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it's better when it's a secret. why? so no one can take it from us.
the history of love, nicole krauss

 

 


 

 

"Ah," Izadora says, looking past Scylla. "Anacostia's early — as usual."

Scylla turns to follow Izadora's gaze.

Anacostia, a friend of Izadora's who spent time with her patrolling the Outer Rim, is alighting from a transport shuttle.

A step behind is her Padawan: a blonde girl dressed in tawny and mahogany robes.

It's been ten years, but Scylla would know her anywhere. As younglings, they bunked together on Coruscant. When Scylla would start from a nightmare, shaking and crying, Raelle was always the one to comfort her. She'd crawl into Scylla's bed and hold her hand, whispering stories about Jedi of the ancient past, until they both fell asleep.

That was long before the Initiate Trials.

Raelle's hair is shorter now, cropped a few inches above her shoulders, and one side has been done up into a series of tight braids. When she walks, it's with an easy, boyish swagger; long, confident strides.

Halfway across the landing platform, their eyes meet.

Raelle's mouth eases into a small smile, and Scylla can't help but smile back.

She's the most beautiful girl Scylla's ever seen.

 

*

 

After dinner Scylla watches Raelle spar with Anacostia. Raelle's lightsaber is striking — gold, a rare color outside of the pikes used by the Temple Guards on Coruscant — and Scylla finds herself instantly mesmerized. It looks beautiful swinging through the air, like a comet streaking to earth.

Raelle moves smoothly, as if dancing. Her style is one of controlled aggression, and Scylla is half jealous, half in awe. She herself prefers the more refined defensive maneuvers, making up in style for where she lacks in actual combat.

But Raelle never falters, not even when Anacostia counters her attack with a series of swift cuts and jabs. Anacostia is a skilled duelist, but Scylla is certain that Raelle's naturally gifted; she's never seen anyone else their age wield a saber so handily.

When Raelle finishes with Anacostia and sprawls out on the floor to catch her breath, Scylla shows off a little herself, flourishing her double-bladed saber — a light cyan color — with a few extravagant twirls.

"Argora blue," Raelle remarks, face still tinged pink from her exertions. "There's a bird on Xendek — your blade is the same color as the male's plumage. The locals consider Argora to bring good fortune."

 

*

 

She knew, without knowing, from the very first moment their eyes met.

Sixteen years old, standing beside Anacostia and staring into the bluest eyes she'd ever seen — as blue as the view of Scarif from space.

Raelle isn't particularly fond of metaphors, but she can't think of any other way to describe the way her blood turned to slush in her veins; how her heart had turned over in her chest. She told herself in the moment that it was only the thrill of seeing her childhood friend again after so long apart. She's told herself that lie many times since that day.

And she's tried.

Really, she has.

But the world has opened itself anew to her.

She finds herself noticing things she never saw before — like the firm outline of Scylla's jaw, or the way she always adorns her hair with two small braids, one on either side of her head. The curve of her wrist, the slope of her neck, and how her laugh and smile are both infectious.

Raelle's quite certain that none of these things ever existed until now, until this very day. It's simply impossible for them to have existed before and escaped her notice.

Increasingly, Raelle can't seem to think about anything else.

There's a spot on the side of Scylla's neck, right below two freckles. Raelle catches herself staring at it when they're supposed to be meditating. She finds it difficult to empty her mind when Scylla's so close to her like this; there's a part of Raelle that wants to lean forward and kiss that very space of skin.

And she's innately aware that she shouldn't mention any of this to anyone. Especially not Anacostia. She knows that voicing these thoughts would only bring about questions — ones that Raelle knows she wouldn't be able to answer.

It's not as if the Code demands celibacy. Desire is natural. Lust isn't something to be denied; it's to be acknowledged and sated.

But the tugging at Raelle's heart when Scylla smiles at her is something much more dangerous.

 

*

 

"Raelle," Scylla starts, one day.

They're sitting under the shade of a big oak tree in the garden, Scylla reading while Raelle tinkers with an old BD unit; she's trying to get better at fixing droids, but it's slow going. It's a lovely, lush summer day — their first free one in weeks. Since they first arrived on Corstris a month ago they've been run ragged with training exercises.

