Disclaimer (to be read in a british accent): I owneth not. If you desireth to thank my moste pleasing work, thanketh only Namco and perhapseth my dearest sister silverchelle for teaching me to loveth this pairing.


"Ouch! Be careful, Sheena!" Zelos complained loudly. I snorted.

"Relax. I'm barely pulling." I replied.

It wasn't exactly true. I was tugging a brush through his knotted hair rather painfully, if his complaints were to judge by. It was kind of funny, the way he was whining. You'd think he'd be used to it by now!

"Ouch! Ow! Seriously, that hurts!"

"Oh, shut up, you baby. I'm nearly done now." I admonished. He fidgeted yet again. I smacked his head lightly with the brush.

"Hey!" He rubbed his head crossly.

"Well, if you would sit still for once in your life I wouldn't have to hit you."

"Well, if you would quit pulling my hair..."

"Oh seriously, Zelos, shut up. I'm finished brushing. Time to braid it."

"Ew, only girls braid their hair, honestly. I swear you're a bumpkin." he complained teasingly. I smacked his head again.

"I'm the one with a weapon. I would suggest not pushing me." I warned lightly. He shifted, and I could practically see his smirk.

"But it's so fun, Sheena. After all, you're practically a baby compared to me and you can't beat me up." It was true—he was 13, and I was only 10. But as for the beating him up part...

"How much do you wanna bet? I've been practicing, y'know."

"Sure, sure. You may have...practiced...but you're only 10, and you can't fight worth crap with a sword." he muttered, shifting his weight yet again.

"I'm not that bad. Orochi has been teaching me more with cards, and Kuchinawa showed me some stuff with a sword." I protested.

"Oh. Kuchinawa did, huh? Well, that doesn't mean anything." His voice had grown a bit less teasing now. I wondered at it, but I still fired back a retort.

"Means more than you, a noble, learning from, who was it again, some blue haired guy? You've got a weird taste in teachers..." He turned and scowled.

"I—"

"Hey, you messed up your braid! I have to redo it now! And I was nearly finished." I sighed and, shoving him back around, began braiding his hair all over again.

"Well, hurry up at least, my knees hurt."

"It's not my fault you're taller than me. I can't help it if you're a troll."

"At least I'm not a dwarf."

"At least I'm not stupid."

"At least I'm no—"

"Oh, shut up for just a minute, I just have to tie it now, then you have to go put on your suit and all." I chided. He groaned loudly.

"Ugh, I hate these stupid things. I also have to dance with Princess Hilda, she's such a spoilt brat, I swear!" he burst out suddenly. I stifled a giggle.

"Yeah, well, you could always fake like you're ill." I suggested. "It's what I did a fair amount of the time."

"Yeah, if I did that, I'd probably get executed for crimes to the king."

"Nah. They wouldn't dare."

"Y'never know."

"Yeah, I can still hope. Hey, I was kidding!" I exclaimed as he punched my arm.

"Hmph. I'd better go get dressed. Ugh, I look like a girl with my hair like this." he complained again, reaching up to tug the long braid.

I smacked his hand away. "Don't touch! You'll mess it up." He glared at me, but then his eyes softened into friendship.

"Are you sure you can't come? I hate dealing with those nobles, they're such snobs. They're so condescending, y'know? Oh, well, I guess you would. But still, I hate listening to them gossip." he blurted out, his tone pleading. "If you came, it'd be so much better and easier to handle."

"I'm sure you know how much I'd love to go," I said sarcastically, "But I'm not important enough for an invitation from the King. It's precious Hilda's birthday party after all. She's all of, what, eight?" Zelos snorted in response, but I knew he understood why I couldn't go. "I am sorry, though. I know you hate going. Now, go get ready! I have to practice if we're ever going to have a contest in swordfighting." I snapped, mock-angrily.

