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, just 'cause I like to know people are interested.
Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!
Chapter Sixty-One: Fire Melts Ice
Amelia, half-asleep, hid her blushing face in Zelgadis' shoulder. I can't believe this is happening to me, she thought unhappily. First I end up needing to be rescued, and now Zelgadis is carrying me up to bed like a little child. 'Put you to bed', he said, as if I was five years old. And then I even blurted out that I have my time of the month! I'm so embarrassed...
The gentle rocking motion of being carried was soothing, however, and the exhausted young princess was asleep before they were halfway down the long building. The hostess, Momoko, led them to one of the two rooms at the very end of the inn and opened the door. "Here we are... I hope you will be comfortable. If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask, all right? I will send up some broth as soon as possible."
"Thank you, madam... you've been most kind," Zelgadis said sincerely, vividly remembering other occasions where the inn that they were staying at had been demolished-usually by Lina-and the not-so-happy attitudes of the owners afterward.
The hostess left them. For a moment Zelgadis hesitated, as a sudden image of a newly-married groom carrying his wife over the threshold of their honeymoon room appeared in his mind. It reminded him of the 'wedding' dream he'd had back at the palace, and how radiantly happy Amelia had looked in her wedding dress.
After a long moment, he blushed and entered, looking around. The room was simply furnished, with a pair of beds with matching pale green blankets, a table with two chairs, an empty shelf and some hooks on the wall for storage. Zelgadis wondered where to put Amelia while he turned down the bedsheets, but fortunately they were already done. He carried her to the bed and set her down gently, laying her head on the pillow, straightening her limbs into comfortable positions.
Then he took a chair from the table, moved it in between the two beds and sat down, simply waiting, not thinking about much at all, just watching her sleep. He did not realize that his mental numbness was a reaction to the emotional shock of nearly losing her. At first the princess' face had a shadow of pain over it, but soon it smoothed out as she slipped into a deeper, healing slumber.
Time passed and the chimera relaxed, almost hypnotized by the peaceful ambience that seemed to exist between the two of them when they were alone together. He only became aware of his surroundings when there was a quiet knock on the door.
"Sir, I've brought you some food," Momoko called softly.
Only then did he realize that he'd been sitting in a nearly-dark room, listening to Amelia breathe rather than watching her face. He stood up from between the beds and made his way to the door, opening it cautiously, squinting at the sudden brightness from the lantern that hung on the kindly hostess' arm. Enticing smells wafted from the delicious-looking cuisine on the tray that she held, making Zelgadis realize that he had never gotten to eat, either.
"Thank you," he said as he reached to take the heavily-laden tray from her. Plenty for both of us to eat, by the look of it-the inn's finest fare.
"I hope everything is to your liking." Momoko bowed slightly, glancing sideways at Amelia. "How is she ?" she murmured.
Zelgadis set the tray down on the table. "She's resting. She'll be fine in a little while."
"It must have been a terrible shock for the poor girl." The woman nodded understandingly as she reached up and hung the oil lamp on a hook in the ceiling, giving the room a cozy yellow glow. "To be whole one moment, and have your life in danger the next."
The chimera's mind was suddenly filled with images of Amelia in past battles, wounded-or worse-reliving the horror that someone he cared about was about to be taken from him, until the hostess' voice brought him out of his reverie.
"She's a brave girl, to try to stop men like those," Momoko's tone was both respectful and affectionate. "There aren't many who would." She smiled and nodded politely to the stone man as she left the room, closing the door with a soft click.
Zelgadis stood there for a while. "No," he said finally, his voice echoing slightly in the quiet room, "there aren't."
He walked back to the bed to look down at the sleeping girl, his face reflecting wry affection, and a touch of regret. As he watched, several strands of her midnight hair lifted into the air, fluttering on the breeze from the open window, and it occurred to him that he should probably cover her with the blanket. He did so, pulling it up from the end of the bed and tucking it loosely around her shoulders under her chin. Then he walked around her bed over to the open window and lowered it by two thirds to reduce whatever breeze might be blowing in, since he couldn't feel it and didn't want Amelia to get a chill.
He noticed that the nightly chorus of insect singing had already begun. It's twilight already, and Lina and Gourry aren't back yet? He wasn't particularly worried about their ability to handle two mere bandits, especially with Shiran along. Either those men had a really good head start or they're taking their time returning... When his mind supplied him with some rather interesting ideas on what his relatively... energetic... comrades might be doing together, Zelgadis blushed and turned to the tray of food to distract himself. It's one thing to tease Lina about it, but I don't think I really want to picture them doing anything...
