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Teresa M Shafer - For books that kindle thought and ignite the imagination!
Planning the Wedding 

Now that they were out of school, they quietly but firmly moved into their own home. Their mother’s did not protest at least not to their face. Cadence had gotten over her feeling of being snubbed after Gabrielle reminded her of their conversation on that Monday morning. It didn’t hurt that she was happy for her daughter and Gabrielle was quite content to let Cadence handle most of the wedding arrangements. Gabrielle was only insistent upon what she and Xena would be wearing, the actual date of the wedding, what time of day the wedding would be held, a few additions to the guest list and a couple of additions to the menu, other than that Cadence and Harmony put their heads together and planned. 

The wedding was to be held off until Hope could arrive. She had been off planet and due to some mechanical difficulties she had been unable to make it to the graduation. Gabrielle couldn’t hold up the graduation for her daughter but she could and would hold up her wedding. Cadence didn’t care it simply meant that she had more time to plan and add things. When she was asked about her enthusiasm she replied, “How often does one get to plan the wedding of Xena and Gabrielle? I’m going to make it a wedding that legends are woven around.” And yes the press got that on tape and played it on Martian television almost every day for weeks.  

Cadence was right of course, how often do Xena and Gabrielle get married? They never had before and now it was more than just a big deal. Every dignitary in the solar system had been invited, every statesman and everyone else that even remotely sounded important and all of them wanted a seat up front, none of them got one but they all requested one anyway.

Xena and Gabrielle had a few extra invitations that they wanted to make add. Xena extended the invitation to Ares herself.

“Why would I want to come and watch you marry someone else?” Ares said in his haughty tone.

“Oh I don’t know Ares, for old times’ sake maybe?” Xena said in the voice that she had always reserved almost exclusively for him.   

“Yeah well, time’s aint what they used to be ya know?” Ares was hiding something and Xena knew what it was.

“Ares cut the crap. We both know why you won’t come to Mars. You can’t unless you give up your immortality.” Xena smirked. She just couldn’t help it.

“Who sold you that line of crap?” Ares slid to the front of his chair. His bravado was false.

“C’mon Ares, its common knowledge that the old Gods were given a choice by Jehovah. They could bend their knees and serve Him or they could lose their powers but retain their immortality… as long as they stayed on Earth.” Halfway through her words Ares began to squirm.

“So what?” He was pouting.

“So… you bowed before Dahak, why not Jehovah? Jehovah is a lot more powerful and forgiving as well.” She was really trying to convince him and that annoyed him.

“From what I’ve heard you haven’t bent your knee, why should I?” He thought that he had her.

“Ares, you should never base your actions or in this case lack thereof on the actions or in-actions of someone else… especially in the matter of faith, you either do it or you don’t you either bow or you don’t. You’re the only one that is affected by your actions so you have to be the one that makes the decision and live with the consequences… good or bad of that decision.” Ares sneered but remained silent. “Look it’s no secret that once Alti was defeated you started losing favor on Earth. All of your attempts through the years to deter me and Gabrielle don’t sit too well on the present administration.” She could see that she was reaching some part of him. “Come to Mars Ares. You can join the Marines or work as an advisor or just settle down and have a family.” His head jerked up and he looked angry. “I know that you said that mortality isn’t for you… but that was a really long time ago. I know that you have accumulated some money. Gabrielle and I can set you up in a nice place and you can live out your life here in comfort.” She was done. Now it was time to see what he made of it.

“I hear what you are saying Xena. I really do and I appreciate the offer.” He really looked like he was still thinking it over. “I’ll keep it in mind. But for now… tell Gabrielle congratulations for me. She won, I always knew that she would… she was just too good and she was what you were really looking for all along.” He was genuinely sad.

“Ares…” She was going to try and persuade him some more but she could see in his eyes that it would be futile. “I’ll tell her. You take care.” She didn’t know what else to say. After all of these years and all of the battles and bickering and friendship she felt like she was losing a piece of her life. But she reminded herself that this was his choice, not hers.

“Yeah you too Xena. If you and Gabs are in the area stop in and join me for lunch or something.” He was growing sadder by the moment. Maybe he was realizing what was happening as well.

“Right, we’ll do lunch.” She could feel a tear growing in her left eye.

“Right… lunch. Goodbye Xena.” He tried to curl his lip in disdain but it wouldn’t respond. He cut the link before the tear that was threatening in his eye dropped.

“The guy really did have a thing for you.” Gabrielle said from the doorway.

