It only seemed
natural that the longest day in Sierra and Claudius'
life would lead into the longest night. The ride to
the medcenter had been torturous for her. Wherever
they went, Sierra's mother followed closeby. Shortly
before they arrived, she passed out again, thus
making everyone's work a lot easier. The shampoo
turned out to be the key to solving all of Sierra's
problems. It didn't take much time to discover that
she had been drugged with a powerful liquid form of
GHB, better known as date rape. Even passed out,
Sierra occasionally mumbled about a servant girl and
shampoo. It was information that she was insistent
upon getting out.
was washed and she was admitted into the medcenter.
The doctors handled her with utmost care. They were
monitoring both her and the baby in her womb. Four
hours after she had arrived wrapped up in a blanket,
the drug's effects finally wore off. Despite how
terrible the situation had been, doctors reassured
the future Duke that both she and their son were
doing well so far. There were so many monitors
hooked up to her and her lower stomach. It was all
necessary to make sure both of them were healthy.
She had been
asleep for some time. Behind a closed curtain,
darkness had fallen over Delaya. The city slept
while the Rodney chaos continued. Sierra began to
rouse from her sleep. "Claudius... C'mere..." She
mumbled, reaching out to her side where he would
normally sleep in their bed. There, she felt the
coolness of the outer edge belonging to the hospital
bed. The monitor reflected her heart as it sped up
dramatically. She awoke in a panic. "Claudius?!"
Before she could question where she was it clicked.
She was at the medcenter, as she had been too many
times before. She could see all the monitors. Bruce
had his own screens. His heart was thumping at the
proper fast pace for a little fetus. Her hand rubbed
at her forehead. She couldn't remember what exactly
had happened. There was the bath tub. There was a
servant girl in their room. That was it. She needed
her husband. She trusted he would be able to fill
been resting uncomfortably in the bedside chair
beside Sierra, as once again events had taken him to
the Leiliani medcenter. The media was on hand
speculating wildly about what was happening, with
much of the concern being for the unborn child she
was carrying. When he heard her call for him he
roused suddenly, his brown eyes opening wide. He sat
up suddenly in the chair with an exclamation of
fright before looking around to gauge his
surroundings. It took a few moments, but he
eventually remembered what brought him here and his
attention turned to Sierra in the bed. "Sierra! How
do you feel?" he asked, as he reached over from the
chair to grab her arm, squeezing it, and looking
into her eyes optimistically. It had been an awful
night for him, uncertain of what was the cause of
her breakdown. He needed her.
leading to her ending up in the medcenter were very
fuzzy. She tried hard to think about it...had
something happened? As concerned and scared as she
was, Claudius' touch brought other things to the
forefront of her mind. Her other hand touched his.
"Tired... I'm so sorry." She looked away from him
towards the monitors. "I'm sorry we ended up here
again.. And after the funeral..." Both of her hands
cupped his cheeks. Her baby blue eyes settled on
his. "What happened to me?" She asked her husband.
All she wanted to do was break free of her bed, hold
him, and give *him* the opportunity to have a total
melt down. She could see his concern and stress. Her
hand left his, touching her forehead. She had been
having the worst dream about her mother.
nothing to be sorry for, my love," Claudius said,
reassuringly, as he moved from the chair to stand
beside his bed. His eyes darted over the bank of
monitors displaying her vitals, but truthfully he
did not know what any of them meant. He was just
glad that nothing was beeping. Beeping was *bad* ...
he knew that much. "It's alright. I enrolled us in a
rewards program. The more nights the family spends
in the medcenter, the more points we get," he said,
with a soft chuckle, as he did his utmost to lighten
the mood. "I'm not sure," he said, answering her
question, as he raised his hand to run it through
her blonde hair. "You were delirious. Hallucinating.
Maybe you were just overwhelmed from my father's
death, the incident with Jelena, Drusilla's
insolence, or any of the other dozen problems we're
face," he said, before lowering his face to place a
kiss upon her forehead. "The doctor will be here
soon," he said, before moving back to his seat. His
back was killing him from a night in the chair.
laughed. "Oh my. I hope we can put the rewards
points to good use. Heaven knows we've been racking
them up lately." She smiled. Oh Claudius, as bad as
it got he could still put a smile on her face. His
explanation was strange. Her head leaned against his
hand. "I can't remember any of that. I was having a
really weird dream about my mother being alive
again. It was a long day, but it didn't scream
psychological break to me." Sierra worried. She kept
one hand in his.
