"Taylor, I want those studies done within the hour."

"But-"

"No BUTS." Turning around, she slightly grimaced from a small, sharp tug on almost floor-length hair. Youthful, deep blue eyes innocently stared back. "Itai Hin'i." She kindly chided, wagging a finger.

Grasping the thick mane, she gently pried it away from chubby, strong fingers. After regaining her hair, she draped it over a shoulder and out of reach before giving the small girl her attention. "Did you need something?" Wide blue eyes blinked. The girl kept silent and gave a tiny sniffle, wiping her runny nose on the edge of a white and pink flowered furisode.

With a patient sigh, she smiled at the girl. "Come on, let's get you back to bed little one. I don't want you out while you're still sick."

"But...I'm feeling BETTER." Hin'i quietly replied, cherub eyes looking way up.

Bending down and scooping up her youngest - as easily as one could being four months pregnant - she held the girl and gave a gentle hug. "Nonsense Hin'i, you don't have my powers and I'm not going to use mine just to heal you."

"But mommy, it's so nice outside and DADDY-"

"Back to bed." She cut off, giving a gentle smile. Looking behind her youngest daughter, she spied Chastity sitting with her knitting and walked over. "Chastity, where is Samantha?"

The maid looked up with a smile. "My daughter is bound to be around here SOMEWHERE mistress." Both knew Samantha was an adventure-bound rascal, mostly due to the Princes and the other sons' influences. "But since she IS Princess Hin'i's maid, I'll chastise her for not staying around the toddler to make sure she's comfortable during her illness." Putting the needlepoint down, Chastity stood and held her arms to the small girl. "I'll take the little mistress and put her to bed before finding my daughter."

"Thank you." Not turning around, the smile dropped. "Taylor, I SAID I wanted those studies done before the hour was up."

The second eldest stared agape at his mother's back. She wasn't even LOOKING! How did she DO it? Her hair was too long to show the eyes in the back of her head...did she possess more than just her healing powers?

"How did you...? Yes mother." He mumbled, bending over his teacher's arithmetic with an almost audible growl. Today was perfect to get some training in and here he was using a pen instead of a sword.

After Chastity left with her youngest daughter, she sat in and took up the needlepoint, hoping to calm her nerves. It was such a hassle taking care of four children with another on the way, AND running their home. Thank goodness her maids helped supervise when they felt she going to lose her patience.

With a quick glance at the second eldest Yuy to make sure he was doing his homework, she took a moment to relax in the chair and reflect. The upcoming days were a handful, and her children were mostly to blame for that. Being pregnant for a fifth time was starting to get to her. Having to tote a bundle around for nine months was trouble when it came to getting a job done. At least her powers kept her from any kind of morning sickness or early labor pains in the last term. The trick to a painless pregnancy - as far as she was concerned - was to stay out of public eye as much as possible while her child developed. With their castle being shrouded in forestry and a good mile away from the nearest village, it helped.

With a wry smile, eyes locked on her embroidery, she knew that being pregnant wasn't as bad as she was making it to be. She always wanted a big family, as did Hiro, since he was an only child and she only had Millardo.

How could she say no, when he cradled her to his body like he normally did? An intense shiver ran through her, and she craved his touch. But he was miles away, in the closest town on royal business. Gaining the crown at age twenty after his father stepped down didn't allow for much time between them anymore. The last time he left, he was gone three months. When he returned, he was around for three weeks before riding off...having enough time for one intense night of long-awaited passion and getting her pregnant for the fifth time in the process.

Her smile widened. She didn't think he knew. He was to return tomorrow night and hopefully stay twice as long. She stifled a giggle and bit her lip. She could only imagine the shocked, but happy look on his face when she told him again. None of the children had come of age yet. The only reason she was pregnant after such a time difference with Hin'i was due to his time away from home.

Reminded of her eldest, she stood and set the embroidery down. With a glance at her son to make sure he was working, she exited in search for Zachariah.

