11 February, 2000
by : The MOUSE
Using the high steam pipes of Mars Arisa Base I, the youngest command member of the Freedom Fighters made his way through the base unimpeded by the usual flow of individuals off to their duties or off for some much needed rest. He was the un-questioned leader of the Sky-Walkers street gang, Rex SkyWalker. No one even noticed he was there. He was silently following the three highest command, if not most famous, members of the Freedom Fighters. He was following Throttle, Modo, and Vinnie. The Biker Mice. He had seen them enter one of the base's rare shops and inquire of something rather specific of the shop techs.
But what do they need made out of glass?he had wondered.
The three had then re-emerged, their precious acquisitions wrapped up with great care and aesthetic. He could hear them joking and talking about reactions that were going to get.
Reactions? From who?
He followed them into the base's community cafeteria and, from his vantage point, watched them split off in three different directions for their lady loves. Rex watched, with fascination and puzzlement as these three Mice said something, gave their gifts, and each received passionate embraces, Charley Davidson's being teary for some reason. This wasn't the first Martian year he had seen these three do this. This was actually the fourth year. Becoming more and more puzzled he looked around the room and located Modo's children, Ashes and Amber, and Charley's children, Shelly and Paul.
Maybe they can tell me what's going on, he reasoned.
He let himself drop off the pipes near the youngsters who were mildly surprised to suddenly see him. "Hey, Sky King, where'd you come from?" Paul greeted.
"My own private tunnels." He sat next to Shelly who had a dreamy look in her eyes as she watched her Mother and Throttle. "You think you guys can explain something to me?"
"Sure, what is it?" Amber queried with a grin.
Rex pointed to the adults he had spied on earlier. "That. Am I missing something here?"
Ashes chuckled. "He doesn't know." he told the others.
"I don't know what?"
"Those guys spent a few years on Earth, remember?"
"So, they picked up a few of our customs." Paul answered. "Right now, back on Earth, it's about five days before Valentine's Day."
"Valentine's Day." Amber continued. "Dad told us about it. The one day out of the year, on Earth, where guys and gals turn mushy sweet for no apparent reason. Humans go gaga over this. Started out a few hundred years ago when a priest by the name of Valentine defied an order that said no young men could marry. There was a war going on and the King of the time didn't want his men thinking about their families at home instead of the war. Valentine offered his services and married off people when they came to him. He was martyred and killed, then made into a Saint for his selfless acts. His day then got mixed up with Greek mythology for Cupid and Eros and we have today's most romantic day of the year."
"Oh." He looked over at Shelly just in time to see her sigh and rest her cheek in her hand. She looked depressed. He blinked. Oh. But before he could ask her what was wrong she stood up, not meeting anyone's eyes as she left. He watched her leave for a moment, then turned to the others. "What's wrong with her?"
Paul smirked. "Valentine blues. Back on Earth she was guaranteed flowers or cards from at least ten different guys from school. She won't admit it in public but she's a hopeless romantic at heart. I think seeing them get gifts of love makes her feel left out. No one here her age knows about Valentine's Day."
"Poor, Shell." Amber voiced softly.
Rex rubbed his upper lips thoughtfully as he looked in the direction the young human female, his girlfriend for the last four years, had walked off in. He'd have to fix this situation. It has to be special, memorable. I know exactly what that'll be, but how do I do that without clueing in these three and therefore tipping off Shelly? Something suddenly clicked in his mind and a slow smile crossed his lips, hidden by his hand. Perfect!
* * *
"So, you think you can do this?"
Gentry read over the list in his hands and raised an eyebrow to his leader. "Can I ask one question about this?"
Rex shrugged. "It's an Earth tradition called Valentine's Day."
"Ah, and this is for a certain blond human, hm? To romance her off her feet, hm?"
He sighed in growing frustration. "Gentry, can you do this?"
"Yes, yes, it's no problem. Can I add my own touch?"
"Just don't go overboard. I want to make her feel special, not pressured or overwhelmed or anything like that."
"The delicate touch to her heart."
"Um… yeah, like you said."
"Oh, c'mon! Loosen up a little. It's me you're talking to here."
