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.

Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!

Note: See Author's Note's for a clarification of the title of this chapter.

PG-13 for nudity and lime-i-ness

Chapter Sixty-Three: The Chimera's New Clothes

By morning the effects of gravity had caused Amelia to shift several times in her sleep, eventually ending up with her head resting on Zelgadis' stomach and the rest of her body curled up next to him, half-covered by the blanket. One arm was curled up under her, and the other was resting in front of her face, draped over the chimera's stomach.

As she slowly came to wakefulness, she wondered, Ooo... Why is my bed so hard?

Her 'bed' was breathing.

"Wha-" Her eyes opened to see Zelgadis' familiar tan tunic in front of her, and the events of the day before came flooding back into her mind. Oh, yes... we fell asleep together because I got hurt and Zelgadis was worried about me. He carried me up to the room and we talked and I got mad and... She bit her lip as a wave of awful feelings swept over her. He said he can't be cured in time for my ceremony. I'm going to have to marry that boy Kerrin instead of the man I love!

Panic hit her and for a moment she had a wild desire to flee, to take Zelgadis and run as far away from Seyrune and her father as possible. We can travel together until he's cured. We could go back to Tollik. Miss Dahri will help him, and if it takes another year, so what? At least we'll be together!

She was comforted by her daydream, imagining Zelgadis flaunting all tradition by marrying her in spite of what the law said, of the two of them living like Lina and Gourry, always on the road, having fun, with no responsibilities to tie them down.

Eventually her guilt began to bother her. What would Daddy say? What would Seyrune do without an heir? What about my people, people I've come to know all these years, people who depend on me? Mister Tolkar is having such trouble with his neighbor, and I promised Mister Jossa I'd be there when his wife's baby is born, just in case it has trouble. She's already had one stillborn...

Maybe I could appoint Zelgadis to be my court adviser or something, just to keep him near me. We could still see each other... Kerrin won't mind; he knows how much I love Zelgadis... The princess felt a twinge. But that wouldn't be fair to Kerrin. A marriage is when a man and a woman promise to be faithful to each other-and Kerrin's already told me he's in love with me. I'd be cheating on him-emotionally, anyway.

Her small hand grasped the heavy fabric over the chimera's hard stomach, clenching it tightly, feeling his stomach gently rise and fall under her cheek as he breathed. Tear stung her eyes. Love is supposed to conquer all! she wailed inside. It did back when Zelgadis and I used those urns to stop a war-and I wasn't even sure then that Zelgadis was the one for me yet! I can't believe this is happening...

Suddenly in her mind she heard her old schoolmaster quote: "'People-especially rulers-sometimes have to do things they don't want to do, no matter how much it hurts. I know it isn't fair, Ame-chan, that you're only human, but people expect royalty to be perfect, to establish a good example, or morale suffers. I don't have to tell you how your relatives' recent treacheries have made the people of Seyrune less trusting of the royal family, and fearful about the future of our kingdom, for themselves and their children. We can't afford another scandal.'"

At the time she had agreed with him wholeheartedly, wanting to ease the worries of her people and lead them to an ever-brightening future. She had never anticipated that one of the sacrifices she would have to make would be to marry someone she didn't love!

But she was older and more experienced than she'd been then. Amelia wil Tesla Seyrune was, despite her age and youthful appearance, a veteran of many battles; she knew that sometimes things did not go the way one planned, and that the only way to deal with those changes without being torn up inside was to accept them and try to see the best of the new situation.

Her optimistic nature chose that moment to point out: Many girls are much worse off than I am-at least I got to choose, even if Kerrin isn't my first choice. And I know for sure that marrying him will benefit Seyrune, instead of causing strife and maybe war, as Daddy said would happen if I married Zelgadis. And... I know that Zelgadis will always be my friend...

And thus the Seyrune princess passed a turning point, and began to look forward again. She hadn't given up on Zelgadis-indeed, the news that there was a cure had lifted her spirits tremendously, and even now in the subconscious layers of her mind she was mulling over the problem-but with her typical resilient strength of character Amelia had begun to wonder, just a little, about a different future from the one on which she'd set her heart so long ago.

