Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:1:32) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Medcenter).
Yekaterina Hanson, Callista Nilar, Duke Julius Rodney, Lord Marcus Rodney, Lady Zara Rodney, Commander Iyah Xergo, and Mug Zoran.

What followed the failed assassination attempt was one, long, *long* span of 24 hours or so. Iyah didn't sleep a wink. After a good cry and a whole hell of a lot of exhaustion, she started grinding into action. She contacted a fellow higher up officer on her ship, explaining the situation and that they wouldn't be able to leave yet. Mug couldn't be moved. Iyah would have Blue Haven leave without her before she stepped foot off of Delaya without him. She also had them send her and Callista a change of clothes, Iyah's blaster, and various other items to make the stay easier. The workers at the hospital were nice enough to give them a room beside Mug's, all three were located in the same private sector of the medical center. The attempt had warranted a serious increase in security, meaning the Duke had been moved to a different room and a guard was placed both inside and outside his room at all times. Iyah laid in a hospital bed, telling her sweet daughter stories until she felt calm enough to fall asleep. There, she kept vigil over her. Mug had *saved* her.

Of course, the news of the attempt had spread like wildfire. People were calling Mug a true hero. The man behind the sniper was being held somewhere, likely being tortured for information in a secret facility. To Iyah, none of it mattered. She wanted her Mug back.

The next day went by in slow motion. Iyah and Callista spent time coloring. Callista had drawn a picture for the Duke featuring them holding hands, unicorns, rainbows, and, of course, they both bore giant crowns. She also made one for Mug, filled with hearts, and a picture of the whole family having tea together. She slipped one of the big, Alderaan guards the picture for the Duke on one of the many walks her and her mother took. The doctors were kind enough to update her frequently on Mug's status. He was in surgery. He was out of surgery. He was in recovery. They were able to visit him before he regained consciousness. Callista's card sat on his bedside table, along with a half-eaten cookie that she'd insisted on saving him from lunch. The little girl has passed out again sometime while they waited for him to wake. She was sprawled out over three chairs, cuddling a plushie of a black and white kitten with a tutu and a crown on. Her blanket was tucked up to her nose.

Iyah was seated right at Mug's bedside. Both of her hands held one of his. She watched the motion of his chest moving up and down with each breath. She tried to time out their breathing so they exhaled and inhaled together. She'd do anything to make sure her next breath was shared with him. She had fallen so deeply in love with him.

Mug's eyes slowly opened, revealing nothing but a blurry light above him. He did not now where he was at first, and be began to panic, as we was unsure of whether or not Callista was sake. "Callista!" he exclaimed weakly, as his limbs began to violently thrash about, as if he was trying to leap up. His head trashed from side to side until finally his eyes focused in on the two most important people in his life. Callista was *safe*. Weakly he reached from her, but he was still weak, and medicated, and although it felt to him as if he was reaching her, he barely moved a finger. The assassin's bullet had nearly taken his life, and it was only through the intervention of a skilled surgeon that he was still alive to be with his family.

The combination of a lack of sleep and an insane day had Iyah nearly asleep. She felt like she needed to stay awake and vigilante. What if something happened again? Until he spoke and began violently thrashing about, she hadn't noticed his open eyes. Her own eyes shot open. Her hands touched him to calm him. "Mug! Mug! We're okay!" She called out to him to soothe him. He needed to relax. His poor body had been through so much. "You saved her. *You* saved her, Mug." Iyah's voice was irritatingly shaky again. Was she crying? A massive relief flooded her tired brain. Seeing him awake was step two to recovery. Step one, obviously, had been to survive surgery. Her hand brushed over his hair while the other held his hand. "You saved her..." She repeated again. This time, she was teary. She scooted closer to him without boarding his bed (which, trust me, she thought about doing). She pressed her face into his neck. "I was scared." She admitted to him quietly. If she had any luck, he likely wouldn't remember any of this because he was on lovely medicine cocktail. She lifted her head. "I think you've locked down the daddy of the year award." She let herself smile softly.

