Paying Respects

by Cooking Spray

Disclaimer: Highlight address bar. Read carefully. Consult dictionary if necessary.

It's me again, going back through the old archives. This was originally written for the theme "news; letter" on the LiveJournal community 30 Kisses, but seeing as how ZanneChaos beat me to the claim, this is all I have to show for my set. It was intended to be part of something larger, but I never got the time. Anyway, since I re-discovered it lurking about on the back-up disk from my old computer last summer, I decided that it felt lonely and made up my mind to share. Xelloss and Filia don't seem to be getting quite enough love.

And just a warning: This story require you to be able to accept the notion of a somewhat emotionally aware Xelloss. No, he's not a mess of feelings, because that would take all the fun out of everything. But rather, he has the capacity to feel and to question his ability to feel, in my estimation. Actually, if you're an X/F fan, you probably believe in this anyhow. I try to stay true to my canon, however. . .

The letter arrived in a crisp, pristine envelope, and was slipped humbly through the slot in the door of the Mace 'n' Vase, with no great trumpeting or fanfare to herald its glorious arrival upon the welcome mat. Yet, despite the unpretentious nature of the message, Filia knew it was important from the second she lifted it from the floor, for there on the front was the wax seal of the Sailoon royal family.

Curiosity pricked at the dragoness, and she took the letter with her to the kitchen table, ignoring its dented and grainy surface. With great care, she worked the seal loose and unraveled two separate sheets of parchment, the first looking very regal and penned with the perfect calligraphy of a palace scribe, and the second in a rushed, bubbly script that could only belong to the crown princess herself, Miss Amelia wil tesla Sailoon. This did not surprise her, as she and Amelia had corresponded many times throughout the past five years, and the princess did like to add a personal touch to the messages of those she was close to, official business or not.

However, this particular specimen looked quite official. Wondering what the occasion was, she unfolded the first piece of parchment, reading the scribe's fine hand with ease. What she saw shocked her, to say the least.

Miss Filia ul Copt

you are cordially invited to witness the union of

Crown Princess Amelia wil tesla Sailoon and Zelgadis Greywords

on the day of the 24th, 6th month

at the palace of the royal Sailoon family.

Your attendance shall be honored.

The dragoness stared at the invitation in disbelief, re-reading every word to make sure that she had understood correctly. It was, without a doubt, legitimate. Amelia and. . . Zelgadis? She knew the girl had had a crush of sorts on him for a while, that much was obvious, but she could hardly believe they were getting married. Although the chimera did seem to show an unusual tenderness for Amelia at times, it seemed too much of an impossible match to ever come to fruition. What had she missed? She turned to Amelia's letter for explanation.

Dear Miss Filia,

I'm sorry if this letter comes as a surprise to you, but that's why I'm also writing you personally, to explain. You're my good friend and you have a right to know! As you probably guessed, I've always had a crush on Mister Zelgadis, but lately. . . Well, those feelings have gotten stronger, obviously! It's really a long story, but in the last year, I went with him to help him find his cure, as you know he's always looking for. I really wanted to help, and as the time went on, we got a lot closer too. And best of all, we finally found what he needed to return him back to his normal, human self. It took a lot of searching, but we did it, together! I can hardly believe things worked out so well. It's strange, but I almost miss his stone skin and wire hair, even though I'm sure he doesn't.

Well, anyway, the important thing is that after a long (but worthwhile!) wait, the two of us have finally gotten things arranged to wed. I'm so happy, and I hope you can come! It would mean a lot to me and Mi Zelgadis.

Signed with love and justice,

Amelia wil tesla Sailoon

P.S.: If Xelloss comes around, please tell him he's invited too! That is, if he's not busy. . . I couldn't really send him a letter.

"Hm, what is that you're reading there, my dear Filia? I didn't know anyone cared enough to send you mail." The mazoku's voice permeated the silence with a tone of musing, eyebrows raised questioningly.

As time had gone by, Xelloss' abrupt entrances into her everyday life had ceased to elicit any sort of reaction except weary tolerance. "Nothing a piece of filth like yourself would care to be concerned with," the dragoness replied huffily, refolding the letter and slipping it neatly back into the envelope.

"I beg to differ, since I clearly saw my name written at the bottom of that paper, in a script that looks suspiciously like that of Sailoon's crown princess."

Filia's brows knitted together in irritation. "Don't you have something better to do?"

"Nothing, I'm afraid!" the priest responded cheerily, floating down to the chair opposite Filia's that had become his, crossing his arms behind his head and laying his staff to rest against the wall, which was oddly lumpy in one place, as if it had been plastered over once before. In short, he was making himself at home, much to the homeowner's chagrin. "So, tell me more about this letter. The suspense is killing me."

