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, 'cause I like to know people are interested. There are a few minor spoilers, but nothing descriptive. Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!

PG for minor swearing and a slightly gory battle scene.

Note: Tollik is pronounced TOL (rhymes with ball) ick

Chapter Fifty: How Do You Court Someone? /

When Leapers Attack

One week later:

Amelia had a problem. How do you court someone?

The group had decided to travel back to Seyrune over roughly the same route that Amelia had used. It had taken several days, but once they had passed out of Varxin's Realm, Lina had been duly impressed with her friend's new white magic skills; not only Amelia's direction-finding magic, but her more powerful healing abilities. Fortunately, by then the red-haired sorceress was mostly over the cold she had gotten in Ponmar's cave, so Amelia didn't have to worry about strengthening the cold germs as well.

Amelia had actually been nearly as surprised as Lina to discover that her healing magic had more than tripled in strength. She had used it once before, to heal Shiran when they'd first met, but had been too distracted by the extraordinary dragonwolf herself to notice the increase in her own powers.

They were due to arrive in Tollik, Shiran and Sunshine's village, any time now. Amelia wanted to return the sweet-tempered palomino mare personally and visit her new friends one more time, since she knew the chances of returning here in the near future were slim. Lina and Gourry had volunteered to circle around the village with Shiran, to keep the big dragonwolf safe from those townsfolk who still believed she was a vicious, uncontrollable beast.

Zelgadis had planned to go with them, but Amelia had approached him later as he was gathering firewood.

FLASHBACK:

Amelia: "Mister Zelgadis?"

Zelgadis (gives her a brief glance): "Yes?"

Amelia (sounding hesitant): "I'd like you to come with me to Tollik."

Zelgadis (shakes head): "No thanks."

Amelia (sounding unusually agitated): "Oh, but you really need to. You see...I think ...Um, that is..."

Zelgadis (stops walking and turns to look at her a puzzled frown on his face): "What is it, Amelia?"

Amelia (a band of pink appears over her nose): "I think Miss Lina and Mister Gourry might like to spend some time alone together."

Zelgadis (looks at her with wide blue-green eyes) "How do you..."

Zelgadis (blushes suddenly and avoids her eyes): "..."

Zelgadis (clears throat): "Well...now that you mention it, I'd like to meet the man who owns Sunshine. She's a fine horse. I was thinking a while ago that Seyrune ought to look into buying some like her. They'd be a good investment..."

Amelia (smiles affectionately): "Thank you, Mister Zelgadis."

END FLASHBACK

Zelgadis hadn't mentioned anything about the night he had comforted Amelia from her nightmare. Amelia had followed his lead so as not to embarrass him, and she was grateful that the others hadn't mentioned anything either, but she was still somewhat hurt that he was behaving as if it had never happened.

Over the past week Amelia had looked for opportunities to impress Zelgadis. She had done what she could to prove to Zelgadis that she could be a good wife, but aside from offering to mend the chimera's somewhat ragged clothes, (he'd said no thanks) there wasn't much she could do on the road. Her other friends' bottomless appetites had ruined her attempt to cook a nice, romantic meal. She couldn't invite him to see a play or another concert, or even just sit and talk with him-not with Lina and Gourry around.

And of course I couldn't try to kiss him, or anything like that, she thought sadly from her perch on Sunshine's back. She had offered to let anyone who was tired ride the horse whenever they wanted to, but all of her friends were more travel-hardened than she, so the young princess still ended up doing most of the riding. She honestly loved being on the mare's back, but she still sent wistful looks down at Zelgadis, wishing she could be at his side as well. I wonder what it would feel like to ride double? She blushed a little at the thought. Of course, he's a little too heavy for Sunny to carry for more than a short trip-and he can move at least as fast.

She sighed, her sapphire eyes taking on a faraway look. I want to walk arm-in-arm with him, just like we did that night we went to the concert. I want to have long talks with him about important things, and silly things, and I want to try to make him smile-maybe even laugh. I want to stay with him always...to keep traveling with him and make new friends and visit old ones, and I want to stay home and help govern Seyrune, too, and ask his advice when I'm not sure about things...

