Only Stone on the Outside

by Dreamsinger

Only Stone on the Outside

a Slayers fanfic

by Dreamsinger

2003

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 descriptive. PG for minor swearing.

Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!

Chapter Eleven: Sunset Reflections

Every day he was gone, Princess Amelia wil Tesla Seyrune's thoughts constantly drifted back to Zelgadis. He's been gone two weeks now. Was he all right? She knew he didn't like ship travel-deep water was his only real vulnerability. But sailing was the fastest possible way to travel, and there was precious little time.

I hope they're all okay. She even seemed to worry about them in her sleep. Every morning she woke up feeling as if the room were rocking, and she was always surprised to discover that she was in her own bedroom.

Today, she remembered, was to be yet another trial. She was expected to attend yet another ball thrown in her honor, so as to meet several dozen prospective suitors. She'd been so busy the last few months that she'd managed to avoid going to any, making excuses not to attend.

Amelia sighed. Going to balls had been so much fun when she was younger. Her father had been bewildered at her change in attitude, but seeing other couples happily dancing with each other made her feel Zelgadis' absence with a sharp ache in her chest.

Even though he probably would have been grumbling about the noise and people getting drunk and making fools of themselves and how ridiculous he felt in a formal outfit, like some of the other girl's beaus. Just having him there with her would make her happy.

Her father had approached her a few days ago. "Amelia, is something wrong?"

"What do you mean?"

"It's not like you to mope around like this. Has something happened?"

The princess hadn't realized until then how uncharacteristically quiet and withdrawn she'd been acting. "Nothing's wrong, Daddy. It's just...I miss Mister Zelgadis...a-and the others."

"Ah." The crown prince looked sharply at her, but didn't comment.

I wonder if Daddy suspects anything. It's not that I'm ashamed of how I feel, but what good would it do to declare my love for Zelgadis if I can't marry him? Or...or if he really doesn't love me. I know Seyrune's laws. It would just make an awkward situation for everybody.

Amelia almost wished that she didn't have to be so concerned with justice, or laws. But I like being a princess. I love being able to make a difference for the better in people's lives. It's so awful that the same thing that brings me so much happiness is also the cause of my pain.

Zelgadis had spent many quiet days studying the map, and avoiding Lina's attempts to make him tell her what had happened between him and Amelia just before he boarded the ship. Of course, she was also the one to notice that he had taken to carrying Amelia's bracelet on the strap of his canteen. When he refused to discuss why he had temporary ownership of it, Lina had brought up another embarrassing memory, " 'Interviewing prospective husbands'-hah!-just like a man!"

To avert that train of thought, he had asked her if she was planning on using him as an anchor on this journey. He wasn't entirely joking.

Lina rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "Actually, Zel, the captain told me we lost our anchor a few days ago. But don't worry-we're not dragon-hunting on this trip. We won't need to use you...unless that sea dragon comes back."

His jaw dropped. She let out a peal of laughter. "You should see your face! I was kidding!"

Sometimes, sitting in his cabin with nothing urgent to really occupy his mind, Zelgadis found his thoughts wandering back to past adventures with his friends. They had started out as enemies, true, but had soon realized that they were all on the same side, with a common enemy in Rezo, the Red Priest. His grandfather.

Zelgadis and Gourry Gabriev were good friends. The tall swordsman had accepted his appearance from the start, and had genuinely not seemed to notice or care about their differences-not even when they shared a bathing pool at an onsen. What he lacked in brains, he made up for with his generous, easygoing nature.

Lina Inverse had been a bright spark in his life from the first time they'd met. She had treated him as a man from day one. Her unwavering enthusiasm for living always made life around her interesting-although her unreasonably short fuse and sometimes calculating nature meant that you had to watch your step around her as well. And associating with her did have the distressing tendency to land him in some pretty humiliating situations.

Still, it occurred to him that until he'd met the pair of them, he'd been well on the way toward becoming the same kind of monster on the inside as he appeared to be on the outside. If Lina was not pleased with you, she was never shy about letting you know about it. Only once had she ever tried to physically dominate/punish him the way she did Gourry and Amelia-and even Xellos. He had not protested, because he'd felt he deserved it, after making an especially unfeeling remark to Sylphiel after her father was killed.

After that, he had begun to be more careful about what he said to others. Lina hadn't tried to hit him again-but her tongue could leave wounds worse than any blow. In a way, she had helped him to be a better person-more human. He'd learned to care again.

He had to smile, thinking of his two friends. They made a good team-in spite of the dramatic differences in temperament and intelligence, they were remarkably alike in their eagerness for travel to new places, in living for the moment, even in their eating habits. The bond between them was a powerful one-and Gourry, at least, acknowledged it, even if Lina wouldn't-or couldn't.

