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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:6:14) in the Essesia system: Esseles (Larius Lacus: Sierra Rodney's lakehouse and New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate).
Prince Pollix Drayen III, Ewwiekewwieikkie, Callista Nilar, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Lady Drusilla Rodney, Major Sierra Rodney, and Ensign Bethany Sheppard.

Claudius Rodney wanted to have a special birthday for his wife, as she had just endured an awful trip to Delaya and they had been through so much over the preceding months. There was also the fact that this would be her last birthday before the birth of their son, who would come to dominate all of the attention. He had arranged for a bakery to create a special birthday cake for the occasion, which was several tiers high. It was brought in special via Imperial escort and smuggled in through the black door. Ensign Bethany Sheppard was tasked with safeguarding it, as another in her menial tasks following her demotion following the Ewwiekewwieikkie incident aboard the Retributor's bridge. As she unboxed the cake in the kitchen of the Rodney estate she felt quite proud of her accomplishment and thought perhaps she might become a Lieutenant once again. There was only one problem ... no one had thought to inform her that the family now had a pet bantha ... who lived *inside* the estate.

Ewwiekewwieikkie could smell the cake while it was still outside, and came scrambling into the kitchen as soon as she heard the door. "Not so fast!" Ensign Sheppard shouted, having learned her lesson from her past encounter with the Squib. She extended both of her arms, and blocked the young Ewwiekewwieikkie from getting past her. "Move! Move! Move! There's cake I need!" she demanded, as she pushed and struggled against the Ensign. She began to emit a low growl, as her eyes locked onto the beautiful cake. But despite her best efforts she simply could not get past the ensign. But then the bantha emerged upon the scene, steamrolling the unexpected ensign and making a beeline right towards the cake. "What the heck is that?!" Bethany cried out, as she was knocked to the ground and trampled by the bantha. As it past her she rolled over to look behind her, reaching out in vein to grasp it. "No!" she screamed as the bantha collided with the cake, toppling it over and beginning to devour it. It was not long before the Squib was on the scene as well. "Hurry, Callista. He's gonna eat it all!" she squealed, as she began grabbing pawfuls of cake.

It certainly had started out as the most unusual birthday in Sierra Rodney's life. Her previous birthdays in the Retributor had been completely ignored. Rikka Dakkar didn't exactly strike one as the kind of person who could look past birthdays had been terrible growing up. She expected nothing more than to spend the day with her family...which she would get along with so much more. The day had begun shortly after midnight, when the horrendous sound of someone playing a slitherhorn outside the house awoke her: Pollix Drayen. As much as Sierra enjoyed music, she found the slitherhorn absolutely annoying. She had choice words to say to an unsuspecting man who awoke a pregnant woman in the middle of the night. Pollix left the estate looking like he felt terribly guilty, but he returned later on to continue peacocking for Drusilla Rodney.

The next time she awoke was several hours later, when the bantha began licking between her toes after she'd passed out on the downstairs couch. It took everything in her not to scream. Eventually, the night ended back in her bed beside her husband. She didn't know her niece had come, nor did she know that Bethany was currently losing the battle to keep her cake safe. After a terrible night's sleep, she washed away the bantha from her and dressed for the day. She was currently brushing out her curly hair while seated at the end of the bed. "Oh goodness, that poor Drayen boy. I said some terrible things to him last night. Dru will *kill* me if I ruined her chances." Sierra frowned.

The loud pattering of feet could be heard downstairs. "*Cake*!" Callista Nilar squeaked. Her mommy and daddy had explained to her that she would be staying with her auntie and uncle for a little bit. In her innocent mind, she thought of her parents as super heroes. They had to go save the world sometimes. The brown-haired little girl dropped down to her knees. She was happy to be back on Esseles with her best friend ever! She loved Ewwie's new pet and had already spent an hour simply petting its soft fur in between coloring a picture of Nay-Nay with more orange than necessary. Like Ewwie, she began scooping handfuls of cake into her face. "Ooooh! Yummy! It tastes like pudding cake!" She squeaked. Her cheeks and nose were now covered in frosting.

