Only Stone on the Outside
a Slayers fanfic
I do not own this terrific series; I just wish I did. Please let me know if you'd like to print or archive my story, though, because it's a real boost to the ol' faltering ego. There are a few minor spoilers, but nothing really descriptive. PG for minor swearing.
Many thanks to my friend Shell Presto, a wonderfully talented writer/artiste (check out her A/Z story One Third Human) for her invaluable editing commentary. Thanks also to Marie, for being my faithful sounding board and offering ingenious solutions to convoluted plot problems.
Chapter Five: Chimera Dreams
As Amelia and Zelgadis walked toward the sleeping wing, each of them was lost in their own thoughts. Amelia kept thinking about how it had felt to be in his arms. With the heavy fabric of his sleeve pressing against her hand, she wondered again what his skin felt like.
Zelgadis was on another line of thought altogether. "Amelia, are you sure you're all right? You haven't been this clumsy in years."
"Huh? Oh, well, I think I'm a little out of shape, to tell you the truth. I haven't been getting much exercise lately. I've been too busy looking for...your..." she trailed off lamely, realizing that it sounded as if she was blaming him for her clumsiness.
They arrived at her door. Reluctantly, Amelia released his arm. The princess looked down at her feet, then back up into his face. Her gaze rested for the barest instant on his lips. She felt a moment's longing for him to kiss her, even if it wasn't likely to be very comfortable. "I had a really great time tonight," she said instead.
Zelgadis raised a stony eyebrow, half-smiling at the irony. "You invited me. I ought to be thanking you."
She shook her head, looking up at him with wide, honest eyes. "Oh, no! I haven't enjoyed a concert this much in a long time." Her voice grew softer. "It was so nice to see you happy for a change."
Surprised, Zelgadis met her eyes. Her sudden adoring smile caught him off guard. In the dimness, everything abruptly went surreal, dreamlike. The attractive young woman standing before him seemed to take on a sudden allure, a strange, beguiling enchantment. Her sapphire eyes glimmered with fondness, and something more. Zelgadis felt himself responding to her warmth, returning her tender smile with one of his own. His blue-green eyes looked deeply into hers, completely enthralled. So beautiful...
Amelia was aware of the change in his expression. He was looking at her with...interest, desire, the way a man looks at a woman. Instinctively, she responded.
Before he could move, she stepped closer to him and reached out her right hand toward his face. He pulled back a little as her hand gently caressed the side of his face, slowly moving from his forehead down over the corner of the stones embedded around his eyes. She traced his ridged jaw line with gentle fingers, and curved at the last moment to pass over his lips. Her large eyes gazed solemnly into his, her face showing curiosity and a strange look of...yearning?
She lowered her hand. He was too stunned to move, too stunned to think for several seconds. Then he found his voice. "Amelia-what are you doing?" He meant it to be a shout, but it came out as barely more than a whisper.
She blinked, and her eyes widened. "Oh, Mister Zelgadis-I'm sorry." She flushed pink across her nose and cheeks. "I wasn't thinking. You see, I've always wondered what your skin felt like. I just realized that if-no, when you're cured, I'll never get the chance to find out." She faltered, then said in a meek little voice, "I...hope you can forgive me."
He hesitated, thoroughly confused by his own feelings, and the actions of the past few moments. It had been a startling intrusion, a direct violation of his personal space. And yet-her touch had been one of such gentle curiosity, so innocent, and-yes, as insensitive as his skin was, so stimulating, as much as he wanted to deny it-that he couldn't bring himself to be angry with her. "Well... all right."
The two of them stared at each other for several moments, Zelgadis now consciously feeling again that not-unpleasant awareness of her new maturity. Finally Amelia gave him a small smile, and stepped back through her bedroom door. "Good night, Mister Zelgadis."
"Good-good night, Amelia." As her door slowly closed, he was silent, wondering over her odd behavior, and his own tongue-tied responses.
