Disclaimer: Wild Arms 3 isn't mine.

Notes: It's a small fic, nothing more. I'm actually finding it harder to write for Leehalt than it is for Malik. Haha.

-o-

Love

-o-

One morning there was a horrible taste in the air, and the floor was moving oddly, with the opening of the door louder than normal instead of opening and closing softly. Leehalt was through it a minute later, still feeling as if he'd been clouted dizzy: the Panakeia was wearing off every couple of weeks, and his body's rejection of the drug was as virulent as ever. The taste was of metal, and with it came an uneasy sickness: pain and rage and terror and misery lumped in his throat and he lurched to the wall.

Colours moved beneath his fingers, otherworldly patterns tying into knots before falling back without a sound. The metal that guided wires through Yggdrasil were ungodly sensitive, and searched out every nerve in Leehalt's forearm; his fingers were soon frozen and his throat sore. Malik, in his childish optimism, was trying to develop a strain that wouldn't be rejected as easily. Except it was hopeless; he knew it, Melody knew it, but he'd let Malik continue because it was better to have hope than none at all. Plus the only way to shut Malik up was with a resounding 'yes'.

Within the culture room the floor was still, and as he moved past the wired computer Leehalt began to feel unsteady once more. He quietly walked to the fridge, removed a syringe and pulled back a sleeve to inject the Panakeia directly into his arm. Over the next half hour the dizzying pain faded to a blur, then to nothing.

"So you're here?" said a chipper voice. "Is everything all right?"

Malik's optimism, such as it was, was never contagious. All he had to do was nod, glare, and Malik would be out his way. He really wasn't in the mood to care about what Malik had to say.

A quick walk took them into a little antechamber and brought them to a room filled with tall glass containers standing on the floor. Malik's room. There on the desk was the bunny-rabbit cup, complete with a messy pile of books and mismashed pile of notes. Malik didn't catch Leehalt noticing how he gazed at one tube in reverence; far too much adoration for a simple project. But Leehalt didn't care, so long as it didn't interfere with their work.

"Is there something you want?" he said.

"Nope. I'm just bored."

"Then shouldn't you be working?"

"Dunno."

Leehalt scoffed and looked away.

"Stuffing your hands in your pockets, Malik? How long has that been now?"

"Pockets? Oh! Fifteen years now, probably forever."

"Please. You were never born immortal."

"Ah, yes, but neither was love."

"What?" He'd noticed the sudden change of subject.

Malik shuffled his feet warily.

"I loved Mama, and look where that got me," he said, eyes downcast.

"If that were the case, it would never have entered the conversation," Leehalt said. "You're lying. We are partners, Malik. I would hate to think you were lying to me."

"I'm not lying. I'm being ecumenical with the truth, that's all."

Leehalt nodded as if he knew where things were headed.

"You're hardly endearing," he said. "And I'm sure you need no reminder of what will happen should you cross me one more time over matters such as these. Melody would be a preferably option."

"Quite, but it's never as fun." Malik then said something he'd never said before. "How's Ekatrina?"

Now Malik looked as if he were some concerned psychologist. Except Leehalt, unfortunately for Malik, thought he was perfectly fine. Werner was the one with the problem, the backstabbing git; just like Ekatrina and everybody else – except perhaps Melody. At least she had common sense. He prided himself on an incisive mind and a heart of steel. He'd loved, once, and been betrayed for it. Never again.

"Dead, as you full well know," he said icily. "Don't try my patience. As for your stalking me, you of course must want something only I can give."

"Obviously. It's not because of your stellar personality."

"Now you're just being obnoxious."

"Of course not! Mama raised me to be a good boy."

There was a brief moment of silence.

"Malik, have you ever loved another woman? Other than your mother."

"What do you mean, sir?"

"You know full well what I mean. You're a grown man, with all it entails. Surely you have feelings?"

"Well, no, I don't. Never really been interested in that sort of stuff."

"Never? Not even once?"

"Nope."

"Then how can you understand the meaning of love?" said Leehalt pointedly.

"I'm a biologist. It's all about reproduction and pleasure. In other words, sex; that word that makes your face twist like… There! Like that."

"But last week you talked about your unconditional love for your mother."

"Well so I did. Who'd have thought it?"

Leehalt took not the slightest notice, but continued to stare at the jars; the care and attention Malik paid to his specimens was earning his unrest. As Malik had said: he wasn't interested. Now he wasn't one for romantic nonsense, but he could accept his feelings for Ekatrina. Romantic love, carnal desire, all of it Luceid's work; but Malik's attention was focused solely upon one person. Mama told me this. Mama told me that. His young associate was childish and innocent; much too so.

He smiled and announced, "Love is nothing more than a collection of chemical reactions. Is that what you believe?" Malik nodded and Leehalt continued, "Then you are a fool. I know you want your mother as much as I want Ekatrina."

"Yes, I'm really dying to get my leg over some dead woman," Malik said crossly. He raised his hands in apology and said, "Sorry, sorry! It just came out. But a moment ago you said I said love was just a reaction. So what is it for you?"

"Raftina," Leehalt said dryly.

"Ha! How amusing."

"I do try. You look like you want to say something?"

Malik nodded. "I'm just wondering if you're a man of the head or a man of the heart."

"Neither. I am myself."

"Then who of us is the fool, I wonder?"

And with that, Malik walked away, leaving Leehalt with a strangely empty feeling. Perhaps it had never been about love after all; maybe all Malik had wanted was to annoy him. With that one you never could tell.