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 much lime-i-ness

Chapter Sixty-Nine: Romansu

Amelia was enthralled. The look on Zelgadis' 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, 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...

The chimera turned slightly, lifting his free hand up toward her face. Amelia watched the slender, long-fingered hand as it moved, not closing her eyes this time until his fingertips touched her face. It's not a dream. She breathed out a slightly shaky sigh, and moved her face against his fingers, tilting her head as Shiran did to guide the caresses of uncertain hands.

Zelgadis' fingers were firm, certainly, but smooth and warm and very agile, easily adjusting to the curves of her skin. She could feel the minute hairs on her cheeks lifting slightly, just barely catching in the infinitesimal fingerprint grooves on the tips of his fingers, causing a delicious tingly sensation to appear wherever he touched her. She made a small, contented noise, squeezing the hand she held, smiling a little to let him know he wasn't hurting her.

It was apparently enough to encourage him. She felt his hand glide down the side of her face, his fingers getting tangled in her hair, then move away from her face to run his fingers into her hair, stroking it away from the side of her face. He paused, then did it again, combing his fingers through the silky raven-black tresses, sending another delightful tingle all through her body. She shivered, her smile widening, and opened her eyes a little to see him looking down at her with a tender little smile of his own.

"I like that," she said softly, wishing she could return the favor. But his own hair was insensitive, a profuse fluff of fine silver-blue wire that rarely needed tending. "Do it again... please?"

He complied. Amelia tried to sit still, but couldn't quite contain her shivers of pleasure as his gentle fingers slid smoothly through her hair, lightly stroking the skin underneath. He hesitated as he reached her topknot, and she opened her eyes to meet his questioning gaze.

She nodded. "You can undo it." A moment later she turned pink as she realized how that remark might have sounded to someone who didn't know she was talking about a hair ribbon!

Quickly she closed her eyes again, partly out of embarrassment, and partly because she was discovering that it was somehow more enjoyable to anticipate his touch, rather than watch him.

He let go of her hand to use both of his to untie the white ribbon that she had managed to salvage from her poor, bedraggled pink ball gown. As Zelgadis began to glide his fingers through her hair once again, she suddenly giggled, imagining him wearing that gown again, only this time he had his hair in two thick, spiky-looking ponytails as well!

"What is it?" Zelgadis asked.

Amelia opened her mouth to answer, but stopped, not wanting to hurt his male pride. "It's just... I'm so happy. I've been dreaming about this sort of thing for so long, with you... touching... and... being close, and you not minding it or pulling away or anything. I wish I could do something for you."

His hands stopped moving for a moment, then resumed. "Well... I'm just glad you can tolerate my touch. At least one of us can feel pleasure."

She opened her eyes to see a look of resignation darkening his teal ones. With a pang of empathy, she reached up and took both of his hands in hers. "It won't be for much longer, Zelgadis... I promise you. Filia will help us... and even if she can't, remember, the Oracle said if I loved you I'd have all the power I needed-so don't you worry."

She was absolutely determined that he would be human again. If it's the last thing I ever do. Not that it will be-I plan on having a long, happy, fruitful life with you...

Amelia was dismayed to see that his usual solemn, melancholy expression had returned. He's going to say he doesn't want me in danger. In her anxiety, she became a little more open than usual about certain sensitive topics, hoping to break him out of his darkening mood. "Besides... I'm-I'm looking forward to the time when both of us can feel pleasure... together."

His eyes widened, and she felt her face grow hot, but forced herself to meet his gaze, trying to convince him of her sincerity. Slowly his expression warmed, and he relaxed, a smiled gracing his lips. "Amelia... dearest... what would I do without you?" His tone was the warm, rich, affectionate one that she loved so much, the one that he used so rarely.

The chimera stared down at the small girl, whose tousled bangs were falling over her eyes. If I had never met you... what would my life be like now? How many girls could ever fall in love with a chimera?

She was still looking bravely up at him despite the vivid blush on her cheeks. Slowly he pulled one hand free from her grasp, reaching up to tenderly touch her face. "You are... so special to me, Amelia," he said softly. "The perfect girl... the only one who could see past my appearance-and overlook my faults-and still come to love me. You're... extraordinary... and I love you more than life itself."