an older doctor came walking into the room with a
datapad in his hand. "Thank goodness, you're finally
awake Lady Sierra." He paused at her monitors,
jotting down the information he saw. Next, he made
his way over to the bed where he checked over Sierra
himself. He looked towards Claudius. "We've finished
analyzing the shampoo you brought in. It was laced
with a strong strain of a drug called GHB. It causes
people to pass out, hallucinate, and worse. It
appears to be out of Lady Sierra's system now." He
said, turning away from them. He pointed at one of
the monitors. "Your son has not shown anything
indicating that he's suffering from the drug. His
heart beat is ideal." The doctor's hand followed the
up-down motions on the monitor while he attempted to
soothe the couple that had been through so much. The
old man could read the room like a book. "Why don't
we take a peek at the little guy? Have you had a
chance to see him yet?"
"You said you
saw her..." Claudius told her, slowly, to avoid
alarming her too much. "You said she had a ...
knife," he added, swallowing slightly, uncertain of
how she would take it. He decided it was better to
be honest with her than try and sugar coat things
for her. Before he could go on the doctor appeared,
and he quickly silenced himself to concentrate his
attention on what he had to say. When the doctor
informed them that Sierra had been drugged his hands
began to curl around the arms of the chairs, digging
into the fabric as he angrily considered the news.
There was the relief of knowing that their child was
ok, but it was clear that another threat had been
made against his family's life. "No. We haven't had
a chance to see him," he said, excitedly, as he sat
up on the edge of his seat. But, he realized that
the decision should not be his alone. "Do you want
to see?" he asked Sierra, but in the way he asked it
was clear that he wanted to see. He smiled at her,
eagerly waiting to hear her decision.
shivered. She had told him? The memories weren't
there, but old skeletons threatened to consume her
the more she thought about it. Sierra quickly closed
that door of anxieties when the doctor reported that
she had been drugged. The shampoo and the servant
girl. She remembered that much. They had to be
connected. Her anxiety oddly twisted at the doctor's
question. The woman nearly audibly squeed. The last
time she saw Pilaq, Bruce had been so tiny that
there was really no *seeing* him. That had changed
over the weeks she'd spent preoccupied with their
family. The excitement she heard in her husband's
voice warmed her. Yes, seeing Bruce was exactly what
they needed. She grinned, nodding her head quickly
in reply. "Of course! Please show us, doctor." Her
hand squeezed her husband's.
The doctor had
watched over the royal couple throughout their whole
stay. He'd spent time with Julius. He was aware that
the family had a trying day. Seeing them grow
excited over their child warmed even his heart. He
rolled out a blank monitor from behind the others
which he hooked up to a handheld device. He removed
the blankets and opened up Sierra's gown at her
abdomen. As the screen turned on, Claudius and
Sierra were gifted with the first sight of their
boy. His heart continued to beat rapidly on the
monitors. Even Sierra's heart began to thump quickly
while she stared at the tiny, surprising baby-like
features of Bruce. Since he was so young, she didn't
realize how developed he was. He looked like a baby!
"Our little Bruce.." She turned her head to look at
Claudius as if to say 'we made that!'
were mesmerized by the display as his eyes gazed
upon his son for the first time. He had spent most
of his adult life waiting for this moment, and it
had cost his first wife her life trying. His hand
moved forward, touching the display and lingering
there for a long while. He was overcome to the point
where he could not move or even speak. It was a
blessing in an otherwise sea of horrors. After some
time he turned, focusing on Sierra, with tears of
joy flowing from each of his big brown eyes. "We've
done it, Sierra. I love you," he told her, as he
rushed to her side once again. This had completely
put out of his mind that she had been drugged. His
mind was totally focused on the image on the screen.
Nothing else mattered. *Nothing*.
react made the moment that much more joyous. It was
wonderful to see Claudius crying tears of joy and
not sadness. Sierra could feel warm tears moving
down her cheeks. She felt overwhelmed by love,
happiness, and relief. Throughout the storm, Bruce
remained just as strong and healthy as ever. The
rest of their problems had taken a backseat to that
image. She swore she could have stared at it for
hours. There he was, floating inside of her.
Blinking away fresh tears, she embraced her husband
as much as she could without disrupting the doctor.
