Hey, everyone! Glad you could come buy and read! I worked on this one a lot ( and it's not under 1000 words! holy jeez! ) and I hope you guys enjoy this a lot. I know I sure did writing it.

I own nothing here. Everything goes to Namco-Bandai.


Chicken Soup for the Weary Soul

Alice sneezed. Her whole body shook like she was just released from a deep freezer, which wasn't all that far from the truth. After being stuck behind an ice wall for over an hour, in the Temple of Ice no less, the half-elf was considering herself lucky for not contracting a serious condition like hypothermia. But when her body temperature began to return, something else came with it, and it was starting to gnaw at her insides. Maybe it was just from being around Decus for too long of a period of time. Maybe the Eau de Seduction was finally getting to her. Maybe…

"Are you all right, Alice?" Decus has caught up with her, and he was now watching her intently, like there was some extremely noticeable blemish on her face.

Alice couldn't stand looking at him for too long, so she scoffed and looked away. "Of course I'm all right, you idiot. Why would I be otherwise?"

Decus sniffed, looking ahead of him, practically boring a hole into the back of the head of a man with long red hair who was walking some twenty yards ahead of them. "No reason," he said. "I just thought maybe you were still upset over Richter being the one who got us out back there."

Alice's right eye twitched. "Don't remind me," she hissed, crossing her arms and walking faster. Decus got the message, and he dropped back a few feet, still watching her with a wary eye.

This was starting to get ridiculous. They had been out of the Temple for five minutes, and Alice was still shivering. Plus, her sneezing was still there, not to mention her incessant coughing. And to make things worse, Decus was back, practically hanging onto her like a lost child.

"Alice, you're shivering," he said, with as much worry in his eyes as in his voice. "Are you still cold? Do you want my jacket?" He stepped away and started unbuttoning his jacket, slowly sliding his arms from the sleeves.

A moment later, and Alice practically shrieked, jumping out of the way. "What the…hell are you doing?" she demanded, her head making her feel dizzy. It took a lot of effort not to fall over, not to mention keeping it off her expression. She opened her eyes, and stared at Decus. He froze in place, still about to remove his jacket, with a look of genuine worry plain on his face. Alice went to snap at him, but another wave of chills swept across her, making her reconsider, clutching her sides. Another look at Decus. The same face.

"Tch," she said under her breath, standing straight up and walking back up to him, snatching the garment from his grasp. "Fine," she finally added, draping it around her shoulders, "I will wear your smelly jacket. But only because you won't shut up otherwise. Got it?"

Decus couldn't help but grin. "Of course, my dear. Of course," he assured her.

Alice snorted and redid the first two buttons on the jacket so it wouldn't fall off. One thing was for sure: it sure was warm. Whether it was from the jacket itself or Decus' own body heat, she didn't know. And the half-elf didn't exactly want to find out, as her face heated up a little. And that definitely was not from the warmth.

But that was short-lived. Alice's head began to swim again, and her mind started to get fuzzy. She slumped down to one knee, clutching her head with her hands. "Sh-shit," she muttered, "y-you've got to be kidding m-me…" She fell over onto the ground, the world swimming around her until she finally blacked out.

"ALICE!"

(…)

"Your hand! What happened?"

"N-nothing. I just fell."

"No you didn't! They came after you again, didn't they?"

"…"

"Tell me the truth!"

"…it doesn't hurt anymore. I'm okay."

"I'll make them pay, I swear!"

"No, don't. I don't want them hurting you, too."

"Why would something like this happen to you? What did you ever do wrong!"

"…I was born."

(…)

The last time Decus came to Flanoir, only a few days prior, he ended up hoping he'd never come back. He had a good reason, too; any sane person wouldn't have dared come back to the very place where he had led an massive attack only days before. But this was a special case. Anything that involved Alice was a special case.

He sat back in his seat and watched Alice sleep for a bit. Even though she was panting heavily and looking strained, she was still rather cute. Although she was unconscious and really sick, Alice still had an adorable air around her. Or at least, that's what Decus thought. Alice stopped moving and became completely silent. For a split second, the worst possible idea flew through Decus, but then a small snore had followed. He sighed with relief. At least she was sleeping peacefully now. Decus took a hand to Alice's forehead. She still had the fever. He put his arm down by her side. This was getting to be really crazy. If this went on any longer… who knew what Decus was going to do.

That's when he realized something. He was still leaning over Alice, and very close to her, at that. It was at that point Decus thought he could do practically whatever he wanted with her. Not that he'd ever try to take advantage of her—especially in that sense—but the thought was rather realistic. He wouldn't do that, never ever…

She smelled nice. Decus had always known that. But being so close to her made that even more apparent. A faint scent of roses… it fitted the young half-elf so well. So beautiful, but still with those sharp thorns. And Decus wouldn't have it any other way.

Now he was getting really close. Decus was trying to break away, to get off of her and go sit down, but he just couldn't. It was near impossible to move. Not that Decus wanted to move; he just didn't want Alice to get the wrong idea if she woke up. No, when she woke up.

