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Alice Bee and Christopher Levy.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:2:34) in the Essesia system: Esseles (New Calamar: Claudius Rodney's estate).
Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Lady Jelena Rodney, and Commander Sierra Rodney.

Jelena Rodney was laying on a sofa next to her stepmother, and former best friend, as she prepared for their 'session' together. She found this whole thing ridiculous, but she knew her father well enough to know it was easier to pretend to go along with his wishes than it was to protest them. "So what do you want to know about?" she asked, as she fiddled her hands nervously, while staring up at the ceiling. She let out a frustrated sigh as she slowly came to terms with how much things had changed during her absence. The truth was that none of the women her father had been with met her standards, as none of them were her mother. She was not sure whether Sierra had actually learned psychology, or whether she was just given the job for being a pretty, young blonde. It would not be the first time someone who looked like her was awarded something they did not deserve. She pursed her lips anxiously, wondering what questions she might ask. There was always the chance Sierra might get lucky and hit the wrong nerve. After all, they used to know each other very well.

It was very clear whose idea *this* was. Claudius Rodney wanted to make peace throughout the family, and somehow his wife had ended up entangled in it. Sierra didn't need to tell Jelena how this all had come to be. It was obvious who was responsible. And so, they had met together. Sierra, sitting with her datapad in her hand. She was pushing herself back into the role of a psychologist, instead of acting like the dramatic, hurt friend. Ultimately, she wanted what Claudius wanted: one big happy family. There had been silence at first. Despite thinking and thinking, Sierra had been unable to arrive upon a good path to cleaning things up with Jelena.

"Claudius," she started with an even voice. She was not attacking. "There are infinite numbers, yet they can't even count all the stories you've told me about him. Do you still hate him as much as you did back then?" Daddy issues. They both had them.

"No," Jelena replied with a single word, shifting uncomfortable on the sofa. "I hate him much, much more," she admitted, biting down at her lower lip in a youthful pout. "The Empire destroyed Alderaan. The Rebels have shown my proof. Most of the galaxy accepts it as truth," she explained bitterly, as she rolled over onto her side, to avoid looking at Sierra. "My mother's family. Your family. Almost everyone we knew is dead. Murdered by the Empire, and you and father wear the uniforms of their killers," she continued, bitterly, as she grabbed hold of a throw pillow and began to spoon it. "He dishonored my mother's legacy first by marrying that Hapan, and now by marrying you. If he loved her ... truly loved her ... he would have never looked at another woman," she explained, clinging to some old fashioned sentimentality. To her love was forever, but she had never been in love.

Sierra's eyes went soft. No matter who had destroyed Alderaan, it was gone, and with it, so many had disappeared from their lives. There *were* people she cared about who were gone now. She could absolutely understand Jelena's pain. She rested her datapad in her lap. "Your father has been involved with the Empire for nearly two decades. There is no way for him to comprehend that anyone other than the Rebels destroyed Alderaan. You've heard the saying that you can't teach a dog old tricks?" She wasn't being cruel to her husband. Her alliance was also with the Empire and she did not intend to leave unless given a real reason, like Arden attempting to execute their family to near success. "I can understand how you'd feel that way. Even I do not know how I'd learn to love again if..." Sierra didn't finish that sentence. When Claudius was gone, there would be no others. "But, other people love differently. Claudius loved your mother and I'm sure he still does. I am unsure if it was even in his interest to marry the Hapan. All I know is that Julius had it arranged, just like so many other political marriages; it happened under his feet. You and I could have gotten trapped in the same ordeal." She sighed. "Have you thought of it from his perspective?" She questioned her friend, opting not to talk about the origins of her relationship. "Do people deserve second chances, third chances, or maybe five hundredth chances?"

"What do you believe, Sierra?" Jelena asked, as she rolled over again to look at Sierra. "Do you accept that the Empire destroyed Alderaan?" she pressed, swinging her legs over the side of the sofa, sitting up. "I would have never let my father marry me off to sold old man just to improve the family," she explained, folding her arms in front of her chest as she flung her head back dramatically. "You may have gone for an arrangement like that, but not me. My family views themselves as some political organization, rather than actual, loving family," she said, bitterly, shaking her head. She was starting to become unnerved. She was not comfortable about talking about this. She began breathing more rapidly, as she brought her hand up frantically towards the neckline of her modest summer dress. She needed more air and she needed it *now*.