“Yeah he did. Too bad it was never mutual. He could be a good man from time to time.”  Xena looked up from the screen at her soul mate. “But I got something better. I got you.” She held out her hand to Gabrielle and Gabrielle joined her on the couch. “It’s a shame I think that he could find happiness as a mortal… if he tried.”

“You can’t save everyone Xena.” She was sitting on Xena’s lap and leaning back so that Xena was cradling her.

“No but I wanted to try.” Xena caressed Gabrielle’s left hand where it rested on her shoulder.

“Do you know what I want?” Gabrielle asked wistfully.

“No Gabrielle what do you want?” Xena knew that something was up.

“I want to be your wife.” Her voice was both serious and playful as if what she said was another line in a long standing joke.

“Gabrielle, you’ve been my inspiration, my strength, and my joy, you have been my everything for thousands of years; so why is it such a big deal for us to get married now?” Xena had asked her to marry her because she wanted it as well but she really wanted to know why Gabrielle was so excited about it.

“Hmmm, interesting question from the one that popped the question.” Gabrielle was stalling.

“Don’t dodge the question. I want to marry you because I love you and I just feel like it’s time… your turn.” Xena was smiling but she was insistent now.

“It’s just that… I don’t know I want the permanence of it the finality of it the strength of the title… I just want to say this is my wife, I want to hear you call me your wife when you introduce me or talk about me. That sounds silly doesn’t it?”

“Gabrielle, you know that there is no-one else… right?”

“Oh no honey it’s not that… I just want to hear the word applied to me. Being married is so wonderful… it makes me feel secure. Look I know that the feeling is false and that it’s all in my mind but I just want to marry you. Can that be good enough?” She was pleading in a way and that had always touched Xena’s heart.

The truth was that Xena kind of wanted the same permanent feeling. It was hard to describe but that didn’t seem to matter. “Yeah babe that’s good enough.”

“Good” Xena was still caressing her hand. “Xena, I got you a ring.” Xena gave her a forbearing look.

“I thought that we had agreed that I didn’t want a ring.”

“Of course we agreed that you didn’t want one… I didn’t agree that I wouldn’t get you one.” She chided.
Xena rolled her eyes. “Fine, as long as there is no engagement ring with a huge solitaire.”

Gabrielle’s eyes went wide just a little bit and she grimaced. “Well it’s not an engagement ring. It’s a lot like my ring only heavier and with only two rows of channel diamonds instead of three and sapphires instead of emeralds. But it’s all one ring… now.”

Xena had caught the quietly spoken last word of the sentence. “So you did get me an engagement ring but you already had them soldered together so now it’s only one ring.”

Gabrielle smiled shyly but did not speak.

“Fine, so long as it doesn’t interfere with my fishing line.” Xena conceded

“Well if it does you can use your Chakram to cut it…” Xena smiled evilly. “…The line not the ring! And since when do you use a fishing line anyway?”

“Oh just thought I’d try something new s’all.” It was Xena’s turn to goad. But Gabrielle had other plans. She knew where Xena was ticklish and began to attack with her nimble little fingers.

It started out as a tickle fest and turned into a wrestling match and then to a wet towel snapping contest that took them to the back yard. The two young women were covered in little red welts when they finally broke down in laughter on the lawn.

Between giggles Gabrielle said, “I wonder if the Guardians saw Cara and Margo acting like this?”

“That’s a good question. The Guardians don’t usually make personal visits… only the Shadows do that.”

“Yeah but did the Shadows continue to guard them even after we were gone?”

“Another good question. Why don’t you just ask them?”

“Good idea… hey where are my Shadows?” She called into the air and almost immediately two women vaulted the fence and went to their knees before Gabrielle.

“How may we be of assistance Queen Gabrielle?” The woman that spoke was a tall redhead in her mid-thirties. She was long faced and long limbed and quite pretty.

“I’m not the Queen…” Gabrielle began.

“Begging your pardon Majesty but it has been decreed that you are to be given the honorific regardless of whether or not you hold the office.” The second woman said in a thickly accented sultry voice. She was a dark woman, dark of skin, hair and eyes. Her lips were full and red and her eyes were obsidian. She was stunning.

“But the other Amazons do not call me Queen.” It was not quite a question. She motioned for them to stand.

“The other Amazons are not Guardians. Our code is stricter because more is expected of us.” The redhead answered.

“Alright” She paused to think. Perhaps a change of subject was in order. “We were curious if the Shadows continued to guard Cara and Margo after we left.”

