It had taken the better part of the day just to talk to some of those who had once been part of the rebellion. Everyone had a story to tell and thanks to convey. For many of them, this had been the first opportunity to make their own choices. And for all of them, it was the first time they could clearly see how little their differences were from one another. That had been the single most instrumental factor in the rehabilitation process.
That hadn’t been a surprise to Randi – it had been her main goal when she’d put them together to learn how to read and write. She just how no idea how receptive they would be to it, nor how quickly they would accept their humanity as a whole. It was gratifying to know that in this - despite the pain it had caused and the roundabout way it had been achieved – this had been right... it had been the right thing to do... for everyone.
So she and Gwen went around the area slowly, being stopped every few feet to listen to someone who had a story to tell or an experience to share. When lunch came, they ate with the students, only this time it was Gwen who shared a brief tale. It brought laughter and tears around the mess room and applause when she was finished.
For four days, they went around together, spending time talking and listening and learning. When they were done, Randi let Tiny know it was time. She was ready to offer her final address as Empress to the world.
Their room was oddly silent – not uncomfortable... just strange in a way it had never been. Randi stood still looking at the closet. There wasn’t much to choose from, all things considered, but she wanted to project the right air for this last public appearance. Gwen wrapped her arms around Randi’s waist and kissed between her shoulder blades before ducking in front of her. She looked at the rather meager selection of clothing Randi was staring at so hard and frowned; then she turned back to Randi smoothed out the furrows between Randi’s brows.
“So what about your wardrobe is giving you wrinkles, love? I’ve never seen you concentrate so hard over what to wear.”
“I was just thinking,” Randi replied distractedly.
Gwen giggled softly and tucked her head under Randi’s chin, squeezing her gently around the middle. “Yeah, I got that part,” closing her eyes in contentment when Randi returned the embrace fervently. They stood that way for a long moment before Gwen sighed and spoke again. “But that doesn’t really answer my question.” Randi looked down at Gwen in confusion. “Why are you concentrating so hard on your wardrobe, Stud?”
“Oh... I am trying to decide what message I want to send... how I want people to remember me.”
“Oh,” Gwen said easily. “I think I could help.” She looked at Randi expectantly and got the anticipated nod of agreement. “Do you want to be the Empress? You have a couple of fabulous gowns here that I would love to see you in,” Gwen said with a mischievous smile.
“No,” came the instant reply. “I never should have been an ‘empress’ in the first place. It’s not who I am or who I ever wanted to be. We can find an occasion or two to celebrate if you’d like to see those gowns in action.” Randi waggled her eyebrows and Gwen flashed her a winning grin.
“All right, so we have eliminated the ‘empress’ look. What about the Commandant?” motioning to Randi’s full dress uniform. “You know how much I adore you in uniform, Randi. You bring something to it beyond just....”
Again Randi was shaking her head. “As a regular Sabre, maybe – that is a large part of who I am... who I have been my entire adult life. But I never considered becoming Commandant until I was maneuvered into it. I refused to let the powers that be groom me for that position. Dressing that way now seems like a lie.”
“And you don’t have your regular Sabre dress uniform here, do you?” Gwen asked gently.
“No. It wasn’t a part I was required to play here. I was always the Commandant... or the Empress. Never the gunny sergeant or the security consultant or the drummer in the band. I never got to just be me.”
Gwen nodded. That was a very true statement and what had caused all their misery here in the first place. She put her hands on Randi’s belly and turned her towards the bathroom, giving her a gentle nudge of encouragement.
“Go get your shower, love. I’ll lay out your clothes and then come join you.”
There was confusion in the blue eyes as they gazed into green, but there was a lot of trust as well. Randi brushed a quick kiss over Gwen lips and started walking in the direction of the bathroom. “I’ll start the water heating,” she said with a quirky smile.
“Good. I’ll be quick.” Then she turned back to the closet and made her selections. Then she scooted into the bathroom as quickly as propriety allowed – which is to say, she stopped just short of running.
The jeans were her most comfortable pair – well-worn and a little ratty looking. The white oxford was soft to the touch, though it had been pressed and creased with typical military precision. Randi looked at them longingly while scrubbing a towel through her hair before turning her attention to Gwen. Her eyebrows flew into her hairline when she realized Gwen was decked out similarly except for wearing a black shirt.
“You’re sure something this casual will send the message it needs to?”
“Miranda Valiant is delivering the address today, love, and the choice of clothing clearly shows that. This is not about being the Empress of the world or the Commandant of the military or Amazon Queen or bard extraordinaire. This is just Randi and just Gwen. This is who we are when we aren’t playing make believe – except we do have to wear shoes.”
“Damn,” Randi snorted with laughter. “I could really make a statement if I could go out there barefooted.”
Gwen covered her mouth but she couldn’t stop her shoulders from shaking in laughter. After a moment she paused to catch her breath. “We’re already gonna give Tiny a coronary from the lack of pomp and circumstance involved here.”
“Nah,” Randi disagreed with a grin as she buttoned up her shirt. “Tiny would get it. He, more than anyone except for you and Tommy, knows how much I totally despise the formality of all this,” motioning around her. “At least once this is done, we can go home for a few days before we head out to the Amazons again.”
“Will I get my surprise then? You know... the one you have been giving me hints about?”
“Yep – it’s all set up. You’ll get it tomorrow.”
“Whoo hoo!” Gwen clapped her hand. “That means we’ll be sleeping in our bed in our home tonight.”
“Yep,” Randi’s grin was blinding. “As soon as we are done here, we are heading home. I already have a shuttle standing by. Tiny has been briefed and the rest of the Sabres have their orders. The rest will fall into place. Now c’mon,” standing up and stomping her jeans into place over her boots. “Let’s go say goodbye to everyone. I’m ready to see the moonlight on the ocean from our bedroom window.”
Gwen took the proffered hand and side by side they walk out of the room to finish the last business they had to take care of.
Jaws dropped when they entered the huge ballroom. All around them... everyone... was dressed to the nines in whatever finery they possessed. To see Randi and Gwen casually stroll comfortably dressed – it was hard to tell the disbelief from the envy. Tiny smirked; he was surprised and yet, not really. He just wished Randi had passed the word. He wouldn’t have minded jeans and a t-shirt himself.
Randi stepped casually to the podium and raised her hands for silence, asking for people to resume their seats. “Please,” she added with a soft smile. “I have plans to be walking on the beach tonight, and I have to actually get there first.” A light chuckle from the crowd followed, but they complied and took their seats. Randi cleared her throat.
