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Teresa M Shafer - For books that kindle thought and ignite the imagination!
The Graduation 

They left their home early the next morning before the sun broke the horizon. Xena walked Gabrielle home. 

“It feels strange Xena… you leaving me here.” They were standing on the sidewalk outside of Gabrielle’s home. 

“It does feel strange. But once we’re married we can go home to our own place.” Xena wrapped her arms around Gabrielle from behind and put her chin on her shoulder. 

Gabrielle nuzzled Xena’s cheek and smiled. She held up her left hand and admired the ring in the early morning light. “Why did you decide to go with this tradition Xena?” 

Xena kissed her below the ear. “You mean why did I get you a ring instead of a promise bracelet or something else?” Gabrielle hummed her affirmative response. “Well I admit I had some trouble deciding but when I saw the emeralds in the actual wedding set I just knew that this was the right thing. They match your eyes so well. I thought of you immediately when I saw the set. So I got it for you.” She reached up and put the palm of her left hand into Gabrielle’s.

Gabrielle kissed her on the cheek. “I need to get you a ring now too.” She was almost giddy with the thought. 

“You don’t have too. Besides I don’t want a big ring. It will get in the way of fighting.” Xena said in all seriousness. 

“Oh Xena the point of all of this was so that we didn’t have to fight anymore. We’re done honey. We can get married and live in peace. That’s why we’re not joining the Marines and I’m not becoming the Queen of the Amazons… so we can live a simple peaceful life.” She had turned slightly so she could look Xena in the eyes. 

“But Gabrielle, you know as well as I that trouble always seems to find us. We’ve tried the peaceful thing before and it has never worked out for us.” She had such a pathetic puppy look on her face that Gabrielle had to smile despite the truth of Xena’s words. 

“It’s true what you say but I have to believe that God would grant us a little peace in this life.” She must have looked just as pathetic to Xena because Xena softened her expression. 

“Gabrielle I believe that God gave us this life to live together… and that’s it; what comes… comes.” Gabrielle’s face fell even further. “Look babe… it doesn’t matter what we’re doing or where we’re doing it as long as we do it together, I’m happy and you’re happy… I think that God knows that.” She didn’t let Gabrielle reply with words. She kissed the girl. 

“Mmmm, you’re right… any life with you is good enough.” The sun peeked over the horizon and they split apart. “But if I don’t get inside I’m probably going to have to fend off my screaming mother.” She said playfully. 

Xena watched Gabrielle enter her house and went home. It was no surprise that Harmony was awake when she came through the door. She had poured a second cup of tea and was just placing the extra cup on the table when Xena entered the house. Xena raised an eyebrow. 

“Mom, are you one of the Guardians or do you just have extraordinary hearing?” She asked as she seated herself in front of the steaming cup. 

Harmony laughed lightly. “Good morning to you too dear.” Xena looked a little embarrassed and leaned over the table to kiss her mother’s cheek in greeting. Harmony continued. “I would make up a story or lie to you but our code forbids us from lying to you or Gabrielle. Our sole purpose is to keep you safe and if it is within our power we are to see that you are well and happy.” 

“So what do you do when we’re not around?” She took a tentative sip and nearly burned her lip. 

“We guard the Families. Surely you’ve noticed.” Harmony looked a bit surprised and disappointed at the same time. 

“Ahh, that’s right. I see Guardians everywhere that the families are gathered. It’s just the Shadow Guardians that I see hovering around us… or rather around Gabrielle.” She had found a spoon and was applying herself to cooling her drink. 

“You have your own Shadows now. You should know that it was the two of you that named them… before we had no official name for them. But one of the teams overheard you talking one night and the term Shadow seemed to fit perfectly. It fit their job and their stealth. It was perfect so we kept it. I hope that you don’t mind.”  
“Nah, we don’t care.” She managed a small sip of her tea and decided that she wanted honey. “I suppose that you already know… but just in case you haven’t been told… I proposed to Gabrielle. We’re getting married.” She tried to say it in a matter of fact tone but didn’t quite hide the pride and joy in her voice. 

“I had been told but I have to tell you Xena that I am so happy for you both! When’s the happy day? Have you set one yet?” And just like that she switched from Guardian to mom. She was excited and nearly bouncing from her seat. 

