Ewwiekewwieikkie bounded up the stairs of the Rodney Estate on
Esseles, carrying a cardboard box that once contained filters for the
coffeine maker. She was clearly very excited about something and halfway
up the stairs, she stumbled banging her knee. "Ouch!" she yelled as she
crawled her way up the rest of the stairs, breathing furiously as she
reached the top triumphantly with the maximum possible effort. She
scampered down the corridor to the master bedroom and with her right
began knocking on the door. With her left hand, she hid the box behind
her body, but in a poor way that would allow it to be easily seen. A
large grin formed upon her face and she began to squeal happily in
"Come in," Htaere's melodious accented voice called from inside the
room as she strolled about the interior of the chambers, watering the
various plants she'd set about to capture as much natural beauty and
Hapan replication as she possibly could.
Ewwiekewwieikkie opened the door and surged forward with a seemingly
endless reserve of enthusiasm. She plopped on the bed clumsily and
looked towards Htaere, and presented the flimsy box to her. "It's a
present!" she announced, stating the obvious as she waited for her to
take it. Inside, Htaere would find one of the family plates, whose
center had been punched out to make a hole, so that it now resembled a
donut. Glued to it were some of the new pieces of silverware that she
had acquired on their recent trip to Ithor.
"Aww Ewwie, this is so very thoughtful of you," she commented as she
set down the watering can and took to opening the package. Eyeing the
plate, Htaere carefully picked it up and held it at eye level,
appreciative of the Squibb's efforts. "I love it! It is wonderful! What
is the occasion for such a special gift?"
"It is to thank you for the koovy trip," Ewwiekewwieikkie declared as
she clapped her hands together excitedly. "It's a hat. You can try on,"
she suggested as her fur covered blue finger pointed towards Htaere's
head. Her golden eyes widened in anticipation as she marveled in the
creativity that she had utilized in making the fashionable accessory.
"You are very welcome," Htaere said, offering Ewwie a graceful
curtsy. Removing the head band she wore, she replaced it promptly with
Ewwie's gift. "How does it look?"
"Ooooooh. Pretty," she squealed as she admired the hat on Htaere's
head. She bounced happily on the bed, clapping her hands excitedly.
The door to the suite opened once again as Claudius stepped inside,
quite unexpected for this particular time of day. He could hear Ewwie
carrying on from the ground level of the estate, but the last thing he
expected was the scene that was unfolding. As he saw the broken dish on
Htaere's face he started to chuckle, but knowing how hard his adopted
daughter had most likely worked on it he quickly bit down on his bottom
lip to prevent it. His hand covered his mouth quickly, as he lowered his
head slightly to hide his reaction. "It is very nice," he said, through
pained breaths as he moved towards the duo.
Not expecting Claudius home, Htaere's head turned towards the door
before a smile broke her features. "It is quite lovely," she agreed. "Ewwie
is ever so kind to think of me." Her arms outstretched to the bed to
give the Squibb a warm hug in gratitude. "I do sincerely thank you. I
shall treasure it always," she promised, a genuine measure to be sure.
Ewwie was the only kindred soul in the Rodney family and she found the
gift endearing and kind. Looking back to Claudius, she canted her head
slightly. "You are home very early today. Is anything the matter?"
Ewwiekewwieikkie enjoyed the hug happily, but her nose began to
twitch as she sniffed the air. The serving droid downstairs was cooking
and her sense of smell was the finest in the family. She gasped
excitedly before exclaiming, "Food!" All of her interest in the hat had
subsided as she hurriedly ran from the room to investigate what was
going on downstairs.
Claudius watched in amazement as Ewwwie bounded from the room. He had
expected her to have been moved out and on her own by now. When he
pulled her out of the ashes of her family home during the Clone Wars, he
did not realize he would still be caring for her well into his 50s. With
privacy restored to the room, he turned his attention to Htaere and
smiled. "No. Nothing is the matter, my love," he said to her as he moved
towards her slowly. He extended his hands to her, and began leading her
from the room. "I have been far too neglectful as of late. I have
arranged for us to spend the day together," he informed her happily, as
he tried to put off the stress of the war for just one day.
