The fire popped, briefly showering the air with sparks before being drawn up into the chimney along with the smoke and released into the atmosphere. Outside a blizzard was waging against the town, threatening to burry it under a thick blanket of snow. So far it seemed to be succeeding. In the past five hours nearly three feet of snow had fallen.
Lina and Zelgadis had been lucky enough to make it to the inn right after the snowstorm had started, but even so, they had been pelted with enough of the freezing slush-like snow to numb them to the bone. When they had first stepped inside the inn keeper had mistaken them for a pair of snowmen that he thought some children were trying to smuggle in to keep as souvenirs. After shaking off the snow and revealing who they truly were the keeper had been more than willing to offer them a room. Actually, he had been given a simple choice: Given them a room or face one of Lina's fireballs. It hadn't taken him long to decide.
Unfortunately, only one room had been available. With the unexpected blizzard quite a few travelers were stranded in town now. It hadn't come cheaply either. That cost had been nearly eight gold coins, but in the end it turned out they got their money's worth.
The room was elegant with a bedroom, a private bath, a huge fireplace, and even a small kitchen stocked with all sorts of goodies. Lina had come to discover the latter part after soaking in the hot tub for nearly an hour. Zel being the gentleman he was suggested that she take the first bath. So while he had taken his turn she went rummaging through the pantry. As a result they now had a pot of hot chocolate and a platter of fresh cookies (More than enough for the two of them. She had made over four dozen of them, all of which were butter cookies) to share between them.
Now they were both sitting in front of the fire. A nice and thick fuzzy brown bear rug protected them from the cold wooden planks of the floor. The scent of spiced apples and pumpkin pie hung in the air, giving the room a homely feel that made her want to wrap up in a soft warm blanket and hibernate the winter away. Right now, she was sorely tempted to do just that. She wasn't particularly fond of the cold.
That wasn't the case now. Lina sat with her legs crossed out before her, comfortably leaning again her chimera friend who was stretched out on his stomach. She was wrapped up in a cozy white robe provided by the hotel while Zel was decked out in his pajamas and dozing lightly with his hands resting under his head for a pillow.
She watched the flames dance as she cradled a steaming cup of choco in her hands, savoring the warmth. Everyone else was gone. The winter solstice was fast approaching, less than a day away now. They had all gone to visit with their loved ones. Gourry with Syphiel and Amelia with her father. Even Xellos had disappeared for a time. Perhaps even Mazoku celebrated the holidays, and if they didn't, it really didn't trouble her.
That only left Lina and Zel. Personally, she felt no desire to return home, at least not yet. The thought of Oneechan waiting for her still scared her. Meanwhile, Zelgadis had no living relatives, none that he had told anyone about. Since each could find nothing better to do they had decided to continue traveling together, which brought them into the situation were currently in.
The cup was set aside and the sorceress leaned back, draping herself over Zel's sprawled out form. An amused smile crept over her lips as she contemplated the situation. Nearly a year ago the chimera or herself would have flushed with embarrassment at being so close. As time had gone on, however, she had found herself becoming more comfortable in his presence. She assumed he was the same since he seemed to be sleeping so soundly.
Was something developing between them? As much as they talked and enjoyed each other's company it didn't trouble her one bit to fathom the possibility. She smiled, glancing over at his head. In time she supposed they would learn the truth. Time was excellent at teaching people about themselves. Unfortunately, time also had a habit of killing all its students.
Lazy hues of orange and red radiated off of his metallic hair, giving it a faint molten glow. What were they to do about sleeping arrangements tonight? A single queen sized bed was all the room had. They might feel comfortable about sharing anything else, but the bed...Lina chuckled softly. The rug was more than adequate.
Leave it at that for now.
Retrieving her cup, she took a sip of the sweet liquid. On the mantle above the fireplace was a calendar. Tomorrow was the winter solstice. Strange how over the past few years with all the people she had been around during the holidays, she felt more content this year with Zel around then all the other years combined.
On the far wall across the room the window shuddered as Old Man Winter did his worst to make life miserable for those unfortunate souls caught outdoors. Pearl-like snowflakes continued to pelt the town, turning it into a real life winter wonderland. It looked like they were going to be here for a while.
She smiled again and snuggled closer to Zelgadis, sighing without the faintest trace of disappointment in her voice. Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow.