Disclaimer: Well, this story's finally coming to its close. Allow me to be cheesy enough to go "What will happen to our intrepid heroes? Will Filia get married to an ass? Will Lina beat some Golden Dragons senseless? Will Gourry come away from this fully clothed?" Now allow me to be cheesy enough to also say "None of these fabulous characters belong to me, nor will they ever."

Feedback: Who's more screwed up: me or Stanley Kubrick? You decide. ~ sailorN1@aol.com


Chapter Four: Something Blue...

By Crystal Dawn Phoenix

Filia burrowed under her thick comforters and blankets more. It was cold in her room, and she was still asleep. She didn't want to wake up, but she could feel waking coming over her. She was in the middle of an especially interesting dream, involving Xellos, Alara, a battle axe, wedding lingerie, and butterscotch pudding. She rolled over, a cruel smile worthy of Lina herself plastered all over her face.

"Oh, he he," Filia giggled, drooling a little in her sleep, "Thassa big axe... Whatcha go'n do with it?" She snorted and snickered in her sleep. Suddenly, Xellos appeared beside her bed in a flash of black. He bent over, ready to wake her up, and stopped to listen. "Tee hee!", she giggled, "Lemme take a swing at'im! I feel so naughty!" Xellos face faulted, then picked himself up off the floor, grinning.

"Oh, I see!", he said mischievously, "I suppose someone so uptight while she's awake has to get her frustrations out somehow." He was about to poke her to wake her up when her eyes fluttered open with a yawn. She stretched her arms over her head, shutting her eyes and smiling lazily. Xellos took the liberty of sitting on the edge of her bed. Filia sighed softly and looked like she was about to go back to sleep. "Well," Xellos said, startling her awake, "Someone was having a nice dream, from the sounds of it." He grinned smugly at Filia as she began to blush heavily, remembering exactly what it was she was just dreaming. "Would you like to tell me about it?", Xellos asked, chiperly. Filia looked up at him shyly.

"Well," she said, blushing, "It was you and me and Alara..." Xellos' eyebrow quirked up as he gave her a curious look.

"And what, pray tell, were we three doing?", he asked smoothly, "Something fun, I presume?" Filia's blush deepened as she looked at him shyly.

"Well, we were...", she began, "We were chasing Alara with an axe..." Xellos blinked in disbelief. Then he blinked again. Then he shook his head. Filia kept blushing, looking shyly up at him.

"Anyway," Xellos replied, "I have everything arranged for today. I want you to go ahead and play along until you hear from me." Filia blinked, sitting up in disbelief.

"Play along!?", she asked, unhappily, "Play along how far?! You're going to stop the wedding, aren't you!? I really don't want to go on a honeymoon with this guy!" Xellos smiled knowingly.

"Don't worry," he replied, "It'll never get that far. I'll fix everything." He patted Filia's cheek and looked happily at her for a moment before there was a knock on the door.

"Miss Filia?", a woman's voice came from the other side of the door, "We're here to dress you for the wedding!" Filia's eyes widened as she looked at Xellos.

"You have to get out of here!", she gasped, watching the smiling priest make no motion to leave, "Go on! Shoo! Just make sure everything goes alright!" Xellos gave her a wink and a Cheshire grin.

"Don't worry about anything, Filia," he said, trying to hide a snicker, "I'll make sure everything's taken care of." He chuckled, disappearing just before the door swung open and two dragon acolytes came in carrying Filia's frilly white dress in a large hanging bag.

"We're here to help you get into your dress, Miss Filia," one of the girls said, "Lacing up a girdle is a two person job, after all." Filia blinked, getting out of bed.

"Were you just talking to someone?", the other asked, looking around the room, "We thought we heard voices in here?" Filia blushed and put a hand behind her head.

"Oh, no!", she said, laughing nervously, "There's no one in here but us dragon maidens, right? Uhmm, by the way, where are my bridesmaids? Aren't they supposed to help me get dressed?" The two acolytes looked at each other, then back to Filia.

