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 I like to know people are interested. There are a few minor spoilers, but nothing descriptive. PG for minor swearing and lime-i-ness.
Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!
Chapter Forty-Nine: A Proposal...and Some Hard Decisions
"It damned well is important if you want to marry Amelia!" Lina shouted at the slender chimera, who let out a small gasp and stiffened as if she had struck him, his eyes tightly closed. "Or are you as much stone on the inside as you are on the outside?"
"Miss Lina!" cried Amelia. The young princess was half mortified, half glad that someone had finally brought up the rather ticklish subject they'd all been avoiding.
Gourry looked from Amelia to Zelgadis and back again. Lina's lips pressed into a hard line as if she regretted her outburst.
Zelgadis turned away from his friends, caught off guard despite the fact that he'd known this scene would arrive sooner or later. I have to tell Amelia I'm not going to marry her. I have to. One bare stone hand came up and covered his face, as if the sight of his friends hurt too much to bear. Should I tell her that I only see her as a friend, or should I just say there's no cure? Either way she'll be devastated. I don't want to hurt her. Is there any way out of this that she'll understand?
The stone man abruptly began to walk through the trees, away from his friends. "I need to be alone for a few minutes," he said quietly, painfully aware that Amelia was following him with unhappy eyes.
For once, no one followed him. He walked through the woods for several minutes until he came to a small glen with a stream running through it. A miniature waterfall, perhaps as tall as his shin, created a soothing rippling sound, and all around him he could hear the sweet chirp of songbirds.
He paid little attention to the beauty around him, lost in his own inner maelstrom. After a moment he went down on one knee, uncaring (indeed, unfeeling) of the damp sticks and earth, and splashed his hard face with water several times, then drank from cupped stone hands. From habit, he unfastened his canteen from his belt and twisted off the cap, but as he began to dip it into the water Amelia's ward bracelet swung downward, gently moving back and forth as it dangled from the cap's twine string.
Slowly the stone man slid his other hand under the dark blue metal sphere, cradling it gently. Then he pulled it free of the canteen, which he dropped indifferently onto the damp earth, letting the remaining water flow out to rejoin its element in the river. Amelia.
He sighed. I certainly can't tell her that there is a cure, a spell that requires a white magic mage who loves me to perform it, but that the spell involves risking her sanity or even her life . She'll volunteer; I know she will. And when I refuse, that will hurt her most of all. She won't understand that I'm not important-she is. Not just because she's a princess. Amelia is...special...
He looked up and his blue-green eyes stared at nothing as images of Seyrune's princess appeared before him, smiling, laughing, hugging Shiran, weeping in his arms, bravely facing fearsome opponents in battle, looking vulnerable, sleeping, sitting peacefully, reaching out to touch his face, her sapphire eyes shining with love...
His own blue-green irises quivered with the strength of his feeling. Zelgadis squared his slender shoulders and set his jaw in conviction. I have to protect her; I don't care what happens to me. Even if I have to lie to her, even if I have to make her hate me, I will never allow her to put herself in danger because of me.
Amelia wrung her hands together, her face full of anxiety. "Miss Lina, what's wrong? Did the Oracle say that-that there's no-"
"Not that I know of." The petite sorceress turned ruby eyes in the direction the chimera had gone. "Some of this is my fault."
"When he came out of the Oracle's cave I should have made him tell me what she said."
Amelia blinked. "You didn't ask him?"
"No...but Amelia, you didn't see him when he came out. His eyes..." Lina couldn't help shivering as she remembered, and beneath her, Sunshine snorted and turned her golden head as if to ask, What's wrong?
Lina smiled and gave the palomino mare's neck a reassuring pat. "His eyes looked so...haunted. Like he'd seen something nobody should ever have to see. I've seen people like that-people who've just lived through a tragedy. They're in shock, reacting to everything around them automatically, without really thinking or feeling." Her voice grew small and sad. "Some people never really recover."
Amelia looked up at her with anguish filling her young face, obviously hurting for her chimera. Lina did not add aloud, If Zel hadn't recovered...I never would have brought him back to Seyrune. The very notion of the lively, passionate Amelia being married to an emotionally dead Zelgadis, human or not, was anathema to the red-haired sorceress. She'd have died inside, a little at a time, until nothing was left except a bitter, dried up shell of a woman, hating her life and everything in it.
