Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:9:18) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Rodney Castle).
Duke Julius Rodney, Duchess Livia Rodney, Lord Marcus Rodney and Zara Ta'em.

Morning came. The first thing that Marcus saw when he opened his eyes were the lovely features of Zara. He blinked several times, bringing his vision to focus to reveal the further details of her beauty. He smiled feeling happier than he had ever felt in his life. "Good morning," he said to her, as he leaned his face across the pillow to place a tender wakeup kiss upon her lips. As he began to sit up in the bed he noticed that while they slept the servants had silently crept in, with the aptitude of Zara's stealth skills, to collect their clothing and place a small breakfast for them. How embarrassing, he thought for himself, but as he never before had a woman stay like this he could not fault them for what they did. What did surprise him, however, was the presence of a small envelope next to the food. He reached across her body, pressing his substantial weight upon her to grab for it. "Sorry," he said to her, as he perhaps transfered more of his weight to her than he intended. When he rolled back over he opened the envelope and retrieved a small card that invited both him and his guest to lunch with his parents. He swallowed nervously, before silently offering the card over towards her for inspection. The invitation itself was not that alarming, but the fact that it named her by her full name was...

Zara slept like an effing champion after all that sexy fun time. She also had kicked off just about all of her blankets. It was likely that the servants had seen more of her body than she was comfortable with...but hey, what could you do?! She was still sleeping, curled up peacefully on her side now, when he awoke. The sound of his voice began to stir her away, but it was really the wonderful kiss that followed that inspired her to wake up completely. Her heart started beating quickly. He had never left her side...not for the whole entire night. Sleepily, Zara remained laying. Her long hair had fallen over her small shoulders. She found it odd that all the clothing that she had thrown on the floor was gone. There was a moment of panic when she realized servants had come into the room without *her* noticing. Instead of feeling embarrassed about it, she felt happy that there was a freshly prepared breakfast waiting for them. "Good morning!" She said in a chipper voice. "How did you sleep?" Zara started up a conversation. He noticed the envelope before she did. Zara's attention was glued to the food. She was hungry since she had picked at dinner before a hard workout. She squeaked as he pressed his weight on her to reach the envelope. "You're squashing meeee!" She said playfully. By the way...this girl is extreme ticklish, so watch out for that. She slowly sat up while he devoured the contents of the letter. The expression on Marcus' face didn't make her feel good. What was this letter about?

She took it, surprised to see her full name. *Zara Raenri Ta'am*. She, too, read the letter. Once she finished, she tossed it at him and quickly hid underneath the blankets, singing a chant of, "*I don't wanna, you can't make me. I don't wanna you can't make me.*" Zara was scared! She peeked her head out of the covers. "What do I even wear?! What do I say? I'm not a fancy, shmancy noble lady. They're going to hate me."

Marcus found her playful protest to be quite amusing and he could not keep himself from laughing at her actions. "Hey!" he said, as he grabbed hard at the blanket and gave a strong pull to reveal her silver topped head once more. "I knew this was going to happen at some point..." he said, doing his best to offer support, as he moved closer towards her. He moved towards her like a kath hound, slowly climbing over her, as his body came to a stop on top of hers. His head was directly above hers now and with just a slight descent he moved his face down to place a tender, reassuring, loving kiss upon her lips. "They're not going to hate you. No one could ever hate you ... well ... accept for those guys back in the Corporate Sector," he said, playfully, with a soft laugh before he placed another kiss upon her. "They'll probably do most of the talking. Just be yourself," he repeated, trying his best to prop her up and lend her some much needed support. He had never imaged anything could make her that scared, well ... maybe she had his parents pegged right after all.

Zara clearly needed a better hiding spot. She made her best pouty face. Like him, she knew the day was coming. The longer she lived with him, the more they were going to want to meet her. She couldn't avoid this meeting. Her big, blue eyes stared at him. He was trying to make her feel better and, god damn it, his comforting worked. He had cut off her escape route (which would be locking herself in the bathroom) by laying on top of her. She wrapped him up in her arms. She even kissed him back warmly. She was still pouting when he stopped kissing her. "O-okay... You know!" She smiled, "I *do* have this powdery drug we could put in their drinks. It would make everything so much better." She giggled. "Okay. I'll do it. I love you and I'll meet you parents. Them not liking me won't change the way you feel, right?" She hadn't dealt with a situation like this before. She didn't even have the time to research his parents and learn how to swindle her way into their hearts She was banking on them leading the conversation. Zara's lips met his. She placed several short kisses to his lips. How did they know her full name? That bothered her. She could imagine that they had done research. They knew about the Ta'em family hangings. They knew her father sparked a rebellion. She cling to Marcus. If she never let go of him, then he wouldn't go anywhere!

