Disclaimer: Well, after much deliberation, I've decided to go ahead and finish this before starting my torrid career as a romance writer for Harlequin. Or a purveyor of lemon fics. Whichever comes first. But anyway, I don't own any of the characters I'm writing with. I don't claim to. That being said and done, on with the show!

Feedback: Yes, please! ~ sailorN1@aol.com


Chapter Three: Something Borrowed...

by Crystal Dawn Phoenix

"Ouch!", Filia exclaimed. Once again, one of the careless seamstresses had pricked her with one of their needles. She was already tired from a restless night. It was hard enough being able to sleep in a new, strange place, but besides that, it was cold in her room. And aside from that, she was also somewhat afraid that Xellos, or worse, Alara, would come back to her room. She sighed, irritated with the busy seamstresses who buzzed around her like a swarm of bees. They were pinning her white satin skirts up around her waist. They'd already fitted her with the blouse of the dress and were now fitting the skirt. Filia was beginning to feel dizzy from all the white they were surrounding her with.

She couldn't wait until they were done with the fitting. Perhaps she could see Lina and Amelia for lunch? That would make her feel a little better. But where had they been taken to stay? She really had no clue. She assumed they were being fitted with bridesmaids dresses right about now. She found herself hoping very hard that their dresses weren't white as well. 'What other color could they possibly be?', she thought bitterly, 'Xellos had better not be lying. I'm getting really sick of being here.' The gravity of her situation began to sicken her again. She was depending on someone who had a reputation for slaughtering her kind with abandon to rescue her like a damsel in distress. This was grave indeed.

"Miss Filia," one of the seamstresses said sternly, "Would you stand still? It's impossible to fit you if you keep swaying like that!" Filia silently wished she had her mace underneath this skirt and forced herself to smile.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said, nearly gritting her teeth, "I suppose I must be getting tired." The seamstresses ignored her and kept about their business, measuring, cutting, and poking to their hearts' content 'What are the others doing right now?', Filia wondered to herself, miserably, 'Whatever it is, I'm sure they're having a better time than I am...'

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

"OWWW!", Lina howled, swatting at the seamstress who had poked her, "Watch where you stick those needles of yours!" She was growing quickly frustrated with the prodding, poking, and general annoyance that comes with being fitted for clothes. Amelia didn't look to be enjoying herself much either. Lina was sure she had to be used to this sort of thing, being a princess and all. Princesses went to formal functions all the time, so naturally they'd need to get stitched into new clothes all the time. Lina was also sure the guys weren't doing much better. Even so, tuxedos were little more than interchangeable, so all they'd have to really put up with would be the measuring. "When is this going to be over!?", she yelled at the whirring seamstresses, frustrated, "This is boring!" Amelia looked over at her.

"Well, Miss Lina," she said, trying to placate her, "Look on the bright side - at least the dresses aren't white." Lina didn't look too enthused over that revelation.

It was true though; the dresses weren't white. They were made from satin in a metallic gold color. Lina wasn't exactly sure where they could've gotten this color dye from, but she was certain it had to have been expensive. Expensive though it may have been, it wasn't the best of colors to wear. The dresses that were taking shape on their bodies right now looked to be quite gaudy and bright. The color and shape failed to compliment either Lina or Amelia.

"That's true, but," Lina reasoned, "Is it really that much better!? This color is horrible!" Amelia smiled sheepishly as the seamstresses stopped to look at Lina.

"Master Alara picked the colors out," one of the seamstresses finally said, "It is his wedding, after all." Lina tapped her foot angrily.

"So what?", she huffed, "Did Filia even get a say on what she wanted?" The seamstresses went back to work, overlooking the sudden outburst.

"Yeah," Amelia chimed in, "I'm sure she wouldn't have chosen this color. It's tacky!" The seamstresses didn't quit moving. Instead, they began to sew and fit faster. "I don't think they're listening to us anymore, Miss Lina," Amelia said dejectedly.

