Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:10:20 - 35:10:21) in the Alderaan system: Delaya (Leiliani: Rodney Castle).
Lord Marcus Rodney and Lady Zara Rodney.

Marcus Rodney returned home from a long day of meetings over the current state of affairs on Delaya, which seemed to be all the more beleaguered by his father's failing health and the uncertainty that was to follow. "Zara?" he called out, as he flung the doors to their room open, uncertain if she was even home. Before he moved forward, he stopped to sit in a chair to remove his boots, and their formal design caused nothing but aching pain and swelling upon his feat. "Zara?" he again called more loudly, before rising back to his feet and gingerly heading towards the bedroom. When he went in the first thing he saw was her hastily, half packed bag near the dresser, and a wave of panic came over him. Then he saw her in the bed, seemingly broken, and he rushed to her side. "What has happened? What did *they* do to you?" he asked, sounding uncharacteristically angry at the thought of what his family was subjecting his wife to.

In the bed, a surge of guilt flowed through her. She didn't know why she had packed a bag when, in reality, she could never abandon her husband. She was still clutching the watch and floating somewhere in her own world when Marcus made his arrival. She was so far lost that she didn't hear him call for her. Inside her head, she was working to sort everything out. The exhausted thief was curled up as small as she could possibly be on her side. It looked like she had tried to wiggle her way out of her dress and failed. The sleeves sat low on her arms. Once he was in the bedroom, it didn't take her long to realize that he was home. She opened her bloodshot eyes. "I-it's not *them*. It's just your father." She sniffed. She turned just enough to latch onto him. "He called me to his room while I was out with the girls." Zara explained. "There's no way to escape it. Our son is going to be the heir of all of this. Your father has made it clear that I'm to produce the future of our family, that it's like my destiny." She hated exploding on her husband like this. He had a much harder day than she did. Tonight, Zara looked to Marcus for support. "He looked so horrible tonight. How can I look him in the eye and deny him? I feel like he can see straight through me, like he already knows."

Marcus instinctively wrapped his arms around her, holding her so tightly that it threatened to smother her, as he pressed her tear stained face against his breath. One hand sympathetically moved up and down her back, while another moved through her locks of silver hair. "What did he do? What did he say?" a confused Marcus asked repeatedly, all the while doing his best to comfort her. "Please do not worry about him. Please do not let him get to you," he said in rapid succession, finally releasing his grasp upon her long enough for her to get some air so he could look her directly in the eye. "What are son does or does not become will not be decided by him," he said, looking her directly in the eyes and speaking honestly and from the heart.

Only when he hid her away in his arms did she begin to feel like she could grasp sanity again. Bringing up her parents had been a serious hot button. No matter how much time had passed, they would always form an open wound inside her heart. Her eyes closed, smothered in love by the man she'd longed to be with all day. His affection brought her further back to reality. Julius was damn good about getting under people's skin. Zara didn't question why Claudius' first wife had put herself in danger, that resulted in her death, for the sake of producing a male. Her eyes opened. It seemed like he was just as frantic as she at the moment. Her tired eyes fell on him. His words actually sunk into her head. The Duke had purposely played her without Marcus present. Zara calmed herself down to the point where she was no longer actively crying. "I want our son to have the freedom that he can choose his future. I felt so firm on my stance until I met with Julius. He was nice to me at first. He said he was wrong about me. He expressed why he's so obsessed with ensuring that there's a Rodney heir, calling the people of Delaya my people like I have this responsibility to them. He tried to paint this picture of some splendid life Darrus will live. He acted like he's never been angry about being royalty. He brought up my *parents*." The word came out shaky. She hadn't really shed a light completely on that topic. When she had talked herself out, she fell silent against him. The hand, which closed up around the watch, now opened up so that he could see it too.