Marcus was not going anywhere. "No!" he said at her, playfully, as he reached down and took her nose into his mouth before biting down. "No you cannot drug my parents," he said, between his teeth that were loosely clenched around her nose. When he finally released her, he pulled his head back and looked across the room at the chronometer on the wall. His heart stopped. His face went white. And he froze on top of her. They had overslept and the lunch was going to be happening in just one half hour. He panicked and he quickly moved off of her, nearly tripping over himself as he moved from atop her to begin scrambling towards the refresher. Now *he* was the scared one. "Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!" he said in a panicked, frenzied tone, as he entered the luxurious en suite. "I promise. No matter what they think of you, my thoughts will never change, but now ... hurry!" he said one more time, as his hand slammed down on the controls to activate the shower.

"Owwww! Stopit! I didn't say *anything* about drugging them. I said I wanted to give 'em a little somethin' somethin'!" Zara defended herself, rubbed her gnawed nose. "Gosh, I thought I tamed the animal inside of you last night." Uh oh. He was losing the color in his face. "What is it?" Her eyes followed his to the chronometer. "Ohnonononono. That is not enough time! I don't wanna, you can't make meee!" She watched him scurry off of her while she panicked. "I can't even dry my hair in that time!" Well, she could, but regardless... The woman reluctantly left that warm, comfy bed and the food she should have been happily eating. Her stomach moaned and grumbled all the way to the refresher. The shower was already running. It was still sweet of him to be reassuring. Zara decided to be a good sport. She hopped into the shower with him. It was all business, no play time. She washed her hair and body as rapidly as she could. It was chaos. Zara had to quickly move through her whole beauty routine, with some extra steps added to look pretty for what may very well be her in laws. On the bright side, at least she didn't know she was pregnant right now. If she had, getting her out of the door would have been that much harder. "We're never going to make it!" Zara said, combing out her lengthy hair. "You're taking the fall for us being late!" She accused, pointing a finger in his direction.

All in all, they somehow made it work. Zara opted for an extremely modest dress white dress. It ended safely at her knee. The thin straps showed off her bare shoulders, but it didn't give off any cleavage. Once she had fully dressed herself, she realized she didn't like it and wanted to change. "This isn't going to work!" She exclaimed, huddling towards the closet. She looked pretty and simplistic. Her hair was down. Even the worry on her face looked pretty at the moment. "I have to put on something else." Time was out. They needed to go.

Marcus wished the shower could have lasted longer and more than just the water was causing him to become overheated. He showered much quicker than her, paying extra special attention to his pits and crevices and ignoring virtually everything else. He often wondered how using soap between his buttcrack and then bringing it up to his face was sanitary, but nevertheless he was soon clean and emerging from the shower after her. His hair dried much simpler than her and as he strode across the room towards the expansive closet that was larger than most normal bedrooms he began to dress in the standard formal attire that he always found himself in during social situations. His shirt was red and did well to make a statement, but he found her reaction to be the dress to be somewhat amusing. "What. A. Girl.," he said slowly, deliberately, as he watched her panic about her dress. He finally moved towards her, and placed each of his hands on her shoulders, doing his best to hold her in place. He pressed his lips to her to silence her for a moment, before withdraw from her to look at her reassuringly with his eyes. "I love you. You look amazing. It's going to be fine," he said to her, slowly, and confidently, before nodding his head at her with encouragment.

Thisss was what she got for handing a servant a paper with her sizes on it along with credits and sending them out to do shopping for her while she busied herself with stealing food. She was making a face in the closet, also regretting a lengthy morning shower with her love. Ooh, the things they could have done! Rather—the woman he could have done. It seemed like no one in this whole castle wanted them to be intimate frequently. She was ready to desperately sift through clothing until she found a better option when Marcus decided to jump in front of the crazy train. Like always, he looked incredible. He looked like she should take off all that formal attire things she didn't have time for right now... She stopped thumbing through clothing when he complimented her. Zara looked like she was going to explode with panic. His kiss stopped her. It relaxed her again, just like those in bed had. Her arms wrapped loosely around his neck. She took a deep breath. In. Out. "I love you. I'm trusting you on this for now.." Her fingers slid into his. As long as everyone was ready, she began making her way towards the door. "What are your parents even like?" She asked. "Is your mother nice?" Zara missed her mom so much. "You have to brief me before I go in." It was a mission like any other. It was possibly her hardest mission yet.