The excitement was infectious. Xena leaned forward. “We haven’t set a date yet. Obviously it has to be after graduation but we want it to be soon. Once Alti was dead it seemed as if all the years that had gone by simply melted away and Gabrielle and I felt as if we had never been parted. I don’t know how to describe it.” She took a sip from her tea. “Do you remember how we were when we first got our memories back? We were so lost without each other… as if someone had come in while we slept and separated us. Well it’s kind of like that now. It’s odd but neither of us feels as if we should be apart from one another. So we want to be married soon so that we can keep tradition and be together at the same time. Does that make sense?” Harmony squeezed her hand. 

“Of course it makes sense dear. It sounds like God really is giving you the life that was denied to you for so long. It sounds like He hit the reset button… in some strange way. You don’t have to wait to live together you know. I don’t think anyone would deny you now.” She was referring to Cadence of course. 

Xena had no comment to that statement but instead she started talking to Harmony about wedding arrangements. 

Meanwhile Gabrielle had found that she was the only one awake in her household so she put on some water and pulled out some tea. Cadence would wake up and hear her rummaging around the kitchen, of that she was certain. 

By the time the water was hot she could hear her mother down the hall. She poured two cups and put them on the table and went after the honey. As she was setting that on the table her mother rounded the corner. 

“Might I assume that you and Xena wandered off to be alone before coming home first?” Cadence didn’t waste any time with niceties. 

“Well, good morning mom. It’s nice to see you.” Gabrielle said while stirring a large dollop of honey into her tea. “We were tired so yes we spend a few days together… alone… or as alone as we ever are.” Gabrielle was a little testy this morning. 

“I’m sorry dear, good morning. It’s just that I was worried… of course I knew that you were safe. That didn’t matter. I had news to tell you and you couldn’t be disturbed or bothered by the likes of me.” Cadence was laying it on thick this morning. 

“I’m sorry mom. I just thought that my head was going to explode if I didn’t get some sleep.” She took a swallow from her tea… it had too much honey. “What was it you wanted to tell me?” She was deliberately holding her ring finger on the outside so that Cadence could see it but she had not yet noticed it. 

“Only that your sister… Joy has fully recovered!” She dropped the whine pretense and was genuinely excited. 

“How… when… where is she?” Gabrielle was ecstatic. She grabbed her mother’s hands while she spoke. 

“That Angel that you were speaking too… the female she came to Joy’s hospital room and she healed her! Joy doesn’t remember anything. She is completely healed mentally and physically. Isn’t that wonderful?”    

“Of course that’s wonderful! So that was the business that Ephiny had to rush off to accomplish.” Gabrielle was really happy for her sister and really thankful for her friend. Any other Angel may not have done such a service. 

“That was Ephiny?” Cadence had obviously been living under a rock since the defeat of Alti. Everyone knew that Gabrielle and Xena had been speaking to Michael the Archangel and Ephiny the Angel to the Amazons. 

“Yes, that was my friend Ephiny.” Yep sometimes mom kind of walked around with blinders on. For instance, right now Cadence was holding Gabrielle’s hands and actually playing with the giant rock that was on the ring finger of her left hand and she still hadn’t actually seen it. Gabrielle had already given up trying to flash it under her nose. “Where is Joy mom?” 

“Oh, she’s probably taking a shower… it is her turn first isn’t it?” She looked down at the watch on her wrist and shot to her feet. “I have to start breakfast! Go say hello to your sister and come back and help me.” She shooed Gabrielle from the room. Minutes later she heard the squealing of five excited young ladies. It was good to have her home back to normal. 

Gabrielle was hugging Joy when Peace caught sight of the ring and the conversation quickly turned to wedding plans and Gabrielle’s plans on children. After that conversation degraded to comments about methods of insemination. Gabrielle never did get back to the kitchen to help her mother with breakfast… not that Cadence noticed anyway. At breakfast Cadence was completely lost by their conversation and she never did bother to ask. 

It wasn’t until Harmony called Cadence to discuss the impending nuptials of their daughters that Cadence heard of the engagement. Once again she was hurt. 

At school Gabrielle and Xena and their cadre were hailed as great heroes… as well they should be. Joy returned to school but it was only for half a day. She was fully healed but she tired easily. It had been many years since she had even walked a single step. Besides, she had missed several years of school. They would figure out what to do with the situation after graduation. Right now Joy just needed to feel normal again. 

Solace, the Planetary Governor had decided to have all the high schools in the city graduate on the same day. Afterwards they would hold a party for all the graduates in the huge park that was in the center of the city. Xena and Gabrielle remembered that when they were here with Cara and Margo this park had been a huge business complex. But Alti’s allies had destroyed it when they bombarded the city. Now it was a park that was a memorial to all that had died that day. Statues and water sculptures and other memorials had been erected all over the park. Each one had a plaque with names.  It seemed like it should be a somber place but because of who they were the Martians made it a place of reflection, pride and joy. It was the perfect place for a graduation party. 

The graduation itself was a standard affair. The Valedictorian got to make a speech and all of those that were at the top of the class got to sit on the stage, Xena and Gabrielle and their friends didn’t make it to the stage except to receive their diplomas. When they did the entire class and all of the guests rose to their feet and gave standing ovations. It made the ceremony longer but no-one cared. They were all very proud to have these women in their midst. 

When diplomas were handed out the Academy President would also announce where the graduate was going from here. Of their cadre, Xena and Gabrielle were the only ones that were not going into the Amazon Marine Corps. The President announced that they were engaged to be married. That announcement, even though by this time it was common knowledge brought on another standing ovation. 

They were all congratulated and swooned over at the party. The students from the other three schools in the city spent the night trying their best to worm their way into the fellowship of friends or to become one of their lovers. None succeeded in either area. 

Aphrodite and the rest of the love Goddesses wandered about spreading the love and chatting with everyone. None of them had ever come to Mars. In their own way they had all been intimidated by the planet that had once belonged to Ares. But as the night wore on they found that they liked the unique blend of humans that called Mars home. They were bold, innovative, strong and loyal. In short all they needed was a touch of love. 

Aphrodite mentioned this to Gabrielle. “So why don’t you just zap them all with some love?” 

She looked as if Gabrielle had just slapped her. “Oh I couldn’t do that sweetie! We tried that once in a place called… uh… wood pecker… wood stump… wood stock… that’s it Wood Stock. That didn’t turn out as well as we had hoped. Then we tried it on a city on the other side of the same continent, San Fred or San Fernando or San Francisco… that was it San Francisco. That one didn’t turn out quite right either. So now we stick to the one on one action. It’s slower but the results are much better.” She rubbed her fingers together and little pink sparks caressed her fingertips. “Ooh look at the possibilities over there.” She exclaimed. “Gotta go sweetie.” She turned quickly to kiss Gabrielle on the cheek and she scurried off to spread some love. 

“I see that she’s busy doing her job.” Xena had walked up behind Gabrielle and embraced her. Gabrielle smiled and leaned back against Xena. “So it seems.” She arched her head back and turned enough to kiss Xena on the lips. They knew that they were being watched by simply everyone or would be tomorrow when the video hit the airwaves. They didn’t care. “Have you thought about when we should get married?” 

“Not much. I figure I’ll get married when you tell me I’m getting married.” She said honestly. 

“What if I said I want to marry you tomorrow?” Gabrielle teased. 

“I would ask you to tell me where and when you want me to show up.” Xena teased in return. 

Gabrielle kissed her again. Xena had learned how to get the best responses from her soul mate. She really didn’t care when they got married and according to Harmony it didn’t matter to the Amazons or the Martians if they ever got married. But it did matter to Gabrielle. It was clear to Xena that marriage had been on Gabrielle’s mind for a while and she was really excited about the prospect. Xena had no intention of letting her beloved down. “That’s sweet honey but we need to actually discuss this.” 

“As you wish.” Xena snuggled into Gabrielle’s neck. “But all I want to know right now is are we sleeping together tonight?” 

Gabrielle giggled. “Hmmm, I think that it is highly possible.” 

“Good” She mumbled while nibbling Gabrielle’s ear. 

“You’re incorrigible.” Gabrielle chided but didn’t move an inch to discourage Xena. In fact she leaned her head over to give Xena more neck to nibble on and dug her fingers into Xena’s hair. “Not that you’ve ever been overly exuberant in this area…” Xena stopped nibbling and put her hand under Gabrielle’s chin and pulled it up. “What do you say we disappear?” “Do you think that we’ve been here long enough?” Gabrielle said breathily. “Undeniably” Xena grabbed the closest Guardian and gave her a message for their mothers and whoever else should know and then with the help of the Shadows they disappeared.