Amelia-their first meeting hadn't gone particularly smoothly. Also, she had a tendency to overreact in tense situations, and had a youngster's ability to dramatize. She could be as domineering as Lina, although she used her inborn regal nature and haughty, self-righteous, extremely exasperating belief in Absolute Justice to make others do as she wanted, rather than Lina's bad temper and fireballs.

Yet, her eager innocence, her unwavering optimism, her courage in some of the truly horrific situations they had been in, and, he admitted to himself, her particular affection for him, could be quite charming and endearing.

He'd avoided thinking about her lately. Not long ago he would have said his feelings toward her were those of a friend, or a big brother. But ever since their last meeting, he'd noticed that thinking about her made him feel...confused, unsettled, uneasy. Vulnerable. So, he'd tried not to think about her by focusing on the here and now.

Lina and Gourry were always good for a distraction. He stood up and left his quarters. After a quick search, Zelgadis found the pair of them sitting together in the prow of the ship. The sun was setting off to the left, igniting the sky and water in a blaze of reds and golds.

Blue-green eyes stared at the two of them, sitting side by side, watching the sky. They look so close. Suddenly the chimera felt abandoned, unwelcome; as if he were intruding. He turned away and retreated back to the lonely privacy of his room, his heart heavy with yearning and regret for that which he would probably never know.

Lina had spent the last eleven days sunning on the deck and raiding the galley with Gourry for snacks. All in all, probably the longest peaceful stretch of time she-or any of them-had ever spent together. Gourry and Zelgadis had taken to having impromptu sparring matches several times a day to keep sharp, but she was enjoying the chance to relax-a well-deserved vacation. According to Zelgadis and Captain Barrig, they would reach shore within a couple of hours.

She noticed how the setting sun seemed to color Gourry's hair as red as her own, his keen, far-seeing blue eyes gazing ahead of them at the rippling waves. He had a contented little smile on his lips. Lina smiled, too. Watching him, she seemed to hear echoes of a conversation long past:

"How long do you plan on protecting me?" she'd asked.

"I don't know...for the rest of my life?" he'd answered simply.

Now, Gourry looked down at her, still smiling. The redhead was suddenly struck by how sweet and sincere his smile was. It's hard to believe just how much I've come to trust him-to depend on him. He's always been there for me. I can't imagine a future without him around.

Abruptly, she recalled a strange conversation she'd done her best to forget-when Amelia had asked her something about loving Gourry. Me, love that idiot? she responded automatically in her head. She jumped when Gourry spoke.

"Hey, Lina, I've been thinking. If Zelgadis marries Amelia, wouldn't he be the prince of Seyrune?"

"Yeah, but it's not likely," she answered, surprised at his question. Gourry was pretty much a here-and-now kind of guy. He didn't normally worry about the future. Then again, neither did she, for the most part.

"Why not?"

She took a quick look around them to make sure the stone man wasn't within hearing range-his chimeric hearing range. "I told you, Zelgadis probably wouldn't be allowed to marry her because he's a chimera."

"But why should that make any difference?"

Aside from the whole 'heir' problem... "Seyrune's the white magic capital of the wo-the known world." She'd almost forgotten the barrier to the outer world was gone.

"So?"

"So Zel's part demon. The people of a white magic kingdom would not want a man who's part demon ruling over them."

Gourry was silent for almost a minute, staring out at the dimming sky, the breeze making tendrils of his blonde hair flutter. She hoped he'd finally gotten it.

"Why not? It's not like he's evil or anything. He's a really good guy."

The red-haired sorceress facefaulted with a crash. "Because, numbskull, there's no way to prove that to the townspeople! Some of them might be frightened enough to try to assassinate Zelgadis, or Amelia, or even Phil, if they believed they were saving everyone from a demon. The kingdom would end up in total chaos."

"Boy, some people can be really dumb." Gourry commented with a rare frown at his friend's misfortune, causing Lina to drop to the deck once again. Look who's talking!

Another thought crossed her mind. You'd expect someone with Gourry's mentality to be suspicious of anything he didn't understand. Maybe it's because he's so well-traveled-he's used to seeing unusual things-and people. Still, Amelia said he was sweet-tempered...

Lina shook her head to derail that train of thought. After a moment, she continued, "Anyway, you know Zel wants to be human again. This just gives him one more reason."

"Yeah. It sure took them long enough. How many years has it been, anyway?"

For the third time in as many minutes, the self-proclaimed sorcery genius fell over, incredulous. "What do you mean, years?"

Gourry gave her an astonished look. "Huh? Didn't you know? You were the one who told me Zelgadis was scared to love Amelia, right? I think he does anyway. And Amelia's had a crush on Zel since...since you went up into the sky and I had to go after you."

