Flashbacks

The celebrations continued throughout the afternoon, desert being served casually as and when people wanted it. Max and Monica had danced plenty despite whatever was wrong with Monica's feet, too caught up in each other to care. After a while Gerald had asked his new daughter in law for a dance which she accepted, and Max found a temporary partner in Mena.

"Well, congratulations, Max. I'm really happy for you," Mena beamed sincerely.

"Thanks," replied Max. "And thanks for helping Monica prepare. She told how me much you and Claire enjoyed helping her. Not too disappointed that it's over, are you?"

"Nah. Just makes me all the more excited for when it's my turn. I just hope my wedding's as great as yours."

Mena threw and glance towards Monica then back to Max.

"You two really are made for each other. It's so cute! I'd wish you both luck for the future but there's no need- you two are just so right. So… so…"

Suddenly, Mena began tearing up.

"Hey! W-what's wrong?" asked Max.

"Nothing," Mena sobbed. "It's just so… romantic! I'm sorry Max, I've gotta find my tissues. I just wanted to say, you two are gonna be great!"

With that, Mena quickly kissed Max on the cheek and ran off to find her tissues, leaving Max standing there in confusion.

"Hope that was a very chaste kiss, sweetheart," Monica said in a mock threatening voice as she and Gerald waltzed past.

"Don't worry," Max held up his hands in an equally joking manner of mollification "I'm on my best behaviour."

Monica laughed, whilst Gerald flashed his son a thin smile with a satirical glint in his eye. Max sorely hoped his father wasn't going to suddenly develop a sense of humour in the next five seconds and mention to Monica that Mena was his ex-girlfriend. Not that it really mattered- Monica wasn't a jealous person, and he and Mena had split up before he'd had even met his wife to be. Ever since the half a year before Max's quest with Monica to save the world began, he and Mena had been good friends and nothing more. Not only that but he hadn't so much as looked at another girl ever since he'd met Monica, even in that period after his adventure where he'd believed he'd never see her again. There was nothing for Monica to be jealous about.

'Then again, there's no reason why she has to know about me and Mena right now,' Max considered, remembering when they'd first met Lin. Max silently implored his father not to spill the beans.

As Max took to loitering on the perimeter of the dance area, he felt a warmth in his heart as he watched all the people he loved (save his mother) enjoying themselves, celebrating his marriage to the girl he loved more than all of them put together. He spotted Monica's other bridesmaid, Claire- she'd invited Erik to dance with her. His attraction to Monica apparently forgotten, the young engineer was grinning stupidly like he couldn't believe his luck, while Mayor Need looked on in horror as his daughter snuggled deeper into Erik's arms. Donny had tried and failed to get a dance from every girl present. Last Max had seen of him he'd be planning to try his luck in the crowd outside, but it seemed he had been pressed into a dance with his own mother. The boy hung his head in shame as his plump and thickset mother towed him across the dance floor, only looking up to glower as Max imitated Donny's earlier wolf whistling. Having claimed his revenge, Max strode towards the doors so he could go out and look for members of the Zelmite household staff who were celebrating out there. Max had insisted they have the day off and be guests at the wedding rather than serve. Gerald had grudgingly agreed but had counter insisted that they join the crowds outside rather than sit with the wedding party proper. Max frowned to himself, hoping he never became such a snob. He was sure Monica would set him right if he did, but knowing what Monica's temper was like he vowed to make sure to never give any reason to be on the receiving end of her distain.

The celebrations didn't start winding down till the evening. Until then, food was served, dancing continued and there was even some entertainment in the town square, which included a circus performance in homage to the popular but now banned Flotsam's circus troupe, and a short but rather embarrassing play about Max and Monica's adventure to save the world, with Max being played by Parn, Monica being played by Milane, and a firbit playing the part of Donny.

When evening finally came most of the crowd had dissipated. Apart from the waiters and chefs who were clearing up the only ones left were the Zelmite household staff, a few late night partiers and those who'd somehow managed to snag more than their fair share of wine and were trying to recall which direction home was in.

