Disclaimer: WHY am I still even writing these things? A free space to rant, maybe? Well, I was sick yesterday, but I think *hope* I'm over it now. At any rate, I'm damn hungry, and I'm tired of living off of Ramen noodles and spaghetti. There. How's that for ranting? Oh, and I don't own these characters, nor do I claim to. Right.
Feedback: It's starting to act like a subliminal message right now, isn't it? ~ sailorN1@aol.com
by Crystal Dawn Phoenix
Filia slowly found herself being drug back to consciousness by the aching feeling that something wasn't right. She opened her eyes and saw her hand resting on Xellos' bare chest. His scent was cool and slightly metallic, and she could feel his breath against the top of her head. One of his arms was wrapped around her shoulder, and the other around her back, his fingers having become tangled in her long blonde hair in the night. Filia suddenly felt him stir awake and begin to move his fingers through her hair. Her eyes shot wide open then, as she tried to push away from him.
"Warm," he muttered, holding her tighter. Filia stopped struggling and he began to nuzzle into her hair. She wasn't entirely sure she wasn't enjoying this, either. Still only half awake, she lay her head down on his chest and closed her eyes again. She was almost asleep again when she heard a chuckling noise coming from beside her. "I thought you hated me?", she heard Xellos say with a yawn, still holding her tight.
"I do, Namagomi," she said, stifling a yawn of her own. She pushed him away again, only slightly more awake this time. He released her playfully, then watched as she stretched, obviously not used to sleeping in such an odd position.
"Did you sleep well, Fi-chan?", he asked, perhaps a little mockingly. That earned him a glare from Filia, who sat up in bed, stretching some more, this time causing her tail to stick straight up in the air behind her.
"I think you know the answer to that," she snapped, "You slept just as badly as I did." Xellos smiled, watching her stretch.
"On the contrary," he corrected, sitting up, "I don't normally need sleep anyhow. A bad night's sleep won't affect me like it will you." He flopped back onto the bed, placing his hands behind his head with a sigh and causing the covers to rustle. Filia rubbed her eyes, glancing at him angrily.
"Just get up," she said, hauling her feet off the side of the bed, "We've got a lot to do today." Xellos sat up again, moving toward the edge of the bed.
"What could we possibly have to do right now?", he asked, slightly irritably, "It's still dark outside. I doubt there's anyone in the market to buy your pottery right now, anyway." Filia gave him a backwards glare and slipped into her houseshoes.
"I know that," she said flatly, "But we have things to do before we go, like eating breakfast, and loading up the wagon." Xellos pouted at that.
"Aww, you're so dull, Filia," he said, getting out of bed as well.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
Xellos yawned, stretching his arms high over his head and opening his mouth wide. Filia glared at him.
"Stop that," she scolded quietly, "It's rude, and you'll drive away my customers!" They were both sitting on a large blanket in the busiest part of the market. Filia, being practical, had gotten there at the crack of dawn and had managed to get one of the best spots. Her newest teapots were sitting neatly on top of the blanket, along with several jars, vases, and other pieces of pottery. She had put on her best market dress and earrings and even a nice headdress to match. Even Xellos had admitted that she looked stunning, which made Filia turn red in the face and want to punch him at the same time.
"Oh, that's nonsense," he replied, "They just naturally steer clear due to your sour disposition." He was fixed with a rather evil look from Filia.
"What was that?", she asked irritably, "You know, it's almost lunch time. I think I could go without eating for the rest of the day if need be..." Xellos looked at her with a little bit of shock on his face.
"But Filia!", he said, almost whining, "That's cruel! I have to eat, too, you know." She folded her arms and thrust her nose into the air.
"It serves you right, then," she replied. Xellos crossed his arms in return.
"You just don't appreciate me," he said, almost pouting, "At least those girls over there have the good sense to appreciate someone like me..." He pointed toward three pretty young women who were sitting together on a nearby bench. All three waved and smiled in unison, winking at him.
"Hi-i-i-i-i!", they said sweetly, blowing kisses. Xellos waved back and smiled as Filia sighed and rolled her eyes.
"You're only encouraging them," she mumbled. Xellos smiled infuriatingly.
"Jealous?", he asked, teasing. Filia shook her head, too tired to protest.
"Okay, what about this Fitzroy guy?", she asked quietly, "You don't think he'll try to attack us while we're in the market, do you?" Xellos looked around.
"With all these people nearby?", he responded, "Of course he will. That just means there are more people to frighten." Filia's face turned white.