Marcus listened to her question, but he found his parents to be a difficult subject to discuss and so, perhaps mistakenly, opted not to answer her question right away. He instead took her by the hand and began to lead her from their master suite into the corridor silently, with some awkwardness, before he began to descend the spiral staircase that dominated the tower. His hand never left hers, his hand squeezing against hers reassuringly with a gentle massage from his thumb against the palm of her hand. "My mother is very nice," he finally revealed, telling the truth from a certain point of view. His mother was very nice ... compared to his father at least. He finally led her into the dining room which was on the lower level and featured an expansive bay of windows that looked out on the mountain range that surrounded the castle. A table had been prepared for four, but there were no sign of his parents. There was however a bustling staff that began to lay out various luxury foodstuffs and wine ... the event called for much wine.

That awkwardness didn't make her feel better. In fact, it took away the value of what he said when he finally did answer. "That's... something..." She commented dryly. Meanwhile, Zara's mind was filling in the blanks. His parents were evil—and that was okay. You couldn't control who your parents were. He told her that it wouldn't change things. She believed him. She'd do her best with it. It helped that he continued to hold her hand like a human anchor while they walked. There was no avoiding the dining room. Like it or not, they eventually made it there. While the table of delicious foodstuffs should have made her happy, it only made her want to throw up more. She didn't notice that she had begun to squeeze his hand tighter and tighter. Despite having to rush to make it to lunch, they had made it before his parents. She hoped that put some points in their favor. She looked up at Marcus. "Maybe they forgot..." She said hopefully. Rather than stand around awkwardly, she decided to guide Marcus over to the table. Her hand didn't leave his. At this point, it couldn't. "The food looks good. I'm starving since I decided we'd skip dinner last night." Zara smiled, nudging him with her little elbow. It was time to break the ice.

The chamberlains raised the base of their staffs before bringing them back down upon the marble floor loudly, twice. A moment later the doors to the dining room entered and stepping forward was an elderly woman, who still looked quite lovely for her age. She took care of herself and it showed that she enjoyed fashion as she wore the a regal gown of the latest fashions that covered most of her body, including her arms, as she did not want anyone to see the toll that age had took upon her once immaculate skin. The most defining feature of her body were eyes ... a vibrant shade of violet that she had never seen another woman possess. When she saw Zara she began sizing her up in her head, as any mother would, but this was different ... in the nearly four decades she had known her son he had never before had a lasting relationship. "So you must be Zara," she said, wanting make a point to her that she knew more about her, than Zara knew about herself. With that, her face moved forward to place a kiss next to Zara's left cheek, and then quickly moved to place one next to her right cheek, as society dictated. "My husband will be joining us shortly. He is just finishing a meeting," he said, apologizing to them both, but she had deliberately informed him that the lunch was later than it actually was as she wanted to meet her before he did and form an opinion free of his overbearing ways. She said nothing to her son ... not even a glance ... it was as if he was not even there. Her attention was fixated entirely on Zara.

Of all the monsters that existed in the galaxy, it was his mother that Zara feared most. Being that she lost her family at a young age, she found it important to not case a rift in his. She needed the little old woman's approval. Zara forced herself to fix her posture, standing up straight to her full, fearful five-two. The elderly woman in front of her didn't fit the image she had created in her head. She looked kind. Her violet eyes were stunning. Zara put on her best smile. The voice in her head was repeating; *I think I can I think I can I think I can* as she released Marcus' hand and took a step towards the woman. Believe you me, Zara knew right off the bat that this woman had information. She didn't know how much. It was certainly enough to make her uncomfortable. "That I am. Your son has been rude," shot shot a playful look towards Marcus, "He's told me so little of you. I don't even know what your name is." At least Zara knew some society norms. She placed a quick kiss to each side of the woman's cheeks. "Thank you for letting us know. I look forward to meeting him too." No she didn't. Zara saw that the attention was on her now. She smiled a classic, charming Zara smile. She didn't know where to start, so, she dove into conversation full of doubts and fears. "...Marcus really isn't rude at all. He's a good man...the best I've ever known. You raised him well, though I can't imagine how you did it. Maybe with a whip? Is his brother as much trouble as he is?" Zara was tryyinggg!