He realized that he had called her a girl, not a woman, but she didn't seem to mind, judging from the loving glow that shone in her eyes as she whispered, "Oh, Zelgadis... I've been waiting for you to say that for so long... "

He swallowed, her nearness reminding him of their recent trip to the inn where they had seen each other in the nude. He lowered his hand from where it was touching her cheek, and her free hand automatically reached out to take hold of his again. With his heart beginning to pound vehemently in his stone chest, he confessed, "I've wanted to say it... more than anything. You have no idea how hard it's been, trying to deny my feelings for you-to pretend, even to myself, that you were simply an old and dear friend. I've... been in love with you since the first day I saw you back at the palace."

To his astonishment, she nodded. "I know. We-Miss Lina and I-were hoping I would catch your attention. I even took her advice and bought a new dress that we thought might make me look more mature."

"You did?" He couldn't keep the surprise from his voice.

"Does it bother you?" Her little face was suddenly anxious. "That Miss Lina and I planned your courtship?"

"No," he answered automatically, then added, "Well... perhaps a little. It seems more like something a man would do."

Amelia surprised him with a laugh. "Then you don't know much about girls! Some of my friends practice all the time. Everything-how to laugh, how to smile, how to move in ways that will interest a man... " She trailed off, yet another cute pink blush appearing over her nose.

It does wonders for the self-esteem when someone is bound and determined to win your affections, and Zelgadis was no exception. He smiled slowly, pleased. "Did you do that?"

"Not really... well, maybe just a little, to encourage you. I wanted you to know I wouldn't turn you away if you... " Again she let her words dwindle, glancing away for just a moment, but then she squared her shoulders and turned back to look up into his face. Her eyes astonished him with their fierce intensity as her hands tightened on his, hard enough so that he could feel the strength of her grip. "And I wanted you to know that I'd chosen you. Both as a-as a husband," her face went from pink to red, and he suspected that his was doing something similar, "and as Seyrune's next ruler."

He was silent for a long time, thinking about her words. Finally he said, "I'm flattered... honored, really... but why me? I haven't exactly been the friendliest of companions all these years... and how do you know what kind of ruler I'd make? I never speak of my past; how do you know I can handle the responsibilities? You aren't just an ordinary peasant girl-you ought to have chosen a prince."

Her hands gripped his even tighter, making him worry that she was hurting herself in her fervor, but then she eased her grasp and smiled easily. "What is a prince? Someone who is supposed to be strong and brave, smart, loyal, an excellent warrior and an ally of justice! A prince comes to his friends' aid when they need him to help save the world. A prince... is a wonderful, caring man, no matter how much he tries to hide it!"

"... You forgot handsome," he managed to say in a tone that held some of his customary irony, although inwardly he was stunned by her praise. Is that really how she sees me?

"No, you're not handsome."

He blinked in astonishment, but before he could develop hurt feelings at her honesty she continued in a deeper, wholeheartedly affectionate tone, "You're beautiful."

The look on her face was so loving, so fond... and his sensitive ears caught a definite amorous undertone that made him simultaneously relieved, encouraged and a little uncomfortable at her boldness. Of course, after that stay at the inn, I've got no secrets from her...

Apparently her thoughts were running along the same lines. He watched as she let her gaze drift from his face to travel down his body, her eyes lingering in the obvious place for several moments before her gaze snapped back to his face.

"Sorry... " she murmured, wide-eyed. "Anyway... I think we'll make a good team. Our skills support each other, and our personalities complement each other. And... " She couldn't seem to help glancing down at his lap again, past their clasped hands, and when she looked up into his face again as if looking for approval he discovered that he was pleased at her attraction to him, chimeric body or not.

Suddenly he felt a lot better. The stone man gave in to the impulse to smile jauntily at her, and tilted his head a little, his eyes half-closed, making a show of examining his companion's body.

Amelia blushed, but didn't look too uncomfortable, even managing to return his grin with one of her own. "So... what do you think?" she asked perkily, but his ears detected an anxious note.

Is she worried that I won't find her attractive? His gaze softened, and he smiled reassuringly. "You're far more beautiful than you say I am. Any man would be proud to court you."

Her deep blue eyes shimmered as she said tenderly, "Oh, Zelgadis... darling. I love you so much! No matter how things turn out, you will always hold my heart in your hands."

The cynical side of the stone man wanted to smirk at such melodramatic mush, but the other part of him was very touched, because he knew she genuinely meant every word.

