Author's note: I really love Sheelos. A lot. I had a few fics planned for them, but this one just kind of came out. I wrote this very late at night and actually wasn't going to post it at first as I didn't think it was that good. Looking back over it I don't think it's that bad, and hey, you can never get enough Sheelos. Anyway, enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, nor do I seek to make a profit off of them.

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The Invitation

It was early morning in Mizuho, with the sun just beginning to peak over the treetops. At this time of morning the people of the village would just be starting to rise and begin their day after a good nights sleep. Unfortunately for one very important citizen, this was not the case.

Sheena Fujibayashi lay on her mattress, fresh tears in her eyes. She'd been crying on and off all night, trying desperately to harden herself against her emotions. She cried very rarely and whenever she did it caused her much shame. This was no exception. The only thing really different about this crying session was that it just didn't seem to be letting up anytime soon. She'd broken down around midnight and had sobbed the whole night through. By now she should have got her resolve back, should have stopped thinking of him and focused herself entirely on her work in the village.

The worst part was that she wasn't just sad, she was angry and frustrated and all around humilated.

'Damn that Zelos,' she thought. 'Making me think he cares about me and then...'

The tears started anew as her mind involuntarily replayed scenes from the day before. His note asking her presence in Meltokio, her excitement on the ride over, finding the whole city in celebration with pretty decorations and everyone dressed up. She'd been so happy then; something good was going on.

As she got further into the city, though, she realized she was being watched. Many of Zelos' former groupies were staring at her. She was used them glaring at her everytime she came to town now as she was usually with Zelos, who in turn didn't pay much attention to them anymore. Today they looked different, though. Some looked sad and others looked totally lost, but most of them, when they saw her, looked smug. As she neared the highest district, one of the groupies approached her.

"Well, I didn't expect you to come to town for the big day." She smiled, teasingly.

"Big day? What big day? I just got an invitation --"

"Invitation!" The girl cried out. "That's a hoot! He sent you an invitation!"

She had said it loud enough that the other groupies could hear. They too burst into laughter. Sheena started feeling queazy. It was hard enough dealing with these woman at all, but to be treated like this.

"Look, if you have something to tell me then just say it," she demanded. "I don't have time to stand here and provide you entertainment." She was angry now and the girls could see that. A couple backed off, afraid of her. The girl who originally approached her, however, grinned even wider and came in close, as if to tell the ninja a secret.

"As you can see, the whole town is in celebration for a joyous event," she said in a soft voice, waiting a moment before continuing.

"Well, the reason is that the princess has just announced that she's to be married. Today. There was no announcement as to who she's marrying..." The girl trailed off, as if Sheena could figure out the rest of the story by herself.

Sheena just stared at her, waiting for there to be a point. When all she got were smug grins and haughty glances, she rolled her eyes and decided to say something.

"And... what does this have to do with me?"

"Well," another girl started up, coming in closer along with several other groupies. They were obviously enjoying this. "The Chosen had a tailor come to his house this morning for a tuxedo fitting, and has been at the palace all morning with the princess. I didn't think much of it until I heard that he's been in secret talks with the king for weeks now! Ever since word broke of the princess marrying, the chosen hasn't left her side. Even without a formal announcement, don't you think it's obvious enough who this secret groom is?"

Sheena couldn't believe it. Not only was this disgustingly gaudy girl telling her some blatant lie or speculative heresay, she was actually enjoying it. She, who looked like she'd been crying for hours, was grinning evily and enjoying being able to tell Sheena about Zelos supposedly marrying another woman. The whole thing just disgusted her.

"Look, whatever, believe whatever you want. I got a note from him this morning asking me to be here today and I'm gonna go see him, like he asked. So, if you'll excuse me." She pushed past the girls. She noted that some looked hopeful at her words, while many more just looked angry. A few, though, still looked at her smugly, happy in the thought that this country girl would get what she deserved for trying to tie down the chosen.

Sheena just tried to put it all past her and found her way to the palace, which obviously wasn't hard to find but was definitely hard to get in. She had to show her note to a guard, and then his supervisor, and then HIS supervisor just to get in the front door. After that, she had to find Zelos.

