Author's Note: Hey guys, we finally made it! The last chapter!
"Damn to the depths whatever man what thought of 'Parley'."
~Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Chapter 12. Home.
After completely refusing to explain her plan in case it didn't work, Lina and Gourry were making their way across the grassy meadows outside Seyruun City proper. They were looking for the dragon encampment. Lina didn't think it would be very hard to find. In fact, she had a sneaking suspicion that it was located about in the spot where a bunch of giant, yellow creatures were wandering in the distance.
"You sure this'll be okay?" Gourry asked.
Lina shrugged. "Who knows? Just let me do the talking though, alright? If things get bad we can always fight our way out."
"I guess," Gourry said, looking doubtfully at the sword strapped to his belt.
Lina noted this with some small irritation. "Hey, I took forever on those enchantments! It'll do just fine."
"It's not the same," Gourry said succinctly.
Lina's irritation softened. She patted him on the arm. "Don't worry," she said. "It's only temporary. We'll find you a replacement."
"Yeah," Gourry said.
Eager to change the subject, Lina said: "So what do you think of this Xellos and Filia thing? Crazy, right?"
Gourry adopted an expression of careful contemplation. "I guess… it kinda seemed weird when we were just reading about it in a message… but, I don't know, now that we're here… it just seems… less weird, I guess."
Lina nodded slowly. "I think I know what you mean."
A couple of dragon guards were approaching them. They had that worrying look of those trying to figure out whether they're supposed to kill you or just wound you.
"Parley," Lina said in a firm, clear voice.
The dragons were taken aback. They hadn't expected this tact. "What?" one of them replied.
"Yeah, Lina," Gourry said, giving her a mystified look. "What about parsley?"
She punched him on the arm, never breaking eye-contact with the dragon guard. "Parley. You know? It's like a little chatting – a little negotiation. You guys agree not to shoot lasers at me, and I agree not to dragon slave you all into oblivion."
The dragon breathed testily out of its elongated snout, but there was a certain amount of worry there. "We were warned that Lina Inverse was around."
"Really?" Lina said, taking a certain amount of pride in this. "Well then, I'm sure you've probably figured out that the best thing you could do right now, is take me to your superior officer and let them sort this out."
You could generally bank on guards' dislike of taking responsibility for decisions, and this case was no different. Lina and Gourry were ushered further into the encampment and led into the presence of three grizzled old dragons evidently in charge of the operation.
The first of them apparently identified her on site. "What is it you want with us, Lina Inverse?"
"Basically?" Lina asked. "I want you to stop trying to kill Filia. That's all."
The second dragon looked down on her dully. "Filia Ul Copt is accused of the highest level of treason against the dragon race. We will only stop trying to kill her when she is dead."
"Is that so?" Lina asked, picking some imaginary lint off of her mantle. "The way I heard it: you guys don't actually have a law about a dragon marrying a monster."
The second dragon glared down at her. "Only because it's such an unthinkable act of degradation that it was assumed that no dragon would ever do such a thing. Despite that, it still falls under the category of betraying the dragon race to the monsters. Not only that, she attacked a member of her own race in the execution of his duty," he said with crisp, clerical harshness.
"Point one," Lina said, holding up a finger. "She didn't marry him on purpose. Apparently it was all the fault of a foreign priest who misunderstood them. It could've happened to anyone."
The first dragon seemed less than convinced. "I hardly think that—"
"Point two," Lina pressed on, regardless. "You guys sent dragons to attack her. How could you not expect her to fight back?"
The second dragon sniffed huffily. "The honorable thing to do would've been to surrender herself."
"You mean the idiot thing," Lina shot back.
"Peace," said the first dragon, holding up a clawed hand. "I find it very difficult to believe that this entire calamity occurred by accident, but even if I believe you it doesn't change how we must deal with the situation. An act of war has been committed and we must respond with force. It reflects badly on the entire race if we let such a thing be."
