The dining room that adjoined the gallery in the Rodney quarters had
been carefully prepared for a private dinner between the Admiral and his
wife. His wife and daughters had been excused, placed in the care of
Major Kiley, to allow Claudius the privacy required to work alongside
the serving droids to prepare a romantic meal. Concerned over Htaere's
state following her recent ordeal, he had taken most of the evening off
to orchestrate this night. The lights were dimmed and candles were
glowing upon the small table, which had been set for two. He was
expecting Htaere's return any moment, and the man began frantically
going over the finishing touches of their meal.
The doors of the anteroom yielded to the Hapan heiress, revealing her
usual perfect appearance, save for the new glimmer that had taken
residence in her gaze, a new distant look that hovered in the back of
her perception, not announcing itself, yet not releasing her from its
grip. It was the gaze of someone who knew, someone who had seen, someone
who had been to the other side. She found the room darker then usual as
she shifted into the master suite, looking around curiously, the rainbow
gem in her forehead glowing like a beacon in the obscurity. In her hand
she held a few flowers she had picked from the secret garden still
nestled somewhere in a dark corner of the Imperial Star Destroyer's
hull. She looked around a bit suspiciously before noting the candles on
the dining table.
Claudius emerged from the galley wearing a white apron that seemed
splattered with a variety of sauces. Htaere's entrance had been silent,
and he was caught totally unprepared for her arrival. As he rounded the
corner, he spotted her and an excited expression formed on his face,
accented by a warm and loving smile. "Htaere!" he called out happily,
but instead of rushing to her, he moved to the table with the Alderaan
wine he was carrying. "Come have a seat," he encouraged to her, as he
pulled out the chair in anticipation of her arrival.
Htaere blinked in surprise that Claudius had master-minded all of
this. "Oh wow, Claudius you have done this for us?" she asked, moving
further into the room from her spot near the entrance. She shifted to
the chair he offered, seating herself and smoothing her skirt. "Thank
you" she nodded regarding his impeccable manners.
Claudius moved swiftly away from the table, hurrying to the galley
where he still had finishing touches to prepare. "It will be just a
moment!" he called out from the kitchen as he scrambled to cut all of
her food into bite sized portions to her. Know knives had been placed on
the table, for fear it would remind her of the torture she had been
subjected to. Slipping the apron off, he arrived from the galley once
more with both of her plates. Carefully, he placed the pre-cut meal down
in front of her before moving to his own seat with his own pre-cut food.
"I hope you enjoy this, my love," he informed her, as he sat down in
front of her. It was one of their favorite meals, though it was barely
recognizable in its current form.
Htaere stared at the plate trying to make sense of it before smiling
across the table to her husband for his noble efforts. "Thank you, this
looks fabulous" she said, looking about curiously before standing up and
nudging her chair back a little. "Before I forget, let me get these
flowers in a vase with water so they do not wilt right away" she said.
Claudius stood quickly, his chair toppling over behind him, resulting
in a large *crack* as the Kriin wood collided with the durasteel of the
deckplating. He moved swiftly up behind her and attempted to take the
flowers from her hand, so that he might do it. "No..." he pleaded with
her, as he scanned around for an unused vase. "Please. You need to sit
down and eat your meal..." he explained to her, as he attempted to usher
her back to the table. "I can do this," he reasoned to her with a firm
nod of his worried head.
Somewhat taken aback, Htaere seemed a bit stupefied, but recovered
quickly and smiled at him. "But what of your food Claudius? It will get
cold as well, and you need the full advantage of a hot meal and plenty
of rest more then anyone."
"My dear you must not trouble yourself with such things," Claudius
said, a pleading nature in his voice as he helped her back into her
seat. As he scurried down the corridor to find a vase, he brought it
into the refresher and began to fill it with water. "Please. Eat.
Enjoy!" he reasoned with her from a distance as he put her flowers on
display. "I think they look lovely," he announced as he set them on the
table in front of them. His attention then shifted towards the Alderaan
wine, pouring her a glass while continuing to fret over her.
Htaere exhaled deeply but managed a smile. She went about looking for
her eating utensil. Sampling the first bite, her perfect lips arched
upwards in a grin. "It is delicious Claudius. Good show" she stated.
"Please, sit down and let us eat" she motioned to his chair, empty as it
was since he was all around the room at once.
Claudius had yet to take a single bite of his meal, instead choosing
to focus entirely on Htaere and her comfort. Gently, he took a seat
opposite her, and using but a single fork he began to sample portions of
the meal. It was quite good, the quality of the food enhanced by the
satisfaction of knowing he had played a part in its cooking. "Are these
from the garden?" he asked, making much needed small talk as his
attention temporarily shifted to the flowers.
"Yes, the one you created" she answered rather pleased, remembering
the night he'd unveiled it. "This meal is very kind of you. You have
outdone yourself" she smiled across the table, taking a sip of the
As the meal was finished, Claudius rose from the table and moved to
collect her plate. "Please. Take a moment to rest, while I turn these
over to the droids..." he said to her as he busied himself with the task
of clearing the table. His eyes shifted over her carefully, watching her
facial features for any form of strain. He worried so much about her
lately, and it had affected his ability to perform his duty. As he
hurried toward the kitchen, he deposited the plates and took a moment to
catch his breath.
The pleasant look to Htaere's childlike visage wavered, giving way to
dismay. "Claudius, you must rest. You are overdoing it" she called
towards him, hoping he chose to listen though out of view.
