Unintentional Sexual Harassment.
Unusual sights often go unappreciated simply because spectators don't understand what it is that they're seeing. It was in this way that a handful of buzzed pub patron's completely failed to appreciate the oddity of a monster and a dragon sitting at the bar and drinking together. All they saw through their booze-glazed haze was a young man and woman who looked as though they'd rather be anywhere else and in any other company.
And it was true that neither Xellos nor Filia would've put themselves in this situation of their own volition. But earlier that day as they were walking through town they'd been having a… let's call it a discussion… a debate… a comparative exercise to demonstrate which of their races was best. The word 'jerkface' had been thrown around, yes, but there's no reason for that to take anything away from the solemnity of the proceedings.
Lina hadn't appreciated that in the least. She'd turned to them, raked her hands through her hair frantically as though she'd been nursing a headache all day and shouted: "That's IT! I've had enough of you two!"
She put her hands on her hips and glared at them. "Whatever problems you two have with each other just get over them, or at least shut up about them!"
They both opened their mouths—shutting up was probably not their intention.
"I don't even want to hear it!" Lina commanded. She put her hand to her forehead for a moment, either in great contemplation or great pain. Finally she swept her hand out and pointed toward a local tavern. "Until you're willing to at least pretend to get along, I don't want to see or hear either of you. So just drink it out, talk it out, hug it out or duke it out—whatever. Just as long as you work it out!"
So they'd been banished—expelled from their own party. And though neither one was willing to work on any reconciliation, there was one thing that they could both agree on.
"Miss Lina is so mean," Filia sulked.
Xellos set his drink down, letting the ice clink as it settled. "She is being rather bossy, even for her," he was forced to agree. "What's she going to demand next? That Mister Gourry stop asking obvious questions? That Mister Zelgadis stop being sarcastic? That Miss Amelia stop using the word 'justice?'"
Filia had her hands neatly folded in her lap—a pillar of decency in the dank, beer-scented room. "…That would never happen."
Xellos raised an eyebrow at her. "Is it more likely for us to get along?"
She sniffed haughtily. "Not at all."
"Of course, I've done nothing wrong even in the face of your constant harassment," Xellos said sanctimoniously. "I've been perfectly polite."
"Polite?" Filia repeated incredulously. "Is that what you call it?!"
"That's exactly what I call it. You're the one who's always shouting. You'll notice I keep my temper," he said in a purposefully soft and even voice. This was slightly undone by his almost inaudible mumbling of: "…For the most part."
"You provoke me to shout at you with your wickedness!" she shot back. "And anyway, insults are insults no matter what volume they're delivered at or what fancy language you use. Don't pretend that that's civil." She took a triumphant swig of her drink and set the empty glass on the table.
Xellos's eyes followed her movement. Either because he had no counter-argument or because he was legitimately curious, he changed the subject. "Should you even be drinking that? I thought alcohol was a mocker."
"You're a mocker," she muttered darkly as the bartender set two more glasses next to their growing collection. "Anyway, it's only human-grade stuff. It's weak."
"True," Xellos said, taking a steady drink. "If Miss Lina was expecting the alcohol to lubricate some kind of ceasefire then she didn't think this through. It doesn't really affect either of us." He paused, glass still in hand. "Though if this goes on for long enough it'll end up affecting you."
"That's because I'm flesh a blood," Filia responded with what Xellos considered to be a perverse sort of pride in her own mortality.
"How nice for you," Xellos responded coldly in what he knew was not going to be his best comeback of the evening.
"Prick me and I bleed," was Filia's bizarre brag as she gestured dramatically with her shot glass.
"I'm going to assume that's not an invitation," Xellos muttered. "Anyway, I could say the same thing if I had enough advanced notice. It's just not worth the trouble for someone like me. …It's not as though bleeding takes any particular talent," he added in a snappish tone.
She blinked at him and in that odd speech felt the strange sense of a completely alien perspective. What was it like to have… options? To treat elements of appearance and form that mortals take for granted as permanent as though they were… just clothing. A disguise.
