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:

PG-13 for mild language and lime-i-ness

Chapter Sixty-Six: The Breakdown

One day Lina made a discovery, although it would take time-and a few clues-before she quite realized it.

Amelia was using the gem and Zelgadis was in the back with Gourry, tending to Sunshine. (Lina had never imagined the stone man wanting to care for an animal, but he seemed to enjoy brushing both the mare and Shiran with the brushes that Amelia had brought along for her other horse, the one that had died.) Lina was feeling bored, and decided to assuage her curiosity about a few things, with the guys out of the picture for a while.

She dropped down next to Amelia, who was humming cheerfully as she guided the ship over a long boring stretch of rice paddies. "So, Amelia, what did you and Zelgadis do together while you were searching for us, back when Ponmar captured us? Anything... fun?" She winked mischievously at her friend.

"Well, he... held my hand all night long when I couldn't sleep," Amelia said shyly, keeping her voice low.

"Really." The red-haired sorceress raised an eyebrow, surprised. I'm surprised she admitted that. ... Gourry's never done that. Of course, we haven't exactly been alone... "What else?"

"I almost kissed him when I accidentally knocked him down and fell on him. I really wanted to, but Shiran interrupted us."

"You what?" Lina looked at her friend with disbelief for a long moment, gradually getting used to that idea. She's really growing up. "Did he try to kiss you?"

"Oh, no, he was a perfect gentleman. I could see he wanted to, but... "

"Anything else?" Lina asked eagerly.

"I told him about my mother and he held me while I cried."

The petite sorceress spoke before she thought. "What about your mother?"

Amelia's expression became strained. "How she was brutally slayed by an intruder while my sister watched. How I thought it was my fault, and how stupid I felt later when I learned that it wasn't... "

Lina's mouth hung open in shock. "I never knew that!" she blurted out. "I mean, I knew she was dead, but not that she'd been murdered! Did they ever catch who did it?"

Amelia nodded. "Yes, although no one is sure that he was working alone."

Lina gazed at the younger girl, who looked suddenly small and vulnerable. "I'm sorry, Amelia... I... " She trailed off, wanting to say something besides 'sorry', something to cheer her friend up.

The princess gave her a brave smile. "It's okay, Miss Lina. It was... a long time ago."

The redhead scooted over to put her arm around the princess' shoulders, giving her a warm hug in lieu of words to show her support. Amelia put her arm around Lina's waist. "You know, I never told that to anyone but Zelgadis. It's my most closely guarded secret-but somehow today I felt like telling you."

"I'm glad, Amelia," Lina said softly.

Two lustrous heads of hair, one fiery-red, the other shining-black, were side by side as the two friends sat with their arms around each other, gazing together at the wide open countryside ahead of them-where their destinies awaited.

The next day something very disturbing happened to the petite sorceress, something she might have brushed off as just a crazy impulse if not for her earlier conversation with Amelia.

All four of them were in the main area. Lina was piloting, Zelgadis was helping Amelia prepare lunch, and Gourry was sitting near Lina, talking to her to keep her from being too bored. (When she was bored she tended to entertain herself by flying the Woodwind near trees and things, testing how close she could come. They had already had a near-disaster with a giant pine tree, and needles still sprouted from one corner of the craft.)

"So in my dream I was eating a fish, but it wasn't really a fish, it was a big pastry shaped like a fish-hey Lina, why don't bakeries ever do that? Make fish-bread, or whatever... " The big man trailed off. "Hey, Lina, are you okay? Your eyes look sort of glazed."

The redhead shook away the cobwebs, trying not to look at the handsome swordsman's muscular chest, which was more noticeable now that he had stopped wearing his armor over his shirt. (There hadn't seemed to be any need for it-the only things that could attack them up here were winged beasts like dragons, and in that case they would definitely want to use magic to ward it off before it got anywhere close, so as not to damage the ship.)

"I'm okay. I'm just so bored!"

Gourry looked at her sympathetically. "Hey, I know... if you could do anything you wanted to right now, what would you do?"

Instantly Lina said, "Kiss you. A lot. Then I'd run my fingers through your hair and-"

"Lina!" The swordsman was waving his hands in front of him, trying to shush her, his eyes as wide as dinner plates. "We're not alone!"

She knew that he was still trying to respect her wishes about keeping their relationship quiet, but somehow at that particular moment she had felt compelled to answer him honestly. Then, as she looked at the stunned expressions of both the chimera and the princess, she felt a hot blush rise to her cheeks. "Gourry! Why didn't you stop me sooner?" she shrieked, swinging at him.