And then both parts of him melded into an astonished whole as the young woman lifted one of the stone hands she was still holding, and placed his palm flat against her chest above her bosom, directly over her heart. She watched his face as she did so, her expression solemn and trusting, and he could only stare into her shining sapphire eyes and marvel over the incredible tenderness that arose within him from her intimate gesture. "Amelia... " His voice was rough.

After a few moments, her other hand released his free hand. He didn't move as she reached out to touch his stone face, as she had so long ago back at the palace, caressing it affectionately before lowering her hand until it was in front of his own chest.

He understood immediately. His expression softened as he took her hand in his free one and guided it to his heart. Zelgadis felt her hand tremble as she placed it on his chest just above where the blue gem hung, and he covered her small hand with his own, fighting the impulse to push it straight on through to his heart.

Neither of them noticed the brief, faint magenta glimmer that appeared deep within Amelia's ward bracelet, or the matching glow in the one on Zelgadis' belt.

The princess and the chimera gazed into each other's eyes, their bodies close enough that Amelia could feel his breath on her arms and face. The hand that was on his chest was enveloped in a pocket of warmth, both from his chest and the gloved hand which covered hers. She wondered if Zelgadis could hear her heart pounding, reflecting her escalating joy at her progress. A month ago I'd despaired that I'd ever be able to be so close to him, and now... She sighed in contentment. My Zelgadis...

To the chimera, it almost seemed as if they were declaring some kind of oath, but Amelia only said in a soft tone, "You're so warm, Zelgadis... so wonderful..."

His eyes widened at the endearment, still amazed at the novelty of it; that such words, so lovingly spoken, were for him alone. He wished he could feel the softness of her skin, and wondered if she could feel the thunderous beating of his heart through his stone chest. I almost think I can hear hers...

He smiled at her, wanting to see her face light up in response. Vaguely he realized that he had never found it so easy to smile before-not even before he'd been cursed. A sudden notion made him frown thoughtfully.

"What's wrong?" Amelia asked.

"Nothing... it just occurred to me that if Rezo hadn't cursed me, I would never have met you. And if I hadn't, I'd probably still be lonely and miserable."

"What do you mean, still? You'd be human, wouldn't you?" Her brow furrowed cutely in bewilderment.

He pulled her hand gently away from his chest to curl his own hand around it. "Yes... but I was never very well-liked. I didn't have many real friends, apart from Zolf and Rodimus... "

"Miss Lina said you had a whole bunch of people with you when she first met you," Amelia protested, squeezing his hand where it still lay against her chest, then lifting it up and interlocking her fingers with his.

"They were mostly Rezo's hirelings; they never cared about me personally," he explained, gazing at the way her small fingers appeared from between his own blue ones. He moved his fingers apart a little more to make sure he wasn't crushing hers. I have a feeling she won't tell me even if I am hurting her. Sometimes she's a little too forbearing.

"That's so sad... " Her eyes darkened in sympathy.

He shrugged. "That's all in the past, now."

Amelia was silent for a few moments, and then her expression brightened. "You mean... you're happy now?"

He hesitated, wondering if she was right, but was unwilling to curse his hopes by admitting anything, even to himself. "I don't know. It's been so long since I could truly say that I've been... happy... I've almost forgotten what it feels like."

She looked so disappointed that he added with a smile, "Well, let's just say that my outlook has gotten brighter lately... and you have a lot to do with it."

Instantly she gave him a dazzling grin, making his outlook very bright indeed. As she did so, her dark bangs dropped forward over her eyes, and she automatically pushed out her lower lip and blew them upward.

He made a small noise that might have been the beginning of a rare laugh, and she gave him a mild glare. "You never finished with my hair." Her tone was half petulant, half teasing.

He responded to the teasing half, his own voice tinged with humor. "I didn't have a brush... and stone fingers don't make the best of combs, you know."

Her gaze softened. "Good enough... " she murmured. He caught the note of yearning in her voice before she said brightly, "I'll go get my brush, then. You were the one who messed it up, so you can fix it for me. I don't have a mirror, anyway, so I couldn't be sure I was getting it right."

She was gone through the curtain before he could blink, and back in only a few seconds. He took the brush from her wordlessly, still slightly stunned that she seemed to want him to touch her. She was certainly letting no opportunity slip by.

The young princess settled herself down in front of him, slightly to one side so that he could still see out of the window. "Is this all right?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered, and reached out with the brush. He stroked gently, starting at the bottom and working his way up.

