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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:10:14) in the Bespin system: Bespin (Cloud City: The Silver Arch Hotel & Casino).
N74-B, Lord Marcus Rodney, and Lady Zara Rodney.

The final look that Marcus gave his home planet would sit in Zara's mind for days as they traveled with no destination in mind. At first, she seemed angry at the world. She did what she could to combat what was happening on the HoloNet while continually seething about her in-laws. All in all, she spent most of her time dealing with the backlash of having gone through so many stressors in rapid succession. She was sick as a dog to the point where they had to make a crash landing on some trashy, Vegas-like planet where Zara felt she could pull connections to find a good doctor. For the past two days, they'd been laid up in a hotel-casino room under one of Zara's many aliases, weathering out the storm of morning sickness that had crashed down upon her. Her bump was just beginning to show, not quite noticeable to the world, but surely noticeable to the man who got to see her naked (we'll just ignore the fappening right now).

One morning, she awoke early feeling ... like a monster. While her stomach had put itself back together again, Zara was feeling the first tinge of regret over the reckless decision she had made. She carefully left their bed and retreated to the bathroom. There, she drew herself a bath. It was the place where she did all her best thinking, believe it or not. She sunk herself into the warm water once it was filled. Finally, she felt like she was standing on two feet. She had the ability to process the things that had happened. Zara began to second guess if she had done the right thing. Bottom line, she loved Marcus endlessly and had been blinded in the moment while she tried to do what she thought was best for their son. "You're causing a lot of trouble, young man." She affectionately chastised her stomach like the baby could hear it. She was afraid her monstrous outburst was going to chase Marcus away...or worse...make him unhappy for a lifetime. Zara tilted her head back into the water until all of her hair was submerged. One thing was for sure, life needed to calm down.

Marcus remained in bed long after her, as he did not have another life growing inside of him. As he stretched he felt the empty, sunken spot where Zara was supposed to be, but was not. Her absence immediately caused him to wake up, sitting as fast as he could he began to visually scan the room in a panic. He swung his legs over the bed and rose to his seat, as he discovered the light on in the bathroom. "Zara?" he called out, as he moved slowly towards the room, wearing only a pair of overpriced handmade underwear. As he peeked into the room a smile came upon his face, as she always looked more ravishing when her hair was slicked by having been submerged in the water. "Are you alright?" he asked, as he moved deeper into the room, and sat down on the side of the tub so that he could grow closer to her. His hand quickly entered the tub, submerging like a predator, before moving to caress her stomach where their son was developing.

Time flies when you're being seduced by a bath tub, doesn't it? Zara was so far lost in her thoughts that she didn't hear him calling to her. She noticed him only once he crossed her line of vision and questioned her. A smile flashed over her lips. She was happy to be feeling better now, all other things considered. "I'm okay. I feel way better than yesterday." There was something sweetly affectionate about the way he caressed her belly. If she could purr like a kitten, then she would have! Her smile grew a little more. "Are you mad at me about the whole Delaya incident? I'm sorry I didn't bring it up sooner. If you want your parents to be in our lives, we can figure it out, okay?"

"No. I'm not mad," Marcus quickly responded, his index finger tracing over her burgeoning belly, before spiraling downwards into her belly button. "At my age I shouldn't be living at home anyway," he said with a soft snicker, before examining her more intently ... he had become so accustomed to her that he was no longer taken aback by her nudity. "You don't need to worry, my love. We don't need them. We don't need anyone. And we can raise our child ... our son ... without the burden of being an heir," he said, nodding his head to emphasize his words to her. "Besides. I saw what the burden of inheritance did to my brother and how it tore his family apart..." he said to her, lowering his head silently, as he remembered his sister-in-law and niece.

