by Writer and the Hoyden
Her head hurt. A lot.
Lina moaned slightly and attempted to open her leaden eyes. It felt like a troll was busily pounding on her skull, and having a fun time of it, too...
What the hell happened? They'd been sitting in a tavern, and Xellos was spooking the rest of them with a tale about nights when the moon glowed like the eyes of the Lord of Nightmares. Amelia had squeaked with fright when he continued on with some nonsense about dreamers passing from one world to the next, and Zelgadis had clunked down his coffee cup and had thoroughly berated the Trickster Priest for doling out such absurdities. Then there had an outburst, men with swords...a sorcerer? They had surprised even Xellos, it had seemed.
Now, why was Xellos the last thing she could recall? Xellos, eyes open, shouting her name in warning...
Lina's eyes flew open at last, and she sat up with a start. Too quickly, in fact-- the room whirled unsteadily in her vision. Hold on a second-- Room? Wasn't I outside? Alarmed, she glanced around, ruby eyes darting about almost wildly.
Yes, she was indeed in a room. A very nice room, by any standards. She had been lying in the center of a positively enormous bed, with... satin sheets? She nodded rather dumbly to herself. And a velvet coverlet...
Early evening sunlight streamed through the wide floor-to-ceiling windows, and beyond the glass panes Lina could see flowers and trees. Apple trees. Their pale blossoms looked cheerful and welcoming; peaceful, really.
Where am I? the young sorceress wondered. And where are the others?
A noise disrupted her thoughts. A slight indrawn breath from across the room. And then, a voice.
"Lina, love, you're awake!"
Lina froze. It can't be...
She turned her head. It was.
"Xellos?" She squeaked, hardly able to believe her eyes. There stood the Trickster Priest, but he looked... different. Different clothes-- snug black pants, a flowing white shirt, and a touchable-looking black vest. His hair was a touch longer, it seemed, and was held back in a messy ponytail from which numerous strands escaped to frame his face with midnight purple silk. And where was his staff? His hands were ungloved and devoid of any magical implements.
But most of all, it was his eyes. Open, those amethyst jewels stared at her, and in them she saw concern, relief, and-- what? Lina swallowed hard. His usual smiling mask was gone, to be replaced with almost startling honesty.
He walked quickly to the bed. "Lina, dear, how do you feel? I was so worried about you..." He reached out a hand to touch her face, and Lina flinched, blushing.
WHAT IS GOING ON?! her mind shrieked, but her mouth uncharacteristically couldn't find the words.
Xellos frowned ever so slightly. "What is it, Lina? Do you feel ill? You've been sick for so long..."
Lina opened her mouth. "...Sick? I've been... sick?" No, that's not right! At least... I don't THINK it is...
Xellos nodded solemnly. "We almost lost you... I almost lost you." And with this, he leaned in and pressed his lips to Lina's. Inexperienced though she was, she could feel the utter desperation in the kiss, and the trembling arms that encircled her caused her no small amount of alarm. But in an uncharacteristic moment of a seeming day of uncharacteristic moments, Lina allowed him to hold her until the shaking was gone, even going so far as to assure him quietly that she was alright.
Xellos drew back, with concern on his face. "Oh, but you must be starving...do you think you can handle some food now, my love?"
Having decided to play it cool until she figured out what was going on, she nodded mutely, which Xellos seemed to take as a sign that she wasn't going to up and die on him. With a surprisingly tender smile, he helped her out of bed and into a soft sage-colored robe. It was then that she first noticed the large portrait hanging behind the bed. Her eyes widened, and then despite all her best intentions, she screamed, "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?" She slumped a bit, and backed up a few steps right into Xellos.
The portrait depicted a smiling Lina and Xellos in wedding regalia. Her mind stubbornly refused to work, and in the end it seemed simpler for it to just shut down.
"Lina? Lina, koishii, please wake up..."
On the whole, she considered waking up to be an absolutely horrid idea. But the soft fingers caressing her cheek were rather insistent, and so she grudgingly permitted her eyes to open. Wide open amethyst eyes stared back in concern, and so she did the one thing that seemed to make any sense: she eeped and tried to scramble away.
She hadn't really counted on Xellos being so strong. His arms tightened around her as he urged her to listen to him. "Koishii...please be still for a moment," he said gently. Lina stiffened at the endearment, but slowly relaxed against him as a calming hand stroked her hair. "You were sick for such a long time, and they told me the fever had been so prolonged that it might have resulted in memory loss. I know you must be confused...but I love you, Lina, and I'll always be with you."
