Chapter Six- Woo! A long chapter at last! (Okay, so you won't be finding the word 'snirk' in a dictionary. It's a word I made up to the expression between a snigger and a smirk, therefore, it is snirk that is not quite a snigger, but more than a smirk. I like my word. ^_^ To save a lot of time writing and reading this story, I skip a lot of time that isn't important. Eh... also, I was going to ONE new chapter, but upon looking at it, it turned out to be something like 50 pages.. so it's going to get split up into, 2 to 3 new chapters. Warnings: this chapter contains lots of MUSHYNESS. Future chapters contain LIME with LEMON flavoring on top (hehee, I got a little descriptive..) and I think.. Rezo gets a bit OOC.. but this is my story, so NEYH! I can beat him around like my bi*ch if I wanna ^_~ )

**

MORE EMBARRASSING FUN IN THE MARKET- but before all that, we've got some tantalizingly close encounters of the third base kind!

**

Rezo stepped out into the sunshine of the mid afternoon, though he couldn't see, he knew he was in a garden by the change in the air, he could feel the living atmosphere around him. Summer had passed and fall just beginning with full force, yet some places were still filled with life. He was happy. He slid his feet forward over the rough stones of what was apparently a patio.

He heard a movement forward and to the right of his place at the door, "Oh- Rezo-san," the voice of the angel named Verdandi said, blushing slightly, "what are you doing out here?" Though she could clearly see the tray with the teapot and two cups on it, she simply hadn't expected a guest to be doing such things- a blind one at that.

"I made some tea- don't worry, whatever I spilt I cleaned up," he replied, unaware of his blush. "Would you like some?"

She stood, setting something aside and making her way over to him, taking the tray into her own hands, though for a brief moment, her fingers touched his on the handles of the tray. They blushed in unison and Rezo bit his lower lip somewhat. Verdandi made her way over to the tree under which she'd been sitting and set the tray down, coming back to lead him to it, noting that he had no shoes on- again.

"What's so funny?" he asked, tilting his head to the side slightly.

"Oh- it's just that, you have no shoes on..." Verdandi replied as he sat down beside her.

"I- you don't mind, do you? I'll go get them if you-" he felt a delicate hand on his lips.

"It's fine, I'm not wearing any either," Verdandi laughed and he smiled as well, finding it somewhat amusing that they had something like that in common. "I don't like to wear shoes, the ground feels so nice on warm days."

"I just find it easier to tell where I am," he replied, "though.. I do like soft grass," he moved somewhat, pulling his white robes out from under his legs so he could sit more comfortably. "Were you reading?" he asked as she handed him a cup of tea.

Verdandi blushed, looking over at her book, one that she was already half finished with, "Yes," she replied and saw his nod and sip of tea then watched as he lifted his face up toward the sky a moment. "I just started it," she stated, blushing as she watched him, stared blatantly at his every move.

"Really? Is it interesting?" he turned his face toward her once more and she wished that just once she could see his eyes, if only for a brief moment.

"Yes. Would you like if I read aloud to you?"

His smile was tender and hopeful, but he said, "You don't have to." Verdandi set her cup on the tray and picked up her book once more, flipping to the first page and starting to read aloud.

Erion leaned against the door frame of the back door, watching Rezo's rapt attention and Verdandi's constant blush. He smiled to himself, watching a moment more before going back inside. He HAD been looking for Rezo to get back to work, for they had taken a lunch break, but he supposed that the boy had gotten sidetracked. It was alright, one couldn't teach someone everything in a day. So he let them be, instead going to find a book of his own to bury himself in for the afternoon.

**

They sat at the table, Verdandi talking excitedly about her day and how she'd shared some sort of double chocolate brownie splash with her friends. She made no mention of her reading out loud to Rezo, but blushed deeply every time she glanced at him. His expression was somewhat bland but held the hint of a frown somewhere around his lips. He was slowly eating, working his way though dinner as Verdandi talked, and seemed to be paying no attention to her at all. Erion was nodding from time to time and giving grunts of acknowledgement when ever she paused. Though, she knew he was probably listening, he simply didn't have much to add to the conversation.

She turned toward Rezo, "What about you?" she asked suddenly.

His hand had been in the process of lifting his fork, but it stopped immediately and lowered, "My day has been fine," he said carefully, apparently, he had been listening. She had no idea how much he'd been listening. "The actuality of it would probably bore you, however," he explained and turned his face down toward his plate a moment, brow furrowed in thought, his darkly colored hair falling forward somewhat. The silence stretched for a moment longer and Verdandi kept her peace, having a feeling that he wasn't quite finished yet. "You enjoy reading?" he asked her finally.

Erion chewed his food silently, glancing between the two young people he shared the table with. "Yes, I do," she answered, "The stories they tell are so thrilling, I feel like I'm there sometimes." She watched as he began eating again, having successfully gotten her talking again. "Do you have a favorite book?" she tried again before she could go off into how dull she found life in her town.

Rezo stopped eating again, seeming to put great thought into his words. Finally he shook his head, "Do you?" he asked.

Verdandi almost slumped, having gotten no useful information about the REAL Rezo, "Yes, I like the Arbington Herald," she answered. "Have you ever read it?" He shook his head again, but hadn't gone back to eating yet. She supposed he wasn't going to talk to her any more and instead began to explain about how dynamic the characters in the book were and how exciting the plot was and how well the story was told. "I'll let you borrow it if you'd like," she offered finally.

"Thank you," he replied, "I would appreciate it."

So, he WAS interested in the book, unless he was just trying to be polite. She leaned toward him, "Rezo-san, does my talking annoy you?"

This got a very strange reaction. He blushed brightly but his words were calm as ever, "No, should it?"

Erion laughed, interrupting them by standing and collecting dishes, "Rezo, are you finished?"

"What? Yes," he said and handed his plate to the ex-mage. "Thank you, Verdandi-san, dinner was excellent, but I'm rather tired," he apologized and made his way out of the room.

"Grandfather," Verdandi said softly, still seated, "Is he really that shy?"

Once again, Erion laughed, shaking his head, "I think, you just have an effect on him." He reached moved around the table and gave her a hug, "You have an effect on all beings of male gender," he joked and kissed her cheek.

She turned her hazel eyes up toward him, "Does that mean he's attracted to me?" Erion, however, didn't answer, simply made his way out of the kitchen, going to his own room for the night. She sighed and put her elbows on the table, rubbing her head for a moment. "I wish he'd talk to me."

**

As time always does, it passed, and it was getting into the winter of his fourth year there. Erion's health was deteriorating faster, it seemed, and it was about all Rezo could do to keep up the pace, for Erion was finding it harder every day to actually get to the lab to practice even once a week. He was forced to teach Rezo theory that the young man already knew.

Verdandi stood in the kitchen, staring at the cherry-stained cupboard doors. Rezo and Erion were in the living room as they always were after lunch. It was raining it had started almost as soon as they'd gotten home from the lab. She felt restless, far more so than she ever did during the summer and fall when the weather was relatively good. She hated being stuck inside. She shifted in her chair and folded her arms on the table, laying her head upon them. She wanted to go somewhere... or do something, but her imagination wasn't being very helpful in coming up with things she could do in the house. Finally, she simply closed her eyes and sat still.

**

Silence had descended in the living room, Erion having retreated to his room, claiming to be very tired. Rezo was slightly annoyed, the guy had only talked all day, however that could make him tired, Rezo didn't know, but he didn't complain about the hold on his 'classes'. Erion HAD ruined himself for the Red Priest's sake. Carefully, he got to his feet from where he'd been sitting, his usual place being the arm-chair across to one side of the four foot long coffee table from the couch, all of which was ranged near a fireplace that had yet to be lit for the winter.

