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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:10:27) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Marcus Rodney's chalet).
Lord Marcus Rodney and Lady Zara Rodney.

Marcus lay in bed next to his wife, staring up at the ceiling, watching the moonlight dance across the surface. He could not fall asleep, as there was too much on his mind. Once he was fairly confident that Zara was asleep, he did his best to quietly slide from the bed and tip toe out of the room. He made his way down the corridor passed the nursery, descending the stairs to where he might access the HoloNet terminal. His bank accounts had been frozen, and news had come that he had been disinherited ... if he was going to support his family he was going to have to work. He knew she would worry about him, perhaps not want him to do it ... or even worse want to come with him and help, but he could not allow her to given her condition. And so he activated the terminal and began to scan over the list of active bounties, including the more lucrative contracts that were more akin to assassination than bounty hunting. His desire to care for the ones he loved was beginning to eclipse his own sense of strong morals and just work. The outer rim was bustling with rival crime lords and despots needing all sorts of killings done, who paid far more than core world judiciary forces seeking the capture of criminals and murderers. He had never wanted to become one of those outer rim thugs working for a Hutt, but given the amount of zeroes that flashed upon the screen he was beginning to understand why some did.

Like Marcus, Zara was having a hard time sleeping. For her, it was a comfort problem over anything else. Her tummy continued to swell with their child. As a person who preferred to sleep on her stomach, the new positions she had to take up felt awkward. She squirmed in bed until she thought she might be keeping her husband up, so she forced herself to stay still. She looked convincingly asleep when he rose. She felt the bed shift. From the corner of her eye, she sneaked a glimpse at him leaving the room. Since it was unusual behavior for him, Zara was instantly suspicious. She didn't suspect the normal things. Marcus wasn't a cheater. Zara didn't know quite what her husband could be up to. After a minute had passed, she, too, snuck out of bed quietly.

It was difficult to conquer the stairs so quietly, yet she did just that. She caught up with Marcus where he privately accessed the HoloNet. She was silent, collecting information before she made her presence noticeable. What she saw made her sad; he was stressing out over finances. A voice in her head prodded her to go down to see the old Duke and throw her weight around. Marcus was still a Rodney and he had dealt with Julius for too many years. When she overcame hormonal urges, she continued to watch him. She understood that him bounty hunting might be essential to them gaining financial stability. She had taken some jobs at home. Not all jobs required her to physically be there. Information had its own price tag. It seemed natural to rely on their illegal skills to survive, yet he was taking it too far. He was looking into killing for money. There was a vast land of difference between capturing live bounty and bringing lifeless bodies for payment. She worried that it would change Marcus in the worst of ways. Zara wasn't going to lose her husband to that. She was going to give voice to the morals that had kept him from becoming scum.

Moving in silence, Zara crossed the room towards him. She showcased her expert thieving skills as she seemed to come out of nowhere. "Marcus," she called out to him, making herself known just before she rudely boarded his lap. You see, this was an excellent technique to force him to stay put. He wouldn't want to shove her off because of her *condition*. "What are you doing?"

"Ugh!" Marcus screamed in fear as Zara had successfully started him, having believed her to have been completely asleep. His skills at stealth were not as developed as hers, and he begrudgingly realized he must have awoken her. His hand instinctively went to the side of the terminal to turn off the display so that she could not see what he was up to. "I'm sorry if I woke you," he said, just as she plopped down on his lap, causing him to utter a small groan ... she was getting heavier by the day, and therefore more difficult to physically support. "I was just checking the HoloNet ... seeing how my father was doing ... making sure my niece hasn't gotten into any trouble," he said, but in the way his eyes were moving and his voice sounded she would easily be able to tell he was making it up as he went along. He was not a very good liar, especially not to one who had been so close to him these past months. He offered her the best smile he could muster at the moment, which was not very effective given his mental state of affairs.

Eek! Zara didn't think she'd make him scream like that. She suddenly felt like a jerk for scaring him so bad. However, it wasn't enough to stop her from anchoring him to his seat with her body weight, which, by the way, she had become more aware of. She wasn't so light on her feet anymore. He had made a desperate (and pretty good) attempt to hide what he was up to. He should have known better. Several minutes at the terminal and she'd have reviewed all the same thing he had. Technology was her thing. He simply wasn't going to win. "You didn't wake me. I was having a hard time getting comfortable. I suppose that comes with the territory though, right?" She listened to his futile attempts to cover his tracks. While Drusilla was interesting to the point where even Zara occasionally looked her up, she knew it wasn't about that. She'd seen. His feinted happiness wasn't enough to sway her either. She knew better. "Mhmm..." She nodded her head slowly with clear disbelief. Her small hands took up residence on his shoulders. She began to rub him slowly. "I know you too well, Marcus. I saw what you were up to." Zara leaned forward. She kissed his forehead a single time. "I don't want you to go down that path. You're too good of a person. It will rip you up and chew you out. No amount of credits is worth that. We need to talk about this. It isn't a burden you hold alone."