Htaere appeared taken back by the statement. It was completely
unexpected. "Oh...alright, that sounds lovely..." she stammered for an
appropriate response to her surprise. Pausing she stopped. "Wait, one
moment..." with that she hurried back to the bed and replaced Ewwie's
hat with the elegant head piece she'd had on earlier. Chuckling, she
checked her appearance in one of the grand full length mirrors before
rejoining him at the threshold. "Should any of your fans in the news
media manage to steal a vid shot of you, it is perhaps best that I not
be disgracing your image with Ewwie's fine creation."
"Obviously you've never seen the Squibbish Crown," Claudius said with
a joke as he escorted her like a gentleman down the flowing staircase.
"The last time I was on Skor II I believe forks were in fashion..." he
added, as he reached the bottom of the stairs. In a moment they were
greeted by a serving droid that was carrying a large, ornate basket that
was filled to the brim with freshly prepared food and a bottle of wine.
He eagerly took it from the droid, groaning slightly as it was perhaps
heavier than he was expecting. "Shall we?" he asked her, as he proceeded
towards the exit of the estate.
Wonders never ceased it seemed, Htaere's stupor taking an even
sharper turn at the arrangements made. She did her best to keep the
skepticism from manifesting itself across her youthful face. Eyes
dropping to his arm, she wove her own through his before narrowing her
eyes with an uncertain grin. "Are you sure nothing is wrong? I was under
the impression you have been very busy as of late. This seems...out of
Claudius nodded politely to one of the Stormtroopers that was tasked
with patrolling the perimeter of the estate, a constant reminder of the
threat that they faced. "The only thing that is wrong is that I have
neglected you to the point where it is now 'out of character' for me to
now spend a day with you," he said, as he looked over his shoulder at
her. "Now come," he said politely, not at all in a commanding tone. He
walked towards the cliffside and began descending the path towards the
small beach below. He paused as he looked down, wondering if he could
manage to carry the basket all the way down under his own power. He
wondered if he should have had the droid do it, but there was something
decidedly less romantic about a droid doing the work.
Stormy grey eyes scourred the foot path, touched by the initiative.
"I am quite lucky that twice I have been surprised by the generosity of
family members," she mused out loud. "How fortunate I must be," and with
a content sigh, she daintily lifted the front of her dress a bit so as
not to trip on it whilst traversing the ravine to the beach below.
Slowing a bit, Htaere gazed towards Claudius ruefully. "I know you are
busy," she added quietly. "I want you to know that I have never
considered you neglectful, Claudius. I am sorry if I have unwittingly
"Right now I am busy trying not to break my neck," Claudius said as
he turned to look over his shoulder at her as he struggled down the path
with the picnic basket. On the bright side, they would be eating the
contents of the basket and it would be easier for him to carry up the
cliffs. As they reached the bottom he put the basket down for a moment
and slowly caught his breath, before kicking his boots off. "Ah," he
exclaimed as he walked forward, the hot sand gently heating his feet. He
carried the basket several feet forward before placing it down. Opening
it, he pulled out a large blanket and unfolded it, to cover the sand so
that they could more easily sit. On the cliffs above them Stormtroopers
carefully watched their every move, while a small patrol meandered
further down the beach.
Unable to resist the urge follow suit, Htaere bent down to unfasten
her glittery sandals, letting the warm sand work its way between her
toes as she padded down to the water's edge. Lifting up the hem of her
gown again, albeit in vain, she stepped forward into the ebbing tide,
pushing up the shoreline before retracting, only to do it all over
again. The feeling was sensational, and she wondered why this was not
something she thought to engage in more often. The sunlight illuminated
her long red-gold tresses, spilling down her back and occasionally
fluttering in the gentle gusts that happened by here and there. It was
glorious. "This is proving to be a wonderful idea," she remarked,
smiling down at the sweeping motion of the water.
"I have at least one wonderful idea a year," Claudius said as he
looked to her with a kind smile, admiring the way the sun shone down to
accentuate her features. He began digging through the basket and found a
bottle of Alderaanian Ruge. He looked at it for a moment, remembering
how many nights he had partaken in several glasses to cope with the
stress of the war. It had affected his judgment and his duty, and he was
better than that. He haphazardly tossed the bottle into the sea, wanting
to be rid of the temptation. "Who needs it?" he said as he went down a
little further to produce a bottle of local spring water, pouring them
each a glass.