"She's alright?" Mug asked, as he looked past Iyah towards Callista. "You're sure she is alright?" he again asked, pressuring her for an answer. He asked nothing of himself, instead choosing to focus on their new daughter and her condition. He looked up at her, seeing the years in her eyes, as he too began to feel overcome with emotions. "What ... what happened?" he asked, still sounding incredibly weak and disoriented. As her face neared, he attempted to lift his head and place a kiss upon her, but his head felt like it weighed as much as a Star Destroyer. He slowly lifted his arm, gently brushing against her cheek, once her head was sufficiently lowered. For now, it was the only affection his poor body could muster.

"She's alright, I promise you. A nurse checked both of us out. She said when people look at horses, they say that the horse is as healthy as our child." She reassured him, looking back at their sleepy daughter. As much as Iyah tried to smooth things over, Callista had fed off of her anxiety all day. She was worried, though she didn't fully understand what about. The small gesture of affection was so wonderful. She'd been afraid that he was slipping through her fingers. Iyah hadn't been able to help him the entire time while he was in the OR. She kissed his cheek time and time again. If it was socially acceptable for her to climb up on top of him, she would have! They weren't out of the woods yet. There was recovery to get through now. Iyah backed away, only slightly, "Someone attempted to assassinate the Duke. I don't know anything about who or why or anything else. You took the slug to your back. You were in surgery for nearly *twelve hours*." Iyah felt exhausted all over again. It had been the most stressful time period in her life. All she wanted to do was have full body armor made for him.

Behind her, Callista began to stir underneath her blankets. The moment her eyes popped open and she registered that Mug was awake, she jumped up quickly. "Daddy!" She rushed to his side, wiggling her way up to the empty space on the bed beside him. She carefully cuddled her father, crying her own tears. Iyah was crying more too. In the middle of their reunion, a doctor lingered at the doorway. He gestured towards the Commander. Iyah sighed. "Excuse me..." Mug was in good hands. She walked out towards the hallway where an antsy doctor stood.

Mug listened to everything Iyah told him, but he could not understand why anyone would want to assassinate a man that was about to die of natural causes. He continued to listen as she relayed to him his surgery, but he did not remember anything that happened after the sound of the shattering glass. "Is the Duke ok?" he asked her, almost immediately wondering why he asked the moment he said it. Before he could get an answer, Callista was quick to climb onto the bed, causing a rush of pain in his back as the mattress bounced beneath them. He tried his best not to let her know it caused him pain, and he brought his hand up to her back, drawing her near him. "Hello, Callista," he said, as they cuddled, with him doing his best to dry her tears.

Callista was so happy. She'd been patiently waited for Mug to wake up. Now that he was awake, she wouldn't be leaving his side any time soon. "Look Daddy," she said, plucking up the half of a chocolate chip cookie. "I saved you some. Mama took me for a lunch date in the café...teria..." She said the word slowly, making sure she was pronouncing it properly. She remained with Mug while Iyah stood outside, listen to the doctor update her on Mug's status. He wore a grave look on her face. It made Iyah uncomfortable immediately. She was waiting for the doctor to tell her something horrible. What could it be?

"There's something else, Miss Xergo," the man said, peering at his holopad. "We've found a genetic match to Mug within our hospital." That news didn't sound bad. In fact, Iyah was filled with hope. "Is her name Octavia Zoran?" She piped up. In a fantasy land, the woman had someone survived the destruction of Alderaan. Maybe she wasn't there. She'd become a refugee and, one way or another, ended up at the hospital. Her heart began to beat fast. Before she could get too invested in her fantasy, the doctor shook his head. "No." *No?*

"The person in the hospital is his father, not his mother." The doctor had lost his voice of confidence. Iyah's eyes widened. Mug didn't know who his father was. She didn't know if this would be a happy revelation or not. The doctor seemed reluctant to go on, making the Commander feel impatient. "Who is it?" She prodded him further.

