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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:5:33) in the Essesia system: Esseles (Nurrale: Togatto Speedway).
Grand Moff Claudius Rodney and Major Sierra Rodney.

Claudius Rodney found himself at the Togatto Speedway, a podracing arena, in the tropical city of Nurrale on the planet Esseles. He had been brought there by his wife, Sierra, to celebrate their anniversary. The arena was filled with classic speeders and pod racers going back centuries, and enthusiasts from across the Empire had come to see them, and watch them race. Given how many people were in attendance, it made for a difficult protection detail for the Stormtroopers assigned to protect the Grand Moff and his wife. The crowd was none too pleased with their appearance, as the Stormtroopers made for an unpleasant sight and had a heavy hand in *everything*. Claudius was much too enthused with getting to see the old speeders and racers that he was oblivious to what was going on. "Look at this, my dear," he said, as he clutched Sierra's arm, leading her around as if he was Ewwiekewwieikkie at Auntie Mae's.

From the first moment Sierra saw an advertisement for the speeder show, she *knew* she had to get tickets. It seemed like something her husband had enjoyed...and boy was she right! Like many women, she didn't know a lot about speeders and pod racers. She determined if she liked them by how they looked ... and how fast they could go! Even the Stormtroopers had moved to the back of her mind once Claudius had begun getting excited. That excitement transferred onto her, and suddenly they were moving through the crowd to look at a speeder that was a full century old. It was painted cherry red. Even she had to admit that the classic speeders looked much better than the younger ones ... just like her husband. Her hand squeezed his. "Tell me about this one!" She exclaimed. "It's so pretty." And sleek too. She could imagine Claudius and Bruce taking on a fixer-upper project.

"This one here?" Claudius asked, with a glowing, boyish smile on his face as he moved towards the pod racer she had identified. "This one was raced to victory by Ben Quadinaros on Baroonda about 20 years ago," he explained, as he moved her closer towards it. However, in doing so, it had results in the Stormtroopers moving others out of the way so that they could not get close to the couple. "I thought about being a pod racer when I was young," he explained, as he knelt down next to it for a closer look. "But mother wouldn't allow it, *of course*," he said, rolling his eyes and laughing slightly. "Marcus ... the *spare* ... got to have all the adventures. No one cared much what happened to him," he explained, with a boisterous laugh, before rising back up next to her. "I am having a wonderful time. Thank you ... thank you so much for this," before he leaned into her, placing a gentle, fit for public, kiss upon her.

Though her mother had always deemed it 'unladylike', Sierra enjoyed watching pod races. "Goodness. I bet it can move." She made a mental note to look up some videos on the HoloNet so she could relieve the win, because this thing was a damn beauty. She inched closer, looking over the extensive pilot pod and all of its gidgets. A wide smile popped up on her face as he confessed to wanting to be a pod racer in his younger years. It drew a gentle laugh from her lips. "You're kidding me." She looked down at him. "*I* wanted to be a pod racer when I was younger. I recall seeing Oolan Oblong winning the Five Sabers tournament on Theron. It was such a close race." She laughed again, pondering if that pod racer was amongst all the others. "That dream didn't last long. I got some people together and rigged up a ghetto pod racer. I had to have made it like thirty feet and then one of the Steelton cables broke off and I lost the engine in a lake. Wopps." She could certainly imagine Livia being livid at the aspect of Claudius wanting to pod race. The visual made her laugh again. She kissed him, very modestly, all the while feeling her happiness build inside. "It's my pleasure, my love. Believe it or not.. I'm enjoying myself too." She winked. Her hand took his once more, this time she pulled him towards a different pod racer.