"Neither do I," Lina said quietly, "Do you get the feeling we're being totally blown off by the dragons here?" Amelia looked up at her.

"You mean, you felt that way, too?", Amelia responded, "I feel bad for Filia. She's going to have to spend the rest of her life here." Lina was momentarily pricked by another pin, causing her to 'inadvertently' kick the guilty seamstress.

"I see what you mean," Lina replied, "I think I'd go nuts if I had to spend the rest of my life here!"

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

The shadows were so hard to find in this place. Lurking was nowhere near as easy here as it was in the outside world. Among humans, there were always lots of shady places to lose your face, your soul even. Here, there was so much light and blaring whiteness that even the shadows were white. Xellos faded out of a dimly shadowed corner, melting out of the semi-blackness and into the light. He was in Alara's room now, searching for any letters or correspondences from Saichuro.

This place was nothing but bad for him. Underneath the veneer of perfection, there seemed to be an underlying sickness, a hypocrisy, permeating the temple. And while he normally wouldn't object to such a deceitful air, this seemed simply unhealthy. More than anything else, it worried him for Filia. He wasn't exactly sure why he should worry over someone so arrogant and irritating. But the fact was, he did worry for her. Especially when she was in the company of that white-haired dragon.

That was another thing that had been nagging at him. That white-haired dragon had immediately begun to act as though Filia belonged to him, as though she were his own personal property to do with as he pleased. Xellos had no doubts that Alara was stronger than Filia and could overpower her easily. Should he decide he wanted to do anything dishonorable to her, she would be unable to stop him. At that point, Xellos would probably have to reveal himself, and that would cause a whole new slew of problems.

Xellos' grip on his staff tightened. 'Why is this frustrating me so?', he thought to himself, 'I feel like that whelp is... moving in on my territory...' That seemed like a plausible enough explanation. He had come to see Filia as his own personal form of amusement recently. Making her angry had become something of a rather enjoyable game to him. In fact, it had almost become like he considered her his dragon. So, of course, having someone else treat her so harshly was infuriating.

'I shall simply have to keep a very close eye on her,' he thought to himself, 'A very close eye...' He opened a drawer in a nearby wardrobe, looking for any letters or papers he could find. None. He continued searching, hoping there was something from Saichuro in the youth's possession.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

"So," Alara said, holding up his wine glass, "Tell me a little about yourself, Filia, dear." Filia looked up at him, momentarily abandoning poking at her dinner salad. She really didn't feel like chit-chatting with him.

"Well, you already know I come from the Sanctuary of the Fire Dragon King," she said, "What else do you want to know?" It was obvious Alara was trying to turn on the charm. However, it wasn't working that well. He let his mask slip for a second, showing a momentary flash of anger at her flippancy, before the charming facade returned.

"For starters," he said, "What about those humans you were traveling with? They're rather... crude, aren't they?" Filia put down her fork, trying to stay calm. "When we're married," Alara continued, "You won't associate with creatures so far beneath us. It's improper." The corner of Filia's mouth twitched. It was true, most dragons were raised to hold a sense of superiority over humans, but most of them would never come right out and say it. And during Filia's travels, she'd come to think of Lina and the others as just her 'friends' instead of mere 'humans'. Most important of all, who did he think he was to tell her who her friends could and couldn't be?

"Those four are my friends," she said through gritted teeth, "I don't think they're creatures or beneath us at all!" She pushed her plate away from her. Once again, the anger flashed across Alara's face before being replaced by a carefully crafted mask of charm.

"And wasn't there someone else traveling with you?", he asked, forcing a smile, "Someone you're not telling me about?" Filia could feel anger rising unbidden in her mind.

"What of it?", she asked tensely, "Must you know everyone I've met in my travels?" His questions were becoming bothersome and prying.

