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. PG for minor swearing.

Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!

Chapter Fifty-One: He Thinks I'm Cute?

By the time Gourry had finished taking some meat from the healthiest-looking of the dead leapers, Shiran was also done eating and had groomed herself to remove any traces of blood from her gleaming lavender-white coat. Lina watched the magnificent animal approaching at a smooth trot and smiled at the way her entire countenance spoke of her happy satisfaction.

Shiran's long, tapered ears, lined along the edges with darker purple fur that matched the streak from her forehead to the base of her bushy tail, were perked forward. Her tail swirled upward in a graceful curve, her gait was relaxed and easy, and her tongue lolled from the side of her mouth.

"It's too bad there aren't more like her," Gourry commented. "I wouldn't mind having such a good fighter around all the time. We'd never go hungry again."

His remark caused a bell to go off in the back of Lina's mind. "This used to be her territory, didn't it?"

"I guess so. Amelia said she used guard some kind of weird sheep just outside town, I think." Gourry looked puzzled as to where this line of conversation was going.

"Shiran's old master died a few months ago, right?" Lina said as she shouldered one of the packs and they began walking south again. "If there was no one to feed her, she must have hunted all around here...and she's such a good hunter that she could have eaten all the smaller animals in the area. Eventually there might not have been enough the feed the leapers individually, but in a pack they could probably pull down some of the bigger animals like deer-and the town's animals. You know, the ones the townspeople were convinced Shiran was killing?"

Gourry nodded. "Maybe when they find all these leapers together they'll finally realize that Shiran was innocent, huh? And now that she's leaving, do you think the leapers will go back to their old habits and the people will be safe?"

"Not for a while," Lina answered, "but yeah, I think once the local rodents have had a chance to build up their numbers again everything will be in balance. Thanks to us, the leapers that are left will have more food to go around now."

"Should we hunt some more, then, if that'll help?"

Lina frowned, considering her answer carefully. "I don't mind protecting myself, but somehow I don't like the idea of just going out and killing them in cold blood. They're just trying to survive."

"Okay, Lina." Gourry sounded glad. "I guess Nature will work it out, huh?"

"Yeah." Lina retreated into her thoughts, musing, I suppose you could say this was the fault of that mage, Savari, even though his intentions were good. She shuddered slightly, remembering a previous visit to a chimera-laboratory. I'm glad chimera-making is banned. People shouldn't mess around with nature-not that much. Look at poor Zelgadis.

This kind of thinking was too somber for the usually dynamic red-haired sorceress, so after a while she shook it off and returned to a more personal train of thought. What do I do about Gourry?

She turned to look at him as they walked. Her ruby eyes traveled over long, muscular legs, slender hips, broad shoulders and a strong back covered by a flow of long, silky butter-yellow hair. Her eyes lingered on his face, studying his cheerful sky-blue eyes, his graceful high cheekbones and delicately pointed chin, his gentle lips that were always ready with a smile.

Eventually Gourry noticed her silent study of him and turned to her, his expression quizzical. She looked away quickly, feeling another of those ever-present blushes on her nose and cheeks. He caught me looking at him. She scowled. This has been going on ever since the Oracle's cave. Sometimes I still can't believe that I told Gourry I love him. I think I do... He said he loved me, and I knew it was true, and I was so happy I just... Well...I know I don't ever want to be apart from him, that the idea of ever losing him scares the crap out of me, so is that love? ...And if it is, what am I supposed to do about it?

Lina looked toward the distant town where her friends had gone, feeling the peacefulness of the gentle countryside at odds with the confusing, swirling emotions within her. She sighed. Hugging and kissing I think I can handle, but I'm still not sure about the other stuff.

She sneaked another quick glance at his face from behind her fiery red curtain of hair. People in love are supposed to want to...to do stuff...with each other. Her blush intensified, turning her face apple-red. I used to think the whole idea was really disgusting, but I keep remembering some of the dreams I've had lately, dreams where we're alone together without any clothes and he's holding me and... Her face deepened from apple to cherry.