Scylla's words come molasses-slow, full of hesitation. "Do you ever . . . wish that things were different?"

Raelle's heart thumps loudly in her chest. She's suddenly acutely aware of how close they are, shoulders pressed together.

"What do you mean?"

(how many times have they danced around what they really want to say?)

Scylla stares pointedly at something in the distance. "Sometimes I think about what our lives could be like. Without the Code." Her voice is soft, barely above a whisper. Like it's a secret; maybe it is. "Don't you?"

Raelle can't speak. She wants to, but she shouldn't. She has thought about it before, in fleeting quiet moments. Lying in bed, unable to sleep. At times like these when they're together, just the two of them, their mission and duties as Jedi fade away.

If only they could —

But Raelle can't say something like that. Not out loud. Not ever.

"No," she tells Scylla, and the lie is so bitter on her tongue that it makes her feel sick.

And, because it's not enough to just say that, because she's abruptly overcome with a desperate need to put distance between them, Raelle adds, "And you shouldn't either."

Scylla smiles thinly. "Well," she says, voice strained, "it was only a passing thought."

The book lies closed in Scylla's lap, forgotten. Raelle gets to her feet, smoothing down invisible wrinkles on her robes. The air has shifted. Her stomach is a tangled knot, filled with a want she can't articulate.

They don't speak again for the rest of the afternoon.

 

*

 

A year passes.

Then two.

Raelle and Scylla kneel side by side, in front of Izadora and Anacostia and the Council, as they're awarded the title of Jedi Knight. Pride swells in Raelle at the sight of Scylla, head bowed, the faintest hint of a smile on her face.

Later, in the hallway, she pulls Scylla into a tight hug.

"I'm with you," she murmurs against Scylla's ear, her heart fluttering. "No matter what. I'll follow you anywhere."

 

*

 

"There you are."

Raelle steps onto the balcony of their lofty diplomat apartment, the door sliding closed behind her with a quiet whoosh.

She joins Scylla by the railing. It's their first night on Alderaan as diplomats to serve in the monarchy's court.

Scylla's always heard this planet has beautiful sunsets, but she wanted to see for herself. It lives up to its reputation, the sky awash in a hundred shades of reds and purple-blues, casting a spectacular glow on the lush forests that blanket the grounds around the palace.

"This place is huge," Raelle says. "I nearly got lost looking for you inside our apartment."

Raelle's hair, still damp from the shower, falls into her eyes.

Scylla attempts to ignore her desire to lean over and tuck it behind Raelle's ear. But in looking, she finds her gaze shifting to the thin, jagged scar that runs from Raelle's jaw to halfway up her cheek; the result of an encounter last year with a few unfriendly locals on the lower levels of Coruscant.

She'd stepped between Scylla and the downward slice of a knife.

Scylla remembers the feeling of hot blood soaking through her sleeve as she pressed it against Raelle's face. Raelle's cool blue eyes staring up at her, watery with tears.

She can't help herself; she reaches forward and runs her fingers along it. Raelle stiffens for a fraction of a second, then visibly relaxes.

"Does it still hurt?"

Raelle shakes her head. "Not for a long time."

"You never told Izadora and Anacostia about what I did."

She'd cut off the man's arm without a second thought, white hot anger pulsing through her. She isn't naive enough to believe no Jedi ever felt anger in the heat of conflict. But she knows that her anger hadn't sprung from pure intentions: it was retaliation.

"Didn't see a reason to." Raelle shrugs. "Losing control once — and with good reason — doesn't make you a bad person."

Scylla sighs, toying with the edge of her sleeve. "It's not that."

"I know."

Scylla's unusual heritage — a Nightsister grandmother — has always garnered her suspicion. In the eyes of the Jedi, her Nightsister blood alone makes Scylla more prone to seduction by the dark side of the Force. No one's ever said it in so many words, but Scylla's acutely aware of the subtle bias. Izadora had tried to broach the issue as gently as possible, always lecturing Scylla frequently in meditation and techniques to better master her emotions.

Raelle's the only person who's ever wholeheartedly accepted Scylla without judgement.