"Well, I had heard that you arrived with one other person," Alara replied, not missing a beat, "I was just curious where they'd gotten off to." Filia glared at him, sensing that he was lying. But if that were true, how would he know about Xellos? She pushed her chair back from the table.

"I think I've lost my appetite," Filia said, standing, "I'll see myself back to my room." Alara stood as well, moving quickly around to Filia's side of the table. He took her wrist quickly and smiled.

"Why don't you stay here for a drink, or coffee?", he invited, "Maybe a cup of tea?" The tone of his voice suggested that it was more of a command than a friendly offering. Filia yanked her wrists free and begrudgingly had a seat on Alara's sofa, staring sullenly at the coffee table in front of her.

'It wouldn't be so bad,' she reasoned, 'If he hadn't insisted on having dinner in his own private chambers. I feel like he's trying to force me into bed!' She crossed her arms angrily and watched as Alara sat a kettle full of tea onto his wood stove. He momentarily left the kettle on the heat and sat down beside Filia. In her opinion, he was just a little bit too close for comfort. Alara smiled, trying to disarm the mistrustful feelings Filia obviously felt toward him.

"Now, now," he said, smiling falsely, "There's no need to be so defensive. I was only concerned for your welfare, that's all. I wouldn't want to see my wife taking up with... bad company, you know." He placed his hand on her thigh, making her want to scoot away from him, only to find she was already against the armrest of the couch. His other hand moved up and touched the side of her face, tilting it over to look at him. Alara looked as though he was inspecting her. "Why don't we get to know each other a little better?", he queried, smiling, "I think we should get... used to each other, seeing as how we'll be spending the rest of our lives together..." He closed in on Filia, kissing her hungrily.

Filia's eyes shot wide open in shock. His kiss was deep, but stiff and forceful. For a moment, Filia could have sworn the shadows of the room were coming alive and watching her. She moved her hands up to his chest, trying to push him away. He wasn't budging. Instead, he began kissing her harder. She made a muffled noise of protest, before being quieted by his tongue finding its way into her mouth. Filia was fuming by this time. She bit down on his tongue hard, tasting the slightest hint of blood as he pulled away, snarling. Alara glared at her for a split second, bringing a hand to his lip. He pulled his hand back to find blood on his fingers. There was an angry glare before he backhanded her, sending her tumbling off the couch and into the floor.

Filia pushed herself into a sitting position in the floor before bringing a hand up to feel the hot, stinging strike on her cheek. "What is your problem!?", he roared at her, standing up from the couch, "Ever since you arrived here, you've wanted nothing to do with me! I've given you a wonderful place to sleep, more than enough food to eat, and I've even suffered those idiot humans you brought with you! And this is how you repay me!?" He reached down and picked her up off the ground by the collar of her dress, shaking her once he got her standing. "I'm your husband, for Cephied's sake!", he snarled, trying to stare her down, "What is it? Am I not good enough for you!?" Once again, the shadows seemed to come alive and tense up. Alara let go of her, causing her to stumble backwards for a few paces before regaining her balance. She glared at him, ready to use her mace on his head. "Who would be good enough, then?", Alara asked angrily, stalking over to a desk and jerking a drawer open, "A human man perhaps? A Mazoku!?" He rummaged through the drawers for a moment, finally producing several letters sealed with a broken waxen seal. He threw them at a stunned Filia, causing her to catch them rather clumsily. "Don't think I don't know what's going on," he said in a low, dangerous voice, "I was told all about it by your temple's elder. I didn't want to believe it at first, but it's become blaringly clear to me that he was right! Read what is in those letters, then tell me if you can deny it!" Filia ignored the letters and put her hands on her hips, glaring.

"What are you talking about!?", Filia demanded loudly, "I have no idea what you're going on about! Are you trying to insinuate that I'm seeing someone!?" He stalked back over to her, staring the brassy woman down again. Filia was certain he would try to strike her again, but she didn't care.

