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 Six: Lina and Gourry, here? Not again!
I don't have time to save the world!
Zelgadis woke up much later than he'd planned, from a deep, dreamless sleep. Where am I? He took note of the elegantly furnished room. Oh. Seyrune. My cure... wasn't I planning to leave today?
His nightly musings came back to him. Oh, right, I decided to put off taking my journey until Amelia's situation is satisfactory. After all, if it still exists, my cure will likely still be there in a few months, and these next few months will shape much of Amelia's future, not to mention the future of the entire kingdom.
However, staying meant dealing with the fiasco from last night, which he wasn't looking forward to. I ought to go find that minstrel, and apologize for ruining his concert. I wonder if Phil would let me stay here at the palace? I could get a position as a guard or something... I wonder how these stuffy monarchs would react to having a chimera around?
Zelgadis was torn between amusement, and his usual feeling of alienation-the feeling of being a freak, to be stared at and whispered about behind his back.
Well, lying around isn't going to accomplish much. He got up and began getting dressed, thinking vaguely that he should get a second set of clothes so he could arrange to have this outfit cleaned. Amelia should be pleased, at any rate. She made such a fuss about my leaving yesterday.
As he approached the dining hall, his keen hearing picked up several familiar sounds-of people eating noisily, plates clattering, beverages being slurped. Then, voices: "Hey, come on, Lina, save some for me!"
"Ha-ha, gotta be faster, Gourry!"
The slender chimera paused for a moment. Lina and Gourry, here?... Oh, no. Not again. I don't have time to save the world! He strode into the hall, prepared for a verbal confrontation.
At first, neither of his friends noticed him. Then Lina looked up and saw him."Zelgadis! Well, long time no see! Look, Gourry; it's Zel!"
Gourry paused with a forkful of sausages. "Hiya, Zelgadis. Good to see ya. Hey, we thought you'd never get up. Amelia said-" He stopped abruptly as Lina leaned over and ate the sausages off his fork. "Hey!"
"So what brings you two here?" Zelgadis braced himself for the answer.
"Just a visit-every now and then I get the urge to experience palace life." Lina said breezily.
"Its food, you mean." Zelgadis observed with his usual wit, profoundly grateful not to be caught up in a life-or-death situation at this point. It occurred to him that he should probably be more genial. He hadn't seen his friends in nearly a year, after all. "It's good to see you both. You look well." His voice deepened with real warmth as he relaxed back into their familiar company.
"Thanks, Zel. So do you." Lina glanced up for a moment from her plate.
He caught her eye. "So, any big changes in the status quo?" he teased slyly, his eyes half-closed.
Lina colored, while Gourry obliviously continued eating. "That's not the safest thing to ask me first thing in the morning, Zelgadis!" she blustered, as Gourry finally looked up, bewildered.
"I guess that answers my question," he replied in his rich voice, amused. Lina was so easy to tease, although he knew he couldn't push it, or he'd end up eating a fireball for breakfast.
Lina's attention was caught by Gourry trying to sneak a piece of bacon from her plate. "Hey, that's mine!"
Zelgadis shook his head as he took a seat across from the squabbling pair. They haven't changed a bit. He poured himself some tea, and wondered where Amelia was. She was normally an early riser. Maybe these two knew. "Have either of you seen Amelia?"
"Yeah-chomp, chomp-she said she had some stuff to do-gulp-and that she'd meet us as soon as she could," Lina explained.
It figures. Oh, well, I'm not going anywhere. He pulled the old journal out of the deepest pocket in his cape and opened it, knowing it was useless to expect a lot of conversation from his friends until they'd satisfied their enormous appetites. Idly, he wondered how they could both eat so much and not get fat. Did wielding a sword and using high-level magic really burn up that much food?
It wasn't long before he heard a familiar patter of footsteps in the corridor. Amelia, dressed in the clothes he was used to, came trotting in and sat down next to him. "Miss Lina, Mister Gourry; you didn't!" she exclaimed, looking at the nearly empty table. "I asked you to save some for me!"
Lina looked sheepish, giving one of her rare apologies. "Oh-I forgot. Sorry."
"Yeah, me too. Sorry," Gourry echoed.
Amelia sighed. "Oh, well. Mister Zelgadis, have you eaten anything yet?"
He almost said not to bother, because he honestly wasn't hungry. Then he realized that she was, and was looking for an excuse to order yet more food from her-no doubt-exasperated cooks. "Not yet."