Now came the speeches, saved till the end of the night after the crowds had gone- the speeches were for the wedding party only.

First Donny made his speech, which in the main consisted of very bad jokes and a funny story which turned out to be an over exaggerated account of the stag night.

"I see," Monica commented quietly, narrowing her eyes at her husband. Max let out a nervous laugh. He'd have some explaining to do later.

Then it was Gerald's turn.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank you all for your attendance this evening to celebrate the marriage of my son, Maximilian, and Monica," Gerald Zelmite's clear, steady voice carried through the foyer, his strength of character easily hushing everyone. "Like you, I have come here this evening with the desire to express how pleased I am for this newly married couple and to wish them well for the future, but for me that desire has a far deeper meaning. As many of you must know, my relationship with my son has never been as strong as I'd like to say it has been. Ever since my darling wife Elaine was forced to leave us, it put an undeniable strain on that relationship."

Max looked away from his father, his face blanked with uncertainty. What Gerald said was unfortunately true, and it wasn't as if it was a big secret to the town, but he didn't want it being discussed now. Why was he saying this?

"My relationship with my own father was in fact much the same," Gerald went on. "When I came of age I argued against my father's intention for me to take over the family business with a view to follow my own path, just as I and Maximilian have often done. When the day came that I opened my own gunsmith shop, I feared my father might very well disown me. When he found out, however, his reaction was quite different to how I imagined. He was impressed with my determination to make my own choices, and made it clear how proud he was of me."

Gerald turned to look at Max.

"This has been the same with my own son. He has always known his own mind and known what he wants out of life, even as I've tried to stop him from achieving his own goals and keep him in the mining business. I see in Maximilian the same strength and determination of his mother, and regard him with the same respect my father regarded me with. He is a fine young man with a prosperous future ahead of him, and he has now entered into marriage with Monica, a young woman who, in the short time I've known her, has proved to be a dutiful, kind hearted and charming person who is clearly a perfect match for my son. I can honestly say, looking at them both now, that I have never been more proud in all my life."

Gerald lifted his glass and gestured to everyone present.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the bride and groom."

Everyone stood and toasted Max and Monica. Max didn't look up at first, a little overwhelmed by the nature of his father's speech.

"Wow, that was a really nice thing for your dad to say," Monica said.

"Yeah, it was," Max agreed, smiling a little as Gerald made his way over to them while the others began to get ready to leave.

"I hope you didn't consider my speech to be in any way embarrassing, Maximilian?" Gerald said softly, giving no indication of whether he'd be either offended or upset if the answer was 'yes'.

"No, not at all," Max said, before adding "and… thank you, father."

They smiled at each, Gerald breaking eye contact after a matter of seconds before things became too undignified.

Gradually the wedding party made their way outside, with thanks and congratulations being exchanged between everyone.

"Well, thanks for coming everyone," Max said loudly over the general hubbub. "Guess it's time to call it a night."

"Hang on!" exclaimed Mena.

"You've forgotten something!" Claire said fiercely.

"Huh?" Max backed up at the outbursts. "Forgotten what?"

"THE BOUQUET! !"

"Don't worry Max, I've got this," Monica stepped clear of her husband as she weighed up her bundle of stemmed flower heads in one hand. The tradition was to throw the bouquet backwards, up into the air to gentle fall among the unattached woman to determine who would be next to be married.

Monica wasn't one for tradition, nor was she prone to gentleness.

Monica's whole body coiled up, drawing the bouquet back in one hand and aiming out into the town square. She held herself in a state of tension for just a second, and then let fly. She couldn't have thrown the bouquet harder if she'd hit it with a spheda club.

The bunch of flowers soared out of the foyer, high into the air. Before it hard even begun to come down again, Mena and Claire shot from the town hall like bullets, racing each other to the prize.

"Well that should keep them busy for tonight," Max couldn't help but laugh, at last understanding the reason for Monica's choice of bouquet.

