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, just 'cause I like to know people are interested. There are a few minor spoilers, but nothing really descriptive. PG for minor swearing and references to nudity.

Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!

Note: 'quiescent' is pronounced 'kwee-eh-sent'; 'quiche' is pronounced 'kwesh'.

Chapter Twenty-One:

In Real Life Your Chest's Not That Big

As the petite sorceress' embarrassment gave way to anger, she was stopped from responding as she and Gourry suddenly materialized in front of a pair of metal doors similar to those on the outside of the temple. It had the same ancient text carved into it. "You may enter the Oracle's chamber if you wish-I can't stop you-but she has already given your companion his answer and now she sleeps."

Over the surface of the doors a lovely flowing pattern of music and lights played. Then, just as the outer doors had, the metal doors lit up with a brilliant white light and vanished. There was nothing in the darkened chamber except a dimly glowing silver orb hovering in midair.

Lina hesitated, mentally feeling for magic. "He's right. It's quiescent."

"Queshent-isn't that some kind of food?" Gourry piped up.

"No, you idiot!" Lina took out some of her pent-up frustration on him by elbowing him roughly in the stomach. "Not quiche-quiescent! Dormant. Inactive. Sleeping."

"Oh." As Gourry rubbed his stomach he thought sourly, There are times I like Lina better when she's kwee-eh-sent.

Lina looked a moment longer at the peacefully resting globe, then turned away, scowling. "Great! All of this was for nothing!" She was about to go off on a supreme rant when something the Gatekeeper had said filtered through the red haze of anger. "Wait-you said Zel's been here already?"

"Yes."

"Come on then, Gourry, we gotta hurry and catch up with him!" Lina turned and began heading up the corridor, assuming that it was the way out, since the hall had ended with the big doors. What if he's already been cured? What if he takes it into his head to go off without us? Will we even recognize him? I wonder what he looks like? She pictured the only relative of Zelgadis' she had ever met-Rezo. Physically speaking, the man was really good-looking. If Zel takes after him, Amelia sure won't have anything to complain about!

Now that he had admitted defeat, the Gatekeeper was unexpectedly docile. "I shall transport you to the main entrance."

It didn't feel as if they'd moved-it just looked as if the scenery had shifted. The Gatekeeper continued mechanically, "Your companion has not yet arrived-the Oracle suggested to me that he take the long way. Many people need time to think after a session with her. May you have good fortune on your upcoming journey." He vanished, looking relieved that his servant duties were over.

"Hey, wait, you forgot to let us out!" Lina called. The Gatekeeper did not appear. The red-haired sorceress growled, and turned to face the door, looking for a knob before she realized, "Well, it looks like you're gonna get another chance to sing, Gourry." She looked up at her handsome companion.

His eyes lit up. "Really? Okay, what should I sing?"

"The same notes Zelgadis sang to open the door. Start from the lowest one and go up."

"All right." He turned to face the door, closed his eyes and rubbed his chin in concentration. Then he opened his eyes and lifted his chin a little. The notes emerged from his lips, pure, clear and on-key. His voice wasn't quite as good as Zelgadis', but it was still better than she would have expected.

"How was that?"

"Huh? Oh, great, Gourry, just great." She had to pull her attention away from wondering again just what he would sound like if he were to sing a full-fledged song. The pair walked out into the mid-afternoon sunshine. "Hey, we were in there longer than I thought," the young sorceress remarked. "I'm hungry."

"You're always hungry, Lina," Gourry chuckled. Her loyal 'guardian' smiled at her warmly. "What do you say we get some food at that village down there when Zelgadis comes out?"

"What village?"

Gourry walked to the edge of the little meadow, past the trees growing around the edges of it, and pointed down. Lina squinted. At the base of the mountain on the plush eastern side was a little clearing where a village might be, but she couldn't quite make it out. But then, Gourry's eyesight had always been sharper than hers, especially over long distances.

"That's the wrong way, Gourry. When we leave here we need to go south."

They wandered over to the southern edge of the meadow. "Well, that's no good." Gourry commented, looking down at the barren, dry desert-like terrain. Only a few hardy plants brought any color to the tan landscape. "How come it's so different?" he asked her.

"Sometimes mountains are too steep-all the moist air from the eastern ocean where we came from ends up raining on that side, so not much water makes it to this side."

"It's gonna be a lot harder to find food, then." Her blonde comrade could always be counted upon to get to the heart of the matter.

"Yeah, I see." Lina was silent for a moment. "Well, then, we'd better see what we can find while we're on this side. I'm sick of getting stuck wandering around with no food. I mean, a joke's a joke, but that last time really overdid it."

Gourry nodded vigorously in agreement.

Lina ordered Gourry to dig for some tuber roots and other plants; things that were nourishing and wouldn't spoil quickly. She went to a nearby stream to use her old fish-catching routine. The stream had a rather sparse fish population, so the young sorceress found herself with plenty of time to think about the events of the past few hours.

Why did the Gatekeeper say Zelgadis would need time to think about the Oracle's answer? The Oracle was supposed to have a cure for Zelgadis-what sort of cure? It must not have been a simple one, by the sound of it. Her naturally suspicious mind made associations with a lot of other very powerful, complicated spells. Does the spell call for some kind of sacrifice, I wonder? Like a life of celibacy, or poverty? Blood? His firstborn child, for crying out loud? Hm, maybe his human body will have a shortened life span.

Or he might have had to promise to be a servant to the Oracle. That's how he got into that mess with Rezo. The red-haired sorceress frowned worriedly as she stared into the rippling clear water. Sometimes Zel can be so focused on getting what he wants most... Nothing and no one matters to him anymore if his goal's within reach. And people call me reckless!

Her mind shifted to the other topic that was taking up a large portion of her thought process: I'm dying to know whether Gourry really saw me naked, but I can't just ask him a question like that, can I?

A short while later Gourry came to find her. "Hey, Lina, you done yet? I've got a really big pile of things sort of like potatoes and stuff, only I was thinking: how are we going to carry it all? Maybe we should eat it now, so we won't have to worry about dropping it or losing it. What do you think?"

She snorted. "Dummy. I just got through telling you we need something to eat to cross that little desert-it's gonna take us a couple of days, at least. We'll just have to use some of our clothes as carry-bags or something, once we've washed the food."

He looked disappointed. "What about those?" he asked, pointing to the medium-sized pile of fish she had managed to accumulate.

"We'll eat most of those now. They'll only go bad if we try to take them into a desert."

Her comrade's blue eyes lit up. "All right!" He began to gather pieces of wood to make a fire. Lina watched, as she always did on 'that day', with a sharp feeling of uselessness as Gourry put his flint-and-iron stones to work, to create a spark to start the fire. It just isn't fair. Men should have a day or two out of the month when they can't use any of their skills.

She watched her friend grin with delight as the first flickers of orange flame appeared. Her lips curved in a small, fond smile. He does have his uses. And at least Gourry doesn't really tease me or look down on me when it happens. Most of the time, I actually forget about 'it'...unless we're in a situation like this.

The two of them settled down to wait for the fish to cook. Several times Lina started to say something, caught herself, and was silent. She kept glancing at Gourry out of the corner of her eye. Should I say something now, or wait? I don't want him saying something about what happened in front of Zelgadis! The thought spurred her to action. "Gourry-"

"Lina-" He said at the same moment. They stopped and exchanged glances.

"Go ahead," he said immediately.

"You first." She wanted to see what he thought about everything. All these new feelings, new potentials, new choices...She was barely able to accept what had happened between them herself; how much more confused he must be feeling!

"Are the fish done yet?"

She dropped to the ground, twitching. As she recovered from her shock/chagrin/disbelief she leaped back to a sitting position. "Jellyfish brains! Is that all you can think about?" she yelled at him.

"What'd I say?"

"I thought maybe you'd want to talk about what happened back there! Didn't it mean anything to you at all?" Lina discovered that she was as angry and upset as if he had made a big deal out of it. It was the way she was made-she thrived on attention. It was part of the reason she was known to be sharp-tongued-when you insult them, people react to you. They respond. It didn't occur to her until later that she and the Gatekeeper might have had something in common.

"What's there to talk about?" He looked bewildered, as he often did when he'd said something that made her angry. "I said I loved you, and you said you loved me, too. That's pretty easy to understand, isn't it?"

The urge to fight disappeared, as suddenly as if a bubble had been popped. She had been so focused on the dubious issue of her apparent nudity that she had almost completely pushed aside her earlier revelation. She lowered her eyes. Oh, Gourry.

"I'm-I'm sorry." An unexpected apology escaped from her lips.

"What for?" He looked concerned at her unusual behavior. It was probably one of less than a dozen apologies he'd heard her utter in all the years he had known her.

"Oh...nothing." She looked up at him. There was a softness in her eyes that occurred even more rarely than her apologies. "I'm just being silly. I...I'm glad you love me." She smiled at him tenderly, suddenly feeling that everything she'd been worried about wasn't important.

