Zelos was pretty sure he'd spent the past half hour grinning like an idiot, judging from how Sheena kept rolling her eyes every time she looked at him. Half an hour ago, upon finishing her shower, she'd climbed down the stairs, joined him on the couch, and, without a word, given him the sweetest, most unexpected kiss he'd ever received before grinning and quickly retreating upstairs to 'her' room. The gesture had left him not only speechless, but frozen in place a moment before he'd finally regained his senses, realized what had happened, and rushed upstairs after her to a) figure out where that had come from, and b) see if he could get another one. She'd locked her door before he'd reached her -- and had then soundly ignored his pleas for an explanation -- but that hadn't erased the fact that when she'd reemerged, her hair tied up and her traveling bag in hand, walked past where he was leaning against the wall, and headed back downstairs, she'd had a beautiful smile on her lips and an endearingly rosy blush on her cheeks.
She never had answered him, just smiled coyly yet teasingly, but he was still ridiculously happy -- and he really liked that she'd been able to surprise him like that. Over the years, many women had tried to catch him off his guard, and at first they had (at least until he'd realized they all did the same things to 'surprise' him), but it had been years since one had managed to do so like that. Most, in fact, were so predictable that he could recite the entire conversation before it happened and identify which body part they'd touch to seduce him. But this...he liked this better, not knowing what to expect from her or what she'd say or do to shatter more of his preconceived notions about her. It gave him hope that his goal of getting her to loosen up and enjoy life more wouldn't be too hard to attain.
And now, after collecting her from his garden, where she'd been wandering around, admiring his iris, while he'd discussed a few things with Sebastian, they were finally heading out. The second they left his front door, though, every nobleman around stopped whatever they were doing and looked at them. Apparently, he'd been right before; the city was already busy gossiping about them. He knew he should care that everyone was staring, because Sheena had made it clear she hated being the center of attention, but at the moment, doing so was nearly impossible when he was still reveling over everything, not just the kiss but the sheer amazingness of this woman and all of the positive changes that had now happened between them. Yesterday at this time he'd been dreading ever seeing her again, and now....
"Oh, don't tell me you're still trying to figure it out!" Sheena suddenly said, derailing his thoughts.
Heh. There was the eye roll again, which meant he was probably smiling again. He chuckled and raised his hands in a show of innocence. "What? I want to know what I did right so I can do it again and get another kiss like that! I'm not going to give up until I've figure this out!"
Sheena released an exasperated but amused sigh. "Okay, fine. I felt like it. There. Are you happy now?"
He blinked several times. Was she serious? "You felt like it? Really?"
Her eyebrows flew upward. "What, I can't do that?"
Whoa, he was not letting her believe that. And, he reminded himself, he'd better not give her too hard of a time about this or she'd think twice about ever doing it again. He knew he was treading on shaky ground with her and that saying even one thing wrong could drive her away in a furious, disgusted rage, and he refused to let that happen. He would do his best to rein himself in...but oh, did old habits die hard sometimes. "Are you kidding? Of course you are! You can do that anytime you'd like -- the more the better, I say. I'm just having a hard time believing there was no reason for it except that you 'felt like it.'"
"So just 'feeling like it' isn't a good enough reason?" she countered as they descended the steps to the street. "That's the last thing I'd expect to hear coming from you, Mr. Impulsive, since nearly everything you do is because you 'feel like it.'"
Well, okay, he couldn't deny that, but he just wasn't buying her reasoning yet, either. That kiss had been too amazing, too deliberate, too...meaningful. There had to be more to it. He wouldn't over push this, but the urge to tease her was just too great, and common sense, which told him to knock it off, couldn't compete. At least they were still safely in 'playful' mode. "So does that mean I get to kiss you every time I just 'feel like it'?" he said, smirking. "I mean, it is only fair that if you can do it, I can, too."
Her eyes narrowed sharply, but the smile toying on her lips betrayed her. "Why do I get the feeling I'd seriously regret answering that question with a 'yes'?"
He tried -- but failed -- to bite back his laugh in time. "Babe, are you implying I'd never leave you alone if you gave me permission to do that?"
"Gee, what would ever give me that impression?" she said, her smile breaking out in full.
"Heh, I guess you really do know me too well."
Sheena nudged his arm with her elbow, beaming him another beautiful smile that more than made up for her not giving him a real answer. "You're an idiot."
"Yeah...I am," he conceded.
Okay, so she'd won this battle. He'd be a man, admit defeat, and stop. She had her reasons, and she obviously didn't want to tell him -- and if he knew one thing about Sheena, it was that she liked keeping her secrets. It apparently came with being a ninja, and he could accept that. At least he already knew that about her -- although he hoped if this relationship continued that she wouldn't become too secretive with him. But he'd cross that bridge when they came to it. Right now, after all, he had something more important to deal with: Sheena's beautiful smile was fading as she finally noticed all the noblemen staring at them. Obviously, she wasn't happy knowing these people were 'gossiping' about them. He had debated showing her that newspaper article at all, but ultimately he'd decided to; that, too, he'd learned about her, how much she hated not knowing what was going on, especially when it involved her. He still wasn't sure he'd made the right choice with that, but he suspected not telling her would have pissed her off worse, and so he wouldn't second-guess it. What was done was done, and that was that.
Without warning, her body jumped to full alertness and her footsteps slowed, and Zelos looked sharply at her, only to find her staring at...aw, crap. Three of his hunnies were huddled together in the street, fanning themselves and scowling as they eyed her like hawks. He should have known they'd be watching his mansion this morning, eager to see if he really was back. Stepping closer to Sheena, he placed a hand to her back to keep her moving. "Hey, ignore them. They're just jealous I'm talking to you, not them."
Sheena glanced at him, her smile gone and her body stiff, then looked back at his hunnies. "That's easy for you to say. Act or not, you at least like attention. My instincts are suspicious of anyone who so much as looks at me wrong -- and they," she motioned at the women, "are definitely looking at me wrong."
Yeah, no kidding. They were outright glaring at her now, probably because he'd (Martel forbid!) touched her, and every now and then they whispered amongst themselves. And...oh, right. The blonde in the gaudy red dress, Greta, was the one who'd called Sheena those nasty names at that party -- names that had resulted in him leaving altogether to ponder the part he wanted his hunnies to play in his life. Sheena hadn't heard her then, but he sure had. Granted, it had turned out in their favor anyway since they wouldn't be here if he hadn't overheard them, but still...agh, he really couldn't stand them sometimes.
Seriously, what did they think he was? A trophy, and they were his guardians? They were possessive, vicious, garishly fake women who rivaled Cruxis, Yggdrasil, and the Pope for the title of Most Obnoxious, Persistent Adversary Ever. They acted as if they owned him, as if they alone could make his decisions for him -- although if they'd known anything about him, then they'd know how much he detested people who wouldn't let him make his own choices. He'd put up with them because the Chosen act dictated it, and because their 'love' had felt nice (when he'd ignored its fakeness and shallowness, of course) and stroked his shaky ego, but now, foreseeing how they would soon be trying to chase Sheena out of his life for good...he wanted to toss them in the mud pit where they belonged. Preferably wearing their fanciest, ugliest dresses.
...And just like that, a sudden, evil flash of inspiration hit him. He could finally do it; he could get rid of them for good, let them know where they -- and, more importantly, Sheena -- stood with him. Sure, it meant burning some long-standing bridges on the slim chance this relationship would last, and if it didn't, he'd be left with nothing, not even these horrid women, but he was ready to take that chance. He wanted this...and he knew just how to make it happen. Of course, doing so meant taking a huge chance with Sheena...and in her current, tense state, he wasn't sure how she'd react. In fact, he was pretty sure it could backfire completely and wreck everything, sacrificing any trust she had in him and leaving her smacking the hell out of him. But on the other hand, if Sheena didn't freak out and it worked, it could potentially get those women off their backs for good. At the very least, it would end the rampant speculation currently buzzing around Meltokio about them.
Deciding to be brave and go with it, because after their earlier discussion, Zelos was pretty sure he could lay out an acceptable argument that placated her anger, he gently grabbed Sheena's arm to stop her. "What do you say we have a little fun with this and give them something worth looking at?" he asked.
Instantly, her eyes narrowed. "What are you scheming, Zelos?"
He smirked, but it quickly faltered as nervousness accompanied his realization that he really didn't know how she would react to this. He had to do something, though, and if this worked...oh, this better work. "Just go with it, love, and try to resist the urge to smack me until we've left Meltokio or you'll ruin the effect," he said, gently touching her cheek. "Once we're out of town, feel free to smack me all you'd like."