"I love you," she whimpered. This was all she had
wanted: a family who loved her, a child who she
could love endlessly as a mother should. Her
Claudius was a godsend. Nothing would have been
possible with him. She giggled, "I can't wait to see
him pout like you and the girls do." She kissed his
chin. The doctor made a point to print a physical
copy of a photo from the ultrasound. He handed it to
Sierra who, in return, offered it to Claudius. "I
want you to carry this around with you. That way,
whenever something bad happens, you can look of it
and be reminded of how bright our future is... and
how cute our baby is." She grinned. As much as they
never wanted the image on the screen to disappear,
it was time for the doctor to make his exit. Sierra
was certain a visit to Pilaq was in the future so
they could get a second dose of seeing their baby.
Free from all devices, Sierra wrapped both of her
arms around him and squeezed tight.
was back in her home away from home. Her trip to the
medcenter was short lived after the symptoms from
her drugging wore off. She was back to normal, fully
restored by the powers of her husband and her son.
The woman had left the medcenter classy as all hell.
She came out, politely shooting down all the
speculations that the HoloNet reporters by giving
her official statement: she was pregnant in her
first trimester. Every woman should understand the
complications of morning sickness. Couple with the
death of someone she had been so close to, it was
exhaustion and concern for the baby that brought her
to the medcenter. For Sierra, it was the way she
said things. She could string her words together
perfectly. Like a magical spell, the HoloNet
reporters moved into a sympathetic role instead of
attacking her. At least one of the family's
attackers was at bay.
She was now
seated at the love seat. She wore a nightgown which
showed she intend to sleep at some point...but not
yet. Her eyebrows were furrowed. She was thinking
hard. "Claudius, I think I remember something." She
told him. "When I came back to our room, I wasn't
glad to be back in the castle, even though it was
the site of the recent attack on Sierra. He had
taken the liberty of speaking with cousin Gaius and
increasing the security at the castle. He had spent
most of the night basking in the glory that was
their unborn child, reviewing the image that they
had been given of him over and over and over again.
"Hmm? What's that?" he asked, briefly looking up
from the datapad containing the image to acknowledge
Sierra's statement. He placed the datapad down and
only then did he hear what she had to say. "You
mentioned a servant," he said, as he rose from his
seat and moved to join her on the love seat. "But I
thought you might have hallucinated her as you did
your mother," he said, as he moved his arm around
her, behind her back, and drew her in near. The
embrace was warm and loving and served to bring them
physically closer during this difficult time.
Sierra was not
going to let fear drive her away. In this room,
someone had *failed* to kill her. When they returned
to do the job right, she'd be there waiting. Seeing
Bruce had provided her with even more strength. She
had thought hard about the events leading up to
getting in the bathtub until she pieced something
together...enough to report to her husband. It was
*relieving* to be close to him. He did her wonders
over and over again. She scooted in close to him.
Her head nuzzled into his chest. "Yes.. I'm not sure
if the servant was a hallucination. I can't remember
anything about mother that wasn't in my dreams."
That woman was *dead*. Sierra had to tell herself
that repeatedly again. Even if she magically
appeared, Claudius would *never* let her fall into
the same situation. Her hand rubbed up and down his
leg slowly. "When I came back from seeing to the
girls, I recall a small servant girl in our room.
She scared me. I didn't even notice her. I remember
thinking that she seemed too young to be working in
the castle. She told me to take a bath. She said she
prepared it herself." Sierra explained. "For the
life of me, I cannot remember what this girl looked
like. She was short. Much shorter than I. The rest
of it is a blur." She looked up at him. "Think about
it. A servant girl makes sense. She would have to be
working with someone, but she has had access to all
*someone* had to inject that GHB into your shampoo,"
Claudius said, doing his best to reassure her that
she was not complete crazy. "Small servant girl?" he
asked, repeating her words, as the wheels in his
head slowly turned to determine if he could think of
anyone. "Should we have all the servants in the
castle rounded up for inspection?" he asked,
realizing that there were only a few hundred to sort
through. It would not take *that* long. The servants
had access to the entire castle ... their food ...
*everything*. If it was one of the servants they
never would be safe. "I think we should expedite our
plans to move to the islands," he said to her,
fearing neither he, nor Gaius, could ever protect
them in the castle given this worrisome development.
She did feel
less crazy. The thoughts before her bath were
jumbled up. It was determination that helped her
recall what details she could about the girl. Sierra
shook her head. "As badly as I'd like to do that, I
think the girl would slip through our fingers the
second we begin rounding up servants. I think we can
catch her still. Kerrie Kiley is still on Delaya.