Walking down the familiar halls of her home, wistful eyes looked at the stone walls. Zachariah Yuy. How odd that the next ruler of Japan should have an English name. But, that was Hiro's way of paying tribute to her country - also his privilege of naming his sons. In return, she gave the girls Japanese names in her manner of choosing.

Her head shook. Oh the irony of it, and more than just names. Though Zach and Taylor held English names, they were raised with the mannerisms and behaviors of Japanese nobles, while the girls held Japanese names but taught to behave as English ladies. Already her two daughters were prim and poised, and knowing that, she named them that way. Hin'i and Junsui - grace and purity.

In the courtyard, she found Zach locked in combat with his sparring partner, also Dianna's eldest son. A few of her maid's younger daughters sat on the sidelines and watched in anticipation. She had no doubt Zachariah would win, since Hiro taught him. Though Robert was a year Zachariah's senior and held a few inches in his favor, Hiro's training left no room for mistakes. Seconds later, Zach disarmed Robert without contest.

Waiting as the nine-year-old caught his breath, she quietly approached to not scare him. "Did you have fun?"

Zachariah stood from the ground, previously leaning on his sword, and looked at his mother. Showing weaknesses as little as possible around superiors was a rule he made to better his stamina.

His eyes squinted in the sun as he looked at her. The ruling Queen of Japan never looked more beautiful, even carrying his next sibling. Even at twenty-five, reaching the end of her prime, she still looked as though she were nineteen. Her powers were responsible for such glorious keep of her health. He thought she was the most beautiful woman in the area, perhaps even the entire country.

A blonde brow rose at her tone, though he knew of this game. He was almost surprised she wasn't out here sooner. "Of course mother. Why woulnd't I?" She knew he inherited his father's talent for swordsmanship and zeal for fighting.

"Well, because your fun is OVER with Zachariah." A thumb jerked to the doors behind her. "Your studies await you."

He huffed and sheathed the sword without bothering to look. "But mother...I need to practice!" He nearly moaned, trying to keep his voice controlled. Whining when he was only a few years shy of becoming a man was shameful. He was the next ruler of Japan - he should be more honorable if he would make his father proud. "My arm will grow rusty if all it does is wield a QUILL!"

A brow rose. Raising boys was ALWAYS a challenge. Had Millardo been this way when he was Zach's age? "You challenge your MOTHER?" She mused.

"No mother." He immediately replied. Disobeying one's parents was a serious offense, a boundary he never overstepped. Being raised with his father's morals and his mother's gentleness ended up in an obedient son and cogenial attitude that turned sour if provoked.

Her smile turned smug. "Then you will do as I say and head back inside." Deep blue checked the sun's position. "I've given you enough time for practice. If you finish your studies and your tutor finds them correct, I'll give you longer time tomorrow. Sound fair?"

Hiro's amused grin showed on Zach's face. He looked VERY much like his father as far as facial features went. Zach possessed those deep blue eyes they both owned, but his hair was blonde with a twist. Due to the hue Hiro possessed when his power affected him, the same green enveloped Zach's bangs, as if marking him. Neither Hiro nor her thought anything of it, and NO one in the kingdom would dare question Hiro's son. Though touched with the color of Hiro's powers, he was a healer as she was.

"Very fair mother." Zach quietly commented, taking the leather armor off as he walked past.

Before he could get out of arm's reach, a hand shot out and affectionately ruffled his hair, getting a full embarrassed smile. It was a small reminder that he was still a child, not yet a man. She used to stroke his hair when he was younger as a way to show that she loved him. Had he stopped, he knew she would've continued to. But he didn't want a childhood mannerism to be broadcasted in front of his friends.

She nodded to Robert and slowly followed Zach inside. Her children - all the children of the Yuy household - were well-behaved. They knew to be after all, since Japanese tradition weighed heavily on mannerisms. Normally, they were to be silent in the presence of adults.

