Disclaimer: I don't claim credit for these chars. I don't claim credit for this song. Although I'd sure as HELL love to be Stevie Nicks. I have once or twice passed a picture of her off as me, though. ^_~ That being said, this song is on the "Tango in the Night" cd by Fleetwood Mac, which Stevie sings with. If you're really lucky, you may have heard it on the radio. It comes on every once in a blue moon. But I thought it was perfect for a songfic...

Feedback: Honk if ZOTC gave you nightmares, too! ~ sailorN1@aol.com

Seven Wonders

by Crystal Dawn Phoenix

So long ago,

Certain place,

Certain time,

The stars are out tonight, along with a full moon. How lovely. I'm the only one who's awake now, sitting alone by the fire, as I don't need sleep. I think to myself, as I have many times before, that this would be a perfectly romantic moment. If I were romantically inclined. Which I sometimes think I may be.

The desert is very quiet tonight. It gives one time to gather their thoughts. Where need we go from here? Where could we possibly find that Darkstar weapon? And what will happen when we do find it?

I look back at the quiet tents everyone else is sleeping in. Surely, when we find the weapon, I will betray them. It's simply too valuable a tool to leave to someone else. Of course, that's not the primary objective here, though.

Valgaav. It's him. I was ordered to find him, first and foremost, and get him to join us. I look to the tent that Lina, Amelia, and Filia are sleeping in. Yes, I will probably kill Lina for this mission and for his approval. I would almost feel sorry for her. Almost. But I'm only doing my job, no?

What of the rest of them? No, I'll leave them be unless they try to stop me.

But that line of reasoning is too dark. Perhaps I should think of something less burdening.

You touched my hand,

All the way,

All the way down to Emmiline,

We're making good progress, at least. We should be out of the desert in another day, perhaps two. Then we'll be at the shore. There's a town between here and there called Emmiline. We're not far from that town now. Filia wanted to continue traveling tonight, but Lina and the rest of the group wanted to set up camp here. So Lina won.

I have to admire those two. They both have nearly unparalleled penchants for mass destruction and attitudes to match. And they're entertaining as well. It will surely be a shame to leave their company.

When this is over, what will happen to them? I'll go back to my master's service, as usual. Amelia will go back to her kingdom. Zelgadis will go back to looking for his ever-elusive cure. Filia will go back to her temple. Gourry... what will he do without Lina? Hopefully he won't intervene. But I wouldn't mind having that sword of his, either.

Again with the depressing line of thinking. I find that I have opened my eyes without thinking about it.

I quickly shut them again. No sense ruining a nice, quiet night by thinking such thoughts. I am reluctant for that time. I believe that's the word humans use.

So it's hard to find,

Someone with that kind,

Of intensity,

A thought has occurred to me. When this is over, will Filia's temple even accept her back? Saichuro looked quite upset when he saw me appear beside her. It was such a delightful reaction, on both his and Filia's behalf. Perhaps he thinks I am corrupting her.

Which I am. To some extent.

But they're probably not going to be too happy about that. I doubt they'd let her stay with them anymore after this. At least not without some proper penance. Or else they won't let her live. I suppose it depends on how much of an influence they believe I have on her. Either way, I don't see a very promising future for her.

It's truly a pity. Among dragons, she is unique. Unlike others of her kind, she's not afraid to stand up to me, even knowing I could kill her easily. Even though she knows how to get under my skin, so to speak, I still have to admire that. And her temper is truly amusing. Toying with her is always a welcome diversion and her tendency toward violence is nearly as ridiculous as it is humorous.

I think I shall miss her when she's gone.

But it is honestly better for the both of us if we were to separate after this. If I make it through this mission without having to kill her, she can live a normal life. To see her again would probably mean that I'd have been ordered to kill her. I really don't want to have to see her again after all this.

I'll continue to tell myself that. Maybe if I think it enough, I'll believe it.

You touched my hand,

I played it cool,

And you reached out your hand for me,

Curious that. Why do I have to convince myself that I don't want to see her? I shouldn't want to be around her, without having to force myself to think it. And why do I have the feeling that the answer to that question is something I really don't want to deal with? This bears pondering.

