Disclaimer: Don't own Tales of Symphonia. It makes me a very sad panda to say so.

Author's Note: Thank God for Spring Break. Had to work yesterday for my dad and now I've got staple cuts all over my hands and my shoulder and head are aching because of an evil door, but I got some good sushi, watched the first three episodes of Highlander, half of The Producers and had some fun with the family.

Gonna go and watch Alice in Wonderland again, can't wait and I'm gonna make a stop at the bookstore because the Night Angel Trilogy, one that I recently finished, is absolutely worth buying.

-/-/-/

Yes we are [friends] and I do like to pass the day with you in serious and inconsequential chatter. I wouldn't mind washing up beside you, dusting beside you, reading the back half of the paper while you read the front. We are friends and I would miss you, do miss you and think of you very often. I don't want to lose this happy space where I have found someone who is smart and easy and doesn't bother to check her diary when we arrange to meet. ~Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body, 1992

-/-/-/

There was no open air market in Meltokio. Even in the slums, they conducted their business behind closed doors. It was something that annoyed Sheena about the city, the impersonality of it all. Outside of next-door-neighbors, people didn't stop to chat with others to hear the news or just to have a pleasant conversation.

"Can I help you, miss?" Sheena hands him her purchases—fruits mostly and some bread. She'd stop by the butchers later to get a few cuts of ham for sandwiches. "Dinner for two, eh, miss?"

She grinned at him. "Or for one hungry woman."

He gave her such a look that her grin faltered. Another annoying thing about Meltokio—women weren't real big eaters. That was one thing that Sheena really couldn't understand. If you were hungry, why not eat? The noblewomen certainly had the money for it and they didn't even have to cook their own food.

Sheena slapped her gald on the counter, taking the bags of groceries. She hated big cities, but Mizuho wasn't exactly accommodating to her right now. Annoyed as she was, she didn't notice someone else coming down the stairs.

"Whoa, hey." It was a male voice, one she didn't recognize. "You alright, hunny?"

Sheena's eyes snapped up to look at him. He wasn't too much taller than her, brilliantly red hair falling in waves to just past his shoulders. And his clothes were well-made and of material that would cost Sheena more than a year's wage.

"I'm not your hunny." She told him tartly, scooping up the fallen fruit, nose wrinkling at a few of the newly bruised ones.

"Not yet. Here, let me get that," He moved to take some of the fruit off her hands that she was beginning to struggle not to drop. A sharp glare stopped him. She had no patience for playboys.

"No, thanks. I got it."

One of his eyebrows arched. "What's got you all snarly?"

"Sexist morons." Dropping the fruit back in its respective bags, she said, "Thanks for the offer for help, but I've got to get home." It wasn't technically a home. It was a converted storage room in the Research Academy, but he didn't need to know that. She wasn't even in the mood to drop by the butcher's.

"Well, hey, let me walk you there."

"Thanks, but no thanks."

"Can I get your name then?" He called after her.

Sheena didn't reply.

-/-/-/

"Hey, you're that girl that hates sexist morons."

Sheena let out a slow breath. She'd thought that going to walk around and see the 'famed' Coliseum would help relieve some of the boredom of the Research Academy, but apparently not. She looked over her shoulder to see the redhead sitting on a bench, arms over the back.

"And you're the guy who doesn't know how to take a hint."

He smiled wide, teeth very white. "Okay, these names we've got for each other are getting entirely too wordy. I'm Zelos, Zelos Wilder. And you are…?"

"Sheena Fujibayashi."

He blinked. "Mouthful of a last name there, Sheena."

"Not my problem."

"Heh, I suppose not. What're you doing around these parts?"

"Walking. Last I checked, it wasn't against the law."

"You are a snarly one in general, aren't you?" Zelos stood in what would have been a liquid graceful way had Sheena not grown up around ninjas. "If you've got some time on your hands, why not come with me to watch the next match? Front row seats."

"…Nice an offer as that is," Her grandfather hadn't taught her to be rude, after all. "I'd rather not."

"I know my beauty is daunting, but don't be afraid."

Sheena snorted in laughter. She couldn't help it. "Right. More like the lack of brains is the daunting part."