But here, if something needed to be said, it was said. She stressed no idle talk in the wrong time. Though somewhat harsh to force a rule upon a nine, seven, five, and four year olds, it kept her patience higher. She hardly enforced the rule unless in the presence of her husband, since she weighed their behavior more on English than Japanese tradition. Personally, she found Japanese lore and culture to be very extreme in some cases, and tended to bend the rules on occasion. She loved her children, and spoiled them as best she saw fit.

They had the best of both worlds. The honor and fighting techniques of Japan for her sons, and the responsibilities that befitted a lady for her daughters.

~*~*~

"Children, where ARE you? Supper will be ready soon." She called, poking her head past the wall. Looking around to gather them for supper, she found all in the drawing room.

Hin'i looked up from her dolls, Junsui her embroidery, and her sons from their studies. Giving a smile, mostly from their absence of sibling rivalry, she walked in and stopped in front of Zach and Taylor's table. "Nearly finished?" She asked.

"Almost mother. It's just to easy." Zachariah boasted. To accentuate his point, he put the quill down and closed one of his books.

"Then come along. Your father will arrive sometime around sundown and I want you on your best behavior." Her eyes strayed to her daughters. "Hin'i, no idle talk to frazzle his nerves or I'll send you to your room. And Junsui, don't go asking if he brought you four anything again." The two looked at her, deep blue eyes shining innocently. She gave them a stern stare.

"Yes mother." They mumbled, going to put their things away.

After a moment, Hin'i stopped next to her and gently pulled on a large sleeve. "Mother? Will you tell us a story before dinner?"

"Now Hin'i, there's not enough time for that-"

"Please?" Hin'i blinked those luminescent, puppy dog eyes and with a heavy sigh she caved.

"A SHORT one." She complied, walking from the table. She walked to a far more comfortable chair and nestled in the cushions, grabbing Hin'i seconds later. "Now, what should I tell?" She asked, looking from her youngest to Junsui with a small smile. She noticed both sons followed and pulled up chairs to listen. It warmed her heart to know that even though they tried to be brave warriors like their father, in this time with her, they could still be children.

"What about your wedding to father?" Junsui suggested, a finger tapping her cheek.

She smiled. Even after ten years, it was embedded in her mind. She would never forget it. It was one of the few times when she was nervous enough to make a fool out of herself.

Birds sang in the courtyard and the morning light shone through narrow windows in the castle. Wearing the dress she and her mother made, a flowery crown in her hair, she stood in her room and paced. Nervousness didn't begin to cover what was raging inside her, accompanied by excitement.

This was it. How many months had she waited for this? How many trials had she gone through to see this? And now it was happening? She pinched herself. After a small grimace, fingers let go of her arm and she continued pacing.

A door opened and interrupted her thoughts, but not the hole she was wearing in the rug. "Princess?" Lara smiled and walked into the room, gently grabbing her arm to stop her. "Now Princess, take a few deep breaths and RELAX. It's not as bad as you're thinking, it's really not."

"Is it Lara?" She stopped and looked her maid in the eye. "You've been through this already. Tell me what to EXPECT! I feel like I'll make a fool out of myself!" Now worried, hands wrung in between their bodies.

Lara gave a compassionate smile, taking her hands. "Now mistress, I know you're excited and worried, but just remember how much you love your people and Prince Hiro and you'll be fine. It'll all smooth over as soon as you two look each other in the eye." Lara gave a wink. "Besides, I peeked in the main room to be sure everything was ready before coming for you...your groom is pretty nervous himself."

Her eyes shot open. Never did such a thing seem possible with Hiro! He seemed to have all the answers! It was impossible for her to picture him shuffling his feet in whatever finery he was wearing, or fidgeting.

Lara squeezed her hands and she exhaled a shaky breath. This truly was it. There was no backing out. After tonight, she would be Princess Relena YUY. A smile blossomed on her face as she walked with Lara to the door. That sounded pretty good.

