A/N: Holiday greetings to you all! I hope everyone is enjoying the season...though, the weather here is unusually dry. How odd that is.
Anyhow, here's some quick holiday-Sheelos-love for you dearies. This goes out to the whole Sheelos community, in fact, wherever your hearts have led you all. ;D
Disclaimer: Do not own. :o
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No trace of the sun remained when Sheena Fujibayashi emerged into the brisk Meltokio night, tugging her pink scarf tighter around her neck. Much to her dismay, the research academy had demanded her attention all day long. From the early morning onward she was stuck in that windowless basement, no opportunity given to her for a quick fresh-air break. Usually she would leave the place behind much earlier on, near sunset, but today had been different. They had needed Corrine for…'studying.'
Though she would never say it out loud, Sheena hated when those people would do tests on him, examine him, the whole variety of procedures. And while she knew the researchers were not evil, and did their best to make the two comfortable while preparing their reports, there was still something unnatural about it that made her skin crawl. Summoning wasn't supposed to be so cold and scientific, was it? She hadn't thought so.
Needless to say, Corrine was in a very foul mood because of it. He refused to appear for her, even with the sincerest of coaxing. It would be a while before he'd forgive her for the day's events. That wasn't a very warm idea inside of her.
The little fox spirit was one of her closest friends, and without his company, time spent in the city felt rather lonely and out of place. At least, she reminded herself, there was an exception or two. How was it that she'd survived her early days in the city, with all her days lacking the human companionship she so longed for. Martel must be very merciful to have allowed her the life she presently enjoyed.
Sheena paused her pondering for a moment, her tired senses picking up on a change in the city's atmosphere since she last was outside. Indeed, it was a slight bit colder, but…there was also now a thin blanket of white coating the rooftops and streets. The first snowfall of the year, and it was only mid-November!
"Are you kidding me?" Sheena grumbled to no one in particular, except for maybe the weather she was cursing. "It was clear just this morning!"
From somewhere behind her, there was a heavy sigh of agreement. "Tell me about it."
"Eee!" A little yelp of shock escaped her as she wheeled around, only to be met with a familiar pair of sky-blue eyes. Well acquainted with their owner, her surprise quickly turned to indignation. This wasn't the first time this had happened. She snorted, annoyed, "You're going to kill me one of these days, you know that?"
"Oh, so it's my fault?" The Chosen smiled innocently, stepping forward from the wall he'd been leaning against near the building's door to pull the young woman into a 'hello' hug. "You're the ninja, hunny, not me. Should've been able to hear my heartbeat, smell my fear, that sort of thing."
"Ninjas don't do that, Zelos," she pointed out, half muffled by the fact that her face was buried in his chest.
"Heh, well then, maybe I'm thinking of lawyers," he admitted, and somehow, managed to say it almost seriously. "Or nuns."
The summoner-in-training rolled her eyes in amusement, wiggling out of his tight grip. "So, how long were you waiting out here?" She felt a touch guilty, but flattered nonetheless. Hell if she'd be patient enough to sit in the cold.
He gave a little shrug, looking up at the sky. "It's probably around eleven right now. So, an hour and a half, maybe. I came earlier, but you were still busy."
"When…did the snow start?" Sheena asked carefully. "It usually comes later in the season." This year marked her third winter in the city, and she had to concede, a long, snowy season was one she could live without. Whether it was the lack of greenery or just the bitter cold, she wasn't sure. Either way, it always put her in a sorry state.
Judging by his increasingly solemn expression, Zelos seemed to share her sentiments. He had more reason to be unhappy with the weather, she was well aware. Of course, that didn't make it any easier for her to try and be positive.
"Began this afternoon," he finally answered. "Lovely, isn't it?"
"We'll just have to spend the evening inside. It's not a big deal." She shook a few flakes from her hair, irate. Hopefully, she thought, her tone didn't give that impression.
Zelos bowed his head sadly, his disappointment obvious. "I guess."
Nothing was said between them for a few moments. Without voicing it, they had both acknowledged an end to their usual time outside together in the late evening. For as long as they had been friends, the two had been sneaking out of the city to protect themselves from those who would use their relationship against them. Though having staunchly refused to allow his parents' fate repeated on him, Zelos knew well that the ninja must remain an absolute secret if he were to resist whatever was intended for him. He had little else to lose, after all, and that was the trick.
When they did find a place on the outskirts to settle in, they would typically just sit and discuss things, complain, get in trivial arguments that often left them both wondering how such a thing had even been started. Had someone been passing by, they could never have told that the two were actually enjoying their strange verbal tango.
"C'mon, don't look so down," she encouraged softly, her hand wandering over to take his. "It'll be better once we get out of the cold. Everyone else has the sense to be warm in their houses by now, so we should do the same."
More apathetic silence followed as they headed back to the Chosen's home, the air heavy with words unspoken. Sheena, glancing around at the barren trees of the city that they passed, was rather annoyed with her inability to say anything meaningful or consoling. Even after knowing Zelos for so long, she never knew what to say when he got in these moods. She thought it to be quite similar to her dark memory of Volt, one that would always be in the back of her mind, sickening. There wasn't anything she or any one else could say to make it better.
The two arrived at their destination gratefully, the snow now falling quickly and covering them in a layer of white. Zelos fumbled absently for his key for a moment before opening the doorway to warmth, nudging her in gently. Her body tingled with the sudden change in temperature. She hurried to shed her unnecessary layers of clothing, her boots, her scarf. It was a nice sensation to feel her limbs free of wet, slushy cold. How she'd managed to get soaked in such a short time was beyond her. That was the nature of snow, she supposed. Smothering and mercilessly persistent.
Already freed of his winter attire, the Chosen had flopped himself down on the nearby plush couch, right next to the warmth of the fire. He had a passive look fixed on his face, an uncertain aura he did not usually possess. It had taken a while to set in, Sheena thought, but he was now feeling the stifling effects of a devastating memory.
Sheena settled herself beside him in front of the fire, resting against the arm of the couch lazily. She sighed, not merely in relief, but also in some frustration. It was times such as these that made her feel the pains of motherhood. Watching someone she loved suffer was so hard, especially when it was an irreparable sorrow. Always a somewhat independent girl, it had taken her a while to develop this sympathy pain; she'd never even had a mother of her own to learn from. After many times of taking refuge in his arms, the value of compassion had begun to register in her mind. Before long the kindness had become very natural to return.
She took this moment to notice Zelos's icy gaze on her, wistful and a little evasive. He seemed noticeably less depressed with her close by, though he still lay on his back in resignation. It would take more direct action to persuade him to kick the seasonal blues, she concluded. Even if it took the whole evening, she'd bring out the usual upbeat Chosen in him.
Deciding that some classic womanly charm was in order, Sheena surrendered her leaning position to curl up next to him. For a female Mizuhoan, this wasn't the easiest thing to do, of course. She could almost see the furious expression of her grandfather inside her head, utterly appalled that his own adopted kin would be so imprudent. Even so, her more devious side rejected this thought. On the one hand, they were in private, a foremost rule of conduct in Mizuho. More importantly to her, it was innocent behavior that they partook in. Zelos, despite the fact that he was a few years her elder, had always obeyed the limits she set. And though she half expected this to make his gaze wander to another, it instead was expressed in his deep passion when her lips would—at last—find his.
Apparently happy for her presence against him, the still-silent redhead slid an arm around her smoothly, as if afraid she might plan on leaving. She felt a slight shiver creep up her spine when she felt the warmth of his cheek brush the exposed skin of her neck. So much a child, he often was, and yet something about the way he touched her was a reminder that he would soon be an adult. Had their 'friendship' really grown so much in the years they'd spent together?
