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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:7:28) in the Essesia system: Esseles (Larius Lacus: Sierra Rodney's lakehouse and New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate).
Commander Kerrie Kiley, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, and Major Sierra Rodney.

The road to recovery was long and hard. After Delaya, after Arden Zevrin had lifted a blanket concealing the shocking truth, there lay the exposed, raw truth. Sierra Rodney had left the children in the capable hands of El-Nay and Kerrie. She had also purposely limited Ewwiekewwieikkie and Melickielickie's sugar intake for the day so they might stand a chance at falling asleep without *too* much difficulty. Against all motherly urges, she had left Bruce at home as well. With Drusilla showing her that she was capable of watching the boy, she decided that he would be safe. When she returned from her date, maybe she would be able to bond more with her brother without Sierra or Claudius lingering around them.

Sierra stood on the porch looking over the picturesque scene stretched out before her. The sun was setting, causing an orange glow to settle on everything surrounding her. Her hands were planted on the railing, leaning into it. She could see Sea Betsy, who was swimming near the surface of the lake with three otters on her back. It was no difference for animals and humans, she thought, imagining playing with the girls. Sierra pushed off the railing and turned around, leaning into it. The warm weather had inspired her to shed her uniform for a simplistic white sundress. . . Or perhaps it was Sierra wanting to gussy herself up for her husband. "Look at those otters. It's just like the Squibs." She laughed.

Grand Moff Claudius Rodney never hesitated with his wife offered him a reprieve from life aboard the Retributor or his overcrowded house. "Drusilla really said she would watch Bruce?" he asked, having deliberately not asked about her date with the Prince he pummeled. "I'm glad the sea cow has adapted nicely to her name," he said, as he moved his hand to the small of his wife's back. He was not just talking about the Delayan sea cow, he was really talking about himself. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath from the refreshing air that surrounded the lake, which was much more fresh than the recycled air aboard his command ship. "I have to admit, they are very cute," he told her, before leaning into her, placing his lips against her neck in a brief kiss, with a longer bite at the end.

"She did... Surprising enough. She even said goodbye to him before she..." Sierra stopped herself from saying 'went on a date'. It was never going to be easy to give Dru a little freedom. It was a decision Sierra hoped not to regret. Kerrie and El-Nay both had orders to shoot Pollix should he keep her out later than was allowed, or if he was touching her inappropriately ... or in any way, for that matter! "They are." She said happily. "Did you know that otters hold hands when they fall asleep to keep from floating away from each other? Isn't that adorable? Mm!" She squeaked. His bite caught her attention. She turned around. "What are you up to, troublemaker?"

"I'm just working on my sneak attack tactics in preparation for our battles with the rebellion," Claudius slyly told her, before moving his mouth near her ear, and gently biting on her ear lobe. "They hold hands while asleep?" he asked her, as he let go of her ear. He leaned forward over the railing to look at the otters, while trying not to accidentally fall in. "Well then start holding my hand when we sleep, because I never want to float away from you," he told her, as he turned his attention from the lake to his wife. "I can't stand it anymore," he told her, as the familiar pout returned to his lips. "Did she return on time?" he asked, having been on his best behavior for as long as he could. He had done anything to keep from talking about it, but he could hold out no longer.

She let out a happy laugh. "Oooh, I see. I commend you on your hard work, Governor." Sierra groaned. This was exactly why the House of Rodney was guilty for the sudden increase in children! Her hand rested on top of his while he leaned over the railing. He made her heart flutter with his words. Her fingers nuzzled in between his. "Remember you said that tonight, because I'm holding you to it." Her heart was doing flips in her chest. She loved him so very, very much. "Let's find out, shall we? If she didn't, I want to hear *all* about the details as to the last moments of the little Prince's life." Sierra had kept her comlink with her. She had no hope that Pollix would manage to bring Dru home on top, and was awaiting the report. She decided to call Kerrie. If something had happened, then El-Nay was probably finding a safe place to hide. "Commander Kiley?"

"I'm sure you'll remind me," Claudius teased, as he stood there on the porch overlooking the pristine lake. There was much to love on his adopted home of Esseles. He had lived here much longer than he ever imagined, and believed this would be his last command before he retired. If Delaya no longer wanted him, he was beginning to debate whether he should want Delaya. Perhaps, instead, he should simply retire here. "Oh," he said, as she moved for the commlink, not entirely expecting that. He swallowed, backing away slightly, so that Kerrie would not hear him breathing heavily on the comlink with anxiety about her answer.

"Commander Kiley here," the voice of Commander Kerrie Kiley replied over the comlink from across the planet at the Rodney estate outside of New Calamar. "How may I assist you, milady?" she asked, as she was monitoring the situation from the outside of the Rodney estate. Watching Drusilla, Bruce, and the Squib was not the most prestigious task in the Empire, nor was it the most challenging, but she did take pride in the knowledge that *she* was the one who had been chose to safeguard them. She knew that both Claudius and Sierra valued nothing more than their children, so she used that to convince herself that being assigned back to their personality security was actually a promotion.

It was a good sign that Kerrie picked up so quickly. If it weren't for Kerrie and El-Nay, Sierra and Claudius would never get a night off. She was picky about who was capable of watching the children. She listened hard between the lines of Kerrie's words. The Clawdite didn't seem panicked or angry. She couldn't hear any Squibs either. "I'm sorry, forgive me for being such an overprotective parent... How is everything going with the children? Did Drusilla return home on time or did you have to 'punish' Pollix?" Sierra had done her fair of threatening to the Prince before she even told Drusilla he was at the estate. It seemed like things were relatively calm with the children. She refused to see one of them hurt.