She was led down the hallway, too lost in her thoughts to be nervous. After this, she would have to start packing everything she wanted to take to Japan. Of course all her embroidery and some of the more treasured furniture would have to go. Her eyes started watering as she looked at the walls. She wouldn't gaze upon them for a long time when the next few days were done with.

She nearly bumped into Lara and stopped with an embarrassed smile, a blush threatening to form. Her eyes widened as she peeked through the small gap in the curtain, the only thing separating her from the whole ordeal. She knew the entire castle staff and plenty of Sanc inhabitants would show up, along with some of the more close by nobles they were allied with...but this outdid what she was thinking!

She jumped when a hand touched her arm. Whirling brought her face to face with her father. Her eyes watered again as she took his outstretched arm. They never practiced this, and she had no clue of the procedure besides her mother's lessons, but it all flowed as the curtains pulled aside and music started. Her eyes caught Dorothy's near the middle of a crowd and spotted a smile on her face. Her friend gave a quick wave before jerking her attention ahead.

Her eyes followed and the breath caught in her throat.

He looked utterly STUNNING. The material shone in the light. His hair was actually combed and controlled, aside from its normal disarrayed appearance. Both arms were behind his back, head held high. He met her eyes and a tiny smile overtook his once solemn, regal exterior. He was the smitten groom she knew him to be, though his old self popped up in front of so many people.

She was aware of something Lara said. --I peeked in the main room to be sure everything was ready before coming for you...your groom is pretty nervous himself.--

That he was. Nobody noticed it but her and her maids, having spent enough time around his true personality. He may've stood perfectly still, but she could see a small rustle of his sleeves and knew he was wringing his hands while everyone's attention was tuned to her.

The weight on her arm released and she was dimly aware that betrothed and betrothed were standing side by side. It was amazing...had it taken so soon to reach the priest? Or perhaps Lara was right. --It'll all smooth over as soon as you two look each other in the eye...--

She wasn't aware of much. The only time her mind focused on anything the priest said was when her eyes left Hiro's. She couldn't take her eyes off him. She wasn't aware of talking, though her mouth must've moved. The ceremony was held with English traditions, since they were in that country. She almost felt sorry for Hiro, since he didn't have a clue on what to do. But he did very well and bluffed his way through.

Among her hazed brain, she barely registered the word kiss and snapped to attention. Before she knew it, her lips were touching his...and it was sweeter and gentler than any kiss she was given before. After they parted, she also processed the priest announcing Princess Relena and Prince Hiro Yuy.

The party that followed overshadowed her welcome home without contest. There was a table set out just for food. All servants were busy helping to refill plates and glasses. Talk and laughter filled the room to an almost unbearable level.

For the most part, she tuned it out as she looked around. There was a content smile on her face as she nodded thanks to good wishes and farewells of those unable to stay. Her maids hovered around, seeing to her needs and gushing about how gorgeous she looked and what a beautiful pair they made. She tolerated it with a gracious smile, not remembering anything other than deep blue.

There was much entertainment from musicians, acrobats, jugglers, and tales about her guests from faraway lands. Her rescue was told, oohs' and ahhs' sounded from Hiro's heroic deeds. The memories that used to haunt her were nothing more than a tale now. This day cast all nightmares and horrid memories from her, leaving them with nothing more than an experience to learn from.

And a new husband in the process.

A clock chimed against the far wall, signaling the next hour was upon them. She jerked from the tale, blinking in astonishment. Had so much time passed already?

"Goodness, I've kept us longer than I intended." She quickly grabbed Hin'i and hoisted the princess in the air, standing as well. "Up everyone. If dinner isn't cold by now, then it WILL be. Let's go. Hurry now." They scrambled to their feet and followed her out of the room.