"Here, in the middle of this crowd!?", she wailed, "All my pottery! It could be smashed before I have the chance to sell it!" Xellos smiled.
"Well, I have a simple solution for that," he said, wagging a finger at her. Filia's face brightened.
"What is it?", she asked anxiously. Xellos cupped a hand around his mouth.
"Everything on this blanket is half off today!", he yelled across the marketplace, causing several onlookers to turn their heads and watch, "All our wares are half price!" Filia nearly fainted.
"Are you insane!?", she hissed, "I won't make anything that way!" Xellos turned and smiled at her.
"On the contrary," he said, pointing out the large crowd that had begun to gather around their little spot, "I think you'll sell more this way." Many of the onlookers began to deal with a rather stunned Filia, and a few even dealt with Xellos.
"At least you're a good salesman," she said, "But I'd probably be closer to the truth if I said 'con man'." Xellos ignored her and took some money from a customer.
"Well, Miss Filia," an aged female voice called from out of the crowd, "I can't say this is much of a surprise." Filia looked up from her trading to find the speaker.
"Huh?", she asked, brushing hair out of her eyes, "Oh, it's you Ms. Alyshia." A woman who looked to be in her mid 40's or 50's pushed her way to the front of the crowd. She folded her arms over her chest and looked down at Filia and Xellos, from over her wire-rimmed glasses. She had white hair done up in a bun on top of her head and a black dress that came down to her ankles. Filia tried to ignore her and went back to trading with one of the shoppers.
"Taking up with another young man again, I see," the older looking woman said, her tone of voice suggesting that she thought herself superior, "How sinful." Xellos blinked and looked over at the old woman.
"Young?", he said, scratching his head, "Is she talking about me?" Filia gave him a sideways glance that practically screamed 'Just shut up'. Filia turned her attention back to the old woman.
"It's not like that," she said firmly, "He's only my... brother." Xellos raised an eyebrow but said nothing, instead taking money from another customer. The old lady turned her nose up in the air.
"And just what about that dress you're wearing there?", she continued, "It's absolutely terrible the way you flounce around in those little outfits!" Filia glared at the aging human. This was quickly wearing on her already thin nerves, as it always did whenever that old windbag showed up.
"If she likes that, she ought to see some of Juuou-sama's outfits," Xellos remarked under his breath, giving Filia a sideways glance. He couldn't find a thing wrong with what she was wearing. In his opinion, it covered a little too much. All the way down past her knees! Honestly, some humans.
"It's considered perfectly fine where I come from," Filia remarked coldly, taking a few bronze pieces from another customer. The older looking woman seemed undeterred.
"And didn't I see you loitering around that old run down Sorcerer's Guild building the other day?", Alyshia continued, "No doubt looking for books on some horrible heathen ceremony, I'm sure!" Xellos stifled a chuckle as he watched Filia get even more frustrated with the nosy old woman.
"If she only knew the half of it," Xellos muttered.
"Really, Ms. Alyshia," Filia said, clearly trying to maintain her composure, "Don't you have anything better to do than come over here and persecute me?" The old lady was about to respond quite brazenly when there was a sudden explosion in the nearby crowd. Xellos handed Filia the money he'd collected and stood up.
"I see he's finally found us," he said absentmindedly, peering out into the crowd. No one noticed his little remark, however, as they were too busy looking at the source of the ruckus: a large green-eyed creature with green hair lopped over one eye. "Filia, do try and stay out of the way," he said, watching her stand up, "This will probably get very, very messy." He was about to head toward the commotion when Filia grabbed his cloak and pulled him back.
"Wait a minute," she said, ignoring the frightened people running past, "If you're going to fight him, don't I have to come with you? We can't be separated, can we?" Xellos smiled.
"Well, I can't get too far away, but I can fight without you," he replied hastily, "It wouldn't be very practical if I couldn't defend myself without you, now would it?" Filia blinked as he disappeared.
"Nothing else about this has been practical," she mused to herself, "Why should it start now?"
Xellos reappeared a small distance away, watching several frightened on-lookers stampede past him. Sure enough, about a meter away, there was Fitzroy, turning over vendor booths and slinging humans out of his way.
"My, my," Xellos commented, loud enough to draw the snarling creature's attention, "That isn't very polite, now is it, Fitzroy-san? You're driving all these nice people's customers away." The rival Mazoku turned to face Xellos, drawing a long dagger from its boot in the process. The weapon began to glow an eerie blue color, showing that it was probably enchanted somehow. He knew he'd have to watch out for that.