Returning to the blanket laid out, Htaere took a seat and folded her
hands in her lap. "I am glad to see you have devoted yourself to
refraining from the consumption of alcohol," she said, approving of his
dedication to reform. Thinking on it, she opted not to pursue such a
negative topic any further. "We missed Jelena on our trip. I hope she
was able to enjoy the peace and quiet in the estate during our absence,"
she fished for other topics, more pleasant in nature.
Claudius ignored her comment regarding the alcohol, privately
agreeing with her on the matter, but feeling that little more would be
gained from speaking about it. "Truthfully I haven't seen much of her
lately..." he said, sounding somewhat disappointed as he began to smear
an Alderaanian cheese on a cracker. He offered a portion to Htaere
before setting to work on another cracker for himself. "She's at that
age where she doesn't want to spend time with her father," he said
before slipping the cracker into his mouth. He smiled from pleasurable
sensations of the food and leaned back slightly, letting the warming
rays of the Essessia star sweep over his body. He was rarely home during
the day, so the feeling of the sunlight was especially soothing. "I
can't say I blame her. I tried as hard as I could to get away from my
father. I took every diplomatic assignment away from home I could..." he
conceded as his attention turned to the spring water.
"I think that is perhaps the way all adolescents feel," she recalled
her own moments of parental disgust in her youth. In truth, that still
existed, towards her mother and sisters. Her father had not been the
problem, or in the picture much at all as her mother kept him around for
procreating and occasionally appearing as a piece of arm candy at
diplomatic functions when she wasn't cajoling with someone else. "I can
take her to Alderaan if she likes," Htaere offered quietly. "I enjoy
traveling, and I am certain she would enjoy the trip home to her family
Claudius sampled another of the artisan cheeses that had been
provided for them, as he considered Htaere's request. "I think being on
Alderaan would just make it harder for her..." he said reluctantly as he
pulled the locally bred boar from the basket. He began carving it for
both of them to enjoy. "Maybe she should have been in college with her
friends, but it was beyond on my control..." he explained to her as he
placed a heaping array of the sliced Essesselian boar on Htaere's plate.
"As in the folly of all youth, the sacrifices of the parent will not
come to be known until later, when maturation provides clairvoyance and
appreciation," she replied with a grin. "Give it time. I am certain she
will come to acknowledge your efforts when the abasement of growing up
Claudius began eating some of the boar as he listened to Htaere's
council carefully, acknowledging that she had more in common with a
teenage girl than he did. "I'm in my fifties and I still resent my
father," he said with a nervous, uncomfortable laugh and quickly moved
to finish his spring water.
Htaere managed a playful grin. "Your father...is worthy of such at
times. He can be..." she thought on it "...difficult to tolerate." She
couldn't help but laugh a little. In truth though, she hardly found the
Duke of Delaya to be comedic. Pushy and meddling were understatements in
the description of Julius Rodney. Reaching across the blanket, Htaere
pushed at Claudius' shoulder lightly. "Let us not speak of such gloomy
topics. There are many great things to be had in the galaxy."
If they were not being chaperoned by Stormtroopers he might think to
make a move, but being under the watchful glare of armor-clad soldiers
sort of took the magic out of the moment. "Speaking of parents..." he
said, taking a pause to finish his portion of the boar. "Did you have a
chance to see your parents on Gallinore?" he asked, as he leaned back
against the blanket once more in order to digest in comfort. He was
eating far too many meals in the officer's mess aboard the Star
Destroyer lately, and his diet had suffered greatly. It was a rare treat
to enjoy freshly prepared meals by the household staff and he savored
"No," Htaere replied, taking a very unlady like moment to lick her
finger tips after sampling some of the fare on her plate, and enjoying
every minute of it thoroughly. "I made it clear they were unwelcomed
during our respite," she stated matter-of-factly. "As it was, we cut our
plans short after the attack so we could return home promptly."