Claudius thought he had the perfect surprise for his wife. The custom pudding cake would be the perfect way to end the birthday dinner, but little did he know what was happening in the kitchen ... but he *should* have known. "I'm sure whatever you said to him he deserved, my dear," he said, as he stretched out his legs in the bed. Slowly he swiveled them off the bed, sitting up and looking towards her as she brushed her hair. "Happy birthday," he told her, before reaching out and placing a hand upon her shoulder affectionately. She had made him the happiest man in the galaxy and he wanted to show his appreciation for her today.

Anyone who was stupid enough to do what Pollix did was going to get reamed out. Sierra grinned. "You're right." She had a feeling that she'd be seeing him again today. What she didn't realize was that he was already back, waiting patiently outside of Drusilla's door like a puppy for however long it took her to dress. Her smile grew. "Thank you, my love." Sierra's hand landed atop of his. She gave it a squeeze, leaning in to share a kiss. Her day had not been ruined by a bad night of sleep. In fact, she was very happy. Last year she had nothing, this year she had a husband, three step-daughters, and a son on the way. She couldn't have asked for anything else. "I'm twenty now... We won't be able to make any of those teen pregnancy jokes anymore." She giggled, rising to her feet. She stood in front of him and wrapped her arms around him. Meanwhile, her cake was being rapidly consumed.

"Yes. Leave the teen pregnancy jokes to my fool brother," Claudius teased, as he pointed out how scandalously young Zara was. "Do you think it that serious then?" he asked, having not been paying as much attention to the budding romance as his wife due to his work aboard the Retributor. Part of him would be happy to see his youngest daughter marry a Prince, but another part of him was acting overprotective of his precious young girl. He did not want her to fall victim to a charming Prince whose mind could be only on one thing. "How old is he?" he asked, as he rose into her arms. He placed his arms around her in return, drawing her more near. He wanted her birthday to be a private affair, but it seemed that each day they picked up another distant relation or creature.

She laughed. Zara was several years younger than she was. Marcus certainly her decided to go young. There was a pretty high probability that Zara could have another teen pregnancy. As the conversation shifted to talk of Pollix, Sierra 'hmmed'. "I suppose so. I haven't asked her much about him." It was a difficult subject to broach. She wanted to give Dru her privacy, but at the same time, she wanted to be a little nosey too. "He's recently turned nineteen... I spent some time looking him up on the HoloNet. He doesn't have any scandals or anything of that likeness. On paper, he looks clean. Maybe I should sneak a ISB device into his belongings..." Sierra said thoughtfully. She didn't know how she felt about everything. It would take time getting to know the boy to discover what his intentions were. She groaned. It would have been nice to make her birthday a private affair. Instead, there were all sorts of new faces (and old ones) in their home. She pressed her face into his shoulder.

"Nineteen?!" Claudius exclaimed, never having expected the boy to be so much older than Drusilla. Of course he was more than twice his wife's age, but as a father he could apply a double standard. "Yes. By all means. Spy away!" he insisted, as his mind switched from excitement about Drusilla's future being secure to sheer concern over the age difference. "Come on. Let me show you my surprise," he told her, referring to the cake, as he took her by the hand and let her towards the hallway. Nothing could prepare him from the awful sight that was awaiting them below.

Drusilla Rodney had been dressing and undressing throughout the morning. She was acting as if it was her birthday. The self-centered teen was determined to be the center of attention and the steal the spotlight from her stepmother. Once she had changed into her red dress she placed just about every piece of jewelry she could find onto her slender frame. She had pendant earrings, a necklace, a tennis bracelet, and even rings. She considered wearing a tiara, but that would have been too much for just a family affair. When she opened her door she started walking but nearly collided with Pollix. "Oh. You're still here?" she asked, as she smiled slightly, but blushed even more. She extended her hand with her clutch and offered it to him. "You may accompany me," she declared, attempting to maintain a dominance over the Prince, despite the lower status she possessed.