Oh, the complicated questions. Her head was in her hand now. "I believe that in an instant, my home world was depleted to nothing but debris. All those I hated and all those I loved were taken with it. There is nothing left. What good will it do for me to point fingers? The war will continue to rage, regardless of where the responsibility falls." Sierra watched her old friend. She let her verbal jabs roll off of her today. Instead, the stood from her seat. The young woman took a seat on the sofa beside her disgruntled patient. Uncomfortably, she began to open up a topic that she knew could start trouble again.

"Your father is trying to improve things. Between losing Alderaan and living out the nightmare of losing you, it hit him hard. When the news of your death spread around the Retributor, I couldn't handle it. My comrades cheered and partied while I cried myself to sleep. As much as I hated him, I went to him because he was the only one who could mourn with me. I was furious with him. I blamed him. But then, I saw him fall. He turned into a real person before my eyes." She wanted to embrace her friend. She missed her so much. "Your father messed up in your childhood, we can both agree on that one. He wasn't there. Yet, you never stopped looking for him at our recitals. *Never*. Why now, when he wants to mend things so badly, are you not interested in looking for him?"

"Why did he never care about me while I was with him?" Jelena asked, angrily, as the tears began to flow from her eyes. "Why did it take someone telling him I was dead to make him feel a sense of loss?" she asked again, in rapid succession, before she dramatically crashed back down onto the sofa. "He didn't mess up my childhood. He would have had to have been there to mess it up," she complained, rolling onto her side away from her again. "You were there. You saw that he wasn't. How can you love *him*?" she asked, angrily, trying to understand why her friend could love a man that she despised. "What do you see that I don't?" she asked, as she began quietly weeping into one of the throw pillows. It was all too much for her.

Jelena's sadness was hard to watch. Sierra felt years younger. She could recall a time when she wanted to yell and scream at Claudius, or slap him until he understood. The Rodneys had a chance at happiness, one which they should have taken. She watched Jelena crash back towards the sofa and cry. Sierra reached a hand towards her. It gently brushed against her back. "He was too far gone to his career, Jelena. Have you ever made it to the point where you're so far into something that you can't see what's right in front of your face? That's been the state of your father for sometime. It took your death for him to see clearly again. I'm not condemning his actions. You should be angry. I'd have thrown the first blunt object his way if I were you...please don't do that...and probably have screamed until he wanted nothing to do with me." She rubbed her back with a little more confidence. She was sorry. She was sorry Jelena had gone through all of this.

"You gave him the slap in the face he needed. He's come home nightly. He's spending more time with your sisters. If nothing else, you have given them the gift of a less neglectful father." Sierra rested her arm over her stomach. She trusted that he would be there for not only his daughters, but his son as well. "Claudius..." She started. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to select her careful words. "I allowed him a chance to be in my life knowing full well about his past. I gave him that second chance and for that, he's been there for me daily. He cared for me after I was injured badly at the funeral. He's helped me through a lot of my own problems. I'm really *not* fucking perfect. After all the tailoring my mom did, I cannot believe I still married a nobleman." She laughed bitterly. "It works out for us. Everyone is subject to change."

"Too far gone into his career?" Jelena asked, incredulously, behind a wall of tears. "His family should come behind his career," she explained to her, as she tried to listen to what Sierra was saying. "He should have resigned in protest when Alderaan was destroyed. He should have joined the Rebellion too," she said, as she rolled back over to look towards Sierra. "Sure. He's been there for you, but he was never there for me. Because he can have sex with you," she said, burying her face into the pillow again. "I don't want to hear anymore about you and him," she said, mumbling into her pillow, as her tears and makeup combined to stain the delicate throw. "If I mean anything to you then get me out of here," she said, as soon as the pillow was pulled away to look at her again. "I don't want to be here, and it's better for you if I'm not," she reasoned, as she leaned forward to her former best friend in an impassioned plea.

"I know." Sierra responded sadly. She couldn't make up for the sins of her husband despite how badly she wanted to. The idea that Claudius was only there for her because of sex was insanity. He wouldn't have been insistent about waiting until marriage if he simply wanted to be inside of her. He certainly had chances when she was trying to seduce him. She wanted to push her head into the ground and hide from this. "I'm not going to dignify that with a response." Sierra said, looking down at Jelena. It hurt that she wanted to leave so badly that she was trying to use Sierra's feelings against her. "You still mean so much to me," she dropped her hand away. "No matter how you feel about me, at the end of the day, you'll always be my best friend. I would have killed myself long ago if it weren't for you." Sierra stood. The person who had seen her in her most raw states was *Jelena*; bloody and raw. She collected her datapad as she began to feel increasingly more sick the longer she stayed. "As much as I'd love to set you free, I can't. Claudius would hate me." And that would destroy her and rip their family in half again. "Please, please just speak with him. I'll be there. We can sort through all of this. I can go get him now."

