Last chapter, last chapter la la la la la. I am ever so happy because Hana Yori Dango is licensed and being released this year. I know it will take forever and a day to get all 34+ volumes in English and I already have a healthy number in Japanese, but I still shall continue on! Hope that this ties things up decently. My next plan is to write a WWI-ish piece. Not during the war but right after it. Glorious one shot fun! That is one of many projects, sadly. I need to learn to multitask my writing better. Nyar.

Disclaimer: Same as all previous chapters.

Chapter 8

Catherine gave a long, low whistle as they entered the church with all the other guests. Inspecting the ring like an experienced jeweler she proclaimed it to be in "good taste."

"Not too gaudy but big enough to be impressive." She handed it back, still on its chain. "What organ did he sell to buy it? Hopefully nothing important." The waggling eyebrows were a bit much, Relena felt.

"He just shoved it at me and then disappeared." Her voice was aggravated but her face was gentle. "Really, the nerve of it all!"

"He's got nerve in spades, I agree. I mean, how dare he be devoted to winning your hand in marriage. What a cad!" Catherine beat one hand to her breast and sigh in a long-suffering manner. "If only I had someone so irritating. Now stop whining and let's sit down. Trowa! Stop dragging your heels!" Pulling her brother up next to them, the three slid into one of the middle pews.

Heero, as best man, stood in front next to Duo with a back so stiff he could have been molded from stone.

"At ease soldier." Duo said out of the corner of his mouth. "You are supposed to help me, not make me even more nervous than I already am."

"I can't help it." Heero hissed. "I can see her. She's looking straight at me." Duo waved at Relena, and she waved back. Heero had the sudden urge to break Duo's arm, but decided against it for Hilde's sake.

"So you asked her. . . well? How did it go?"

It was as if all their eyes bored into him. Heero hated being in front of large groups of people with nothing to hide behind. Duo's questions were far away, like an inquisitor behind a hot lamp. Was he answering? His lips appeared to be moving. Damn it all.

"I told her I was moving and I shoved the ring at her. And then I ran away."

"Coward!" Some of the guests stared at them, who were sitting in the front row. Both young men gave nervous smiles and Duo lowered his voice. "You can't leave it like that. The first sign of trouble and you go back to your self-determined isolation. This is crap. You know you don't have to leave."

"Yes I do!" Too loud, again the stares. After a quick gulp and adjusting of his collar Heero then shook a finger in Duo's direction. "I've had it so easy here. This will be a real test of my talent. No more constraints. No more coddling from you or your little society friends. I have my own connections and I'll do this my own way. You know you can't stop me."

By now the fact that the groom and the best man looked like they were seconds away from a fistfight had caught the subtle attention of much of the first six pews on either side of the church. A smiling little priest walked up and stood right next to the men who were now nose to nose.

"Are you ready, my sons?" His mildly myopic visage did much to snap the friends out of their quarrel. Duo already knew that he couldn't get Heero to stay. What he was doing was as much to prove something to himself as it was an attempt to win over Relena. "Excellent. Now, take your places. I've done this more times then I can count, oh my yes, and I know how you young people get, your nerves all frazzled."

Heero and Duo looked at one another as if to say to one another 'what's up with this crazy old man?' Duo cracked a smile as well, and the tension broke entirely between the two of them. With a nod, Heero took his place, trying to look less stiff than he felt. The music began and the focus drifted away from them to a vision at the back of the church.

Hilde had never looked so beautiful. . . . and Duo had never looked so scared. The priest beamed at no one in particular, and Heero wondered when he would be in Duo's spot with Relena coming up that aisle. His lips pressed together with renewed determination. Things would work out if for no other reason than because he would make them.

* * *

Relena managed to corner Heero at the reception. For such a large, muscular, imposing man to cower when caught by the slim object of his affection was humorous in extremes and Catherine wished she had a camera moments before slipping away to find some of the champagne that was flowing so freely.

"Oh hello, Relena." Somehow he managed to be nonchalant.

"Ha! I've got you now. You HAVE to talk to me." She had made sure that there was no where to run this time except right through her. She'd tackle him of she had to, to make sure he stayed put for this. Heero waited in silence. "Now explain the motives of your plan to me again."

"I have been thinking, ever since you showed me those pictures in your photo album that you were right." Relena started a bit at this. "It's a shame that nothing I make is permanent. When I die, there will be nothing to appreciate in value. In truth, there will be nothing. I will have been a zero to the world." He took a breath. All that time standing there, waiting for the whole ceremony thing to get over with, he had done some thinking about what he was going to say to Relena. He had a feeling things would play out like this, as what with her temperament, she would obviously want to talk more.