He picked up an apple and bit into it, breaking the room's silence with a sharp crunch. There aren't many girls like Amelia, or Lina, he thought, resuming his previous train of thought. Both of them seem so strong, so full of fighting spirit-almost indestructible, until something like this happens and suddenly they're as fragile as everyone else... like butterflies, delicate and beautiful.
He munched thoughtfully on his apple, alternating with sips of the rich meat-and-vegetable stew, gazing down at the small raven-haired girl, and felt a surge of protectiveness rise within him. They shouldn't have to fight. She shouldn't have to.
As he finished the fruit and wiped his hands with the damp cloth in small the porcelain bowl on the edge of the tray, he thought regretfully, Ah, Amelia, if only I could make the world safe for you. Something about that sounded familiar to him. Slowly it dawned on him that he was more or less quoting Amelia herself. Except she wants to make the world safe for everyone. I guess I do understand how she feels.
He smiled affectionately down at her. Even though it's an unrealistic goal, she'll never stop trying. His smile vanished as a chill that had nothing to do with the temperature passed over him. Not until someone stops her-permanently.
He wondered that the smell of the food had not awakened her. Now that I think about it, she's been asleep a long time. Is something wrong?
She looked all right, but his nerves had been through too much today to stay sanguine. He set one hard blue hand on her small shoulder and shook gently, murmuring, "Amelia. Amelia, wake up."
She didn't move. He shook her again, a bit harder this time, and said in a louder, commanding tone, tinged with urgency, "Amelia. I need you to wake up now. Please." Finally she stirred and opened her eyes, blinking sleepily up at him. He watched her tensely, waiting for her to reassure him that she was all right.
"Oh," she said ruefully, "I guess I still need some more sword practice."
The stone man experienced a sudden burst of emotions: his concern evaporated into glad relief that she was all right, her odd comment, so typically Amelia, struck him as funny, and he was seized with an overwhelming desire to embrace her. His whirling emotions finally found an outlet: he laughed.
Amelia's eyes widened as the ever-somber chimera suddenly let out a quick, loud boom of a laugh, his face becoming in that instant that of a much younger man, one who'd known joy as well as sorrow.
His mirth ended quickly, but it was as if a door-or a wall-inside him had burst open. He sat down on the edge of her bed, and with a brilliant smile of undisguised affection he reached out and gently cupped her cheek, caressing it with his thumb, his touch as delicate as the wind. "Oh, Amelia. You really do need someone to look after you."
His voice was deep and rich, filled with the love he could not express, could not acknowledge, even to himself. Amelia's flicker of irritation at his statement was more than quelled by the wonderfully sweet, tender tone his voice had taken on, as if it had been dipped in honey.
Amelia sat up in bed, and her hand came up to cover his. "Are you volunteering?" she murmured daringly, her own voice becoming deeper as a sudden rush of breathless passion rose within her. She wondered if he could hear her pounding heart, which had gone into instant overdrive the moment he'd touched her.
Zelgadis drew in a breath as he stared into the endless deep blue eyes of the girl sitting so close to him, eyes like liquid jewels, shining, quivering, filled with unconditional love and longing and hope... He stiffened, fighting the overwhelming desire to pledge to stay with her, to protect her for the rest of his life, no matter what...
Feeling as if he was tearing out his own heart, he pulled his hand from Amelia's grasp and stood up, facing away from her. He hung his head, his hands clenched into fists at his sides to stop their trembling as he ground out, "I can't, Amelia. I... I just can't. I'm sorry... "
He heard her whimper, a sound that pierced his heart like an arrow. He blinked, feeling his eyes sting with unaccustomed tears, and in desperation to ward off this whole painful scene, he asked the one question that had been in the back of his mind since he'd rescued her. "Why did you try to keep me from healing you?"
As he'd hoped, his query threw her into confusion, forcing her to think past her pain, to remember what he was referring to. Finally, almost inaudibly, she said, "I didn't want to be a bother."
Shocked, he whirled to face her. "What?"
Her eyes shimmered with unshed tears as she responded, "I don't want you to think of me as a child."
Zelgadis stared at her with his mouth open, trying to make sense of her non sequitur. "What does being wounded have to do with you being a child?"
"I am not a child!"
He actually flinched at her incredible vehemence, gaping at her with wide teal eyes, shocked by the sudden terrible mixture of rage and anguish on her face. She continued fiercely, "I don't want you to baby me; I want you to love me! And you never will as long as you insist on seeing me as a child!" she raged at him, truly awesome in her fury. Her eyes flashed like blue lightning, and her raven hair lifted into the air, soaring on the invisible wind of her aura.
