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For Love & Country

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Ashlyn slowly slides her saber into the sheath and lets out a breath. “Ready.”

“Damn, sis, you look...wow...”

“Bubba, you’re almost getting freaky with the gushing,” she teases.

“Sorry. I just...I mean, you looked so striking on your graduation day but now with the sword and stuff...well, I guess I just never pictured you cleaning up like this.” He gives her a smile. “I’m damn proud of you for serving and for marrying such a wonderful woman. You’re my hero, sis.”

Ashlyn pulls her brother into a hug. He had never been so honest with her before. “I love you, Chris.”

“I love you, too, Ash.”

“So you all set, GI Jane?” Whitney asks as she and Ashlyn’s childhood best friends Liz and Jess walk in the room.

The siblings pull apart. “I believe so,” Ashlyn replies. Her three friends stare at her, jaws agape. “What’s wrong? Do I have something in my teeth? Why’re you staring at me like that?”

“It’s just...you look so...damn, Ash,” Liz tries to explain.

Chris chuckles. “Yeah, that’s what I told her. She cleans up pretty good.”

“I’ll say,” Whitney agrees.

“Still half expected to see her in board shorts,” Jess says as the group chuckles.

They talk and tease for a few more minutes until the wedding coordinator pops her head into the room.

Ladies and gentleman, we’re ready for you to take your place at the altar. Ashlyn takes a deep breath.

“Well...this is it.” She swallows hard, her eyes suddenly terrified.

“What’s going on in there, Ash?” Whitney asks.

“What if she changes her mind?” she asks weakly.

Jess chuckles. “Not a chance, Ash. Not a damn chance. Let’s get this show on the road.”

The group heads outside to get into position. As they exit the building, Ash places her beret on. For her former teammates and for most of her family, this is their first chance to see her in her uniform. As she walks up the aisle, more than one person stops her to shake her hand and comment on how sharp she looks. When she gets to the front, her grandmother stands and pulls her into a tight hug.

“You look so handsome, little one. I am so, so proud of you. I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” she eases back and stares into her grandmother’s wise eyes. “I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without you, Grandma.”

Ashlyn gives her a kiss on the cheek then helps her sit back down. She then takes her place with her maid of honor, Whitney, right beside her.

“Uh, Whit, I should have asked this sooner,” she mumbles as the music starts, “but you did remember the ring right?”

“Yep. Put it in the safe in my hotel room so I wouldn’t lose it. It’ll be safe until you need it.”

Ashlyn slowly turns and gives her an incredulous look. Whit breaks into a grin.

“Gotcha. It’s in Chris’ pocket since I thought it would be uncouth to hide it in my bra.”

Ashlyn rolls her eyes. “You suck.” She removes her white gloves and hands them to Chris. “Try not to drop these, bro,” she says with a wink as he slips them into one of his pockets.

The two turn their attention to the patio doors that are being opened to allow Ali’s escorts to begin their walk down the aisle.


 

Deb clenches her hands together as Kyle steps back from his sister. “Oh, Alex! You look so...oh, my sweet girl.”

Ali smiles as she studies herself in the mirror. “I’m a princess,” she whispers.

“Damn right, girl,” Kyle agrees. “Ashlyn’s sword won’t be the only hard weapon by her leg when she sees you.”

“KYLE!” his mother and sister scold as he just giggles.

Deb rolls her eyes. “Ignore him, honey. You look so beautiful.”

“Wow! Ali you are gorgeous!” Rylie Rampone gushes as she walks in with her mother.

“Looking great, Kriegs. Ash is going to be blown away,” Christie agrees.

Ali grins and squats down to be on level with Rylie. “You look beautiful, Rylie. You’ll be the prettiest flower girl ever.”

Rylie smiles proudly. “Thanks, Ali.” She holds up her basket. “I got my petals to drop for you to walk on.”

“Perfect! You are all set to go. I think the only thing left for me is my headpiece and we’ll be ready to get the show going.” The 6 year old nods in agreement.

Ali stands and turns back to her brother. “Got it?”

Kyle nods and lifts up the silver and crystal headpiece and carefully secures it to the locks he had styled. He nods when he is done.

“Perfect. A tiara for the princess. Ashlyn should be amused by that.”

“Definitely,” Ali grins.

Just then Ken Krieger walks in with the bridesmaids. “Well, ladies, it’s time.” He smiles and takes Ali’s hands. “You look amazing, sweetheart. Ashlyn is a very lucky woman.”

Christie looks at her daughter. “See you at the end of the ceremony.” She kisses her on the head. “Be good.”


