For three days, the sovereign Mother of the Hapes Star Cluster had been incommunicado in her quarters aboard the Song of War. She had broken her seclusion only to make a few tart holocomms to Dukat Grey and Astarta, telling them that if they couldn’t deal with day-to-day business without her, then the Hapan government wasn’t fit to exist.
Then she had gone back to bed.
For once, she was enjoying herself.
The young queen stretched comfortably on the big bed in the great cabin, gazing up contentedly at the ceiling, patterned by the rippling glow of hyperspace.
She was still far from home, but the droids had replaced the flowers before breakfast, and the scent reminded her of a spring morning in the mountains.
And for once, the musk of her chosen consort tingled on her skin; for once, his warmth was curled close against her in the bed.
The young queen of sixty-three inhabited worlds stretched again, and allowed herself a private smile.
The bed was built for two and then some but usually, she was alone here, as she was alone every night on Hapes. This was a rare pleasure and one that she was intending to take every advantage of.
“Would you like a son or daughter?” she asked, glancing down at his unruly mop of dirty-blond hair.
“Pardon?” he asked, squinting one eye open, and looking up at her.
“The Queen has decided to have her first child,” she said, stroking his bare shoulder with her fingertips. “She was wondering what her consort’s thoughts might be on serving as the royal heir’s progenitor ...”
“Your slave lives only to obey,” he whispered the old Dathomiri phrase, the one she had taught him when they first became lovers. She knew that it was close to the truth he would not deny her demand; but she could also sense the uncertainty behind the words.
“You are uneasy?” she asked. “Or you anticipate problems?”
“I made a commitment to you, Tenel Ka,” he said, his face growing thoughtful. “I knew that that might involve children; I also know that it has to involve satisfying your needs.” He paused, and looked at her, from her bare belly to her face, and back again. “You want this child?”
“I do,” she nodded solemnly, her hand closing over his as it slid across her stomach. “I want your child.”
“Then you will,” he promised. “But if the Mother of Hapes bears an heir ...”
“People will want to know whose heir it is?” she finished for him.
“Quite,” he nodded. “I can’t imagine I’d go down too well with your people. But I’m sure you have a plan.”
“I had thought of that already,” she smiled at him. “Ta’a Chume’s once told me that the best way to hide the truth is behind the mask of a compelling lie.”
For a moment, they looked at each other in complicit silence.
“Jacen,” he said, eventually narrowing his eyes at her, breathing out quietly as he spoke. For a moment, there was a hardness to his war-scarred face, but then his expression softened again, and he snuggled close against her. “It makes sense, I suppose. No, better than that. It’s a good idea.”
“Would you rather I told them the truth?” she teased, wrapping her arm around him and sliding down so that she was looking him in the eyes, the tips of their noses almost touching.
She could feel his breath, his heartbeats; his thoughts.
“We both have lives and duties, Erenada,” he breathed. “But you know that I am yours whenever, wherever, however, you demand. I don’t think you’d ask that of me, though.”
“Thank you,” she smiled. “And no, I wouldn’t.”
She kissed him gently and found herself drawn deeper into the kiss. Deeper than she had planned to go. For a moment, she trembled, and almost drew away, but his hands were round her shoulders, drawing her gently closer to him.
She lowered her mental guards, drawing him into her mind.
Let’s see about our child, his thoughts beckoned.
“Thank you,” she breathed, gazing up at him in surrender. “Friend Jacen.”
The Jedi Knight said nothing. And nor did she.
From here on in, the Queen was content for her slave to take command. And to forget the names that defined them.
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