Zelgadis. After this is all over, I'll still have a home, a family, people who love me... even Kerrin... She shook her head, still not ready to accept the idea that someone else would be by her side. She focused instead on Zelgadis, finding it easier to think about the chimera's problems.

But who will he have? Miss Lina and Mister Gourry are a couple now, he won't want to tag along with them, being the third wheel-or is it the fifth wheel? Anyway, he'll be all alone. She blinked back hot tears. I need to do everything I can to help him before this is all over-no matter what! Any maybe-just maybe-if we don't give up, something might happen and he'll get his cure and then everything will be wonderful.

Amelia knew that the stone man was still holding something back, but she knew that there was no way to make him tell her anything until he was ready. I sure wish he'd tell us what's wrong with his cure; why he can't use it... but for now, at least, his answer is final. She sighed, and then took another deep breath, bracing herself for the challenges of the day to come. Zelgadis said he liked me the way I usually am, so I'll do my best to act cheerful-for his sake. I don't want him to see me being a crybaby all the way back to Seyrune. I have to be strong-for him.

Beneath her Zelgadis stirred. Amelia lifted her head from his stomach to watch as his eyes slowly opened, and then smiled lovingly at him, her face mere inches from his. He blinked, and her smile broadened as she suppressed the sudden urge to kiss him affectionately on the nose.

After a moment she leaned back on her knees to let him sit up, brushing her sleep-tousled hair from her face. "Good morning," she chirped. "Did you sleep well?"

He stared at her for a long moment, obviously remembering the events of the previous day. "Fine," he answered, so long after her question that she'd almost forgotten she'd asked it. "Did you?"

"Oh, yes," she answered in a cheery voice, although in truth she was somewhat stiff. Stone skin did not a pillow make.

"How are you feeling? Your wound?"

"I'm all better today."

They shared an awkward look, neither knowing what to say next. Shiran rose up from the floor beside them, stretching gracefully with her fluffy tail lifted in a curve over her body, and came over to greet them. Amelia patted the slender, elegant lavender head, which was about on a level with her collarbone. "Good morning, Shiran. Wow, you look even bigger indoors!"

Shiran moved to Zelgadis, sniffing his bloodstained clothes intently, then looked into his face and whined. The stone man understood her distress perfectly, and placed a gentle hand on her head, stroking her purple mane to comfort her.

"I have-" Amelia began.

"Would you-" he started.

They stopped, staring at each other. Zelgadis noticed a twinkle of humor in Amelia's eye, and smiled. "You first."

"I was just going to say, I have some clothes for you to change into." At his surprised look, she grinned. "I bought them in Tollik, then forgot all about them."

She bought me clothes? He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. I shouldn't accept them. It would be like accepting an obligation... or a promise... It would be cruel to take anything from her when I've just told her I can't marry her. "You shouldn't have wasted your money on me," he said impulsively, and instantly regretted it. A terribly hurt expression crossed her face, replacing her happy beam.

"I'm sorry," he began, but she had turned away to stare out of the window. He stood there for a long moment, feeling every bit as callous as he'd accused himself of being last night.

"It's all right," she said suddenly, looking up at him and smiling bravely despite her obvious pain. "You don't have to wear them-it was just an idea."

The stone man gazed out of the window, which overlooked sunlit field of flowers that were every bit as pretty as the maid had said the night before, in a rainbow of colors. She's gone quiet again. Why is it everything I say hurts her?

He sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. "Look, Amelia... maybe I spoke too hastily. I mean, my clothes aren't in the best of shape... and I will need something to wear, so... I'd be honored to wear something you chose for me."

He was rewarded instantly as her face broke into an ecstatic grin. "Oh, I just know you're going to like them! You'll look so good in blue!"

He couldn't help smiling at her joy over something as ordinary as a set of clothing. "So are you up to going downstairs to eat, or would you rather I bring you some breakfast?"

"I'm ready!" She slid out of the bed and stood with her arms spread wide as if to prove it. "I don't even need to get dressed, since I slept in my clothes, though I really want a bath before we leave. And a chance to wash my clothes."

"Me too." He winced as he said it, realizing that it sounded as if he was blaming her for soiling his clothes with her blood, but she didn't seem to notice, thankfully.

Lina and Gourry were already eating, as usual. "Zel, Amelia, there you are!" Lina called jovially. "Come and have some breakfast!"

