Out of the Cold
A/N: I didn't think it was possible for me to write something half as sappy as some parts of this story, but here it is. The inspiration comes from an hour and a half wait at a bus stop in below freezing weather back in November. Hope you guys like it!
Warnings: There are spoilers if you haven't gotten past Volt (so if you haven't gotten to that part in the game, go play for a bit and then come back and read this story. ), and it helps if you know Zelos' history, but that one's not required. Aside from that, there's some mild language, some suggestive themes... The usual stuff you'd find with Zelos involved.
Disclaimer: Tales of Symphonia and it's characters don't belong to me. I just write to amuse myself.
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Zelos rubbed his hands together, trying to caress some warmth back into his stiff fingers as he quickly stepped into the cozy atmosphere of the local inn. Traipsing around in the snow all day had left his body chilled, even wearing a scarf, gloves, and a long, heavy coat. He wasn't sure if he had toes anymore.
Snow. He hated the stuff, it clung to everything to get you cold and damp all at once. It got underfoot and made your path slippery, or it collected in light, fluffy drifts that you practically had to wade through. It would land in your hair and melt down the back of your neck the moment you stepped inside, and wearing a hat was just unthinkable. On top of that, the stuff dredged up old and painful memories to remind him again how worthless and unwanted he was. No, snow was definitely something the swordsman could do without.
Hanging up his coat and kicking off his shoes, he walked purposefully over to the fireplace and dragged an oversized chair as close to the flames as he could manage. Flopping into it, he heaved a sigh, forcefully pulled off the scarf that was threatening to strangle him, and began rubbing at his numb and tingling feet. In his mind he ran through a number of mantras to reinforce the mental barriers that allowed him to keep his cheery facade intact despite the weather.
Once his poor toes had regained some feeling, Zelos sighed and glanced up at the holiday wreath above the fireplace. A half-miserable grin appeared on his face. That was why he had subjected himself to the snow, the memories, and the heart-stopping cold, he just had to find the perfect present for his favorite hunny. Something so perfect that she would forget about the horribly lewd comment he had made that morning, and maybe forget about smacking him for a couple days too.
Feeling the warmth slowly creep back into his body, he relaxed a bit and turned his attention to the window looking out on the cold evening. In the street there were busy people running home in the fading daylight, some with gifts clutched happily in mittened hands. Zelos was mildly amused to see one older woman carrying a giant frozen turkey, most likely for tomorrow night's Christmas dinner. He hadn't seen a turkey that size since the King threw his grand 50th birthday feast several years ago.
His amusement was quickly replaced by an anxious knot in his stomach as the door to the inn creaked open. His special hunny was back, the one he had risked life and limb just to purchase a gift for. She looked just as miserable as he had felt coming in out of the snow, shaking the horrible stuff from her beautiful hair and kicking off her boots.
"Sheena!" He called, peering over the back of the large chair with a huge grin plastered on his face.
The woman of his dreams shot him a cold look. Still angry over that comment, Zelos thought to himself. Oh well, he had gone through hell to get her that gift, and she would take it even if he had to wrestle it into her possession. His more 'adventurous' side reminded him that it might be fun to wrestle with her, but he squelched that thought quickly.
"What do you want, pervert?" She replied, glaring.
Zelos didn't flinch at the harsh tone of her voice, and kept the large grin on his face. "Come sit with me for a minute," he said, moving over so there was room on the large chair for her. "I wanted to give you an early Christmas gift."
Without saying a word, Sheena stalked over and sat down next to him in a huff. "If you touch me, I'll cut off your fingers. Among other things."
Ouch. This wasn't going well at all.
"Sheena, I'm sorry about this morning." Zelos said in a sincere tone as he handed over the little wrapped package. He personally thought the look on her face after the remark at breakfast had been hilarious, but that wasn't something she needed to hear at the moment. Or at all, for that matter.
Sheena didn't acknowledge his apology, which was just as he expected, but the look on her face did soften a bit. She carefully untied the ribbon and pulled off the fancy tinseled paper, to turn the small object over in her hands. It was a deep blue velvet pouch, with gold drawstrings. A small heart was embroidered with gold thread on the corner of one side. She looked up at him with a confused look on her face.
"I thought that with all the traveling we've been doing, you'd needed a nice place to put Corrine's bell. You know, so it doesn't get scratched or anything."