Sheena blinked several times. "Zelos, what...?"
He didn't let her finish; he just leaned down and kissed her, cupping her face with his hands so she couldn't escape from him. For a moment, she was still, clearly stunned -- and probably trying to devise a painful way to kill him -- but then, to his surprise, she relaxed and sank into it. Figuring he was in the clear, and since it felt so damned good, he deepened the kiss, thrilled when her arms wrapped around his neck...and there it was, that little moan he was completely addicted to hearing, the one that sent oodles of enticing sensations through him. No, he would never get enough of this, and it amazed and encouraged him to realize she'd accepted this instead of fighting it. She'd let him kiss her out in public, and that meant...heh, that meant she was so distracted by the kiss that she'd forgotten their audience. Good.
Zelos wanted to do the same, just forget everything and enjoy it, but he couldn't because he really haddone this for a specific reason. So after several long, oh-so-perfect moments, he slowly pulled away -- and then smiled as he saw her eyes were still closed in a hazy daze of pleasure. Finally, she looked up at him as he gently touched her cheek...and then her face turned bright red as she realized they were standing in the street with his hunnies gaping on nearby. She bit her lip, her eyes darting around nervously, then looked back at him a brief instant before her gaze fell to his chest. "You are such an idiot," she murmured, her hands lowering to his arms.
"What?" he said, grinning as her eyes darted back up to his. "I felt like it." He arched a pointed eyebrow, needing her to realize this part was crucial. "And remember, save the 'this Idiot Chosen needs a good smackdown' thing for once we've left Meltokio. If we're lucky, this'll end the 'are there or aren't they?' speculation everyone's currently doing about us."
Sheena watched him uncertainly, but then she looked around, her face still red -- but, Zelos noted, she hadn't backed away from him yet, either. "You know," she began, looking back at him with -- oh, thank Martel -- a faint, albeit embarrassed, smile, "you won't get away with pulling a stunt like that in Mizuho."
His heart skipped a beat -- not only hadn't she slapped him or stormed away from him for kissing her like that, thus declaring to everyone that yes, he really was in love with a ninja, but her words implied she wouldn't mind if he visited her in Mizuho sometime -- but then he sighed, realizing what she was saying. Oh, right. That. "Yeah, I figured. That whole 'no public displays of affection' rule you guys have, right?" Sheena nodded shyly, her head dipping downward, but Zelos just chuckled. He'd hate it -- because damn, did he want to show off this amazing woman who loved him to everyone -- but he'd have to grin and bear it, because Mizuho was just weird that way. "Then we'll just have to save that for here, eh?"
She gave him a warning glare, but her embarrassed smile killed its effect. "We'll see."
...And 'we'll see' in Sheena speak was as close to permission as Zelos would probably ever get, so he'd take it. He grinned, then gave her another quick kiss, unable to resist when she looked so utterly adorable and was standing so close to him, and returned his hand to her back, guiding her down the street again, smirking at the gapes marring his hunnies' artificially perfect faces. Seeing them approaching, Greta said something to the other two, and then, as expected, the three began strutting toward them. Again, Sheena stiffened, and afraid she would either bolt or beat the crap out of them, Zelos wrapped his arm around her waist, drawing her closer to him. Yes, he'd now made his decision about his hunnies' role in his life, and he wanted her to know that. He would burn these bridges. It was the right decision, and this was the right time to do it. For the first time in his life, it felt right.
"Let me handle this," he said.
Sheena's eyes snapped to his, still radiating definite wariness. "What are you going to do?"
Zelos gave her a soft, pleading smile. "Trust me, Sheena. Please?"
For a moment she just eyed him, visibly debating that -- he knew he was asking far more of her than he deserved considering he had yet to prove he had any trustworthy, redeeming qualities at all -- but finally she nodded. Oh, thank Martel. He wanted to earn her trust and prove he wouldn't mess this up, and he was relieved she was giving him a chance to do so. Now he just hoped his hunnies continued being so predictable and that he didn't accidentally say something wrong that decimated the trust she'd placed in him.