"In a minute," Amelia answered as she jogged past their table. "I need to get something from my saddlebag."

Zelgadis stood for a moment, debating whether to go with her. I wonder if they saw us sleeping together? If they did it might be a good idea to avoid Lina for a while...

"I'll give you a hand," he said quickly and strode after her, out the back door, through the yard and into the stable.

Amelia was already rummaging through one of the bags as Shiran went over to greet Sunshine in her stall. "Here they are." She handed him a plain brown paper package. "I'm sorry it isn't wrapped prettier, but I didn't want anyone to notice it."

"It's fine." He studied the large, bulky package. He had never received many gifts, and remembered being disappointed in many of those he had received.

"Go on, open it." Amelia was beaming at him again, her smile lightening his mood as usual.

He tore the package open slowly so as not to damage the cloth inside, and ended up with a bundle of mostly blue clothing. Amelia took each piece from him one at a time and unfolded them, holding each one out in front of her with wide arms as if waiting for his approval.

There was a pale blue cloak, very similar to his old one, with a cream-colored lining. "See all the pockets inside?" Amelia smiled. He nodded.

Next she held up a pair of pants in a medium shade of blue. "I made sure to get nice tough material so they won't tear easily, or wear out fast," the princess explained. Again, he nodded.

Then there was a new pair of half-gloves in pale gray leather. "I decided you get you new gloves, seeing as how you were kind enough to lend yours to me." Startled, he looked down at her hands, which, sure enough, still sported his old gloves. I'd gotten used to seeing them on her hands. The don't quite look the same... I think she must have altered them a little so they'd fit her hands. But why didn't she just get herself new gloves instead of wearing my old dirty ones?

And finally, the shirt... A long-sleeved tunic of the same light blue color as the cloak, with dark purple embroidery around the cuffs in a surprisingly elegant geometric pattern. Amelia commented, "I made sure to choose something without too much fancy decoration, or too much cloth, since you're so slender."

She really put a lot of thought into these. Zelgadis held the clothes against his torso with both arms, surprised at how special it made him feel to know that she had obviously spent a lot of time choosing items that she thought would please him.

"Well?" Amelia was looking at him with wide hopeful eyes.

His expression softened into a smile. "They're fine clothes," he said warmly. "I'll be proud to wear them."

"You aren't just saying that?"

"No, of course not." She still looked uncertain, so he elaborated, "I can see that they're very well-made... and I like the pattern of the embroidery."

"I knew you would!" Her smile was back. "You have such a logical mind; I knew it was something you'd choose."

"I used to wear clothes like these, back before I was... "

At this reminder of his curse, both of them went silent. After a long moment, Zelgadis added, "Well, anyway, Amelia-I couldn't be more pleased-and I really mean it. I only wish I had thought to buy something for you to replace that gown I ruined."

She looked surprised. "What, that old thing? I'd forgotten all about it."

Zelgadis was astonished. Women are so difficult to understand. Here she makes such a fuss over the clothes she got me, and yet completely disregards her own dress, which was obviously worth several times what this outfit must have cost.

Amelia apparently noticed his perplexed expression. "It was something I was glad to sacrifice, since it helped us get away from that situation without any bloodshed."

Zelgadis smiled, pleased both by her answer and by the fact that she had taken the trouble to clarify her statement instead of leaving him baffled. "Your heart is in the right place," he said without thinking.

"Why, thank you," she said, obviously touched. "You can be so sweet!"

Sweet? He met her gaze, and saw that her eyes were shimmering with undisguised affection for him. Unable to stop himself, he let himself fall into their warm blue depths for an endless moment, savoring the feeling of closeness between them.

Finally he tore himself away, unnecessarily clearing his throat. "Well, uh, I'd better take a bath and change."

"What about breakfast?"

"I'm not hungry."

"Well... I'll save you something in case you're hungry later, then."

"Okay, thanks." He beat a hasty retreat from the stable, heading for the tall fence that most likely housed a bathing area.

As he soaked and scrubbed with the fine sand on the bottom of the pool, he discovered that his emotions were still just as chaotic as ever. "What am I doing? Flirting with a girl-woman-young woman-after I told her I can't marry her. Do I have the right to be close to her?"