“First, my apologies to those who would rather be watching any other form of entertainment. I know I kinda took everything over for this, but I felt it was important for everyone to listen, just this once. I promise to be as brief as possible and not never do this again except under extreme duress.”
“I have come before you tonight to officially resign my positions as both Empress and Sabre Commandant. I vowed when I accepted the titles that it would only be for as long as was necessary – that I would return to the private sector as soon as peace had been achieved. With my defeat of Ares, that time has come. What happens now should be in the hands of everyone.”
“It is time for all of humanity to step forward as one body and take responsibility for the future. With your permission, as my last act in office, we will put into motion plans to help this world to become a single planet – to get to know one another as people and neighbors instead of enemies and animals. With Ares gone, we have a real chance for true peace to take root and no one to blame it on but ourselves if it doesn’t.”
Randi looked up, startled. She hadn’t expected the interruption. Everyone had remained silent at her request, not even applauding because she had asked them to hold it until the end if they thought the speech merited it. She blinked, then nodded her head at the youth to continue.
“I’m sorry for interrupting, ma’am, but will there still be a military?”
“Yes, there will, and most of the laws and their subsequent penalties will remain in place as well. A few of the laws have been revised, but most of the policies and structure will stay the same; the military, on the other hand, will be changing in almost every aspect – from length of commitment and individual tour duration to duty choices, training methods and focus of responsibility. The idea is that with time, the military will be not only the peacekeepers here on this planet, but that mankind will finally be ready to explore the stars beyond our solar system.”
“All the information and details about what we have worked out will be available for download as soon as this briefing is over. There’s a place you can send any questions or concerns you might have. It is a public forum, and each and every one of them will be addressed. But I think you’ll find that we got all the kinks out, giving everyone the opportunity to make their own choices and shape their own destinies, including offering the chance to once again have more than a single child.”
This time applause broke out spontaneously and Randi let it roll for a moment longer before requesting silence once more. “As a race, we barely survived the third world war, and the peace that brought the rebellion could have easily decimated mankind. We won’t survive anymore fighting among ourselves. What happens to humanity now lies squarely on the shoulders of each and every person in the world – the future is what we make of it... together.”
“Thank you for your time and attention. Good night.”
Before the first of them could rise, Randi clasped Gwen’s hand in her own once more and they quickly disappeared out the double doors behind them. Tiny sighed and rolled his eyes, then stepped to the podium to dismiss the crowd. He more than the rest knew Randi and Gwen would be gone before he could change out of his uniform. He might as well give them a good head start.
Gwen had to run a little to keep up with Randi’s rapid pace, but it didn’t stop the giggle that bubbled up from her belly. The snort caused Randi to slow down considerably and turn her head to look at Gwen.
“I was just wondering where the fire was.”
Randi almost blushed but bit her bottom lip instead. “Sorry. I know we probably breached every rule of etiquette and tradition leaving like that, but I have really had all of that I can stand for one lifetime. And despite everything he knows about me... us... to the contrary, Tiny is compelled to follow protocol when he can. So there was undoubtedly some sort of reception planned for afterwards.”
She covered Gwen’s lips before she could draw breath to speak. “No, I don’t think we should have stayed. This reinforces the truth that I am no longer Empress... no longer solely responsible. It also shows that there is still respect for tradition and protocol.”
Right then Gwen’s stomach growled loudly. “Maybe we should have stayed long enough to eat,” Randi mumbled. “Ow!” glaring into green eyes that glared right back at her. Then her eyes twinkled and she kissed Gwen’s nose before opening the door to the roof and guiding Gwen onto the shuttle. “Good thing I had Yuri put a basket on board and asked Ella to stock the kitchen, huh?”
“I love you,” Gwen confessed.
“Yes,” Randi agreed immodestly as she powered up the craft and headed it towards home. “But do you love me for my brilliant mind or my sexy body?” she teased, wiggling her eyebrows to great effect.
“Actually,” Gwen recovered quickly, relishing the return of the playful side of her companion, “it was the beautiful soul I can see in your eyes, but the other two definitely don’t hurt your cause any. Now... home, driver and be quick. I have needs that require attending.”
Randi’s nostrils flared, but she didn’t say a word. She merely coaxed a little more speed from the shuttle and let her imagination run wild.
Gwen just grinned.
The house was lit when they arrived and a note propped on the mantle. But neither of them noticed that at first. Instead they stood stock still in the foyer, absorbing the sights and scents they had missed. Nothing had changed and yet everything was different. No, that wasn’t completely true – everything here still looked and smelled like home. But they were vastly different people from the young couple who had lived in this place. Gwen leaned back into the circle of Randi’s arms.
“Finally,” she murmured, delighting in the brush of Randi’s cheek against her own as the warrior leaned forward to nuzzle her neck. Her thoughts had gone beyond lascivious and now she simply wanted to enjoy the reality involved.
“Finally, what?” asked between kisses along Gwen’s collarbones. Randi was a little surprised when Gwen pulled away from her touch, only to find herself with an armful of bard when Gwen jumped into her arms and locked her knees around Randi’s waist. Gwen leaned their foreheads together.
“Finally... we’re home.”
Randi carried them over to the bedroom and crossed the threshold before laying Gwen gently on the mattress beneath them. Then she stepped away, putting a hand to her lips and walking to the full-length windows and throwing the blinds and windows open, allowing the fresh sea breeze to flow in. Then she turned back and crawled into the bed beside Gwen and spooned up behind her.
“We are... at last.”
They made love slowly, as though it was the first time all over again. Their sighs were accompanied by the crash of the waves; the tangy smell of salt and seaweed mingled with the scent of sex. And when they lay wrapped in one another’s arms, the breeze dried the sweat on their skin.
They watched the moonlight on the waves for a little while, hands idly stroking smooth skin beneath it. Finally, Randi leaned up on an elbow and kissed Gwen softly before slipping from the bed and picking up her clothes. Gwen slid into a semi-reclining position and watched with unabashed interest.
“Go somewhere so soon?”
Randi nodded and extended her hand. “Yeah. I promised I’d be walking on the beach tonight, and I need something substantial to eat before then. Yuri didn’t put enough in that basket,” said with only the slightest pout.
Gwen’s grumbling stomach agreed with Randi’s words before Gwen could do so verbally. Chuckling, she allowed Randi to pull her from the bed, then dressed with reluctance until she saw Randi watching her intently.
Randi walked right into Gwen’s personal space and wrapped her in a big hug. “I am so damned happy to be here... alone – with you... again. Nothing will ever be better than this.”