Eee! Her belly button was ticklish! She squeaked and squirmed softly. Zara should have learned weeks ago that Marcus had the power to make her feel better...and that's just what he did. The worry washed away with his words of reassurance. He even had her laughing again. "I'd say all my screaming [in bed] would have gotten us in trouble back there, but then again, your father was pretty desperate for a heir. I'd half-imagine he'd cheer us on." It was a horribly perverse thing to say, yet Zara laughed anyway. She reached up out of the water so she could half-embrace him as much as she could. Her chin rested on his knee. The sadness that came over him when he mentioned his brother's family was awful. She wanted to know. "Come, join me. Tell me what happened." The life of royalty was unknown to Zara. Seeing his parents had been enough to inform her of what she didn't want for their son. Marcus had endured so much being the second son. She could hardly imagine the burdens Claudius faced.

"You really want to know?" Marcus asked, as he leaned back, falling haphazardly into the bathtub, while still wearing his underpants. His addition to the tub caused the water to splash out over the lip and onto the floor below, but since he was only renting the floor by the night he did not particularly care. "It's not a particularly pleasant story..." he began, as the rueful memories filled his mind and escaped his lips in the story he found himself recounting to her. "When my brother was young, back before even the Clone Wars, he met and fell in love with a beautiful teacher. Naturally our parents didn't approve, but Claudius was always more headstrong than me, and he forced the marriage ... and yes, an *official* one with the parade and all," he continued, playfully teasing her by splashing the water about on her. "She quickly delivered a niece ... Jelena ... but it was a rough pregnancy and she was told not to have any more children," he said, sighing as he spoke, as he was coming to the important part. "Well, my father wanted a grandson ... desperately ... and told her that she would only be accepted by the family if she had a son. So she got herself pregnant, and died in childbirth, after producing a second daughter..." he revealed, bitterly, before sinking down into the water himself.

Zara had her second thoughts. Rodney family history was sticky business. Regardless, she nodded, agreed, and accepted him into the tub as the height of the water increased until the bath overfilled. She recalled their meeting with Claudius what felt like a lifetime ago. Zara instantly assumed he was like his parents and wrote him off immediately. She walked into his office ready for a fight. She sat with him, listening to the story about his brother, his wife, and the terrible evils that his parents played on them. She only snickered once when he teased her about the official wedding. She splashed him back playfully. "You mean I could have been in a parade fancy waving at people?!" She smiled, attempting to keep him in a good mood. The story turned darker. The Duke, whispering bullshit into a poor woman's ear until, in desperation, she dove into a pregnancy that ended her life. Zara shook her head. She didn't know how to react at first. It was sad and sickening. She even felt bad for Claud. "That's horrible..." Zara managed to murmur at first. She drifted closer to him, wrapping her arms around him. She wouldn't let him sink into the evils of his parents. She held him close to her body, her heart thumping against his. "I didn't realize Claudius had been through all of that. I don't understand what the deal is with your parents. How can anyone be so self-absorbed that they push a woman to die at the chance of having a heir?"

"Yes. A parade. Through the streets of Leiliani. Tens of thousands of drunken revelers cheering us on with millions more watching on the holonet. All done in the same speeder that conveyed members of the family for centuries. It really is quite the spectacle. When my brother remarried last year it was quite the event," Marcus informed her, before he found himself in her warm embrace. It was just the three of them intertwined in the warm bath water, far from anything that could affect them. "Yes. He had been through a lot," he said sadly, both his eyes and voice drifting off into complex thought. "An heir is very important to my father. Our family has ruled over Delaya for nearly a millennia. And now, for the first time that is under the threat of ending. It has consumed my father for most of these past years. He even forced my brother to remarry a much younger woman just for the hope of him fathering a son, but that did not work out either," he explained, as he allowed her comforting touch to prevent a headache from coming over him. "Jelena would have made a good ruler, but now that she is off with the Rebellion she had to be disinherited to avoid Delaya suffering the same fate as Alderaan. Of course, they could always win..." he said, but not really believing the words he said, as his travels across the known galaxy never took him far away from Imperial might. *They* were everywhere.

