Before Koril even had a chance to sit down on the bench in their room, Elena had already begun the conversation in her head. Everything she tried to say, though, sounded nothing less than inadequate. As she paced back and forth in front of him, she formed the words a dozen times, but her emotions continually took over, stifling her voice. Her husband of eight years looked up at her with wary curiosity, patiently waiting for her to speak...once she overcame her intense guilt.

"I know I haven't been handling this very well," she finally managed weakly, staring hard at the floor as she slowly continued. "But I don't think I've explained to you, or to anyone, for that matter, the reason why...

"When I found out I was pregnant with Derek, I had a hundred different thoughts running through my mind. But once that initial shock wore off, the one thing that consumed me the entire pregnancy...was wondering what kind of a Jedi Derek would become. For the first time, I felt a deep, unbreakable connection to a Jedi; it was unlike anything I'd experienced before, and it was almost overwhelming. I could feel his strength in the Force, even before he was born, so there has never been a doubt in my mind where his path would lead him. I haven't discussed this with anyone because I thought that after Master Noor's sacrifice, it was just...understood. Derek would become Master Noor's legacy. And that's where the fault lies with me. That's why this...hurts, as much as it does, but it's my own doing."

Feeling her legs beginning to weaken underneath her, she lowered herself onto the bench beside Koril, but she maintained her gaze firmly on the floor in front of her. She even had to consciously control her breathing that had quickened in her distress.

She hardly had the strength to speak. "I just don't want to let Master Noor down."

Though there was a lengthy silence between them, she wasn't expecting to feel his hand gently grip hers as it rested atop her thigh.

"Neither do I."

His voice was that much softer and more sympathetic when she had expected neither, and as she looked up and met his warm gaze, she couldn't restrain a tear.

"You know I owe him just as much for what he did for Derek," he answered quietly, "and even more for all those times he saved my life, too. I think Master Noor would be proud of whatever Derek decides to do, because he will put everything he is into it and do the best he can all the time. He's just that kind of kid. And that's something we can be proud of, too."

She nodded, unable to keep more tears from freely falling. "I am trying to accept it... But it will take me some time. I have to alter my...expectations, quite a bit, and it's not easy." She searched his onyx eyes deeply, desperate to communicate her sincerity. "I am sorry that I took this out on you. I didn't mean to cause you all this stress that made you sick..."

But Koril shook his head with a weak grin that surprised her. "Like mother, like son. It wasn't your fault, either."

Her heart sank. "Derek blamed himself, too."

"But I calmed him down. He's okay now."

Relieved, she squeezed his hand she was still holding as she briskly brushed away her tears with her other hand. "And what about you? Are you feeling alright?"

His smile broadened briefly as he nodded. "I'm fine. Only had to make a minor adjustment, and they sent me with more of the medicine in case I need it." When his expression fell, though, she held her breath. "Just promise me...you won't block me like that again. I may not be a trained Jedi, but...I could tell."

She was sure the blood in her veins was very nearly frozen solid with intense regret. "I was trying to shield you from everything I was feeling so it wouldn't overwhelm you." Though he nodded in understanding, she still regretted putting him through even more suffering...

Standing from her seat, she gently pulled him to his feet, as well, bringing her hands up to delicately cup his face. He looked briefly confused at her gesture, but when she lifted herself up onto her toes to stand even with him, carefully meeting her forehead with his, she could tell he relaxed as he closed his eyes to relish her touch.

It was a familiar moment, an intimate embrace that had always reconnected and refreshed them in times of turmoil over the years, and she couldn't wait to open the Force between them once again. Within moments, it felt like the most perfect comfort, like a warm, personal remedy to their struggles that flowed down into the very core of their being. She shared herself so completely with him as she used the gentleness of the Force to wrap their interwoven consciousness with a breath of clarity and peace, calming their worries and their insecurities as the seconds slipped by in silence...

