Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:1:15) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Medcenter).
Duke Julius Rodney, Duchess Livia Rodney, Lord Marcus Rodney, and Lady Zara Rodney.

The very last thing that Zara Rodney wanted to do was deliver another bit of potentially devastating news to her father-in-law. The man was living on borrowed time...still, she felt confident in her and Marcus' decision to turn down becoming Duke and Duchess. Her decision was only solidified once she and her husband made it into the city. Paparazzi were hungry for new pictures of the couple, as well as Zara's baby bump. She couldn't believe how fast people found them. How had Marcus lived like this?! If he wasn't a strong bounty hunter, she wouldn't feel comfortable letting weird, crazed reporters so close...but, Marcus was like the ultimate bodyguard. She knew that her and Darrus were safe with him there.

The skies were grey. Rain let loose the very same moment Delaya's number one couple reached the Medcenter. Zara's hand naturally slipped into her husband's while they made their way through the corridors to the private sector of the center. She was beginning to feel like they'd been here too many times. The smell of death wafted through the walls. She wondered what state Julius would be in today, even though they had seen him several days ago. Much to her surprise, she found Livia planted on a bench outside of her husband's suite. She was holding a glass of wine, much to the nurses' disapproval. Even she had aged since Zara had last seen the woman. They hadn't visited with her when they gave Julius the big news. She wondered if Livia was waiting for them or not. Again, she squeezed his hand. Her feet approached her mother-in-law without much of a choice. She had no gifts for the woman, nor did she bring anything to soften the blow that she was about to give Julius. Zara didn't smile at the woman. Instead, she looked concerned. "Livia, are you okay?"

Livia had been drinking the *good stuff* and it showed. There was a rose color in her cheeks, a glossiness to her ears, and a slur in her speech when she finally spoke. "Zara!" she said, perhaps more cheerfully than she had ever said to another woman in her entire life. She lurched forward, wrapping her decrepit old arms around her in a weak embrace, in which most of her body weight was placed upon Zara as she rested. "My husband is calling you the savior of the family," she said, as she turned to place a diplomatic kiss upon her cheek, the stench of the wine proceeding the peck. "Let me offer my congratulations..." she said, as he pulled back to look at the young woman with her iconic violet eyes. "...and let me ask for your forgiveness for the way I judged you and previously wronged you, daughter," she said, as her long finger nailed pressed into her back, for without holding onto Zara she surely would have fallen over.

Marcus allowed Zara to go first. Without her he would never have even come here ... he would have been the coward and transmitted his rejection of the throne via courier. As he watched his wife move towards his drunken mother ... something every son feared ... he stopped in his tracks and watched from a distance. Any distraction that put off his confrontation with his father was a good one, in his mind. He smiled towards his mother, offering a polite nod, but it went without notice as all of her focus seemed to be on Zara. If only she had been this welcoming in the beginning, but he suspected she was only acting that way because of the news that she was carrying a son had become public.

You could smell Livia from a mile away. The woman was massively hammered. Zara wanted to know what she was drinking so she could bring her three more glasses in preparation for what was to come. The interaction between them was different from any previous meeting. The sight of Livia always raised Zara's hackles, only now the woman was acting so sweet to her. It had to have been a combination of the news and the fact that there was more alcohol in her blood than anything else. She wasn't ready for the added weight of the frail woman, who embraced her like Zara was her best friend. The silver-haired woman wrapped her arms around Livia and steadied herself. Her stomach twitched. The *savior* of the family? She laughed dryly, "*Really*? That's a lot to swallow..." She tried to remain respectful , kissing the woman's cheeks quickly. Marcus was lucky! She gave him a look of panic, stuck holding up Livia. The woman even apologized to her! Zara began to feel a little guilty that she was about to make Livia hate her forever. "I-It's okay. You were trying to protect Marcus... and so was I." Her back straightened to Livia's nail. *Owwww*. "We came to visit with Julius. Do you know if he's awake and able to see us?"

Livia let out a deflating sigh, backing off Zara, and returning to the plush loveseat that had been brought from the palace for her to sit on more comfortably. "You are the savior of the family, Zara. And, as I am told, perhaps one day the savior of the planet," she said, before laying back slightly, raising her weary legs that were experiencing circulatory issues because of her age and alcoholism. "Of course he'll see you. He had spoken of nothing but you since your last visit," she said, before bringing the glass of wine back to her lips and drinking it faster than anyone ought to. "Go and see him, daughter. It will raise his spirits," she said, lifting her head as best she could to offer a smile. Her head then slumped down slightly as she did her best to rest ... this had all been a lot for her to deal with.

Marcus had slowly moved towards Zara, as if we were a glacier slowly making its way south from the chalet towards Leiliani. He placed a reassuring hand up Zara's back, as he pressed her to his side. "You should return to the palace, mother," he suggested, as a way of clearing her away from the medcenter when they informed his father that he would *not* be succeeding him as Duke. Unfortunately, she had drifted off into a soft slumber, which would result in her still being here when the news broke. With his own sigh, he began to lead Zara into the medical suite where his father resided. He had a bad feeling about this.