Gwen tangled her hands in Randi’s hair and let her lips graze Randi’s face before reaching her ear. “No, but now at least we have a lifetime together to work on it.” Her stomach growled and she pulled back enough to glare at Randi. “Now, let’s eat. We still have a few hours of moonlight to enjoy.”
The note was from Tommy and Ella – not surprising in and of itself. It welcomed them home and let Randi know about the arrangement Tommy had made for the Amazon party. Only at the end did it get cryptic and Randi refused to explain it. “You’ll find out tomorrow,” was all she said.
Gwen considered pouting, but she was too happy to pull it off. Instead, she went into the kitchen and whipped up a couple sandwiches from the ingredients Ella had so thoughtfully provided. Then she and Randi went out into the warm summer night to reacquaint themselves with home.
Gwen was smiling when she woke up the next morning. Their walk had taken them around the island and most of it had been spent holding hands in companionable silence. When they had returned home, they had shared a quick shower before crawling into bed and cuddling around one another, watching the moon move across the sky. Neither of them had realized when sleep overtook them.
Gwen stretched slowly, trying not to disturb the warm body beneath hers until Randi’s arms tightened around her. She tilted her head to find sparkling blue twinkling at her.
“Good morning,” she whispered, unwilling to spoil the mood as she reached her hand up to gently trace Randi’s features. Randi gave her a tremulous smile at the first touch and obediently closed her eyes. For a few minutes, they stayed that way; then Gwen slid upwards and caught Randi’s lips in a kiss. Randi reciprocated wholeheartedly until Gwen pulled back for air, then she patted the bard on the ass.
“Good morning,” she replied. “How did you sleep?”
“Like a baby... better than I have in months.”
“So did I... but ya know something? If I don’t get up soon and go pee, we are going to have a disaster of epic proportions.”
Gwen laughed, but dutifully slid off Randi’s body so she could scamper to the bathroom. Gwen slipped into a robe and headed to the kitchen. She was looking forward to fixing breakfast in her own kitchen once again. When Randi came out of the bathroom, she was greeted by the scent of fresh coffee and muffins. Life was good.
It took an hour or so to take care of business, but by late morning, they were on the back of the bike headed somewhere Gwen didn’t readily recognize. Only when they stopped did she understand that *this* was her surprise and Randi was watching her reaction with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. She squealed and hugged Randi from behind.
“Does this mean what I think it does?”
“Depends,” Randi hedged. “Do you want it to?”
“If Ahmed has the design and he can do it, you bet your sweet bippy I do.”
“I can do the design, Little One. I started drawing it out as soon as Randi sent it to me.”
Gwen turned to make a smart comment to the man who dared address her so familiarly, and by Randi’s name for her, no less. Then she got a look at the mountain of a man who leaned casually against the doorjamb; he would have made Tiny look small next to him.
Gwen slid off the bike and walked up to him, extending her hand. “Hi, my name is Gwen. And I would really prefer you call me that instead of Little One.”
The man chortled and took her small hand in both of his larger one. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Gwen. I am Ahmed. I did not mean any offence with the nickname, but you have to understand that next to me, *everyone* is a little one.”
“No offence taken, Ahmed; it is just a private name.”
He turned his glance to Randi, her slenderness apparent next to his imposing bulk. “I like her, my friend. She has spunk.” He looked back at Gwen. “I told her she needed someone with spunk and sparkle, you know. I’m glad she found you.”
“I’m glad we found each other,” reaching out her free hand to Randi. “Shall we get this show on the road?”
Ahmed nodded in an almost courtly gesture. “I await your pleasure,” motioning him into his tattoo parlor. “We just have to make a few decisions and then we can get started.” They followed him in and he shut the door behind them. This was going to take a while.
It was very late by the time they got home and finding a comfortable position to sleep in had proven nearly impossible given the locations of the new tattoos. But somehow they managed. Unfortunately, they weren’t nearly ready for their unexpected early morning visitors.
Tommy knocked on the door, not willing to catch them unaware as he had before, especially with Randall in tow. He keyed in the code and opened the door slowly, noting the silence. He handed the loaded picnic basket back to Ella, studiously ignoring the knowing look she gave him. “I’ll be right back,” whispered.
“I told you it was too early for this Tommy. It’s actually too soon and you know it. I’m sure they just want a few days alone together.”
“They’ll get a few days, sweetheart. Hell, they have the entire rest of their lives to be alone together now if they want. I don’t think having breakfast with us one morning will kill them. Besides,” watching Ella’s eyes widen a millisecond before Randall screeched...
Tommy shut his eyes and just barely refrained from covering his ears. “Right behind me, huh?” he asked without turning around.
Randall pulled free from Ella’s hand and jumped into Randi’s arms. Ella saw her flinch and shift Randall to the right side of her body even as she hugged him tightly. “Hey buddy! How ya doing?”
Randall gave her a sloppy kiss. “Wuv Wuv... wuv Wen – have bre’fas.”
“You brought breakfast, huh? Well, Gwen’s making coffee. Ya’ll come on in.”
Tommy tossed Ella a triumphant look then grabbed the basket and headed for the kitchen. Ella just shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Sorry, Randi. I did try.”
Randi leaned forward and kissed Ella’s cheek. “I’m sure you did. I’m surprised you got him to wait this long.”
“I threatened to cut him off indefinitely if he came over as soon as ya’ll got home,” Ella confided. Randi snickered.
“At least you brought breakfast with you,” Randi said with a grin, pushing her hair back away from her face.
Ella chuckled. “Coming over this early, I figured it would be best if we didn’t come empty handed. How did it turn out?”
“Wuv! Go now!” Randall commanded imperiously, pointing towards the kitchen where Gwen and Tommy were currently laying out the breakfast Ella had prepared.
“Aye aye, sir!” Randi answered with a twinkle in her eye. “Beautifully,” she replied, setting Randall on his feet and gingerly pulling the top of her t-shirt aside. Ella’s eyes widened.
“Wow!” she agreed. “But OW! But it’s magnificent.”
It was the glyph that Gwen had chosen... the blending of the two of them that had been painted onto the private shuttle they had utilized as Empress and Queen. Ahmed had taken the design and colored it blue and green with black to outline and shade and add depth. The colors twined seamlessly and flowed into one another without interruption and Ella could only marvel at how perfectly suited to both of them the marker was.