~*~*~

Cradling one daughter in her arms, the other being helped to bed by Genevieve and Samantha, she waited until Elizabeth pulled the blanket and sheets from Hin'i's bed and rested the nearly asleep girl in it. The young maid helped her cover the youngest Princess and left the room with Utsukushii, Hin'i's other maid.

After the door stopped a crack, she walked to Junsui's bed and relieved the two maids' of their duties. The four may've taken care of her two daughters' needs, but this was time she got to tuck them in and wasn't about to miss that. After pulling the blankets up to Junsui's chin, the five-year old turned and met her eyes. She gave a soft smile in the candlelight and reached out, lightly running her fingers against the girl's jaw.

"Mother?" Junsui asked.

"Will you sing us a song?" Hin'i finished.

Her eyes bounced to the bed across the room and met the four-year olds. They wanted the song she sang almost every night since she first hummed it while trying to get Hin'i to sleep. It held deep sentimental value - singing it every night seemed like a newfound tradition. It was one her mother sang shortly before departure to this castle.

"Only if you promise to go to sleep when it's done." She ordered, wagging a finger.

"Promise." They echoed, turning to face her.

A brief, wry smile popped up. If they were suddenly awake for her song, what made her think they'd be asleep by the end of it? With a sigh at their behavior, she touched Junsui's cheek again.

Anytime you want to be right here

Just imagine me, and all this will appear

You can keep this moment all your life forever near

A dream worth keeping

"Mother?" Her lips pressed together, eyes turning to the bed.

"What is it Relena?" Queen Peacecraft asked, sitting on the edge.

She fiddled with the spread for what felt like an eternity before meeting aged blue. "Will you...sing to me?" She whispered, feeling embarrassed. She hadn't asked her mother to sing to her since she was nine.

A smile flittered across the Queen's face. She remembered the last time she sang to the Princess. It seemed so long ago that she was needed in that manner. A hand reached out and sought the one playing with the blanket, giving a gentle squeeze. "Why now little one? Is something wrong?"

"No... It's just," Her eyes dropped, "I won't see you for a long time when we leave tomorrow." She blinked. "I don't know how to deal with that yet." Almost shyly, she looked up and locked eyes. "I'll miss you."

"And I'll miss you even worse my only daughter." Fingers stroked her cheek. "I never really thought this day would come, or you'd have to go so far away."

"Part of me doesn't WANT to leave." It was discomforting to acknowledge that, since a wife was duty-bound to her husband wherever he dwelt. "I can't bear not being able to see you every day...or at least a few times a year."

"But we must be tough." The Queen mused, a small shake to her voice giving away. "We are both English ladies of high birth, we can survive anything."

"Even this." She added, a patronizing smile on her lips. It hurt to be separated with her mother, not knowing when she'd be able to see her again. "Then...will you sing to me?"

The Queen's eyes twinkled. "I suppose I shall." A finger tapped her cheek. "Lord Almighty, I haven't sung to you in what seems forever. You haven't let me or asked since you were a child." She gave a smile and tapped her newly wed daughter's nose. "But I know just the thing for you to keep with you after you leave."

When you're feeling lost, I'll be your star

Just reach out and touch me no matter where you are

In a world where precious things are disappearing over night

Just keep my star in sight

"Are you alright Relena?"

"Hmm?" Her attention jerked to her new husband. "Oh, yes Hiro...I was just thinking of something."

He gave a sympathetic smile. "Your parents?" He felt a little bad after her goodbye to the Peacecraft family, since he was to blame for the sadness and tears. Even though she walked with him to the horses, head high and determined eyes locked ahead, he could feel her pain. She was trying to be brave. He reached across and gripped her hand as a small stab of guilt ate his heart.

She gratefully squeezed it. "Yes." She quietly admitted. "We've been traveling for weeks, and I can't stop thinking about them."

"You don't HAVE to Relena. It's normal." He gave a small smile. "You just need to get used to things. That'll help."

She gave a thoughtful nod, mind clouded with a lot of things. "I know. You're right."

