Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:2:18) in the Malastare system: Warspite.
Major Kerrie Kiley, Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney, Countess Htaere Rodney, and Lady Jelena Rodney.

The guilt of what Jelena had done the day before carried with her for most of the day, resulting in her doing little more than sitting on the chaise lounge in front of Imperial holovision, wrapped in a blanket. She was going through an emotional period in her life, fueled with conflicting emotions and loyalties. Thus far, her father had attributed it to a case of teen angst, but if it got any more severe he would suspect something. She tried pulling herself together, but even sitting up at this point seemed like a momentous task.

Htaere flowed from the master bedroom, the usual picture perfect flawlessness that emanated her like the glowing rainbow gem in her forehead. As she moved through the common rooms and parlor, she caught Jelena in her peripheral vision. She stopped, turning towards the youngster and canting her head, simply studying for a moment. "Are you well?" she asked finally in a timid voice, never knowing where the girl's tolerance lay on any given day.

"No," Jelena moaned as she shifted on the chaise, finally finding the strength to sit up and look Htaere in the eye. "I...I think it was the soup I had on Malastare yesterday," she speculated, telling a half-truth. She looked terrible. She was a beautiful young girl, but her hair was matted and she was wearing clothes that were best used in a gymnasium, not while walking around among others.

"No," Jelena moaned as she shifted on the chaise, finally finding the strength to sit up and look Htaere in the eye. "I...I think it was the soup I had on Malastare yesterday," she speculated, telling a half-truth. She looked terrible. She was a beautiful young girl, but her hair was matted and she was wearing clothes that were best used in a gymnasium, not while walking around among others.

"Oh..." Htaere blinked, her reaction going through the motions of acceptance, yet her gaze unwavering. "Would you like me to call Doctor Tohan? Perhaps he can alleviate the discomfort?"

"No...No..." Jelena said as she felt an uncomfortable panic come over her. "I just need to...just need to..." she stammered, not knowing what she needed to do. There was nothing she could do really as she shrugged the blanket off her body and revealed the dirty athletic gear below. She wished she were old enough to drink and considered using her last name to get one out of the main galley.

Htaere's expression faltered, looking all but mortified at the lack of personal hygiene on Jelena's part. She moved slowly towards the chaise and eased down into an adjacent settee, simply appalled. "What ails you?" she said slowly, her voice quiet as her attention was totally absorbed on how filthy the girl was.

"It's my father..." Jelena confessed, not going into much detail as she looked her in the eyes, sizing her up. She was very different from the Hapan she encountered yesterday on Malastare. She sighed, breaking the eye contact that was becoming increasingly awkward and uncomfortable. She did not yet know if she could trust Htaere, nor did she know if she was capable of understanding the complexities that affected their daily lives.

"The time consumption of his career?" Htaere offered quietly, still recovering from the blow of Jelena's state.

"I wish he would retire," Jelena admitted as tears began to well up in the corner of her eyes. "He has had a long career. He has wealth. He just got married. Why..." she said becoming hysterical, the tears flowing rapidly now as she raised her knees up onto the chaise. She wrapped her arms around her legs, pulling them against her chest as she hugged herself.

The empath that she was, Htaere's own immaculate features shifted into a broken hearted frown. "He loves it" she answered softly. "I do not really know the answers completely. I simply trust in the people I love. What else can be done with such uncertainty of the future?"

"He should love his family more..." Jelena complained as she inhaled deeply, tears flowing from her eyes and mucus flowing from her nose. She was an absolute mess. Exhausted, stressed, and on the verge of a complete mental collapse.

"He does...and that is why he works so hard." Htaere leaned forward a little. "Did you talk to him as had been suggested to you?"

"No," Jelena admitted as she took her sleeve and wiped her nose. Her face was flushed red and her cheeks were stained with tears. Her hairy was dirty, greasy, and matted and she looked as if she were homeless, and not the daughter of a nobleman.

"Perhaps it would be a good place to start." Htaere thought for a moment. "The silver lining is that you have the chance to connect with your father, or any of your family for that matter. Perhaps it is a cultural thing, but that privilege for emotion is not shared to everyone."

Jelena shook her head at Htaere as she sat up in the chair more, trying to calm down before anyone else saw her. "We have never had that kind of relationship..." she reluctantly confessed to Htaere. It was one of the main disappointments in her life and part of the reason why it had been so easy for her to betray him.

"Nor did I. It was not socially acceptable to acknowledge him" she replied. "So do you really intend to make the first step towards trying to improve the situation?"

"I think it is too late..." Jelena admitted in defeat, looking towards Htaere with bloodshot eyes. "Too much lost time..." she muttered, looking down between her legs again.

Htaere's eyes dropped to the ground for a moment in confusion. "Then if you have already decided the outcome, why waste the time and energy on regret and emotional display?"

"Because it still hurts, Htaere..." Jelena said, as she looked her right in the eyes, rarely invoking her name. She leaned forward and offered a hug, she had not done that before. She needed a hug, badly, from anyone.

The initiation spooked Htaere slightly, freezing for a moment and completely caught off guard. When she recovered she reciprocated, wrapping her arms around Jelena as well. She was quiet for a while before admitting finally "I am sorry you hurt."

"Thank you," Jelena said appreciatively as she clung to Htaere, wishing her mother were still alive, but for the moment she was content to use Htaere as a surrogate. "Could...could you do something for me?" she asked as she pulled back from the hug, looking at her in nervous anticipation.

Htaere nodded enthusiastically. "Of course..."

"Would you...would you make me a bath?" Jelena asked her, looking over herself in absolute shame and misery. She was a disgrace to not just herself, but those around her. "I do not want my father to see me like this when he gets home," she admitted, biting on her lower lip in fear she would be rejected.

"I understand" she answered quietly. "I shall get it started right away for you" and with that, she withdrew, stepping lively with a renewed sense of purpose to the fresher, getting the tub fill and relaxation candles around the sides. With a few aromatic oils added, she laid out some fresh towels and stood up, surveying the scene for approval. Satisfied, she returned to the parlor to escort Jelena. "It is ready."

Jelena got up from her perennial resting spot on the chaise lounge and strode slowly towards the refresher. When she entered the room she peeled the dirty, stained clothes she had been wearing off and carelessly discarded them on the floor. "Have the droids burn those..." she suggested to Htaere as she allowed one of her long, slender legs to split into the water. "Ah..." she gasped, feeling the hot water against her skin before allowing the rest of her body to slowly slide in. Her eyes closed as she lay her head against the back of the tub, a contented sigh echoing throughout the room. "Thank you..." she said to Htaere, her voice sounding distant and withdrawn as the atmosphere began to affect her.

"You are welcome" Htaere answered, nodding politely and closing the door behind her leaving Jelena to relax. She gave a few instructions to one of the serving droids before starting off again towards the entrance of the suite. Take two.

The turbolift door opened on the Rodney's private level and out stepped Major Kerrie Kiley, an upbeat manner to her movements as she walked into the center of the open room, seeking out Htaere. As she spotted her emerging from the refresher, a smile formed on her mimicked Human face and she reached out affectionately for her hand. "So..." she asked, seeming more the woman and less the operative at the moment.

For the second time today Htaere was stunned by an unprovoked physical contact. Always happy to see the major, she smiled happily at her friend. "Yes?"

"Did you tell him? Kerrie asked hurriedly, her voice sounding quite excited, but still remaining hushed so that no one else might here. It was all she had been able to think about for some time now.

Htaere's face eased a bit. "Oh..." she chuckled a little. "No...I...I have not yet. not sure how to go about with it."

