Passing Fancy

By: firefly

Note: Thank you once again to everyone for their reviews! I appreciate every single one so much. :) On another note, I don't know what I was talking about when I gave estimates of how long this fic would be. Let's just see how far we get, because I obviously suck at controlling myself.

(Also, since this is posted at Deviant Art...if anyone feels like doodling something based off this insane story it would make my week. :D)

Anyway, enough babble. Read, please enjoy, and remember that reviews are always love!

Passing Fancy ch.3

Three weeks passed before Scorpion set foot anywhere near the imperial palace again.

The time elapsed in a blur in the chaos of preparing for the impending war, with Kitana acting as a liaison between the palace and their allies, Shang Tsung spearheading the battle strategies, and Shao Kahn scraping the rock bottom of Outworld for fighters to add to his army.

Even the maids were busy helping in the armoury.

The only one not enthusiastically involved was Mileena.

Since both Shang Tsung and her father were too caught up in their affairs to supervise her and assign her any missions, she was pretty much left to divide her time between languishing in her room and working on the teddy bear.

Painstaking hours were spent sewing details onto the stuffed animal, sometimes leading her to scrap a day's work if it didn't match the bear in the picture. And since she wasn't exactly adept with a thread and needle, it took her three times longer than it would have anyone else.

Patience was not something she'd been born with and her short attention span made it incredibly difficult to focus, making each day that slipped by feel like eternity.

And in those moments where she grew too frustrated and her yearning too great, she'd pry open the loose floorboard under her bed, lock her door, and curl into bed with the bloodied rag she'd saved from the last time she'd seen him.

She'd hold it up against her face and breathe it in, eyes closing in contentment for a few blissful minutes where she imagined it being the real thing.

Unbeknownst to her, her absence did not go unnoticed.

A few days later, Shang Tsung stood once more before the emperor, waiting patiently as Shao Kahn drummed his fingers against his knee in contemplation.

"I have another issue," he said finally.

Shang Tsung did not look surprised. "Mileena, I presume."

The emperor frowned. "Exactly. No one has time to supervise her while we prepare for invasion. Granted, she hasn't jeopardized any of my alliances as of late, but I will not take any risks while you and I aren't around to control her."

"Pardon my ignorance, but haven't you already secured your allies?" Shang Tsung inquired.

Shao Kahn's frown deepened. "It annoys me to say it, but I have a rather tenuous hold on the Shokan. They are still angry after Mileena killed four of their last couriers."

"Ah," Shang Tsung muttered.

Shao Khan leaned back in his chair. "We'll need her out of the palace for the week while I patch things up. What do you propose?"

Shang Tsung thought a moment. Then a cunning grin slowly crossed his face.

Shao Kahn raised an eyebrow. "You have a suggestion?"

"More than just a suggestion," the sorcerer said smugly. "Leave it to me, emperor."

The next day, Mileena finally got the news she'd been waiting for.

A timid knock at her door carried into the room, going for the most part ignored as Mileena sat cross-legged on her bed, hunched over the bear in concentration.

When another knock came a few seconds later, Mileena paused her sewing and raised her head.

"What?" she snapped.

A muffled, obviously terrified voice seeped through the cracks.

"Y-Your presence is requested in the throne room, my lady."

"I'm busy," she retorted, carefully threading a button onto the bear's face. "Go away if you don't want to die."

The anxiety in the maid's voice jumped a notch. "Um...t-the emperor commands it. He says, Scorpion is here."

Mileena dropped the bear to the floor.

"He is?" she shrieked.

The maid was knocked flat when the door burst open and Mileena practically ran her over on the way out. She jumped down the steps three at a time, skidding around the corners before she reached the first floor.

She paused momentarily before the water fountain to check her reflection, smoothing down her hair and adjusting her clothing before she sprinted for the throne room and burst in a moment later.

The entire scene was like déjà vu.

The room was full of the usual Outworld grunts and Shang Tsung stood in his usual spot next to the throne. And there, in the centre of the room, Scorpion stood facing her father, turning his magnificent head to glance in her direction.

