Rodney sat comfortably in a chair overlooking the expansive oceans of Esseles
from his cliff top perch. He was taking a much needed break from the repairs that
were being undertaken on his Star Destroyer from the recent attack, which he was
still debating whether or not to inform Htaere about. In the distance he could
begin to make out the distinct shape of a Lambda-class shuttle and a content
smile formed upon his face as he realized his family would soon be restored to
him. He rose from his seat, pulling down his tunic to adjust it carefully as the
shuttle soared over head, the sound of its distinct repusorlift engines blaring
in his ears as he slowly walked down the path towards the landing pad. As the
shuttle began it's landing procedure, he ascended the steps to the landing
platform and began walking towards the rear of the craft. His hands clasped
nervously behind his back as he arched himself on his feet, a nervous feeling
coming over him as he watched the ramp begin to descend.
Mixed emotions swirled around Htaere as the shuttle
made its decent. On some level, she was glad to be back, and on the far end of
the same level, she already missed Hapes and lamented the trip being cut short,
not to mention the ongoing disdain for the way things had developed recently.
The droids were already busying themselves to prepare
offloading the trove of wealth and treasures the group had accumulated in their
travels. As they readied themselves to debark, the Hapan heiress took a moment
to address them. "I wish to thank you all for traveling with me," she
began with a genuine smile. "Our trip proved to be interesting indeed,
but it seemed a nice change of pace. I am appreciative of your
The Lady Drusilla Rodney looked at Htaere for a
moment, remembering that she was oh so very close to receiving her present from
her father. "You're welcome..." she said somewhat resentfully and avoiding eye
contact altogether as she focused on unstrapping her harnesses so she could
debark the shuttle. As she descended the ramp she looked momentarily to her
father. "I was good. I want my jewelry," she said in a snotty, arrogant tone of
voice as she walked right past him without even a hug towards the estate.
Ewwiekewwieikkie supervised the droid that was
carrying her trinkets, terrified that some misfortune might befall them. "No
problem, Hattie. Now we always have enough forks," she said proudly, feeling she
had saved the family from the potential mishap of not having enough silverware
when needed. She bounded down the ramp excitedly, and when she saw Claudius, her
arms outstretched and tightened around his leg happily in her usual method of
"I am sorry you did not have longer on your homeworld," Pilaq said to Htaere quietly as he grabbed hold of his walking stick
to lift himself up from his seat. "I am forever grateful for the experiences we
shared this week, milady," he said to her with a polite and courteous bow
as he waited for her to descend the ramp. He did not want to interfere
with the married couple's greeting.
Htaere took up one of her own pieces of luggage before
following her Ithorian friend. Instantly her eyes found Claudius, a little
surprised that he'd been afforded a moment away from work to receive them.
Moving towards him, Htaere found at least that bright spot in the uncomfortable
skullduggery that seemed to appear with alarming regularity when it came
to Imperial affairs. Discarding the instant anxiety that plagued her,
she felt the corners of her mouth lift as she closed the distance
between she and Claudius.
Shaking himself free of Ewwiekewwwieikkie's death
grip, Claudius stepped forward towards Htaere as a youthful smile came upon his
face. His eyes locked on hers as his hands reached forward, taking her
hands into his own and squeezing them gently. His face slowly moved
towards her, pressing his lips tenderly against hers for a tender
moment, savoring it as his eyes closed so that he could imagine them far
off from their present situation.
Htaere offered no resistance to the uncharacteristic
public display of affection, melding into the dream state likewise and indulging
in the euphoric sensation. When they finally did break from the intimate moment,
Htaere bit her bottom lip for a moment before whispering "I missed you."
Yearning for a bit more, she stepped closer and wrapped her arms around
him sighing, her angst with his work and preoccupations alleviated for
"I was terrified there would be a diplomatic
holdup in your return," Claudius confided in her, with some apprehension as he
gave her hands a somewhat tighter than normal squeeze. His eyes moved past her
towards Doctor Tohan for a moment. "Excuse me, my dear. I must speak to the
doctor for just a moment," he informed her quietly, as his hands released their
grip on her, and he made his way up the ramp of the shuttle, where he led Doctor
Tohan to where he hoped Htaere might not hear. "There was an attack while you were
away. I have several officers injured. I need you to return to the Warspite
immediately to see to them..." he whispered quietly, his eyes staring down the
ramp towards Htaere's location somewhat apprehensively.
