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Maren didn’t know why she was surprised.  It all made perfect sense, as Icheb usually did.  The borrowed shuttle, the extravagant trip, B’Elanna’s strange willingness to let them both take an entire week’s shore leave at the same time.  Yet here she stood at the top of Galartha, stunned breathless and trembling as she stared down at Icheb through tear-filled eyes.

Will you marry me? he’d asked.  Shocked as she was, she didn’t have to think twice about the answer.

“Yes!” she cried, the word coming out in a single, forceful sob.  She took a step toward where he was kneeling on the worn gray rock. “Of course I will.”  Ignoring the small crowd that had formed to watch them, she held out her arms, beckoning him to get up off the ground.  With a small but incredibly satisfied smile, he did.

She let her eyes play over the ring in its box for a moment.  He had obviously put a lot of thought into it – it was composed of a nonreactive, iridescent Andorian metal she could safely wear at work, and engraved with intricate fractal patterns she immediately recognized as a mathematical representation of Beethoven’s 8th sonata – her favorite, and the first song they had ever played together on the piano as a duet.

“It’s beautiful,” she whispered.  “Thank you.”

Icheb solemnly removed the ring from its box and slipped it onto the ring finger of her left hand.  The fit was flawless – he must have scanned her when she wasn’t looking.  They held each other’s gaze for a moment longer, their eyes saying a million things words couldn’t. Then Maren cupped his face in her hands and brought his lips to hers.

If there was anything besides recreational sex that could bring a bunch of alien tourists on Risa together, it was true love, and the crowd around them clapped, whistled or otherwise expressed appreciation according to their species’ customs as the pair lost themselves in a deep kiss.  It went on for quite a while, and when they finally broke apart for air, they still held each other close – Icheb’s arms looped securely around Maren’s waist and her hands resting lightly on his chest, her ring glinting in the light of the setting sun.  Silently, they gazed into each other’s eyes, their foreheads touching, lost in their own private world.

“I can’t believe you planned all this in secret,” Maren whispered.  Her tears had evaporated.  Now she couldn’t wipe the grin off her face.  “No one said a word.”

Icheb returned her smile and pulled her closer.  “Was it a good surprise?” he asked, his gray eyes questioning.

Maren nodded, but hesitated, wanting to make sure she chose precisely the right words.

“It was perfect,” she finally said softly.  “Just like you."

The words had their intended effect.  Icheb’s smile faded, replaced by a look of intense gratitude.  “I love you, Maren,” he whispered, holding her tight.  Their lips met again.

It was perfect.



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