"It's not a part of my game to be polite," Fitzroy responded keenly. A split second later, a flash of green dove at Xellos, causing him to sidestep, and causing Fitzroy to demolish another nearby booth. Time stood still for a moment before the wreckage of the booth exploded outward. Xellos looked toward the sky to see Fitzroy bearing down on him, glowing dagger raised high over his head. Xellos took off skyward, almost moving faster than the human eye could register, and met the attack with his staff.
The sounds of the battle were fierce as flashes of black and green danced across the market place. Explosions rocked the area and sent merchandise and several hapless humans flying through the air. Dirt and rock went airborne as Fitzroy skidded back under the brunt of Xellos' attack. They were nowhere near being evenly matched and Xellos knew it. He didn't expect the fight to last much longer at any rate.
Fitzroy jumped back, distancing himself from Xellos. He grinned ferally before lunging at the seemingly smaller creature, seeming to disappear as he did so. Xellos dodged, but felt a sharp pain in his side as the hot blade left a long black gash in his body. "Damn!", he muttered to himself, "Sloppy, sloppy..." He turned quickly to face his opponent, who was standing some distance away now, holding his blade up.
"I really thought this would be more of a challenge," the green-haired creature sneered, "You're not making this much fun, are you? But I know how to make it more interesting." It jumped back, as if in preparation to race forward, then disappeared. Xellos looked for him for a second before he felt a sharp, stabbing pain in his shoulder. He gasped and his eyes shot wide open as he felt the burning wound come from out of thin air. There was the sound of a woman screaming sharply from across the market place, in obvious pain.
"Filia!", he yelled, turning to face their attacker. Fitzroy had his arm around Filia's neck, holding her back to him. Her shoulder was covered in blood, the obvious result of a stab wound.
"Xellos!", she yelled back, her face twisted in pain. Fitzroy chuckled, tracing a line down her chest with his blood stained dagger.
"Now where should I start carving up this little cutie?", the green-eyed demon taunted, bringing the dagger up to Filia's neck, "Wonder where it would hurt the most?" He pressed the blade into her flesh, causing Xellos to wince in return.
"Now that's not really fair, is it?", Xellos asked, wagging a finger at his opponent, "Taking hostages isn't good sportsmanship." Fitzroy dragged the blade down her throat, scraping the skin, and traced a path down her chest with it.
"Who said I intended to take her hostage?", it asked in return, "I'm going to kill her first, then drink your life force before I kill you. Isn't that right, pretty?" He jerked Filia's head back and drug the dagger down a little further, ripping the front of her dress. Xellos glared as his opponent looked for an appropriate spot to make the next wound.
"That's enough," Xellos called, covering the wounded shoulder with one hand, "I'm tired of playing this game." He disappeared suddenly, causing Fitzroy to laugh.
"What, giving up so soon?", it asked in response, "You're a coward!" It pressed the dagger back into Filia's throat again, harder this time, preparing to cut her. Suddenly, Fitzroy dropped the blade, making a gurgling noise. He released Filia, who crumpled to the ground.
"Oh, I'm not giving up at all, Fitzroy-san," a voice said, seemingly without a visible owner, "I merely stated that I was tired of playing with you, that's all." Fitzroy looked down to find a large black spike protruding from his chest. It screamed, streams of black leaking from the large wound, before Fitzroy finally dissipated.
Xellos reappeared a few seconds later, still clutching his wound. He sank to his knees beside Filia, who was curled up in a little ball on the ground, clutching her matching wound. A small crowd had begun to gather around them, gaping in awe as he scooped her up and stood.
"Whatever you do, Filia," he said quietly, "Don't let yourself fall asleep right now. You have to stay conscious." He could tell that it was going to be difficult to keep her from passing out from the pain. "We have to get back to your house," he said, hoping she would stay coherent if he talked to her long enough, "I'll carry you, alright?" He noticed the crowd that had gathered around them, staring in fear and shock. "Do any of you know how to heal?", he called into the throng, "Can anyone help her?" A familiar white haired old lady pushed her way to the front of the crowd.
"You can't honestly expect us to help her, can you?", Alyshia asked, pointing, "Look! She even has a tail! She's clearly a demon!" A few of the people in the crowd gasped, and a few of them had already noticed it. Xellos looked down to find that, sure enough, Filia's tail was showing. Of all the bad timing. He made a note to himself to scold her for that later. He looked up at the old woman, opening his eyes.
