Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:3:27) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Rodney Castle).
Lady Rikka Dakkar, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, and Commander Sierra Rodney.

Fly me to the moon. Let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars. In other words, hold my hand. In other words, baby kiss me...

The sounds of a smooth, jazzy version of Fly me to the Moon rang out in the perfect acoustics of the bathroom. It was possibly one of Sierra's strangest quirks that she loved listen to music in the bathroom so much. It was made a lot less awkward by the fact that she was getting sudsy in a nice, warm bubble bath with her favorite person in the galaxy. She had decided to place all of her worries on a shelf for now. The Emperor, the person who was out for their family, Arden, and everything else simply ceased to exist in the tub. There were no pressing issues on their plate today. Early morning meetings had been the worst extent of their new statuses if only for today. "This is my favorite song," Sierra purred as she sat up in the tub. Her feet playfully nuzzled against his legs. She sang along to the next part of the song while creeping closer to him. "Fill my heart with song and let me sing forever more. You are all I long for. All I worship and adore. In other words, please be true. In other words...I love you." As talented as she was with her violin (and piano too!) it shouldn't have come as a surprise that she could sing too. She ended her cutesy little song with a kiss. "We're free for the rest of the day. Is there anything you want to do, love?"

Claudius was half asleep in the luxuriously warm waters of the bath tub. "Uh? Hmm?" he asked, as he began to stir at her question breaking the silence of the bath. "What do I want to do? Nothing," he told her, as he briefly opened his eyes to give her a wink. "*Absolutely* nothing," he added, before closing his eyes once again and releasing a deep sigh. He leaned back, pressing his head against the bath pillow that was behind his head. The one good thing about rising to the position of Duke was access to the master bath. "Hopefully you feel the same," he said, as he moved his foot towards her, wiggling his toe against her inner thigh. The Empire was sending a team to investigate the death of the advisor in the near future and he hoped for nothing but peace and quiet until that happened. He still was not sure what he was going to say or how it was going to go.

It was the calm before the storm. Life was going to change gradually when the Empire's team arrived. Sierra could only imagine... which is why she was blocking it out! "I do feel the same. This bath is wonderful." The stress was off her shoulders. She was going to make sure they had a tub alike to this in their Delaya home. It was important to simply *relax* occasionally. She let out a giggle as his toe tickled her inner thigh. "Troublemaker," she said, eyeing him. She extended her legs out, crossing her ankles on top of one of his legs comfortably. "Let's lazy about our room all day then. After the whole coronation, I'm a little people'd out." No sooner had she gotten comfortable did she adjust, crawling into his lap where she settled in for a long winter...or to tease him. Sierra's small hands began to massage his shoulders. "Maybe you shouldn't get dressed after we're finished in here."

"Getting dressed as Duke is quite the ordeal ... many layers ... you might be on the right track," Claudius responded, as he lowered his back until his head slid briefly under the water. His salt and pepper curly hair became flat and matted upon his head from the effect of the warm water, but as he did not expect to see anyone but Sierra today he did not care. "Cancel all of my meetings," he insisted, as soon as his head emerged from the shallow water once again. As he looked around the room he imagined what his ancestors had done in this bath over the centuries. Perhaps he was even conceived here he thought, which caused him to shudder slightly with disgust over the mental image. "How is mother doing?" he asked her, as he had not seen his mother since the coronation when she was *very* drunk ... even by her standards.

She laughed. "See? Nudity requires no effort." Sierra had forced herself to *not* think about the fact that Julius had once been nude in this tub...and probably Livia too. So weird! She had thought ahead enough to see to it that the mattress was replaced on the bed. It created one clean place to be intimate without gross thoughts in her head. "Yes, sir." She replied happily, reaching over to toy with his wet curly hair. "She seemed better last time I spoke with her. I have been trying to talk her into working on her habit." Trying was the keyword here. "We'll get there. It'll take time. She seems to be focusing on planning Zara's baby shower now. I'm glad she's keeping busy." Reluctantly, Sierra began to rise from the tub. She wrapped a towel around her body and disappeared into their bedroom where she grabbed the datapad. She flipped on the scheduler as she returned to the bathroom. "And you're officially off the hook for today."