"It's just…" and he looked away, unable to finish the thought.
"You've never had to try to win a heart before? Understandable, but not to worry, Boss. You already have her heart. You've had it for a while now."
"Didn't really notice, did you? You two stick together like there's no tomorrow. Look, I'll do this because I want to see you two kids together. Odd as it may look it also looks right. Free favor."
"You mean that?"
"Every word. I'll handle the aesthetic, you handle the poetic… or whatever."
"Give me a day and I'll fish out the most perfect one you've ever seen. Dainty and beautiful, just like the lovely Shelly."
* * *
4 Days to Valentine's Day:
"Shelly! Up and at 'em!"
Still groggy from sleep Shelly raised her head off the pillow. She had been in the middle of the best dream she could ever remember having and Paul's shouts had awakened her from it. She growled low and got to her feet, running her fingers through her hair to tame the wild mess. With evil thoughts directed at her little Brother she walked out of her room towards the kitchen. Paul was already at the table, downing several of the reheated pancakes their Mother had made. Charley appeared with another plateful and looked almost expectantly past her Daughter.
"Rex didn't spend the night?" she asked her as Throttle appeared behind Charley.
That sounded way naughtier than it should have for some reason, Shelly near grinned. "No, he didn't need to. Jack and the others are back from training so he stayed with them."
Still not quite understanding the young leader's reason to need for company at night Charley nodded. "Okay. Oh, by the way, this came for you this morning. It was tacked to the front door."
Shelly took the offered envelope and just looked at it for the longest time. Her name was beautifully scripted on the front. The envelope itself was made of thick paper, slightly frayed at the edges. With slightly trembling fingers she opened it to find a single page of letter paper of the same quality as the envelope. She carefully unfolded it and began to read the elegant script molded there. Song lyrics, but written in such a way that it felt like the writer was speaking them to her. It was just a part of two songs, one verse each, but oh what verses. they spoke volumes.
If I had castles built on high
I'd find a million ways to write your name against the sky
Just to let you know you've caught my eye,
And if I had more than wealth could buy
I'd sell it all and start again for just one chance with you
Girl, I'd give my all to win your love.
In my world, before you,
I lived outside my emotions,
Didn't know where I was going,
'Til the day I found you,
How you opened my life
To a new paradise,
In a world torn by change,
Still with all my heart 'til my dying day.
All my love I send to my Angel sent from above on this fourth day to Valentine's.
There was no name, no little clue or inclination on who the mystery poet was. She smiled, feeling her spirits soar slightly. This could be anyone from the base. There were just so many to choose from. But who out of them would know about Valentine's Day? On this fourth day to… Did this mean she had to expect more like this? Five years on Mars and now someone was trying to win her heart. Could it be Rex? What would she expect next?
* * *
3 Days to Valentine's Day:
Shelly, lying on her stomach on her bed, was still scrutinizing the mysterious note left the previous day, trying to recognize a beautiful handwriting from someone's hand. A gentle knock, just loud enough for her to hear, sounded from the door leading to the outside corridor. She bolted upright at the sound. Hesitantly, cautiously, she went to the door and opened it, half expecting to see Rex, or any one of the Sky-Walkers, standing there.
Puzzled, she looked around. Then, at a thought, she looked to the ground. There was a long box there, a note tagged to the front of it.
A flower box?she wondered. I thought you couldn't pick the flowers on Mars for the next few years.
She picked up the box, noting how much heavier it was than if it had contained flowers. She carried it back to her bed and, sitting in the center of her mattress, she carefully opened the box. Inside, lovingly wrapped in layer upon layer of fine tissue paper, was a dozen long stem crystal roses. She gasped in sheer awe at them glittering in her room's dim light. Her hand trembled from the shock as she took the note and read it.
There's just no rhyme or reason,
Only this sense of completion,
And in your eyes
I see the missing pieces
I'm searching for,
I think I've found my best friend.
Crystal roses to sparkle in my Angel's light,
Their beauty dimmed in your presence,
You, the Universe's most perfect creation,
My beautiful Angel, on this third day to Valentine's.