"No," Alara replied, "I'm saying you're cavorting with Mazoku, you little slut! And not just any Mazoku, either, but that damnable Beast Priest you arrived here with!" Filia couldn't believe what she was hearing, but she tried not to let it show. Instead, she concentrated on trying to intimidate Alara as much as he was trying to impose on her.

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about," Filia replied coldly, "I don't cavort with anyone, let alone him. And just so you know, Xellos only follows Miss Lina around, not me." Alara glared down at her.

"Oh, so it's 'Xellos' now, is it?", he asked, snarling, "You should feel privileged I even agreed to this marriage, you little tramp. I doubt any other dragon would ever marry you." Filia hissed under her breath.

"I'm going to my room now," she said harshly, "I'll see you at the wedding." She turned around and stalked out of the room, slamming Alara's door behind her. The shadows in the room seemed to relax and go limp as soon as the door closed.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

"Of all the nerve!", Filia screeched, flinging the thick envelopes against her bed, "Trying to tell me I've been sleeping with Xellos, of all people!?" She practically tore off her dress and threw it into the floor, before grabbing the nightgown on the end of her bed. Still fuming, she pulled it over her head and down over her bare chest.

"As I recall," she heard a distinctly male voice come from across the room, "He said 'cavorting'. That leads me to imagine something more along the lines of a drunken orgy than an actual tryst." Filia's face turned red as she thrust the hem of the nightgown into her lap.

"I didn't ask you, you big pervert!", she yelled back, picking up a pillow and tossing it at Xellos, who was now sitting at her vanity, "Don't you have anything better to do than spy on me all the time?!" He adopted a mock-thoughtful look for a moment.

"Actually," he said levelly, "No, I don't." Filia, still fuming, stalked over to the vanity Xellos was sitting in front of, and grabbed the brush off the surface. She jerked the brush angrily through her hair, not really in the mood to deal with him.

"What do you want, Xellos?", she asked curtly, "And what were you spying on me for?" He gave her a crooked smile.

"Well, to be perfectly honest," he said, watching her hair fall about her shoulders, "I suspected your... fiancé... might try something like what just happened..." Filia gave him a wicked smile as she continued brushing her hair.

"Oh, so it takes one to know one, huh?", she said, her voice acidic. The corner of Xellos' eye twitched, and Filia knew she had hit a nerve. "Anyway," she continued, finishing with the brush and placing it back on the vanity, "What do you want?" Xellos adopted a self-satisfied grin and reached inside his cloak, producing some papers.

"I simply wanted to show you this," he said, giving the papers over to her, "Copies of the correspondences between your temple and this one regarding your... marriage. I found them in the High Elder's study." Filia grabbed the papers and rifled through them. She turned around and walked back to her bed, sitting down on the edge. Reading, the bits and pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. As it turned out, Alara had been correct, although he had been somewhat exaggerating. Yes, Saichuro was afraid of Xellos' influence on the young dragon priestess, but not exactly to the extent that Alara had suggested. There was some interesting information about Alara himself, as well.

It seemed that while Filia's elders had been worried about the Mazoku's influence over her, Alara's elders had been worried over him as well. His arrogant attitude and imposing demeanor were causing problems within the temple. There had apparently been several incidences of him inciting fights with other young priests. The elders had come to the conclusion that perhaps if he were to be married, his nature would settle down, and he would become much less trouble to everyone. However, the problem with this line of thought was in finding him a bride. As a matter of fact, it had come to the point that none of the young ladies at the temple would even consider going near him. The solution that had occurred to them seemed remarkably simple: take the two temples' problem children and have them wed. Alara would settle down and become a calm member of the temple and the Mazoku would leave Filia alone.

"Then...", Filia said, eyes wide, lowering the letter into her lap, "They knew he was like this? Saichuro knew he was going to behave this way?" Xellos nodded and turned to look at his reflection in her vanity mirror.

