Happy Valentines Day, my beloved readers! One final chapter, my box of chocolates to you. As a result, mostly sweet, sweet sap, this chapter.

Did you ever know that you're my hero?
And everything I wish I could be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
When you are the wind beneath my wings.

(from "Wind Beneath My Wings", performed by Bette Midler)

If Zidane was bored with the negotiations, he hid it very well. When he was annoyed with blatant stupidity, he did not hide it well at all. Garnet began to wonder if having the former thief present was a good idea. Yet, by some miracle, he held his tongue. The meeting itself was actually making progress, with the exception of the Count, who kept insisting that the Terrans should share their technology as part of the terms, even though Cid kept saying that this was unnecessary.
"You may be willing to ignore their unwillingness, Regent Cid," Frederick de Granville persisted, "but I feel that it begs us to question what they may be hiding from us." Several of the other nobles began o murmur at his point.
"No one is ever aware of his own ignorance," Zidane suddenly spoke up, "so we will ignore any potential accusation in that statement." Nearly everyone jumped at the sound of his voice, for they had quite forgot that he was even there. Garnet had a sudden urge to tear her hair out, but she managed even to stop herself from slapping her forehead. And yet, Zidane continued: "Perhaps, Master de Granville, I should bring to light the fact that our people were using this knowledge five thousand years ago. Meaning therefore, we developed to this point long before that. Might you then consider, sir, that the Gaian culture is not yet ready for it?"
"Are we not worth teaching?" the Count asked, immediately drawing several heads nodding in agreement and leaning forward, ready to take offense. Garnet suddenly realized how white her knuckles had turned.
"The knowledge of the few is a weapon against the many," Zidane continued, unabashed. "If not all of you can grasp a meaning at the same time, it is hardly in your best interest to toy with it. It is for your sakes that we withhold our sciences, for they can't do us any more good or harm than they already have." With that, Zidane fell silent once again. In the silence that ensued, Garnet found the will to breathe again.
"Well said, Master Zidane," Cid congratulated with a smile, and then looked meaningfully at the Count.
"We shall pursue that matter no further," Frederick resigned with a nod. Garnet caught Zidane's eye, and smiled slightly. Perhaps he will fare well in the palace after all, she thought, recalling their conversation from the night before:

"Are you certain, Zidane?" she had asked, stroking his cheek gently as they stood on the balcony outside of the banquet hall.
"Why wouldn't I be?" he asked, slipping a hand onto her waist.
"No life is more insincere than that lived as a masquerade," Garnet quoted softly.
"That doesn't matter," Zidane shrugged and then looked deeply into her eyes. "Life is pointless without you, Dagger."

Garnet shivered at the recollection. Fond memories bring delight when they are the shadows of the future… she thought to herself, remembering the time when the mention of Zidane's name had brought tears to her eyes. She suddenly snapped back to reality when she realized that the last term of peace was being brought to the table.
"Finally," Mikoto stood up from her seat. "We feel tradition is what binds the past to the present. In light of that, it is the longest running tradition of the Terran people to exchange hostages as signs of a peace pact. These hostages tended to be high members of the tribe, often the king's relatives." She raised a hand to silence the questions already forming on the Gaians' lips, and continued: "Of course, we do not expect you to hold to these terms. However, tradition needs consideration, so I brought the subject up with Regent Cid a week ago."
"I'll hold to this decision, for the recorder's sake," Cid announced, before motioning for Mikoto to continue. Garnet hid a smile as she noted just how far her conniving little thief had gone, once she had given him the go ahead. It did give him high marks as a diplomat.
"I then learned of an old tradition of yours that involved the children of the two leaders joining in marriage as part of their treaties. We see the wisdom in this, for then children are then born to carry on the peace, while hostages die with their generations, and peace agreements with them." Garnet smiled as she remembered Zidane telling her how the hostages quite often outlived the treaties, that is, if they were not killed as a sign of the pact being broken. "We therefore, had an idea to intertwine both traditions, and if her Majesty would speak her consent…"
"Carry on without fear of embarrassment, Lady Mikoto," Garnet caught Zidane's eye as she spoke. "I am quite aware of your offer and have already accepted it." She immediately picked up on the sudden mood change from each of the noble's sons at her words. She wondered for a split second if Zidane might be safe, but she quickly realized that even if he weren't protected by a peace pact, he was quite capable of protecting himself.
"Very well then," Mikoto continued, her blank face suddenly picking up some emotion, "we of New Bran Bal then offer my brother Zidane Tribal's services to you in exchange for peace, and Queen Garnet, on behalf of Alexandria and all the Gaian nations, accepts him as her husband, as a sign of agreement. This is sufficient guarantee for us that our piece will not go unheard in your council." Garnet nearly laughed as she watched the silently refined Zidane demurely playing the part of the sacrificial lamb. Victory was soon to be hers, for the real decision would be made by herself, the Regent, the governess, and Freya, representative of Burmecia. Zidane's hand had all the aces.

"Simply amazing," Cid commented to the two lovers afterwards. "I personally never would have imagined it could possibly have gone that well."
"I knew better," Freya smiled as she arrived from across the room. "From experience, you see. The only true force to be reckoned with in this world is Zidane's will."
"You do go on," Zidane muttered as he entwined his fingers into the queen's.
"Even I might have wondered," Garnet added, casting him a sidelong glance. "Did you have all this in mind before the play, my dear fiancé?"
"I have my ways," Zidane shrugged.
"And your secrets," Garnet teased.
"Important things, both," he concluded.
"Oh yes," Freya put on a thoughtful look. "I can just imagine Zidane hacking away at the roots of Iifa, thinking: 'first I'll surprise her by pretending to be Marcus, and then I'll pretend I was really a Terran ambassador all along, all the while persuading the big wigs to back my little hunch…"
"Huh," Garnet scratched her chin, "and all this time I was thinking you were more of the 'on the fly' type."
"Kotoba-o idesen," Zidane said as he found sudden interest in his fingernails. Garnet laughed aloud. Perhaps I'll never know…

*Three months later…
"Nervous?" Blank asked his best friend. Zidane glanced down at his shaking hands for a moment.
"What gives you that idea?" The best man merely chuckled in response. He and Marcus were clad in the finest formalwear of Gaia, and to be honest, he felt quite awkward in it. Amarant had declined Zidane and Garnet's offer, and Cinna just couldn't accept, so the three other groomsmen were Terrans that Zidane had befriended during his stays in New Bran Bal. They, too, were clad in black, only of a Terran style, bare midriff and all. Zidane was wearing the traditional bridegroom suit of his people. It was also two-piece, but revealed little. It was white, with decorative black embroidery at the hems. The pant legs were straight all the way down to his white shoes. The jacket was plain and simple, but the front of it was layered with ruffles of cloth, as were the sleeves. Against his heart was pinned the many-petal bloom of a barahana, a Terran flower with the same connotations as the June rose. It shed a soft rosy light against his breast. By some miracle, Zidane's obstinate locks of gold were arranged against his head in an orderly fashion.
"Ack," Zidane complained as he looked sown at his shaking hands again.
"Perhaps you've yet to recover from last night?" suggested Zeru, the second advisor to Mikoto. He was referring to the wild bachelor party Tantalus had thrown for Zidane, where they had insisted that the groom-to-be get stone drunk "one last time." Foolishness, Zeru determined, recalling Zidane's sickly state that morning.
"No," Zidane shook his head. "I just want this to be over all ready. The waiting is killing me."
"Just keep thinking about tonight," Blank smirked, slinging an arm around his friend's shoulders. Zidane's spine fused solid.
"How would that help?!" Zidane finally gasped.
"Just a suggestion," Blank shrugged with a grin.
"And a bad one, for the record," Zidane remarked, shoving his friend playfully. A moment of silence ensued.
"Let's play 'spit'," Geomo suggested.
"Yeah, that'll help his nerves," Zeru rolled his eyes.
"What's with all the bad suggestions all of a sudden?" Zidane asked the mirror, of all things. A longer moment of silence ensued. This time, it was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Come in," Marcus called, gruffly. Baku kicked open the door.
"Hey," he grinned from one ear to the next. "They're starting soon, kiddo. Ya might wanna get yerself in there."
"Finally," Zidane breathed and hurried down the hall so that his joints might not freeze on him or something.