Amelia swallowed. "So you were...waiting until he felt better before you asked him?"
"Yeah. You know what did the trick? When you were in danger-I guess it was when you met Shiran. I think you mentioned she saved your life, right?" Amelia nodded. "Well, that bracelet you gave him lit up and started sending-well-a cry for help, I guess. Zel was in a panic 'cause he knew you were too far away to rescue you. Hey, is that why he likes Shiran now?"
Amelia mumbled, "That's part of it...but go on. What happened next?"
"Oh, well, we were all really worried, but eventually the glow faded and then Zel was back to normal. I was really glad. Then he went off on his own for about an hour, sitting on the edge of a cliff-he looked like he was thinking. I was afraid he was getting worse again, but whatever he thought about must have done him some good, because he was like the old Zelgadis after that. To tell you the truth, I didn't want to take the chance of asking him about the Oracle in case it sent him back into the pit he'd finally managed to get out of."
Gourry looked puzzled. "Zelgadis didn't fall into the pit, Lina, and even if he had, he'd just fly out of-"
"Idiot! An emotional pit!"
Lina looked back at Amelia, who still looked pensive. "Listen, Amelia, he hasn't said there's no cure. I figure there is one-but it probably involves some kind of sacrifice-like, he has to be the Oracle's slave, or maybe he has to kill someone..."
Lina winced. "Sorry-but remember, I'm just guessing. Don't get too upset. We've still got a little time."
"...But suppose the Oracle said his cure is too far away to reach before the wedding?"
Lina frowned thoughtfully. "Hm. That's a problem-but hey, Xellos is supposed to get us some faster transportation-we'll just find a way to make Zelgadis tell us by then." She smirked, raising a fine orange eyebrow. "Maybe he can sweet-talk Filia into flying us again."
The raven-haired girl was silent for a minute or two. "Miss Lina, do you think Mister Zelgadis wants to marry me? He looked so...stunned. I've never seen him like this. Is it-" her eyes showed a flash of fear, "is it because he doesn't want to marry me and he's looking for a way to let me down gently? I know he hates emotional scenes..."
Lina turned somber ruby eyes on her friend. "Well, he has an easy way out, if he stays a chimera until after the ceremony."
"But...he didn't know I was going to propose to him...did he? What if he did guess?" Amelia wailed. "What if he decided he doesn't want to marry me and so he's holding off becoming human so he won't have to turn me away?"
Lina looked down at the white mane in front of her, helplessly stroking the mare's golden neck with a bandaged hand. I'm not really good at stuff like this...
Gourry moved closer to the young girl and put an arm around her shoulders. "Well, that's his choice then," he said quietly. "But if you ask me, I think Zelgadis really cares about you, and he's just afraid to show it."
Amelia closed tear-filled eyes and turned her face into her friend's chest for a moment, taking comfort in his warmth and reassuring male scent. For a moment she was a little girl again, being comforted by her father. As she took a deep, shaky breath, she realized that she missed Zelgadis' own special scent, that of sun-warmed stone, and remembered her vow to try to be less childish.
Slowly she pulled away from the man and rubbed the tears from her eyes. "Thank you, Mister Gourry...I think I need to go talk to Mister Zelgadis now. Shiran, remain."
Her longtime comrades watched her with somber eyes as the small girl slowly headed deeper into the forest. Lina had an odd look on her face, as if she couldn't decide whether to be angry or baffled. "I just don't understand that guy."
Gourry gave her a quizzical look.
"I was sure he was in love with her after last night."
Lina rolled her eyes. "Don't you remember? Amelia had a nightmare and Zelgadis comforted her-he hugged her, held her in his arms and let her cry all over him."
"Oh, yeah. I fell asleep," Gourry admitted.
"Oh, well, see-I got a good look at his face, and you should have seen it. I've never seen him look like that, like...like Amelia was someone precious to him."