Lina held up her hands in mock defeat. "Understood," she said, turning around as if to leave. "I just thought that, you know, this being a once in a lifetime opportunity, you might want to actually take advantage of it. But if you want to just have a bunch of your own soldiers killed off, then that's fine too."
"Wait," the third dragon finally spoke up. "What do you mean by that, Lina Inverse?"
Jackpot, Lina thought as the two other dragons turned to glare at the third.
"You can't honestly be thinking of listening to this girl?" the second dragon asked with contempt. "The crime that's been committed is clear. No amount of pleading or explaining can lessen its severity. Filia Ul Copt must die."
"That's easy for you to say," the third dragon responded, his brows heavily wrinkled. "But do you appreciate the cost of what you're asking? She has that monster fighting on her behalf. You know your history as well as I do, and if he continues to fight for her then we can't win. We've lost too much already on this… this… this… domestic dispute of all things!"
"Don't make light of her crime," the first dragon said in a high-minded voice. "I know many have already died, but how could we not respond with all the force we can muster to the heaviest crimes one of our own has perpetrated against us?"
"Then we make her crime greater!" the third dragon stamped his foot, seriously frightening a den of bunnies a couple of feet underground. "I don't see any harm in at least listening to what this girl has to say, do you?"
The two dragons murmured discontentedly, but at least seemed willing to allow this.
Lina smiled a toothy smile. "Have you ever thought that you could…"
Back at the ranch, Filia was pacing around the library occasionally announcing to the room at large that she didn't know what, "Miss Lina was thinking," and that she could've, "at least told us what she had in mind!". She wasn't getting any answers this way.
Meanwhile, Val had climbed into Xellos's lap and was attempting to bond with him. Because Val was a child and had no idea of the enormity of the task he was facing, he had a much better chance of succeeding then most.
"And then I dwew the mailbox out front," Val explained animatedly, gesturing to a crumpled up paper he'd taken out of his pocket. "It's weally bwack, but I colored in gween because it's my fabrit."
"Really?" Xellos asked, adding to his mental notes on children that they were neither good artists nor good conversationalists. Also, some of them seemed to have trouble pronouncing R's and L's.
"And that's where we wive!" Val summed up. "You're going to come wive there too, wight?"
Filia stopped her pacing. This was bad. Xellos wasn't generally what you thought of as good parent material. But Val got so attached to ideas.
She snatched the child up into her arms and said, "Of course not, Val! I don't know what Jillas," insert violent fiery glare of death at Jillas here, "has been telling you, but Xellos is not coming to live with us."
Val's eyes filled with tears.
Xellos gave a mock-shrug. "Well, who would want to live in a house with a woman who won't even paint her mailbox gween – I mean green – even though it's her son's favorite color?"
Val's tears turned to laughter. He clapped. He probably thought he was getting a green mailbox out of this deal. Filia was less than amused. "Stay out of this, you filthy monster."
Xellos muttered something that sounded suspiciously like: "That's not what you said last night", but Filia either did not hear him or chose to ignore him.
"Do you think they bought it?" Gourry asked.
Lina gave it some thought. "That one dragon was definitely on board with the idea, but the other two didn't seem as convinced. We'll just have to hope for the best."
"And what about those other guys?" Gourry asked, referring to the monster race. "You think they'll go for it?"
"Hard to say," Lina said. "We'll just have to try it and see what happens." Theoretically, the conversation with the monsters should be easier, since what she was going to suggest was much more suited to their nature then it was to the dragons. But still…
Some monsters had spotted them and were heading their way.
"Parley?" she said uncertainly.
Absolute incomprehension greeted her. She gave up. Time to take out the big stick. "Look, either you take me to whoever's in charge here or I'll just start blowing you all up and promote the last one left to captain. I'm Lina Inverse: I can do this."
That tactic worked a lot better than the nice, diplomatic approach. It's all about knowing your audience. Lina and Gourry shortly found themselves in the presence of the captain on the demon squad. He was trying to appear human and would've pulled it off excellently if it weren't for the fact that 1. His skin was green 2. He had no irises in his eyes, and 3. He had an ear on his chin.
