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!

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

Note: A geis (pronounced gaysh) is basically a magical compulsion.

Chapter Sixty-Seven: It's About Time! The Big Confession

Later that evening Lina was relaxing by the campfire. Amelia had adopted a maternal attitude toward the petite sorceress, telling her not to move while they all went out looking for game and firewood.

Sitting alone, Lina had a lot of time to think. I haven't broken down like that since... I can't remember. Since I was little... And it wasn't even that terrible a situation. I mean, yes, normally I'd have been horribly embarrassed, and mad as hell, but it wasn't something I'd actually cry about. Amelia cries a lot... Does being in love turn you into a crybaby? She shook her head. No... I've loved Gourry for years, but I've never cried like that, not since I can remember, not even when I lost him.

So what else could it be? ... What's changed? What's different about our situation? Well, right now we're using Xellos' gem to fly Amelia back to Seyrune on the Woodwind, and then-Oh! The gem!

She grabbed the silver chain around her neck and pulled the gem out to where she could see it. The golden firelight shone through the rich, deep blue gem's facets, turning it various vivid shades of green and teal. Try as she might, she could see no sorcerer's mark embedded in it, but she removed the gem and put it to the side for now.

That's got to be it, she decided. I should have known better than to trust anything Xellos gives us for free! She tried to remember whether the gem had made her feel any differently than usual when she wore it. Not that I could tell... and anyway, wouldn't it have affected the others, too?

She bit her lip thoughtfully, trying to recall if either of her friends had acted out of character in the last few days. I'm not sure about Zelgadis... and Amelia... Oh! The other day she was telling me about Zel and her mother-now what did she say? Um, something about a secret, one she'd never told anybody except Zelgadis. She didn't freak out or anything, but I wonder if... maybe... if the gem made her tell the truth? Everything, with no holding back.

That would explain why it doesn't seem to affect us much, since we're all basically pretty honest with each other. The petite sorceress was somewhat reassured. I just hope no one asks me anything embarrassing.

But wait a minute... I did more than just tell the truth; I completely freaked out. She scratched an itch on her arm. Maybe it depends on how long you wear it-I was almost done my shift when it happened to me. Or maybe it was because we were in danger, maybe... it brings hidden emotions to the surface, too. If you're under stress. That makes sense, 'cause if it made you act on your emotions all the time, Zel and Amelia would've been all lovely-dovey by now.

One side of her mouth turned up in a smirk. Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing. It might make that stubborn chimera listen to his heart for once, and open up and-that's it!

In the amber light of the campfire, the ruby eyes of a young master sorceress gleamed mischievously as she made her plans for the morrow.

Lina spent most of the following day feigning illness, letting Amelia wait on her hand and foot and judiciously testing the power of the gem by asking questions of the wearer.

With Amelia, she had to ask questions that she knew Amelia would normally lie to out of politeness. "What do you think of Martina's fashion sense?"

"Does your father ever embarrass you?"

"Have I ever done anything that really made you angry, Amelia?"

Boy, did I get an earful on that one! Normally she might have been angry, but she was too pleased at the success of her plan so far. At least I know it works the way I thought it did. And when it's Zelgadis' turn, I am so going to let him have it! Better not tell Amelia in advance, though, she'd probably make a fuss about it not being fair or just or whatever, and she might tell Zel.

The petite sorceress frowned. Amelia asked me not to say anything about her getting married. Well, then... I won't. I'll get Zelgadis to talk about it, not me. Heh heh heh.

Lina waited until just before the end of the chimera's shift, which had been extended somewhat to make up for her absence. Good, we're over a big lake. Even if he wants to, he can't land us here! She rubbed her hands together in delight. Now I'm finally going to get some answers around here! A smirk crossed her face. And Zel, here's where I finally give you some payback.

The four of them were gathered in the main area. Amelia was sitting next to the chimera, and Lina sat behind her with Gourry sprawled nearby, leaning on one elbow. None of them realized that they were all about to become involved in the personal grudge-match of a very cunning master mage.

"Hey, Zel," Lina said in a deliberately casual tone, "What exactly did the Oracle say to you again?"

The stone man gave her a quick glance over his shoulder, then quickly returned his attention to the window. "She said a lot of things."