Amelia joined her friends at the table. "Good morning, Miss Lina, Mister Gourry."

" 'Morning, Amelia," Gourry mumbled through a mouthful of eggs.

" 'Morning," Lina echoed.

Amelia smiled at their typical behavior, rolling her eyes. It's nice to know that some things will never change. She signaled the waiter and ordered a decent-sized breakfast; enough for her, Lina's thievery and a little for Zelgadis.

As she sat back to wait for the food, she noticed that Lina's pretty orchid was gone from her headband. "Miss Lina, what happened to your flower?"

"Huh?" The redhead put a hand to her temple, as if only now realizing that the large lavender flower was missing.

"You lost it while we were out-chomp, chomp-after those men yesterday," Gourry volunteered without missing a bite. "I noticed it was gone on the way back."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Lina looked as if she was getting ready to throw a fit.

"I forgot-we were busy at the time. Don't you remember?"

Amelia looked back and forth between the two of them as Lina turned as red as a lobster. I wonder what they were doing, alone together... oh! The dark-haired girl began to blush too.

Gourry continued obliviously, still stuffing his face, "And besides, it was getting all wilted. If you want, I can get you another one sometime."

Amelia enjoyed watching Lina try to hide a pleased smile as she stammered, "S-sure, Gourry. I'd like that."

Soon after that Amelia's breakfast arrived. When she was about halfway through, Gourry finished eating and got up to leave. "I'm going to take a bath before we go," he explained.

"Okay; Zelgadis is already in there," Amelia said, nodding. "I need one, too."

Once he was gone, Lina turned to Amelia and winked. "So, you had an interesting evening, huh?"

"What? Oh-" Amelia blushed. "Miss Lina, keep your voice down!" she hissed, blushing. She leaned toward the redhead over the table and said in an undertone, "You-you saw us?"

"Oh, yes, we both did." At this affirmation, the young princess blushed even harder, going from pink to red. Lina continued cheerfully, "You two make a cute couple. Congratulations."

"Um, thank you... but why?"

Lina stared at her. "What-didn't you two work things out? I mean, I figured Zel finally got his act together and told you how he feels about you, seeing as how you practically died in his arms-again."

"No... " Lina watched in dismay as the younger girl's face crumpled. "He-he rejected me."

"What?"

Amelia wailed, "Oh, Miss Lina, you were right, he said something's wrong with his cure and he won't have time to fix it before-before... " She put her face in her hands, hiding from the inquisitive glances of several strangers. Lina glared at them, scaring them off.

Lina looked at the younger girl, feeling helpless. Has all of this been for nothing? "He didn't tell you what was wrong, did he?"

"Nooo," Amelia moaned.

"Then how do you know there is? Maybe he just doesn't-"

"You didn't see the way he looked at me," Amelia looked off into the distance. "He wanted me, I could see it."

"-Wanted you? Did he-"

Amelia gave her an indignant glare. "Of course not. He was trying to comfort me, that's all. He's too honorable to take advantage of a lady."

"Even if she wants him to?" Lina's tone was quiet, her face pensive.

Amelia's eyes were serious. "You know... I've thought about it."

Lina felt a flicker of alarm. "I wouldn't, Amelia, not out of wedlock. And besides, his stone... "

Amelia waved a hand sideways in front of her. "Oh, I wouldn't. I just wonder about it, that's all."

Lina was not sanguine about the contemplative look in her friend's eyes. "So we're back to square one. We still need to get his cure-and the only one who knows it is Zelgadis." She rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "Maybe we could get him drunk. A lot of people develop loose tongues when they're drunk... "

"Miss Lina!" The justice-tone alerted Lina to the return of Miss Morals.

"Just kidding, I was just kidding... "

Zelgadis was thinking about getting out when Gourry joined him. "Hey, Zelgadis, how's it going?" Wearing a little white towel, he stepped down into the spring, which Zelgadis had heated with a few fireballs earlier. Fortunately the pool had cooled somewhat, or the young man might have gotten a nasty burn in a delicate region before he'd realized it.

Suddenly the stone man changed his mind about leaving, discovering that he felt like talking to someone sympathetic. "Gourry, do you ever regret falling in love with Lina?"

