Claudius Rodney sat on the floor of his master bedroom, his uniform
tunic removed. He remained only in the undershirt and slacks. The boots
were carelessly discarded, the tunic draped on the bedpost. He looked
worn, tired ... exhausted. In front of him was a foot locker that looked
as battered as him. It had been the same one he used many times before
... for his entire career in fact. The dresser drawers were open,
clothing strewn about no longer neatly folded. Shirts and undershirts
were spread out across the bed. Pants had already been placed,
wrinkled, and bunched up in the footlocker. There was a drained bottle
of Alderaan Ruge laying on its side on the floor next to him, but there
was no glass. He was packing ... in a roundabout way.
Never wavering in her aesthetic glory, Htaere seemed to glide down
the spacious hallway of the estate that connected the bed chambers on
the second level. She noticed the door open to Claudius' room, and eager
to pay her daily visit, she moved into the door frame and came to a
stop, all smiles. However, the glee was short lived. Her smile faded
almost instantly, replaced with horror, pretty grey eyes widening. She
mumbled something to herself, drawing into the room in slow measured
steps, gaze taking in the chaos, and the very man she was due to
marry, unrecognizable in the current light. "Claudius? What happened?
What is wrong?" she asked, stunned as she came to a halt about a meter
Claudius sat there, his back propped up against the foot of the bed.
At first his head hung lazily, slightly bobbling. But then he heard
Htaere's voice and he smiled, wider than usual as the alcohol had done
its job. He jerked his head up quickly, turning his face to look towards
with her. His cheeks were flushed red, with what emotion the liquor had
long since erased. He could have been upset, angry, or both. "Htaere!"
he said eagerly as he saw her. He tried to get up, but failed ... after
raising himself only a little bit off the floor, he quickly
plopped back down on his rear.
Htaere's eyes glazed in nothing short of terror. Her hands covered
her mouth in trepidation as she whispered to herself "By the goddesses...
She eased closer to him and knelt down in front of him, appalled at the
state he was in. "Claudius...why have you done this?"
"I'm glad you're here, Htaere," Claudius said, his head drooping
slightly as he struggled to keep it up, "We've got to get packed. We're
moving." He reached his right arm up over his back and grabbed for one
of the undershirts. Taking into his grasp, he crumpled it into a ball,
and tossed it carelessly in the footlocker with the other discarded
articles of clothing.
Htaere's stunned gaze followed the undershirt's trajectory straight
into the footlocker. "Moving?" She reached for the bottle, drawing it to
her face and sniffing it before recoiling quickly and placing it back
down. "Claudius...this is..." Htaere began...but couldn't complete
the sentence. She stood and extended her hands towards him. "Come with
me..." she said, managing a genuine smile, patient and glowing.
Claudius reached for her hand and used it to raise himself up off the
floor. He groaned audibly as the room began to spin. His legs began to
buckle, but he locked his knees and kept himself upright. Raising his
hand to his temple he closed his eyes and attempted to focus himself.
"Come where?" he asked, in a weak tone of voice. "We've got to pack," he
tried to explain, as he reached for another undershirt to toss into the
"Claudius...you are a mess" Htaere replied, sadness ruining her effort
to smile. Still holding his hands, she led him to one of the plush sofas
near the fireplace. "Sit...I will get you some tea" she affirmed, helping
him to sit without toppling over.
Claudius reached both of his hands in front of him, and tucked his
undershirt tighter into his pants. "I've never looked better," he said
proudly, standing before her. He smiled for a moment, his eyes drawing
closed for a moment. "Ugh..." he murmured quietly, feeling as if he were
about to throw up.
Htaere looked about quickly, scrambling to find the nearest
decorative waste basket and placing it in front of him.
"Claudius...please sit...you are not well" she pleaded.
Claudius weakly sat down on the foot of the bed. He swallowed several
times and prevented himself from throwing up. He raised his hand towards
her, motioning to her not to bring it. "I'm fine," he tried to reason
with her. He raised his hands to his face and began to rub at his
cheeks, frustrated. "So much packing to do," he complained, more to
himself than to her.
At a complete loss, Htaere stood where she was, utterly defeated.