I believe we've found a dream that's worth keeping

For more than just a day

And even though the winds of change may come sweeping

It's still a dream worth keeping

So don't let it fade away

"Mommy?"

She looked from the narrow castle window to the ground at a tug on her sleeve. Now was not the time to trifle with her watch. There were very few who could - and would interrupt her vigil, and she was staring at them. "Yes Zachariah? Taylor? What did you need?"

"Is father home yet?" Zachariah asked, cherub blue eyes shining.

She gave a quiet sigh and a look out the window before finding the words to tell her young sons. How did she tell them she had no clue where Hiro was, or when he was to return?

His first voyage to his father's castle was supposed to end days ago, but she didn't see his traveling party anywhere. He finally gained control of the crown and went to be initiated. She didn't want to risk taking the children and her maids to take care of them. Waiting for his return seemed the logical thing to do, if not EMOTIONALLY smart.

She was worried beyond a doubt. Having to take care of three children - the ones who could talk - was not helping her nerves. If only a messenger would come by and alleviate some tension...

"Not yet Zach." Putting up a brave smile, she reached down and ruffled the next ruler's hair to comfort him. As expected, he ducked before giving her a loving grin. "But your father had to travel all the way from the forest we live in. Then he must reach the main road that will take him to the palace." She kneeled and gently hugged him. "Don't worry, your father will return. You just have to give him some time."

Looking at Taylor, she hugged him as well, knowing his thoughts were identical to Zach's. The same questions shone in his yellow eyes. "Now you two go find Robert, Jared, and Thompson and go play."

She turned them around and gave a playful swat to their rears. She stood and watched them race off, their worry already forgotten by a mother's reassurance. She wished SHE had that reassurance.

She turned to the window and leaned against the sill, propping her head up as a different thought entered her head. Her mother...she hadn't seen Queen Peacecraft in years. The last time she was at Yuy Castle was for Zach's birth. It seemed so long ago... But something in her heart told her the queen was well and still alive.

A wistful smile tipped her lips. Maybe she should write to the queen and ask her to visit... It would be interesting to show her three nearly grown grandchildren.

Someday you might be thinking that life has passed you by

Your spirits might be sinking, with hope in short supply

And that's the reason why, that's the reason why

I know this dream's worth keeping

As long as you can stay

"Hin'i PLEASE go to sleep." She begged, swaying the mewling eleven-month. The infant refused to obey and continued to cry, nearly busting her eardrums and keeping the two-year old Princess up.

"Momma?" Her eyes shot over to Junsui's, blue meeting blue. The small Princess stared, fatigue rimming the area around her eyes. "I sleep momma."

"I know Junsui, I know honey." She looked into large yellow-flecked blue eyes and fought the urge to kill Hiro. After tonight, and another standard night of Hin'i's cries, she was going to kick him out of their room and make him sleep with his servants. Or she was going to sleep with her maids. She forgot how troublesome infants could be. Though it was a woman's job to raise her children, she wished the rolls were reversed! "I'm sorry...but Hin'i doesn't want to sleep right now."

"Sing momma." Junsui tired muttered, snuggling into the blankets. "Sing me asleep."

Sing? What to sing? She did sing to her children, but it was about tales of Japanese history. She couldn't figure out something off the top of her head that would not only quiet Hin'i AND put Junsui to sleep! These were the times when she HATED being a mother!

Mother...?

Queen Peacecraft's voice rang in her ears, and a nearly forgotten song sprouted from her lips. She rocked Hin'i, staring at the newest Yuy Princess.

When she finished the last line, she noticed both daughters were sound asleep. She looked at Hin'i and smiled. Nearly tiptoeing to the elegant cradle, she set the baby in and covered her up. Kissing her fingers and touching them to the child's head, she walked over and kissed Junsui's forehead. With a rare moment of quiet, she contentedly surveyed both daughters before heading for the door.