She was rewarded with one of his beautiful smiles. "Lina," he murmured, his hand coming up toward her face. Then he hesitated, and pulled his hand back a little, curling his fingers, finally letting it fall into his lap. In his eyes she read fear of rejection. Or of her temper.

Silently, the ruby-eyed girl pondered. She was not exactly sure yet just how she wanted to handle all this...it was too new, too important to ruin. She wanted time to think, but she also wanted to reassure her companion. He looked as if he thought he'd done something he should be ashamed of.

Finally the young girl reached out and tentatively took his hand in hers, smiling shyly up at him. He brightened immediately, shifting his grip so that he was holding her hand comfortably in his, his face full of contentment. It gave Lina a good feeling to be able to give him such happiness from such a simple act.

When the fish were done, they began eating, without fighting, for once. I wonder where Zel is? Lina thought. It's been almost an hour. If something's happened to him, I won't be of much help. If he doesn't show up soon, I-

Gourry had been unusually quiet up to now, methodically eating with an expression of contemplation, but now he spoke up. "Hey, you know something, Lina? Even without you warning me, I would've been able to tell that that was a dream."

Lina pulled her thoughts away from her missing companion. She raised an orange eyebrow. "Really? How?"

"Simple. In real life your chest's not that big." His statement was delivered without a hint of contempt, as if he were just making a comment about the weather-just stating a fact.

She stared at him. Slowly her face twisted into a grimace of rage.

He noticed it too late. "N-no offense!" He flinched, holding up his hands in the classic 'please don't hurt me' gesture, palms facing her, thumb, index and pinkie fingers extended.

Lina was reaching out to throttle him when it hit her. Wait a minute. That was my real body; I'm almost positive. Does this mean that they've finally grown big enough for him to notice? Or maybe they just looked more impressive because I was naked? She was torn between delight and fury, between the desire to cause her companion a great deal of bodily harm, or indignantly demanding that he take a better look.

He took advantage of her hesitation to make his escape, grabbing a few more fish and making a frantic dash for the other side of the clearing. Before he was out of earshot she called out, "Hey, Gourry!"

He glanced over his shoulder to see her standing in the same spot as before. He slowed. "What?"

"If you say anything about this to Zelgadis," she growled, not making it clear as to exactly which 'this' she was referring-nudity or love-, "I'll make you sorry you were ever born." Her eyes were narrowed. Gourry gulped.

Much later, after she had had a chance to cool down, Lina found herself musing that the Gatekeeper had done her an inadvertent favor. Her body, small as it was, had proved adequate in attracting Gourry's interest. It gave her a much-needed boost of self-confidence in an area she had long been 'sensitive about'. Maybe I won't Dragon Slave the ol' goblin just yet. Anyway, I'd have to blow up the Oracle, too, and I want to come back here next year to ask about treasure, like I was going to before Gourry interrupted me. Besides, black magic may not even work inside. Now that the Barrier's gone, the white magic that protects this place has probably gotten stronger than in years past.

When Zelgadis finally emerged from a bright flash of light as the door did its vanishing act, Lina and Gourry were just finishing packing up the large pile of tuber roots and assorted edible plants that Gourry had found. The ended up using Lina's black cape, which made a nice carry-sack, although she complained that it was going to end up green-stained.

"Zelgadis! Finally." Lina felt a momentary flash of disappointment that her friend was still a chimera, but it was swallowed up in the gladness that he was all right. "Gourry and I have been waiting forever. What took you so long? Uh-" Lina suddenly noticed his expression, or rather, his lack of one. The chimera's stone face could have been that of a real statue for all the emotion it showed. Actually, I've seen statues with more spirit. "What's wrong, Zel?"

He didn't respond, alarming her. "Zelgadis?" Lina touched his arm tentatively. He tensed, but did not pull away as she half-expected him to. "You saw the Oracle, didn't you?" She suddenly wondered if that jerk of a Gatekeeper had handed him a pile of lies, too.

"Yes." His voice was flat, as emotionless as his face.

"Well, what did she say?"

Zelgadis looked down and closed his eyes. His lips tightened, and Lina could see his thin stone eyelids twitching. He seemed to be struggling with himself. Finally, he sighed, and his narrow shoulders drooped as he answered quietly, "I don't want to talk about it." He shook off her arm and began walking, heading south.

She called after him, "But aren't we going to go after your cure?"

"No," he replied without turning back to look at them.

"Um, Zelgadis...we saved you some fish." Gourry offered tentatively. "Are you hungry?"

"No," the stone man repeated. "Please...just leave me alone."

