Okay. Here ya go. Final chapter. This took me WAY too long to finish, and I apologize. But hey! Now it's done! I did actually finish it!
Tons of review thanks go to everyone who nagged me since chapter six.
For some reason FF.net won't let me use my usual asterisks as a break, so we'll switch over to lines.
Both Filia and Xelloss agreed with Zelas's assessment that they were filthy, and hied over to the luxurious bathing room that ajoined Xelloss' chambers.
"Turn around," Filia commanded, as she started to removed her blood soaked garments.
Xelloss, who was himself already naked and looking none the worse for the wear besides being covered in blood and dried sweat, did so with a smirk. Despite all that had happened to them in the last few days, she still clung to her pretense of modesty. For several moments he heard the sound of her undressing, and then the soft sough of soap against skin.
"Is it safe to look yet?" he asked obediently when he deemed it most opportune, and then turned back around anyway to find Filia standing there respledently nude, about to rinse herself clean, not yet in the bathing pool.
"Eeeek!" she cried, and leapt into it with a splash, soap and all. "Pervert! I told you to turn around!"
"But you didn't say for how long, Filia-chan!" he crowed triumphantly. Even having the essence of a Ryuuzoku in his body didn't diminish the pleasure he derived from an angry Filia.
"Incorrigible," she grumbled.
"This from someone who just got soap in my bath?" he teased, and lathered himself up as well. Her blood still had a faint, metallic smell to it, and he knew he'd probably smell of it for days as his body struggled to absorb it. Ryuuzoku and Mazoku bodies did not merge easily; Valgarv was a testament to that.
And yet, he honestly didn't feel any pain from it, only an overwhelming sense of relief from the agony of an emotion his body wasn't designed to handle. He loved her. He wanted to protect her, to cherish her forever.
Hell with it, he wanted to marry her.
He picked up a bucket and scooped some water from the bath, and rinsed the soap and muck off as best he could before sinking into the hot water a few feet away from Filia. The bath was deep, tapped into a natural spring someplace else on Wolfpack Island. Zelas had a much larger bath than this one, even though Xelloss' bath was quite big to begin with. If Xelloss and Filia were to hold hands in the middle and stretch to opposite sides, they would still be an armlength or so short.
"How is your arm?" he asked, genuinely concerned. Perhaps concern was another emotion his body was now capable of; it wasn't something he could recall ever feeling before.
"I cast a healing spell on it after we woke up." She showed him her left forearm, which now had an angry white scar but was otherwise whole. "I'm going to need to eat a lot of protein and drink some water soon; I'm running on half the capacity of blood I should be."
"And very sweet your blood was, too," Xelloss said with a grin. "Too bad there won't be need for a repeat performance. Mazoku are generally vampires of emotions, not the physical life essence." He rubbed his stomach. "No sustenance in blood."
"So . . . you won't need more of my blood? You won't get sick again, will you?"
"Naw," Xelloss dismissed the notion. "You haven't felt guilty over loving me again, have you? In small doses, Ryuzoku and Mazoku essences can coexist peacefully, I think."
"Like in the ying and yang."
"Right. I think." Xelloss closed his eyes and sank back into the hot water with a comfortable sigh. "And if it's just a need for exchanging our life essences, kissing should do just as well."
Xellos grinned VERY widely. "Of course, Filia-chan! Why do you think we both lost our heads every time we kissed? It allowed us to temporarily accept the emotions inside of us with no nasty side effects. But in order to maintain the levels of each other's essences, we'll have to make sure to kiss all the time!"
Filia glared at him. "I believe you're making that up."
"Caught red handed!" He opened his eyes to lazy purple slits and leaned forward. "I just wanted an excuse to kiss you now."
"Silly Mazoku," she murmured, but didn't pull back as he leaned closer. "You don't need an excuse to kiss me anymore."
It was a long time before they made it to Zelas' chambers.
Zelas tapped one sandal-clad foot against the flagstone floor of her throne room, and took another impatient drag on her cigarette.
They were late. Not that she had given them a time frame or anything. But she had a nagging feeling that they had paused in their ablutions for some extraneous activities. Well, that was young love for you.
She fingered her copy of the Clair Bible, wishing that the Water Dragon's Kings directions for this sort of situation were a little less vague.
"Aw, hell with it. We're making up new rules anyway."
She tossed the book over her shoulder.
They arrived solemnly, clean now and glowing with health. They both stood before her, awaiting whatever judgement she chose to give them.
"Love and hate," she began, in a sing-song voice. "War and peace. White and black. Positive and negative. Sun and moon. Masculine and feminine -- Xellos, aren't you glad I didn't make you a girl?"
"Very, very glad, Juuoh-sama." He beamed and kissed the top of Filia's head.
Zelas closed her eyes, sighing deeply. "No matter what way I look at it, you two are bonded now. For eternity, most likely. Are you prepared for that kind of sacrifice? If one of you dies, the other will probably die as well."
Filia spoke quickly. "I think now that if Xellos died, I wouldn't have much will to live anyway. I . . . was thinking that, before. In the chamber. That's why I had to save him." Her face clouded, and she reached down to clutch his hand for strength. "I know now that these emotions aren't something I should run away from. I will accept whatever consequences may come."
"So will I," Xellos said, and looked his master squarely in the eye. "Do we have your blessing -- or should I say, your permission?"
Zelas snorted. "Do you think I could stop you? Fine, you have my permission. Do whatever you want. Just remember to invite me to the wedding."
"Wedding?" Filia squeaked, her eyes going wide. "Who said anything about a wedding?"
Xellos blinked at her. "What? Aren't we getting hitched now, Filia-chan?"
The golden dragon was suddenly flustered. "I--we--the thought never occurred to me!" She panicked and looked at Zelas, who winked in response. She took a deep breath and found herself staring into Xellos' bottomless eyes. They glinted evilly, teasing her and somehow at the same time daring her.
Zelas waited. But not for long.
"YOU never even proposed! How do you know I even WANT to marry you?!" Filia exploded magnificently.
"Who wouldn't WANT to marry me? I'm tall, dark, and handsome, AND rich and powerful! I'm everything a woman could hope for!" He stepped back, grinning disarmingly as Filia ran over to the wall and grabbed Zelas' decorative wolf-headed axe.
"YOU ASSUME TOO MUCH!"
The pair merrily chased each other out of the antechamber, leaving Zelas alone once again.
She grabbed a bottle of wine, took another long drag on her cigarrette, and raised her wineglass in a silent toast to the departing couple.
"Cheers," she said.