"What do you want, Lina Inverse?" the captain asked suspiciously.
Woo. Déjà vu. "Drop your treason claim on Xellos," she said bluntly.
The creature paused. "Why doesn't he come himself?"
Lina rolled her eyes. "Because you're trying to kill him, duh." Lina didn't see anything wrong with saying duh to a monster. "He's not stupid. I thought you guys knew him."
She gave this some thought. "Actually, it doesn't seem like you do. Otherwise you'd never believe that he's gone off in some lovey-dovey trance after a dragon girl. This is Xellos we're talking about here."
The monster captain fumbled a bit before finally saying, "Our information indicates—"
Lina waved a dismissive hand at him. "Yeah, they are technically married. But it was all a misunderstanding. It's like… it's like…" she struggled for the right comparison.
"Like when I ordered chicken at that restaurant in Halrune but got turkey instead!" Gourry piped up.
Lina was shocked. Against all odds Gourry had found the metaphor she was looking for. "That's right!" she said as the monster looked on doubtfully. "It's just like that. And what did you do when you got the turkey?"
Gourry shrugged. "I ate it. I was hungry."
"And how was it?" Lina pressed.
"Best turkey I ever had," Gourry said almost longingly. "Hey Lina, do you think we could go back to that place s—"
"The point I'm trying to make here," Lina said to the monster, abruptly switching Gourry off, "is that a mistake happened and it's not anyone's fault. But just like Gourry and his turkey, you guys can make the best of a bad situation and actually get some benefit out of this mess instead of just thinning your ranks."
The monster gave her a bewildered look. Lina could only hope he'd been beguiled by their tale of dining discovery. "I'm listening, human," it said.
Amelia had felt bad about Xellos's continual use of Val as a pawn in the greater game of annoying Filia. So she'd scared up a coloring book and some crayons, leaving him to creative contentment in the corner while everyone else waited. That's why it was pretty much silent when Lina and Gourry once again returned to the library.
"How'd it go?" Xellos asked.
"I think okay," Lina said, a little uncertainly. "Only time will tell."
"What did you do?" Filia asked.
"Well, I just told them that—" Lina was abruptly cut off by two figures walking into the room.
Ear-man was one of them. The other one was a golden dragon, probably one of the three she'd met before, but she couldn't tell which one because it was in its human form. There was as much space as possible between the two of them and they were trying, with non-subtle visual cues, to indicate that they weren't with one another.
"I," they both began. They both glared at one another. Then the golden dragon coughed and said, "We wish to call a—"
"Parley?" Lina offered. She'd been getting to use that word a lot today and ever since Gourry had mistaken it for parsley it had been making her hungry.
The dragon nodded curtly. "Quite."
"I wish to speak with the accused on a private basis," the ear-man said.
"I as well," said the dragon.
Well, here's progress. They were the accused, which was better than the convicted or the condemned. Xellos and Filia gave Lina a brief look which she returned with a nod.
Xellos and Filia were shepherded into separate rooms by the irate looking members of their races handling the cases. They were asked a series of rather similar questions. The captains wanted to know whether the marriage thing was really a mistake or not.
So Xellos and Filia launched into individual explanations on how they'd only wanted to get a look at a book, but had accidentally signed themselves into matrimony all because of a Gruddi priest who got off on that kind of thing. They explained how the Gruddians had fled when the dragons attacked, leaving them with no way to fix the situation and thus forcing them to form a temporary alliance in order to escape the threat they faced.
Both captains responded to this explanation with a disbelieving "Huh", but decided to move on from that point.
"Eudor reported that you attacked him," the dragon captain said accusingly to Filia. "Now he's dead."
"I didn't kill him," Filia shot back defensively. "I'll admit I sent a laser blast his way when he attacked us, but that's it. Xellos was the one that killed him. I did my best to minimize the damage to the dragons that attacked us, but it's not like I can control him."
Another "Huh" was all she received.