"Ah. Zara's baby shower ... I had almost forgotten," Claudius said, as his voice trailed off, content to relax as she toyed with his wet, curly hair. "I suppose you'll have to have a baby shower as well. It's good that our children will be born in relatively short order. They'll develop more healthily as a group I imagine," he mused, although he really knew nothing about early childhood development. He too climbed out of the bath, but did not step to grab for a towel. No one was fool enough to barge in on the Duke and Duchess, he foolishly thought to himself. He moved towards her swiftly, the last of the water dripping off his still quite fit physique. He attacked her towel with all the skill of an adept military commander, before pushing her forward into the bed playfully. "Now that my calendar is empty I'm going to fill you," he joked, before taking up position behind her for what he expected to be post bath eroticism.

"I think so too. I was an only child. I didn't have a lot of communication with my cousins. That was something I regretted. I'm happy that Bruce will have his sisters and Marcus' twins. They will all be less than a year apart." Only a few months, as crazy as it was. The thought of little children running around their home made her one very happy lady. What made her an even happier Duchess was how her husband prowled towards her, removed her towel, and pushed her to the bed. She repositioned herself on her hands and knees, wiggling her rear towards him as a means of teasing. Sierra snickered and giggled. "Mmm. Please do, Duke Claudius." She shot a playful look behind her shoulder. Once he had joined her, Sierra happily grinded herself against his crotch. Her urges awoken inside of her. The need to have him inside of her was...


At that moment, the doors to their room suddenly flung open and slammed against the walls behind them. A woman, looking to be more cosmetic surgery than anything else, came storming in like she owned the place. She looked not a thing like the young Duchess. Her hair was dyed red. She wore more rings on her fingers than Drusilla could dream of. The only physical attribute that they both possessed was their blue eyes. "Sierra, darrllinnggg!" She didn't seem to mind that she had walked in on a *very* intimate moment between the Duke and Duchess. In fact, she seated herself in an armed chair like she intended to stay through the entire act. "Gained some weight, didn't you, girl? He'll leave you if you get too fat."

After hallucinating her mother, it was hard to tell if she was *really* seeing the woman again. Sierra was still. She couldn't be sure that the woman existed until she saw that Claudius was looking in her direction too. Her body began to shake in response to seeing her worst nightmare. "Mother?!" She manage to croak. She wanted to hide herself. She wanted the woman gone. Her mind split in a thousand different directions as her heart began to beat hard. She clung to the sheets for support.

This time it was not a hallucination as Claudius heard and saw Sierra's mother as well. He panicked, and his cheeks immediately flushed a bright shade of red ... both pairs. He moved to grab the nearest robe, but not before his mother-in-law had seen *everything*. As he slid the rode on and hurriedly covered his unmentionables he tried his best to regain some semblance of composure. "Lady Rikka," he said, as his mind scrambled with what to say next. His eyes moved towards Sierra, desperately trying to understand what was going on. "We feared you perished on Alderaan," he finally blurted out, but he would have truthfully said 'hoped' in place of 'feared'. His marriage was about to get *a lot* more complicated.

When things in Sierra's brain began to reconnect, she grabbed the sheet beneath her and used it to cover up. She was furious that the woman was there and even more angry that she had seen her husband in such a state of undress. Sierra looked back at Claudius. She wanted her gone, yet the woman sat on the chair, pulling forth a file from her oversized purse.

Rikka Dakkar's head rose. "Hmmm? Oh. You're done *already*? I suppose old age and without the proper pills..." She clicked her tongue against the top of her mouth in disappointment. "Luckily, I was vacationing at my favorite spa. It's the one on...Oh! Nevermind! I'm sure Sierra has told you *everything* about me!" A shrill, terrible laughter filled the room.

Completely terrified and blindingly furious, Sierra rose from the bed with her body still covered by the sheet. "Get out!" She yelled. "Leave my room. You may await us in the garden. I will not see to you until I am ready to. If you do not choose to oblige, I will have my guards escort you out." The laughter ended. The woman pouted in a childish way that no woman of her age should attempt. Sierra stood her ground. She chased her mother out of her room, slamming the door closed behind her. With her back against the closed door, Sierra placed her face in her hands. Her worst fears were playing out. As she began to cry, she sunk to the ground. "How can this be!?" She cried.

"Well that went well," Claudius said, exasperated, upon Sierra's slamming of the door. He moved swiftly towards her, crouching down onto his knees to get down to her level on the ground. "I thought she died on Alderaan?" he asked her, uncertain of what had just happened. He reached forward, pulling her into his arms as the robe slipped open again. His hand moved to the back of her head, rubbing it gently as he did his best to console her. "She is not very nice," he said, stating the obvious, as he relived some of her less than courteous statements in the brief moment she had fell upon her. "I suppose I *could* order her thrown off the cliff face," he suggested, jokingly, but he wondered if perhaps she might take him up on it.

The one comforting fact about Alderaan being destroyed was gone. She wouldn't sleep well again. How was she going to protect her family from *that* woman? "I thought so too," Sierra sniffed against his chest. Her sheet fell when her arms wrapped around his neck. The fact that she was going to have to face the woman again very soon made her feel terrible. In an alternative universe, Sierra was happily engaged in love making and her mother was truly gone. Her husband was about to see the depth of her mother's cruelty first hand. She peered out from his chest. "Is.. is that an option? Can you make it look like an accident?" She went for it. "I had always thought I'd kill her myself. I thought that one day the abuse would go too far. I'd crack." She leveled her breathing. "She used to hurt me so bad."

She drew herself back into his arms. "I was four when it started...when I can remember it started. I remember cutting myself while trying to cut a bagel. I went to cry to mother. She said that what I felt was nothing. She said she'd show me what real pain felt like. She took me into her room and..." The young Duchess shook. "I need you to know that that's the person she is. After she finished with me that day, the walls needed to be repainted from blood splatter."

There had been so many attacks against their family for a moment he considered the ease at which he could rid himself of his mother-in-law, but he was not that cruel. Instead he remained silent, listening to his wife, and letting her say the things she needed to purge herself. "I am sorry," he said, leaning in to place a tender kiss upon her forehead. "Parents expect too much and are never satisfied," he said, speaking of his own parents somewhat as well. "You have her waiting in our garden. Should I instruct the guard to escort her off the castle grounds?" he asked her, before repositioning his body so that he was seated beside her. His bony knees could no longer take the strain.

She sighed, "My present and future is much more brighter than my past. I have you to thank for that. Mother was never happy with me. I'm sure now is different. She probably saw news of me becoming Duchess. She's come to get something from us. We'll see to her. We really don't need another person threatening our family. I wouldn't put it beyond her to hire someone to hurt us." She stayed seated on the ground with him. Her arms remained locked around him. "I cannot do this alone, Claudius. I need you." Her stomach hurt. Her heart hurt worse. Her hand brushed over her slightly swollen stomach. "Even Bruce knows that there is evil in our home."

"Well, do you want to give her something?" Claudius asked, suggesting that bribery might very well be in order. "If she has a price, perhaps we should meet it and be rid of her that way?" he asked her, taking what he called the Drusilla approach to the situation. "You will never have to do anything alone ever again. I am your husband in all things," he said, as he reached his arm around her tighter to draw her even closer. "Just don't let her hurt me," he said, with a soft chuckle, as he considered their next move. "She is still your mother, Sierra. I doubt she could be that cruel as to hire someone to harm us," he said, trying to dissuade her fears and calm her paranoia.

"It depends what she asks for. I would do much to never see her again." Sierra could only imagine what her mother had in mind. At least, for once, Sierra held the cards in this situation. This was her home and her life. She also had Claudius...*Claudius*. His words of reassurance made her cry while holding him tightly. "Never," she knew he was joking. It brought a little smile back to her lips. She needed to add yet another reason why she loved him to her list. He made light of a very uncomfortable situation. "I love you so much, thank you for being my husband and traveling down every crazy road with me." He was calming her. He soothed her mind until it felt like she could think much more clearly. She allowed him to see her smile, "I don't know.. She *did* just call a pregnant woman fat. I think that's grounds to start a war with her." She kissed both of his cheeks followed by his lips. "As much as I hate to say it, let's get dressed and go meet with the devil." When Sierra rose to her feet, she felt infinitely better. She looked down at her husband with affection in her eyes. Offering her hands to him to help him up, she spoke. "I cannot believe she barged in here like that. I'm pushing furniture in front of the door from here on out." Half-joking!