With infinite care she took these crystal roses out of the box and went in search of something to put them in. Under the kitchen counter she found a number of containers she could use as a vase. She chose a clear glass one for the best effect. She raced back to her room and carefully arranged her gift on her bedside table, then just sat staring at them. They were an intricate bit of work, carving pure crystal into these beautiful creations. Shelly read the card over again and sighed a blissful smile. Whoever her secret admirer was he had a poet's soul to write so beautifully. The chime to her door suddenly sounded, breaking through her daydream. She was met by Amber Maverick when she opened the door.
"Hey, the Sky-Walkers are planning a raid on Strain's tent. Want to watch?" the young Mouse grinned.
She smirked. "Sure, gimme a sec." and she began to search for a warmer sweater.
Ashes walked in the room and immediately spied the crystal roses. "Wow! Who sent you those?"
"Don't know. Yesterday is was this real romantic note. Today it's this."
"Oo, secret admirer. The best kind. Does Rex know?"
"No. I figure if I tell him he'll go hunting for the guy, whoever it may be and carve a new face for him." and they left the room.
"Hey, his loss for not doing this sort of this himself, right?"
"I guess. Who else is going to watch the raid?"
"Ashes, Luke, and Paul so far."
"You know Paul and Luke don't get along."
"I know, but I really like Luke. He's just so sweet."
"To you maybe."
"Paul keeps telling me that Luke does everything possible to belittle him. I know Paul would never lie to me, but I just don't want to believe it. Luke's just too perfect."
Shelly shrugged. "I'm afraid one of these days you'll have to make the choice: Keep the love you have or choose the one guy who's always been there no matter what."
"Argh! The woes of dating!" she wailed.
Shelly just chuckled. They arrived at the top of a red rock cliff where Paul, Ashes and Luke already were, peering over the edge at the happenings below. A number of tents had been pitched inside this cavern. All the occupants were military. As a rule both General Carbine and General Strain had insisted on tents for their men to keep them tough and sharp. Depriving them of usual luxuries such as real beds and four walls between each bed was one of the best methods they could find.
Far below, silently making their way between rows of tents undetected by the sentries, was a small grouping of Sky-Walker warriors. The usual four who made mischief aimed at Strain. Rex SkyWalker, Ripper Jack, Nightstalk, and Sliver. They crept along towards one tent and encircled it. From either side of it Nightstalk and Sliver ducked under the heavy canopy to begin their search for anything they could get their hands on. As if on cue there was a raging shout from inside the tent and, laughing, the four Sky-Walkers began to run, but not before cutting the ties holding the tent up. The figure now buried under the canopy struggled wildly to get free was the Sky-Walkers ran for one of the cave walls, climbing quickly to the cliff edge where their friends were waiting and laughing. They ducked out of sight over the edge of the cliff and, for the moment, just laughed wildly.
"I have never seen him more raged!" Nightstalk managed to say over his fit.
"You know, chances are he'll come hunting for us this time." Jack added.
"No one alive can catch a Sky-Walker." Rex affirmed.
"But he might come huntin' for us for what ah snatched." From his pocket he pulled out a white silk item bunched into a ball. He dangled it from his fingers in plain sight, revealing it to be the top of a silk teddy. "Now who do you suppose this little thing belongs to, hm?" he grinned slyly.
Rex was almost busting a gut from reigning in his laughter. "How much trouble will I get into if I say it's his?" he chortled.
Shelly snatched the item away from Sliver and examined it. "Hun, didn't know Carbine had such refined tastes." she grinned.
Sliver began to grin almost menacingly. "Can't be that refined if she's eatin' loin of Strain."
"Sliv, you're crude!" she accused. He merely winked and she sighed in surrender. She looked at the item again. "Doesn't look worn."
Nightstalk raised an eyebrow. "So?"
"So, I don't think he gave it to her yet."
"A nightie as a gift?" Luke queried in puzzlement.
Amber grinned knowingly. "Of course. It a girl thing. Mind you, no one on this planet can beat the present Shell got today."
"Amber!" Shelly exclaimed in warning.
Rex looked at her in what she could best describe as shock. "What? What present?"