"So, you're just doing this to be remembered?" That didn't sound like the Heero she knew.

"No. In some ways yes, but what's more important to me is to leave an impact. I wasn't doing that here. A few people may have admired my work, but only someone like you really looked at it. Just as no one really saw me, my work was similarly invisible." This next bit made him feel a little shy and ashamed of himself, but he had to add it. "I want you to see what's really me. Then I will feel as if I have earned the right to propose again." It was possible he was blushing. The impatient hand that brushed through his hair also obscured his face.

"It was just too fast. I wasn't ready, Heero." She wanted to give excuses. Her hand itched her arm nervously.

"By the time I feel I would have earned a second chance, maybe you'll think differently." He started to move past her but she grabbed his arm.

"You can't just disappear and expect me to wait, can you? I'm not going to be jerked around, Heero." She was scared. At this point she wanted to do anything to make him stay, but knew that it would be unfair of her to insist upon it. No one said love was reasonable.

Heero seemed to understand what she was trying to do, and his wary smile became robust all of a sudden. With an uncharacteristically robust laugh, he pulled her in and kissed her full on the mouth. A large flash of light caught them both off guard. Looking over into the smiling faces of both the photographer and a very pleased Catherine, Relena wondered if she should get mad or ask for doubles.

"You'll hear from me, never worry." And almost as an afterthought. "I love you."

Relena indulged in that lovely melty feeling for a moment before descending onto Catherine like a demon.

"And how did you think getting the wedding photographer to capture one of the most excruciatingly emotional moments in my life was a good thing?!" Definitely ask for doubles, she decided silently in her mind.

"Whoa, there!" Catherine backed away quickly. "Not to change the subject at all but look, there's Trowa! Put your shirt back on!"

"Your distraction tactics may work on lesser minds, but I'm not that simple. Besides, I've known you too long." Now she was feeling more playful.

"Eeep!" Catherine took off as fast as her heels could carry her (i.e. not that fast) followed by Relena who grabbed a piece of newly cut cake. This was by far the best wedding she had ever been to, Relena decided.

* * *

Heero was true to his word. He did keep in touch. Unfortunately for Relena, he kept in touch in a very Heero-ish manner. At first there were the e-mails, that lasted through much of fall. Once a week she would get a message. After two weeks she could predict exactly what the gist of them would be:

Doing fine. Busy with work. Thinking of you.

~H

Apparently his talkativeness at Duo and Hilde's wedding was not a permanent change.

What made things even more aggravating was not knowing where he had gone. She called friends in every major city across the country and asked if they knew a Heero Yuy. None of them could tell her anything. Of course, Heero was terribly good at not being found when he didn't want to be. Duo and Hilde (once they returned from their honeymoon) reassured her on this point. She was spending more time with the couple as a whole. Catherine and Trowa were around as well, and Duo tried his hardest to fix the quiet young man up with women until Trowa threatened never to speak to any of them again. Catherine took up the cause instead and, faced with the awesome power of his sister on a mission, countered by setting her up with a lawyer friend of his.

Catherine disappeared for a week after her second date with the man, only to call from Vegas at the end of that week to tell Relena to congratulate her on her wedding. Trowa was still recovering from the shock, saying it had been Sally who had suggested the lawyer in question and insisting on blaming her for the sudden loss of his sister.

Sally just laughed at him.

Meanwhile, fall ended and winter began to set in with its chill and even some snow. Christmas was so close, and Relena couldn't help but feel a little lonely. It was true there were gads of parties she was invited to and many people whom she loved that were expecting her presence, but even the thought of becoming an aunt (something that Milliardo had felt the need to call and tell her about as soon as he found out. . . at 2am on Sunday night) could not entirely erase the blues at not having some special. A very particular someone, in fact.

Catherine welcomed Relena into her house with a big hug. She had moved into her new husband's apartment and they were hosting a Christmas party, an early one, for all their friends. Relena liked Catherine's husband and felt he was a funny man with the same wicked sense of fun that Catherine enjoyed. They would bicker and play pranks on one another and then kiss and make googly eyes at one another. Trowa, who had arrived a while before, looked ready to gag. Although she hadn't experienced as much of this behavior as he had, Relena was starting to feel inclined to do the same. Ah well, she wasn't going to burst their bubble and neither was Trowa, so long as Cathy was happy.