In the room in which Xellos was being interrogated, the monster captain said, "We… may be able to make a deal, but first I need to know the answer to one question concerning the girl." The monster looked decidedly uncomfortable. Xellos was only uncomfortable because it is a bit difficult to talk to someone with an ear on their chin. It's very distracting! He kept wanting to ask him if he knew that that wasn't where humans had ears.
"What is it?" Xellos asked.
"Do you," the ear-monster began with great difficult. "You know…"
Xellos didn't know, so he waited for further information.
"You know," the captain said again. "That thing that humans do?"
Xellos was not at all sure what the captain was getting at, so he tried to think of things that humans did. "…Metabolism?" he hazarded.
"No," the monster captain said, shaking his head. He was visibly sweating at this point. "Like, you know when you destroy something?"
Xellos nodded. He knew well.
"Well, it's like the opposite of that," the monster captain clued helplessly.
Xellos gave him a look of polite incomprehension.
The monster captain sighed. "Fine," he said. "You're making me say it. Do you…" he took a deep breath, "love her?"
The polite look had been instantly wiped away and was replaced with a glare as sharp and ancient as a T-Rex's claw. It was the kind of glare that said, "What's your blood type? No. Don't tell me. I'll check for myself."
"Well, I had to ask," the monster said in self-justification. "You think I wanted to ask? No." He shuddered.
"With that, uh, matter addressed," the monster captain said, doing the psychological equivalent of shuffling papers, "We can make you an offer of amnesty and have you keep your status as being married to that… dragon, as long as you agree to one thing: use her to spy on the dragon race."
In another room, the dragon captain had just made a corresponding offer to Filia.
"Absolutely," Xellos said from where he sat.
"Absolutely not," Filia said from where she sat.
"Why didn't you say 'yes'?" Lina whined at Filia after the dragon captain left in a huff and the monster captain left in a huff-free fashion. "That was your only way out! Why didn't you stick to the plan?!"
"You didn't tell me the plan, Miss Lina," Filia reminded her tartly. "And anyway, I wouldn't have agreed even if I'd known. 'Information gathering'," she spat out the words like they were poisonous. "They didn't even have the guts to say 'spying'! And I'm the disgrace to dragons?"
"You could've just lied to them and said you would," Zelgadis pointed out.
"I still have my principles," Filia said crossing her arms.
"I'm not sure you do," Zelgadis said darkly.
Lina groaned and rubbed her forehead. "Well, I assume you're in the clear, Xellos."
"Correct," Xellos said.
"Because he has no principles," Amelia said resignedly.
Lina put a hand on Filia's shoulder. "Look," she said. "I'm sorry, but the spying thing was my only idea. If even getting a divorce won't help you then I don't know what else to say except that you're better off not staying in one place for too long."
Lina patted her shoulder as Filia gave the opposite wall a faraway look. "Jillas and Val can head back to your shop. I don't think the dragons will bother with them. Me and Gourry travel a lot," Lina added generously. "So you could always stick with us for awhile."
Filia stared around the room and then caught sight of Val in Jillas's arms. Her expression toughened. "No," she said firmly. She took Val from Jillas and turned to Lina with her eyes blazing. "I said I wasn't going to run and I'm not going to. I've had enough of this situation and I'm going to fix it right now."
Lina was nonplussed but had to admire the attitude. "How?" she asked.
"Take me to the dragon camp," Filia said.
"But that's too—" Lina protested.
"Now," Filia said.
"At least leave—" Amelia began.
"Now," Filia said.
So that's how Filia, the dragon race's homegrown public enemy number one, ended up in the midst of the dragon military encampment set on her destruction: with a monster, four humans, a beastman, and a child in her arms. Inadvisable circumstances stand no chance against pure adrenaline.
"Parley!" Lina shouted once again as the dragons made aggressive moves toward them. "Parley or I'll blow you all up!" If they got through this mess alive she swore she'd never use that stupid word again.
The dragon captain in his proper form glared at her, as though sick of restraining himself at her whim. He turned his unpleasant expression on Filia.
"Have you come to turn yourself in after shunning our extremely generous offer for rehabilitation?" he asked gruffly.
