A/N: Three more chapters to this saga, and then unfortunately it's over! I'll be posting them up pretty quickly since they're completely finished. I hope you all enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them, and thanks again for all your reviews.

Chapter 36

The wedding occurred two weeks later, in the beginning of February. The palace had been completely decorated while Relena and Heero slept, the pair waking only twice to care for their new addition. Despite his premature birth, their son was growing stronger each day, and Sally spent a great deal of time with him under the guise of 'monitoring his health'.

Relena woke in the morning with a smile on her face, Heero's arm under her head, cradling her. "Are you ready?" he whispered when she opened her eyes.

"How do you do that?" she complained, turning over to face him. "You can't even see me. For all you know, I was still dreaming."

"Your breathing changes when you're awake. I can tell when you're just pretending to sleep."

"Damn," she muttered, sitting up on the edge of the bed. "I'll have to come up with another ruse."

"You're allowed to rest," he said, sitting up and kissing her neck. She sighed and relaxed against him.

"So are you." She stood up, stretched, and looked toward her vanity. Her mother's wedding dress hung there, awaiting her.

"Are you ready?" Relena heard her fiancé repeat.

"Heero, I've been ready for years," she said, touching the dress. She smiled broadly, turning back to face him. "Are you?"

"Yes," he answered plainly. Her joy was infectious and he felt himself smiling back just as there was a knock at the door.

"Hey! Ya decent?" Duo's holler traveled through the door, and the couple groaned. "Oh, good! You, stay here," he said, pointing to Relena, "and you, get the hell out! You're not supposed to see your bride on the big day, but I guess I'll make an exception this time…"

"How many people have you married, exactly?" Heero asked dryly, climbing out of bed.

"Well, including you guys? Two."

The couple groaned again, Relena waving the two men out with one hand and holding her head with the other.

"Oh, come on! You can trust me! They licensed me, after all," Duo obstinately muttered.

"Don't for one second think that we don't all know you got licensed online," Heero answered, closing the door. Duo stuck his tongue out at his friend before smiling.

"You excited?" Heero didn't answer, pondering slightly. "You okay, dude? You look…"

"What?" Heero asked sharply, glaring at his companion as they walked down the hall.

"Nothing," Duo said, knocking on another door. He opened it up and led Heero in, closing the door behind them. "There's not really too much you need to do to get ready-"

"No matter what you do, your hair looks like you just rolled out of bed anyways," Wufei quipped. Sally slapped him in the arm, giving him a warning look.

"- but the ladies and the staff have asked that we help them set some stuff up and make sure the place is secure once the other guests start arriving."

"There's not too many others coming, mostly because of the short notice, but there's a few notables that we need to be aware of, especially considering the uprooting that's going on in the ESUN council right now." Trowa nodded to each of the men. "I don't really think that anyone is going to cause problems, but if this year has taught us anything, it's that you never really know."

"Amen," Duo said, throwing himself into a nearby armchair. "Alright. Well, Sally, what was it you needed us to do otherwise?"

"Make sure he doesn't pass out or run," she said, pointing to Heero, a look of genuine concern on her face. "Are you sure you're okay, Heero?"

"I'm fine!" he snapped, glaring at them.

"You don't have to be so sensitive Heero, we're just trying to help you," Quatre said.

"You know what it feels like to get shot, right?" Heero asked, and the blond man nodded. "Ever had someone ask what the wound feels like or if you're okay, every thirty seconds after? Would that not make you a little 'sensitive'?"

"You're really comparing marrying Relena, the person you've been stuck on for years, to being shot?" Trowa asked incredulously.

"I'm going for a walk," Heero answered angrily, storming out.

"Follow him," Sally said to Trowa, nodding toward the door. "The last thing we need is him not to show up. Now that Relena's off the public stage, I'm less hesitant to put homicide past her."

Wufei smiled. "You should go and make sure she's okay. Don't tell her about any of this, he'll be fine."

Sally leaned in toward her husband, kissing him lightly. "You forget that I absolutely recall how you were an inexcusable hour and a half late to our ceremony."

"Trust me," he whispered back, "you really don't want to know. I'm here now, aren't I?"

"Unfortunately," she sighed before winking at him and darting out the door.

"Well," Quatre said, trying to detract from Wufei's anger, "should we go and see what the staff needs, maybe set up a perimeter for the guards or something?"

"Sounds good."

Sally reached Relena's room and knocked softly before stepping in. "Hey there. You mind if I help you out?"

"Not at all," Relena said, turning around. "Catherine's just on her way over, and Hilde and Lucrezia are just helping out downstairs." Ken'ichi was nestled in her arms, blue eyes wide as he looked around the room.

"Hey, little man," Sally said quietly, running a finger along his cheek. "I can't get over how cute he is."

"Me neither," Relena said. "That is, until it's two o'clock in the morning and he's making a noise somewhere between a chainsaw starting up and a pig stuck in a tornado."

Sally howled with laughter, sitting down on the edge of the bed and wiping tears from her eyes. "That does stop, eventually," she said, smiling.

"I know," Relena giggled. "Well, back to bed with you then, hmm?" she whispered to her son, watching as his eyes started to close. After putting him into his crib, she pulled the door to the nursery partly closed. "Would you mind helping with my hair?" she asked Sally as she sat back down at the vanity. "You're so good at it and I'm pretty terrible."

"It's hard to do it when you can't see half your head, too," Sally said.