The Duchess Livia Rodney smiled politely at each of the pleasantries the woman exchanged with her, as she wondered what exactly it was that *she* possessed that none of the others her second son had notoriously bed over the past two decades had. "Dear boy, so rude," she said, as her violet eyes angled towards Marcus' so sharply that it threatened to cut him. "Then allow me to introduce myself, my dear," she said, politely, as her eyes refocused on the silver haired harlot that stood before her. She certainly looked the part, she thought silently to herself as she continued to size her up, pursing her lips ever so noticeably as she struggled to figure it out. "I am Livia, Duchess of Delaya and ... mother of the silent nitwit," she said, with a smirk and a soft laugh to break the ice.

Marcus watched in horror as for the first time his mother met one of the women he had been with, but in many ways this had been his first real relationship despite his advanced age. He listened to everything that they said to one another in panicked silence, unable to find even the most basic of words on the tip of his tongue. He was terrified. He did not think he would be, but he was. "Zara. This ... this is my mother," he said, after she had introduced herself, stammering like a buffoon. "Mother, this is Z-Z-Zara," he again added, stumbling over her name like it was a tripwire. His face was threatening to become as red as the color of his tunic.

Of all the people she had met in her life, it was Duchess Livia Rodney that was the most difficult to read. Zara couldn't tell if she was the right hand of Satan, a wolf in sheep's clothing, or an actual good person. Regardless, Zara understood that she was being looked at under a microscope right now to see if she was worthy of Marcus. Those woman's eyes could slice through cortosis, only now they were slicing through Marcus because she had thrown him under the bus. Zara looked over her shoulder at him. She looked apologetic and a little shocked...what the hell!? This woman could be straight up scary. *Sorry* she mouthed, turning her attention back towards the woman as she introduced herself. She also humanized herself. Zara smiled. Internally, she was still flipping out. If her head was anything like the characters in *Inside Out*, then there was a full panic meltdown happening at her mind's control center. Somehow, she managed to laugh. Zara was making her way further and further into uncharted territory. She felt a second panic attack beginning when she realized she still had to meet his father. "Aw, he's just afraid you won't like me. I'm afraid of that too... I mean, look at all the movies that are made about this exact event depicting it to be worse than torture. Did you ever see *My Mother's a Bantha Fodder*?" She laughed dryly. Anndd Zara was getting nervous. Her mouth was starting to move. All the training she did to stay relaxed and calm in her missions had been flushed down the toilet.

Marcus, stuck in hell with her, stumbled on his words as he approached them. This wasn't easy for either one of them. Zara saw him drowning so she went in to save him. She took a long stride over to him as gracefully as she could manage. One of her arms wrapped around his. From there, they crossed the short distance to Livia. As scared as Zara was, she remained externally calm. She even tried to comfort Marcus by kissing his cheek and squeezing his arm. She loved him. It was the only reason why she was willing to do this. "So, um, tell me about yourself? Like I said, I don't know much."

Before either Livia or Marcus could continue the chamberlains again went into action, raising their staffs and then slamming them back onto the marble tile repeatedly. It was then that the Duke of Delaya entered the room ... he was a man of his 70s with salt and pepper hair, who seemed to be putting on weight with each growing year. His clothes were very fine and dyed vibrant shades of purple, which had been one of the more expensive colors on Alderaan before its destruction. He walked slower than he had in the past and his knees hurt, causing him great difficulty as he strode across the room towards the gathering. "I believe you have been mistaken about the time, my dear. You're getting old," he said to his wife, matter-of-factly, throwing her a sideways glance before turning his attention to his wayward son. "Up so early? I don't recall seeing you for lunch any time in recent memory," he said, chastising him, before moving towards the buffet table to grab the leg of one of the avians that had been cooked for them. He took a large bite of the leg, the grease staining his chin, as he chewed obnoxiously loud. Who needed manners when you were the one in charge? His attention then turned towards Zara, who he had largely ignored, and studied her intently as he continued to chew loudly. "Beautiful," he mumbled, through a mouth full of food, causing a few particles of food to fall down to his chest.