Prince Pollix Drayen the Third had made some mistakes with Lady Drusilla's families. His midnight attempts to play an array of jizz songs for Dru had backfired. *Seriously* backfired. He was trying to find good footing with the family again. He had gotten a present for Sierra, then returned to the estate with a present for Drusilla, as he had not seen her since her birthday celebration. He stood in the hallway of the home dressed to the nines. His father had been grooming him to become king since he was born. He took all events seriously and wanted to impress while pleasing the people. A smile appeared on his face when Drusilla's door finally opened. He took her hand softly. "Oh, thank you, milady." He said. He began to lead her downstairs. "You look beautiful." He had never seen a woman wear so many accessories. He thought it was fashionable. "I purchased your stepmother a gift certificate to a baby store in the city... I didn't know what else to get her." He frowned.

Claudius supported spy is just what Sierra was going to do. There's no better getting to know a person than seeing what they do when no one else is around. She blinked. "A surprise? What is it?" She was every bit as impatient as her husband was. She *had* to know! Together, they made their way downstairs. Sierra spotted Dru and Pollix. She passed him on a cold look, deciding that she needed to put the fear in him. If he did anything to Dru, then it would be in his best interest to disappear. As they rounded into the kitchen, Claudius and Sierra arrived at the scene of the crime. The cake was nearly all gone. Remains of frosting and cake could be seen on the floor. Between Ewwiekewwieikkie, Sorbet, and Callista, it had been consumed. Sierra's eyes were wide. She was shocked that Callista was there, and also shocked that she had missed out on cake. Her sights set on Ensign Bethany Sheppard. "Wha.. What happened here?"

When Claudius reached the kitchen he had a broad smile upon his face, proud of the pudding cake he had arranged for. "Surpri-" he began, but when he saw what had happened his voice went silent. He stood there quietly, looking at the children and the bantha, whom he could find no animosity for. Ensign Sheppard, however, was a fitting target for his rage. But before the anger the sadness came, and he soon found himself upon his knees in the kitchen floor. His hand clenched into a fist and he slammed it down on the kitchen floor. He should have known better.

"Daddy!" Ewwiekewwieikkie said excitedly, as she had nearly filled her belly with the cake. "Oh. No be sad. There some left," and with that she grabbed a pawful of cake and began scrambling towards her adopted father. She outstretched her hand and forced the cake into his mouth, smearing his face, happily. Her attention then turned to Sierra, and she began hopping up and down excitedly from all the sugar. "It's your birthday! It's your birthday!" she said, before doing a little dance. "There's cake. Did you know? It's pudding!" she told her, before wrapping her arms around her stepmother. "Happy birthday!" she declared, squeezing her as tight as she could.

Callista picked herself up off the floor. Her dress was ruined. The only part of her that was spotless was the tiara that her uncle had given her. She wore it *every* day. She frowned. She didn't understand what was wrong, but she understood that *something* was wrong. After Ewwie had finished with her father, Callista approached him. "I'm sorry, uncle!" She wrapped her little arms around him as much as she could and squeezed. "Mama says I'm too young to use the oven... So I can't make you cake... I can make you a yummy sandwich." She offered. She tilted her head up to her aunt, smiling. "Happy birthday, Auntie!"

Sierra was frowning too. She didn't need to taste the cake to know how much effort her husband had put into it. Ewwiekewwieikkie momentarily stopped her from cheering Claudius up. "It's pudding?" She looked down to the cake remains. Her hormones made an unexpected shift that made her want to cry...but not tears of sadness. She wrapped her arms right back around her adopted stepdaughter and squeeze. She let out a little whimper when Ewwiekewwieikkie squeezed too hard. The Squib was stronger than she looked. "Thank you, Ewwiekewwieikkie." She may have not tasted the cake, but it was on her dress now. Sierra crouched down beside Claudius. She wrapped both him and her niece up in her arms. She nipped his cheek and nuzzled her nose against it. "Don't be upset. I *love* it. You're so thoughtful and sweet." Sierra sniffled. She was already tearing up.