Pilaq blinked silently at his friend's words,
feeling as if there would be no rest for him in the near future. "Yes. I will
attend to it at once, Milord," he said with a polite bow of his head as he made
his way back towards his seat. He wondered how bad it would be, and grew
concerned that the war was perhaps escalating in a way that it had not in the
Claudius hurried back down the ramp towards Htaere, placing a reassuring arm around her shoulder as he attempted to lead her
away from the shuttle. Behind them, the ramp began to raise as the shuttle began
it's preflight procedures. "You must be tired from your journey," he said to
her sweetly, as his eyes looked down the path towards their estate.
Htaere blinked for a moment, casting a glance over her shoulder as
the Kwai was already lifting back off with Dr. Tohan, masking a
frown in the process. Gazing back to Claudius she let it go, for now. "I
am fine, it was..." she stopped, choosing the words carefully.
"...enlightening." Eyes flickering to the estate she inhaled. "And what
of you? How have things been here?"
Claudius paused for a moment to allow the sound of the departing
shuttle to clear before speaking. "Unfortunately things have been much
the same," he conceded with some honesty, though sparing her the details
of the seriousness of it. "How did you enjoy Ithor?" he asked her, as he
helped her down the steps from the landing platform to the path. "I used
to live there, you know," he told her, for the umpteenth time, once
again repeating himself as he was prone to do when it came to stories
about his youth.
Htaere's eyes dropped to the path for a moment as she ruminated on
the question. The truth was not the answer she was prepared to give.
Instead she fished for something neutral. "The jungles were very
beautiful," she replied quietly. "II am fortunate to have been able to
"And how was Gallinore?" Claudius quickly asked in a follow-up as he
led her inside of their estate. "Were the children much trouble?" he
asked, as his eyes scanned around the interior of the estate looking for
any sign of them.
"It was wonderful to be home," Htaere answered. "They were no trouble
at all." She continued up the stair without pause to get her things
unpacked, leaving him to seek out the children. Being emotionally
drained by Drusilla was something she had built up a resistance to over
time, though in private she was relieved the adolescent now had other
things to occupy her attentions besides disdain for Htaere. Ewwie was
always a fountain of energy, and Htaere envied her that.
Claudius stood at the bottom of the stairs for a moment, stopping to
adjust a portrait of Jelena at the bottom of the steps that seemed
slightly cockeye. "I guess I owe Drusilla her necklace then..." he
called up the stairs to Htaere, as he slowly began to walk up the
staircase, taking the time to look at pictures of the children when they
were younger, taking note of how they had grown. It made him feel
slightly old for the first time knowing that he now had a daughter who
was already fully grown and another who seemed to be growing each day
more and more.
Htaere stifled a deep breath, turning to look down at Claudius. "Yes,
I suppose you do," she agreed before turning and continuing on to the
master suite. As she closed on the doors, Htaere paused, swallowing
apprehensively. She had not been here since...
Pursing her lips and swallowing the remnants of terror the wash of
memories brought, she extended a hand to open the doors. She risked a
glance down the hall to make sure none of the children or house staff
were around before stepping inside, eyes darting around the room, her
mind filling in the snapshots of frantic retreat and the ensuing
destruction. Each step was measured and careful as if to be ready should
any of the memories materialize.
"Would you like some dinner, dear?" Claudius called out down the
corridor as he reached the top of the staircase. He could sense
something was off, but he was hoping it was just the effects of the long
trip through hyperspace. He dared not proceed further, instead choosing
to hover nervously at the top of the stairs. He swallowed deeply,
looking down the corridor towards where she had retreated, not sure if
he should rush to her side, or give her needed space.
The dredge of recollection waivered at the sound of Claudius' voice,
releasing her from its grip. Irritated with herself for being weak, she
scowled to herself and stuffed the incident to the back of her mind
before setting the first suitcase on the bed to unpack. "Thank you, no.
I am fine," she called in response.
"Uh..." Claudius stammered as he again struggled with the decision of
what to do next. "...do you need help unpacking?" he asked finally, as
he slowly made his way down towards their suite, but did not yet dare
approach the door. His hands rubbed against one another nervously as he
awaited her next reply.
Htaere seated herself on the bed and took a final look around before
stretching out. "No, I just need rest," she murmured. The trip had been
exhausting enough, and keeping up the walls and defenses from the daily
woes and catastrophes required even more strength then before.
Succumbing to her frustrations, Htaere let her eyelids sink and tried to
drift back to Gallinore in thought.
Claudius' right hand gradually made it's way up to his curly black
hair, scratching at his scalp as he considered his options carefully.
"All right..." he said to her as he paced back and forth in the
corridor, deciding it was for the best to just give her some space for
this evening. Gradually he made his way back down the staircase and
headed towards his office, intending to check up on the status of the
repairs to the Warspite. He was distracted with worry for Htaere,
but he was ill-equipped to deal with such a thing.