"Oh my gosh!
She's going to be here soon!" Duchess Zara Rodney
was feeling nervous about Granny Ta'em's first visit
to Delaya to see the life she now lived. They had
bonded so much on Coruscant that the elderly woman
had wanted to spend more time with the family
immediately. Zara was extremely happy about this.
She wanted to take her grandma to Auntie Mae's. She
wanted to show her all the various things the twins
could do now, even though it had only been a couple
of weeks since she'd seen Sia and Darrus. They were
Zara's pride and joy. It seemed that so many things
happy were pending. Iyah had enlisted Zara to help
with preparations for Callista's sixth birthday,
which Zara had taken over completely. Marcus'
birthday was nearing. Every day brought them closer
to the arrival of their second daughter. Zara
allowed for Governor Arundel to occupy the back of
her mind, not the front. That may have been a
dangerous, foolish decision on her part.
Today was made
to be a happy day. Zara was pacing with Darrus in
her arms. She had sent a guard to pick Magnolia up
from the port in the city. She had insisted on
coming by her own means of transportation; the
public sort. "Do you think she'll like it here? It's
so different from Coruscant...different in a good
way." Zara rattled off to her husband.
Zara. No need to be nervous. After all, it *is* a
castle," Marcus told her, as he adjusted his tunic
in the full body mirror in their unusually large
walk in closet. "Don't worry. She'll be more focused
on the twins than either of us," he reassured her,
before adjusting his collar one last time and moving
to be nearer to her. He came up behind her, placing
a hand on each of her shoulders in an attempt to get
her to stop pacing. "Shh. She'll love it here," he
spoke directly into her ear, as he peered over her
shoulder at Darrus. He scrunched his face together
to make a funny face for the baby, before shifting
his attention back to her. He moved his face
forward, placing a series of kisses on the side of
her neck and beneath her ear.
"It *is a
castle..." Zara's eyes widened. "She could get lost.
Should I put a tracker on her just in case?" Marcus
had a good point. Her grandma had instantly fallen
in love with their twins. It was like night and day
when they left Granny Ta'em. She was much
happier...and so was Zara. She had a piece of the
Ta'em family to share with her new family. She
turned her head to look at him. Slowly, she smiled.
Darrus let out a shrill of a giggle. Both of his
chubby little hands reached out towards his father.
"Dadadadada!" Darrus rambled in the sweetest, most
angelic voice Zara had ever heard. It was the first
time Darrus had ever spoken. Normally, both twins
just cooed, giggled, and, of course, screamed. Zara
thought her ears had betrayed her, especially
because Marcus was actually succeeding in calming
her down. "Did you hear that?" She asked him. She
could feel Darrus still struggling to reach his
father at her shoulder. Again, he spoke. "Dadadadada."
"How far could
she possibly get?" Marcus questioned her, with a
smirk, before inevitably agreeing with her that she
could get lost. However, before he could say
anything more his son interrupted him for the first
time. "Oh my Germanicus!" he said, as he stopped
kissing his wife and shifted his attention to his
son. "What did he say? What just happened?" he asked
Zara, as his eyes widened and his mouth hung
awkwardly ajar. "He's talking ... I think!" he said,
excited, as his smile became so wide that it
threatened to tear his face in two.
"I don't know!
The library. The mountains. The chalet! I don't know
how fast she moves these days." The conversation
quickly shifted when Darrus made it clear that he
knew who Marcus was. The dark haired little boy was
getting bigger and bigger every day. Now he was
talking?! Zara squeezed her son gently. "Darrus is
talking!" She turned around and readjusted Darrus so
he could sit with his back against her chest. The
small boy reached out, grasping his father's tunic.
"Dadadadadadada!" He rambled on to his dad. His face
showed such a serious expression, like they were
having a heart-to-heart. Behind him, Zara was filled
with happiness. She laughed. "He's doing it! He's
really doing it!" She inched closer to Marcus.
Darrus saw the opportunity and quickly began trying
to transfer from mother to father.
out and assisted in the transfer, embracing his
newly talkative son while carefully supporting his
head. "Will you listen to that?" he said to his wife
with a smirk, as he cradled his beloved son quite
proudly. "He said 'dada'," he announced proudly,
wishing there were HoloNet cameras there to proclaim
to the galaxy that his son was talking. It was one
of the proudest moments of his life. "Quick. Tell
the staff!" he told his wife, as they were
completely alone and there was no one to bare
witness to the momentous event. He looked down at
his son making all sorts of comical faces in an
attempt to egg him on.
