Book of Days
. o .
Truth be told, their reunion was an accident. Literally.
The pretty brunette walking up the Coliseum's stairs had turned his head, and she had her nose in a book as she descended. Their collision was spectacular; both tumbled down the stairs, landing in a colourful tangle of limbs and fabric.
Jumping to her feet immediately and dusting off her long robes, the apology on Raine's lips froze as she recognized the man still sprawled on the pavement. Eyes narrowed, she took in Zelos' lazy grin. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you planned that."
He pouted. "You're not going to help me up?"
"Incredible," she scoffed, but extended her hand.
He took it, fleetly kissing the back of it before she recoiled. "You're still my Ultra-Cool beauty, aren't you?"
"And you are just as smooth as ever," Raine replied flatly, looking about for the book she had been carrying. Spying it halfway up the stairs, she sighed. Hopefully her notes hadn't been too scattered in the fall… Belatedly comprehending Zelos' last comment, she added, "the last time I checked, I wasn't your anything."
"Cold," he chuckled, undaunted. "So what brings you here, if not to revel in my stunning good looks?"
Looking up from the papers she had been gathering, Raine held up a handful. "Research."
Impressed, his jaw slackened at the size of the 'handful' the pretty half-elf was holding. Spying a stray page blowing away, Zelos bounded up the stairs. Snatching it, he passed it to Raine. "Research, hmm? With all these notes, you must be writing the next Boltzman's Book." Pausing, he grinned as a thought occurred to him. "I do hope there's at least a chapter about me…"
Leaning back – when had he drawn so close to her? – Raine answered. "Of course; you are part of the story, aren't you? I couldn't leave you out. But I can't promise that you'll like it all."
Passing the last of the loose papers to her, his tone was less playful. "Y'know, I can't argue with the historian."
An indulgent smile warmed her expression. "Your ending's a happy one, though. Formal indulgence from the King's own hand and a position as an advisor under your own name, not that of Chosen. You did well, Zelos… not to mention the fact that you were able to keep all of your familial property and continue to ogle all of these poor girls in the style you're accustomed to..." Trailing off, insulted by his peals of laughter, she asked, "pardon?"
Leaning against the railing, Zelos caught his breath. "My… you've been doing your homework, hunny."
Determined not to rise to the bait this time, Raine started down the stairs. "Someone has to catalogue these events for future generations, Zelos. It is of utmost importance that both worlds know what really happened two years ago, so that earlier mistakes do not reoccur. So, over the past two years, I have retraced what I could of our journey, so as to supplement the notes I had taken during that time."
"Wait," he said. "You mean that amidst the world-hopping and near-death situations, you were taking notes…? Not that there's anything wrong with that," he added quickly under her heated glare. "Nothing at all."
"For that," she said with a trace of glee, "you are carrying these." Placing three oversized notebooks, one folder, and two texts into his arms, Raine couldn't help but smile as he stumbled a little under their weight.
"Times like these," Zelos said quietly, "almost make me wish the brat was still around so I could foist these off on him." Louder, he added, "where's the little hothead, by the way? I thought you never let him out of your sight." Aptly ducking the swat she sent at him, he whined. "It was just a question…"
"My brother," Raine began, "is attending school at the new location of the Palmacosta Academy in Sybak. It seems that saving the world is the only bargaining chip that works against our blood, but he likes it well enough there."
"I bet he fits right in," Zelos smirked.
"Not at first," she admitted. "But after sending a bully through one of his tornadoes – not hurting the kid, just shaking him up a little – the other children warmed up to him. Apparently, they had been wanting to do that for months, but as warlocks are far and few between…"
"Hmm. There might just be hope for him yet," Zelos chuckled. Pausing in front of a modest inn building, geraniums blooming in the window pots, he added, "well? This is your stop, isn't it?"
"Do I even want to know how you knew that?"
Grinning, Zelos handed Raine's books back to her. "For one," he said, "it's reasonably priced; for two, it is clean, pretty, and comfortable. For three, the Meltokian Archives are four doors down from here, and from the delicate pallor of your pretty face, hunny, I'd predict you've been spending the bulk of your time in there."