Throughout all of this, a sick feeling began to settle into the pit of her stomach. Everyone was looking at her funny, not just the girls. Palace guards gave her pitying glances, and the men who let her in only did so grudgingly. When she asked around for Zelos inside the palace, some people averted their eyes and walked away fast. They all knew that she'd been spending time with the chosen lately...

Sheena tried to erase any thought that the girls could be right. No, she and Zelos weren't technically together. They'd never kissed or been on a formal date or even spoken about feelings for each other, but they'd spent so much time together and had gotten closer and closer each time they saw each other, which was frequent. Even if they weren't technically an item, he still wouldn't do this. He wouldn't suddenly marry another woman and, even worse, invite her to the wedding.

Would he?

After a kind elderly maid gently patted her hand instead of telling her where Zelos was, she really began to take in the situation.

'Nothing was announced,' she thought. 'There's no confirmation. I'll find him and I'll talk to him and we'll straighten this out...'

But then logic set in. Zelos was a playboy, a man who constantly put up a facade. And this was the Tethe'allan royal family here. And Princess Hilda was so kind and beautiful, and Zelos did spend time with her.

'As a friend,' she countered. 'A friend who's young and rich and beautiful and at the very top of a society Zelos also rules over...'

She remembered him saying how much he disliked this society. She also remembered a day when she had tried to visit Zelos and he was in private talks with Hilda. She hadn't thought anything of it, then...

Sheena began to feel very, very ill, but she continued the search for Zelos.

She passed a half open door and heard the familiar voice of the redheaded chosen. He was laughing. Sheena stopped at his voice and went to the door. As she was about to go in, she saw something that made her change her mind. Zelos was standing in full tux in the middle of the room and fixing his tie was Hilda.

The two were alone together, both giggling, both just inches apart. Sheena watched as Hilda leaned in and said something softly, and Zelos in return let out a boisturous laugh, throwing his head back. The two spoke softly to each other for a second before Hilda tightly wrapped her arms around his waist. Zelos lay his head softly on hers and murmured something Sheena couldn't make out. She didn't want to make it out, either.

Sheena turned and ran, leaving the palace through the front entrance and walking briskly past all of Zelos' "hunnies" on her way out. She could hear them laughing, some not even waiting until she was past them. She made it out the front gates, found her Rheiard and took off for Mizuho.

Sheena was able to put on a tough face for everyone back at the village, and even did most of the work she'd been putting off. She smiled and talked with her fellow villagers and whenever anyone asked where she had been that day she came up with a suitable lie to tell them. It wasn't until she went to bed that she began to let it all affect her.

How could she let herself be taken in by him? How had she been so stupid? To actually believe that he could ever be serious about anyone, least of all a country girl who denied his advances...

Sheena couldn't seem to stop the tears from coming. It just hurt too damn much.

-------

It was halfway through the afternoon when Sheena got word that a Rheiard was headed toward the village. She kindly thanked Orochi and asked him to keep a look out. Then she went back to the book of summoning spells she'd taken from the research academy. She'd cleaned herself up alright and even with the lack of sleep and emotional turmoil she still was able to go about all her daily duties. She'd gotten to the point where she'd almost begun to forget he existed. And then...

"Sheena, the Chosen is here to speak with you." Orochi said the words carefully, not certain if he should prepare for a physical attack or a crying spell. He was the only other person who knew where Sheena had gone and why, and he was the only one who caught the tears in her eyes when she returned.

Sheena froze for a moment, but kept her composure. She carefully picked up a bookmark and placed it on her page, closing the book and setting it down beside her.

"Thank you. Please send him in." As much as she wanted to kill him right now, she was still a diplomat. That, and she really wanted to know why he would come to see her of all people, especially the day after his marriage to a beautiful princess.

Orochi was gone for a heartbeat before the redhead came through the door. He walked quickly, seeming almost angry at first, but then gave her his normal nonchalant smile and sat down across from her.

"So," he started. "You couldn't make it yesterday, I'm assuming?"

Sheena had to stare at the floor. She couldn't look him in the eyes right then. Everything she had thought she'd known about him...

"No, I couldn't," she said curtly.

Zelos was silent for a moment, hoping she'd at least give an excuse. When she continued to stare at the floor in silence he decided that he should go ahead and speak.

