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

Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!

Chapter Thirty-Nine: Nurse Gourry /

I am Not a Child

"Lina?" Gourry could not see her in the near-darkness, but as he focused his attention on his friend he noticed that she was breathing slowly and heavily, and that her skin was damp and clammy. His nose told him that she was sweating heavily. Suddenly she shivered in her sleep. "Lina, come on, I need you to wake up," he said, a note of rising concern in his voice.

When she did not respond, he did the only thing he could think of, even if she hit him for it later. "Lina, if you don't wake up I'm gonna eat your share of the food!"

"Over my dead body!" She flailed around in his grasp.

"Lina, you're okay!" Heedless of any blows, he tightened his embrace on her torso. He felt her stop struggling.

"What's going on?" she demanded.

"They brought us some food while we were asleep." A surge of guilt overwhelmed him. He felt the urge to kneel down in front of her with his face to the floor, to beg for her forgiveness. The fact that he was currently holding the person he wanted to apologize to on his lap made it a little difficult to go with that particular plan of action, so he said simply, "I...I should have been on guard, Lina. I cost us our chance to escape. I'm really sorry." His voice was full of shame and self-recrimination.

There was a silence. Gourry was expecting her to hit him, yell at him, or both, and so it came as a shock when she only said, "Well...I'm in no shape to go anywhere at the moment, anyway."

He blinked. "Lina? Are you all right?"

"No, I am not all right." Her tone was cranky. "My head feels like somebody used it to play Brass Rackets, my skin's so sensitive I feel like I'm wearing sandpaper clothes, my ankle throbs, and my chest feels like a dragon's sitting on it."

Hastily Gourry removed his arms from where they were draped across her abdomen. He realized that they were damp where they had been touching her sweat-soaked skin. "And you need a bath," he commented. Then he stiffened, realizing that he had just insulted the Bandit Killer.

Thankfully, she did not seem to notice, replying, "Yeah, a nice hot one. With herbal soap. And a masseuse."

Gourry opened his mouth to tell her how he had tried to give her a massage earlier, but he was saved from his own stupidity as Lina shivered. "How come it's so cold in here? I was hot a minute ago. The spots where your arms were are freezing."

"They are? Do you want me to put them back?"

"Yeah..."

She relaxed back against him, murmuring, "Sorry for getting you all sweaty."

"That's okay." First she's cold, then she's hot, now she's cold again. I'm really getting worried about her. He couldn't help but hope he wouldn't catch whatever she had, but he wasn't really worried about it. I'm glad I don't get sick very often.

He wondered when they were going to eat-assuming Lina left him any of the wonderful-smelling meat and fresh bread. Eventually his stomach reacted to the aromas, growling impatiently. He waited for Lina to comment, but she said nothing.

"Um, Lina?"

"...Hmm?"

"They brought us some food," he reminded her, expecting her to make a grab for whatever sort of containers the food had been brought in. To his surprise, she did not respond. "Lina?"

"...What?" He realized that she was half-asleep already.

"Don't you want anything to eat?"

"...I'm not hungry. You can have it."

Gourry felt the chill of fear run down his spine. This is serious! Lina's never refused food in all the time I've known her.

"Come on, Lina, you have to eat; otherwise you won't get better."

"Mmmm..."

The swordsman frowned. Looks like I'll have to feed her. He put his hands down on the stone floor on either side of his hips and lifted the two of them sideways toward the smell of the food until he was within reaching distance. Lina reacted with mildly protesting moans, like a sleepy child who is being carried against her will.

Carefully Gourry touched the food containers, recognizing miso soup, rice, drinking water and what smelled like roasted quail. And sweet pickles for dessert. All his favorites! His mouth watered. Maybe I should have a little taste... No. I already messed up when I slept through our chance to escape. She needs me to take care of her. I'm her protector.

His bruised self-ego felt a little better as he decided on the honorable choice. He picked up the bowl of soup and held it to the young girl's lips. "Here, Lina, let me help you eat. All you have to do is swallow some, okay?"

He felt her turn her face away, groaning, "Don' wanna eat right now."

Some of his concern slipped into his voice. "Lina, please, you've got to eat something, to regain your strength! If you don't you might..." He cut off his next words and took a deep breath. "Just try some, Lina. Please? For me?"

The note of fear in his voice must have gotten through her exhaustion, for she let out her breath in a hiss-a pale shadow of her usual angry outbursts-and muttered, "Fine, I'll eat something. Then will you let me sleep?"

