""Years and years of... bloodshed and warfare... our mission was only to get in and kill, a free vacation; palm trees and shrapnel, trading in essence for permanent psychotic hell! Hearing voices from miles away, saying things never said. Seeing shadows in the light of the day, waging the war inside my head. feeling strangers staring my way, reading rhymes never read. Tasting danger with each word I say, waging the war inside my head!" -War Inside My Head, Dream Theater

"...I'm not entirely sure about HOW it happened Lina, I'm not what you'd call an expert on human/Mazoku er... relations. If I were to hazard a guess, I would have to lay it at the feet of adversity. By adversity I mean Xellos, of course."

"Uh huh. Trust me, Zelgadis, I know ALL about adversity. L-sama knows, pudding-head and I have been through scads of it. Still, neither adversity nor Xellos ever made ME the slightest bit inclined towards falling in love with a DARK LORD!!!"

"Well, in her defense Lina, she didn't KNOW he was a Dark Lord until very recently. He's changed a lot, since we last met him."

"I would imagine he'd kinda have to, since the last time we met him he tried to kill us!"

"Look Lina, what's done is done. Mina's a fine young girl if you ask me, she's got her head screwed on straight, she knows when to duck, and she's just as cunning and underhanded as YOU ever were, and I mean that as a compliment." He paused for a moment, trying to think of a diplomatic way to say what needed to be said next, then continued, figuring he was hard-headed enough to survive whatever wrath she felt inclined to bestow upon him. "Unfortunately she also inherited your tendency towards mulish stubbornness, and I can guarantee you that trying to talk her out of this is a waste of time and breath. As I said earlier, we are a little short on time, hence my presence here to give you a bit of an "Oh by the way". This isn't infatuation Lina... she was perfectly willing to sacrifice herself for him." He stared at her levelly.

Lina sighed. "I don't suppose there's any possibility Xellos did something to her that MADE her fall in love with Gaav, is there?"

Zelgadis raised an eyebrow. "Aside from dropping her in his lap, GURK!" His voice became a choked gurgle. "Figuratively speaking of course..." His voice returned to normal octaves as Lina relaxed her grip on his throat. "First of all, Xellos and Gaav aren't exactly best pals - if you know what I mean. Secondly, if Xellos could have done something like that, why didn't he use it on YOU? You'd have been a lot more useful to him if you were in love with-"

"No... don't say it Zel... I get the point. Alright. In the interest of helping Valgaav, I'll keep quiet, for now. Shut up Filia." She remarked, her eyes flicking to the distressed Dragon, then back to Zelgadis. "But my daughter and I are about due for a little chat."

Zelgadis grinned. "Well... this is going better than I had originally hoped."

Lina sighed wearily. "I've grown up a bit in the last ten years, Zelgadis. Being a mother will do that to you."

"Right. I don't suppose you could let me down now?" He asked reasonably, suspended a foot off the ground with the irate sorceress' hands clenched in a death grip on his collar.

"I'll get back to you on that." She growled sweetly.

He sweat dropped.


Many are the romantic epics that have expounded on the magical properties of love. Such statements as "Love Can Give You Wings", and "Love Conquers All", have been postulated to the sighing contentment of hordes of adolescent females.

Mina was beginning to doubt the veracity of said epics.

For instance, while the above statements have been mentioned time and time again, no romantic epic has ever gone on record as having stated, "Love Gives You A Headache". More importantly, no romantic epic has continued this statement with, "...Because The One You Love Is A Loud, Insensitive, Loutish Dark Lord Whom You'd Really Like To Hurt Because He Refuses To See Reason, (Reason being in this case, doing things Mina's way) But Who You Can't Really, Because The Bastard Is Probably Right, Not To Mention Damn Near Impossible To Hurt, Physically."

Although to raise a valid point in the above-mentioned romantic epics' argument, this statement is rather specific.

"No you cannot just, 'knock my mother out', and that's that." She said, rubbing the bridge of her nose tiredly.

"Look, I understand she's your mother, believe me... there's no way I could miss THAT little fact." He gave her a half-lidded, annoyed look to emphasize what he thought of said fact. "...I also understand that I'm going to have to let her live.... ah... excuse me, to live with that fact. The problem is, she's never going to let us just walk on up and hand over Valgaav, and right now he doesn't have the time. I'm telling you, one quick smack and she'll be senseless for the duration." He grinned, since the logic in his statement was pragmatic and probably the most expedient way to deal with a problem that loomed ever closer with each step. Not to mention it let him hit someone he didn't particularly care much for.