I drag the tip of my staff through the sand to distract myself. The firelight is reflecting off the large red orb at the top of the staff, throwing strange, blood-tinted pools of light across the nearby sand. I take a moment to notice how cool it is out here. The desert really can get quite chilly at night, did you know that? It doesn't make me cold, of course, but I can feel it nonetheless.

Suddenly, the rustling of a tent flap breaks my efforts at keeping my mind from wandering. I don't have to look behind me to know who it is, or why they're up. I hear her soft footsteps in the sand as she pads over to where I'm sitting. There's a small 'thud' as she plops down in the sand, yawning. I turn my head to look over at her.

"Keeping watch again?", she asks sleepily.

"Why are you up?", I ask quietly, almost accusingly. She looks at me through half-lidded eyes and manages to blink.

"I'm cold," she mumbles.

It is Filia. She's drug her pillow and her sleeping pallet out to the fireside with her, and she's wearing a pair of long-sleeved, long-legged pink pyjamas. Right now, she's got the tip of her thumb in her mouth, as though she were still a little child. She hugs her blanket close as she stretches her feet out to warm by the fire. Another yawn and the thumb is back in her mouth.

This isn't the first time she's come out to sit by the fire, either. Like clockwork, she comes to the fireside every night at this time. And, having nothing better to do, I am sitting out here whenever she does arrive. I know it's not me she comes out here for, though. She genuinely is cold.

Sometimes I forget that dragons don't have the same metabolisms that humans do. It's not that I could ever forget that they're distinct creatures, but sometimes it does slip my mind that they're cold blooded. They can't regulate their body temperatures like human beings can. Once their body temperature reaches a certain low point, they'll begin to hibernate. Filia can't keep her body heat when it's cold at night like this, even with her thick blanket and flannel pyjamas. She doesn't want to go into hibernation in the middle of the night and slow everyone else down in the morning with trying to wake her. So she comes out to sleep by the fire when no one else is watching.

So long ago,

It's a certain time,

It's a certain place,

Stifling a yawn, she looks over at me. I try to project a front that shows that I don't want anything to do with her. She simply blinks at me and rubs the sleep out of her eyes in return. I really don't think she's getting the message.

Once she's satisfied that her feet are warm enough, she bundles up in her blanket, turning back to look at the fire. Eventually, she will warm up enough that she lies down before the fire and goes to sleep. It's the same routine every night. It's charming in a way.

Then a thought occurs to me. What if I'm only sitting by this fire, night after night, because I'm waiting for her to come out? What if I'm only waiting for a moment or two alone with her without the others around?

My eyes involuntarily open in shock. That thought is a little more than I can make sense of. Surely I can't want that. I can't be capable of feeling that way toward her. It isn't natural in the least. And worst of all, I can't find a single way to deny it. The thought is persistently scratching at the back of my mind.

This can only lead one place. If I feel that way toward her, then we'll both be punished by our masters. I look over at her, watching her lull quietly to warm sleep in front of the fire, huddled in her nest of blanket. I know I can't let her live now. If I do, this feeling won't go away, and we'll both suffer.

The grip on my staff tightens. She's almost asleep now.

You touched my hand,

And you smiled,

All the way back, you held out your hand,

Suddenly, Filia's hand comes out of her blankets. Slowly, she reaches over and lays it on top of the hand I'm resting my weight on in the sand. Stunned, I loosen my grip on the staff.

She smiles at me sleepily, and I can tell that she's not truly awake at this point. "You'll wake me up before everyone else gets up, won't you?", she asks softly. She's already falling asleep as she talks to me.

"I..." I say, hesitant, "Of course. I always do. Go to sleep." Filia still smiles hazily at me and gives my hand a squeeze.

"You're not that bad of a person, Xellos," she says quietly, sounding tired, "For a Mazoku, anyway." She takes her cool little hand off of mine and lies down in her blankets. I can see her curl up on her side in the little nest she's made.

Not a minute and a half later, she is asleep. She is snoring lightly, a tiny bubble having formed on her nose. I am still sitting here in shock, trying to make sense of what just happened.