"Sure, Lina." Relieved, the swordsman held various small bits of food to her lips, encouraging her to keep chewing whenever he felt her stop for more than a few seconds. Her head fit snugly under his chin, fortunately, so she was able to eat sitting fairly upright.

By the time she had eaten about half of the food-not even one fifth of what she usually ate per meal-she seemed more alert. Unfortunately, that also meant she felt her aches and pains more, and was especially grouchy. "You should have let me alone, Gourry. I feel like crap and now I can't fall back asleep."

"Sorry, Lina. I was worried about you."

He felt her sigh, a sigh that ended with a little cough that bothered him. "I know, Gourry. And the food did me good-you did the right thing. It's just that I'm so damn miserable!"

"You're sad?"

He could tell she wanted to sock him. She twitched, then growled, "No, jellyfish brains, I mean I hurt all over and I don't like it!"

Oddly, the insult cheered him up. She's sounding better already. He began to eat the rest of the food, assuming she was finished with it. "Well, maybe it's those muscles you don't have."

"What?" She sounded as if she were caught between anger at being insulted and puzzlement. "What are you talking about?"

"Well," he said with his mouth full of rice, "You said you ached in muscles you never had."

"Huh? Oh-I said I ached in muscles I never knew I had."

"Oh." He thought about that while he finished the meal. "Which muscles did you not know you had?"

"Gou-rry!"

"I've been thinking, Mister Zelgadis...will you be all right if we stay in here too long? In the null magic zone, I mean." Amelia turned to look down at the stone man from her saddle. "Your grandfather used magic to make you into a chimera..."

As her voice trailed off Zelgadis realized it was the first time since they had been reunited that either of them had spoken of his curse, even indirectly. Her query puzzled him for a moment; then understanding hit him. His hand came up to touch the side of his index finger to his chin in his traditional 'thinking' pose.

"Hmm." He stopped walking, and noticed the princess' leg shift slightly to signal Sunshine to stop as well. He stared off into the forest, thinking aloud. "Remember last year when we climbed that-ahem, odd-shaped mountain? I spent over an hour in the null zone, and I didn't feel any effects that I can recall. I've been in this zone for almost three days now, with no result." Unfortunately.

He continued, "From everything I've read about making chimeras, I understand that you need magic to create one, but no one ever said whether or not it would...fragment...into its separate components if it was placed into a nonmagical environment." The stone man met Amelia's concerned blue gaze. "I think it's safe to say that after a chimera is made, it functions biologically from then on." He did not notice how he had just referred to himself, but Amelia did.

She clenched her fist by her side. "You're not an 'it', Mister Zelgadis, you're a person! I won't have you thinking of yourself as some kind of thing, a creature with no feelings or intelligence. It isn't right. It isn't just!"

He was taken aback by her unexpected vehemence. I'd forgotten how much she cares about me. He had been more worried about finding their friends before the warriors Amelia had spared caught up to them. He could also see that she was working herself up to a long lecture on justice, and hastily interrupted, "Well, anyway, Amelia, at least we won't need to worry about me coming apart at the seams, right?"

He had meant it to be a dry sort of humor, but the look of horror and disgust on her face sobered him. "What an awful thought!" Amelia cried. She actually put one of her hands over her mouth as if the very idea of her beloved Zelgadis disintegrating right in front of her made her ill. Oh, poor Zelgadis!

Zelgadis interpreted her action in a different light. That's right, Amelia. Chimeras aren't the nicest of creatures. Better to see that now than waste your love on one. He ignored the pang of regret that thought caused, relieved that at least she did not continue with her lecture.

As twilight fell, they stopped to set up camp. This time Zelgadis made sure the fire was prepared properly.

Amelia was not looking forward to her sword-fighting lesson. I wish I had something I could wrap around my hands to protect them. She could not quite hold back a hiss of pain as she removed Sunshine's saddle, the hard leather rubbing roughly over her blisters. Maybe I should tear off some cloth from my cape...

Zelgadis' sharp ears heard her hiss. "Something wrong, Amelia?"

"Oh, no, I'm fine," she said hastily, turning away to set the saddle down on the ground, gritting her teeth against the pain.

Zelgadis glanced at her with narrowed eyes, but she did not turn around. Eventually the chimera went to gather firewood, taking Shiran with him to patrol for enemies.

