Claudius Rodney sighed contently as their air taxi arrived at the Leafy
Green, a restaurant on Coruscant that had been recommended to him by
Pilaq Tohan. He had arranged for his children to be given a tour of a
local museum, allowing him to have a much needed dinner with Htaere
alone. As he stepped off the speeder onto the crowded landing platform,
he turned to Htaere to offer her a steady hand to disembark. He was
wearing a dark blue tunic and complimentary trousers, rather than his
Imperial uniform, as he continued to try to casually blend in during his
stay on Coruscant. The sun was setting in the distance casting an orange
hue over the crowded night sky.
An adorned wrist and hand protruded from the air taxi to accept his
offer, followed by the elegant form of the Hapan heiress in a sparkling
strapless gown, tiara and small version of her veil, eyes immediately
taking in the surrounding as she stepped off onto the curb of the
Having a reservation, Claudius and Htaere were quickly ushered by the
Maitre d' to their reserve table. In the center of the dining room was a
large, leafy tree that seemed to rise to the heavens. It was a
magnificent sight and a gentle breeze blew upwards causing the leaves to
soothingly shake. Claudius stood behind Htaere, pulling out her chair,
before situating himself. He awkwardly brushed aside the wine steward,
thinking it would not be a good idea from him to start drinking tonight.
As he eyed the menu he discovered it was mostly vegetarian fare that
would stretch the bank account of even the richest of nobles.
Smoothing her gown, Htaere thanked him with a nod before studying the
menu intently, enthused at the selection. "Dr. Tohan recommended this
place yes?" she clarified. "Did he suggest a specific dish to sample?"
"Yes. Pilaq chose it..." Claudius replied with a nod as his eyes scanned
over the ambiance. "He didn't point me to a specific dish..." he said as
he scanned over the manuals. "Well, everything certainly seems ...
healthy," he added, sounding somewhat disappointed as he read the
selections. He was older and needed to change his diet, as his doctor
had routinely prodded him, but it was not a change that he wanted to
make. "I didn't even know that was edible..." he said quietly to himself
as one dish in particular spurred his imagination.
Htaere folded her menu and waited for him to make a selection. "Keep an
open mind, Claudius," she grinned. "This is good for you, and very kind
of Pilaq to share such a delight with us." She shifted the topic,
smiling across the candlelit table. "You look very handsome," she began
before giggling a bit. "But I shall have to admit it is strange to see
you without the interior of a Star Destroyer in the backdrop."
Claudius laughed as he gave his order to the server, based solely on the
title, and having no real idea what he ordered. "Well ... I wasn't
always a naval officer you know," he said as he drank a glass of his
spring water. It was not what he was used to and face his crinkled a bit
in reaction. "You look lovely yourself," he added as he reached across
the table, grasping her hand. "We don't do this enough..." he admitted
sadly, reflecting on how busy he had been over recent months.
She gave his hand a warm squeeze. "Well perhaps we can make more time
for such when this conflict concludes in short order," she offered
optimistically. "How long do we have to enjoy ourselves before you must
return to your duties?"
Claudius smiled at her as an appetizer of what appeared to be whole
grain crackers and a fondue were laid out before them. He took an
immediate bite and scrunched his face in displeasure, choosing to but a
healthy dosage of cheese upon it to deal with the bland taste. "I was
told I must be back at my post within the week," he explained to her,
having been forced to endure at least one briefing thus far during his
vacation on Coruscant.
"I see," Htaere nodded. "Well then we must enjoy what we have, here,
now," she replied firmly. Drawing a deep breath, she paused before
taking a sip the sparkling fruit juice beverage she'd chosen. "You must
be supremely proud of the girls at the ceremony. Was it everything you'd
hoped it would be?"
"Jelena outdid herself," Claudius said, beaming proudly as he remembered
the Emperor signaling her out among countless young noblewoman that were
presented to him that evening. "What the usher said to Ewwiekewwieikkie
was unacceptable, however," he responded angrily as he took another
cheese covered bite of the cracker. "I feel I have failed her. She is
not fully prepared for a 'normal' life among her people," he reluctantly
conceded as the server wheeled out their main course.
"This is not a 'normal' life I fear, Claudius," Htaere frowned. "Nor are
we her people." She frowned, eyes studying the fondue carefully.
