By the Hoyden(email@example.com)
Note: The song herein is from the Phantom of the Opera, and I own neither it nor the characters in this story.
I reach out a hand, hesitatingly. My fingers hover so close to his shoulder, and he stiffens, his amethyst hair swishing as he swiftly turns his head to see me standing behind him. His eyes seethe with barely restrained emotion, and the intense gaze wipes away my oh-so-carefully repaired speech.
I jerk my hand back, as though just touching him would cause my skin to smolder. "I…I came to apologize. I didn’t want to…I didn’t mean to…"
Damn you! You little prying Pandora!
You little demon! Is this what you wanted to see?
He smiles thinly, and I can see how much it costs him. "It’s difficult to hide among smoke and ambiguity when someone suddenly shoves the Soul Mirror in front of your face. It was not, perhaps, the wisest thing you’ve ever done, my dear." His voice cracks at the end, with pain, and something else that I don’t understand. "But the truth can be amusing."
Rotten liar – the hell it was amusing! I remember quite well what happened, and funny or comical never entered the equation. I remember what happened - my curiosity about the Trickster Priest had built to an almost all-consuming need to know what was behind the mask.
The Soul Mirror showed us both, with horrible clarity.
Damn you! You little lying Delilah!
You little viper! Now you cannot ever be free…
"Sorry," he whispers to himself, almost inaudible. "You’ve stripped me of all of my secrets, and now you’re just ‘sorry’?" With mounting alarm, I see he is trembling – from anger or despair or both, I know not. With an inarticulate cry, he turns around fully and grasps me by my shoulders. His open eyes are wild and he takes in deep, shuddering breaths. "So the Soul Mirror showed you how evil I truly am, did it? And you still came back to apologize for your faux pas, your little etiquette misstep?" His fingers dig painfully into my flesh.
My eyes widen and the pungent flavor of fear is on my tongue; the Soul Mirror showed me what he is capable of.
He laughs quietly, without any humor whatsoever, his face so close to mine that our noses almost touch. "A pity you ran out like that, Lina, really it was. You didn’t stay, so you weren’t there when the mirror revealed this." To my utter shock, he clasps me tightly in his arms and brings his mouth down hard on mine.
Stranger than you dreamt it
Can you even dare to look or bear to think of me?
I cannot move, cannot react. I just sit there, motionless, as his lips and teeth and tongue ravage my mouth. I can’t move, but L-sama, what is this madness? Why now? Why him? He stops abruptly and crushes me even tighter against him, his lips at my ear.
"That was the secret I tried to keep hidden best of all, sweetling. Do you have any idea how many people would want to kill you if they knew this secret? Some things are best left hidden, my dear." His voice is a dangerous purr, and I can feel the accelerated beating of his heart, the searing heat of his body.
This loathsome gargoyle, who burns in hell
But secretly, yearns for heaven
"I don’t understand," I whimper, helplessly. "I don’t understand at all! When..what are you..I mean…"
"What’s not to understand, boku no tenshi?" he drawls, smooth as silk.
"Explain it to me," I beg desperately. "Explain to me what the hell is happening!"
One hand slides through my hair. "Well, now, that is the question of the hour, isn’t it? Though you know part of it yourself," he assures me, his lips curling into a smirk. "Think about this, darling – you haven’t fireballed me yet. That says something, doesn’t it?" My shock is further increased as the world does a dizzying flip-flop and it’s burningly hot and terribly cold all at once, and then we’re someplace else entirely.
It’s a warm, exquisitely furnished room, and I use the excuse of looking at my surroundings to buy me some time to gather my thoughts. He strides over to a polished table and pours two glasses of ruby wine that winks in the candlelight. As he hands one to me, I deliver my counterargument. "You’re lying. Mazoku can’t love."
He snorts in derision. "And I suppose Ryuuzoku can’t hate? Quit thinking ancient axioms and stereotypes and use that intelligence I so admire."
I nearly spill my wine in surprise, and he sighs heavily and quickly removes it from my grasp. "Yes, Lina, admire. I desire you, I’m obsessed with you, I’d kill every last one of your friends if it meant I could have you. But I won’t," he adds, "because it wouldn’t please you. Why can’t you accept what’s so plainly presented to you?"
Fear can turn to love, you’ll learn to see
To find the man behind the monster
"Because I’m afraid," I say almost soundlessly. His eyes flicker open.
"Afraid? Why?" he asks relentlessly, his eyes boring into me, refusing to let me go.
Hot tears begin to well up in my eyes. "Because I’m afraid of what it will mean to me!" I wail in despair, and throw myself in his arms. "I’m afraid of caring too much for anyone, I’m afraid that if you really love me that I would love you, and I don’t know how to deal with that!" I begin to sob, tiredly, hurtingly, with so much frustration that it burns my throat. He holds me close and strokes my hair, mumuring comforting nonsense.
"Would it really be so bad, my heart? Would loving someone really be so terrible?" he asks quietly. "Please don’t cry, darling. It hurts far more than any of your…affectionate beatings."
I sniffle and begin to laugh, despite the tears. I accept his proffered handkerchief and wipe my eyes. "But didn’t you say this was a bad idea? That people would want to kill me? And what would your master say?"
He arches one perfect violet eyebrow. "What would your sister say?"
I gulp. "Point taken."
