Colonel Sevkha Z'oskho, like all Dehmos, had flesh-toned skin, ridges that lay flat on his temples and the bridge of his nose, but had no markings, as many other races did.
He had short medium brown hair. A gentle bear of a man, he was quite tall, 6'5", extremely muscular, with six-pack abs and a chestful of hair. At 38 years of age, he had a physique that could take your breath away.
He was second-in-command on the starship Burkha, and was a widower. His wife and children had been killed eight years earlier in a robbery.
One evening, the Admiral told him to come to the Ready Room for a meeting.
After a few minutes of pleasantries, the Admiral got down to the main reason for the meeting.
“Our war with the D'Sahri ended one month ago. We're now allies with them. To bolster the new alliance, our Empire has decided to have several of our single, widowed and divorced warriors marry some of their citizens.
“We're having a Choosing Event next week. You're on the list to be matched with a woman. You'll be leaving tomorrow for Dehmo to choose your new bride. A brief ceremony will take place then.
”You'll be on Dehmo for a week. It's a gift from the Empire to the couples. Everyone gets a pleasant week-long honeymoon.”, the Admiral explained.
“WHAT?”, Sevkha asked, shocked. He couldn't believe his ears.
“You heard me. You, along with other brave warriors, will be choosing and marrying D'Sahri women. Congratulations, Sevkha!”
“Admiral, I'm perfectly fine with how my life, including my love life, is at the moment. I'm fine with being celibate. Do I or any of the other warriors have any say-so in this?”, he asked.
”No...no you don't. Neither do the other warriors on the list or the women. We have to do everything we can to make sure this alliance stays strong.
”Sevkha, for the record, this is not to be a marriage in name only. This is to be a real marriage, just in case you were possibly thinking otherwise.”, the Admiral told him.
“Wonderful.”, he replied sourly.
“The last thing I want to do, besides marrying a complete stranger, is having to be intimate with her and having children by her. I don't want to remarry, Admiral. Is there any way I can be taken off the list?“
“I'm sorry, Sevkha. You'll be alright. The two of you will grow to love each other. Just give it time, Son.” ******************************************************************************************
Sevkha returned to his cabin. Plopping down on his couch, he thought good and hard about his conversation with the Admiral.
“I'm not looking forward to marrying anyone, but I've got my orders so...I guess I'm getting married.
”I'm sure whomever I choose, if I even actually end up choosing someone, will be nervous about being married off to me and having to live among us, knowing that just one month ago our races were at war with each other, and knowing how badly we beat them.
“Who knows? Maybe she lost a loved one in the war.
“Despite everything, I'm a military officer, so I'll do what I have to do, just as she'll do what she has to do. I'll never love her, but I'll always be kind to her. It's the honorable thing to do.
”Besides, I may not even find someone I want to marry there. I can only hope.“, he said out loud to himself.
Later that evening Sevkha packed. In the off-chance he did actually choose someone, he decided to bring his late wife's jewelry boxes, full of her jewelry, to give his potential bride as a wedding gift. He packed her hair accessories tin and perfume collection as well.
The next day, he boarded the shuttle the Empire had sent to various vessels to pick up the grooms-to-be and take them to Dehmo. He was the only crewmember from the Burkha on the list of grooms-to-be.
The day before the Choosing Event, he and the other men were shown engagement and wedding ring sets. They were told to pick out a set for themselves and their prospective brides.
The next day, D'Sahri women stood in line to be chosen by the men. Despite being determined not to find a wife there, Sevkha saw a young woman in line and, try as he may, he couldn't take his eyes off her. He was quite intrigued by her.
She, like the other women there, had the same ridges he had, but had pear-shaped markings around her face, down the outside of her neck, arms, and legs. She wasn't a great beauty like the other women, but wasn't ugly either. She was extremely pale, and looked positively exhausted.
She was quite buxom, and had reddish-blonde hair that came down to just below her bosom. She wasn't wearing any makeup other than a hint of pale pink lipgloss in order to try to brighten up her pallor. Her fingernails and toenails were painted blue.
