DISCLAIMERS:The Slayers? Not mine. Le Sigh. The Slayers are copyrighted 1989-2002 Hajime Kanzaka, Rui Araizumi, Kadokawa Shoten, TV TOKYO, SOFTX, Marubeni. No money made. Fanfiction only, written because I'm nuts about the characters, or maybe just plain nuts. A character which has a brief cameo in Chapter 1, Arianna, belongs to Unoriginality.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is the sequel to The Illusion of Truth. I will say right now, this is not going to be a fun ride. The middle of a trilogy is usually the darkest, after all, and I didn't name this "All Through the Night" for no reason. Keep your hankies ready. And a final note, I really DO adore Xellos and Filia as a couple! But he's such an excellent villain too. And remember, folks, feedback's to a writer what negative emotions are to a Mazoku; yummy and vastly appreciated.
~ Zanne

All Through the Night
by Zanne Chaos

Chapter One

There weren't many times in his life when Jillas had considered something to be beyond repair, or a situation to be completely devoid of hope. He was usually able to fix things even after everyone else had written it off as being good only for the scrap heap, and then there was that little phrase he recalled his mother quoting from time to time.

Wherever there is life, there is always hope.

In a twist of bitter irony, he could hear her voice in his memory reciting that, long after the screams had died. He had laughed then, not from humor, but from bitter despair and hatred of such a trite and meaningless cluster of words.

Everyone had been dead. The village was in flames. Bodies lay strewn about, some of which he could identify. He was pinned to a post by arrows which had all somehow missed vital organs. There was no way to get free, and soon, the flames would reach him. Soon, he'd be with everyone else.

Wherever there is life, there is always hope.

At first, Jillas had thought he was seeing things, going mad from pain and smoke. A silhouetted figure drew closer, and then, he thought it might have been Death itself in the flesh.

The reality had not been anything quite so dramatic. But it wasn't until some months later, as he gradually recovered from his injuries under Lord Valgaav's care, that the words came back.

Wherever there is life, there is always hope.

For the first time, the little foxman believed in that phrase wholeheartedly. Even when his world turned upside down again, he didn't give up the hope that somehow, things would be all right once more. That hope saw materiality yet again with the discovery that Lord Valgaav had somehow survived.

He wasn't quite ready to give up on that hope, not after it had been realized several times over. But it was hard to hold on.

He finished wiping fingerprints off a lacquered black vase Filia had made, and carefully set it back down on the shelf. Before he picked up the next, he glanced over his shoulder to the violet-haired man who stood behind the counter as he had every day that week, a far too cheerful smile on his face.

Oh, yes. It was very hard to hold on.

It was hard to believe that somehow, things would work themselves out with that Mazoku here. It was hard to believe when he could hear Filia sobbing in the dark, late each night. It was hard to believe when he couldn't figure out a way for the life of him how to fix things.

Jillas was pulled out of his reverie by the shiny brass cowbell above the shop door. Gravos had helped Filia hang it there months ago, tied up with a bright pink ribbon laced with miniature sleigh bells so tiny, the faint chiming they made could barely be heard even in silence.

Accompanying the opening door was a faint rush of air perfumed with roses and underscored by a delicious melody of scents that eluded capture. Even before he heard the nearly-silent barefoot padding of her feet, he knew the customer's identity.

"Good morning, everyone," announced a feminine voice, barely louder than the miniature sleigh bells on the ribbon several feet above her.

Jillas poked his head around the shelf, finally catching sight of the familiar, long, white-blonde hair. Xellos beat him to any response, so he opted to quietly continue working. Maybe Ari wouldn't know anything was off the mark.

"Good day, miss."

Her blue eyes, so much like Filia's, met his for a brief moment, then moved to Xellos.

"Are you the new help?" Ari asked him. "I'm not familiar with you."

"I am simply tending to the shop for Miss Filia while she recovers," Xellos cheerfully replied. "Is there something which I might help you with?"

Jillas caught the movement of shadows on the wall as she turned from the Mazoku, moving to where she could snag Jillas' attention once more. "Mr. Jillas, is this true?"

