The brown haired woman waited impatiently for the ship to dock. A soft chime rang out, the hatch opened, and the young woman visibly tensed. Figures filed out quickly, then slowed to a trickle as a look of disappointment crossed her face.
Then a drooping figure stepped out, visibly tired. She looked up, and her face visibly brightened as she exclaimed, "Honor!"
Honor Harrington ran forward, pulling the dark skinned woman into a fierce hug. Then she drew back a moment and kissed her thoroughly. "I've missed you, Michelle," Honor sighed.
Her fellow Captain, Michelle Henke said softly, "Missed you too, love." She chuckled softly, "I should go on extended patrol assignments more often, if you're going to react like this."
"Don't you dare," Honor smiled, before breaking away. "I've got to get back to the bridge," she apologized, "but could we meet in our quarters later?"
"Please," Michelle grinned, and watched her lover sprint away. She picked up her duffel bag from where she dropped it, and headed off to report in.
Michelle walked down the hall, then she stiffened and tried to take on a more military bearing as she noticed who was walking right towards her. 'The Empress herself, and beside her, wasn't that the Princess of Jurai's royal family?' she thought wildly.
"At ease," Ryouko smiled at her as she walked past. Michelle visibly puffed out a breath in pure relief.
"You're not quite comfortable with that sort of military courtesy," Ayeka noted, looking at the expression on Ryouko's face.
"No, I'm not," Ryouko admitted. "Manticore's never had such a formalized military, but soon after we began to expand, we ran into and absorbed the Gryphon system fleet. Some of our best officers are from there, but they use a regimented system. Combine that with my lead Captain Kiyone's ideas, and I guess I'm stuck with it."
Ayeka chuckled softly, trying to hide her nervousness. There was so much she wanted to say, but she couldn't seem to find the words.
"I already apologized," Ryouko quietly said as she suddenly came to a complete stop, "and I meant it."
Ayeka stopped and looked over at her in surprise, wondering if the Empress of Manticore could read minds as well. 'How did she know?' she thought.
"But I don't regret what I did," Ryouko blushed faintly, "or maybe I should say that I'll only regret it if it drives you away from me."
Ayeka blushed as well, looking away from Ryouko shyly. "You don't mince words, do you?" she said, smiling slightly.
"I don't do it very well," Ryouko admitted, "so I try not to very often." She gently slid a hand under Ayeka's elbow to urge her forward again. They walked for a few moments silently, both lost in their own thoughts.
"You said you wanted to marry me," Ayeka said with a bit of irony in her voice, "but I think I misunderstood why."
"I tried to make you believe it was a political marriage," Ryouko said, "but for me, I hoped it would be much more." She looked sideways at Ayeka to see how she was taking it.
Ayeka met Ryouko's gaze, her own expression just slightly bewildered. "When I told Sasami about your proposal," Ayeka softly said, "she wondered how you could have fallen in love with me so quickly. I guess that's my question, too."
"It wasn't so sudden, for me," Ryouko smiled. "I think I began to fall for you at our very first meeting," she admitted softly.
"What, on the battlefield?" Ayeka said, a bit surprised.
"Well, at least it fit's my reputation," Ryouko smiled, and Ayeka chuckled softly. "I didn't even know who you were at the time," she said softly, "all I knew was that you were so beautiful and terribly striking."
Ayeka blushed at the compliment, "Is that why you saved my life?"
"I couldn't let someone like you die, no," Ryouko admitted quietly, "but we were separated, and I thought that was that, at least until I discovered who you were."
Ayeka digested that silently, as they reached her suite of rooms. She looked up at Ryouko, "I'm not quite sure about how I feel about you, but I think I'd like to get to know you better." She took a breath, "But in the meantime, I'm willing to go through with the political marriage."
Ryouko looked honestly startled at that, "What?"
Ayeka felt a bit of satisfaction at surprising the young woman. "Your mother told you there would be trouble between Manticore and Jurai, and I think she's right. We need to do something to symbolize the joining of our two peoples, and I think a marriage could do it."
Ryouko looked like she was about a step behind as she quietly said, "You don't mind getting married before we get to know each other?"
Ayeka nodded patiently, surpressing a smile.
