Heart racing, tears streaming from her eyes, the panicked Hapan
heiress was fighting for dear life, struggling against restraints, she
fought her captors, the shiny black interrogation droid moving closer.
Staring upwards, the bright lights were framed by flesh colored pools of
non descript faces, blurred against the white light over head, hands and
fingers closing over her as it swirled around her. All of her senses
indicated she was back in the interrogation room, screaming for help,
her smaller frame bucking against the sinewy grips and restraints that
held her down.
The fragments were flickering through her mind at a parsec a second,
crackled and jarring like an old film. The physical form of Htaere
thrashed about the luxurious king-sized mattress of the master suite
aboard the ISD Warspite, pushing against the blankets as if they
were the very arms that restrained her. Incoherent words escaped her
lips repeatedly between sobs before the youngster felt herself breaking,
her very decorum snapping in half. As the sheer panic of reliving the
nightmare overcame her, her figure suddenly went rigid, sitting up
straight in bed as a blood-curdling cry erupted, belted out at full
blast as the woman felt the excruciating pangs of agony all over again.
Claudius Rodney had only recently slipped into bed after another in a
series of long, tiresome days of service to the Empire. The exhausted
Admiral only took seconds to fall asleep, but when she shifted in the
bed his eyes suddenly flashed open in horror. "Htaere?!" he cried out in
frantic desperation before he moved. By the time he shifted upwards, his
heart was pounding over his chest and his mind was racing with fearsome
worries about her condition. Relieved to see that she was still near
him, his instincts told him to put an arm around the woman in a
supportive gesture. "What is the matter?" he asked as he drew himself
closer to her. "Another nightmare?" he asked as his arm slipped around
her waist, where their child was growing less than a week ago.
For a handful of moments, she didn't move, panting heavily, savoring
the relief she felt as she realized it was yet another dream. She wiped
at her eyes, her recovery anchored in as she heard Claudius beside her,
further soothed when she felt him reach for her. The ashen-faced youth
swallowed, her heart still firing away on all cylinders as she turned
her head a little towards him. Lowering herself back down, she sidled up
tight against him, sniffling on occasion, expression ridden with angst.
Wide glossy eyes stared towards Claudius but still had a starting
distance to them. "I...it is..." she could hardly formulate the words,
and it was with great difficulty she was able to calm herself enough to
create a full sentence. "It was so horrible, Claudius. It is in my head
and I cannot get it out" she whimpered. She clung to him tightly, though
it felt strange now that her husband was a part of the machine that had
been responsible for her unjust torment.
Claudius' right hand moved slowly toward his wife's heads, his
delicate fingers sliding between her hair. As he gently rubbed the side
of her head, her voluminous hair gently caressed the flesh of his
fingers. "It is all right..." he told her quietly, as he did his best to
sooth her. "Would you like me to call Doctor Tohan and ask for a
sedative?" he asked her with slight hesitation, wondering if perhaps the
problem had reached the point where medication was needed. He swallowed
slowly, feeling grave concern for his wife's mental state, but did not
allow his feelings to reveal themselves on his facial features.
Outwardly, he attempted to remain positive and update in order to more
easily facilitate her recovery.
She shook her head, though in the dark the gesture may have gone
largely unnoticed. "No" she answered quietly. With a ragged sigh, she
settled back in, wide awake now and doing her best to not disturb
Claudius further. The intention proved to be more difficult in practice.
"Claudius..?" she whispered.
As Claudius lay back in the bed, he made a groan of discomfort that
had become quite the common occurrence since he past his 50th birthday.
He turned onto his side so that he might more easily gaze upon her,
watching her over like a protective pet as his hand never left her side.
"Yes, Htaere?" he asked as his eyes dipped slowly, the fatigue clearly
visible no matter how much effort he applied to hiding it.
"When are we returning to the estate?" she asked evenly, anticipating
the smell of the gardens and orchards, sound of the various insects and
avian and the feel of the guarlara's satiny black coat beneath her hand.
Claudius' eyes moved away from Htaere's face faster than a pod race
on Malastare, as this was a topic he had been deliberately avoiding
since her return several days ago. The idea of her being away from him
frightened him, and he felt as if the estate on Esseles was no longer
safe. Despite all of Major Kiley's efforts to turn their house into a
fortress, Major Zevrin exerted almost no effort in circumventing the
defense forces and seizing his beloved wife. "I thought we would enjoy
some time here together..." he said to her quietly, as he tightened the
sheet over him, awkwardly fidgeting as he sought for something to do
with his hands.
"Oh, alright then" she conceded, regarding the quality time they
would have access to, despite being locked in the warship. "It will be
possible to pull you away from your affairs every now and again?" she
Claudius had spent enough time with the Hapan woman to get a better
sense of her reactions, and could tell that she wanted to return to the
estate. As his eyes scanned over the cold and uninviting surroundings of
the Star Destroyer's interior, he could not blame her. His eyes slowly
returned to hers, a smile, somewhat forced, slowly curling onto his
lips. "Of course, my love..." he assured her as he moved his body
directly against hers, their combined warmth seeking to make the
coldness of space somewhat more bearable.
Content with the promise of his affections, she smiled, feeling
significantly better, and nestled against him. Only another handful of
moments went by before the sound of her whispering voice broke the
silence again. "Claudius?"