"Lady," he remarked, fixing her with an icy stare, "You wouldn't know a demon if you saw one." With that, he vanished, leaving the crowd to stare.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
Xellos reappeared in Filia's living room, cradling the wounded dragon in his arms. He slumped to his knees and lay her on the floor, her weight being more than he really wanted to support with a wounded shoulder. He could see her breathing heavily and he began to feel drowsy, realizing that she was close to passing out. 'She's lost a lot of blood,' he thought, looking at her stained dress. He shook her good shoulder, causing her to moan in pain. "Filia, don't fall asleep," he said groggily, "Come on, now, you've got to stay awake." He realized she wasn't listening. That wasn't good. He could feel himself slipping into unconsciousness quickly. Undaunted, Xellos reached for Filia's nose and mouth, pinching her nose and shutting her mouth. A few seconds later, he felt himself snap back into cohesive thought as Filia's eyes shot open. She began gasping for air and clutching at her shoulder.
"Don't DO that!", she yelped, her voice audibly strained. Xellos smiled as he propped her up to lean against his lap.
"Do you think you can heal yourself like this?", he asked quietly, "I can really only heal myself with any amount of efficiency when it comes to wounds this big." Filia sighed as her hand covering the wound began to glow.
"I'll be fine," she said quietly. Xellos began to feel a warmth spreading out from the wound in his shoulder. It was soothing, taking the pain away. He began to relax, watching Filia heal her wound. He rested his hand on her head, smoothing some of the blood stained hair out of her face.
"So," he said, finally, breaking the silence, "What problem did that old human have with you? She seemed quite intent on ruining our day." The warmth of the healing was spreading throughout his entire shoulder now, mending parts that were on the astral plane as well as the physical.
"That was Ms. Alyshia," Filia said quietly, "She doesn't like me because I'm not from around here. I'm foreign, and sorcery is dying out in this part of the world. People like her have forgotten about Cephied and Shaburanigdo and the other Gods and Mazoku." She fell silent again. Xellos stroked her hair, feeling her fatigue from the wound and the healing spell.
"More's the pity for them," he remarked softly, "I suppose ignorance isn't bliss, then, is it?" Filia didn't respond, but he could hear her breathing heavily as she concentrated on the spell. "Another thing?", he asked, looking down and smiling, "Who was this man she was talking about? Is there anything you'd like to tell me?" He felt Filia chuckle softly against him.
"She was talking about Val," she replied, her voice sounding strained, "I couldn't tell them that he was my 'son'. We looked the same age by the time I moved here. So I didn't tell them anything. She just jumped to conclusions, as usual." There was a pause as Filia thought. "Why?", she asked after a few seconds, "Jealous?" Xellos chuckled, feeling the warmth from the healing spell begin to slowly dissipate as Filia finished.
"Touché," he replied quietly. He felt her stir, moving her hand from her newly healed shoulder. "Are you feeling better?", he asked, watching her push herself up into a sitting position. She turned to face him.
"Yes I am," she said firmly, "Thank you." She began to stand, brushing dust off her ruined dress.
"Are we going back to the market?", Xellos asked, trying to stand as well, only going about it slower because of the gash along his side. Filia noticed and started to look closer at the wound.
"Of course not!", she replied, "My dress is ruined, we wouldn't be able to sell anything after that ruckus, and I doubt any of my pottery is left intact anyway! And besides that... You're hurt..." Xellos smiled sheepishly as she began to inspect the new wound.
"Now, now, it's not that bad, really," he replied, trying to step back from her, "Don't fuss over it." Filia ignored him, touching the cut and causing him to wince in pain. "Filia," he growled warningly, "Stop that." She backed off, looking at him wide eyed for a second. Silence settled over the room. "So," Xellos finally said, breaking the uneasy stillness, "Don't you think we should go back... I mean, if for no other reason, than to get your money?" Filia shook her head, smiling and taking a small pouch from off her belt.
"I have it all right here," she said, holding it up in her hands, "You didn't think I was foolish enough to leave it laying on the ground during that ruckus, did you?" Xellos smiled at her, folding her hands over the small bag of coins.
"Well, that being the case," he said, "Will you make me a promise?" Filia blinked at him, not sure what to say.
"What?", she asked quietly.
"I want you to take this money," he said softly, "And move away from this place. Somewhere closer to Sairuun or Sairaag, where sorcery's still in common practice. Alright?" Filia blinked again, then backed away from him, smiling.