Seconds later, the three women arrived and, in the blink of an eye, as if it choreographed, their nasty glares transformed into saccharine smiles -- as if they really thought he wouldn't notice the change. "Oh, Master Zelos!" Greta cried, latching onto his free arm. "I am so glad to see you've returned safely!"
"So am I, Master Zelos!" the second one, a redhead in a hideous green dress whose name he thought was Cecelia, said, stopping beside Greta.
"I was so concerned when you vanished from the king's party, Chosen One!" the third one, Penelope, a brunette wearing a frilly blue dress, added.
"Yes, Master Zelos, you promised me a dance that night, and I know you would never break your promise unless something was seriously wrong!" Greta said.
...If these women were any more over the top, they would be orbiting Derris Kharlan. It took all his effort to plaster the smooth smile onto his face and not ruin the mask by rolling his eyes or shaking Greta off his arm -- or narrowing his eyes in concern as Sheena bristled and folded her arms to her chest, glaring dangerously at his hunnies. He pulled his hand from her waist, praying she could be patient until he could play all his cards, and then turned to the women. "Hunnies, hunnies, of course the Great Zelos is back safely! You didn't really think I'd let a few monsters hinder my ability to return to you, did you?"
Penelope giggled. "Of course not, Master Zelos!"
"You're so strong, I'm sure they fell immediately beneath your blade!" Cecelia cooed.
Beaming him a seductive smile, Greta trailed her fingers over his bicep, mimicked a minute later by Cecelia. A glance at Sheena showed she was now looking away and rolling her eyes, her lips pursed and her arms nearly strangling her chest. Uh oh. He may have overcome one major hurdle with her when she'd let him kiss her in public, but now he clearly had another to worry about: her nonexistent patience when it came to his hunnies and their groping of him. Okay, so that part had to stop, at least.
"Ladies, ladies, please!" he said as suavely as he could muster. "Remember Rule #4."
Thankfully, both Greta and Cecelia immediately released him, giggling in mock embarrassment, although neither stepped backwards...so much for respecting personal space. "Sorry, Master Zelos," Greta said.
"Me, too!" Cecelia added.
Sheena's eyes darted at him curiously, but she didn't say anything.
"So are you going away again anytime soon, Master Zelos?" Cecelia asked.
"Yes, Chosen One, you still owe me a dance!" Greta said.
"Me, too!" Cecelia countered, shooting Greta an annoyed glare that said she refused to be one-upped by her. Gee, what a surprise, Zelos thought, restraining an evil grin. They're not getting along. Again. They would band together to keep decent people like Sheena away from their precious Chosen, but beyond that, they were competitors for his affection and they knew it. Oh, if they only knew how much fun he'd had manipulating the pieces to egg on their rivalry....
"And me!" Penelope added cheerfully.
...And then there was Penny, who was utterly clueless. Cute, sweet, and a little nicer than the others, but she had no brain worth mentioning; all she did was tag along with her big sister, Greta, because her parents told her to, and agree with whatever was said. "Well, my lovelies, I'm afraid you may be waiting awhile since no more parties are currently planned wherein we could enjoy ourselves," Zelos said, sighing showily. "And I'm also afraid my time here looks to be pretty limited. Now that I'm back, I have a thousand things I need to do. I am the Chosen, after all."
"Oh, of course you are!" Penelope said.
"I know you'll spend every second of your free time with me, Master Zelos!" Greta said.
"I'll wait with bated breath for the moment you knock on my door!" Cecelia added, twirling a curly lock of red hair with her finger.
Egads, these women couldn't be more pathetic if they tried. Sheena, unsurprisingly, looked like her feeble patience with this was wearing thin, and again Zelos found himself starting to worry she would storm off in disgust soon. C'mon, hunnies, get to the point, he silently begged them. I know you're dying to, because you're just that predictable, and I don't have all day here while you try to outdo each other in showing me what I'm missing out on by not dating you. But nothing you try will work, so give up already. Quit flirting and preening and trying to drag me home with you; all you're doing is making me realize how amazing Sheena is -- and how lucky I am that she's still talking to me after the ass I've been to her. So whadda ya say we get this over with already?
"Of course you will!" he said smoothly, beaming them the fakest smile he could. If they'd been paying attention, they would have caught his sarcasm, but they were too busy batting their eyelashes at him to notice it. "The Great Zelos's hunnies are the most amazing, devoted, loyal fans in the entire world!"