"Julius Rodney."

The two words punched Iyah hard. She reached a hand towards the wall for support. "No... The Duke? No..." They'd trash talked nobility so many times. It didn't seem possible that he was the son of a Duke. The doctor confirmed the news again, to which Iyah told him to leave. The worst part of that man's day had yet to come: the moment he told the Duke that his bastard was lying in the room next to his. How the hell did she tell Mug? There was no Hallmark card that was appropriate for the moment. She thought about hand making him one that said "Who's Your Daddy?" on the front, and then he'd open it and see a picture of Julius. When Iyah entered the room, she looked like someone had punched the air out of her. She sat back down in her chair.

Mug was too focused on Callista to even notice Iyah speaking with the doctor, and rather than try and hear what was going on, he instead looked to the cookie. "No, no. You can finish the cookie," he said to her, as he tried, unsuccessfully, to shift himself upwards, but only ended up further up the mattress. "Hopefully they won't make me stay here too much longer, and we can all go to the ship and fly away," he promised Callista, as he brought his hand up to run through her hair. "A hospital is no place for a child," he told her, as he inched forward, and placed a kiss upon her forehead. His attention turned towards Iyah when she returned, and while he could see she was uncomfortable, he did not want to ask her for the sake of their child. Something was clearly wrong, and he assumed it was something regarding his wound ... not his parentage.

Callista didn't push him too hard. She nibbled on the cookie in a slow, squirrel-like manner. Her big eyes stayed on him, listening to every word her father spoke. Truthfully, she was excited to see her new home. Just seeing Blue Haven had been enough to put her imagination in overdrive. She nodded her head. "I hope so too. This is no place for a king." Because if she was a princess, clearly he was the king. She remained close to Mug for as long as she could. It didn't take her long to fall asleep again. Night had fallen. She was a small child, exhausted after her life had changed massively. Iyah carefully collected their daughter from the bed. She laid her back over the makeshift bed that they had created, placed Callista's stuffed cat between her arms, and tucked the sweet girl in. She placed a kiss on her forehead. She decided then that she'd claim the spot on Mug's bed where Callista had slept. Iyah was careful. She lowered herself onto the bed without making it move too much. She kept her weight off of him, only keeping a single hand in his. She sighed. It was time to bring up the topic she least wanted to talk about. "Mug, what do you know about your father?" She asked, peering up at her likely drug induced boyfriend.

When Iyah asked him about his father hw was immediately confused, and scrunched his brow as he examined her for some sort of clarification. "My father?" he asked her, quietly, so that he would not disturb Callista, even though she had been moved away. "I never met my father," he said, sounding slightly sad, as he looked away from Iyah, unable to look at her as they discussed this difficult topic. "She never spoke a nice word about him, and ... I never asked," he said, as tears began to form in the corner of each eye, then slowly running down his cheeks. "Now ... now I'll never know," he said, as he turned to her, burying his tear stained face in her chest to both hide his emotions and seek out her comfort.

It was heartbreaking to see him get so emotional over it. Iyah had assumed that he didn't *want* to know who his father was. Until the doctor had pulled her aside, the identity of his father had crossed her mind only a few times. She assumed him to be a horrible person, and, frankly, Iyah wasn't that far off. She became his place of security, wrapping her arms around him very carefully. She dipped her head towards his. First, she kissed the top of his head, followed by his forehead. "Shhh... That's not true..." Her voice was soft and soothing. Her fingers raked through his hair. The woman struggled with her words. "You've already met him, Mug." She wasn't going to release him from her. What she was about to tell him could potentially have some negative effects. "The doctors were doing some testing on your blood.... They found him, Mug. Your father is here." Without saying it, she said it.