Claudius eyes' had fallen for a moment, only to immediately flash
open when she spoke his name. "Yes, my dear?" he asked as he blinked
several times, attempting to improve his focus slightly. "Would you like
something..?" he asked as he began to sit up once again. "...tea
perhaps?" as he looked for the comlink to summon one of the servant
"No...no, thank you" she responded. "It can wait until tomorrow
morning. Let us just rest" she nodded, reaching for him to redirect his
hands back to their gentle hold on her, drawing a deep breath and
letting her eyelids sink.
As Claudius once again settled in the bed, he snuggled close against
her as his lips drew against her forehead. There, he placed a tender
kiss as he held her body against his in a firm, loving embrace. He let
out a tired sigh, and although he wanted to sleep, he could not manage
it because of the deep sense of concern he had for her. "Htaere..?" he
asked softly, not sure if she had fallen asleep on him.
"Hmm?" her voice quiped from somewhere cuddled against him, unmoving.
"I am sorry that I failed to keep you safe..." Claudius admitted, a
sound of defeat in his tone that she had not previously experienced, not
even during his reassignment to Malastare. His eyes shifted upwards as
he looked away in shame, his head turning slightly down to obscure part
of his face in the warm, disheveled pillow that was in desperate need of
Still Htaere did not move. Save for her voice, there was no
indication she was still awake. "You have failed at nothing Claudius"
Claudius swallowed softly, as he felt the grief that he had so
carefully fought against began to overcome him. Tears formed in the
corner of each eye, but he shielded this from Htaere's view by turning
his face into the pillow. "I promised to protect you..." he said weakly,
fighting back the tears as they surged forward like an army of battle
droids. "...and the baby..." he added, following a bitterly drawn out
pause. He felt ashamed as both a husband and an officer, having, in his
opinion, failed in both regards.
Htaere's eyes opened, though only seeing black in the darkness.
"Claudius, do not do this to yourself...please" she pleaded softly.
"That woman opened fire on Kerrie without hesitation. Had you been here,
you may have well been shot also. What could you have done."
Claudius had begun to unravel the awful truth about certain elements
of the Galactic Empire. The methods employed by the Imperial Security
Bureau went against everything he had learned in years of service in the
Navy, and the time he spent in government before that. He cringed
slightly, his hand digging into the sheets slightly as he considered
what Htaere had been put through. He could not understand, nor even
begin to imagine, why the Empire needed such branches. "I never should
have agreed to house my family in this Oversector..." he admitted
begrudgingly, as it was Major Zevrin's insistence in the first place
that resulted in his family's moving to the Ringali Shell. Why he let
that forked-tongue devil use her persuasive COMPNOR tactics against him,
he never knew.
"Claudius..." Htaere's voice chided him. "You must never doubt what
you have done nor what you do. We are your family and we shall follow
you to hell and back if need be."
Claudius took a deep breath and seemed to have, at least temporarily,
regained his composure as his face slowly rose from the pillow to manage
eye contact again. "I...never used to doubt anything..." he admitted to
her, the tone of his voice clearly indicating that it was a policy he
had since changed. "Now...I tend to doubt everything..." he revealed
privately to his beloved wife, doubts that would not find themselves
into any official circles. He could feel the galaxy around him changing
and had recently seen things, in addition to what happened to Htaere,
that began to crack his fierce devotion to the New Order.
Htaere's eyes lifted to Claudius' face, scanning it desperately but
unable to see much given the Hapans' night blindness. "You mean you
doubt yourself? Your ability to work?" she asked, brow furrowing as it
pained her that he would think so little of himself.
Claudius paused for a moment, realizing that Htaere's naivety was
perhaps the only thing that spared her life during her recent ordeal.
She knew nothing, and he thought it might be best to keep it that way.
"I doubt a great many things..." he said, with a mixture of vagueness
and exhaustion as he spoke. "...everything but my love for you," he
added as his face moved forward, eyes slowly closing as he placed a
tender kiss upon her lips. It was unusual romantic gesture, the first he
had attempted since her release from captivity.
The display surprised her, yet instantly melting her into ease with
the warmth of his lips. Htaere indulged him with a gentle kiss of her
own, luxuriating in the time they were being afforded as a couple.
Although Claudius believed it was too soon to express such desires
verbally, privately be began desiring a renewed effort to have a child.
He considered pushing forward and taking his spousal privilege, but he
would give her time to recover before such things returned to the
relationship. Instead, he simply tightened his embrace around her more
firmly, and drew her body into his, while the other arm pulled the
blanket over them.
Being lulled slowly into a peaceful rest, Htaere mumbled softly, on
the way out, as her consciousness slipped away from her. "I love you
"I love you, Htaere..." Claudius responded quietly, as he made a
sincere effort not to wake her. His eyes slowly closed, but he did not
fall asleep as his mind was swirling with deep, complex thoughts that
befit the state of the galaxy they found themselves in. He held her the
entirety of the night, despite the discomfort it caused his middle-aged
muscles. Eventually he would find rest, but only after reaching a state
of near-exhaustion, and wondering if perhaps yet another of Htaere's
nightmares would break the solemnity of the evening.