"I have been through wars, and my experience has taught me that if they can be avoided they must be," Claudius said to Sierra, before rising to her feet with her support. "She saw *everything*," he said to her, frowning slightly, as he would never be able to live that down. It was a horrible way to first meet one's mother-in-law. When they were back on their feet and Sierra's tears seemed to be subsided, he began the process of drying himself and then getting dressed in a modest Delayan noble attire of light blue robes with brown accent. As Sierra's mother was Alderaanian he decided it best not to further complicate things with his Imperial uniform. He hated how most Alderaanians viewed the Empire, but this was not the time to argue politics. Once dressed he returned to the bedroom to wait the several hours it would take his wife to ready herself.

"I'm not happy about that either." She wanted to take the memory from her mother's mind. What happened in their bedroom was special. As a modest young woman, it appalled her to think that someone had seen them. Sierra dove into the lengthy job of getting herself dressed. Wearing Delayan noble attire made her wish that she could put on her ISB uniform. The uniform was so easy. Noble attire meant elaborate, beautiful dresses that had a million whistles and bells. Her wardrobe had shifted significantly since becoming Duchess. Designers were constantly gifting her with gowns now in attempt to gain popularity by her wearing one of them. She, too, wore light blue. Her clothing had been tailored to be more comfortable for her growing baby bump. She wasn't entirely sure if her mother knew about her pregnancy or not. It wasn't information that she would give up. Thankfully, Sierra didn't take as long as you'd expect. She took a few minutes in the bathroom to compose herself. She stood at the mirror, reminding herself over and over again that Claudius would be there. His strength and support would guide her through the meeting with mommy dearest. Exiting the bathroom, she linked an arm in with his. "Let's get this over with. We can salvage the day if we shoo her off quickly." Together, they headed to the gardens. The garden was a place of strength for her. It was the place where Claudius had chosen her to be his wife; an unforgettable moment in her life. She seemed to grow in confidence the closer they got to it. She corrected her posture and held her head up high. She wasn't Sierra Dakkar anymore. She was Sierra Rodney, the Duchess of Delaya.

Claudius looked up suddenly as Sierra entered the room, smiling happily at how beautiful she looked in her dress. He rose from his seat on the bed and moved swiftly towards her, taking her by the arm. "Very well," he said to her, leading her from the bedchamber and down the spiral staircase that would lead to the ground level of the castle. At the base of the stairs he took a deep breath, exhaling slowly to calm himself. When done, he moved forward towards the large glass doors that led out towards the palatial gardens in the back of the estate. He could see his mother-in-law, and he did his best to force a smile onto his face, relying on decades of diplomatic experience. A guard opened the door for the Ducal couple to step through, and as he approached the woman he cleared his throat loudly to announce himself. "Lady Rikka," he said, with a polite nod of his head. Whatever she had in store he hoped they could withstand it.

She was so glad she wasn't doing this alone. Upon reaching the base of the stairs, she made the decision that she was going to do something extra special for her husband. He deserved to be praised like a god, he was that damn good. Seeing her mother made it easier to see the other side of the grass...the side that was barren and sad. Her life had become incredible even with all of its difficulties. He was even better at her than forcing a smile on his face. Sierra looked at her mother with cold eyes. She only managed to form a small smile. "Mother. Please, sit. Let us talk." She pointed towards two stone benches with a small table placed between them. The surface of the table was marked for a game of chess...which might be fun to play later!

Rikka Dakkar looked uncomfortable. Her nose was scrunched up and her face was all askew. She didn't share her daughter's love for nature. The woman showed little respect to either Claudius or Sierra. "Son-in-law," she tried to make herself sound sweet. "My daughter...goodness! Look at that dress! Would it have killed you to wear something like that a decade ago?" Before sitting on the stone bench, Rikka withdrew a kerchief from her purse. She lay it on the bench and then sat. She kept her hands in her lap and forced a smile on her face. "I saw the news of your wedding on the HoloNet. I couldn't believe how good of a job my baby girl did." She looked at Claudius. "Is she keeping you happy? You two looked so unhappy when I came into your room. Marital problems always begin in the bedroom! Sierra never had much of a woman's touch."

