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!
PG-13 for mild language and lime-i-ness
Note: A geis (pronounced gaysh) is basically a magical compulsion.
Chapter Sixty-Eight: Aftermath / Human Contact
The atmosphere among the group had changed somewhat. Lina and Gourry had been betrothed for several weeks, but Lina had chosen to keep this a secret until just recently. Now that Zelgadis had unexpectedly declared his love for Amelia (who had made her feelings known well before now), there were two such 'acknowledged couples' aboard the ship. In some ways, this was easier for them all, to have no more secrets to hide, and in some ways it was harder, especially for those who yearned to explore their newly physical desires.
Gourry was the most sanguine. He was happy that everyone was getting along better, that no one seemed inclined to tease Lina about wanting to be with him, as she had feared, and he was looking forward to the time when Lina lost her uncharacteristic diffidence. I just have to be patient a little longer. Already she's more relaxed around the others... today during lunch she sat next to me and her leg was touching mine the whole time. Zel and Amelia look happier, too. I sure hope everything works out.
Amelia vacillated between blissful happiness that her beloved had at last confessed his own love to her, and secret dread that she was soon to lose that happiness. Most of the time she was able to suppress it, focusing instead on Zelgadis' miraculous confession. Whatever possessed him to blurt it out like that in front of everyone? she thought in wonder as she sat alone in the small darkened supply area, brushing her increasingly unruly hair. Maybe it finally occurred to him that this is the final portion of our journey-that when we land at Seyrune, it'll all be over. It's so hard, sometimes, to act happy in front of the others when I think of that...
But I can't give in to despair! I have to believe that everything is going to work out all right... Miss Filia will help us, I'm sure of it... and... if by some tiny remote chance she can't, then Zelgadis will just have to accept my help. If I've learned anything about him over the last month, it's that Zelgadis needs a lot of time to change his mind once he decides on something important. If you push him, he gets more and more stubborn, but if you leave him alone, he won't feel so pressured, and then...
Thank goodness Miss Lina didn't give up! He'd almost convinced me that it was useless to hope... Amelia set her jaw forward, scowling as well as her pretty face allowed her to. I'm really angry about that-that he let me believe that his cure was hopeless! It makes me want to punish him-but after what Miss Lina did, anything I might do would look... small and petty, I guess... oh, she always steals the spotlight.
She crossed her arms in annoyance, and stuck out her lower lip to blow the hair from her eyes. I need to get my hair trimmed... but I don't want to trust one of them to do it-not now, with my wedding coming up! Hmm... I wonder if it's long enough to tie it back for now? A feeling of relief lightened her mood as the young princess turned her mind to the minor problem of what to do with her hair, glad to be able to think about something less emotional.
While Lina still thought that Zelgadis should have told them about the specific conditions his curse required as soon as he'd emerged from the Oracle's cavern, she had to give him credit for thinking of Amelia first, and she respected his wish to protect the very girl he most wanted to be human for. Still, he said the Oracle only said there's 'a chance' that Amelia might be overwhelmed. I can't believe that the girl who helped us defeat two Dark Lords and casts occasional black magic-competently-is in the same category with your average white magic priestess. He's blowing the whole thing way out of proportion.
She sighed, staring at the window in front of her, watching the scenery crawl by. I still think he's a fool for not following the Oracle's instructions, but talking to him is like talking to a brick wall, pun intended. She growled deep in her throat. I'd love to kick his ass-if Amelia would let me. I've done it before-and he felt it, believe me!
... But then again, to a guy like him, pain is nothing. I could Dragon Slave him and he wouldn't budge. Lina sighed. If using Filia works, good. If not, then Amelia's going to have to cast that spell-or all of this has been for nothing. Maybe I should be focusing on Amelia, not Zel, trying to convince her to cast the spell no matter what he says.
She remembered the princess' words about almost losing the chimera's trust, and shook her head. That's Zel, all right. In the past he may have switched sides, but he's definitely got the kind of honor that would never let him forgive someone whom he felt had betrayed him. Especially someone he'd opened his heart to. I need to think of something that'll make him see the light...
Maybe Gourry has some ideas. The diminutive sorceress shook her head. I can't believe I'm even thinking of asking Jellyfish Brains for advice, but so far he's been pretty accurate about a lot of things. I've gotta give him credit-what he may lack in wits, he makes up for in intuition.
She smiled as she thought about her friend-no, her fiance. It's kind of fun to flirt... today during lunch I kept thinking of how hard the floor boards are, and how much I'd rather sit in Gourry's lap... I kept moving closer to him until our legs were touching, and I almost laughed when I realized that both Zel and Amelia were trying not to look! I bet they were thinking that they'd like to sit the same way.