He sighs and tucks me in his arms again. "Yes, it’s an amazingly bad idea. Though I don’t think Juu-ou-sama would be ALL that opposed – she’s quite fascinated by you, herself – but it’s true that several beings might consider killing you suitable revenge against me. I’d incinerate them first before they laid a hand on you, you understand, but consistent attempts on one’s life are sort of distracting."
"What should we do?" I whisper softly.
"We," he repeats, with wonder illuminating his voice. Then he grins his normal fruitcake grin. "Let’s elope."
I roll my eyes and smack him. "Disregarding all the other reasons why that’s a stupid idea, who would we get to marry us, anyway?"
"He’s dead, Xel," I remind him, thanking my lucky stars.
"XELLOS!" I howl in frustration. "I’m serious! This is a dumb idea! We’d probably kill each other in the first week, and besides which, I’m not really even used to the idea that you might not be playing some elaborate joke on me!"
This…repulsive carcass, who seems a beast
But secretly, dreams of beauty
He’s quiet for a moment, and then asks softly, "Have I ever lied to you, Lina? Really truly lied? Not misdirection or ambiguity. Lied." The gentle breeze from his breathing stirs a few strands of my hair, and I admit that, to my knowledge, he’s never outright lied to me. "I adore you," he says plainly. "A trickster I will forever remain, but I adore you. A Mazoku in the employment of the Beastmaster I will forever be, but I adore you. I adore you, and if you will have me, I would never leave your side."
There are so many important things to consider. So many reasons why I should send him away. But they pale next to the dark, painful brilliance of one fact. I fight to get the words out. "I…don’t want to be alone. Please stay with me." It’s so hard to admit that for all my worldly success, I still need someone other than myself. It scares me to make myself vulnerable, to lay my emotions bare before those all-seeing amethyst eyes. But he says nothing, only holds me tighter.
We stand there embracing for what is surely a short eternity. But eventually the adrenaline wears off and I cannot stifle a small yawn. "Ready for bed?" he inquires. I nod sleepily before my eyes snap open at the new meaning the phrase suddenly has. "Relax, darling. There are plenty of nights for that. But you’re exhausted and could use a good night’s sleep." He leads me to another door and opens it to reveal a bedroom.
Almost mechanically, I move to the side of the bed, undoing the clasp of my cloak as I go. After pulling my boots off and removing my earrings, I turn around to find him very close behind me, proffering a nightgown. I almost protest that I usually sleep in my clothes, but think better of it and accept it. Shyly, I turn my back to slip my clothes off and don the nightgown, but when I turn around I find him already stripped down to a pair of loose-fitting pants, his back politely turned. "Shall we?" I ask.
I climb into bed with him, the nightgown and the satin sheets feeling smooth and wonderful against my skin. He pulls the covers up and snuggles up next to me. "Xellos," I breathe.
"Yes, my dear?"
"Can I have a good night kiss?" I’m gratified when his lips touch my own almost instantly, soft and warm. I try to deepen the kiss, to imitate what he did earlier, but he pulls away.
"You asked for a good night kiss, dear heart. I’ve restrained myself a good deal today but if you keep that up, you won’t be sleeping for awhile," he warns me, a bit of mocking in his tone. I sigh and snuggle closer.
"Xellos," I say again after a little while.
"What is it, Lina?"
"I really don’t think I’m all that tired."
"Is that so-oooh…" His words twist to a groan, thrilling me as I move sinuously against him. Seemingly instantly, I find myself flat on my back with amethyst eyes gleaming rather predatorily. "Ne, Lina-chan, I tried to be a noble Mazoku, but now you’ve really done it." I’m amused to see him wag the no-no finger at me. But my thought processes grind to a halt as his teeth nip gently at my ear lobe. "Besides," he whispers, sending shivers down my spine, "I was always horrible at being noble anyway."
His lips and teeth make a burning trail down my neck, and I find myself divested of the nightgown he so thoughtfully provided earlier. His hands wander and explore and soon I find myself gasping and moaning and writhing in his arms, melting beneath his touch. I didn’t think it was possible to feel like this – I feel as though I’m burning alive and it’s so very sweet, but I need something and I need it soon. My hands move desperately to the waistline of his pants, and he eagerly squirms out of them. I ask shyly what I should do, if I should imitate what he did to me. "No," he pants. "Now, Lina. Please."
I nod my assent and a second later, we are one. He holds me for one shuddering eternity, then begins to move, so slowly, so sweetly. My world contracts to the shared motion, the feel of the sleek muscles of his back beneath my fingers, his gasping adorations, and my answering cries. I feel like I’m ascending a mountain, and then I fall and it’s so exquisitely intense…somewhere in the distance I hear him cry my name once more and he collapses atop of me.
Sometime later I drift out of that pleasant hazy world to find him still mostly sprawled over me, though I see he’s taken care to shift most of his weight off me. "Now who’s sleepy?" I tease him gently. He mumbles something cutely and drags the blankets up to cover us. As we both drift off to sleep, I see something out of the corner of my eye.
A beautiful woman with long blond hair take a drag off a cigarette. Her eyes meet mine and her lips twist into a wry smile. "Welcome to the family, kid," she says softly. She turns and walks out the door, and before sleep claims me for its own, I realize she’s holding the Soul Mirror – the very one she’d given me just this morning.