Claudius had been distracting himself by looking at some of the flowers that he remembered his grandmother tending to in his youth. *Anything* to keep from getting too close to the vicious mother-in-law that had sharper thorns than the plants he was examining. He was content to stand there with his back towards her until she called for him. "Yes ... mother," he said, struggling with the word the first time he said it. "Yes. She is keeping me very happy," he said, trying his best to stick up for his wife. "There are no problems. Let me assure you," he said, as his eyes moved sideways towards his wife for encouragement. "We would have invited you had we known you had survived the disaster," he said to her, trying to smooth things over as best he could. He swallowed nervously, causing his throat to bulge against the tight collar of his tunic. He was feeling as nervous when he was a young man on a date.

Sierra was so embarrassed. The questions and implications she was making were none of her damn business. Her first reaction to everything that came out of the woman's voice was anger. However, Claudius helped verbally put out the fire by defending her. Her heart swooned for him. Her hand slid into his and squeezed it happily. "He's right. Our marriage is wonderful. I couldn't be happier." She was not as diplomatic as her husband...not with this woman. Sierra would have had to die for Rikka to be present at their wedding. Their happy, lovey little wedding. Clinging to the good thoughts was helping her through this. "After all this time, why have you come to us now? The HoloNet has been publicizing my presence here for awhile. It's hard to miss."

The woman made a noise that sounded like something between a 'hmmm' and a groan. It wasn't clear if she actually believed her son-in-law or not. She remembered Sierra as the little girl who misbehaved. Her assumption was that the Duke had taken over her beatings to keep her under thumb. "Isn't that so *lovely*? I worried my daughter would never marry. I tried to sell her to a man once. He offered me such an unfavorable price. You were such an ugly duckling back then. Look at you now...a hefty swan." A backhanded compliment from the worst person on Delaya. "I would have loved to come to your wedding, dear son. I want to make up for lost time. Alderaan is gone and I have nowhere to go." She began, looking up towards the castle spire holding their room. "Now that you've inherited this, surely you can house me?"

Claudius coughed slightly, nearly choking, when she asked for housing. "Unfortunately, there has been a recent security breach here at the castle. It would not be safe to house you here," he said, frowning slightly, in an effort to dissuade her from taking up residence at the castle. "However, there are several estates throughout the planet that currently lay dormant I'd happily grant you," he suggested, in an effort to rid themselves of her. He looked to Sierra, wishing he could hoist her up and carry her away from the vicious woman. Even his mother had never been so distasteful, and she was a terrible alcoholic!

Of all the things that Rikka could have asked for, she asked for housing. Beside Claudius, Sierra was so sick. Her stomach clenched up in a knot so tightly that she was in physical pain. She cringed, quickly excusing herself from the table to vomit. It was the worst bout of stress-induced morning sickness that she had ever endured. The thought of Rikka holding her son was at the forefront of her mind. Behind her, she could hear Claudius attempting to reason with her. God bless his soul. It was no wonder why Sierra had come to love Livia so much. Livia was easy compared to this woman. She could hear her mother prompting her on. "Dear, you've got to put your fingers down your throat before you throw up. I taught you better than that!" Ugh. Think happy thoughts, she reminded herself. In the distance, Sierra saw a thranta fly towards the top of the mountain where her and Claudius had traveled to on the morning of Jelena's funeral. She had to be strong. Composing herself as much as possible, she arrived at his side. "Mother, I'm not fat. I'm *pregnant.*" She growled, "You cannot stay here. Claudius and I can offer you some options as long as you agree to give us our privacy."

The news of Sierra becoming Duchess had looked like a cash cow to her. After all, her daughter *owed* her for transforming her into such a successful noblewoman. She was unhappy with Claudius' response. It was the castle or nothing. She hoped to stay somewhere grandiose. It was something to rub in her friend's faces. Once she was inside their doors, she could work the Duchess back to an abused state of mind. By the looks of her face, she had no idea that Sierra was with child. Rikka simply did not care that much. The woman went on the offensive. She stood up, attempting to get in their faces. "No! I have to stay *here*! It's the least you could do for being a burden on my life for a decade and a half!" Rikka was yelling. "Duchess of Delaya, my ass! You're still the ugly little whore *I* raised! Is it even his!? Is it!?" Age, brain problems and all that plastic surgery had taken away Rikka's filter. She was furiously verbally attacking them. Her little plan had not gone so well!