Hm. Lina made a face, pushing her lips to one side. Technically true, but I need more. This is going to be more of a challenge than I thought. "I know, but did she give you your cure?"

Zelgadis hesitated, surprised at the sudden interrogation. I told Amelia I didn't have one yet-that I needed to work it out first. I should say 'no'.

"... Yes," the chimera heard himself say slowly.

Lina heard Amelia gasp.

Zelgadis was aghast, his eyes bulging in their stone sockets. What am I saying?

Lina smirked. Okay, I pretty much knew that, so now- "But using the cure isn't going to be easy, is it, Zelgadis?"

"No."

Lina noticed that Amelia's eyes were opened wide, and she was leaning toward Zelgadis, obviously riveted. Lina snorted. This is no good. I've got to get away from questions that have simple yes and no answers. "What's keeping you from using the cure?" Now we'll see if I'm right about the geis.

"I... " Zelgadis clamped his mouth shut. I can't tell them that! If Amelia knew, she'd want to-

Lina felt a zing of alarm. Uh, oh, he's fighting it. What do I do? She bit her lip.

This was a different sort of battle; instead of spells and swords and purely physical threats, this one was mental, of guile and persuasion. The crafty sorceress relied on one of her most formidable assets-her mind. Oh, yeah, it works better if you're under stress. I've got to turn up the heat-but I don't want to overdo it or he'll dump us all in the drink. Good thing I'm a good actress! "Tell us," she demanded. "Tell us right now! Why can't you use the spell?"

Zelgadis fought the rising tide inside of him, the growing urge to let it all out, sensing the great relief looming just beyond the self-imposed barrier, and wanting it badly. I've been hiding this for so long-no! I've got to think of Amelia!

Lina watched as the chimera's hands clenched and unclenched in his lap. "B-because-" he stuttered.

"Please, Zelgadis." Surprised, Lina turned to see Amelia sitting with her hands clasped in front of her, begging him for enlightenment. Her eyes were shimmering, and the anguish on her little face was heartbreaking. "Please," she pleaded, "If we can't be together, then at least I want to know why! Please... I want to know..."

Lina swallowed as she heard Amelia's voice crack wretchedly. Oh, Amelia... Her fists clenched, and she glared at the stone man. Her efforts were having their effect; he was panting, fighting some kind of terrible internal battle, and his stone forehead was wet with rare sweat.

"Because... " Zelgadis looked into those sapphire eyes and felt himself going under as a tidal wave of emotions threatened to drown him in sweetness and agony. His voice was rising in pitch with every word, nearing hysteria. "Because... "

Lina completely lost it, leaping up and grabbing the front of his tunic, yanking his face within inches of hers. "Tell us!" she shrieked at him as she fought for her best friend's happiness.

"Because I love her!" The primal roar held anguish, passion, grief, snapping Lina out of her rage. It was the agonized howl of a tormented soul, the kind of cry she never wanted to hear again. The Woodwind began to yaw sideways, but before it got too far Lina slapped a hand over the gem where it rested on the chimera's chest and focused her will on keeping the ship steady.

After a few moments of intense concentration she heard a deep gasp and looked at Zelgadis. He was weeping! His head was bowed and he had one hand covering his face, but there was no mistaking the hunched, shuddering shoulders or the quick, strangled gasps, which sounded, Lina realized with a shock, almost exactly the way she had sounded yesterday when she had been the one who'd broken down. It brings out hidden feelings...

"If you love her, don't you want to be cured?" Gourry asked suddenly, his tone gentle.

Lina gave him a grateful glance, having her hands full with flying the ship while fighting the way it wanted to hurl itself all over the place, no doubt reacting to the turmoil in Zelgadis' mind. But I can't take back the gem yet-we still don't know what's wrong. He's too smart to not to catch on to the gem's powers, especially after what I did yesterday. He won't be caught off guard again!

She glanced at Amelia and almost did lose control at the heart-rending way her friend was looking at the stone man. The princess' eyes sparkled with tears, but her expression held more joy than sorrow. He's finally admitted he loves her. No matter what happens after this, at least she has this much.