Mug trembled against her body as they lay together in the small hospital bed, cuddling. The feeling of her fingertips running through his hair was incredibly comforting, and slowly the tears began to subside. "What?" he mumbled into her chest, before slowly pulling his head away to look her in the eyes. "What do you mean I've met him? What do you mean he's here?" he asked her, grabbing hold of her arms, and freezing her in place. He looked her in the eyes with a mix of fear and trepidation ... he must know ... she had to tell him. He was too medicated to connect the dots himself, and in fact after she told him she might have to remind him again in the morning. There was a reason the painkillers administered in the hospital were not legal on the streets.

*Trapped*, Iyah stared into Mug's eyes. He wasn't going to figure it out for himself, not after all he'd endured and the wondrous drugs that were being pumped into his body via IV. She looked concerned. She had to tell him. That was the bottom line. It wasn't fair for her to hide the information from him. She'd only waited as long as she had so Callista wouldn't be there to experience the revelation. "You saved his life. Your father is the Duke of Delaya." She came out and said it as quickly as she could. The words were incredibly hard to say. "That's what I was told earlier. You are the bastard son of the Duke." She spoke in quiet whispers like she was sure no one else should hear this information. "There's no doubt. It's really him."

When she spoke the words he became a frozen Mug, unable to speak, or even move. His eyes locked upon hers, without blinking, and the few moments he lay there felt like hours. He could not accept the truth in her words, and finally he used what little strength he had to roll onto his side, turning his back to her, so that she could not see his true reaction. "No ... that's impossible," he told her, as the tears began to flow uncontrollably into the small, squished pillow that the medical center provided. He did not want to accept her words ... he could not accept them.

She didn't have to see his face to know he was crying. This news was totally unexpected. The probability of him being the Duke's son was so small, yet it had happened. The bed shifted softly while Iyah rose. With Mug's back in its current condition, she wasn't about to spoon him and aggravate the injury. She rounded his bed and uncomfortably squeezed her way onto what little space was left there beside him. Iyah didn't try to get him to withdraw from the pillow. Instead, she wrapped her arms around him and held him. Silence fell over the little hospital room, as did a feeling of despair. She wanted to fix everything. Somewhere in the Duke's room, some poor, unfortunate soul would have to break it to the old man that he had *another* son. Iyah's opinion of the Duke had not changed. He wasn't a worthy father for her Mug, or for his own children. Her fingers made it back into his hair where she idly ran her finger through it.

"Every bastard child imagines his father is some great man..." Mug confided in her, as he felt her move around to face him again. "...but I never wanted my father to be *this* great man," he stressed, as he tried his best to come to term with the news. "Does ... does he know?" he asked her, as his thougts inevitably came around to dwell on the sickly old man. "My mother always spoke so ill of the nobility. Now I know why. I can't imagine what she saw in him, or what he did to her," he said, his voice muffled by the literal pillow talk, as he buried his face in shame. He could not face her with this knowledge.

She didn't want to think about the conception of Mug. The Duke hardly seemed like the kind of man who'd be remotely good at treating a woman right. "If he doesn't know now, he'll know soon." She replied. Iyah wasn't sure if he'd attempt to kill Mug and squash the evidence of his affair, or if he'd accept it and continue to waste away. Regardless, her blaster was going to remain near. She'd get Mug transferred back to the Blue Haven as soon as she could. She didn't like seeing him hide from her. He was clearly embarrassed by the knowledge of his father. She didn't want him to feel that way. Iyah cuddled closer to him. "I can't imagine either..." She wished she'd known Mug's mother so that she could explain that situation. Instead, it was a mystery that would remain for all of time. Keeping him close, she sighed, "Do you want to know a secret?"

"Do we have to talk more about this?" Mug asked her, pathetically, as his arms wrapped around her body, drawing her in perhaps too tightly. He could not bare to hear anymore at this time, and so he slowly revealed his face to her. He placed his lips against hers in a passionate kiss, which he wanted to take further, but the presence of Callista made him hesitate. "What secret?" he finally asked, unable to resist asking about it, as he was insatiably curious ... despite his depression and pain.

