Thrawn was as good as his word and when I woke up he was there at my side. With his help I got dressed and returned to our quarters, moving slowly through the corridors. I was aware of the pitying stares from the people we passed. The news had spread that I had lost the baby and everyone knew. I felt as though I had let not just Thrawn and our unborn child down but everyone on the base who had placed hope on the birth of this child as well. It was a heavy guilt that weighed on my shoulders and I didn’t know what to do with it.
When we reached our quarters I was never been more grateful to hear a door close behind me than at that moment. As I looked around the rooms, I found it strange how everything was the same yet utterly different. How in the blink of an eye the world had shifted sideways and nothing would ever be as it was. I had mourned deeply after the death of my father but that pain seemed strangely less intense to the terrible emptiness I experienced now. I felt the gentle touch of Thrawn’s hand on my back guiding me to sit down. I looked at him, moving as though I were sleep walking through some terrible holo-drama I couldn’t turn off.
“Will you be alright here alone? Shall I call Syal and see if she can spend some time with you?” He asked.
I shook my head hugging my arms around my body. The last thing I wanted was to have to be social in any way shape or form. “No, I will be fine.” I told him.
“If you need anything….” He started but I shook my head again.
“Just go, I know you’re busy. I don’t need a babysitter.” I told him flatly. “I just need to be left alone.”
He reached out to caress my face then but I side stepped him and moved away. I did not want to be touched or comforted. “Please don’t.” I whispered, wearing my sorrow like a shroud.
He nodded, withdrew and without further word left me to my own devices.
In the quiet aftermath of his departure the quarters we shared seemed claustrophobic and oppressive. The memory of what had happened was still too fresh, too great. I went into the small suite of rooms he had first given when I moved to Nirauan and entered, locking the adjoining door behind me. I had known loss my whole life but nothing had prepared me for this and I had no idea how to cope with it.
Two days passed and in that time friends came to see me although I could not really fathom why. Their expressions of sympathy fell on my ears like snow on an open field in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t hear them and I learned to hate the strange pitying look in their eyes as they tried to say how sorry they were. After a while I refused to answer the door and eventually the visiting stopped.
Doctor Thracer showed up to check up on me at Thrawn’s request and told me in detail what had happened and why. In the end, after telling me it was not my fault for the third time he just said, sadly, that sometimes these things just happen, and more often than not there was no singular reason.
“The very fact you were able to conceive and carry for as long as you did is an excellent sign.” He added. “We learned a great deal from this pregnancy and next time will know what to watch for.”
I looked at him, “Next time….” I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to go through this again.
“Yes, next time.” His words were forthright, kind and well meaning but they flowed through and over me. I could hear him speaking but none of it made any real sense. I knew he was worried, I could see it in his eyes but it all felt very far removed from what ever reality I now found myself in.
He paused for a moment and then he informed me that body of my son had been cremated and kept safe until I decided what to do with them. I just stared at him as though he were suddenly speaking a language I had never heard before.
Thrawn, who had remained quietly at my side for the doctor’s visit, kissed the top of my head gently as though that would make everything all better. “He did this at my request tekari, in accordance with Dantassi burial laws so that we may perform the rite of O’kuri’dai in the appointed time.”
I frowned at Thrawn’s words. I had only witnessed the O’kuri’dai once before. When a young couple I had been friends with at the enclave on Hjal had given birth to a still born child. It had been heartbreaking to watch as the parents had held the ashes of their baby’s body in their palms for the wind to carry off. It was a way of giving back to the earth to allow for a rebirth at a later date. I had clung to Navaari as we had watched the young couple struggle with their grief yet the ceremony had given them closure. I did not want this.
I shook my head at Thrawn. “No, no I don’t think so.” I whispered.
“Merlyn, you must….” Thrawn started but stopped when the doctor interrupted.
“Admiral, a word?”
The two men glanced at each other then headed to the other end of the room to discuss the current topic at hand, me. I listened to them talking about me in whispers as though I were a ghost in the room.
“I’m worried about her, now is not the time to discuss funeral arrangements.”
“As am I, but the O’kuri’dai must be performed by both parents, it is tradition.”
“Tradition or not, now is not the time, look at the state she is in.” The doctor was angry.
“I can see that Thomas but you know what she’s like, she internalizes everything and shuts the rest of us out. She will have to go to the end of this darkness in order to get past it.”
“And if she doesn’t? As I recall the last time that happened and you waited to intervene it didn’t go so well.”
“Yes, however the circumstances were very different. At that time I was also not in a very good state of mind and I was unable to help her. ” Thrawn’s sigh was loud and heavy.
“And you are able to help her now? You are barely here and when you are you spend most of that time in the subbasement working on your projects and experi….”
“Do not start that here.” Thrawn’s voice was soft and dangerous as he cut the doctor off mid word. “I have responsibilities I cannot ignore no matter what the circumstances. You would do well to remember that you have sworn secrecy and I count on your discretion. You are also the only person capable of aiding me so for the sake of peace between us do not bring this up again unless we are alone.”