Even when you see the darkness come creeping

A dream worth keeping

Don't let it fade away

As she finished the last line, the beautiful soprano voice not aging any, a smile touched her lips. Both were sound asleep.

Stifling a chuckle, she headed for the door. Leaning on the wood, she stopped and looked at them, seeing how much they'd grown in such a short time. A smile flittered across her mouth, but tears filled her eyes. Just as Zachariah and Taylor, before long Junsui and Hin'i would be old enough to not need her as much. Soon they wouldn't WANT her to sing to them. These would be the few remaining times she had, each second was precious to her. She closed the door and headed down the hall to her room.

Stopping outside her chamber, teeth nibbled on a nail. Hiro - would he be inside when she opened the door? She didn't hear of his arrival, since she was attending to her daughters at the time. If he was home on schedule - which was a rarity - then he would've gone straight to bed. His travels were long and heady, he would crave sleep.

Her eyes cast to the nearest exit to the hall. Ahould she bother opening the door and waking him up?

'IF he's home.' A hand shot out and pushed the door open. If he was, he could deal. Any idea of taking the chivalrous way out and sleeping somewhere else for his quiet banished. She had a long day taking care of four children with only her maids' children to help. All he did was travel here.

Nearly jumping out of her skin, a hand shot to her mouth to stifle a scream. Her eyes widened and filled with tears, though she didn't dare make a sound and wake her children up. If they woke, they would NEVER go back to bed. Especially witnessing what she was.

In another rarity of being on time from his travels, stood the ruler of Japan, bathed in the dying tones of a sunset. Though his back faced her as he leaned against a window, he was here.

She ran to him. Not halfway across the room, he turned and hugged her as tightly as she did him. "God...you're finally HERE!" She rasped, tears spilling from her eyes. He felt so good, his strong arms holding her, keeping her safe. "I...I missed you so MUCH. The days just seemed so LONG-"

He pulled back and quieted her with a finger. Blue met blue and he wiped the tears from her cheeks as he blinked back those in his eyes. Four months was too long to stay away from home, but there was nothing he could do about that. He missed the castle and his children, and missed holding Relena as he was doing.

Without a greeting, he harshly kissed her, which she returned with as much force and passion. His arms shifted as hands dug into her hair. He marveled at how soft it was, and how she kept it so long with four children. He pulled away and dug his face in her shoulder.

"It's been FAR too long." He breathed. "The road seemed to lengthen on my journey back to you." Pulling away, hands gripped her jaw and his thumbs stroked her face. "Gods but I missed you." He kissed her again and her body molded to his. "I missed your presence." He pulled away and began kissing her face, as if memorizing it with his lips. "Your eyes." Kiss. "The smell of your hair." Another kiss. "The lushness of your lips." Another. His hands went to the ties to her kimono and stealthily undid them as his mouth continued to her neck. "And your body next to mine." He pulled the folds away and looked at her.

She brazenly stood and let him look, excited at their reunion. An evil grin sprouted when he finally met her eyes, giddy and in the mood to joke. "And the CHILDREN?" She suggested, grin widening.

He looked put out and playfully rolled his eyes. "Yes...them TOO." He huffed.

She quietly laughed and hugged him, having missed his dry humor and his body.

He grinned. As he pulled his eager prisoner to their bed, a thought crossed his mind. It was good to be home.

~*~*~

Pulling her form next to his, something curious came to his attention when she snuggled against his body. Eyes popping open, he yanked the sheet away and looked at her naked form, gazing down her front. He knew every inch of her body since their wedding night, but there was something different about her. Something VERY familiar about the way her stomach looked that he didn't catch during his last look.

"YOU'RE-"

She silenced him with a dramatic huff. "That's right. You did it AGAIN." She joked, giggling at his shocked look.

Before he could even get a word out, she sat up. A hand went to the small bump in her otherwise slim form. "Four months along." Twinkling eyes met his. "So you don't have to ask me." His mouth snapped shut and a hand went to her mouth to quiet the laughter at his befuddled appearance.

