It had been a wonderful, blissful night with Htaere in the peaceful
solemnity of Aldera. Reality was coming back to them however as they
rested in the passenger compartment of their shuttle, waiting for the
brief trip between Alderaan and Brentaal to conclude. As the pair neared
their destination, Claudius Rodney grew quieter and more reserved,
knowing what awaited them when they returned. How he would explain
Kerrie's ... condition ... he did not yet know. Still, his hand was
still firmly intertwined with hers, a reassuring squeeze offered every
With every little squeeze as a reminder of his affections, Htaere
flashed a smile towards Claudius. She let her smoky hued eyes settle on
him for a while, boring into him intently. "Is everything all right?"
she asked quietly. "Were Jelena and Kerrie able to escape attack at the
"Everything is..." he paused for a moment, considering it carefully,
struggling to make eye contact as the guilt of what had transpired came
over him. "Everything is fine, my dear," he said, his voice growing
weaker each time they moved a parsec closer towards their destination. "Jelena
is unharmed," he said to her with a firm nod of his head, squeezing her
hand again and offering a kind, reassuring smile to her.
"That is good" she nodded, the compartment getting quiet again for a
moment. "Has my guarlara been shipped yet as well? I am eager to ride in
the country side" she asked, her face bright and glowing at the
"Unfortunately not," Claudius said to Htaere as his hand slowly
slipped away from hers. "Major Kiley has not yet returned to duty," he
said, nervously, his eyes moving away from her as he tried desperately
to swallow. He could feel the collar of his tunic tightening and the
shuttle seemed to be getting hotter and more uncomfortable.
"Oh" Htaere answered, expression curious. "She has been injured?"
Large doe eyes blinked at him, canting her head in concern.
"Yes..." Claudius said quietly, not providing any further details. He
felt the shuttle emerge from hyperspace. They had arrived in the
Brentaal system and soon they would be back aboard the ship. He would
soon be found out, and he was not sure how Htaere would feel about it.
His heart was pounding in his chest and he felt his arm begin to twinge.
Htaere face was confused, somewhat stunned, and concerned all at
once. As she felt the shuttle lurch, she let the conversation go as
their privacy would cease to exist in a matter of minutes, until far
later into the night. She sat up in her seat, waiting patiently for
touchdown on the tarmac of the Warspite. She gathered her wits
and prepared for the familiarity and comfort of the Star Destroyer,
finding the idea amazingly ironic.
As the shuttle touched down within the safe confines of the Star
Destroyer's hangar bay, Claudius stood up and prepared to assist Htaere
on their descent down the short ramp leading towards the hangar. "Come,
my dear," he said as he extended his arm towards her for support. "You
must be eager to return to our quarters and settle in after the long
flight," he continued as they slowly made their way across the hangar.
The turbolift door suddenly opened, from which Doctor Pilaq Tohan
soon emerged. The Ithorian doctor was gravely concerned for both
Claudius and Htaere and was quick to make sure he was the first to greet
them. "It is a relief to see you returned safe, Milady," the Ithorian's
distinct stereophonic voice said to her. Despite the volume of the
voice, it was clear from the way he spoke that his concern was sincere
and genuine. His medical scanners immediately went to work, double
checking the reports the Aldera Universal Medcenter had forwarded him
regarding her condition.
She accepted Claudius' act of chivalry, smiling gratefully as she
strode down the ramp. She nodded to his personal physician respectfully,
grinning and glad to see him. "We are most grateful for your concern"
she answered. "I am glad to be home" she admitted, candidly.
Pilaq was confident in the results his scanner had given him. As
Htaere's doctor he had learned of her pregnancy from the Alderaanians,
but confidentially prevented him from discussing the matter with
Claudius without her consent. He would make a note to see Htaere
privately later and review the supplements the doctors had prescribed
her. His large, bulbous eyes roamed towards Claudius, noting the man
seemed to have recovered wonderfully. He would never look at him quite
the same way however, the crime of what he did to Kerrie unspeakable.