No, no, no, *no*. Zara was working on making it through Livia's obstacle course when another popped up...the Duke of Delaya; Marcus' father. The silver-haired woman would like nothing more than to crawl back in bed with Marcus and laugh over how shitty this little meet and greet was going. She didn't know how she was going to get food down her throat, let alone keeping it in her stomach while they continued to talk. She watched the man head into the room. Her first impression was that he wasn't a nice man! Her little nose scrunched up like an angry little animal. Livia had placed a lot of attention on her. The Duke ignored her entirely, seated himself at the table, and began to eat. Zara watched, simply because she couldn't stop herself. It was so ... so...*grotesque*. There were pieces of food sprinkled all over his chest in no time. She watched grease roll down his chin. While she didn't have the best table manners, this guy clearly didn't either. She looked up at Marcus. Well, they'd made an appearance. Could they disappear now?

"Uh, thank you, sir." She knew what they had to do now; sit, eat, and talk. She half dragged Marcus across the dining room towards the table. Even as she sat, she didn't let go of his hand. Zara forced herself to add food to her empty plate. This would all end sooner if they ate now. She gave herself small portions, knowing full well that her stomach wanted to reject everything she put in it. Finally, her hand was forced to release from her lover's. She looked across the table at the Duke, then to Livia. She seemed like the talker in their relationship. "Everything smells so good, thank you for having us for lunch." And *please* never include her on the invite again. She began to eat slowly. Zara chewed with her mouth closed. She didn't make the same kind of mess that the Duke did. She was waiting to be grilled by his parents. She anticipated the moment when they wanted to know more.

"Well it is our understanding that our son here has had you, so we thought it only polite," Livia replied, before a particularly large sip of wine, which was greatly appreciated at a time like this. "Tell me, dear, where are you from? Who are your parents? Do you work?" she asked, without moving her head, as her violet eyes were locked entirely on the plate of food in front of her. She cut her meat with a particularly large, sharp knife that could have easily doubled for one of Marcus' weapons. When she finally finished her rapid series of questions she forked a couple of dainty morsel of food into her small mouth, chewing slowly. A cloth napkin was quickly brought to her mouth, dabbing it softly to collect the remnants, before finally looking towards Zara. "What exactly *are* your intentions towards my son? Money? A title?" she wondered, before raising the glass, and swirling the red wine in the glass to bring out its aromatic qualities. Who was this Zara Ta'em? she wondered to herself, as she glared at the young woman sitting across from her.

Zara's face turned a fabulous shade of bright red. Why did she bring that up!? *Our son here had had you*. She even choked on what she was eating. Blue eyes settled on Marcus. What the hell! He said he locked the door but the servants had gotten in, seen them, and reported everything to his parents. She was so embarrassed. "Uuuhhh..." Her voice trailed off. There was nothing really to say back to that. *Yes, I did fuck your son and it was damn good, b-word*! No, that certainly wouldn't work. She was glad the bruises on her neck were less apparent. As Zara braced herself for the storm, the hurricane hit. Livia was off. Her questions came rapid fire...yet Zara's attention centered around the knife the woman was cutting with. *My, my grandma, what a sharp knife you have... The better to eat you my dear*, Zara thought. She imagined the woman stabbing in a Game of Thrones Red Wedding way.

Zara started explaining herself. "I was born on Alderaan. I came from a hard working middle class family. My mother designed clothing in a small boutique. My father was a weapons expert. I *did* work. I was a ship mechanic for many years until my place of employment was burnt down recently." She explained to Livia. "I have enough income saved up from my time as a mechanic that I can afford to survive while I look for a new job." She already saw where this was going. The next time the woman's mouth opened, the harder questions came. Zara abandoned her silverware entirely, sitting back in her seat. Her eyes glared at Livia, allowing her to make accusations that didn't apply to her. "Look, I know I automatically have put myself in a bad position. I'm unemployed. When my parents were alive, they didn't have any connection to nobility. I look like yet another woman who has waltzed into your son's bed with bad intentions. Money. Nobility. The thrill of using someone. That's *not* who I am. My intentions towards your son are pure. I want to be a good partner for him. Someone who listen to him when he needs to talk. Someone who doesn't disappear when life isn't rainbows and butterflies. I met Marcus by chance. It was honestly the best accident of my life. I don't appreciate you inviting us here to make accusations. You had already formed an opinion about me prior to entering this room. It's going to take time to change that opinion, to show you that I'm not a vindictive slut."