There was no point in beating around the bush with Xelloss. "It's an invitation to a wedding. Amelia and Zelgadis' wedding. Once again, too many positive feelings for you to worry about attending."

"Amelia and that stuffy stone-in-the-mud? Well, color me surprised! How did that happen?"

"Here, read for yourself," the dragoness said grumpily, thrusting the envelope at him. Xelloss plowed through both letters with a very convincing interest.

"I see, so that's how. In that case, I simply must make time to attend. I can't pass up such a good opportunity to tease my good friend Zelgadis." He placed the letters back on the center of the table, his cloyingly good mood seeming to escalate at the thought of this torture.

"You'll do no such thing! I, for one, will not permit you to ruin the wedding of my good friends." Filia's words were haughty and self-righteous. So what if she'd never been particularly protective of them before? She wasn't going to let Xelloss win.

Xelloss arched a brow, but said nothing of the ex-priestess' indignation, far too amused. Instead, he changed the topic. "I went to a wedding once," he said in a reminiscent tone.

Filia was flabbergasted. "What! Someone willingly invited you to ruin their wedding?"

Xelloss shook a chiding finger. "Tsk, tsk, my dear Filia. Why such little faith in me? Your friends seem to have no qualms with my presence. You should learn to trust me a little more."

Filia snorted. "You're unbelievable," she mumbled.

"Why thank you!"

The dragoness just shook her head. For once, it seemed the monster just wanted to chat, as he hadn't been ruthlessly provoking her. Or was it just her mindset that had changed? That thought was just too unpleasant, so she threw it out. With Xelloss, you could never be too certain of anything.

"So, tell me about this wedding you went to, namagomi. How'd you deal with all those positive emotions going around?" she asked carelessly, as if it didn't really matter whether or not he told. But in actuality, a part of her was curious to hear the story. She marked it up to the loneliness of just having Val and her customers for company.

"Ah, I'm glad you asked," he answered, as if he had been expecting her to pop the question all along, knowing she couldn't resist her curiosity. Filia frowned. "It was a wedding between Princess MartinaXoana mel Navratilova and a wandering swordsman by the name of Zangulus. He was certainly a mysterious fellow! Then again, Martina did always have odd tastes in men, though she was in love with me for a period of time."

Filia rolled her eyes, a gesture that the storyteller pretended to ignore.

"But once she discovered I was a mazoku. . . Well, her heart was shattered. So, needless to say, I didn't really get an invitation. That didn't stop me from making an appearance, though! Martina's disastrous tendencies were sure to quell my appetite for destruction, and she didn't disappoint. She made a dreadful mess out of the whole ordeal, I daresay. It was quite appetizing."

His golden-haired listener's expression was dry. "I shouldn't have asked." She straightened, breaking the brief stance of attentiveness she had held during Xelloss' story. "I don't think destruction and suffering will be on the refreshment ballot at Amelia's wedding. "

Xelloss waggled a finger at her. "Ah, but you've forgotten one key detail, my dear Filia!"

Filia's expression was utterly unfazed. "And what would that be?"

"Your good friend Lina Inverse, of course! If she's invited, which I'm almost positive she is, there will be plenty of fun to be had! And obviously, I'll be leaving before the bride kisses the groom."

Filia sighed. "Wouldn't it be easier just to go find a few butterflies and rip their wings off?"

Xelloss feigned his appall. "What a suggestion! My dear Filia, I think you're spending entirely too much time around me." He sounded absolutely thrilled.

The dragon twitched. "If so, it's of no choice I made."

"Such harsh words!"

"You know you like them."

Xelloss pouted. "You're no fun today!"

The conversation was already getting tiring. "Well, I apologize for being so unamusing." Needing a break, Filia pushed back her chair and stood, heading for the adjoining kitchen to boil some water for tea. Maybe the exercise would allow her to vent some steam, as well.

As she busied herself with the motions of dragging out the kettle and lighting the hearth, Xelloss studied her with curiosity. He hadn't been able to get nearly as good a rise out of her as he usually did today. Of all the quick ways to grab a bite, Filia was his favorite to indulge in. She was always irked with his presence, and so he made sure to be present often, just to have the satisfaction of her ire. If you wanted to go about it in a bare-bones type way, you could say that his sole purpose for visiting Filia was because she never deprived him of a good meal. Even so, there were parts of their camaderie that he enjoyed, regardless of nutritional value. An immortal's life was devoid of entertainment unless you found a way to make your own, and Filia was certainly the most unique of her kind he had come across. In short, she fascinated him, and he would keep coming back to her until he unraveled all her secrets and she ceased to provide entertainment for him.