"Hmm… they'll not be the only ones," Monica whispered silkily. Max looked and Monica sharply. He smiled in an embarrassed way and blushed.

Monica smiled back and said "For a start, you can tell all about what happened on your stag night."

Max sighed. One of these days he was going to kill Donny.

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A few hours later

The town's celebration was finally over. Everyone had returned to their homes, including Max and Monica. The happy couple would be spending their honeymoon right there in Palm Brinks. Many thought it was an odd choice, but the pair had travelled so far and wide during their quest to save the world and seen so much that the only holiday they wanted was somewhere quiet and close at hand.

"Well, I'd say that was a very successful day," Gerald remarked idly as they filed into the mansion.

"I think 'good day' would be better, don't you think father?" Max raised an eyebrow. "I'm not really worried about how it looked for my public image."

"Well you should be. The Zelmite family have a reputation to uphold; you should pay it some thought."

"He's got a point, Max," Monica agreed, albeit in a more amused tone. "After all, you need a better reputation than the spoilt, rich kid of the town."

"Hey!"

"Anyway," Gerald was completely immune to Monica's wit "I'm going to bed now. I'll be leaving in the morning, first thing after breakfast."

"Father, at least stay a few more days. Mining can wait that long."

"Business never waits, Maximilian," Gerald said firmly. He was working on setting up mining operations in Heim Rada and had been living there on and off for the last few months. Now that Max and Monica were married, it looked as though he were about to make the move permanent, leaving the mansion to them.

"Well then, see you both tomorrow."

Gerald gave the pair one last nod, then retired to his room in the southern wing. All the servants had already departed for their own dormitories.

Max and Monica suddenly found themselves alone.

"It was a good day wasn't it?" asked Monica.

"Yeah."

"And I guess we should… also… go-"

"Yeah," Max expected to hear a tremor in his voice, but instead his voice was sharp and firm. His mind was supercharged with anticipation.

He knew what was supposed to happen now.

He looked at Monica. She returned his gaze and smiled. It was a strong smile, determined and confident just like Monica always was. And yet, all the bravado in the world couldn't hide the nervousness in her eyes.

She took Max by the hand- her own hand was shaking slightly- and led Max towards the staircase. Max followed numbly. He was excited, and terrified. He'd never given… this, much thought. Over the years he'd just been glad for whatever time they could have together. He'd always thought Monica pretty. Her face, with its expressiveness, strength and natural beauty had captivated him from the first time he'd seen it. Her character was a delight to know, making Max feel confident when he needed it, making him strong when he felt weak. But her figure- Max hadn't noticed until about halfway through his engagement; one day when they'd decided to spar together, and Monica had knocked him flat and pinned him down, then claimed her 'reward'. And while Max had held her tightly and enjoyed the kissing just as much as she did, their rather intimate position had made him realise with surprising awareness just how pleasantly shapely Monica was.

As Donny would say, she was a knockout.

He was worried about this night, afraid that he might somehow give the impression that he only wanted Monica for her body, or that he might not appear eager enough and offend her. In the weeks creeping towards the wedding he'd decided that Monica's stunning physical attractiveness was just something else to add to the list of things he already loved about her, and they'd approach this the way they approached most things- together, with optimism and determination.

Now though, he started to feel uncertain again.

Monica's breath hitched, and she stopped on the stairs. She was downright afraid now. Max immediately gave her hand a comforting squeeze. Monica looked back, and her grin widened, nervousness dwindling slightly. In that instant, Max's courage was restored by Monica, just as it had been a hundred times before; just as Max had just restored Monica's confidence as he had a hundred times before. This was Monica- it would work out fine. And if it didn't then they'd make it work out fine, just like they always did.

"Come on, let's get on with it," Monica giggled. Max nodded and stifled a laugh, too emotionally and physically worked up to form words.

Together they raced up the stairs.

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It felt strange stepping into Max's bedroom. She'd been in and out of there so many times, but now Monica felt as though she should leave instantly and hide in a cupboard somewhere.