She was breathtakingly beautiful.
Their gazes locked. For a moment the two of them stared at each other, the one all fire and fury, the other frozen in more ways than one, but rapidly thawing under the heat of her gaze.
Amelia instantly became aware of the change in his eyes. It was the same expression she'd seen once before, after the concert, when they'd said good night outside her bedroom door. Zelgadis was looking at her and seeing her, Amelia the woman, not the spoiled, unattainable princess, nor the innocent young girl-child who had been his trusty companion for so long. His face held undisguised awe, admiration, desire, soothing the hurt he'd inflicted with his earlier comment.
Gradually she calmed down and her hair settled around her face, its ends just brushing her shoulders. She gazed up at him as she sat amidst the blankets, trying to show every last bit of her fierce love and longing for him in her face, willing him to accept it-and her-for once and for all.
His blue-green eyes quivered with emotion as he stared into hers, and he took a step toward her.
Her breath caught and her heart leaped into her throat as the young princess held out her arms to her love, her face shining with gladness, relief, adoration. The stone man's arms moved toward her as he took another step toward her bed... but then he stopped.
NO! Amelia watched in anguish as his expression shifted from glad tenderness to agonized indecision. His blue hands began to tremble violently. Slowly he clenched them and brought them in against his chest, bowing his head, his eyes tightly shut. Again he turned his back to her, standing with bowed shoulders as if the weight of the world was upon them.
A spear of grief pierced her heart, cutting far more deeply than the knife had. Why? she wailed inside. You do want me-I could see it! Why won't you let me love you? Heartbroken, Amelia slowly let her arms drop to the blankets.
She ached too badly for the release of tears. Her face slowly lost all animation, becoming somber, as she gazed at the chimera's back with dry eyes.
Zelgadis looked as if he felt as badly as she did, his whole posture displaying misery and defeat.
"There's... something stopping you, isn't there?" she asked quietly, knowing it was true. She watched him stiffen at her words, and continued, "Miss Lina thinks you're under some kind of geis-that you got a cure from the Oracle but can't use it or something terrible will happen."
Zelgadis hesitated, then relaxed somewhat and agreed soberly, "Something like that."
Suddenly her emotions came back in a rush. "Well, what is it?" she asked desperately. "Maybe we can help-"
"Please." The chimera suddenly turned to face her holding his hands up with his palms facing her. "Please... don't. Don't keep... hoping... There's nothing anyone can do." He closed his eyes momentarily as a look of deep pain passed over his stone features. "I just... have to work it out on my own."
She stared at him, and finally felt the tears come, trickling down her cheeks no matter how she tried to hold them back. "But... you won't be ready in time, will you?" It was more of a statement than a question, her voice trembling like a leaf in the wind.
Zelgadis lowered his eyes. "It's not very likely."
The deep, genuine regret on his face was the last straw. Amelia broke down, burying her face in her hands and weeping bitterly, hating herself for embarrassing him but unable to stop. "I'm sorry," she sobbed brokenly, "I'm sorry."
The bed frame creaked and the mattress depressed as Zelgadis sat down next to her and put a hard, comforting arm around her shoulders. For a while he simply sat there, silently offering her solace as she poured out her long-repressed anguish, and when her tears had finally run their course, he gave her a small squeeze and released her, offering her one of the cloth napkins from the food tray. Nodding in thanks, she turned away to clean herself up, feeling a little better inside, as if some of the tension had been washed away in her tears.
When she turned back to face him, Zelgadis looked troubled. "'Sorry' for what?" he asked softly. "I should be apologizing to you, for letting you down, for letting you think there was hope... "
A sharp pain of loss twinged in her heart, but doggedly she explained, "I don't-want to make you uncomfortable." She spoke in jerks through the sob reflex. "You don't like-j-juvenile behavior."
His teal eyes widened. "Is that why you've been acting so strange lately? Everyone's been worrying about you-you haven't been your normal cheerful self for weeks."
She nodded. "I wanted to-act more grown up for you."
"Oh, Amelia." She felt his warm, hard hand slide under her chin, lifting her face to meet his gaze. His eyes were quivering with emotion. "Amelia... don't ever change. Not for me, not for anybody." His voice was low, passionate, sincere. "You are perfect-just the way you are. Believe me!"
There could be no mistaking the look in his eyes. Amelia felt herself falling into those blue-green depths, responding to his sudden intensity-and her own long-withheld desire. The raven-haired girl leaned up to kiss him, and knew from his expression that he would not turn his face away this time...