Apropos to nothing she turned her gaze fixedly to the wood grain of the bar. She fiddled with her drink awkwardly, letting the very small amount of remaining alcohol slosh in a circular tide. She gave him a brief sidelong glance before looking straight back at the tabletop.
"Yes?" he asked, watching her change in behavior with interest.
She seemed to have trouble knowing where to start. "Do you… at the Temple of the Fire Dragon King they told us that… that when monsters materialize in this world that their clothes are part of their bodies." Red pigment was building up in her cheeks—probably that famous blood she was so proud of. "Do you have… is that true?"
Xellos sat back and surveyed her for a minute—whether it was to heighten her sense of embarrassment or because he was actually thinking was hard to say, and there's no reason that both can't be true. "Technically speaking, yes, it is true," he answered. "But," he said, tugging at the fingertips of one white glove until he pulled it off completely and pressed it into one of her hands—still neatly resting in her lap, "once I remove them, they're just clothes," he said, holding out a perfectly normal looking hand with perfectly normal, if unrealistically clean, fingernails.
She stared at the hand in front of her, and then back down at the glove as though not sure what to do with it. "…Oh," she finally said.
She set the glove down gingerly on the table. Then she took a desperate gulp of the precious last drops of alcohol in her glass, set it down, and gestured to the bartender to bring another. The bartender, working at the other end of the bar, sighed and brought two more glasses out, rather suspicious of his endlessly-thirsty-but-surprisingly-still-upright guests, but not paying them much mind.
Xellos brought the new glass almost up to his lips with his ungloved hand—not really flesh and blood, but a damn good imitation. He watched as Filia took a drink.
"So…" he said, looking her up and down, "what have you got under there?"
She sprayed the contents of her mouth across the bar and began choking wildly. "You—!" she screeched furiously between coughs.
He smirked. "Well wasn't that exactly what you were asking me, Miss Flesh-And-Blood?"
"That's not at all what I meant, you creep! Stop twisting my words!" she yelled, recoiling toward the far end of her barstool.
"Oh, I don't think I'm twisting anything," he countered smugly. "You might as well have said 'show me some skin!'"
She made a face at him that was so disgusted that the bartender was inclined to check if any of his ingredients had expired. "I don't want to see your stupid skin!" she declared, pushing his glove closer to him as though it was a molted snake skin. "I just…" she began to crumple slightly, "…wondered if it was there, that's all."
"Did you?" he pressed, eyebrows arched.
"Yes! It was… it was all out of intellectual curiosity and nothing more!" she insisted.
"I'll buy the 'curiosity' part," he allowed, "but that curiosity of yours isn't the least bit intellectual."
"Oh please!" Filia scoffed. "As if I'd show interest in you in any other way."
"I wasn't talking about any other way," he answered, taking an excessively dainty sip of his drink, "I meant one specific way."
She turned her gaze to her drink in an attitude that she hoped made it quite clear that she'd rather look at just about anything but him. "I could never be that drunk!" she declared. Nevertheless she paused just before bringing the drink to her lips, and slowly set it back down on the counter. …Better safe than sorry.
The action was not lost on Xellos. "I'm glad to hear that you have at least some self-control," he said, smiling smugly. "At least now I know that when you've had a few drinks you tend to make cheeky comments."
"My comments were not cheeky!" she exploded. "Who even uses that word anyway?!" she demanded, more of the world in general than of Xellos.
"You seemed very interested in finding out about the body beneath these clothes," Xellos said resting a hand on his chest. "That's a rather cheeky thing for a Dragon priestess to ask."
"I didn't mean it like that," Filia answered sourly. "I only asked because I figured you had to be made up of nothing but trash!"
"Oh-ho, really?" Xellos sputtered, eyebrows knocking together. "Well I suppose you could've been cheekier if you were going to ask questions along that line," he pondered, repeating the hated word on purpose.
"What do you mean?" she growled.