She walked up to his side, and Jillas marveled, not for the first time, how tall she actually was. Her frame and build was so slight, she seemed smaller than her actual five foot nine. He hesitated, considering his answer, shifting his gaze to Xellos for a brief heartbeat before looking back to Ari.

"She...she has sustained some injuries." There. The truth. But it would protect Lord Valgaav too.

"Oh, I do hope she'll be all right. You'll let me know when she's better, won't you?" Ari asked Jillas.

He managed a smile for her. "Sure will, Miss Ari."

It was always so unusual to see her smile; there was just something about her which made one seem out of place, or perhaps just unused to that particular expression. But Jillas noted he could usually make her smile at least once a visit. Now if he could only just be able to do the same for Filia again.

Ari turned back to Xellos. "I'm afraid I nearly forgot my business and my manners both. My name is Arianna, but as you can see, I'm simply known as Ari around here. And you?"

That smile was still plastered on the Mazoku's face. Jillas idly wondered if it made everyone's skin crawl, or only those who knew what he truly was. "Greetings, Miss Arianna. I am Xellos, a friend of Miss Filia's."

Jillas bit back a comment and resumed dusting.

Ari was quiet for a moment longer than normal, then greeted Xellos before moving on to discuss the order Jillas knew she had come to retrieve; a fine sword he and Gravos had forged, and a pretty little tea set Filia had made. "I have an order for a small tea set with roses and a specially-designed sword. The records will show the sword under the name Kazeno Tenshi I believe."

"Certainly, Miss Arianna. If you'll wait for just a moment," Xellos said, reaching under the counter for the large black book in which Filia would make note of her custom requests. "Ah, yes. Here we are." He gave her a beaming smile. "If you'll wait one moment longer, I shall retrieve them for you."

Jillas watched him step into the modified closet, which doubled as a storage room.

"I'm afraid I sensed the subject might be bad to bring up around Mr. Xellos," Ari suddenly said as she turned back to Jillas, approaching him. Her normally soft voice was even more breathy and faint. "What happened to Mr. Valgaav?"

Jillas really didn't know how to answer that. "He's...he left." He tried to keep down the sniffle which was stinging his nose, but didn't quite make it.

Ari had just detached her coinpurse from her belt, and it slipped through her fingers in surprise, landing on the floor with a muffled clan. "He what?"

"It's a long story, and I don't really understand it, but--"

Jillas was cut off by Xellos' annoyingly lighthearted voice, and Arianna jumped, startled.

"But I'm afraid it's connected to the reason for Miss Filia to be quite gravely injured, although I anticipate she'll make a full recovery." He smiled brightly, setting the boxes on the counter. "Are these what you ordered, Miss Arianna?"

"I didn't see you there, Mr. Xellos, I'm sorry." Ari walked back to the counter, and inspected the contents, looking over the tea set first before hefting the sword, holding it with an air of calm self-possession that only comes with experience. She moved it experimentally, testing the grip of the handle as well as the weight, and inspected the workmanship of the blade.

"Yes, these are absolutely perfect. Please tell Mr. Gravos and Miss Filia they've completely astounded me again with their craftsmanship. And tell Miss Filia I wish her a speedy recovery," Ari said as she returned the sword to its box, and straightened her patched, and slightly frayed scandalously small skirt. "How much do I owe?"

Xellos consulted the book. "From the notations here, it would seem that a price has been agreed upon." He quoted the cost which Filia had listed, and Jillas waited.

"That sounds very reasonable."

He was used to Ari haggling with one of them for the sport of it, but this time, she didn't. Ari wasn't just acting nervous. She smelled nervous. Jillas knew she was a sharp one, and surmised she picked up on the undercurrents.

She paid out the coins to the correct sum, then returned the purse to her belt. "I believe I'll be on my way." The way she lifted the two boxes belied the strength her slim frame concealed. "Have a nice day, you two."

Jillas moved to the door, opening it for her, and as she passed through, her eyes met his in a brief, sympathetic glance.