The sound of the door opening startled both of them. Zelgadis leaped up from the bed and into the chair nearby just as a young chambermaid with freckles and orange hair in two long thick braids walked in with an armful of clean sheets. "Oh! Hello," she said in cheerful surprise. "I didn't know anyone was using this room. I just came back from town."
"Uh, well, yes, we are," Amelia stammered awkwardly, glancing at Zelgadis, who was facing away from the girls. Amelia noticed that the tips of his ears were blushing.
"Well, I hope you enjoy your stay here. This is our best room-it has a lovely view of the flower meadow next door-in daylight, that is," the girl laughed. "Shall I change the sheets for you? Those ones are due to be aired out."
"Oh, no... they smell fine." Amelia found herself liking this perky young girl, who reminded her of herself from a few years back. "Thanks anyway."
"Just let me know if you need anything." The maid bowed and left, giving Amelia a wink and a nod of approval in Zelgadis' direction. Amelia blushed, wondering what the girl thought they had been doing, but also pleased to see that the girl thought the stone man was attractive.
She found herself gazing appraisingly at Zelgadis, admiring his slender, graceful form, his delicately pointed ears, his shining silvery-blue hair. Light from the oil lamp flowed over his stone skin like water, making her want to touch him, to glide her fingers over his warm silky-smooth blue skin...
He noticed her looking at him and turned to face her, his eyes widening as he realized what she was doing. How can she look at me like that? he thought wonderingly. Does being in love blind you so completely to the loved one's faults? Her gaze was both adoring and admiring; he needed no words to see that she thought he was wonderful, sexy, loveable.
He couldn't help smiling a little. She's pretty wonderful herself. He also realized that this might very well be the last time they were ever alone together, and now that the reason (well, most of it) why he'd been holding back had been voiced, and she had finally seemed to accept it, he had nothing keeping him from making the most of whatever time they had left together.
Slowly he stood up from the chair and stood next to the bed, looking down at the young girl-the young woman-who gazed up at him with such affection. He smiled, and she responded with one of her own, but it wasn't as bright as her usual ones; a permanent shadow of melancholy had left its stain on her heart, and nothing he could do or say would take it away.
Well, maybe one thing, but it's the one thing I can't say. He clenched his teeth, fighting off a familiar wave of helpless frustration. Damn it all!
Zelgadis took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. "How do you feel, Amelia?" he asked gently, deciding to do everything he could to try to make her feel better-and perhaps his own heart would be soothed a little.
Amelia opened her mouth to answer, but her stomach beat her to it, growling loudly. Zelgadis was reminded of the time he'd been embarrassed by the same thing back at the palace-so long ago, it seemed-and couldn't help chuckling a little at the sheepish look on her face. "I take it you're hungry."
"Famished," she agreed with a tiny giggle, a endearing blush appearing on her nose. He was encouraged by her laughter.
"Well... I just happen to have a delicious display of cuisine simply sitting here going to waste," he said in a deliberately jovial tone, lifting a stone eyebrow as he gave her a sidewise glance. "I don't suppose you know anyone who'd be interested in sampling some, would you?"
Her smile was a little more genuine this time. "Oh, kind sir, I would like to volunteer, if I may."
"Well, then, we have a customer!" He strode to the table and pulled out the remaining cloth napkin for Amelia's lap, and turned to offer it to her. He stopped short as her gaze went to his lower legs and then her eyes flew wide open in shock.
Startled, he glanced down to see something that had barely registered in his conscious mind as he'd sat beside her in the darkening room: his knees and lower legs were spattered with dark reddish-brown splotches, and even his tunic had a few patches. Amelia's blood. He hadn't even thought about washing his clothes, and now that it was dry, he knew the stains would be very difficult to get out.
He watched her swallow hard, then look up at his face. "I didn't realize I'd been hurt that badly."
He nodded gravely.
"No wonder you were so worried about me. And here I was thinking I was being self-sufficient, grown up, when all along I was-"
"No!" Zelgadis walked back to the bed and bent down to look her in the eyes. "You just made a mistake. Everyone makes them-even adults. I ought to know." Still trying to cheer her up, he gave her a rueful look as he stood up. "Look how a careless remark of mine made you think I didn't like you the way you were."
She looked thoughtful, so he elaborated. "I wasn't really angry, just impatient and worried about Lina and Gourry, and I took it out on you. I'm sorry." He turned to bring the tray back and sat beside her on the chair. "I never realized that you'd take my words so seriously."
"Of course I do. Everything you say is important-you mean the world to me," she said earnestly.