Zara wasn't a cold hearted person. Her feelings on Julius and Livia were complex. She wouldn't say she necessarily hated them, nor would she claim she loved them. However, she did take care of Livia by making sure she made it into the loveseat without injuring herself. She took a step back, the *savior* of Delaya, and watched Livia in horror. At this point, a lot of people were looking for her to do the right thing. For those who were not Marcus or Zara, the right decision was to take power in Delaya. She could keep the Rodney family from losing the throne. Livia, single-handedly, made Zara regret her decision to come here. Her features looked sickly within minutes. "T-thank you. Please take care of yourself, Livia." Raise his spirits before sending them shattering on the ground sounded *great*. She wasn't entirely sure Livia ever heard her words, for she had fallen into a drunken slumber right in the chair.

She needed the support that her husband provided her. They both shared the weight of the decision. They both needed each other's support to survive. Zara leaned into him, placing a single kiss on his cheek to soothe him. This was happening, like it or not. Duke Marcus was not happening...right? Julius seemed to continuously degrade. He lay, awake in his bed, looking happy and exhausted. His eyes seemed to twinkle when they landed on Zara's swelling belly. Her and Marcus came secondary to the newest addition of the Rodney family. "Julius," she croaked. As much as she didn't want to be close to him, the only chair that wasn't occupied with empty wine bottles, from Livia, was the one right at his bedside. She collapsed there, unable to face what she was about to do. She took his hand, kissing it once, then let it go. "How are you feeling today?" What if he died? His body was so frail. It looked like he'd lost weight rapidly while diminishing in the hospital. At this point, everyone was only trying to make him feel comfortable in his last days.

The moment Marcus and Zara entered Julius' suite, the heart rate monitors began to elevate, as it began to increase to a healthy rate from the excitement of her presence. "I am so glad you've returned!" he said, the color in his face looking much better as he turned his head towards them. He tried to sit up, but he failed, and had to resign himself to the fact that he would have to have this discussion laying down. "I ... I have news..." he said, sounding weaker from the recent exertion. "The prime minister believes Claudius and his line can be passed over in the line of succession, as he has failed to produce a male heir, in favor of another sibling who has," he informed them, sounding quite pleased, and giving them the most cheerful of smiles either of them had ever seen from him, despite his condition. "It is an older provision that has never been used, but I will convene the government to enact it, and name you my heirs," he said, before coughing so heavily he nearly turned blue in the face from a lack of oxygen.

This had gone too far, Marcus thought to himself, as he gave Zara's hand a reassuring squeeze that was perhaps a bit *too* firm. Unlike her, he did not sit, but instead remaining standing at her side, never letting go of her, as if his grip upon here hand were the only thing keeping him from being cast off into oblivion. "Father, I'm afraid that just won't be possible," he said, as he looked towards the floor, rather than his father, as he simply could not bare to look at him. "Zara and I have discussed the situation and we still feel that our lives ... and the lives of our son ... are not meant for this path," he said, his voice cracking, and tears beginning to flow. "Let Claudius succeed you, and then Jelena or Drusilla succeed him," he reasoned, not caring whatsoever if another noble from another world came in and married Jelena or Drusilla and their title passed to another House. "Or, if not Claudius, let cousin Gaius have it. We all know he covets it, and he's marrying that Kuati woman, who may yet produce a son. It would not be *our* line, but it still would be a Rodney," he again reasoned, before feeling his knees buckle, which prompted him to finally sit down beside his wife, but keeping her between him and his father.

The news that Marcus and Zara had declined to succeed him pained him in a way he never thought possible. When Marcus shied from the duty last month it was different, now he was doing it after declaring he had produced a male heir. He felt more betrayed than he could ever remembered and he began hyperventilating a result. His blood oxygen fell from the mid-90s to the mid-70s in moments, causing alarms to sound, and medical staff to run in. An oxygen mask quickly found its way onto him, stabilizing the numbers, but not his mood. The doctors glared at the young couple, making note then whenever they were around this seemed to happen. One of the nurses even speculated that they were *trying* to kill him so that they could take the title sooner.

Ooooh *no*. He was acting so lively and excited for the two of them. Julius seemed to be speaking so rapidly that all Zara could hear was the sounds of his words, not exactly what he was saying. It took her brain time to process everything. Julius had lined them up to succeed the royal line. The man seemed so sure that they would say yes. It was like some Disney fantasy come true, right? Zara would be a wonderful little Duchess and Marcus, handsome Marcus, he'd make a great Duke. Her opposition to the idea still continued on while she let images of her, Marcus, and Darrus play in her head. She could see her list of cons and why she had decided no. Even if it hurt Julius, she had to remain strong. This wasn't about the old man anymore. It was about her family. However, she couldn't manage to say the words. Her mouth didn't work right. She was monetarily stunned by everything happening. Like so many other situations in her recent life, she wouldn't have made it through it without her husband. They were a power couple together...just not the kind Julius hungered for.