Marcus looked at her silently, as if he were frozen in their far north chalet. He listened, deciding it best for her to get it off her chest rather than interrupt her. "By the time he is old enough to choose I fear it'll be too late," he admitted to her reluctantly, but he was hesitant to detail just what had happened during his meetings over the course of the day. "I'm sorry that he mentioned your parents, Zara," he said, as his eyes drifted down towards the pocket watch, pleased that she still kept it close. "We can just let Drusilla have the throne, and let the whole thing be damned," he said, laughing softly, in an attempt to lighten the mood softly. He then reached forward, giving her another warm, firm embrace, followed by a quick kiss upon her forehead.

Zara was an intelligent, sharp woman. She caught what he said. "What do you mean? What happened? We can still run away..." She hinted at the bag on the counter, "*Together*." It was the most unlikely scenario. Regardless, Zara put it out there. Sanity swept back into her mind. Marcus really was the yin to her yang. He was there to make her feel better after her good day had gone sour. The idea of Drusilla taking the throne made Zara laugh hard. "Nooo! Delaya will be in a financial crisis within a week! You're also in trouble for not warning me about Ewwie. There was an incident... I'll tell you about it later. All I can say is that it's marvelous what kind of wreckage that girl can make within less than ten minutes." She smiled at him, receiving the kiss with more happiness in her heart. She kissed him too, first on the cheek and then briefly on the lips. "You're such a wonderful man. Will you marry me again? And again? Annnddd again? This time I get to pick the location." Zara cuddled closer to him. "It's your turn. You were in meetings all day. So spill. Tell me everything, even the things you don't want to tell me."

Marcus looked into her eyes deeply, but he said nothing, and instead looked terrified, as if opening his mouth would somehow end his life. "There is a faction who wishes to exclude Claudius from the line of his succession due to his position in the Empire," he revealed, with some hesitation, as he knew that it meant the Duchy would then fall to him. "Funny, they don't seem to want an Imperial Grand Moff to govern a planet that once neighbored a planet recently destroyed by the Empire..." he said, stating the obvious, his cheeks reddening somewhat, as his heart rate intensified. "We could run away. We could do that. In which case my cousin would seize power. He's younger than me, and he recently married an important woman from Kuati society. He was undoubtedly planning for this..." he said, as his eyes trailed upwards away from her, begrudging the man's backward scheming at his family's expense. "Tell me what like you want for us. The *three* of us," he said intensely, taking hold of her by both arms, and intently staring into her eyes as if she had all the answers.

Zara coughed. "*What*?" The possibility of Marcus becoming Duke had been out of the cards until he spoke it. She would become Duchess! *Duchess*! It made sense why people would want to exclude Claudius. Everyone had seen the aftermath of the end of Alderaan, especially Delaya, who housed many refugees. Thought Marcus' mouth continued to move, Zara felt leveled. She couldn't breathe. She could barely think. Running away was beginning to look like the most appealing option. She didn't know what the right decision was anymore. Each time she blinked, she saw Marcus lying in a bed like his father, aged and exhausted from having to rule. She saw their children plotting for the throne. At the same time, she saw another future. In that future, Marcus felt a deep regret for not aiding his family, his *people*, in their time of need. Could he forgive himself if Delaya was ever destroyed? Cuddled closely to her husband, she could feel the rapid beating of his heart in his chest. What did she want for the three of them? Happiness, freedom, and a life without major regret. It was too much for Zara to handle. She had to yank away from him quickly. Her green face said it all; she was *sick*. The girl had enough self-control to hold herself off until she made it into the bathroom.

A choice had to be made. The stress was too much for her. Her level-headedness had shot out of the window today. When her stomach had nothing left, Zara remained on the bathroom floor. She was crying. "What are we going to do? I want our family to be happy. We aren't made for that life." She sobbed, "I don't want you to hate me for choosing to leave either. I don't want you to ever have second thoughts about whatever we decide."