Marcus let out a deep breath that seemed to deflate him, causing his head to lower until his forehead impacted with his shoulder. His arms raised, wrapping around her back, until he held her in a long embrace. "I love you, Zara, but we need credits," he said to her, his voice muffled by its close proximity to her chest. Without raising his head, he lifted his hand back up to power the terminal's monitor back up. His feet kicked at the floor until the chair spun around so that his back was to it, and she was now facing it. "There are several Hutts offering more credits than I've ever seen for a single job," he admitted to her, as the details flashed upon the screen. All of the jobs were rather ruthless and cold blooded ... petty assassinations over gang territory and personal slights. He had never taken a contract like that ... never even considered one before, but back then he had access to the family accounts, and now he was broke. Their situation had changed the lengths he would go to in order to provide for Zara and the unborn Darrus. He no longer had the luxury of morality.

Her head turned so she could nip at his cheek. Zara fully intended to drag the man she loved back off of the edge and into a place where he could be happier. He explained the necessity for credits, one which she was entirely aware of. The swiveling chair offered her a better view at the screen than the sneaky one she had taken previously. Her blue eyes took in all the information. Yes, she was flabbergasted by the payouts on some of these jobs. The bounty hunting side of things was new to her. She didn't think she had the kind of strength needed to bring in bounties without getting seriously hurt. Assassination was different. The information presented to her didn't make her happy. She wasn't going to allow it. After staring at the screen for minutes, Zara settled herself back into his lap. "There's a good bounty posted by some Wookie named Do'ph Colsan. Take that job, not the assassin ones posted by Hutts. It's sticky business and we both know it. You do one job; they'll contract you for more until you're so far in that you can't see the way out. I realize credits are important, but you aren't alone. I can make them too. Remember? We're kinda in this together now." Her voice was soft and soothing.

Marcus' feet again kicked on the floor to turn the chair around, this time stopping when both of their sides were to the screen. Now that it was easy for both of them to look at the screen at the same time, he examined the bounty that had been placed by the Wookiee. "It does not pay as much as the Hutts, but at least it seems to be more honorable work..." he said to her, as he studied the contract in detail. There was an internal debate going on in his head as to whether or not to take the quick and easy payday from the dishonorable Hutts, or take difficult, lower paying contracts from legitimate sources. His eyes turned to examine Zara, realizing that she did not want him to sully his reputation with murder for hire work. "All right. You win ... you always win," he said, winking at her, before darting his face forward to plant a kiss upon her lips. At the same time, his hand surged forward to press the button on the terminal that would inform the client he was accepting the contract.

Zara watched him look at the screen. The price difference was noticeable. A life was worth more dead than alive, apparently. "Mhm. Poopoo on that Hutt job. I'll take some hacker jobs and we'll make that much. It isn't a big deal." Team Zarcus was going to crawl out of their hole together. Zara felt bad that she hadn't noticed the stress weighing down on him without her there to help chase away the demons and hold it up. She looked happy when he flew in the towel without much persuasion from his wife. You have to understand; Zara is hard headed. She'll die fighting for whatever she thinks is seen in the case of Julius. She kissed him back. Behind her back, she could feel him accepting the job. That brought up the next question: would she come with him? Yes, was the proper answer, yet convincing him as such was going to be difficult. Her legs squeezed his. "When are we leaving?" She asked him at the end of their loving kiss. "You can't leave me all alone here with Sir Tentacles." Zara had leverage. The fact that Marcus was overprotective worked as an advantage...and a disadvantage.

Marcus looked relieved that everything was out in the open between them, but his face quickly grew concerned once he realized that she was suggesting she go. "*We*?" he asked, tilting his head to the side as he considered the notion of his pregnant wife accompanying him into the field. "Zara, honey..." he said, his voice nearly stammering, as he could easily foresee her pending objections. "Zara you can't go. You're pregnant. If anything were to happen..." he said to her, his eyes almost immediately breaking contact with hers, and instead choosing to focus on the floor. He grimaced slightly, his jaw clenching as he became uncomfortable. He knew she would ultimately end up convincing him to let her go ... he was powerless against her.

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