The blonde man blinked. "No, not really. At least, not since she told me she loves me." Then he covered his mouth with a hand. "Oops, I'm not supposed to talk about it. Please don't tell Lina; she'll kill me!"

Zelgadis lifted a stony eyebrow. "Are you sure? Yesterday she all but admitted it."

Gourry's face scrunched up while he thought that over. "Maybe you're right... I'll have to ask her, though."

Curious, Zelgadis questioned, "Doesn't it bother you to have to ask her for permission? You're a grown man, older than she is."

"Well... I just want to make her happy."

"Oh." The stone man felt his shoulders droop. Would that it were that easy to make Amelia happy.

"So, are you and Amelia happy now?" Gourry asked unexpectedly.

"What?"

"Last night when we got back Lina and I looked in on you guys and saw you sleeping together. You both looked pretty happy," Gourry explained.

We weren't 'sleeping together', Zelgadis almost said before realizing that the swordsman meant it literally. I knew Shiran hadn't let herself in and turned off the lamp. But why didn't Lina do something? I would have thought she'd be upset to see us like that, considering how skittish she is around men. He eyed the blonde swordsman, who watching him curiously. Maybe it's because her situation's changed lately...

Slowly, he said, "No, Gourry... we aren't happy."

"Huh? Why not?"

The chimera sighed heavily. "Because we can't-be together. I can't-offer myself to her."

"Why not?"

"It's too complicated to explain. I just-I won't have enough time before her ceremony to be cured, and without a cure I can't-" he broke off, grimacing. Even if I went off in search of Filia or Sylphiel-well, maybe not Sylphiel, she's never struck me as the type who could stand up to dark forces inside her own head-I'd never make it unless I used that gem Xellos just lent us, but then Amelia wouldn't be able to get back in time and she'd lose the throne. So unless I get incredibly lucky and run into someone with as much power as Filia...

"You can't marry Amelia." Gourry looked pensive. "That's what Lina said. That's why we've been looking for all these months-"

"You what?" The chimera was startled.

"For months now, we've been looking all over the place," Gourry clarified. "For your cure."

So Lina's been in on this from the start... and they were successful, but to no avail. "I'm sorry," Zelgadis said regretfully.

"So, do you have it or not? You never said."

Caught off guard, the stone man said, "I do, but-," What am I saying? "-there are complications. Not just anyone can work the spell."

"So who can?"

Amelia. "Ah... nobody appropriate, at present." He's really focusing today, attacking this problem like an enemy. I'd better get out of here or I'll be telling him everything, and next thing I know Amelia will hear of this and then...

"Excuse me," he said, climbing out and wrapping his own towel around his waist. Maybe I'll get dressed upstairs. He shook some of the water off of his hands and picked up the pile of clothes that Amelia had given him, and headed back toward the inn.

Amelia had just undressed and was putting up her hair to go join Lina for a bath when she heard footsteps approaching the door. Oh! She gave her yukata robe a panicky glance, but it was on the other side of the room past both of the beds. She looked frantically back and forth between the robe and the door, hesitating for much too long, then decided hastily, The door, then! She made a frantic dash toward it around the nearest bed with her hand outstretched to push it closed just as Zelgadis, wearing nothing but a tiny white towel around his hips, came around the door.

Author's Note: Silly Amelia! It never even occurs to her to simply call out, "Don't come in!" Panic will do that to ya.

It never even occurs to Zelgadis to ask Xellos the next time he shows up to contact Filia for him, though the mazoku could probably do so easily enough. It's partly that he simply doesn't trust Xellos, partly because he hates having to depend on Xellos for anything, and partly because he can't see any reason why Xellos would want to help him. It's Lina whom Xellos seems to like, not Zel.

I know what it looks like, but remember that this fic is a Zelgadis/Amelia fic, so don't panic. Amelia is starting to wonder about Kerrin, though... *evil laugh* but did you notice that she calls our favorite chimera 'Zelgadis' all the time now?

And yes, the title of this chapter, besides literally describing what happens within, is also a reference to the old fable 'The Emperor's New Clothes'. Why, you ask? Well, it's my way of sneakily foreshadowing the next chapter. What do I mean by that? Heh, heh, well, ask yourself this-what was the most interesting part about that old fable? Ah, you understand now? And look at you blush! ^_~

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