The venerable Duke continued to eat his food, passively listening to the awkward discussion between his wife and the young woman. When he was finished sucking the meat from the bone he spit it back down upon his plate, causing a *clang* that broke the temporary silence that had fallen over the table following Zara's impassioned defense. "It has often been said ... privately, of course ... that if we collected a toll on the traffic that came and went from Marcus' bedroom we would be able to solve Delaya's economic woes," he said to everyone in the room and no one in particular, before summoning the servant to poor more wine. "I, for one, do not care who you were ... or even who you are," he said, as he took a desperate drink of the wine to parch his thirst. "My concern is on who you intended to be," he said, before finishing the glass of wine in just two sips.

Marcus could bare no more of the brutal onslaught that Zara was being put through by his notorious planets, who both may have been drunk by midday. He placed his larger hand upon Zara's, patting it several times before giving it a reassuring squeeze. "Enough!" he said loudly, as his emotions erupted from deep within concerning his views on his parents' interrogation of the woman he loved. "She is to be *my* wife and there is nothing more to it!" he pronounced to them, despite the fact that he had not even bothered to ask Zara. He did not think he had to, as once again his temper was raging and his possessive nature towards her was overcoming his rational judgment.

Zara wasn't going to let these people mow her, or Marcus down. It wasn't fair and Zara wasn't a quiet we all know from how loud she was last night. *Ahem*. The sound of the bone hitting the plate made the angry female jump. What the heck? Was his dad some weird type of people-bird? Next time she got a lunch invite, she'd decline! If he wanted to go, Zara was ready for it. Her cold eyes fell on the male now. She didn't say anything about the amount of women who had been in her lover's bedroom. Remember? She researched him *before* she stole from him. People changed. He clearly wasn't looking for a one night stand in her. He wouldn't say he loved her if he wanted to throw her away. Zara hadn't touched her wine. She figured drinking would be the last thing she needed to do right now. She had to stay sharp...otherwise her future mother-in-law's knife would end up embedded in her throat. Bacta tanks could do a lot to fix a person up, though even Zara didn't know if she could come back from that.

Who she intended to be? It looked like the man had thrown her off. In a single question, his father had shut her down. She was thinking on an answer for the Duke when Marcus patted her back. Her anger retreated. Her head turned so she could shoot him a little smile. This wasn't his fault. She only wished she had brought something to drug his parents with. His loud, booming voice echoed through the room. Everyone fell silent as Marcus delivered quite the answer to the question still hanging in the air. Zara's face turned beet red for an entirely different reason now. He didn't need to ask her. Her answer was revealed somewhere in the evening they spent together. Zara's anger was snuffed out for happiness. He really was serious about her. She reached out towards her raging future husband, fingers linking in between his. She was trying to sway him away from the edge. "Lady Zara Rodney, right? I think we both decided against Lord Marcus Ta'em the other night. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?" She threw the question directly at his father. Her eyes brushed over him briefly. Yep, this girl was starting shit today.

Neither the Duke nor the Duchess spoke a word after they heard their second son declare that he was to marry the pretty young thing that had joined them at the table. "Did you hear that, my love? Marry the girl..." Livia said, breaking the silence, rolling her eyes so severely that they threatened to fall right out of her head. "You were supposed to go through these whirlwind love affairs when you were half your age, dear boy," she said, scolding him, before she too motioned for *another* glass of wine ... it could not come fast enough. As she took a sip of the wine her eyes began to light up and an 'I've got it!' look quickly dawned upon her face. "Are you pregnant?" she asked Zara, not wasting any time, as she pulled the glass away from her lips. That *had* to be it, she concluded, as she brought the glass back to her mouth, her violet eyes staring daggers at her irresponsible son.