She was happy to see his handsome face again, even while it held much too much sadness. Iyah shared a loving kiss with him. Her emotions were so strong considering what they'd just gone through. He wasn't the only one who wanted to take it further. He needed to recover more before they resumed certain strenuous activities. They also were not alone. Callista was only four. Iyah figured she had some time before she needed to explain where babies came from. She nuzzled her nose against his slowly. "I feel your pain." She told him, dark eyes looking into his. "My parents are also of nobility." Iyah had never spoken of where she'd come from. In fact, the information she was sharing with him was something she wished she could burn. "They feared the Emperor. Even though he had never threatened them, they took certain precautions. I was those precautions. I was presented to the Emperor as a gift." She explained to him. "I'm not proud of where I came from. It's not something I can change either. At the end of the day, the Duke may be your father, but you are an incredible man. You're not like him. You won't ever be like that. Callista and I won't let you." She smiled, glancing towards their sleeping daughter.

"So does that meant the Imperial governor and the drunken playboy are my ... are my..." Mug asked her, as face went wide, and then switched to a look of absolute confusion. He had gone from having no one ... to a girlfriend ... to an adopted daughter ... and now an entire family with a gnarled, wicked tree. "Your from the nobility too Iyah?" he asked in bewilderment, his voice raising unintentionally, as another shoe dropped. They could open up a shoe store with the amount of shoes dropping around here he thought silently to himself. "Next you're going to tell me that Callista really *is* a princess," he said, as he tried, in vain, to process of all what was happening.

All Iyah had focused on was the fact that Julius was his father. She forgot about Claudius and Marcus until he mentioned them. She couldn't handle it. She began to laugh. She imagined them all, crowded at a dining table, attempting to celebrate a holiday together. "Oh, nononono. They are only your *half*-brothers. There's a difference." Iyah pointed out. "I suppose that makes Duchess Livia your evil step-mother? Gosh, don't let Callista hear me saying that." Her cheeks began to turn red as he pointed out the truth for her. "I'd prefer only you and I know. My parents suspect that I'm dead or some bride of the Emperor. How terrible does that sound? Thankfully, the Emperor didn't take to me and made me a slave." Trust me, you'd much rather be a slave then his wife. Ew. She bit her lower lip, looking at Mug. "She could be... It seems to be our luck. I worry what the Duke will think of all of this. He's on his deathbed, learning that his son saved him from being killed..." Iyah laughed again. She cradled his body close to her. "Remember when I joked about you being Duke Mug? I think I jinxed us. This is my fault."

Suddenly the doors to the suite opened breaking their private little moment ... it was Yekaterina Hanson and a detachment of the Alderaan Guard. As she moved towards the bed she did the most unexpected of actions ... she bowed. "Milord Mug," she said, as she looked towards the still recovering man. "These men will be left here for your protection. When you are feeling well enough your father would like to see you," she still found it difficult to say the words, and had she not personally verified the DNA several times she would not have believed it. Her attention turned towards the sleeping Callista, before looking back towards the cuddling couple. "She is adopted?" she asked, to confirm, as she brought up her datapad. Protocol was already in place for such a relationship as Claudius had an adopted daughter who they formerly protected.

Iyah had made a cozy little home for herself in Mug's bed. She was calm, happy, and warm... until people began breaking into the room. The Commander's eyes narrowed. For a second, she turned dangerous until she registered the woman who had entered as well as the fact that Alderaan guards were with her. *Here we go*... She thought, settling down beside Mug... *Rodney*. Kat was speaking in tongues and making foreign gestures. Was that *bowing*? The news was so new. It was hard to begin to wrap her head around it. Callista, managed to sleep through the entire ordeal, squeaked in her sleep and cuddled her little kitten plushie more. Iyah kept one eye on the girl. She wasn't going to let anything happen to her. "She's adopted." Iyah answered. She looked confused. It was weird to hear Kat call the Duke his father. The wheels in her brain began to turn again. Were they going to get to leave Delaya? This secret wouldn't stay secret for long. Already too many people knew the truth. She said nothing about the guards. She simply stared at Kat, looking as confused as anyone else might in this situation. "The Duke doesn't need to burden himself with all of this. We had no idea. We can leave quietly."