Duo and Hilde came up and gave Relena a hug, commenting on how cold she was and how, with all her money she should buy a better coat. Somehow, they had already turned into an old married couple when her back was turned. Trowa seemed to understand her sad smile, being another one of the very few single people invited and offered her some egg nog.

"A few glasses of this and you'll feel warm and quite complacent with all their condescending comments." Relena coughed a little after taking a sip.

"Any egg nog in it?"

"Just enough for coloring." Wufei, who had just arrived with Sally, immediately moved to where Relena and Trowa were. He was not comfortable at things like these, but for some reason he had said yes when Sally had asked him to come with. It was hard for him to say no, when it came to Sally.

"Peacecraft. Barton." They each got a nod. Pretty friendly, coming from Wufei.

"How are you doing Wufei?" Relena thought it would be a safe enough question. The immediate grimace and widening of the eyes, accompanied by a snort proved her to be wrong.

"What kind of a question is that? If I answer honestly I am being to straightforward, if I say 'fine' I would be lying, and if I don't answer then I am being rude. A woman's ploy to force conversation. . ."

As if she had some sort of radar for these things, Sally's voice called out across the room. "Don't be rude, Wufei!" He grumbled and accepted a glass of the infamous eggnog from Trowa. More people filed into the small apartment, which was rapidly becoming much warmer than Relena cared to be. Finally pinpointing the sliding door leading to the small balcony behind some curtains, Relena escaped into the cold and let it ooze into her again. The party sounded far away as people laughed and talked, with carols playing in the background. Some things would never change, and Christmas parties had to be one of them. Yet, even with all the comfort, the sigh that escaped her lips was inevitable.

"I thought I'd find you here." Relena gave a start, taking in Dorothy's smirking form.

"Things are really picking up in there. I'm just getting my second wind."

"I thought you were trying to recover from the egg nog."

"That too." They stood in silence for a little while, both of them looking out at the blinking lights of the city. Car horns blared in the distance. Someone down on the street was dragging a tree up some stairs. The night was clear, making it all the more frosty.

"Seems to me that you seem a little down. With so much joyous news these days as well as being surrounded by your friends at a party, it makes one wonder as to the cause." Even Dorothy's shrewd eyes could be kind.

"It's been almost half a year. Half a year is a long time to wait. Heero isn't exactly the warmest or most verbose of correspondents." She leaned on the railing, facing away from the street and looked up into the sky, mostly obscured by the light of the city.

"Yet, you still wait."

"Yeah, I still wait. I guess I really do have faith in the big lug."

Dorothy looked decided and handed Relena a piece of paper. "Think of it as an early Christmas gift from me. It's for being such a good person. More patient than I could ever be. I just went after Quatre." She chuckled at the memory. "He didn't stand a chance against me." Walking back into the chaos, she left Relena to her thoughts.

Opening the paper, Relena saw an address. She thought of what Dorothy had said and smiled. It was well and good to be the princess waiting in a tower, but it was time to take things into her own hands. Duo stuck his head out onto the balcony between the curtains.

"Quick! You HAVE to come in here. Wufei had like 7 glasses of that punch and he's confessing his undying love to Sally. Oh, and your brother is already passed out on the couch and Lu is so mad she's threatening to cut off his hair! C'mon Rel, you're missing EVERYTHING!" His face disappeared again.

Stuffing the paper in her pocket, Relena ran inside. She had to stop Lucretia, or else her merry little world would be a lot less merry for a good long while.

* * *

Heero contemplated the present. It wasn't expensive because he didn't have much money, but he was sure she'd like it. Things were only just taking off for him here. There were a few shows where his pieces were already being displayed and he was making arrangements to have a show of just entirely his work soon. The first three or four months had been solidly devoted to the creation of pieces, so he felt his progress was very good indeed. He had gotten a lot of help from his old mentor Odin Lowe, which was one of the main reasons he had chosen this particular location. Lowe knew people, and Heero was not the same impatient asshole upstart he had been in art school when Lowe had taught him. Now he was much more patient.

All in all, things were on schedule. The only real problem with the gift was how to transport it. He should have thought better of it before he made it. More the fool he. It was two days before Christmas after all, and he should have had this taken care of long ago. There was a knock at the door. He ignored it. The person kept banging harder, more insistently. Crossing the floor of his loft, he crossly opened the door.