Amelia continued to remove her horse's tack, placing her fingertips gingerly, trying to avoid contact with any of the painful spots on her hands. She sent Sunshine off to graze. "Now don't go too far, Sunny. You never know when someone might attack us."

Zelgadis smiled at her comment as he stepped into the clearing, carrying a load of wood. "You say that as if you think she might answer."

Amelia turned to look at him, her surprised expression relaxing into a smile. He looks so nice when he smiles.

Why is she smiling at me like that? Zelgadis's expression was slightly puzzled as he set the wood down near their gear. He cleared his throat. "All right, let's move over to the other side of the fire." He strode over to the clear patch of earth, reaching for his sword.

Amelia followed him, pulling her sword out of its scabbard. He noticed that she seemed clumsier than she had that afternoon, holding the weapon awkwardly. Is she sore from our practice this afternoon? Still, she seemed game enough, so he drew off his shirt and cape and unsheathed his sword, remembering to grin at her in an appropriately cocky way.

The stone man watched Amelia's hand tighten reflexively around the sword, and noted that her body stiffened slightly, as if she were frightened or in pain. He nodded to himself. She must be sore. A hot bath would help, but that's beyond our means just now. At least she's not complaining about it. Unconsciously his gaze softened as he looked down at her, and the smugness faded from his grin as his respect for her went up a notch.

Abruptly he broke out of his stance, sheathing his sword. "First I want to see you demonstrate the positions I showed you earlier." It will help her to loosen up.

She blinked at him in surprise, but obediently shifted into the first stance he had shown her that afternoon. He watched her fingers twitch on the hilt, but otherwise he could not find much to fault, so he said nothing. The chimera continued to watch, puzzled, as the young girl went through most of the positions with a strange, tense look on her face. Her body was becoming more rigid, not less, as she continued.

Zelgadis called a halt as he noticed her biting her lip in obvious pain. "What's wrong, Amelia? Did you pull a muscle earlier today?" I would have noticed something like that...wouldn't I?

"No." Amelia gave him a look of guilty surprise. "No, I'm all right."

The stone man's eyes narrowed. Something's not right here... He let his gaze pass over her slowly, looking for the anomaly. Again he noticed the slightly awkward way she was holding the sword, and that her other hand had moved around behind her hip. "What's wrong with your hands?"

"N-nothing." Amelia moved both hands behind her, looking up at him with wide eyes. Too wide.

He snorted. "You're not a very good liar, Amelia. Let me see them."

Still she did not move, holding her sword point-downward behind her. Zelgadis suddenly remembered the condition his own hands had been in the year he had started training heavily with his sword. He reached out to take hold of the girl's wrist, gently pulling her free hand from behind her back. He turned it over in his palm, and sucked in his breath at the sight of the red, blistered skin. Some of the blisters had burst, probably during the last couple of minutes, leaking a clear fluid that made her hand glisten in the firelight.

"Amelia...why didn't you say something?" Still holding her hand in both of his, he looked up to see her watching him with troubled eyes.

Her voice reflected quiet shame. "I...I didn't want to complain. I'm not a child...I know how important it is for me to learn to protect myself, to not be a burden on you..."

His mouth open in astonishment; he could not think of anything to say. Amelia...you didn't have to do this. To hurt yourself. For me? Why? Just so I wouldn't think badly of you?

Slowly he reached for her other hand, pushing her sword away with his stone fingertips so that it fell to the ground with a muffled thump. Holding one of her hands in each of his, he tilted them toward the campfire to better see the torn skin. No blood, thank goodness. We can't afford an infected cut, he thought, and bowed his head over her injured hands. He heard Amelia make a small sound of puzzlement.

"I'm sorry, Amelia," he said quietly.

"But why? It's not your fault." She sounded surprised.

"I'm your sensei. I should have thought of this. I should have remembered. It's my responsibility..."

"I'm not a child!" The hands were suddenly yanked from his grasp. He looked up, startled, to see Amelia standing with her fists clenched, her blue eyes flashing, glaring at him in the kind of feminine fury he had only seen before in Lina Inverse.

Reflexively he took a step backward. "Amelia?" He had never seen her like this, and the change astonished him.

She gave him a look that would freeze a demon in its tracks, trembling with suppressed fury, looking as if she wanted to pummel him senseless...or maybe knock some sense into him? She repeated in a voice as hard as iron, "I am not a child."

Even as he was still reeling from her sudden transformation, her gaze slowly softened, and he caught a hint of tears. Her voice trembled slightly. "When are you going to see that?"