"Is there anything to report regarding that other situation, Pilaq?"
Claudius asked as he put a comforting arm around his wife while his
trusted friend and confident continued to perform his scan. Once he
realized Htaere was safe, he had done nothing but worry about the
wellbeing of the Major. He would never forgive himself, but a hurried
recover would ease some of his guilt.
"The other situation is..." Pilaq began, his eyes rolling slightly
down to look at Htaere, before shifting towards Claudius. "...quite
severe," he responded without going into great detail. He was not sure
what he had discussed with his wife, nor did he even know if she was
aware of Kerrie's injury. He had perceived a great connection between
the two and feared her knowledge might further complicate and strain the
already difficult situation.
Htaere simply stood quietly at his side, as she'd been trained to do
and smiled pleasantly while he discussed business. She gazed around
quietly, noting something different right away, the atmosphere
feeling...vacant. She eyed Doctor Tohan patiently, waiting for them to
Claudius looked down at the deckplating, feeling very uncomfortable
by the development he had just learned. He felt great shame for what he
had done and simply nodded his head to the Doctor in sad silence. His
hand moved towards Htaere, gripping it slowly. "Can she have visitors?"
he asked quietly as he brought his face up to look at the Ithorian
doctor, feint tears forming in his eyes.
Htaere's glow seemed to wane as her eyes followed their conversation
back and forth. The question was grave, and her brow knit in concern.
Before she could stop herself, she found herself interjecting into their
conversation, her opinion unsolicited for certain. "Who? Visitors?"
Something was simply not right.
"Yes. She can have visitors," the Ithorian replied to Claudius, but
wondered if she would appreciate the visit from the one who put her
there. He did not answer Htaere's questions. It was not his place to
violate his friend's confidence, but he believed him to be a good and
decent man and expected him to tell her ... eventually.
"Kerrie..." was all Claudius could say at the moment, walking slowly
into the turbolift to face the horror to come. He felt as if he should
not go, that it would only make matters worse, but he would have to go
at some point. He doubted that he would be able to sleep until he did
and so he grabbed Htaere's hand, holding it perhaps a bit too tight, as
the turbolift descended the three down towards the medical bay.
Htaere frowned at him in the lift. "What has happened Claudius?" she
asked. She felt a bit nervous, finding the lack of forthcoming to be
cause for worry. She lifted his hand in hers, closing her other hand
atop it. "What is wrong with you?"
Before Claudius could answer, the turbolift door opened and presented
them a view of the medical bay. He walked forward slowly, not answering
her question, simply holding her hand and guiding her towards the
disturbing site in front of them. Major Kiley was bobbing, seemingly
unconscious in one of the larger bacta tanks. There was a breath mask
affixed to her natural Clawdite visage, with only a scant amount of
bubbles emanating, indicating her breathing was very weak. There was
obvious bruising on the side of her face, and one of her eyes was
swollen shut. There was a scar upon her chest where that had been
surgery on her rib cage, and most disturbing was a tube that actually
entered her body that was artificially inflating her lung.
Htaere froze in her tracks, eyes widening as the blur of medical
chaos came into focus. She let go of Claudius' hand to step forward, her
intense gaze taking in Kerrie's broken and critical form. "By the
goddesses..." she all but whispered, drawing close to the tank, her face
languid and horrified. "What...how..." she could hardly form the words.
"...what happened?" Her glazed eyes turned to Claudius.
"She..." Claudius said as his hands began to shake, turning to look
away from the bacta tank, unable to stand it anymore. "She..." he
stuttered again as he felt himself to begin lightheaded. "She..." he
murmured, a cold sweat begin to form on his face as he began to grow
less lucid, his knees wobbling slightly and then it happened ... they
gave out. "Htaere," he cried out as he fell to the ground with a dull
*thud*, collapsing, the stress overwhelming him and sapping the life out
"Claudius!" Htaere hurried over to him, kneeling down beside him and
rolling him to his side. Her hands shook nervously as she pushed on his
shoulder desperately. "Claudius?" She looked about for his com, clawing
at it hysterically to activate it. "Hello? Can anyone hear me? I need
help" her voice wavered into the mic before putting it down and trying
again to nudge him.