Breaking from his thoughts, he went to the kitchen for something small to snack on. Soft breathing- Verdandi, at the table. Rezo paused a moment, waiting for her to say 'Hello, Rezo-san,' as she usually did. She didn't. Silently pacing over to her, he leaned close to listen. Slow, even breaths reassured him that she had not fallen ill or gotten hurt and passed out. Yet, this close to her, he could smell the flowery scent she always had. Feeling dizzy, he crouched beside her chair, one hand reaching out to touch her, his fingers first encountering the soft cotton blouse she was wearing, then her hair.

He felt cold inside, like a house in midwinter without a fire. Yet she was warm, radiating it, a living sun. Unconsciously, Rezo moved closer to her, his forehead resting against her thigh as his hand slowly trailed through her hair. Certainly he felt guilty for taking advantage of her like this, but simply couldn't help himself. Verdandi's gifts seemed to always be available for anyone who wished.

**

She stared at the table, fighting to keep her breath even, her heart pounded anyway. Obviously, he thought she was asleep, though she'd almost been there, his touch had brought her back to awareness rather swiftly. Verdandi moved slightly, as if in her sleep, just enough to peer under her arm. What she saw made her heart ache and tears threaten her eyes. His expression was so forlorn she could hardly keep herself from putting her arms around him and telling him everything would be alright, no matter what was wrong. Just as she saw the sparkle of a tear, Rezo stood and left, so suddenly, had he known she was awake? Sitting up, she stared at the door, the heat of his hand still warm on her back.

Getting up, Verdandi went into the living room, it was empty. Turning, she went down the hall, stopping just before she got to Rezo's room. The door was open, but she knew he was probably there. Her body seized with fear and she returned to the living room, tears in her eyes once more.

Still, the room was empty, she wasn't surprised. Moving beyond the coffee table, she perched on the edge of the armchair, then slid into it fully, pulling her knees to her chest and turning sideways in it. The chair smelt different than what it had ever smelt like before. Not unpleasant, just different, and it definitely reminded her of Rezo. Verdandi buried her face in it, closing her eyes and pretending, for just a moment that the chair truly was him. "Just a crush," she told herself, "I'll get over it."

**

If Verdandi had dared to look into his room, she would have found Rezo sprawled face down on his bed, with his head under the pillow. "I wasn't brought here to- to moon over his granddaughter!" he muttered to himself, fingers clenching into fists where they hung off the sides of the thin and short bed. "I'm here to learn." Now his arms pulled in from the sides of the bed, and he tucked them under his chest, fingers still curled into fists. The back of his mind told him idly that he probably looked silly. "I had no right. No right to touch her. Even if she was asleep." That same part that said he was being silly told him extensively of how soft her hair had been, how it trickled though his fingers like strands of silk and how warm her flesh was beneath her blouse.

Now he curled his knees up under him, head still beneath the pillow like an ostrich. On and on, he kept thinking of things he would like to feel, her skin, her lips, her... In an effort to make himself stop, he cast a sleeping spell.

**

Thankfully, the rain had let up the following day, but the sky was still overcast, threatening more bad weather. This left Rezo with practically nothing to do, for he knew that Erion wouldn't want to go hiking through the damp to the lab. He decided to try distancing himself from Verdandi. She had other ideas though, even if they weren't quite conscious or even her fault... Upon waking, he went into the living room and sat in his usual chair, lounging back slightly. Her scent was there. Quickly, he got up and wandered into the kitchen. She was there, making breakfast.

"Hello, Rezo-san," she said cheerfully, though Rezo felt there was something she was hiding. He gave a slight nod and went to the back door, opening it and stepping out onto the wet paved area just outside, his feet were instantly chilled. He ignored the cold wet ground in favor of just standing there with his arms folded on his chest.

Of course she'd followed him, the touch on his arm broke him out of his thoughts, but he didn't turn his face toward her. "Is something wrong?" she asked him, her voice seeming to be asking a much deeper question. It chilled him, far worse than the cold early winter air did.

"No," he lied, turning and going back into the house, leaving her standing there. Verdandi stared at his wet footprints on the tiled floor, she heard his bedroom door shut even from the kitchen. Twisting her fingers together, she stared at the floor.

Erion entered, having finally woken up. He glanced around and made his slow and painful way to the back door which was still open. "Where's Rezo?" he asked of his granddaughter. "He's usually up by now..."

Blushing, Verdandi finally returned to making breakfast, "He was here," she said, hanging her head slightly, "He seemed upset."

The old ex-mage didn't do much but nod sagely and take a seat in one of the four chairs at the table. The one Rezo usually sat in- which happened to be closest to the stove where Verdandi usually was. He smirked slightly, lifting his hands to fold together against his lips, hiding that same smirk from his granddaughter's view.

She finished breakfast, which happened to be warm oatmeal, and after setting it on the table, she stood there for a moment. "I... suppose it would be rude to just call for him," she reasoned and left her grandfather to start eating on his own.

Verdandi crept down the hall, afraid to make Rezo mad, but her inherent ability to sense unease in people told her that he really needed someone to talk to. Slowly, she opened the door to his room and peeked in. Rezo was sprawled on the bed, face first, head under the pillow. The twin bed hardly seemed big enough for him, his arms hung off the sides, his feet off the end, she wondered if he ever got any rest. He didn't move, even as she opened the door wider and stepped in. Hesitantly, she continued on until she stood beside the bed, watching as his chest slowly rose and fell. He seemed to be asleep, though she never was quite sure, his eyes were always closed. Verdandi's hand snuck forward and lifted the pillow from his head, his hair was mussed, and he didn't move as if he were awake.

Crouching beside the bed, she reached out once more to touch his fluffed maroon hair, carefully running her fingers though it. Her breast pressed against his hand as she moved closer to caress his slightly scratchy cheek. He hadn't shaved yet and the different texture on his face was almost thrilling. "So.. beautiful," she whispered softly as she gazed at him longingly. Rezo's brow creased, as if in thought, but she missed seeing it, for she stood and leaned over to place a daring kiss on his temple.

On her way out, she quietly closed the door and crept back down the hall and returned to the kitchen. "He's asleep again," she said by way of explanation to her grandfather who was just finishing his oatmeal. He grunted and gave another sagely nod, and certainly didn't ask what had taken her so long. Instead, she hummed happily to herself as she scraped the bowl that had been meant for Rezo back into the pot and kept it on low until he woke up.

**

He... wasn't truly sure if he'd been dreaming or not. Except he could smell her. She'd been there alright, but had she- did she-? His heart pounded and he covered his head with the pillow once more, hands holding it down.

Rezo emerged from his room a few hours later, it had begun to rain again, and .. he was hungry. Erion was in his room, though the door was open. "Rezo, feeling better?" the ex-mage asked knowingly.

A blush rose on the Red Priest's face and he casually replied, "I don't know what you mean, sir." He knew right well that Erion was sniggering.

"She left your breakfast warm on the stove it you want it. Though, it's more lunch time now." Rezo nodded and left, heading into the living room.

She was there. She'd been there for quite some time by the way her smell had permeated the room, and not moved much, her scent was concentrated around the area of the couch, and he stopped before he passed it without meaning to. "Verdandi-san?" he asked, there was no answer. He moved in front of the couch, crouching near her. Inexpertly, his hand reached out and contacted her ankle. To wake her- or not. The brief moment of indecision allowed his hand to take on a will of its own. And it's will was to slowly slide her skirt up her calf, feeling her smooth skin.

He snatched his hand back as she shifted. Rezo waited a moment before creeping up to where her face would be, some of her hair was hanging off the edge of the couch. This, he touched, petted more like, in soft strokes though his hand shook slightly. Following the silky strands to their source, he found her face. Verdandi's face was well rounded, her nose finely shaped, her chin strong but not too much so, instead it was a gentle curve from it down to her neck, a soft line along her jaw. All this was covered in creamy smooth skin. Like an artist's perfect sculpture, only she was flesh.