Both of them were silent for several moments. Finally Lina said in a bemused tone, "That's why I just don't understand why Zelgadis is acting like this. No matter what the catch for that cure of his is, we'll help him beat it, right? If he loves her, he should be doing everything he can to make sure he doesn't lose her to some other guy. That's what I'd do, if it were me."
Gourry gave her a fond smile. "That's 'cause you never give up. It's one of the reasons I love you."
As always, his words gave her a start-no one had spoken such words to her in a long time. Lina met his gaze and found herself blushing at how he was looking at her. She gave him a shy smile, suddenly very glad that the feelings between the two of them were out in the open..
Amelia focused on Zelgadis' presence through the ward bracelet he still carried. It did not take her long to find him, and when she did, she simply stood and watched him. He was down on one knee by a stream, motionless, apparently looking at the rippling water.
At the sight of him her heart gave a pang. I love him. I want him to be happy, more than anything. If he really doesn't want to marry me, I won't force him... Black despair filled her, twisting her face in anguish. Why is he just kneeling there? Why doesn't he just say he doesn't want to marry me and let us all off the hook? He can go get his cure and I'll go home and marry that boy I met at the ball...Kerrin, that was his name. At least he said he likes me!
The young girl walked to the side, trying to see his face. As she gazed at the stone man kneeling there with water he probably couldn't feel dripping from his chin and his silver-blue hair, she noticed that his eyes seemed to be looking at something far away.
A small spark of hope pushed back the despair. Maybe...maybe he hasn't decided yet. Maybe that's why he looks so troubled. This isn't like him-it's never taken him this long to decide anything. He's always so sure of himself.
Then she noticed that he was holding her ward bracelet in his hand. Her eyes widened. As she stared in surprise, she watched his stone thumb move to caress the metal sphere gently. She felt the flicker of hope within her burst into a brilliant, shining flame. Maybe I still have a chance! Maybe, oh, maybe... What if I court him? What if I show him how much I love him, how much I need him? It's not a secret anymore...
Without looking at her, Zelgadis began to speak, his face grave but resolute. "Amelia..."
She tensed, and interrupted hastily, "I understand, Mister Zelgadis. I'm sorry. It's my fault. This was too sudden-you need more time to decide."
He looked as if he was going to protest, so she added desperately, "We-we don't have to talk about it now-we can just keep on traveling the way we always have. Besides-you did promise to come to my wedding, right? You wouldn't break your word, would you?"
Zelgadis regarded her steadily, meeting her anxious gaze. Her expression was that of a person grasping at straws, clinging to hope. That's just like her. To never give up. Before he knew it he had smiled, and at her answering smile, so full of joy, he felt as if a heavy burden had shifted off of his shoulders. He realized that he wanted to be able to spend these last few weeks in her company; wanted to enjoy the companionship that had grown between them as long as he could, before...
"No, Amelia," he said quietly, "I wouldn't break my word."
It was only a temporary reprieve, and he knew himself to be a coward, but one look at her joyful face eased his guilty qualms. He wanted her to be happy for as long as possible, even if she was living on false hope.
"I'll go wait for you with the others, then." Amelia smiled at him one more time, then headed back the way she had come, almost skipping with girlish high spirits.
His eyes followed her, eyes that still reflected the smile in his heart, even though his face was solemn again. How is it that this slip of a girl always seems to make things all right again?
"Miss Lina!" Amelia skidded to a stop on the dry pine needles. Her face, to Lina's surprise, reflected elation, not the misery the young sorceress had been expecting.
"Amelia, what happened?"
"Mister Zelgadis didn't say no!"
"You mean he said yes?" Lina wasn't sure whether to be happy or worried for her friend. She exchanged a bewildered look with Gourry.
"Well, not exactly..." Amelia shifted from one foot to the other, now looking uncomfortable. "But I asked him if he wanted more time to think about it, if he wanted to wait to give me his answer until we got back to Seyrune, and he said yes...sort of."
"Sort of?" Gourry repeated.
The dark-haired girl threw a look back over her shoulder. "Umm, listen, Miss Lina, Mister Gourry, I need to ask you a favor. Can you not mention anything about me asking Mister Zelgadis to marry me, or about my wedding or anything like that? I promised him I wouldn't talk about it until we get home."
