Rodney sat in the room that contained Sierra
Dakkar's bacta tank. He had not moved from the room
since they arrived at the medical center. He had not
changed from his uniform that was still covered in
Sierra's blood, nor had he had any of his smaller
cuts and bruises from the shrapnel of the explosion
attended to. He had not rested, nor had he eaten ...
all he was doing was staring at the medical readout
on the wall. He felt that if he had stared at it
longer he might get better news, but thus far
nothing had changed. He had lost too much ... he
could not lose Sierra on top of it all.
Tohan had left the Ringali Shell almost as soon as
he had received word of the bombing. He was there
for Claudius as much as he was Sierra. He was
concerned for her wellbeing, but he was confident in
the ability of the local Delayan physicians. "Please
take rest, Claudius," he said, as he looked at him
from across the room with his large, bulbous orange
eyes. He too was tired, but he would not leave his
oldest friend when he was needed most. He was
pleased that none of the children were hurt during
the blast, and he could not guess what the next shoe
to fall would be. He began to wonder whether or not
the House of Rodney was *cursed*.
had continued to walk down the abusive past of her
childhood as soon as she lost consciousness again.
Her body simply couldn't come to grasp with all the
trauma it had taken. It was easier to fall prey to
her vindictive subconscious. The amount of time that
had been placed since she arrived at the medical
center was questionable. She couldn't recall the
doctors surging around her, cutting her dress from
her body and preparing her to be immediately
transported into a bacta tank. It seemed to take so
much time to mend her body again. Though she was no
warrior, her skin showed some scarring.
Her vitals had
become steady. After hours upon hours upon hour of
endless healing, she began to wake. Her heartbeat
went from a calm, resting pace to a quick panic. Her
eyes shot open. What theee-?! She was surrounded by
bacta liquid. The explosion didn't come to her
immediately. Pilaq Tohan was the first person she
saw. Her panicked expression cried for him to get
her out *now*.
his hand in the direction of the medical droid that
controlled the bacta tank, and almost immediately
Sierra was raised out of the bacta tank like a
submerged tea bag. After being hoisted out of the
tank she was lay down upon a gurney where the droids
and the Ithorian doctor were able to examine her.
Her mouth was still covered by a breath mask, which
kept the bacta out of her lungs, and fed her a
steady supply of oxygen. She seemed well enough and
the bacta had a wonderful healing property on her
cuts and bruises. "Try not to move. Your body has
been submerged in bacta for some time, and it will
be a while before you regain full sensation," he
instructed her, as his long digits carefully
manipulated the wet hair that had cascaded down upon
quick to rise from his seat, moving directly towards
Sierra's side. He reached down into the gurney and
took hold of her hand and wrist, clinging it to it,
as if he were afraid to go. "You've made it," he
said to her, his eyes glistening from the moisture
that was forming on them as he began to cry again.
His face descended quickly to place a kiss upon her
forehead, which was still slick with bacta. Taking
hold of a cloth he began to slowly dry her body,
rubbing the remnants of the healing fluid from her
affectionately. "Do not worry, Sierra. I will take
care of you," he told her, as he slowly ran his
hands and the cloth all over her body. He would
never leave her side. He could no longer function
without her. The close call had cemented his
feelings for her. He could no longer deny what he
felt about her.
The girl was
terrified. Her body shook uncontrollably until her
grasp of logic came back into her small hands. She
registered what had happened at her best friend's
funeral. She recalled Claudius holding her, keeping
her away from the darker side of the tunnel. Her
eyes softened and the shaking stopped. Doctor Tohan
was there. She nodded her head only slightly to let
him know that she'd be listening to the doctor's
orders this time. *Claudius*. Where was he..! She
turned her head slightly. There he was. Her heart
beat stayed elevated, especially when he took hold
of her. She dared to squeeze his hand weakly. "I...
I told you so... I'm not gonna leave you..." He was
crying for her... and then she was crying for him.
If there was one person that she didn't fear her and
Claudius sharing affection around, it was Doctor
Tohan. Something had happened between them that
couldn't be stopped.
seemed to further relax now that he was wiping her
clean. Sanity came spilling in like an open wound.