She moved again, "Rezo..." her voice murmured. Swiftly, he stood, and waited. And waited. She said nothing more. Crouching again, he dared to touch her face one last time before taking the hand that hung off the edge of the couch along with her hair, a book fallen to the floor near it. Unable to resist, he returned the kiss given to him earlier, placing it on her palm before resting the limb across her stomach. The book, he picked up and set on the coffee table.

Rezo's lips burned, the faint taste he'd gotten left him wanting more and he found that he wasn't particularly hungry anymore. Just to not be rude, he ate it and rinsed off the dishes... then washed them, and dried them.

This chore occupied his hands for an hour, his mind was completely elsewhere, and that was the reason why, when Verdandi touched his arm he dropped the plate he'd been drying. It shattered. Rezo was about to apologize. He took a breath to, but realized that she was laughing at him.

"I- I didn't know it was possible to sneak up on you!" she giggled and patted his arm. "Don't worry about it, we have plenty, besides, grandfather has a nice little spell that reverses time. Very convenient."

"Right..." he muttered, sounding sullen but his heart pounded at the sound of her laugh, her voice... he could hear her smile and knew it was bright and cheerful. How could he remain in a bad mood if she was happy?

She swirled about the kitchen, leaving Rezo to simply get out of her way. Swiftly, she made lunch for them all, finished drying the few remaining dishes and went to get her grandfather. As soon as she was out of hearing, Rezo let his forehead fall to the table with a hard thump. "Utter fool," he muttered to himself.

"Oh- Rezo-san, are you alright." Verdandi had reentered, Erion behind her, both peering at him curiously.

Lifting his head immediately, he gave a bit of a laugh and grin, "Quite fine," he answered. There was a red spot on his forehead where it had hit the table.

Verdandi gave a bit of a laugh and sat down at the table after serving the sandwiches she'd made. "Rezo-san, you're silly sometimes," she told him and he rubbed his forehead, though not deeming it necessary to cast a healing spell on it. Pain was a good distraction from the tantalizing creature that sat on his left. "Grandfather, I'm going to have to go to the market either today or tomorrow," she deftly changed the subject, watching as Rezo gave a bit of a sigh and started in on his sandwich even though he wasn't that hungry, he'd just finished his breakfast not long ago.

Erion nodded, his white hair pulled back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. The once long hair was now cut to about mid shoulder length. Though Rezo completely missed the change, having never known Erion had long hair in the first place.

"The rain has let up, so I might go today..." though, she didn't seem too keen on the idea.

"Perhaps Rezo should go with you," Erion suggested, sipping his tea. Rezo had the feeling that something was going on... like the old man knew more than he let on- and he probably did. He certainly could see what Verdandi was doing, he knew his granddaughter well enough to know when she was up to something, and Rezo was fairly easy to read if one could catch him off guard. "I'll fix the dishes while you're gone," he said, a hint of a snirk on his lips.

Rezo gave a bit of a sigh and nodded. Somehow, he always ended up getting sent on errands with Verdandi. Was the ex-Blue Mage trying to play matchmaker? If he was, it was working, at least for Rezo anyway.

Together, they went to the door, both having to put their shoes on before they could really go anywhere. In the process, they thunked heads, and in unison they gave a bit of a laugh about it. Though, only Rezo donned his cloak before leaving. The walk was damp and muddy, yet Verdandi still managed to sing happily along the way, even if she didn't skip. They got to the very edge of town when the sky began pouring once more, soaking Verdandi to the bone.

Despite her being soaking wet, Verdandi tipped her head up at the sky and laughed, "Ha ha!! You don't bother me one bit!" she shouted. However, when a flash and immediate clash of thunder sounded, she dived against Rezo, hiding under his cloak pitifully.

Rezo laughed softly, "Not quite so bold now?" he asked of her, his fingers lifting and beginning to untie the string of his cloak.

"I guess not," she peered at him, "Oh no, Rezo-san, you'll be soaking wet too if you give it to me," she protested, reaching out to catch his hands. "We can share. Her face flamed bright red, but he couldn't see it. "You don't mind me being this close, do you?" she kept her playful act. Another flash and rumble forestalled his answer.

She shied around behind him now and he laughed a little more. "alright," he agreed, "We'll share." He loosened the ties of his hood, giving enough room for it to ride up somewhat and reached back, "Verdandi, hop on my back." He completely missed that he'd left off the 'san'. "You can peek out the hood and direct me."

Cheerfully, she agreed, climbing onto his back and waiting while he got a good grip on her legs before struggling with the hood somewhat and finally managing to get her head into it with his. He started forward, suddenly aware of what he'd done but he pushed forward still, "A little to the left," she said softly into his ear, "no, too far," she giggled, her arms tightening around his shoulders, basket hanging from her hands against his chest. "Straight forward now." They came under an overhand where the water was gushing off the side in a waterfall, however, there was just enough room for them to squeeze in for a moment.

"Rezo," she said softly, "What do you think about love?" her voice was steady but her face flaming red once more, but that was the good part about Rezo, you could hide things from him in plain sight.

He was blushing as well, but answered, "I never really thought about it."

Her answer was a soft, "Oh," it seemed crestfallen.

"Are we going to hang around here all day or should we go inside somewhere?"

Verdandi's smile returned, though perhaps not as brightly as it had been, she hadn't seen his blush either. "Straight forward," she told him softly, "There's a door, be careful of the steps. Rezo slowed his pace somewhat, sweeping his foot forward every so steps and finally finding the first step. Climbing onto it he paused, "I'll open the door, she told him and he felt her reach out. "Lean forward a bit- eek! Too far," she scrambled and finally got the door knob, pulling it open and almost hitting Rezo in the head with it, but he managed to doge back, then stepped in to a warm and dry atmosphere. Not only that, but there was the scent of people that he didn't personally know and this bothered him.

She shifted her weight on him and he let go of her legs, couching to let her drop to the floor. Sliding out from under his cloak, she turned back and shut the door. "Uh.. Verdandi-san," he said softly, "Where are we?" his fingers slowly picked at the bow his cloak strings had been tied into, though he was only succeeding in making a bigger mess.

Another laugh, but this time it was directed at the room, giving a bright smile to the entire crowd of six spectators- all of which were sitting at different tables. "The tavern," she replied, "It was closest. Here- you're making a mess of that." Her hands reached up and deftly untied the knot and took the cloak from him before he could protest, hanging it on a peg near the fireplace. She returned to his side, taking his arm and leading him to an empty table near the fire. "Of course, we could get something to eat here," she offered, wanting to know before she sat down. He had yet to sit down, not wanting to be seated before a lady.

"We just had lunch," he pointed out.

"But-" she pouted out her lower lip somewhat at him.

Cheekily, he reached out and poked that lip, "Might want to pull that back in before you step on it." She couldn't help but smile once more. "If you want to buy something, it's your money." And he sat, heaving a sigh as Verdandi skipped over to the bar.

"Double chocolate brownie splash," she said to the burly woman behind the bar who everyone called Bonnie.

Bonnie grinned toothily, "S'that cher boyfrin?" she woman with a large potato nose, her teeth rather yellow.

Immediately, Verdandi blushed brightly, "No," she answered truthfully enough, she WANTED him to be her boyfriend, but he didn't seem interested. "He's my grandfather's student." Bonnie moved back, still grinning mischievously though.

"But che wan im," she said, lifting a finger and twirling it around. "Now don lie, lil Verdandi," she said, "S' right obvious whays you flirt with im." She nodded her large and rounded chin firmly in what she thought was a sagely manner. "But jus fer today- an don' go telling nobodys this- but ye c'n ave the splasher fer free- but!" Verdandi's hopeful expression dimmed. "Only ifs ya kiss im, in ere, sos I can see. Not no lil cheeky kiss, neither!" She held out her grimy looking hand- though in all actuality, Bonnie was rather clean, she simply had a spotty texture to her skin. Verdandi glanced back at Rezo, who currently had his right leg crossed over the left, foot swaying slightly, elbow on the table and head resting against his fingers. She reached out and took Bonnie's hand firmly.