'Dammit, why am I so freaked out! ?' Monica asked herself. 'Right now I should be punching the air and jumping for joy!'

Monica regarded Max as he sat on the chair, removing his shoes. Mon had once shown a picture of her and Max to a friend in the future. Her friend had declared Max was a real catch and even admitted to being a little jealous of her luck. Monica had been taken aback- she thought the world of Max, yes, but that came from the unique relationship they'd developed after their adventure and then living together for a year. After her friends exclamation, however, Monica had tried looking at Max from the perspective of someone who hadn't bonded so deeply with him, and suddenly realised that he was indeed 'a real catch'. He was sensitive and smart, always willing to help, generous, and just plain good looking to boot. He wasn't athletically shaped or muscled or particularly tall as the sort of boys Monica had crushed on in her collage days had been (thank the gods she'd matured), but he was undeniably handsome. His face was kind and happy, and his soft golden locks could almost be seen as angelic, except for a certain rough around the edges look that he'd inherited from his father that made him appear ready to spring into action at any moment.

'The word is rugged,' Monica felt herself blushing.

Max had grown out of the gangly shape he'd been in during his adolescence- he was only as tall as her, but he had broad shoulders and strong limbs, courtesy of the years of hard work as a mechanic and a monster fighting hero of the town.

Any other girl would fight tooth and nail for this young man, and here she was trembling in her boots at the very thought of spending the night with him!

Monica turned away from Max as she tried to calm herself. She'd tried not to think about this night out of sheer embarrassment, but hadn't been able to get it out of her mind. What if it went wrong somehow? What if things became really awkward between them? What if she humiliated herself to Max?

'Oh hell! Why did I plan this surprise for Max? I don't know whose going to be more embarrassed by this!'

"Monica?"

A warm grip encircled the young woman from behind. She tensed up.

"Are you okay?" Max's voice in her ear sent a shiver down her spine. She didn't know how to reply. Should she lie, and say everything was fine, and end rushing headlong into something she was really really not fine with? Or should she admit that she was close to a panic attack, and make Max feel as afraid as she was?

After a moment she opted for a neutral answer.

"How do you feel?" she asked.

Max was silent. The tension was palpable. Monica remained rigid, basking in the comfort of Max's embrace but on edge from the intimate position they were in. All she could do was rely on Max to make the next move.

When he spoke, his voice was slow with nervousness, but caring and steady.

"I'm… a little afraid actually."

"A little?" Monica laughed, but her humour was false and vanished quickly. "Me to."

More silence, before Monica said "Do you want to… stop?"

Not that they'd actually started anything that they could stop. Monica hated herself for being weak enough to ask such a thing, but she'd never get through the night feeling the way she did now.

"No."

Max's answer made her pause for thought.

"I'm not afraid of being here with you," he continued. "I'm afraid because of how strong my feelings are at the moment; because… I really want this, Monica. I… I want you… because I love you so much."

Max placed a soft kiss on Monica's neck. Warmth spread through her whole body, and all of a sudden, she stopped worrying. Max was one of the few people in the world who could do this to her.

He made her relax.

Monica wilted into her husband's embrace as he laid a trail of delicate kisses along her shoulder and collar bone. Each one sent little ripples of pleasure running through her. Each touch healed a little bit of her spirit that had been damaged by her panic. Already she was wondering how she could ever have imagined that this night would be anything but one shining memory among the many she intended to make out of her married life.

"I know just how you feel, Max," Monica whispered in bliss as Max tended to her. She let herself enjoy it for a minute before she pulled away.

Time for her big surprise.

"Well, time for bed I guess," Monica said in mock innocence as she reached up to the back of her neck. With one tug the knot of white thread came lose. The top of her dress fell away from her bosom. She heard Max gasp at the sight, even though she was still turned away from him. She smirked.

"Do me a favour and let down my hair would you?" Monica asked sweetly.