"Well, I had hoped you'd make it, but hey, you can't get everything you want, huh?" He grinned at her.

"No, I guess you can't," she agreed. She was trying very, very hard to be a good diplomat here but his words were driving her crazy. And he was so close... She'd only hugged him a couple times and yet right now she yearned to be in his arms more than anything. But she couldn't do that. He was married now. And he wasn't the Zelos she'd thought he was.

After a few more moments of silence, Zelos started out again. He'd come all the way out here, he may as well have a conversation.

"It was beautiful, yesterday. The whole city was decorated. You really would've loved it." He smiled at her, hoping that maybe she'd enjoy talk of Meltokio. "There were lanterns and streamers, all different colors, and confetti everywhere, and everybody was dressed up. Oh, and they had those little cakes you like. I tried to bring you some but they were all gone by the time I got to them."

"It sounds like it was a beautiful day..." Sheena had to stare harder at the floor, focusing on the few imperfections in the tatami mat. It was hard not to cry or yell at him. Why was he doing this to her? Did he see her as only a friend was that it?

Suddenly, it all made sense. That was it. She was just a friend to him. A good friend, maybe. That's why they hadn't kissed or anything yet, and that's why he had wanted her there yesterday. He cared about her as a friend. That was all. While it seemed to fit together very nicely, the realization didn't make Sheena feel any better. If anything, it made her feel worse. As much as she didn't like to admit it, she saw him as much more than a friend.

"You know, Sheena, if something's bothering you you can tell me. I mean, you really seem to be having a bad day here and I'd kinda like to know why. Maybe I could make it better." He flashed his patented playboy smile at her, but his eyes were sad. Unfortunately, she didn't see either the smile or the eyes.

Feeling the tears begin to build, she decided that meeting time was over. She got to her feet and gave a small bow.

"Zelos... it's nice seeing you but I have to... I have to be somewhere else. Have a safe journey." She rushed out the door before he could do anything to stop her, tears beginning to stream down her cheeks. She raced into the woods hoping not to be seen by any of her kinsmen.

Zelos sat in shock for a moment, staring at the door. He was on his feet very soon, however, and was about to chase after her when he felt a hand press against his chest and stop him. He turned to stare in the face of an angry Orochi.

-------

The sun was setting and Sheena was still in the woods. Her crying had slowed but hadn't completely stopped, instead coming in random bursts.

'Just look at you,' she thought. 'Alone in the woods, tired and hungry and heartbroken and more than likely dehydrated from all this damn crying, and you can't even get a hold on yourself. What the hell did he do to me?'

She sat on a fallen tree trunk and stared up through the trees to see a glimpse of the sunset. At least that made her a little happy. As she watched the sky redden then darken, she became aware of footsteps. Clunky, obvious footsteps. She sighed. There was no way anyone from Mizuho could tramp through the woods like that. She composed herself and wiped her eyes, preparing for a second visit from the chosen.

Zelos came into view, and upon seeing her sped up in her direction. He came to stand right in front of her, as she remained sitting on the tree trunk. The two looked at each other for a few moments before speaking.

"Zelos, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have run off like that. I..." she sighed. Might as well just go ahead and be friendly. "I guess I should just say congratulations and leave it at that."

There was a very tense pause between the two for a moment, and Sheena noted that Zelos was staring at her with a rather perplexed expression.

"Sheena... what the hell is going on?" Zelos' voice lost it's cool. "I mean, I invite you to this great party and you don't show, which is fine, but then you don't even bother with an explanation or anything, and then you run out on me, and then, to top it off, Orochi starts freaking out on me and demanding to know what I did to you and says that you did go to Meltokio yesterday and came back crying... and what's this with congratulations? Sheena, I'm totally lost here."

Sheena met his eyes for a moment. Could he really not know what was going on? Then maybe...

"Zelos," she started slowly. "What exactly went on in Meltokio yesterday?"

Zelos looked surprised for an instant, but then spoke.

"Uh, well, the princess married a knight and the whole town went ballistic over it. Why?"

Sheena sat in silence for a moment, replaying his words in her mind a few times. A light smile tugged on the corner of her lips. The pain in her stomach began to feel lighter. It hadn't been true. He hadn't married Hilda. She wanted to laugh with how preposterous it sounded to even think about it.