Randi eased her shirt back up to her neck, careful not to touch the healing art that now lay healing over her heart. “Thanks. We’re both pretty happy with them, though I don’t know if Gwen will ever get another one.” She cut her eyes in Gwen’s direction before mumbling, “’Cause this thing hurts like a bitch.”
Whatever else she might have said was lost when Gwen turned and smiled, walking over to greet Ella. She hugged her gently, then took Randi’s had in hers and smiled impishly. “Would ya’ll like to join us for breakfast or are you planning to hang out in the foyer the rest of the day?”
Randi and Ella exchanged glances. “I think if we want anything, we’d better get over there quick, Randi. That boy eats like it’s gonna get up off his plate if he takes too long.” Randi and Gwen laughed. Ella shook her head. “You think I’m kidding.”
“Not really,” Randi said as they walked to the table. “I grew up with this one,” gesturing to Tommy negligently, “remember?”
“Hey! I resemble that remark,” Tommy protested. “What are we talking about anyway?”
Their laughter set the tone for the entire rest of the morning.
“So you’ll be joining us in another couple days?” Tommy asked as they cleared the table some time later. Randall had proven true to Ella’s predictions and Randi and Gwen had simply gaped before realizing if they expected to eat, they needed to do so swiftly. So the first bit of their meal had been specifically dedicated to eating, and only when their initial hunger had been quenched did their focus turn to fellowship. Tommy and his family, along with all the band members, were headed out to the Amazon compound later that afternoon.
“No, T... we’ll be there in four days. We told Lorac two weeks and if we show up early, they’re gonna feel pressured to get things ready early for us. Besides, we’re looking forward to the time alone. But the Amazons know to expect you and Reed and Lorac will have places ready for you.”
“Good. The guys want to get some practice in before you come to practice with them. I think they are a little intimidated by the whole idea of a ‘practice party’. But I know they are really looking forward to it as well. It has been a long time and they’ve missed it – we all have. And everyone is looking forward to storytelling time,” he added with a significant look at Gwen.
“So am I, T. It’ll be nice getting back into the routine again.”
“We’ll be all set up for it. But...” he said, picking up his son and handing him to Randi. Randall snuggled down into her neck and she kissed the top of his head. “We need to head out if we are gonna get there this afternoon. The guys want their first run through tonight and we have to get everything set up first. Anything special you need us to take? Your drums are already packed and on the transport.”
“Nope. You got everything you need to record this?”
Tommy smiled and Ella snorted. “He better have, considering the amount of stuff we’re hauling.” Randi and Gwen muffled their laughter while Tommy and Ella exchanged mock glares. Randall yawned.
“All right. We’ll see ya’ll in a few days. Try to stay out of trouble, huh?”
“You too, Tommy.” And after a round of hugs and kisses, the Steele family departed and the house settled into a pleasant silence.
The next four days were much like a second honeymoon for Randi and Gwen. They walked around the island hand in hand or rode the bike along well-known paths out to their hidden dell. They played in the holosuite, trying out new programs. They spent hours talking and hours in companionable silence just enjoying being alone with one another again. They made love and relished the renewed strength of their connection in both body and soul.
And every evening, they spent at least a little time answering questions and concerns about the new form of government that was coming into play with Randi’s defection of her title. Not nearly as many as either of them had expected, and most of them were thoughtful questions. Randi was confident when it came up for a public vote, the new measures would be put into place with very little dissent.
The night before they were scheduled to go back to the Amazons, they were curled up together on the couch facing the large life-sized portrait enjoying the ambiance of a small fire. Randi had one arm wrapped around Gwen’s shoulders while holding hands with the other. Gwen, for her part, was tucked into the crook of Randi’s neck and arm.
“You know something?”
“I know lots of things,” Gwen answered drowsily. “Whatcha wanna know?” Randi couldn’t stop the chuckle that bubbled up at Gwen’s cheeky answer and it got her a glare. “What was so funny about that? I do know lots of stuff. I know I love you; I know you love me. I know that I could stay here forever.” She felt Randi tense slightly and heard the heartbeat under her ear skip before speeding up. She turned concerned eyes to Randi’s and eased her chin around until they met. “What?”
Randi sighed. She hadn’t expected this to happen... and she certainly hadn’t thought it would come up for discussion between them so soon. “You’re gonna think I’m nuts.”
“Sweetheart, I love you – nothing you say is gonna change that. And I knew you were nuts when I agreed to marry you; how many people do you know that come back from the dead?? I just figured we could be happy ever after nuts together. Now what is bothering you all of a sudden?”
“I’m not sure I can do this for another fifty or so years. Not *this*,” motioning between them frantically. “I can’t do without *this* for a minute; we’ve already proven that. But I’m not sure I can sit around and not be involved in helping shape humanity’s future. It’s all I’ve ever done – all I’ve known my entire adult life. I’m not sure I can just put that aside and become some sort of lady of leisure – even one who is married to the Amazon Queen and bard extraordinaire.” She smiled, trying to soften the blow, but Gwen could see the confusion in her eyes.
“Do you want to remain as Empress? As Commandant? What exactly...?”
“NO! No,” a little more softly. “No,” she reiterated. “Nothing so public. I just thought maybe we could return to our roots a little. Travel around and talk to people; help out where we could. Like we used to do - only not all the time, not as a way of life. But....”
“I think it’s a great idea, love. Absolutely wonderful.”
“Really? You don’t think I’m being selfish and unreasonable?”
“No – I think you’re being quite noble, in point of fact, and I think there is a lot of good we could do if we just let ourselves do it. Besides, did you really think I would turn down the chance to go anywhere or do anything with you... especially something like this? I think it is a wonderfully karmic way to end our time on this plane; there is something very circular about it.”
Randi hugged Gwen even tighter to her body. “I love you... so much.”
Gwen returned the hug fervently. “I know, sweetheart. I love you, too.”
Morning found them curled around one another, careful of the still-painful tattoos, though they had at least been able to resume their normal sleeping positions, albeit with a little more care than they normally took. Gwen woke first, marveling at the difference in Randi’s behavior here in this place. Her heart beat slower, her muscles were more relaxed – everything about her was more tranquil and at peace.
Gwen shifted, just enough to tilt her head up to gaze at Randi’s profile. She reached up her hand, gently caressing the familiar dips and planes of Randi’s face. They were sharper again, as they had been when Randi returned from the dead. Gwen felt a wave of sudden relief that they were going to be able to take things at their own pace for a while. She was going to enjoy spoiling Randi for at least a little while – until Randi decided it was her turn to spoil Gwen for a bit.
