of his affection.
Though he pulled back, he carefully placed his forehead against mine, and I closed my eyes. As I continued to calm down, for what felt like an eternity we sat together like that, similar to the way we had fallen asleep together numerous nights. When my breathing finally became normal, he sat back a little and picked up my hand again, bringing it up to his mouth to kiss it. I couldn't help but smile tiredly. He had done the same the first time we had met, after finishing a mesmerizing slow dance with me. He smiled, too, though I could tell something was still nagging on his mind. His expression fell just before he spoke.
"So that's why Master Noor and Mand did what they did." I nodded.
"Force Lightning would've killed him, and I probably wouldn't even have known."
Still holding my hand, he played with the ring on my finger. "It's tradition, then. He'll have to be named after one of them." He smiled a little, though sadly. "I like Aalon; it sounds strong." I nodded, sighing lightly.
"I was thinking about Derek, after your Jedi ancestor. We did go through quite a bit of trouble together to find him."
Koril nodded, and after thinking for a few moments, he looked back up at me, decided.
"Derek Aalon Rys'tihn it is, then."