He was referring to the battle with Hellmaster Phibrizzo, when the Lord of Nightmares had come. Abruptly, Lina had several clear flashes of that horrible day, and the one preceding it, when Gourry had been kidnapped. She had been devastated-in shock, and desperate to recover him. She had cried for probably the first time since childhood.

Now she looked up at him. "Oh, Gourry." She smiled up at her...buddy? Best friend? Protector? Soulmate? She sighed, not feeling up to analyzing her feelings.

Suddenly wanting some comfort, and reassurance of Gourry's presence, she moved closer to him, close enough to brush her shoulder against his side. He looked down at her, his sky blue eyes curious. "Are you cold, Lina?"

"Yes," she said softly. "I'm cold, Gourry."

"Well, then I'll get you-" he began to rise, but stopped when she put her hand on his arm.

"You don't have to get up, Gourry. I'll be fine." She relaxed against him trustingly, unaware of the contented smile on her lips.

Gourry wondered if she was sick, or hurt, since that was the only time she ever acted so quiet. But she said she was fine. Somehow, he sensed what she wanted most was to just sit peacefully and relax, enjoying the sunset.

After a while, he noticed that she'd fallen asleep, so he put his arm around her to keep her from falling over, and to keep her warm.

Another beautiful sunset. Zelgadis paused before entering his quarters. He was reminded of the last sunset he'd taken the time to enjoy-with Amelia. His thoughts drifted, thinking vaguely about how much she had changed, and how much she hadn't...how beautiful she had become...but then he remembered her impending marriage and his mind sheered away. He wondered what she was doing now.

I wonder what Mister Zelgadis and the others are doing now? Amelia thought. She looked around the ballroom, where everyone was elegantly dressed, happy, and having a good time. I wish I were with the others. I mean, I love parties, but right now I'd rather be traveling-uncomfortable and dirty, or even in a dangerous battle, if it meant I could be with them all. Not here, where I have to turn down suitor after suitor.

Even if they treat me like an impetuous, sometimes useful little sister...I know I'm the weakest member of the group...or at least, I would still be if Mister Gourry hadn't given back the Sword of Light. Even without it, he's still better at fighting all but the most serious of threats. I'm the only one who won't use a sword.

As always, the young girl's mind veered away from the memory of her mother, horribly savaged by an intruder's weapon. Amelia had never been able to bring herself to learn to use edged weapons because of that, concentrating on developing her magic instead.

And I can't even use as much holy magic as Filia. I can't call on Cephied; I can't use any of the lost white magic spells that her dragon-priestess nature allows her to use. I hate not being able to help! She looked down ruefully. It's just as well I didn't go.

Amelia looked up to see yet another well-dressed gentleman approaching her. She sighed. Even if I had been looking for someone, I'd have gotten discouraged by now. Names and faces blurred together in her mind, some handsome, some not. Some friendly and hopeful, some opportunistic and charming. Some old enough to be her father-or grandfather.

She really wished Zelgadis was here. She could almost see him, his teal eyes shining, wearing a beautiful pale blue suit with dark purple trim, gracefully holding out his hand to her as if he was about to ask her to dance.

Instead, a plump, jolly-looking brown-haired gentleman bowed to her, and requested the next dance.

Zelgadis sat in his small room, thinking. He didn't notice he'd unconsciously pulled his hood up over his pale blue hair, or that he hadn't moved in over an hour. His mind roamed over various subjects; wondering if Amelia had chosen a suitor yet, thinking about their mysterious destination, and how Xellos might be involved in all of this. The annoying mazoku hadn't appeared in nearly two weeks.

I wish I'd had a chance to read the end! It's infuriating to know I had the very information I've been searching for all these years in my hands, only to lose it! The chimera's thoughts were interrupted by an eerily familiar roar. Oh, no. The sea dragon!

Immediately he extinguished the one lantern he had begun using lately to look over charts without constantly having to keep recasting a light spell. He grabbed his sword-sheathe, attached it to his belt, and headed for the door.

Author's Note: You'd think Amelia would defy the laws to marry Zelgadis, judging from her bold attitude in the anime, but usually when she's being defiant, it's to fight bad guys who are breaking laws. She has a high respect for the law, seeing as how she is one of the people expected to enforce it, and she has a powerful sense of duty. She knows people are counting on her, and wants to be there for them, so she really can't go against the marriage tradition. But she's a little older now, and understands that if she were to declare her love openly, not only would she outrage her people, she'd embarrass Zelgadis if he doesn't love her, and make him even sadder/depressed if he does love her, if he isn't cured in time.

There's also a bit of foreshadowing here. Did you spot it? ^_^

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