Claudius' face reddened upon hearing his wife described as an 'ugly little whore', and if it was anyone else but her mother he likely would have struck her. "Calm yourself," he said to Rikka as he moved towards her, taking her by the arm and doing his best to diffuse the situation. He knew Sierra would be angry for his not defending her, but he reasoned a little problem with Sierra later was preferable to a big problem with Rikka now. "Very well," he said to her, as he attempted to sit her down on one of the small benches in the garden. "We will provide you with a suite in the castle," he said, to both calm her down and bribe her. What he did not say, however, was that he and Sierra would soon be off to the islands.

The red haired woman had balled her hands up into fists. She was *very* angry, feeling as if she had done nothing but benefit her daughter. The woman was prepared to throw a fit that even Drusilla would be embarrassed of in order to get her way. She sat with her son-in-law. Her lips curled into a sickening smile. In her mind, phase one had been completed. Her social status would be raised high again as it came to be known that *her* daughter was the Duchess of Delaya. She giggled like a girl half her age. Her snake-like skinned hand ran over Claudius' arm. "Oh! It's so wonderful of you to change your mind. I shall have my belongings moved in immediately! I shouldn't have said such ugly things. I really am looking forward to helping you raise your child."

And then there was Sierra.

Sierra, flabbergasted and blown away by everything happening. Her mind had yet to fully accept that the woman was real, let alone barging into her life full blast. Inside her chest, her heart began to ache like she'd been dealt a finishing blow. Each time she blinked, she experienced the abuse of her childhood again. The realistic feeling of a whip licking her skin until she could no longer stand...

Her eyes were hot. It was getting harder to breathe even though they were outside. She didn't understand why Claudius had agreed to house a monster. She didn't understand why Rikka wasn't dead. Rikka had always known where to hit Sierra to get a reaction. The idea of her touching Bruce disturbed Sierra. The thought of her barging in, attempting to *raise* the boy? It was enough for her to consider throwing herself off the balcony. She tried to maintain composure yet her quivering lip was a dead give away. "I-I'm not feeling well," she announced dryly. "I need to *go*." She lasted as long as it took her to turn her back before the tears broke out from her eyes and rolled down her cheek. She was gone after that. Their private quarters seemed like the safest place to hide from the world.

"Excuse me. I must see after my wife. You know how she can be," Claudius said to Rikka, as he patted his hand upon her lap twice. He rose, diplomatically, as he moved swiftly in the direction of where his wife had gone. Once Rikka was out of range he let out a dramatic roar of anger and frustration. He ascended the stairs to their suite like a madman, with the energy of one half his age. "I was not prepared for *that*!" he announced, in dramatic fashion, as he barged into their bedroom. It was there that he found his wife a crying mess and he rushed to her side to be near her. "She is every bit the monster you implied," he said, as he wrapped his arm around her, tightening his grip on her. He held her as best he could, knowing full well there was little he could do to correct a lifetime of mother-daughter familial strife.

Sierra had made it to the end of the bed. There, she sat perched like a beautiful, broken bird. Her face was in her hands. It bothered her that someone could get to her so much. She wasn't the same person as she had been back then, yet Rikka elicited the same emotional response. She could hear Claudius stomping up the stairs before barging into their room. Before today, there had been no reason to prepare him. She didn't tell him all the stories because there was no point. "Me either," she said, sounding emotionally spent. "She was supposed to be dead. She isn't supposed to be here.." She told him. Her arms wrapped around him. Her eyes closed tightly against his shoulder. She couldn't seem to stop crying. It hurt *so* bad. "She is. She's even worse now that she can't hold it together in front of people. She cannot stay here. She cannot be close." She was shaking. "I-I don't want her to ever touch Bruce." Or Claudius, Jelena, Drusilla, Ewwie.

