It had been some time since Sierra Rodney had arrived
in Delaya for a reason other than business. The last
time she had spent time on the planet, it was to perform
to Governor Arundel...which was no fun. After the
family's exciting trip to Auntie Maeland, followed by a
short recovery, everyone headed to Delaya. They had
arrived the prior evening just in time to tucker the
girls out and put them to sleep. The following morning,
and day before Marcus and Zara's ball, had Sierra
running around like a chicken with her head cut off in
order to make sure everyone had attire for the event.
As she crept up the castle spire after an impromptu
shopping expedition, she was reminded of the time
following the bombing at Jelena's funeral. She and
Claudius were staying in the exact same room they had
been at that time. "Oh, I'm *so* glad we don't live
here." Sierra commented as her uniform boots constricted
on her feet. At last, she reached their quarters and
disappeared behind the door. The Ithorians had done
serious work to the environment of Delaya. The smog that
hung over the city was nearly gone. The sky looked so
clean and clear that one could see for miles. Despite
the Imperial presence, even the people of Delaya seemed
happier thanks to the new changes their Duke and Duchess
had implemented. As she entered, Sierra's hands moved
behind her back. It was clear she was holding something
in between them but it was impossible to see what. "Hi
dear. I'm happy to report that no one will be going nude
to the ball. Well ... in our part of the family anyway."
She couldn't speak for Marcus and Zara with their
Claudius Rodney had mixed emotions about returning to
his home planet of Delaya. Part of him was glad to be
returning as he missed his home very much, but another
part of him was bitter that his sister-in-law had to
arrange *permission* for him to return. In the back of
his mind he knew that when they left this time he likely
would not be able to return again for sometime. As they
walked through the castle he felt like a stranger in his
boyhood home, which caused him to remain silent until he
and Sierra were alone in the room. When she approached
him he knew immediately she was hiding something behind
her back. Instantly the child within him took over,
which made him forget his melancholy thoughts on his
home, and instead incessantly focus on what was behind
her back. "Hi. What's in your hands?" he asked, as he
raised up onto his toes to attempt to look over her
shoulder. "Hmm?" he asked, as he began to fidget
impatiently, suddenly reminding her of the girls in the
She had assumed that this was going to be a hard trip
for her husband, which was exactly why she'd made some
special arrangements prior to coming. There was no
telling when he'd be able to stand on Delayan soil
again. A smirk crept up her lips as he raised to his
toes. She mocked the movement, giving herself the few
additional inches that raising to her tippy toes did.
"Whatever *are* you talking about?" She teased, fumbling
with the box in her hands. "See?" She said, bringing one
hand to the front of her. "I've got nothing." Her smile
was growing wider and wider. As much as she enjoyed
teasing him, it was very hard for her to keep anything
When Sierra revealed only one hand he began to bounce
up and down on his feet, but whether or not
Ewwiekewwieikkie learned it from him or he learned it
from her was unknown. "The other hand! The *other*
hand!" he asked, with a high pitched, almost whiny voice
as he leaned to his side to attempt to look behind her.
At least the teasing had caused all of the unhappy
homecoming thoughts in his mind to be extinguished.
"C'mon! C'mon!" he pleaded, as he continued to bounce up
and down, his eyes going wide, and his mouth beginning
to salivate in anticipation.
She began to laugh once he was bouncing. Sierra
certainly had his attention. "The other hand?" The young
woman played dumb. She brought the hand she had showed
him to her back so she could reveal the other hand.
"There's nothing!" She was starting to see where the
girls got it from! "Okay, okay!" She surrendered,
allowing both of her hands to come to the front of her
body. What she was holding should have come as no
surprise. The box read 'Auntie Mae Pregnancy Test'. It
also came with a peel off coupon for pudding, which is
what drew Sierra into selecting it above all other
tests. It also boasted that it could deliver early
results...and they *needed* early results. "What do you
think? Should we find out just how good our daughter's
nose is?" She wasn't done surprising him today. She had
to withhold that information otherwise she would tell
him and spoil the surprise.