She had a long hesitation. "Crystal roses." she finally mumbled.
"I don't know." Then she gave him her best menacing grin. "But whoever it is, he's steadily winning ground away from you, Sky King."
He grinned, almost too confidently, at her. "We'll just see about that."
* * *
2 Days to Valentine's Day:
Two days ago she had received a simple, yet romantic note. The day after it had been a dozen long stem roses carved out of crystal with a short, romantic note. Shelly was almost afraid to see what would arrive today. Each time the front door's chime would ring she would jump slightly, her heart beginning to race. Sometime that afternoon the third gift arrived. It was wrapped in an immaculate white cloth, a wide blue ribbon and bow holding everything in place. A card came attached to it. Charley carried this latest mystery offering to her Daughter in slight awe.
"Gift number three." she announced to the occupants of the living room.
Shelly could barely move. Throttle leaned forward a little to be able to see what this latest arrival would be. Paul leaned over the back of the couch to watch as his Mother handed over the parcel, then went to sit next to her Mouse lover. With only the slightest hesitation in her movements, Shelly carefully unwrapped the parcel. Everyone held their breath. She opened the box and gasped loudly at the sight, Paul nearly falling over from what he saw.
"What is it?" Throttle thought to ask.
Shelly turned the box towards him and her Mother, showing them the contents. It was the most intricately designed necklace of white and blue crystals. The settings couldn't even be seen, nor the metal holding them all in place. A pair of matching earrings was also included.
"Oh, my God!" Charley gasped in amazement.
"Whoa!" Throttle breathed.
The stunned girl opened the card and read it to herself.
Baby, to me you're everything,
It's just the love and joy that you bring,
Nothing can take the place I've given you,
You're like an angel in disguise,
You are the dream that never will die,
'Cause, Baby, to me you're everything.
A stunning gift for a stunning Angel,
White stones for the purity of your heart and soul,
Blue stones to match the inspiring depth of your eyes,
Though both are dulled in your presence,
This, on the second day 'til Valentine's.
A giddy grin crept across her face. Whoever her Valentine was he was winning her heart with each passing day. Then the grin vanished suddenly.
What am I thinking? No, don't even go there. You love Rex, you know it, you dream about it each night. Whoever this Casanova is can just forget it. Accept the gifts, 'cause that's what they are, gifts. But don't give him your heart in exchange.
* * *
1 Day to Valentine's Day:
"There you are! I've been looking all day and all over the base for you." Gentry exclaimed in near exasperation. Shelly turned to see him half-jogging towards her down the corridor, a neat bundle tucked under his arm. He took her arm as he passed, heading for her quarters. "C'mon, I want to see if I got the measurements right."
"What? Gentry!" and she pulled free of his grasp.
He stopped and turned to her. "Look, girl, I've been sworn to secrecy here on who commissioned this present for you, but I also wasn't allowed to come take your measurements for it or you would've been tipped off."
"Present? Another one?"
"What do you mean, another one?"
"Well, three days ago it was a romantic note, two days ago it was crystal roses and a note, yesterday is was an incredible necklace and earring set with a note, and today it's whatever you have. A dress?"
"Well, yes. All your admirer told me was that it was for you and gave me creative freedom. Knowing you were the intended gave me a few ideas of how it should look like."
"And knowing what an awesome tailor you are it must be incredible." she grinned.
He blushed, honored. "So, you want to see it or are we gonna gab about it out here forever?"
She grinned and grabbed his arm, tugging him all the way back to the Davidson's quarters. They ran passed a stunned Charley into Shelly's bedroom. Once there Gentry opened the package tucked under his arm and, with a theatrical flourish, draped it out into sight. Both Shelly and Charley, standing chaperon at the door, gasped in wonder.
"Oh, Gentry, it's absolutely beautiful!" Charley breathed.
The effeminate Sky-Walker beamed proudly. "My best work ever."
Shelly could barely breath at the sight of it. It was of a blue that nearly rivaled the color of her eyes. The bodice was made of the softest velvet. The skirt was made of a satin like material, that fell straight, with a slit running all the way up one side and the sleeve were of the lightest diaphanous gauze cuffed in satin. An intricate pattern was laid out on the bodice in a multitude of white crystals. She could barely bring herself to touching this incredible creation.