Claudius was plastered with the cake by his adopted Squib daughter, which made it nigh on impossible to be angry. Suddenly he burst out into laughter as he brought his hands up to his face to wipe the pudding and cake out of his face. "Ugh," he groaned, as he remained seated on the floor. He then stood up, took Sierra by the hand and attempted to lead her from the room. "You, boy ... keep your hands to yourself," he warned Pollix, before shifting his attention to Ensign Sheppard. "Sheppard, you're in charge. See that this mess is put up. Put the girls to bed. Clean the bantha. And if this boy touches my daughter ... shoot him," he ordered the dimwitted young officer, before leading Sierra on. He had to escape this madness and celebrate her birthday in peace.

The cake was a disaster, by extension, so was the kitchen. Sierra was glad that Ensign Bethany could be cleaning up that mess. She was whisked away by her husband. She heard Pollix make a noise while Claudius threatened him. It sounded so pathetic and sad that Sierra laughed at him on her way out. Outside the estate, a TIE-fighter flew by overhead. She turned to Claudius. "Let's pick up some food and go to the lakehouse. After the slitherhorn incident last night, some peace and quiet sounds lovely." She spotted cake on his cheek from where Ewwiekewwieikkie had shared. Sierra leaned in. She playfully licked it off. "Mmm. Delicious!" The young woman winked. Now, it was she who led him towards the speeder. She couldn't believe that the girls had eaten all that cake. They'd be jumping off the walls tonight. Perhaps it was best to return late in the night, or in the morning. Poor Ensign Bethany.

Claudius wasted no time in commandeering the shuttle on the landing platform and flying Sierra the short distance across the planet to her lakehouse. There were no children. No pets. No Imperial officers. There was not a soul around and that was exactly what Claudius wanted. As the ramp to the shuttle lowered the air smelled more fresh and he could feel the cool breeze coming off the lake. "I'm sorry about the cake," he said to her, apologizing, as he walked the short distance from the shuttle towards her private retreat. Hopefully no one would bother them here and they could spend the rest of her birthday without interruption. He still had a gift to her that was not in dessert form, thankfully.

The shift in the noise was the first thing Sierra always noticed about her private retreat. It was, admittedly, much easier for her to compose music here than at home. Her fingers locked in between his, giving his hand a firm squeeze. "It's fine, love. I appreciate the effort you put into it. Thank you." She looked at him so he could see her wide smile. "I'm a little jealous Ewwiekewwieikkie got to eat so much of it." Sierra joked. She stepped up onto the little porch, unlocked the door, and headed inside. She inhaled. The air inside the lakehouse was so clean. "Thank goodness, a bantha free zone." She continued on towards the room they shared here where she kept extra clothes. "Do you feel like swimming?" She asked him, unable to block out what happened last time they were in the lake together. They were so lucky that hadn't found its way onto the HoloNet. Sierra wanted the privacy. She silenced her comlink and set it aside. No interruptions!

"Yes, but with a bathing suit this time," Claudius teased, as he moved towards their bedroom which contained a dresser that had a section devoted entirely towards swimming trunks. He sorted through it before finding a navy blue pair that was comfortable and discreet and wasted no time in changing into it. "Yes. It is a bantha free zone, but I expect it to only be a few moments before you discover some local creature that you'll fall instantly in love with," he said with a smile, as he hopped on one leg while stepping into the suit. Changed, he moved to sit on the bed to wait for her to do the same, which he realized was a more involved process than what he had just done.