"Both hands! Both hands!" Claudius pleaded, sounding
like a boy fifty years younger than his actual age. But
when she showed him the Auntie Mae branded pregnancy
test he suddenly stopped bouncing and became decidedly
more serious, as someone had just flipped a switch on
him. "Can it really tell us this early?" he asked, as he
moved closer towards her. He reached his right hand up,
placing it upon her shoulder, while his eyes looked down
to the packaging. It was so colorful and bright that he
was amazed one of the Squibs did not attempt to eat it.
"Yes. Yes I think you should," he said, as suddenly his
eyes lit up with the frenzied, impatient glare that was
there when she had teased him. "Right away," he told
her, as he began walking her towards the en suite
"Maybe. The test's early results are supposed to be
part of its perks." She told him. She had went to great
lengths to ensure no Squib found the test. She didn't
want to explain to Ewwiekewwieikkie what the test
exactly was or why she was taking it. Suddenly, he was
pushing her in the direction of the refresher. "Don't
hover outside. I won't be able to do it if you're
hovering." She teased. She headed into the refresher
with the box and closed the door. There were mile-long
instructions inside of the box for a process that really
seemed quite simple. The stick itself was awkwardly made
to look like an empty ice cream cone. If the test
results were positive, then the cone would become topped
with ice cream. If not, it would remain empty.
As if to make her impatient husband even more
impatient, it took Sierra *forever* in the refresher.
She was nervous. She was excited. It was hard to perform
under such pressure! Ultimately, she left the bathroom
without the test nearly ten minutes later. "Five minutes
and we'll know." She reported to him as she glanced
towards the chrono on the wall. Five minutes, 300
seconds, 300,000 milliseconds... *Forever*. Her face
paled as she broke down the time into the tiniest
increments. "We'll never get a result." She dramatically
"I won't hover. I won't hover," Claudius promised,
but as soon as the door was closed he began to hover.
His body was practically pressed against the door, with
his head turned so that he could place his ear directly
against it to listen. As the door opened, he backpedaled
quickly, but there was no way he was able to conceal his
hovering. "Five minutes? That's an eternity," he said,
as he pouted in her direction. "Here. Come sit down," he
said, as he led her towards the foot of the bed and
helped her sit down, already acting overprotective. Once
she was down he began to pace back and forth, his eyes
never leaving the wall chrono. It was the longest five
minutes of his life.
He was hovering! That's what caused her performance
anxiety. She didn't bust him for it, for she was already
counting down each second mentally. "It *is* an
eternity. Can't they make these tests quicker?" Sierra
asked impatiently, sitting down at the end of the bed.
They immediately both did the same thing: stare at the
chrono. It felt like a form of torture that they had to
sit and wait and wait and sit for five whole minutes.
Sierra decided then that she would create a pregnancy
test that came with an ice breaker game to play for the
time they had to wait for results. Three minutes in,
even Sierra began to point. "Oh my gosh, just go check!"
She demanded, shooing him off with her hands. "Ice cream
means baby, no ice cream means no baby. Hurry! Go look!"
She didn't want to look herself. There wasn't a 'bad'
outcome here. A positive result expanded their family. A
negative result meant continuing to try to expand the
family. There was certainly a result they both wanted.
"Alright. I'll check," Claudius said, as he moved to
get the test, before stopping dead in his tracks. "Wait.
What? Ice cream?" he asked, as he brought his hand up to
the back of his head and began to scratch. "Oh.
Nevermind," he grumbled, as he moved to find the
pregnancy test fashioned after an ice cream cone. "We
don't want Melickielickie 'lickielicking' this," he
called out to her, before picking up the test. He looked
at it for a moment as it dawned on him that there was
ice cream visible. He was quiet for a moment, which
seemed to last an eternity. "Sierra!" he called out,
suddenly finding himself very lightheaded. He
backpedaled until he found himself up against the
toilet, before quickly sitting down upon it to collect
himself. "Sierra!" he called out again, finding himself
as helpless as the child that he now knew to be growing
within his wife.
Sierra could be heard laughing in the bedroom over
his joke. "No, no! We'll dispose of it properly once
we're done using it." The silence that followed was even
worse than waiting for the results to appear...or not
appear. Sierra sat on the bed, her whole body tensed,
listening hard for Claudius to tell her the results. Her
heart was beating just as fast as if she'd been running
a marathon. The first time he called her name, Sierra
was up on her feet in an instant. The second time, she
darted into the bathroom at full speed. "What is it!?"