"Oh..." Kerrie said blankly, seeming a bit disappointed in the lack of progress on that front. With work comprising most of her life and daily routine she had been forced to live vicariously through others, particularly Htaere. " do not think he would want to know?" she asked, perhaps prying a bit too much into their personal lives.

Htaere's mouth dipped a bit into a frown. "It is not that. It is that...this does not seem to be a good time. There are...many stressors affecting the household it seems." Htaere's fingers rung nervously.

"You know what is best, Milady," Kerrie said in a supportive nod, moving to offer a supporting embrace. "When the time is right ... you will know," she added, believing strongly in Htaere's ability to judge people and situations.

Jelena emerged from the refresher looking genuinely reinvigorated, a light blue robe covering her young body. A matching towel was wrapped around her head and there was a bounce in her step that only someone who just took a therapeutic bath could manage. "Htaere ... have you seen ... oh ..." she stopped when she noticed Kerrie had arrived.

"Good evening, Milady," Kerrie said respectfully to Jelena, offering a slight nod of her head and gentle bow. She was still discomforted by the information she had gathered about Jelena, but she was unaware of her latest transgression.

Htaere turned to smile at Jelena, happier to see her in better spirits. "What may I help you with?" she asked, likewise being hit by the wave of humidity and scented bath oils.

Then Parka informed her that Bail Organa suspected the Emperor was behind the attack on Claudius and Htaere, Jelena's immediately presumed it was Kerrie behind the attack. In that moment, the emotions she felt towards the Imperial were instantly changed, perhaps unalterably so. "Oh. Nothing," she mumbled as she began to walk across the room, rubbing the towel into her wet hair.

Kerrie stood next to Htaere, immediately put on the defensive by Jelena's icy posture. She too had her opinion changed of Jelena by what she had learned recently, but she took an oath to protect her ... even if it meant having to kill countless Imperials to do so. The oath came before all else and so she simply watched her, knowing, trying to get through it.

"Would you list assistance with your wardrobe? Or hair?" Htaere asked optimistically. "And then perhaps a good meal?"

"Let's catch up instead," Jelena said to Htaere, forcing her voice to sound cheerful and pleasant. She looked past Htaere towards Kerrie, offering a false smile. Gradually the towel was pulled from her head and she shook out her long, brown hair. She felt Human again and rather than curl up on the chaise, she sat comfortable and up right, preparing for battle.

Htaere flashed an uncertain glance to Kerrie before straightening her smile back out. "Alright then" she answered with some degree of uncertainty. With the motion to a serving droid, it toddled towards the galley to procure tea, biscuits and all such snacks.

Kerrie chose to remain standing, folding her hands behind her back as she took a defensive posture alongside Htaere. She never felt comfortable in these kinds of situations.

"You're allowed to sit down," Jelena said as she made a joke at Kerrie's expense. "Sometimes she reminds me of one of the droids," she said to Htaere, flashing her eyes up at Kerrie for only a moment.

Htaere's brow knit for a second, throwing a sideways glance to Kerrie, reading concern over the traces of hostility. "It is perhaps the Major's remarkable professionalism" she suggested slowly. She offered a warm smile to Jelena, trying to smooth the reappearing contours of her agitation and moodiness.

Kerrie swallowed as she listened to Jelena's 'insult' and sat down slowly on one of the ornately carved and finely upholstered chairs that was near where Htaere and Jelena were seated. Folding her gloved hands in her lap her attention was divided between Jelena and Htaere, not entirely sure what she might be in for.

"Oh yes. She is very professional," Jelena said politely to Htaere with a nod. "Let me ask..." Jelena said as she looked to Kerrie, tilting her head slightly as she questioned her, though it was now becoming something more of an interrogation. "Are you required to do whatever we ask while you are in our service?" she asked, obviously baiting the hook.

Htaere kept to observation, eyes narrowing slightly as she wasn't sure where this was going. Her gaze vacillated between Kerrie and Jelena. "I believe the Major is in the service of the Empire, first and foremost, and that creed supersedes our own personal agendas, yes?" she touched on the notion, eyes settling on Kerrie for reinforcement and trying desperately to keep things civil.