The more he spoke about what a royal wedding was like, the worse it sounded. Zara could recall catching a part of a royal wedding once on the Holonet. They were so extravagant. She shivered. "Nooo thank you. I can't believe your brother did it *twice*." Claudius was a nut. A nut with a tough life, but a nut regardless! Personally, Zara was more than happy with their wedding. It was certainly memorable...still splattered all over the Holonet like it had just happened. She tugged him closer to her even though there was no space left between them. "I don't understand. Why isn't Claudius on deck to become ruler? Why is he an imperial? The Grand Moff at that! Is it important to you that your blood remains in power on Delaya?" Zara had no doubts that the old Duke would find out about their son someday. It was disappointing that Jelena couldn't take over, or anyone else for that matter. She wanted to learn more. Zara had wanted to join the Rebellion for some time. The Empire was a strong force, however. It was hard to put so much faith in such a small group of people. She sighed. She wanted the war to end as much as anyone else. Alderaan had shown the whole galaxy what they were up against.

Marcus was wondering why Zara was choosing now to press him for this information, but he was too comfortable in her embrace within the relaxing hot waters to question her in return. "I guess it's only fair that you get to learn about your new family," Marcus began, as he moved his hand up to run his fingers through her wet, matted hair. "Claudius is next in line, but he's getting up there in years as well, and the thoughts are already focused on the next generation," he explained, as his hand moved to pull her hair off of her ear, which he began slowly caressing with just the tip of one finger. "He's an Imperial because they're the ones in power. He got swept up in the Republic when the war began ... duty and honor and all that ... and then one day the Republic became the Empire as if someone simply flipped a light switch. As for becoming a Grand Moff? He has always been very political, very charming, very good at those sorts of games and jumping through hoops," he said, as he reached for a lavish sponge and began to slowly rub it upon her back. "He's even met the Emperor," he said, with a degree of fear ... yes, fear ... in his voice as he spoke, all the while continuing the sponge bath upon her back. "It never meant much to me ... the power it is. It's sad to see the family end, but the power? No. It never meant anything to me..." he informed her, earnestly, as the sponge made it's way around to rub at her sides, and perhaps a bit further to the front.

*Family* was an uncomfortable topic for Zara. The parts of her life where she actually had one felt like a blur sometimes. Perhaps that was why she avoided it until he brought it up. It felt safe to question him about things; even bad things. He kept her relaxed with his soothing touches while he lifted the veil from her eyes. As much as she hated it, she saw the logic behind looking to the next generation for the heir. There was no use in grooming Claudius for the role if he wouldn't remain in it for long. As Marcus explained everything to her, she began to see his brother as less of a bad guy. She didn't want to be his new BFF, he just seemed less bad than the Duke and Duchess. She nodded her head. It all made sense. In their brief meeting, Claudius seemed perfect for the job. Zara cringed at that name; *the Emperor*. The Emperor's terrible legacy had spread throughout the universe long ago. He was not a man she wanted to meet. Chances were, if she was ever brought to the Emperor, it would be the last day of her life. She fixated on that for a moment while he began to wash her back. A minute later, she descended back into reality. "I don't envy him for that. I guess he's right where he belongs right now. With the power the Empire has right now, he can consider himself safe." She was referring to the Death Star.

She deflated to the wonderful washing he gave her. Her shoulder sank and her body relaxed. "I didn't think so. You don't seem like that kind of person, my Marcus. You're too good to be power hungry." She reached behind her to run her hands over his cheeks then back through his hair. "Look at the bright side. Someday we'll be so unknown that we can have sex on the beach without the whole galaxy knowing about it. Wouldn't that be nice?" She shot a sly smile behind her shoulder. "Speaking of our sex life... Do you think we can go back home? Your parents don't know about our secret hidey home. I can add some extra security measures and stuff."

"Of course we can go home, Zara," Marcus said, as he began to run the soapy sponge across her chest, more to tease her than to cleanse her. "The far north is much too cold for my parents, and they'd never think to look for us there," he reasoned, agreeing her logic and believing it might be the best course of action. "And besides, our son can grow up building snowmolator..." he said with a smile, before dropping the sponge, and bringing the hand up to cup her jaw. His head then moved towards hers, eyes slowly closing, until he placed a tender, loving kiss upon his young wife. He could have remained like that forever if not for the alarm at the door that announced to them it had been open.

