Zazzalil sat up abruptly, eyes wide.
On warmer nights like this one when Zazzalil got a good fire going, Zazz and Jemilla had taken to sleeping outside under the stars. It was beautiful and romantic, and their body heat was enough to keep each other warm. Thus, the moment Zazzalil had escaped Jemilla’s tight embrace, Jemilla was jolted out of sleep.
“Babe… can’t sleep… without you,” Jemilla muttered sleepily. Zazzalil would have found this adorable (like everything else her wife did), if she hadn’t been so distracted. No, instead Zazz was thinking about one thing only: The ring that she was now studying on her finger.
In the place between sleeping and waking, Zazzalil often replayed scenes in her mind from the development of her relationship with Jemilla. The two women had only been married for a few weeks (according to the calendars Chorn had revealed to them), and Zazz still couldn’t quite comprehend why Jemilla had wanted to marry her. Sure, she knew Jemilla cared for her, but Zazzalil didn’t know how Jemilla could’ve seen beyond the shithead she had been to someone worth caring for.
When Zazz still didn’t lie back down, Jemilla sighed heavily and sat up, her arm curling around Zazzalil’s waist. She pressed a gentle kiss to Zazzalil’s lips, and was surprised by the uncertainty she saw in the other woman’s eyes. Zazz pulled away and ducked her head.
Fully awake now, Jemilla lifted Zazzalil’s chin to make her look at her. “Zazzy,” she whispered. “Tell me what’s the matter.”
Zazzalil’s eyes were still fixed in disbelief on the ring on her finger. Jemilla followed her gaze and smiled slightly. “Yes, babe, you really are married to me. There’s no going back on it.” When Zazzalil didn’t look up, Jemilla frowned. “You don’t want to go back on it, do you?”
Zazz’s head snapped up in alarm. “No. No, never,” she said firmly, her hand reaching forward to cup Jemilla’s face.
Jemilla sighed in relief. “Well, that’s good.” She scrutinized her wife’s expression. “Then… what is it?”
“The ring,” Zazzalil said finally.
Jemilla raised an eyebrow. “What about it?”
“You… you already had it, before you proposed in front of the tribe,” Zazzalil said quickly, tripping over the words.
Jemilla shook her head in confusion. “What are you talking about?”
“J-Mills, when we were talking about ‘doing it together’ and saving our tribe, you got down to propose, but I stopped you because it wasn’t the right time. I noticed that you had a ring, and I didn’t think anything of it at the time. But now… I realized that you had the ring before I even offered to be your wife,” Zazzalil said in one breath.
Jemilla’s eyes widened, and she blushed a little. “Yes… yes that’s right.”
Zazzalil’s eyebrows furrowed. “But how did you know? How did you know I’d offer?”
“Why did you offer?” Jemilla countered, desperate to change the subject.
It was Zazzalil’s turn to blush. “I needed you to come back to the tribe.”
“There were other things you could have bribed me with,” Jemilla insisted. “Why marriage?”
“You’re changing the subject.”
Zazzalil sighed. “Because… because I loved you and it was easier to propose and pretend it was a bribe than tell you outright.”
Jemilla’s heart hammered in her chest. Yes, they’d thrown around the “love” word over the past few weeks, but for Zazzalil to say it so honestly took her breath away. Jemilla brushed some hair out of her wife’s eyes. “I love you too, Zazz,” she murmured. “So much.”
Zazzalil laughed. “Well, that’s a relief,” she said, lifting Jemilla’s hand and pressing soft kisses to her knuckles. “You still haven’t answered my question.”
“I just had the ring, alright? Babe, I’m always one step ahead.” Jemilla winked and lightly kissed Zazz’s cheek. “Can we go back to sleep now?”
Zazzalil slowly lied down again, pulling Jemilla with her. Zazz didn’t close her eyes, but instead snuggled in close to her wife, inhaling her scent, resting her hand on the other woman’s hip. Jemilla sighed, running her hand up and down Zazzalil’s side.
“Was the ring for me?” Zazzalil asked.
Jemilla’s eyes narrowed. “Who else would it be for?”
“I dunno,” Zazzalil mumbled.
Jemilla stared into her wife’s vulnerable eyes, willing her to speak. “Zazz?” she whispered.
A beat. “I just… I just wondered if maybe you’d planned on proposing to someone else in your tribe – some other physically flawless husband or wife – and had the ring for them,” Zazzalil said in a small voice, before hiding her face in Jemilla’s neck.
Jemilla pulled back, forcing the other woman to look at her. She stared at her wife in disbelief. “Zazz, babe, you’re physically flawless,” she said seriously, skimming her hands over wife’s body. “And of course the ring was for you.”
Zazzalil blushed profusely, biting her lip. “Then how…?”
“I made that ring with Molag when I was a little girl,” Jemilla interrupted. “She told me to give it to my one true partner, my soul mate. When Schwoopsie proposed, I gave her a different ring because she didn’t feel like the right person. With Claire and Clark and all the others, I gave them different rings. I saved that ring for the one person, the only person, that I ever thought could become my one true partner. She was beautiful and spontaneous and brilliant and witty – all qualities I lacked. Unfortunately, I thought she hated me, but I saved the ring for her. I saved it for you, always for you, Zazzalil.”
Zazzalil didn’t know when in Jemilla’s speech she’d started crying, but by the time her wife was through, tears were streaming down her face. Jemilla noticed immediately and reached forward, tenderly brushing them away. “Babe, don’t cry,” Jemilla whispered.
Zazzalil sniffed, before immediately pulling Jemilla in for a sloppy but passionate kiss. Jemilla reciprocated eagerly, slinging one arm around Zazzalil’s waist and using the other to stroke her wife’s damp cheek. When they finally came up for air, they stayed with their foreheads pressed together.
“You saved it… all that time… for me,” Zazzalil stated breathily.
“Yes,” Jemilla murmured, pressing another kiss to her wife’s lips for emphasis. “Now you know.” She smirked slightly. “Don’t let it go to your head.”
Zazzalil was looking at Jemilla with such open adoration that she almost forgot how to breathe. “Too late,” Zazzalil whispered.
Jemilla smiled softly. The women stayed there, gazing at each other silently for a few minutes, before Zazzalil spoke again.
“I meant all that cheesy shit I said before, you know,” Zazzalil began, blushing a little.
Jemilla raised a perfect eyebrow. “Babe, you’ll need to be more specific.”
Zazzalil laughed, an airy sound. “All that ‘it’s always better when you’re by my side’ stuff. I really meant it.”
Jemilla pressed a kiss to Zazzalil’s nose. “So did I.”
Zazzalil smiled but shook her head, playing with a stray lock of Jemilla’s hair. “No, really. It’s the truth, and it always has been. Even when we used to fight, I always felt the most alive when you were around. It was like… all of a sudden you’d walk over and the world would light up and I couldn’t help admiring everything about you. And when you were gone… even when I thought I hated you… I just felt so empty.” Zazzalil looked away in embarrassment. “That was some sappy romantic bullshit.”
Jemilla shook her head immediately. “No I love it. I love you,” she said, pulling Zazzalil in for another searing kiss.
“Love you too,” Zazzalil whispered when they broke away. She sighed. “It sure took us a while to get our shit together.”
Jemilla laughed, stroking Zazzalil’s cheek. “Good thing that now you and I are together.”
Zazzalil smiled, feeling the happiest she’d ever felt. “Forever,” she said.