"Ouch." He said mildly. "Have I done something to offend you, hunny?"

"Not really up until the hunny part. I'm not anything to you other than, at best, a vague acquaintance and barely that."

"Yes ma'am. Anything else or shall we go sit?"

"Not going with you, Wilder."

"One day." Zelos promised.

-/-/-/

"Remind me never make this a day job." Sheena remarked to one of the researchers that she'd made friends with, Katherine, as she tugged at the skirt of the dress. Not even a kimono. A dress.

Katherine shook her head, failing to hide the smile. Sheena was a breath of fresh air around the Research Academy. She was fiery and opinionated and, according to many of the guys, drop dead beautiful. Not that Sheena saw it that way from their conversations.

Sheena poked at her hair, which hung loose around her face. "Kathy, seriously, you are magical to get this mess to stay down."

"It's called a brush and some patience, dear."

"Martel knows I don't have that. The patience, I mean." Sheena always just fought with her hair every morning to get the tangles out and pulled it up into its messy ponytail with a ribbon.

"But you get to go to the dinner party. I hear the Chosen's going to be there."

"I don't see why everyone's obsessed with him." Sheena told her. "I can get that he's important to the church, but beyond that…"

"He's handsome, Sheena!" Sheena decided not to argue, mostly because she knew there was little point. No one would even tell her the Chosen's name because they were so in love with him. "And you have to finish getting dressed."

Sheena wished Katherine hadn't reminded her. She glared at the torture devices disguised as footwear in the corner. "I hate heels."

"Beauty is pain."

"You've no idea how much I hate that saying."

-/-/-/

Feeling entirely out of place, Sheena leaned back against the wall by the punch table, though she was only drinking water. Martel knew what those nobles put in their punch.

"Excuse me, do I know you?"

Dear Goddess, she was beginning to recognize that voice. "What are you doing here, Wilder?"

Zelos blinked in surprise. "Sheena?" It was the first time he'd said her name and he thought the occasion merited it because he hadn't recognized her at first and he prided himself in the ability to always remember a face.

He hadn't known her hair, black as the devil's own heart, had gentle waves in it or that it was nearly as long as his own hair. She was in a dress, which he had a feeling was a damn miracle for her. It was midnight blue and floor-length like all the gowns here. The straps were designed like spaghetti straps, but fell off the shoulder and it had a bit of a higher neckline than many of the women's dresses. And, Martel help him, she seemed to be wearing some traces of make-up!

"You got something to say, Wilder or are you just trying to catch flies?" She snapped, uncomfortable with the way he was staring at her.

"Sorry, Sheena, but that's the first time I've ever seen you look like a lady." Zelos winced at his own wording. "That didn't come out right."

Sheena waved him off. "I know what you meant. You never answered my question."

"As to why I'm here? Maybe it was just to see you looking so lovely." He replied to her look with a brief grin. "Or I'm forced to be here."

"I would think that you would thrive under these conditions."

"Purely out of necessity, darling."

Sheena didn't even get a chance to correct him on the nickname because a woman whose dress Sheena could only politely describe as slightly over-revealing. The neckline of the crimson dress dipped lower than was generally accepted even as borderline modest. The woman would have been pretty without the several layers of make-up caked on her face.

"Zelos, dear, it's wonderful to see you here. It shouldn't surprise me really. The Chosen must attend these important events."

Zelos suppressed a flinch at the look on Sheena's face. "Hey, hunny." He might be able to remember faces, but he had no memory for names. At least not the names of the cookie cutter noblewomen.

"Dance with me, won't you, Master Zelos?"

"I'm deeply grieved to have to say this, but I am having a very stimulating conversation with Miss Fujijbayashi right now. Perhaps when we're finished."

"Oh, so that's her name. Master Zelos, you are aware that she has no ranking in society?"

Sheena's temper began to strain the leash. "Actually, I'm the ambassador from Mizuho."

The woman's painted lips curved into a mocking smile. "Oh, you're the ambassador from those barbarians? How…quaint."

"We are not barbarians!" Zelos jumped a little, startled at the true anger and indignation seeping into her voice. On the two occasions when they'd last met, she'd been annoyed with him, but there hadn't been those flames in her eyes. "Just because we can eat what's put in front of us and have the manners not to mention what we think of other people if we don't like them and because we actually talk to other people in the street doesn't make us barbarians."