She asked, immediately feeling a rush of concern as she
saw him seated on the toilet. Sierra wrapped her arms
around his neck and drew him close to her. She was
beginning to assume that the test had been negative and
that he was taking it hard. Sierra bent her head down
and kissed the top of her head. "It's okay, my love.
We'll keep trying. Maybe it didn't happen this month,
but it could happen next." She squeezed him tightly. Her
heart sank, but only a little. She was confident that
there would be another baby in time.
Claudius leaned back after she kissed the top of his
head, smiling up at her without uttering a word. He
reached up, showing her the ice cream cone, which was
now topped with ice cream. "...and it's even my favorite
flavor," he told her, with a wink, which was glistening
with the tears that were beginning to form. He leaned
up, placing his arms around her, while raising up to
place a loving kiss upon her lips. "I love you. A
thousand times I love you," he told her, as the kiss
broke, before he settled back upon the toilet ... the
only throne he would likely ever rest upon.
There was ice cream in the cone. There was ice cream
in the cone. *There was ice cream in the cone*! Sierra's
eyes widened while her mind caught up with what she was
seeing. "Claudius!" She exclaimed, beginning to laugh
and cry all at the same time. She found his joke to be
hilarious and perverse ... she liked it! The test had
confirmed that Ewwiekewwieikkie's nose did indeed
*know*. Her arms locked around him even tighter. She was
so happy and excited. This was wonderful news! She
squeezed him tightly while kissing him. "I love you. A
thousand times I love you." She sniffed, collecting the
tears at the corners of his eyes. *Another* baby, Sierra
thought. Her heart swooned to think that it had happened
so soon. It only went to show just how much they were
made for each other. Wiping her own tears away, she
began speaking. "I-I'm not done with you today. We have
an important brunch to attend very soon." She told him,
though she did not stop embracing him. The moment was so
happy. She tilted her head down, nuzzling her nose
against his. "What do you think? A girl this time? Or
will it be all boys with us?"
"Hmm," Claudius said, as he brought his hand up to
his chin in a manner similar to Ewwiekewwieikkie. "A
brunch, eh? I could eat..." he said, as he smiled up at
her, now glowing as much as a pregnant woman himself.
"It's a shame neither the test nor her nose is gender
specific. That's a mystery that will remain with us a
little while longer," he said, pouting again, as he
began to reflect on what he wanted. He had already been
blessed with two daughters, and now a son, so he had all
of the bases covered. "Whatever we are blessed with will
be fine for me, but every mother should have a
daughter," he said, as he brought his hand up to brush
his hand across her cheek. Somehow in this moment she
looked even more beautiful.
"Yes. It seems we can't get away from this 'patience'
thing." She groaned. She revealed no further details
about their brunch. Now that she was pregnant, no one
was going to stand between her and food. His smiles were
addictive. She couldn't stop smiling herself. Her heart
was filled with pure joy. "I would love to have a
daughter, but I won't be disappointed if it turns out to
be another boy. We can finally have a 'Cup Rodney' in
the family that way." She teased. Her heart turned into
his hand. She loved his affection. She loved how he made
her feel so *good*. This happiness never would have been
possible for her without him in her life. "Come on." She
said, taking his hand in hers. "I don't want to make our
guest late and we've *still* got to conquer the stairs."
With those words, Sierra whisked him away. There was a
skip in her step. They would spend the rest of the day
happily celebrating the positive pregnancy test but for
now...for now she had something else in mind.
Sierra led her husband out to the garden where a
table had already been set...and someone was there
waiting. They were dressed in the uniform of an Alderaan
Guard, so it was impossible to tell *who* it was until
they were close. A knowing grin burst out on her face
the closer they came to the table. It was wonderful to
see her best friend again: Jelena Rodney.