Mug could not believe what he was hearing ... and now what he was experiencing. Like a coward, he his behind his girlfriend, the experienced and fearless Commander of his dreams. He allowed her to make the initial response as a thousand thoughts went through his head in rapid succession. Suddenly he did not know who he was anymore, and if Iyah were not here to protect him he surely would have crumbled. Why were they asking about Callista? Would she get this caught up in all of this noble hysteria again? He buried his face in Iyah again, hoping that the security forces would disappear, and the DNA tests would fade away.

"The Duke was very insistent, Commander," Kat replied, as she did her best to speak in a quiet voice to avoid waking the young one. "Fear not. We have a protection detail protocol in place that covers *both* biological *and* adopted children," she said, in a formal tone, as she updated her datapad with the new protectees. "The burden would be if Lord Mug departed without seeing his father..." she said, her voice cracking, as she was overwhelmed with the knowledge that the only Duke she had ever served was nearing his end of days. "This may be their only chance to speak to one another," she said, speaking directly to her, rather than Mug, as she could instantly tell who wore the pants in this complicated, modern family.

Iyah didn't think twice about becoming their voice. Her boyfriend had dealt with so much. The news of his father had blindsided both of them. It was going to take time to process and even longer to actually accept. She was there to be his protector, his love, and whatever else he needed from her. Commander Xergo looked concerned. Kat had spoken the perfect combination of words. She couldn't load the family into a speeder and rush to Blue Haven, thus severing Mug's last chance to *meet* his father. She had contemplated it. She sighed. "Okay." The Commander broke down. "We'll see the Duke now as long as you, yourself, promise to stay and watch over Callista. I don't know how long she's going to sleep. I don't want her to wait up scared." She noticed how Kat spoke to her instead of Mug. She wished that they would all disappear. Instead of sleeping next to her favorite person, she was now rising to her feet and moving towards a wheelchair sitting in the corner of the room. Only once Kat had agreed did she begin transferring Mug to the chair. She was careful to help him, while making sure she didn't flash the room with his backside. Dammit, that was her private property to enjoy! Kidding, *kidding*.

When he was loaded up, Iyah forced herself to walk him towards his *father's* new room. Her steps came with great reluctance. The wheels of the chair seemed to turn for the exit before she put them back on course. They wouldn't escape without Callista. "I still have some of that strong Alderaan wine back in the ship..." She mentioned.

They had come as soon as they heard. Marcus Rodney rose from his seat at his father's bedside the moment the wheelchair entered the room. He stood there, silently, staring at the young man. There was an undeniable family resemblance. When he first heard the story, the coincidence that the man who was shot in his father's medical suite was *also* his son it sounded too good to be true. It sounded like a HoloNet scam. He patted his father's hand, and then flashed a look towards Zara, before moving towards the wheelchair. "Hello ... brother," he bega, as he dropped to one nee in front of Mug and Iyah. "So how would you like to be Duke of Delaya?" he asked, tilting his head slightly to guage his reaction. Claudius did not want it. He did not want it. Would this bastard?

The news had some as a ... a ... *godsend*. Since Zara stupidly announced their claim on the throne, it had been a dark cloud hanging over their heads. She didn't *actually* want it. She was manipulated by the Duke's decrepit state and by the fact that she was a nice woman. How could she crush the man on his deathbed? This was a damn miracle. The feelings were mutual. For the first time since that moment, Zara felt weightless. She saw a way out that didn't take away from the Rodney name. The future she wanted opened up again; her, Marcus, and the twins playing in the snowy North. She didn't mind meeting up with the Duke under these circumstances. Zara was seated beside Marcus at Julius' bedside until he rose. She smiled at her husband. This was exactly what they both wanted.