Marcus unleashed a sigh of despair that exited between his lips with the force of a powerful gust of wind. It nearly sucked the life right out of him, causing his head to fall so low that his chin touched his chest. When she ran from him, he followed, but moved slowly to give her the privacy to puke without him seeing it. Eventually he made his way into the bathroom, and plopped down on the ground next to her. It was cold, and sent a shiver up his spine that caused his hair to stick up on his arms. "Zara ... I can't bare to see you like this," he said, sorrowfully, as he placed his hand upon her back, rubbing it a bit more firmly than usual. "I could never hate you, Zara. *Never*," he repeated emphatically, as he continued his aimless massage of her back. "If you want to leave we can leave right now. The galaxy has a way of sorting these things out," he said to her, remembering that it was a succession crisis that ultimately brought his family to power eight centuries ago. Back then it was settled by the Jedi Council, but they were not exactly available following the rise of the Empire.

She was getting really tired of throwing up. For the most part, this didn't happen when she was at home. There was nothing pressing into her crazy buttons there. Delaya was another story. The bathroom was so cold. She gravitated towards the bodily warmth and safe haven that was Marcus. Her arms wrapped around his neck. Her face pressed into his. He reassured her that he wouldn't hate her. He even presented the appealing idea of leaving *immediately*. Nothing sounded better than that. She would never have to listen to the Duke guilt trip her about the future of Delaya. Marcus wouldn't become some messy, spiteful drunk like his father. Regardless of how it happened, ruling took its toll on the ruler. Her head withdrew from his. He looked at him. "I want us to leave." She voiced her decision. "*But*, we're only going to leave if you're certain of everything. We're about to abandon Delaya. We probably will never see your family. And your father..." Her voice trailed. The man was destined to die. If not now, then another time.

A decision had been made. In an instant, one simple conversation had taken all of the weight off his shoulders, but then almost immediately deposited upon his chest. His face went pale, and he sat there silently as a series of thoughts and images flashed through his mind. "Well. There it is," he said, matter-of-factly, despite the fact that their entire lives had just been decided. "Finish packing. I will need to say goodbye to my father," he said, with a heavy voice, a tear once again welling in the corner of his left eye, before running down his cheek. "We will make our own life for our family far from this chaos," he said to her, as he rose from the bathroom floor unsteadily. He then reached down to help her up off the floor as well. He smiled at her in order to let her know that everything was alright, drawing her nearer him, into a warm, loving embrace, with their unborn son nestled between them.

The stress was starting to bubble up in her stomach again. She saw how quickly all the blood left his face. It emotionally impacted him instantly. Zara wanted to fix it. Taking his hands for assistance, she rose back to her feet. His smile didn't soothe her. She'd probably spend years waiting for an outburst from her husband, or something else to prove that he was displeased with her decision. Her arms locked around his neck. Her hands cupped his head while they held each other. "I'm sorry I complicate your life so much. We don't have to do this if you feel any sort of doubt. Regardless of what happens, you're stuck with me. I feel bad for all the trouble I've caused. I promise that you're going to be happy, though. I'll take care of you." She kissed his cheek. "Are you sure you want to see your father alone? If you're gone for more than two hours, I'll come and rescue you."

It was after midnight when Marcus returned to the castle from his stay at the medcenter with his father. When he entered the suite that belonged to him and Zara there was a sunken look to him, and he was devoid of any color as if the blood had been drawn from his body. It was the worst conversation he had ever had in his life, made all the more difficult by his father's deteriorating health. "Zara ... I need you," was all he managed to say as he opened the door to their bed chamber. He came staggering forth, almost stumbling, before catching himself and taking a seat on the foot of the bed. "Tell me you love me," he said as he looked at her, pathetically, almost desperately. As she moved closer she would see that he was covered in a thin layer of flop sweat. It had been an awful night, and no words were necessary to convey that.

Time couldn't have moved at a slower pace after Zara Rodney watched her husband leave their suite. Packing could only distract her so much from her worries...especially when she had finished in under an hour. The girl paced. She forced herself to sit down and browse the HoloNet. She took a shower. She cleaned the god damn suite. When all of her potential activities ran out, she laid on the bed and rested until another lengthy amount of time had gone by. The sound of someone arriving took her right to her tired feet. "Marcus!" She squeaked when she saw him enter the suite. He looked as exhausted if he had run from the castle to the medcenter and back again roughly a hundred times. She came to him immediately, perching herself behind him at the end of the bed. She wrapped her arms around his middle, guiding him to lean into her body gently. She kissed his forehead. She was careless to the fact that he was covered in sweat. "I love you with all my heart." She told him, tugging him close.