"Patience? Not one of my family traits," Claudius
told her, as he listened to her suggest the awful name
of 'Cup', which almost assuredly ensured it would one
day come to pass. Up off the toilet she helped, which
would become an increasingly common occurrence as he
continued to age. "Stairs. I had almost forgotten," he
said, as he took her hand and descended the stairs with
her. Into the garden he went where he had so many meals
with his now departed parents, but this day it seemed it
was becoming a break spot for the Alderaan Guard. He was
almost annoyed at their presence before he drew close
and saw it was Jelena. He looked from his daughter to
his wife, knowing that she had been meddling again,
which he thoroughly approved of. He moved towards the
table, slowly, before he came to a stop in front of her.
He was trembling. "Jelena..." he said, being overwhelmed
with such a conflux of emotions that no other words
could find an escape from his throat.
Jelena Rodney had come to Delaya for Marcus and
Zara's ball, once again changing into the disguise of
the Alderaan Guard to blend seamlessly into the castle
staff. If Governor Arundel even suspected she was here
he likely would tear down the castle brick by brick
until he had her in his grasp. When she saw her father
she did not know how to react, as she had just directed
military resources to openly strike against him. She
looked at him, wanting to be angry, but he was still her
father. She swallowed, looking past him and towards
Sierra for assistance. "Father..." she said, matching
his tenor and tone. It seemed this might be a quiet
Sierra tilted her chin towards him. Delaya was the
perfect grounds for them to meet. Bringing Claudius to
New Alderaan wasn't an option. Parading Jelena around
Esseles wasn't either. Since they had not seen each
other in some time, Sierra was sure to arrange a meeting
knowing that Iyah and Mug would be making the trip from
Sierra slowly lowered herself into a seat at the
table. The awkwardness started off thick. Such was being
involved in a family torn by war. Sierra tried to help
the situation along. "It's good to see you on better
circumstances, Jelena." She reached across the table,
squeezing the girl's hand with a single one of her own.
"How are you? Are you being treated well?" Her hand left
her stepdaughter's and roamed back to her husband. It
seemed that they both needed her support today. "We just
got back from taking the girls to Auntie Maeland. You'll
have to stop by our room to see the pictures." She
smiled, "There was one ride with a mechanical Rainbow
Rancor. Ewwiekewwieikkie got so excited that she crawled
out of the boat, swam to the rancor and hugged it. I'd
never seen her smile so big in my life."
Claudius slowly moved towards the table, sitting down
next to Sierra and across from Jelena. He was still
smiling from the news that Sierra was pregnant, which
was magnified now that Jelena was back in the fold. As
Sierra began to speak, he simply leaned forward,
speechless, with a dumb grin plastered upon his face. He
missed her ... so much. There was so much he wanted to
say, but the man who had earned his reputation as a
diplomat suddenly found himself speechless.
Jelena was glad that Sierra was speaking, because
neither he, nor her father was saying more than a word.
"Yes. Who would have thought that Uncle Marcus would
have settled down, found a wife ... younger than us I
might add ... and had *two* children," she said, with a
smile, as she focused entirely on her friend for the
time being. "I'm doing well. Oh ... Auntie Maeland?
Really?" she said, sounding slightly disappointed and
left out, despite the fact that she would never publicly
admit to wanting to go to a child's amusement park.
"There's pictures?" she asked, suddenly sounding more
enthused, as she leaned forward towards Sierra. She
looked to her father, who seemed a little distracted,
but for now she would simply focus on Sierra.
Sierra laughed. "Right? What is she, sixteen? I want
to know where he found her." It was a question she had
never thought to ask. However, given Zara and Marcus'
illegal activities, she imagined that it was the link
between them. Maybe they had worked together. Marcus had
yet to realize what kind of woman he had married. Sierra
would always have bitter feelings towards Zara. She
simply wasn't one of *them*. "Really. We'll find you a
nice hat and you can come next time, okay?" Sierra wore
a knowing smile. It would make a wonderful trip next
time if they could get *all* of the family to come.
"There's so many pictures. I probably shouldn't be
allowed to carry a holocam with me ever again. I
purchased this one souvenir photo..." Sierra said,
calling to mind Beggar's Canyon. "You might want a
copy." She nudged her husband with her elbow gently.
Nothing could take her from the cloud nine that she was
currently seated upon. The day was turning out so good.
She was mindful of not making Jelena uncomfortable when
she laced her fingers with Claudius' and inched closer
so her shoulder rested against his.