Kerrie looked at Htaere and shook her head slightly, trying to find the best words that would explain her 'unique' situation. "I am sorry, Milady," she said to Htaere, never feeling comfortable correcting her as it was not her place. "...but that is incorrect. My oath of allegiance is a personal one to Lord Rodney. I am sworn to him above all else," she explained, deliberately avoiding the details of how she came to be in his service. They would never understand the complexity of it. There were times when even she did not.

"Oh...I see" Htaere nodded, looking back to Jelena expectantly. "Is there something you wish to ask the Major?"

Jelena was speechless for a moment. She did not expect that kind of answer. Maybe she was wrong, but that would only be if she was telling the truth. "Is there a limit to what you would do for my father?" she asked, tilting her head slightly. "There is a lot I want to ask her, Htaere," she said with a soft smile as her face moved over towards her. "She spends so much time here," she continued to explain, "...but I feel as if I barely know her."

Htaere smiled in response, but inwardly she was still baffled by Jelena's sudden interest in Kerrie. She looked to Kerrie, taking the opportunity to learn about Kerrie and her thoughts on her employ.

"There is nothing I would not do in service of Lord Rodney," Kerrie replied as if it were a preprogrammed response. Her cheeks reddened a bit, embarrassment coming over the young woman as she considered a couple of things after all. "Well... maybe there are one or two things I would not do..." she explained as she tried to keep a grin from forming on her face. It was neither the place nor the time for her to lose her decorum. She felt as if she was being interrogated by the Rodney daughter and her body language became uncomfortable and defensive as she fidgeted on the chair.

Pulled from her inner revelry, Htaere's cloudy grey orbs moved to Jelena, curious and full of perplexion. "What is this about?" she asked.

"I'm just curious, Htaere," Jelena said defensively as she turned to Htaere and smiled. "When we arrive on Esseles I won't be able to go to the bathroom without checking with her and her security forces," she explained, sounding rather irate. "I think I have a right to know a little more about her," she said, studying the Major's word, looking for any indication as to whether or not she were friend or foe.

"I assure you, Milady," Kerrie replied in a serious voice, trying to do her best to reassure the young girl. "I have never had anything but the best interests of your father and this family in my time serving it," she explained to her, reaching out her hand in an attempt to comfort her. "I have sworn an oath that I would give my life to protect you," she said again, her eyes shifting to Htaere, "...and I very nearly have."

Htaere had to agree. She nodded slowly. "This is fact, on more then on occasion." The exact number of times Kerrie had saved her backside was more then she could recount off hand.

Jelena looked to Htaere and then to Kerrie. Her mind was a jumble and filled with conflicting emotions, but it always came back to the same conclusion. "You did not seem to do a very good job of it on their honeymoon..." she said, showing no tact, nor respect for the Imperial officer that sat across from her. "How did you miss that bomb, Major?" she asked, her voice slowly becoming more agitated. She may not have agreed with every decision her father made, but she surely did not wish to see him blown to atoms.

Kerrie was incensed, she had never been so insulted in her life. She stood from the chair almost immediately and with so much force that it keeled over as she moved, landing on the ground side wht a loud crack of wood on metal. "You need to check your facts," she said angrily, having lost all of her sensibilities in the moment. It was her greatest failing to date, and she did not appreciate having it pointed out by someone, no matter what her last name was. "That vessel was private properly belonging to your family," she explained, almost shouting now. "It was inspected by the Alderaanian Guard and was off limits to all Imperial personnel, including myself," she continued, her face becoming flushed red. "I was there in the capacity of maid of honor," she said, her eyes moving only for a moment to Htaere. "...not as part of some security detail. The Alderaanians had full authority," she concluded, turning around in a huff, no longer being able to look at the young girl.