 

Ashlyn is sure a flock of butterflies the size of pterodactyls have taken flight in her stomach. She forces herself to breathe as she watches Ali’s 3 bridesmaids and Kyle walk down the aisle. She (and everyone) chuckle as Rylie Rampone starts down the aisle, realizes all eyes are on her, and freezes. For the normally outgoing little girl, it is a surprising turn of stage fright. Ashlyn steps out into the aisle and squats down.

“Come on, Rylie,” she encourages. “Just like running to me on the field.”

Rylie slowly looks around then takes off for the keeper at a sprint. She throws herself into Ashlyn’s arms.

“I gotcha, Squirt. How about tossing a few of those petals for Ali?”

Rylie looks down at her basket and then just dumps all the petals right there at the aisle to the amusement of everyone. Ashlyn looks her in the eyes and nods.

“Perfect.” She gives her a kiss on the forehead. “How about go standing with Kyle now?”

Rylie nods and runs over to partially hide behind Kyle, who just pats her on the head with a smile. Ashlyn stands up and retakes her position, her eyes trained on the now closed doors. A moment later the familiar strains of “Here Comes the Bride” start and the doors are opened. As the blonde gets her first look at the brunette she can only shake her head.

“She is even more beautiful than I imagined,” she whispers. Her dimple is on full display as she smiles at her soon to be wife coming down the aisle.

For her part, Ali shivers when she sees her wife standing in her dress blues, sword at her side, looking more beautiful than ever. Everyone can see the women only have eyes for each other. For the brides, the entire ceremony seems to go by in a blur. And then the ultimate moment.

“I now pronounce you wife and wife,” the minister concludes. “You may kiss your bride.”

Ali and Ashlyn come together in a sweet, heartfelt kiss as everyone claps. As they had kissed, 6 officers from Ashlyn’s OCS class had assembled at the far end of the aisle. As the recessional begins, Ashlyn turns and gets her white gloves back from Chris and pulls them on. As the newlyweds start up the aisle, the officers at the back pull their swords to create the sabre arch. As they pass the second pair, the final pair drops their swords. Ashlyn smiles and kisses her bride once more. The swords are lifted and as they couple passes out, the officer on Ali’s side gives her a swat on the butt with the flat of his blade.

“Welcome to the Army, Mrs. Harris,” he calls out.

Ali laughs, glad Ashlyn had warned her of this tradition. “Proud to be here, Lieutenant Spears,” she replies.


 

After having a little time to themselves, the newlyweds are officially announced as they arrive at the reception.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Lieutenant and Mrs. Harris.”

Everyone claps and cheers as the couple enters the reception hall. From first dance to the toasts to the cutting of the cake with Ashlyn’s sabre, it is a wedding to remember. And the smiles never leave the faces of the brides and their guests.

As they prepare to leave, Ali stares into her wife’s eyes. “This has been the day I’ve always dreamed of, made even better by being here with someone better than I ever imagined.”

Ash gives her a tender kiss. “I never dreamed of anything like this. You, Princess, have given me more than I ever knew I deserved. Thank you for loving me, Alex.”

The two share a deeper kiss, only broken up when Pinoe walks in, a devilish grin on her face. “Well, ladies, your chariot awaits. We made sure it is ready for you.”

Ashlyn glares at her friend. “What did you do to my Jeep, Pinoe?”

Pinoe spins around and walks out, whistling innocently.

“I’m going to kill her,” Ashlyn mumbles.

Ali just chuckles. “Really? Did you expect anything less from them? I mean, come on.”

Ashlyn rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “I guess not. Ready to see what they’ve done?”

The two finally exit the building. Attendees throw birdseed to send the couple off. Ashlyn comes to a halt when she sees her Jeep. Balloons are tied to the roll bar, signs are draped around the sides giving not subtle suggestions for the honeymoon.

“Oh, my god,” Ali mumbles, “is that a dildo taped to the hood?”

“Yes...yes, it is,” Ashlyn mutters.

Tied to the bumper are cleats donated by all their teammates. The newlyweds exchange a look, then start to laugh. Nope, they expected nothing less. Ashlyn walks her bride over. Abby opens the passenger door and helps Ash get Ali up in the seat. Ashlyn jogs around to the driver’s side hops in. She stands up and addresses their friends and family.

“Thank you all for a day Alex and I will never forget. We love you all and are so happy you shared this day with us. Drive safely home. Time for me to go get to work trying to knock up my wife.”

Everyone laughs as Ali blushes and drags Ash down into her seat.

“Drive, woman, before you are divorced on your wedding day,” Ali threatens with a grin.

Ash gives her a peck on the cheek and then drives off to the hotel where they will begin the rest of their life together.