That day was not today, however, so Xelloss could only look at this problem as one would a puzzle and try to solve it. He tried to reach out and taste the emotions that wafted from her. Interestingly, the one that was the strongest was weariness. What was its source? Of course, Filia lived a rather sheltered life compared to most. She shut herself in her house and shop and rarely ventured out or mingled unless something demanded of it. Perhaps it was because she felt she couldn't relate to the human populace that surrounded her, or that they couldn't relate to her? In any case, her nearly-grown son and the two beast men were her only companions, aside from herself. Was this the root of her discomfort?

Yes, he thought that might be it. He also thought that it might be because he constantly invaded her life and wreaked havoc upon it. The wedding would probably be a good thing for her to attend. She needed a change of pace, to meet with friends and have a little fun for once. Anything that contributed to restoring her welfare, Xelloss would encourage. He wanted the old Filia back as soon as possible. But while he had this one, he thought he might be able to uncover a few things. And if there was one thing the trickster priest succeeded at, it was using his skills in manipulation, fine-tuned over the centuries, to get what he wanted.

"So, ah. . ." He fished for the appropriate words. "How's Val been doing lately?"

Filia turned and gave him a truly bizarre look, scrutinizing him. "Since when do you care what goes on in my life?"

Well, Xelloss couldn't blame her for that one. It was a shoddy tactic, if he did say so himself, but he was a little out of practice in such matters. "Well, as you know, my dear Filia, Val is a subject of intense interest to us mazoku, being such a rare breed." He held up his hands. "But of course, I wouldn't harm a hair on his darling head. I'm actually quite fond of the little hellion." There, that was better, even if the words were slightly nauseating to say.

Filia's eyes remained shrewd. "That is, you wouldn't harm a hair on his head unless you were ordered to," she responded flatly. "Xelloss, what are you up to? Because whatever it is, it's not going to work."

"My, my, always so distrusting! I always respect your silence about your private life; why can't you pay the same respect to me?" This kind of innocent banter wasn't going to get him anywhere, but maybe, if he succeeded in getting the dragoness in one of her elusive moods of cynicism, she'd unconsciously reveal something valuable. . .

Filia laughed, which threw him. "Respect? You call this respect?" Her gaze hardened. "If you "respect" me so much, then why are you prying now?" The water in the cauldron bubbled, but she paid it no mind.

Xelloss' voice dropped to a deadly quiet timbre. "There is a difference between respect and concern, Filia."

The dragoness just stared at him blankly, hardly believing her ears. He was playing at something, she was sure of it. But the intensity of his face, the seriousness of his features. . . It took her a few good moments to remind herself of everything she knew about Xelloss to forget them.

"Yes, Xelloss, and I'm sure that you of all people would be able to make that distinction," was her sarcastic rebuttal, before she turned to the roaring flames of the hearth to ladle the now-boiling water into the kettle.

Her response actually astonished him so much that he found he lacked one to give her back, because her words, unlike his, were completely and utterly free of falsehood. He had respected, oh yes, but not for the ways nor in the same manner as most. And his concern had never come as the kind of personal attachment it meant in the context in which he used it.

When Filia returned a time later with the tea, he watched as she silently and stoically poured each of them a cup, and made up his mind.

"I'll come to the wedding with you."

She paused, gazing at him eye-to-eye, for his were actually open in this instance, which was sign enough of its seriousness. He could see the litany of retorts and questions that went unspoken in her eyes, could feel her doubt and distrust. But despite all this, she spoke only one word.


She sat then, and they both sipped their tea in rare silence. For once, Xelloss' mind was the one that questioned. And Filia's utter, surreal calm brought home the startling fact that he did not really know anything there was to know about her. The Filia he saw was the Filia who hated Xelloss, and it had not until now occurred to him that there could be more facets of her that he, for the sheer reason of being himself, never got to see.

As he lowered his cup, he resolved to embark on a new quest to fix this. Only, for the first time since he could recall, he had apprehensions.

What is respect?

And what is concern?

This was a doozy of a one-shot. . . It started going in all different directions, many of them unintended. I liked the dynamic created by the interaction and the heavy subject matter. And the whole matter with Amelia and Zel is another story entirely, but one I'm not going to write. I think how the finality of their relationship is brought together all at once here makes it look hasty, but we're only seeing one side of the coin. Fill in the details with your imagination!

When this was still being thought of as a story set, I was going to write about the actual wedding and include some cameos, but so is the way of things. If you still want a realistic view of how a possible wedding between Amelia and Zelgadis could go, I recommend Dreamsinger's "Only Stone On the Outside". It's epic, but exceedingly well-done.