"Perhaps you should learn not to speak in front of your betters."

"Or maybe you should learn that just because you can afford a dress that makes you look like a prostitute doesn't make you better than one or better than anyone else for that matter."

Zelos whistled low as the woman stormed away. "I gotta hand it to you. That was absolutely amazing."

"What're you talking about?"

Zelos crossed his arms, leaning a hip against the wall. "Darling, this might come as a surprise to you, but not many people go off on somebody like that at a party like this. Which reminds me, why didn't you tell me you were the Mizuho ambassador?"

Sheena didn't bother to correct him. Darling was better than hunny she supposed. "Don't know. Why didn't you tell me you were the Chosen?"

Zelos winced a little. "Hoped you'd forgotten about that. And because I figured you already knew. Most people recognize me on sight."

"I'd say you're being egotistical, but from the talk at the Research Academy, that's true."

"Even the geeks talk about me. I must be truly amazing."

"Hardly. Just famous."

Zelos laughed and, daring, grabbed one of her hands. He was mildly surprised to feel calluses marring the otherwise soft skin. "Dance with me." He said, tugging gently. He would never force a woman to do something like that.

"Hell no, Zelos." Sheena said, jerking her hand back.

A delighted grin lit up his face like a candle behind a curtain. "You called me by my name."

"Don't let it go to your head."

"No, never."

-/-/-/

Sheena tilted her head back, letting the water wash the shampoo from her hair. There'd been a brief cold spell in the Meltokio region and she wasn't insane enough to wash her hair in that kind of weather. Hearing a soft click beneath the sound of the shower running, she stiffened, instinctively going for the small dagger she kept just outside of the shower. It wasn't as good as her cards, but it would do.

"Hello?" She called. It could just be Katherine, needing to borrow a ribbon. She was always losing her hair ties. A shadow moved subtly closer and Sheena tensed. The shadow was too tall and its shoulders too broad to be Katherine. She flung the dagger, simultaneously grabbing her towel and wrapping it around herself clumsily.

"Hey, easy on the knives!"

Sheena stepped out of the shower, yanking the dagger from where it was still quivering in the wood scant centimeters from Zelos' ear. "Just what the hell do you think you're doing?"

Zelos smiled innocently and shrugged. "Got lost?"

His head was spinning not moments later, cheek stinging and burning. "You damn pervert!"

Zelos shook his head and Sheena noticed for the first time that his hair wasn't red. It was wheat brown and his shirt was high-necked so that the necklace that he usually wore with the Chosen's jewel on it was concealed. "This wasn't out of perverseness, I swear."

Sheena arched a disbelieving brow, adjusting the towel higher on her chest. "Oh really? So what was it?"

"Natural curiosity of course."

A second slap echoed through the small room. "Get the hell out of here! I'm serious!"

He rose up his hands in the universal 'I concede' gesture. "Alright, alright. I'll wait for you downstairs."

"What the hell are you talking about now?"

He blinked up at her. His eyes were the only things unchanged, brilliantly blue as the sun shining on ice. "Well I was under the impression that you were getting bored hanging around the Research Academy, so I figured I'd come and keep you company."

Sheena pinched the bridge of her nose. "We'll discuss this later. Get out of here."

"Yes'm."

-/-/-/

It didn't take her long to dress and clumsily dry her hair with the towel before pulling it up. As she came down the stairs, there was Zelos, waiting in the lobby and looking perfectly innocent. As if.

"Alright, tell me why you're here."

"Darling, I already told you." He said patiently.

"I meant the real reason."

Now he did look confused. "What are you—Are you suggesting that I was lying?"

"Are you telling me you weren't?"

"Why would I? Or is it simply that difficult to believe that I just want the pleasure of your company?"

"Why not get one of your 'hunnies'? Surely they provide more glamorous company that someone from a backwater town like myself." Sheena was never in the best of moods after someone had peeked into her shower.

"Who better than an ambassador? And you're a better conversationalist."

"Oh, I've no doubt about that considering I've a lot more than just air in my head."