Claudius listened to her story intently, reacting to every word, before finally have a good chuckle at how things turned out. "We're not going to let *our* son race either," he declared to her, with a firm nod of his head. He was not about to let his son have any of the fun he had been denied when he was young. One of the joys of parenthood was depriving children of all the things they had been deprived of. "Look over here," he said, as he moved past the current racer and moved into some of the hot rod style speeders that had been brought in. But as he looked past them he saw the most obnoxious sight he had ever seen ... there was a seemingly endless line for the Auntie Mae's concession. He rolled his eyes as the hapless people attending the show were gobbling up the delights his brother and sister-in-law made famous. "Some people..." he muttered, before clutching his wife's hand and moving past it all.

"That's right. It's much too dangerous." Sierra grinned, fully ready to deny the boy simply because Claudius had been deprived of it too. It also was a dangerous sport! Her attention shifted as they moved onto hot rod style speeders, complete with various flame art on the sides. When she lifted her head, she noticed that there was a line of people standing around. What was over there? Was it cool? It was... It was... Auntie Mae's! Sierra saw the sign, distinct logo and all, above Auntie Mae's concessions. "That woman is everywhere..." She whispered, quickly bypassing all the mess the concession stand created. She looked down a line of various old school speeders, stopping in front of a hotrod that was painted in a chrome blue. She leaned against him. "The concession means less people looking at the speeders. That's nice." Sierra placed a kiss on his chin. "What's your dream speeder? Is it one of the ones that's here?"

Claudius had wanted to explore legal options against Auntie Mae for profiting off his family, but the fact that his brother was a public figure who, until recently, made a spectacle of himself made a victory seem improbable. And, if he did win, it was Marcus and Zara who were the aggrieved parties. His dream of using the ice cream fortune to fund Drusilla's pursuits would have to unfulfilled. When she asked him the question he was brought back into reality, his contempt for Auntie Mae momentarily subsided. "When I was in the Senate I wanted an XJ-2, but enlisted in the Navy before I acquired one," he explained, as his eyes looked skyward in fond remembrance of the past. "Senator Organa had one at one point," he added, sounding more than a little jealous.

One day, it would be Sierra who fell into the limelight of Auntie Mae's. It seemed her new adoration for pudding had yet to be discovered. Auntie Mae was too busy targeting Zara and Marcus. She snickered. An XJ-2, she should have guessed. One of those in the cherry red of the first racer they'd looked at would be beautiful. Sierra tucked the information away in her memory banks. She could hear the jealousy in her husband's voice, which made her giggle. She squeezed his hand. "Well, maybe if you're good, someday you'll have one." A point in favor of Claudius since he was better than good. Though, if she could ever make that surprise happen it would have to be done incredibly secretly. With her hand in his, she led him to some seating provided for guests. In attempts to become more aware of her body, she gave into it when it told her to rest. She sat, grinning. "You know, you bringing up the Senate reminds me of how much I don't know about that part of your life. You already basically know everything about me, so tell me more." She could only imagine that he was one hell of a representative in the Senate.

"Perhaps as a retirement present when the Rebellion is defeated, peace is brought to the galaxy, and we can all go home," Claudius suggested, as his attention shifted back to his wife. It was a lovely, but naive thought on the old man's mind. At his age he never refused a seat, so that when she led him to a seating area he was pleased to rest his feet. He even made an 'old man noise' when he sat himself down, in the shade. "I started in the diplomatic corps straight out of University It didn't hurt that I was the son of the Duke," he said, with a soft laugh, as even he had his Drusilla moments. "I was assigned to Ithor where I first met Pilaq, and then Skor II where I met Ewwiekewwieikkie's family," he explained, with a sigh, as the image of the day he found them dead at the hand of the Separatists was still with him. "Following that I was appointed to the Alderaan Sector's Senatorial delegation, under Bail Organa. I was officially Delegate of Delaya, although I didn't hold the position long," he explained, deliberately skirting over the punitive legislation that he sponsored that, among other things, destroyed Kerrie's family's business. "The war began and I didn't want to spend it in the Senate, so I joined the Royal Alderaan Civil Fleet, and was then folded into the Republic Navy," he concluded, neatly summing his brief, but memorable, chapter of his life spent in the Senate.

It was too good to be true: the Rebels suffering a defeat, the Empire taking the entire galaxy, and a retirement that involved relaxation. Sierra, like her husband, was naive. She wished the day would dawn sooner than later so he wouldn't have to continue working through datapad after datapad. Her hand remained within his while he began filling her in. There were parts of his life in which she only had secondhand information about. Jelena always seemed angry with him, so the things she told Sierra held no weight. It was humorous to think how much her best friend had made her hate Claudius ... and now this.

She did know about Ewwiekewwieikkie's family, and thus offered a squeeze of support. Sierra learned new things, like how the relationship between Pilaq and Claudius was much lengthier than she realized. She knew exactly who Bail Organa was. She had even met the man on several occasions thanks to the position the Dakkar family held in Alderaan. "How did you go from being in the Republic Navy to a Grand Moff? There's a huge amount of progression there." It seemed that feeding her a tidbit of his life gave her a craving for more. Her attention, solely settled on him, while she awaited his answer. She did remember what El-Nay had told her about Kerrie when they both thought they were doomed in the Alderaan. She knew that it had happened somewhere during his time as a Delegate, but it wasn't something she wanted to ask about.

"Oh boy. That's a long story," Claudius said, as he signalled over for the server to bring him a starfruit juice. "I served my way up through the ranks in the Navy, before eventually rising to the rank of Vice Admiral and being placed in command of naval forces here in the Ringali Shell," he began, but was quickly interrupted by the arrival of the server and his drink. He took a sip, or rather, a gulp of the juice before continuing with his story. "Honestly, our fight against the Rebellion was going so badly that I expected to be relieved of duty, but the Emperor summoned me to the palace and informed me the Senate was being disbanded and that regional governors would have direct control over their territories," he said, speaking in awe of the Emperor, the man whom he credited with ending the Clone Wars and bringing peace and order to the galaxy. "To my surprise me promoted me to Grand Moff and placed me in control of these sectors," he said, before taking another sip of the cool and refreshing juice.

She settled in for that long story! She knew one thing, to get so far it took a damn lot of effort. You had to be career driven. Sierra recalled meeting with the Emperor and what a terrorizing experience that had been. She knew it hadn't been Claudius' first time, yet every time with the Emperor was nerve wrecking. The Emperor must have seen something in him. If it weren't for people like Zevrin and Thanor...if Claudius could do his job unopposed by those within his own sector, then everything would run much more smoothly. "Wow. I'd be surprised too." And scared, because, well, His Majesty. "That's insane. I never knew it happened like that. I would have been horrified in your position." She laughed. "I couldn't do what you do, Claudius." And she didn't envy him either! At least she could help out. While he felt in awe of the Emperor, her awe was for him. He'd done a lot in his life. Now he was holding down a position of such power. If they hadn't known each other before, Sierra would have felt even worse when Zevrin had paired the two up. Though...all of that had worked out, hadn't it?

"Ugh..!" One of her hands moved to her stomach. You'd think a baby that was the size of a banana couldn't kick so hard. "Apparently your son is enjoying story time." Her hand ran over her tummy like she was attempting to soothe the boy. "That, or he overheard your comment about no pod racing."

"That right there is probably why I got the job, my love," Claudius said, with a soft smirk, as me prepared to mock himself. "Process of elimination. No one else could do the job so they gave it to me," he told her, with a wink, before finishing the last of his starfruit juice. He nearly jumped out of his seat when he heard her complain about her stomach, fearing that something might be wrong. But, when she informed him the baby was simply kicking, he reached forward, and placed his hand upon her stomach in an attempt to feel it. *He could*. He smiled contently, relaxing from his earlier alarmed state, and allowed his future son to kick against his hand until his heart's content. "No pod racing ... kickboxing, maybe," he said, before lowering his face and contorting himself until he could place a kiss upon her belly. "Happy anniversary," he told her, as he broke the kiss, and leaned back up to smile across at her. He then summoned one of the Stormtroopers who was carrying a small box, and took it from him. He then handed it over towards her, with some apprehension. Her anniversary present would be hard to beat.