"Everyone thinks Nightsisters are just like Sith," Scylla says with a sigh, leaning back against the balcony railing. The cool, rough concrete grounds her. "But that's not right. Nightsisters do use the dark side of the Force — but they don't let it consume them. They maintain a balance. Light and dark as one."

Raelle nods, then nudges Scylla's shoulder playfully with her own. "We make quite the pair, don't we? The Cession's first Jedi in a millennia. And one from a Nightsister bloodline."

"Does that make us special?" Scylla raises an eyebrow. "Or just outcasts?"

"Both?"

Not for the first time, Scylla's desperate to kiss that charming grin right off Raelle's face.

 

*

 

Time passes slowly on Alderaan.

Raelle's never been particularly good at making friends, but there's not much else to do except roam the palace and get to know the other residents. The eldest princess is a girl named Abigail, who towers over Raelle by at least a foot. Raelle thinks very little of aristocrats but Abigail's not entirely bad, even if she can be rather haughty. She's also an excellent marksman; Raelle sits and watches her practice until at last Abigail relents and offers to help improve Raelle's aim.

There's another diplomat, too, from the Hosnian system. Raelle's never met anyone with such wide-eyed enthusiasm for Jedi as Tally Craven, who asks question after question about the Code and their training. Scylla answers everything with measured patience, which Raelle is very grateful for; she's genuinely terrible when it comes to Jedi history. Or rules.

"You've certainly settled in well," Scylla remarks, some months later.

They're at Cloud City as part of the monarchy's entourage; delegation arm candy. Izadora was always keen on traveling, but Bespin is one of the few places they never visited.

From the window in Raelle's bedroom, Scylla can see the city looming; bright and glittering in the black of the sky like red and yellow stars.

Scylla misses the real stars.

She remembers standing in the forests of Corstris in the humid night air, making up constellations to Raelle's delight, watching with an expression that was almost — Scylla dared to think — love-struck.

"It's quite a view, huh?" Raelle says, standing beside Scylla now.

But Raelle's not looking at the outside world, the bright lights and thousands of passing ships.

She's looking at Scylla, her expression unreadable.

And Scylla turns to meet her gaze.

Then, with a single step, Raelle closes the distance between them.

"Scylla," Raelle starts, and leans to kiss her.

Scylla balks.

She's seventeen years old again and pressing a sleeve to the left side of Raelle's face. That same dizzy fear, the same uncertainty, here and now, in the darkened bedroom of a luxury suite in Cloud City. It's only the circumstances that have changed.

She turns her head away.

The silence that settles could suffocate them both.

"Don't you want this too?" Raelle asks, so softly it sounds like a sigh.

(well, of course scylla does)

(but this — )

 

*

 

When Raelle wakes later in the night, she discovers Scylla asleep next to her. On top of the covers and still mostly dressed, but beside Raelle nonetheless. She's shed some of her clothing: the outer layers of her robes, her thin, dark trousers.

In the silver moonlight, her long hair shimmers like an oil slick. Raelle likes the contrast against the pale gray of the sheets.

She looks different like this, Raelle thinks, sleepy and charmed.

They're both different now, all grown up, but Scylla's changes somehow seem more pronounced: the curve of her jaw, sharper than Raelle remembers. The softness of her skin, the slope of her neck, the fullness of her cheeks, the arch of her calves. Raelle's eyes linger a minute too long on the way Scylla's thin undershirt bunches up around her stomach, just under her breasts.

Raelle looks away, flooded with guilt; she should be trying to purge herself of these thoughts, not let them take root and blossom.

She's not sure what to do, so she heads off to the bathroom and splashes her face with cold water, running a shaky hand through her hair.

If it were only basic attraction, Raelle could accept her feelings. She could master them. But lust alone doesn't account for the way Scylla's smile makes everything seem a little brighter. It doesn't explain the way Raelle would give anything to make Scylla feel happy and safe. How the thought of being without Scylla is absolutely crushing.

Love.

Awful, horrible, wondrous — romantic — love. The one thing that the Code strictly forbids. Attachments lead to jealousy, to fear, and, eventually, to the dark side — or so it's taught.

It doesn't feel wrong to Raelle though. It feels as natural as breathing.