Htaere's mouth fell open, flabbergasted at the direction in which the conversation had turned. She was a mix of surprised that Jelena was still harboring issues over the bombing, but surprised that the animosity was flowing in Kerrie's direction. "Ladies, please, we need not come to blows in our conversation." She reached for Kerrie's hand, guiding her back into the conversation and back to her seat, her eyes pleading. She looked to Jelena sympathetically. "We did not know the bombing bothered you so...perhaps Claudius and I should have done a better job ensuring the aftermath caused no ill effects" she explained regretfully. "What the Major says is correct. She was a guest of mine at the wedding."

Jelena felt embarrassed as she sat quietly in her chaise lounge, looking away from the Major as she unleashed her tirade. Clearly she was emotionally attached to the situation. She now believed she was wrong about her assessment, and began to doubt what Parka had told her the other day on Malastare. But whoever was behind the attempt to kill her father, she now believed Major Kiley was not involved. "I'm sorry," Jelena said quietly, looking down at the floor rather than at the Major. "I...I...was out of line," she admitted uncomfortably as he foot scuffed against the floor nervously.

Kerrie permitted herself to be steered by Htaere, trying her best to calm herself down. The fever inside of her was at a burning pitch, the discomfort she felt from Jelena accusing her of incompetence when it came to safeguarding Claudius and Htaere overwhelming. As she sat in the chair once more she listened to the young woman's words, not able to look at her at the moment either. She remained silent for a moment, her breathing strained and her facial color slightly red. "I accept your apology," she said to Jelena begrudgingly, for Htaere's sake. Her eyes then moved towards Htaere and she looked at her apologetically. "I am sorry for my outburst, Milady," she stated, slightly quivering.

"No apology is needed" she answered. One of those rare moments happened where Htaere exerted some dominance and took over a situation in peril. "Does either party wish to comment or inquire further on this matter?" her eyebrows raised, looking at the two expectantly. "This would be the time to settle the matter entirely."

Jelena had never seen Htaere react in such a way before. It seemed she had the ability to be stern, perhaps she might have a wicked stepmother after all. She shook her head lightly, clearly shaken by how much she had upset the Major. "No... No... I'm done..." she said meekly to Htaere, as she moved further back on the chaise lounge to become more comfortable.

"I have said all I had to say..." Kerrie said as she turned on the chair, turning her entire body away from Jelena as she stared off at the wall. Gradually the redness was leaving her face, her breathing shallow and becoming more normal. But her appearance was suddenly unkempt and her hair was becoming matted from the sweat she had expunged.

Just then the turbolift door opened and a very tired Claudius Rodney walked into his house for what he hoped would be a quiet and uneventful evening. But as he entered the living room and spotted the body language on Htaere, Kerrie, and Jelena he considered immediately turning around and returning to work. "What has happened?" he asked in a concerned, almost frightened voice as he moved towards Htaere.

Htaere again took the helm for this one, shining up her glorious award winning smile. "Oh just a friendly discussion on the shoe-in for the next pod race." She got to her feet, still beaming. "How was your day?"

"My day was ... long," Claudius explained to her, using only one word that he felt covered all the bases. "I do have news, however," he said as he turned from Htaere to make sure he was able to look at all three of them simultaneously. "We will departing within hours for the Ringali Shell," he announced proudly to all of them. "So enjoy our last moments of Malastare," he said with an emphatic smile, having detested every moment he spent there.

Kerrie gasped suddenly, rising from her seat once again and snapped into sudden attention in front of the Admiral. "I was unaware of this, Milord," she said with an obedient nod of her head. "Please excuse me," she said as she moved towards the exit in a swift manner that left little room for politeness.

Jelena was equally taken aback by the news, wishing there were time to contact Parka, but it seemed as if there was none. She showed no enthusiasm for the move, but at least they were getting it over with, and at least she would be getting out of this ship that seemed more like a prison.