Not too long ago, he'd been much clumsier in the department of romance. Laughingly, Sheena recalled a time when he'd confessed her to be his first attempt at pursuing a girl. With life having demonstrated to him exclusively the cruelty of the fairer gender, motivation to seek one out had been through the ground at best. Out of some kind of divine mercy she had arrived, emerging from the shadows to give him a lithe feminine form to stare at. As he had put it, it was simply the sheer mystery the ninja held that drew him to her, the rare beauty she didn't even know she possessed. It always had made her happy to think that someone saw her that way, even if she denied the fact openly.
Slowly, carefully, she dared to run her fingers through his long red mane. For a few moments he was motionless, tense. Then, much to her delight, she was rewarded with the noticeable relaxing of his body, some of the anxiousness dissipating with her gentle movements. How easy it was to manipulate him, she thought playfully.
Herself becoming more and more calm, she let her gaze wander. Over the various assortment of undoubtedly expensive décor, the dusty furniture, the dozens of gaudy items of all sorts. Sheena had never felt entirely at home in such a lofty environment; it was to her, rather crowded and a bit unnerving. To be surrounded by money constantly…there was a certain coldness to that sensation.
Most unsettling, though, was the towering portrait of Mylene Wilder. Her vaguely disapproving expression seemed captured forever in paint and canvas, as if her memory lived on only through her unhappiness in life. She had been a pretty woman, Sheena thought, but her beauty appeared to be almost…wilted. Her eyes showed her to look much older than her young age, distant and burdened.
It was very tragic that her circumstances ended the way they did, no doubt. The ninja had the utmost sympathy for someone forced into a loveless marriage. What angered her was the fact that the troubled mother chose to take it out on her son, innocent of her problems. Now Sheena was left to undo the damage done so long ago.
This fact making her rather irritated, she glanced down at him only to find his eyes following her gaze. His thoughts had been in the same place, perhaps.
"Why don't you find something more uplifting to put there, Zelos?" She asked it more as a request than a question. "You don't deserve to relive those memories every day, for the rest of your life…"
"…It never was my decision," he stated shortly, not really indicating whether that was a sentence or just the beginning of one. "They left me in this big empty place by myself, imprisoned. 'Til they need my…services as Chosen. My punishment for…existing, I guess, is to live my short life here with all these relics of the past. She…"
He motioned to the painting on the other side of the room, unwilling to look directly at it again. "She's only part of that. It's all the same, really."
Sheena remained speechless for a few moments; it was true, she couldn't even begin to relate to the feeling of having an expiration date on life. Most often, she tried to pretend he didn't either. It was a hard idea to accept. But, at least, he wouldn't have to face it alone.
"You don't have to sit back and let everyone else decide your life for you," she told him, finding a strand of red hair to tease fondly. "Being Chosen doesn't mean you have to always be sad. If it means anything, I like it most when you're happy."
A mirror to her words, Zelos did smile, though his lingering unease was evident. He wasn't sure how he could possibly explain to her his dilemma. Of course he appreciated her support, needed it more than anything. At the same time, it often made it even harder to imagine a time when he would have to bid her farewell and tread heavily on toward his own demise.
"I'll be okay as long as you're here with me," he mumbled, holding her small figure closer. "You don't look at me with that…pity…" He said the word loathingly. "That pity that they all seem to have. Even though they treat me like I've descended from on high…they're really just thinking, 'hey, at least I'm not in his shoes!'"
A pause. He sighed, a tiredness coming to his voice as he continued. "I just want to be treated like a human is all. No pity, no 'almighty Chosen One.' But no one will give that to me."
"Oh, you just said it yourself!" The young ninja released the lock of hair she'd been gripping, instead giving him a sharp poke on the forehead. "I treat you well, even if they won't. Be thankful for that, rather than dwelling on what everyone else thinks. If you live your life that way, it'll always feel lonely."
Zelos closed his eyes sadly, unable to meet her gaze now. "It's not always that easy. Everyone is watching my every move, expecting me to look happy all the time. And yet, they have no idea what it means to be me. No one else I know was born to…die."