"They're getting ready themselves," one of the girls said, "And besides, it wouldn't be proper for humans to help a dragon get dressed." Filia sighed. This was moronic. She snatched the bag containing her wedding clothes from the hands of the acolyte. She threw it on the bed, then unzipped it, rummaging through the contents. She pulled up something satiny and lacy and bright white with straps hanging from it. Filia blushed brightly.

"Am I really supposed to wear this?", she asked, holding it up for the handmaids to see, "Underneath a wedding gown?" They nodded at her.

"It's your wedding lingerie," one of the girls replied, "Master Alara picked it out. He's looking forward to seeing you in it." Filia rolled her eyes.

"Why does that not surprise me in the least," she said, frustrated. She lifted her shirt over her head, causing the locket around her neck to sway back and forth as she did so. The two girls looked at it in fascination.

"Oh, that's so pretty, Miss Filia!", one exclaimed, "Will you be wearing it today?" Filia blinked, then looked down at the locket.

"Oh, this!", she said, smiling, "Yes, of course! My mother gave it to me to wear on my wedding day. It's got my picture in it, and my husband's picture is supposed to go on the other side of it." She opened it up to show the two attendants. Both girls gasped at how pretty it was. Then one pointed to it curiously.

"But, Miss Filia," she asked, "Why don't you already have Master Alara's picture in there?" Filia blinked, then smiled sheepishly.

"Well, uh," she stammered a little, "We're not married yet, you know." The girls looked at each other.

"So you don't like him, either?", the one on the right asked. Filia blinked, then remembered what the letter had said.

"Uhh, no," she replied softly, "No, I don't. Why?" The girls gathered around her.

"Well, we think he's creepy," the shorter one said, "He's sort of mean and pushy. None of the other girls will have anything to do with him." The taller one nodded.

"They've already tried to engage him to three other girls," the taller one said, "None of them stayed until the wedding. They all begged their parents to be let out of it." Filia clutched her locket. So the letters were right.

"Miss Filia," the shorter girl whispered excitedly, "Is it true what we've been hearing around here? Y'know... About you knowing Xellos Metallium?" The girl's bright blue eyes shone against her bright red hair. The taller girl sweatdropped and rubbed the back of her head. Filia groaned inwardly.

"You kids have no idea," Filia said, exasperated, "He's always hanging around and pestering me. And he's the reason my temple's elders forced me into this. They thought I liked him or something..." The girls, smiling, looked at Filia, then each other, then back to Filia.

"Well, maybe if he's always pestering you," the one with short black hair and blue eyes retorted, "It means he likes you! We see the boys do that around here all the time to girls they like." Both girls smiled and giggled at each other. Filia turned pale as she realized they were probably right. Suddenly a thought occurred to her.

"Okay, wait," Filia said, "Doesn't that scare you at all? That a cold-blooded killer like him would be interested enough in me to come around here? Aren't you afraid for your safety at all?" The two shook their heads and the smaller one grabbed her girdle off the bed, while the other one got her lingerie.

"No, we've read all about him in the history books," the black-haired one said, "It was always so interesting that we were curious, especially when we heard he might come here." It was then that Filia realized that she had two very strange handmaids on her hands.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

The sun was high in the sky by now, making Lina squint as she looked up. "This is moronic," Lina commented, adjusting the terribly gaudy and frilly and itchy gold dress. "We weren't even able to help Filia get dressed!", she continued, griping in general to anyone who would listen, "Isn't that what a damned bridesmaid is supposed to do, anyway? Instead they kept us locked in our room for two straight days and wouldn't let us go anywhere!" Amelia straightened her dress as well.

The four of them were standing outside the small chapel that Filia and Alara would shortly be wed at. Alara was already inside, standing impatiently at the alter, looking as though he would lose his temper at any moment. "She's already half an hour late," he growled to himself, "She'd better have a remarkably well-thought-out excuse." He smoothed out his pristine white tuxedo, adjusting the gold cummerbund. His hair was loosely tied back with a gold ribbon, and it swished just slightly as he looked around the chapel. It had been decorated, as per his orders. It could be best described in one word: white. Bright, pure, snow white. There were white drapes, white carpets, white flowers, white streamers, the entire assembled congregation that was there to observe the wedding was dressed in white. As a matter of fact, the only two people who weren't were Filia's lowly human bridesmaids. Even their human ushers were in white tuxedos, although he'd heard the stone one had put up quite a fuss while being fitted. It didn't really matter, he reasoned to himself. He'd be rid of them for good in a few short hours, anyway.

Meanwhile, outside, the four humans continued talking. "You're not the only ones," Zelgadis commented, "We had to play 'Go Fish' for nearly two straight days." Gourry favored him with a sunny smile.

"I had fun!", Gourry commented, "I even beat you a few times!" Zel looked non-plussed.

"So, have either of you guys seen Filia?", Amelia asked, "Or have they kept her isolated from the rest of us?" There was a stir in the air just behind them.

"As a matter of fact," an obnoxiously familiar voice said, "I've seen her, just this morning. And it would appear that her... fiancé... has kept her shut up in her room." Lina jumped at hearing Xellos and turned around to glare at him. Xellos, unlike everyone else at the chapel, was not wearing white. Instead, he was wearing a dark purple suit, making quite a striking figure. In truth, he had planned on going against the grain, in hopes of irritating Alara.

Lina, meanwhile, reasoned to herself that she didn't even want to ask why Xellos would have been in Filia's room this morning. Judging from the looks he was getting from everyone else, they didn't either. Suddenly, a streak of white flashed into place beside Lina and Filia appeared. She was decked out from head to toe in shining, glaring, bright white satin and lace. The bodice of her dress was bedecked with pearls and small iridescent white beads and lace mesh. On the outside of her dress, she wore the small silver locket. She held a bouquet of white and golden roses, trailing halfway down her legs with vines of miniature roses. Her head was encircled with delicate white roses laced together with gossamer holding them together and forming a veil that was thrown back over the top of her head. The back of the veil trailed down her back and hung close to the train of the dress.

'Well,' Lina thought to herself, 'At least she's wearing white.' She tossed Xellos a suspicious look, but focused on Filia. "So are we ready?", Lina asked, "And you're really going through with this? This seems like a real mistake to me." Amelia nodded her assent.

"Miss Lina's right, Miss Filia," she responded, "This place is so stuffy! And that Alara guy is nothing but bad news!" Filia looked at the ground, trying to find the toes of her shoes underneath her skirts.

"I... I hope I'm not going to have to go through with this," Filia said, smiling uncertainly, "I mean, could you actually picture me staying here with that creep for the rest of my life?" Xellos smiled smugly, moving closer to Filia.

"I told you," he said quietly, smiling that infuriating smile again, "I have everything worked out. Trust me!" Filia gave him a sideways look.

"For some reason, whenever you say that, I'm less than inclined to actually trust you," she remarked, "Anyway, I think we should get this started." Amelia took Filia's wrist, stopping her from going anywhere.

"Wait, Miss Filia!", Amelia exclaimed, "Since it's your wedding, you need to have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue! Even if you aren't going to go through with it, it's still good luck!" Filia blinked and looked down at her locket. She picked it up off her chest and showed it to Amelia.

"Well, this can be something old," she replied, "It belonged to my mother." Lina grinned.

"The dress can be something new," Lina offered, "Although that's not always a good thing..." She looked down, disgusted, at her own gaudy scrap of fabric.

"I'll lend you something!", Amelia chipped in, taking a gold bracelet off her wrist and fastening the clasp around Filia's, "There! Now you have something borrowed!" The three girls looked around their party. As luck would have it, not a single person had anything blue on them. Everything was white and gold, and blindingly so.

"I don't see anything blue," Filia said, "Doesn't anyone have anything blue on them? A handkerchief, or... a ribbon... or... something?" Everyone shook their heads. Except Xellos. He merely reached into the inside of his dress jacket and pulled out a dark blue, almost purple rose. Filia looked at him in shock as he tucked the flower behind her ear.