Probably very hard.

A sharp, stinging slap to the side of his brow made him blink. It was a very small slap, not unlike what might have happened if an extremely flat beetle had made an error in judgment while rounding his head and slammed into him. He turned to regard Pix irritably.

"Shame on you!" Pix glared at him, her arms crossed. "Talking about hitting her mother. That's just terrible!"

"She hit me first." He grumbled irritably. The Demon Dragon King was not accustomed to being talked to like he was a recalcitrant child.

"Well I'm sure you deserved it." Pix said with a nod of her head, fluttering off towards Mina. Mina sighed.

"Gaav, logically, knocking my mother unconscious would be a quick, albeit temporary, solution. However, I don't think my Aunt, nor Mr. Zelgadis, not to mention my Dad, would appreciate you smacking her around. Furthermore, when she woke up, I doubt she'd be inclined to forgive and forget, if you know what I mean."

Gaav muttered something that sounded a lot like, "IF she woke up.." and looked the other way. Mina frowned.

"Gaav, my mother and I don't often see eye to eye, and she can be overbearing at times, but she IS my mom, and I do love her. This isn't going to be a big problem, is it?"

Gaav sighed. "No. I guess I'm still having problems dealing with this whole love thing. It's forcing me to react to things in a manner I'm beginning to have serious misgivings about."

She rounded on him and stared up into his eyes. "Like ME?"

He growled. "Did I say you? Don't jump to conclusions. You always-"

"PEOPLE! There is NO time for this!" Pix shouted at the top of her lungs. "Do I need to remind you both that the whole reason Master Zelgadis went on ahead was to AVOID confrontations?"

She turned to Gaav. "YOU, need to be a little bit more sensitive to Mina's feelings, which I know you are perfectly capable of, despite what you might say."

Then to Mina. "YOU, need to realize that the mere FACT he's capable of loving ANYTHING is a miracle in and of itself. There are going to be some problems at first, because this isn't only alien to him, it's completely against everything his race stands for."

She sighed deeply and muttering darkly to herself as she fluttered ahead past Xellos, who had remained silent (but grinning) during the exchange. Mina and Gaav shared a stunned look.

"How is it she always manages to make me feel like a big kid?" Gaav mused out loud.

"Because you are..." Mina sighed. "But then, apparently so am I."

The two of them continued along in silence.


Filia looked worriedly over the horizon, then back at Zelgadis (who, after the cessation of Lina's assault on his dignity had taken his normal, aloof, just-a-part-of-the-background position) as he leaned against a large oak tree and attempted to ignore Amelia, who was apparently angry with him for (in his estimation) some incomprehensible reason.

"Maybe I should go to him, instead of having him come here." Filia muttered worriedly, returning to her study of the horizon.

Zelgadis shrugged. "It wouldn't save much time to be honest. I think it would be best to let them come here, since this IS the most easily defended area for miles around, at least as far as I could see. If anyone attacks while you are healing him, we'll be forced to defend you... which will be a lot easier if we are all together and in a relatively secluded area."

"What exactly is the nature of his injury?" Filia inquired.

Zelgadis frowned. "The best way to describe it would be a parasitic infestation. This enemy he fought, whoever he was, somehow forced a part of his essence into Valgaav, and it's eating him alive. At least, that's the way it was described to me. I've never seen anything like it before."

He narrowed his eyes and looked towards the direction of Filia's search. "One thing's for sure... if he doesn't get help soon..." He let the sentence hang. No more really needed to be said.


The two groups stared at each other uneasily. It was an uneven match up if ever there was one. Lina glared intently at Mina, who studiously avoided looking at her, looking instead at her father, who appeared to be uncertain as to whether Gaav or Lina was the bigger threat (and therefore, which of them he should be watching). Gaav, for his part, glared at Lina. His gaze suggested that he wanted to do things entirely inappropriate for PG-13 audiences, perhaps even R. Zelgadis studiously ignored Amelia while helping Filia set up a makeshift "operating" area for Valgaav, who moaned and twitched restlessly in his pain filled slumber. Amelia helped Filia move the stricken half-dragon onto his makeshift bed but wasn't helping overly much because she was also trying to glare suspiciously at Pix, who was in turn attempting (unsuccessfully) to assist her master in his preparations, while simultaneously trying to get his attention.

Sir Langdelin watched the inside of his eyelids, still quite unconscious after his faceplant and subsequent trampling. He did have rather interesting dreams about being beaten gently by two large, fluffy pillows, but this was more or less because Hydra had taken immediate (and nearly obsessive) interest in his well-being, caring for him herself.