She chuckled, watching two bright blue birds chase each other merrily above the treetops. I shouldn't embarrass them, but it feels so good to be able to show how I feel about Gourry-at least in front of our two closest friends. Free-like those birds. I hope Zel and Amelia get to do the same... in private, of course-being royalty, they'd have to act all 'proper' in public-an image of Prince Phil crossed her mind and she smirked-well, maybe not all that proper...
The redhead sighed, her ruby eyes gazing off into the distance. It's too bad we're all in the habit of sleeping together around the campfire. I may like to flirt, but I don't want an audience when I kiss Gourry... among other things. I want him to touch me...
"Would you like a snack, Miss Lina?"
Startled, the young sorceress jumped and looked up at Amelia. The raven-haired princess was smiling and holding out an apple, which Lina took automatically, blushing as she remembered the direction her thoughts had been heading in. "Uh, thanks, Amelia."
"No problem," Amelia smiled. "I know you get bored with flying, so I thought I'd give you some company."
The younger girl settled herself next to Lina, who tried not to show her annoyance at having her fantasy interrupted. She means well, she told herself. She looked around, but both men were in the back somewhere, giving the girls a modicum of privacy for once.
To all appearances Amelia seemed to have returned to her normal cheery self, both because of the long-overdue confession of love from Zelgadis, and because the problem standing between herself and her prospective suitor had finally been addressed and possible solutions worked out.
Lina had her suspicions, though. I'm sure she feels better, but no one could really be that oblivious. She's probably just putting on a brave face. "So, Amelia... how are you doing?" she asked tentatively, munching on the sweet fruit.
"Oh, I'm all right." The younger girl gave her a small smile.
Lina raised a fine orange eyebrow. "Oh, really? Come on, Amelia, this is me you're talking to. Your best friend? I know you can't be as happy as you're pretending."
Amelia's eyes darkened, and she threw a glance over her shoulder as if to make sure that there were no observers, then let her shoulders sag. "No, I'm not," she admitted in a low voice, "but what good would it do if I acted unhappy? We can't do anything about-" she lowered her voice still further, making Lina strain to hear it- "his cure until we get to Seyrune, and I don't want to spend what might be my last days together with Zelgadis quarreling or being miserable. Besides, he'll only dig in his heels if we try to force him to change his mind."
Sapphire eyes met ruby ones, and Lina nodded in understanding. "You've got a point, there. Zel's a stubborn one." She gave the curtain a quick glance, then muttered, "So you're still thinking about casting the spell yourself, then?"
Amelia nodded nervously, and smiled a little.
Well, that's a relief. I thought she'd given up. Lina frowned. I wish I could get a hold of Xellos. I tried calling him yesterday afternoon off and on, but the jerk wouldn't respond. I suppose he's afraid of getting into trouble with his precious boss. He'd better meet us in Seyrune like he said he would-or else!
She studied the young princess, who was watching her curiously.
I still can't believe Amelia's acting so calm about all this. If it were me, I'd be ready to blow something up-I still feel that way, when I think of how that stupid chimera nearly got away with his 'noble' sacrifice. Noble-yeah, right. I understand that he didn't want her to be hurt, but still... he could at least have told me! Then she blinked, her mood lightening as she realized that one of the reasons she was miffed at the stone man was because he'd kept her in the dark.
She gave the puzzled princess a wry grin. Tactically, I know perfectly well that not telling anybody was the best way to make sure his plan to keep Amelia safe worked, so I shouldn't be so insulted. Besides, in the end, I still beat him. He really should've known better than to try to defy Lina Inverse!
"Men can be so frustrating," she said to her friend, a note of humor in her tone. "But still, I suppose I've got to give the guy some credit-he did a good job keeping his mouth shut, no matter what I did to get him to talk... It's like that guard, what's his name, Lann said back at Ponmar's place-'Ya gotta respect people who don't talk under interrogation. If they're guilty, they're trying to protect their friends and their cause. If they're innocent, they're strong enough to stick to their story and not make up false confessions ta save themselves.'"
The diminutive sorceress winked encouragingly at her friend. "He's guilty, all right-guilty of trying to protect the girl he loves." Lina smiled at the way Amelia's eyes grew soft and shimmery at the thought. "And at least Zelgadis never actually lied. Sort of like Xellos... he made us think something was true, but he never once said that the Oracle hadn't given him a cure. He just said something like 'a cure he couldn't use'-without risking your life, of course."