It was one of
the most amazing moments of Zara's life. Today, all
he could say was 'dada', but it was the beginning of
talking in full, coherent sentences. She was so
proud of their son. Zara watched the two of them.
"Of course he did. That's 'cause you're the best
daddy ever." Every day, she witnessed how much Sia
and Darrus loved their father...and their mother
too. Parenthood had come easily to them. "You're
right. I must tell everyone!" She began to dart out
of their room when she heard Sia waking up from her
nap. She gently plucked her sweet baby girl from the
bassinet. "Good afternoon, princess. You woke up
just in time to come with mommy." Her daughter
yawned, slowly resting her head on Zara's shoulders
and attempting to go back to sleep. As she moved
through the castle, Zara told *everyone* about
Darrus. She wasn't sure if the staff was sick of her
and Marcus' excitement, or if they were glad to have
it after decades of no children living within the
castle. During her ranting, Zara was informed that
Magnolia had arrived. She diverted to go greet her
grandmother. "Granny Ta'em is here to spend time
with you and your brother." She told Sia. "She's
going to be so happy to see both of you."
stared at the foyer in Castle Rodney in awe. It had
been hard to wrap her mind around Zara becoming
Duchess of Delaya, especially because Magnolia
imagined a twelve year old Zara trying to taken on
the burden. When she saw her granddaughter, she was
reminded how much she had grown since those days. "Sia!"
Magnolia beamed down at the precious little girl.
She placed a kiss upon the top of her head. It
wasn't much longer before Zara was happily talking
with her and leading her up to Marcus and Darrus. A
crowd had covered to hear the first words of the
only half serious when he suggested that Zara should
tell everyone, but before he knew it she was off,
running through the castle. "There she goes," he
said to Darrus with a snicker, before moving to
attempt to catch up with her. However, as she was
less than half his age she moved so rapidly that he
gave up trying to keep up with her and just
maintained a steady pace. Eventually he was informed
that Magnolia Ta'em had arrived, and began moving
towards the foyer. Of course Zara beat him there,
but he nevertheless arrived with the man of the
hour, Darrus. "Welcome to Rodney Castle," he said in
a boisterous, gregarious voice, before presenting
his son and attempting to coax him into talking. He
wanted witnesses of his achievement.
her grandmother with one arm while the other secured
Sia. She'd thanked Marcus repeatedly for supporting
her and helping her follow through on reconnecting
with Magnolia on Coruscant. It had been scary. Like
so many things, she couldn't have done it without
him. "Granny, Darrus just said his first words. He
said 'dada'." She moved to stand beside Marcus. They
both were gleaming with pride. Their children were
There was a
warm welcome waiting for Granny Ta'em inside of the
foyer. After she had reunited with Zara and Sia, she
made her way towards her ... grandson-in-law with a
look of astonishment on her face. "It's good to see
you again, son." She looked down at Darrus,
immediately trying to make him laugh with funny
faces. "And you too, little Darrus. Will you talk to
Granny Ta'em?" The positive reinforcement that both
of Darrus' parents were providing seemed to be
inspiring the boy to talk more. He showed his great
grandma a toothless grin, then turned his mouth and
began to gnaw on Marcus' shoulder. "Dadadadada."
There it was. Darrus' first word. It wouldn't be
long before Sia was talking too. Magnolia laughed
softly. "Adorable. Now I need you to get a few years
older so when I come visit, I can fill your tummy
with cookies." She gently tickled the little boy's
sides to make him giggle.
"Do you mean
homemade cookies?" Marcus asked, as he imaged
competing Granny Ta'em against Auntie Mae with a
potential cookie emporium. He never missed an
opportunity to tweak that horrible woman. It seemed
that Darrus was not going to stop talking now that
he had managed to learn how. A boy that liked the
sound of his own voice would grow up to become a
fitting Duke of Delaya one day. "Do you hear that?"
he asked Magnolia, knowing full well that she could,
but he was completely lost in parental bliss.
cookies." The older woman confirmed. She had waited
a long time to act as a grandmother again. Her son's
children hadn't been around nearly as frequently as
she wanted when they were young as a result of
Starcaster's obsession with the Rebellion. "I did.