"I've never really had to do it on my own," Relena said quietly, looking into her lap. "No one's ever taught me, they just did it for me."

Sally put a hand under her friend's chin and gently lifted her head. "None of that moping. You get to be in charge of almost everything in your life for the first time. You need to be excited! You're young; you can learn to do anything you want to. Anything." She put her hands on Relena's shoulders and gave her a reassuring squeeze. "Now, let's try and tame this hair."

Relena wiped a stray tear from her eye as Cathy, Lucrezia and Hilde entered the room.

Cathy squealed slightly as she bounced up and hugged Relena. "Are you not so excited right now? I'm excited, and I'm not even getting married! You must be over the moon!"

"I am," Relena said, smiling, as she returned the hug. "Thanks so much for helping out, it means the world to us."

Lucrezia looked around. "So, where are the guys, there was some kind of commo-" Sally furiously shook her head, and she older woman desperately tried to change her train of thought.

"Sally, I can see you in the mirror," Relena pointed out, raising an eyebrow.

"I had something in my ear."

"Don't you dare lie to me."

"Dammit Noin!" Sally said, glaring at her friend.

"What in the hell is going on?" Hilde asked.

"I'm wondering the same thing."

"Oh, for the love of God," Sally said. "Heero's been acting oddly, and he got extremely defensive with the guys this morning, so he took off. I sent Trowa after him in case he got cold feet. That's all I know."

"Oh, that's all?!" Relena shouted before leaning forward and resting her head on the vanity. "Why do these things always happen to me? Why?"

"Because you fell in love with Heero Yuy," Hilde answered with a touch of humor.

"That's not funny," the blonde woman muttered, not lifting her head. "I need to go and talk to him, don't I?"

"No!" the other women chorused, Sally pushing her back down by the shoulders.

"Things are going to be fine, Relena. You know how men are," Lucrezia said. "Why don't we start getting you ready? Guests are due to arrive in an hour."

"Sounds like a plan," Relena said, sighing as Sally began to work on her hair.

Meanwhile, downstairs, the men were putting together a few simple emergency plans with the guards on duty. After a few minutes, Heero reappeared, adding his own opinions and expertise. The others acknowledged his presence with a few sidelong glances to each other, but said nothing, wary of triggering his obvious anxiety.

"I think this is fine," Wufei said, "You gentlemen can go. Thank you." The guards nodded and returned to duty as the staff continued setting up the ballrooms. One was arranged for the ceremony, with an aisle and place for the musicians, while the other was being set for the reception, a lunch being served.

"Place looks incredible," Milliardo said, looking around. "I don't think there's been this many people here since our parents passed."

"Relena does have a gift of bringing life back to things," Quatre said, smiling as he took in the décor.

"People are starting to arrive," Wufei noted."

"Sweet, that means we can eat," Duo said. "What? We didn't have breakfast and the last thing anyone wants is my stomach growling away during the ceremony."

"He has a point," Trowa said, Wufei rolling his eyes and leaving to help greet some of the guests. Trowa left to help him, and Quatre and Zechs moved to the ballroom where the ceremony would take place, watching Duo pace and eat as he 'prepared' for his role as minister.

Heero looked into the ballroom briefly before he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"I haven't yet gotten a chance to say congratulations!" Marquis Weyridge said, smiling. "I know that this has been a year of hard circumstances, but I am glad that you two are moving on with your lives."

"Thank you," Heero said. "Relena will be happy you're here."

"I imagine so," the old man said as he headed to the ballroom, "we're the only family we've got, these days."

Heero watched the elderly man walk to his seat and chat briefly with Wufei, the heat beneath his collar and restlessness in his legs growing unbearable.

Upstairs, Relena was feeling similarly. "Hilde! Find me a pair of shoes I can walk in, or I'm going barefoot."

"Well, no one can see your feet in that dress anyway," Lucrezia pointed out.

"Unacceptable!" Cathy moaned, tossing pair after pair of shoes out of the closet before finally stepping out, a triumphant look at her face. "Look. At. These," she purred, producing a pair of light blue suede boots. "The heels are short, and you won't get cold feet!"

"Unlike your husband," Hilde muttered, and Lucrezia and Sally both elbowed her on each side.

"The point is, if you want to take photos outside, you just wear these and that fur-lined cape, and you're good to go! Winter wedding!"

"It works for me," Relena said, "plus they're ridiculously comfortable." Standing, she turned and looked at herself in her full-body mirror. The dress was sleeveless, a bodice of pure white leading to a voluminous yet light ball-gown skirt, dappled with sparkling stones and silvery thread. On her neck, she wore an intricate spiders-web necklace, dappled with diamonds on the white cold chains. Her hair was tied into a loose bun that sat closer to her neck, tendrils of hair curling around her cheeks.

"You look amazing," Hilde said, smiling. "We should get you downstairs, they'll be waiting."

The women proceeded to the ballroom, where friends parted, leaving the bride to be at the entrance.

"Don't worry, Relena. Everything's going to be perfect!" Cathy said, giving her one last hug before following the other women.

Relena felt her smile fall as she began pacing quietly, looking out the rows of French bay doors to the snow-covered gardens. She stopped, her breath fogging the glass as something caught her eye. Opening the door, she hitched up her skirt in one hand and stepped outside, holding the cape close against herself. When the cold air hit her and cleared her head, she realized perfection didn't mean happiness.

Smiling, she ran.