She only wore a plain bra and underwear provided by
the medical center. Her body looked infinitely
better. It was impossible to tell what she had
endured. Her eyes followed his. She loved him. She
loved him and she didn't care what the repercussions
of her feelings were. Before him, and before Pilaq,
she told him as much. "I *love* you, Claudius."
Tears were still running down her cheeks, only these
were happy. Not sad. She had survived. She was moved
by how sweet he was to her. She knew he would bring
her back to a better state.
was surprised when he saw the affection between
Claudius and Sierra, as it was just the other day
that she informed him of a need for fertility
supplements to assist her and her boyfriend. Once he
was content that she was stable, he bowed his head
respectfully to Claudius and Sierra. "Do not exert
yourself," he instructed, forcefully to Sierra
before his eyes caught a glance at Claudius. "I hold
you responsible!" he said to Claudius, as his hand
moved up to touch the man on his shoulder. He then
took hold of his walking stick and began limping out
of the medical center, but decided to check on the
other patients, including Gaius, out of politeness.
smiled at Pilaq for coming to assist his beloved
Sierra, but he only looked at Pilaq for a short
while before refocusing on Sierra. His hand moved to
her still wet hair, and he began to rub her head
gently. "I love you too, Sierra," he admitted to
her, as he moved a chair over so he could sit beside
her. "I will not return to the Ringali Shell without
you. I will stay here for your recovery process.
Nothing else matters," he said to her, as he loving
caressed her. She had him so scared, but now that he
saw she was well his heart began to return to a
normal series of beats. He could not believe some
vile scum would bomb his daughter's memorial service
and he vowed to find the culprits, but for now he
was content that Sierra had survived and was
restored to him.
It was going
to be hard not to exert herself! She hadn't been
knocked down like this in years. She didn't care how
exhausted she was. Her attention sat on Claudius.
Her smile crept wider to his affection. The feeling
of his fingers moving through her wet hair made her
forget how bad the pain had been. His confession
brought on feelings of a different nature. There was
no way to tell how they would make their
*relationship* work. It was happening no matter what
anyone else wanted. She let his feelings warm her to
the bone. He loved her. He *loved* her! His mention
of Ringali Shell brought back other unpleasantness.
As much as she felt she should push him to leave,
she needed him here with her. "I'm sorry. I promise
I'll recover quickly. I want one more thranta ride
before we go home..." She chuckled softly.
She saw all
the blood on his tunic. She didn't recall that it
all belonged to her. She looked concerned. "Are you
okay? Are Drusilla and Ewwiekewwieikkie safe?" She
cared not for the other guard who had been injured.
Her top priority was *her* family. "What about the
rest of the family?"
"I am fine. My
children are fine. My family is fine," Claudius
said, reassuringly, as he continued to rub her head.
"No thranta rides for you right now, my love," he
said, as he leaned forward, hovering over her. "Take
all the time you need to recover. There's no rush.
There's nothing going on back there that needs my
attention," he promised her, as he leaned his head
all the way down to place a kiss upon her forehead
again. "You have no idea how scared I was at the
prospect of losing you," he said to her, almost
overcome what emotion again. "Who would do such a
thing? Who would do this to us?" he asked, as he let
out a horribly demoralized sigh. "First there was
the assassination attempt on my father and now this
bombing ... there is something going on here that I
cannot piece together," he confided in her, perhaps
overloading her with too much ... too soon.
She let out a
sigh. Okay, *okay*. The rest of the family was
secure and uninjured. Those were the last words of
reassurance that she needed to allow herself to
rest, for if someone had injured Ewwiekewwieikkie,
then she would have rose from the gurney with
vicious bloodlust. He also reassured her that her
recovery wasn't a pain to him. He was sweet enough
to give her the time that she would need to get her
strength back. She stole a kiss to his chin when he
leaned down. Pushing herself a final time, she
pathetically scooted towards the opposite end of her
gurney so that there was space for *two*. She was
nearly nude, cold, and honestly just wanted the
closeness of his body. Her hand lifted, fingers
running through his curls. "Ooh, we both know a
silly 'lil ol' bomb isn't going to take me out. You
*aren't* going to lose me."