Zara was momentarily derailed by Marcus thanks to Livia. These people were pure evil, Zara decided. Livia was trying to squash what they had beneath the sole of her fancy, shmancy shoe. "It's not a whirlwind love affair!" She snapped. "Apparently, this is news to you, but your son isn't a bad person. Thankfully, he didn't inherit that from *both of you*. Our feelings for each other are not comparable to puppy love. I'm going to marry him. That's a fact you'll want to work on swallowing before the wedding." Zara growled. She thought she was on top of her game again, but Mama Livia, my, my, that woman knew where to stab her metaphorical knife. In one single question, the wiring that had been turned off of Zara's brain the night before began functioning again. *Are you pregnant*? The question mocked her repeatedly. Was she pregnant? She wasn't on birth control and she had sex. She had sex and she wasn't on birth control. Her face turned lighter and lighter shades of white. There was silence, silence which was only broken by the sound of Zara's chair falling over when she stood suddenly. She pointed a finger at his mother. "No!" She squeaked. With that, she went running off. Mama Livia- 1. Zara- 0.

Zara didn't stop running until she had made it back into their quarters, eventually locking herself in the refresher. "Am I pregnant?" She repeated to herself in a terrible voice mocking Livia. "*Am I pregnant*!?" Her hands were in her hair, fingers pulling through the long strands. At this point, the poor girl was pacing back and forth in the bathroom like a caged animal. She certainly could be pregnant. Could the medical droids even tell this early on? Zara had only half-assedly locked the refresher door. If he really wanted to, Marcus could input a code and access the refresher. Zara decided to hide in the empty bathtub in the bathroom. Her shoes had fallen off on the ground. Her feet were dangling off the side of the tub. What if she was pregnant? Marcus would hate her. Livia and the evil Duke would have a day in the park with her! She felt bad for leaving Marcus to defend his decisions downstairs. She should have stayed...

Zara's outburst and hasty retreat brought an awkward silence over the room, which caused the wheels inside of the old Duke's brain to begin to slowly turn. The issue of succession was of prime concern in the last years of his life. His eldest son had but two daughters, one of which had openly joined the Rebellion, and his wife was no longer capable of producing children. If Marcus, the spare, had managed to impregnate this sweet young thing ... perhaps with a son ... then they would finally have the heir they needed to secure another century of rule over Delaya by the House of Rodney. "Perhaps we are being too hasty, my dear wife," he said to Livia, as his hand moved atop hers to calm her and cease further hysterics on her part. "Well go to her you fool!" he angrily shouted across the table to his son, wondering how much coaching up he would need as he experienced his first serious relationship.

Marcus was suspicious of his father's sudden change of heart, but after nodding his head to the man, he rose from his chair and began chasing after his apparent fiancée. He brushed past the staff without any courtesy as he began to ascend the spiral staircase that led to the top of the spire that contained their bed chamber. "Whew," he said, exhaling deeply as he reached the top of the stairs, having moved a bit faster that was advised. If the building were not ancient he might consider installing a turbolift to bypass the stairs as he continued to age ungracefully. "Zara?" he called out, as his eyes scanned the room for her, but he did not see her. Hiding in the refresher, he correctly suspected and moved towards the door, fumbling with it unsuccessfully. "Zara?" he again called out as he managed to open the door, uncertain of what he would find on the other side. He was committed to her ... committed to *them* ... and he hoped his parents had not dissuaded her from her decision to be with him.

She feared what they were currently doing to Marcus. Maybe he'd been hung from his toes and given a good whipping? Next time she'd be better prepared for his parents, she told herself during her mini-melt down. Most of her concerns, at this point, were centered around Marcus killing her for not having been on birth control. Zara had no excuse. She was smart...wasn't she? She questioned her intelligence at this point. His parents had done nothing to persuade her to leave. Her feelings on Marcus hadn't changed. Regardless, Zara had taken the bait. She let them see her bad sides. She let them see how overprotective she was over Marcus as well as how much she cared about what they thought. She had plenty of time to think things over between leaving the terrible lunch and Marcus arriving in the bathroom.

"...And I promise, I won't name you anything stupid. Like Hashtag, or something with three i's where a y should be..." She said to no one in particular. "Let's face it, you're going to be one hell of a bad ass. We're going to pick out a proper name. Not something weird like *Zara*." Her words were cut off the moment she heard the door into their quarters open. Her blue eyes looked puffy and red. The worst of her panic was over. Now she had to feed Marcus the truth and face the fact that he would want her to leave afterward. She watched him enter the refresher with sad eyes. "I'm sorry I left you behind, Marcus. I didn't realize your parents weren't going to be like *that*. I felt like all my crazy buttons were being mashed at the same time. I wanted to protect protect *us*." As Zara explained herself, she crawled out of her hidey hole. She stood in front of the tub, nervously avoiding eye contact. "...The thing is, your mom ... I mean, I never like vindictively planned things out like this. It just *happened*. Last night was so wonderful. I wasn't thinking." She was pacing, hands back in her hair as her nervous habit persisted.