He started moving slowly towards her now. It was like he was on autopilot, and there was nothing he could do. Decus was only a few inches away from Alice's face. He was but seconds away. He closed his eyes. 3… 2…

"Mmmmmm." Alice let out a loud groan that scared Decus half to death. He leapt from his current position and back several feet away, his arms raised in a defensive position. Alice shifted in her sleep, rolling over on her side. After another few minutes of awkward silence, Decus sighed and gave up. It wasn't right, anyway; the only kiss he's ever accept was one that Alice gave him. And he's wait for that. Even if took a lifetime, he would wait.

But a lifetime doesn't last forever.

(...)

"Huh? What happened?"

"Are you all right? You're not hurt, are you?"

"My side's sore, but… wait, why is the orphanage—"

"I used my power."

"…What?"

"They were gonna hurt you, so I used this and saved you…"

"That book…?"

"No one's gonna hurt me anymore, Decus. No one's even gonna touch me. I'm gonna be on top of them all. Just watch me. You'll see."

"Does that include me?"

"Huh?"

"You said that you're going to be on top of them all. Does that include me?"

"…"

(…)

Alice slowly woke from her restless sleep. A migraine was waiting to start, and she was not looking forward to that happening. She slowly sat up, still slightly dazed and confused. there was no annoying stench in the air, no sign of a blue-haired man with a happy-go-lucky grin in the dimly lit room. She could barely see, yet she knew that Decus was nowhere to be found.

And that frightened her.

But something else other than fear suddenly appeared. It wasn't a feeling at all; it was a smell. Alice was a little confused. It smelled like herbs, marrying together with something else on a hot stove. It smelled… homey. Like she was at home right now. Which was impossible, seeing as the young half-elf never had a home to begin with, but… it filled her up nonetheless.

She wanted to find out what it was. Alice slowly swiveled, gently connecting her feet with the hardwood flooring. She slowly stood up, trying not to get too dizzy. But she didn't get any further, because a door swung open, and Decus backed out with a tray. Alice froze for a moment, then sat back down, waiting for Decus to turn and notice her.

It took a little while until he did. "Oh, my dear!" he cried, nearly dropping the tray. "You're awake! Are you feeling better? How's your head? Are you—" Alice raised her hand up, silencing him. She frowned.

"You, sir," she said in an annoyed tone, "are making my headache worse. Do me a favor and shut up." Decus nodded, setting down the tray on a table close to the bed. Alice curiously looked over. "What is that?" she asked, looking up at him. He didn't respond. Alice watched, annoyed. Then she finally said, "You can reply, you idiot."

Decus broke out in a cheesy smile. "Chicken noodle soup," he replied, sitting down. "I remember you saying that you liked it a while ago. And it's said that it helps with the flu or cold, so…"

Alice sighed, leaning back. "Cute idea," she said nonchalantly. "Well, I guess I can't let it go to waste, can I."

Decus excitedly brought the tray over and placed it in her lap. Alice watched the bowl of soup for one moment, then very delicately picked up the spoon and started eating.

"Well?" he asked, slightly excited and eager for her reply. "How is it?"

Decus had always been a good cook. Alice, who had been with him for what seemed like an eternity, knew that. This was no different. It was times like these when a seemingly perfect mirror was starting to showing cracks.

"…It's better than the food at Cape Fortress," she simple said. And it was true; the Vanguard bases had terrible food. The half-elf would have gladly went off-site to eat, but the slight suspicion that Decus might get a funny idea kept that under wraps. "That's all."

Decus' face had fallen a little. While he wasn't expecting anything over the top, being compared to the Vanguard is not exactly a compliment. But he had to take it where he could, since Alice and compliments didn't go hand in hand. He grinned a little. "Thank you, my dear. I appreciate it."

Alice shrugged. "Whatever." She pushed the tray to the side, clearly done with the soup. "So, what happened to Richter?" she asked, desperately craving to change the subject. "He's not here, is he?"

Decus shook his head. "No, he went ahead with Glacies' core. He said that you weren't his problem, so he didn't want to have to deal with it. But there's a problem."

"What?"

"I said he left with Glacies' core. The problem is, he doesn't have it." He leaned over to a nearby chair, where his jacket was draped on, and pulled out a small, glowing blue object.

Alice blinked. "Why'd you take that from him, you idiot?"

Decus put the core back in his coat pocket. "I didn't. He gave it to me before we left the seal room. And when he left, he didn't ask for it back.

Alice thought for a minute, "Well, that just sucks for Richter and Commander Brute." She couldn't help but grin. Nothing pleased her more than being able to rub things into her superiors' faces, especially Richter. She yawned. Alice really hated being sick. Not only was she unable to do anything, she felt vulnerable. She hated that. She absolutely detested it. I made her feel weak, like a dependent little worm. She was going through emotions that rarely came through her cold façade: fear, uncertainty, and even a slight warm feeling that came when she thought of Decus.

