Jim was parked across the two-lane road across from the Embassy property. The security around her stiffened with alarm at the sight of someone waiting for them but the women from Mother Earth shouted at them to stand down. The order was repeated over the radios and the men and women protecting the Queen and her Honor Guard stood, still alert but no longer pointing weapons at the suspect.
Cierra left the car first and gave him a hug in the middle of the road.
"I love seeing you but what brought you here today?"
The bearded man cleared his throat and turned red. "Um, Katie wanted me to bring you something before you left for Mother Earth again. Please don't make me tell you what it is," the man pleaded. He might be married but discussing the contents of the large case was something he'd rather not do.
Cierra was puzzled but agreed. She watched Jim bring out a large cardboard box and he handed it to Jonesy to carry. He smiled sheepishly while sticking his hands into his Jean pockets. "See you later everyone." He nodded at the grim faced people in suits and returned to his van.
They watched him drive off as the women strolled to the jump spot on the Embassy grounds. Jonesy was looking at the box, trying to figure out what it contained.
"I wonder what embarrassingly feminine thing it contains. Men usually don't blush like that unless it's something made for women." The other women chuckled, even the ones from Secret Service.
Robbie asked if anyone had a pocketknife. One of the men handed her folding blade and she sliced open the top of the box. She returned the knife then opened the flaps. The boxes within didn't tell her much. She removed one of them and began reading.
"Isn't this the weirdest thing? It's a ‘menstrual cup'."
"Let me read, just a sec." Robbie read the box then giggled. "It's a latex cup that you use rather than tampons. You can reuse it up to 10 years."
The women all began grabbing boxes and reading for themselves.
Cierra laughed, "Well, I certainly don't need one of these for a while." She placed the box in her hand back into the box. "I can see why poor Jim was embarrassed."
Jonesy snorted. "Yeah, if I were a man I would be too."
"The things women ask of their spouses ought to be illegal," Robbie added.
· * * * *
The women returned to the village where everybody greeted them. The people of the village were relieved that nothing had happened to them and they came back safely.
It was close to lunchtime so they entered the warm communal building and chatted until Sharon clanged the bell.
The cooks had used up the last of the fresh lettuce by using them to wrap around a warm mash of brown rice, onions, tomatoes, mint, and cheese. They also served their usual bread and soup. Now that the heavy labor had ended they would cook lighter meals that were more comfort foods than anything else.
JP hummed in pleasure as she took a bite from the stuffed lettuce leaves. "I sure missed our meals in the Old World. I swore I could hear my arteries clog when we ate there."
Carey grunted. "Me too. All those fancy sauces and gravies were making me sick. I couldn't even get a decent salad. What they served was mostly iceberg lettuce with croutons."
Cierra said she liked the lemonade.
"Sure you did. That's because our little lemon tree in the greenhouse doesn't produce enough to make lemonade for everyone. It's just used for garnishes and flavorings for the cooks," Robbie reminded her.
Jonesy sighed. "I just wished I had thought of grabbing some of those packages of hot chocolate from the bar before we left."
"How much would it be worth to you?" Carey grinned, reaching into her dufflebag. The survivalist tossed handfuls of packets onto the table, along with creamer, sugar, teabags, and slivers of free soap that had been wrapped inside a hand towel.
"You little thief!" Cyd chided her friend. "Gimme some of those, will ya?"
Cierra laughed and grabbed her bag. "Carey, you didn't have to hoard the stuff. I asked for some stuff and they were happy to give it to me." The Shaman pulled out small, full boxes of the same things Carey had snitched, plus cans of spices, instant coffee, Band-Aids, sunglasses, dental floss, toothpicks, and pens.
"They just gave it to you? Where's the fun in that?" Carey pouted.
JP cleared her throat. "Is this a good time to mention that I brought back some robes and those silly slippers?"
Jonesy lifted her hand. "Matches and ashtrays."
Cyd looked at the table and mumbled. "I got all those little bottles of booze from the bar."
Jenny smacked her mate on the arm and told her to give them to the doctors.
"Anything else?" Tracy asked, looking at the Honor Guard.
"Um, nope, that's it." Robbie said quickly. Tracy lifted a brow and looked at Robbie. The tall blonde sighed. She reached into her bag and pulled out a pile of single serving saltines from the restaurant and a sticky cruet of syrup.
· * * * *
Cierra drifted into her dreamscape and looked around. The Dream Walker was no where near her but she felt his presence. She called out to him and he appeared.
"It has been a long time, Pathfinder."
"Yes, it has been." Cierra wanted to tell him that she avoided coming to this place because of JP's fear but remained silent. She should have known he would sense her thoughts.
"You give in to her fear and weaken both of you. You think she is a fragile woman rather than the woman you first saw her as."
Cierra spun to face him and crossed her arms. "And how do you think I saw her?"
"As an enigma, as a woman of quiet strength and confidence. Your lack of faith in her inner power dishonors both of you."
The Shaman wanted to argue with him, to tell him he was wrong. But in her heart she knew he was right. The pedestal she once placed JP had crumbled. "What must I do?"
"Reach out your hand, Pathfinder." With that, he was gone.
Cierra sighed and closed her eyes. She had learned to just go with the flow when it came to the spirit world. She stretched out her hand and thought about JP. At first nothing happened but then she felt warmth under her fingers. Surprised, she sought the source of the heat with her fingers and touched bare flesh.
A smile formed on her full lips. Even with her eyes closed she knew every curve of her mate. She trailed her fingers lightly down the strong arm until she found JP's hand. She took the warm hand and tugged lightly.
The Shaman heard nothing with her ears but was aware of JP's startled reaction. Taken a deep breath, Cierra tugged harder, pulling JP toward her.
"Oh crud, Cierra, you just had to do it, didn't you?"
Cierra opened her dark eyes and shrugged. JP sent her an exasperated look then turned her head to check out her surroundings.
"This is so weird."
The words were unexpected. Cierra had believed that JP would panic from the experience yet here she was taking it all in calmly. Perhaps the Dream Walker was correct, if treated as fragile then JP was indeed easily shattered. Just maybe she should rethink her views of JP. The woman certainly wasn't She-Ra but neither was she a weakling. She still had many of the qualities when she thought of JP as invincible but now with experience she knew better. JP was just as human as the rest of them.
The pedestal ought to be swept away and JP kept at her side where she belonged.
"Let's go home, hon. I've had enough traveling for a while."
"Sounds good to me. I hear a bed calling our names."
"Oh? Well, as long as it isn't repeating what we say at other times, I guess its okay," she teased.
JP chuckled and took her hand as they strolled back into the world of the physical.
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