Mileena felt herself fall in love all over again.

"Ah, Mileena," Shao Kahn said, smirking in satisfaction. "Come join us. We were just debriefing Scorpion on our latest mission."

Several of the guards shifted uneasily when there was a palpable spike in killer intent emanating from the wraith.

Resisting the urge to tackle him on the spot, Mileena strutted her way into the room and casually took a place by his side.

Scorpion gave her a look of absolute death.

Mileena shaped her fingers into a heart and winked in return.

"As I was saying," Shao Kahn continued. "I've discovered a band of rogue Outworlders plotting to overthrow me. They are nothing but mere pests, but I do not have time to deal with such nuisances. So I want you, Scorpion, to eradicate them."

Scorpion nodded slightly.

Shao Kahn stroked his chin. "As for your partner..."

The Shirai Ryu stiffened, his eyes narrowing. "I have no need for a partner."

Shao Kahn grinned beneath his mask. "It pleases me to see you so confident, but you will have one nonetheless."

Mileena's eyes widened. This was it—the opportunity of a lifetime. Elder Gods help her, she absolutely could not let this chance go to waste.

Shao Kahn tapped his chin. "Your partner will be..."

Mileena made a not-so-subtle show of jumping on the spot, gesturing to herself and frantically waving for her father's attention.

Shao Kahn pretended not to notice and thoughtfully surveyed the people in the room. Then he made an exaggerated turn of his head as though he'd just noticed his daughter vying for his attention and gestured to her with a complacent smile.


"Yay!" she cheered, jumping for joy.

Scorpion clenched his fists so hard the nearby curtains spontaneously combusted.

"No," he gritted out. "I work alone."

Shao Kahn seemed horribly amused by all of this.

"Temper your pride, Scorpion. I do not accept failure. Including Mileena as your partner is my way of ensuring success."

He opened his mouth to argue, but Shao Kahn interrupted him with a dismissive wave.

"You have one week. Now leave."

Livid, Scorpion somehow managed to contain the curses he wanted to hurl at the emperor and stalked out of the room.

The sentries patrolling the halls practically leapt out of his way, knowing he wasn't to be trifled with after the banquet room fiasco from a month earlier.

The same couldn't be said for Mileena.

"Where are you going?" she called after him, giving chase. "We have to go over the mission details!"

Scorpion didn't slow his stride and threw her an irate look over his shoulder. "Stay away from me."

"But we're partners now," Mileena explained, as if that resolved everything. "We have to be together!"

Anyone with the slightest sense of self-preservation would have known they'd gone too far when Scorpion slowly turned and gave her a look of absolute venom. Mileena found herself backed into a corner when he took a step forward.

"I will say this once," he said in a frighteningly low voice. "I work alone. If you value your life, you will leave now."

"I'd rather take the risk," she said, voice dropping into a seductive murmur as she touched his arm, "if it means being close to you."

Several of Mileena's hairs were singed when Scorpion practically vaporized the ground she'd been standing on.

Dodging the attack, her grating laughter echoed over the walls as she skipped merrily down the hall.

"Tomorrow morning, darling," she sang, blowing him a kiss. "I'll meet you by the gate!"

Scorpion just stood there glowering after her. Never in his life had someone gotten under his skin to the extent of making him want to bash his brains out against the wall. The mere prospect of spending an entire week with the crazy wench was enough to make his stomach turn.

Muttering epithets to himself, he turned and left the hall. He was halfway to the palace gates when another voice called out.


He paused and glanced over his shoulder.

Kitana stood by the balustrade at the entrance and nodded to him. "I would like a word."

He was far from being in the mood to talk, but knew he'd be pushing his luck if he blatantly disregarded the commands of the emperor's only sane daughter. After wavering a moment, he made his way back the way he came and met her in the hall.

Kitana didn't immediately address him and his eyes narrowed suspiciously when she glanced around for eavesdroppers. When she finally spoke, it was in a hushed undertone.

"I take it you've been assigned a mission with Mileena?"

The look on his face made the answer obvious.