It missed because in her anger she had eased up on her control, and the entire craft abruptly pitched sharply to one side. Everything began to slide toward the edge as the humans and animals alike cried out in fear.

Zelgadis moved like lightning, seizing the gem's chain and dragging it roughly over Lina's head, snagging several strands of red hair. "Ow!" she yelled as he brought the ship under control, his expression strained.

All of them were panting from the sudden scare. Zelgadis glared down at her. "Go cool down, Lina!" he ordered, obviously furious that she had once again let her temper put them in danger. He turned his back on her and settled the silver chain over his head, the long red-gold strands dangling like decorations.

Lina was torn between outrage at being rebuked like a child, and sickening guilt at having nearly caused a disaster. She found her breath coming in pants from reaction. She looked for support from her friends, and saw that Amelia was looking at her reproachfully.

She steeled herself to look at Gourry, dreading to see the same condemnation, and nearly cried when she caught his look of sympathy. "I'm sorry!" she blurted out to all of them, and dodged through the curtain, running through the supply area to Sunshine's stall. The red-haired sorceress barely noticed the frightened mare's retreat as she fumbled with the gate's latch, feeling the tears burning in her eyes. Finally she jerked the latch open and stumbled inside. Habit made her close and re-latch the gate before she dropped to her hands and knees in the hay and let out a sob.

Instantly she clamped her mouth shut, fighting it. What's happening to me? One minute everything's fine and the next it's all gone crazy. She sucked in a quick, jerky breath, trying to control herself. Why did I say that in front of them? I didn't even know I was going to and then my mouth opened and I sat there listening to myself, and then-

Her entire body shook, her fingernails digging into the wood underneath the hay as she held her breath, trying desperately not to give into tears. I don't cry, I don't cry, I'm Lina Inverse, damn it, I don't cry!

She became aware of Shiran snuffling at her face. She swatted feebly at the dragonwolf, and the noble beast jerked her head back, looking at her with bewildered emerald eyes. Another sob ground its way out as she reached for the furry lavender head. "I'm sorry, Shiran... "

The big animal came closer, and licked her on the cheek with a gentle tongue. The instant forgiveness undid her, and she reached out and hugged Shiran's shaggy neck, alternately holding her breath and letting out a sob when it got too big to hold in.

She didn't hear the gate open, but when she felt a pair of warm hands on her shoulders she jumped and tightened her grip around Shiran's neck, hiding her face in the thick fur. She took a deep, shuddery breath and held it, hating to give in to such weakness.

Gourry's hands began to massage her shoulders, gently showing her his love without making a big deal out of it. That's so like him- "Oh, Gourrryyy!" she wailed, and she felt his body press against hers from behind, his arms reaching around her to embrace her middle.

And she cried, her way, not with waterfalls of tears and loud wails like Amelia, but almost silently, with deep, wrenching, gasping sobs, her eyes hot and stinging, her body shaking as it struggled to contain her misery.

Eventually the spasms passed, and she spent more time relaxing against her two comforters, tired out from the emotional upheaval. When she reached the stage where she only had occasional shaky breaths, Gourry gently pulled her away from the patient dragonwolf and tucked her against him, her head under his chin as they sat curled up together in the sweet hay. After a few moments he began to rock her gently from side to side, humming one of the tunes he'd used before in Ponmar's cell to comfort her.

Her nose was all stuffed up, and she sniffed. I must look awful.

"Here, Lina," Gourry said quietly, moving her with him as he leaned over to pick up a pretty blue handkerchief in the hay nearby.

That's Amelia's. Lina glanced up, expecting to see the princess hovering over the stall wall, but no one was there. She was touched by her friend's thoughtfulness. I guess this means she forgives me. She turned away from Gourry and wiped her wet face mostly dry, then blew her nose, grimacing at the sound. "Oh, gross," she whispered, appalled that her voice had gone, leaving behind only a wispy croak.

"It'll wash out," he murmured reassuringly, kissing the top of her head.

Her heart melted, and she dropped the handkerchief in the hay and snuggled into his chest as closely as she could, pressing her damp face against his warm, solid chest muscles, glad that he had removed his armor. She breathed in his masculine odor-a smell that had once meant danger, but now it was one of the scents she loved best. The petite sorceress sighed contentedly, loving the feel of him breathing against her, his soothing hands stroking her long hair, wanting only to bask in the warmth of his love.

