“They’re desperate.” Voss had said when he had given me the details. “As you can imagine, Thrawn wasn’t overly happy with the outcome. They did manage to procure some ships but not nearly as many as they had hoped.”
I had just shaken my head. The New Republic’s victory was empty since they had to destroy the ships to win but it hadn’t made me or anyone else feel any better about what had happened.
“So what next?” I had asked.
Voss had shaken his head, “I don’t know. Thrawn did not go into details about his plans and I did not ask.”
I had nodded and that had been that.
Later I learned that instead of returning to the base for supplies and briefings Thrawn had chosen to take the ships he had managed to obtain to a secret location and then go back to Wayland to check on the progress of the clones being created there. All Voss could tell me Thrawn had other ideas and they did not involve returning to Nirauan for the next little while.
In a way I was relieved to hear this because I was pretty sure if he were to see me in my current state he’d know instantly something wasn’t right and badger me about it. The morning sickness was proving to be an issue and there wasn’t much the doctor could really do about it except prescribe herbal remedies and teas which helped a little but not enough. The very fact that I couldn’t go near stim’caf alone would have set off Thrawn’s curiosity alarm bells.
I had told Park that I had come down with a particularly bad version of the Corellian Flu which had a long recovery time and he accepted this without question. It meant no one would think it strange that I rested a great deal or that instead of working in the pit instead I spent a lot of my time reading in the quiet of my quarters, not that I figured anyone would really care anyway, but it was always good to have an excuse. With Thrawn’s campaign so far underway things at the base were fairly busy and I was a minor blip on the radar as far as most of the people were concerned.
I was not surprised when Voss came to me shortly after the news about the Sluis Van raid to tell me that the few Chiss who had been learning basic had told him they no longer had the time to study and felt they had come sufficiently far enough to more than get by. I had to agree with this assessment of their skills and in the end I didn’t mind the break. I was exhausted almost all the time which surprised me but apparently was normal according to what the doc said.
“Your body is a little busy at the moment.” He said when I complained about it during a check up. “I don’t, for a second, imagine that growing another being is easy and neither should you.”
When I made a face he had just laughed. “My dear you had better get used to your body and your time no longer being your own.” He admonished.
It was a daunting thing, this little life that was slowly but surely growing inside of me, but it was also infuriating. While I still could not sense or feel it I was well aware of its presence due to the morning sickness that seemed to happen at the most inopportune times. The almost constant nausea was driving me crazy.
“I do not know what to say, Merlyn, usually I can address this problem with standard medications but in your case there’s not much we can do. The herbs are not helping and the antic emetic drugs are too risky and unfortunately I cannot think of anything else that might work for you.” He said. “I will do some more research and see if I can find anything to help because you are supposed to be gaining weight not losing it.”
I patted my abdomen feeling the ever so slight roundness that I was pretty sure wasn’t fat. “This little alien is not making my life easy. Just like his father.”
“Feels like a him.” I smiled. “It’s always males making my life hard.”
Doctor Thracer gave me a look full of worry. “I realise that I am preaching to deaf ears but do not get too attached to this pregnancy you are not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot.”
I made a face. “I know, I try but it’s difficult.”
“I understand that but I am concerned.”
“You said everything was ok.”
He sighed. “You are in no immediate danger and as far as I, and all this equipment, can tell you are stable but the fact that you are so sick so much of the time worries me a great deal. You have to eat and you really have to gain some weight.”
“You want me to get fat?” I grinned.
He shook his head with a smile. “You are a slender woman Merlyn. You were tiny when I first met you and you’re still tiny. If it were not for the fact that I’ve actually seen you tuck away more food than a grown man on occasion I’d think there was something wrong. I do not think that getting fat is one of the things you need to worry about. I am quite sure that the admiral will adore you no matter what, after all he’s stuck with you in spite of all your crazy antics. I only need to see the way he looks at you to know that he won’t care about a bit of extra weight as long as you are healthy and well and I dare say he’d welcome that to finding you skinnier than a skeleton.”
“Funny ha ha.” I retorted, getting off the exam bed.
He regarded me for a moment. “You don’t have any abdominal pains, especially sharp ones or any spotting, do you?”
I shook my head. “No, just nausea, vomiting and a lot of really, really bad dreams which I guess would explain why I am so tired all the time.”
“Well the same advice still follows no heavy lifting, no stress and your mission is to find food you can keep down and to drink more fluids.” Doctor Thracer said flapping his hand at me in a shooing motion. “Now, I have patients to see to and you seem to be healthy so go away and stop worrying.”
I nodded and then because there was nothing else I left to find something useful to do.
As I washed my face and stared at my reflection in the mirror I could understand why Doctor Thracer was so concerned. I looked gaunt and there were terrible dark circles under my eyes. I had hoped that the soup I had eaten would stay put but it hadn’t and I was getting really fed up of this. It was late and this was wearing me down and even I was starting to worry about the baby, about myself. I was tired. I was tired of being sick and even more tired of the terrible dreams which had me waking up screaming in terror. I was scared and feeling very sorry for myself. I probably would have spent more time feeling that way had the chimes to the door not suddenly rung making me jump in fright. I made sure I didn’t look quite as scary as I felt and went to answer the door.
“Syal!” I said surprised to see her.
“Hullo Merly, can I come in?”
I stepped back to let her past. “Are the boys okay?”