Her simple statement stunned him. He closed his eyes for a moment as something in the vicinity of his hard stone chest gave him a painful twinge. "Then I'd better watch what I say from now on," he said, half-jokingly and was rewarded by her smile.
Author's Note: Finally-the inevitable confrontation! Amelia's finally gotten sure enough of Zelgadis' love to call him by name-and STILL he won't admit he loves her. But it's not over yet-this scene was so long I had to break it into two chapters. More comin' up!
Ichiban Victory asks: 'Is it shaped like anything? (A shack? A ship? A makeshift flying raft?)'
** It's more or less a box with no sides, just a front and back walls. The middle will have some kind of covering, cloth or leather, and the front wall will have a wide glass window like the viewscreen on the starship Enterprise so they can see where they're going. (I started to think about how badly eyes water if you're facing the wind for more than a few minutes.)
Wesley asks: 'Did you know that girls' menstrual cycles synch up after they spend a long time around each other?' - Yes, I know. I've lived with several sisters, and we were always within about a week of each other, but never had exactly the same week together. I figured Lina and Amelia might be like that.
Knid comments: 'I realize this is necessary for the story but in the anime Zel doesn't wear his mask and hood very often. In a universe with beast people and werewolves and all manner of creatures wandering around there are actually very few times when people react to Zelgadis like a monster.'
**First of all, I like that name. ^_^ I read both of the Wonka books at least once a year, for the past 22 years, since I was eight.
**I thought about that before I began this story, and decided that if I were a villager who lived in the Slayers' world and who'd heard rumors about what had happened in Seyrune because of the mazoku, I would be extra-wary of anyone who didn't look human (despite the fact that mazoku can take perfect human forms-the average villager would believe all kinds of rumors).
**"After all, if Seyrune-the white magic capital-was so vulnerable to mazoku, why wouldn't my poor village be? And then there's that horrible Lina Inverse person who was consortin' with Dark Lords and blastin' villages to kingdom-come and who knows what else? Everybody knows mazoku don't like ta stay in human form alla time, right? And they say you can always tell it's a mazoku if he's got those little pointy ears... Now I'm not sayin' everybody who comes through town is evil if he don't look human, but it never hurts to be a little cautious now, ne?"
**Even if people are used to werewolves and things, it's still human nature to distrust anyone who looks different, especially if you live in a small town where anybody new is both interesting and potentially dangerous, whether or not they look human.
**Also, it's Zelgadis who believes that people think he's a monster. The people he's met are most likely showing him only the same caution they show to any stranger, but Zel's sensitive about that sort of thing. He doesn't like people to stare at him, for example.
jadz_i_ka asks: 'am I sensing a chance for Zel & Amelia to explain a lot of things to each other?' - I think this chapter has already answered that question, but anyway, correctamundo! You've been with me for too long. You're starting to think like me. *grins*
Memphis Lupine had several flatteringly favorable comments that I would like to respond to. **First of all, thank you for such a comprehensive review, which detailed exactly what you liked about my fic as a whole, and if I may say so, you're no slouch yourself when it comes to writing. It shows in your review. And your name is very elegant-I bet Shiran would like you. ^_^
**You commented 'the information within your fanfic never contradicts itself'. I tried very hard to make sure if I changed any details later in the fic that I would either change any earlier references and/or add in a mention of the change as foreshadowing. That's mainly why I didn't even begin posting my fic until I had about two-thirds of it written.
**'Your grammar and language are nigh perfect'-thanks; I'm always worried that I'm getting something wrong, that my sentences are too awkward, even though I'd guess there are allowances made for individual style, right?
**'that have kept my absolute attention for every word'- thanks again; do you know I can spend a half hour deciding on a single word? There are so many different shades of meanings... One of the things that makes a story boring to me are the long, dry descriptions, so I try to have as few as possible, or have my characters comment on whatever the situation is, or at least think about it, so that it's not all big blocks of descriptions. Then it's either in "speaking" mode or italics, which draw the eye and make things seem more interesting. After all, if I wouldn't want to read it, why should I expect you to?
**'the plot - though it doesn't seem terribly complex at first - builds up and branches out'-It wasn't supposed to, not at first. I just wanted Amelia and Zelgadis to spend some time together, fall in love, and live happily ever after, but the more I immersed myself in their world, the more problems-the kind that can ruin relationships-I kept discovering that needed tending to if I wanted to make this fic realistic. Like Zelgadis' stubborn insistence on seeing Amelia as 'too young' to fall in love with. Her natural reaction, to me, was to decide that she had to grow up-fast-but of course that solution didn't make either of them happy... and so on.
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