He's stringing her along, poor kid, Lina thought pityingly. He obviously said that to keep her from pestering him all the way back. What is this? Does he want to marry her, or doesn't he? Slowly her face hardened. I'm gonna get him alone when Amelia's not around and get the truth out of him if I have to grind his stone butt into sand!
Meanwhile Gourry was saying, "Sure, we can do that, right, Lina? No talking about Amelia getting married. That's easy enough."
As the red-haired sorceress watched her friend's face light up at the sight of her beloved chimera returning through the trees, she thought darkly, Just you wait, Zelgadis Greywyrs. Just you wait.
Author's Note: Whew-this was one of those killer chapters that I had to keep rewriting. I'm not altogether sure that Zel is in character here. I know he's usually pretty blunt, even cruel at times, and doesn't always take other people's feelings into consideration when he speaks. He's the type who makes a choice and sticks with it through thick and thin, which is usually considered to be a good, reliable quality in a person, but in this case it's keeping him from reconsidering his decision.
However...he's also never been in love. Now, not only does he have to deal with his own conflicting, mostly-denied feelings, he's also more aware of someone else's feelings than his own for the first time is his life, and that is even more confusing. He's always been fairly selfish; basing all his decisions on what he wants, what will keep him alive and well and (I can't say happy, this is Zel, after all) but satisfied, anyway-but now...he wants to keep Amelia happy.
It just goes to show how much Zelgadis has changed since the beginning of this fic. He's willing to go against his better judgment to please her. I guess there's some truth to the old saying 'women make fools of men'-although no one ever seems to mention that most men seem to enjoy it! ^_^ -doing illogical things to make a woman happy. (Although in this case Zel knows that she's going to end up sad no matter what.)
So he's making choices based on emotion rather than logic, which is not the norm for him, even though it makes him feel helpless, like things are out of his depth. But he's still trying to stick to the agonizing decision he made back before Amelia joined up with the group, for her own good. To keep her safe. Poor Zel.
Slayers Otaku-Girl-It's not quite that time of them month for Lina (or Amelia, in case you were wondering) I did a timetable to figure out when theirs are. Lina does, however, have PMS (premenstrual syndrome) so she is extra crabby right now. Trust Gourry to notice her emotional state, huh? Xellos is a minor character in this fic-and I don't think Filia will appear at all. If she did, all their problems would disappear waaay too easily.
Love-no two people experience 'being in love' the same way, do they? So what you're reading is partly how I imagine it must feel to be in love, plus my interpretation on how each of my very different characters must feel to be in love. I do think, though, that with situations like Amelia and Zelgadis, it's a two-steps-forward-one-back kind of thing.
tbiris said-'it's neat how you're having everything going around in circles and having relationships go slowly, not many do that.' Isn't that like Real Life? See comment on 'steps' above.
Thank you, PsycoCatGirl, for the beautiful words on love in your last reply. It really helps to imagine what Lina's going through. I wonder if I'll ever know someone so well that it'll feel strange to NOT be together-I've always needed at least three hours a day to be by myself or I get edgy...
Stella23-You finished my fic in two days? Wow, I'm impressed. That's like at least four hours a day for average readers. I'm pleased that my fic was good enough to hold your attention for so long-and yes, there's a lot more Lina/Gourry scenes coming up! ^_^ I'm even more pleased that you want to translate this into Chinese. Only please remember to acknowledge me as the original author-either Dreamsinger, Yumekashu, (Dreamsinger in Japanese) or...what's 'dreamsinger' in Chinese?
Or any other languages, for that matter? Now I'm curious... I always use a variation of this name online. In the AnimeNation message board I'm known as Dreamsinger Rose. I'm Yumekashu on ebay.
Stara Maijka-Thanks for the encouraging words about your boss finding love at age 50-something. I'm not exactly in a hurry anyhow-but who knows what can happen? You're so right about several points that have to do with Lina and Gourry being engaged-but I have added another twist! Ah-ha-ha! I deal with this within a few chapters-and for those of you Lina/Gourry fans-Twilight, Stella23, and others-you know who you are-there's going to be some sweet, tender scenes coming up-hope you all like lime-i-ness. ^_^
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