"About issuing the wedding invitations," Washu said, looking over at Ryouko curiously. They were all sitting around one of the conference tables, where most of the wedding planning had been taking place.
"Well, send them out to my friends," Ryouko looked at her blankly.
Funaho gave her a sympathetic smile, "We're going to have to invite the remaining great powers to the wedding."
Ryouko paused, then her eyes grew wide. "The Moon Kingdom?" she squeaked, and Ayeka looked at her oddly.
"Yep," Yume nodded, "and the Oni, Demons and Gods, too."
Minagi went pale, "You mean that Mara, Urd and Lum are all going to be under the same roof at the same time?"
"Not to mention Usagi and her harem," Washu volunteered cheerfully.
"I am so dead," Ryouko muttered, putting her head down on the table top.
Ayeka looked at them all oddly, "What's the problem?"
Yume, Washu, Masaki and Funaho all gave Ryouko a look, silently saying, 'You get to explain this one.'
Ryouko stood up and offered Ayeka her hand. "There's something that I need to tell you," she sighed softly. They left the room together, walking the hallways until they reached a deserted corner of the ship.
"What is it?" Ayeka asked her softly, looking up into those expressive catlike eyes.
Ryouko hesitated, feeling the warmth in Ayeka's gaze, but knew it had to be done. "Before I knew you," she started, "I dated quite a bit." Ryouko didn't pull any punches, telling Ayeka about her past few girlfriends.
Ayeka chuckled softly, "I know."
"You know?" Ryouko asked in surprise.
"You do have a bit of a reputation," Ayeka said gently. She paused, taking a breath, "But there's something you need to know."
Ryouko looked at Ayeka in surprise. 'What would she have to confess?' she wondered. She suddenly had the mental image of Ayeka, in leather, with a whip, and had to fight back a impish smile. "What's wrong?" she asked softly.
Ayeka's cheeks went faintly pink. "I... haven't, before," she said softly.
Ryouko looked down at her, not entirely grasping what she had just said. "You haven't...?"
"No," Ayeka blushed.
It took Ryouko a moment, but she finally got it. 'She's a virgin,' Ryouko realized, looking at the beautiful woman standing in front of her. She reached out, gently stroking her hand through Ayeka's hair. "I'm glad," Ryouko said softly.
Ayeka looked startled, "What?"
"I've had lovers," Ryouko said softly, "but until you came along, I've never been in love." A soft sigh, "I just wish you could have been my first, as well."
Ayeka smiled up at her, her eyes glittering with tears, "You're so sweet." She rested her head against Ryouko's chest, and felt her arms circle around her. "I'm just glad," Ryouko heard her say softly, "that one of us knows what she's doing."
Ryouko couldn't help it, she began to laugh. Ayeka chuckled as well, and they both began to relax again. "I doubt you're going to have any trouble figuring things out," Ryouko laughed.
Ayeka pulled back from her gently as she said, "My Mothers have a list of wedding preparations for me to do."
"I've got to go see Kiyone, as well as some of the captains," Ryouko agreed. She checked her chronometer, noting that it was too late for lunch. "Do you want to meet for dinner?"
"I'd love to," Ayeka gently kissed her on the cheek. "See you then," she waved, and in moments was gone.
Ryouko made her way to the bridge, and came in just as Kiyone was finishing up a lecture.
"...and I know that the Jurai ship came in using a gap in our sensor web. But we were sloppy, not keeping at least our minimal weapons 'hot' and ready to use. I also intend to institute more drills, as our response was also lacking," Kiyone finished. The other captains and commanders all shifted uncomfortably under her gaze, but they couldn't refute anything she said.
Ryouko stepped on to the bridge, and Honor Harrington stiffened visibly. "Admiral on the bridge!" she called out.
"I'm not an Admiral," Ryouko grumbled good naturedly.
Kiyone gave her a nod, then turned to the others and said, "Meet us in the officer's conference room, five minutes."
Ryouko waited until the door closed behind them before saying mildly, "You were a little harsh. Ryo-Ohki, Ayeka and I were able to handle it."
"You shouldn't have had to," Kiyone said dryly, adding "If you hadn't acted, I feel certain that ship full of Jurai soldiers would be dead right now, a criminal waste." She paused, smiling, "And I'm not even going to go into the fact that the Empress shouldn't be getting her hands dirty."
Ryouko made a face, "I'm going to fighting that until the day I die."
Kiyone sighed softly, "I should let you know that Mihoshi got you a wedding gift without telling me." Ryouko raised an eyebrow, and Kiyone blushed faintly, "A honeymoon trip to the pleasure planet."