No one was entirely certain whether to be sorry for him or Hydra. Or even to be sorry.

Xellos watched everything with a grin, and would have wished he had a camera, had he known what the hell a camera was.

Gourry, as usual, was the first person to break the ice, by a simple expedient - he was unaware there was any.

"So Mina! How's the adventuring life treating ya?" He asked, grinning proudly.

She blinked, looked at Gaav, then her mother, then grinned weakly. "Well enough... I haven't... ahem... done anything to really brag about, but-"

Lina shook her head slowly, running a hand through her hair in exasperation. "Oh I don't know... falling in love with a Dark Lord is a pretty... big accomplishment."

Mina turned red and opened her mouth to say something, but stopped when Gaav's hand raised momentarily. Gaav stared down at Lina coldly, anger flaring sullenly in his eyes. He half smiled, half snarled.

"What's the matter Lina Inverse? Am I not GOOD enough for your daughter?"

Lina stared up at him, unfazed despite the worried looks the rest of the party gave the two of them. She crossed her arms.

"No... you're not. I think the only thing you're going to give her is heartache and pain."

He clenched his fists in anger, winds beginning to swirl around him sluggishly. Mina took his hand and shook her head.

The winds stopped when Lina interrupted what he was going to say next.

"But... it's not my decision." She looked down, feeling her age. "My daughter, whether I like it or not, is a grown woman, and she's quite free to make her own decisions, however foolish they might be."

Mina blinked in surprised shock, searching her mother's face for some hint of rebuke. Lina shook her head slowly.

"I'll admit that mistakes were made in the past..." She looked sideways. Mina didn't press the issue. Both of them realized how hard this was for her.

"Still, you and I need to have a talk, Mina. You disappear for three years and not a word in all that time? I was worried sick about you."

Mina looked away. "I can take care of myself, mom...." She sighed. "But... I am... sorry."

Filia stepped between the two groups and looked at both sides dismally. "I'm afraid this is going to be complicated, and I'm going to need help from both sides. I hope you can put aside your differences for this."

Both sides looked to their respective leaders (and biggest hotheads). After glaring at each other silently for several seconds, Lina finally nodded resignedly. Gaav continued to stare at her for several seconds, then his gaze slid to his wounded servant. His servant, who wasn't really his servant anymore. What did the boy mean to him, exactly? Long ago, for reasons he hadn't understood fully at the time, Gaav had given the young dragon a new life. By right, it was by his will that the boy's life should be ended, either by faithful service or by his hand. He doubted that Valgaav would serve him again... judging from the tattered remains of his armor he had already chosen his new master, though no one else seemed to notice that. Still, Gaav felt some responsibility for the boy's predicament... this was probably an insult directed at him by Talon, who was trying to send the message that Gaav wasn't powerful enough to care for his servants. His hand clenched on the pommel of his sword. So be it. This was his responsibility to see through; whether it be the boy's destruction, or his recovery. Personal grudges had to be set aside.

"What do you need me to do?" He growled softly.

The tension cleared suddenly as various hands slipped from their swords. Filia let out a sigh of relief and cleared her throat. "I need to cast a rather lengthy but extremely powerful healing spell. I cannot be interrupted during the process, or we stand a good chance of losing him... and me." She stared hard at Xellos, who was completely serious (for once).

"I will be very vulnerable during this, but that's not all. Just healing Valgaav won't be enough... the alien presence in him has to be purged. The normal method of simply blasting it out won't work... the only thing keeping him alive is his Mazoku self... and I wouldn't purge that even if I could."

Everyone blinked in surprise, even Xellos. He fingered his chin thoughtfully.

"I would think you'd relish a chance to make Valgaav less... dynamic." Xellos cocked his head thoughtfully.

Filia sighed. "I made that mistake once. I love Valgaav... all of him. Being part Mazoku is how he is... I can't... won't change that."

Xellos stared hard at her for a long time, then looked away unconcernedly. Gaav snorted.

"I don't see what this has to do with me."

Filia sighed. "Like it or not, you are the major link to his Mazoku nature. The part of him that came from you is what made him seek you out, instinctively. I have to go inside his mind and separate him from the invader that is tearing apart his self. If I had a beacon that he'd recognize on a gut level, that would be a lot easier."

Gaav frowned. "You said any interruption could prove fatal for the boy and for you as well. What of myself?"

Lina narrowed her eyes. Here it was. Damned out of his own mouth. As he'd once said, all Mazoku would sell out anyone to save their own skins, and that was what this was going to boil down to. Mina was a fool to trust her heart to him...