And I remember that time I was sick and Gourry held me all night to keep me warm and he sang to me and fed me... Her mental voice became affectionate. He didn't complain once, didn't even seem to mind that I was getting him all damp from my wet clothes, and then later, sweaty from my fever. He never acted disgusted. Her lips curved in a gentle smile as her blush faded. I'd never felt so safe, so cared for, so...so loved, in all my life. I want to feel like that again, but we haven't really had a chance to be alone together up to now. I sure wasn't going to ask him to hold me with the others watching us!

Something else occurred to her: I wonder if Amelia feels the same way about Zelgadis? She shook her head regretfully. Somehow I doubt it'd feel very good if Zelgadis were ever to really hold her close. He'd have to be really careful. One good squeeze and she'd have a great collection of bruises! The girl's lips twisted into a smirk, one fine orange eyebrow raised. Then again, knowing Amelia, she'd probably risk it if she thought he'd let her.

Her ruby eyes narrowed suspiciously. The two of them were alone together for three days while they were searching for us. I've been meaning to ask Amelia if anything happened between them, but I haven't had a chance-she never left his side for more than a minute. I've got to get her alone for a while when we meet up with them again. I want to know how she got along with him. I wonder if he acts differently when he's alone with her? Did he try anything with her? And if he did, did she let him?

Lina's eyes took on a faraway expression as she tried to picture the aloof, serious chimera beaming at Amelia with lovesick eyes, hugging the princess or kissing her, but even in her imagination Zelgadis was so physically forbidding that the young sorceress' mind veered away and focused on a more immediate target.

If Gourry tried to kiss me right now, would I let him, or whack him a good one? As always, her gaze turned to her male comrade, who was striding along steadily, quietly humming a cheery little tune. She gritted her teeth. What am I doing? Gourry hasn't treated me any differently since we left Ponmar's. I don't know if it's because he really doesn't want me, or if he's just being a gentleman, or what? But I just can't picture myself going up to him and asking, 'Hey, Gourry, would you mind if I gave you a hug or a kiss', or whatever? He'd probably think I was sick again!

She bit her lip absently as she thought, letting it slide out from between her teeth only to recapture it. Still, if neither of us ever makes a move, nothing will ever happen. A year ago I would have been happy with that, but now...it's not enough. I want to show him how I feel about him, but I don't really know how. I mean, face it, I've never been a gentle person. I don't know how to show somebody that I love them. Except for kissing and hugging...but I know there's a lot more to it than that.

Again she glanced up at her companion, who wore the typical cheerful, slightly oblivious expression she had come to cherish. He looked as if he was constantly listening to some kind of merry music only he could hear. Gourry's a gentle person-as gentle as a swordsman can be, anyway-and he is a guy, so maybe he knows about this kind of stuff?

This was something of a novel idea to the young sorceress; except in battle, Gourry Gabriev was notoriously ignorant of an astonishing number of subjects. And I don't mean the crude things men refer to when they're coming on to you...I mean the kind of stuff married women gossip about. The kinds of things that make young newlyweds sigh and blush and giggle...

"Look, Lina." Gourry's voice broke into her thoughts. "That flower looks like Shiran's fur. White, with pinkish-purple on the tips."

Lina looked back to see him crouching on the ground in front of a large pale flower with six petals. Three were long and thin, two were larger and leaf-shaped, and one grew from the center, curled halfway into a tube with a bright yellow throat. The overall color was a soft pinkish-white which deepened to a lavender at the edges of the petals. There were several more in various colors scattered here and there, now that she noticed; most were either bright magenta, or yellow, or a lovely dark blue-purple color.

"How about that," she said in surprise. "That's Shiran's namesake-a purple orchid. Someone from the village must've planted them-they're not all that common around here. I can see how she got her name."

"Sure is pretty, huh, Lina?" He looked up at her and she felt her heart lurch inside her at the adorably childlike smile on his face. She smiled back affectionately, her thoughts a mixture of adoration and amusement. Of course Gourry wouldn't know anything about romance, she told herself. This is the guy who thinks a fiance is a pickle, remember?

"It's too bad Amelia isn't here-she loves unusual flowers," Gourry commented.

"So let's bring it to her," Lina suggested, her mood unusually generous from the warm, tender feelings evoked by his smile. Gourry can be so cute sometimes. Just like a little boy. "I've never seen an orchid this color before. They're usually darker. "

"Really?" Gourry asked as he carefully plucked the stem from the soil and stood up.