"Why, Xellos," she replied, smiling, "I think that's the first unselfish thing you've ever said to me." He grinned back, holding a finger up.
"Of course it's not," he said knowingly, "Because if you ever decide to summon me again, I don't want to come back here. These people are entirely too rude!" Filia put a hand to her forehead.
"Forget I said anything at all," she remarked, still halfway smiling.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
Filia ran a brush through her long blonde hair, straightening it out. Xellos did likewise to his own, although it was too short to require as much brushing. They both stood in front of Filia's vanity mirror, regarding their reflections. They were both clean now, free of any blood or dirt that may have clung to them from the day's excursion. Filia wore a lacy white empire waist gown and her houseshoes. Xellos was wearing his blue pyjamas, only this time, the front of the pyjama shirt was sloppily unbuttoned and lopsided. Outside, the sun had set long ago, giving way to night. Now the only light in the room was the small lamp beside Filia's bed.
"Well?", Filia asked finally, laying the brush down, "Did you get enough to eat at supper? I know you said you were hungry before." Xellos likewise laid his hairbrush down, then looked at her, smiling.
"Don't worry about it," he said softly, "It doesn't really matter. Tomorrow this spell will be undone and I won't need to eat human food anymore." Filia began walking to her bed, shortly followed by Xellos.
"Are you happy about it?", she asked, her tone hushed, "That you're leaving tomorrow, I mean." He laughed softly, placing his hand behind his head and grinning sheepishly.
"Well, I don't think I always know when I'm happy," he said as they turned back the covers of the bed, "But I know that leaving here will not make me happy." Filia climbed under the covers, then pulled them up to her chin, watching Xellos climb over her to his side of the bed.
"But I thought you didn't like this place?", she asked, turning to look at him, "Why wouldn't you be happy to leave?" He gave her a knowing smile and tapped her on the nose.
"Now, my dear, that," he said, grinning, "Is a secret." Filia blinked, then turned to put out her lamp. The room went dark as she turned back to face Xellos, who was laying on his back, trying to avoid causing his wounds any more discomfort. She could tell he was in pain from them, particularly the freshest one, but he wouldn't allow her to help. He wouldn't even allow her to look at them too closely. She scooted closer to him under the covers. Maybe another tactic was in order?
"Xellos?", she whispered shyly, reaching out to touch his shoulder. He turned his head to look at her in the darkness.
"Yes?", he answered, raising an eyebrow, "Why are you not asleep yet? Afraid of the dark?" She ignored the half-hearted taunt and scooted closer.
"Well, I was wondering if you could do me a favor," she asked quietly, "Do you think you could... hold me?" Everything was quiet for a minute.
"I suppose," he said haltingly. Filia moved next to him, settling in as he stiffly put an arm around her.
"What's the matter?", she asked softly, "You didn't have any problem with sleeping like this last night." She lay her head on his shoulder as he glanced down at her.
"Well, it's kind of different now," he admitted, sounding a little embarrassed, "Last night, we were in danger of being attacked. And you weren't being as friendly." She put a finger over his lips, hushing him.
"Just go to sleep," she said firmly, laying an arm over his chest. They lay there in silence for a few minutes before Filia moved her hand down his side toward the freshest wound. He didn't say anything, so Filia assumed he must have been close to falling asleep, much as she was. She placed her fingers over the black wound and began to cast a small healing spell. She felt Xellos' arm tighten on her back, drawing her closer. His face turned toward her sleepily.
"Filia," he said sleepily, "That feels... nice. Do be careful..." He felt the comforting warmth spreading out from the wound and easing him nearly to sleep. He began to nuzzle into her hair, breathing deeply.
Filia concentrated on the spell, knowing that if she went about it too quickly she might hurt him worse than he already was. Most healing spells required that negativity be drawn out of the wound, preventing infection. Filia knew that performing them on Mazoku was difficult at best, considering that they were basically made out of negativity. She concentrated harder, feeling the wound close slowly before being completely healed. Filia moved her hand up to his chest, nearly exhausted. He took her hand in his own and slowly brought it to his lips, giving it a soft kiss.
"If the situation between us were different," he said weakly, "Then I would..." He trailed off, nearly too sleepy to continue.
"How do you know I would let you?", Filia asked in return, teasing, but not really awake enough to put much effort into it. She drifted off to sleep more comfortable than the previous night, feeling a little bit warmer than the last time.