Filia sighed. "I won't lie to you... I'm not sure what would happen to a Mazoku... this is a White Magic spell, and I don't think anything like it has ever been attempted, but I would be lying to you if I said this would be harmless... it could kill you."

Gaav frowned, then grinned fiercely. "Heh. Well, I've been in danger before. Besides... I've become rather well acquainted with death recently... the threat has lost some of its sting, if you know what I mean."

Lina gaped quietly, then snapped her mouth closed with a snap. He... he hadn't even hesitated. Mina nodded quietly, then took Gaav's hand.

"I won't let anything interrupt you, Filia. I will protect him." She said fiercely, staring up at him. Lina blinked again.

Xellos made gagging noises in the background, but they all ignored him.

Filia nodded, serenity marking her features despite what was at stake. This was her field. She WOULD NOT let her son be destroyed.

"Alright then... I guess we are ready to start. Let's start right now... we don't have much time."

The group gathered around the makeshift bed the group had prepared for Valgaav. He shuddered weakly, sweat marking his brow. "T-T-T-Tessss." He hissed, his teeth chattering. Filia and Gaav shared uncomprehending looks.

Filia cleared her mind of all doubts and worries (which was hard) and laid her hands on the stricken half-dragon's shoulder. A hand on her own shoulder caught her attention and she opened her eyes in confusion.

A gloved hand. Her gaze followed up the purple clad arm to a face that had never been more serious in all the time she'd known it. She blinked in sudden confusion.

Xellos opened his eyes and gave her an incomprehensible look. "Remember Filia," He said quietly, with no mocking undertone to his voice at all. "A Mazoku's greatest power lies in deceit. It will try to trick you into handing it the keys to what you are trying to save." he grinned evilly, his face becoming a mask again.

"At least... that, is what I would do." he released her arm and disappeared with a muted pop.

Lina sighed. "He just gets weirder and weirder as time goes by."

Zelgadis looked out into the distance. "You have no idea."


She clutched her papers tighter to her chest as she walked past the heavy iron gate that marked her new place of employment. The imposing, gothic structure stood at the top of a hill amid a scattering of willow trees, the overall impression being one of a place forgotten by humanity.

Quite appropriate for a place that society put people it would prefer to forget about.

Quite appropriate for an Asylum.

She brushed the few stray blonde hairs that had escaped her no-nonsense bun away from her brow and walked up to the door. The security guard eyed her dubiously, as though he doubted a young woman (even in the white lab coat she'd chosen to make her position here quite clear) had the credentials to be entering this place of madness. The radio in his ear caught his attention as she neared, however, and he grudgingly nodded to her and opened the door.

She walked into the highly clinical hall, the smell of disinfectant and a deeper, more cloying scent assaulted her senses. It was impossible not to realize this was a place of sickness, though admittedly not of the body.

It was a place for sickness of the mind and soul.

Her heels clicked on the polished tile floor, and she looked up, momentarily distracted by an odd portrait, a seemingly random series of brush strokes that nonetheless evoked a deep, guttural reaction in her... disorientation soaked her mind... that image... she knew...

A quiet, urbane, cultured voice startled her out of her reverie with a start, and she looked up to see the most handsome man she'd ever encountered. His long black hair was drawn back into a stylish pony-tail, and he looked quite distinguished in his white lab coat and black trousers. She blushed despite herself.

"Ah... Dr. Copt, I presume? You must be, though Dr. Blueriver's description hardly does you justice." The man grinned charmingly, not a hint of slyness in his voice to set her ill at ease. She blushed harder.

"Ah... I'm sorry Dr...?"

"Talon..." he grinned easily, the fluorescent light glinting off of his prescription (but stylish) sunglasses. "But please, call me Seth. I run an informal house here. You won't find me quite the tyrant that I am rumoured to be, I assure you." He chuckled easily, holding out a white gloved hand.

She took it, chuckling along with him. "I-I'm sorry Dr. Talon. I was expecting someone a bit..."

"Older?" He grinned conspiratorially. "I get that a lot. The orderlies all think I sprang up fully grown and that I'm just passing the time here 'till I can be a crotchety old man..." he winked. "I find it's easier to maintain discipline if I don't disillusion them."

She laughed easily. "I'll try to maintain the fantasy, Doctor."

He nodded and smiled. "Please... just Seth. I have a feeling it will be quite... pleasant working with you Dr. Copt."

She smiled. "Filia, please."

"Of course." He grinned knowingly.


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