Several minutes later a drowsy Lina felt a warm pressure against her hips. She jumped slightly. Gourry? A small smile appeared on her lips as she realized that she didn't mind his boldness at all. With her eyes closed, she moved her hand down to touch his hand-and encountered thick fur. Huh? Her eyes popped open to see that Shiran had curled up next to her, leaning her big lavender bulk against her. After a moment the petite sorceress realized that she was disappointed.

Then Lina heard the muffled thump of a hoof-fall, and felt her hair being ruffled by velvety-soft horse's lips. She couldn't help but giggle at the strange, tickly sensation.

"See, Lina? Even Sunshine wants to comfort you." She could hear the smile in Gourry's tone as he continued, "So don't be sad, okay? We all forgive you. We love you. Everything's going to be all right."

Lina felt a surge of affection for this wonderful man. She leaned back in his arms to look up deeply into his beautiful sky-blue eyes, eyes that looked back at her with concern, and then relief as she smiled for him. "I love you, Gourry," she said softly, and kissed him.

Amelia and Zelgadis sat together in front of the window, each of them secretly dreading hearing a recurrence of the terrible sobbing from the back of the ship. "I've never seen her cry like that-never seen her cry at all. It scared me," Amelia confesses, wringing her hands. "Something really big must be wrong."

Zelgadis felt shaken and guilty to have seen Lina-the epitome of the phrase 'tough as nails'-reduced to such misery. "Was it what I said?"

Amelia answered, "I don't know... You wouldn't think so-usually she just fights back when somebody yells at her, even if it's her fault. This wasn't like her at all. I want to go back there, but I think she needs Mister Gourry right now. Oh, what could be wrong with her?"

Zelgadis stared grimly ahead, feeling a strange tension inside at the wrongness of the whole situation.

Eventually the two of them halfheartedly ate their midday meal. "I've never seen Miss Lina skip a meal-maybe I should bring her something?" Amelia said hesitantly. "Maybe she's sick again?

Zelgadis relaxed a little. "Could be. Maybe she had a relapse of whatever she caught when she and Gourry were taken prisoner."

"Of course, that must be it!" Amelia looked relieved. "I'll bring her a little food and then come

back and take over from you so you can go see her."

"The two of us can alternate shifts until she's feeling better," Zelgadis decided, and Amelia nodded. He watched her gather up some food, using a spare board as a makeshift tray, and head out back through the curtain.

There was a long silence, and then his sharp hearing detected Amelia's familiar footsteps returning over the usual rushing-wind background noise. He glanced at her as she emerged from the heavy, swaying curtain, still holding the tray of food. "How is she?"

Amelia didn't answer him, so he looked up again to see her staring past him out of the window. Her cheeks were very pink. "Um... she's feeling better, I think."

"'You think?'" he repeated, perplexed. "You didn't ask her?"

"Well... um, they were kissing."

"... " Zelgadis cleared his throat. "Oh." His face became as red as Amelia's, and the two avoided looking at each other.

Lina would have been content to spend the rest of the day in Gourry's arms, but her stomach said otherwise. After trying staunchly to ignore its growling for probably the first time in her life, she finally gave in and lifted her face from where she was resting it against Gourry's shoulder. "Hey, Gourry, you hungry?"

"No," he answered, looking at her lips hopefully.

He was still being careful not to touch her anywhere too 'sensitive', which both annoyed and reassured her. She was still in control. But I think I'm ready to do something new, something different... something... more.

Her stomach growled again, louder. She rolled her eyes. Maybe I'm not the one in control after all. "Well, I'm starving. Crying always does that to me, so let's go get something to eat, okay? We can... " She trailed off, about to say 'we can pick up where we left off' but thinking about leaving the privacy of the mare's stall caused her to suffer a flash of self-consciousness. What have Amelia and Zelgadis been doing all this time? The handkerchief proves that Amelia's been over here at least once, maybe more. What if she saw us?...

For a moment she hesitated, almost changing her mind about leaving. Then she shook herself and resolutely stood up. Even if I wasn't hungry, I'd have to face them sometime. And it's not like they didn't know Gourry and I are engaged or anything...

Determinedly she marched to the front of the ship, with Gourry following. Zelgadis and Amelia were sitting together in front of the window, quietly talking. They looked up as Lina pushed aside the curtain. She opened her mouth, then closed it, blushing, vividly remembering what she'd said to Gourry earlier in their presence. 'I want to kiss you. A lot... ' How humiliating.