Seeing Mug and the drunken former playboy together was so weird. Iyah was forced to notice that the two *did* look alike. Of course, Mug was infinitely more handsome and wonderful. She had seen images of Claudius as well. Thinking back on them, she saw it. They were brothers. The DNA had revealed it all. As if they hadn't dropped enough shoes today, seriously, this had to be the fiftieth pair, Marcus Rodney dropped the biggest of them all. Hearing him refer to Mug as 'brother' was odd enough. However, his follow up was enough to knock the wind out of Iyah. Her mind went traveling back to the past, laughing and drinking with Mug while proclaiming him 'Duke Mug'. Duke Mug wasn't a drunken story anymore. She was clinging to the handles of the wheelchair roughly. If she let go now, she was going to fall over and die. Her eyes flickered down to Mug. What would he say? In Iyah's heart, she knew he was exactly what this planet needed. Of course, those feelings were covered up in shock. Duke Mug, Duchess... Iyah? She did her best to be polite towards Marcus, smiling at the man and bowing. "Marcus Rodney, you sure know how to make an entrance..." She didn't know what to say. "Give us a minute, please." No sooner had they arrived in the room did Iyah turn around and wheel Mug out. On unsteady legs, she walked to the front of the wheelchair. She sunk to her knees, taking both of his hands in hers. "What do you want, Mug?"

Zara rose from her seat. She made her way over to Marcus. "I think you scared them off." She teased.

Mug was fortune that he did not get whiplash from the way in which Iyah maneuvered his wheelchair out of the room. No sooner had he met his 'brother' then he was gone again, having to decide the fate of his entire family in the middle of the night, outside of his newly discovered dying father's medical suite, with a wound still healing in his back. He sighed, sinking into his wheelchair, as the weight of this entire planet suddenly came crashing down upon him. He swallowed, his throat bulged noticeably, as he tried to collect himself. But how did a man pick himself up from all this? How did a man pick himself up from any one of these things? "I want..." he said, eventually, as he stared off into oblivion. He was convinced that if Iyah let go of the wheelchair he would fall off a cliff into a void and never return. "I want to talk to my father ... alone," he said, as he tilted his head up to her, wondering if such a thing were even possible.

The storm was all around them. The Duke was dying, pressing into the issue of succession. Until thirty seconds ago, the second son had been the chosen one. She looked sad. Iyah hated seeing him like this. There was no way for her to make this situation better. "Then that's what you'll have." The Commander told him. She wished she could hide him away from all of this. Maybe if her arms were just a little bigger, she could. "I love you. I stand by you no matter what." She reassured him with a kiss to his forehead. He wasn't the only one who was feeling a taste of separation anxiety. Iyah looked uncomfortable when she brought Mug back into the room. She set him up comfortably close to the Duke while speaking to the royal couple. "Mug would like to speak with the Duke alone. I think it's only fair. He hasn't had the chance to speak to his father as his father yet." She explained. With great reluctance, her hands let go of the wheelchair. She forced herself to turn away from her boyfriend. "If you don't mind, my daughter is a huge fan." Iyah told Zara. "It would be a dream come true for her to be able to meet you."