I can't believe I did that! Amelia stood with her back against the door, her hands clasped in front of her chest. She was tingling all over at her own daring. I know he doesn't like people to touch him, but I couldn't help myself. And it wasn't a lie. It did just occur to me that I might never get the chance to see what his skin felt like. She closed her eyes, caught up in the memory of his face under her fingertips.
The texture was smooth and hard, almost silky, like stroking a polished marble statue. No, not like a cold statue, more like... the backs of her fingernails. Zelgadis had been warm and alive. Maybe not quite as warm as a normal human, but the sensation of touching him had been... pleasing. She'd felt his eyelashes move when her hand passed near his eye, felt the tiny wire hairs brushing her thumb; the most delicate of sensations. She shivered.
She had been encouraged by his new awareness of her femininity. The looks he kept sneaking when he thought she wasn't watching... the way he'd complimented her that afternoon... it gave her real hope that her dream might finally come true.
Maybe I've been holding back too much. Maybe he needs to know there's someone who would accept him for what he is... who wouldn't mind touching him. But how much is too much? I wish there was someone I could ask about this. Amelia missed her mother and older sister the most at times like this, with no one to guide her through this confusing maze of feelings, actions, and responses. I wish I knew what he was thinking. If I knew for sure how he felt, I'd know what to do.
She had been close enough to see the dark blue-green of his eyes. Though they were slanted, with almost triangular irises like those of demons or mazoku, his eyes had not the pale, washed-out colors of mazoku. That beautiful rich teal color was due entirely to the human soul behind them.
Oh, Zelgadis. Amelia didn't quite notice that she'd begun to think of him in more intimate terms. I want to be close to you, more than anything. I wish you would let me in.
A very confused chimera made his way back to his assigned guest suite. A set of light-blue nightclothes was waiting for him on the pillow. As he prepared for bed, he found his thoughts in a jumble. Silly, impulsive Amelia. If she was that curious, she should've just asked me. It's not like I would have bitten her...
Zelgadis closed his eyes for a moment as the image of her compelling smile returned. He pressed his lips together in a tense line, and mentally veered away, trying to dismiss the whole scene. He shook his head. She's been acting oddly all day. First insisting that I stay here until morning, and then taking me to see that minstrel. How did she know I like music? Probably just a guess... I wonder what she has planned for tomorrow? If it's something embarrassing, like a party, I'm leaving.
He climbed into the plush bed, sliding between clean, fresh-smelling sheets, taking a moment to enjoy the luxury. He remembered his reason for being there. Still, Amelia's done me a great favor. This new lead shows more promise than anything I've had in months. If all it takes to pay her back is to stay here a few more hours, it's a bargain. She's a good friend.
The image of her reaching out to touch him flickered behind his closed eyelids. It's been a strange day. A tiring one, too, as he found himself dropping off within minutes. The concert music seemed to follow him as he slept, making up for the sleep he'd lost over the last few days.
Several hours later, the chimera's dreams began. He was in what appeared to be a church, and the melody being played was wedding music. Zelgadis was sitting among the well-dressed lords and ladies, who were all watching the back of the church, obviously waiting for the bride to appear.
"Who's getting married?" he tried to ask them, but apparently no one could see or hear him. Just then, the music gave an introductory trill. The crowd rustled and whispered. Then Amelia and her father appeared in the doorway. The princess was a vision of beauty, radiant in her white wedding gown. Amelia's getting married? He felt a flicker of alarm, but somehow he could only sit and watch numbly as she walked past him down the aisle. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. He saw the solemn look on her face; he could even see the tears shining in the corners of her eyes. Tears... of joy or sorrow?
Then everyone was turning to the front, and Zelgadis looked for the groom. There was a man in black standing in front of the priest, but for some reason the chimera couldn't make out his face. When Amelia took her place beside the man, she turned so that Zelgadis could see her profile. He caught his breath as the princess beamed up into the man's face, her expression so full of love and joy that he felt a strange wrenching in the pit of his stomach. She's... so beautiful.
