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by Crystal Dawn Phoenix
"So, how long do you have left?", Filia asked, setting her iced tea down on the checkerboard blanket. She watched Xellos take a bite out of a triple decker sandwich and take an hourglass out of the folds of his cloak. He watched some of the sand run out with a great deal of interest, then smiled at Filia.
"Well, I'd say it's not long at all now," he replied, "A few more hours at most. Probably soon after dark." Filia took a delicate bite of her potato salad and smiled back sadly.
"Are you sure you have to leave right away?", she asked, looking at the blanket, "I... wouldn't mind you staying around for a while longer..." Xellos put the hourglass away and put his sandwich down.
"Unfortunately, I'm afraid I won't be allowed to stay longer than the terms of our pact," he replied, "Perhaps I can come to visit sometime, without the bonds of a ceremony. But... it's not likely." Filia sighed and put her plate in her lap.
"Oh, I see," she said sadly, "Well, I understand." Xellos finished his sandwich and began rummaging around Filia's picnic basket .
"Hey, it's a lot of hard work causing pain and misery throughout the world, you know," he said, sticking his head out of the picnic basket, a chicken leg hanging halfway out of his mouth. He picked the meat off the bone, then removed it from his mouth, putting it back into the basket.
"You're getting just as bad as Lina and Gourry used to be!", Filia remarked, giggling, "You've nearly eaten me out of house and home!" Xellos opened an eye at her, smiling, as he took a ham sandwich and a bottle of hot mustard out of the basket.
"Well, my line of work does take a lot of energy," he remarked, slathering the sandwich in mustard. Filia watched him begin to eat the sandwich, then gasped as she realized what he'd put on it.
"Oh no, Xellos!", she said, grabbing the bottle of hot mustard, "Do you know what this is?!" He took a large bite of the sandwich and blinked at her for a second. His face suddenly turned bright red and his eyes began to water. He took a large gulp and put down the sandwich, the obvious discomfort on his face evident. He gasped and grabbed his glass of tea, draining it in one large gulp. He then went for Filia's tea, draining it as well. She grabbed the large pitcher of iced tea they'd brought out into the backyard with them and held it away from him. "You aren't getting this one," she said stubbornly, "Just wait a few minutes and it'll stop burning. Try eating something else, like some crackers or some fruit." Xellos looked at her pathetically and eyed the pitcher longingly. "No!", she protested, "You aren't getting this!" He whined, fanning his mouth and going back to rummaging in the picnic basket. Eventually he resurfaced with a large red pear. He took a bite and sighed, relieved.
"You're needlessly cruel," he said sadly, "That was horrible. How can humans even eat such wretchedly hot food?" Filia laughed and got a sandwich, putting a small amount of the mustard on it.
"Well, humans normally don't eat their sandwiches dripping with hot mustard, either," she remarked, taking a bite to demonstrate that it was safe. She offered it to Xellos, watching him shy away from it. "Aww, come on," she said coaxingly, "Don't be that way! If a dragon can handle it, I'm sure a big, bad Mazoku wouldn't have any problem with it, right? You wouldn't admit that a dragon is better than a Mazoku at something, would you?" He glared at her and folded his arms.
"I guess I could take a bite," he admitted begrudgingly. He opened an eye as Filia held the sandwich up to his face. He took a bite, chewing carefully as though he were debating whether he liked it or not. After chewing it for a few more seconds, he smiled and grabbed the sandwich away from Filia. "Why, thank you, Fi-chan," he said, smiling, "You saved me the trouble of hunting down another sandwich."
"Give that back, thief!", Filia replied, trying to get the sandwich back from him, "That's not funny!" He held it away from her, watching her stretch to try and get it.
"Well, it only serves you right," he said, "Especially since you wouldn't give me anything else to drink." He stuck his tongue out at her and took another bite of the sandwich. Filia gave up and poured herself another glass of tea. She took a sip and lay back on the blanket, looking up at the sky. "What are you doing?", Xellos asked around a mouthful of sandwich.
"Looking at the clouds," she answered, "Some of the clouds make different shapes on such a pretty day." She pointed toward a cloud floating lazily along in the sky. "See?", she asked, "That one makes a sort of horse... That one looks like a flower..." Xellos looked upward, trying to see what she was referring to.
"Well, I'm glad I don't have so little intelligence that I'm so easily amused," he remarked, taking another bite of his sandwich. Filia sat up, perturbed.
"It's not a lack of intelligence," she corrected, "It takes an imagination to see those shapes." Xellos poured himself another glass of tea and finished his sandwich. He lay back, just as Filia was laying back again.
"I suppose I should enjoy this quiet while I can," he said after several minutes of silence, "I won't be afforded this opportunity when I leave." He took a long drink of his tea.