"There!", he said simply, "Now you have something blue." He placed the veil in front of her face, hiding the rose from view before a harsh tenor voice got his attention.

"What do you think you're doing!?", Alara exclaimed, suddenly appearing beside Filia, grabbing her by the arm and jerking her back, "Get your filthy hands away from my wife, you piece of gutter trash!" Xellos continued smiling, but it was an obviously strained expression. The corner of his eye started to twitch and Filia hoped for a second that he would just go ahead and get rid of the obnoxious white haired dragon once and for all. No such luck. Xellos kept his composure, although he still wore an especially acidic face.

"I would never dream of touching... 'your wife', sirrah," Xellos replied, mockingly cordial, yet demeaning, "I'll be off now." With that, he disappeared, leaving Filia to gape in anger.

'Damn you, Xellos!', she thought to herself, 'I thought you were going to help me!? You'd better come back here!' However, Filia didn't have too long to be angry before Alara turned on her, lips turned up in a snarl.

"So there's nothing going on, huh?", he asked sarcastically, "Are you certain of that? I would hate to be a cuckold and not have been married a day..." There was a certain venomous tone in his voice that made Filia nervous, but very angry at the same time. She glared back at him, wondering if he'd dare strike her in front of all these people. His hand snapped toward her face, causing her to flinch. He pulled back the veil covering her face and removed the dark blue rose from behind her ear. He threw it to the ground, then stepped on it, grinding it into the dirt with his white boot. He turned on his heel, walking back into the chapel. Suddenly, he stopped, turning back to the wedding party and snarling. "Well, don't just stand there looking like a gang of imbeciles," he snapped, "Let's get my wedding started!" Lina glared, balling up her little fists as the arrogant white-maned dragon walked back into the chapel.

"I am SO gonna Dragon Slave his ass," Lina said, pushing up her elbow-length gloves, "First chance I get, he's goin' down!" She stalked after him for a few paces before a firm hand caught her shoulder.

"Lina," Zelgadis said firmly, "Just let this play out. I think Xellos retreated just a bit too easily, don't you? He's planning something. If my hunch is right, you'll have plenty of chance to do as much Dragon Slaving as you want in a little while." Amelia nodded and Gourry straightened his tie, which was nearly choking him. Amelia looked over at Filia, who was shaking with anger, looking at the rose Alara had crushed.

"Miss Filia?", Amelia asked, "Are you alright?" She put a hand on Filia's shoulder, looking at her with genuinely worried eyes. Filia blinked and looked over at her, shaking her head.

"Let's just get this over with," Filia replied quietly. She turned quietly and motioned for the party to enter the chapel before her.

From the high branch in a nearby tree, the sounds of a bridal march playing could be heard. Xellos looked down, watching his five traveling companions disappear into the chapel. His smile twisted and turned horribly cruel as he watched them. He disappeared out of his tree, reappearing where the bride and her party had just been gathered. Eyes open and full of murder, he bent down and picked up the mangled blue rose. His hand closed around the carefully crafted flower, burying the sharp thorns in his palm. Black blood trickled down his fist and over his wrist in small streams. Xellos, however, seemed oblivious to the pain. Instead, he was intent on the wedding happening inside the chapel.

'That little... whelp... just insulted me!', he thought angrily, 'Maybe I take it from Filia, but I won't take it from that fool.' His face once again twisted in a demented grin as he looked toward the door of the chapel. 'I'd better go in,' he thought, amused, 'Wouldn't want to miss such a 'special' occasion, after all!'

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

"To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, 'till death do us part," Alara recited, his words echoing throughout the high-ceiling of the chapel. Filia felt her heart sitting in her stomach. How could he just leave her hung out to dry like this? She vaguely noticed the feeling of a ring slipping over her third finger on her left hand. The priest began reciting the same words, intending for her to repeat them. She felt Alara squeeze her hand hard and turned her head to look. His eyes were sharp and hard and angry. She swore inwardly, angry at him and angry at Xellos for having abandoned her here. But most of all she was angry at Saichuro for getting her into this. He was willing to go this far just to spite Xellos.