She trembled, and then quietly at first with mounting hysteria, she whispered, "I'm going crazy. I'm dreaming. Something happened, and I don't know what's going on! I was fighting...bandits?" She searched her mind, finding relatively little information about the matter there. "Something like that. Then I woke up here, and I'm married to you, and nothing makes any sense at all!" She pinched herself on the arm, and was filled with quiet fear when it actually hurt, and left a red mark behind.
For his part, this otherworldly Xellos could not have been more shocked had she declared that she had been writing love sonnets to Rezo.
"Lina," said Xellos, "are you sure you can't remember anything?"
"No!" Lina hissed. Then, seeing the hurt look on his face, she found herself reassuring him. "I-I mean, not much... Not really..." What the hell am I doing?
Xellos drew in a deep breath, glancing briefly up at the painting. "I'll help you remember, then," he said quietly. He took one of her hands, holding it gently.
"Zelgadis gave us that picture, as a wedding present," he explained. "He was the best man at the wedding..."
"Zel?!" Lina exclaimed. She couldn't imagine the chimera ever volunteering to be best man at the Trickster's wedding, let alone giving him wedding gifts...
Xellos gave her an odd look, but then nodded and pressed on. "Amelia was the flower girl, and Luna the maid of honor-- Lina, are you all right?"
Upon hearing her older sister's name, Lina had turned a sickly shade of white and broken into a cold sweat. "M-my sister?" she squeaked, eyes big as dinner plates.
Xellos placed a cool hand against her forehead. "No fever... Do you feel ill, love?"
Lina blushed and looked away. This constant repetition of the L-word was starting to get to her... She took a deep breath and waved a hand. "I'm fine, I'm fine. Go on."
The Mazoku looked unconvinced, but he humored her anyway. "Luna was very pleased by this marriage. I recall her telling me she'd feared you'd never be married off." He smiled slightly. "You were a wild one, my Lina..." He ran possessive fingers through the coppery fire of her hair.
Okay... Okay, this is now officially TOO weird...Lina thought. However, she made no move to brush his hand away.
"Um... Xellos?" she ventured. "Just to, ah, jog my memory... How long have we been married?"
His smile grew wider. "It will be a year tomorrow," he whispered. Her face must have shown her shock, because he could not conceal the look of pain that flickered through his eyes even as he moved to hold her close.
One thing had not changed and Xellos took great comfort in the old routine. His lovely young wife, even with little memory of their past together, would still consent to being held in the comfy couch in front of the fireplace, provided there was ice cream to be consumed. Before she fell sick, they would frequently cuddle together and feed each other delicious spoonfuls.
Lina's amnesia bothered him deeply – something was terribly wrong. Her reactions reminded him of when they first met, when she had spit insults like fire and treated him like the lowest sort of garbage. Not that he hadn't deserved it. He'd gone out of his way to torment Luna's fire-haired younger sister. Yes, that was it. She didn't trust him. She flinched from most of his touches except when she was making an obvious effort to allow it.
To his way of thinking, there were only two courses of action. One, he could wait for her memory to return, or try to get it back in some fashion. Two, he could start all over again and hope that if Lina had wanted to marry him once, he could convince her to do it again.
Oh, Lina. Why don't you remember me? Why don't you remember us?
A soft snore interrupted his thoughts. He looked down to see her fast asleep against his shoulder, and his smiled gently. He teleported them both to their bedroom, and tucked her into bed beside him. His eyes flickered up to their wedding portrait before he fell asleep, sliding into welcome dreams of a time when she knew him and loved him.
Morning came once more, quietly, peacefully, wearing the perfume of spring flowers. Lina smiled blissfully and snuggled closer to the warmth behind her. Said warmth flung an arm about her and cuddled her close, and her eyes snapped open.
Oh. Right. Almost forgot about that.
Craning her neck to see behind her, Xellos appeared to be still fast asleep, his royal purple hair streaming over his shoulders and one lock of hair that moved with his quiet breathing. His shoulders, she noted, were bare. Was he..? A peek under the blankets confirmed her suspicious and she felt her face flush as she quickly let the covers fall back into place.
Idiot. You're his wife. Or at least he thinks you are.
She sighed as she realized she was now officially awake. There was just no going back to pleasant dreamland now. As she attempted to extricate herself, she heard his voice mumble, "S'morning already? Just five more minutes, koishii..."
Lina did the best thing she could think of: she escaped posthaste to the bathroom. Moron. Hiding in his bathroom isn't going to help any. But the large bathtub beckoned her seductively, and in the end she succumbed to a warm bubble bath.