her to think in another direction. Who would do
that? She bit on her lower lip. She was trying hard
to think back to the instant right before the bomb
exploded. "The bastard..? No... We both saw him
choke on a scone. He's not that good." She thought
out loud. Gaius' face was still etched into her
mind. He'd been the last thing she saw before she
passed out. "Gaius," she looked into his eyes. "He
was right there when the bomb went off. Of all the
people who walked past me, it didn't happen until
him. Was he the target?"
she was shivering and left her briefly to move
across the room and get a blanket. He was quickly
back at her side, draping the blanket over her to
keep her warm. He wanted to climb into the small bed
with her, but he had promised Pilaq that he would
not exert her. "I *can't* lose you, Sierra," he
said, possessively, as his hand became lost in the
beautiful blonde locks of her hair. When the subject
turned to the subject of the bombing he listened to
her speculating, and stared off into the distance as
the wheels began to turn. "No. I don't think the
bastard would have done it. You are right there," he
said, as he pulled his hand from her hair, and began
to adjust the blanket on her in overprotective
fashion. "Gaius has *a lot* of enemies as commander
of the Alderaan Guard. He's universally disliked by
the family, but I've been away and out of touch to
know how the people feel about him," he said,
fearing that he was now a stranger on his home
planet. "When you are well we must delve into this
conspiracy," he said, before realizing he was
putting too much on her. "I put too much on you, my
Sierra," he said, as he looked down upon her, with a
wealth of emotions pouring from him.
Mmm. She felt
warmer as soon as he covered her. She understood why
he didn't join her. When she was recovered, she
would find herself as close as close could be with
him. Her heart felt like it was becoming more
tangled up in his as they spoke. He had laid his
claim to her and Sierra accepted it. He belonged to
her. Vice versa, she was his, She would follow him
down whatever crazy rabbit hole they fell into next.
Her eyes closed for a second. He made her feel so
good. She needed it after being horrified by the
bomb. She seemed bothered by the string of events
that had occurred. She voiced as much to Claudius.
"It doesn't make sense. Someone trying to
assassinate the Duke ... then Gaius? There has to be
a different connection that we're not seeing. Could
it be a refugee?" She looked at him seriously, "You
have to be vigilant. I *refuse* to lose you. Did you
know an assassin was reprehended at the scene of the
attempt on your father, then mysteriously found dead
in his holding cell?" She had overheard the guards
talking. Both of her hands withdrew from beneath the
blanket. She cupped his face in her hands softly.
"You don't put *enough* on me. I'm strong. Let me
take some of that weight that you're holding by
yourself." Her hands fell to his shoulders as if she
dared to physically take it away.
doesn't make sense," Claudius said, as his hand
moved beneath the blanket to clasp her hand. "My
father was near death ... why would anyone want to
kill him? Gaius is the commander of the guard ...
why would anyone want to kill him? What do they have
in common?" he asked, as his eyes began to go blank,
trying in vain to process the facts that were lay
bare before them. "No. I didn't know that about the
assassin ... no one tells me anything anymore. I
have no idea what's going on aboard my command ship
or my planet," he said, feeling demoralized, as his
head began to sink down into his chest. "You are
strong, Sierra," he said, as he squeezed her hand,
coming to rely on her more and more. "...but we have
to wait until you are well again, and you *will* be
well again," he said, as he looked down at her
confidently with his bold brown eyes. He hated
seeing her here lying in a hospital bed hooked up to
all of these machines. He wanted to just pick her up
and carry her away to the comfort of the castle.
moved in between his. Sierra had never felt so in
love. Deep in her heart, she realized that her
future was only with him. What Arden wanted didn't
matter. What *Sierra* wanted held priority. She
wanted the ability to make Claudius happy. It didn't
matter if it was just a tiny smile after a long day,
or a little chuckle when she purposely did something
stupid just to get a reaction out of him. She would
allow herself to dream more of their future while
she continued to heal. "Mmm..." Her eyebrows were
furrowed. She was thinking hard. "Has anything
happened to Marcus? Maybe the answer is in front of
our faces. The Duchy. Why else would someone try to
kill a dying man?" She drew her head away from it.
Her hand squeezed his. "You have to give yourself a
little slack. We lost Alderaan this year. Jelena...