"Try it on." Gentry urged her.
"Well, it is yours. And this is me we're talking about. No female body on this planet could turn my head, dressed or not."
She smirked. "You're too interested in Jag's body."
"Damn straight." he smiled with a wink. "And your Mom's here if that's any extra consolation."
"For me, yes. For her…" and they looked at Charley.
She smiled slightly at them both. "I'll let you know." She helped her Daughter change out of her sweater and jeans and into the dress, moving back to let Gentry make the final adjustments on his masterpiece. "You look beautiful, Sweetheart."
"Thank, Mom. Gentry, it fits incredibly."
He smirked as he did up the zipper in the back of the bodice. "Not bad for someone who guessed at the measurements. Now, turn." She did so. "Mm, yeah, okay, it's not too, too tight. Just tight enough in all the right places. Hair and make-up is all that's left to do."
"No time like the present. Sit and I'll take care of that."
Shelly giggled. "You almost think I was at Tiffany's for all the glitz and glamour I'm being treated to."
* * *
1 Day to Valentine's Day:
Gentry took a step back in satisfaction and admired his work. "There. Perfection, if I do say so myself."
Shelly looked herself over in the mirror and a smile crept across her face in sheer wonder. Wow! This is me? she wondered at the sight of this person staring back at her.
He grinned at her obvious awe. "Pretty good, aren't I?"
"Understatement, Gentry. Just…"
"Well, I don't want to seem like I'm going out of my way to impress the guy whenever I get the chance to meet him. Whoever he is he's real sweet, but…"
"But he's not Rex?" he grinned lopsidedly. Shelly just blushed. "Well, when you get the chance tell your Romeo that and then send him my way."
"But what about Jag?"
"Threesome. Mind you, I don't know who'd have more fun. The mystery guy, Jag, or me."
She smirked. "I don't know who's worse, you or Sliver."
Movement caught her eye from behind him. An envelope was being slipped under her door. She bolted from her chair and rushed to open the door in hopes of catching a glimpse of just who her secret admirer really was. The corridor was empty. No one was about. She sighed at a loss and tuned back to the envelope sitting on the ground. In the beautiful script, she had grown so fond of seeing, her name was scrawled across the front of the envelope. She picked it up and carefully opened it to read the note.
"What's it say?" Gentry asked almost breathlessly.
"It's a riddle."
"I think they're directions on how to get… someplace. God, all this secrecy is enough to make a girl's head spin. It says: Follow all these simple clues, To chase away your Valentine blues, This is where we all gather, Morning, noon, and evening or other, A communal hall for one and all's meeting, A place also used for eating."
"Communal hall? Meeting and eating?"
"That must be where your next clue is. I'm going with you though. This is just too romantic for me not to follow."
"Be my guest."
"Oh, wait." She watched him go to her dresser and retrieve her other gifts, securing the necklace around her neck as she put on the earrings. "And the final touch." He handed her one of the crystal roses. "Now you're ready to wow him."
She giggled and led the slight jog to the base's main cafeteria. The workings of a grin continued to tug at the corners of her lips at the reactions of the male Mice to her as she passed. She turned many heads. They got to the vast chamber and stopped just within the door. Only a small handful of Mice were gathered here and there, talking low among themselves.
"Where do you suppose clue number two is hidden?" she asked the effeminate Sky-Walker.
He was going to answer when both spotted Throttle sitting with Charley not far away, waiving an envelope at them to gain their attention. They made their way between the tables to him. He was grinning coyly when he handed Shelly the envelope.
"Your second clue, Shelly." was all he stated.
"Wait, then you know who's doing all this?"
"Yup, but he swore me to secrecy. Personally, I think you'll have more fun figuring it out yourself."
"You're no help." she near frowned. She opened the letter and read the note aloud. "Base is body, Body is base, Time to get to the heart of this place. Base is body? Heart of this place… the heart… the heart is the powerhouse of the body… body is base… the body is like the base… The base's power plant!" and she took off at a run, Gentry close behind her.
