SEE ALL WARNINGS AND DISCLAIMERS IN PREVIOUS CHAPTERS. I'M TOO LAZY TO INSERT THEM HERE.
Summer always brought a warm, gentle wind. It swept down out of the mountains, bringing the sweet, untamed scent of the wild. Relena thought it was definitely her favorite season. The bright, golden sun shone down a benevolent light, and it had always been that light haloing Duo that made him look the most beautiful. It glinted off those mischievous eyes, making them seem as polished gems.
Closing her eyes against both the bright light and old pain, Relena breathed deeply until the ache calmed in her heart. She had kept her promise to him. That night was the last night she cried, and at times it felt like the bottled tears wanted to boil up out of her. Crying now would feel like tarnishing the memory of two men she would never forget as long as she lived. Never stop loving.
But despite her fears at the time, she'd made room for more love. Much more. Opening her eyes, she smiled down at her daughter. The two-year-old's favorite word was -
Laughing, she leaned down to catch the child in her arms. "What are you up to, you busy little thing?" she cooed, kissing Hauna's cheek. "And where's your brother?"
Relena's smile mellowed. Hauna's younger twin brother, Hiro, was playing with Wufei. Once, she'd been convinced she would never love another man like she loved Heero. But Wufei had slowly crept into her husband's former spot in her heart, warming the empty void with his gentle devotion and unfailing kindness. She cared for him very much, and he'd been a good surrogate father to her children. The twins adored him.
Hauna didn't sit still for long. In moments she was wriggling to free herself, and the second Relena set her down she was racing off as fast as her short toddler legs could carry her. Both of her children were of the fearless variety. They'd carried home all manner of strange and icky things for her inspection. They'd gone wild in the Spring, delighted with all the mud and puddles. A grin teased her lips at the memory.
The twins abruptly ran full tilt away from Wufei, erupting into laughter when the black-haired man gave chase. They looked so cute, faces flushed pink with laughter. Hiro looked like his mother, a dark golden head of hair and pale blue eyes. But Hauna was all her father. Dark, dark hair almost black. Cobalt blue eyes. Warm golden skin.
"Mama, Mama!" the twins giggled, racing for her. Both of them clutched her skirts, half hiding behind her.
"Is he terrorizing you, my lambs?" she asked with a laugh.
"Terr'ise!" Hauna agreed, giving Wufei her best evil look.
"You can't hide from me, little imps," Wufei growled, charging around Relena.
That had her twins shrieking with laughter and running off again. Smiling, content, Relena watched them. It was only a matter of time before Wufei caught them - he had the unfair advantage of considerably longer legs. The three of them went down, the twins overcome with mirth.
Sally came up behind Relena, placing a warm hand on her shoulder. "They certainly are beautiful," she mused.
Nodding, feeling somewhat distracted, Relena watched them roughhouse. "Sometimes I can't believe how much I love them."
Chuckling, Sally headed back toward the palace. "You're a good mother, Relena."
It was early evening when her twins ran out of energy and collapsed. She was in her private sitting room, them playing at her feet when they abruptly climbed onto the couch with her and laid down with their heads in her lap. They were asleep in about five seconds. Smiling, Relena leaned down and kissed both their plump cheeks.
Wufei, sitting across from her, snorted softly. "Finally," he muttered. "Little monsters get into enough trouble for ten."
They sat in comfortable silence for awhile before Relena stirred. "I ought to put them to bed."
"Let me help," Wufei said at once, rising to take Hiro from her.
Once the twins were put to bed, Relena waited in the doorway while Wufei said his goodnights. Then he followed her out and into her bedchambers, a strong and reassuring presence at her back. He'd jokingly told her once that he had to put the mother to bed once the twins were ensconced. She didn't mind. He always talked with her for awhile before she turned in, it had become part of her routine. Truthfully, aside from her children, he was her greatest comfort.
Out onto the balcony they moved as one, him coming to stand behind her to put his hands on her shoulders. She soaked up his warmth, raising her eyes to gaze at the night sky. The moon was full tonight, a beautiful silver disk in the sky. Drawing in a deep breath, she filled her lungs with the cool scent of night.
"There's something I've been meaning to talk with you about for some time," Wufei said after long moments of silence. His voice was pitched low so as not to startle her. "You seem happier, Re."
A tiny smile tugged at her lips. "I am happier. In large part due to you. You can't imagine how much I appreciate all you've done for me."
A pause. "I want you to know I don't want to seem insensitive," Wufei said at length. "To either you or Heero's memory. I know how much you loved him."
Those words had Relena's pulse speeding up, and she half turned in Wufei's arms to look up at him. "I don't think I could ever consider you insensitive. You've been my greatest joy, along with my children."
The hands on her shoulders gently turned her to face him fully, and he clasped her hands. "I made a promise that I would always take care of you," Wufei began, his black eyes seeming absolutely endless in the night. "But more than that, I've come to care about you, Re. So much." He kissed the backs of her hands. "I'd like to ask you to be my wife."
One day, she might look back and wonder why it had taken her so long to notice. They had been a family in all but blood for more than two years now. Wufei had made a promise to her late husband, the Emperor, to take care of her. But there was more than that in his eyes. There was that devotion and warmth she was used to. There was also tenderness, hope, and love.
And she loved him, too. For all he'd done, for all he'd been, and for all he had yet to be.
Tears sprang to her eyes, but for the first time in two years they had nothing to do with the grief she'd never let herself feel for the sake of a promise.
"I can't imagine anything I want more," she whispered as she melted into his arms.
One by one the tears trickled down her cheeks. But this time, she didn't think Duo would mind.
Somewhere far, far away, or perhaps much closer than one would think, a pair of indigo-violet eyes watched. Glowing with amusement. Bright with happiness.
"Took them long enough."
An amused snort. "Come on, Duo. She'll be all right now."
"Good!" a low, sweet voice chirped. "Now you can take care of me, lover."
Soft laughter. "Happy to, kitten."
A faint huff. "When will you ever stop calling me that, Hee-ro . . . ?"