She swallowed, feeling a tightness in her throat. And I want him to hold me when I'm feeling sad, or when I'm happy. I want him to look at me with those beautiful blue-green eyes, eyes that have so much sadness and I want to take the sadness away; I want his eyes to say 'you're special; I want you to be by my side always...I want you.'

So how do you court somebody? For some reason Miss Lina doesn't want to talk about it any more, even though we did all that planning back in Seyrune. She almost seems angry, but when I ask her if something's bothering her, she says it's nothing. Hmm...I wonder if Mister Gourry might have some ideas?

Amelia pictured the two of them in a nice homey kitchen, with herself wearing an apron and cooking something over a stove, with the blonde swordsman sitting at a table holding a knife and fork, his tongue hanging out and a happy look in his eyes. She shook her head, a bemused smile on her lips.

No, somehow I don't think he knows anything about courting.

It was mid-morning when they spotted the village called Tollik, which nestled on the side of a low, long earth-mound, surrounded by both grasslands and wooded areas. Amelia, now on foot leading the palomino mare by the reins, turned to her red-haired friend and said, "All right, Mister Zelgadis and I will meet you on the other side."

Lina looked surprised. "Zel's going with you?"

"Oh, yes; I guess we forgot to tell you. Mister Zelgadis wants to meet Sunshine's owner," Amelia replied.

"Okay, guys, see you on the other side," Gourry said agreeably.

"Take good care of Shiran," Amelia said to her friends, and knelt down by the pale lavender dragonwolf to wrap the arm that was not holding the mare's reins around Shiran's furry neck. Hugging her firmly, Amelia murmured into the huge animal's long, tapered ear.

Only Zelgadis caught her words and his lips twitched as he forestalled a smirk. "Guard the sheep, Shiran," Amelia ordered in an undertone. "Guard the sheep."

The chimera recalled that Amelia had once referred to Lina and Gourry by the same unflattering moniker when she had commanded Shiran to trail their friends by scent. She'd said it was best not confuse the dragonwolf with unfamiliar words, but somehow Zelgadis knew Lina wouldn't see it that way if she heard herself being referred to as a 'sheep'. Shiran glanced at the bright-haired couple and left Amelia's side to stand in front of them, her green gaze calm and steady as if to say, 'You can count on me'.

Amelia mounted the mare and tightened her thighs to signal Sunshine to walk. Zelgadis strode alongside. As he did so, a last roguish impulse made him say teasingly without turning around, "Don't have too much fun now, you two."

There was silence for a moment, during which he pictured the petite sorceress's face turning as red as her hair. "Zelgadis!" she finally sputtered, and he almost chuckled.

As their friends drew out of sight through a copse of pine trees Lina turned to her blonde companion to see him watching her with a look-for once-of thoughtful contemplation instead of the blank incomprehension she would have expected. Did he understand what Zel was talking about? She felt her fading blush return in full force from her hairline to her throat and looked away hurriedly. I'm going to kill you, Zelgadis!

As she gazed out over the rolling hills, a cool breeze rippled through the grasslands, caressing her hot cheeks, calming her temper. Delicate blossoms of white, pink, yellow and lavender speckled the landscape, itself a mixture of greens: jades, olives, emeralds, golden-greens, interspersed with white feathery heather. Dancing butterflies of pale blue, peach, and white fluttered among the many flowers. What a view, she thought, unknowingly echoing an earlier sentiment of Amelia's. This place would be great for a picnic.

Her thoughts turned inward, something that was happening a lot more often these days. This will be the first time Gourry and I will be really alone together since... Her heartbeat picked up speed as she recalled being sweaty and feverish in Gourry's arms, having him feed her and sing to her and keep her warm. Her memory was vague in some parts-she'd been really out of it at times, too sleepy and headachy to focus, but her imagination helped fill in the details of what might have happened. At the time I was too tired to care where he put his hands, but now... Well, he'd better not try any funny stuff!

Gourry saw the diminutive sorceress glance at him and look away, a fierce blush on her cheeks. He watched a scowl appear on her face and wondered what was bothering her. Maybe she's just worried about Zel and Amelia. I know time's running out...maybe I should take Zelgadis aside and ask him what's wrong. Maybe he doesn't want to say in front of the girls.