"You're only doing the surface," Amelia said softly, without turning around. "Don't be afraid of hurting me-you can press down a little harder."

He made a wordless sound of surprised acknowledgment. She read my mind. I wonder if she has her eyes closed like before... She really seemed to enjoy me running my fingers through her hair. I don't remember particularly enjoying to brush my hair when I was human, but maybe it's different when someone else is doing it. Sunshine and Shiran certainly seem to love it when I groom them.

Amelia barely moved as he ran the brush through her midnight tresses. Curiosity led him to lean around her so that he could look into her face, and he was surprised by the smile of pure pleasure that she wore. And sure enough, her eyes are closed. I wonder what it is about having someone brush your hair?

It only took him a few minutes to finish. Amelia helped him by holding the hair on the top of her head together in a topknot while he tied the little white ribbon around it, then turned to face him. "Well?"

You just asked my opinion on this hairstyle. Zelgadis shrugged and smiled a little. "It still looks cute."

The young princess stared at him for a few moments, then giggled, moving to sit next to him again and taking his near hand in hers. "Thank you. For everything." For letting me into your heart.

Try as she might, the petite sorceress could not make out any sounds at all from the front end of the Woodwind. With an unladylike snort of disgust, she dropped to the hay-covered floor across from Gourry, who looked at her a little apprehensively in the soft light. "Lina... ?" he asked cautiously.

"What?" she snapped brusquely.

He jumped a little, and Sunshine flicked her ears and moved to the other end of the stall. Shiran gazed at her with cool green eyes, then rose to her feet and leaped effortlessly over the five-foot-high wall, obviously deciding to vacate the area until the redhead was over her latest tantrum.

"Um... are you mad about something?"

"Yes!" she snarled automatically, but the concerned look in his eyes calmed her somewhat. "Well... it's just so frustrating! I want to make sure everything's okay now between them, that Zelgadis doesn't do another about-face like that time he turned on Martina after they'd hired him as a guard."

Slowly Gourry smiled, and as always, the hard fist of anger in her chest began to unclench a little at the sight. "I don't think he will," her fiance answered, though it wasn't clear if he remembered the incident in question. "He's been waiting for this for a long time, and he's not the kind of person who easily gives up anything he really values once he's gotten it."

Looking up at the large blonde swordsman, who was sitting comfortably cross-legged on the other side of Sunshine's stall, the red-haired sorceress felt the fist relax even more. "You're right," she admitted, relieved, and then added spontaneously, "Gourry, how do you always know just the right thing to say? You always make me feel better."

Not really expecting an answer, Lina moved toward him on her hands and knees and threw her arms around the young man's neck, letting her body drape itself down his chest. Gourry's arms came up to hold her, guiding her lower half to sit in her favorite spot-his lap.

But the young sorceress resisted, not releasing her hold, knowing that they were unlikely to be disturbed for quite a while-probably not until shift change, which was a few hours from now-and she wanted to use the time alone with Gourry to make some changes of her own. I want to do more than just kiss... but how do I get the idea across to him?

When she did not slide down into his lap, one of Gourry's arms moved to wrap around her lower back instead, supporting her against him while she more or less knelt beside him. "I do?" he asked, sounding surprised.

It took her a moment to realized that he was replying to her last statement. "You usually get mad at the stuff I say," he added.

Now Lina was embarrassed. "Well, I mean... lately you seem... I don't know, wiser or something." She was glad that he could not see her red face from where it was pressing against the side of his neck. "I've been asking your opinion on stuff, and even following your advice, and most of the time you've been right on the money."

Maybe it's the kinds of situations we've been dealing with lately. Stuff I'm no good at, but he... "You really seem to have a handle on this romance stuff," she admitted, only a little grudgingly.

Gourry seemed to be thinking this over. "You mean I'm actually smart at something?"

The sheer amazement in his voice caused Lina to burst into joyous laughter. "I guess so!"

Gourry's deeper chuckle joined hers and he hugged her closely to him, both of them very much enjoying the sensation.

It still feels weird to be able to feel someone laughing, but in a good way, Lina decided. Much encouraged by the warm feeling generated by their shared laughter, the small sorceress took advantage of the opportunity literally in front of her and pressed her lips to the side of his warm, smooth neck.

Gourry's laughter ended in a quick gasp, and he froze.