"Well…" he began hesitantly, as though loath to speak aloud such indelicate sentiments, "I'm sure when your temple was teaching you everything they thought you needed to know about monsters they also told you that higher level ones, such as myself, can modify our forms to look however we like."
"I know that," Filia retorted. "And all that goes to show is that you have terrible taste. Cheeky enough for you?"
"Since you're well aware," Xellos continued, ignoring her comment, "did you stop to consider anything related to that while you were pondering the nature of my body under my clothes?"
"I don't know what you're—" she froze mid-speech and turned her eyes deliberately away from him. "No! No, no, no! I wasn't thinking about that at all, you depraved weirdo!"
"Ah, but I think I detect the sound of some gears turning," he said, holding a hand to his ear. "How could you know what I was talking about if you weren't thinking about it?" He paused and then added, "…you depraved weirdo."
Filia slammed her fists down on the counter. "I am not depraved! The only reason I'm thinking about it at all is because you put it in my head!" And try as she might, she couldn't unthink it.
"Oh, so you are thinking it?" Xellos confirmed, beaming delightedly. "Why Filia, I'd blush if I only had a circulatory system." He gave a theatrical shrug. "But I'm sure you'll agree that artifice has its disadvantages as well as its… benefits."
"I'm sure I will not!"
"Hey," a voice said from behind them.
They both turned—Filia from her near descent into a tantrum and Xellos from his gloating—to see Zelgadis and Amelia approaching the bar.
"Miss Lina's gotten over her headache," Amelia announced, dispelling any notion that she and he might've been banished from the group as well. "She says you two can come back if you'll stop the arguing."
"So?" Zelgadis said, looking annoyed that he was playing errand-boy. "Are you willing to at least try to get along?"
"Not if Filia keeps sexually harassing me," Xellos answered.
Amelia and Zelgadis both looked startled initially, but Zelgadis was quick to move to a deadpan expression.
"He's lying! I'm not doing that at all!" Filia shouted. She pointed at him furiously. "He's the one who's sexually harassing me by pretending that I'm sexually harassing him!"
Amelia and Zelgadis exchanged a look with Xellos over Filia's shoulder. Xellos mouthed, "Do you see what I'm dealing with here?"
"Um… Miss Filia," Amelia tried, "that doesn't make any sense."
"I don't think accusing someone of sexual harassment counts as sexual harassment," Zelgadis said coolly.
"It is the way he does it!" Filia spat. "Everything is the way he does it! Look!" she said, pointing frantically at him. "Look at that sleazy leer and tell me that's not sexual harassment!"
"This is just how I smile," Xellos said, sounding, for the first time in the conversation like his defense was sincere.
"It is kind of unpleasant…" Amelia was forced to admit. "But look, can't we just compromise on this?"
"Just how are they supposed to do that?" Zelgadis asked.
"Well…" Amelia trailed off. "I guess they could just agree that they were both accidentally sexually harassing each other."
"I'll agree to no such thing!" Filia declared. "There was nothing wrong with what I said."
"What did you say anyway?" Zelgadis asked, not entire sure he wanted to know.
"She asked about my—" Xellos piped up.
"I did not!" Filia cut him off.
"Look," Zelgadis said, cutting in before Xellos could reply, "aside from Xellos's creepy looks which no one likes, all of this supposed sexual harassment—whether it was unintentional, imagined, or on purpose—was verbal, right?"
"Right," Filia answered, crossing her arms and glaring over at Xellos.
"Yes," Xellos agreed, rather annoyed at the way his facial features were being received—he'd been going for charming.
"Then I think I have a solution that'll put all this to a stop," Zelgadis said gravely.
There was a moment of silence as they waited for his answer.
Zelgadis shook his head at them. "Just… stop talking to each other. That's all you have to do."
The monster and the dragon exchanged a long look, and then slowly turned back to the man with the plan in front of them.
"What kind of stupid idea is that?" Filia demanded.
Zelgadis sighed and turned away from them. "C'mon Amelia," he said, walking toward the exit, "let's go find Lina and tell her that she can either have the both of them in her party or she can have blissful silence, but she can't have both."