Zara felt no need to argue with the man's decision. They were thrusting the weight of the world onto his shoulders. The media was swarming outside of the hospital. Between the assassination attempt, the third son of the Duke, and Delaya's most popular couple's appearance, they knew something was up. The information hungry reporters were waiting. She was ready to go when the Rebel Commander, and obvious lover of Mug spoke. She smiled softly. "I'd love to meet her." Zara's hand crept into her husband's. She was having one of those days were being pregnant with twins was difficult. Her swollen tummy seemed to grow just in the time since they'd arrived. Together, they all moved down the hallway to the room where Mug had been. Callista was awake, currently talking to Kat at an amazing speed. The little girl could make friends with just about anyone. She was all smiles as soon as she saw Iyah return. "Mommy!" She squeaked, darting towards her at a speed comparable to a cheetah. Her arms had just locked around Iyah when she noticed who else was there. She recognized both Marcus and Zara. "*Mommy*. It's her!" She said in awe.

Marcus allowed Zara and Iyah to head off for whatever it is was young, beautiful, rich noblewomen did. Frankly, he was in no rush to find out, but he did have obligations. He walked slowly, stopping next to Mug's wheelchair. He let a firm hand drop to his younger half-brother's shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "Don't let the old lion get to you, kid," he said in a strong, deliberate voice. He gave a look over his shoulder at his dying father and wondered if the perfect solution had been found. One thing was certain ... he would not allow Gaius to take the throne, even if it meant having to take it himself. He was certain his fiendish cousin was somehow involved in this plot, but he dared not speak openly about it. And so he left, following the women, as if being painfully dragged. When he arrived in the room that was overflowing with estrogen he offered his best smile to the young Callista, before posting up in the rear corner of the wall. Hopefully this would not be a long talk.

Mug grabbed hold of the controls of his wheelchair and positioned himself next to the Duke's body. When he first met with the man he was a stranger ... and he hated him. Now that he had learned he was his father ... he despised him. He sat there, silently, as he considered what to say. What does one say to a father who did not exist for the first three decades of his life? "Did you know about me?" he finally asked, after clearing his throat, and lowering his head, completely unable to look to the man who had abandoned him and dishonored his beloved mother.

Julius leaned up in the bed, smiling towards Mug, who he now accepted at his son. "No. I never was told about you. If I had, I would have been part of your life," he said weakly, as he adjusted the controls of his bed to raise the back of the mattress so he could sit up. "Did your mother ever tell you about me? They informed me she was lost when Alderaan was destroyed, I can't tell you how sorry I am," he said, as he reached forward with his tired, wrinkled, arthritic hand to touch his newly discovered son upon the cheek affectionately.

Mug recoiled as his father touched him, so uncomfortable, that he nearly toppled over the wheelchair. "No. She never told me about you," he said, bitterly, as he continued to stare down at the floor, avoiding eye contact. "But she did tell me horrible stories about the nobility," he said, finally turning to look the old man in the eyes, with a mixture of anger and longing. "What did you do to her?" he asked, sounding quite angry, as he attempted to defend his perfect image of his deceased mother.

"Well I got her pregnant it would seem," Julius said, with a wicked smirk, before he started laughing. The laugh turned into a cough. The cough turned into a hack. The hack turned into choking. The joke nearly cost him his life, but he was going to die anyway, and it was better to die laughing, he thought to himself. "Your mother was a lovely woman who found me at a difficult time in my life," he said, nodding his head as he reflected on his own scandalous past. "She was a wonderful summer, but she wanted more, and I was married..." he said, ruefully, as he looked towards his youngest son, and hopeful successor. "Can you understand?" he asked, knowing that he was presenting a view of Octavia that Mug could never appreciate. "Mug ... did she ever tell you why she named you that?" he asked, before sinking back in the bed, trying to catch his breath.

The joke at his mother's expense irritated him, and he began to move away from the man's bed, when the story began. It was about what he expected, and he suspected the Duke had used his wealth and power to woo his innocent, young mother and then left her when she no longer amused him. "No. No I can't understand," he said, as he moved the chair towards the exit of the suite. "She named me Mug because she hated the nobility ... hated *you* and what you represent ... she wanted to name me something as plain and far from the nobility as possible," he said, before departing his father's room and attempting to seek out the ladyfolk.

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