Marcus was momentarily shocked when Zara told him that her mother was right ... he was not sure how that could be possible. A look of shock overcame his face as he came speechless, simply staring at her intently during an uncomfortable silence. "That's wonderful," he finally revealed, as he moved towards the toilet, which was the only place he could find to sit down. A number of thoughts raced through his brain the foremost of which were the fact that he had gone from being alone to finding love, and then a wife, and now a child? "We should leave this place. Find somewhere peaceful away from all this ... from *them*..." he suggested to her, looking towards her stomach with a somewhat skeptical look, as if to ask *really?*. His heart was racing and his breathing was beginning to rapidly increase ... the rapid series of developments had combined to make him a bundle of nerves.

Zara couldn't handle the silence!! Every second he waited to say something made her feel more insane. The girl continued to pace...did he really want to marry this one? She stopped in front of him. He was happy? Of all the possible outcomes she had allowed herself to imagine, happy was nearly at the bottom of the list. Now Zara was the speechless one. Anticipating a big blow up had done nothing for her. Marcus wasn't mad. Her heart began to race as well. She was scared...excited and terrified. "I don't know *for sure*." She clarified, "I mean, there's no precautions against the possibility. It could happen today, tomorrow, or three months from now. I don't know. I'd rather you knew there was potential for us to have a baby before I get pregnant." In her mind, she had beaten mother nature. She drew herself closed to him. Her hands linked with his. "I'd like to that too. I want time with you without them breathing down our necks. Where should we go?" Standing before him, Zara realized how much the idea of having his baby *didn't* scare her. It was the possibility of rejection that scared her. All of a sudden, a smile burst up over her face. "You said I'm going to be your *wife*." She teased, "Do you still think that? Should I start calling you my fiancée?"

"Well then, we'll keep trying until you *are* sure," Marcus told her, confidently, as he moved to bring his arms around her. As he was sitting and she was standing his arms wrapped around her at the waist and came to a union at her ample rear, which he squeezed with familiarity. "I don't know ... maybe the unknown regions?" he asked, laughing softly at the prospect of having to hide from his own family ... for at least a little while. "No. I don't *think* that. I *know* that," he told her, his brown eyes looking up at her with a calm serenity behind his words. He had in fact made up his mind about her ... about them ... and nothing would change that. "I love you, Zara," he said, to reassure her, leaning his body forward to place the side his face against her flat stomach. He sighed contently as he began to drift off, dreaming of a future that was beginning to become more clear.

He made her one very, very happy girl. All the insanity with his parents had brought them closer together. It was opposite the desired effect. She kissed the top of his head, "I'd like that." The idea of being a mother was something she had buried a long time ago. It was exciting to draw it to the surface again. The possibility was on the table. He seemed more than happy to give her children. Zara's hands gently settled on his shoulders. Her fingers dug into them in a gentle massage. He'd had the same crazy morning she had. He needed some relief. Her smile grew as he squeezed her rear. Nope, nothing had changed between them. She laughed with him. "Unknown regions. Done! We will need to check all of our stuff for tracking devices. Pack for a long vacation." She wanted to hide too. When she did become pregnant, it wasn't something she'd announce to his parents until she was visibly with child. His parents seemed like the kind of people who might push her down a long flight of stairs. Her heart filled with joy over again. This man loved her. He loved her so much. And you know what? She loved him too! She stared down into his wonderfully brown eyes. "Good, because I love you. I have no intention of ever letting your parents, or anyone else, break us up." She wondered how he'd feel about a quiet ceremony. Even if they had to have a public one, she wanted to marry him without his mother judging her every step. She exhaled. Her fingers moved upwards to the top of his head. They worked through his hair gently. She, too, was daydreaming of her new future. She knew Marcus would make for a great husband as well as a father. She was confident in her decision. "You know, I used to fear the future. I didn't see much in it for myself. I've lived my life with so much guilt for what happened to my family. It used to be that thieving was the only way I felt alive." She confessed to him, enjoying the feeling of his face against her flat stomach. "I'm so happy now. I'm confident that our future is going to be good. I'm excited to start a family with you... I'm also excited to get away from your parents. C'mon, let's pack and leave!"

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