Well, this has been fun, but I think I need to put this aside indefinitely. I may come back to it if I'm feeling uninspired or listless, but I have many other projects that I don't think I want to neglect anymore and I probably won't come back to this project in specific. ::Eyes other projects with love/hate feelings of obligation::

I only started it as a lark anyway, since I wanted to fiddle around with some styles I'd never touched before. But hey! Think of it this way, it isn't so much an ending as a good place to pause. I wrote this a while ago, as part of something else (99 ways challenge, if my BI peeps remember that), but it gives a sense of conclusion to this as well as anything else I could have written. I think it is pretty funny, personally. Thanks all you wonderful people for reviewing and helping enable my constant need for feedback. ::hugs::

Disclaimer: Same as previous chapters.

Heero scanned the crowd with his usual blistering scowl. It was a hot day and he was very tired from standing in the sun for hours, waiting for Relena to make her appearance from the inner cool of the building where she had scheduled a meeting. For some reason she had ordered her now very surly (and slightly sunburned) bodyguard to make sure no unauthorized personnel entered. She had been very adamant.

Heero was suspicious.

Relena never cared about the state of her security (a point he had complained about bitterly to her not too long ago). Why would she care today? There had been no threats on her life for at least four months and in general it seemed like things were calming down in her political world. It was about time. Five years was a long time, even if comparably short when you took into account what she had accomplished.

It was possible she was just feeling paranoid, too. Heero never considered being paranoid a bad thing, he considered it being prepared. Regardless of the reasons she had, that did not help him get out of the sun and he silently sweated into his dark suit.

When the last elderly dignitary had made his way out of the doors, Heero made a perfunctory check outside and swept in, using his headset to order someone to take over his position. He had to ask Relena why she had made him a glorified door man for the day, but no sooner had he entered when the hairs on the back of his neck began to rise. Everyone looked nervous. Not just an expected random distribution of them that was bound to occur in government employees and some of the less competent Preventors, but EVERYONE seemed to have the same hunted expression.

He wanted to grab the nearest aid and shake them, demanding information, but something inside of him said that if no one had told him up until now then he wasn't going to get any news that way. At this point, however, he was more alarmed than angry because by his reasoning the only purpose behind not telling him something this big was because it involved the Vice Foreign Minister and everyone knew how he felt about Relena. Or at least it was understood.

Maybe.

He thought perhaps it was possible people had guessed. I mean, he had had a harder time hiding his feelings over the years when they grew stronger with each passing day in her company. They were feelings he didn't dare put a name to even in his mind, for fear that it would be branded on his forehead like the weakness he felt it was.

Damn it, he was really starting to get angry. He knew it because his muscles were flexing as if preparing to be used. The instincts that had more than once aided him in battle were screaming. Allowing himself to snap just a little he grabbed a junior Preventor who was scrupulously avoiding eye contact with him.

"Where is the Minister?" If it were possible for eyes to drill into someone's head, then Heero would be the first to possess that ability. The young Preventor squirmed and gave a little yelp. He pointed in a direction and scurried away as Heero made his way towards the indicated staircase. Even as he mounted the first stair, Duo came careening down, running into him and sending them both sprawling. For a second a look of pure terror was plastered on Duo's face, before he covered it up a little and forced out a greeting.

"Heero, buddy! I didn't realize you'd been called in. . ." Duo was choking for words and fidgeting with his braid.

"I decided my presence securing the front was of limited usefulness."

"Oh, I don't know. . . I mean. . ." Duo seemed to get distracted for a moment and then looked slightly relieved. "The princess is about to come through. I don't think she'll be happy that you left early, she seemed really agitated about something earlier and she's on edge a bit."

Heero cocked his head to one side. "So I noticed."

Striding into the room in a cream skirt and blouse that hugged her curves the way Heero wished his hands could, Relena seemed fidgety as she looked around the room. Electric pulses snapped in his brain as he saw her watching every balcony and second floor landing. She was checking for snipers. Cold and pure rage started a chain reaction that threatened to melt down his sensory functions.

How dare they.

He was the only person who could protect her properly and he wasn't told?!

The only question was who the first person to maim would be. Maxwell seemed to be the obvious choice, but the man in question was edging away back up the stairs as soon as Heero started to give off such a scary aura. As he was fuming, Heero was also scouring the room for any sign of danger, unfortunately for both Heero and Relena; he was not fast enough.

Three shots rang out.

Everyone dropped to the floor, but for one person, who more fell than dropped, blood blossoming on her creamy blouse. On her face was a look of shock and a peculiar smile of relief as now there would be no expectant anxiety of attack. Heero was running towards her as soon as he heard the shots but he was too far away, but he had his gun out and trained a couple of shots before anyone could react. The assassin dodged with amazing skill. With each step he could already feel the numbness set in, the recriminations, the premature feeling of loss, and his knees tried to give before he reached her.