Gwen felt Randi shudder just slightly in her sleep, the first indication that Randi was slowly waking up. Tension returned to her body and Randi stretched her full length against Gwen, then kissed the fingers that traced her lips with such delicate care.
“Morning,” Randi’s voice a scratchy whisper.
“Good morning, love.” Gwen shifted again and kissed Randi thoroughly. “How’d you sleep?” when they parted.
“I was in your arms, though I missed you in my dreams.”
“Hmm...” Gwen replied thoughtfully. “I’ve noticed that. I wonder if that avenue is only open to us if we are under great stress.”
Randi sighed. “Well if it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer to wait a little while before having enough stress to find out.”
“Best idea I’ve heard in ages, love. Now, you wanna stay here and cuddle for a little while or go take a shower or maybe get breakfast?”
“Yes,” came the emphatic answer. “We’re not in any hurry, Little One. We can do all three and still make it to the Amazons with plenty of time to spare.” She ran a teasing hand up Gwen’s side, eliciting a squawk, then a giggle. Then Randi shifted them until she was covering Gwen and nuzzled her neck. “Any questions? Complaints? Comments?”
“Only that we have to stop eventually.”
And they did stop eventually – but mostly they stopped because full bladders and grumbling stomachs made staying in bed any long an unviable option. So they shared a shower and fixed biscuits and gravy together for breakfast. Then they tidied the house and packed a single bag before locking up the house carefully and heading for the shuttle pad.
“Hey, Randi?” asked as they settled into their respective seats in the cockpit of the craft. “Do we get to keep this?” motioning around her vaguely.
“Like a parting gift, you mean? Yeah, I suppose we could. Or we could have one customized for us.” Gwen’s eyes widened.
“Yeah – we can talk about it if you want. We’ve got a little time to kill before we get there.”
Randi laughed. “I guess we’ll be talking about it.” Then the shuttle lifted off and they were on their way to the Amazons to party.
“Well, at least there are no guns blazing at us this time.”
“Thank goodness. I have to admit that it scared me about as much as it pissed me off. Not a good feeling.”
“Yeah, but I’m not sure what’s coming is going to be any better,” pointing to the streamers and garlands she could see even from this distance. “I think they are really excited about being able to welcome their queen properly.”
Gwen patted Randi’s arm and Randi grasped her hand. “Don’t discount your own welcome, Stud. I’m pretty sure the entire Nation is in awe of you... and completely envious of me.”
“We are not getting into that debate.”
“We can discuss it later, sweetheart. Right now your subjects are waiting to greet you.” And they were – lined up in the hanger row by row and out the door along both sides of the hall. Gwen stepped from the shuttle with Randi just slightly behind her... until Gwen pulled her forward so they were standing together. “I just thought....”
“Don’t,” Gwen pleaded. “I want you beside me.” Then Lorac made a step in front of the ranks and knelt, causing every Amazon in the room to do the same.
“Welcome back, my queen. It is good to see you here again.”
“Thank you, Lorac. Rise, my friends. There is no need to stand on ceremony. We are here to party.”
“Then come... everything is prepared.” Lorac rose smoothly to her feet and the rest followed her example. An entire squad stepped forward and popped off a sharp salute to Randi, which she returned automatically.
“Welcome back, gunny,” Reed said, restoring Randi to the rank she was most comfortable with. “Orders?” re-establishing Randi’s authority with a single word and pointing out to the squad and everyone else present where she stood with the Sabres, regardless of her resignation.
Gwen took Randi’s arm as a matter of course and felt her relax beneath her touch. Gwen squeezed almost imperceptibly, giving Randi her unwavering support, no matter what. Randi expelled a breath and turned to give Gwen a smile. There was nothing better than this, and they both knew it.
“How ‘bout we get this party started?”
Reed grinned. “Best damned idea I have heard in a while.” She turned to the squad. “You heard the boss, ladies... both of them. Let’s move out.”
As one body, the Amazons cheered, their war cries echoing throughout the mountain. The men and women who were not members of the Nation were already out in the meadow, having been left alone by the Amazons sometime before. Now they looked around at one another in surprise at the sound, then grinned as realization dawned.
“Randi and Gwen are here,” Tommy said gleefully. “Guess we’ll be starting this party soon.”
Sure enough, the Amazons soon emerged from the mountain in droves, and setting up moved from stuttering effort to full gear. Before long, tables lined either side of the open space and they were laden with all manner of food and drinks. A stage had been raised on one end of the field and the band went right ahead and started setting up their instruments, the lights and the sound system. The Amazons and the People proceeded to start games and races, trying to get everyone as involved as they could.
Only the Sabres stood to one side, not really sure what their participation should be. Gwen and Randi were slowly walking around the perimeter, meeting and speaking to each and every person. Gwen nudged Randi when she realized the Sabres, both male and female, were standing apart, simply watching. Randi grinned and shook her head, then sighed and strode over to the Sabre contingent.
Every single pair of Sabre eyes turned in her direction and they had the decency to look sheepish before dropping their eyes to the ground and shaking their heads. Even in this they were uniform to the point of being ridiculous and it was all Randi could do not to laugh at them.
“All right, ya’ll... lighten up!!” she commanded. “I know you all know how to break loose and have fun – that’s what this is about. And for the guys especially, who knows, you might be surprised at who ends up kicking your ass.” That caused them all to straighten and glare at her; they were the best of the best and they knew it – so did she.
“And if we beat them?”
“Then you will wear the winner’s ribbons when Gwen awards them tonight. But none of you is gonna win anything if you don’t get out there and try. C’mon, guys... this is a party. The Amazons have even made considerations to include men in their competition. Go play!”
“Is that an order, gunny?”
“It can be, Tiny,” Randi said with a grin.
“As long as they don’t blame us when they lose.”
“As long as you don’t get upset when someone else wins,” she cautioned. “Don’t forget there has been an Amazon/Sabre delegation here for almost a month. Who knows what the Amazons have learned from them in that time?” She turned to Reed and Jess. “Can I speak to you both a moment?”
They nodded and came up on either side of her, even as the remainder of the group, both men and women, headed into the fray of what was obviously, friendly competition. Randi watched them go, proud when they immediately became a part of things, spreading out to participate in all the activities they could. Then her focus came back to the two women standing beside her.
“How are things with Corky?”
“Slow but steady,” Jess responded immediately. “There’s a lot of old hatred and resentment buried there, but she seems genuinely willing to get past it and move on with her life.”