"I... I'll miss you," Filia said quietly, "You won't get hurt, will you? When you go back to your work, I mean." He smiled over at her.
"Don't worry about it," he said confidently.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
"So this is it, huh?", Filia asked sadly, "You're sure you won't stay longer?" Xellos shook his head and smiled, taking both of her hands.
"I can't," he said firmly. Filia lowered her head. They were now back inside the very same chalk circle that Filia had summoned him in three short days ago. She looked back up, smiling forlornly with tears in her eyes. "Don't cry," he said, "I'll try to come see you again." She flung her arms around him and gave him a hug, burying her face in his chest. He stiffly brought a hand up and put it on her back.
"I understand," she replied quietly after a little bit before looking up at him sadly, "I wish you could stay. I'll miss you." He smiled down at her, winking.
"Well, if I can't come back on my own," he reminded her, "Then you could always summon me again." She smiled a little.
"Promise me you'll stay safe?", she asked, "Don't get hurt." He grinned.
"Don't be silly," he said in return, "I'll be fine." There was silence for a while afterwards.
"So, this is where we say 'Goodbye', isn't it?", Filia asked sadly. He nodded back.
"This is where we say 'Goodbye'," he affirmed, "I have to go n..." He was cut off abruptly as Filia reached up and gave him a kiss. He stiffened for a second before loosening up and kissing her back. After nearly a whole minute longer, he pulled away, watching Filia blush deeply.
"Goodbye," she said quietly. He smiled back at her.
"Goodbye," he said, vanishing from sight.
"So," a woman said, "You had a nice time."
"I did," Xellos replied. His cheeks were burning from the question. His lips were still hot from Filia's kiss, and he felt a little dizzy from being so close to her. Confusing feelings were making it hard to think.
"I take it you've had sufficient time to recover from your wounds," the woman continued, "I have something that needs done soon." Xellos seemed dazed for a second.
"Oh," he finally said, "Oh, of course. I'm fine." The woman took a drag off her cigarette and gave him an odd look.
"Well, that being the case," she said, "I want you to get to work right away." He suddenly seemed to snap out of it.
"Ah, Juuou-sama," he said, "Is there any way I could perhaps... after this next task, I mean... take a day or two and... go visit her?" She cocked her head to the side and raised an eyebrow. What an odd request.
"I'll see about it," she said vaguely, "Right now, just concentrate on the task at hand."
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
Filia unwrapped a teapot that was nestled in a large covering of tissue paper. She set it on a shelf, carefully placing it to show off its best side. She placed her hands on her hips and looked around. The new shop was full of unopened boxes and baskets. It had been difficult to move her heavier furniture, like her couch and bed, into her new house by herself, though. Not that she wasn't more than strong enough, it was only that they were rather large and cumbersome to carry, especially up a flight of stairs. She wiped the sweat off her forehead and flopped down onto a large pile of blankets and pillows that had been carelessly thrown into a corner of the new storefront room. Her actual living spaces were farther in the back of the house, so she didn't have a couch in this room.
Filia had moved just a few days ago to a nice shopping district in Sairuun, hoping to make a better business here than in her last home. She had discovered that Amelia's descendants, her grandchildren or great-grandchildren, were still on the throne. That was a good sign, she'd thought to herself. Having learned that, she took the money she'd earned at the market, and a little that she'd saved up as well and moved. So far, the people here were being friendly, and a little curious about someone from out of town as well. She'd already met so many nice people who were her new neighbors, and felt at home already.
Filia sighed, slipping her shoes off and fanning herself with her hand. This was hard work! She considered getting up and turning the lamps off and going to bed. Not a bad idea, actually. But it was still so early and there was still so much she could get done. Filia sat up and walked over to another box, opening it and rummaging through it, looking for another nice teapot to set on a shelf. She picked up a shiny, polished white one with roses painted on it, and began peeling away the layers of wrapping around it.
There was a sudden knock at the door. Since it was already dusk, Filia tried to look out the window and see who was at her door. It was too dark already for her to see them, and the street lamps hadn't been lit for the evening yet. Filia put down the teapot.
"Now, who would be calling at this time of night?", she asked herself, stepping around boxes and baskets and various other things in the floor. She smoothed out her pink dress and brushed the hair out of her face before she reached for the door knob. Filia opened the door just a crack, peeking outside to see who was knocking on her door.
There was a man dressed in a streamlined black suit, looking quite refined. He held a bottle of wine in one hand and a bouquet of red roses and white lilies in the other hand. His fine, straight hair hang over his eyes, shading them while he grinned. He extended the flowers to a surprised Filia and kissed her hand as she took them.
"May I come in?", Xellos asked, stepping closer, "It seems like we have a little bit of catching up to do..."