Heart of Darkness

Chapter 2


            Lina stretched languorously, reveling in the feeling of just being able to relax and stretch.

            A quarter of a second later, anyone passing by the room was treated to a very fervent and indignant squeak.

            “Zel!” Lina squeaked while looking at him petulantly. “I was stretching!” She folded her arms and looked at her companion, who was nodding.

            “You were,” he replied without trace of remorse.

            “Well, that’s no excuse to tickle me!!” Lina retorted in a huff, sliding off of the bed.

            He shrugged. “You were there. It was the thing to do at the time.”

            Lina looked out of the window and across the water for a moment, letting the matter rest. “It’s been a week…”

            “It has,” he acknowledged, running a hand through his hair, watching her.

            “So what do we do, Zel? Should we wait for them?” She asked, turning back to look at the black-clad man who had been her entire life this past week.

            He smiled faintly. “There was a note at the desk.” He held up the envelope and showed her. She reached out and took it, reading the carefully written script.

            “Lina and Zelgadis, I unfortunately must inform you that my father will not approve of any visits by myself to the Outer Continents until safety in travel can be guaranteed. In the meantime, you must send word back that you are well and tell us of everything you see. Amelia.”

            She set the letter down on the bed and looked to him thoughtfully. “This means we’re still on our own, Zel…”

            “We are,” he conceded, “unless my brother decides to take matters into his own hands.”

            Lina’s eyes grew faintly alarmed as she folded the letter and put it back into the envelope. “Would he do something like that? Kidnap Amelia, I mean?”

            “Oh, I doubt that he’d kidnap her… though he is a very smooth talker, and I have very little doubt that he could talk Prince Phil into allowing them all to travel out here, on the expense of the Palace.” Zelgadis said, crossing the room and opened the window, leaning on the windowsill to look out and allow some fresh air into the room.

            Lina laughed softly. “Yes, he is a charming little devil, isn’t he? How in the world did you manage to be so grouchy with him around?”

            Her voice was teasing, and he knew that he deserved it. He had been pretty cantankerous when they’d first met. He turned around, resting his elbows on the windowsill and looked at her. Her hair was loose about her shoulders, the ribbon forgotten for the moment on the bedside table.

            “He’s always had a special place in my life… which is probably why he gets away with so much around me.” He smiled at some memories that filtered up through his consciousness, that somewhat rare playful smile that graced his lips only when he thought no-one was looking while they were all traveling together.

            Mmmmhmmm,” Lina said, standing and walking over towards him. Her hair fell down, off of her shoulders and tumbled about to her waist. It distracted him, and he watched guilelessly as she approached. “And do I have a special place in your heart, too?” She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him, and he pulled her forwards into an embrace.

            “Well, yes. But just because you have a special place in my heart doesn’t give you entire sway over me, Lina,” he whispered into her hair.

            She tilted her head, looking up at him with wide and all-too-innocent eyes. “What? Who said I wanted anything, Zel?”

            He smirked. “You always want something, Lina. And the fact that you just sauntered across the room in nothing but one of my shirts indicates that you’re after something and you want to distract me into agreeing.”

            She sighed, half turning in his arms, looking away with eyes downcast.

            “Pouting won’t get you anywhere, either,” he pointed out, gentle teasing in his voice this time.

            She spun to face him again, giving him that look that he’d gotten used to seeing over the past week. It was the half-irritated, half-amused look that she’d given him the first time that he’d seen through her. “Zel!” She fumed. “You haven’t even heard what I want!”

            He backed her up to arms’ length and grinned at her. “You want to go down to the ruins of that old area that all the villagers are so tight-lipped about.”

            A miniature fireball puffed in his face, not big enough to singe hair, but enough to make him blink. As such, he let go of her, and she backed up out of reach. “Hmf! You’re no fun, Zel! Think of the treasures that might be in there! We might even find an old spellbook or something!”

            Waving the smoke out of his face, he looked at her. “We might find something bigger than the both of us, Lina.”

            She stopped ranting, and in all seriousness, looked at him. “Zelgadis, what could possibly be bigger than you? If you truly are on a par with Xellos…”

            He shook his head. She was going to win this one, wasn’t she? She’d managed to back him into that gray corner that represented what he was, what he was capable of. And yet, neither of them truly knew.

            “Lina, that’s not fair. We don’t know what I can and can’t do yet. I still don’t have perfect control over some things…” He hadn’t told her that he woke in the middle of every night, to force himself back into his human appearance. He’d spent so long as the stone golem that it was a more familiar shape than not.

            She sighed and turned away. “We can’t know until you try…”

            Damn her, she was good at twisting his heart.

            “Fine,” He relented. “We’ll go check out the ruins. But when I say we leave, we leave. Even if I have to pick you up and will us both out of there.”

            Yay!” The word fairly bubbled out of her, and she danced over to hug him delightedly.

            He hugged her back and then looked at her with a smirk. “Now I’m going to go get a table for us at the restaurant while you get dressed.” He disentangled himself and left the room, wondering how he would ever be able to tell her ‘no’ and mean it.