"Lady Drusilla returned home on time, but I did not encounter His Royal Highness," Kerrie replied, simply, as she danced around the issue. "Lady Drusilla has ordered me out of the house, telling me I was 'in the way', and is seeing to the care of Lord Bruce personally," she reported, uncertain as to how Sierra would respond. "Ewwiekewwieikkie and Melickielickie are at the tail end of a parade of ducks. Every time the Squibs get close to the ducks they waddle off, and the girls just keep following. This has been going on for *several* hours," she explained, sounding exasperated. "Rest assured, everything is well here," she informed her, as she prepared for her reaction.

Sierra deflated. "Oh, thank goodness." Prince Pollix was, for lack of better words, a 'whipped' boy. Sierra felt if she was cruel enough to him, he would do as she wanted. She was touched that Drusilla was taking such charge with Bruce. Sierra couldn't miss the big smiles he had been giving his sister earlier. It was so cute that Sierra had a difficult time not gushing and embarrassing Dru over it. Kerrie report was all good news. She chuckled, shaking her head. "No surprise there. They love the ducks. Let them continue to play their game. You'll see the benefits at bedtime. As to Drusilla, I trust her with Bruce. Give her the space she wants. For whatever reason, she doesn't want us to see that she actually likes her baby brother. Thank you, Commander." The conversation was comforting all around. It would make spending private time with her husband that much better as they could rest assured that Dru was safe at home ... and Bruce was in very, very good hands. As she ended the call with Kerrie, she looked at Claudius.

"I feel sorry for those ducks," Claudius said, covering the light topic first, as he smiled across at his wife. "Do you think she's up to something?" he asked her, which a terrible thing to say about one's old child. "She just isn't usually this cooperative," he said, having become so jaded in regard to Drusilla's behavior that he now looked at everything she did with an ulterior motive. "Still, if she is warming to Bruce, but just embarrassed that we know ... that's good ... right?" he asked her, as he looked to take some goodness from the conversation. He wanted to believe.

"...Me too. Maybe we should bring them here for a break next time." She suggested as she inched closer to him. "I had considered that Dru had another motive. Don't be surprised if she asks for money for babysitting when we get home. She's acting like she doesn't want us to know. I think it's good. She was on Onderon when he was born, so they didn't have the time to bond then. It's good to let them have their time together." Before Lord Vader took it away. The smile just briefly dropped from Sierra's face. How would the children react in five years when they returned to Mustafar? They would be *devastated*. She had a real fear that the child growing within her womb would be force-sensitive as well, thus giving Lord Vader another child to pluck from her nest. Sierra attempted to push those dark thoughts towards the back of her mind. It was out of her control. There was no hiding from Lord Vader.

She pushed herself against Claudius' chest. Her arms wrapped around his neck. "I have been thinking a lot about the revelations in Delaya." She said to him, carefully shifting the topic so he wouldn't see that she had gotten briefly upset. "I wonder if it might do us some good for me to go to New Alderaan and seek out answers from Jelena."

"Bring them here? Can you imagine what they would do to the sea cow? To the otters?" Claudius asked her, was he worried for the safety and sanity of all the creatures the inquisitive, animal loving Squibs crossed paths with. "Alright. I'll trust you to ensure all goes well between Dru and Bru," he told her, immediately hating the way it sounded the moment it passed his lips. Then the conversation took an abrupt turn to New Alderaan and Jelena, which had been on his mind since the 'trial' of Gaius as well. "There's always a danger when you go there. To her *and* you," he reminded her, but he knew his wife well enough to know once her mind was made up there was no changing her mind. "You'll take precautions?" he asked her, rather than try to get her to stay here and not go.

She looked up at him. "Of course. I have already asked El-Nay to borrow her armor and ship." Sierra wondered if they'd have to expand El-Nay's chest plate to accommodate her. Perhaps it was her backside that she should be more worried about. "I wonder if it is a good idea or not. It isn't the danger alone. I don't want to destroy what we've built up with Jelena. If I corner her about your parents, there's nothing saying she'll be pleased about it, open up, and tell me everything. She certainly didn't tell me then--and it was going on while I knew her. What do *you* think? It this going to hurt her, or enlighten us?"

"Oh dear. I wonder if you might be safer in ISB armor than that orange armor," Claudius pointed out, as he laughed, shaking his head at it. "It is a good idea. We *have* to know. It'll eat at us not knowing," he said to her, as when it came down it to it he was just as insatiably curious as the Squibs. "Go, and if she opens up ... good. And, if she doesn't ... then don't press her," he said, trying to tow the middle. He moved towards her, wrapping his arms around her tightly. He held her, not wanting to go, as if he were afraid she would float away when he fell asleep. He was an otter at heart.

"I might have to go in ISB armor. I don't know if I'm even going to fit in El-Nay's armor... Especially not from the waist down." Sierra covered her face and laughed in embarrassment. "You're right, you're right. I'll do what I can." It would be nice to see Jelena again. Her gut feeling was that it wasn't going to be a good visit. She wanted peace within the family, but it seemed like she would never have it. "I love you," she said. "I want you to put my aide to work while I'm gone. I refuse to come back to stack of datapads as tall as the trees on Endor when I return." She smiled. Sierra nuzzled her body against his. This wasn't going to be a long trip. She simply couldn't stay away from him. She closed her eyes and pressed her head into his chest. She never wanted to let go either.

"They'd know that booty anywhere," Claudius reminded her, as he moved his hand down her back, allowing it to come to a rest on her behind. "I love you too," he reassured her, before lowering his head to place a tender, loving kiss upon her lips. "Yes. I'll get him busy. We do need help with the addition of the tea house to the estate," he remembered, but he was hesitant to see to its construction without her. As she lay her head on his chest he raised his hand to the back of her head, holding her against him, as the otters did. He would not let go. He could not let go.

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