Scylla sighs in her sleep, rolling over. Her arms encircle one of Raelle's pillows, strewn about during sleep, and Raelle watches from the doorway, a heaviness in her chest she can't deny.

Aching disappointment.

Awful longing.

Acute impenitence.

 

*

 

They skirt around each other for the next week, uncertain. They're treading dangerous ground, precariously close to the edge of a cliff.

A part of Scylla is glad that she stopped Raelle from doing something decidedly foolish and likely regrettable. But another part of her, growing persistently stronger, wishes that she hadn't; even if they were to regret it, at least they would have that one stolen moment. A tiny glittering memory to hold on to. Promises of what might have been.

If Izadora was here — and not that Scylla would ever confess her secret heart to her old Master — she would chide Scylla for thinking in such a way. All of Scylla's moments with Raelle are precious. They have everything they could ever want or need: a deep bond, forged through their connection to the Force. To bring love into it would only muddle what they have.

But surely it must have meant something then, those four years ago, when their eyes first met again as Padawans? When time slowed to a crawl and the seconds stretched out as long as parsecs?

All is as the Force wills it. Wasn't that what they were always taught?

Perhaps it's ridiculously self-important to think that the Force could have brought them together. Maybe it's only Scylla's own wild hope. But she can't believe that she could feel so strongly about Raelle and have it mean nothing.

And yet —

What if it truly does mean nothing? What if she's let herself get swept away by her own stupid, selfish feelings?

The thought sends a cold shiver through her and she feels appropriately shamed. It's a mistake to assign meaning where there is none; expectations breed nothing but disappointment. And beyond that — nothing but darkness and unhappiness.

She doesn't want that for herself. But she wants it even less for Raelle. Raelle is so light, so good. She shines.

Scylla will learn to be content with having only that.

There is no other choice.

 

*

 

She watches Raelle pace around the apartment's grand solarium. Scylla herself is sprawled out on a plush couch, the frame suspended from the ceiling with chains the color of shimmering pewter.

It's a brilliant and hot summer afternoon. Outside, gardeners tend to the lush foliage that decorates every inch of the grounds surrounding the palace and adjoining apartments. The gentle mechanical whirs of their machines, paired with the splash of the garden's centerpiece fountain, drifts up through the open windows.

The tension between them has eased somewhat in the past week, but the air still feels fraught with so many unspoken words.

"I have a meeting with Queen Petra Bellweather tomorrow," Raelle says.

"The high holiness herself. Is that why you're so distracted today? Watching you is making me dizzy."

Raelle sighs, running a hand through her hair. "It's the first time I'm going to be speaking with her one on one about matters of the Senate. And I'm terrible on the subject of politics."

Scylla rolls her eyes, amused. "Yes, you are," she says, standing. She strides across the room and catches hold of Raelle's arm. "Petra's intimidating, granted. But it's not that bad; trust me. She's just using you as a sounding board. Nod on occasion and offer up some appropriate-sounding Jedi advice. That'll be more than enough to satisfy her."

Raelle laughs. "You make it sound so easy."

"You're not scared, are you?" Scylla raises an eyebrow. Her hand falls from Raelle's arm to her hand, squeezing it reassuringly. "I didn't think you were afraid of anything."

The pause that follows is the longest Scylla's ever known.

Finally, Raelle says, in a tight, quiet voice, "There's lots of things I'm afraid of."

All at once, it feels like the air's been sucked out of the room. She can scarcely breathe. And surely Raelle must feel it too, because she's gone quiet, and when Scylla looks up, Raelle's staring at her.

And then Raelle kisses her.

Scylla hesitates for just a moment — a moment, and then she's pushing back into the kiss; gently at first, then a bit more forcefully.

Raelle's tongue brushes against Scylla's bottom lip, and Scylla thinks she might burst into flames. She knits her fingers into the front of Raelle's robes and tugs her in closer. She wants to feel the heat of Raelle's body against hers, slotted perfectly together.

It's over much too quickly — both of them stepping back, Raelle's hand flying to her mouth, eyes wide — but there's nothing to be done about that.

"Raelle," Scylla says quietly. She hardly dares to speak above a whisper. Her heartbeat feels so loud that she's certain the Council will be able to hear it, even light years away. "Raelle, what are we doing?"