“Yes, they had been chosen as your vessels once so if you were to return within their lifetimes we assumed that they stood a good chance of being chosen again.” The dark Shadow replied.

“That makes sense.” Xena looked around and silently made note of where the other two Shadows were located on the other side of the fence. They were good… but not as good as she was. The dark Shadow was watching her. Xena spoke to her without turning her head. “What’s your name?”

“Naomi and this is Sherese.” She nodded to Xena. “Are they making too much noise?” Her question was honest.

“No, just making note of their position.” Xena was certain that had she said yes the women on the other side of the fence would have been punished. “Do you know why you guard her?” She nodded towards Gabrielle.

“We know that you two seem to have some secret reason for our guarding her but in all honesty even had there been some strange reason for our purpose in the past I’m sure that in those Amazon hearts they guarded you because they loved you… just as we do. We really don’t care why it started. All we know is that we love you and we would give our lives and our deaths to you and that will never change. Time itself could be swallowed by the cosmos and yet our love for you will remain.” Sherese was in earnest and it was clear that she felt that spoke for all of the Guardians.

Somehow her words took all of the fun out of the joke that they had made of those first two lonely Guardians that stood and watched over Gabrielle while she threw pebbles into a lake… for seven years. They had protected her from everything, including her own insanity… how could she make fun of their love? That’s when Gabrielle knew that the Guardians knew why the first Shadows had been assigned to guard her. They had kept that secret from everyone for thousands of years and they weren’t going to give it up now unless she asked them a direct question… and she wasn’t going to ask it. There were only two words that she could say to them. “Thank you.” The words came out as a whisper and two fat tears rolled down her cheeks.

Xena looked at her questioningly. “They know Xena. They’ve kept that secret just as they’ve kept Cara and Margo’s secrets and all of ours… from one generation to the next they have kept their silence. They never laughed at me, they never judged me, they never pitied me… they only loved me and kept me safe.” She touched Sherese’s face with her fingertips. “You are not of my line or Xena’s.” This woman was an Amazon… not a Family member. She was not obligated by any Family ties. Gabrielle found it astounding.

“No, we are Amazons. Most of the Guardians can trace their Amazon blood back to Greece or the Northern Steppes. There are a few, like Harmony that are of your blood lines. But most of us are just Amazons.” Naomi said just as if it were a curse word.

“There is no such thing as just an Amazon.” Xena said with fire. “Amazons are a noble and fierce race that has endured and flourished despite the world’s attempts to annihilate them, don’t you ever belittle the Amazons!” She was snarling.

Both of the Shadows winced. “Please accept my apology Xena, Queen Gabrielle. I meant no offense.” Naomi said with her head down.

“You meant no offence but you did mean something by your words and how you said them.” The exchange had sparked something in Gabrielle. She was fiercely protective of her Amazons and something had gone amiss with them once again. “Naomi, Sherese I have a job for the two of you. Xena and I love this home but we want a different one.” She swept her hand back to indicate the house. “We want to live on a hill overlooking the Amazon Nation and we want our home to be near a stream, a lake or some body of water that has fish and we don’t want anyone as close neighbors. I want the two of you to find this place for us so that we can build the home that we want on the land. Do you understand?” They nodded in unison. “Good now off you go. 

Return to me or Xena when you have found what meets our needs.” They bowed and quickly vaulted over the fence again. If Gabrielle had cared she could have listened closely and heard the women whispering to the other two Shadows. But she knew that they would do as she asked. She took Xena by the arm and together they went back inside.

“What are you up too?” Xena asked.

“You noticed how they seemed ashamed to be just Amazons, as if they were some sort of lesser class citizen? And very few of our own progeny become Guardians. I find that to be just a bit off center. Ah, it’s getting worse.” She was pacing and tapping her finger to her lower lip.

“Of course I noticed. It was kind of hard to miss. But what are you going to do about it?” She was sitting on a bar stool at the breakfast counter. The hierarchy problem within the Amazon nation had taken a negative turn. They had both noticed the upswing several weeks passed before then it had been a localized or personal problem.

“I’m not sure yet. But I’ll come up with something.” She continued to pace. This was a job for the Queen.

“I’m sure that you will.” Xena grabbed the television remote and found an old movie while she reheated lunch in the microwave. “Join me for a movie?” She asked as Gabrielle passed her. Gabrielle had not heard her and she had to repeat herself. Gabrielle declined the offer.  “Babe, don’t get too worked up. Things will work out.”

“I’m going outside.” Gabrielle replied absently. Hours later she had fallen asleep on the porch swing and Xena carried her into the bedroom.