"All the practice in the world couldn't help you!" he laughed, ducking out of the room before I could swing at him and shutting the door. I lay back on the ground and sighed. It was maddening, the crush I had on my best friend. I knew he could never like me back, either. I was just Sheena, the Mizuhohan girl. He was Zelos, the Chosen. No, he hated that. He was Zelos, the person. Still. I wasn't good enough for him, and I knew it. But he looked so good with his hair like that, in a loose braid, a few curls hanging around his face...I'd kill to look as good as him. Well, maybe not. Oh well.

XXX

"Hey, hunny. We'll meet you there, 'kay? I trust you can find the place. I can't wait to see you in your dress, I'm sure you look stunning!" Zelos calls through the door. I stifle a groan and shout back,

"Shut up, you idiotic Chosen."

"Ah, love!" I hear his feet pounding down the hall. No doubt he's ruining his clothes just like he used to.

No. He's too much of a ladies' man now. Where did my best friend go? I sigh and finish putting my hair up. It's in a tight bun. I tug at my dress, trying to cover more of my body. Stupid seamstresses, trying to show off other girls' bodies so they felt better about themselves. Zelos will probably be all over me—unless he's too ashamed to be seen with the bumpkin. Why, oh why, do I have to have a crush on the most wanted man in Tethe'alla?

I walk slowly downstairs in my fancy slippers, then to the dinner party building. Thank Martel it's not raining, or else the pretty little things would be ruined. Probably cost a hundred thousand gald. Ugh. Wasteful, since I'll wear them once. Maybe I'll give them to some beggar girl to sell. Or wear. It would be up to her. Lucky girl.

"Miss Fujibayashi, your companions have already gone inside. Mr. Irving is upstairs already with Miss Brunel. I believe Mr. Wilder awaits you." The old man at the desk sounds bored. I sympathasize with him—being stuck greeting nobles all day would be torture.

"Thank you, sir. Good night." I say politely and walk inside.

It's true, Zelos is waiting for me by himself. A miracle in itself, that. Probably is just trying to win me over or something though. I know how he is. Still, I walk over to him unhesitantly. No need to be intimidated, right?

"Hey, Sheena." He says suavely, though without saying hunny. Once again, a miracle. Must be the wine.

"Hey, Zelos." I say cautiously. "So...nice suit." I say, pointing to the ugly green clothing he's donned for the evening. He grimaces back at me.

"Yeah, stupid seamstresses. Always trying to make others look bad so they feel better about themselves." he muttered. I look at him, shocked. I'd thought almost the exact same thing not 15 minutes ago! He notices my look and shrugs. "What? It's true, y'know." Once again, I am shocked. He sounds more like his old self than he ever has before. Then he grins and I am swirled into memory of the old days, only to be cut back by his next words.

"Look at lover boy up there with Colette. They're so awkward it's almost funny." he says, pointing at the balcony where Lloyd is indeed standing with Colette. They are indeed completely awkward with each other. Still, they're cute together. A much better couple than Lloyd and I, which I realized long ago.

Zelos glances at me, comprehension dawning on his face. "You're still hung up on him, aren't you?" I sigh, shaking my head.

"Not anymore. They're just too right for each other." I reply, slipping too easily into my old self, the way we used to be together. It's nice.

"Yeah." Zelos agrees, smiling. "They're lucky to have found each other." I look at him, only to notice him looking at me. I blush furiously. Stupid heart, speeding up just because he looks at me like that!

"What?" I snap at him. He quickly readjusts his mask.

"Oh, nothing. Your breathtaking beauty is simply distracting me from my thoughts." he smoothly intones. I glare a moment, taken aback, and begin to turn, only to be stopped by his almost-desparate voice.

"No, Sheena, wait! I'm just being an idiot. I'm tired of being an idiot..." he adds thoughtfully. I almost turn around right then, but I can't stake my entire heart on a single sentence or excuse. I do, however, stop where I am. When I speak, I am ashamed to hear that my voice is as desparate as his.

"How can I believe you? Why should I believe you? I've never had reason to before."

"Don't you remember the old days?"

