The Lambda Shuttle Kwai
touched down on the landing pad outside of his estate. He asked
Randi to bring her down slowly so that the sound of the engines
would not wake anyone inside the house. Things had been difficult
for him at work lately and normally if he had finished this late he
would choose to sleep on the ship, but tonight was different. The
last thing he wanted to do was sleep on the ship and he always
wanted to make sure that Jelena and Htaere had survived their
encounter. He entered his keycard in the door and sighed. He was
tired, stressed out, and suffering from a rather large headache. A
headache he feared would only grow worse over the next few days. He
proceeded up the steps towards his bedroom, doing his best to be
quiet, but he was so tired that he could not prevent his heavy
The door to her chambers opened and
she slipped out, drawn to the audible movement. Comfortable in a
pair of lush velveteen house slippers, soft green satin two piece
pajama set with a thick white terrycloth robe, she watched the
retreating form for a moment before lifting her voice to that
slightly above a whisper. "Claudius?"
Claudius turned on his heels and
spun around to look at Htaere. He smiled when he saw her. She was a
refreshing sight after his long day. "I'm sorry I woke you," he said
apologetically as he walked towards her.
"You did not. I was reading" she
replied. As he moved into the visible light from the shadows, her
soft smile drained to give way to a more grave expression. "Are you
ill?" she asked, looking him over.
"From a certain point of view,"
Claudius informed her, "It has been a long few days and it is taking
a toll on me I fear." He paused for a moment before deciding to
change the subject, "How was your day? You were quite busy."
"I will not keep you then. I had a
very nice day. I am most pleased with it. I feel privileged to have
had the opportunity to speak openly with both Major Kiley and Jelena."
She paused a moment, glancing at the light from the fireplace in her
room casting dancing shadows around her chambers and spilling out
into the hall through the open door. "If I may, upon speaking
frankly with your daughter, I believe it would be good for the two
of you to spend some time together. She has concerns of her own
which you could possibly address yourself, and I think she misses
the company as well," Htaere offered encouragingly.
"My daughter is not too pleased with
me at all," Claudius explained as he walked closer towards her, "She
hates it here on Esseles. She would much rather be on Alderaan in
school with all of her friends. They insisted I bring her here
though ... to show how safe it is." He paused, reflecting on the
other day. "Well ... you've seen how safe it is here. Maybe I should
let her go back to Alderaan?" he asked her, not quite sure what to
One corner of Htaere's mouth dropped
in a half-frown. "I am afraid I cannot answer intelligently, as I am
unfamiliar with the conflict. Perhaps a visit would ease the longing
somewhat. I would accompany her if you like" she suggested.
"I am not quite sure if I am ready
for you to meet my parents," Claudius said with a nervous smile,
"They could only mess things up."
"I was not suggesting such a thing.
I am minimally tolerant at such times of your father's would-be
interjections" Htaere confessed. She exhaled and a tender grin
reappeared. "At least speak with her. I think you will find her to
be appreciative of your efforts."
"How is Kerrie doing anyway?"
Claudius asked, genuinely concerned, "I was not able to get over
there today with all that has been going on."
"Very well. She is still confined to
her bed, much to her chagrin but is surprisingly obedient. She was
very surprised when I brought her 'Booki' " Htaere reported
"I'm sorry?" Claudius asked with a
strange look on his face before repeating, "Booki?"
"The stuffed bantha you asked me to
give her. Her Booki" she answered matter-of-factly.
"She calls it 'Booki'?" Claudius
asked before starting to laugh hysterically. He roared in laughter
for several long moments, his face turning bright red.
Htaere frowned noticeably. "For
shame, Claudius. You ought not to mock other people's pain, nor
their means of dealing with it. There is much to Kerrie Kiley and
betraying her privacy with humor is not right."
"I was not mocking her, Htaere,"
Claudius said once he stopped laughing, "It was just very
unexpected. But seriously ... how did the dinner go? If it was bad
you can tell me."
"It went very well" she responded,
still somewhat displeased with his casual dismissal of the major's
"I'm glad to hear that," Claudius
said with a smile, "Perhaps things are turning around here."
"Perhaps" she supplied before
studying the drained look on his features. "You do not look well.
You need rest. Should I call your doctor?"
"He is a physician," Claudius
explained, "If anything I need a therapist."
"If my presence is a detriment, I
can leave" she said, tilting her head slightly. "I do not wish to
create problems for you."
"No," Claudius told her reassuring,
"Your presence is the only relief I have."
She nodded, accepting his statement
though harboring some doubt. "Should I prepare some tea for you?"
"No," Claudius said, growing tired,
"Don't trouble yourself. Is there someplace we could sit?"
