“Can I have lunch with you and Sally? I need a sounding board.”
“We were just going to run home for it,” Noin said.
“Even better,” Relena told her.
“Where’s your shadow?” Noin asked.
“Watching over Quatre’s business negotiations on L3.”
Noin raised an eyebrow. Even for the other pilots, it was beyond rare that Heero left Relena’s side. Relena smiled slightly. “I pulled rank and had Une assign me someone else for the week. Name’s Landen, evidently Zechs trained him? Anyway, he’s outside.”
Noin nodded at the name, clearly familiar.
“I’ll bet Heero was thrilled with that,” Sally spoke up from where she was standing in the doorway behind Relena.
Relena turned, her smile widening. “Sometimes it’s nice, being in charge.”
When they were settled in the Po-Noin condo, overlooking the complex’s courtyard and with a fair view of the rest of Sanq, Sally asked, “What’s on your mind?”
“I want to marry Heero.”
Noin stopped chewing mid-bite, and Sally’s eyes widened, but both of them were silent.
Relena bit back a sigh. “Personally, it’s the right decision. Politically, I think it might make him more of a target, seem to weaken my commitment to the absolute pacifism movement, and possibly reduce my image as a strong leader in the eyes of the global community, particularly areas where marriage was once a property arrangement.”
Sally was the first one to speak up. “Not to question your motives, but the two of you have been partners for eight years. Why make the change?”
“Because he’s still bad at believing he can have things he wants. He never asks for anything, he’s always content to just have what he has, but that only makes me want to actually give him things. And you saw him at Dorothy and Quatre’s wedding. He, well, you saw,” she repeated.
Noin laughed a little, but not meanly. “You read him better than us, ‘Lena.”
Sally snorted. “You read him better than anyone, except, possibly, Duo.”
Relena was actually pretty sure all the other pilots knew Heero as well as she did, but that wasn’t the point. “He was wistful. Not jealous, really, he’s not much for jealousy, especially not with the others, he just tells himself he can’t have what he wants before he even allows himself to want it.”
“Except he does,” Sally said, more a question than a statement, “want it.”
“He does,” Relena confirmed. “And I want to give it to him. But not at the cost of the nation, or even my leadership. I’ve worked too hard. And I don’t think he would take it at that price in any case.”
Sally and Noin shared a look. Relena left them to their silent communication. She wasn’t a fan of when others tried to understand what went on between her and Heero. Eventually, Noin said, “It will make him more of a target, but I think he’s up to handling that. And it might, for some people, affect your image as strong, but the only way to combat that is to be strong in your own decisions, if something is right for you, then make that choice and stand by it.”
That had been Relena’s instinct as well. Quietly, she asked, “And my commitment to absolute pacifism?”
“It’s not as if it’s been a secret, the two of you,” Sally said. “Nor his past and his affiliations.”
Relena nodded, even though she wasn’t sure she believed it was the same thing.
Noin added, “You made people believe in the middle of a war. You can make them believe it while in a dress and eating cake.”
“I was thinking an ice cream sculpture. We both much prefer ice cream,” Relena told them.
“Who would have the gall to disrespect you in the face of such intrepid thinking?” Sally murmured. Noin hid her face in her hand. Relena didn’t bother; she laughed aloud.
When Heero returned, Relena was still at the office, stuck in a conference over parliamentary legislation that was going to need at least two or three revisions to be even close to something resembling passable. She didn’t make it home until he was unpacked and had eaten. She found him in the shower and slipped in with him, saying, “Hello.”
He kissed her, his hand slipping around to the back of her neck. She pulled free and said, “I want to marry you.”
“Le,” he said.
“I’ve thought about it. You know me, I think things through. I want this. I want you.”
“You have me.”
“Then I want a ring. A big, gaudy, diamond one.”
He laughed silently. “You hate diamonds.”
“Heero,” she said.
He kissed at the spot below her ear and whispered, “I’ll make it an emerald.”
At the first press conference where she wore the ring—tasteful and simple—a reporter asked, “Have you and Mr. Yuy become engaged?”
Relena smiled her most charming smile. “Yes, but I don’t understand what that has to do with the Inter-colonial Energy and Sustainability Treaty.”
A few of the reporters got crafty looks in their eyes, but there would always be those types, Relena knew. Success was measured by nothing if not the desire of people to destroy it. She chose another reporter to ask a question, and they got back on topic.
It wasn’t the last hurdle, Relena well understood. But it was the first, and she was still on both feet, not even wobbling.