The music was still sweet and clear, but all other sounds were muted. The priest mumbled a few indistinct phrases, after which Amelia and the groom exchanged rings. Zelgadis turned away as the two stepped together to kiss.
The scenery changed with him. Suddenly he was standing in what looked like one of the palace's small gardens. The sun was high overhead, and everything was bright and pretty. As before, he could hear music, this time the gentle piping of a wind instrument, but all other sounds were muffled.
He caught the unmistakable sound of a child's laugh behind him. The stone man whirled around, and stood in shock at the typical homey scene before him. Four children were tumbling together in the grass, with a fifth held in the arms of their watching mother, their father nearby.
Not the sort of vision that should cause a hollow, aching void to open up inside you... a dark hopelessness, and a great sense of loss. Except... the mother was Amelia. Looking a little older than she had at her wedding, she turned to say something to the frustratingly indistinct man who stood beside her. Her eyes were full of love and peace. Obviously, she was happy with this man. But who was he?
Zelgadis studied the children, looking for some clue, but they all had Amelia's raven-black hair and dark-blue eyes, even the baby. Amelia knelt in the grass, standing the little boy up, holding his hands. He began to take a few wobbly steps toward his father. Then Amelia released him, and everyone, including Zelgadis, watched spellbound as the little one managed to make it the rest of the way on his own. As the man scooped up his child, Amelia came over to hug both of them.
The happy scene began to recede. No, Amelia, wait! Don't go. Don't go! Don't "-go!" he said aloud, waking up with a jolt. He lay there in the blackness, panting, a few rare drops of sweat clinging to his forehead.
After a minute, he was able to organize his thoughts with some coherence. The last time I woke up like that, I was having my usual Rezo nightmare. Why should seeing Amelia get married bother me so much? Maybe it's because I wasn't expecting it. I still think of her as the same age she was when we first met. It has been almost three years... how time passes. I've been a chimera now for more than four years. He felt a surge of familiar bitterness engulf him. Damn you, Rezo!
This train of thought was familiar, almost comforting. If not for you I'd be living my life now, instead of putting everything on hold while I search for a blasted cure! If not for you, I might have- He broke off, struck by the memory of his dream. Maybe that's it. I want to be in control of my life... maybe build the sort of idyllic life I dreamed about, with a home, a family. And Amelia... she's on the verge of having that sort of life now.
He frowned. But-does she have someone yet with whom to share it? The image of her dazzling smile was still vivid in his memory. She told me she didn't. I have no reason to doubt her-usually, she's a little too candid at times, he thought with a wry smile in the dark.
He touched the side of his curled forefinger to his lower lip for a moment, thinking. Like it or not, Amelia was born a princess. People's lives will depend on her someday. She can't-and shouldn't-be the kind of person who would turn her back on her duty to satisfy her own personal preferences. He understood-all too well. His own upbringing had been full of the same kinds of 'duties'. But I'm not royalty. And there is no longer anyone left who needs me. Except...
The image of a miserable Amelia in a wedding gown, being forced to marry some rich, snooty prince warred with the dream-memory of her joyful face beaming at her new husband. Hm, two months... not a lot of time. Maybe... maybe I should stick around for a while. Try to help her find someone who will make her happy.
The chimera snorted. But what do I know about matchmaking? Besides... He glanced at the old journal, waiting patiently on the bedside table, and had an overwhelming urge to reach for it, and begin reading; to get dressed and leave at once. The familiar sense of urgency returned, as he curled his hands into fists. I promised her I would wait. Now he chafed at the delay. What could possibly be so important?