“Agreed. She is taking her studies as seriously as her is the physical retraining, and she has gone out of her way to do not only what has been asked of her, but she has taken the initiative to learn things outside her basic curriculum.”
“So you both feel she is on the right track?” They nodded. “All right. When do you feel it will be safe to turn her tutoring over to the Amazons completely? I’m sure you are both ready to get back to your respective partners and homes.”
Jess and Reed exchanged glances. They had already discussed this at some length. “Actually, several Sabres who were assigned here would like to remain once we go into stand-down mode. They would like to make their homes here. I think we could do easily turn Corky’s training over to any of them.”
Randi nodded. “All right. Get me a list and I will make the arrangements. Thank you, ladies. Now go have some fun. I have an Amazon Queen to attend.” The two traded smirks, but neither said a word as Randi left them and returned to Gwen’s side. Then they headed off to find Chase and Tiny, and maybe even get involved in some of the games and competitions.
“Everything okay?” Gwen asked as Randi reached her side once more.
“Yeah... just had to remind them they were here for fun – whether it killed them or not.” They continued walking slowly around the field, greeting everyone personally with a kind word. Then they found themselves engulfed in hugs as Sky and Rosie spotted them.
“What a delightful party, Ravenhawk. The People are very proud you invited us to join you and Little Dove here. You have so many lovely friends.”
“And it has been an absolute hoot to be here the past couple weeks. Thank you both for indulging me,” Rosie added. “I know you didn’t have to, and neither did the Amazons.”
“It was little enough to do for you, Rosie... and for the People, Sky. We wouldn’t be here today without all of you.”
“Well, we were glad to be a part, and we’re looking forward to the musical portion of the evening. I understand we will get stories as well?”
“Yes,” Gwen concurred. “I promised Tommy. Who knows? Maybe Randi will share the secret Tommy has been hunting for. But at least it should all be entertaining... I hope. Ya’ll make sure you get something to eat. I can’t believe the amount of food that got prepared for this.”
“Not to worry, Gwen,” Rosie assured. “I’d be willing to bet there will be very few leftovers by the end of the day... especially with all the activities going on. Now go... you have a lot of other folks you need to speak to before evening, and we don’t want to hold you up.”
So Randi and Gwen continued around the makeshift circle, bypassing the stage area for now and taking at least a moment with each person before they finally ended up where they had started. Only when they reached the starting point, close to the base of the mountain, did they notice three new arrivals. Gwen opened her arms for hugs, and all three goddesses were happy to comply. Then Aphrodite looked pathetically at Randi and pouted; Randi rolled her eyes and sighed, but opened her arms. Then she proceeded to pick Dite up off the ground and embrace her tight enough to make Dite’s bones creak.
“Randi!” she squealed. “Put me down! I’m too old for you to be woman-handling like that!”
Randi grinned and carefully set Aphrodite on her feet. Athena and Artemis took advantage of the distraction and each planted a kiss on Randi’s cheek. Gwen smiled at the blush that caused, but remained silent until the three of them moved away from Randi. Then she reclaimed her place at Randi’s side and smiled at all of them.
“I’m so glad all of you could make it.”
“We’re glad to be here, Gwen. I can’t remember the last Amazon party I was actually invited to... or attended, for that matter.”
Aphrodite and Athena couldn’t stop the snorts that followed this pronouncement. “That might have something to do with the amount of mortal alcohol you consumed or the number of varieties you tried.”
Artemis glowered at her sisters. “Well, who knew it would affect a goddess like that?” She crossed her arms over her chest. “At least we know to be more careful this time. I don’t want to miss any part of this. There is so much living... so much enjoyment of life here. I want to be able to appreciate all of it... especially tonight’s entertainment.”
“Well, ya’ll go mix and mingle and have fun for a change,” Randi said, clutching Gwen’s hand. “There are a few more people we need to speak to, but seriously – thank you for being here. It means a lot to us, even if the rest won’t know who you are.”
“We wouldn’t have missed it, Randi,” Dite said, stealing her own kiss. Then the three of them stepped back a pace and the air around them shimmered. When Randi and Gwen could see them again, they were unrecognizable. With a wave, they turned and headed out into the melee, determined to enjoy everything this day and place had to offer.
Randi and Gwen exchanged smiles, then headed towards the stage and the last folks they needed to greet.
Tommy hung back, having already had a little time with them and knowing there would be more in the near future. He was glad Randall was with the other children though – he tended to be more than a bit possessive where both Randi and Gwen were concerned. So now it was just the adults, and the guys in the band didn’t waste any time wrapping both Randi and Gwen in enormous bear hugs. They had truly been missed and it was obvious in the affection displayed on both sides.
They spent some time catching up, then the discussion turned to the music for the evening. The guys assured Randi they were ready for almost anything she decided to do music wise and they were all looking forward to getting back in the groove.
“And we’re looking forward to story time,” Scott assured Gwen. “The kids have been asking about it.”
“We’re *all* looking forward to it,” Marie assured them. “I never realized how much we took for granted having this available every weekend... until it was gone. You think we’ll be able to do it regularly again?”
“Well, at least more regularly than it has been in the past few months,” Gwen assured. “We’ll work something out, I promise, because we have missed this a lot as well.”
“Does this mean I’ll get to dance away my Friday nights with the friends I have made here?”
Gwen’s head whirled at the question, then she opened her arms and hugged her mother for all she was worth. Randi embraced both of them and for a long moment, they rocked back and forth together. Then Randi loosened her hold and Jill and Gwen stepped back from each other. Gwen blinked to keep the tears from forming and Jill surreptitiously wiped hers away.
“You’re welcome anytime, Mama. How are you doing?”
“Some days are better than others, but I always feel your daddy nearby watching over me. I miss him terribly, but being here with all the folks who we came to think of as an extended family has made it easier.”
“So when are you moving?” Randi asked matter-of-factly.
“Not anytime soon,” Jill stated. “But I will be down often to visit.”
“You’d better,” Gwen warned her. “And if you ever decide to stay on a more permanent basis, we’ll be happy to have you.”
“Baby girl,” Jill said, cupping Gwen’s cheek in her hand, “even if I do decide to live here eventually, it won’t be with you and Randi. You deserve the chance to live as your own family. God knows you have certainly more than earned it.”
“No matter what you decide, Jill, the invitation is always there for you, all right? And if you need anything....”
“... I know where to find you both. I know, and I love knowing that you’re looking out for me. I’ll be fine, really. And so will you. Randi, can I make a request for a song tonight?”
