I can't believe we're actually going to do this," Shu grumped as the pair made their way back to the tree.
Marine shrugged, "It's not like we have anything better to do. Besides, this could get very entertaining."
"If you say so. What I'm wondering is how we're going to get that guy, Keats, to cooperate."
Marine grinned, "Blackmail, coercion... Nah, I think the less he knows, the better the plan will work."
"What plan? Yikes, Marine. I really, really don't like that look."
Marine laughed cheerfully, "Ah, don't worry. That's a little ways off. First, we'll need to get some information out of Ellen."
"A little ale should do the trick," Shu offered, cackling devilishly.
"Shu, we need her to like us. Getting her drunk on her first visit may not be the best way to accomplish that."
"For now, let's just figure out what questions will be appropriate without giving ourselves away. She's shy, so we'll have to be delicate."
Shu shook his head, "You will have to be delicate."
Marine tilted her head at him, "You're not helping?"
"Not a chance. It's hard enough to stay masculine with this color scheme. Participating in 'girl-talks' would totally set me over the edge."
"Since when have you ever been masculine?"
"I'll pretend you didn't just say that. You work on the lady, I'll talk around with the other faerys to see if they'd be interested in helping to pull off whatever grand scheme you and the other halflives decide on."
Marine paused, "That's actually a really good idea."
"All of my ideas are really good," Shu claimed smugly.
"Right," Marine agreed sarcastically, raising an eyebrow at him, "Let's grab some lunch, then we'll get down to business."
It wasn't long after Shu left to go seek out the other faerys that Ellen showed up.
"Ah, Ellen. Welcome to our humble abode," Marine said graciously, ushering the young woman into the sitting room, "Shu is out taking care of some things, so it's just us for now. Did you find us alright?"
Ellen nodded, "Yes, I had Belgae show me the way."
"And he didn't come in? Heh, I hope I didn't scare him away."
"No, he said he had to take care of some things back in the Endless Corridor."
"Ah, that makes sense. Tea?"
Marine brought in two cups of tea, handing one to Ellen before sitting down on her woven couch.
"So..." An awkward moment of silence passed between them.
"How long have you and Grumpy been together?" Marine asked, deciding to get down to business, as small talk was not her forte.
"Grumpy?" A confused look passed over Ellen's face, "Oh, you mean Keats?" She chuckled, "I've known him about a year, but we're not 'together.' Just friends."
"Oh, I'm sorry. That was a bit pretentious of me, wasn't it? I tought for sure you were dating."
A faint blush lit the young messenger's cheeks, "No, nothing like that."
Marine allowed a knowing smile slip through, "But you want to?"
"How did you-"
"Sweety, it's written all over your face."
Ellen frowned slightly, "It's that obvious?"
"Yep. So why haven't you talked to him about it?"
"Well, he's... Keats is very..."
"Grumpy?" Marine offered.
Ellen laughed nervously, "It's not just that. I've tried dropping hints before, but..."
"Oh, so grumpy and dim. Wonderful."
"I wouldn't say that," Ellen protested, "I just..."
Marine shook her head, "I'm kidding... Partially. So maybe you need to be more bold. You'd need something like a slap in the face."
"But I don't want to slap Keats in the face," Ellen muttered, staring into her tea.
Marine raised an eyebrow at her, resisting the urge to facepalm,"Obviously. I said like a slap in the face. I didn't mean you should actually slap him!"
"Oh, of course!" Ellen shook her head, "how silly of me."
Marine was about to agree, but thought the better of it upon deeper contemplation.
"So what should I do?"
"You could kiss him."
Ellen's eyes went wide as she nearly choked on her tea, "Wh-what? I could never-"
"Why not? You like him, don't you?"
"Well, yes, but..."
Ellen sighed, "I don't know if he... Feels the same."
"Oh. I suppose that does make a difference."
"I'd like to think that he does. I mean, he's always been there to rescue me when I get into trouble... And while he says I distract him from his work, he's never actually asked me to leave. But Keats... He's so hard to read."
Marine nodded, "A typical male. Still, I think you should go for it. The look on his face would be worth it on it's own."
"But... I don't want to jeopardize our friendship."
It was Marine's turn to sigh, as she leaned back, "Yes, I can see your point. Hmm... What to do?"
"I've been asking myself that for the last three months," Ellen muttered unhelpfully.
"Ah, don't worry. I'm sure we'll think of something."
Both girls jumped as the door opened.
"Well, hello to you too," Shu said grumpily, "Hey, Ellen."
"Oh, it's just Shu."
The tiny faery rolled his eyes, "Yeah. Just me. And don't thank me or anything, but I brought you some more roots for your tea."
"Okay. I won't thank you," Marine agreed, taking the small basket and patting her companion on the head.
Shu made an unhappy noise in his throat, ducking out of the way,"I"m going upstairs for some sleep. See you lot later."
Marine frowned after him, hands on her hips, "Well then!"
Ellen chuckled, "I thought that, with all those bright colors, he'd be more cheerful."
"I think it's the bright colors that make him grumpy... Hmm, he and Keats would get along well, don't you think?"
"Naturally. They could be soul mates. I should be heading back as well. Thank you for the tea, it was very good. You make your own, don't you?"
"Sure do. It's a little different every time, I never quite know what I'm going to get. I should have you over again some time to sample some of the new flavors- Shu insists that they all taste like muddy water, even though that only happened once."
"I'd love to. I'll see you later, Marine."
"Yep, stop by whenever you like. Good luck with your man problem."
Ellen blushed,"You make it sound like there's more than one!"
Marine laughed, sending the young woman along with a cheerful wave, "I was kidding, Ellen! Lighten up a little!"
A/N: Sorry, sorry! It's short AND I'm late on the update. *gets bricked* I'm not really thrilled with how this chapter worked out, but the more I tweaked it, the worse it got, so...
Anyway, reviews make me write faster!