Wondering about the princess' motives made him think about her predicament again. How is she supposed to find someone in just two months? he thought indignantly. What is Phil thinking? She needs someone who will support her-someone she can trust. Without realizing it, he was caught up again in analyzing her problem. He'd have to be pretty tolerant to put up with those frustrating speeches she's always making about justice. He'd also have to learn to put up with Phil, and to be able to get along with Lina when she visits. Eventually he could end up as king, so he has to be a good leader. Let's see... He'll have to care enough about her to try to understand her, and to protect her when she tries to take on more than she can handle...
Mentally he trailed off as he realized what he was doing. I guess I do feel... obligated. She's done so much for me...The image of her innocent face flitted through his mind's eye. The stone man sighed. I suppose two months is not that great a sacrifice... for a friend, he decided, settling down on his pillow. He barely realized it when he slipped easily into a deep slumber.
Amelia woke at dawn from a dream of Zelgadis. He was carving a marble statue with great skill and speed. Within minutes, it was complete. Atop a large mallet with the word 'justice' carved into its base, a princess and her chimera stood side by side in bold, heroic poses. Smiling, the stone gentleman reached for her hand, and drew her close to him. Her heart leaped as she saw he meant to kiss her. She lifted her face, her eyes closing.
Suddenly a bright light woke her. It came from the window from which the youngest maid was pulling aside the heavy drapes to let in the morning sun. The servants had been told to wake her when her guests arrived. "Thanks, Calla," Amelia roused herself to say.
"You're welcome, Miss Amelia." The girl curtsied and left.
Amelia sighed. It was only a dream, she thought in disappointment. Yawning and stretching, she sat up sleepily. Abruptly she recalled the events of the previous evening. Oh, I hope Mister Zelgadis hasn't left already! He only promised to stay until morning, after all. Quickly she threw on the first outfit her hand touched in the wardrobe-the same type of cream-and-pink outfit she had worn while traveling with Lina's party. She gave her hair a quick brush and rushed out of the room.
As Amelia trotted down the hall, she noticed she was breathing a little more heavily than she was used to. Gee, I am out of shape. It's probably a good thing I'm not going. I'd just slow them down. The closer she got to his room, the slower she went, finally tiptoeing up to the door of his room and opening it a crack. She saw the shine of bluish hair. He's still here? I almost expected him to have gone during the night.
He was lying on his back, and she was struck by the calm, peaceful look on his face. He looks... happy. I wish he were as happy when he's awake. I understand that he feels he can't be until his body's back to normal, though. Amelia tried, as she had in the past, to imagine him human, with flesh, not stone, with hair instead of wire, and no stones protecting his face. As always, she failed. To her, he was simply her beloved Zelgadis, and she had no real desire within her to change him in any way.
He looks like a sleeping prince. And if I, Amelia wil Tesla Seyrune, have any say in the matter, he will be one before long. Suppressing her desire to go to him, she eased the door shut. She had a lot of things to take care of.
Author's Notes: In the episode where Eris has her final showdown with the Slayers, ever notice how her eyes changed from big brown liquid pools when she was talking about her love for Rezo to pale yellowish eyes with tiny irises-demonic-looking? I've noticed most of the bad guys have pale eyes, some with triangular irises, but Zelgadis has those deep teal-colored eyes, which proves to me that he's still more human than he thinks.
A little bit of character development-the old Zelgadis never would have considered putting off his quest for anything less than a life-or-death situation.
Zel's idea of helping Amelia find a husband isn't quite as dumb as it sounds-in Japan arranged marriages were the norm until about forty years ago. Even today, I read that about a quarter of marriages are still arranged, though the prospective couples get to go out on dates first and don't have to go through with it if they don't like each other. The nice thing about arranged marriages to the Japanese is the comfort of knowing that if you really want a husband/wife, it can be arranged. If you don't have any relatives willing to act as go-betweens, there are services similar to our dating services, where you tell them everything about yourself and they match you up with people they think are compatible. Though these days I think the Japanese are pickier than they used to be-they've been influenced by the Western idea that a married couple should be deeply in love and not just like each other enough to feel they can work together to run a successful household, sort of like business partners.
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