Sheena was silent for a minute as she looked at the small bag, and the swordsman held his breath. Maybe she didn't like it? Maybe he would get smacked again?
Sheena lunged over to wrap her arms around his neck and bury her face in his shoulder. He wasn't sure exactly what she said as she clung to him, but he thought perhaps it was a thanks. Zelos was surprised, but greatly relieved as he put his arms around her, and then shifting her onto a more comfortable position - yes, she would definitely be more comfortable on his lap... - when she made no move to let go. He urged himself to just play it cool, no jokes, no comments, not a word. His damn mouth would only get him in trouble.
He mentally checked his hands as well, Sheena would throw a fit if they started to wander even the slightest.
Zelos glanced at the fire in the hearth, and waited for her to speak first so he didn't make an ass of himself. At that moment he wanted nothing more than to continue sitting there with her, to keep her close. Something about the way she held onto him made the swordsman feel warm and happy inside. Those pleasant feelings seemed to banish the pain and misery to the far corners of his being, like a brilliant light would banish the darkness. He mentally winced at the cliched metaphor, but the idea was right.
He thought perhaps it was love he felt from her, not that he really had any experience knowing what love felt like. That was one thing he had been lacking as he grew up, as neither his family or multitudes of hunnies had ever freely given it to him. Who would willingly love a cowardly, worthless heart such as his?
He felt her shift a bit, and pull him close so she could kiss the corner of his mouth. The warm happy feeling inside was quickly joined by a bit of confusion and surprise, wasn't he the one who was supposed to make these advances? Wasn't Sheena supposed to be yelling by now, and expressing her desire to cause him immeasurable pain?
"An early Christmas gift?" He asked with a smile as her lips left his.
"Maybe," she replied, leaning against him and resting her head against his shoulder. If he wasn't confused about the kiss, he most certainly was confused now! In the span of five minutes she had gone from a creature colder than Celsius herself, to being more cuddly than he believed was possible. He understood a fair bit about women, but the way their emotions went from one extreme to the next for no apparent reason was beyond him.
Sheena pulled her treasured trinket out of a pocket, and held it lovingly for a minute before slipping it into the pouch he had given her. "I didn't think you were the kind of guy to understand little things like this." She said softly, not looking up at him.
"Maybe I do, maybe I don't." Zelos said in an offhand manner. "I just knew it was important to you, and... And I care about you, more than I've ever cared about anything." He finished quietly.
"Zelos, I care about you too." Sheena said, putting Corinne's bell away and wrapping her arms around him in a hug. "You mean a lot to me, even though you can act like a complete moron sometimes. "
He meant a lot to her? She cared? Zelos felt the warm happy feeling spread through him again. Sheena's admission was the best gift he had ever been given. Ever. If she wasn't sitting on his lap, he probably would have jumped up and danced. Instead, he had to settle for hugging her tightly and grinning like an idiot. He thought facing all the cold weather in the world would be worth it, to be as happy as he was right then.
That was when he noticed someone approaching from behind the chair where he sat with Sheena. Judging by the sound of the footfalls, they weren't happy.
"Zelos! Didn't we tell you to keep your fooling around to yourself?" Raine stormed over, having just came from her room and noticed him in what appeared to be a rather mischievous position with some poor girl. "I swear, you are as irresponsible as a seven year old! What were you planning on telling Genis or Presea if they just happened to see- Sheena?"
Raine turned quite red as both Zelos and Sheena stared back at her.
"We're exchanging early Christmas gifts." Zelos said in a suggestive tone, the lewd smirk making it very clear that he was referring to something inappropriate for public places.
Sheena growled and cuffed him, knocking his headband to a crooked angle and making him yelp. "Is there anything in your head that's not firmly lodged in the gutter?"
"Nope. Nothing at all. Heh." Zelos replied with a broad grin as he fixed his headband.
Raine sighed in exasperation and stalked away without a word.
"So." Sheena said, playing with a strand of his hair once the healer was out of sight. Zelos was almost expecting her to give it a tug, but she didn't. "My legs are getting a little cramped. You want to go get a hot chocolate or something?"
"Mmm. You bet, babe." Zelos replied. "Lead on!"
The two of them disentangled themselves, and wandered to the kitchens hand in hand for some hot chocolate.