You're going to get back on top of everything,
starting with this mischief here." Like him, she
wanted to go. The gurney wasn't as comfortable as
her bed in the castle. "When can you break me out of
here? I've turned into a spoiled brat after sleeping
under a high thread count."
besides getting a sixteen year old girl pregnant,
releasing a sex tape, and marrying her on a
protected wildlife preserve?" Claudius asked, when
Sierra pressed him on his younger brother, Marcus.
"I can't imagine, Sierra. I don't want to be Duke.
Marcus doesn't want to be Duke. I don't think anyone
wants to be Duke," he said, as he let out another
dejected sigh. "I would break you out of here right
now if I could. I hate to look at you here like
this. I would much rather to see you back in the
castle," he said, as he looked at her chart to get
an idea of how long she would be in here. The
medical report was all gibberish to him. He did not
understand a word of it. She could be miraculously
cleared or near death and he would not be able to
tell the difference on the electronic readout that
flashed to life before him. "Perhaps I can have
proper bedding sent from the castle," he said to
her, as he wished they were not here like this.
There was so much he wanted to share with her, but
the cruel fate of the bomb would not allow them to
get the start he wanted for them.
hard...harder than she should have! "I'm happy to
know the bar is set so high. No matter what I do, it
can't possibly be as bad as a viral sex tape." She
giggled more, "Maybe we'll find the answer we're
looking for it we can figure out who actually
*wants* to be Duke. If you keep twisting my arm, I'm
going to suggest to Livia that I should rule."
Sierra was beginning to feel better. She was
certainly happier than normal. She watched him look
at the medical report in futility. "I'd like that,
if it's possible." Her head turned towards the bacta
tank, then back to Claudius. Like he had shared a
piece of himself with her, she decided she would
open up to her. "On Alderaan, my mother had a bacta
tank in the basement of our home," she began.
"Father never knew anything about it. He played a
game of ignorance instead of facing what was
actually happening. She'd pull me apart like a baby
doll and slid me into a tank identical to that one,"
she nodded towards it. "When we first spoke in your
office, you asked me why I decided to join the
Empire. We fight a war against the Rebels, yet the
evil they possess is nothing to what I dealt with at
home. I don't want to stay in a room with that
thing. It's haunting me worst than the idea that my
mother could be rotting in the refugee camp, waiting
for her moment to strike. I want to be with you away
from it all."
listened to the hardships Sierra described growing
up with at the hands of her mother, and he leaned
back in his chair thoughtfully as he attempted to
remember whether or not he had either met her
parents. What he listened to pained him, but he was
unsure initially how to reply. "I an Imperial Grand
Moff, Count of Leiliani, and heir to the Duchy of
Delaya," he said, confidently, as he raised to his
feet next to her gurney. "If I can't do whatever I
want then I suppose there's no point in any of it,"
he declared, as he reached down into the gurney and
picked her up, cradling her in her arms. As he began
to walk with her, she gradually was detached from
the machines, which began to ring with shrill
alarms. "*We* are going home," he declared to her,
as he marched through the medical facility where a
speeder assuredly awaited them. All along the walk
the staff and droids advised him against his
decision to discharge her, but he could not be
The relic of
her past weighed heavily on her mind. It was why she
had initially panicked so hard when she awoke. She
was confident that she would recover better away
from the medical center. She laughed, "I suppose
so." He was freeing her. She could do nothing to
help him carry her. Sierra's face nuzzled against
his chest. His uniform had been destroyed from her
blood. Her blood brought their love into the world,
like a phoenix from ashes. There were sirens
ringing. Doctor Tohan was not going to be pleased
with their recklessness when he found out about it.
She hoped their old friend could forgive them.
As soon as
they were out of the private sector of the medical
center, all sense of privacy was lost in the wind.
The media hounds had struck. Their flashes were so
abusive that Sierra closed her eyes against his
chest. "Still not as bad as Marcus..." She whispered
to Claudius. But pretty bad. They were about to be
involved in a massive scandal. Sierra had done
nothing to cover herself up. She'd been blown up.
The media hounds didn't phase her much more than
being annoying. Another minute later, they were
shielded from it all inside a speeder. They were
going home. Sierra was affectionate throughout the
entire ride while not pushing herself *too* hard.
She placed gentle kisses on his neck to remind him
of her newfound love. Everything was going to change
rapidly. Would her nights be spent by him from this