Ryouko shook her head, laughing softly, "That's our Mihoshi."
The other captains filed in, and Ryouko gave them a few moments to get settled. She smiled engagingly, "If you haven't heard the announcement yet, I'm getting married..."
Soft chuckles from the crowd. Ryouko had all but shouted her happiness when Ayeka had accepted her proposal, much less the bachelor and bachlorette parties! Everyone was very aware of their leader's coming wedding.
Ryouko grinned, "... and I need some volunteers for the honor guard."
"I'm in," Kiyone said simply.
"And I," Honor spoke up. Michelle raised her hand right after.
Tita smiled, "You help my wedding to Elisse, it's the least I can do."
Yohko grinned, "Can we throw you a party, too?"
"Not in the five days left," Ryouko laughed.
Yohko pouted, "Darn. Still, I'll help too."
Soon the remaining captains had all volunteered, but Ryouko's expression became more grave. "I should warm you that the role won't be entirely ceremonial," she cautioned them. "I don't expect something to go wrong, but I do want to be prepared," she added.
"I swear," Kiyone said, her eyes glittering dangerously, "that Ryouko's and Ayeka's wedding will go off on schedule!" She met the eyes of the other captains, "Are you with me?"
"Aye!" the called out together, raising their fists in the air.
Ayeka smiled, entering the mess hall. The lunch crowd was just leaving, and Sasami was surrounded by a bevy of handsome young men and pretty women. As soon as they saw Ayeka they scattered, leaving a flustered Sasami in their wake.
"What was that about?" Ayeka asked her, surprised.
"Wedding proposals," a bemused sounding Sasami answered. At Ayeka's startled look she explained cheerfully, "They've developed a fondness for my cooking, I guess."
Ayeka found herself wondering if it wasn't because of her sweet and kind personality, but decided not to bring it up. "I wanted to ask you a favor," she smiled down at her little sister. It had been a hectic few days since the wedding announcement, and she knew things were going to become busier soon.
"Do you want me to cook for the wedding?" Sasami asked eagerly. It was obvious that she enjoyed her work, and looked forward to the idea.
"Only if you want to," Ayeka chuckled. They walked on, "What I wanted to ask was, would you like to be a bridesmaid?"
Sasami's eyes widened, and she squealed happily. "Could I?" she asked eagerly.
"Please," Ayeka grinned.
"I'd love to," Sasami laughed. She looked thoughtful, "Do you want Asashi, too?"
"Good idea," Ayeka smiled. "I can go ask her tonight when Ryouko and I are having dinner," she said thoughtfully.
"I can ask her for you," Sasami volunteered cheerfully, a bit of red to her cheeks.
Ayeka looked down at her thoughtfully, 'She keeps denying theirs something between her and Asashi, but...' She shook that thought away, "Thank you, Sasami."
Sasami and Ayeka talked a few moments longer, and then they separated.
Ayeka paused, and saw Sasami run up to a slowly walking Asashi. They talked, then Asashi reached out tentatively for Sasami's hand. The other girl took it in her own, and they walked off hand in hand.
"Kawaii," Ayeka sighed aloud.
"They are, aren't they?" she heard. Ayeka turned to see Rhione looking down the hall at the girls with a slightly amused expression.
"Are they...?" Ayeka asked her friend as they fell into step together.
"Probably," Rhione laughed. The redhead had an engaging smile, "They've both denied it, of course, but little girls that age tend to anyway."
Ayeka laughed softly in agreement. "I was actually looking for you," Ayeka smiled.
"Oh?" Rhione asked.
"Would you be willing to be a bridesmaid?" Ayeka asked.
Rhione grinned, "How bad are the bridesmaid's dresses?"
Ayeka threw her hands in the air, "You'll have to ask my or Ryouko's mothers. They've all taken it out of our hands."
Rhione laughed, "You're lucky, believe me." She shook her head, "My sister ran her own wedding, and came quite close to committing homicide."
"Well, I'm not there yet," Ayeka admitted cheerfully.
They walked onward a few moments, then Rhione said softly, "I rather envy Ryouko. I would have liked to have won you myself."
Ayeka looked at her friend in surprise, "What?"
Rhione sighed softly, "I was right, you didn't notice." She smiled gently over at the surprised Ayeka, "It's all right, I got over you eventually."
"I'm so sorry," Ayeka said softly, "I can be so blind sometimes." She took a breath, "I can't ask you to be a bridesmaid, it wouldn't be..."
"I'd be honored to be your bridesmaid," Rhione said gently. She paused, "Ryouko makes you happy, doesn't she?" Ayeka nodded, and Rhione smiled happily, "Then that's good enough for me."
Next: The Wedding!