A/N: Ahahaha, how long has it been since I wrote this pairing? You can thank harmony283 and gin_gen from livejournal for making me write it again.
I'm actually thinking of picking up TRR again, but I need to replay the game first. So not before I go back to France.
THIS IS DEDICATED TO ALL MY TRR READERS. And Mandy and Hannah because without them this wouldn't have happened.
Set... 4 or 5 years post-game. Established relationship is go, because I felt like writing that for once.
Warnings: none really.
Disclaimer: Nope, not mine.
Standing on top of the dungheap, breathing
"You've fallen pretty low, Chosen."
Zelos turned, assuming his usual charming smile.
"I'm not the Chosen anymore, Lord Hyta. But thank you for your concern. I think I can survive without that title. It's not as if my title as Lord Wilder had been removed. I'll be perfectly fine."
The man's elaborately trimmed eyebrows contracted, and his face grew even colder.
"That's not what I'm speaking of, Wilder. Your... 'adventures' have always been famous, but you're going a bit too far this time."
Zelos took a sip of his glass.
"I don't see what you're talking about. I haven't tumbled anyone important's daughter, and as far as I'm aware no red-head bastards have been born recently. Not that you'd have to be worried anyway." The man's daughter was a skinny, bitter twig of a girl, with no culture but an obsession for bad poetry. He suppresed his urge to smirk as Lord Hyta stiffened.
"Don't play innocent, Wilder. I know you've been fraternising with half-elves."
"Half-elves have the same status as us, now. You should watch the way you speak, Princess Hilda has taken the issue to heart. You wouldn't want to make an ennemy of her, would you?"
Hyta snorted. Damn. Well, had to try.
"The Princess has taken to that 'cause' because it makes her look good. In a month she'll be fighting for the rights of seamstresses and forget the half-elves. Don't make me laugh, Chosen. Just because you pressured the King into changing that law with your pretty face doesn't mean anything has changed. And if I was you, I'd distance myself from your pretty little boy before something happens. It would be so sad if the conflict started again, don't you think?"
He nearly snarled. He could take insults and insinuations, but threatening Genis was a whole matter altogether. He wanted to strangle the guy slowly and see him lose all his composure, see the purple behind the white powder. But he couldn't let him see that it had hit home. The fact that those pompous shitheads believed this was nothing more than one of Zelos's flings was Genis's best protection. If they thought him a stupid victim to be abused, they woudln't do anything in retribution or try to use him against Zelos.
He was sick of this world of gold and velvet-covered horsedung. He had been since he was a child, and the only thing that kept him there now was his dedication to setting the world to rights.
That and he wanted to be there to remind the King of his promises.
"I doubt one accident would be enough to start a conflict again. The half-elves have seen worse. They know not to do anything stupid. But I find it very surprising that you'd speak so lightly of conflict, lord Hyta. After all, your lands are on the border to Sylvarant." And you damn well know that my best friend holds the key to international relations, and that I'm still influential enough to cause your ruin if you really get on my bad side.
The other man tensed again and moved nearly imperceptibly backwards, and Zelos had to force himself not to smirk. Stay impassive. You can't show him anything. You're better than thim at this game, he's never had to fool four factions at the same time. He took a sip of his glass, careful not to drink too fast or to finish his glass. He had to be above it all, even if his stomach was knotting and straining at the stress of what was at stake here.
Breathe, relax, smile. You overpower him when it comes to influence and he knows it. Just don't make any mistakes.
The other noble squinted, incensed by his smile, but at that moment a woman dressed in too many frills and showing too much skin approached them from the side and started flapping her fan. Zelos closed his nose against the assault of the sludgy floral perfume and smiled.
The woman snapped her fan close in a theatrical manner and poked her husband on the chest with it.
"My dear, your daughter is talking to one of those new noble boys. I thought you were keeping an eye on her. Do you want something infortunate to happen to her reputation?" It was quick, but Zelos saw the way her eyes snapped to him for half a second. His reputation was as good as ever. He raised his glass in a mock salute, savouring her concealed outrage at his familiarity before downing what was left. "Those oportunists will do anything to get a better rank."
Hyta hesitated for a second, his eyes going from Zelos to his wife and back, before her resumed fanning forced him.
"Lord Wilder," he bowed, stiff with dislike.
Zelos answered with a bow of his own, conspicuously less deep than Hyta's. The aristocrat held back his snarl and left behind his wife.
He took another glass from a passing waiter and scanned the crowd, wondering when court had stopped being a fun game and become a pain. It had always been something he despised, but back when he was only playing with his life, whatever they could throw at him didn't matter. It was nothing compared to what his other allies and enemies could do, and it wasn't like he really cared anyway. But now the stakes had changed, and he found this little game of veiled threats and real danger a lot less amusing.
And he'd told Genis this, but for all the half-elf usually found tons of reasons to question their relationship, that particular threat had been the one to actually tie him closer.
"If you think I'm going to back down because of this, then you're sorely mistaken. I've survived Derris Karlan, I'm not afraid of them. Let them do their worst, if they think it's going to stop the world from changing. I'm not giving away something I care about again."
It still warmed him in a way, the way Genis had been honest about his feelings in his anger, but he was still tense. It was a delicate path they were threading, with each other and with the world.
And this stupid crowd was hiding behind its silk fans and fancy wine to try and pretend the world wasn't changing. Well, it was changing all right, and they had better be prepared for it if they didn't want to be overthrown in a nasty, bloody way.
At least the King had the sense to adapt to the situation, bend when necessary in order to remain rooted. His links with the military were well-established, and he was making increasingly interesting offers to the scholars and magitechnologists. Progress was on its way, and Tethe'alla would survive. With or without its aristocracy.
He caught movement from behind him and smiled around his glass.