"Why are we moving Claudius?" she asked quietly. Her eyes flickered
over the disaster across the floor before looking serenely back towards
"I have been transferred," Claudius said quietly. He lowered his head
into his hands and sighed deeply. He knew this would be coming, Kerrie's
failure to retrieve the disk was not the only nail in the coffin, but it
did prove to be the final one.
Htaere slipped over to the bed and took a seat to his left. Her right
hand lifted to his back, rubbing it softly. "It is ok. Where are we
going to?" she asked, leaning close to him and studying his tired visage
"The Mid Rim," Claudius said, struggling to get the words out ... not
because he was drunk, but he detested the thought. He belonged in the
civilized worlds of the Core ... not some backwater destinations. He
slapped his hands on his knees, frustrated beyond words. He tightened
his jaw and tried to refocus himself. "Oh well," he sighed trying to put
himself back together, "I am a soldier and I go where I'm told."
It meant very little to Htaere, uneducated with the rest of the
galaxy. "Perhaps this new assignment will afford you the time you
desperately need to rest" she offered pleasantly. After a length pause,
Htaere beamed. "I will follow you anywhere Claudius."
Claudius appreciated the sentiment. He looked at her, a slight smile
upon his face, his jaw still clenched. He nodded his head up and down
slowly, acknowledging that she was right. "Perhaps it will," he said to
her as he began to come out of his stupor.
Htaere stood, moving to the foot locker and settling down in front of
it, sitting back on her ankles. One by one, she began to remove articles
of clothing. "You cannot travel as such. I will have these cleaned and
pressed for you" she stated. As she worked, her silvery orbs moved
towards him once more. "You should take your shower. You will feel
"I just..." Claudius began before losing some of his energy, "I just
want to get some sleep." He reached for his belt buckle and unfastened
it. As he stood, his pants slid down around his knees and crumpled on
the ground. He stumbled to remove his feet from them, but with slight
effort he managed. Wavering, he continued forward and plopped himself
onto the bed. He sighed as he shifted his way until he reached a
comfortable position and lay his head upon his pillow. He did not bother
to cover himself with the sheet. He was comfortable and tired ...
that was all that mattered to him this evening.
Htaere frowned, and with a hefty sigh, got to her feet and headed for
the door. She closed it quietly behind her and stood in the hallway for
a moment, statuesque and contemplative. Her lips pursed a bit before she
turned and headed towards her own chambers.
"Wait," Claudius called out to Htaere before she could exit. "Come
back," he said loud enough for her to hear, sounding almost like a child
crying out for his mother.
In mid stride, she slowed to a stop, turning slightly. She hesitated,
but moved silently back towards the chamber door. She nudged the door
open and stood silhouetted by the light that flooded through the open
door from the corridor. "Yes?"
"Stay here tonight..." Claudius said to her, sounding very needy, "I
don't want to be alone." He rolled over on the bed weakly and looked to
her, smiling, trying to contain a rather large yawn.
Somewhat surprised by the request, she was taken aback momentarily
before softening. Htaere shut the door behind her and sauntered to the
bed. Promptly she removed her dainty sandals, leaving them side by side
before climbing into bed. In the dim lighting, she had to move carefully
to find her way, hindered visually as part of the genetic package. She
plucked the small tiara from her head and left it on the nightstand, the
gem in her forehead radiating a soft soothing glow of amber in the dark
of the room. She settled in beside him, arms reaching for him and
holding him securely. "You are never alone Claudius. My thoughts are
with you always" she said softly. Her fingertips traced small
pressurized circles on his flesh, massaging little caresses here and
there to comfort him.
Claudius reached around Htaere with his right arm as he rolled onto
his side. He pulled her snug against his body, her back to his front. He
sighed contently, brushing her flowing hair out of his mouth, as he
placed a single kiss upon her shoulder. Exhaling deeply, the exhaustion
of the day finally proving too much he slumped against her. His head
lowered against the back of hers, a small river of drool running from
his mouth as he drifted off to sleep. Still remaining a firm grasp
around her as they spooned, the tranquility of the moment was soon
disrupted by the audible sound of him snoring.