Ryouko smiled, shaking her head. "I think I have a lot to learn about Jurai," she sighed. "When would you like to... ?" she asked.
"As soon as possible, I'd think," Ayeka smiled.
"My lady commands, so shall it be," Ryouko said, executing a formal bow. She took Ayeka's hand and kissed it gently.
Ayeka blushed. "I can't wait to tell my mothers," she chuckled.
"Washu will be quite amused," Ryouko laughed. She paused, "Could we meet for lunch?"
Ayeka keyed her door open, "I'd love to." She hesitated, then gently kissed the surprised Ryouko on the cheek. "See you at lunch," and the door closed behind her.
Ryouko stood for a moment, then she literally flew down the hallway, startling a few passerby with a loud shout of, "Yes!"
Masaki and Funaho gazed at their daughter in disbelief. "You're getting married?" Masaki finally managed to ask, her twin light blue ponytails bobbing in her surprise.
Funaho seemed calmer, outwardly, but she also showed the surprise in her eyes. "You might have discussed it with us, first," the dark hared woman chided her gently.
Ayeka raised an single eyebrow and smiled as she said, "Sorry, mothers, but it was the heat of the moment. Besides, the agreement between Jurai and Manticore will benefit both sides."
Masaki squealed happily and hit Ayeka with a choking hug, "I'm so happy for you!"
Funaho was looking at her daughter thoughtfully. "So is this a political marriage?" she asked Ayeka quietly.
"Not... entirely," Ayeka admitted, even as she worked her way free of Masaki's death grip.
"When will the wedding be?" Funaho inquired, still trying to fully take in the situation.
"As soon as possible," Ayeka shrugged. "I don't want to give any resistance to Ryouko on Jurai a chance to build," she explained.
"But what about the bridal parties?" Masaki suddenly asked tearfully. "And we need to make it a fitting wedding for both of them!" she exclaimed.
Funaho was nodding thoughtfully, "She has a point." She turned to Ayeka, "Does Ryouko have any of her family on board ship?"
Before Ayeka could answer, the communicator in her mother's suite chimed. "I'll get it," Masaki said cheerfully. "Hello?" she asked.
Washu's image appeared on the screen. "Have you heard about this wedding?" she demanded. "There's almost no time to hold any good parties," she frowned.
'What's with the parties?' Ayeka found herself wondering.
"We'll need to get together and start planning the wedding," Funaho stepped up to speak with Washu next.
"I'll be over in five intervals," Washu vowed, "and I'll bring along the delinquent's little sister, Minagi, too."
"See you then," Masaki said cheerfully.
"I think I'll just go for a walk," Ayeka sighed. She didn't want to think about the kind of trouble that Washu, Funaho and Masaki could get into. She opened the door, then sighed as she waved Washu and Minagi in, "That was fast."
"You better take off a bit while we start planning," Washu grinned while rubbing her hands together eagerly.
Minagi was smiling and shaking her head. "I'll try to hold them back from anything too outrageous," she promised Ayeka softly.
"Good luck," Ayeka whispered back, and headed out as quickly as possible.
Ayeka entered the dining hall, looking around her curiously. The tables were packed for lunch, people literally lined up to be fed. 'What's going on?' she wondered, then she saw something that answered that question.
Sasami was manning the counter, and just from looking at it Ayeka could tell the food was one of her sister's creations. Considering the food before now, the crew probably viewed Sasami's coming as a gift from god.
"Big sister Ayeka," Sasami piped up happily. "Ryouko's waiting for you in back," she pointed towards the door leading to the captain's table.
"Thanks," Ayeka smiled, getting close to where Sasami stood. Quietly, Ayeka whispered her news in Sasami's ear.
"You're getting married?" Sasami blurted out loudly enough for all the diners to hear.
There was a moment of silence, then a cheer rang out across the hall. 'Obviously,' Ayeka noted, 'Ryouko's campain to win my favors wasn't all that secret.' She quickly made her way down the corridor to the captain's table.
Ryouko stood up from the table and smiled at her. "What was that?" she asked, nodding out towards the dining hall.
"I think our impending marriage isn't particularly secret, anymore," Ayeka smiled.
"Good," Ryouko answered, "I want everyone to know I'm marrying such a beautiful lady."
Ayeka blushed fiercely.