“Anything you want, Jill... as long as we know it.” She pulled Randi down to her level and whispered in her ear. Randi just nodded and Jill smiled and patted her arm.
“Thanks, Randi. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to go see what all the cheering is about.”
Only then did Tommy and Ella come up on either side of Randi and Gwen to watch all the activity taking place around the field. No one was separated any longer; instead, there was just a single mass of people celebrating the end of summer and having a damned fine time to boot.
“This was a mighty fine idea, Gwen. Thank you for letting us be a part of it.”
“We’re glad ya’ll could join us, T. I know I haven’t been around much, T, and I’m sorry for letting you down as far as my contract obligations went. But I couldn’t....”
“And I wouldn’t have let you in any case,” Tommy interrupted, holding up his hand. “What you had to do was more important. We’ll work something out. I’m recording you tonight, for starters.”
“Tell ya what, T... if you can’t figure out what her secret is this time, I’ll share it with you.”
“WHAT?? You *know*?”
“I have a pretty good idea, yeah. If you pay attention to the right things, so will you. Now, if you’ll excuse us, I’m hungry. We’re gonna go get something to eat.” They waved bye to the guys and headed back towards the still laden tables. Tommy’s whine could be heard petulantly behind them.
“RANNNNNDIIIIII!! That wasn’t very nice!”
Randi and Gwen just looked at one another... and laughed.
It had been a good day. There had been lots of winners and all of them had been thrilled to accept their tokens from Gwen. Most of them had been bashful and more than a little intimidated by the still, silent picture Randi made as she handed the ribbons to Gwen as each winner approached. Corky was especially proud of her win, and maintained her dignity and respect when her award was presented. It was a major step in her rehabilitation.
When it was over, Gwen extended her hand and Randi accepted it without thought. Then Gwen wrapped Randi’s arms around her middle and leaned back into the strength of their embrace. “I know we have said thank you to each of you,” glancing in the direction of the goddesses, “but we wanted you to understand how very much all of you and what you did for us means. Without your strength behind us, we very well could have failed, and mankind wouldn’t have the chance to grow.”
“A lot depends on all of us, but ya’ll especially have already given the world a model they should try to follow. I hope you’ll all continue to lead by example.”
“Now... enough with the serious stuff. This is a party! Whaddya say we crank up the music??” Wild cheers greeted her words and the band started making its way to join Randi on stage. For her part, Randi led Gwen from the stage and onto the makeshift dance floor with Jill. Then she raced back up, snatched up her sticks and began a countdown for what promised to be a very wild ride.
They did two long sets, then Randi asked Gwen to do her story telling before their last set. “I know it is a little unusual, but there’s a special song I want to close with tonight and everyone, especially me, wants to hear you be a bard again.” She turned her attention to the gathered audience. “Whaddya say, folks? A few stories before the last dance of the night?”
The cheers were answer enough and they echoed off the mountains for several long minutes before finally quieting sufficiently to allow Gwen to speak. “All right. Bring the kids to the front, and you,” pointing to Randi, “take a seat,” patting the spot beside her.
Randi sat down and loosely wrapped an arm around Gwen’s waist, and listened with a beatific smile on her face as Gwen began to weave a tale that was at once old and new to her. Suddenly, blindingly, Tommy realized the truth. It doesn’t matter who she tells her stories *to*; what matters is who she is telling them *for*. When her focus is Randi, everything changes. He would have smacked himself for his denseness, but he was too busy enjoying yet another new soulmates story.
Gwen had told stories until she was hoarse from it and the applause had gone on for long minutes before the band had resumed the stage. Now they were getting ready to close out their third and final set. They had altered instruments and vocals several times throughout the night, but for the last little while Randi had been resting her voice for the last number. Randi motioned Greg to take her place behind the drums for the final song, whispering her instructions to the guys who had huddled around her and nodded agreement, even as they gave her big grins.
Randi stepped to the mic and caught the towel and water bottle Gwen tossed her with a grin and a wink, even as the guys collected their own from Jill, Tommy and Ella. Randi extended a hand to Gwen, and Gwen gave her a startled look in return. Randi raised her eyebrow and Gwen acquiesced, coming around and letting Randi help her ascend the steps. She felt a little conspicuous, but since Randi had sat next to her for the entire storytelling session, she figured she owed Randi at least one song.
“Time to wind things up folks, at least for us,” she added when a loud groan went up from those gathered. Amazingly, except for the children who had been removed as soon as Gwen’s part was over, everyone else was still up and most of them had spent a majority of their time on the dance floor. Jill had once again proven very popular with men and women alike and there had been great camaraderie between everyone. “So grab you best girl or guy and head back to the dance floor. You’re not gonna want miss the romance of this last song,” moving to put her arm around Gwen’s waist.
“This is by special request of my mother-in-law, but the truth is, this song is one of my favorites as well. Gwen wrote the words to this one and I handled the music and with your permission, I’m gonna sing this song to my wife.” As if on cue, the lights dimmed, leaving Randi and Gwen alone in the spotlight. Then the music started and Gwen closed her eyes and bit her lip, leaning her forehead on Randi’s chest. Randi tipped her chin up until their eyes met, and then she began to sing.
If there were no words
No way to speak
I would still hear you
If there were no tears
No way to feel inside
I'd still feel for you
And even if the sun refused to shine
Even if romance ran out of rhyme
You would still have my heart until the end of time
You're all I need, my love, my Valentine
The world did not exist for them outside of the circle fashioned by Randi’s voice and the spotlight that created a bubble around them. Gwen wrapped both hands around Randi’s neck and they swayed slowly back and forth, conscious only of one another. Most of those gathered stopped their own dancing, mesmerized by the bond they could see enveloping Randi and Gwen. Even the goddesses were in awe of the miracle they were once more being permitted to witness.
All of my life
I have been waiting for
All you give to me
You've opened my eyes
And shown me how to love unselfishly
I've dreamed of this a thousand times before
But in my dreams I couldn't love you more
I will give you my heart
Until the end of time
You're all I need, my love, my Valentine
And even if the sun refused to shine
Even if romance ran out of rhyme
You would still have my heart until the end of time
'Cause all I need is you, my Valentine
You're all I need, my love, my Valentine
When the song was finished, Randi leaned down and captured Gwen’s lips with her own, sealing the promise of the words with the most tangible of reminders. Only when the hoots and cheers started did they remember their audience. They flushed, then laughed, realizing that here especially, among the friends who had so fiercely protected what they shared, they had no reason to hide and every reason to let the see a little of what they had protected.