"Well she may not supposed to be here, but she *is* here," Claudius quickly pointed out, stating the obvious. "She *can* stay here, my love, but that does not mean she will be close," he said to her, as he continued to embrace her in his loving arms. "We will soon be off to the islands ... far from her. She will have what she thinks is a reward with a room in the castle, but we will never see her," he explained to her, as he outlined his plot to both placate Rikka and extradite them from the situation. "She will never be near Bruce or the other children," he reassured her, as he did his best to support his wife without casing a larger problem with his mother-in-law.

Sierra was not made to feel better by her husband's words. This was Rikka's in. The home in the islands had only *just* begun construction. A hole ripped open inside of her as her past came pouring into her present. She pulled back, looking at him with tear-filled eyes. "That's not true. We both know there's going to be overlap between us and her living here. She will see us. She will see *him*. She will insert herself into every part of our lives. Rikka is toxic." She began to wipe away her own tears. "We have dealt with a lot together already. I am telling you, she's worse than all of that combine. This is a woman who really has the power to make me miscarry. I feel more stressed than I have in months." Which was saying something. "Please, send her away. I can't do this again. I can't open that door with her again."

"Sierra," Claudius said quietly, as he did his best to sooth her and calm her delicate nerves. "We will leave for the islands presently. We can live in tents while our new home is constructed," he suggested, saying everything he could think of to try and calm her. "We can't simply send her away. How would it look? And what possible trouble could she cause us in the future if scorned?" he asked her, trying to be his most diplomatic self in this delicate time. "Here we can have her watched and perhaps, in time, controlled," he reasoned, perhaps a bit too optimistically. He had just settled into married life when suddenly he was being confronted with an evil mother-in-law. He had dealt with the Rebellion, pirates, the Confederacy ... none were as fearsome as Rikka Dakkar.

It simply wasn't realistic for them to hide out in tents until the house was would be months! Sierra's mind was dancing with her past and every time she had been hurt by her mother. She didn't think that Claudius understood the situation. How could he? Rikka Dakkar had not beaten him until he was nearly dead, then thrown him in a bacta tank to do it all again. There were so many night where she ran away and cried with Jelena over her trauma. She didn't think it would happen again in the same sense. Simply having the woman around did the trick, apparently. Her head shook back and forth. *No*. She rose to her feet. "How can you be so diplomatic right now!? You're trying to apply peace treaty logic with a woman who hurt me so severely I had to spend *days* inside of a tank. You know what kind of damage that entails. A lot more than your run-of-the-mill injuries. She's nearly cut off my goddamn fingers simply because I didn't play a piece right on my violin." Her voice had raised, though panic and betrayal were the overriding emotions, not anger. She was upset that he wasn't siding with her against the evil monstrosity that was her mother. "If it's image you're so concerned with, then I shall take care of her." Sierra announced suddenly. If image mattered more than her well being and Bruce's, then nothing mattered anymore. The woman began heading for the door. Her stomach hurt so bad.

Claudius extended both of his hands in front of him, and raised them up and down in an attempt to calm her. "I am sorry, Sierra. I know what she has done to you, but I'm trying my utmost to keep her from doing further damage," he explained, before rising to his feet and moving towards the balcony. "Don't be rash, my love. She will be grandmother to the future Duke of Delaya. We cannot allow her running off half cocked, going rogue..." he said, as he hung his head low in the dimming sun of the Aldera star. Darkness was almost upon them, but it felt like it was almost here. "I will inform her that she cannot live here. You ... you need to relax and calm yourself," he said, as his mind began to race, preparing whatever excuses he thought necessary to smooth over the situation *and* rid themselves of the woman.

She will be grandmother to the future Duke of Delaya. The words were hard to process mentally, but leveling when heard from Claudius' voice. They were the magical words that sent Sierra's stomach into her throat. She felt so miserable. She hung herself over the balcony. Her body shook harder between crying hard and throwing up all at the same time. She didn't understand how she had done so little, yet felt so exhausted all at the same time. There was no winning this. There was no winning anything right now. As she caught control over her stomach once more, she rested on the balcony railing. Before her eyes, she watched everything explode. An hour conversation with her mother had already caused a bomb to go off. Her bloodshot blue eyes looked towards her husband. Did he even love her anymore? Could he begin to grasp the complex relationship between Sierra and her mother? Did he really care more about image over *them*? She looked down over what was supposed to be *their* city. It seemed so much further away than ever before.

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