Amelia's face was full of adoration. "I'm so glad he finally decided to tell me he loves me. Even if we have to part, I'll carry that in my heart forever!" She placed both of her hands dramatically over her heart.
"Uh, yeah." Lina smiled awkwardly, a sweatdrop appearing over her temple, barely managing to keep from rolling her eyes at the younger girl's melodrama. She fought off the sudden urge to take the credit for Zelgadis' declaration of love, not wanting to let Amelia know that it hadn't been his decision at all. Besides, I'm hoping that he won't realize it wasn't him, either. I thought he would have figured out by now that it was the gem Xellos gave us that brings hidden emotions to the surface, and makes you tell the truth if someone asks you a question, but so far he hasn't said a word to me about it. He's doing his shifts as pilot readily enough, putting on the gem without even the tiniest bit of hesitation-I've been watching him.
Can it be that he really doesn't know it was the gem? Was he that close to confessing to her, all on his own? Or... maybe the gem isn't magic... NowLina quailed, wondering if her recent breakdown was all her own doing, but then she remembered the 'tests' she had performed to see if she could catch anyone in a lie while they were wearing the gem. Nope, it was the gem. It had to be. Actually, if Zel suspects anything, all he'd have to do to find out would be to ask me while I'm piloting-I'd have answer truthfully. And he hasn't. Which means he either doesn't suspect-or he doesn't want to ask and make sure he's right. Maybe he wants to think he confessed of his own free will.
She shrugged. Who am I to get in the way of someone's romance? I'm sure not gonna say anything about the gem if he doesn't know-he'd be furious!
Like the others, Zelgadis had learned that the best times for uninterrupted thinking were when he was doing his stint as pilot. There is something to be said for confessions. Now that things are out in the open, some of the tension is gone.
The corners of his mouth twitched as he imaginedthe stares his friends would get if they acted so love-besotted in public. Lina was practically in Gourry's lap-and from his expression, I'm sure he would have been glad to have her there. It was embarrassing to watch... but it does make me wonder what it would feel like if Amelia...
He shook his head sternly. Even though I wouldn't mind having her close to me, I doubt she would enjoy it. It would feel as if she were sitting amidst a pile of rocks!
He stared out the window at the afternoon sky, absently admiring billowy clouds of pink, apricot, pale green, and lavender. After a few moments his mind began to drift again. Of course, I could smell her hair...
This time the chimera began to daydream without realizing it, but just then Amelia emerged from the back area. He always knew when she approached, having long since learned to identify each member of the party by their footsteps on the floorboards. He felt awkward now when they were alone together after making such a scene earlier-whatever had possessed him?-but as Lina and Gourry had developed the disconcerting habit of disappearing out back together, he and Amelia had had to get used to each other's company all over again. Neither of them wanted to accidentally walk in on their companions while they were-otherwise occupied.
He turned to face her as she asked hesitantly, "How do I look?"
He blinked. She had found a pretty white ribbon somewhere to tie part of her hair into a little ponytail on the top of her head. Most of her bangs had gone into it, except for a few stray strands decorating her forehead. The small sheaf of midnight hair curved cutely to her left, making her look even more childish-and adorable-than she already had.
She put up a tentative hand to touch it. "Is it all right? It was getting a little long, but I didn't want to cut it yet... " she trailed off, then volunteered, "I used to wear my hair like this when I was younger."
She looked at him expectantly, and he realized that his mouth was open. Belatedly he smiled and said the first thing to pop into his head. "It's... very cute."
He watched as a pleased blush spread over her face. She put both hands to her cheeks, an endearing gesture that he found incredibly appealing.
After a moment she asked, "Is it too babyish?"
He shook his head instantly. "No. It's... " He tried to think of a word that didn't sound as if he was describing a child. "It's very attractive."
Again she looked pleased, even when he continued, "And even if it did, so what? I thought we agreed that you were to behave in whatever way is most natural to you. That includes how you wear your hair. I... "
He had to pause for a moment to remind himself that it was all right to speak this way-he had declared his devotion to her, hadn't he? Zelgadis took a deep breath, his heart's cadence picking up speed as he declared, "I-I prefer the genuine, vivacious Amelia to the falsely mature one. She is... the one who is dear to my heart."
He'd said the right thing, judging by the way her face lit up.
"Oh, Zelgadis... " She dropped gracefully down to sit on her calves near him, and he smiled a little to see her ponytail bob with her movements. He spared a few seconds to glance out of the window to be sure that they weren't about to run into anything-not a big concern, since he generally flew the ship well above even the tallest trees-and then turned to face her.
She had leaned forward with her hands clasped together under her chin, her big eyes shimmering adoringly. "You can be so sweet."
Not as sweet as you. Zelgadis experienced an impulse that had become familiar over the last few weeks: the desire to be closer to her. He had been encased in that hard stone shell for far too long. He yearned for contact, wanting so badly to be able to touch another human being, even if his sense of touch was dulled, to feel Amelia's body against his, breathing, moving, alive.
As he gazed at the young girl before him, looking into her beautiful, loving eyes, he knew that she would welcome his overtures...
Hesitantly Zelgadis reached out a blue hand toward her face, watching as her eyes closed and she tilted her head as if inviting his touch, which both pleased and encouraged him. His blue fingertips lightly grazed her cheek-
"Why can't you ever say romantic stuff like that to me, Gourry? Every girl loves compliments."
Lina's voice came from behind the curtain, causing Zelgadis to jump and yank his hand away. He and Amelia looked guiltily at each other, wearing matching pink blushes.
Gourry's voice was clearly audible as well. "I thought I wasn't supposed to talk about romance."
Zelgadis could almost hear Lina rolling her eyes. "It's okay now, jellyfish. All secrets are out. We don't have to hide it any more."
"Hey, really? So I can kiss you whenever I want?"
There was a brief pause, during which Zelgadis imagined Lina blushing up a storm, but her answer was surprisingly non-violent, for her. "No, dummy. Kissing you do in private-usually. And other stuff. And-well, for now, let's just stick with saying romantic stuff."
Zelgadis turned to Amelia, who suddenly gave him a sly smile. "No, Zelgadis," she said loudly, "I'm sure our friends wouldn't spy on us. If they did, they know I'd have to give them a good talking-to about that kind of unjust behavior!"
There was silence. Amelia looked at Zelgadis, who repressed a chuckle as he listened to their companions' retreating footsteps. He was just able to make out the squeak of Sunshine's gate opening and closing through the usual rushing-wind background noise.
Amelia smiled wryly at him. "That's Miss Lina's way of chaperoning us, I think. But she's not really so serious about it anymore, not now that... " She trailed off, her smile widening happily as she gazed up at him.
Now that we've declared our feelings for each other. Zelgadis finished her sentence mentally, looking out through the window as if to make sure that they hadn't drifted off course, but mostly because he was still embarrassed about the scene he'd made. I still don't know why it suddenly seemed so vital that Amelia should know how I feel about her... but I can't say I'm sorry.
He turned back to face her, nodding and smiling gently in a tacit reply to her unspoken comment, so it puzzled him a little when her face grew pensive. "Would you mind if I tell you how much I love you?" she asked, her voice sounding a little plaintive.
Oh. After all this time, with me refusing to acknowledge her feelings... Slowly his own expression grew solemn. "... I should mind," he answered seriously. "I shouldn't encourage you... yet... but the truth is... " He looked deeply into her sapphire eyes, wanting her to have no further doubts about his feelings for her. "I welcome it. No one has told me that they loved me for a very, very long time."
He noticed the tears of sympathy in the corners of her eyes as she said almost fiercely, "Well, I do love you. I love you more than anyone I've ever loved in my whole life!"
He couldn't resist raising a stony eyebrow and asking with a teasing smile, "Even your father?"
The young princess looked charmingly disconcerted, lifting a curved hand up in front of her chin. "That's different."
The stone man gave a rare chuckle. "I know. But... if you love me even half as much as you love your father, I'm a lucky man."
"Oh, Zelgadis." She rose on her knees and moved a little closer to him, relaxing back to the floor right next to him, their legs almost touching. She reached for his hand, lifting it from his lap, her hand on the back of his. "I love you both very dearly, just in different ways."
He looked from their hands to her face, feeling his gaze soften as he looked into her blue, blue eyes. "Amelia," he murmured, wanting again to be able to show her how very much he loved her.
The ship began to tilt ever so slightly. He ignored it, hardly able to believe that the utter adoration shimmering in her eyes was for him alone.
Suddenly she lifted his hand to her face, turning it so that she could press her lips into his gloved palm. He pulled in a breath, his heart lurching in his chest at the sight of her rich blue eyes watching him solemnly above the edge of the pearl-gray glove-the very glove that she had chosen just for him.
The ship trembled as if in reaction to his emotions. Absently, he let a small portion of his mind guide it, steadying its flight, but most of his attention was focused on Amelia.
Physically he felt only the lightest of pressures where her hand held his, but emotionally it was as if she had sent a tremendous surge of warmth directly into his heart, melting away the last of the icy blocks from the wall he had so carefully constructed around it so many years ago. Caution be damned-to turn her away now would be cruelty on a par with the most vicious acts I've ever committed. She wants me-and I want her. Whether or not this cure succeeds, I'll no longer deny her the love she's waited so patiently for, suffering in silence, always supporting me with smiles and not a word of complaint. She's earned that much at least.
She had been watching him tentatively, waiting for his reaction, still holding his hand near her face with her own hand looking so small and delicate compared to his. Zelgadis smiled at her reassuringly, turning his hand in hers so that he could clasp it gently, and breathed, "Amelia... " He hesitated, considering different expressions of affection he'd heard over the years, and chose one. "... .Dearest."
Amelia had been watching the stone man a bit apprehensively, wondering if she'd been too forward, but she couldn't help letting her jaw drop a little in astonishment as he not only said her name in the most tender voice she had ever heard from him, he also spoke to her the way a lover would!
Her breath caught as her heart began to race, her limbs and voice trembling with emotion. "Darling... " she whispered, gazing up at him adoringly.
The look on his face was so peaceful, so open, with a small smile and beautiful blue-green eyes that gazed at her with such affection-and yes-desire, too. Oh, Zelgadis, how I've wanted you to look at me like this! For so long now... I can't believe it's finally happening. It is real, isn't it? I'm not just dreaming again? Please don't let it be a dream...
Author's Note: Only Amelia could get away with calling Zelgadis 'darling'! ^_^
Slayers Otaku-Girl-Yes, judging by the picture at the end of Try I would guess that her shop is called the 'Mace 'n' Vase. ^_^
UnholyDragoon says-'or he (Zel) might have relished the chance to finally come clean about what is going on.'
* You're right... He really wanted to tell her a long time ago.
jadz_i_ka brings up a good point-'One thing that bothers me: Zel had to answer every question he was told, so why didn't we hear any answers to two questions?'
*You mean the ones where Lina kept accusing him and he refused to say anything? Well, yes, he ought to have been forced to say something, but his silence was his answer-to some of the questions, anyway, partly to keep Amelia safe, and partly because several of Lina's questions like 'Will you ask Amelia to cheat on her new husband?' are questions he never though of up to now, and he's silent 'cause he's trying to decide how he feels about them. He honestly didn't know the answers yet to some of them.
Plus, Zelgadis is pretty good at keeping his mouth shut. The deciding factor for why he gave in and confessed his love for Amelia is because deep inside he desperately wanted to...
About : Does anyone else ever have any trouble with the upload page? From my very first chapter I've had the same problem-basically, when I get to the page that shows every chapter I've got so far and I scroll down, about half of the numbers on the left that should be highlighted in yellow are missing, and when I scroll down to where it says: Click here to choose a chapter to download-that part is completely blank-no words, no highlight, nothing! Sometimes I click anyway, and I get an error message saying 'pick one of the chapters you downloaded' but I can't, 'cause there's nothing to pick, even though I just used 'browse' and did a 'preview' to make sure it arrived okay-it always uploads into the buffer okay. I always have to reload or back-and-click several times before the 'choose a chapter' bar actually has anything in it. Sometimes I have to log off, leaving the chapter in the buffer until the next day, and then try again. I know I'm not the only one this happens to, 'cause I've read about similar problems in others' Author's Notes, but has anyone ever figured out why, or gotten a solution?
Knid and PsycoCatGirl -Thanks to both of you for suggestions on websites-but I don't want to take time away from writing to learn how to maintain a webpage-at least not till I'm done Only Stone. As it is I'm falling behind...
Sylver-Ajah asks -'why not do a weekly update?'
*I do. Or I try. It generally depends on how cranky is being. I have Thursdays off, and usually do my 1-2-hour final review/editing session then, although to be honest, in the last few weeks I've just made a few new friends who actually LIKE ANIME. In my 30 years of life I've never had more than one friend at a time,so I confess I have spent the last few days-off having Anime Night at their house. Naughty me.
Actually, the way things are going now it's taking me about three weeks to write one chapter, so right now I'm starting to feel the pressure of now being able to finish my fic before all my pre-written chapters run out. *Feels all the muscles in her back and shoulders tense up as she sits at the keyboard* I hate the idea of not have anything for you all at that point. I like to keep my commitments, and 'one chapter a week' was what I promised you all. You guys keep your end of the deal by doing reviews, ne? And I'm proud to be able to tell people how many reviews I have! ^_^
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