Sensing his ire, Kitana spoke quickly. "I understand. She has been rather...fixated on you lately. But I thought I should give you fair warning. Mileena is—"

"I'm aware," he said shortly, interrupting her. "She's out for my blood."

"Yes, she—" Kitana cut herself short, eyes widening when she realized what he'd said. "What?"

"Her mind games are just a ploy," Scorpion said, looking mildly irritated at the thought. "She's waiting for me to drop my guard."

Kitana stared at him wordlessly in shock. Then, in an action completely unfitting of a princess, smacked her forehead in exasperation.

"You honestly think," she said slowly, "that Mileena has been following you around because she wants to kill you?"

Now he looked annoyed. "Why else would she do it?"

Oh for God's sake.

Kitana closed her eyes and sighed in defeat.

Honestly, it was no surprise. Unholy harbinger of death or not, Scorpion was as dense as the next guy.

She easily could have told him the truth and erased all the misconceptions, but it was not her place to divulge something so personal. Mileena was either going to have to announce it herself or he would figure it out on his own. And if this conversation had brought anything to light, chances were it would be the former.

"Very well," she said, resigned. "Complete your mission and return in one piece..."

She gave him a hard, meaningful look. "The both of you."

Scorpion stared after her as she left, vaguely put off by her choice of words.

If she was implying that the mission would be too much for him to handle, then she was seriously underestimating him. But if she meant for him to refrain from murdering her psychotic sister somewhere along the way...

His eye twitched.

That he couldn't guarantee.

Mileena barely slept that night, spending the hours tossing and turning in anticipation until the first dim rays of sunshine broke through her window. Once she saw it was daylight, she leapt out of bed and dashed off to get ready.

For some reason, everything around her seemed exceptionally beautiful that morning—from the scum inside the bathtub to the dingy hallways leading to the dungeons. Even the perpetually grey sky seemed to glow over the pretty dead trees in the palace garden.

Overcome by excitement, Mileena made her way to the front gates hours before he was due to arrive, wanting to be the first to catch glimpse of him on the horizon.

And like clockwork, he arrived right on schedule, looking more reticent than normal judging from his almost listless stride. Ecstatic, she jumped to her feet and didn't wait for him to make it to her, instead rushing out past the gates to greet him halfway.

Scorpion's expression darkened upon seeing her.

"Good morning," she trilled, sounding inappropriately happy. "Are you ready to go?"

Scorpion didn't reply, instead gazing at the gates where he could see a vulture voraciously tearing into an unidentifiable animal. It was a testament to his misery when he found himself envying the dead creature.

"The mission scroll," he said eventually, voice clipped. "Where is it?"

She waved a finger at him, voice teasing as she patted her shoulder bag. "Tsk, tsk. You underestimate me."

He scowled at her, his last hopes of retrieving the scroll and running away blowing up in his face.

Now he had no choice. He was far from happy with the circumstances, but complaining about it was below him. He would just have to deal with it.

With that, he turned wordlessly and began walking back in the other direction.

Mileena gladly moved to follow, only to stop midway when he halted and looked at her.

"Don't speak," he said when she opened her mouth. "Do not touch me. And don't get in my way. Follow these rules and I might let you live."


Scorpion silenced her with a baleful look and continued down his path.

How does he expect me to keep quiet, Mileena wondered, if he keeps making those hilarious faces at me?

Fighting back a laugh, she silently followed.

It would be pretty difficult to do as he'd asked, but she figured it would work in her favour anyway. She may have been juvenile, but she was far from dumb. She knew that if she obeyed for the first hour or two, he would get used to her enough to grant a few allowances here and there.

That, and staying quiet would give her ample time to observe his quirks and body language.

And right now, his body language was telling her that he was extremely pissed off.

Amused, Mileena kept her pace behind him until they left the palace far behind and entered the Living Forest.

The change in atmosphere seemed to calm him a bit and she daringly moved closer to walk by his side as he surveyed their surroundings.

Scorpion didn't notice her proximity, staying vigilant by keeping an eye out for the enemy and hopefully a cave he could wall her into if he got the chance.

Several bodies hung from the trees, swaying eerily in the wind like ornaments. The trees seemed to be watching them, their groans and rumbles echoing through the forest. Scorpion tensed, listening for any odd noises.


And then—

"Look out!"

He stumbled and almost fell on his behind when Mileena tackled him away from the shrubbery.

Somehow managing to keep his balance, he threw her off and whipped out his swords.

"What is it?" he demanded.

"There," Mileena said, pointing to something near the bushes. "It was about to attack!"

Scorpion looked in the direction she was pointing and found the culprit. Then, very slowly, he took a deep breath and spoke through gritted teeth.

" a rabbit."

Mileena regarded the fluffy animal with mistrust. "It's not dangerous?"

Scorpion stared at her incredulously.

"No? In that case..."

She reached down and grabbed the rabbit, breaking its neck and holding its limp body up for him to see.

"It can be dinner!" she said cheerfully.

Scorpion just turned around and left.

That little episode ended up costing her despite her good intentions.

They were back to square one, with him silently seething while she trailed him from behind. He was even angrier than before, she wagered, because this time he actually tried setting her on fire when she strayed too close.

Deciding to grant him another hour or two to cool off, Mileena gave him his distance and settled for observing him again.

The Living Forest was turning out uneventful as far as enemies went, so Mileena was quick to notice the tension leaving his shoulders. That should have been enough incentive to try getting close to him again, but something in his demeanour was stirring an unsettling feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Every now and then the perpetually angry look in his eyes would dissolve into something more pensive. Almost sad. But then it'd be gone in an instant, leaving her wondering if she'd imagined it.

Seeing it made her feel strange.

It was an unfamiliar blend of unease and anger, the first because it made her feel ill to see him like that, and the second because she wanted to kill whoever was responsible for making him look like that in the first place.

Mileena only had to see the fleeting expression one more time before she decided she would pester him even more.

Because even if she did piss him off, she preferred seeing him annoyed with her over him being sad. Even if it was just for a few seconds.

A moment later, Scorpion was startled from his reverie when he felt something bump against his side and looked down to see Mileena latching onto his arm.

"So," she said amiably, smiling and looking up at him, "what's the Netherrealm like?"

Kitana raised her head from a map she'd been studying when she heard a muffled explosion sound somewhere far off on the horizon. A moment later, ravens burst through the forest canopy and a plume of black smoke spiralled into the sky.

She stared blankly at the smoke before shaking her head and sighing.

"Why am I not surprised..."

Unbeknownst to Kitana, that little altercation had merely turned out to be a sign of things to come.

By the third day of their expedition, it was only by some miracle of the Elder Gods that Mileena was still alive.

Her dedication to distracting and annoying him as much as possible gnawed at Scorpion's patience until his nerves were shot.

Their travel time consisted of her asking inane questions, him trying to ignore her, her trying to initiate physical contact, him making several attempts to burn or stab her, and then finally culminating with Scorpion abandoning her in some desolate wasteland in the middle of the night when his anger reached levels of critical meltdown.

Then he'd come back the next morning because she had the mission scroll and the cycle would begin all over again.

Mileena, on the other hand, had had the time of her life pushing his buttons over the last several days. The fact that his mask covered his face did nothing to hide his emotions, the degree of his anger evident from how deep the furrow was between his eyes.

He despised being touched, so she'd made it into a game to see how many times she could 'accidentally' bump into him before he tried dismembering her. It had been all innocent shoulder brushes and hand nudges up until now, but by the third day she was aiming for something bigger.

Namely, she was toying with the idea of 'accidentally' smacking him on the rump.

It was his fault, really. All his restrictions and rules pretty much left her with nothing to do but walk behind him and stare at his backside for three days. Not that she minded.

But what were his pants made out of, anyway?

That question had been bothering her non-stop for the past twenty-four hours. It didn't look like any material she recognized, and God help him if it was leather.

She pondered deeply for an hour over whether she should do it, ultimately deciding not to because he would probably really kill her if she tried.

But still, she reflected with a devious look in that direction, it was sorely tempting.

By this time, they'd travelled through the Living Forest, wastelands, mountainous terrain, and had just reached the acid-pool ridden swamp, all without encountering a single enemy. Scorpion had given up all hope that there was an actual group of rogues for him to exterminate.

The suspicion had been lingering in the back of his mind for the last two days, but he was only now starting to believe it.

Shao Kahn was fucking with him.

Scorpion slowed his stride by one of the acerbic cesspools and turned his head to glare tiredly in Mileena's direction.

She was standing at the edge of an embankment, poking something floating in the acid with a stick.

"You're almost there!" she said encouragingly, watching the body float closer to the embankment. "Come on...almost...!"

There was a faint splash as Mileena purposely jabbed the body away with the stick, breaking into cackles as it floated farther out in the pool. "Aww, so close!"

Scorpion was too jaded by her crazy behaviour to feel anything much beyond annoyance. He briefly considered sneaking up behind her and shoving her into the acid when Mileena suddenly laughed again.

"Look at you, fizzing like that. You must be a freshie."

Scorpion stilled, turning his head for a better look at the corpse. He grew tense when he noticed that the body was, indeed, fresh, its flesh still bubbling in the acid.

A shallow splash sounded somewhere in the distance.

Suddenly alert, he started off in that direction, pausing long enough to call sharply over his shoulder. "Mileena!"

She froze. Turning her head slowly, she saw him beckon impatiently for her to follow.

He said my name, she realized faintly, dropping the stick. He said my name.

She stumbled drunkenly after him and followed him as though floating on a cloud, the haze of her euphoria lasting until he came to an abrupt stop at the edge of the swamp and she walked straight into his back.

Throwing her an irritated look, he glanced back out at the landscape.

At first nothing was visible in the thick mist, but then she picked up on several dark shapes approaching through the fog.

When the figures finally emerged into the clearing, she felt Scorpion tense beside her.

They looked like the majority of Outworld natives save for their almost-troll like appearance and abnormal girth. The brown cloaks they wore were obviously for concealment, both from Shao Kahn's army and to keep their weapons hidden. The fact that they were still freshly splattered in blood and grinning maliciously gave Scorpion the grim satisfaction of knowing he'd finally found his targets.

"What's this?" the leader said with a leering look at Mileena. "Shao Kahn's welcoming committee?"

"State your purpose," Scorpion said coldly.

The leader shrugged and glanced around at his group, his grin widening as several more figures began emerging from the mist.

"We have but one purpose; to take back what is rightfully ours and mount Kahn's head on a pike."

Mileena bristled.

"You dare mock the emperor?" she hissed, drawing her sais. "I'll have your head on a pike!"

He sneered. "Strong words for a woman. We owe Kahn no allegiance. The Dragon King Onaga is the only true emperor."

The leader circled around to face Mileena, bringing his spear to his side. "Shao Kahn usurped his throne, so we will return the favour during this fruitless invasion."

Mileena was so incensed that she failed to notice that they'd been completely surrounded, only realizing it when she prepared to strike and suddenly backed into something. Turning her head, her heart almost stopped in her chest when Scorpion gave her a harried look over his shoulder and spoke in an aggravated undertone.

"This side is mine. Take the other half."

Her anger evaporated instantly, heart swelling in happiness at his unexpected acknowledgment. Resolving not to disappoint him, Mileena leaned against him ever so slightly and whispered back.

"With pleasure."

An instant later, the fighters on Scorpion's side lunged forward all at once to overpower him, only to burst into flames when hellfire erupted beneath their feet. Taking advantage of the others' stupefied expressions while their comrades tried to stop, drop and roll, Scorpion immediately put his fist through the nearest one's stomach, kicked another into the acid pool, and split the remainder up the middle with his sword.

Where Scorpion left the ground covered in gore and burnt viscera, Mileena felt as though the muddy landscape had transformed into a utopian dreamland. She fought in a state of blissful unawareness, the sounds of screams and her sais hitting bone sounding like music to her ears, the streams of blood flying around her refracting into rainbows in the sun light.

She couldn't be happier.

Here they were, fighting back to back, laying waste to all those around them. Just like in her fantasies.

The enemies were dropping like flies, too cumbersome and weak to keep up with her lightning-quick assaults and Scorpion's sheer brutality.

In the end, only one remained, swaying unsteadily on his feet as he pointed his spear between the two of them.

Mileena didn't even need to look at Scorpion to anticipate their next move.

Raising her arm in tandem with his, they rushed the remaining enemy and slammed their arms into his neck in a perfectly synced double lariat. Mileena felt her heart swell with joy as their gazes met over the exchange, time seeming to slow down even as their victim's head popped off like a cork and sailed majestically into the sky overhead.

The gush of blood erupting from his neck may as well have been a fountain of sparkles and rainbows, raining down in a glimmering shower as the body collapsed between them and their arms slowly touched.

In that moment, Mileena could have easily died with no regrets.

But then she caught a stir of movement through the bloody mist, eyes widening at the glint of a spear being raised.

She seized Scorpion's arm and yanked him forward with surprising force, using the momentum to hurl herself straight at the leader and his spear.

The impulsive move would have been suicidal if she hadn't caught the spear in the prongs of her sai and twisted it out of his grip at the very last second.

Slamming it through his foot, Mileena took her weapons into her hands and finished him in a way that was exceptionally vicious, even for her.

She rammed her sais into his midsection six times, lodging them deep inside before planting her foot against his chest and tearing his head clean off. Then, as the body collapsed in a twitching heap, she tossed the head into the air and punted it into the swamp.

It landed with a distant splash.

Chest heaving, she reached down and wrenched her sais out of the corpse, kicking it once more with a snarl before turning back around.

Scorpion was standing a few feet away, surrounded by corpses. He was watching her with narrowed eyes.

Suddenly unsure of herself, Mileena put her sais away and looked around aimlessly, hoping one of them was still alive just so she could avoid answering what he was inevitably going to ask.

Her uncertainty was obvious, but Scorpion was unmerciful.

"Why did you do that?"

Mileena only looked at him, still trying to catch her breath as she processed his question.

He sounded almost accusatory, as if suspicious of her intentions.

It didn't surprise her. For the first time in her life, she'd acted out of more than just bloodlust and fury. She'd acted out of an overwhelming desire to protect, an emotion that was completely alien to her up until now.

In her attempt to save his life, she could've grievously injured or even killed herself.

She found that he was still waiting for a response when she raised her eyes, realizing she only had to look at him to learn the answer.

"I would do anything for you," she said reverently.

He only stared at her, expression unreadable.

Mileena laughed suddenly, gesturing to the massacre around them before making a futile attempt at dispelling the blood from her arms.

"Look at me!" she exclaimed, wringing blood from her hair. "I've never gotten so messy playing before! We make a good team, don't we?"

Scorpion didn't reply, instead turning away and walking over to one of the nearby corpses. Mileena watched, vaguely curious as he tugged the brown mantle off the body. Then he tucked it under his arm and resumed walking into the swamp.

She briefly wondered what he intended to do with it before she shrugged it off and moved to follow.

The sky slowly grew dark as they left the acid pools behind them. Mileena followed contentedly from behind, still basking in the experience at the swamp and noticing that he was slowly growing more tolerating of her presence.

Instead of trying to burn her or stab her when she got too close, he simply started shoving her away, usually near a bottomless pit or cavern. Mileena didn't mind, though, enjoying the brief moments of contact.

An hour later, they emerged into a landscape of rocky outcrops and sparse forest. The current of a river glistened in the distance.

He didn't have to speak to let her know they'd reached their stop for the night, and Mileena happily dropped her belongings into a comfortable niche between the rocks and trees.

Scorpion left her there and went to the river to clean the blood off his armour, thankful for the peace and quiet by the water's edge. He'd just finished rinsing the last of the stains off his arms when he heard running footsteps behind him and glanced over his shoulder.

He barely moved from the riverbank in time, narrowly avoiding being splashed when Mileena dove headfirst into the water.

She came to the surface a moment later, sighing in delight as he scowled at her. "Oh, this feels so good! All that blood made me so itchy."

That was believable enough. He'd been splattered head to toe, but Mileena had looked as though she'd bathed in it.

"You're leaving already?" she asked when he started up the bank. "Come join me!"

He gave her a withering look. There were a thousand things wrong with that suggestion, none of which he could deign to mention.

Continuing up the riverbank, he made his way back to their camp for the night. The past three nights had found her sleeping and eating alone while he disappeared off somewhere, since neither food nor prolonged rest were things he required.

But this time he settled down near their belongings, effortlessly starting a fire in the dirt.

Like he'd anticipated, the temperature dropped sharply out here in the outskirts. The cold was not much of a bother, but the fire would be a good deterrent to any dangerous animals roaming the area.

But like all good things, the peaceful quiet didn't last. Mileena scampered up the hillside a moment later, drenched and shivering. Scorpion ignored her as she sat down, settling for examining the state of his spear.

As she leaned closer to the fire, Mileena wondered how he could stand the chill until she took a closer look and suddenly understood.

Fascinated, she watched the water evaporate off his skin in lazy plumes of steam, dissipating into the air around him. Within a minute, he was completely dry.

"Not fair," she said, raising her arm and watching the water drip into the dirt. "I can't do that and I'm totally soaked. There's water everywhere..."

Scorpion got to his feet, drawing the bundled cloak from under his arm.

"In my hair, in my shoes...even between my—"

He threw it in her face.

Mileena pulled the cloak off her head, leaving her hair a ruffled mess as she looked up at him questioningly.

The contempt was plain in his voice, but he didn't sound angry.

"You lack foresight."

Then he turned around and left.

Mileena stared after him, confused. Then she looked back down at the cloak in her hands.

Back there, she realized suddenly. When he'd picked it up after the battle. She hadn't known it then, but he must have done it because...he'd known she'd need it.

He'd gotten it just for her.

Mileena balled the cloak and buried her face in it, squealing at the top of her lungs and kicking her legs ecstatically until she toppled backwards off her seat.

Scorpion returned a few minutes later, sparing her a glance but not reacting to the sight of her sitting there in the cloak. She sat with her chin resting in her hands, watching him with a rather unnerving expression.

Ignoring her, he sat by the fire and took his swords from their sheaths, resting them across his knees. Then he drew out a whetstone and began sharpening the blades.

Mileena watched him the entire time, gaze unwavering. The fire looked lovely glistening over the gilded hilts of his swords and armour, devouring the sparks that flew off the blades.

She admired how careful and methodical he was with his weapons, how he took his time ensuring the sharpness of each one before starting on the next. He was just about to start sharpening the blade of his spear when he suddenly stopped and looked up.

"What?" he said irritably.

Mileena blinked. "Hm?"

"What are you staring at?"

She blinked again before a dreamy smile crossed her face. "Hmm, nothing. Just you."

Her smile grew into a grin when that familiar, annoyed crease appeared between his eyes.

When he returned his attention to his spear, the sight of the glinting point reminded her that her sais had taken quite a beating after she'd rammed them repeatedly into that troll.

"Can I use it?" she asked when he put his weapons away.

Scorpion would've replied with a blunt "no" in any other situation. But giving her something to do would at least spare him her endless gawking for a little while.

Mileena started when he tossed the stone to her over the fire. She caught it in both hands as he got up and walked over to sit beneath a nearby tree.

It was still warm from his grip.

Holding it against her heart for a moment to relish its warmth, she threw him an adoring look before she started sharpening the sais.

The sky darkened into inky blackness, casting her surroundings into the pitch where the firelight didn't reach. The ring of steel on the stone was rather soothing to her, so she sat there for nearly half an hour carefully sharpening her weapons until they shone lethally in the dim light. Satisfied, she put them away and stretched, lifting her head.

To her surprise, Scorpion was still sitting beneath the dead tree. He looked as though he hadn't moved at all.

It took her a few seconds to realize that he seemed to be...sleeping.

Funny, she mused, she'd never figured spectres to need sleep. But then again if he could bleed and get injured, then the thought of him needing rest every now and then didn't seem too farfetched.

Mileena only had to look at him a little while longer before a crazy idea crossed her mind.

Yes, the extremely tiny, rational part of her brain told her. That is extremely crazy and extremely dangerous. Maybe you should sleep instead. Sleep is good.

But Mileena didn't listen to logic at the best of times, so she sure as hell wasn't going to listen now when every molecule of her being was straining towards the object of her love. Her heart was doing somersaults again as she gazed yearningly in his direction, her fingers subconsciously lacing in her lap.

In the last twenty-four hours, they'd gotten closer than ever before. They'd fought side by side, she had saved his life, he hadn't made an active attempt to kill her, he had gotten her the cloak, and just now he'd even shared his belongings.

Mileena stood up as though controlled by some outside force, her steps soundless as she crept over to him. He was silent and unmoving, his back to the tree and head bent slightly towards the ground.

She knelt next to him, hardly daring to breathe and heart racing as her eyes flicked over his form and the hand that lay still by his side. She knew she was being foolhardy when she reached out—insane, even—but all her rationalities seemed unimportant now. She just had to do it.

Her hand hovered over his for a few seconds, gradually lowering till her fingertips brushed his. She'd hardly touched him when a flash of steel cut across her vision and the rough terrain and Scorpion's knees were digging into her sides and back.

Mileena didn't know whether to be chagrined or thrilled when she found herself pinned to the dirt, the sharp edge of his sword pressing up against her throat.

His eyes were narrowed dangerously in the dim light.

"What were you doing?"

"Nothing," she answered breathlessly. "Just checking something."

The sword cut into the fabric of her veil. "What?"

Mileena mouthed wordlessly for a few seconds, racking her brain for an answer. Granted, having him on top of her was a fulfillment of some of her wildest fantasies, but the increasing weight of the blade against her throat was putting a damper on her enjoyment. It was only when she felt his knees dig into her sides that it suddenly came to her.

"Your pants," she managed to utter, "what are they made out of?"

The look that came over his face—or what little she could see of it—was absolutely priceless.

"Is it leather?" she hazarded.

Scorpion suddenly rose to his feet with a growl of aggravation and stalked off.

Mileena quickly stood up and took a few steps after him.

"Don't be mad!" she called beseechingly. "I was just curious!"

Scorpion ignored her, stomping off in a fit of pique.

It boggled the mind to think how long she'd lasted as an assassin with such deranged behaviour. Sneaking up on him like that? Touching him? And admitting she'd done it for such an absurd reason?

The woman had a death wish.

He wound up putting several miles of distance between him and the campsite, needing time to calm down so he wouldn't immediately kill her when he got back.

Several hours later, he returned feeling slightly more relaxed, finding her asleep and wrapped up in the brown cloak beneath the tree. He stood there for a few seconds, watching her warily to make sure she wasn't faking.

Once he was assured she was really asleep, he walked back over to his spot by the fire, feeling mildly surprised by the sight of his whetstone set neatly on top of his seat. Pocketing it, he circled around the rock to sit down when he caught sight of something on the ground.

Canting his head, he peered down at what looked like a drawing in the dirt.

The sketch was rudimentary and childish in its execution, appearing as though it had been done with a stick. It was an extremely cartoonish version of him, looking peeved and standoffish. Beside him, Mileena had drawn herself happily latched onto his side in a hug.

Scorpion stared at it blankly.

After a while, he raised his head and looked towards the base of the tree.

She was still sleeping.

As he brought his foot up to the picture and began erasing it, Scorpion cast a dark look in her direction and came to a grim conclusion.

The conniving harpy was going to be the death of him.

Beneath the tree, Mileena drew the mantle over her face to muffle her giggles, glad she'd taken the time to leave a more permanent memento at the site before they left the next day.

The only downside, she discovered the next morning, was not thinking of a proper excuse for her laughter when Scorpion walked right past it, completely oblivious to the heart and the "M x S" carved into the tree.