And what a voice the little prince has." She turned
towards Sia and her granddaughter. Magnolia was
smiling. "It seems like you picked a good one." She
referred to Marcus. Luna had always been getting in
trouble with men. It was relieving to see Zara in
good hands. "Sia looks exactly like you when you
were a baby, Zara. After you left, I found more
photos. I brought them with me." Granny Ta'em was an
over sharer who was hopping aboard the proud
cookies..." Zara rubbed her small baby bump. Right
now, *all* sweet sounded good. Gunganese food
sounded good too. She idly wondered what it would
take to summon Doo Doo Fast to the castle since his
restaurant (and food cart) had been shut down.
"*More* photos? I thought you dug out all the
embarrassing ones for Marcus already." Since then,
Zara had secured the dewback costume picture where
Auntie Mae's eyes could never see it. Her
grandmother's compliment made her blush. She was
well aware that the fated night of their meeting had
allowed Zara to gain something infinitely better
than a chrono. "We wanted to show you around town."
Zara started. "There's an amazing ice cream parlor.
I'm sure you've heard of it." She cuddled Sia. The
great presence of Imperials in the city was the one
thing that she wished Magnolia didn't have to see.
She hated being stuck under Governor Arundel's
thumb. The options were limited. She approached
Marcus to collect Darrus. The twins would be staying
home for this trip.
broadly, easily flattered by Magnolia's description
of him as 'the good one'. "Thank you, Granny Ta'em,"
he said, with a sweet smile, as he looked towards
the woman. "Oh. *More* pictures?" he asked,
decidedly wanting to go examine them carefully. He
realized they were in a castle stocked to the
rafters with embarrassing images of him from
throughout his youth and beyond. "Yes. You must see
Leiliani," he said, echoing Zara's sentiments, but
when she suggested the ice cream parlor he was a bit
surprised. Definitely the craving of a pregnant
woman. Hopefully there would be enough purple potato
ice cream or there would be another food riot to
have a hard time not going nuclear if her favored
ice cream wasn't in stock. "I'll be right back." The
young Duchess whisked both of her children off.
Darrus was continuing to talk, babbling endlessly
just to show that he could do it. The little boy was
just as proud of his accomplishment as the rest of
his family was. Zara snuggled both of her children
as she prepared to hand them off to Nana. "I love
you both so much," she said as she kissed both of
them. "Mama and dada are going to show granny the
city. I bet she'll play with you when we get back."
With a final embrace, she handed them over to their
trusted nanny bot. She rejoined with her family. Her
hand moved into Marcus'. "Let's get going!" She
declared as she led the way outside of the castle
and towards a speeder. Despite the Imperial
presence, Leilani was recovering. It looked so much
better than it had in awhile. The skies were blue.
The air was clean. The massive changes the Ithorians
had made were not ones Zara took for granted. As the
Duchess, she was making changes to ensure things
never got that bad again. "We have to take a holovid
of Darrus later." Zara whispered to her love
protest of the Alderaan Guard, Marcus would allow no
one but himself to drive his pregnant wife. Once
Zara and her grandmother were safely in the speeder
he took the driver's seat and began to power up
their armored, luxury speeder. He looked over his
shoulder to ensure everyone was situated before
accelerating the speeder down the mountain pass.
"Yes. We have to make a holovid," he said, agreeing
with his wife, while smiling broadly. Gone were the
days he would take the route with reckless abandon,
and instead he found himself driving down at a
snail's base to avoid giving his pregnant wife even
the slightest jostle. After what seemed like an
eternity they arrived in the city. Once they were
amongst traffic he seemed to drive even more slowly
and cautiously, giving every speeder they
encountered the right away. *Finally* they arrived
at Auntie Mae's *original* ice cream parlor where
all of the magic started. The paparazzi were in full
force, as was to be expected.
happily pointing out various things to her
grandmother. The city was filled with so many
memories that she and Marcus had made together. Of
those memories, perhaps the precious of all was the
first trip to Auntie Mae's. She could never forget
the children that had been there that day and how it
made her imagine bringing their own little
offsprings there eventually. Auntie Mae may have
created an empire off of her family and occasionally
make her furious, but this parlor was a happy place.