"Something similar happened at Ithor," she recalled the memory again. "I
..." she thought on it. "...I think the Empire is prejudiced, Claudius,"
Claudius eyes went wide as he listened to Htaere's wonders, believing
her to be right. However, he felt it stemmed out of the betrayal of a
number of alien worlds during the Clone Wars. After all, it had been
largely the human worlds that stood up against the tyranny of the
Confederacy during the war. "What happened on Ithor?" he asked quietly
as he began poking the large flower that had been served him with his
fork. "Is this a decoration or am I supposed to eat this?" he helplessly
"Many flowers are edible, perhaps this is the case here," she answered.
"An officer there made a comment about her being a pet," Htaere sighed.
"Upon our departure he said something about the galaxy being safe again
for humans, or something to that effect." Lifting her mini veil, Htaere
sampled a few of the appetizers, enjoying them thoroughly.
Claudius stabbed at the flower repeatedly before a pedal found its way
onto his fork, and he cautiously slipped it into his mouth, awkwardly
munching on it as he tried to get used to the taste. "A pet?!" he
angrily exclaimed, part of the flower falling haphazardly out of his
mouth and onto the delicate cloth napkin on his lap. Several of the
patrons stopped talking and stared at him following the outburst. "Who
was this officer? I'll have him transferred to a garbage scow..." he
said, furious that an officer would dare say such a thing.
"Claudius, please!" she whispered. "I told you the Empire is prejudice,
I believe such is the case, especially after the incident on Ithor." She
thought on it, frowning slightly. "Perhaps it is not safe for Ewwie to
bring her to Imperial functions," she offered lightly.
Claudius attempted to eat more of his flower with limited success, not
wanting to accept that his beloved Ewwiekewwieikkie had been treated in
such callous regard by brother Imperial officers. "She is a member of
this House and should be treated as Jelena or Drusilla are treated..."
he said to her, feeling somewhat dejected by the news. "It would be an
awful thing to exclude her from our ceremonies when she has done
something wrong..." he said, as he completed his ill-conceived meal.
Htaere let it go at that, sipping her beverage again and searching for
another topic. "So, I was thinking that I could take Jelena to the
university in the coming weeks to take care of her enrollment and to
visit the campus, perhaps choose an apartment for her. What say you?"
"I think that would be a wonderful idea," Claudius said to her, his mind
still dwelling on her comments regarding Ewwie. "The other girls will
have their mothers with them and I'm sure it will be an emotional time
for her..." his voice growing weak at the end of his comments as he
fumbled for his glass of spring water. It was always a difficult subject
to bring up.
"I think she is a lot more eager then you believe, also far more strong
then you give her credit for," Htaere answered before letting it go and
changing the topic again. "This is quite delicious. We shall have to
thank Dr. Tohan profusely for his recommendation."
"Well she is her father's daughter..." Claudius said proudly as a smirk
curled upon his lips. Soon a desert was placed in front of them that to
him looked as unappetizing as the rest of the meal. "I think she will do
very well at the University," he boasted as he stuck his fork into
something that resembled a giant mushroom.
"I agree, and I also think it is quite good of you to have finally
allowed her to live her own life," she praised him quietly with a
genuine smile. "It means quite a bit to her. I also think it would be
very nice for you to take a day with her, just the two of you before she
Claudius did not want to reveal to her the complexity of the reasons why
Jelena could not immediately attend the University, as it would only
further sour her views on the Empire. "I would enjoy that very much. I
feel that I have been inadequate as a father and it has weighed heavily
upon me lately," he confessed as he ate another bite of desert. "The
Ewwie situation still bothers me," he admitted after several tense
moments of silence, leaving half hid desert uneaten.
"Then spend some time with her as well, Claudius," Htaere encouraged,
leaning back in her chair. "Fortunately, I do not believe she is
cognizant of any perceived maliciousness, but still some attention from
you would do all the girls some good."
Claudius' eyes darted around the room, checking to see who was
surrounding them. He leaned forward, whispering quietly. "I have been
told that we are making progress in the Outer Rim and they expect the
war to be over soon..." he said to her, not having the full details, but
there was a lot of gossip going around several of his former colleagues
who he had spent time wit during the time on Coruscant. "It is my hope
that we can soon have much more time together as a family," he said, a
smile washing over his face as he imagined a swift end to the war.
Htaere's eyes twinkled as she digested the news. "That is truly
wonderful Claudius. I sincerely hope that is the case," she said,
dropping her voice to just that above a whisper. "Then perhaps we can
depart Esseles and just go to our true home."
Claudius stared at her silent for a moment, his thumb gently tracing
over her hand as he smiled at her lovingly. "My home is wherever you
are, my love," he said to her tenderly as he savored his night on
Coruscant with his beloved wife, far away from the turmoil of the war.