All three giggled, but finally, finally, Greta turned her eyes to Sheena, her expression instantly transforming from coy and flirty to outright scathing. "So what is she doing here? If you really wished for company on your first night back in Meltokio, Master Zelos, you should have come to see me! I would have been more than happy to entertain you!"
"No, I would've been!" Cecelia countered.
"But I would've made it the most worth your while, Chosen One!" Penelope said with a pout.
Oh, good. The subject had finally shifted to Sheena. Time to get this show started. "Now, now, settle down," Zelos said, lifting his hands to calm them -- well, technically to 'shoo' them, but short of a miracle, they'd never realize that. Hell, even if he directly told them to get lost, they wouldn't. They'd just think he was having a bad day and would try again tomorrow. But this...this might just work. "Remember rule #3."
The women looked at each other uncertainly, their question obvious: 'Which rule was that?' At least they'd remembered Rule #4, the one that forbade manhandling the Great Zelos, probably because he'd had to use it so often with them. Suddenly, Cecelia beamed him a huge, proud smile. "Oh! You mean the one that says all hunnies must get along with each other...."
Recognition lit the others' eyes. "Oh! Because if they don't, it makes the Great Zelos very, very sad!" Penelope finished.
"Hey, I was going to say that!" Greta said, smacking Penelope's arm.
Penelope ignored her and touched her lips thoughtfully. "Or was it the one that said hunnies must respect the Great Zelos's need to speak with all other hunnies...."
Greta's face lit up. "Oh! All other hunnies in the name of spreading the love?"
Sheena glanced at him again, her eyes narrowing curiously, but Zelos grinned smugly. She'd figure it out. "Actually, that one's #6." He pointed at Cecelia. "You, my darling hunny, were right the first time."
Cecelia beamed in delight, but Greta rolled her eyes and looked back at Sheena, her scowl deepening. "But Master Zelos, if all of your hunnies are supposed to get along, then what about her?" She pointed accusingly at Sheena. "She's glaring at me right now!"
Yeah, she was. Glaring daggers, actually. Honestly, he wished she was punching Greta in the face, but it was probably best that she wasn't. And now, to play his first card. He shrugged. "Eh, she's exempt from that rule because she's not a hunny."
For a moment, everyone just blinked at him, Sheena included, but then Greta's eyes darted at her, an evil smirk appearing on her perfectly painted red lips. "Wait, so if she's not a hunny, then we don't have to try to get along with the likes of her anymore, do we?"
"Filthy ninjas have no right to be talking to someone as great as Master Zelos," Cecelia spat, similarly glaring at Sheena.
"Or...kissing him," Greta said, her face wrinkling in disgust as her eyes trailed down Sheena's body. "Especially looking like that."
Zelos quickly touched Sheena's back again as her face reddened in barely restrained fury. Her fuse was nearly burst, and he could not have her running off yet. He needed her to take the high road here, be better than these women, and not let them get under her skin or else she'd beat them to a bloody pulp and be banned from Meltokio permanently. She'd been patient with this idiocy so far, still extending him the trust he'd asked for, but he could see that patience was verging on empty, and if that happened, his entire attempt to win a modicum of her trust would not only end in failure, but it would destroy any trust she'd ever had for him. And he'd be damned if he let that happen. Time to play his ace.
He gave his hunnies a stern look and lifted a finger in warning. "Ah, ah, ah. I would be very careful what you say about her, my darling hunnies. I won't stand for that kind of talk about this lovely lady anymore."
They gaped at him a moment, but Cecelia quickly recovered. "But she's...."
Penelope nodded with more urgency than Zelos had ever seen from her. "She's so...."
"Ugh!" Greta cried, motioning derisively at Sheena. "Just look at her!"
His eyebrows rose. "Remember Rule #1."
They blinked a moment uncertainly, then looked at each other again for the answer. Penelope scratched her head. "Which one is that?"
"Is that the one about gifts for the Chosen having to go to either the Chosen himself or to his butler, not to his friends?" Cecelia suggested.
"No, that's Rule #7," Greta replied, shaking her head. "Is it the one about how we have to wait our turn because he only has one body and can't please us all at once?"
"But I thought that was Rule #5," Penelope said.
"Wait, are you saying you don't remember Rule #1, the most important rule of them all?" Zelos interrupted, feigning shock. "The one that results in all offenders being banned from the official ranks of hunnies forever?"
Their eyes widened in panic -- the smirk was getting ridiculously hard to resist now -- and a glance at Sheena showed she was watching him closely again, her eyes narrowed, clearly curious what he was doing. "I don't...I don't remember!" Greta cried in despair.
"I'm so sorry, Master Zelos!" Cecelia said, to all appearances on the verge of real tears. Serves her right for calling Sheena a 'filthy ninja.'
"We've failed you!" Penelope said. "Please remind us!"
Zelos sighed, making it as showily sorrowful as he could, and lifted his hand to his chest in 'dismay.' He was evil, and he knew it, and he really didn't care. They deserved this. "I am so disappointed. Rule #1: Hunnies must treat the Great Zelos's girlfriend with the utmost respect." His eyebrows flew upward as he looked between them expectantly. "Ringing any bells yet?" Heh...of course it wasn't, because he was Evil, with a capital E. It was official: his sheer evilness rivaled his sheer prettiness. He sighed again at their clueless expressions. "Then I suppose you don't remember the detailed breakdown of that rule either, do you? Okay, fine. Here it is. Detailed breakdown of Rule #1: Hunnies may not badmouth, belittle, berate, glare at, gossip about, lie to, lie about, scheme against, or in any other mental, physical, or emotional way attempt to harm the Great Zelos's girlfriend, nor can they attempt to monopolize the time that the Great Zelos wishes to spend with said girlfriend. No exceptions will be tolerated. Any hunny caught doing so, or is indicted by his girlfriend as having done so, will suffer the ultimate consequences of her actions and be exiled from the exalted group of hunnies around the world forever, with no possibility of ever being reinstated."
All three women blinked at him blankly. "Your...girlfriend?" Penelope ventured.
"You can't possibly be talking about...her," Greta said, wrinkling her nose in disgust.
"But you deserve so much better than someone like her!" Cecelia said, even more tears filling her eyes.
"Rule #2," Zelos said, but then sighed again at their perplexed expressions. He was having way too much fun with this. "Hunnies must respect the Great Zelos's decision to name a very special lady as his one and only girlfriend. And Sheena here gets that honor." He chanced another glance at Sheena, only to find her face was red and her eyes were wide, betraying how stunned and conflicted she was. He arched an eyebrow as she fumbled for a response, then quirked a smile. He couldn't pass by this opportunity, and he hoped she'd understand that. "What, you're not my girlfriend? Because if you're not, then you and I have significantly different interpretations of what happened last night...."
Sheena gasped and her blush deepened at his insinuation, but for once, surprising and embarrassing her weren't his goals. Instead, relief swept through him as his hunnies looked at each other, aghast, before Greta finally lifted her nose and huffed, turning her back on him. "Come on, ladies, let's get out of here," she said. The other two mimicked her childish act of snobbery, and then all three strutted away, fanning themselves in a completely stupid, unwarranted manner seeing as it wasn't even 70 degrees yet.
"See ya later, hunnies!" Zelos called after them, smirking, but once they were safely out of earshot, he turned back to Sheena, his smile vanishing, suddenly feeling nervous again. Now to see if he'd passed the test. He needed to know this, desperately, because if they were on different pages, then he'd have to make some behavioral adjustments ASAP. "It's a serious question. Yes? No?"
For a moment, Sheena eyed him, but then, thank Martel, she smiled, her gaze falling downward shyly. "Of...of course I am. I'm just...I'm not used to thinking in those terms yet."
Zelos released his breath and grinned. Test successfully passed. And she hadn't even smacked him for that public kiss or for his inaccurate insinuation that they'd slept together last night! "Oh, good, because I was really hoping I wasn't misinterpreting everything." He paused, his grin faltering. "And to be honest...I'm not used to thinking in those terms yet, either."
Okay, so he hadn't actually meant to say that aloud, but his nerves had gotten the better of him, and he couldn't take it back now. At least she met his eyes again. Even he was utterly amazed how nervous he felt with her. He'd known her for years and been so comfortable with their previous dysfunctional relationship that venturing into new terrain like this, while exactly what he'd dreamt of all those years, was...strange. He didn't feel fully at ease with her in this capacity yet, and he was constantly reminding himself not only that was this real, but that he couldn't say stupid things to her anymore. In fact, he felt like he was dancing with two left feet to a dance he didn't know yet, one he was desperately trying to figure out so he didn't completely mess it up and make his new dance partner regret choosing him. At least she seemed to be just as uncertain and clumsy with this dance as he was.
But this wasn't the right time to figure that out. Clearing his throat, Zelos gently touched her back again. "Anyway, let's get you back to Mizuho before a scout shows up who'll kill me for delaying you."
Her gaze landed briefly on his chest, but then she nodded and gave him another shy smile, and they resumed walking out of Meltokio. She cast one last glance at his retreating hunnies. "Hey, Zelos?"
Zelos gave her a curious, uncertain look. "For what?"
She motioned at his hunnies. "For getting them off my back like that."
"Ah." Oh, Sheena, if you only knew. He'd done that for many reasons, but making her life easier was definitely one of them. He grinned. "The pleasure was all mine."
"I know you just lost a lot of points with them, and I'm sure the rest of your fan club will know about this soon." Her eyes darted briefly at him before falling to the ground, still blushing. "I really appreciate it."
Damn, it felt good to know he'd done well by her. Iota of trust earned. While he doubted he'd ever gain her full trust after six years of untrustworthiness that he could never undo, how could it hurt to make that his ultimate goal? "Heh. I know you're perfectly capable of kicking their asses to Niflheim anytime you want, babe, but believe me, I've been looking forward to doing that for years. They deserved it." He shrugged. "At least now they should think twice before saying anything to you." Leaving Meltokio's upper class section, Zelos looped his arm through hers, pleased to feel her only hesitate a second before she covered it with her free hand -- okay, Wilder, your girlfriend is letting you touch her like this, and so you are not going to grope her or do anything else inappropriate, no matter how much your hand wants to 'slip' elsewhere -- and then he drew her closer to him as they headed toward the steps leading down to the lower class section. "And by all means, tell me if they give you any hassle. I can't say I'd be terribly upset to ban them all from calling themselves my hunnies anymore."
"I will." She gave him a curious look as they descended the steps. "So you set up rules for your hunnies?"
Ah, finally. He'd wondered when she'd ask about that. "It was the only way to keep them under control. If you haven't noticed, they get rather...clingy and possessive...without any checks and bounds."
She snorted. "Yeah, I noticed. Hard not to. I've just never heard you use them before."
"That's because I never had to with you." Zelos cocked his head and quirked a playful smile. "Although in retrospect, the 'no manhandling the Great Zelos' one would've spared me a lot of bruises...."
Sheena chuckled and nudged him with her elbow. "Eh, you deserved every one of them."
He pretended to think about that. He had -- oh, had he deserved them -- but not wanting her to realize how much that tugged on the guilt he'd buried for years that was now leaking through the cracks she'd been poking at ever since that party, he sighed, keeping his tone light. "Yeah, I really can't deny that."
"And were those really Rules #1 and 2?" she asked.
Zelos gave her a wicked grin. "They are now."
Her footsteps slowed and her jaw dropped as she watched him. "You just made them up?"
"Heh." He tugged on her arm to get her walking again. "I always left Rules #1 and 2 open in case I ever needed to get them out of my hair for good. This seemed like a good time to finally set those in stone."
Sheena gaped at him another moment, but then she burst out laughing and playfully smacked his arm. "I can't believe you, Zelos. You're terrible!"
"And you, my dear, are worth it."
Instantly, her eyes widened and her blush deepened, and a moment later her head dipped downward again -- but, he noted, she was still smiling, too. Oh, how he loved leaving her speechless. "Idiot."
So much fondness laced her voice that his footsteps briefly slowed and his heart skipped a beat. He grinned and pressed a kiss to her temple, his heart pounding faster as she leaned into him. 'Strange' or not, Zelos was definitely liking this relaxed affection with her. Now he just had to keep it up so he could get even more adorable little moments like this with her. And knowing it was a possibility...he would behave himself. He wouldn't push her away anymore, or grope her, or tease her, or hurt her. He wouldn't. He would live up to her faith in him and see where this relationship went. If it didn't last, well, then that was that, but he'd sure as hell do everything he could to make sure it did.