"She's good." Throttle grinned as he watched them go, then turned to Charley. "You sure you're okay with letting her go?"
She sighed. "Yeah, I guess so. Can't really stop her."
"You do know what's probably going to happen tonight when she finally meets up with him?"
"I'm going to have to get used to the idea of someday becoming a Grandmother, aren't I?"
"The most beautiful Grandmother on Mars." he grinned.
* * *
1 Day to Valentine's Day:
Mars Arisa Base I's mighty power generators hummed with energy as the massive turbines spun away. The occasional static charge would arc brightly in the chamber's dim light, but apart from that the room was relatively quiet as Shelly and Gentry walked in.
"Power's on, but nobody's home." he quipped.
She elbowed his ribs gently in chiding. "See anything that looks like a note?"
Shelly frowned to herself as she examined the place. Where could he have hidden it? She approached one of the control consoles and scanned its surface. There is was. "Gentry! I found it!" she called to her Mouse companion. He arrived at her side just as she opened it. "5-6-2-4-9, Be patient, Love, it's almost time, Call to the stars and across the void with your voice of gold, Here you are no longer just one among the hundreds to behold, But one among the billions to hear, The smallest of voices becomes the giant's cheer."
"He's got a flare for imagery, that's for certain. Any ideas?"
"Sounds like communications to me."
"Good enough place to try."
* * *
1 Day to Valentine's Day:
"No note." Gentry voiced, his head poking out from under a console.
"There has to be one." she protested.
"Read the other one again, maybe we missed something."
"5-6-2-4-9, Be patient, Love, it's almost time, Call to the stars and across the void with your voice of gold, Here you are no longer just one among the hundreds to behold, But one among the billions to hear, The smallest of voices becomes the giant's cheer."
"5-6-2-4-9. That sounds like computer code to me."
"Worth a try." Shelly approached one of the consoles and punched in the series of numbers. The machine whirred to life, printing up a sheet of paper with information unseen on any displays. She took it and read. "Here we go."
"I'll keep you warm with more than just fire, It's almost time for you to witness my desire, A gaping mouth in a face, But not just any place, To finally know who loves you so, Level two is the place to go, This is the place you need to be, Follow the map to come to me."
"That one left absolutely no openings for interpretation. He wants you to find this place without mistakes."
"Gaping mouth… an open air cave?"
"Sounds like. I'm gonna let you go the rest of the way on your own. Doubt your Romeo wants to see another rooster in the hen house,… um, as it were."
"I don't know about this…"
"Look, he's gone to this much trouble. If it were me I know I'd be real disappointed if the target of my affection never showed up after all this. At least meet the guy and turn him down easy if it's not who you're expecting."
Shelly sighed, then smiled. "You're right. I mean, what do I have to lose, right?"
"Right. Who knows, might just be whom you're hoping for. So, you go have fun and I expect to hear all the gory details. I'll bring Amber and the popcorn."
She chuckled. "You have yourself a deal."
* * *
1 Minute to Valentine's Day
A soft yellow orange glow shone at the end of the narrow tunnel, flickering in intensity. Fire light. She paused at the middle of the tunnel and gave herself a quick once over. Everything looked fine until she got to her feet. She frowned and mentally kicked herself.
Ugh! Shelly! Sneakers? What were you thinking? You weren't thinking, that's what.She kicked off her shoes, stuffing her socks into her sneakers, then continued down the cold sanded corridor. Next time, think slippers. She came to the end of the tunnel and gasped in shock at the sight. "Oh, my God!" she breathed.
* * *
He looked to the sound of her voice and his heart skipped a painful beat in his chest. She was absolutely stunning. She was a goddess made flesh, a piece of the brightest star in the Universe brought to life. He truly believed he could go blind just staring at her from the shadows. Gentry had done his job perfectly.