"I think so," Lina answered, watching him as he looked at the flower in his hand and then down at himself, obviously searching for somewhere to put it. It was surprising how well she knew his thoughts without his having to say a word. She knew he wanted his hands free in case they were attacked again.

"Hey, Lina, hold still," he said suddenly and stepped toward her. She stiffened in surprise as his hands moved toward her face; for a moment all she could see was the large lavender-and-white flower looming in her field of vision. Then she felt his hands at her headband, pulling it away from her skin, sliding the cool, slender stem inside.

His hands moved away. "There," he said with satisfaction. "Now it won't get crushed in my pack."

The petite sorceress breathed in the orchid's scent, a heady perfume that swirled around her as she moved her head to look up at him with wide, wondering eyes. She could feel the blossom bobbing gently; occasionally one of the petals would touch her skin gently, like a lover's kiss...

Gourry couldn't help smiling at her expression. She looked so much like a shy little girl, her eyes aglow, the big delicately-colored flower decorating her beautiful red hair. "Hey, Lina," he said softly, "You look really cute."

The words were out of his mouth before he realized that he was going to speak, and suddenly he was worried that Lina might be offended. Her emotions were never easy to understand at the best of times, even now, when he knew that she loved him. He did remember, however, that personal comments often made her angry. The swordsman's sense of self-preservation made him resume walking as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, hoping that she wouldn't suddenly blow up behind him.

Lina watched him for a moment before following him, filled with wonder at his unexpected action-and his even more unexpected compliment! He really thinks I'm cute? Her cheeks finally caught up to her emotions, turning pink with bashful pleasure as she tried to stop a silly, lovesick grin from spreading out over her face. She walked beside her tall partner for a while, simply enjoying his company, trying to suppress the smile that kept wanting to spread over her face every time the flower touched her forehead or cheek.

Her peaceful mood lasted nearly half an hour before her restlessness returned. As she walked beside the object of her interest she found herself wanting to reach out and hold his hand, which swung so temptingly nearby, but she also discovered that she was curiously hesitant. Every time she began to move her own hand near his, it would stop as if there was an invisible barrier around the man.

The fiery-haired sorceress clenched her fists at her sides, feeling a sharp twinge in her chest; half anger, half anguish. What's wrong with me? This isn't like me at all-I've never been such a spineless, wishy-washy coward in my life. I'm Lina Inverse! I don't back down from anything.

"Hey, Gourry?" she said abruptly.

"Yeah?"

She took a deep breath, turned to look meet Gourry's curious blue eyes, and felt her resolve leave her in a rush. "...O-oh, nothing," she stammered helplessly, her face flaming. She walked faster, trying to avoid his inquisitive gaze.

"Lina?" he asked as he jogged after her to catch up.

"No, it's nothing," she insisted, refusing to look at him. "Never mind."

She returned to her ruminations, hanging her head to stare at the grass passing beneath her feet. This isn't like any other challenge I've ever faced. I've never been in love before. Being...intimate...with someone is new territory. I'm like an explorer, afraid to take a wrong step in case it blows up in my face. And Gourry hasn't really given me any encouragement...

Oh, I've got to talk to Amelia about this. This whole trip was supposed to be about her love life, not mine. Still, she's been in love long enough to have thought this all out, hasn't she? Not once did the idea of talking out her feelings with the object of her angst cross the young sorceress' mind.

The silence was too much for the young sorceress, who had never been the introspective type; her thoughts were even more confused than when she'd started. What am I thinking? Amelia's younger than me. She scowled fiercely, growling under her breath. Oh, forget it. I'll figure out my problems later.

"Gourry, you got any idea how we can make Zelgadis tell us how to cure him?" she said at random, more to break the silence than anything else.

He gave her a surprised look as if he'd expected her to say something else. "I don't think we can, Lina," he said finally.

The fiery-haired sorceress let out all of her pent up anxiety and frustration in a shout of fury, glad for the release. "That stuck-up, ungrateful, arrogant, spiky-haired jerk! After everything we've done for him, he repays us like this? And what about Amelia? He's breaking her heart. If he doesn't love her he should at least have the decency to tell her outright so she can stop hoping for something that'll never happen and get on with her life!"