"Did you know, the entirety of my life changed in this room?" Zara's soothing voice purred into his ear. "I had no purpose, no home, and no clue what I was doing with my life when I robbed you. And then there was you. Sickly drunk and willing to chase me around your family's castle like you were half your age. Funny thing, that damn drunk robbed me silly. He stole something more valuable than a Chrono. He stole my heart." She wasn't letting go of him. "Tell me what happened, Marcus. Remember that I will protect you from any fallouts that happen because of this decision. You're my family. I fight for you."

Marcus was relieved to feel Zara's warm embrace, and as if she were a ray of sunshine that suddenly returned all the color to his face. "I love you so much, Zara. Without you I would not even be able to sit here now," he revealed to her, bringing his hands up to move over her body, to verify that she was real and not some illusion from a past pharmaceutical experience gone wrong. "He ... he did not take the news well," he said to her, weakly, pathetically, with all the sorrow of failure attached to every one of his words. "But you are my wife. My future. I want you and Darrus, and nothing else matters," he said, pledging himself to her, as he took her hands in his, reassuringly with love and affection. "A son can never live up to his father's expectations," he said, with a firm nod of his head to her, tears obviously beginning to well in the corners of his eyes. "It looks as if it will come down to either Claudius or my cousin ... and neither option suits him. But this does not concern us anymore. Are you packed?" he asked, in a hurried attempt to change the subject to the future rather than the past.

She wished she could zap the two of them home so that they might never need to unravel each other. If she weren't with child, she'd request that he let her sit in his lap all the way home and never, *ever* let go of her. Her hands, held in his, squeezed his to offer more of her support. "I appreciate the sacrifices you've made for us. I'm sorry you've had to make them as well. Your father..." She paused, choosing her words carefully. "Your father is a *difficult* man. He doesn't begin to understand who his son is. Marcus Rodney, you are a lot of things, but a failure will *never* be one of them. You're about to break that cycle with our son. I know you'll love him. I know you'll never treat him the way your father treats you." She kissed the area just beneath his eyes to make his tears disappear. "I'm packed." She didn't get up. Her hands seemed to cling harder to his. "I'm going to ask you one last time before we leave... Are you sure? I love you just as much as you love me. I can be happy here too as long as you're with me." She still felt bad about removing him from his family.

Marcus welcomed the kiss, which seemed to radiate throughout his body, causing so much of his pain to fade away, and his world to return to a state of normalcy. "Zara I've never been more sure of anything in my life," he said, honestly, as he moved to rise from the bed. "This here represents my past. The old, miserable way of living life. You ... and Darrus ... you are my future," he pledged to her, as he took her hand, and guided it towards her chest, placing it firmly upon his chest so she could feed his heartbeat. "This ... this beats only for you and him," he vowed, as if he was taking a second marriage oath to her. With that, he looked down to her, tilted his head to the side and placed a loving kiss upon her sweet lips. He had made his decisions. There was no turning back.

He gave her all the reassurance she needed. It always amazed her how he had this extra ability to talk her down from wherever she climbed up to, in the mental sense. Her hand, placed over his chest, could feel each precious beating of her love's heart beneath it. His words moved through whatever blockage had her brain thinking otherwise about her decision. They were his future. The tables had turned, leaving Zara feeling weepy over her husband's oath. She sniffled while kissing him back with every ounce of passion she had. He reminded her all over again exactly why he was her husband. Because really, truly, Marcus was perfect for her. The kiss ended naturally with Zara's hand still on his heart. "I love you so much. Let's go home and start enjoying our life without all of this." She collected the bag from the bed. Holding his hand, they both departed from the castle for the very last time. Inside the Nerf Herder, Zara took the initiative to pilot them home. A new horizon was on the way. Finally, Marcus and Zara could enjoy the coming of their child without all the fears.

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