Honor Harrington felt herself returning to consciousness slowly, but eventually the slim brown haired young woman stirred slightly in the comfortable bed. She opened her eyes, blinking a bit sleepily, then those brown eyes widened in honest surprise as she took in her surroundings.
The chamber that she lay in was enormous, stretching off into the distance impossibly far. All around her advanced medical equipment was set up, and her skin had an odd dampness to it, almost as if she had been out swimming.
"I see you're awake," the voice said as the redheaded woman dressed up in a nurse's uniform walked towards her. It was her height that had kept Honor from recognizing Washu immediately, the normally tiny woman standing well over five feet.
"Washu," Honor blinked, trying to get her thoughts in order.
"You're aboard the Washu's Revenge," Washu said cheerfully as she checked a screen floating in the air beside Honor's bed, "we brought you here when we found out that ordinary regeneration methods didn't work on you."
Honor's eyes widened as memory rushed back, trying to push herself up as she said, "The Queen and Ryouko, are they...?"
"They're fine," Washu reassured her as she touched a few keys, nodding in satisfaction, "and both of them are very grateful."
"I'm glad they're all right," Honor sighed.
"Before I forget," Washu said, "thank you for saving my daughter." She smiled slightly as she continued, "I just finished doing the last scans, your shoulder wound is fine." She offered Honor her hand and asked, "Shall we go?"
Honor took it, mildly surprised by the strength Washu showed as she easily tugged Honor to her feet. "I hope the attack didn't delay the signing," she frowned, noticing that she was just wearing a skimpy hospital gown.
"Your Queen was right," Washu smiled back slightly as she gently steadied Honor, "she said that you'd not want it to be delayed. Basilisk is now officially part of Manticore and you all get to call Ryouko your Empress."
They fell into step together across the black, glossy floor as Honor noted with a smile, "From what I've seen the Empress may have the harder time adapting."
"You may be right," Washu agreed, opening up a locker door that seemed to appear from nowhere. She pulled out a Basilisk uniform and passed it to Honor, "A replacement for your damaged one, it should fit."
"Thanks," Honor said, pulling on the uniform gratefully. Washu watched curiously as she changed, a slight smile teasing her lips. "What?" Honor asked, adjusting her uniform cap.
"I was just thinking of our ships being manned by crews in those uniforms," Washu admitted. She had shrunk when Honor wasn't looking, turning back to the redhead that was nearer to a young girl than a grown woman.
"We'll all get used to it," Honor smiled slightly, finishing off with tightening her tie. She smiled at Washu as she added, "I have to admit I'm looking forward to serving aboard your ships."
"Serving," Washu raised an eyebrow as she opened a door out into the ship with a wave of her hand, "not commanding?"
"I'd like that too," Honor admitted as they went into the brightly lit hall, Washu leading the way, "but I'm barely senior enough to command a Basilisk ship. I have no idea how I'll rank in the merged fleet that we'll be creating."
"Maybe," was Washu's simple answer. The two reached an unmarked door that she opened as Washu added, "You have a few friends waiting."
"Honor!" Michelle was up from her chair like a shot, running across the room to throw her arms around her. Nimitz leapt from her shoulder over to Honor's even as he scolded his human loudly, the three of them reunited once more. Michelle eased up finally, her eyes glistening with tears as the dusky skinned woman said, "Don't do anything that stupid again, please."
"I'll try," Honor murmured, shaken by her friend's tears, wishing that she wasn't the cause for them yet feeling oddly complimented, too.
"Try hard," Ryouko said, the blue haired woman walking towards where they stood. Instinctively Honor tried to kneel but she stopped her with a gentle hand on the shoulder, "None of that, please. And no calling me 'Empress' please, just Ryouko."
"But...." Honor blurted.
"Let it go," Michelle quietly advised with a impish smile, still keeping a tight grip on Honor. She smiled slightly, "I know that Elizabeth does the same for her friends and advisors."
"I don't know if that man could have killed me," Ryouko admitted, "but you put your life on the line for me." Seriously she continued, "I won't forget that, not now, not ever."
Poor Honor's face went bright red at that, her mouth hanging open as she tried to find something intelligent to say.
"That goes for me as well," Minagi said from where Ryouko's scarred twin casually sat on a nearby couch, "I know my life would be boring without my big sister around."
Ryouko studied Honor a moment, a slight smile on her face. "We won't embarrass you any more," she said gently, "let's get you updated, instead."
"Washu said we're on your ship?" Honor asked.
"Yes," Ryouko agreed as she led them to seats, "when we found out that you were resistant to regeneration we brought you up here for treatment."
"It took about a day," Washu said from the float chair she was perched in, "but I finished patching you up as well as giving you a complete physical."
"How complete?" Michelle suspiciously asked as they settled into their seats, the other woman still refusing to let go of Honor's arm.
Washu smirked, "Why? Wondering if I took vids?"
"Myah," Ryo-ohki scolded Washu, the cute little cabbit sitting curled up in her lap.
Ryouko chuckled softly at that then she looked at Honor and said, "We're already talking to your admiralty about integrating our forces."
Minagi looked visibly amused as she said, "About half of your commanders are happily cooperating, the other half are stonewalling."
Honor groaned softly. "High-Ridge, I'd bet on it," she muttered softly. She tilted her head to the side, "Go over their heads if you have to, I know the Queen will step on them firmly if necessarily."
"Actually I went to the next meeting myself," Ryouko smirked, "the objections trailed off quite nicely, thank you."
There was a soft thump, and Honor blinked in surprise. "Looks like the shuttle landed," Washu noted cheerfully.
"We're on a shuttle?" Honor blinked, looking around the comfortable room in surprise. "I never even felt the artificial gravity shift...."
Ryouko lead the way out of the room and down a set of steps to a small landing pad that Honor didn't instantly recognize. There were only a few figures waiting for them on the edge of the pad, the palace of Basilisk rising up behind them. They walked towards the group, Honor looking around her in honest confusion.
"This is the Queen's private landing," Michelle explained.
"Honor," Queen Elizabeth looked at her intently a moment then the dusky woman smiled, "you're looking much better than when I last saw you."
"My Queen," Honor tried to kneel again when the Queen stopped her, a gentle hand resting on her arm as she smiled gently.
"You didn't tell her, cousin?" Elizabeth looked at Michelle with a raised eyebrow.
"I didn't have the chance," Michelle smiled. She looked at Honor, "The palace has this entrance so that the Queen can avoid the typical formalities that a public appearance require."
"Manticore doesn't have that sort of tradition," Ryouko smirked.
"Don't gloat," Washu scolded her daughter.
Elizabeth fought back a smile, the group walking inside as they talked softly. "Try not to panic," Michelle murmured softly.
"I'll try," Honor sighed.
"You really scared me, you know," Michelle slipped her hand into Honor's once again, squeezing it gently.
Honor blushed a bit under that warm gaze, looking away shyly. "I'll try not to do that again," she answered quietly.To be continued...