Zelos made sudden gesture. "See! That, right there! Who needs an adoring noblewoman when I've got a ninja with blind hatred? If you keep this up, I might actually have to start having conversations with girls who actually like me." He smiled. It had been a long time since he'd had this much fun. "Now, do you want to stay here bored all day or would you rather tour the city with the wonderful me for a guide?"

"Such a tempting opportunity to say no…" Sheena grinned at the expression on his face. "I'm kidding. So, where to, Mr. Tour Guide?"

-/-/

"So what's with the incognito look?" Sheena asked, nodding towards his brown hair and clothes of rougher fabrics. "Sleep with the wrong girl and now her husband's after you?"

Zelos gave her a sour look. "You have such high opinions of me, don't you? As a matter of fact, no, I didn't. I just prefer not to be ogled everywhere I go, so I dyed my hair."

"That's something that raises an interesting question. Is red your natural hair color?"

He grinned roguishly at her. "I could show you proof if you want."

She held up a hand. "I'll pass. How'd you find this place?" Sheena took a sip of her coffee. It was something she'd discovered only when she'd come here, to Meltokio, and she'd fallen in love with it. In Mizuho, they were more tea people.

"Sebastian is a wonderful cook and a good guy, but he really can't make good coffee to save his life." At her confused look, he added, "Sebastian's my butler. He's basically raised me since I was like nine."

She smiled into her mug. "He has to have some kind of patience to have dealt with you for the past…how old are you anyways?"

"I'm turning sixteen soon."

"Huh. I just turned fifteen three months ago."

"So clearly age difference won't be a problem for us." At her look, he laughed. "I kid,seriously, I'm kidding. But why did your village let a fifteen year old become their ambassador?"

Sheena swirled her coffee around, not meeting his eyes. "There were…other factors that outweighed my age. And they figured that I could improve my summoning abilities while I'm here."

Zelos leaned his forearms on the table. "You're a summoner? Seriously? I thought there weren't any left and that was why the guys at the Elemental Research Academy were trying to make their own Summon Spirits."

"Well, I'm one of the last ones." She said shortly. "…I wonder how old you have to be to work here."

Zelos looked over at her, momentarily losing the train of conversation. How did women make these mental jumps? Why did they make them? "Pardon?"

"To work here. For a job. There's a sign on the front window that says NOW HIRING. I'm wondering what the age requirements are."

Zelos held up a finger, universal sign language for 'wait', before striding up to the front desk. "'Scuse me, but I was wondering if I could get some details about the job opening?"

The clerk scribbled it all down on a sheet of paper and Zelos returned, sliding the paper to Sheena. "Out of curiosity, why do you want the job? You don't have to pay for board at the Research Academy, do you?"

"No, but it will give me something to do with my days. Until they manage to succeed to create a Summon Spirit, there's not much use they have for me."

Zelos leaned his cheek into his palm. "There are the Summon Spirits in the temples, aren't there? Like Shadow and Volt and them?" He frowned when he saw her go pale beneath her light brown skin. "Is something wrong, hunny?"

"N-no. 'Course not."

His frown deepened. "There is very clearly something wrong if you haven't slapped me for the 'hunny' comment. What is it?"

She stood, chair scraping the tile with a short screech. "It's nothing. Honestly. Thanks for the coffee, but I'm gonna be heading back."

Sheena didn't give him a chance to reply, disappearing out the door.

-/-/-/

"It's rare to see you here, Chosen." The princess said, standing in the doorway of the royal library.

"Good evening, Your Highness. I had to do some rather urgent research."

"I can see that." She kneeled beside him, his piles of books dubbed useless beginning to resemble much more like a fortress. "What is it that you're researching?"

"The Summon Spirits. Specifically Volt or Shadow."

"Well you're looking in the entirely wrong section, Chosen." Contrary to popular belief, the princess was fairly intelligent. She wasn't a genius, but neither was she a complete fool. Getting to her feet, she nodded towards the opposite wall. "All the information on Summon Spirits is there."

Zelos sent her a grateful smile. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy reading—he did to some extent—but he was on a short timeframe and he needed the information. "You're an angel, Your Highness. Honestly, you've got wings!"

She laughed and bid him good night, quietly shutting the doors to the library behind him.

