Disclaimer: As of my birthday, I own Gourry (a piece of him, at least), but not Xellos. As in, a legitimate copy of the first season (squee!) Rights, however, are still no possession of mine.

Warnings: None, except that I must have written this at least a year ago (winces. I'm not out of newer stuff, but it's all very long). Unless you're Serendipity, in which case you're warned that this is one of my Xelmuse's bipolar lows. As in, Angsty As All Hell. ^_^ And thank you for *that.*

Still unenlightened as to proper procedure (sigh...) I say, advance thanks to reviewers! And regular thanks to Shaken reviewers. Nova-chan, I hope that was an exaggeration (grins) but I'm glad you liked it. And to the incredibly prolific Kaeru Shisho--I completely forgot about S&S when my Rezomuse took up permanent residence. Thanks for the reminder! I just might do that.

And happy Hanukkah, everybody.

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A Prodigal Man

by Nightfall

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He makes me sick. They all do, at times, in their own ways; it's a peculiarity of humans. They are our manna, and our hemlock. Just to be near them is heaven and hell.

Wait. Stop. Reverse that. Thank you.

How could we not be their enemies, when we are diametrically opposed? How can they help but hate us, when we tenderly, joyously lick the venom from their souls? How can we help but hate them, when they strain themselves to replace the bliss they are capable of giving us with the terrible, sickening twists of nausea they call happiness?

At least I have nice table manners. And do they appreciate it? Do they even bother to notice how easy I make it for them, how much freedom I leave them to joke around and enjoy themselves, the strain I submit myself to in order to eat slowly and not make barren my hunting grounds?

Perhaps the sorceress does. Or maybe she merely suffers my presence because she knows there's no getting rid of me. She is bright, in her own selfish little ways. But as for the others? Of course not. A demon is a demon, after all. Particularly to my little pebbly friend. It's always the half-breeds who are the most prejudiced, in their efforts to deny their unexplored natures. Especially, too, to the little girl. There are some days I can scarcely bear to breathe around her. Thank L-Sama for unrequited crushes.

But physical nausea--or psychic, I suppose--isn't what I meant. That's understandable. It's expected. We're enemies. I try to eat her, she tries to hurt me. She has fewer constraints, less restraint, less judgement, and therefore the upper hand. That's all right. I can afford to cede minor victories. Why grudge the gadfly it's bloody little supper when you're holding a swatter and a can of bugspray? That's just petty.

No, I don't care about her. It's him that gets to me. Him, the good, the pure, the wasteful spineless imbecile. I can't bear to talk to him, let alone to get close, find out what gets to him, tease him and feed off him like the others.

I can't even stand to look at him. Potent and effulgent and innocent in his vacuity, he hasn't got the spine to say 'Stop hitting me.' He hasn't got the sense to even resent it. And she hurts when she hits. I know. Believe me, I know. But I am made to smile.

He could stop her. Any time, any moment, any number of ways. She may be a tough little thing, but he's just as tough, and much larger. Would it require so much intelligence to say, 'hey, I don't like it when you do that'? These are words of one syllable. They're all in his vocabulary. He could ask her to stop. He could make her stop. He could walk away. Nothing holds him to her, not even a promise. Nothing but his own assumptions.

I talked to him about it once. I made sure to use short words. "Why do you let her hit you?" I asked. I sat on the other side of the fire. I can't be near that happy-go-lucky puppy-man.

"Girls and boys tease each other when they like each other," he told me cheerfully.

"She's not a little girl," I said. "You're not a little boy. It's not teasing."

"Nobody's just exactly right," he said earnestly, "so if you find somebody good you have to put up with the wrong bits. That's what love is."

He thought he was telling me something.

Even the bleakest, most endless yin is traced and shot through with bright yang. Dragons hate. Demons love. I have a thousand years and more, and I could have told him one thing, if he could have heard it: loyalty is not love. I had a thousand years, and spent them all on my knees, chained and gagged, a ventriloquist's marionette.

We have intelligence, but no will. No will. None. None of us. I do as my master wishes. She does as her Lord demands. His mother commanded him, "Destroy."

My mother-master-mistress is my darkness and my light. My lady-lord is my torment and my blessing. Her voice moves my bones. Her smile thrills my blood. Her protection wards me, her scent bedazzles me, her touch gives me ecstatic agony and unendurable comfort.

I'd give it all up to say 'no.' Just 'no'. Just, 'No, I don't want to do that.' No, I don't want to kill that. No, I don't want to seduce that. No, I don't want to grovel. To kneel. To beg, trick, feed, tease, smilesmilesmilesmilesmile--for you, Mother. All for you. Why do you have to make me want? Isn't it enough that I obey? Isn't loyalty enough? Oh, what I'd give to walk away...

But I can't. When I'm from her, I cannot move my body to act. When I'm near her, I can't even think it. I am a demon, and so I am owned.

The Mother of All gave them, gave humans, free will. What do they do with this most precious of all gifts? Why, they emulate us, of course, in the warm embrace of the lowest common denominator. What does he, most blessed of the children of light, do with his free will?

He wills himself a slave. He gives up. He gives up himself, his defense, and calls it love.

I cannot but despise his contempt of freedom, who am the Wolf Lord's dog.

[end]