Given that she is a Clawdite, I think we should ask
her to go undercover for us. I agree with you, my
love. We need to expedite our plans to move. There's
simply no way to control all the factors anymore. Do
you think we should hide out elsewhere? Is living in
the castle even a viable option anymore?" She
sighed. She feared that next time it this girl would
actually succeed. Neither one of them could make it
through this insanity without each other. The
coronation was around the corner as well. Sierra
took a deep breath. She needed to be more aware of
her stress level. "We should plan out the house and
hire someone to build it immediately. I hate the
idea of being chased out of the castle."
there silently as he listened to Sierra's idea. He
had been in military service for two decades, and
immediately a strategy dawned upon him ... but it
was risky. "We *could* retire to the sea islands..."
he began, although from the sound of his voice it
was clear that was not the option that he wanted.
"Or, we could stay here and use ourselves as bait to
draw out the attackers," he suggested, but regretted
it almost immediately after saying it. He wanted to
catch the individuals responsible for the attacks on
his family and the death of his father, but it was
very foolish to risk his wife's safety and that of
their child to achieve it. "Yes. We'll get a naval
architect started on it right away. There are a few
ideas I have. If Drusilla left us any money to fund
the project," he said, laughing and gently shaking
her a bit in his embrace. "As for Kerrie, as long as
we don't get her in trouble with Zevrin you can go
ahead and see if she can infiltrate the staff for
us. That is, after all, what her original purpose
was," he said, describing her like a tool rather
than a person.
to the option he already favored over departing to
the beautiful sea islands. It sounded wonderful to
wake up to sandy beaches, fresh air, and happy
thoughts that no one was trying to kill her family
... but, Sierra wasn't going to run. This girl was a
key in discovering what happened to Julius and
securing her family. "Let's stay. I don't want
whoever is behind this to get the idea that they've
succeeded in anything except making a powerful
enemy. The culprit has already gotten sloppy. The
girl allowed me to see her. We have to be *very*
careful. No solo baths." She felt his need to bring
justice to their family. Those responsible were
coming for *them* and no one else. Sierra laughed,
"I make no promises on that. She insisted she needed
a dozen accessories last time we went shopping.
We'll need to build her a large closet. Tell me what
you've got in mind." She hadn't expected the day to
twist and turn like it had. She was happy now. She
had not been beat down by the attack. "I'll have her
come to the castle tomorrow. We can discuss
everything then. As long as I'm not driving her
anywhere, I think she'll do it." She would be
careful to work away from Arden's eyes. Sierra
turned, boarding her husband's lap. Her arms wrapped
around his neck. "Are you holding up okay, Claudius?
It's been a terribly long day. It made me very happy
to see Bruce."
baths? Now that's an agenda I can get behind,
Duchess," Claudius said, referring to her by her
future title for the first time. "Since you saw her
they'll either try and strike quickly before you can
identify her, or retreat in the shadows and bide
their time," he reasoned, but was not sure of which
approach they would take. "Perhaps we should make
her a countess. Give her a modest annuity. It will
help when the time comes to marry her off," he said,
getting about the business of planning his family's
mundane future in the face of their adversaries.
"How am I holding up?" he asked, with a smirk, as he
rolled his eyes at her. "Alright I suppose. I've got
the weight of a planet upon me now," he said,
tiredly, as his eyes moved across the room towards
the bed. "You really ought to sleep. Cousin Gaius
positioned two of his best men at the door to our
suite. No one will get in," he said to her, trying
to reassure her and coax her into the bed for some
much needed sleep.
beaming and laughing. She *kinda* liked it when he
called her Duchess. Okay, she liked it a lot. "Good.
I decree our first conjoined bath shall occur in the
morning." Sierra made her voice sound all
proper-like. Whatever was coming, she felt ready.
The man who had her back was the person she trusted
more than anyone else. What more could she ask for?
She laughed again. "You know, making Drusilla a
countess is not a bad idea. It could help soothe the
yacht debacle. She gave me a look colder than the
tundra earlier. Teenagers, am I right?" Marrying
Drusilla off was still quite a scary thought. She
imagined her and Claudius holding extensive
interviews with potential suitors. They weren't
going to let just *anyone* take Drusilla away.
Claudius, it's only the weight of *one* planet."
Even Sierra had to admit that she was tired. It was
like she had been awake for a hundred hours. She
slowly slid her way out of his lap. "Alright, Duke
of Delaya. It's time to get some sleep." Her hands
took his. She led him back towards bed. She
collected the datapad with the picture of Bruce on
it along the way. Once they were laying in bed, she
snuggled close to him. "One more time," she reasoned
as the picture of their son appeared on the screen.
Another failed attempt had pushed Claudius and
Sierra closer together.