Max was next to her in an instant, fumbling to untangle the braid of flowers in her hair as quickly as possible. Monica had to fight not to laugh at his evident frustration, even though the delay was just as torturous for her.

At last, Max removed the mound of flowers and pulled away the gold ribbon at the end of her braid, casting them aside as her hair fanned out magnificently. She felt him stroke it tenderly and her heart began beating faster.

"Thank you, my love," Monica turned around to face Max and let her wedding dress fall the rest of the way to the floor.

Surprise!

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Max took a step back that was more like a stagger as he tried to acknowledge exactly what he was seeing.

Monica was leaning with one hand against the bedpost while the other one had been brought up to rest on her hip. Her body curved deliciously like some intricately scribed italic letter. And her body itself-

'Oh my!'

When Monica had dropped her dress like that he thought she must be completely bare. But the truth turned out to be far more alluring. Monica was wearing an incredible skimpy set of leopard print undergarments, made out of real fur. The top barely covered her at all- it was strapless and tied at her front, the flapping tails of the knot drawing the gaze tantalisingly to her cleavage. The lower segment of the costume was knotted at both her hips. Max found himself fascinated by the way that Monica's position made one tassel-like knot rest on her upper thigh while the other dangled down like a fishing lure.

Guess who the fish was.

"Like what you see?" Monica asked with a crooked smile. There were gloves on her hands, also furry leopard print, with little claws at the finger tips. Max vaguely acknowledged an open bedside draw indicating she must have put them on while he was untangling her hair. The assembly was completed by high heeled leopard print boots with claws on her toes as well. The whole was so elegant and sexy that Max found himself lost for words. Those knots looked so taut and delicate that the slightest touch would surely unlaced them and reveal-

'Oh my, oh my, oh my!'

"Well you better like it," Monica pretended to sound fierce but was clearly as excited as Max. "These shoes are made to look good, not for walking in- they're killing me!"

At last, Max found his voice.

"Wait a minute. You've been wearing that… stuff, all day?"

"Uh huh," Monica nodded

"Through the church service! ?"

"Uh huh."

"You're unbelievable."

"Uh huh," Monica said yet again as she stood up straight and sauntered towards her husband, the movement of her lithe body far more pronounced than usual. "And that's why you love me."

Though she made a valiant effort to slink alluringly forward, Monica tripped over her own feet yet again. Max instinctively jumped forward to catch her, and Monica literally fell into his arms.

When Max realised that he was now holding Monica flush against his body his face turned crimson and his hands shook. For her part, Monica merely raised her eyebrows a little as she took in their situation, and then tipped her head towards Max's ear. The touch of her hair tickling his face was like electricity.

"Hmm, not what I planned, but I think I like it better this way," she whispered.

She laughed, and Max joined her. He'd never felt happier in his life. He'd felt like he'd never want for anything again.

Their laughed died away, and Monica straightened up so that they could look each other in the eye. All either of them could see was love and the promise of a wonderful future together. Nothing could overrule this judgement.

"Married life," Monica mused. "When I think of all the challenges we've had in our lives, I think this has got to be the biggest of them all."

"Yeah?" Max answered, lowering his arms to Monica's waist and pulling her closer. "Well of all the challenges we've faced, I don't think I've ever looked forward to any of them as much as this."

Monica draped her arms around Max's neck and moved her face close to his so they were almost touching noses, and spoke in a seductive voice she'd never used before.

"You ready for this, partner?"

"Sure am, partner."

And then they kissed each other.

The End

Well, this is the end of my fic. I hope you enjoyed it.

The idea came about one Saturday when I was playing DC again & was trying to get all the prizes from Need's medal exchange. starting with Monica's extremely expensive (and extremely sexy) Panther Assembly. I told myself that the matching boots could wait till later while I bought some other prizes, but the moment I put her in that costume still wearing the princess boots I knew I had to have those boots. This fic was inspired by that quest for the Panther Boots.

Hope you enjoyed. Please review. And remember… Keep reading!