"Deal," she whispered her agreement and slid off the bar as she'd pulled herself up onto it just to reach Bonnie's hand. Skipping back to the table, she sat down in the seat with her back to the fire, beside Rezo, but still managing to face him.

"I got something," she said cheerfully, kicking her feet, "But you're going to have to help me eat it," she told him, leaning forward slightly.

He turned his face toward her and said, "Oh really," in a somewhat sarcastic tone. She nodded a few times and he smiled, "Alright," he agreed, though she had a feeling that he hadn't agreed to what she wanted him to do. The chocolate brownie sundae arrived and Bonnie delivered it to the table with a conspiratorial grin which Rezo, of course, missed.

Verdandi picked up a spoon and watched as Rezo followed her hand to where she'd clinked her spoon against another one. He was usually fairly accurate if given the proper clues and she didn't mind doing it for him. The others in the bar weren't told of Bonnie and Verdandi's bet, but they knew the bartender had agreed to something with the irresistible young woman and they watched in interest. "Remember, you said you'd help me eat it."

"I remember," he replied. Carefully scooping out a little of what was on top of the bowl, which was nothing but whipped cream, he suddenly turned and offered it to her, a snirky smile on his lips. "Open wide!"

She ground her teeth, "Rezo-san, you have a very strange sense of humor sometimes. You have to eat it." But she took his spoon and got a proper scoop of the sundae.

Rezo gave a bit of a sigh and shrug, "I just ate-" or that's what he'd intended to say, Verdandi timed her strike carefully and stuck the loaded spoon in his mouth. A moment later- and from around the spoon, "Nice... what was this?"

"Double chocolate brownie splash," she replied with a grin. He removed the spoon and reached for another scoop but found she had taken the entire bowl from him. "Nuh-uh," she said childishly, "I'm going to feed you another one because you tried to trick me."

The Red Priest rubbed his forehead as he laughed, "And that was unfair?"

"Of course. Now open up." Verdandi scooted closer to him, with the loaded spoon.

This time he held his hand in between his face and her attack, "And what makes you think I want more?" he asked her.

Verdandi leaned forward, "Because you liked it the first time," she pointed out cheerfully. He thought about this and finally dropped his hand, apparently willing to go though a few sacrifices for something good. She placed her free hand on his chin and dived in.

Instead of the sweet chocolate, he found something even better and without intending to, his mouth immediately responded to her questing tongue, touching it and sliding in a strange fit of passion that was intense, yet brief. She retreated back to her seat, her face bright as an apple and peered at him from beneath her lashes. He had yet to react and she suddenly feared that she had gone too far with him.

Though, the absolute truth was, if Rezo could open his eyes, they would have fallen in his lap. Amazingly, he did not blush, simply reached over and removed the spoon from her hand, setting it in the bowl, "I think.. that's enough of that," he said softly, though it was the general opinion that he'd said it with a hint of satisfaction.

Her hands fell into her lap, clutching each other tightly, her head bowed. Rezo leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table and folding his hands together, mouth hidden behind them, though if Verdandi had looked, she could have seen the corner of his very pleased grin.

Bonnie sighed, "Young love!"

Finally, Verdandi spoke up, "I'm sorry Rezo-san. It was a bet- to get the ice cream for free... are you mad?" she looked up and found his face expressionless and he appeared to not be paying attention to her. "Rezo... san?"

Rezo started somewhat when she touched his arm, "Hn?"

"The rain has let up," she said softly, realizing that her previous words hadn't gotten though to him.

He nodded, "We DO need to get what we came out in this dreadful weather for," he agreed. It was as if nothing had happened at all.

She retrieved his cloak and handed it to him, watching as he pulled it on and they both headed for the door, Verdandi waving to the barmaid Bonnie before they exited fully.

"Rezo-san," she said again, "Are you mad at me?"

He started again, as if from a daze, "Mad? For what? The ice cream?" he gave a bit of a snort, "Of all the things I've learned from Erion, I've learned a few from you as well." He smiled blindly at her, "Don't take things too seriously, they will change." He seemed happy though, happier than she'd seen him look all day.

"You know, Rezo-san," she stated haughtily as they made for the grocery store, "That was my first kiss."

Rezo laughed softly at her, "And should I feel proud that you wasted it on a silly bet?" She pouted at him once again. With uncanny accuracy, he reached over and pinched her lips. She laughed, pulling them free of his 'duck face' squish with her grin. "Of course, it IS your choice what you do with your lips."

"But-" she tipped her head to one side as they stepped into the grocery store, he knew his way around town fine enough but when it was raining, his senses were practically blocked. "What about yours?"

The Red Priest managed to keep his smile in place without grinning overly much, "I'm old enough to decide if I want to involve my lips in something like that or not," he told her and waited in the center of the room, out of the way while she got what she needed. The shop owner had just appeared and instead of inviting herself in on the conversation, kept quiet to get the low down straight from the 'Hot Topic' of the decade's mouths.

The shop itself was actually rather large, but the shelves and piles of things within it made it seem small and cramped. The brunet wound among the labyrinth in search of what she wanted, continuing the conversation over top of the shelves. Verdandi turned to face him from across the room barely peering over the shelves at him, her hazel brown eyes inquisitive, "You never did tell me how old you were."

Of course he grinned, "You never guessed."

She put her hands on her hips, "Alright, fine, I'll guess. Thirty?" Rezo pulled a face, "Okay.. not thirty?" he shook his head slowly, laughing imperceptibly. "How about forty?" Rezo still shook his head, laughing a little more now, "Not Sixty," she guessed and watched him fall back against the edge of a shelf biting his lips. "Give me a hint!" she pleaded, weaving through the piles of things and shelves. He grinned and shook his head. Verdandi frowned at him, "You're not being fair," this time, she took a moment to think, looking him over, thought one thing but said another, "Surely you can't be ten." He really giggled at that one. "Alright, I think I've got it this time. Twenty?"

"And two," he answered finally.

Verdandi gave a laugh and swirled, "Only a year older than me!"

"Do I ACT Sixty?" Rezo asked somewhat indignantly but couldn't keep the slight upwards twist off his lips.

The young woman pushed her still damp hair over her shoulders, "No, but I'd warned you I might insult you with my guesses," she answered. "Besides, Grandfather doesn't act his age most of the time." Rezo snorted, and that was his opinion on that particular subject. "Hm," she said, coming across something interesting. A simple card, but it had the instructions to making brownies. She grinned and popped one into her basket.

Moving to the counter, she set her basket down and let the old woman who ran the store sort though it all and give a price.

**

Their return to Erion's house was uneventful, but of course the ex-mage asked, "How'd it go?"

"Well enough, got caught by the rain several times," Rezo replied, leaving Verdandi to blush faintly and move into the kitchen with her newly acquired food products.

Erion eyed the two carefully. Verdandi had certainly returned to normal, swirling and humming as she put things away, Rezo was smiling a bit to himself as he placed his cloak on the pegs beside the door. After a second of thought, he picked up their muddy shoes and took them into the kitchen for cleaning off.

"Oh- thank you, Rezo-san," Erion heard Verdandi say and Rezo's reply was silent.

**

The town was simply amazed, two interesting bits of information about the favorite topic in one day. Before night, everyone knew about the little bet in the tavern and the discovery that Rezo was only twenty two.

However, it took almost four weeks for the weather to get better. Even though she and Rezo had gotten sent to the market several times during that span, Verdandi found she simply wanted to get out of the house. Rezo and Erion were at the lab, so this left her free of male company to socialize, she hoped. She made the decision to go before they got back and donned the necessary clothing, remembering to bring a cloak this time for though it was sunny the air was cold. She cheerfully walked to town.

People were talking and laughing among themselves, but the moment she appeared, they turned their heads to watch her pass. It was disconcerting and she lifted a hand to her hair, hoping that there wasn't something extraordinarily wrong with her appearance. Leina rushed over and grabbed her arm firmly.