"Lord Bryant. What a nice surprise."
"You're the one who has been sparce recently, Zelos. Something on your mind?"
"I'm getting more and more tired of all this nonsense. Did you miss it when you were in prison?"
Regal looked amused, one eyebrow rising as he moved out of the way of a young nobleman.
"No. But if your reputation serves you right, you used to enjoy this a lot more."
"You shouldn't trust my reputation. I don't have as many illegitimate children as they'd like me to have."
"And not as many conquests as they'd like right now?"
"Touché. So what about you? In a hurry to leave this dungheap and go back to Al Tamira?"
"I wish I could. But I've still got a lot to do here. The King is making a large order and I need to take care of all the details myself." He sighed.
"Tough luck. Well, feel free to call on your way back, if you want. I'm sure no one would mind."
And by that he meant Genis, of course, but this was court, and the fewer names were mentioned the better.
"Are you sure? I didn't think I'd be welcome, it's not like we started on good terms."
"We've all changed, Regal." Perhaps me most of all.
The orchestra switched to a calmer music and Zelos's acute court senses told him the reception was soon coming to an end. Soon people would start retiring to their apartments, or to their mansions for the Melkio based nobles. Years ago he'd have been one of the first to leave, usually in good company, using the general activity to go more or less unnoticed. Today he used it to slip away after a brief aknowledging bow to the King, smiling a good-bye to Regal.
In the heated breeze of Meltokio summer, he undid his braid and took a few deep breaths, finally relaxing. He looked at the city below him and wondered when Meltokio had stopped being home. The wind was still blowing and he let it flow through his hair, cooling his skin. He'd nearly forgotten this sentation of standing on top of the world of a pile of rubble, ornate stone turning to brick turning to rotting wood. He nearly envied Sylvarant, with its poor but tighter-knit people.
An obnoxious giggle sounded behind him and he left his place on the railing to go home, avoiding the trickle of nobles coming out of the palace.
"Master Zelos, would you like some tea before sleeping?"
"What are you still doing up, Sebastian?"
"It's my duty, Sir."
He didn't even try to argue. The butler was hard-headed as hell when he wanted, and Zelos was too tired to waste his energy on a lost cause. Instead he climbed the stairs to his room and fell backwards on his bed, feeling way more lonely than a man who had spent most of his life refusing honest human contact had a right to be.
Two days later he closed the door to his Sybak mansion and instantly noticed the smell of tea. He breathed in deeply, savouring it-it was a fresh and energising flavour, filled with herbs and spice that heightened concentration- and walked towards the kitchen, hoping to find his housemate of sorts there.
Instead he found him lying on his back on one of the sofas in the living room, advanced physics book resting on his chest with some of its pages bent.
Fallen asleep while revising again. That academy might as well be a desian ranch.
He moved forwards silently and picked up the book, smoothing its pages and putting it down on the nearby table, an elaborate bookmark slipped to hold his page. Genis frowned, then sighed, his head tilting to the side.
It was all too damn endearing, and the worst was, he loved it. So much of his happiness had come to depend on that face, and the smiles, laugh and banter that would come from it.
He admired him. His brains and his courage, and the way he never backed down from the things that counted. It was still incredible for him that he could be one of them.
He bent down and kissed his forehead, slipping his fingers in soft white hair.
Genis opened his eyes slowly, blinking to focus his vision. Zelos smiled and bent down further, kissing him for real this time, enjoying the way he answered sleepily, gently, without their usual competition.
When he had his fill and Genis was fully awake, he sat back, letting Genis straighten on the sofa.
"What are you doing here? Weren't you supposed to stay until next week?"
"I sped things along. There's only so much of the court I can take without feeling the need to disembowel someone."
"Besides," he continued, "this kind of thing is better done fast. There was no reason to delay it. So I kicked tradition to the side a bit and took care of everything with the King as soon as I could."
"How many traditions have you kicked already? Seems like you do that on a weekly basis."
"A week? And there I thought I did it every..." he landed a kiss to Genis's ear, "waking..." then on his brow, "minute."
He kissed him full on the mouth, and felt Genis chuckle in amusement under his lips.
"You're an idiot."
"And you've been talking to Sheena too much."
Genis smirked and stretched, pushing him aside a bit to stand up. Zelos stayed on the couch, observing him.
"You're staring at me, Zelos. If I was naked I'd blame it on your perverted mind but I'm not, so tell me what's on your mind before I pull a Sheena and nag you forever about it."
He sighed again, absently combing part of his hair with one hand.
"People at the court have heard about you."
Genis raised an eyebrow.
"And? You knew it was going to happen eventually. It's not like everybody in this town is studying, no matter what they pretend. People gossip everywhere."
"I know. I'd just hoped it would wait longer."
"And now what? Have they been giving you trouble? Do you wish you'd double-guessed and not gotten yourself involved with a half-elf?"
Genis looked at him, stopped by his outburst. He was surprised to see that there wasn't even animosity in his eyes.
Apparently some issues weren't as healed as he'd thought. Damnit. He caught his hand.
"Just keep safe, ok? If I manoevre them well there shouldn't be any trouble, but... be careful anyway. I don't want you to get hurt. Raine and Sheena would kill me."
They were both silent for a second, and it counted as one of the most awkward moments of Zelos's life. He wasn't used to being this serious, and neither of them really knew how to deal with it.
"... are you worried about me?"
He stood and looked him in the eyes.
"Maybe I am." He smiled. "But don't try to make me repeat it. I've got my pride, you know."
Genis laughed, breaking the tension, and then kissed him, a teasing, second-long caress.
"Sure, I'll save your pride, as long as you don't go wrecking it yourself. And don't worry. I can take care of myself. So you go kick their arse with frills and sweet-talk and I'll take care of anything that comes up here, ok?"