He couldn't take another minute in the shop, which had suddenly become stuffy as the scent of roses and other faint spices evaporated. Gravos had the right idea, preferring to keep to himself out back by the forge. He tucked the polishing rag away on his belt, and slipped out the rear door into the house, avoiding Xellos' closed-eyed gaze.

In the kitchen, he hesitated, not certain what to do next. The grandfather clock chimed the late morning hour, and he decided to see if Filia was awake yet.

Jillas quietly crept up to the doorway and peeked in, not wanting to disturb Filia if she happened to be resting. When he saw her though, he couldn't keep back a tiny whimper. The sound caught her ears, and Filia tore her gaze from the window as she wiped the silent tears off her cheeks.

"Come in, Jillas," she said softly.

He hurried in to her bedside. "How are you feeling, oneesan?" Filia looked at her hands, staying silent for such a long time, Jillas started to worry even more than he usually did. "Oneesan?"

"Old, Jillas," she finally whispered. "I feel old. Old and tired." She lay her head back on the pillows, staring at the ceiling. "It feels as though I've lived a lifetime in a year."

"Oneesan!" He carefully hugged her, crying onto her shoulder. "It will be okay."

"Of course it will, Jillas." Her tone said more than her words. It wasn't condescending, but a weary recital of the proper thing to say. Filia patted his back softly. "Don't trouble yourself so."

He pulled away to sit up, looking at her and sniffling. Her whole demeanor frightened him, the broken resignation he was seeing in her eyes. "What can I do, oneesan? There must be something I can do to fix this."

Filia merely stared out the window, her gaze far away. Her face remained expressionless, but Jillas thought he saw the beginning of a bitter smile briefly twist at her mouth before it too faded. Finally, she spoke. "There is nothing to be done."

"You can't just give up," he pleaded.

Filia closed her eyes. "I've lain here a week. I have thought of nothing else but for a way out." She shook her head. "There is none. It's over."

"It's not fair..."

"I'm beginning to realize life never is. Life is darkness. It's the light that's temporary and quite artificial."

Jillas shook his head slowly, more in disbelief than in protest. "Oneesan, that can't be true."

"It's sweet you think so. I've lost everything twice over, and I...I can't afford to maintain hope anymore. It's too costly."

"You haven't lost everything," he timidly ventured. "You still have me and boss."

Her eyes drifted to his as a small, sad smile touched her lips, and she reached out, patting his cheek gently. "That I do. Believe me when I say I'm very well aware of this, and that it's done more good than you know."

He hugged her again, a little more tightly than before. "If you can't afford hope, oneesan, I'll find a way to get enough for the both of us."

She hugged him with a sudden fierceness that took his breath away, burying her face in his fur. He heard a few choking tremors coming from deep within her as she fought down sobs, and then the slow, shuddering sigh as she won the battle. When she pulled away, her eyes were moist.

"I'm so sorry, Jillas. It just all hurts too much to feel anything else."

"I know, oneesan." He thought for a moment, then looked at her. "I have something which you might be able to hold onto."

"What's that?"

"It was a one in a million chance you found Lord Valgaav, and a one in a million chance he even survived. You both beat those odds. I don't think the Fates would have let that happen just for this to go down." He picked up a handkerchief and pressed it to her cheek, and she took a hand from her eyes just long enough to cover her face with it, muffling her sobs. "I think it will be okay in the end, somehow. Someday."

Filia nodded shakily. "Okay, Jillas," she whispered, heaving a deep, quivering sigh and sniffled.

"There, there. Rest now. I'll bring you dinner later." He helped her scoot down the bed and get comfortable, and gently patted her head. "Call for me if you need me."

"If I told you I felt bruised and sore inside," Filia whispered, "would you understand what I meant?"

It was Jillas' turn to be quiet for a moment. "Better than you realize, oneesan. Better than you realize. Now rest." He helped her scoot back down the bed and tucked the covers up to her chin. Jillas sat on the nearby chair, and reached out to stroke Filia's hair back from her forehead soothingly, waiting until she fell asleep before he left.

Things would be all right. They had to be. He would find a way to fix everything, somehow.

He didn't have the faintest clue how, but they were alive, and that was always a good place to start.

Wherever there is life, there is always hope.

to be continued...