"Rehabilitation?" Filia repeated angrily. "Was that the part where you wanted me to spy? The dragon race has indeed fallen far, but not because of me."
The dragon captain was eyeing Xellos with a look that clearly said: ixnay on the yingspay.
Xellos chuckled. "Oh, you know how hard it is for couples to keep secrets from each other."
"Shut up," Filia commanded.
"Yes, dear," Xellos said because he still seemed to think he was funny.
Filia pointed an accusatory finger at the dragon leader. "You've been hunting me down like a common animal and sending your own people to the slaughter. You've declared me the most disgraceful dragon to ever have existed! You'd think I must have done something like going on a murdering spree in a nursery! No. All I did, when you get right down to it, was get married to someone you didn't want me to."
"You betrayed—" the dragon began.
"I betrayed nothing," Filia said, visibly shaking with anger. "You misinterpreted the circumstances and tried to kill me, not even allowing me the fairness of a trial. The fact that I remained loyal to our race so long is staggering in the face of that. You betrayed me."
"You are subject to the laws that gov—" the dragon began again, but Filia was determined not to give him a word in edgewise.
"Why?" she asked. "Why should I be subject to your laws? I'm not a priestess anymore! I don't live among you! Heck, I pay taxes to the human government in the town I work in. I'm more subject to their laws than I am to yours. You say that I'm not worthy of being a golden dragon? Well, I don't know if I even want to be one anymore."
A collective gasp shot up through the encampment.
"Now, listen to me and listen well," Filia said in a dangerous voice. "Nobody asked me if I wanted to marry Xellos, and if they had I would've said no. I didn't get to make that decision, but I'm making the decision to stay married to him. It doesn't change anything about how I've decided to live my life; it's just a thing that happened. I know you think that makes me a traitor, but I don't have any intentions against you, despite all that's happened. I don't care if you want to banish me or curse me or whatever. All I want now, all I'm going to do now, is go home."
"And know this," she continued. "If you do go after me, I won't hesitate to fight back this time. And do you know what else? I'll win. Because I have things worth protecting."
As one everyone in the camp remembered what happens to anyone who gets between a mother bear and her cubs.
"Come on, Jillas," Filia said, readjusting Val in her arms. "We're going home."
Jillas followed her with a deeply worried expression as she strode away like the Queen of Righteous Fury. She stopped when she came to Xellos, passed the child to Jillas, and kissed him very quickly.
"Goodbye, Xellos," she said without a trace of tenderness in her voice. And then she'd turned around, on her way once again.
Even as it happened, Xellos knew that the kiss wasn't for his benefit. It was just a big 'fuck you' to the dragons assembled. It was a kiss for burning bridges. It was a take that kiss. It worked too. The dragons were utterly mortified. The humans were fairly mortified too.
He watched her as she advanced through the meadow like an unstoppable battleship as Jillas struggled to keep up while carrying Val. You could tell by the way she was swinging her arms that she had absolutely no intention of turning around until she was home. He tightened his grip on his staff and put on his best smile.
"Well. It looks like that's settled then!"
The sun was just starting to set. Val, Jillas, and Gravos had set up a fort in the storeroom and were having a lot of fun, but hopefully not breaking any merchandise. Filia had been preparing for the night's dinner when she felt it – that unmistakable presence.
"Xellos," she said, and turned around. There he was, leaning against her kitchen wall as nonchalantly as you please.
"Filia," he said, with a nod in return.
It had been two weeks. It was almost as though they were intruders in each other's lives again.
"I heard that you'd been declared an anathema," Xellos said conversationally.
Ah yes. They'd even sent her a formal letter declaring it, which was almost classy. In her darker moments when she'd added a little too much gin to her tea, she thought about having it framed.
They'd summarily thrown her out of the dragon race. The letter was the "son? I have no son," of crime and punishment, and was unprecedented in use. She was dead to them. Only a month ago that would have devastated her, but her needs were simpler now. At least no one tries to kill the dead.
She imagined it was the best way they had found available to deal with her. They didn't want to lose anymore dragons on this venture, but had to deal with her in some way. When she vowed to oppose their efforts tooth and nail, well… they'd probably been glad that some low-level clerk dug up an unused legal procedure from a thousand years ago.
But it was fine. She had her life back and her family.
"Your information is pretty good," she sniffed. "I don't think you would've learned much from spying on me."
Xellos shrugged. "Perhaps something about ceramics?" he said, eyeing the shelves laden with delicately painted vases.
"Speaking of spying," Filia said, because she was determined not to speak of ceramics. "What bearing does me being thrown out of the dragon race have on your spying deal? I'm hardly privy to the secrets of the dragons now."
"One piece of paper says that we're married," Xellos said, holding up a finger. "And another says that you can no longer call yourself a dragon: that you're not a real dragon. You can either choose to believe the magic of official documents or not. Either way, my treason is averted; at least in a highly technical way. I think they just want to make this go away. There have been too many losses at this point."
Filia nodded. Either she was his wife and in a sort of legal species-limbo or she was a golden dragon that he was unattached to. It was amnesty by legal paradox.
She stared at him for a long time before he would say anything else. She wasn't sure exactly why he was there, but she had two conflicting suspicions. He was either going to stay with her, at least for a little while, or say that what happened two weeks ago was… over. That she wouldn't see him again. She wasn't sure which she wanted. She'd finally attained some peace after the nightmare that started at the Gruddi temple. Xellos represented an end to that peace.
Xellos peered beyond her to the sink and kitchen counter. "So… what are we having for dinner?"
She turned around to the sink where she'd been running water through a colander so he wouldn't see the tears in her eyes. "Fruit salad," she said weakly.
"I don't want fruit salad," he said automatically.
She turned back around to face him, all signs of tears gone, with an expression of pure irritation. "Well, how was I to know you'd be here? If you had another suggestion you should've told me earlier when I was shopping!"
"I only assumed you fed your family real food," Xellos said in a manner that suggested he should never have assumed something so simple of her.
Filia glared at him with her hands on her hips. "I like fruit salad. It's full of vitamins and we have so many wonderful garden markets around here that it's a shame not to take advantage of them."
"Rabbit food," Xellos declared, reaching across her and stealing the colander full of fruit from the sink. She made a grab for it, but he held it up out of her reach. "Let's have something else."
"Come on!" Filia said, jumping up and trying to snatch the bowl. "Why should I change it just for you? You don't even have to eat! And if we don't eat that tonight it'll go bad. That's wasteful!"
"If you don't want to waste money and food then you shouldn't buy things that no one wants to eat," Xellos pointed out slyly.
"Oh, come on," Filia snapped. "It doesn't even make a difference that it's fruit salad. You're just trying to stir up trouble!"
"It's a good thing you've already been excommunicated, Filia, because if you weren't your carnivorous dragon friends would've chucked you out for being a dietary disappointment as well," he said.
Filia hmphed, signaling that the portion of this argument that was going to involve rational discussion was over. "Give it back!" she shouted, jumping up once more.
He held it up higher out of her reach. "Make me," he said, none too mature.
Unnoticed by them, Val had toddled into the kitchen, weary from his fort-based merrymaking. He climbed up on one of the chairs and retrieved his sippy-cup full of juice. He took a drink from the cup, seemingly undisturbed by the argument going on right in his presence. He smiled.
He had parents. For all he knew, everything was exactly the way it was supposed to be.
T H E E N D .
Closing Author's Note:
1. Thank you. Thank you so very much for reading. And a special thanks to those of you who reviewed! You guys are awesome. I hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Your support made it happen.
2. There is a significant chance that I will write some kind of a sequel to this eventually. I've got a few ideas, but I need to do a lot more planning before I can get anything together.
3. If you enjoyed this fic, I hope you'll check out my new Xellos/Filia story that I'll be starting on March 20th (next Saturday). It's called Diplomacy and I'm really excited about it :) It'll follow the same Saturday update schedule that this has followed (So I guess it's Xellia Day then?). Hope to see you there!