The way her hair cascaded about her head on the floor was so beautiful, but the growing pool of blood beneath her was not. She was already pale and shaking as he picked her up. Others took off after the assassin, knowing that Heero was more preoccupied for once with something more important than security.

Sticky, warm fluid that should not have seen the light of day covered his hands as he held Relena to his chest. An ambulance would be here soon. She just had to hold on. Relena gasped in pain and focused in on Heero's face. A hand delicately brushed his cheek and came away wet as he cried soundlessly, unaware that he had even started.

"Heero. . ." Her breathing was ragged. ". . . Don't cry."

"It won't end like this, I won't let it." He felt the blood soak through his clothes and slide over his skin. He felt ill, not from the feeling, but because of the grim certainty in his mind that no one could loose this much blood this quickly and still live - not even him.

"I'm sorry, Heero. I -" her gasp was sharp. "didn't want to worry you." She finished through clenched teeth.

"It can't happen like this. I love you." Heero couldn't take the words back now, and he didn't want to. She had to know. He pulled Relena closer, wishing to melt into her. "You just have to live." The tears mingled in her hair that smelled like roses and the distinctive odor of blood that brought to mind every battle he had fought in.

"I love you too, Heero." Her voice was louder, stronger.

"I had it all planned out." Blinded by this sudden tearing away of the only thing he valued in his life, the words seemed to spill out. "Once you finished your work I was going to marry you. Then we'd find someplace to live, have a dozen children, and live in the peace you created." He looked into her eyes, searching for something, demanding this reality to conform to his wishes. "But it can't happen if you die!"

Relena was going still and Heero stifled the urge to shake her just to make her move - to convince her to fight.

"Was that a proposal?" Her smile was faint and her eyes were beginning to close.

"Yes. Yes." The words died out as she tensed up. Her eyes rolled back and her lids closed over them. Her lungs seemed to draw in deeply for one last time. "Oh God." The panic took control, brushing past decades of training. "Relena!"

"You bastard!" She yelled into his ear, small fists pummeling his sides. "You were going to wait until I was out of politics? That could take years! I can't BELIEVE you!"

The only solution was he had snapped. The blood was still spreading on the floor and here Relena was acting as healthy as anything when moments before she was on the brink of death. Something didn't add up. A snicker from the corner alerted him to Duo, who approached the two of them. Only now, Heero noticed that everyone in the room was staring at the little show in the middle of the floor.

"Boy, I thought this was a good idea, but I didn't know how good!" Duo laughed out loud. "We gotcha, buddy. The assassin is right over there." Trowa took off his mask and held up a gun that was undoubtedly filled with blanks. Of course, a Gundam pilot would be the obvious choice as Heero might have shot anyone less adept. Only at this moment did Heero note that Relena was wearing her third favorite skirt and a blouse he had never seen her in before.

Clothes she didn't want ruined, his brain supplied.

The makeup that made Relena look so pale was rubbing off as her red cheeks burned, whether from anger or embarrassment he wasn't sure. It had all been an act.

"I mean," Duo hadn't stopped talking apparently, even though Heero had stopped listening. "I thought for sure we'd get you to admit something, but a proposal..! I'm a frikkin genius!" Heero made a note to disconnect Maxwell's breaks once the opportunity presented itself.

"I'm sorry Heero, but. . . I just had to know." Her eyes were more concerned now. "I wasn't trying to make a fool of you." The next words she said soothed his damaged ego. "I love you more than my life, more than my job, more than anything this life can offer me." He hugged her fiercely. The time to be sullen about this would come later; right now relief was all he could manage.

"I meant it, you know."

"What?"

"Marry me Relena." It was no use hiding it any more, now that there was no need. Everyone knew how he felt, and he was glad of it, despite his hate of showing emotion. At her nod he put one blood stained hand on her cheek and guided her lips to his. What started out chaste quickly became passionate and he lifted from his haze only when Duo began clearing his throat rather loudly.

"Nothin' to see here folks! Move along!" Duo was blushing even as he started to clear out the room. Some people came over to start mopping up the fake blood. Heero helped Relena stand.

"I had better take a shower. I hear that this stuff can stain." Relena contemplated her messy appearance, though the new bloody handprint on her face would be an interesting discovery (especially when it did stay on for several weeks)

"Can I join you?" The question seemed earnest, but Relena could not believe her ears. Did Heero just proposition her, if obliquely?

"Of course you can. We're engaged now, and I think I'll allow a few liberties before the wed-" She didn't even get to finish her sentence as Heero swept her up.

"Mission accepted." He grinned wolfishly.

[[[[AN: The END! Hope you all enjoyed it. It was fun writing it, I must say. . . now I had better attend to other things. . . ]]]]