"He just wants to possess me," Jelena said, feeling very sorry for herself as she battled a major case of teen angst. "If I speak with him will that make you happy? Will that get everyone off my case?" she asked, as she began to make a bargain with her captor. "Ugh. Fine," she said, as she dramatically raised up her arms and then slammed them down next to her on the sofa. "I've been trying to talk to him my whole life. He never listened then, and he won't listen now. You'll see that I'm right," she said, as she sat up on the sofa, waiting for her to go and get her father. She doubted whether or not she could even convince him to come. He was probably busy. He was always busy whenever she tried to talk to him. She rolled her eyes, before moving to wipe away her tears and adjust her hair to make herself a little more presentable. She was every bit a teenager.

"If I'm wrong, then you can shave my head." Sierra said, "And yes, speaking with him will get everyone off your case." She picked up a box of Kleenex from the coffee table, resting it on the arm of the sofa. She managed to leave the room casually, then broke out in a run to reach the brief privacy of her refresher. This was quite possibly the *worst* time for her body to decide it wanted to be pregnant. She was suffering through the early stages of morning sickness and shifting hormones while the dead came back to the living. The subject she was about to broach with her husband was surely going to have him calling for a divorce. "Fuck meeeeee." She groaned.

After becoming refreshed in the refresher, she decided that there was no other choice but to see Claudius ... or run away to the furthest planet. The blonde-headed psychologist appeared on the balcony looking flush and ill. He was seated at the table, likely processing all the insanity that was driving them 'round and 'round in circles for far too long. Sierra perched herself on the table in front of him. Her legs were visibly shaking. "Claudius, she's ready to see you. Before you go, we need to talk." Sierra made the words sound gentle and filled with concern. She took both of his hands. "And all I want you to do is listen and hear me out even if you don't necessarily like the words coming out of my mouth." She squeezed him. "Can you accept that you were neglectful to Jelena in the past?"

Claudius was ineffectually attempting to administer the various words that comprised the Ringali Shell when Sierra entered his temporary, makeshift office in the estate. As she mounted the table in front of him he suddenly felt very jealous of the table. He was just about to rise up from his seat to go and see Jelena at her instruction, when he was informed that they needed a preamble first. Before he had settled back down into his seat Sierra had delivered him a bomb that very nearly forced him down to the floor. "Neglectful?" he repeated, sounding aghast by the notion of it. He looked away from her, awkwardly breaking eye contact, as he shook his head in dismay. "No. Never!" he said, wounded to his very core, as he tried to make sense of what he was being told. "Is that what she's saying?" he asked, as he lifted himself up from his chair. He turned his back on her, walking towards the window, where he stared out of it silently. He had been hurt ... badly.

Sierra was caught in one hell of a vicious cycle. She couldn't win both her husband and her friend over. In the past hour, she'd effectively hurt both of them. She saw Claudius withdraw and reject what she said entirely. She was silent, watching him move towards the window. A minute later, she rose to her feet and followed. "It isn't what she's saying *now*. It is what she's said for as long as I have known her. I know it doesn't feel good. If you want a real second chance with Jelena, you both have to accept that you've done wrong in the past. You were a different man back then. Your career clouded your judgment. You felt guilt after we assumed her dead because you thought there was more you could have done, right? Face me." Sierra said. "She doesn't expect you to listen to her even now. If you walk into that room to speak to her, you need to accept that you're turning over a new leaf. Whether she wants to admit it or not, she needs you in her life."

Claudius slowly turned to face his life like a guilty child. He frowned at her, before unleashing an exasperated sigh. "I love my daughter very much ... as I do all of my family," he explained, earnestly, as he moved towards the table where she was sitting. He moved to seat himself next to her, offering the best smile he could muster at the moment. "I don't know. I understand she resents me for not being there..." he said, his voice nearly cracking, as he began to look down towards the floor. "...but it's not like I was out carousing like Marcus. I was working. I had a career to think of, to set an example for her!" he said, trying to justify his actions ... or rather inactions. "She reminded me of Julia very much. It was *hard* to be there after her death," he admitted, feeling a lump both in his chest and his throat as he began to well up. "What is it she needs to hear?" he asked, a broken man, in defeat. He just wanted his family in order, no matter the price.