He sighed, his thoughts shifting to the small redhead nearby. She's been sort of standoffish lately. Not exactly shy; Lina's never shy, but somehow...I can tell she doesn't feel comfortable around me. She hasn't been quite herself since...um, since we left that guy Ponmar's cave. She was really sick for a while, though.

The blonde swordsman had a sudden flash of memory. Just after they had left the cave in the magicless zone, Lina had still been ill and covered in bandages, riding the friendly horse, Sunshine. Zelgadis and Amelia had left them for a brief time to look for a beehive so that Lina could have some honey to soothe her sore throat. Gourry had volunteered to stay behind with the petite sorceress, who was stiff and sore from her injuries as well as thoroughly exhausted.

He'd been worried about her. Her eyes had had dark circles under them, and her cheeks had looked thinner than usual, as if she'd lost weight in just the short time they had been confined.

He'd sat next to her as she'd rested with her back against a tree, giving her worried looks every now and then. Eventually she had noticed and given him an exasperated look. "Don't worry about me, Gourry. It's just a cold, that's all. I'll be fine."

He'd answered sincerely, "But I can't help worrying sometimes, Lina. I love you."

Lina had made a small sound of shock. "What's wrong?" Gourry had asked instantly.

The look of surprise had faded, and she'd given him a shy smile. "Nothing. I'm just not used to hearing you say that to me. It sounded...nice."

Amelia had returned just then, which had abruptly ended his conversation with Lina, since he wasn't supposed to say anything about 'romance' in front of either her or Zelgadis. The young princess had announced excitedly that she'd spotted a beehive and then retreated so that Zelgadis, with a gauze-scarf from Amelia's pack tied around his head to keep the bees out of his few sensitive areas, could break open the hive and collect some of the honeycomb.

Gourry had to smile at the memory. The princess had described Zelgadis' every movement with the fervor of someone in love. Apparently the stone man had taken off his cloak and shirt to avoid getting honey on them, an act which had very much impressed the young girl. Like most girls, with their soft, sensitive skins, Amelia had been practically shuddering at the idea of being exposed to the tiny stinging creatures.

Something else had happened. From Gourry's new perspective-that of a man in love-somehow he'd understood from the flush that had appeared on Amelia's face when she'd talked about a shirtless Zelgadis that she was attracted to the stone man-physically. It had surprised him at first; he'd never really noticed such a thing in either of his young female companions before, but her embarrassment had made him smile understandingly.

I wonder if Lina is attracted to me? the blonde swordsman mused hopefully, watching her as she gazed out over the beautiful landscape. She's never said whether she thinks I'm good-looking, except when she was trying to get me to dress up like a girl. He frowned a little at the memory. I don't think I look like a girl... Anyway, other women have said I was good-looking... Maybe I'm just not her type? Still...she said she loves me-in fact-

Gourry stopped in the act of turning to ask Lina her opinion on his looks as another half-forgotten memory resurfaced.

'"Will you marry me, Gourry?"'

Gourry's light blue eyes widened. That's right; she asked me to marry her, back when we were locked up in the cell. And I said yes. Wow, I forgot all about it. I really am a jellyfish-brain.

He smiled at his revelation, and turned to look at the girl standing next to him, only to see her scowling again as she stared out at the rippling vegetation.

He felt a vague sense of disappointment. People who are going to be married are in love, right? And people in love hug and kiss and stuff...but Lina doesn't seem to want to. Maybe she doesn't think I'm handsome enough. He stood quietly for a moment, scratching an itch on his neck. Hey, maybe she forgot, too. She hasn't said anything to me about it, not even once.

He drew in a deep breath to ask her, but just then Lina turned to face him and her expression was anything but welcoming. Later, he decided hastily.

"Gourry," Lina said forcefully, "let's get moving. I want to be on the other side of this town by lunchtime. We'll need to catch some extra food to feed Shiran, too. I don't want her wandering off to hunt where some farmer might spot her and freak out."

"Okay, Lina."

They traveled south, giving the town a wide berth so that Shiran wouldn't be tempted to return to her former haunts. Fortunately, she seemed to understand the need to stay near them. The big dragonwolf stayed in sight at all times, ranging ahead of them, her fluffy lavender tail waving cheerfully, her green eyes glowing brightly.