She and Marcus had found relief there during the
time when Julius was in the medcenter living out his
last days. The sight of the paparazzi took the smile
from her face. They were *always* camped out at this
location. "Sorry, Granny. It's part of the gig." She
glanced towards her husband with a look of concern.
She recalled her first brushes with paparazzi. Even
after a year, Zara still had moments where they were
overwhelming. She took to protecting her grandmother
as they stepped out of the speeder and made their
not visited Delaya in some time. She was more than
happy to remain nestled up in her junk shop on
Coruscant. However, times were changing and so was
she. There was so much to catch up on from Zara's
life. The old woman listened closely and nodded her
head. Much to everyone's relief, the old woman
didn't seem to care for the paparazzi. "Don't
apologize, dear. Do you think they'll catch my good
side?" She smiled. There were flashes all around
them as they made their way into the parlor. The
royal couple was escorted to a back room where the
paparazzi couldn't take pictures of them while they
attempted to eat ice cream. Zara was quick to order
two scoops of her favorite ice cream. Magnolia
decided to do the same. She expected the ice cream
to be disgusting. She'd never heard of purple
potatoes. On top of that, trusting the tastebuds of
a pregnant woman was not always smart.
are you gonna have this time, Marcus?" Zara sat
down. Happy memories were still playing in her head
while they created new ones.
the paparazzi, but he realized in these turbulent
times that his people needed to see their Duke. He
did not cover his face, nor did he protest their
presence, but he did not waste time moving into
Auntie Mae's either. Magnolia, it seemed, did not
mind the new attention and he could not blame her.
Fortunately they had arrived at perhaps the only ice
cream parlor in the galaxy with a private dining
room, where they were provided access to an
assortment of Auntie Mae's classic and whimsical
flavors. "Hmm. It's always a challenge..." he said
to Zara, as he sat down, and took a look at the
menu. "Perhaps I'll try the new Gungan Guberry," he
said, as he brought his hand up to stroke his chin.
That woman always seemed to have something new to
"I heard she
brought that one out in honor of her new partnership
with Doo Doo Fast." Zara hoped he got the Gungan
Guberry so she could try a little. She was glad to
put space between her and the paparazzi, but there
was someone else Zara had to worry about. "They do
ice cream cakes now!" She peered at the menu over
her husband's shoulder. Excluding Callista, Marcus'
birthday was up next. She had some plans for that.
As the best husband ever, the best daddy ever, and
the best person ever, Marcus deserved one hell of a
celebration. She kissed his chin before sitting
down. Her grandma was taking in the bright colored
interior of Auntie Mae's. The next time the door
opened, it was Mae Vinjagga who stepped through. The
woman was better known as 'Auntie Mae'.
Mae had proven
herself to be one hell of a business woman. After
Auntie Mae's had been open for decades, she'd
finally hit her stride when she decided to latch
onto the House of Rodney like a parasite. She was
delighted to hear that they had brought someone else
along with them. Another mystery Rodney? The woman
wore a huge smile. She'd only recently finished her
'big project' featuring Sierra and Claudius. She
would soon reveal it over the holonet. She needed
another project: she needed another scandal. "Duke
Marcus, Duchess Zara, it's a pleasure to have you."
She placed a bowl of ice cream in front of Zara as
her sights focused on the older woman. "And who is
this?" The woman sat down at the table with them and
began to make herself at home. She prodded Marcus
with an unnatural long fingernail. "You haven't
taken my advice yet. Take your wife back to the sea
islands before the ice cream goes to her thighs. I
want another video!"
of emotions changed so swiftly as Zara first
mentioned the infamous Doo Doo Fast, but then
quickly moved on to the topic of ice cream cakes.
Initially repulsed, he soon found himself enthralled
by the possibility of a delicious and delectable ice
cream cake. However, before he could utter a word
Auntie Mae herself walked into the room. Always a
gentleman, he briefly stood up when she entered,
before sitting back down. "Mae," he said, politely,
with a soft nod of his head. He did not dare
introduce Magnolia Ta'em, as he felt that was Zara's
responsibility. "She is pregnant. Any weight that is
added is for the health and benefit of the baby," he
scolded Mae for mentioning his wife's thighs. As to
the sea islands and a second video, all he could do
is blush red from embarrassment and anger.