Her arms full, Raine could do nothing but blink in surprise as Zelos' fingers carefully traced her cheek. "I take it back," she said. "You're worse than before. Once upon a time, you just looked."
"Life's too short, Raine," Zelos replied, allowing himself a tiny smile as he noted how she had leant into his caress. "Even for those like you and I."
They stood in silence for a few moments, both for once unsure of what to say. As the scent of fresh-baked cinnamon buns wafted through the air, however, Zelos wrapped his hand around Raine's arm and steered her through the door of the inn. "For four," he noted as they walked through the small lobby, "Marguerite makes the best cinnamon buns this side of the Gaoracchia, and if I remember right, you have a terrible sweet tooth." Ignoring her protests, he continued. "That aroma wafting deliciously around us means that she's just finished a batch. Which means," he said as he pulled a skeleton key emblazoned with the number three from her robe pocket, "that we should go grab some before they all disappear." Chuckling merrily as she spluttered, not quite surprised but still indignant at his familiarity, he unlocked the door and followed her in. Smiling brilliantly, Zelos lifted the books out of Raine's arms and deposited them unceremoniously on the bed. His mirth faded as he noticed her crossed arms and unyielding stance. "Well?" he asked. "You know you want to."
"I can't just go gallivanting off like that," she explained. "Life is short, and I have work to do; a lot of it."
"For Martel's sake," Zelos retorted, "it's a cinnamon bun, not an Altamiran cruise. You can't live in the past all the time, Raine – you'll miss the present."
"You're a hypocritical little hedonist, Zelos. And I'm willing to bet you stole that line from a book."
The redhead only shrugged. "I never claimed I was perfect…" Holding up his arm, he added, "…just that I was close! Now, are you coming? They're getting colder as we speak."
Sighing, and fighting to keep a smile from tugging at her lips, she acquiesced. "As I do not especially have a choice in the situation-" here, he smiled wickedly, "- I accept." Carefully placing her hand on his arm, she let him sweep her into the kitchen.
To her surprise, Marguerite was a spry elderly woman who had chuckled at the ex-Chosen's dramatic entrance and smiled at their linked arms in a way that Raine couldn't quite bring herself to dissuade; even less so as the cook set aside the two largest cinnamon buns, wrapping them in waxed paper before handing them to Zelos.
Raine hardly had time to chime in a thank-you with Zelos before he tugged at her arm and she found herself once more at the base of the Coliseum steps.
"Maybe if we're both going the same way, it will work better," he joked, starting up the stairs.
"But why are we here again?" she asked, puzzled. She'd obtained all the information she needed from the Coliseum's guards and personnel earlier.
"We're going to watch a tournament on a Saturday afternoon like two normal people," Zelos replied, smiling at the simpering ticket taker as he waltzed in.
"This – this isn't a date," Raine said, dropping her hand and spitting out the word like it was poisonous.
"Of course it's not," he soothed, handing her a cinnamon bun as they settled into their seats. "Consider it a step towards your happy ending, that's all."
Amused, he noted that even the tips of her hair as she leant forward couldn't cover her wry smile. "Just don't go and get any stupid ideas," Raine murmured.
"Wouldn't dream of it," he replied casually, folding his hands behind his head and turning his eyes to the match beginning in the stadium below.
And if his attention turned every so often to the woman at his side, and how she smiled and cheered, even, in a way he'd never seen her do before… well, as long as she never knew, he was safe. Perhaps this afternoon was just a little step – and the oddest thing of all was that it had been pure chance – but sure enough, it was a start.
Of what, he wasn't sure. But Zelos Wilder had learned long ago that he rather liked life that way.
. o .
. o .
Disclaimer: Raine, Zelos, and all copyrights of Tales of Symphonia do not belong to me. Never have, never will; I just enjoy borrowing them from time to time… they're Namco's property. "Book of Days" itself is derived from a song by Enya.
Sabe's Scribbles: Deliciously random and episodic, I'm not quite sure where this came from. It was supposed to be another Raine/Regal, it was supposed to be "in game," and there decidedly was supposed to be a campfire somewhere in there. Suffice to say, none of that happened. Blasted redheads! I hope you enjoyed the tale; comments are always welcome. Cheers!