Damn her. How could she have disarmed me so quickly? I should be angry with her, or more intent to kill her now. But I'm not. I don't understand it. I... I don't want to kill her.

If I hope,

And if I pray,

Ohh, it might work out someday,

My mind is turning in circles, thinking impractical thoughts. If I don't kill her, I should at least make her mine. Her temple be damned, if I say she belongs to me, there's nothing they can do to argue it. I don't know what Lord Beastmaster would think, though. She likely wouldn't want me to bring her back with me, but I can't say whether she'd really mind me owning her or not. I look over at the innocently sleeping dragon in front of the fire.

No. It's impractical. And this feeling is making me uncomfortable. It's foreign and I don't think I've ever felt it before. And worst of all, I can't truly say I'm disliking it.

Perhaps there is another way. If I simply complete my mission and bring Valgaav to our side, I can part ways with her. And if I kill Lina for Valgaav, she likely won't want anything more to do with me, either. If I make her despise me enough, she'll willingly leave my company. That shouldn't be too hard.

But what if she tries to fight me afterwards instead of leaving? She is always so much more attractive in her anger. And that will make me want to keep her more. Damn. Why does this have to be so complicated?

But if our paths never cross,

Ohh, you know I'm sorry, but...

No, I have to leave her be. Once I'm done here, I can leave and not look back. Truly, it is best for both of us if we were never to see each other again. I won't have to admit to this awkward feeling, and I won't get punished. And she can return to her life and won't be punished as much. But then I realize the major flaw with this plan.

I'll miss her.

I begin toying with my staff again, dragging it through the sand. Damn it. I don't want to be feeling like this. It's too complicated. I hear her sigh in her sleep and begin to feel even more confused. It doesn't really matter if I miss her or not, does it?

No, I decide, it doesn't. It's the best alternative. I really don't want to kill her, and I know I can't keep her with me. We'll eventually part ways anyway, and then I can forget she exists. I can kill things and destroy places until I forget she exists. Eventually, the pain and fear will numb that emotion away and I won't even remember that it existed, either.

I look back over at her. Even if I do numb that emotion away, I'll still miss her.

If I live to see the Seven Wonders,

I'll make a path to the rainbow's end,

I watch her sleep peacefully. I can see underneath her blanket where her tail has emerged from the flap in the back of her pyjamas and is contentedly swishing against the warm covers. I should kill her now. By all rights I should. But I blandly resign myself to the knowledge that I can't. She's not obstructing me. Even if she opposed me in my mission, it wouldn't really be an obstruction. So I really don't have a reason.

No, I can't falter for her. That is weakness. I have not lived this long by being weak. I will leave her behind when this is over.

Perhaps one day, a thousand years from now, we'll meet again. Maybe it'll be as old acquaintances. Maybe it'll be on the field of battle. I could die by her sword or mace, or she could die by my staff. Or we could die by each other's hand. Wouldn't that be romantic? I knew I had a romantic side, after all.

Or perhaps... The feud between our races could one day come to an end. Then I'd have no problem keeping her if I wished it so. But that's not likely to happen, anyway. My kind aren't easily trusted to keep peace treaties. And as far as that goes, we'd much rather be out having fun than following rules set forth by stuffy old dragons living in dusty old temples. And I doubt we'd give up the opportunity to have their guard down long enough to surprise them.

But it is still an intriguing thought.

I'll never live to match the

Beauty again...

I look at the sleeping dragon girl intently now. She really is quite pretty, even when she's not destroying something. But she's something I can't have. Not now, at least.

Quietly, so as not to wake her and be caught, I reach over and lay my hand on her head. I allow myself this small pleasure while I have the opportunity. Tomorrow, when she's fully awake, she'll be her same little harpy self, and I wouldn't dare touch her when she's awake. I allow myself a smile as I stroke the soft, blonde hair underneath my hand.

The moment ends quickly and I draw back. She's still smiling contentedly in her sleep, snoring lightly.

Leaving her will hurt, I know that much. But I can live with it. Ah, well. Perhaps there will be a 'next time' to look forward to.

The rainbow's end...

Feedback: Just remember: I could always do a Peter Gabriel songfic.... ~ sailorN1@aol.com