Lina and Gourry looked at each other, and turned to watch as their comrade reached the edge of the meadow and began to make his way down the slope. "What's the matter with him?" Gourry asked Lina, his face concerned.

The diminutive sorceress didn't answer for a long moment. Finally, she spoke up in a small voice, "I think...the Oracle may have told him that there was no cure." That was one alternative I hadn't thought of...

"Oh." The blonde swordsman sent a sorrowful look after his friend. "That's bad, isn't it."

"Yeah." Her voice had gone husky from sympathy. "It means he can't marry Amelia."

"Oh, right. That's really bad."

Silently, the two of them began walking after the despondent chimera.

Zelgadis maintained his impassive demeanor for the next several hours as they entered the desert. Both of his companions were soon sweating, rolling up their sleeves and fanning themselves. The chimera, of course, took no notice of the heat.

Lina had cautioned Gourry to ration his water. When the sun went down, walking was more comfortable, so Lina decided not to suggest setting up camp yet. I can see we're going to have to do as much traveling at night as possible. It's no big deal; even at this time of the month I can do a light-spell if the moon isn't bright enough.

She looked sadly at the dejected chimera walking ahead of her, his shoulders slumped in defeat. Poor guy. He hasn't said a word since he came out. I can't even imagine how he must be feeling right now. Did the Oracle really tell him there was no cure? She sighed, sensing that now was not the time to try to interrogate her friend about his experience. It's just as well he doesn't know how Amelia feels about him. On the way here, I was really hoping he was in love with her...and now I hope he isn't. For his sake.

She lifted her gaze to the dark horizon in front of them as it was revealed by the moon's pale glow. So where do we go from here? We're heading toward Seyrune, but what's the point? Amelia's going to be heartbroken...do I really want to stay and watch her get married to some stranger she doesn't love? And what about Zelgadis? With his last hope gone, he might do anything. He might revert back to the monster he was before we met him...he might even...even try to kill himself.

Lina was distracted for a moment, trying to imagine how a man of stone could commit suicide. Gourry's sword of light is gone...Poison, maybe? Or he might try to drown himself. She pressed her lips together in a determined line, her fine orange eyebrows drawing together. No way! I didn't rescue him from the sea just to have him die by his own hand. She watched Zelgadis, focusing mostly on his hair as it glistened silvery in the moonlight. I think Gourry and I are going to have to watch him pretty closely for a while.

A surreal hush seemed to surround the trio like a cloud of nonsound. For most of the night they walked, although toward morning the two humans were moving rather mechanically, endlessly placing one foot in front of the other. Finally, as the sky began to turn pink in the east, Lina broke the silence. "Hey, Zel, what do you say we get some sleep?"

"And some food? I'm hungry," Gourry suggested, although he had looked moments before as if he were walking in his sleep.

The stone man stopped, and finally turned to face them. Lina shivered at the cold, detached expression on his face, as he considered her words. Then, in a vague, hollow sort of tone that sounded as if his mind was far away, he repeated, "Sleep?" His gaze seemed to be focused off into the distance as he said slowly, "Yes...I'm tired..."

In a manner that was already becoming familiar, Lina and Gourry exchanged worried glances at their friend's abnormal behavior.

After a pitifully meager ration of food (at least in Lina's estimation), the two humans prepared a makeshift tent from Zelgadis' cape and a stick they had used to dangle the food bag from. The chimera's listless behavior bothered the redheaded sorceress. I hope all he needs is a good night's...or day's...sleep. It's unnerving to have him be so quiet...I mean, he's not a big talker but he's always there, you know?

The stone man had barely acknowledged it when Lina approached him to ask for the loan of his cape; he'd simply reached up with one hand and unfastened it, then held his arm out to the side, letting the cloth drag on the dry, cracked dirt. He hadn't raised his eyes to look at her even once.

When the 'tent' was finished, Lina turned to the silent chimera. She felt a sharp twinge of empathy go through her to see him still standing where she had left him. He looked so lost, so there-yet-not...She had to clear her throat before she could say in a quiet tone, "Hey, Zel, come on and lie down for a while."

She tried to make eye contact with him, but he turned away, simply lying down on the ground several feet away with his back to them. The young sorceress bit her lip and turned to follow Gourry into the tent, blinking hard to hold back sudden tears at the sight of the thin body curling up in a ball on the parched earth.

Author's Note:

The part where Lina comments 'A joke is a joke' is a reference to the beginning of Slayers Try, where the characters did a running gag about starvation.

Exactly what the Oracle's plan is shall have to remain a secret 'till later. Gomen! ^_^

NEXT---Chapter List---DS's Fan Art---B!'s Library---Main