"I know you do. A man who did not love his family wouldn't have put the effort that you are into it. There is much work to do. Through perseverance, you can get there, my love. Coming from a point of logic, I can understand why things happened the way they did." She reached her arm, wrapping it around his shoulder. "Julia's death. Work. War. The vicious cycle that is life. You had so much hitting you all at once. It becomes easier to sink than swim at that point. Jelena is coming from a place of emotion. She doesn't want you to make sense of it all for her. She wants an apology. She wants a better father." Sierra rested her head against his shoulder. She wanted to piece him back together again, just as she had done so many times before. "There's one more thing. You recall when you asked me for my opinion of what situation would be best for the girls, right?" She paused, linking her hand with his. "The best option for Jelena is to free her. If you can go into that room and prove that you care, she will come back home. We're the same age. As pleased as I am to be here, Jelena needs her space. She needs to process this with us and without us. Can you understand that?"

"An apology?!" Claudius repeated, incredulously, as he raised his head dramatically to look at Sierra. "For doing my duty?" he asked, bringing his face up to the side of his head to rub it in frustration. He did not like or approve of what Sierra was suggesting, but after more than two decades in the military he knew how to follow commands he did not always agree with. His head was pounding, the sides of his head felt as if they were bulging out a meter. He could take no more this day. "Fine. Fine. I will do the things you recommend," he told her, as he moved his hand across her arm to squeeze it reassuringly. He needed her support if he was going to make it through this. Being a father was infinitely more difficult than being a Regional Governor. It took greater courage too.

He wasn't the only one beginning to feel like they had a swollen, aching head. Sierra would do anything for a drink, or maybe another bite of Ewwie's sugar rush experiment. She felt concerned about what was going to happen. Would she push the family together, or thrust them apart further? She looked at Claudius with concern and sickness, but managed a smile simply to try to make him feel better. "Okay. Let's go. Remember, this isn't a military arrangement. Teenagers are far more complex that even bastard ISB officers," She slid off of the desk and back to her feet. It was a saving grace that they were working from home now instead of on the dreadnought. Sierra did not miss the discomforts of her boots, or having to fear for her life against Arden. With his hand in hers, she began to lead him towards Jelena's room. Outside the door, she looked at him one last time. "I love you. You can do this." And a kiss for good luck. She opened the door.

Claudius walked slowly into Jelena's room for what he wondered would be the last time. After he crossed the threshold he turned his head over his shoulder to look at Sierra for encouragement. "I love you too," he said to her, deliberately so that Jelena could hear. Following that he looked forward, swallowing, as he moved towards where Jelena was sitting in front of her vanity. "Sierra has been explaining to me your feelings," he said, trying to find the right words based on his skills as a diplomat. "I'm sorry ... I'm sorry I wasn't there more," he began, feeling a great deal of pain as he struggled to say the words. It was like when his mother forced him to eat vegetables during his youth on Delaya ... he did not want to, but he *had* to. "Also, we've been talking," he said, clearing his throat, as he again looked to Sierra for reassurance. "...and as you have been officially declared dead by the Empire ... you may have an apartment in the city," he said, cringing as he spoke the words. His breath was becoming more labored and his heart was beating more rapidly.

Jelena was not thrilled when her father entered the room, and for the beginning of his monologue she did not move her head. The apology was unexpected, but she was not sure if she could believe him. Her head slowly tilted upwards, looking at him with her young, blue eyes. She wanted so much to believe. Despite how toxic at times their relationship was ... he was still her father. She rose from her seat when he said she could get an apartment, and a warm smile formed upon her face. "Thank you," she finally said, as she weakly wrapped an arm around her father. She saw Sierra in the doorway behind them and mouthed 'thank you' to her as well, before closing her eyes and giving her father a stronger hug.

The young woman remained in the doorway. She and Jelena had their conversation already. She was there to witness and support her husband while he fumbled his way through attempting to have a relationship with his daughter once more. She wanted him apologize with a sense of reluctancy. He pulled if off. He really did. By giving Jelena her freedom, Sierra felt like they had all taken a huge step towards the ultimate goal. A little smile crossed her face to reassure him that he was doing a good job. She backed him all the way. Before her, Sierra saw something wonderful happen: Jelena embraced her father. With a warm heart, Sierra mouthed a silent 'you're welcome' to her friend. She would always be here for this family, for *her* family.

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