''Trust me!' indeed!', she thought bitterly to herself, 'The next time I see him...' Her thoughts were interrupted, however, by a tight squeeze on her hand, nearly making Filia think her wrist would break under the strain. The vows! The priest had stopped talking and was expecting her to repeat what he'd just said! Filia blinked, then looked at Alara and back at the priest. She hadn't been listening and had no real idea of what to say.

"I... I...", she stammered, hoping to remember some of what she'd just heard. Alara hissed at her, a warning that she'd better not back down now. Suddenly, out of the corner of Filia's eye, she saw something moving and contrasting the blaring whiteness of the chapel. She tried not to turn around, but to see what it was with her peripheral vision. Her heart leapt when she made out what she thought looked like Xellos, taking a seat in the back pew of the chapel. She smiled sunnily at the priest, who was beginning to look impatient. "Oh, I'm terribly sorry," she said sweetly, "What did you say again? I seem to have forgotten all of what you just said..." There was no mistaking it. That was definitely Xellos. She could feel his eyes on her back and his twisted smile curving across his face.

Suddenly, the priest stopped reciting the wedding vows. There was a croaking noise coming from somewhere in the chapel. Filia blinked and looked around, as did most of the guests. The noise got progressively louder and louder until suddenly, an old lady near the back jumped out of her seat and screamed. Several of the other guests followed suit until it became apparent what was causing them such distress. Filia turned her back on the alter and watched in mild amusement and shock as a swarm of frogs began bounding all through the chapel. They were in peoples' hair, up their dresses, down their backs, and under their feet. Filia fought the urge to break out laughing. Lina, who was standing beside her as a bridesmaid, looked on in disgust.

"If this is his idea of a joke," Lina remarked, "I frankly fail to see the humor." Amelia giggled.

"Mister Xellos is ruining Miss Filia's wedding," she said quietly, "I bet he simply couldn't stand to see her marry another man!" Lina rolled her eyes and Filia blushed.

"Miss Amelia!", she said in a hushed tone, "That's absurd! He's only doing this because the elders at my temple insulted him!" She knew that probably wasn't his only reason for doing this, but it would at least shut Alara up if he overheard. Regardless, Amelia continued giggling.

Gourry, meanwhile, was being swarmed by the overly-friendly frogs. He was practically dancing around trying to get them loose. However, it was soon apparent that the frogs would be the least of their worries. The outside doors of the chapel rang with a loud banging noise. Then the noise repeated itself. Then again. Suddenly, the doors flew open and a pack of large wolves bounded into the chapel. They chased the frogs merrily, howling and barking and playing, much to the chagrin of the guests and the slack-jawed Alara. A few errant wolves took to chasing the skirts of little old ladies who were foolish enough to run from them. Alara's hands balled into shaking fists, his eyes reading bloodlust.

Meanwhile, in the back pew, Xellos was leaning back with his feet up and his arms behind his head. This was quite entertaining. Now all he would need to make the day perfect would be for Alara to pick a fight with him. He was very much looking forward to dealing with that little upstart and showing him how to properly respect a 'dragon slayer'. He yawned, then reached over to the side of his pew and patted one of the wolves that happened to have stopped beside him. This was all well and good, but perhaps the boy needed a little more motivation to be a good sport. Xellos grinned as the shouts of the guests became louder.

The pristine white walls were now seemingly developing long, red streaks in them. The red streaks became red streams, and the red streams became puddles in the white carpet. For all intents and purposes, it appeared that the walls were bleeding. The guests looked at the horrible walls, gasping, and a few of the more squeamish ones made a bolt for the doors. Filia blinked and looked at the blood-stained walls, then at the furious Alara.

"This... This... Mazoku of yours," Alara said, teeth gritted, "Has just ruined my wedding! Right now... Right now, I'm going to deal with him... Later... I'll deal with you." He stalked away from the alter, heading intently down the aisle to where Xellos was gleefully watching the mayhem. He was subdued by a swarm of black bats flying by for a moment, but didn't let them deter him. He finally reached Xellos, lashing out and grabbing him by the collar and hauling him up to eye level. Xellos never dropped his smile. "You're going to pay for this, you scum," Alara said, teeth gritted, "This day was going to be perfect..." Xellos wagged a knowing finger at him.