The woman was wearing a loose-fitting light blue top, light blue shorts, small dangly earrings, flipflops, plus the traditional D'Sahri ear cuff and chain in her left ear and lobe.
After three lines of women had been chosen, with the exception of the one woman, he grabbed his folding chair and ran over to her as she became wobbly and started to faint.
He caught her as she started to fall, and helped her into the chair.
”She needs to stand! The women do not get to sit until they have been chosen by a warrior!“, the man in charge said.
”This woman is not feeling well. She'll remain seated until I say so.“, Sevkha replied.
“Hello, Ma'am. I'm Sevkha. What's your name?”, he asked, crouching down in front of her, tenderly taking her hands in his.
“I'm L'uzhanha, Sir. I'm sorry about all this. I just gave birth less than an hour before this event started.”, she replied nervously
”Have you eaten since giving birth?”, he asked, very concerned about her.
”No, Sir. I was allowed to nurse my son once he was born, but nothing else. I was told to get dressed immediately. They won't give me my children until I'm finished here.“, she replied.
”How many children do you have?“, he asked.
”Three, Sir. A daughter and two sons. My daughter is four and my oldest son is 2 1/2.“, she replied.
”Have your children been fed or given anything to drink?“, he asked.
”I'm not sure, Sir. They wouldn't let me near them when I was in labor, nor even when I was nursing my newborn. They said I could see them once I'm done here.“, she replied.
“Bring her some juice!”, Sevkha said to an Ensign nearby.
“The women aren't allowed anything to eat or drink during the event, Sir.”, the Ensign replied.
“I don't care, Ensign. We're warriors, not savages! Bring her some juice and a nutrient bar...NOW!”, he ordered.
The Ensign knew better than to disobey a direct order, so he brought over a juice box and nutrient bar for L'uzhanha.
Sevkha opened them and handed them to her. She thanked him profusely. He smiled ever-so-slightly at her. His resolve to leave there without a wife was quickly fading.
He then went back to where he'd been sitting, grabbing a spare folding chair on his way.
He kept looking at her, intrigued. After the next group of women other than L'uzhanha had been chosen, Sevkha suddenly stood up, walked over to her, and exclaimed,
“I CLAIM HER!” He then said tenderly,
“If you'll have me, that is.”
“You've claimed her. She has no choice. She has no say-so in it.”, the man in charge of the event told him.
“Like I said earlier, we're warriors, not savages. At least...I'M not a savage!”, Sevkha replied. He looked at her.
“Will you marry me?”, he asked.
“Yes.”, she replied, smiling. Sevkha smiled broadly.
”I need you both to walk over here and sign your marriage certificate.“, the facility's Proctor said.
Sevkha helped her up out of the chair and they walked over to where the Proctor was standing.
The Proctor handed him a small-screen. Sevkha signed his name. L'uzhanha signed her name as well.
The short ceremony started. He tenderly took her hands in his.
”Repeat after me and put the rings on her left ring finger. I, Sevkha, take you, L'uzhanha, as my wife.“, the Proctor said.
”I, Sevkha take you, L'uzhanha, as my wife.“, he replied.
”Repeat after me and put the ring on his left ring finger. I, L'uzhanha, take you, Sevkha, as my husband.“
”I, L'uzhanha, take you, Sevkha, as my husband.“, she said softly.
”You're now married according to Dehmo law.“, the Proctor replied.
Sevkha helped her into a folding chair, then told him he wanted her children to be brought to them.
Ten minutes later, they arrived with their belongings in a stroller. Sevkha was instantly besotted with the children.
Her two oldest ran to her and a matron brought her newborn, who had just been circumcised.
L'uzhanha held them, comforting them as they cried. The matron handed her an infant sling. After donning it, the matron handed her the infant. L'uzhanha immediately started nursing him discreetly.
”This is Sevkha, your new daddy. He chose me as his wife.“, she said to her kids.
”I'm so happy to meet you, kids!“, Sevkha replied, giving them each a tender hug. They very nervously hugged him back.
”Let's get your things up to my room then we'll go out to eat. We can do full introductions when we get there.“, he said, handing them each a juice box and nutrient bar.