There was a polite rap on the door. "Lina, koishii, remember your sister's coming to luncheon this afternoon. Would you mind wearing the green velvet dress, please?"
She froze. Onee-sama? Before panic set in, she mumbled an affirmative response and sunk in deeper into the bubbles. And just when I thought today would be another day of confusion. Now it'll be another day of terrifying confusion.
The time for the luncheon arrived far too quickly for Lina's wound-up nerves, and before she knew it, Luna had arrived and was with Xellos in the sitting room. Approaching the door to join them, she heard their hushed voices and stopped to listen for a minute.
"...doesn't seem to remember anything."
A shocked, husky voice. Luna's. "Nothing at all? Not even...?"
"No. She remembers nothing at all. And she seems...you'll forgive me...terrified of you."
"Maybe...maybe it's better that she doesn't remember what happened. I think it would destroy her to know she lost the baby..." his voice continued sorrowfully.
Lina drew in a sharp hiss of breath. A child? Her child? Then she gulped. Her and Xellos's child. Beneath a rather consuming panic floated a feeling of wonder that she could have been a mother. And then, her natural reaction kicked back in.
Wiser people might have run. The only thing that may be said in Luna and Xellos's defense was that they didn't know she was there.
The door banged open and the two flinched as a ruby-eyed, crimson-haired virago stormed in. Xellos thought she looked ready to give him the beating of his life as well as destroy his eardrums with ranting. Ironically, her words carried more weight because they were so deadly quiet. "Xellos, may I have a word with you...in private?"
He nodded slowly and followed her outside of the room. Her anger was briefly satisfied by whacking him once and then getting down to business. "Is it true?" she asked him.
Of course he knew what she was referring to. "I'm sorry, love...I'm afraid it is."
She grabbed him by the front of his jacket and pulled his face even to hers. "Xellos...I still don't remember anything, and what I thought I remembered from before seems like a dream, and now I wonder if it ever happened at all! But, "she said fiercely, her nose almost touching his, "you can't wrap me up in cotton and protect me forever. You say you want to start over? Fine. But don't keep things like this from me, Xellos. For all you know, I may be willing to try again." With that, she released him and stalked back to the dining room.
Xellos stared after her, slackjawed, before he hurried up to join the two sisters. Luna raised a dusky purple eyebrow at him, clearly expecting to be told the contents of the exchange later.
Well, Xellos decided, she oughtn't hold her breath.
Dinner was a somewhat strained affair, as Lina did indeed seem terrified of her sister. She was uncharacteristically polite and behaved, and mercifully dinner ended quickly and Luna begged their pardon for having to leave on such short notice.
He saw his wife exude an audible sigh of relief when her sister departed, but said nothing. Instead, he lead her to a cozy sitting room with a warm, crackling fireplace. Armed with steaming mugs of hot chocolate, he beckoned her to have a seat on the comfy sofa in front of the fire. Strangely enough, she sat very close to him, and it was with some difficulty that he concentrated his attention on the fire dancing in front of them.
"Xellos?" she asked softly.
"I'm your wife, right?"
Slowly he nodded, not sure where this was going. He was even more confused when Lina set down her mug and removed his from his grasp. He face had a very suspiciously determined look, and then her arms slowly slid around his neck. And this point, he began to feel very nervous, and started to protest, "Lina, I really don't think that we should...yet...because you haven't...you know..."
Lina shut him up in the best way possible - she pushed him back and kissed him hard. It was a very inexperienced kiss, but there was no way he was going to complain. He brought his arms up around her, and for a good part of the evening, they made out like the engaged couple they had once been.
Drowsing later that night, Lina's last conscious thought before she succumbed to darkness was that she could perhaps fall in love with him.
When she woke the next morning, she attempted to snuggle closer to the warmth in bed. The surprised gasp forced to wake up marginally to see what the matter was.
Strangely enough, the matter was a fully clothed Xellos. A fully clothed mysterious priest Xellos, not a mostly nude husband Xellos. Confusion irritated Lina immensely, so she socked him in the stomach once before grabbing a hold of both ears and pulling his face even with her. "Xellos Metallium, you are one sick son of a bitch. Did you plant all of that in my brain? What were you trying to do?" She shook him a little when he stared at her, flabbergasted and not responding. "Well, answer me, you twisted bastard!" she demanded.
Xellos still wore a blank look. "Ano...Lina-san, could you let go of my ears? I promise you, I really don't know what you're talking about," he assured her, looking for all intents and purposes to be honest.