"Yes. You should come next time," Claudius said, as
he suddenly found himself blurting out words, albeit
awkward ones. "Ewwiekewwieikkie misses you," he said,
attempting to tug at her heart strings, but the direct
way he delivered it came more as an emotional wrench.
"We went to celebrate the adoption of Melickielickie.
You have a new sister," he told her, quickly, as he was
still a bit out of sorts from the news that Sierra was
pregnant and Jelena was back. He had just delivered her
a one-two punch of fast family facts.
Jelena was just about to throw shade on Zara when her
father *finally* said something more than her name. "She
does?" she asked, sounding a bit upset, as she knew that
her Squib sister could not understand why she was
absent. But before she could even emotionally process
that there was the news that Melickielickie, the young
Squib whom she had met on New Alderaan, had joined the
family. "Oh. I do?" she asked, as suddenly she went from
sad to happy, as her father took her on an emotional
rollercoaster to make up for her missing Auntie Maeland.
"Well, you've all been busy," she said, as she briefly
looked to Sierra. Something was definitely *different*
about her father.
"She does. It would do her a lot of good if you spent
some time with her before you leave. She misses you. No
matter what explanation we give her, none is going to be
good enough." Sierra replied seriously. "She and
Melickielickie have quickly bonded. We also allowed her
to get a miniature bantha. As you can imagine, it makes
life around the estate a little. . . chaotic." By the
tone of her voice, she seemed pleased with that fact.
She and Claudius had lived within the estate alone. It
wasn't right. The news from the morning confirmed that
they'd have children in the house for years longer. She
nervously wondered how Jelena would react to that news.
"Wait a second. You have two Squibs and a Bantha
living with you?" Jelena asked, in a mixture of shock
and disbelief. "Glad I moved out," she said, but quickly
flinched when she realized how it had pained her father.
"Sorry," she said, as she looked down at the table.
"You'll need a lot of shampoo. *A lot*," she said to
Sierra, as she recalled her own experiences Squibsitting
in her youth. "Any word on Drusilla?" she asked, as she
wondered if she had married that Prince after all. In
the past year her family had changed so much.
Claudius flinched when he heard Jelena was glad that
she moved out, but as he reflected it on he understood
why a girl her age would not want to be living with her
parents. "Yes. Two Squibs *and* a bantha," he repeated,
and even he did not know how Sierra managed the
household at this point. And now with an infant, and a
new bay on the way, Sierra was going to need an entire
squad of nanny droids to keep up with everyone. He was
careful not to say anything that could turn this
touching family reunion into an awkward political
encounter. His ears suddenly perked when he heard the
unmistakable sound of Imperial Stormtroopers marching on
the marble floors of the castle ... Governor Arundel and
his entourage had arrived. "You have to go..." he said
to Jelena, before turning his head to Sierra.
"Yeah... Ewwiekewwieikkie suggested we use spoons to
buy a bigger house." Sierra said with a laugh. She
understood why Jelena was glad she moved out, but also
saw how it could hurt Claudius. She squeezed his hand.
"I buy it in bulk these days." The shampoo, that is. The
brunch seemed to be going by as well as it could until a
certain Governor decided to rain on their parade. She
heard the Stormtroopers. Zara had made it known to her
that a stipulation of Claudius being allowed on Delaya
was that *he* was allowed to show up. She hated Papius
Arundel, but, as long as she had her husband, she felt
like he couldn't pick on her. She was concerned about
making sure Jelena was safe. She rose from the table.
"Your father is absolutely right. You *have* to go." She
frowned. Each time they said goodbye, Sierra feared it
would be the last. Her arms wrapped around her friend in
a tight squeeze. "Never forget, we're always here for
you if you need *anything*. I love you."
Jelena sighed when she heard the sound of
Stormtroopers marching through the castle. It was very
painful for her to know that her home was under Imperial
occupation. "I understand, and thank you," she said to
each of them, before she raised her hand to her helmet,
to slide the blast shield down over her head. With that,
she slid away from the table, and began to move back
into hiding until the evening of the ball. She missed
her family, but she felt the Rebellion needed her, or
perhaps ... she needed them. As she brushed past a squad
of Stormtroopers she wanted to cry, but hew time on New
Alderaan had made her strong enough not to.