Into the refresher arrived a protocol droid, who wobbled back and forth, and felt no need to respect their privacy. "Oh heavens!" the droid exclaimed as he saw the amount of water that had spilled onto the decorative floor. "You have made quite the mess. I'm afraid you will be charged!" he bemoaned, before looking at them with his illuminated eyes. "I am sorry to report that your line of credit has been revoked. You will have to leave ... immediately. The Royal Bank of Delaya has alerted us your accounts have been overdrawn," he announced, before moving to grab a modest towel, and tossing it in the direction of Zara.

Zara was pleased to hear his response. There was nothing that sounded more pleasant than scurrying home, cuddling under the blankets, and enjoying life. His teasing made something out sound very appealing at the moment. She'd been so sick lately that both of their needs had been backburnered. She snickered, "I was thinking ice artist. How cool would it be to have a life sized rancor sculpture beside our door?" Zara laughed. Her eyes followed his while his hand cupped her jaw. Her heart began to thud a little quicker in her chest. She knew what was coming next. As soon as their lips locked, her eyes shut and she gave into the moment. They had been through so much lately. The best part of all of it was having him and continuing to be able to make each other happy. Evil intentions began to fill Zara's perverse teenaged mind. The alarm wasn't enough to fully stop her from wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling herself closer. It was enough to give her pause.

She watched the annoying little protocol droid come whooshing into the bathroom like it didn't know any better. The news it delivered made Zara give an eye roll that even the Grand Moff would be jealous of. She caught the towel it tossed at her. Instead of making herself decent with it, she threw it back to the floor. "One sec..." She said sweetly to her husband. She rose from the water, carelessly stepping out of the tub. A trail of water followed her into the bedroom. The little droid followed along. "There will be extra charges, ma'am!" It chastised her. Zara hovered over a bag of her belongings. She found her favored tool; a hydrospanner. It wasn't typical for droid repair but Zara wasn't exactly looking to repair. She rounded the droid. From the tub, surely he'd hear the droid panicking. "What are you doing? Don't touch...!! Dehdwjefwhf..." The droid's words became slurred and eventually silenced entirely after she accessed a back panel on the droid and worked her magic. Zara moved to the door next. There, she spent several minutes hacking the control panel to ensure they wouldn't be bothered any time in the immediate future. Once the room was secure, she returned back to the tub. "We'll check out when I'm done with you."

Marcus listened from within the bathtub as the unwitting protocol droid was dispatched, and laughed slightly at his misfortune, although he realized that had all but eliminated any hope of them receiving their security deposit back. When she returned to him there was no longer anything that could interrupt them, so he chose to be bold and moved closer towards her. He positioned his body on top of hers, causing a rush of water to spill over the side of the tub. He lowered his face and playfully bit at her lower lip, all the while fumbling about beneath the water as he attempted to take his wife.

He froze atop her initially, but then found himself crashing down upon her, with his forehead connecting with the rim of the bath tub. "Argh," he cried out as his head impacted, and he went limp upon her motionless, with all of his weight pressing down upon her. The combination of the blow to the head and his post-orgasmic bliss made him nearly unable to move. It was only as he came back to reality that his hand released its grip upon her neck and he began to regain some of his normal sensibilities towards her.

Too bad that it wasn't the perfect ending for him. Zara saw Marcus hit his head before she could stop him. Her grip was loosening up on him since her air had been constricted for so long. "M-Marcus..." She groaned, shaking him while the weight of his whole body crashed down on her. He came back just before she passed out. "*Ohmygod*." Zara gasped for air while her hand rubbed his forehead. "Are you okay?" She said through her deep breathing. This poor man was accident prone when she was around. She needed to Star Wars universe equivalent of the pope mobile for him.

Marcus sat back up in the now empty tub, placing his hand to the rather noticeable and embarrassing bump on his noggin. As he sat there, he looked across at his wife and began to laugh hysterically. His bank account had been frozen. Their suite had been flooded. The protocol droid had been destroyed. "Can we go home?" he asked pitifully, looking and sounding as helpless as a child as he pleaded with his wife.

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