* * *
The cave was small in surface, a good half of it open to the cold Martian night. The small, bright fire burning in a corner of the cave was all that was needed though to cut through the bitter cold, casting a low golden light to see by. The black velvet of night was already draped across the sky, bejeweled with a multitude of crystal like stars. Well away from the fire were assembled a mountain of some of the largest pillows Shelly had seen on Mars. At their base, chilling in a bucket of ice, was a bottle. The label was written in Martian, therefore unreadable to her. A note lay on one of the pillows, her name once again written in the beautiful script. She picked it up, careful so as not to disturb the arrangement of pillows, and read its contents. There were only four words scrawled on the inside: Turn around, Sweet Angel. She frowned slightly in confusion, but did as was written only to come face-to-face with the one Mouse she hadn't expected, but had hoped would be there. He was wearing his usual black jeans, boots, bandana and hard leather wrist guards, but now favored a thick dark red sweater instead of his regular striped shirt.
Shelly blinked. "Rex?"
He smiled enticingly. "Happy Valentine's Day, Shell." he stated softly.
Her breath almost caught in her throat as realization began to dawn on her. "You… You did all this?"
He shrugged casually, still grinning. "I hear it's a nice little Earth custom."
Tears began to brim her eyes as a smile spread across her face. "You're the absolute best." she told him as she threw her arms around his neck to hold him tight, her face buried in the crook of his neck. He cradled her body close, with more warmth and tenderness than she ever remembered him giving. It spoke to her more than any words could have. She sighed and pressed closer to him, letting him crush her tight. "Didn't think you knew about Valentine's Day." she sniffed softly, pulling back to look at him as silent tears traced salty trails down her cheeks.
With light fingers he wiped away her tears with a grin. "I had a crash course. You just looked so depressed a few days ago. I had to do something to bring back your smile."
A light chuckle escaped her throat. "You're a hopeless romantic too, you know that?"
"Tell that to anyone and I'll deny it." he smirked.
"Fine with me." she grinned. "That just means I'll have you all to myself." She looked around the small chamber with awe in her eyes. "I still can't believe all the trouble you went through to do all this."
"No trouble at all, since you were the goal." he breathed, nuzzling the back of her ear gently.
A tremor shook her frame slightly. She turned back to him, a stunning smile on her lips, a seductive look in her eyes. "Have I told how much I love you?"
He smiled coyly. "Not lately." he quipped.
"Oh, well, let me make amends to you then." and she raised up on her toes to place a light and teasing kiss on his lips.
He smirked a small frown. "You'll have to do better than that, Babe."
"I plan to." she smiled sweetly.
Rex chuckled and, holding her hands, took a step back away from her. "Let me get a good look at you." His deep pink eyes took her in from head to toe in sheer admiration and adoration. "By the Goddess, you're beautiful!" he breathed just loud enough for her to hear.
She had the grace to blush. "I have you to thank for that. These last two gift were just so incredible."
"Gentry did the designs, I just approved them."
"Well, you have impeccable tastes." she grinned.
He grinned and gently lifted her chin. "The proof: I have you, My Angel."
A pleasant shiver raced up her spine, a sweet smile decorating her lips as he indicated for her to sit on the massive mound of pillows. Then, when she was comfortably seated with him at her side, "Why is it you always call me your angel?" she asked gently.
He smiled slightly, shyly. "Angel's are said to be beautiful beings of light that give life. I was walking the fine edge between life and death when I met you. Innocence never hung around long enough to be worth much in Briar Rose. Death walked hand in hand with everyone, it was an everyday thing. But then you just appeared as if out of a dream. You still had the innocence I had lost, the innocence of a child that I had been denied. Somehow, in you I found the will, a reason to keep living. You gave me life, helped me enjoy it, you taught me to laugh. You are my light. You gave me life." He chuckled softly. "And I can never say enough of how beautiful you are." His eyes then saddened as he looked at his hands holding hers. "After everything you saw me do, why you still chose to be with me…" and he shook his head at a loss.
Shelly touched his cheek gently. "What you did is what you've always done to survive. I can't blame you for wanting to live or how you live. I saw your world. That's the only way to survive. When we first met at Briar Rose you terrified me, I'll admit that. This was my first time on Mars and I was still trying to get used to Martians. You came on too strong."
He sighed. "I'm sorry about that."