The princess and the chimera seemed no less embarrassed. Neither seemed willing to meet her eyes. Gourry looked back and forth between his friends and said, "What's with all the silence? Look, guys, Lina's sorry she almost flipped us over, right, Lina?"

"Uh-yeah," she agreed hastily, nodding vigorously.

"And she promises not to do it again, right?"

"Yeah."

"So all's forgiven, okay?" Gourry crossed his arms and looked at them all like a wise old elder.

He's missed the reason why we're all uncomfortable, but as long as it gets things back to normal, what's the difference? Lina thought as her two friends, still looking discomfited, dutifully forgave the red-haired sorceress.

Then, before things could get awkward again, she asked, "Okay, so where's the food?"

"Oh, you're feeling better, Miss Lina?" Amelia beamed at her as she stood up and went to retrieve the food she'd set aside. "We were afraid you'd had a relapse."

"No, I'm-" Lina stopped, wondering, Is that it? I'm sick again? Is that why I acted like that? But I don't feel sick... "I don't know... " she said uncertainly.

"Well, if you feel sick tomorrow, Zelgadis and I can cover your shift." Amelia's tone was almost motherly.

Lina grinned wickedly. Maybe I am feeling a little ill... if it gets me the day off work!

Author's Note: Is it out of character for Lina to cry? She only did once in the series, and then she didn't get worked up or anything, she just kind of marveled that her eyes wouldn't stop tearing. I wasn't sure how to portray her having a real crying spell, but being Lina I'm sure she hates crying and does everything she can to avoid it, like me, so I basically gave you all a description of how I cry-minus the comforting man and dragonwolf.

You see, we just put our old dog to sleep yesterday, (November, 2003) so I was a little more in touch with the melancholy side of myself than usual. Normally I avoid crying like the plague-I don't understand how people say it makes them feel better-I always feel like I've got the flu afterwards.

Buuut this time there's another reason besides the usual Lina-chaos behind what just happened-can you guess it?

And by the way, I would love a fanpic of this scene! So dramatic! Sometimes I even surprise myself. ^_~

Sagara Sanosuke comments (about the saw-you-naked scene): 'this is the best example I've seen in handling the topic without flowery language or downright vulgarity.'

* Thanks! I was kinda worried that I might offend some people, but so far nobody's said anything bad. I had a hard time deciding what to call Zel's you-know-what, because honestly I don't care for nearly all of the common terms people use. They tend to be either babyish or vulgar, neither of which is appropriate for my particular fic, so I opted for 'obvious descriptions' instead of a using a particular word. I was going to use a Japanese term instead, but since I don't know what connotations may exist for whatever word I happen to choose, I decided not to get into that. I do know one term that is mainly used for toddlers, but since Zel is definitely more than three years old, at least I knew enough not to use that one. ^_^

Thanks for the info, Aisha C! I didn't know Ame meant sweets/candy/sweet in Japanese-kawaii! Of course, Zel would probably be embarrassed to call her that in front of people, but it's a wonderful pet name for her. I think Sagara Sanosuke's suggestion of 'My Lady' would be a good one for him to use on her in public.

Hey, the other day I was reading about a man from Japan who's made his home in the USA and he was describing some of the more subtle differences in our cultures, and one thing struck me as very interesting: people in love almost never say "I love you" to each other. It's apparently a very strongthing to say to someone, something you only say on very special occasions. We usually see subtitles translated as 'I love you' whether they are saying 'daisuki' or 'aishiteru' but guess what? 'Daisuki' is a less heavy kind of love, more like "I really care about you," or "I really like you,", but 'aishiteru' has strong sexual tones to it. A mother would never say that to her children. Even married couples don't really say it to each other. It's the kind of thing they put in romance movies/novels/manga, not something you say in real life. By the way, 'daisuki' is pronounced "die-sk'i" and 'aishiteru' is pronounced "ayesh'teru". Nowadays I automatically translate it in my head into the proper term when I hear it on TV, no matter how the subtitle company translated it. (Some use 'love' some use 'like' some use 'care', etc... )

In the paragraph above, when Lina and Gourry each said something about love, Gourry's statement was definitely a 'daisuki' situation, but Lina's could have snuck over into the 'aishiteru' category, in my opinion. She was feeling a bit, shall we say, amorous, after all... ^_^

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