"I bet she's happy to be near her old home," Gourry observed. "She's really a beautiful animal."

"Mm," Lina agreed in a lighter tone that seemed to show that her mood had improved.

Gourry decided she had cooled off enough so that maybe she wouldn't punch his lights out if he asked her some questions, but again he was stymied as Shiran suddenly let out a deep, throbbing growl and took on an aggressive stance. The fur on the dragonwolf's neck rose, her eyes lit up with emerald fire and she bared her fangs as she glared into the bushes ahead of their group. Both humans instantly responded to the warning, drawing their weapons and standing back to back.

For a long, tense minute, nothing happened. Shiran continued to snarl ferociously as if warning off any potential attackers, her pale fur bristling out all over, making her look even larger than normal. There was a soft rustle off to their left, then another to their right. "They've got us surrounded, Lina," Gourry muttered, his eyes alert for the slightest movement in the foliage.

"I know," she answered tensely, mentally beginning a spell. A heart-stopping roar from somewhere overhead made her gasp, her heart racing, and almost made her lose her concentration but she grimly continued, realizing only that her enemy was animal, not human.

She was barely in time to see the flash of tan, black-spotted fur out of the corner of her eyes and shout, "Fireball!" The red-haired sorceress flung her handful of accumulated magic-fire straight into the face of a fierce, cat-like beast with gleaming white fangs. It let out a screeching yowl and retreated, trailing the sickening stench of burned flesh even as others of its kind appeared and began attacking from all sides.

For several seconds the humans were too busy fending off attacks by the lightning-fast predators to do anything but react, but eventually most of their enemy was beaten back or destroyed by either Shiran's teeth, Gourry's sword or her own sword-and-magic combination. Lina listened to the frustrated squalls fading into the distance.

"What are these things, Lina?" Gourry asked tersely.

"Leapers, I think. But usually they hunt from trees-that's where they got their name from."

"I think I've heard of them." Gourry paused for a moment dodge the last one-an especially persistent beast-and brought his sword around in a quick, efficient slash to the side of the leaper's neck, severing it cleanly amidst a splash of bright blood. "They don't usually hunt in packs, do they?"

"No, they don't." A memory struck her. "These must be the ones that attacked Amelia! She was telling me the other day how the leapers that attacked her didn't come at her from trees."

Shiran gave the area a final survey and approached the two humans. Her tongue lolled out as she panted, looking satisfied. "No more danger, Shiran?" Lina asked, amused.

"Thanks for the warning, girl." Gourry knelt down to wipe off his blade on the grass, then sheathed it before reaching out to affectionately ruffle the fur around the dragonwolf's neck. "Hey, Lina, she's got a couple of cuts-can you heal her?"

"Sure." The petite sorceress tended to their friend's wounds while Gourry kept watch, just in case. "Okay, all done. You okay?"

"Yeah. Are you?"

"Uh-huh. They've changed their habits, all right." The red-haired sorceress was already thinking about their odd encounter as she surveyed the clearing. Perhaps a dozen of the tawny creatures lay scattered around, dead, their faces showing a sort of peacefulness that they had probably never experienced in life.

"Who?" Gourry asked in puzzlement.

"The leapers, stupid," Lina said mildly, thinking aloud. "It looks like Amelia was right. They're supposed to be nocturnal, too-that means they usually hunt at night-" she said quickly, catching the next question before it was asked. "But these attacked us in broad daylight from the plains...and in a pack...something must have caused them to pack up."

She looked solemnly at the leaper nearest to her, noticing that it was actually rather beautiful now that it wasn't aiming its teeth at her throat. She also noticed something else. "Look, Gourry-its ribs are showing."

"Yeah," he agreed, looking around at the rest of the animals, "they're all pretty thin. They must have been starving, huh?"

Lina's face formed a thoughtful frown. "Hmm...maybe there's a new predator in the area that's eating their normal prey...or a disease of some kind that's cut down the numbers of small prey animals."

She watched Shiran walk up to one of the leapers and sniff carefully before starting to daintily peel off some of the animal's hide. The petite sorceress turned her face away, wrinkling her nose. "Well, at least Shiran's got something to eat. I'd rather have mine cooked, though."

