A/N: A story of Zelgadis and Xellos, and one of the many ways I perceive their oftentimes-complicated relationship.

"An Excuse To Cry"

Xellos looked down on the bloodied, broken figure lying in the devastated street before him and nudged it slightly with the butt of his staff. The figure's remaining eye snapped open, astonishingly clear even in the dim light of the setting sun, all the fires of the sky reflected on sapphire and slit pupil.

"Hello there, my old friend," Xellos greeted the figure quietly, crouching next to him. "I can taste your pain. Not dead yet, then?"

"No, not yet," Zelgadis Greywers replied hoarsely, half-shrugging and ignoring the pain it caused.

"But you are going to be, yes?" The mazoku cocked an eyebrow at him.

Zelgadis didn't answer him at first, just offered another half-shrug. "Seems that way," he admitted finally, his voice barely audible to anything but the super-hearing of the mazoku before him.

"Do tell. I suppose I could make you a mazoku if you'd like," Xellos offered after another moment of silence had passed.

"Why?" Zelgadis looked honestly curious.

"Well, so you won't die," the priest replied, a little surprised by the question.

"No reason not to die, though," Zelgadis said, pausing briefly to cough. Xellos watched silently as blood splattered across his glove. "Be selfish of me just to live for my own purposes and not because I still had something important to do with my life."

Xellos raised his eyebrow again, this time skeptically, and helped the chimera sit upright, supporting him against his side. "So you don't mind dying?"

"Just a bit," he confessed, though his expression suggested that he was more worried than he let on. "But it's not the worst way to die. I killed the mazoku who was terrorizing Seyruun, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did," Xellos allowed. "Amelia, no doubt, will have a very nice funeral for you once she recovers from her own injuries. Lina might even cry when she hears the news, and that's certainly something to brag about; moving the Enemy of All Who Live to tears."

"I really don't want to be anyone's excuse to cry, Xellos." Zelgadis sighed deeply and let his good eye drift up to the sky. "Blood red sunset," he remarked offhandedly. "Not such a bad thing to die under."

"Certainly not," Xellos agreed cheerfully, smiling down at him. "Why, as I recall, the sky looked rather like this the day I killed the Golds."

"Did it? Huh, that's interesting. I would've liked . . . to live a bit longer though," Zelgadis murmured, his eye dimming slightly. "I wanted to see Amelia grow up . . . and we did have that bet going about when Lina and Gourry would finally get married."

Xellos chuckled. "If you had lived to see that, you would have been very old indeed, Zelgadis," he said in an amused tone, teasingly poking the chimera's nose. Zelgadis laughed too, but it quickly turned into a body- wracking cough. Xellos held the other man to his side with one arm until the fit subsided.

"Thanks," Zelgadis said a bit shortly, still struggling for breath.

"You're welcome, Zel-kun!" Xellos chirped, smiling sweetly as ever.

The chimera sighed briefly, letting himself relax against Xellos's shoulder. "Thank you, Xellos," he said quietly. "I didn't really want to die alone."

Xellos smiled again. "I know, Zel-kun. Did you think I would let you?" He chuckled once. "I like you the best, after all."

Zelgadis smirked a bit and rolled his eyes. "Whatever, fruitcake," he snorted. "But . . . for what it might be worth, I don't hate you."

"I never believed that you did." Xellos tilted his head back and let his eyes fall open, remembering many other sunsets, and the many other people that had watched them with him. "Oh, yes, Zel-kun," he whispered happily, a giggle bubbling up and spilling out past his lips. "I most definitely like you the best."

"You're my favorite too," Zelgadis murmured almost fondly, and Xellos's smile only widened.

A slow, soft sigh, and Xellos had one less person to watch the sunset with. His smile didn't fade, though; instead it widened just a fraction further.

After all, he did not smile for the living, who knew so little of pain and suffering. Xellos smiled for the sake of the dead, who truly needed it.

Besides- Zelgadis wouldn't want to be remembered as another excuse to cry.

* ende *