But a little was enough, and it was time to head back to their quarters and share the rest in private. Tomorrow started the first day of the rest of their lives. But first....
“Thank you, everyone, for sticking through this with us. You’ll never know what it means to us to know we have friends like you. I hope it means we’re as good of friends in return to you. We wish each and every one of you peace and love and happiness always. Good night, ya’ll.”
Then they stepped off the stage and walked back towards the mountain, knowing that no matter what else happened, today had been a good day. As for tomorrow, well... they would look to those together.
Two gray-haired, old women stood at the shore watching the waves come in as the sun slowly slipped beneath the horizon once more. It had been a good day, even warming for the occasion, but it had been forever long, and Randi and Gwen wanted nothing more than to curl up together in the big bed that had been theirs for more than fifty years.
Both nearly a hundred years old, they were still as spry and alert as they had been in their much younger days, but despite it, they were tired and ready to go to their final rest.
“We’ve had a good life together this time around,” Gwen said softly. “A very full life.” They climbed into their bed slowly and Randi stretched out her length and waited for Gwen to curl up beside her.
“Yep. It was a nice anniversary party too. Lots of folks we haven’t seen in a while.” Randi closed her eyes and smiled. “Never thought Tiny would be bald as a cue ball though.”
Gwen chuckled. “He and Reed make a cute couple, and their girls and their kids....”
“I can’t believe they brought puppies from Phil’s and Ditto’s line to give to Randall’s boys.”
“At least, they didn’t bring horses sired by Lance or Cal. I thought those two were gonna kill each other when Tiny and Reed took them home... before Tiny put them in separate corrals.” A beat. “And did you see Scott’s oldest granddaughter had her eyes on Randall’s oldest? Lacey’s daughter too. Not surprising though... he’s a good-looking kid.”
“I’m glad Tommy will have to deal with that. And that he has Ella to help him. Even as old as he is, and despite the fact that his son and his grandsons are grown, T is still very protective of his family.”
“I wish Mama had been here to see this. She would have enjoyed it... even without the band. But I imagine she is pretty content where she is.”
“I’ll bet Geoff is too,” Randi said with a sad, knowing smile. “And Sky and Rosie were there to greet her as well, so she is definitely among friends, even without having met my mama and daddy.” She paused. “It was nice to see so many of my old Sabre friends still around. It’s so easy to lose track of people these day with the new starships being manned and sent out on longer and longer voyages. I do regret that we never got a chance to explore space more in our lifetime, but we really did see and do so much this last trip through the circle.”
And they had. Peace had taken root and though there would always be some outbreaks of strife and discontent, human nature being what it is, now *everyone* worked to take care of the problem. Because of this, mankind had made leaps and bounds in scientific advancement and they were on the cusp of deep space travel.
“Is everything all set?”
Randi nodded. “The trusts were set up years ago. All we have to do is go to sleep and our part is done.”
“Then let’s go to sleep, love. I’m ready to go home.”
Pink sparkle lit up the room and showered down around them. Randi blew a rose petal off her nose and glared at Aphrodite, who remained young and beautiful as though no time at all had passed. She looked at them sadly for a long moment with her head cocked, then said forlornly, “So this is it, huh? You two radical babes are finally taking off?”
“Yeah, Dite. We’re tired – it’s time.”
She nodded her agreement. “I know, but you’re not coming back after this. I’m gonna miss you guys.”
“Come visit us in eternity, Dite,” Gwen said as she tucked her head under Randi’s chin. “Leave us a message – we’ll always come find you when you’re ready for a little radical girl talk.” Dite’s blue eyes widened comically.
“Bitchin’, babe. You learned the lingo! How totally cool is that? You bet I will. Now close your eyes.” She leaned over and brushed a kiss on each of their foreheads. “Safe travels and peaceful rest.” When Dite stood upright once more, they were gone.
Between one breath and the next, Ares’ essence was freed from the box and without hesitation it made its way to where he still resided. He had made a lot of progress in the fifty plus years he lived as a mortal, building a house and making a few acquaintances in the nearby town. It wasn’t a thrilling life, but he coped and thought about how he had ended up there. It still made him furious, and despite everything he learned to the contrary, he was determined to have his revenge for the time he had been forced to live as a mortal.
It was almost shocking when the power of war washed over him and renewed his life and youth. He knew his first responsibility would be to watch for Randi and Gwen to return to the circle. Once his business with them was concluded, he could take care of everything else.
“They’re not coming back, brother,” Aphrodite said sweetly as she popped in on the humble abode he had created with his own hands and sweat. “They have removed themselves from the karmic circle. You don’t get to mess with them again. I won after all.”
“NO!!! They don’t get to do that!!”
“They already did, Ares. They’re gone.”
“NO!!! That’s not fair!!!”
Dite shrugged. “You’ll find that life generally isn’t – get over it.”
“They can’t do this!! I’ll create wars... make them come back to rescue mankind again.”
“I think you’re gonna find a lot of changes out there you so not gonna be cool with, bro. Maybe you oughta go back to Olympus for a while... see what all you’ve missed. ‘Cause mankind no longer needs your gnarly little self and the warrior and the bard are not coming back. Get used to it.”
With that pronouncement, Dite winked out of sight, and Ares stood stock still, realizing he had well and truly lost. It was time to admit defeat and go home.
Their cabin was what it had always been – warm, cozy, and located on the edge of nowhere where it would never be discovered. They were young once more - two old souls content in the peace and refuge they had in one another and the love they had and continued to share through the ages.
Randi and Gwen had spent a number of years traveling off and on across the globe – talking to people, sharing with them; learning from them and helping them. It had been a most rewarding experience for them both and reminded them greatly of their roots and who they truly were at their core.
Some called them heroes, though they both shied away from that description. Mostly they just saw themselves as ordinary people, like everyone else – put in a unique position in history. The rest of the world saw them for the heroes they were. The world would go on without them, but they would always be greatly missed.
But eternity was a wonderful place to spend together – happily ever after.
04/06 - 01/07
Author’s Notes: well, folks – this be the end. Randi and Gwen have their happy ever after ending and are going to retire to enjoy it. They have been wonderful characters to write, and I think they have earned all the happiness they can find together. I still have plenty of other stories waiting to be written, both short and novel length – original as well as other fandoms, and I’m looking forward to trying my hand at each and every one.
Thanks to Phil, who stuck with me the entire six years it took to write this series, and to the many, many readers who not only took the time to feed the bard, but waited patiently for each new story to be completed. I appreciate each and every one of you... and so do Pink & Fluffy.
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