"... Of course I do." Zelgadis' voice was hoarse and broken, his slight frame displaying defeat and despair. "More than anything. But you see, I can't."

"Why not?" Lina and Gourry asked simultaneously.

"Because Amelia's in danger."

"What?" Again the bright-haired pair echoed each other.

"From who?" Gourry asked.

"How?" Lina demanded.

Get a hold of yourself, Zelgadis! Slowly the chimera visibly pulled himself together, sitting up straight and squaring his shoulders as if getting ready for a battle.

Lina noticed that the brief release of tears-which had made his stone cheeks wet and shiny-seemed to have washed away some of his tension, and slowly let go of the gem. The ship wavered a little, then steadied, hovering in place over the center of the cerulean lake.

"The Oracle said... that Amelia had to be the one to cast the spell. That is, she has to cast the main part... but it's incredibly difficult-dangerous-to balance all the dark forces within herself. Sometimes the caster is overwhelmed." Zelgadis glanced at the young princess and saw that she was listening avidly, her blue eyes wide and absorbing. He looked away, unable to meet her gaze.

"Why Amelia?" Lina asked. "Why not me? If anybody's got experience controlling dark magics, I do. Why put Amelia in danger?"

Now Zelgadis blushed, which made Lina raise an eyebrow, intrigued. "The Oracle said... " He stopped and cleared his throat uncomfortably, and continued, "Well, first of all, there have to be three mages. One of black magic, one of Shamanistic, and one of white... "

"Okay, we have that many... " Lina commented, but the chimera shook his head.

"I can't participate. The Oracle said the one thing a chimera can't do is unmake himself."

"So, who-"

"Xellos." The stone man's face twisted into a scowl. "I hate having to ask that-that-mazoku for anything, but the Oracle said he has the words to the spell-the basic template, you might say. It has to be customized to each individual chimera."

"He does? Then why didn't you say anything the last time we had him with us?" Lina was exasperated. "Fine, I'll call him. Xel-mph!"

Zelgadis had covered her mouth with his hard stone hand. She glared at him with deadly ruby eyes, and he hastily released her. "Not now. Please," he said quietly.

The unexpected 'please' mollified her, reducing her anger from a boil to a simmer. "I don't get you, Zelgadis. It sounds like we have everything we need. So where is the problem? Is there some kind of geis on you or something?"

"No, that's not it. It's... Amelia." The stone man's face began to show signs of the tremendous strain he'd been under for weeks now, and Lina notice how he avoided looking at the dark-haired princess, staring out the front window at the leafy trees on the lake's far shore. "I don't want her involved. The Oracle said there was a chance she could lose her mind or even die... "

The two girls' eyes met, and without a word being spoken between them Lina understood that the young princess was going to let her do the questioning. This is hard enough for him to talk about to me, let alone the girl he's in love with.

"Is she not powerful enough, even now that the Barrier's down? Do we need to find someone stronger?" Lina gestured toward the dark-haired girl with one hand. "If she isn't strong enough, then why did the Oracle say that Amelia has to be the one to cast it?"

That's the key question, all right. Look at his face! The chimera was blushing again, a wide band of pink over his nose, and Lina could tell that if he could have, he would have refused to answer.

"The spell... has a much better chance of success if the, ah, sorceress casting the spell is... in love with me." His entire face went almost lavender. Why am I saying all this? I can't stop myself.

"What?" all three of his friends exclaimed together.

Disconcerted, he ran a hand through his hair, the fine metal strands making a silvery sound against his stone skin. "The Oracle said... if the caster loved me, she'd have all the power she needed."

The power of love. "Ah," Lina said knowingly, and was astonished to hear Gourry saying the exact same syllable in the same tone of voice. She looked at him with wide eyes, and he smiled at her. She smiled back, thinking, I shouldn't be surprised that he understands. He's always been smarter than me in matters of the heart. ... He knew enough to fall in love with me, right?

A smug look crossed her face as she turned back Zelgadis, who looked like he wanted to sink through the floor. "Well, then, I don't think we have anything to worry about. Amelia loves you, and-"

"No!" The stone man's comrades jumped at his vehement outburst. "I would rather stay a chimera for the rest of my life than take the chance of losing her!"