"Cephied-Cephied-Cephied!" she gushed, clinging, "Did you REALLY kiss him?!" she begged to know, "Rory said you gave him the Whopper!" and this of course, was Liena's way of saying Verdandi had slipped the tongue in.

Verdandi's face turned beet red, "It was only a bet," she said firmly, attempting to remove her arm from her sort-of friend's grip.

Another joined the confrontation, Marissa glomped onto Verdandi's other arm, "But you kissed him!" Liena exclaimed, "You're so lucky!"

The girl on her left arm spoke up finally, "And is he really twenty-two?" she begged to know.

The brunet rolled her eyes skyward and tipped her head back. "You're all such gossip hounds!" she told them and finally got them off her arms. "Yes, he's twenty-two, and like he said, he and I are adults and we can do whatever we want with our mouths. It's none of your business!"

Marissa's eyes lit up with what appeared to be hope, "Oh, so I have a chance at him?"

Verdandi felt suddenly cold inside, "Just because I live in the same house with him doesn't mean we're automatically married," she stated, "Anyone who cares to try has full right to." She found herself hoping that he would reject them all.

Liena was the first speak, though Marissa came in a close second and they squabbled for a moment before finally saying together, "Can we come over for dinner?" They clasped their hands together, begging in unison.

She sighed, "Alright," she said, though she knew right well that the two would not be talking to her during dinner. It was female company anyway. The day went on like that, practically the entire town coming to her to confirm the gossip and all the girls who were still available in town begged to come over for dinner some night and Verdandi was unable to tell them no.

**

Once she got home, she began cooking. Not long afterwards, Rezo and Erion returned, Rezo looking vaguely disturbed, Erion smirking. The Red Priest paused at the door to kick his shoes off before proceeding after Erion. "Don't worry, I used to get it all the time," the ex-mage was saying as they entered the kitchen.

Verdandi looked up from her work on removing some of the juice from the chicken she had gotten to make for dinner. "Liena and Marissa are coming over-" she started to say.

"Yes," Rezo interrupted, "they told me." He sat down in his usual chair.

She looked down at her work, "I'm sorry, I just couldn't tell them no, they're my friends."

He gestured vaguely, "No need to apologize to me," was said casually enough but Verdandi still felt blamed. Rezo placed one elbow on the table and pressed his forehead against his hand. He had a headache, Erion had pushed him hard, one spell after another and all of them downright powerful. He'd hoped to have a quiet evening. It wasn't her fault, she didn't know he wasn't up to facing her friends.

A knock at the door announced that company had come all the way from town or maybe even beyond it. Erion stood and answered it. The old farmer Jakson was there, panting, his old plow horse covered in sweat. "A couple boys fell in the river," he gasped out, "they wasn't breathin when they came out!"

Immediately, Rezo staggered to his feet, making his way to the door, neglecting to put shoes on. Jakson stepped out of the blind man's way, "Where are they now?" Rezo asked the farmer, looking in control of the situation.

"Still by the south east bank when I left them," he said and suddenly found his arm grabbed by the rather good grip of the mage.

"Just guide me," Rezo stated and focused on his bruised magic, forcing it to cast the Rei wing and lift both himself and the farmer off the ground.

Jakson clung desperately to the mage but forced himself to do as told, "Right," he said and they shot off in that direction. "Tree-" he got out just before they hit it. He closed his eyes and opened them to see that they'd dodged over the obstacle, "Further right," he directed and their path changed to curve more southward than east. "Stop-"

They stopped, "Here?" Rezo asked and felt the farmer's head move affirmative. Dropping down among the branches which snapped against his shield of air, Rezo landed and let the spell go, focusing on his real senses, turning, he stalked through the bushes a few yards north along the river bank. A group of three had apparently been testing the waters in the winter and two had not known how to swim. They were still alive, but barely, Rezo wasn't looking forward to the pain he was about to feel.

Healing one before the other wasn't an option, they both wouldn't last long enough for something like that. Instead, Rezo gathered his energy once more, standing between the two boys lain out on the brushy bank of the fairly large stream and crouched. Holding a hand over each, he cast the spell, dividing the power of it between his hands. They would take longer to heal like this but it would bring them both back from the brink long enough for him to leave one be for a moment.

He moved his left hand over to the young man to his right, giving him the full power of the spell, fully reviving him then moving his hands to the other patient. The first young man to be fully healed sat up, blinking and shaking his head. "Cephied," Jakson murmured, "It's a miracle!"

Rezo dropped his hands completely but remained crouched for a moment before standing and stepping back from the two. "I suggest that you both remember this," he said firmly, "And if you ever again feel like taking a dip in the middle of winter, at least learn how to swim first." There was a hint of scorn in Rezo's voice and the mage turned and started walking in the direction of town. Maybe someone would give him a ride home.

Jakson continued the rant that Rezo had started, telling the three boys about how irresponsible it had been to throw each other into the water like that and if the old farmer hadn't been around he wouldn't have been able to get the good mage Rezo to save them.

The walk took an hour and Rezo could hear the four others crashing through the bushes behind him. He wasn't even sure he was going the right way but if they were following him, then perhaps he was. Or maybe not. Rezo stopped, lifting his hands to rub at his face. The bad part about the day was that it wasn't over yet. Jakson tromped up though the undergrowth and stopped beside him. "Just a little farther and we'll be out of the woods an' on the main road just outside of town." Rezo gave a faint nod, "You alright?"

"Tired.. very tired," the mage replied, "Erion put me though a lot this morning, now this, and then there's going to be a parade of all the available girls in town going past me because Verdandi can't tell them to bugger off." He shook his head and ran his hands through his mussed hair, "No, that's not fair to her."

"You love her, don't you?" Jakson asked kindly enough.

Rezo frowned, however, "I'd rather not talk about any of that," he stated, "Half of what I say ends up getting spread though the town and the other half they misinterpret and spread." The exact reason why he liked Siraag better. Starting forward again, he kept getting hit in the face with low hanging branches and disgusting spider webs.

Finally, he staggered out onto the road and wiped at his face with his sleeve. It wasn't exactly hot, but Rezo was beginning to feel very grimy. Jakson returned to his side and touched his shoulder, giving him a clue as to which way he was supposed to go. He was fine with following that direction, for the old farmer had no reason to lie to him.

It took half an hour to get to town and by that time, the sweat that had sprung on him in the rush to save lives had cooled and become rather slimy to touch. Rezo dearly wanted a bath, or better yet, a bath, dinner, and bed, in that order of course. Jakson turned down the road with Rezo to come back to Erion's house with him and retrieve his horse. The Red Priest was fine with that, he didn't mind the old man's company, just so long as they didn't talk about his relationship with Verdandi. Things weren't going to be so easy, though, for there were four young men, ranging from fifteen to twenty, standing firmly in Rezo's path.

"Rezo-," Jakson started to say.

"If they've got any sense, they'll leave me alone," Rezo stated grumpily.

The eldest of the group, Murray, cracked his knuckles, "Hey Cleric," he said mockingly. Rezo didn't see the dangerous narrowing of the rather muscled young man's eyes. Jakson did and stopped, but Rezo continued plodding forward, intent on going right past them. "Hey!" Murray snapped when Rezo didn't answer, "I'm talking to you."

"And at the moment, I'd rather not talk to you," Rezo replied, finally stopping and lifting his head somewhat. This posture was taken as a challenge, however and the other three boys slid back into what they thought were fighting stances.

Murray ground his teeth together, "Oh, so you're too good for us, huh?" he sneered, "You're too good for us and too good for all the girls, so you just play with them! You're just playing with them, and Verdandi too, aren't you?!" he demanded to know.

Rezo lifted his hand slowly to his forehead, "Cephied... grant me patience," he prayed, though knew quite well that he wasn't going to get any help from that source. "Murray, I warn you, don't provoke me. I may be a healer first off, but I will defend myself and whatever wounds I give you, you're likely to live with until they heal on their own."

The youngest boy growled and ran forward, intending to slam into Rezo and knock him over. A swift change of balance and the boy barreled on past, missing his target who was supposed to be blind. The young men were only briefly astonished, however, and with a cry of, "Dodge this!" Murray lashed out his own fists. One jab toward the face, Rezo dodged, the other was aimed at his stomach and the Red Priest slid sideways, grabbing the young man's arm and wrist and deftly twisted the limb around and over. In an effort to lessen the pain, Murray bent back, trying to twist himself around again.

Once more, the youngest tried to make a rush and tackle Rezo to the ground, but he was met rather suddenly by Murray, and not by either young man's choice. Rezo was just in time to duck a stick that was swung at his head. The other two had decided to attack while Murray and the boy were arguing at each other. During all of this, Jakson was completely ignored and the old man watched in awe as Rezo swiftly piled the four on top of each other, then threw a lightning spell on them to make sure they'd stay down.

"Now," Rezo said firmly, getting their attention immediately, "Don't bother me about this again." There was a subtle threat strung through his words and the boys slowly dragged themselves up, dashing off back into town. They probably weren't ever going to talk about how they'd been beaten up by a blind man. "What're you laughing at?" the Red Priest asked Jakson.

The old farmer slowly shook his head, unable to stop his wheezy laugh but patted the young man on the shoulder as he started past. Turning, Rezo followed after the farmer, muttering to himself about hormones and hotheads and simply small towns-folk in general.

**

A few months later, Rezo and Erion were on their way back from the lab, Rezo tired from another day of 'testing' and Erion simply being his old tired self. The air was dry, but not quite hot as spring gave in to summer. The two men paused at the edge of town as one, the blind man sniffing the air suspiciously.

"Smoke," he said softly.

Erion squinted, lifting a hand to shade his eyes from the glare of the sun, "It's in the direction of the tavern," he said, "lots of it."

"Damn," Rezo muttered and hiked up his robes, going into a trot. The smoke had a bad taste. Like hair on fire. This put him into a faster jog, though he stumbled on a number of things as a consequence. How was it that Erion always picked very bad days to completely wear out his student? He hoped there wasn't that many people hurt, in fact, he hoped that no one had been hurt, for that would be even better in his tired state.

A shout from somewhere ahead of him, "Rezo-san!" it sounded like the old woodworker, Rory. "The tavern caught fire, there're people in there still," he shouted and the Red Priest staggered to a stop once he'd come within range. Rory moved closer, watching in curiosity to see how Rezo would deal with the crisis. Many other towns-folk were there, some were trying to throw buckets of water on the fire, but it made little difference. The flames were simply too hot.

Turning to face the building, Rezo lifted his hands, firmly taking hold of his sapped strength and casting. "Aqua Create!" he shouted, throwing the sheet of water over the building and putting out much of the fire, but it was still smoldering and threatening to ignite again.

"The balcony- it's fallen over the door- we can't get in," Rory told the mage and watched the look of pain flit across pale features and closed eyes.

Purposefully, Rezo strode forward though, flinging another spell at the wall and blasting it casually, though this still took even more of his precious energy which he'd wanted to conserve for healing those within. Damn Erion and his tests to see how many really strong spells Rezo could cast in succession!! Stumbling in among the debris, Rezo found the nearest body and checked it for life before doing any sort of healing on them. This was Bonnie he could tell by her large frame, she was alive, but barely. Burnt over most of her body, her clothes were charred and melted with her skin. The spell he cast on her was enough to get her awake and able to move, he didn't dare anything more until he knew he had enough energy. "Get out," he told her and moved on, finding another body, this one trapped beneath some of the second story that had caved in.

"Cephied," he whispered and touched her sooty hair.

Verdandi stirred coughing terribly a few times, "Rezo," she whispered hoarsely, "I'm okay- the others..." she passed out once more, but Rezo could tell that she would last long enough and forced himself to move on. His Verdandi, always thinking about everyone else no matter what. Around him, the air was beginning to get hot and hard to breath, he gave a cough, putting his sleeve over his mouth and nose with one hand. The next victim was gone, entirely, he'd been too late. He moved on and found another body nearby, her aura was one he'd encountered before, and he quickly got her healed enough to get out.

"Rezo-san!" someone shouted from outside, "It's starting to catch fire again!"

"Damn turpentine," he snarled under his breath, "Why the hell do they have to use THAT to make buildings waterproof?" he found three more further in the back. They had apparently been trying to open a boarded up window nearby but simply didn't have enough time. They were all in bad condition but he chose one at a time, healing them as swiftly as he could but the air was getting worse and he had to expend more energy to revive them than anyone else simply because they were closer to death. The third died before Rezo got to him, the two he'd just finished healing grabbed up their third and made a dash for safety. The heat was rising and Rezo guessed that for the most part, the building had caught again. Thankfully, only himself and Verdandi were the left in the building. Upon returning to her, he slid his hands under her arms and pulled, but she was stuck, the charred beams fallen over her legs.

"Rezo!" Erion's voice this time. A burning beam crashed between them and the voice. The smoke began to thicken, their escape blocked off. One last desperate attempt to pull Verdandi out was made, pressing his foot against the beams as he pulled- and he got the debris to fall from her. Tucking her against his chest, he reached over and grabbed the arm of the remaining body.

"Levi-" Rezo burst into a hacking cough, the smoke was acrid and thick now, "Levitation!" he gasped out, forcing the last of his strength into it- he didn't have enough for a Rei wing, which would have been far safer. He shot straight upwards, hitting a charred beam which crumpled from the impact, and Rezo's head spun. It simply wasn't smart to make your escape literally using your head. Around them, the entire inn collapsed upon itself but he burst above it into the column of hot and choking smoke.

Following the sound of the horrified cries, he dove through the smoke to them, coming in at a bad angle and having to stumble forward. The body fell from his grasp on first impact, his second and third step, went alright but Verdandi's legs dragged on the ground and he let her go, three more steps and he finally toppled over, blood dripping from his lips.

**

Two dead, seven injured. Those which Rezo had saved were still not in the best of shape, but alive and glad of it. Erion had explained that Rezo would live as well, he'd simply used all his magical energy and needed time to replenish it before he could do anything for anyone. He asked the towns people to hold off on emergencies for at least a week. This got a nervous laugh.

Liena and Murray's bodies were placed in their caskets, ready for whenever Rezo was able to send them on. The town was decorated in black for the week to mourn the loss. The cause of the fire had been an oil lamp that was mounted above the door. A careless slam caused the lamp to fall and break, splattering the floor with hot oil that caught fire from the lamp's dimmed wick.

Verdandi had a broken leg and arm on the same side as well as plenty of burns, she was cheerful as ever, though. Or she tried to look cheerful. Instead, she wanted to see if Rezo was alright. Erion had said nothing about the mage's condition to her and this fact made her feel cut off from the world. It bored her, it terrified her, but most of all, it hurt. She'd been laying in bed for three days, Erion managing to keep the two fed on rather mushy things, Verdandi had a feeling that he hadn't made them though, the soup was far too involved for him to make. This led her to assume that someone was providing for them in Verdandi's absence. It annoyed her.

Was someone else trying to get Rezo's favor by being helpful? The question burned in Verdandi's soul and made her want to leap up and demand an answer, any answer. The answer as to why the thought of Rezo loving someone else frustrated her so much.

Nervously, she shifted, making pain shoot up her leg and she closed her eyes, tears squeezing out. "Where does it hurt?"

Immediately, her eyes snapped open and she saw a rather faded shadow of Rezo's true self. He looked more than twenty-two today, he looked sixty. She offered a smile to him, pulling her good arm out from beneath the blankets and reaching out for his hand. "You should be resting," she told him, though she couldn't hide the pleasure in her voice.

A hint of a smile touched his lips, "I've had my fill of resting," he said in return, his fingers curling around hers unconsciously. "It's healing well," he started a new topic, "though will probably take a few months."

"Hum? Me or you?"

Rezo gave a laugh that was much more like his less tired self than anything she'd heard him do today. "You," he said, perching on the edge of the bed. "Did they tell you who died?" he asked, face turned away from her now.

Slowly, Verdandi pushed herself up, "Rezo-" he wouldn't turn his face toward her. "Rezo, it wasn't your fault," she said, "You did what you could."

"If I'd just worked faster-" swiftly, Verdandi removed her hand from his and clamped it over his mouth.

"Hush that right now," she scolded, "Don't you say- or even think another word like that. It's in the past and you can't change it. All you can do is learn from it. Learn how to work faster or whatever you think the problem was this time."

He was silent after she dropped her hand from his face, head bowed, brow knitted somewhat. "You're right," he said finally, "I'll.. simply try harder next time." She smiled at him, but he missed it. Rezo stood from her bed and left the room, closing the door most of the way behind him.

Verdandi sat in bed, alone once more, scowling at the blankets covering her. Finally, with her good hand, she threw them aside, slid her legs off the edge of the bed and stood on her good foot, her hand steadying her on the bed. Hopping, she managed to get to the door, grabbed the handle and steadied herself on it.

Catching her breath, she turned the brass knob of the door and pulled it open, hopping out and into the hall, her hand against the wall. A few hops got her on the other side of the hall where she had to rest once more. Her leg and arm were throbbing with pain but she was determined. Determined to do what, she wasn't quite sure, but she figured she'd get to the couch and think of what to do next from there.

She heard no voices, so Rezo and her grandfather weren't in the house anymore. A glance toward the window beside the front door gave her the answer to where Erion was. He was standing in the front yard gathering sunshine. She couldn't see Rezo, but she couldn't see a lot of the front yard from where she was standing, so he could still have been out there.

Hopping a few more steps, she came to the end of the wall that was the kitchen on one side and hall on the other, peeking into the kitchen, she saw that there had indeed been no cooking going on in the house, for no pots were dirty in the sink. Unless Rezo had taken it into his head to wash them. Verdandi caught herself smiling and took a moment to trace her thoughts back.

"I'm in love with him," she said finally, leaning against the wall as the revelation sunk in. Or more, it felt like a flower blooming within her chest, it sucked the strength from her, yet somehow made her stronger. Giving a shake to her head, she pushed off the wall and hopped toward the couch. Though it was only four feet away, she had nothing to lean against and her left leg was hurting terribly.

The back door opened rather suddenly and Rezo stepped in, behind him, however, was, what the young men of the village liked to call, the second prettiest girl in town, Selene. Verdandi lost balance and fell to the floor with a thump and pained yelp.

Selene blinked her enormous blue eyes, one slender hand lifting slightly. "Oh dear," she said softly. Verdandi would recognize it as Selene's innocent act, for this girl was adept at playing any role the man in her presence seemed to like and she had gotten the idea that Rezo liked innocence.

Rezo, however, wasn't impressed or even interested in her acting, whether it be real or not. He simply dodged around the table and crouched beside Verdandi. "What were you doing?" he asked, brow furrowed in confusion and slight annoyance. "You should be resting."

Verdandi felt tears in her eyes as his arms gathered her up and lifted her against his chest. He stood, turning towards the hallway but Verdandi gathered her strength and kicked her feet some, flailing her good arm. "No!" she said firmly, "I don't want to go back to my room!" He stopped, turning a much different expression upon her, one of mild amusement and curiosity. The pain of her wounds, physical and emotional seemed to dissipate

"Then where do you want to go?" he asked.

He wasn't mad at her, she surmised, he was probably mad at Selene. Verdandi smiled at him, "I was trying to get to the couch," she told him truthfully and he deftly glided there, setting her down upon the cushions.

"Will you stay here and rest?" he asked her, his amusement touching his voice.

Verdandi glanced back at the honey-haired Selene who was no longer looking innocent, but very vindictive. "Yes, Rezo-san," she said and turned her eyes back toward his handsome features. He stood and left the room for a moment, returning with a blanket from her bed, which he draped over her. Verdandi struggled with the blanket a moment, pulling it off her head, knowing he had intended to put it there.

"Rezo-san," Selene asked faintly, "Would you like some tea?"

The Red Priest turned towards her, "Yes, that would be fine," he answered and waited a moment before crouching and whispering softly, "Is she always like this?"

"No, she's only what guys want her to be."

Rezo rubbed his head, "I want her to be gone," he muttered and got up, going to the arm chair.

"You shouldn't use your magic if you're so tired," Verdandi told him. His lips twisted slightly but he didn't answer. Selene crossed the kitchen from the sink, putting the kettle on the stove, she cast a glare at Verdandi. Her rival only smiled sweetly in return and spoke to Rezo, "My book is on the dresser in my room-" She didn't even finish before he was up and heading toward her room. "Thank you," she said as he returned and handed it to her, retaking his seat.

Verdandi opened her book and stared at the page blankly, unable to concentrate and read with Selene glaring at her. not to forget that she'd been reading the book aloud to Rezo for some time and she didn't want to get ahead. Rezo spoke up, amusement coloring his voice once again, "You're not really reading," he said.

She gave a soft laugh, "No, can't concentrate right now."

Selene finished pouring tea and brought the three cups into the living room, handing the first to Rezo who simply took it with one hand and rested that hand in his lap where it had been in the first place. The second, she reluctantly gave to Verdandi and the third she kept for herself. Her gaze drifted around the room, finding nothing else to sit on but the two-person couch and the arm chair. Verdandi, set her cup on the coffee table and shifted, pulling her legs against up enough to give the blonde room to sit.

For a moment, it seemed Selene wasn't going to take the invitation, but then she sat, perched on the edge of the couch as far from Verdandi as she could get. Rezo didn't seem to notice, he didn't even seem to notice that he even had a cup of tea resting in the hand that wasn't propping his head up.

Verdandi cleared her throat, "You might want to rescue the teacup before he drops it."

"Why?"

"Because, he's asleep."

Selene set her own teacup aside and reached across the coffee table, placing her hand on the cup. Rezo didn't move. She slid it from his hand and he still did not respond. The blonde looked at the other occupant of the couch, "How could you tell?"

Verdandi gave a slight shrug. Though, her way was sometimes intuition- as well as the slight relaxation of his habitual frown. "He does need rest though," she said softly, "So if you can find something quiet to do here, that would be fine, otherwise..." The blonde's eyes narrowed, but she stood and went to the door, quietly leaving the house.

"I thought she'd never go away," Rezo mumbled, yawning and moving to sprawl back in the chair. Verdandi gave a soft laugh in return.

"Were you asleep?" she asked curiously.

Rezo gave a snort, "Almost... her smell woke me."

He heard Verdandi move and a soft pat on the couch, "Come over here, we can share the blanket," she suggested. For a second, he hesitated, then moved to sit on the couch where Selene had sat moments ago. The blanket was spread over his legs, Verdandi stretched her injured limb into his lap and settled. The book was reopened and Verdandi's voice played out the rhythm of the story captured in the pages.

Rezo sank back into the cushions of the couch, letting Verdandi's sent engulf him and drive away the sour fragrance Selene brought with her. The angel's sweet voice swept away the throbbing in his head and calmed the seething darkness within him. Erion came through and Rezo didn't notice. Only thirty minutes later, he was asleep.

**

Verdandi looked up from her book to find Rezo's head fallen back, mouth slightly open. Placing the marker in her book, she set it on the coffee table. Erion had said he was going to take a nap while there wasn't anyone else in the house. Rezo had yet to move.