"All right. I'll ask the cooks to one more batch of everything. Just one!" She looked sternly at Lina and Gourry, making Zelgadis wonder how long they'd been eating. There was only half the usual amount of empty plates on the long table. It's not like Amelia to refuse them food. He stored that observation away along with the other uncharacteristic behaviors she'd been exhibiting lately.
Amelia left the room again for several minutes. Zelgadis continued to study the old book until she returned. Again she chose to sit next to him. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, debating whether or not he should announce that he intended to delay his trip, but just then a harried servant came running in with a huge platter full of dishes.
Amelia insisted that he take some, although he protested that he didn't need it. She quickly served herself, then let their insatiable companions at the substantial amount remaining. The young princess smiled at them wryly, apparently amused and a little embarrassed at their eating habits. Zelgadis recalled that for all her ladylike manners, she could eat just as voraciously if she was hungry enough. Not a pretty sight.
Oh right, I was going to ask her why she made me promise to stay here last night. He opened his mouth, but she interrupted him before he could get the words out.
"Is that all you're going to eat?" Amelia looked at the meager portions of eggs and sausage on his plate.
"Yes, Amelia." He rolled his eyes. She was like a mother hen, always concerned. A mother... He grew thoughtful as his dream came back to him, and was taken by surprise when Amelia held a spoonful of a crumbly pastry up to his mouth.
"Have you ever had purpleberry pastry, Mister Zelgadis?"
"No." He moved his head to the side.
"It's one of my favorites. Please-try a bite." She sounded sincerely polite, but since it was obviously a choice between eat it or wear it, he gave in and opened his mouth, rolling his eyes upward with a long-suffering expression. Amelia was a little off-center, but managed to place her spoon in his mouth with a minimum of spillage for such a messy pastry.
"Not bad. A little tart, but not bad," he said after he'd swallowed.
Lina and Gourry were engaged in one of their famous fork-a-thons, trapping a particularly savory bit under crossed forks. Now that I think about it, they probably use up half the energy they get from the food just by eating it, Zelgadis thought in amused exasperation.
Amelia was struck by the fact that Zelgadis had regular ivory teeth, rather than stone ones. Ivory is stronger than most kinds of stone, isn't it? Thank goodness for that. He has such a nice smile-when he uses it. She also noticed something else. "Oh, you have a bit of pastry on your chin," she murmured discreetly to him.
"I do? Where?" He rubbed his face with a cloth napkin.
"Where?" He frowned. The stones protecting his face were not particularly sensitive, which was great if they happened to be on the receiving end of a blow, but bad if he needed to rely on sensation to tell if there was something on his face. It was one of the reasons he hated eating in public.
"Here-let me get it." Amelia reached toward his face with her linen napkin. The sight of her hand coming toward him almost made him duck away reflexively, except that at the last moment, he was struck by the memory of her hand on his face the previous night, of the look in her eyes. Holding still, he could faintly feel her rubbing gently on his chin.
"There-got it." She smiled triumphantly as her hand withdrew, holding the white cloth napkin with a little bluish-purple-and-brown speck in it. "It was stuck in between two of the-ah," Her eyes widened. "I did it again, didn't I?" She smiled sheepishly as she explained, "I keep forgetting to ask your permission before I touch you. But you know, to me, you're just a person, like everybody else."
While he was still digesting that unexpected comment, she added, "Well, except for the fact that you're very special to me."
Zelgadis dropped his fork. It seemed to take forever to fall, while Amelia's words almost seemed to echo, somehow. The entire room was silent. Amazingly, Lina and Gourry had both frozen into the positions they were in, watching them with wide eyes.
Aware that her face was bright red, and her heart was thumping wildly, Amelia crumbled under her friends' combined gazes. "Er, what I mean is, you and Miss Lina and Mister Gourry are all very special to me!" she blurted into the silence.
Zelgadis gave her a long look with one stone eyebrow raised before picking up his fork and turning his attention back to his meal. Amelia sat with flaming cheeks. What a coward I am! she berated herself as she listlessly picked at her breakfast. I had the perfect opportunity to tell him how I feel about him. Miss Lina already knows... why couldn't I have left what I said alone?
Zelgadis assumed she was embarrassed by her faux pas. For a minute there, she had me going. I thought... never mind what I thought.
After several minutes, Lina asked the chimera, "So, Zel, found any good leads?"
Relieved to be back on normal conversational grounds, he replied, "Yes, actually, a quite promising one. I have Amelia to thank for that." He nodded at her over his teacup.