"Oh, but it already has been!", he said gleefully. Suddenly, in a flash of black, Xellos disappeared. His voice, however, remained behind. "Why don't you come outside and fight me, then?", Xellos' voice queried, "The winner can keep Filia." Alara didn't answer; instead, he practically flew out the door.

Filia, having heard the challenge, was considerably less than enthused. "Xellos!", she yelled, shaking the whole chapel, "I'm not an object, you know!" Amelia sighed.

"How romantic!", she cooed, "Mister Xellos is going to go fight for Miss Filia's honor!" Lina and Zelgadis looked at each other boredly.

"How moronic," they both said in unison. Filia, red in the face from embarrassment and anger, started to run down the aisle, intent on keeping Xellos from killing Alara, even if he was a total ass. Before she could even get near the door, however, she was ambushed by the same swarm of bats that had subdued Alara minutes before. She swatted at them, but to no avail.

"Xellos!", she hollered, "Get these things off of me!" Xellos, however, seemed to have more pressing matters to deal with, as the bats did not abate. Instead, they picked Filia up with their claws and sinking their teeth into her clothing, and flew her up against one of the bloodstained walls. They pinned her upside down by her ankles, sending her skirts tumbling down around her face. Filia's cheeks lit up with blush as she tried to hold her skirts in at least a slightly respectable place. "Put me down!", she screamed angrily, "Let me go!" Her mother's locket hung loosely from her chin, dangling in her hair. It slipped momentarily and began to fall. Just before it hit the ground, however, one of the bats grasped it in its claws and flew away with it.

"Now, now, Filia dear," Xellos' voice rang throughout the temple, "You know I can't do that! You'd try to hinder me and then you might get hurt! And besides..." She suddenly felt as though he were right near her ear and a chill ran through her. "...I like your lingerie," came the whispered statement, followed shortly by a few teasing giggles. Filia looked non-plussed as she continued to hold her skirts up to her thighs, still blushing for all she was worth.

Outside, the bat that had stolen Filia's locket flew as fast as a shot to the roof of the chapel. Xellos, who was sitting lazily on top of the white roofed building, watched it with a broad smile. The leather-winged creature flapped its way over to its master, then dropped the silver locket into his waiting hand. Xellos, smiling, flipped the cover of the locket open with his thumb, then looked happily at Filia's portrait inside.

"Where have you run to, cur!?", Alara's angry voice came from the ground below, interrupting his thoughts, "Come out and fight me like a man!" Xellos smiled ferally and closed the locket, tucking it into his dress coat's inner pocket. He disappeared, reappearing at the edge of the roof of the chapel, looking down on his opponent.

"I would, boy," he replied mockingly, "But I'm afraid you wouldn't know how." Alara snapped around quickly to face him, firing off a blast of laser breath almost faster then the eye could see. Xellos did see, however, and teleported long before the blast reached him. Chuckling, he reappeared behind Alara, regarding him with an ultra-superior gaze. "You do realize," Xellos said, watching the furious dragon youth, "I've killed scores of your kind before. You really don't stand much of a chance against me." Alara growled for a moment before lunging at the Mazoku, hands going for the throat. Xellos' smiling facade disappeared before Alara could connect, and he reappeared behind the dragon. A staff flashed in front of Alara's off-balance feet, tripping him quite effectively.

Xellos chuckled as he made a fool out of the impertinent boy time and again. This was quite an amusing farce, especially since he'd treated Filia so badly before. 'It only serves him right,' Xellos thought smugly, 'This will teach him to respect my property.' Finally having had his fill of being made a fool, Alara picked himself up off the ground and clenched his teeth. A white light surrounded him for a second before he re-shaped into a large, white-maned golden dragon. Xellos looked up at the imposing figure, smiling cruelly. "That won't do you any good," he commented, smirking. Alara made a dive for him, initiating the real battle.

The guests of the wedding had poured out of the chapel, and were now standing around, gaping in awe. The longstanding, feared enemy of their race was battling one of their own within their temple grounds. Not for the fate of the world, or the honor of either race, rather for a woman's heart. It was a pitched battle, shaking the ground and most of the smaller buildings around. Inside the chapel, Filia was still hanging upside down, fuming.

'All the blood is rushing to my head!', she thought, frustrated, 'And they're fighting out there and I can't stop them! Xellos is so dead when I get down off this wall!' Finally, she'd had enough and her body started to glow a bright, white light. "XELLOS!", Filia bellowed, her dragon form shining into reality as she bolted away from the bats and straight through the roof of the chapel. Filia shot straight up into the sky, wheeling around to come back toward the temple and stop the fight.

Xellos, meanwhile, turned to look at the exploding chapel and the really angry Golden Dragon. Unfortunately, Alara took the opportunity to bowl Xellos over with a swipe of his tail. He flew backward into one of the walls of the chapel, rocking the building and leaving something of an indentation in the side of the building. "That was... stupid of me," Xellos said to himself, swearing inwardly for letting himself get distracted. He suddenly noticed a looming, white-haired dragon racing straight for him. However, before he could regain his composure and defend himself, another dragon dropped in front of him, spreading her wings out protectively and roaring.

"Stop!", Filia yelled, "Stop this fighting right now!" Alara wasn't listening, however. He growled angrily and shoved her aside, sending her rolling over the ground and into the side of the larger main temple. Alara didn't even see where she'd landed. Instead, he concentrated on Xellos, who he presumed was in a tight spot. Nothing could have been further from true. Xellos, being a terrible opportunist, grinned cruelly as the dragon loomed over him. He brought his staff up quickly to meet with the dragon's jaw, then gave him a quick jab to the stomach, then finished his assault with a blow directly between Alara's legs. He slid out from under the wounded creature, watching from behind as he tumbled to the ground, coughing and blue in the face. The dragon slowly shrank, reforming into Alara's human shape, looking just about as badly beaten as he had as a dragon. Xellos walked over proudly, placing a foot into his opponent's back, pressing his chest into the dirt, then grabbed him by the hair of the head and made him look up.

"Now, then," Xellos remarked, "I assume you realize you've lost? Good. I'm going to go check on Filia now. Please be a good boy and don't cause me any more trouble." With a sweet smile, Xellos dropped his adversary's head and stepped off his opponent's back. A blink of an eye later and he was beside Filia, who had been knocked unconscious by the force of being thrown against the temple wall. 'Apparently,' Xellos mused, 'She returned to her human form before she lost consciousness.' It was true. Filia was no longer in her Golden Dragon form. Instead, she was laying in the dirt in her tattered, bloodied wedding dress, breathing heavily. He bent down to get a better look at her and placed a hand on her forehead, brushing some hair out of her face. Filia's eyes fluttered open, looking at him sleepily, and she smiled.

"So he won't bother me anymore?", Filia asked quietly. Xellos grinned impishly at her.

"I told you I'd take care of it, didn't I?", he asked happily, "I said I would, and I did! You can trust me..." Filia gave him a look of general disbelief and tried to get enough balance to push herself up off the ground. Suddenly, a large shadow fell over the two of them, blocking out the sunlight. As they looked around, they noticed several more shadows obscuring their vision. Filia looked up, and then Xellos, to see several tall Golden Dragons looking down at them. Filia recognized two of them as the guards from a few days ago and assumed the rest of them must be security as well.

"Hey, you wouldn't be trying to start a fight without us," a familiar, saucy voice asked from behind one of the guards' legs, "Now, would you?" Lina stepped out from behind one of the dragons' massive legs, patting him good-naturedly and winking. "Myself," she continued, "I would've opted for helping you whip that sorry creep's ass and Dragon Slaving the whole place. But I was out-voted." Grumbling, she gave Zelgadis and Amelia an evil look as they, too, stepped out from behind some dragons' feet. Gourry stepped out from behind a dragon as well, picking frogs out of various places on his person.