She frowned at him, disbelieving. A couple of pieces clicked together in her mind, and her thought process ran something like this: It was all a dream. Being married to a loving, caring Xellos was all a dream. And if you tell anyone about it, they're going to think the Dramatta has really gone over the edge this time. One too many Dragon Slaves, time to put her in the looney sorceress's home. "Never mind," she said finally. "And what are you doing in my bed, fruitcake?" The usual infuriated question was offhand and absentminded, like words to a theatrical she'd repeated thousands of times over.
If Xellos noticed, he didn't say anything.
Her friends didn't say anything either. Just that they had been attacked and she'd been knocked out, furthering her suspicion that she'd just had a really intense dream. But a couple of nights later, leaning against the windowsill looking at the stars, she discovered a most incredible sensation.
It was sort of knawing and aching, empty and twitching. She turned over the puzzle in her mind, and finally came to a conclusion. Real or not, she missed him. She missed a Xellos who loved her. She missed being able to love him.
Did it have to be that way? Did she have to miss a dream man forever?
It bothered her. It bothered her while they walked, it bothered her while they ate, it bothered her when they went to sleep at night. The bed seemed so empty and cold... And her dreams were filled with images of a sun-dappled orchard, and a beautiful house, and a baby with violet eyes...
I'm gonna drive myself nuts, Lina thought morosely. If I'm not nuts already, that is...She stole a glance at Xellos, who sat nearby, expression hidden behind his smiling mask. How could someone like that ever be the open, loving person she longed for? Lina shook her head. I'd be better off with Gourry... But I don't WANT Gourry. Dammit, why do I have to want HIM?
She bit her lip, feeling tears of frustration well up in her eyes. I'm not gonna cry... I am NOT gonna cry...
"Lina, what's wrong?" A familiar voice appeared at her elbow. Lina Inverse looked up at Xellos, and then began to cry. Hot tears rolled down her cheeks and she pounded him in fury, shrieking all the while and gasping for air.
"S'all...your fault! Why...can't...my dream...be real?"
Two lilac-gloved hands caught her face and held her steady, waiting for her tears to stop and her breathing to settle to normal. "It was, Lina."
She made a move to punch him when his arms trapped hers to her sides. "Don't fight me. I told you before - on nights when the moon shines like the eyes of L-sama, a dreamer can walk into another world." His nose even with her own, he continued in a husky whisper, "Do I surmise correctly that you woke up and I was your husband?"
She nodded mutely.
"Strange, Lina-san...for I woke up to you as my wife, with an infant in your arms."
She struggled against him. "How do I know you didn't do this? How do I know it wasn't you who messed with my mind?" she demanded hoarsely.
Mazoku eyes open. Face still. "Why don't you ask Her?"
She blinked. And turned around.
Favorite, it was to be a reward. The heavy-lidded gaze of a woman with masses of flowing golden hair struck her speechless. For your service to Me. For the service you can further do for Me. Do you not like My present, Favorite?
Lina nodded dumbly.
Her gaze flicked toward Xellos. The Beastmaster's Priest is only partially right. On nights when the moon shines like My eyes, I allow a few to see what might be. What could have been. Past, present, and future all roll together in the Sea of Chaos.
Xellos's grip on her shoulders trembled, his face bowed in profoundest respect.
"I..." Lina's mouth was very dry. What does one say to the Lord of Nightmares Herself?
Speak your mind, Favorite. The tone was almost gentle.
Lina swallowed hard, looking to Xellos, oddly enough, for encouragement. He nodded, and she pressed on bravely. "Was it... Was what I saw... real? I mean, really real?"
The regal woman nodded. Galaxies swirled within her fathomless eyes, and Lina found she had to look away, or be lost in them. Her heart hammered in her chest. She was afraid to ask, but...
"Can it... Could I... I mean, can I ever--?"
Go back? The voice was amused. Perhaps... Or perhaps you must create that world for yourselves.
Lina looked at Xellos again, and saw the flash of hope in his eyes. "I... understand," she said.
The Mother of All Things, the Lord of Nightmares, nodded solemnly. Your destiny is yours to create, then. I will be watching, Favorite...
Lina glanced back, but the spot formerly occupied by God was now vacant.
There was a long moment of silence. Xellos let out a pent-up breath. "What now?" he asked.
"I guess..." Lina bit her lip. "I guess... we try it again. From the beginning?"
Xellos smiled, very gently, and held out his hand. Lina took it, gazing up into his eyes. After a while, he whispered, "I think the name 'Lina Metallium' has a nice ring to it, don't you?"