She could feel his heartbeat was continuing to slow the longer they stood together, and not wanting to cause him further problems, she slowly brought them both out of the light trance, still holding tightly to his tunic at his shoulders. Her eyes remained closed, though, as she savored the last of their moment, finished by a light, earnest kiss he gave her. Finally able to, she smiled as she looked up at him, studying his contented eyes briefly.

"I want to enjoy this week."

He agreed. "So let's enjoy it. Swip and Yhren should be back soon, and we only have a few more hours to Aquilaris."

Firmly taking hold of his hand at his side, she stole another kiss before they left their embrace. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

Though it had been perfectly silent in their room, the scene they returned to within the Celestia's hold was just as they had left it. The Natiyr twins were playing a game of tag with Kaylina and Kyren that took them up the spiral staircase, being overseen by Tops who pretended to chase after them, too. Rech and Mand were watching from the bridge up ahead, but as Elena had begun to ask them about their pilot and his girlfriend, Koril's grip on her hand suddenly tightened and loosened at the same time, earning her attention.

"Elena..."

She quickly turned to see the pallid tone to Koril's skin that hadn't been there mere seconds earlier, nor had the look of fear and dread that now filled his eyes. She hardly had the chance to react before he wavered and sank to the floor, watching helplessly as he hadn't the strength to break his own fall. Her hand caught his head at the last possible second, and with a breath she hadn't felt herself take, she called for Rech in a haze of denial. Everything was happening so slowly, she was almost certain she was reliving a memory; Koril had just told her he had been treated for his minor illness, so it was just a dream, wasn't it?

As Koril's eyes fell heavily, a strange weight seemed to land upon her, too. She pressed her fingers into his neck, fearing the worst, but...his heart was beating just fine. Her mind was inexplicably becoming more and more clouded with each passing moment, and by the time she registered the profound weakness in her own body and the irreversible darkness that descended upon her...it was far too late.

She met Rech's gaze with warning as he knelt beside Koril, and the realization hit him hard, too. He returned to his feet in an instant, leaving her to collapse onto her side just next to her husband. With the last seconds of consciousness she could hold onto, she heard Rech's shuffling steps as he tried to reach the staircase to get to the children...and the thud of his weight falling to the floor was the last thing to echo in her ears.


When the stampede of footsteps coming up the staircase suddenly stopped, Cordira turned to look, but she quickly lost interest. The four youngest had developed their own style of games, and this particular edition of tag incorporated a strange round of follow-the-leader, usually in dizzying concentric circles, when the tagger changed hands. At least they kept themselves occupied.

Laying on her stomach on the floor with a holobook, Dirani yawned dramatically. "This trip is so boring. Are we ever going to leave?"

"I think we're waiting for Swip," Derek answered, though he yawned, too, sitting at a table across from Cordira. "He took Yhren out on a date."

With a disgusted sound, Dirani scoffed. "Ew. Boys."

Though she sat with her back to Dirani, Cordira had to roll her eyes. "You have two brothers. Boys aren't that bad."

When Dirani didn't respond, Cordira grinned triumphantly. It wasn't very often that their banter left Dirani speechless; in fact, it had never happened that Cordira could recall. She decided to have fun with it. "You can't date your brothers. That's gross."

But when she turned around again, she saw that Dirani had laid her head down onto her arms and was motionless, appearing to be asleep. Cordira had begun to celebrate her victory, laughing to herself in disbelief, but out of the corner of her eye, she saw the younger children all leave their circle and stumble to the floor at the same time. Were they making a game of being silly, too? She watched them for a few moments, but each child was...completely still, and completely asleep.

"...Aruun? Arlen?"

Kaylina and Kyren didn't stir, either.

"Derek! Derek, something's wrong!"

She returned to him, not expecting to find him resting his head on the table, too. "Derek, this is not funny," she charged as she shook his shoulders. "Wake up!"

Panic was beginning to set in, but before she could think of or process much else, she heard a scary, unfamiliar voice echoing up to the observation deck from the main hold below.

"Nobody move! We're commandeering this ship!"