After the cyberwarriors are taken care of, Deacon and Fiddlestix enjoy one another’s company. Jasper wakes them the next day, calling them for a meeting.
After a short explanation, a sharp slap and a brief apology, he got her some clothing.
“Next time you visit, I promise to have clothes in your size for you to wear,” he smiled as he watched her dress.
“You know, I didn’t like you much when we first met,” Fiddlestix told him. “But damn if you didn’t grow on me.”
“Kind of like a fungus?” He winked. “You should marry me, Hannah-Belle. I’d make you mighty happy.”
“That’s just the sex talking, Deacon. You don’t want me. I’m a soldier, not a wife.”
“I don’t want just a wife, Hannah. I want someone who will stand beside me and help me lead, like my mama and grand-mama before her. Our women don’t take second place, they’re equal to their mates. Think about it, Hannah. The offer’s open.”
“Thanks, Deacon. I will.”
“I’m serious,” he told her, taking her hands in his. “I’ve never met a woman I wanted more than you. Stay with me, Hannah. Forget the Army. Stay here with me.” His kiss was compelling, inviting her to forget everything else.
“I can’t,” she whispered. “This is who I am, Deacon.”
“But you could be so much more.”
Dropping the subject because he could see it made her uncomfortable, he led her to the main gathering area. It was a huge auditorium lined with benches, set up like an amphitheater. They walked to the base of the steps. Deacon held out his arm to her, walking beside her up the stairs. Her soldiers were already gathered on the huge stage, Harmony and Kaz in the forefront. Deacon escorted her to the head of the line, walking to the center of the stage.
Holding up his hands, he signaled for quiet. The chatting and whispering stopped and almost complete silence fell. Fiddlestix was impressed. She had never seen a quieter, more orderly crowd.
“We are gathered here today to honor those who came to our aid. Let us rejoice that our home is once more safe and secure!”
Wild cheering filled the room, echoing off the metal lined walls. Deacon let it continue a few moments, then held up his hands once more. Silence fell again.
“For bravery in combat, and continuing to fight even though he was sorely wounded, The Fire Star goes to Corporal Walter Kazinski of the United States Army.”
Kaz limped forward, one arm in a sling. His bruised face was wreathed in a happy grin. Betsy stood by his side, supporting him. Deacon put the medal around his neck. It hung from a red and gold ribbon. They exchanged a complicated handshake and Kaz stood to one side.
“From now on, Walter Kazinski also holds the rank of Guard Sergeant in the Shine Clan Militia.”
Fiddlestix knew that Guard Sergeant was equivalent to her rank and was more than just an honorary position. If Kaz ever returned to live with the Shine Clan, his orders would be honored and followed like any other officer’s.
“For bravery in the face of the enemy, and his assistance in shutting down the enemy soldiers, The Silver Star goes to Private Steven Harmony.”
Harmony strutted forward and was given his medal on a blue and silver ribbon. He took his place beside Kaz.
“Private Harmony now holds the rank of Lance Corporal in the Shine Clan Militia.
“Finally, for bravery, courage under fire, tenacity, and ingenuity, the Shine Clan Golden Star goes to Master Sergeant Hannah Braun.”
Wild cheers exploded around the auditorium as the gold and white ribbon slid over her head. The Shine Clan members were only marginally louder than Fiddlestix’ own soldiers. Even when Deacon held his hands up for silence, it was several minutes before quiet descended again.
When everyone finally settled down, Deacon continued. “As an additional honor, Hannah has been awarded a captaincy in the Shine Clan Militia. Also, the Clan adopts her as one of its own. From now on, Hannah, you are a member of our family, second to none.”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes