In the Star Destroyer's well-stocked
gymnasium, Admiral Claudius Rodney sat prone upon an exercise bike. In
his well-worn, rugged PT gear his legs cycled endlessly on the pedals.
The focused look in his eyes illustrated a man with a singular focus ...
to fit into his wedding attire. He had caught himself in the mirror
earlier and noticed a bit of a bulge since he was fitted for his suit.
The relaxed, laid bag lifestyle has gotten to him ... he was slipping
and enjoying himself a bit too much at the dinner table. No more ...
however ... he would meet his desired weight by next month's wedding
Htaere sat in her quarters, reviewing
some files on a datapad regarding the ceremony and some of the
arrangements. Not that her mother had given her any real choice in the
matter, but had sent her some information regarding the pomp and
circumstance that was guaranteed to come, among it, the vids of Htaere's
wedding ensemble and that of her maid of honor. She could no help but
grin to herself as she contemplated how Kerrie would react when she got
an eyeful of what she would be wearing.
The alarm on the exercise bike sounded
audibly, indicating Claudius had completed his exercise routine for the
day. He sighed, in a deep sense of relief as his legs stopped moving. He
reached for his bottle of water and took a hearty gulp. He slid from the
bike leaving a puddle of sweat behind. With his towel, he dried the seat
the best he could and then attended to his sweaty face. With a groan of
discomfort, he proceeded out of the gymnasium and back towards the
turbolift to return to his quarters.
Htaere's eyes flickered over the pages
and pages of pictures and descriptions, half wishing she could discard
it all and simply run off and get married in a robe and barefoot on some
beach with no one around. One corner of her mouth dipped in a frown,
continuing on through the specifications, a nervous lump growing in her
throat with each file as it seemed the countdown had begun.
Claudius quietly stepped into the living
chamber of their suite. He was a sweaty mess ... flushed red with
exertion and matted hair. The last thing he wanted was for anyone to him
before he had time to spend in the refresher. He was halfway to his room
when he felt a sharp pinch in his calf. "Cramp!" he thought instantly in
terror as the muscle contracted and he dropped to his knees in agony. "Ahhhhhhhh,"
he screamed loudly for all to hear as he reached with his hands to put
pressure on the out of sorts muscle.
Jerked from her quiet lull, Htaere
jumped, startled by the sudden outcry. She stood from the desk and
hurried to the door, stepping out into the living room, eyes wide and
face pale. Her eyes immediately flashed to the crumpled form of her
future husband. "Claudius!" she exclaimed, hurrying over towards him and
bending down, one hand resting on the back of his shoulders. "What is
"Ugh," Claudius groaned as he looked
towards Htaere. He outstretched his leg in great pain, but the muscle
needed to be stretched out. "I'm afraid," he said between a deep groan,
"That you have caught me at my worst." He rubbed his hands over the
muscle several times, applying steady pressure. "It's just a cramp," he
explained with a grimace.
"Should I send for a medic for a muscle
relaxant?" Htaere asked, disregarding his preoccupation with his
appearance. Her elegant hands joined his in massaging his constricted
leg to loosen the tissue gently.
"No medic," Claudius replied quickly,
eager to avoid embarrassment. He was the commander and had a reputation
to maintain. "It will pass quickly," he explained to her as he gasped
slightly. "Thank you for your concern," he said sweetly as the muscle
began to stretch out and the pain subsided.
As the tension eased, Htaere took the
moment to look him over. She canted her head curiously. "Perhaps you are
exercising too intensely for your level of fitness" she remarked
Claudius looked up at her, a nervous
expression upon his face. She was right, but could he bring himself to
admit it? "I just want to look my best, Htaere," he confessed quietly as
he removed his hands from the leg, the cramp subsiding. "It's a special
day and you deserve me at my best," he told her as he arranged himself
more comfortably on the floor.
"I have never seen you at anything less"
she answered smiling. "Feeling better now?" she asked, brushing wet hair
from his forehead.
Claudius smiled up at her proudly. She
always managed to say the right thing. "Thank you, my love," he said as
he reached for her arm and placed a gentle kiss upon her hand. "I am
feeling much better," he said happily. He was in no position to stand
yet, but he was nearly recovered.
"That is good my dear" she nodded. "My
mother sent me a bit of a preview of all the ostentatious glamour she
has planned for the wedding. I must admit that I am growing ever more
nervous day by day, while excited at the same time. What about you? How
do you feel?" Htaere asked genuinely.
"I eagerly look forward to the day when
I can declare myself your husband," Claudius said confidently as he
looked her directly in the eyes. He loved her and he was ready. There
was no doubt.
"Shall I help you to your feet? Are you
well enough to stand?" Htaere glanced him over earnestly.
"Why don't you sit for a moment, my
dear?" Claudius said to her with an unusual smile. "Let us enjoy the
calm before the storm a bit longer," he explained as a light chuckle
escaped his lips.
She evaluated the floor beside him for a
moment before having a seat next to him and smoothing her skirt. "Very
well. Let us keep company for a moment" she nodded. "I am so pleased
that you look so well these days, Claudius. I am growing spoiled by your
constant presence" she grinned, sidling next to him close.
"Well, my dear," Claudius said with a
wicked grin, "We'll just have to refrigerate you to keep you from
turning sour, because my presence will never again be far from you." He
turned to her and smiled, leaning his face towards hers. His eyes closed
as he placed a soft, gentle kiss upon her cheek.
"I hope you are correct, Claudius" she
responded dreamily. "Will we be leaving for Alderaan early to oversee
the set up and rehearsal and what not?"
"Yes, my dear," Claudius replied to her
question. Thankfully, the ease of his new assignment made such travel
arrangements easy. "In another day or so we will head to Delaya for
preparations and then on to Alderaan," he explained to her, filling her
in on the important details. "Do you think you can handle another round
with my family?" he asked her, a sly, troublesome grin appearing upon
his sweat-ravaged, reddened face.
"Easily..." Htaere answered, recalling
her previous dealings with Claudius' father. In truth, her mother and
sisters would present greater problems to the bunch of them, and Htaere
almost reserved an impending sense of dread for the reunion.