"Right ... the attack..." Claudius said quietly, as he did not yet
have a chance to discuss the subject with Htaere. He had learned that it
was an authorized attack, but one clearly meant to dispose of an officer
rather than inflict real damage upon the Hapans. As he leaned back a
small burp escaped his lips, breaking the seriousness of the mood. "Oh
excuse me," he said in complete embarrassment as he brought a cloth
napkin to his lips to wipe, covering his shame.
"That is it," she said shaking her head. "I want a divorce. I shall
not have such behavior," she stated whilst folding her arms across her
Claudius surged towards her quite unexpectedly, his arms reaching for
her as he struggled to carry her in his arms. "I'll show you divorce!"
he said, playfully rather than angrily as he headed towards the
shoreline. "...did I pay for those clothes?" he asked her, as he let the
first waves began to crash against his legs, up to his knee length. The
suddenly he dove forward, letting her carefully fall into the sea as he
immersed himself him fully in the cool refreshing waters.
Not expecting the response, Htaere felt her breath lock in her throat
when she was plucked from the blanket and deposited back down into the
water. Splashing about she raised a hand to wipe the droplets from her
eyes and trying not to laugh lest she inhale part of the sea. Recovering
from surprised of being dunked, Htaere stared across wide eyed at the
rather juvenile antics. "Never fret, I shall bill you for it..." she
retorted with a smirk.
Claudius laughed at her comment as he tread water gracefully,
enjoying the sensations of the water against his flesh after being out
in the hot sun for so long. "I can afford. I've been racking up a lot of
overtime lately," he conceded, making a joke out of something that was
actually quite true. "It takes a lot of hours of work to finance the
lifestyle of the young Lady Drusilla Rodney," he explained, before
dunking his head beneath the water to let the refreshing sensation wash
over his locks of hair.
"Indeed," Htaere confessed. She moved to the shoreline where she
crawled up part of the way and stretched out on the sand, the ebb
rolling up her body nearly to her shoulders, letting the sand coat her
dress and hair, heedless of whether or not it was appropriate, or couth.
She allowed herself a deep sigh before sitting up, reaching up to pluck
her head piece from her wet hair and tossing it behind her towards the
blanket, followed by earrings, bracelets, anklets, necklace and whatever
else she could remove, with the exception of her wedding ring. Gazing at
it for a moment, she thought out loud. "You know, I do not believe we
have done something like this since the honeymoon."
Claudius came out of the water slowly, pulling off his wet shirt and
tossing it towards the corner of the blanket. He still kept a somewhat
trim and proper physique, despite his age, having a lifestyle that keeps
him constantly on the go. "War tends to get in the way of such things,
unfortunately," he said to her as his eyes slowly rolled up to the
always present sight of the Imperial Stormtroopers on the cliff face.
With a crestfallen half grin, Htaere picked at her fingernails for a
moment. "Yes...," she lamented quietly before looking up. "...well
perhaps one day, this conflict will be resolved and we shall have more
time for these sorts of outings," she offered encouragingly.
Claudius sat down next to Htaere, the beads of water running down his
body as the air gently cooled him. It was among his favorite sensations
and one that he rarely felt anymore. "Twenty years ago there was a real
war. We thought it would never end, but The Emperor brought peace to the
galaxy," he explained to her, remembering those awful days that
threatened to destroy everything he knew. "This is just a few
troublemakers. It cannot last ... it will not last," he told her
reassuringly, as he lay down tiredly, staring up at the sun as the sand
began to irritatingly cling to his moist flesh.
Htaere's eyes flickered to the side towards Claudius momentarily but
she said nothing. Her own thoughts drifted off to her recollections and
experiences, remaining quiet in the face of her husband's Imperial
self-righteous declarations regarding the Empire. Instead she drew a
deep breath and let her eyes pander out to the water, pulling her focus
on the moment they shared.
Claudius sat up, sitting beside her, as he snuggled up against her.
His head tilted slightly, leaning against her shoulder as he gave a
gentle kiss against his neck. His eyes stared forward as he watched the
sun slowly begin to set, it's last breath of light flickering over the
waves that were lapping at the sea shore. It had been a perfect night in
an imperfect month.