He could barely think, though his brain was panning out the months. Four? Then it was the last time he was home. A smile slowly blossomed as she continued to sit in front of him, waiting for him to do something. He knew she was, but he couldn't begin to explain his excitement over this unexpected turn of events. Him, a father for the fifth time? WONDERFUL!

With a happy cry / laugh, he launched to sitting position and grabbed her body, pulling her to him in a hug. The weight off-balanced, causing them to topple over on the mattress. He laughed. A father? Life didn't get any better.

After containing his emotions and letting her up, hands grabbed hers and squeezed. "This is so great. I - I'm...I don't have the words to describe how I feel!"

She gave a smile and kissed his knuckles. "You don't have to Hiro...I can feel your hands shaking."

He chuckled and sat back. "Do the children know?" Her head tilted with a raised brow and he shook himself. "Yes - of COURSE they know. Stupid question." He rambled, getting off the bed. Right now, he was too wound up to sleep. All the fatigue he felt earlier vanished.

With a light pace around the bed, teeth nibbled his lip. "I want to announce this. The people should know. They'll want to stop by and congratulate you." He stopped and smiled. "Again." When she laughed, he continued pacing, knowing he had her full attention due to his lack of attire.

His mind was moving a mile a minute. He felt a little guilty for having to leave during such a time of bliss, but he knew the thing to make it up to her. Crawling back to the bed, he took her hands and stared at her. "It seems I'm never around for you and the young ones. Now I missed being here in the beginning. Let me make it up to you. How would you like your mother to visit again?"

She nearly gasped, but her jaw gaping open was good enough to show her surprise. Her eyes searched his for any signs of joking. There was none. She shouldn't be surprised - he knew how close she was with the Queen. The last time Queen Peacecraft visited Yuy Castle was when Hin'i was born!

hankful tears filled her eyes as she smiled. "Just in time to be there for our child's birth? And meet Hin'i while she's at it."

He nodded and pulled her down, cradling her against his body. She snuggled against him and his heart swelled. This was where he belonged. Though he knew the responsibility of being king, his heart would always remain loyal to family over country. They were whom he came home to when all his duties were momentarily fulfilled. Hearing about this newest edition only strengthened his resolve to stay home for his family - if it could be helped. He would find a way to ditty out responsibilities and travels around his kingdom to competent scribes and continue to rule from here. He didn't want to miss another of his child's births.

She never felt happier, other than seeing Hiro in her room. Her mother. She wondered what the old King and Wueen of Sanc were doing right now. From the last time she talked with the Queen, they moved to a small cottage near the castle. Millardo took the crown when she was seventeen, finally getting off the battlefield and finding a bride.

Oddly enough he found one ON the battlefield. A scribe to a war general, one he fell in love with immediately. Though she was from another land, he married her before the next winter.

She smiled and thought of Lucrezia. They had two or three children as far as she remembered from her mother's gossip, but that was years ago and she knew there'd be more. If only she could keep from being pregnant on an almost normal basis and keep Hiro away from his duties for a year or two, she would find a way to England. To visit Sanc with her whole family and show her children English customs.

She wanted to see how things had progressed in the decade she was gone. Seeing Millardo and Lucrezia, along with her nieces and nephews was next. But, first things first - a good night's rest. Then keeping her children from tackling their father first thing tomorrow morning. Her lips pressed together to keep from laughing. They nearly knocked him to the floor the last time he was home, though he took it in good spirits since he missed them as much as they did him.

A yawn stopped any more thoughts. Sleep was catching up after another ordeal of a day. At least with Hiro here, he could take care of the boys and she could take the girls. Maybe when their fifth was old enough to walk on its own and make the journey, she could make a trip north.

But who KNEW what the future could bring? There was plenty to do until then. Life was hectic and their hands were tied. But if she played everything out and waited, maybe things would work out. Who knew? They had SO far.