"How is she?", one of the dragons asked, his voice booming in Filia's ears and making her head hurt. Xellos took hold of one of her elbows and stood her up beside him.

"I'll be fine, thank you," Filia replied quietly, rubbing the nasty bump she'd received on the head from the impact into the side of the temple. Lina grinned wickedly and flashed her a victory sign.

"So I take it the wedding's off?", Lina asked, a naughty undertone in her voice. Filia mirrored her expression and held up her left hand. She carefully slid the ring off her third finger and held it between her thumb and index finger.

"What do you think?", Filia asked, smirking. Xellos looked down at her, grinning smugly. She gave him a wink and walked toward Alara, pushing her way past the massive legs of the dragon guards. She reached Alara, where he was still laying on the ground, struggling to get up. Filia crouched down in front of him, placing the ring in front of his face on the ground. "No offense, Alara," she said, standing back up, "But I wouldn't marry you if you were the last dragon... the last man... on earth." With that, she walked back to her friends.

"So... If the wedding's off," Gourry reasoned, scratching his head, "Does that mean we still get to eat the wedding cake?" Lina's eyes lit up.

"Heeey!", she said, smacking her opened palm with her fist, "That's right! Let's go find the wedding banquet!" She grabbed Gourry's arm, dragging him off toward the main dining hall and leaving the others in the dust.

"Well, as long as they're going, we should, too," Amelia said, looking after them, "Right, Mister Zelgadis?" Zel shrugged and smiled down at the smaller girl.

"Why even bother to fight it?", he asked, good-natured rather than cynical for once, "Let's go, then." Amelia, smiling, took his arm and they followed Lina and Gourry through the dispersing crowd of dragon guards. That left Xellos alone, watching the dragons depart on wing. After the last one had flown away, Filia appeared amidst the dust stirred up by their departure. She walked through the swirling clouds of dust and approached Xellos.

"Where did everyone else go?", Filia asked, looking around at the now-empty area. Xellos shrugged, smiling.

"They went to scavenge some wedding food, I imagine," he replied simply, placing his hands in his pockets and trying his best to look sweet and innocent, "So what are you going to do now?" Filia blinked, then looked down at her dress. It was tattered, covered in dirt, and covered in blood from the bleeding walls of the chapel.

"I'm going to get out of this awful dress, that's what I'm going to do," Filia replied, taking her elbow-length, formerly white gloves off. Xellos grinned mischievously.

"May I help you?", he asked sweetly. Filia blushed and glared at him.

"No!", she squeaked, embarrassed, "I think you've spent enough time in my room while I'm half-clothed!" Xellos grinned, secretly satisfied with the embarrassment he was causing her. He shrugged.

"Well," he went on, "You know, Saichuro's not going to be happy when he hears about this..." Filia grinned back at him, mischief playing in her eyes as well now.

"I tell you what," Filia reasoned, "When I get out of this dress, I'll send it to him, and he can hang it off his damned lingam for all I care." Xellos grinned, opening an eye at her.

"A girl after my own heart," he chuckled, "That's my dragon!" He slipped an arm around her waist and began leading her after the rest of the gang. Filia looked up at him, shock on her face.

"Your dragon?", she asked indignantly. Xellos continued smiling and reached into the pocket of his dress coat, pulling something shiny and silver on a long chain out. He let the heart-shaped locket dangle in front of Filia's face, her eyes wide with happiness.

"Drop something?", he asked, dropping the locket into her waiting hands. Filia put the locket around her neck and nearly fastened it before a thought occurred to her. She took the necklace off and opened the heart-shaped locket. Her face brightened as she fought the urge to giggle. She looked up at Xellos, smiling, and snapped the locket shut again before putting it back around her neck and fastening it.

"Saichuro wouldn't be happy about that," Filia mock-scolded. Xellos gave her an impish grin in return.

"I know," was all he said.

Feedback: It's the candy everybody wants! ~ sailorN1@aol.com