Zelos searched for the most recent records of the two Summon Spirits, one within the past fifteen years. The only real news on either of them was that the researchers at the Research Academy were developing a candle that could pierce even the darkness of Shadow's Temple and that there had been an incident regarding Volt and Mizuho several years back, resulting in the loss of a third of Mizuho's population.

The details were hardly there; it was a clinical report. Very cold and stating only statistics, but it was enough for him to piece together what had happened.

-/-/-/

Sheena pulled her blankets over her head. It couldn't be morning already, could it? Why else would anyone be tapping at her door so early? But the sound was subtly different. There was no wooden depth to the knocking. Rather, there was a clear, higher pitch to the tapping and there was only one other place where someone would be knocking.

Sheena peeked out from underneath her blanket. The only thing she could make out was a mane of red. Sighing, she got up to unlock the window. She was so not in the mood for this. "What is it now, Wilder?"

"I just wanted an answer to my question."

Sheena stiffened, crossing her arms in an attempt to hide it. "Which one?"

"One I haven't asked you yet and here it is. Did you have anything to do with what happened in Mizuho six years ago? When there was some situation with Volt and Mizuho lost a lot of people?"

"That's two questions." Her mouth said automatically in an attempt to divert the conversation. Her body language answered the question for him, however. She suddenly seemed to shrink, her shoulders hunching and she refused to meet his eyes. "I don't think you'll believe me if I say no."

"Just tell me the truth, Sheena. That's all I'm asking for."

Her hands clenched at the sleeves of her nightshirt. "Yes, I had something to do with it! It was all my fault because I'm not a particularly skilled summoner. Are you happy? Does that answer your question?" She closed the window on him and he jerked his hands back from the sill to avoid getting his fingers crushed, but it left him off balance and he found his back scraping against tree branches before the breath was knocked out of him when he hit the concrete.

He swore under his breath as he stood, back muscles seizing in protest. This was not the ending he'd hoped for today.

-/-/

It was nearly two months before he got to speak to her again and it wasn't for lack of trying. She lived up to her ninja name by disappearing down side alleys and was incredibly skillful at avoiding people. The New Year had come and gone by that time and he had barely glimpsed her in the crowds at parties and celebrations that she, like him, only attended out of necessity.

It was a week into the new year that he was finally able to catch her wrist and talk to her. "You can't avoid me forever."

Her hazel eyes were pure defiance. Even if they hadn't met in the way they had, he would have been able to pick her out of any sea of women. There was something different, some fire in her that wasn't in many other people. "You can't come after me forever, Chosen."

He flinched visibly. She'd never called him that, not once, and certainly not with the venom currently dripping from her words. "Yes, yes I can. And I'm willing to."

"And why is that?"

How would you put something like that into words? But his mouth, not communicating quite properly with his brain, as usual, said, "There aren't many of my hunnies that are just so charming. And have such an amazing body too!"

Nails dig into his hand hard enough that his grip loosens involuntarily and she uses the opportunity to break free. "Don't start."

"At least tell me which part you're angry about." He said, moving so that he was blocking the only way out of the room.

"You shouldn't have pried into my business like that! That was private information—"

"Clearly it wasn't if I found it." He interrupted. The fact that he'd needed to find the information in the royal library was beside the point. "And I wouldn't have gone looking for it if you hadn't told me it was nothing when it obviously was. If you'd told me to stay out of it, I would've." Because he doesn't want to cross too far over the line with this girl. She's different.

-/-/-/-/

Her forgiving him is a slow process, one that takes nearly a year, but he'll take it because she's still willing to speak to him and he is the one person she moves towards automatically during those dreadfully boring dinner parties. He sometimes puts his foot in his mouth, but she's learning that that's just his natural maleness and she forgives it after a slap or half-serious push.

A month or so into spring, he gets them both lost in the winding royal gardens. Her look is priceless and he wouldn't have done the day any other way even if, by the time they got out, it was nearly dawn.

During the summer, they both retreat into his mansion because the air conditioning in the Research Academy is out and Sheena tells him that the scientists seem to be on the verge of a breakthrough at last and Meltokio's summers are far too hot to be wandering outside because it's humid and the air heavy. They make ice cream sundaes and watch old movies like the Ghost of the Operette and The Half-Elven Barber of Ellen Street.