"Fine! I'll wear a bathing suit, but I won't like it!" She snickered, then promptly began undressing. She had completely undressed and he was already seated on the bed; finished. As she became more pregnant, he'd become quicker and quicker. Sierra laughed. "No, no. Didn't I tell you. I'm adopting our *second* Squib daughter?" The woman could play back with him. She opted to wear a bikini this time, as her one-piece swimsuit was not going to fit for some time. Sierra was usually so modest that she felt naked. While she adjusted her halter top, she grumbled. "Maybe no swimming suit next time.." But, she was ready. She took his hand and led him on. Her mood increased as she began to relax with him. Outside the lakehouse, she paused on the patio to start trouble with her love. Her lips locked with Claudius'. She was very happy to spend her special day with him, for it was only him who could ever make her feel so complete. Her tongue slipped past his lips, tapped his, and then slid back out. The kiss ended. "Catch me if you can!" Off she darted towards the water. The water was lukewarm and pleasant once Sierra's feet reached it. She dove in, continuing her chase.

"I can't afford enough food for two!" Claudius cried out, uncertain if she was serious. His wife had a heart of gold, but he no longer had the gold to back it up. As he stepped out into the fresh air of the early afternoon a cool breeze brushed over him, causing goosebumps to form on his arm as well as making his hair stand up straight. "So when did Callista get back?" he asked her, uncertain of where she had come from. She was just suddenly there ... covered in cake. But before he could get an answer her lips were upon his, but all too briefly. "Hey! Come back! I'm too old to chase anyone!" he said, as he tried, but failed, to catch up with his wife who was more than half his age. Finally he reached the water line, jumping in after her. The water was reinvigorating, doing much to sooth his aching joints. It was the perfect purchase for time away from the madness of the estate.

She was kidding. Sierra couldn't get one Squib to eat healthy. Pilaq Tohan would dive down her throat if she brought another Squib into the house. For now, she wanted to focus on making human expansions. As to Callista, even Sierra didn't know the full story. She assumed Mug and Iyah had contacted El-Nay and had her bring Callista or something of that likeness, because Sierra had nothing to do with it. She was too busy making her much older husband chase after her. In the water, she slowed and swam over to him. Her arms locked around his neck. "That's a lie. If you hadn't chased me on Delaya, you wouldn't have gotten married again." She winked. The truth was that he had their relationship in the bag from the very beginning. She was even more smitten with him now as she was then, which was why they'd celebrate their six-month anniversary next month. Releasing him to give him a taste of personal space, Sierra dipped her head back into the water to dampen her curls. Dolphins swam past them in the warm water. "I think you're the one who draws in the animals. First the thranta, then the sea this. I blame you."

"That was months ago. I was a much younger man then!" Claudius pleaded with her, as he treaded water and attempted to catch his breath. As the dolphins appeared around them all he could do was roll his eyes. She would be feeding them in no time and then naming them short thereafter. "Animals have always played a role in the affairs of my house. It was said that the first Duke of Delaya had a particular communal ability with them," he said to her, as he attempted to get towards her, but the dolphins were having none of it. "Hey! That tickle!" he warned one of the creatures, as he fought his way towards his wife. So much for being alone, he thought to himself, as he wrapped his arms around his beloved wife.

"Oye. Oh yes, *so* much younger." That was a time in her life that was completely unforgettable. "Can *you* communicate with them? Because if you can, we're going back to that camp site and capturing us some otters." She laughed. The man had her pegged. Sierra had already been debating what to name the dolphins. With a lot of reluctancy from the dolphins, Sierra and Claudius were close again. She could feel the water shifting to and fro as the creatures swam around them. She placed her head upon his shoulder and began to kiss his neck. The tension seemed to release from her body all at once. Finally, she could stop stressing. "Since it's my birthday, I get to use the shockcuffs on you tonight, right?" Her teeth scraped over his neck.