Sierra laughed. "That's the part of the story you're supposed to leave out." She teased him happily. Bruce's added activity lately had been good for his mother's mind. After her latest incident, she had been in full swing paranoia. Doctor Bailo had said things were good, but her son *really* let her know that everything was okay. He was surprisingly strong for still being so small. He didn't relax one bit as his father's hand connected with her stomach. He continued to kick and punch like he was doing a routine to an eighties song. "You're not kidding. I wish you could feel how strong these kicks are from the inside." She had reached the halfway point of her pregnancy. Sierra couldn't be any happier. Her life had crashed into place. She smiled wider as he placed a kiss to her belly. They both shared so much excitement for their son. She could only imagine that the day of his birth would be a great day in both of their lives.

"Happy anniversary. I love you so much." She was elated to be with him. There wasn't a man in the existence of the galaxy who could compare to her Claudius. The small box was totally unexpected. "Hm? What's this?" She held the box in her hands, slowly opening it to reveal. . . a key? Her eyes flickered up towards him. She looked confused and amused all at the same time. "But I already have the key to your heart." Her smile grew. She treasured all of his gifts, just as she would treasure the key. Still, he had her very curious. What did the key go to?!

"I have to admit that the gift is as much for you as it is for me, so it does not have the selfless touch that your gift has," Claudius began with a grin, drawing out telling her in a decidedly impish way. "Do you remember the lake we tried to escape to?" he asked her, leaning forward, without reminding her of the way he lost his pants and had been humiliated in front of the search party. "Well, to ensure nothing like that ever happens again, I've gone and purchased you a lakehouse. A place with no Drusilla, no Ewwiekewwieikkie ... just you," he said to her, with a loving smile. "A place where you can find peace and solitude before spending the rest of your life caring for our children with no alone time," he could not help but add, before leaning over towards her and wrapping his arms around you. "Sierra Rodney ... I love you," he told her, as he tilted his head into her to place a kiss upon her.

He had her at the edge of her seat. His cryptic words didn't make sense at first. What was it? A place to lock up their dinner so it wasn't eaten by Ewwiekewwieikkie? Was it something sexual? The sky was the limit. As soon as he mentioned the lake, Sierra recalled their visit and the excursion in the water that resulted in Claudius losing his pants. It had been *wonderful* when you didn't think about how embarrassing it was for him. The way her eyes lit up, the answer was *yes*. She'd never forget that lake; the place where they discussed their future offspring.

He revealed exactly what the key went to: a lakehouse! She hadn't seen that coming, but she felt so happy for it. It was difficult when she wanted to do things like compose music within the estate. Between Drusilla's loud jizz music and Ewwiekewwieikkie being mesmerized with the movement of the bow on the violin's strings, it was hard to concentrate. She'd keep a spare pair of pants there for the next lake excursion. Tears welled up at the sides of her eyes, as such a grand, thoughtful gesture was so touching to her. "Oh, Claudius..." Her arms locked around him rapidly. Her hand closed around the key. It was her special place in which she would share with her love... And the only place where she would find it possible to go to the bathroom without interruption. Happy tears fell from her eyes. "Thank you! I love it so much!" Her lips pressed into his. She shared in a loving kiss, feeling her heart flutter in her chest. She simply didn't know men came as good as Claudius Rodney. He had worked so many miracles in her life. Every day, she discovered a new reason why he was right for her. "I love you, my Claudius." She whispered. "I'm taking you to the lakehouse after this." She declared happily. Four months of marriage had gone by rapidly in some ways, and slow in other. Despite the mountains and mountains of trials they had gone through, Sierra and Claudius Rodney were in it for the long haul.

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