Their belongings were put in the stroller. Sevkha picked up her toddler, then offered his right arm to L'uzhanha.
She took his arm and held her daughter's hand while continuing to discreetly nurse her newborn in the infant sling. Sevkha pushed the stroller filled with their belongings. They had very few belongings.
They stopped at the lobby and asked for extra pillows and towels to be brought to the room, then went up to his room.
”You just sit down here abit and rest while nursing him, and I'll get you and the kids settled in.“, he said to her after introductions had been made.
Her children were 4-year-old T'Drilha, 2 1/2 year old B'anbakh, and newborn D'arkhut.
After D'arkhut had finished nursing, they went downstairs to the hotel's restaurant for lunch. Sevkha made sure they all had plenty to eat.
After they finished, they went back up to their room. Sevkha told L'uzhanha to rest while D'arkhut napped, then said he'd take T'Drilha and B'anbakh shopping at the nearby megamart down the road from there.
”What size diapers do you need for D'arkhut?“, he asked her.
”Newborn up to 10 pounds, I'd say. He's eight pounds. B'anbakh wears 3T diaper-pants for boys. I'm hoping to start toilet training him soon. T'Drilha has plenty of princess panties.“, she replied.
”What size clothes do you wear?“, he asked L'uzhanha.
”I wear a medium. I used to wear small, but three pregnancies ended that.“, she said, blushing, patting her post-partum belly, and smiling ever-so-slightly.
She hugged the kids goodbye and was given a tender kiss on the cheek from Sevkha. They then left, flying in the pod he'd rented for the week, while she napped with D'arkhut next to her.
”Okay kids. Let's make a major dent in this place!“, Sevkha said, putting B'anbakh in the kid's seat of the shopping cart and strapping him in. T'Drilha helped him push the cart.
They stopped for drinks at the fast-food restaurant in the store, getting fruit punch for the kids and iced coffee for Sevkha. They then went to the kid's section.
With their ”help“, he picked out clothes for them and their new brother plus diapers, diaper-pants, toys, books, a travel bassinet, changing table, breast pump, an infant sling, bottles, sip cups, burp cloths, and much more.
Next they went to the women's section and bought nursing nightgowns, pajamas, and tops for L'uzhanha. He also bought her a pair of houseslippers, with their input of course.
”Momma likes pink and purple!“, T'Drilha exclaimed.
In the grocery section they picked up juice boxes, carbonated drinks, apples, grapes, granola, candy, and snacks.
He bought them coloring books and crayons as well.
After paying the bill, they stopped back at the fast-food restaurant and bought drinks and cookies to bring back with them, including a drink for L'uzhanha, then flew back to the hotel.
L'uzhanha was awake, and had just gotten out of the bathroom, when they arrived.
”Momma! Look what we got!“, T'Drilha exclaimed.
She was thrilled with her new Dollhouse Dolly and Axane books and dolls.
”MaMA! Wah-uh Dah-ha!“, B'anbakh exclaimed, showing her his new Warrior Dakha action figures and books.
”We got clothes, toys, and cookies too!“, T'Drilha said.
”Sevkha, you're spoiling them!“, she exclaimed, laughing and smiling broadly.
”I don't mind at all. I...we bought you a few things as well.“, he said, handing her the large caramel iced coffee and a cookie. He then showed her the clothes, breast pump and bottles.
”Thank you so much!“, she replied, taking a good long sip of her drink and a bite of her cookie.
”Ooh...cranberry nut! Delicious! My favorite!“, she exclaimed.
”I'm glad you like it.“, he replied.
Next Sevkha showed her the travel bassinet.
”It's perfect! I've never seen one like this!“, she said.
”He can nap in this little seat, lie down in this section here, and the bottom part's a playpen or for when he gets too big to sleep in this top part. There are also a couple sections here to store diapers and other things in.“, he replied.
”Oh how wonderful! Thank you so much Sevkha!“, she exclaimed.
He showed her the changing table as well. She loved it!
The kids were tired so, after a bathroom break and diaper-pants change, they laid down on the bed for a nap while he put the bassinet and changing table together.