Raelle's eyes look as radiant as a cloudless sky on Alderaan. "I don't know," she says, in an equally low voice. "But I don't want to stop."

"Then don't."

 

*

 

They undress slowly, Scylla pausing every now and then to kiss Raelle or trail careful fingers across her skin, sliding them lightly over a curve, a muscle, wearing a look on her face that makes Raelle feel lightheaded with the softness of it all.

At some point Scylla sighs and leans back, her eyes flitting down the length of Raelle's body. "You're gorgeous," she breathes

Raelle crosses her arms over her bare chest, suddenly self-conscious, but Scylla just laughs warmly and kisses her; keeps kissing her until Raelle's arms finally fall around Scylla's waist, tracing circles along the smooth skin of her back.

"Have you ever done this before?" Raelle asks.

Scylla shakes her head, blushing, and Raelle's heart swells. It's so rare to see Scylla flustered.

She runs her fingers up and down the length of Scylla's forearm, trying to settle her.

"I haven't either," she says, kissing the dip in Scylla's throat, then leaving a trail of feather-light kisses along Scylla's collarbone. "We'll go slow."

And they do — kissing until they're breathless and shaking from restraint. Raelle can feel her own slick desire on the insides of her thighs as Scylla rolls them both over, pinning Raelle to the bed.

Scylla bows her head, the tip of her tongue brushing against a taut nipple. Raelle groans at the touch, twisting underneath her.

"I want . . . " Scylla murmurs, her hand along Raelle's thigh, then moving inside. "I want to . . . "

Scylla's movements are deft, her fingers stroking purposefully; Raelle feels like a coil being wound tighter and tighter. She's touched herself once or twice before, more to relieve the ache than anything else, but her movements were clumsy and awkward.

It's a thousand times better with Scylla — everything's better with Scylla, truth be told — and not for the first time, Raelle's flooded with overwhelming affection.

It doesn't take much; the coil snaps and Raelle falls apart underneath Scylla, head thrown back, fireworks going off behind her eyelids.

"Easy, easy," Scylla mumbles against Raelle's face, peppering it with kisses. "I've got you."

Raelle hardly takes a moment to catch her breath; she pushes eagerly at Scylla's shoulders and climbs on top of her, straddling her waist. Scylla grins, her hands settling on Raelle's hips.

"Let me know — well, let me know if I'm doing it right," Raelle says, kissing her before moving into a more accessible position.

She kisses the space between Scylla's breasts then drags her tongue around a nipple, sucking gently. Scylla threads her fingers through Raelle's hair, gripping the back of her neck. Pleased, Raelle continues her ministrations as she drops her hand to the apex of Scylla's thighs, past a light thatching of dark hair, and begins stroking experimentally with her fingers.

"Oh," Scylla cries softly, arching up, and if that isn't an indication that Raelle's doing at least something right, then —

"Raelle," Scylla whimpers, spreading her legs more, gripping the sheets with her free hand. "Just like that. Please."

Raelle didn't count on how heavenly it would be, making someone feel so good; to hear her name said with such desperate urgency.

She bends forward and kisses Scylla as her fingers work quicker, and it gives her a little thrill when Scylla moans into the kiss, hips jutting up to meet her hand.

Scylla's looking up at her with a starry-eyed, exuberant expression, flushed and sweaty. "I don't know if I can move my legs," she whispers, chuckling and nipping at Raelle's ear.

Raelle returns the grin, rolling onto her back, panting. It feels like she's run a marathon, her limbs sore and her heart beating away double-time in her chest.

She sighs and closes her eyes, a wave of sleepiness washing over her. She turns on her side, cuddling up against Scylla, who drapes an arm over her waist.

A question floats to the forefront of Raelle's mind then, one which she isn't entirely sure she should ask, but feels like she has to. "Was that okay? I mean — did you like it?"

The rest of the question goes unsaid: Are we okay? Do you regret it?

Scylla kisses her languidly, her fingers stroking along the small of Raelle's back. "It was perfect."

"You're not just saying that to make me feel better?"

"I wouldn't lie."

She looks so serious that all Raelle can do is kiss her again and again and again, until Scylla's smiling once more, pushing Raelle onto her back, sliding down between her legs.

 

*

 

In bed, Scylla runs her fingers along Raelle's shoulders, down her arm, across her hip. She presses Raelle onto her back and kisses a line from Raelle's collarbone to the underside of her breast.

Raelle sighs, drawing her fingers along the slope of Scylla's back.

Whenever Raelle touches her, it's like a faint spray of hot sparks against Scylla's skin. She is dry kindling, set ablaze.

Raelle smells faintly of the hai-ka infused soap that Scylla loves so much. A flower from Scylla's home world. She likes that there is no difference between home and Raelle — it makes the realization that much fuller: Raelle is her home.

She traces constellations on Raelle's stomach, giggling as Raelle grins and catches her hand; kisses the back of it, her palm, her knuckles, the tips of her fingers. And then Raelle smiles and pulls her in for a proper kiss and the feeling is overwhelming — so strong, Scylla feels as though she's dissolving into molecules in Raelle's arms.

It's at times like these that Scylla dares to even think it: love. A tiny, dangerous word.

Sometimes the feeling is so strong — too strong — and all she wants to do is push Raelle up against a wall and kiss her until they're both breathless.

She thinks, That's what love is: what you show, not what you say.

Because Scylla can read the expressions on Raelle's face; when her breath is hot on Scylla's neck; she knows exactly what Raelle's saying when she kisses the space between her breasts, and her fingers slide smoothly along the inside of Scylla's thigh.

Raelle's learned all the ways to make Scylla come undone — and when they fall apart, exhausted, Scylla knows what it means when Raelle threads their fingers together.

She wishes things could be simple. Sometimes she wishes that they never came together again on that day at the shuttle transport on Coruscant. Things used to be easy. She knew where she stood then.

Everything's changed now.

She likes to press her hand to Raelle's heart and feel it beating. Tries to slow her own breathing and force her heartbeat to the same gentle, steady pace. It's almost enough to just have this — to know that this is it.

All there can ever be.

(it'll never be enough.)

 

*

 

"We can leave the Order," Scylla whispers into Raelle's shoulder. "Take up moisture farming on Lah'mu. It'd be just you and me, together."

Raelle sighs, turning in Scylla's arms. "We can't just leave," she argues gently. "There are people who need us."

Scylla stares at her. Even in the darkness, her eyes are brilliantly blue. In the whole galaxy, Raelle's never seen anything else as beautiful as Scylla's eyes; she'll never grow tired of looking at them. But now there's a sadness there that makes Raelle ache. She presses a light kiss to the corner of Scylla's mouth, pushing Scylla's hair from her face.

"What's two Jedi?" Scylla says, her tone saturnine. "Sometimes I hate it. We never even had a choice."

Raelle understands. They've never known any other life but this, whisked away by the Jedi before they'd barely learned to talk. Their families back home are an abstract thought; sometimes, though, Raelle feels a sentimental longing for a life she never even got to live.

"But," Scylla continues, "if things were different, you wouldn't have been you. You're the only good thing I've ever had."

Raelle thinks of all those times, long ago, when she clambered into Scylla's bed in the middle of the night. The way Scylla trembled, how she always gripped Raelle's hand so tightly.

Raelle leans in for another kiss, stroking Scylla's chin with her thumb.

"No matter what happens," Scylla murmurs against Raelle's mouth, "I love you."

Raelle bends her head and nuzzles against Scylla's neck.

She is lighter than air. She's among the stars.

 

*

 

"What were you dreaming of?" Scylla asks, kissing her awake.

She's propped up on one elbow, watching Raelle, mocha brown hair falling into her eyes.

"You," Raelle says, and presses Scylla back down against the mattress in a tangle of limbs.

When they're finished making love, Raelle stretches out catlike on the bed, yawning. They lay in a delicious, sated silence for a while, half-asleep, until Raelle grumbles about how they have a meeting with Abigail at noon.

She kisses Scylla then clambers out of bed.

Scylla reclines back on the pillows and watches Raelle slip on dark cotton underclothes, already imagining undressing her again later, tugging clothes off layer by infuriating layer. It makes Raelle impatient, which Scylla loves.