The pain of her leg had subsided quite a bit, she knew that Rezo had done something, and giving an experimental wiggle to her foot, she felt only a small twinge. Moving her legs out of his lap, she sat forward to peer at his face, watching his eyelids twitch slightly in his sleep. A smile twisted her lips and she boldly slid into his lap, curling against his chest and wrapping the blanket around both of them.

Only his lips moved, shifting into a vague sort of smile that let Verdandi know she was quite welcome in his lap, even though he was asleep. Lifting her arm, it gave a faint protest, Verdandi touched the strong pillar of his neck, letting her fingers slide along his skin and into his soft violet hair. "Beautiful," she whispered.

For an hour she sat with him, but the sun was beginning to set and it was time she made dinner- before someone else did it for her. Reluctantly, Verdandi slid from his lap and replaced the blanket, limping into the kitchen to make something simple.

**

Several days passed and Rezo regained his magical strength and in doing so, began healing those who had been waiting for a week. He'd already healed Verdandi in small increments over the week and once he'd recovered, had already gotten to half of those wounded in the fire. Bonnie was the next to receive his attention.

She sat sullenly on a stool as he cast the spell. It took longer than he normally would have taken, simply because of lack of energy, but she didn't mind. "I'm sorry this is taking so long," he said softly.

"Ah, no, take ye time," she answered, giving a smile. "I caen't 'elp bu' think t'was my fault, I knew t' lamp was loose bu' I-"

Rezo paused his spell, placing a hand over Bonnie's mouth. He smile at her, "And I blame myself for losing Liena and Murray, but this is a bit of something Verdandi told me. It's in the past, all we can do now is work harder on whatever we think the problem was. I feel that I was too slow, you feel you were careless. Let's just, not do that again," he touched her face gently, feeling her tears.

"Yer too kind," she said, taking his hands in hers, leaning forward to kiss his cheek. This, of course, caused him to blush, but thankfully there was no one but them in the room. "I owe ye m' life, bu' I don think I caen ever repay ye except by happ'ness. Please," she let go of one of his hands, digging in her pocket a moment and pressing something small and rounded into his palm. "Please take t'is an' give it t' Lil Verdandi wit' all yer love."

He was about to protest, took a breath to, but she touched his lips with one large finger, "Now don' say ye caen't, cus' tat'd 'urt me ol 'eart an' tat o' me mum's. I's too old t' 'ave no chil'ren, so I caen very well gives it t' no one else. Take good care o' it tis all I ask."

Finally, he nodded, slipping the ring into a pouch hanging from the belt around his waist, "Thank you, Bonnie, I'll guard it well." The rest of her healing was conducted in silence, both parting company a little happier than when they'd come.

**

Erion continued to read aloud from one of the books he'd written, aware of Rezo's slow pacing around the rounded chamber deep underground. His hands were fondling something small and glittering, though Erion couldn't clearly see what it was, his eye-sight having gotten steadily worse over the last four years, even if Rezo helped by practicing spells on him. Finally, the older man stopped speaking, watching as Rezo continued to pace, looking slightly worried, though there was a small smile on his lips. Erion stood, moving to intercept Rezo on his way past the desk. "Rezo, you're not paying attention." The red priest blushed deeply and came to an abrupt stop, face turned toward his hands. "Perhaps you're mind is on other things?" Erion asked, smirking and hard pressed not to burst into laughter. "Perhaps you're thinking of my granddaughter?" he asked, forcing severity into his voice.

Erion reached up, gripping Rezo's shoulders to keep himself from falling to the floor and breaking something. Rezo turned even deeper red, scuffing his toes on the floor somewhat. "I'm sorry sir- you didn't bring me here to make moves on the girls and certainly not Verdandi. I'm so very sorry sir-" his hand stuffed the item away into the pouch at his belt, misinterpreting his teacher's shaking for anger.

Finally, Erion let loose his laugh and collapsed against Rezo's chest, giggling, "Silly boy," he gasped as Rezo helped him over to the desk and Erion leaned against it, taking Rezo's shoulders again, "Rezo, I know she loves you. You can't see it, but she's always staring at you with that silly cow look of hers and a smile." He shook his head giving another soft laugh then sobering, "Rezo, promise me that you'll take care of her. She's my most precious possession, I never got to see her grow up, I wish I had and I wish that I could see her children grow up, but I won't be around for much longer. Take very good care of her."

Rezo chewed on his lower lip, "I promise," he said in a small voice.

"Now get out of here. Go give her that ring you've been fondling for the past three weeks." Erion slapped Rezo's back as the Red priest moved past and headed for the door. He had been up and down the stairs enough times to be able to get up them without tripping on anything.

****

Verdandi looked up from her book where she sad in the shade under her favorite tree. Rezo was standing in the back door, a look of worry on his face. A feeling of cold dread crept up her stomach and clenched itself there and she set her book aside. "Is- is something wrong? Did something happen to grandfather?" she asked, getting up and coming forward, feeling like she was about to cry. She knew he would die soon, but she hadn't expected so soon.

Rezo smiled at her, moving to meet her half way to the door. He reached out and put his hands on her shoulders and squeezed them gently, "No, he's fine, really. I didn't mean to scare you like that." He turned her and led her back to the tree, having a seat on the soft grass under it and she followed, still worried as to his reason for being out of the lab so early in the day.

"What happened then? Are you hungry?" she moved to get up and he caught her hands, keeping her on the ground, though she was a willing captive.

"No, it's nothing like that. I just had something important to do."

Verdandi blinked at him, now completely confused by his wistful smile and how his hands were still holding hers long after he'd grabbed them. She knew she was blushing, but he couldn't see it, so it didn't matter. "Don't let me keep you from doing it then," she said, though she knew her disappointment had tinged her voice.

Rezo shifted, moving onto his knees in front of her, still holding her hands. "Actually..." he said, sounding nervous, "It has something to do with you. I.. had to tell you something." Her mind whirled, wondering what could have been so important that Erion would let him out of the lab so early. Rezo suddenly leaned forward, placing his lips upon hers in a bold move she'd never expected, yet responded to without thinking. She felt her tears verging once more as the kiss lasted another few heartbeats before he finally withdrew.

"That's ...the sweetest thing anyone's ever told me," she whispered, her voice refusing to work, her fingers curling around his, yet he removed one of his hands from hers and fumbled with the belt pouch at his hip.

After a moment, he withdrew his hand and took her hands once more. Leaning forward again, he placed his cheek against hers, whispering softly to her, "Please say you will." She felt something round pressed into her palm and her fingers folded around it, feeling its shape. Tears rolled from her eyes as she starred over his shoulder at the rest of the garden and the whitewashed back wall of the house.

He could feel her tears, bridging the space between their faces and he heard her choked answer, "Yes." He drew back, lifting his hands to her face to brush her tears away, feeling more cascade down as she looked at the slender gold banded ring with a star sapphire encircled by diamonds set on the top. "It's so beautiful," she told him softly as she slid it onto her finger, though it was a little loose, she would never let herself lose it. She gladly hugged him, crying into his shoulder and hair.

****

It was mid afternoon when Erion emerged from the house, "I might have to complain about this arrangement," he said, leaning against the door frame, "I didn't get any lunch and certainly no hugs from her today."

The two love-birds were beneath the tree still, Rezo's back against the trunk of the tree, Verdandi curled up in his lap, her arms around his shoulders. "You're just jealous she's not in your lap," Rezo retorted, hugging the bundle of warmth that he so dearly loved.

"Of course I'm jealous, you stole my baby granddaughter from me. Things will never be the same!" Erion paced forward, his hands clasped behind his back.

"Hush, old goat, you said I could." All three of them shared a laugh as Erion carefully sat down on the ground near them. Verdandi smiled happily at him, reaching out a hand which he took, mouthing 'Thank you' as she snuggled her head under Rezo's chin.

Erion smirked at her, winking an 'I told you so,' and she silently giggled, returning the gentle squeeze he gave her hand. Rezo kissed the top of her head, aware of the silent communication going on around him, though he didn't know what they were saying, he let them be.