She looked up at Zelos and smiled, broadly, making him even more confused. Then she stood up and went over to him, wrapping her arms around him and burying her face in his chest.

"Um, Sheena? This isn't really helping the confusion thing. Not that I mind at all, I'd just kind of like to know --"

"Sshhh."

"Okay." He decided that the best course of action might be to just go with it. He wrapped his arms around her, relishing the feel of her body pressed against his own.

After a few moments Sheena pulled back. He noticed that there were tears streaked down her face. He could tell she'd been crying earlier but he'd hoped it had stopped.

"Sheena," he murmured gently, wiping her cheeks with his hand. "What's going on? What's wrong?"

She just smiled and pushed herself upwards, planting a small kiss on the chosen's mouth.

"Nothing's wrong," she said, happiness returning to her voice. "Everything's alright now."

Zelos wasn't about to argue. He simply pulled her closer and began planting a series of small kisses on her eager mouth, letting them continuously grow in passion.

-----

The moon was out in full that night, and Sheena and Zelos were taking it all in. Most of the villagers were in their homes by this hour and those who were still out made a point to leave the two alone. The new couple themselves were trying not to bother the villagers and keep their voices down as they ate and drank under the stars. It was a bit hard, especially for Zelos.

"You actually thought I was getting married to her?" he gasped out, lowering his volume halfway through the sentence.

"Well, I, I mean, everyone was telling me so, and you had been in those private talks with her and when I went to find you the two of you were together and hugging and giggling--"

"I don't giggle."

"Yeah, you do. Anyway, yeah, I didn't believe it at first but everything seemed to point towards it."

"Wow. I'd heard the rumors but I didn't think anyone would take them seriously..."

"Lots of people did, believe me," Sheena said with an eyeroll. She told Zelos about the behavior of his "hunnies," making him cringe.

"I knew they could be rude, but I didn't think they were that bad. And man, when did they get the idea it was me marrying Hilda?"

"You heard what I told you. How would you explain it?"

"Lessee. The princess, a good friend of mine, tells me she's in love with a knight and needs my help convincing the king that he's worth marrying, which I why I've been in private meetings with both of them for weeks. I also agreed to be the best man, which was why I needed a nice tux. I also asked to bring my beautiful ninja hunny, even though she'd obviously show up the bride due to being far more beautiful, and got permission. The two decided to get married instantly once the king gave his consent and I sent you the note asking you to come. Though I suppose I should've put down why I wanted you to come... Hey, how did that factor into your reasoning? If I was marrying Hilda, do you really think I'd send you an invite? Don't you think that's kind of harsh?"

"Yeah, but... when I thought about it I kinda, um, 'realized' that you must see me as, you know... a good friend and nothing more. It kinda made everything make sense..." She blushed, knowing how stupid it must sound to him

Zelos stared at her in silence for a moment before bursting out laughing, covering his mouth so as not to make any noise. Sheena gave him a few slaps on the arm to make him stop. Finally, he gained his composure back.

"Oh man. Friend? How on earth could you think that I see you only as a friend? I don't think I see any girl as only a friend! Well, okay, Colette and Raine and Presea, yeah, and Hilda for that matter. But you? No you're..." he stopped himself, uncertain of what to say. Sheena decided to keep the mood light.

"So, what are those 'hunnies' of yours if they aren't friends?" She knew to expect an interesting answer, which he was soon to provide.

"Practice of course!" He smiled and the two laughed quietly together.

"Say, Sheena..."

"Yeah?"

"Don't take this the wrong way, but... I'm really glad this happened like this."

She turned to glare at him.

"Wh - Well, I wish could say the same. It's been a pretty hellish day, y'know."

"Yeah, but still. Now I know how you really feel about me." He grinned and lay back on the grass. Sheena tried to muster up a glare and failed. She lay back beside him and, much to his surprise, nuzzled in close to put her head on his chest.

"Well... I guess you never really know what you have until you think it's gone." She closed her eyes. Her lids were growing heavy, and Zelos was so warm...

"Yeah, guess so," he said softly.

Noticing that she was falling asleep, he got up and helped her to her house. Alone in her room the two curled up in each other's arms and fell fast asleep, waking late into the day and not leaving her room until a good while after that.