"Couldn't be helped. You told me yourself a few weeks ago, that's how things were done there. Grow up and live fast because you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. That was the motto you lived with. But you want to know what's going to happen tomorrow?"
He raised his eyes to hers and waited.
She smiled beautifully. "Tomorrow, I'm going to wake up in the arms of the man who makes me feel like I'm the most special girl on the planet. I choose to be with you because I got used to having you around." She smiled playfully. "Whether I wanted you around or not." This got him to smile. "I got used to you as a friend and along the way we crossed the line to the next stage without realizing it. You are a part of me, a part that I'd easily die without."
His eyes glistened with emotion as he listened to her, his heart soaring. "Should've written all that down." she suddenly voiced with an impish grin as he began hunting for something under the pillows.
He sat up with the object of his search hidden in his fist. An almost goofy grin was now plastered across his face. "Would've made for great wedding vows."
She felt a hard beat of her heart at his words. "Wed--… What…?"
His eyes looked at his closed fist and her eyes followed. He hesitated for a moment, a moment that felt like a lifetime, then slowly unfolded his hand. Shelly watched his beautiful fingers unfold away from his palm carefully, almost unsure of what to expect. The firelight reflected off the gold of a thin band laying in his palm, a bright stone in the shape of a heart sparkling in the dimness. She gasped in pure surprise, her hand instinctively going to cover her mouth.
"It's another Earth custom I found out about." he told her, briefly meeting her eyes with a shy smile.
The shock caused her to tremble, her breath refusing to come easy. Slowly, gently, he took her left hand and slipped the band on her ring finger. He could feel her trembling. Actually, he wasn't sure if it was him or her trembling so much. His heart was racing at what felt to be a million miles a second. He was afraid to look up and see her reaction. He took a deep bracing breath and raised his eyes to hers. There was the reaction he had hoped for. A smile on her lips that reached her eyes, a smile that was swimming with a look of acceptance and anticipation. This gave him the strength he was looking for to ask his question.
"Shelly, this is the hardest thing for me to ask of you since, if you accept, you'll be placing yourself at even more risk than now."
She touched his cheek gently, her hand still trembling for her initial shock. "Ask me." she prompted, her voice a near hush.
He blinked once, holding her hand tight. "Become the Lady of the Lady? Be my Lady, my wife?"
A beautiful smile appeared on her lips and, for a moment, he truly believed he was staring at a real angel. Her hand gently and tenderly caressed his cheek, but there was no look of indecision or debate in those liquid blue eyes.
If it hadn't been for the quiet of the chamber he might not have heard her whispered answer. It took a split second for her answer to fully register in his mind. Then it finally hit full force. With an almost giddy laugh he pulled her tight against himself, crushing her as close as he dared, falling to the pillows. Tears threatened to spill from his eyes so much he was happy. For her part Shelly had given up trying to hold back her own tears. She buried her face in the thick knit of his sweater collar, holding him just as tight. She suddenly began to laugh and he pulled back slightly to see what was making her do so.
"Sorry, I can't help it." she laughed.
He smiled. "What're you thinking?"
"Of Mom's face when we spring the news on her." She faced him. "She doesn't know, does she?"
"No, the only one who knows is Gentry and we can trust him with complete and total discretion."
A coy smile touched her lips. "You make it sound like we're going to do something naughty."
"We could." he suggested playfully.
She giggled. "Definitely, we could, but then where would be the adventure of the honeymoon?" She felt him tremble suddenly. "What is it?"
He gave her a lopsided grin. "Thought crime."
She smirked. "Oh. Well, technically, those thoughts aren't a crime anymore." Rex chuckled lightly as Shelly pressed closer to his chest, their arms wrapped tightly around each other. She sighed blissfully. "Life throws us some strange stuff sometimes, but as of late everything couldn't be more perfect." she breathed.
"Glad you think so."
"I do. Don't you?"
He held her tighter, his tail wrapped around her waist, a leg draped over hers casually to keep her close. "With you with me, it will be." and he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.
Shelly smiled and nuzzled his throat lovingly. "My Beloved Valentine." she murmured.
24 February, 2000