Pilaq arrived in the medical bay after receiving the transmission,
having not allowed himself to wander too far from the location. He had
planned on checking on Kerrie after they had departed, as she had not
been progressing as well as he had hoped. His eyes went wide as he
arrived on the scene, having assumed Htaere's transmission was more
about the shock of Kerrie's condition. He immediately instructed his
body to be lifted onto a bed, where the technicians began performing a
full scan of his body. "Do not worry, Milady," he said as he focused his
attention on Claudius, brushing her aside momentarily.
Htaere moved aside to allow them to work, mouth agape in terror. Her
eyes flashed momentarily to Kerrie before looking back to Claudius, both
of them unconscious and at the hands of medical treatment. She backed
further away, completely lost and somewhat devastated.
A sense of relief came over Doctor Tohan as he studied the medical
panels, and realized the droids and medics would be able to handle the
situation. It was clear he was of greater need to Htaere at the moment
and raised his alien hands high and wide as he tried to ease her
tensions. He nodded to her reassuringly as he approached her, one of the
medics behind him starting an intravenous on him. "It was not a heart
attack," he said as quickly as possible to reassure her. "It is
exhaustion combined with stress," he continued to explain to her as he
motioned for a technician to place a chair beneath her, before she too
collapsed in his suddenly overcrowded medical facility.
Htaere lowered herself obediently as the orderly guided her down,
glancing towards him for a moment "Thank you" she said before gazing
back to the Ithorian physician. "Will he be alright?" she asked him
Pilaq stood next to Htaere, placing the long, alien digits pon her
shoulder as he prepared to make his diagnosis. One of his large, orange
eyes never left Claudius as he observed the workings of the hand-picked
Imperial staff. "Physically it will be an easy recovery," he began, his
voice taking quite a bit of getting used to for the untrained ear. "It
will require him to rest and limit his work hours. It will take a wife,
not a doctor, to prescribe that," he said to her knowingly as his hands
gently squeezed her shoulder. "The mental recovery is what worries
me..." he said quietly, his voice growing more serious.
"I do not understand" she stated quietly. She was getting a little
tired of being in the dark regarding whatever had transpired in her
absence. "What is wrong with him?" she heaved a frustrated sigh.
As well as a licensed practitioner of medicine, he had also studied
psychology, and while he had never treated Claudius, he had been his
friend and confident since before the Clone Wars. There were few in the
galaxy who knew the man as well and as long as he. "Did Claudius ever
tell you about Jelena and Drusilla's mother?" he asked very slowly,
feeling it was for Claudius' own good. He needed to limit his stress, no
matter what betrayal it might require.
"Nothing beyond a mention in passing that I can recall" she answered
skeptically, the line of discussion already thrusting her heart into a
"She was a very lovely woman," Pilaq recounted to her. The name was
never spoken anymore. Not because of Htaere, but out of respect for
Claudius' feelings. "He loved her very much. And she loved him," he
explained, the memories a bit overwhelming for him as well. "She died
trying to bare Claudius a son, even though I advised against it. She
refused my advice and conceived the child without Claudius' knowledge.
She felt it was the only way to earn the love of his family, as they
married without consent," he slowly told her, his voice quivering as he
attempted to get through. It felt as if it were yesterday, even though
it were now nearly fifteen years ago. "He blamed himself. He never
truely recovered," he informed her reluctantly, looking over towards
Claudius' fallen body.