”You've been so kind, Sevkha. I can't thank you enough for all of this. I do feel bad for you, though. Unlike the other couples at the event, we won't be having sex tonight because I just gave birth.“, she said.
”It's alright, L'uzhanha. Sex isn't the most important part of a marriage. We'll be able to make love once you've been cleared by the doctor. Besides, there are other things we can do in the meantime. Kissing and cuddling are at the top of that list.“, he replied, smiling.
He then traced from her jawline down her throat to her chest. Sevkha gave L'uzhanha a lingering kiss, their first kiss, then kissed her deeply and quite passionately. All were kisses she quite happily returned.
”Do you live here on Dehmo?“, she asked a few minutes later, blushing deeply at what had just happened between them.
”No, I don't. It's my home planet, but I'm stationed on the Burkha, a freighter. It's not that bad.
“It's abit dark and needs much better lighting in my opinion, but otherwise it's not bad. The Admiral and crew are just wonderful. I wouldn't mind living on a starship though. Those are better lit.”, he replied, kissing her tenderly.
“Have you been married before?”, she asked.
“Yes. I'm a widower. My wife and kids died eight years ago in a convenience store robbery. What about you?”, he asked.
“I'm sorry to hear that. I'm divorced. My ex left me for another woman shortly before I found out I was pregnant. He signed away his parental rights to the kids. When I found out I was pregnant, I immediately told him. He signed away his parental rights to D'arkhut as well.
”He doesn't need to know I've given birth. He wouldn't care anyway.“, she said.
”I'm sorry to hear that. It's his loss. You know, I had absolutely no intention of getting married, to you or to anybody, today. I was at the event because I was ordered to by my Admiral. I'm glad I went though.“, he said, giving her a hug.
Sevkha took her chin in his hand and kissed her tenderly a few times before taking her into his arms and kissing her passionately. She returned his kiss just as passionately.
After abit, he finished assembling the travel bassinet. L'uzhanha picked up D'arkhut from the bed, laid him in it, and covered him up.
”I have something for you.“, Sevkha said before he started assembling the changing table.
Handing her the jewelry boxes, hair accessories tin, and boxes with perfume, he said,
”These were my wife's. They're my wedding gift to you. I hope you'll like them. I couldn't see getting rid of them after she died.“
L'uzhanha looked in them, smiling broadly. She held several pieces up to herself.
”She had alot of necklaces, bracelets and earrings. She didn't have many rings. She just wasn't very fond of them, other than her wedding and engagement set.
She almost always had something in her hair. The brighter, more colorful, the better.
”She loved perfume as well. Everything in there is high-end. She'd say one or two were her favorites but, believe me, they were ALL her favorites!“, he said, smiling at the memory.
”OH! 'Andromeda'! I LOVE that one! I had it years ago!“, she exclaimed, spritzing some on her wrists, behind her ears and, smiling mischievously at him, in her cleavage.
”Thank you so much, Sevkha! I don't have anything to give you as a wedding gift, though. I'm sorry about that.“, she said.
”L'uzhanha, you HAVE given me a gift! You've given me a family! If you didn't have children, you'd still have given me a gift just by agreeing to marry me!“, he replied, giving her a passionate kiss.
”How does zappi sound for dinner tonight? We can order delivery and stay in so you can get some more rest.“, he said when they finally stopped kissing.
”It sounds wonderful.“, she replied.
They looked in the directory in the nightstand and found a place that delivered. Using his small-screen, she ordered a medium cheese zappi plus a large one with ground beef, bacon, sliced beef, and extra cheese.
She ordered honey-q wings, stuffed cheese bread, 2 orders of cinnamon-sugar knots with warm apple compote, and an extra-large warm chocolate chip cookie. L'uzhanha requested plates, napkins and plastic utensils as well.
Sevkha handed her his money card and she paid the bill, adding abit extra for a tip.
She looked through the clothes he'd bought her and decided to change into the pink pajamas. She told him they were extremely soft and very comfortable, and thanked him once again, giving him a tender kiss.
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