Zelos is woken early in the morning by Sheena shaking his shoulder (Sebastian had long ago become accustomed to the girl and thought that she was very good for Master Zelos). His blue eyes are bleary as they look up at her and it's difficult to see her on account of her dark hair and she's wearing a light jacket against the early morning cold of autumn and she looks like a pale ghost in the darkness.

"Whazzgoin' on?" He asks, reaching to turn on the bedside lamp. Something furry bounces on his chest and he jumps. "What the hell—?"

She's laughing and when he finally succeeds in turning on the lamp, the grin hasn't vanished from her lips. The furry thing—in the light, it looked much closer to a small fox—was seated comfortably on his chest. "Zelos, meet Corrine."

Corrine became a regular on their ventures through the city and sometimes out of it. It wasn't difficult to sneak out, not when one was a ninja and the other was, in Sheena's terms, a useless Chosen, but he could jump fairly high, so he wasn't that bad.

Sheena invited him to a snowball war a week before Celsius Day that was going on in the lower quarters of the city, one in which even the geeks and slumchildren were joining in. The blood drained from his face, though he pasted a smile on his face and shook his head, saying that he didn't really like the cold.

The night after the snowball war, Sheena steps through the front door, shaking snow flurries from her hair and smiles at him. "Please, tell me you have hot chocolate."

"For my favorite darling, always." It's the one word she allows, darling, because she knows it could be so much worse and he never calls anyone else that anyway.

Sebastian brings her a towel and a warm blanket and she sits on a stool, leaning her arms on the island in the kitchen. Zelos can't make anything much more complicated than sandwiches and his coffee was barely drinkable but he could make excellent hot chocolate. Sheena had recently taught him to make steak and fried potatoes. And apparently Zelos had some spark of culinary genius, because he'd added some incredible spices and they tasted quite good.

"I'm so glad you've soldiered home from the hard war." Zelos says, sliding the mug across to her. "How was earning your badge of valor?"

"It was a hard battle, but we won in the end." The hazel eyes regard him over the rim of the mug. "Zelos…why don't you like snow?"

He freezes in his tracks, a lance going through his heart. But he manages to look at her like there was no lance. "I don't like the cold in general."

"Y'know, if you don't want to tell me, that's fine. But tell me you don't want to. Don't just lie."

Zelos ran a hand through his hair, biting his lip. "…I do want to tell you." He couldn't keep anything from her if he tried, not for long anyway.

"Need I remind you that you owe me?" Zelos bit his lip a little harder at that. It hadn't been a card that Sheena had really wanted to pull out, but she felt that there wouldn't really be a better time for this.

"…You have to promise not to interrupt." Because he knew that if she did, he wouldn't be able to keep going.

"Cross my heart." Sheena said, pulling the blanket closer around her.

The story came slow and halting at first, as though he didn't wish to say it, but once he got going, it spilled from his mouth in a rush. Sheena had to work very hard to force herself not to interrupt because her temper nearly wanted to snap because what kind of mother was like that to her son and there was also the sadness tugging at her because no kid should have to go through that.

When he was finally done, he looked smaller than she'd ever seen him and it was weird. Zelos would never be a man of incredible height, but he had always been, at most, a half foot taller than her. But he seemed little more than a child right now, a child looking at her like he was afraid to be hit, like he was so accustomed to being hit for so many things, that he didn't know the reason why he was being hit now.

Sheena sighs, and sets down her empty mug, moving around the island to hug him. It was awkward—Touching people was never a big part of Mizuho culture and Zelos had long ago learned to keep his hands to himself where Sheena was concerned—and Zelos had always been a little bony and they don't quite fit right with each other, but it's a little easier than Sheena thought it would be to wrap her arms around him. Zelos doesn't hug back right away; he's still not quite believing that Sheena was willingly hugging him and he's grateful that he was talking for the past half hour because it seems like his mouth was just too tired to say anymore.

Sheena's warm and cold at the same time, something that Zelos doesn't quite feel like figuring out. Her skin is warm from hot chocolate and a blanket and her natural body heat, though her clothes are still chilled from the snow. "Thanks." She says quietly. "For telling me that, I mean."