Gourry was beginning to worry. Lina was working herself up to the flash point, a point past which anything and everything would set her off. More than once she had cast the Dragon Slave when she was like this-with devastating results. Hurriedly he tried to think of something to say that would calm her down, anything, knowing that one wrong word from him would bring the wrath of the steaming-mad sorceress down on his head. Or some other part of his anatomy that he was especially protective of.

Vaguely he wondered why he wasn't angry, too. What Lina had said was true. If their stone friend was indeed deceiving the girl Gourry had come to think of as a little sister, that was bad. It sure isn't fair to Amelia to get her hopes up if he's really not serious about her. But I can't be angry-I understand what it's like to love a girl you're not sure you can have.

"But Zelgadis loves Amelia. I'm sure of it." He voiced his thought aloud.

"What?" Lina's ranting stopped as her head snapped around to glare up at him. "How do you know that?"

"I just do." He met her ruby eyes steadily with his own blue ones, and was faintly relieved to see a look of doubt cross her face. "Like how I knew Xellos was a mazoku before he told us. I can just tell by the way Zelgadis looks at Amelia that he's in love with her."

"Then why doesn't he show it?"

Gourry frowned thoughtfully. "I think he's scared to. He's never been in love before; he's probably sort of confused, like he doesn't know how to show it. Or maybe it's because he's shy about showing his feelings in front of other people, like the way you are now that we're all together again."

"I'm what?" she screeched, making the tall swordsman wince at the volume. Lina's face was a strange mixture of shock, guilt, and fury. He gulped and wished desperately for a way to take back the last part of his statement, looking around frantically for someplace to hide. Unfortunately, the rounded grassy knoll they were on had absolutely no decent hiding places-or even half-decent ones. With all of his instincts telling him he was about to die, the blonde swordsman clamped his eyes shut and waited tensely for a sudden blast of pain to strike him.

Several moments passed. Gourry's breath came in quick, frantic gasps, his heart thudded painfully in his chest, remembering again just how much this tiny girl-woman could frighten him. If her magic power was awesome, her rages were phenomenal. They were alarming, terrifying, thrilling-it was often like being caught in a typhoon; you just had to dig in and hold your ground and wait until the storm blew itself out. And hope that you didn't meet your doom during it.

When there was no pain, no sounds other than the gentle breeze and birdsongs, he dared to open one eye a crack, only to see Lina standing in front of him with her hands on her hips, glaring at him menacingly. "Care to explain that comment just now?" Her voice was biting, acidic, and full of threat.

Author's Note: Leapers are only about 18 inches (1 feet) tall, not counting the neck and head. They resemble bobcats or lynxes.

Lavender-tipped orchids do exist-check 'em out online. I did a search for 'lavender orchid' and got some lovely pictures. I'm using one in the header I've printed out on paper as a symbolic picture for this fic. (I always print out my fics in case something happens to my PC and my backup CDs). I've got about 500 pages' worth in a binder right now.

Slayers Otaku-Girl asked: 'Do you ever get writer's block?' Yes, I get writer's block-sometimes for months. That's why I decided not to put Only Stone online until I'd gotten most of it written, so you all could read uninterrupted in case I get stuck further down the line. Which I have-I just spent a whole day deciding between two divergent storylines, trying to decide which one to use, and ended up, as I was writing the one I'd chosen, with a storyline that started out as I'd planned but then changed to something quite different. So much for planning! ^_^

badgerwolf says: 'poor amelia...'how to court someone' is really the eternal question, isn't it...?'

-You got that right! ^_^

Earth Star comments: 'They're back in Shiran's old home and now they are investigating the mystery of the Leapers. Do I sense the beginning of a new storyarc?'- Yup! ^_^

jadz_i_ka bemoans: 'hey! wait a second! what happend to that Zel-Lina talk about his cure? where is it! I want it, and I want it in the next chapter!'- Well, Lina's plans got thwarted for a while, but don't you worry; there are several confrontation scenes comin' up between the redhead and the chimera!

tbiris asks: 'Would the predator have anything to do with the rumors that Lina was massing an army?' - No...the Lina-is-the-Boss rumors are mostly in the Outer World. In Tollik they always suspected Shiran (animal threats, not human).

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