"That's the conclusion I gathered," he said, seeming rather bored, "So what's in those letters he gave to you?" Filia blinked. Alara's letters! She'd forgotten all about them! She put the copies down and picked up the fat envelopes, opening them and tearing out their contents. These were only letters Saichuro had written in response to the young dragon priest. Apparently, most of the letters were only telling Alara about Filia's life, her family, her training, her personality. Things that matchmakers generally tell their prospective matches. Then there were the pages detailing her recent travels with Lina and the others. One in particular gave Alara some sketchy details about Xellos, as well as giving Saichuro's suspicions about the Mazoku's intentions. So that was where he got the notion she'd been sleeping with Xellos! Filia, turning red in the face with anger, balled up the offending letter and tossed it over her shoulder.

"Preposterous!", she shrieked as Xellos appeared on the bed behind her, catching the paper and smoothing it out so he could read it. While under normal circumstances, she would've protested heavily at Xellos being so near to her, and particularly on a bed, she ignored him, opting instead to huff in anger at the current situation.

Xellos, meanwhile, read the letter with some interest. "So, he really did think we were...?", he said, his expression amused. He suddenly began laughing, tossing the letter away and leaning back against the wall adjacent to Filia's bed. Filia turned around to give him a nasty glare.

"What are you laughing at, Xellos?", she snapped, red with anger, "What's so funny?" He cracked an eye open at her, favoring her with a mischievous grin.

"Well, no offense, sunshine," he said, taking a piece of her hair and twirling it around one of his fingers, "But, I really don't think you could handle me." It was truly an amusing thought for Xellos, and not one that he hadn't entertained before.

Filia's face was still red, only this time, it was from something other than anger. "Nor would I want to," she finally spat out, turning her back to him again. "Anyway," she finally said, eager to change the subject, "What do you propose we do about this wedding? It's tomorrow, you know." Xellos adopted a thoughtful look for a moment before smiling sunnily.

"Well," he said mischievously, "You could always sleep with me for real. Then when Alara found out, he wouldn't want to be married to you." Filia gritted her teeth.

"Yes," she said sarcastically, "And when everyone else found out, I'd be punished horribly for sleeping with a Mazoku."

"It could be our little secret," he said seductively into her ear. Filia reasoned that it might have been quite an alluring situation if he wasn't being so ridiculous. She ground her teeth together.

"That would defeat the purpose, then, wouldn't it?", she muttered angrily. Xellos continued smiling.

"Why, yes, I think it would!", he said, as though he'd just been hit with a revelation, "But it would be fun, neh?"

"And anyway," Filia said, ignoring his last little comment, "I thought I wouldn't be able to 'handle you'?" Faster than the eye could see, Xellos leaned across Filia's shoulder and gave her a little peck on the cheek.

"I didn't say you couldn't try," he whispered, grinning like a cat. He pulled away from her shoulder, enjoying her conflictingly angry, shocked, embarrassed, and flattered emotions. Filia simply sat there, in something akin to shock, and brought a hand to her cheek where she'd just been kissed. "At any rate," Xellos continued, "Don't worry too much. I have everything taken care of. You should rest right now." Filia blinked slowly.

"If you have everything taken care of, I should really start worrying!", she exclaimed suddenly, turning around to meet Xellos. Too late. He was already gone. Filia drooped. "Oh no," she said, the color suddenly draining out of her face, "I have such a bad feeling about this..."

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Xellos retreated for the evening, leaving Filia to get her rest. He had a rather lovely plan for dealing with all of this. But in the meantime, he smiled to himself. She was so unbearably cute when she was mad or embarrassed! There was no way he'd let her get married off now, especially to someone who was as unfit as Alara. Underneath it all, he was rather angry with the elders for setting this all up, and particularly with Saichuro for making assumptions about him. Yes, he would definitely ruin this wedding well, probably bringing this temple down with it. Smirking, he rubbed his hands together in anticipation.

Feedback: The gift that keeps on giving! ~ sailorN1@aol.com