Her own gaze fixed sternly on the Chosen, Sheena felt a small smile grace her lips. "We're all born to die," she whispered into his hair. "So we just have to try and enjoy the time we're given. After all, it's better to be given one day of perfect happiness than a thousand years of sadness. Our time is only as good we make it, you know."
Inwardly, she crossed her fingers. That had been a good bit of wisdom there! Whether or not he would listen to her…well, did she even believe it herself? How much easier it was to give council than to take one's own advice.
He didn't look at her. Stubbornly, his voice remained completely emotionless. "It's true, I know…I just can't stand to think that I have no hope for the future. Especially when the future's out of my control…I hate when things are out of my control."
She smiled wider, a sly tone creeping into her voice. "Ah, well then that's the problem! You can't ever know what the future holds, let alone control it. That's why hope was…er…invented. People are afraid of what they don't know, right?"
Taking his eyes off the ceiling, he finally turned to look at her. "Yeah…"
"Well then, you have to let go of wanting to change what you don't know yet," she concluded, as if to cut off any further questions she couldn't answer. "Anything can happen, and that's why life can be so exciting…and scary. So just let go, okay? Whatever will be, will be. You're not in charge of that."
A silent moment followed, then a reluctant agreement. "Okay, okay…"
"Whatever will be, will be."
Sheena reached forward to move the curtain of red from his eyes, intent on seeing his thoughts from his blue gaze. "That's right. See now, you feel better, right?"
"Mm…" he freed a hand so as to take hers, no longer trying to avoid her stare. "Sheena?"
She started slightly, surprised by his sudden seriousness. "W-what?"
A light blush spread through her face. "Oh, it's…"
Zelos shook his head slowly, cutting her off. "No. You're the only person I know who cares to listen to me when I'm all…out of sorts. Un-Chosenlike. Whatever." He smiled, more genuinely than he had the whole night. "And you make a lot of sense, too…I do try to control stuff. Stuff I shouldn't be trying to control."
Still the light pink remained on her face as she giggled softly. "I'm…I'm glad then. It's not much fun when you're sad…"
"I know, sweetie. Didn't mean to bring you down...it just sort of happens that way sometimes. When I get to 'thinking." He ruffled her hair gently, subconsciously glancing over at the clock on the mantle. Sheena followed his eyes and nearly gasped at the time; almost midnight.
"Ah! So late already!" She cringed, thinking already of how early she had to awake. "I should have been to bed right after I left..."
"You need me to...take you back to the inn?" His heart sank a little with the fact that she would have to leave, her warmth beside him particularly comforting at the moment. The lack thereof made the night seem like a very insomnia-ridden hell ride.
She merely shook her head.
They lay in silence for several minutes, listening to the steady crackling of the fire in the silent evening. They both were obviously tired, and the warmth mixed with a rare peace enticed them both to the dream world. It was when the ninja pressed herself slightly against him, eyes closing with the hope for some sleep, that the Chosen decided that he would give her a final thanking. With a bit of hesitation he leaned in toward her, and although she was quite drowsy, Sheena returned the affection warmly when he took her lips in a kiss.
The sound of the clock striking midnight broke them apart, breathless and a little startled. A silent agreement passed between them that she would not be going anywhere at the time, instead choosing to disappear with the rising sun for another day of busy summoning work. But she could enjoy the moment for now, she thought, as her last waking vision was of her special loved one, his sleeping expression perfectly content.
A/N: Nyeh, I've been contemplating things lately, with the coming of a new year. One of those is the value of time...I really am starting to believe that the best gift of life is all the perfect little moments rather than the long, crappy days. Hm, it's worth a thought.
But yeah, I did pre-game here...thus requiring me to set up a relationship a bit and adjust their characters accordingly. You can imagine for yourself how they came to be their in-game selves. I definitely can see Zelos as a character with inner conflict as to his purpose in life. Especially with such a gruesome path before him. Sad, really.
I'll probably be catching you all around later! And for those of you who were reading my oneshot collection...see my profile for details on what I did with that. This little piece here is my gift to you for now. :D Happy holidays, then, y'all! And remember to R & R!