“You should tell her.” Doctor Thracer hissed. “And you should talk with her, be with her.”
“I know you are worried, as am I but I would prefer, in this case, to give her the time she needs. Now she has friends here, she is loved and cherished. I would prefer not to force the issue and neither should you.”
“Well then, I will keep an eye on her while you are away.” Doctor Thracer said but he sounded skeptical. “But I disagree with your assessment of her ability to deal with this.”
“Your disagreement is noted.” Thrawn snapped, then relented, “I think even she did not realise how much she wanted this child.” Thrawn said softly. “Children have been a difficult subject for us, the timing has always been an issue, being a couple in secret never helped and she never thought she could conceive a child with me and now this….” His words had faded off as he seemed at a loss for what to say.
“The good news is she did conceive. If it happened once, it will happen again but right now her body needs to heal and so does her spirit. She’s been through so much already and I….”
I had turned around then to look at them both. “For sarlacc’s sake, if you want to discuss me with out including me in the conversation then you can bloody well go and do it somewhere else.” I snapped.
They stared at me for a moment and then left the room. Whatever else was discussed I was not privy to it, nor did I much care. From then on I refused to let anyone else into my quarters, not even Syal who came repeatedly to see me.
In the end Thrawn performed the Rite of O’kuri’dai, alone and in private, sharing his son’s ashes with the wind. Neither the Dantassi nor the Chiss believed that the soul entered the body before birth so the child had no name, it was a broken vessel which needed to be given back to the universe it came from. There would be no grave to visit, no place to make the child’s passing. On Tatooine there would have been a burial and a marker but here there would be only memory. I did not go with Thrawn to perform this rite even though he had asked me to and it widened the gulf between us further. I couldn’t face it because that meant facing the truth of what had happened and I wasn’t there yet. I wasn’t sure I ever would be.
Afterwards, when Thrawn was on the base, I barely saw him. He was busy with projects he kept quiet about and the base was in a strange state of flux There were under currents, that had I been more aware, would have worried me a little. I probably should have paid more attention but I was so wrapped up in my own grief that I failed to see what was going on, much less care.
Thrawn tried his best with the time he had to be there for me but I just shut him out preferring to sit in my own room in the quiet and the dark. We would have fought if I had had the energy or the will but instead I shrugged him off, cringing when he tried to touch me, becoming withdrawn when he tried to talk sense into me. I did not understand how he could continue to work as though nothing had happened. I felt a terrible and inexplicable sense of betrayal which I let him know.
“It is my job, tekari.” He said simply. “I cannot stay permanently based on Nirauan. I am the leader of these fleets, these men and women. They rely on me and I cannot just let all of that go, no matter what I feel.”
“Our child is dead and you act as though nothing has happened.” I told him flatly.
“No, I do my work and I mourn in private.” He explained. “I am leading a war. I cannot afford to appear weak in any form so tell me how should I go about it Merlyn? How?”
I shook my head, “I don’t know.” I whispered.
He drew a deep breath, “I need to know that you will be okay while I am away because as it stands right now I am concerned. You look like a ghost.”
I gave him a look, “Doctor Thracer says I am just fine.”
“No, what he told you was that physically you are healthy but that was several days ago and since then I doubt he would come to the same conclusion if you were to actually go and talk to him as I have suggested.” He replied, “You barely eat. When you are not asleep you sit alone, locked in your private rooms and I do not know how to help you. You will not let me share your grief and I cannot drop what I am doing to sit along side you in the dark.”
“How can I share this?” I asked, “You cannot possibly know what it is like to carry life and then to lose it, you have no idea!” My anger spilled into my words like poison.
He regarded me for a long time, his expression closed and unreadable and then he nodded, “Yes you are right. I have no idea of what you experienced or how it feels.” He drew a deep breath, “I can only tell you of my own sorrow. I can only tell you that you are not the only one here who lost something precious and you are not the only person grieving but none of this is enough is it?”
“So what? Do you expect me to just get over this like you? Do expect me to be emotionless and cold? I am not a machine!” I avoided his question altogether in favour of picking a fight and being mean.
He didn’t take the bait and answered me softly. “No, no I do not. I expect you to share your grief with me, not shut me and everyone else who cares for you out so that you can become a shadow swallowed whole by this terrible thing that happened. You need to weep and mourn for the loss but then you need to get past it and move on. It is as if you also died and I do not know what to do about it.”
I turned my back on him but he was short on time and patience. He caught my arm gently and turned me around to face him again; he caressed my face tenderly and said. “Nothing and no one can replace what we lost but there will be other children, I promise you.” He said.
It might have been the right thing to say but it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I pulled out of his grasp angrily, “Go back to your war games and leave me the hell alone.” I said coldly and walked out of the room to lock myself in the fresher where I sat for hours willing my tears to come but they never did. It was truly as if, with the death of the baby I had carried, I too had died.