“Oh they’re fine.” She said with a smile, making her way to the small kitchenette. “I thought we’d have some tea and a chat. It’s been a while since you and I just had a girl’s evening. I had K’arla’sh baby sit so we could spend some time together.” She replied as she put water in the kettle.
I smiled and pulled the tea pot and two cups out of the cupboard then reached for the tea but was stopped by the touch of Syal’s hand.
“Try this tea instead.” She said gently, “it’s one of my favourites.”
We waited in comfortable silence for the water to boil and then with the pot full I placed everything on a tray and which she picked up before I could and we made our way to the living room. We sat and she gazed at me for a very long moment and then she said, “So why did you not tell me you were pregnant Merly?”
For a moment I forgot how to breathe then I shook my head. “How did you….?”
“I’ve been pregnant enough times to just know.” She said as she poured tea and then handed me a cup. “This will help with the morning sickness, or in your case the all the time sickness.”
I sniffed the tea suspiciously. “What is this?”
“It’s an extract from a root the Zabraki use in their cooking. They call it zjenzär and it’s what makes Zabraki food so spicy.”
I took a sip and smiled. The taste was familiar to me. I loved Zabraki food. “This really helps?”
She nodded, “I am allergic to most anti emetic drugs and this was suggested to me when everything else failed. My first pregnancy was pretty rough. When medicine couldn’t help me I went to see a herbalist and this was what she suggested. I was sceptical but it helped.”
"Then why the hell hasn't Doctor Thracer suggested it?"
"It's used in cooking as a spice," she said with a shrug, "that it helps against nausea isn't something most people seem to know about."
“Does everyone know?”
“Know what?” She asked, “Know that you’re with child? No I doubt it. The flu has been going around the base so you not looking so well isn’t so weird but usually people get over a flu after a couple of weeks and you don’t seem to be getting any better. Eventually folks will be wondering about that so I thought you might like some help. Have you gotten word to Thrawn about it?”
I shook my head. “It’s too early.”
“Doctor Thracer, he thinks well, he wants me to be cautious.” I sighed. “He keeps warning me about the dangers of cross species mating and the terrible outcomes.”
She nodded. “He’s worried you cannot carry to term.”
“I don’t want to tell Thrawn until I’m sure and while he’s away it seems selfish to give him yet another thing to worry about.”
“I doubt he will see it that way.” Syal said. “I get why you think it is a good idea but I think you are wrong. It’s his baby as well and even though he is a passive observer he is a part of it, he should know the whole journey not just the last few months. I didn’t even know you were trying.”
“We weren’t.” I said with a shrug.
She raised her eyebrows at me so I told her what had happened and when I was done she took a deep breath. “That’s not at all like him.”
“I know but it doesn’t matter anyway because what’s done is done.” I said absently stroking my abdomen. “Unplanned doesn’t mean unwanted.” I said with a smile.
She nodded, “But still that’s not like him, not at all.”
“I don’t really know, it’s been ages since we’ve actually spoken.”
“Still has he ever kept anything important from you before?”
I thought about it for a moment and then shook my head. “Not that I can ever remember. He’s never kept anything from me that would impact me in that way.” I said slowly. “I mean he won’t talk about his work much, in fact he flat out refuses to discuss it most of the time so I really don’t know anything that goes on in that area, but if it was something to do with me, to do with us, as far as I know he’s never lied and he’s always been upfront about things. It’s one of the things I love about him. I always knew where I stood with him but lately…I don’t know especially after this.”
“What do you think it means then?”
I shook my head, “I don’t know.”
She was silent for a moment, “You have to tell him about the baby. Men don’t like it when women keep such secrets from them, you have to tell him.”
I smiled sadly. “A very good friend of mine once told me the exact same thing.”
“And was she right?”
“More than she will ever know.” I said quietly thinking of Cati.
Syal gave me a puzzled look so in order to change the subject I told her the whole story about having to accompany Grand Admiral Zaarin to one of the Emperor’s Grand Balls. By the time I was finished with the story she was in tears from laughing so hard.
“Zaarin must have been so mad at you.” She said between breaths.
“You have no idea.” I said, “In fact he was so pissed that he tried to rape me a year or so later.”
“What!” She very nearly spilled the tea from her cup.
I nodded and told her that story too.
“You’re unbelievable, Merly.” She said with a grin. “You look so… I don’t know…harmless.”
I grinned. “I know but I grew up on a docking bay in Mos Eisley, trust me I had to learn the hard way how to defend myself. One of the mechanics at the bay showed me how.” I said, surprised at the pang of sadness I felt at the thought of Jyrki. “Seems like forever ago though and I never imagined for one moment I would be living at the other end of the galaxy, in love with a man who is not even human and pregnant with his child.”
“Do you regret it?”
“Not a bit.” I replied and I almost meant it, if Syal spotted the lie she let it slide.
“So any word on when Thrawn will return to the base?” She asked after a moment’s quiet.
I shook my head. “No. Last I heard he was returning to Myrkr for a sweep and clear.”
“So it could be a while before he returns?”
“Your guess is as good as mine Syal.” I replied, “But I hope it’s soon.”
“Yeah I understand. It’s so hard when they are away.”
“Usually I can deal with it but this… pregnancy… changed all that.”
“It always does.” She nodded, “It always, always does.”
We both sat back against the couch with a sigh. And for the very first time I understood what my Uncle had meant when he had said that choosing to be with being with an Imperial lifer was my heartache. I was so grateful to have a friend like Syal who understood exactly what it was like.