"Staring like that is unbecoming for an esteemed Jedi like yourself," Raelle teases gently, smiling as she sees Scylla watching her in the mirror.

Scylla smiles as well, says, "I can't help it — I just love looking at you." A pause, then quieter:"There are a lot of things I love about you, actually. Everything."

Raelle turns and crawls back into bed, sliding under copper-colored blankets and raspberry sheets, wrapping her arms around Scylla and laying her head on Scylla's chest.

Scylla presses a kiss to the top of her head. "We should be getting up soon."

"I would prefer to spend the day here," Raelle says with a resigned sigh.

She dips her head and presses feather-light kisses to Scylla's stomach; Scylla shivers at the delicate touch.

"Why don't we?" she murmurs, trailing her fingers along Raelle's arm, shoulder to wrist then back up. "Let's stay like this forever."

Raelle kisses the top of Scylla's breast, the gentle curve of it. "I'd like that very much."

"Me too," Scylla says, and brushes the hair out of Raelle's eyes.

 

*

 

It's Raelle — so clever — who says it:

"Marry me."

Scylla's never heard anything sweeter.

"But," Scylla says, half in hope and half in trepidation, sitting on the edge of the bed, "what about the Code?"

Raelle leans down and kisses her, long and slow. "The Code says many things," she says, taking Scylla's hands in her own and kneeling in front of her. "The Jedi have been allowed to marry before. I've read it. And I know my own heart's truth. It's not enough to have you by my side as my companion. I want you to be my wife."

Scylla squeezes Raelle's hands. "If anyone finds out — "

"I fear nothing," Raelle recites.

"Because all is as the Force wills it." Scylla finishes with a smile, warmed by the morning sun and the soft expression on Raelle's face.

"I love you, Scylla," Raelle says, plainly.

And Scylla is certain that the entire galaxy stops, if only for a fraction of a heartbeat.

It's the first time Raelle's ever said it out loud.

Scylla kisses her hard enough to bruise.

 

*

 

"I want to swim in the ocean," Raelle says, peering out the window of their shuttle.

Princess Abigail crosses her arms. "After the wedding."

Sometimes she reminds Raelle so much of her old Master that it's a little alarming. What would Anacostia say if she knew what Raelle was up to right now? Raelle can practically hear the lecture . . . although, she's not entirely convinced that Anacostia would disapprove. At least, not privately.

Abigail and the Hosnian diplomat seated next to her, Tally, are both dressed in finery. Raelle and Scylla sport only their regular Jedi robes, so as not to attract suspicion. It's easier to sell a lie about being Abigail's guards for the day than to explain why they're out of uniform.

The only difference in their normal attire is that Scylla's hair has been plaited up into elegant braids. It's their subtle way of matching; Raelle braided both their hair before they left mid-morning.

Scylla was reluctant to ask for help, but Raelle assured her that both Princess Abigail and Tally could be trusted.

"Besides," Raelle said, with a grin. "We need witnesses."

"Aw, BD-5 isn't enough?" Scylla patted the little droid's head, earning an affectionate chirp.

"I want people to know, Scyl," Raelle told her, encircling Scylla with her arms to draw her close. "Even if it's only two people besides us in the whole galaxy. I want someone to know you're my wife."

Beside her now, Scylla rests her head on Raelle's shoulder.

Raelle thinks she should feel nervous; there's no telling what will happen tomorrow. She doesn't know what the Order will do to them if their union is discovered.

Disgrace. Exile.

Or worse.

But Raelle doesn't feel worried or scared. Only peaceful. She feels more connected to the Force than ever before.

During the ceremony, Raelle reaches for Scylla's hands and laces their fingers together. Scylla turns, smiling, and her eyes remind Raelle of careless summers — lying on the cool grass after training, staring up at a cloudless sky. She feels warm all the way down to her toes. She'll never grow tired of this feeling, of looking at Scylla and falling all over again.

Whatever the future brings, Raelle's certain of at least that.

She leans forward and rests their foreheads together. "I love you," she murmurs. "No matter what."

Even now, her heart still skips a beat every time Scylla kisses her.