Htaere's blinking eyes followed Kerrie from the room before grinning at Claudius. "That is truly wonderful news. I am sure we would all do well to breathe fresh air and get our feet on terra firma" she looked to Jelena and nodded.

Claudius looked to Jelena and sighed. Why were they all not as simple to deal with as Ewwiekewwieikkie, he wished silently to himself. He was not able to communicate the way he had hoped with his eldest daughter. His career had kept him out of her life and he feared her grandparents were more of a family to him than she was. He moved towards the bedroom, placing a hand on the small of Htaere's back, indicating he wanted her to follow. He could not allow this to continue, especially now that they were returning to a war zone.

Htaere threw a hopeful glance to Jelena before moving after Claudius, hoping to use the opportunity to also present the case of her resentment. She mouthed the words "I shall talk to him" and nodded ruefully before disappearing into the master bedroom. She fixed him with a pleasant smile and waiting for him to begin.

"I cannot battle both the Rebellion and my family," Claudius confessed to her once they were behind closed doors. His hands immediately moved to his tunic, exposing the crewneck undershirt beneath. He sat down tiredly on the edge of the bed and began to slide his boots from his feet and lowered his head with an exhausted and dejected sigh. "Can someone please explain to me what is going on inside that head of hers?" he said to no one in particularly. He was thoroughly and completely exasperated.

Htaere softened, sliding over to him and taking up a stance in front of him. Smooth delicate hands cradled his aged face as she smiled down at him lovingly. "Acting out perhaps...she seems very upset still regarding the bombing. It concerns her more then she let on, I believe." Htaere paused, her smile thinning a little. "Also, if time permits, some quality time for just the two of you may do wonders. She misses you."

"I don't know what would have become of her if..." Claudius began, but stopped himself, not wanting to dwell on thought of he and Htaere ending up dead in space. He looked up at her, he seemed to be getting older, and he was not wearing the strain of the conflict in both his professional and personal life well. "I wouldn't even know where to take her. I have no idea what her interests are," he confessed, the shame of it almost too much to admit too her. "...and there seems to be less and less hours in the day..." he added, lowering his head in defeat.

Htaere's finger tips brushed at the hair of his left temple, her smile still warm and inviting. "If you do not know, then perchance you could simply ask? I do not think the emphasis is on location, Claudius...the point of the outing is simply the time spent. The details are simply peripheral and impertinent."

"I can't even remember the last time the two of us spent alone..." Claudius said, as yet unable to lift his head. The guilt eschewed from every word he spoke, the shame he felt as a father was clearly evident. "I have sacrificed my family for my career, Htaere," he said to her dejectedly, the words spoken slow and remorseful. "I have failed as a father," he said more loudly than the rest, punishing himself as his head finally lifted to allow his eyes to meet Htaere's.

"Do not do this to yourself Claudius. There is no failure to be had here. One must find the balance between home life and business. It may not always be easy, but it is most certainly doable. Perhaps tomorrow, you can meet for lunch together. Start small and go from there, yes?" Her eyes were glistening, intent and affectionate, and eternally optimistic.

"Lunch..." Claudius said fixating on that word alone. Now there was something he could understand at the moment. He had not yet eaten today and he was desperately in need of nourishment, evidenced by the low gurgling sound emanating from deep within his stomach.

"I shall have the droids bring you something while I draw a bath for you alright?" she leaned down and let her perfect lips lightly touch his forehead before turning to make the arrangements she'd promised. As she stepped from the room, she looked to Jelena and smiled, moving over to her and sitting down. She moved towards her to speak quietly, her voice barely above a whisper. "Tomorrow for lunch, meet with Claudius. The two of you can take the first step together in improving your relationship."

Jelena popped up, an unexpected smile upon her face as she heard Htaere's words. "He...he wants to have lunch with me?" she asked, as if not believing it. Her voice and body language were reminiscent of when she was a young girl, the excitement evident from every movement of her face. "What'll I wear?" she asked in a panic, her mind immediately turning to the most feminine of crisis.