It must have been the soup that was doing that last one.

She yawned again. Decus leaned in a little, a worried look clear upon his face. "Are you all right, Alice?" he asked. "Maybe you need more rest."

Alice pouted. "I'm not tired. I'm fine. Let's get out of—"

"Alice, I must insist that—"

"—I don't care what you insist, I want to get out of—"

"No."

Alice couldn't help but stare. Did Decus just… stand up to her? That was very unlike him, very strange. And his face was just as serious, showing that he meant business.

"And what was that, praytell?" she asked, practically hissing through her teeth. "Is someone being a bad pet?"

Decus froze, slightly afraid now. "N-nothing, I'm just w-worried about you—"

"That's always your excuse, isn't it? I am getting sick of you Decus, it's—" She was cut off by her headache acting up again. She stopped to hold her head in her hands and quietly groan from the pain. It seemed like she wasn't going to be able to get out of here just yet. The pain subsided shortly after, and

Alice groaned, flopping over on her side. "Fine. I'm not going to fall asleep, but fine. I'll humor you this one time.

"Thank you. I knew you cared. You are truly the best. Even if you won't sleep, at least you'll be resting, and that's good for me. You know what? I think…"

Decus kept on ranting, but Alice wasn't paying much attention. She was thinking about how serious Decus was earlier. It showed how much he cared… and it made her feel warm inside again. She wasn't sure what she was going to do, but it didn't really matter at that point. She quietly sighed, closed her eyes, and drifted asleep.

(…)

"Hey, Decus?"

"Mm?"

"Do you think what the pastor said—about our parents being in the stars with Martel—you think he's telling the truth?"

"I don't really know what to think. I'd rather not, but there's a part that does believe, y'know?"

"You never can give a simple answer, can you."

"You never can ask a simple question, can you."

"…Very funny."

"…I don't know, though. I believe that she's keeping me safe so far, but then I think of what you're gone through. Then I'm not so sure."

"And I bet you think there's life on Tethe'alla."

"That's not related, though."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Well, whatever. I'll be your bodyguard from now on! Just trust me!"

"Bodyguard? No thanks, I can't pay you."

"Sure you can."

"…?"

"Just start with a simple 'Thank you.'"

"Shut up, Decus."

"Just you watch. I'm going to protect you no matter what. All right?"

"…you're going to end before your time, Decus. I guarantee it."

"For you? It'll be worth it."

(…)

It must've been the next day when Alice woke up again, because Decus seemed to have gotten out from his bed. Alice sighed and slowly sat up. When she started to scan the room, she realized that her nauseous feeling was gone from her stomach. She put a hand to her forehead. Monitoring herself probably wasn't the greatest judge, but she was certain that her fever had broken. A sigh of relief. Alice lowered her arm, grazing against a pillow. A second look and she realized it wasn't a pillow. It was Decus, with his arms wrapped together making a pillow for his head, sleeping right next to her side. She almost yelped out in surprise, but something kept her from exclaiming.

When he was asleep, Alice thought he was just adorable. When she saw Decus' sleeping, she saw him when he was much younger, back when the world uncertain. She saw herself, too, young, afraid, not wanting to let anyone inside her personal space, her inner sanctum. Because Martel knew that was the only thing she truly had to her name. At least she had Decus to stay with her no matter what. Like her own bodyguard. She paused. She carefully came out from under the covers, as to not wake him up. She swung her legs over the bed, sitting right next to the sleeping Decus. Her hand rested on his head, rubbing his hair. A second later, and she leaned over and lightly kissed the top of his head. It was a good thing that he was asleep, otherwise he'd probably have a heart attack. And Alice would never do that with him actually awake. She couldn't let anyone near her, not until she got what she wanted.

But after that… what then?

She slid off the bed, picked up her clothes, and started getting changed. When she finished, Decus was starting to stir. Alice didn't notice, because she was looking for her hat, which had disappeared.

"Nneh?" Decus slowly raised his head, making sorts of groggy noises. A second later, and he shot up. "Alice?" he cried out. "Where are you?"

"Behind you, idiot. Do you know where my hat is?"

He swiveled around on his chair. "Oh! You're all right now! How are you—"

"My hat."

Decus frowned. He leaned over and grabbed the missing garment, then leaned back in his chair, with an outstretched arm towards Alice. "Here it is, hope you—" Decus had leaned back too far, however, so he ended up falling backwards.

Alice frowned, walked over, and bent over to pick up the hat from Decus' hand. She dusted it off and carefully placed it on her head. "You're so pathetic." And with that, Alice left the room, with Decus still on the floor.

In the hallway, Alice leaned her back on the wall opposite the door. She shook rather violently, and then a cry escaped her mouth as she doubled over in laughter, sliding down the wall. She had no idea what was so funny. Even so, she kept laughing.

Through a window at the end of the hallways, the sun began to rise, casting a pink tint on the town of Flanoir.

The 760th day.