"I can't even communicate with my own children," Claudius said, with some honesty, as a frown came over his face. He had not forgotten that Sierra had not forgotten the otters from the campsite. Perhaps he should have bought her a zoo or wildlife preserve. Before he could crack wise she began kissing his neck, which immediately caused all of the comedic material to flee from his brain. "Shockcuffs? Are you trying to kill me?" he teased her, as he moved his face forward towards her, placing his lips to hers in a passionate kiss that lingered longer than normal. When the kiss broke he looked upon her, smiling with a grin that indicated that he was up to something. "Are you ready for your non pudding present?" he asked, before biting down on his lower lip to keep his grin from growing any larger.

Her face sunk briefly. "You *can*. Look back at the past few months and how much better your relationship with Jelena has become. Though she may not live with us, you still gave her want she needed. You're better than you realize, my Claudius." She reminded him with a look of seriousness that faded as a result of his kiss. She closed her eyes and clung to the moment, for how frequently did they get to kiss in such peace? The next time her eyes open, she saw he was up to something. Her eyes narrowed. "What is it? Did I lose my top? I *knew* that was going to happen." She looked down. Nope. Her top was still on. "A non pudding present..?" She felt perfectly content with her birthday. His grin made her feel so curious. He was up to something? "Is it you..?" She guessed. "Gah! Yes, I'm ready!" It had to be a good one. The look on his face was enough to tease her by itself. She had no idea what it could be. What did she even want...besides comfortable work boots, that is! Claudius was better at knowing her wants than she was.

Claudius shook his head at her playfully, drawing out the surprise for a few torturous moments longer. Suddenly he turned, raising his hand high above him, and waving off to the shoreline. A moment later a speeder moved forward with its cargo section to the back of them. Unexpectedly it kept going until the back was nearly submerged. The rear door slowly opened revealing the presence of the sea cow from Delaya and the family of otters from the camp site. They were very confused, but before long they found themselves in the lake, and began getting acclimated to their new surroundings.

He was *killing* her. Sierra was clueless. He only confused her more when a speeder appeared with cargo that was, apparently, water-friendly. She had a look of absolute confusion on her face. She had no idea what the cargo was until she saw it: a sea cow. It wasn't just *any* ol' sea cow either. Sierra's face lit up suddenly. "*Sea Betsy*!" She gasped. Her eyes were first only for her favored Delayan sea cow, but then she saw the otters too. "Oh my," she sniffed. All of her favorite creatures were now right where she could find them. "Oh my," she repeated as Claudius had entirely blown her away. There were tears running down her cheeks. "You did all of this for *me*?" Her hand ran over the sea cow as it passed by. She had spent more time than she wanted to admit worrying about the sea cow. Governor Arundel didn't seem like the type to respect a nature reserve. She turned towards her husband with a look of sheer joy on her face. . . and then she pounced him into the water. "I love you, I love you, I *love* you." She repeated. "Thank you so much. It's all so nice." Her lower lip quivered. The poor woman was completely hormonal, but for happy reasons.

Claudius watched Sierra happily as she reacted to his present. It had taken some effort to smuggle the sea cow off Delaya, given that it was an endangered species, but with their sea island retreat currently off limits to them he did not want the creature to be forgotten. "Of course I did all this for you," he told her, as he watched her start to cry. He brought his hands up to attempt to wipe away the tears, but as he was submerged in water all he did was make her face more moist. "I love you too," he said, as he tried to keep his head above the water while being pounced. "Happy birthday!" he told her, with a big smile, as they became surrounded by the newly arrived creatures from Sierra's past nature adventures.

She didn't even know how one started the process of smuggling a sea cow. Regardless, she was so happy that Claudius had done it. Here, she could keep all the animals safe. Sierra felt so special. Her husband did a lot of good in her life. "Thank you.. It's been the best birthday *ever*." She confessed to him truthfully. The moment wrapped her up. There were otters chirping as they played in the water. The sea cow swam with the dolphins like it was convinced it belonged in their pod. Finally, there was Sierra and Claudius. She was attempting to infect him with her sudden increase in happiness. Last year she had nothing. This year, Sierra Rodney had it all.

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