In the other room Claudius had settled into his bath, leaning his head back against the wall and inhaling the scented fragrances. A moment was all it took before the tired old man drifted into a deep and peaceful slumber, the audible sound of his snoring echoing throughout the small refresher.

"Whatever you would like to wear. It is up to you entirely" Htaere smiled in response. She paused, hearing the snoring before looking back to Jelena. "He is exhausted" she admitted. "Excuse me to tend to him so he does not drown" she said getting to her feet with a chuckle. "If you need anything, please do not hesitate to ask."

Jelena smiled from ear-to-ear as she looked to Htaere, unable to truly convey the level of excitement she felt. Wasting no more time, she rose from her position on the chaise lounge and hurried towards her bedroom. There, she would eagerly search her closet, desperately searching something that she might wear.

Htaere slipped back into the refresher where poor Claudius dozed. She knelt down next to the tub and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Claudius..?" she asked quietly.

"Ugh..." Claudius said as he awoke suddenly, the unexpected touch causing his body to lift suddenly, creating quite the splash. When he realized what had happened he began to laugh softly at himself. "Fell asleep in the bath..." he complained as he began to sit up more comfortably. "I'm turning into my father," he commented disapprovingly to her, noting the onset of age.

"You are very tired my love. I want to be sure you are safe in here." she answered. "Is there anything I can get you?"

"A new body..." Claudius told her with a small smirk and a more cheerful voice. He rose from his bath, his hands immediately moving for a towel. People came and went so curiously around here that this time he would be sure to shroud himself as he began the drying process. "Anyone in the next room, my love?" he asked as he peaked into the bedroom, "...a squad of Stormtroopers perhaps?" It would take some time before he would let her live down the fact that she had allowed him to walk in unclothed in front of Kerrie.

It was all she could do not to giggle. "No...shall I call them?" She rose and followed him towards the door.

Nervously Claudius returned to the bedroom, sitting down on the edge of the bed to begin the process of settling in for the night. "Do you like Major Kiley understands the principles behind 'shrinkage'?" he asked jokingly, despite his age ... he was still a man. He lay back on the mattress, pulling one of the finely hand-woven sheets over his tired form.

"Claudius! Really! I choose not to speculate on the Major beyond a professional capacity" she tried not to laugh before retrieving her own nightgown. The process of removing all the ornate jewelry she wore as well as her complex and illustrious wardrobe took a few minutes, but when she reappeared she was dressed in her gown, a sheer and gauzy material then was nothing short of transparent when she passed in front of a light.

"No... Wait a minute..." Claudius said as he shifted in the bed, his joke not sounding quite so funny anymore as he had time to think about it. "Do you think she's ever..." he asked, finding it hard to visualize given the nature of her true form. "All she seems focused on is her work. I have never heard her mention any sort of a social life..." he commented sadly, perhaps he should reconsider making his subordinates work as hard as he.

"What other option has she ever been presented with? I was under the impression a social life was not..." she paused, contemplating the verbiage. "...permitted when there was so much else to do." She moved to the bed and slipped in beside him. "It is her personal life. We have no business making inquiries."

Claudius' arm wrapped around Htaere firmly as she slipped into bed, his hand coming to rest upon her stomach, where unbeknownst to him his child was beginning to form. He pressed his lips lovingly to the back of her neck as he snuggled his body into hers. "Have I been blessed with the one wife in the fleet who does not succumb to idle gossip or meddle in the personal affairs of the lives of those around him?" he asked in sincere amazement.

"I am afraid you have" she answered lazily, eyes drifting shut as she felt the grip of fatigue as well.

"You are the one facet of my life that gives me no concern," Claudius said as he placed another kiss upon her, this time slightly below the ear. "And for that, and everything else, I truly love you," he informed her adoringly, his eyes gently closing, allowing him to return to the serenity of the brief sleep he was afforded in the bath tub.

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