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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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