Htaere's face drained of color, her lips ashen. She recovered after a
moment, swallowing steeply. "I cannot..." she answered between
apprehensive breaths. She looked away from them, her gaze dropping to
"There is more," Pilaq said as his left hand dropped to her other
shoulder, attempting to offer her what support he could. "It will be
difficult to hear, but you must..." he said to her as his attention now
firmly fixated on her. "When you were taken ... Claudius felt as if he
had lost you. He feared it was all happening again. He consumed a large
quantity of alcohol..." he continued explaining, his voice sounding very
frantic and rushed as he relived the vivid memories of the past several
Grey pools raised to Tohan, occasionally darting to the table where
the nursing staff and droids worked about Claudius. She had a horrible
feeling the doctor wasn't done talking, and the more he seemed to say,
the worse it got. She felt a knot forming in her throat.
"He was not himself, Htaere," Pilaq said, no longer using the formal
'milady' like nearly all of the hangers on who followed the Rodney
family throughout the galaxy. "You must realize it is a sickness and not
fault him, for he will need you to get through the dark days ahead," he
continued, still not having revealed what had happened completely to
her. He was not sure if she could stand it. He was gauging her every
movement for signs of duress.
Htaere's head was spinning, her hearing growing fuzzy. Her eyes
strained, blinking at him. "What?"
Gently, Htaere's hands moved towards the side's of her head and he
looked down dejectedly. Without uttering so much as a word, his handles
gently turned her head to the right so that she would be forced to look
at Major Kiley in the bacta tank. Finally, a soft, depressed sigh
escaped his dual mouths, unable to speak the horror aloud.
As her gaze resettled on the tank, the tension began to drain from
her body, going limp as the picture began to clarify, in all the worst
ways. She was quiet for a handful of moments, before her head started
shaking slowly. "No...no...this...no..."
"This is a difficult time for you both, Htaere..." Pilaq said
quietly, his head finally raising to look back over towards Claudius.
The frantic pace of the medics had subsided. Fluids were pouring through
the intravenous to hydrate him and he believed the medically required
rest would boost his will. "He will not survive this without your
support," he grimly conceded to her, his digits never offering form
support on her shoulders.
Htaere's eyes were fixated, her mind conjuring some explanation, some
excuse, some mistake...the entire room lurched to the side. The bitter
metallic taste came to her mouth, the kind that proceeds becoming
physically ill. Htaere pulled away from his hands, clutching to the back
of the chair to pull herself up out of it. She grabbed at her head to
steady herself, backing away from the doctor, the collection of staff,
and Claudius. Her breathing was rapid and on the verge of hysteria.
"I..." she managed the start of a word or sentence between breaths, but
couldn't finish. Her hands raised defensively as she inched along the
perimeter of the group towards the exit. "I...I need..." thank the
goddesses the door whisked open and she did not have to stammer out the
words any longer. As she backed out of the room, one hand reached for
the wall of the ship's corridor, the other hand over her chest, nearly
gasping for air, elated when the door closed behind her. Just shy of
panic, she staggered down the corridor, everything seeming to fly around
her at high speed.
Pilaq let out a loud, audible sigh from both of his mouths as he gave
Htaere a moment to process the information. She had not taken it in the
manner he had hoped, and began to follow her out of the medical bay into
the corridor. He could not stand to see all three of them disabled, and
so he hurried as best his large Ithorian feet could manage, trying in
vein to catch up to her. "Milady," he called out to her in desperation,
hoping against hope she could pull together for the sake of everyone.
Htaere did not stop, stumbling forward as her mind digested the
horror of what had occurred. For the first time ever, she felt repulsed,
desperate to escape and terrified of the whole establishment she'd known
as home and family. "I...wish to be alone" she called hurrying further
down the corridor and disappearing into some corner of the Imperial-class
Star Destroyer in search of solace.
Doctor Tohan stopped in his tracks, electing to allow Htaere time to
process the information in her own way. He stood there for a long
moment, unmoving in the corridor, allowing the crew of the Warspite
to brush past him, detesting his alien presence aboard the vessel. He
knew not what to do, as he began the slow walk back towards the medical
bay to check on both Claudius and Kerrie. At this moment he was glad
that he had not married.