Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:2:11) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Medcenter).
Commander Sierra Dakkar, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, and Doctor Pilaq Tohan.

Claudius 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.

Doctor Pilaq 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*.

Sierra Dakkar 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*.

Pilaq threw 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 her face.

Claudius was 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.

Her body 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.

Pilaq Tohan 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.

Claudius 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."

He inspired 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?"

Claudius noted 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.

"No. It 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.

Her fingers 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."

"You mean 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.

Sierra laughed 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."

Claudius 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 dissuaded.

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 point forward?

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