Claudius returned from the galley after collecting himself, forcing a
content smile onto his venerable visage as he once again sat across from
her at the table. He lowered his head slightly, unsure about how to
handle the next part of his meal. Slowly he produced two capsules from
the interior of his trouser's pocket and slid them across the table to
her. "Please take these, my dear..." he encouraged her, without going
into much detail. "Doctor Tohan feels they will help you sleep," he
explained, though deliberately withheld they were designed for someone
suffering from post traumatic stress, rather than simple insomnia.
Htaere regarded the capsules with a noticeable frown. Her saddened
eyes looked up to Claudius from the table. "I am not happy about taking
medicine. I do not want to, I told you this the other night" she said,
looking a little hurt.
Claudius' face sunk visibly as she commented on the pills, and he
immediately scrambled to find a solution. "I am sorry, Htaere," he
admitted as he began to fidget, somewhat uncomfortable with where the
conversation was headed. "Doctor Tohan was concerned about your
sleepless nights and we thought perhaps if you took a calming agent you
might sleep more soundly..." he reasoned with her slowly, his face
eventually returning to make eye contact with her, a hopeful look in his
Htaere sighed, eyes dropping to the table in front of her.
"Claudius..." she shook her head, exhaling deeply, "...people are
suffering as I did at all times. You fault me for not being able to
sleep, but how is it that you 'can' sleep when such things are happening
habitually" she said quietly, her eyes darkening with the distant stare
she'd come to adopt.
Claudius was not pleased with the tenore of the conversation and he
slowly raised from his seated position at the table. "Major Zevrin is in
the minority..." he explained to her, trying to fool himself in addition
to her. He turned his back and allowed his head to sink slightly, his
chin coming to rest upon his chest. "I assure you they are not all like
that..." he continued, as he sought out a comfortable chair adjacent
living room. "...only quite a few in fact," he added, naively as he sat
down on the plush sofa.
Htaere got up, following after him and remaining standing. She
regarded him keenly. She did not answer Claudius, unwilling to counter
him in a discussion, but unable to swallow something that she did not
truly believe. Something in her had to an extent been voided out of
existence, a part of her naïveté was gone. In it's place lurked a
measure of doubt, of darkness, of terror. She had experienced it. She
simply found herself unable to choke down Claudius' assurances.
Claudius' looked over his shoulder at Htaere and he tried his best to
continue to reassure her. "I have had Major Zevrin arrested for her
crimes against you..." he explained, nodding his head in affirmation. As
his focus had been on Htaere the past several days he had been oblivious
to the fact that the Grand Vizier had intervened and had her released.
"What she did to you..." he began, starting to feel slightly choked up
by it all. "...that was not the Imperial way," he explained, unaware
that it was and that in fact he was the one who was not behaving in the
manner of true Imperials.
Again Htaere said nothing, instead forcing a patient grin she nodded
to him. "I should retire" she said quietly, turning towards the bedroom,
disappearing into the fresher for her shower. There was little she could
say that would not draw out this discussion and still have no
improvement on outcome. Rather then indulge Claudius on her experiences
only to have them puffer away with delusion, she made a tactical retreat
to regather her thoughts.
Claudius continued leaving their quarters to seek out a bottle of
alcohol to numb his nerves, but he remembered his promise following the
incident with Major Kiley. Letting out a sigh he slowly moved towards
their quarters, stripping himself of his uniform before sitting down on
the edge of his bed. His eyes slowly rolled towards the refresher,
listening to Htaere freshen up. He swallowed in defeat, looking down at
the floor as his feet hung off the bed.
Htaere finished her shower, emerging clean and glowing. The wave of
heat from the warmth and humidity carried with it the floral and citrus
fragrance of her body wash and conditioner, pouring it out into the room
for all present to detect. Her lean youthful figure was silhouetted
beneath a chemise night gown with beaded straps and an empire waist. Her
hair was still wet, spilling down her back and shoulders, nearly
straight beneath the weight of the water on such lengthy locks.
Claudius sighed as he passed her, moving into the recently used
refresher without saying so much as a word. Tiredly he began the process
that would clean himself, though he did not perform the task as
meticulously as his wife. Taking half the time she did, he soon returned
to the bedroom, where he moved towards a chair rather than the bed. He
was not sure how to reason with her, nor how to convince her that the
Galactic Empire represented peace and justice in the galaxy.
Htaere finished brushing out her red-gold tendrils before moving to
the balcony, breathing deeply the refreshing night gusts as they rushed
over her face, kissing her cheeks and chin as each one passed. Unable to
see beyond whatever light spilled out across the balcony, save for the
brightest points of light that dotted the horizon, representing major
buildings or topographical points, Htaere still enjoyed the clean
coolness of the night air.
Claudius looked towards her for a moment, considering pursuit, but
his tactical senses convinced him that it was a battle he could not win.
While attending university, he was once taught the discretion was the
better part of valor, and silently he retreated to the bed. "Good night,
Htaere," he said in a normal tone of voice, rather than raising it to
ensure that she would easily hear it at a distance. As he dimmed the
light, he slipped beneath the sheet and wasted no time in attempting to
get some rest. As she did not take the medicine, he fully expected to be
awoken throughout the night once more.
Htaere finished brushing her fingers through her hair before joining Claudius in
bed. She slipped beneath the sheets as well, stretching out and wriggling down
into the mattress to get comfortable. "Good night Claudius" she quipped in
response. "Thank you again for your excellent dinner."