"How could I not? Those were the best days of my life." I say shortly. "You're the one who seems to have forgotten them, or at least stopped caring."

He looks hurt for real. "Never. Never." His voice is tiny, but determined.

"Then why do you call me 'hunny?'" I suddenly shout, spinning back around to face him and moving forward. "Why do you make perverted comments whenever you're in the same room as me?" I prod his chest with my finger. "Why do you insist on treating me like I'm your little plaything? And failing that just plain out ignoring me? You turned into someone I could easily hate, if it weren't for the old days! I know this isn't you! Why can't you just be you...?" I trail off, nearly in tears, shameful tears. I can barely hold them back.

"Oh, Sheena." he murmurs, suddenly enveloping me in his arms, but it's different than his usual attempts. He feels needy, sad. He's not being an idiot, I can tell from the old days. He needs someone.

"It's gonna be okay, Zelos." I say softly, patting his back. He shakes slightly in my arms, fragile as the little doll I played with as a child. In the old days. This entire night seems to be centered around those perfect memories. Then, again, sometimes it seems as though my whole life is.

Eventually, he lets me go and straightens up, composed again. He smiles, a real smile, not his 'flirt-with-me' playboy smile.

"Thanks...I needed that." he says, not specifying what 'that' is.

"Anytime, Zelos." I say.

Then I notice something. "Your hair!" I gasp, unable to believe my eyes. "It's...braided!" He looks down shyly, and I notice the curls framing his face.

"Yeah..."

"I thought you hated that? That it made you look like a girl?" I demand.

"Well...it's just...I like it now." he says off-puttingly.

"Liar, I know you better than that, even after years of fighting." I scoff. He looks up, suddenly firm.

"I wear it like this when I want to...When I want to be reminded of you." he tells me, looking nervous but strong. I am suddenly daunted by his words.

"You mean...after all these years of being a ladies' man, you still care about being friends? Not just...old news?" I whisper, scared of the answer coming.

"...well, yes. A bit. A lot." He admits. "In fact, it's all I care about."

I am a tiny bit disappointed. Okay, very disappointed. But it's something. "Wow..." I exhale. "Here I thought I was yesterday. Just a memory, a faded shadow."

Zelos looks impressed. "Hey, I didn't know you were that poetic, Sheena. 'A faded shadow.' That's good." I blush.

"It's nothing. Anyway, when you say that's all you care about..." I don't know what I'm doing. This goes against everything I was taught. Oh, Martel, protect me. "What would you say if I told you I cared about something more?"

His face hardens. "Are you in love with Kuchinawa, then? After everything he did?" I gasp in shock at his assumption. Kuchinawa?

"Zelos, no! Kuchinawa is...was a brother to me! What I'm trying to say is...I care about you, as more than a friend."

Yep. I am officially exiled from the Mizuho afterlife. I admitted love in public. Sort of, anyway. Zelos probably is about to laugh, from the look on his face.

And he does let loose a nervous sort of chuckle. "Er...well..."

"It's fine. I understand. I didn't mean to tell you that." I say shortly, and then struggle to make my tone lighter. "So, do you—"

"Sheena, for once in your life, let me finish!" he snaps suddenly. I look at him, astounded and speechless.

"Go on, then." I say after a moment. "Finish." I brace myself. No good can come of this. None whatsoever.

"I...care about you...as more than a friend." he forces out. "A...lot more. I just never wanted to tell you because I was afraid I'd screw things up and then you hated me anyway and—" I put my finger to his lips, overwhelmed by this sudden rush of words. Then I move my hand and, not sure of what I'm doing, kiss him softly. He pulls his head away immediately and I blush. He stutters something unintelligible, and then I lean forward again. Where is this courage coming from?

This time, though, he meets me halfway, kissing me back. It is short and sweet, reminiscent of old friendship and new love. We smile at each other. I realize, somewhere in the back of my mind, that someday today will be one of the old days. It's a good thought. After all, the old days are always the best ones.