Shiran looked back and forth between the girl and the stone man, sensing the charged atmosphere, but not understanding its cause. As they stared into each other's eyes, Zelgadis felt a sharp pang in his chest, a deep longing that made him want to weep and take her into his arms and push her away all at once. His mind numbly repeated over and over, I can't. I can't. I can't...

The silence lasted for nearly a minute before both of them turned away. After a few more seconds Amelia said gruffly, "Look-don't worry about my hands. They're not as soft as you think. I'll be fine."

She was trying hard to keep from crying, wanting even more to show Zelgadis that she could keep control of herself; that she didn't need to be pampered. She regretted breaking down and almost begging him to acknowledge her maturity, realizing that the act itself had belied her request. Stupid! she told herself.

She caught a sudden movement from the chimera from the corner of her eye, and watched as Zelgadis lifted his discarded cape from the ground and used his sword to cut a strip of cloth from the edge. He sliced the strip in half and sheathed his sword. "Here." He reached for her hand, gently wrapping one piece around her palm. Then he did the same for her other hand.

Amelia let him, watching the muscles in his bare chest flex slightly, feeling the smoothness of his blue fingers, their warmth and gentle pressure as she watched him tie the ends of each piece of cloth into small knots on the backs of her hands. "I hope this helps a little." His face was solemn, but his blue-green eyes held concern and remorse.

"Thank you." She tried to let him know she wasn't angry with him anymore with her smile, but he was already looking away from her. She followed his gaze to where it fell upon her sword as it lay on the ground.

For several seconds neither of them said anything. Amelia knew Zelgadis did not want to ask her to continue with her lesson, but she also knew the reasons for the lessons in the first place had not changed. So the young girl mustered her courage and put on a brave smile. "Well, now that I have these bandages, I'm all ready to continue our lesson, Mister Zel-"

Something soft touched her bare arm. She turned to see Zelgadis holding out the half-gloves he always wore. "Use these."

"Mister Zelgadis?" She turned to face him, her eyes widening.

"Take them." He avoided her eyes. "They'll be too big, but they may help a little."

"..." Speechless, she accepted the gloves and looked at them. They were made of pale tan leather, fingerless, well-worn, with a few grubby spots from old stains. "But won't you need them?"

"No." Finally he met her gaze, his expression serious. "I use them to reduce friction between my hand and the sword hilt, but for the most part-" His eyes slid away again as his voice trailed off.

Oh. He must use them to hide his hands. She wanted to ask why he didn't wear full gloves, but couldn't make herself. Mister Gourry wears the same kind of gloves. Maybe sword fighting is easier with half-gloves. Or maybe it's a way of being defiant, showing his hands even as he hides his face around most people.

Slowly she pulled the gloves on over her sore hands, wincing as the slightly rough, suedelike insides touched the blisters on her fingers as she slipped them through the finger holes. She moved her hand, feeling how the soft leather flexed easily in the right places. The material from the chimera's cape cushioned her palms as well as adding a little padding to help fill the gaps-she could feel looser places where the leather had obviously stretched to fit over the extra stones on his hands, but overall she thought she could wear them without too much difficulty.

She was touched at his consideration. He had never done anything like this for her before. The gloves were warm from his body heat-she could almost imagine she was indirectly holding hands with him, which made her blush a little. It suddenly occurred to her that he was not treating her like a child; rather than cancel her lesson, he was making it possible for her to continue it.

She could not stop a brilliant smile from spreading across her face. "Thank you, Mister Zelgadis!"

He relaxed a little, finding it hard to resist that smile. "Let's get started, then."

Author's Note: In a review Akai Kiniro mentioned something about printing out my story. That's fine-I have the rough drafts of mine all printed out just in case something happens to my PC's memory and the backup disks, plus I like to read in bed-but I do recommend that you use two-sided paper. Even if you have to sit there and turn pages over-it's not a one-day project, to be sure-especially if, like me, you want to print out Slayers pictures to use as illustrations.

Otherwise you'll end up with about 500 pages' worth. I keep all my fanfics in binders, and have discovered that the ones that hold the most are the ones with those 'D' rings-they're also marked 'heavy-duty', which is a good idea. I had one whose metal ring part just ripped right out of the binder from the weight of the pages.

BTW, I also print out the review pages and put them in the binder with the story, so I will remember what people thought of it, even years from now.

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