"Really, Zel?" Lina's eyes lit up. "Would ya mind if Gourry and I tagged along?"
"Er-" He was caught off-guard. The pair of them were good, trustworthy traveling companions, excellent for watching his back in a fight. However, it was usually Lina who got them into fights. She had a tendency to collect enemies and get sidetracked a lot on screwball capers that usually ended up with one or more of them looking like fools by the time they were through. Of course, they managed to help a lot of people too, which was sort of gratifying...
But the truth was that having them along would most likely just slow him down-that was why he'd gone off on his own ten months ago. However, he had the perfect excuse. "Actually, I'm not going yet."
"What?" Amelia and Lina both exclaimed.
"Well, you see, you must know that Amelia's going to be married within the next two months, right?" the chimera began matter-of-factly.
"Hey, really?" Gourry answered predictably. "So who's the lucky guy? Oh, I know-I bet it's Ze-" He was cut off as Lina's elbow on his head drove him facedown into the tabletop.
"Stop interrupting, Gourry; that's rude!" Lina bellowed to the unconscious man.
Look who's talking, Zelgadis thought, careful not to say it out loud. He looked at Amelia. So there is someone. Maybe I can find out later. He continued, "Now Amelia told me she hasn't found anyone special yet. And I... well, I... I owe her a favor, so... I thought I'd stick around for a while and help her look." He trailed off, realizing for the first time how lame that sounded.
Both girls gave him incredulous glances. "Let me get this straight, Zel," Lina's voice was sarcastic. "You're gonna go around interviewing guys to see if they'd make a good husband for Amelia?"
The stone man turned almost lavender as he recognized how incredibly stupid that sounded. "Well-yeah-something like that." he mumbled. Even Gourry, who was awake now, stared at him.
"No-you can't!" Amelia spoke for the first time since he'd made his declaration. Her blue eyes held a look of shock.
"Huh? Amelia, just yesterday you asked me to stay here. I thought you'd be happy." He was really bewildered now, looking from one protesting girl to another. Gourry traded puzzled glances with him-but then, that was normal for Gourry.
"Oh, it's not that, it's just..."
"It's just that she knows I want to go along, and I'm not gonna sit around waiting for months while you play matchmaker!" Lina stated in her most intimidating tones.
Amelia added, "And-and I can manage on my own. Even though it's very sweet of you to offer... I'd feel horribly guilty if you waited all that time and ended up not getting cured."
Overwhelmed, the chimera backed off. On the rare occasions when the girls teamed up against him, he'd always lost the argument. He recognized the signs. Lina was working herself up to the flashpoint-literally-and Amelia was backing her. He glanced at Gourry, who shrugged in an 'oh, well, what are ya gonna do' pose.
"Fine, I'll go then." He scowled. I was trying to do her a favor. What's wrong with that?
"Oh, good, because your ship leaves as soon as you board."
Thrown for another loop, Zelgadis could only echo: "My ship?"
"Oh, I forgot to mention it-I arranged for a ship to take you part way."
Lina piped up, "You did, Amelia? Gee, that was sure nice of you. Wasn't it, Zelgadis?" She smiled sweetly at him.
As always, Gourry was a step behind. "Does that mean we're going on a ship?"
"Sure," Amelia answered cheerfully. "There's plenty of room on board. And you'll get there much faster by sea."
Now I understand why she wants me to go. She must have gone to a lot of trouble to arrange all this. And as long as Gourry doesn't have to dress up like a girl, Zelgadis thought, giving the blonde swordsman an amused glance, the two of them probably won't get into too much trouble.
It occurred to him that he owed her some thanks. "Amelia," he said, looking her solemnly in the eye, "I can't thank you enough for all you've done for me. If-if you ever need anything..." he added impulsively.
She blushed fetchingly under his stare. "Actually, there is one thing..."
"Try to come back in time for my wedding ceremony. I-I really want you to be there."
He gave her one of his rare smiles. "I'll try."
She returned his smile, but it wasn't her usual happy grin. "I wish I was going with you," she sighed, her face full of melancholy. "I'll miss you."
Not many people said that to him-at least not with sincerity. He softened. "I know, Amelia. I'll miss you, too." It didn't even occur to him to be surprised that he meant it.
This time Amelia's smile was genuine.
Author's Note: Some of you who are observant may have noticed that Amelia and Lina are acting a little... peculiarly. Is something going on that Zel doesn't know about? You bet! But I'm not gonna tell ya-you'll just have ta keep on readin'! Mwah-ha-ha!
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