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Liz Dorner and Christopher Levy.
Zero years before the Battle of Yavin (35:4:18) in the Coruscant system: Coruscant (Galactic City: Cantham House).
Vice Admiral Claudius Rodney and Countess Htaere Rodney.

Claudius Rodney stood quietly on a balcony of the suite that had been prepared for them in Cantham House, Alderaan's embassy on Coruscant. Out of respect for tradition he was dressed in Republic Classical attire rather than his Imperial uniform. Subdued tones of blue covered his middle-aged frame as he leant against the railing, peering off at the never-ending series of speeders that passed through the night sky. It had been a long hyperspace trip from Esseles, and he was looking forward to getting a good night's sleep. However, it had been years since he spent time on Coruscant and the sheer marvel of the cityscape had once again captivated him.

Emerging from the shower, Htaere appeared in the near translucent delicate fabric of her night gown, trailed by the waft of warm air and the rich aroma of floral and citrus notes of her shampoo and bathing wash. Using a soft velveteen towel to catch the droplets at  the tips of her hair, she paused, gazing out to the balcony momentarily. "Enjoying the view, Claudius?"

"I remember the first time I traveled to Coruscant as a boy with my father," Claudius explained, as he turned to look over his shoulder to flash her a polite smile. "I did not believe men could build such things..." he continued, as if in a trance as he turned back to look upon the city again. "It was a dream to be stationed here. Perhaps one day I will have that honor again..." he dreamed, feeling he was long past due for promotion. However, his ties to the nobility and political background had often resulted in him being passed up for promotion by junior officers who more embraced the ideals of the New Order.

"Perhaps one day," Htaere mimicked, leaving it at that. While she would never admit it, she found herself recalling Jelena's request so long ago to convince him to retire. As of late, she contemplated it regularly. Brushing out her dampened tresses, Htaere wove a quick loose braid before joining Claudius on the balcony. "It is rather impressive," she noted.

In the distance the monstrous structure that was the Imperial Palace loomed over all surrounding structures. His right hand extended and he pointed a finger towards it, so he could point it out to Htaere. "That is where we'll be going," he explained to her, sounding quite excited about the prospect. "It will be a great moment for the family," he said with a nod, as his eyes fixated upon it like some unattainable treat perched just out of reach.

Htaere's stormy grey eyes took in the ominous fortress in the distance. She did not agree, or disagree. Instead, she reached over to give his shoulder a squeeze. "I am happy for you, Claudius," she said quietly.

"Thank you," Claudius said to her, finally turning away from the staring off into the distance to gaze at her. "You have done a wonderful job with the girls in preparing them for this moment," he told her lovingly, before stepping forward to wrap his arms around her as the cool night breeze washed over them. Their conversation was being monitored by the Alderaanian Guard, unbeknownst to them, who were relishing the opportunity to have access to a serving line officer.

Htaere accepted the private display of affection and drew a deep breath as she contemplated the feat of getting Ewwie ready. "I have another collection of interstellar eating utensils to reward her with after this celebration," she stated, a smile touching her lips. "I sincerely hope she is able to recall at least the very few rules of engagement at the most critical moments."

"In two decades she has never failed this family. I am confident that she will not fail us now..." Claudius informed Htaere, as he slowly made his way into the suite. A bowl of Alderaanian fruit had been placed on one of the tables, and he grabbed hold of a citrus fruit. He began to peel the skin as he sat down on the foot of the bed, taking a quick bite. "It was nice of Senator Organa to allow us to stay at the embassy. I do not remember the last time I had to book accommodations..." he explained to her, his mind drifting to the young Princess and realizing how much she had grown since the little girl he first met on Alderaan nearly 20 years ago.

"Indeed. Very generous of them," she agreed moving back inside and seating herself on the bed. Unable to resist the lure of the ultra soft bedding, she stretched out on her back, tucking her hands under the pillow and wriggling down further into the fluffy down comforter. "We shall have to thank them profusely for their benevolence," she mumbled blissfully, eyes closing in a lull of relaxation.

"I can tell I'm getting old when I start having friend's whose children are serving in the Imperial Senate," Claudius joked as he kicked off the boots he was wearing. He let out a content sigh as he wiggled his toes while seated at the edge of the bed. "I wonder what my children will end up doing as careers. We never really spoke about it. She plans on attending University, but I don't think I've ever heard what it is she wants to study..." he mused, standing from the bed to slowly undress himself. The formal tunic was draped over a chair and quickly joined by his pants. Although his clothes were civilian, his undergarments were still very much Imperial issue.

"I suppose that path for each individual to choose, and your children are no exception," she replied without opening her eyes, relishing in the comfort of the bed. It was a change of scenery, change of pace and change of routine from the usual, and she basked in the unfamiliarity of it all.

"Did you ever have plans for a career, or was an arranged marriage always to be your fate?" Claudius asked, perhaps broaching a taboo subject. From what he knew of Hapan culture he was aware that females were the dominant sex, but he was not sure what was available in terms of careers or whether the nobility pursued such things.

"The 'career' that you refer to is to gain favor in the court and marry higher to a direct member of the royal family, or win privilege with the Queen Mother," Htaere replied from where she was, taking a moment to stretch before rolling onto her side and opening her eyes lazily. "Marriage beyond the Consortium was chosen for me because I failed to subscribe to the treachery required to work one's way up the royal ladder," she couldn't help but let a corner of her moth arch in a smile. For one of her sisters, such a fate would have been worse then death itself, disowned essentially by their mother. For Htaere, it was a blessing.

Claudius heped himself to a second piece of fruit, indulging in the treat which he was rarely able to enjoy during his time aboard the Warspite. He moved to the bed as he began eating the delectable, and slid under the sheets next to Htaere. "Are you happy without a role in society?" he asked, as he finished the last bite of fruit, rolling over onto his side to look at her.

Htaere thought on it for a moment. "It is my birthright, and I am tied to it forever, as such. Yet I have no interest in playing their game," she replied quietly. "I am content to have a far more quiet existence."

"Unfortunately our existence has been anything but quiet, my love..." Claudius reluctantly admitted as he folded the pillow that was beneath his head in two to give him added support. "I am afraid that is my fault. I am sorry," he quietly apologized as his tired brown eyes looked up at her.

"There is no fault here, Claudius," she responded. "It is merely your job, and as your wife, 'my' job is to be supportive." Shifting a bit, she got comfortable. "Our existence has been quite adventurous," she conceded with a groggy grin.

"And for that I shall always love you," Claudius said as he lifted his head tiredly from the pillow so that he might place a final kiss upon her lips before laying back down to sleep. He would need his rest before going before the Emperor. He would rehearse the meeting 1,000 different ways in his sleep that evening.

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