And that's when he knows she forgives him.

-/-/-/

Sheena isn't in town as often anymore. Mizuho calls her back for regular reports on her progress with Corrine. One time, around the next Celsius Day, Sheena invites him to come. "I'm staying there until the New Year." She says.

He shakes his head. "I don't think they'll much appreciate the Chosen knowing where they are."

"They won't mind you going there, Zelos." She uses his name on purpose because the Chosen and Zelos are two different people with the same face. "And it doesn't snow very much in Mizuho."

Zelos glances over at her. She's leaning against the kitchen counter, a bowl of cereal in her hands. "Well, what is Celsius Day without my darling?" Sheena rolled her eyes. "You make a seductive argument, madam. I'll go."

It's the best Celsius Day he's had so far in his nearly eighteen years of life. Sheena is subtly different around the two brothers, Kuchinawa and Orochi, but that's to be expected. She's known there guys since childhood, though he has a feeling it would have been birth if she had actually been born to the village. It's a topic she brings up every now and again, usually on the summer nights when they could hear the cicadas outside and they just finished one of their old movies; if her birth parents were heroic people or were they simple people. One night after they'd seen a film involving a Summon Spirit's moving castle in the sky, she'd fantasized that perhaps her parents had been great summoners and that, maybe when they died, that they'd become minor summons too.

Sheena and her 'brothers' were chaotic around each other. Even Orochi, who Zelos pegged for the calmest one, seemed to loosen up a little more with Sheena. Though their conversations sometimes confused him because Sheena would be arguing with Kuchinawa and defending him in the next breath. And when they spar…

Zelos had known that Sheena could fight, had seen her train and had seen the muscles on her arms, but Sheena and Kuchinawa are little more than swift blurs of color. Zelos has been in his fair share of battles and he's sparred against Sheena more than a few times, but those two going at it were simply incredible.

Sheena tolerated his arm slung around her shoulder now and sometimes, not very often, her arm will slip around his waist. They're walking around not far from the village and Sheena tells him, "Kuchinawa is apparently very mistrusting of you."

"Goddess, what'd he say?"

"He took me out by the well and made sure I knew how to punch properly. 'Do that if that idiot Chosen ever sees you in the shower again', he said. And," She added as an afterthought, "That's exactly what I'll do if you even think about doing that again."

Zelos chuckled. "I think I learned my lesson. A knife getting hurled at you sends a pretty obvious message."

"Just making sure. You can be pretty oblivious sometimes."

"Aww…that hurts, darlin'."

"You'll live."

-/-/-/

"Apparently there's another world."

Zelos' eyes are snapping open and he looks over at Sheena. She's curled up in her favorite dark blue blanket in the armchair. Corrine is sleeping in her lap, her hands absentmindedly petting his fur. "Because that's not a weird conversation opener."

"That's beside the point, Zelos." But there's none of her usual bite to the words.

Sensing that the conversation was much more serious, he turns over on his stomach and watches her intently. "Alright, I'm listening. Another world?"

"Mmhmm. It's called Sylvarant."

Zelos has heard of Sylvarant, mostly from the old legends and the other Summon Spirits. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Their Chosen…I'm supposed to assassinate them."

"What?" Zelos doesn't think they could have picked a worse person for the job. Not that Sheena isn't physically capable; she was one of Mizuho's best warriors, but she was too kind-hearted to assassinate someone. "Why?"

"For the good of Tethe'alla apparently."

Zelos frowned. There had been plenty of cases in history where terrible things were excused because they were for 'the greater good'. "How do they expect you to go to another world?"

"The Renegades are supposed to escort me there tomorrow."

Zelos sat up straight. "Tomorrow?"

"Mmhmm. And I'd invite you along, but I don't think that you could come."

"Did they mention how long you're supposed to stay there?"

"Until I complete the mission."

Zelos' heart sank. With Sheena's kind-heartedness, she would most likely never complete the mission and that meant she'd never come home again and Zelos wasn't sure how he lived before he met her. But he pastes a smile on his lips. "I'm sure you'll be fine. You'll have Corrine after all."

Sheena smiles at him and it's the last time he sees her smile for many months.