The look Zara
gave Marcus said everything without any words. She
wasn't happy with Mae harassing them. The ice cream
that she placed before her seemed meaningless now
that the woman who had exposed intimate moments was
there. She was trying to protect her grandmother
from that. "Auntie Mae.." She greeted her in the
best Duchess voice she could manage. Her sights were
immediately on Magnolia, who would have her own ice
cream flavor overnight. She stopped shooting daggers
at Auntie Mae with her eyes and looked at Marcus who
was, as always, exceeding at being her husband. She
reached over to place a hand over his. "This is my
grandma, Magnolia. She's here visiting us and the
twins. As to our videos, there will be no more of
that. You invaded our privacy by placing a droid on
a protected island. Do you *really* want to be sued
by us?" Zara had enough of being pushed around by
not have been as in the loop as all the others.
However, she knew who Auntie Mae was. Her products
were stocked up on the shelves of a variety of
stores across the galaxy. There was a parlor not far
from her home, though she had never visited it
before. She was staring at a poster of her
granddaughter and her husband on the wall when Mae
demanded an introduction. She blinked and smiled.
"Hello. I'm Magnolia Ta'em." She had no qualms about
shaking Mae's hand. Zara had grown defensive. She
was curious as to what kind of footage the woman had
obtained without consent. It seemed to be a
sensitive topic for her granddaughter, so she did
what she could to make Mae leave sooner. "Excuse me,
Mae? This is my first time in one of your parlors.
Can you tell me about the flavors?"
Magnolia off towards the case of flavors. Zara could
hear them jabbering on. She picked up her spoon and
began digging at her ice cream. "Do you think it was
a good idea to come here? I really gotta temper my
pregnancy cravings with reality. Now Mae is going to
tell her *everything*." She wondered if Marcus would
allow her to crawl up in his tunic and hide.
in silent trepidation as Granny Ta'em questioned
Auntie Mae about the flavors. This was her opening
to discuss some of the HoloNet scandals that plagued
him and his family over the preceding year. He tried
to swallow, but unfortunately found his mouth to be
very dry. Fortunately there was a bottle of Auntie
Mae brand blue milk nearby, which he quickly reached
for, downing so quickly that it left him with an
awkward and noticeable blue milk mustache. "No. This
place holds special memories for us. We can't hide
from it," he said, as he reached over towards Zara
and grasped her hand. "I'm not ashamed of anything
we did. You shouldn't be either," he said, with a
reassuring smile, before leaning over and giving her
a grandmother appropriate kiss on the cheek.
to silence Auntie Mae with her eyes. Her efforts
were futile. They ran down the list of ice cream
until they were standing at the Extra Passionate
Passion fruit which had been popularized thanks to
them. The way Mae gestured wildly with her hands
told Zara that the felinx was out of the bag. She
refocused on Marcus before she murdered Auntie Mae.
She smiled at her blue milk mustached husband. Those
recorded moments had been some of the most special
ones in her life. She supposed she should feel
grateful that her wedding had been caught on tape,
among with other parts. Zara brushed her hand over
his cheek slowly. "You're right... Like always." Her
other hand squeezed his.
returned holding a large bowl of multiple flavors of
Auntie Mae's. The woman simply didn't take 'no' for
an answer, as seen with how persistent she was to
Zara and Marcus. Whatever had happened at the ice
cream case had given Mae a reason to leave. She
departed with a 'toodeloo' and left the family to
continue their reunion. Magnolia looked like she
wanted to make a comment about Auntie Mae, but
didn't for the sake of being polite. "Mae said your
wedding was filmed. I would love to see it." She dug
her spoon into a scoop of Deadbeat Dingleberry.
when Magnolia asked to see the wedding tape. Then he
blinked again, though he was not entire surely if he
managed to breath. His eyes moved towards his wife,
but his head never moved. He did not think he could
move it if he wanted to. "Oh wouldn't you rather see
the ultrasound footage of the baby Zara is carrying
instead?" he asked, as his mind finally worked
itself around to something he thought might be
preferable to a wedding video. Would it work? He had
As the words
came out of Granny Ta'em's mouth, Zara could only
wonder what kind of a trap Mae had set. She probably
left out the sexual encounter and told her that
holovids of the wedding existed. Zara wondered how
long she could protect her grandmother from seeing
it. At this point, there was little for her to feel
ashamed of regarding the video. Her and Marcus had
remained a strong couple who was loyal to each
other. She could feel his eyes on her. Wordlessly,
they were both growing uncomfortable over the video.