Her hand fell away from the old man's. It rested over her stomach, which was beginning to feel increasingly sick. She, too, was holding onto Marcus for fear of drifting away. Every difficult word that passed through his lips were ones that she stood by. Claudius was carved for it, even though he wasn't anyone's number one choice. If he could have kept himself away from the Empire, this decision would have never fallen to the couple's shoulders. Her head nodded slowly. Give it to Gaius. Give it to Jelena. Hell, Drusilla sounded good too. Any of them were *not* her and Marcus. She clung to him harder now that he sat at her side. It seemed like neither could keep it together...then something horrible happened... Julius began to slip.

There was chaotic, erratic beeping all around them. Panic surged through the air. Like last time, Zara's mind immediately shot to the first horrible thought: he was dying. Only this time, it really seemed like he was. Medical staff crowded in the room while his blood oxygen fell rapidly. The heart monitor was all over the place. Zara, still clutching her husband's hand, found that something absolutely insane happened at that very moment. She grabbed Julius' hand. Was she crying? She sure thought she might be! Everything was exploding before her. In a desperate, stupid, *stupid* attempt to save the old man, she said something you couldn't have paid her to say. "We'll do it!" She gasped, "We'll be your heirs!" Even Zara, who had spoken the words, looked horrified when they came out of her mouth. Whisked up in one insane moment, she had sealed their family's fate.

When Julius began to fail, Marcus worried if they were about to witness his death, and considered whether he should attempt to rouse his drunken mother. He hesitated, frozen with fear and anxiety, when the words he never expected to hear escape Zara's luscious lips filled the air. "We'll do it?" he said, quietly, questioning Zara, but speaking low enough that his father would not hear. His arms moved around Zara, holding her tight, and placing a reassuring kiss upon her neck. "I will be with you for all time, Zara, whether he walk the path of princes or paupers," he assured her, holding her dearly, while his eyes rested upon his fading father. Would this be how it ended for him? Before Zara he expected to die on a hunt, but now he imagined this life, with Zara and Darrus with him, though with her not *quite* so drunk as his mother.

When Julius heard the words that he longed for hear his vitals predictable stabilized, but the doctors did not remove the breath mask. He could not speak effectively because of it, but his wide smile was visible beneath it. He brought his wrinkled, rough hand to reach for Zara's wrist, coming to rest upon it. A single tear flowed down his right cheek, before plummeting to the pillow that propped up his weary head. She had done it. She had saved the work of his family that went back nearly a millennia. His son, who had once brought him shame with his lifetime had poor decisions, had erased his past by making the wisest decision of all ... choosing the incomparable Zara as his wife.

Where had that come from? What was she saying? Why did she say that? Zara's little body began to shake like a leaf. She was still shuddering when Marcus placed his arms around her. In return, she cling to him like she was going to drown if she let go. Circumstances had caused her to ruin their lives and now, as she clung to her husband, tears streamed down her face. He didn't shun her or yell at her for ripping their decision in two. He wasn't aggressive towards her in any way. He spoke the sweetest of words to reassure her that she wasn't a horrible person for dashing to save his father. How did she honestly deserve him? "M-Marcus..." She whimpered. Behind her, Julius walked away from the afterlife. It seemed like it was all an elaborate rouse just to get the two Rodneys to agree. She could feel him grasping her wrist. She looked towards him. He was smiling and tearing up. This was all he had ever wanted, handed to him on a silver platter...or, by a silver haired woman. Zara felt like she couldn't stand. Her knees buckled against each other uneasily. "Ohmygod." She whispered into Marcus' ear. She clung to him, desperately rising to her feet. She wanted to get out of the suite. In fact, the chalet seemed like the perfect place to hide. "*I love you*." She said sadly to him. "I'm sorry...." She spoke quietly with her head down while they escaped the mess Zara had set in motion. "I was scared...he started to slip...I didn't want to kill him." Her explanation was choppy and all over the place.

"You never have to apologize to me, Zara," Marcus said confidently, as he led her from the medcenter into the swarm of media, adoring fans, and protesting refugees that had converged outside. He did his best to shield her from it all, and was quick to get her into the speeder. From the time they stood in Julius suite to the time they settled into the speeder he never let go of her. By the time they were speeding off to the spaceport where they would take the Nerf Herder back to their chalet, the news had broke that the government was convening to exclude Claudius, Jelena, and Drusilla from the succession in favor of Marcus and the son that was expected. He did not care about that now, despite the cheers that were going up along their route through the city. Fireworks were even shot off by some overzealous citizens who felt Delaya was on the verge of a new age. Whether he were a Duke or a ditch digger he would always love Zara and support her in whatever path she wanted for him and their children.

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