"What?" Death glare already molded to his face, he was ready to get rid of anyone so audacious as to disturb him when he said he didn't take callers when he was working.

"I just thought you'd like a surprise. Something told me you'd probably be alone. I thought we might be able to be alone together." Messy but cheerful, Relena clutched at the heavy bag at her side. "I'm so bad at choosing what to pack. A little help maybe?" Heero woodenly picked up her bag, wondering if maybe he had passed out and this was some sort of dream.

"Snuh." The nonsensical syllable was all he managed to get out. Relena stripped her coat from her body and began releasing her hair from the messy braids she had plaited them into.

"Flying around Christmas is just murder. The prices I paid to get a flight were worse than murder, even with people pulling strings to get me tickets. I feel like I was in that airport for days and days." Relena, rosy and cheerful, stood there in his cold loft and held out her arms for a hug. "Well? Aren't you going to welcome me properly?"

He hesitated a nanosecond, and then he was buried in her warmth and tasting her lips like he had only done in his dreams for the past months. Maybe this was a dream too.

"Ow!" Relena pushed him away and then rubbed the spot on her behind that he had pinched.

"It could have been a dream." Heero smiled.

"Traditionally, you pinch yourself, not the other person. I get my turn now." Heero backed away, and when she pursued, pinned her arms behind her back. "Not fair!" They struggled for a while until Relena kissed him. After a few moments Heero let go of her arms to place his hands on more interesting spots, but Relena wasn't about to let things go that fast. For one thing she had terrible jet lag.

"Wait a moment there," It was hard to stop someone who was placing kisses down her neck in such a convincing manner. "I have to give you something first." She pulled away and rummaged around in her bag. "You wouldn't believe how many different ways they checked this thing in security. Finally I got them to realize it was just a picture in a frame and not some sort of bomb." The memory both frustrated and amused her. "I just couldn't check it. It might have broken."

It was them kissing from Duo and Hilde's wedding. A surprisingly attractive picture of them both. Sweet too. Heero cleared a space on top of a shelf, displacing tools of various sorts, and gave it a place of honor. Relena was pleased that her gift was so well accepted.

"How?"

"How did I find you?" Heero nodded. "Dorothy."

"Ah." He should have guessed. Only Dorothy knew where he was directly, and that was only because he had promised her. Next time he wouldn't make any such promise, no matter how indebted he was to someone. He focused in on Relena again, away from his wandering thoughts. "I have a present for you too." In fact, this solved his transportation problem. Excellent.

Leading Relena over, she was both delighted and shocked to find a statue made from clay. It bore a shocking resemblance to the one he had done of her in ice. Some details were changed and maybe even more elaborate, but it was essentially the same piece, only maybe about half the size of the original.

"Wire frame with clay on the outside. It came out pretty well." It came out perfectly and he knew it. But he wanted to be modest because the way her eyes sparkled said it all about how much Relena was going to gush over this.

Turning to face him, Relena gave Heero an intense look to rival his own and began to strip. Heero's brain went blank and he tried to take in this new development. She was down to her bra and panties and starting to work on his belt when he remembered his muscles could move too. Before they descended into a completely unthinking blur of bodies, Heero had to ask something.

"How come you didn't do this when you saw the first statue?" Relena paused a moment.

"Ever try having sex in a freezer?" Heero shook his head. "Well I didn't want to either."

* * *

"I'm going home after New Year's. Just thought you'd like to know. I'm sure you're going to be busy." They were getting ready to go out to a store. Relena wasn't about to have microwave dinners as a Christmas feast. She wasn't the greatest chef in the world, but she had found some recipes for things over the internet. It would work out.

"Hn." He didn't want her to go, but she was an undeniable distraction. He pulled a hat down over his untamable hair. They were about to leave, when Relena tugged off her gloves and ran over to her bag.

"I almost forgot something." She pulled out a box and from the box the necklace with the ring on it. Extracting the ring she slipped it on her left ring finger. "Don't want anyone thinking I'm single, now do I?"

Heero strode over and caught her up in a crushing hug. "Does this mean you'll marry me, Relena?"

"Yes." She wheezed, due to her tight confines. Heero loosened up a little. "Yes." She quickly brushed a tear out of her eye before he could see it. He took her hand in his and they made their way out into the cold morning air.

"Merry Christmas Heero." Relena said as she threaded her arm into his.

"Yes, I think it will be." For the first time in many months, Heero felt at peace with the world. For the first time in his life, he had faith it would stay that way.