From Marcus' mind came genius. Zara perked up. "Yes!
I just saw my doctor about a week ago. We have
recent footage of our second daughter. Can you
imagine? Soon there will be *three* of them!" Zara
began to feel well enough that her purple potato ice
cream tasted good.
The promise of
seeing her second great granddaughter was more than
enough to derail Magnolia. By the way she played
with the twins, she was more than happy to have
young children in her life. "I'd love to see. You're
almost halfway through again. Do you two have any
ideas for names? She took a bite of each various ice
cream. Some were better than others by the faces she
made. That new Gungan flavor? Magnolia was not a fan
a sigh of relief as he had successfully changed the
subject from the past to the future. He smiled at
Zara, giving her hand a 'we did it' squeeze.
Everything was right in the family again. "Yes.
She'll be here in no time," he said, agreeing with
Magnolia, before looking towards Zara when the
subject of baby names came up. "We were thinking
Cupa," he said, making a sly reference to his
half-brother, Mug. He bit his lower lip to keep from
bursting into laugher, but after the bullet he had
just dodged he was beginning to test boundaries.
were always so difficult. There was so much to
consider when naming a human being. After all, they
would be called this for the rest of their lives.
Sia and Darrus had been such good names. Coming up
with another name that was just as good was
difficult. Zara had thought about it. She'd pulled
up list after list of baby girl names and still
nothing. She looked at Marcus as he manage to say 'Cupa'
without bursting out laughing. "Cupa Rodney.." Zara
couldn't keep a straight face. She began to laugh
softly. "We really don't know yet. I was banking on
our daughter not arriving for months yet, so we
still have time to figure it out." Her fingers
slowly laced with Marcus'. Her smile turned gentle
had been filled in on the family drama. Zara had
rattled on and on as they sat together on Coruscant
until she understood who the main members of the
House of Rodney were. She was aware of Mug's
existence. A name like that is simply unforgettable.
The old woman laughed and shook her head from side
to side. "You kids! Back in my day, we gave children
good, strong names." She began to lecture them even
though she had named her first son Starcaster. "At
least name her 'Kettle'!" The old woman laughed. By
then, everyone had finished eating as much ice cream
as they were going to. It was time to scurry back up
to the castle. Now that Darrus was saying 'dada',
Zara wanted to get Sia there too.
Rodney..." Marcus repeated slowly, and as it slipped
off the tongue he realized it did not sound half
bad. But then he shook his head, smirking at the
silliness of it all. "We actually like the name
Fiona," he said, in a serious tone, and an emphatic
nod of his head. Names were very important among the
ruling house of Delaya, so he had been careful not
to mention their idea to anyone else ... not even
his brother and his family. As he said it, he rubbed
his thumb across Zara's hand and smiled at her,
content in their decision.
Even she had
to admit that 'Kettle' flowed far too well. Zara
couldn't imagine cuddling their daughter and calling
her sweet little 'Kettle'. Fiona was a far superior
name. Lady Fiona Rodney. No one realized that they
weren't safe inside of the parlor. While they shared
their name with Granny Ta'em, they also shared it
with the world. Zara glanced down towards their
hands. She loved him so much. "I wonder what she'll
look like...if she'll have silver hair or take after
her daddy." She had no doubted that their third
child would be every bit as cute as their first two.
With her hand remaining in Marcus', she rose from
her seat. She wasn't looking forward to round two
with the paparazzi.
Granny Ta'em repeated, then nodded her head. "I
think it suits her perfectly. You can pass 'Cupa'
over to your brother. I will do what I can to come
when she's born." That meant that Magnolia would be
there the week prior to Zara's due date, anxiously
awaiting another great grandchild. She, too, rose.
"I want to see that footage." She reminded them,
referring to the ultrasound. "*After* I play with
those little cuties." One could see where Zara got
it from. In many ways, Zara took after her
grandmother over her own parents. Just as Marcus was
overprotective of Zara, Zara was watching over her
grandma like a hawk in the crowd of paparazzi. Now
that Zara had gained a piece of the Ta'em family,
she didn't want to let go.