Gourry asked, "Want me to get us some meat from one of the others? We can have steaks later-lots of 'em."

"Sure, Gourry," Lina answered with less enthusiasm than she normally showed about food. She kept her eyes focused on the distant verdant hills, not caring to watch the messy task Gourry was performing if she didn't have to. She didn't mind preparing seafood, but furry animals were a different story. "It's too bad these others will go to waste, though. Even we can't eat this many before they spoil."

"Not really, Lina," Gourry opened the saddlebag Amelia had left them, pulled out the nearly-waterproof food bag they'd been using and began placing neatly-sliced strips of meat into it. "The other predators in the area will get a good meal. If they're all this thin, they probably need it."

The idea of anyone having a good meal-even animals-was enough to cheer the young sorceress. "Don't forget to get enough for Zel and Amelia."

Author's Notes: Sorry for the short chapter-but at least you get to see what Gourry's been thinking about Lina.

Kazuna- Wow-you're comparing me to Tolkien? I'm flattered! *blushes modestly*

DarkAngel-Ahria said about love: 'the other major way is you knew all along, kind of like love at first sight, but pretend it's not true for whatever reason (fear, guilt, anger, insecurity, whatever...)' That's exactly what Zel is going through. He's always cared about Amelia, even if he wasn't in love with her while she was younger, but when he saw her after nearly a year away, he fell for her-and then denied it for many reasons.

Slayers Otaku-Girl-'Lime' means scenes where there's romantic situations like kissing and holding and /or caressing, but no sex-at least, not outright, though it might be hinted at. The rating for 'lime' is probably anywhere from PG to around PG-16, depending on how descriptive the author gets. My characters seem to do more thinking about touching the person they love than actually doing anything about it, although there will be some lime scenes with Lina and Gourry, but I don't have them do anything too, er, naughty. Hopefully everyone will enjoy their budding love-it's my first try at writing serious lime scenes...

Sylver-Ajah-Thanks for the praise! ^_^ I know my characters aren't acting quite the way they do in the series, but they're also a year older AND each of them has had various experiences during the course of this story that prompted several epiphanies (I love that word-it means they each suddenly realized something important) about the person they love most.

You said 'The one thing that will make this fic even more believable is a bit of a filler chapter - I think that because they do so many of them in the show, that it would have more of a connection to their actual character traits and reactions. Kind of like a completely humorous chapter or something not dealing STRICTLY with the plot.'

Well, I do occasional side stories, as some of my other Loyal Readers have mentioned, *grins wryly* especially the Tollik-Shiran storyarc, and the whole Lina-Gourry-kidnapped' arc, but I like to use those for character development, and of course, the days Zelgadis spent traveling alone with Amelia were one of the most essential elements of this entire fic, since I knew he'd never be able to develop any kind of relationship with Amelia if he had the others around. Our Stone Man is much too inhibited when it comes to tenderness...

Badgerwolf said: 'awfully arrogant, isn't he? lol, why does he think it's his right to tell her no if she wants to help him? baka zel.' You got that right! But that's how Zelgadis thinks, if I'm any judge of character. He doesn't involve himself in matters that don't concern him, but in matters that do, he assumes his word is final. It takes a really forceful person like Lina to make him backtrack, and Amelia, though she can be forceful, would prefer to get along with Zel, rather than fight with him. And hide it when she's upset, so as not to inconvenience others. I remember an episode where Amelia had to partner with Gourry instead of Zel; she obeyed, but we could see she was upset, though she didn't say anything about it.

jadz_i_ka-I'd like to update more often, but it cuts into my writing time. See, I'm stuck on chapter 67...so rather than focus on updating, (which takes at least an hour if not more to do a final edit and answer my lovely reviews), I'm doing more revisions and editing and choreographing scenes and trying to decide how to get from where I am to the end, which I have sort of written out, several scenes anyway. I don't want to put up the last of my chapters and then ask you all to twiddle your thumbs for months while I sweat from the pressure...these last 17 chapters are my pressure buffer, you might say. This way, you all have something nice to look forward to every week. ^_^

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