Interestingly enough, Zidane was able to relax once he was standing at the altar. The reason was the crowd of people. Suddenly, it became simply another performance, rather than the step he'd been waiting to take all his life. That was soon to change, as the orchestra began to play.
Freya and Beatrix, the Matrons of honor, entered first, followed by Mikoto and Ruby, and lastly Eiko. All were garbed in beautiful gowns of cream satin and linen, and carrying bouquets of white and pink lilies. Two young girls, one a noble's daughter, and the other a child from New Bran Bal, followed them down the aisle, sprinkling blood red rose petals in their wake. The archbishop stood from his seat and walked between the two lines of bridal attendants, stepping behind the altar. Then the high priestess stood from her seat and sang the holy prayer, her voice carrying truly through the cathedral, stilling the air in its wake…stilling Zidane's breath in his throat. Everyone stood from their seat turning their faces to the back. For a moment, all was simply still. The colored lights streamed from the abundance of stained glass, mixing to become white again at the aisle.
The doors opened. Reverently, Steiner walked in, his polished armor and uniform gleaming in the crossing lights. But it paled to nothingness in comparison of the creature on his arm. Against her body she cradled a bouquet of barahana blossoms that glowed pink amongst the white roses. Yet it seemed to Zidane that she shed a light of her own under that veil. The dress was strapless and pure white, whiter than the crystal of the Alexandria that hung from her neck. Her dark strands were interwoven atop her head, leaving her graceful neck and shoulders delicately bared. And her eyes of the sweetest chocolate were trained completely on him.
"Who gives away this woman?" asked the archbishop, as Garnet loomed to fill all of Zidane's vision.
"I do," the captain of the Knights of Pluto replied, passing the image of perfection to Zidane's trembling hand. Her fingers, slim and soft, and the warm flesh of her palm—all fit so perfectly into his right hand. Made for each other… the fleeting thought made Zidane take a mental double take. It was almost too much for him to hope for, as he gazed into her eyes. He began to wonder what god he should be playing homage to, for taking his mate. Demigod, he chided himself in a direct translation of his name, she thinks you're good enough. She's sticking her neck out, after all. You'll protect it… Needless to say, Zidane was hardly concentrating on the ceremony. Neither was she. The two of them waited through the holy chants, exchanged rings, and had their hands bound together in slow motion, for both concentrated only on their thoughts of the other. That was, until the crucial moment arose.
"Do you, Zidane Tribal, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love and to cherish and to protect, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, as long as you both live, so help you God?"
"I do," Zidane answered clearly, then passionately continued, "until forever then, so when the stars turn cold, may I still burn brightly for you. Then this day, I give myself to you, may all the universe recognize, for you alone. And forever then, shall I always be yours." In the momentary silence that ensued, Garnet's eyes began to burn and mist.
"Des you ni," all the Terrans murmured together. Then, the archbishop continued:
"And do you, your Highness, Queen Garnet til Alexandros the 17th, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love and to cherish and to protect, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, as long as you both live, so help you God?"
"I do," she swore, her eyes filling with joyful tears. "Until…forever, then." She wished she could think of something else to say, as Zidane had, and yet…somehow that sufficed.
"Des you ni," the Terrans repeated softly, and inclined their heads to show respect.
"Then by the power bestowed upon me by the people of Gaia, and Terra," the archbishop added, "I now pronounce you to be husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."
"What?" whispered Geomo from somewhere behind them. "No tea?" He was swiftly elbowed by Zeru. "Ow…" The new couple ignored them, for nothing could spoil this moment. Zidane leaned in towards Garnet, reverently lifting her veil from her face. She slid her arms around his neck as he did so, and once her face was bare, she brought his head down low. Inches from each other, they exhaled one last time. No one was going to interrupt them now. Zidane pressed his lips to Garnet, running them against the moist lusciousness, as his hands wrapped around the small of her back. Then, bending her backwards, he took her as his own.


*handing out tissues to the saps* I'm feeling a little lenient now. So Ill make you a deal. You really really really wanna know what the Japanese parts mean? E-mail me. I'll give you the translations.
Just a quick note: the Peachy One mentioned something about children... I'll just let y'all know I have thought about that. Quite a bit actually. Check back this weekend. I'm pretty sure it'll be worth your while...