Htaere glanced back to the open door
of her chambers. "I have a fire going in the hearth. It is very
toasty and comforting" she grinned, stepping out of his way and
allowing him to pass first.
Claudius smiled at her and walked
into her room. It was warm and comforting. He sighed audibly as he
took a seat in a comfortable chair near the fire. He looked at her
through his old, tired eyes, "Do you think I could press upon you to
rub my temples?"
She smiled tenderly down at him. "My
poor Claudius" she mumbled quietly. Soft hands lifted to his face,
studying his aged facade intensively while the tactile pads of her
fingertips nimble brushed long sweeping caresses down the sides of
his face, from his hair line, down his temples around the occipital
bones of his eyes, over slightly pronounced cheekbones and down the
defined line of his jaw before meeting deftly at his chin. "Hmmm"
she thought for a moment before moving away from him towards a
nightstand near her bed. She returned with a white lotion on her
fingertips, the rich smell of mint detectable. She touched the
lotion to his temples, rubbing in tiny delicate little circles, her
motion deliberate and the pressure of her touch merely enough to
stimulate the pulse points and work at soothing him.
Claudius groaned audibly as her
fingers worked her magic. Each gentle movement caused the stress to
be lifted off him and brought him closer towards relief. He closed
his eyes and continued to moan softly as he remained in the moment,
finally starting to unwind after a very long day.
Her fingers moved to his neck,
finding the small niche beneath each ear lobe where the hinge of his
jaw was, and pushing with the slightest bit more firmness, coiled
one spiraled motion after another along the sub-dermal crevice. A
few minutes of this and her fingers flattened on his flesh and drove
tenaciously up around each ear lobe to the tangible curvature of his
skull, moving her fingers back and forth from front to back, nudging
the skin slightly, pulling it taut, and releasing it, taut and
A very content smile formed on
Claudius' lips before his head suddenly snapped downward. He had
become so relaxed that he fell asleep in the comfort of her hands,
the chair, and the fire. After a moment of staying like the sound of
light snoring could be heard echoing throughout the chamber.
Her brow lifted, taken back. She
pressed her palms against the front of his shoulders and gently
nudged him back in the chair to keep him from tumbling forward. She
knelt down in front of him to peer up at his face, whispering
"Claudius? Claudius, wake up. You must get into your night clothes."
Claudius groaned lightly, still half
asleep before murmuring to her, "Just a few more minutes, mom."
A bit of a bemused grin slid across
her lips. She lifted her voice a bit more. "Claudius, you will be
far more comfortable in your bed" she said definitively, one hand
lifting to his head to brush her fingertips through his hair
Claudius rose from his seat
begrudgingly and headed out of the room. He stumbled, tired and
disoriented. "Goodnight," he said kindly as he tried to make it back
down the hall.
Htaere's beautiful face scowled
briefly before stalking after the "drunk." She came up behind him
swiftly and took his arm, guiding him away from any number of
furniture and decorative pieces that he could potentially stumble
over. "This way" she directed, moving him to his own door. With much
work, she managed to get it open and his teetering frame inside. She
resisted the urge to glance about curiously at the private sanctuary
of the man, instead moving him straight to his bedside where she sat
him. "Do not move Claudius" she stated, stepping back from him for a
moment to observe his uniform and figure as best she could the means
to deal with it. The outer belt was easy. The more complex tunic of
the Imperial Navy was a bit more thought provoking. Gingerly her
fingers worked at the fasteners, eyes occasionally vacillating to
his face should the need arise to explain why she was undressing
"Thank you," Claudius said kindly as
he looked down at her with eyes that were but half open, "I am just
so tired. I haven't been able to sleep in days."
She nearly jumped but continued
working until the last bit of the flap was undone and the article
removable. "Why are you not taking better care of yourself? Your
health is of the utmost importance," she chided as she worked,
though she doubted he paid any attention. She slid the slate grey
tunic from his shoulders and draped it across a chair before tugging
off his boots, one by one.
"I am responsible for the health of
tens of millions of individuals, Htaere," Claudius explained as he
took a seat down upon his bed. "Sometimes the situation becomes
tenuous and I give too much of myself," he said as he lay his head
upon his pillow.
She remained silent, pushing his
near lifeless legs up onto the mattress and tugging the sheet and
comforter down from underneath his form. She pulled it up around his
mid torso and leaned over one last time to touch either of his
temples in search of any residual lotion to be found. What bit of
moistness she did find, she smudged delicately beneath his nostrils
so that each breath was a cleansing one and soothed his tensions
from the inside out. "Goodnight Claudius. Sleep well" she remarked
quietly before straightening up, giving him a once over for approval
before moving to the door and drawing it closed behind her.