"But... if you don't attempt the spell you're going to lose her in another way!"

"I don't care." Zelgadis was breathing raggedly. "I-I love her too much to risk it."

Amelia finally spoke up. "But I don't want to lose you!"

For a moment he closed his eyes, strengthening his resolve, and then turned to look into her deep, sapphire-blue eyes, eyes that had tears glittering in the corners. "Then you understand. That's just how I feel... If my selfish desire for a cure caused me to lose you... "

"It's not selfish if you're doing it to make both of you happy!" Lina shouted at them, feeling the control of the conversation slipping from her grasp.

Gourry looked back and forth between each of his friends, wanting to help but not knowing what to say.

Neither of them seemed to have heard Lina's outburst. Zelgadis continued, "It's not just risky, it's double or nothing... and I've learned my lesson the hard way. Sometimes you don't understand what you have... until you lose it."

Lina realized, He's talking about his lost humanity.

"If I'm willing to sacrifice my cure-" He stopped as Lina interrupted desperately, a knot of sick fear in her stomach as she realized that even though she had sprung this trap on him, he was winning the battle by convincing Amelia to give up.

"If you stay a chimera, Amelia will have to marry some other guy, and then what? Will you ask her to cheat on him? Or will you just disappear again?" Her tone was venomous.

The stone man winced at her accusation, but was silent. Forgive me, Amelia, he thought, his regret like a knife slicing his heart apart, this is the only way I know to keep you safe.

Again, Lina shot forth an accusation. "This is all about what you want, isn't it? What about Amelia? Does it matter what she wants?"

Again, he did not answer.

"After everything she's done for you-everything she's already sacrificed for you? ... Well, answer me! Say something!"

The chimera merely stared at her, his face expressionless. That does it! As with the Oracle's guardian/doorman, Lina Inverse needed people to respond to her. Something inside her snapped as the chimera's stubborn silence triggered her famous wrath.

The red-haired sorceress struck out at Zelgadis in a blind fury, slamming her fist into his cheek with a loud crack. His head rocked back from the force of her blow as pain flared across her knuckles. "Ow!" she yelled, her rage increasing even as she was reminded of the chimera's invulnerability. The ship hadn't even quivered.

He had done nothing to avoid her blow, indeed, the resigned look on his face said he'd been expecting it-and felt he deserved it. Lina blinked as she caught sight of the smear of red on his cheek. I wounded him? Then she glanced at her gloveless hand and grimaced at the torn skin oozing blood over her knuckles. "Argh! Damn it, you selfish, arrogant, egotistical bastard-"

"Miss Lina, stop!" The raven-haired princess had scrambled in front of him, her arms held out to the sides. "Don't you dare hurt Zelgadis! Can't you see he's trying to do the right thing, no matter how much it hurts him?" She was crying, the tears streaming down her cheeks in shining lines.

Lina was surprised at her unexpected defense, but Zelgadis was absolutely incredulous. "Amelia-how can you defend me? You should be angry... "

Amelia lowered her arms. "I am... " Her voice was husky with emotion. "I'm really upset about this... but... well, Miss Lina is angry enough for both of us... And besides, I understand how you feel." She placed a hand over her heart. "If I were in your position I'd want to do everything I could to protect you... "

He murmured, "Amelia... "

As Lina watched, Zelgadis' face changed from his trademark somber expression to one that could only be described as loving.

She shook her head, bemused. Only she could get him to respond like that.

The tender looks on both of their faces as they gazed at one another made her forget her anger and focus on her original goal-of getting the two of them together. "Amelia, what are you saying? After everything you've gone through for him-don't you want him?"

She nodded, her face unhappy but resolute. "More than anything. But it has to be his choice too, don't you see? Making him feel obligated... trapped... that isn't proving my love for him. Besides, I already came too close to losing his trust once... "

Lina gave her an incredulous look. "So you're just... giving up?"

Amelia, painfully aware of Zelgadis' eyes on her, gathered together her last shreds of spirit and forced herself to smile. "Of course not. There's always hope. We might meet up with a really powerful white magic mage... "

One who loves Zel? I doubt it. Lina could see how much this show of cheer was costing her friend, and for once she held her tongue.

"And I invited Filia to my wed-my ceremony." Amelia's smile was a little stronger. "She's a Golden Dragon-the strongest holy magic user we know, and she's friends with Zelgadis, isn't she?"

"Hey, you're right." Lina exchanged a look with Zelgadis, whose eyes had lit up with hope. It made him look years younger-more like a teenager than a travel-weary warrior. I'd forgotten how cute he could be...

"Filia's coming?" Zelgadis couldn't believe the good news. A small smile of delight lifted the corners of his lips. "She was my best hope, but I couldn't think of any way to reach her in time. Her Mace 'n' Vase shop is across the continent... "

Amelia beamed at him. "Yes, I invited her. I didn't get a response, but then I haven't exactly been home to receive any mail for a while... but surely she wouldn't miss my wedding!" Oops-I said the 'w' word, she thought sheepishly. But I don't think he minds.

"Does Filia love Zelgadis?" Gourry asked suddenly.

All eyes turned to him. He winced at the accusing stares. "Well, you said the white magic person had to be in love with-"

"Gourry!" Lina growled. "We're trying to find some hope here; do ya mind?"

"Sorry."

"I doubt Filia's in love with me," Zelgadis smiled wryly. "But I do consider her a friend, or at least an ally. She'll probably be willing to help."

"Of course she will!" Amelia's spunk was back. "It would only be just to aid a pair of star-crossed lovers like us!"

Both Zelgadis and Lina developed sweatdrops as they looked at the princess, who had leaped to her feet and thrust one finger into the air. One could almost imagine a little smiley face on the tip of her index finger.

Lina cleared her throat uncomfortably. "Uh, well... we'd better focus on getting there first. There's no way of knowing how long it'll take to actually do this spell, if we have to spend time putting it together first."

"Right." Zelgadis nodded, and concentrated. The ship resumed its flight, gliding smoothly over the shining lake below them.

Author's Note: Ooo! High drama. The interrogator and her victim-er, subject! Sorry about the rapid shifts between Lina's point of view and Zelgadis', but since half the battle was internal, I needed some way to show both sides.

Finally-Zelgadis has confessed his love! Half the battle is over-but if you think things are going to go smoothly from then on-watch out! Life doesn't work that way...

Off on a tangent here, but you know the end of Try where they show Filia's shop, with the sign out front that has no words-I remember staring at it for a long time, trying to figure out the name of the place... I got a giggle out of it when I realized it rhymed. Mace 'n' Vase! Tee hee!

Shahrezad1-Thanks for the cultural bit in your last review. I always like learning stuff about something I'm interested in. A cool demeanor, eh? And yet I read that the Japanese call us Americans 'dry' meaning we make our decisions based on logic (for example, profit) while they regard themselves as 'wet' -basing their decisions on emotions and what will affect other people. I don't know how true this is-especially now, what with Western influence on them, but I suppose you can be 'wet' and still keep up a calm, cool demeanor, ne?

Knid comments- 'I think I see where you're going. The jewel somehow compels the user to tell the truth and makes them vulnerable. As soon as Lina figures it all out she's going to ambush Zel when he's wearing it and ask about his cure.'
*Ooo! Clever Knid!Bravo! Cheerio! Spot-on! (Gee, after I read your name I start to think in British English instead of American... I watch a couple of shows from there, BTW. My favorite is Red Dwarf. I pick up a lot of the slang.) Was my plot that obvious? Oh, dear. Perhaps I ought to try thinking in more convoluted terms... And thanks for the correction about the word 'slain'. I knew it was wrong but I simply could not remember the past tense of the verb!

And what really stinks is I'm going to have to leave it like that, because is the most... difficult site to add and remove things from-sometimes I have to keep trying for days before all the steps I need to take actually work. Last time I clicked on 'browse' to pull my story from my PC and it didn't do anything, so I ended up waiting for like two days until it was working again. It never works on the first try, that's for sure. Or the second... or the fourth, sometimes... *sigh*

Anybody out there have a web site that can handle what's likely to be an 85-plus chapter fanfic? And fanpics? I'm writing chapter 74 right now, the last chapter of the 'Woodwind' arc, and I know I'm going to need at least another ten chapters to finish...

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