Her own breath began to come faster, and her heartbeat picked up speed as she waited, not moving her lips away. Some of his yellow hair flowed over the side of her face, and she was surrounded by his male scent, warm, rich, and tangy.

"Lina?" His voice was so soft it was almost inaudible.

In answer, she tightened her arms a little around his neck, and forced her taut body to relax against him, letting him support her whole weight.

For a long moment there were no sounds other than the rushing wind and their own breathing, louder and faster and heavier than usual. Lina could feel how tense the swordsman was, and closed her eyes, once again experiencing feelings that were alien to the bold sorcery genius-feelings that she hated and worked hard to stamp out. What if he rejects me? What if he laughs at me, or worse, says he's not interested? He may love me, but he's never said I was sexy or anything...

What is she doing? Gourry reached up and took hold of the girl's upper arms, gently moving her away from him so that he could look into her eyes. His breath caught as he took in her expression: her eyes, her heart's windows, those vibrant pools of shimmering ruby liquid were looking up at him from a face full of conflicting emotions. Doubt, fear, longing... and just a hint of a hopeful smile.

Is she trying to tell me she's ready? The realization brought an electric tingle of excitement, but her troubled expression sobered him until he suddenly sensed that the fear in her eyes was not for herself. Is she afraid that I don't want her to touch me? Oh, Lina. To reassure her, he smiled at her, letting her see just how passionate his feelings were. Yes, I want you. I want you more than anything.

As the young sorceress watched, Gourry's expression went from searching to smiling, but not an ordinary smile; this smile nearly took her breath away from the sheer magnetism behind those vivid blue eyes. It almost made her feel weak-she was glad to have Gourry's strong arms supporting her-and at the same time her entire body began tingling as if she'd received a medium-strength Giga Volt. I never knew somebody could make you feel like this just by looking at you! she thought breathlessly, feeling her entire face grow hot, but not caring.

"Gou-rry," she murmured aloud, barely noticing that her voice had gone husky again.

"Lina," he responded, and she could hear the gladness in his tone.

He is interested! He's been waiting for me again-waiting patiently all this time until I was sure I was ready, she realized abruptly, and her chest was suffused with warmth. "I love you," she said softly, looking directly into those sky-blue eyes which saw only her, and had the pleasure of seeing how much joy that simple statement gave him. Why did I ever think those words were so hard to say?

"I love you too, Lina." His voice reflected his words-it was low and rich and sensual, sending shivers up her spine at the very sound of it. "I always have. And I always will."

"Oh, Gourry," she breathed passionately, her fierce love for him suddenly looking for an outlet-she even had tears in her eyes. Abruptly she pulled his head down to hers and kissed him hotly on the mouth, wanting to express in no uncertain terms just how badly she wanted him, wanted his hands on her body, his mouth, his... his tongue?

With a small sound of astonishment, she froze as she felt his tongue moving into her mouth, sliding along the roof, coming into contact with her own tongue, which automatically moved to push against this odd intruder. It felt so strange, and yet something about the way it moved felt like Gourry, as if he was asking her, Let's play! curling his tongue around hers, caressing it and coaxing it to do the same, to taste and discover and have fun...

Never let it be said that Lina Inverse is afraid of anything, she thought with a mental grin, and pushed out with her own tongue, sliding it along his warm, wet surface and into his mouth. She felt his teeth for just a moment before he opened wider to accommodate her, and then she was too busy discovering the intriguing flavor of his mouth to worry about little details like teeth.

Author's Note: I'm pretty sure the title is self explanatory, but yes, it's the English word 'romance', spoken as the Japanese say it, with the 'R' at the beginning sounding more like an 'L'. For some reason I really like the sound of the word.

Aino-kaachan has a valuable correction: '"Anata" is only used from wife to husband.'

* You know, now that you mention it, I can't remember ever hearing a guy say it. Thanks for the correction-boy, am I blushing now! I'll have to try to fix that, if will cooperate... So what do husbands call their wives? Are there any general pet names?

Brenda asks: 'Why did you feel the need to use the term "Anata" in your last chapter when an english term such as "my love" or "sweetheart" would have been just as effective?'

* To tell you the truth, I was wavering on that issue right up until my last editing session. I went with anata (which is wrong, according to Aino-kaachan, but anyway-) partly because I mostly watch anime in Japanese, so I hear it that way in my head (though I actually like the dub a little better than the sub, in the case of Slayers), and I guess it seemed more... romantic... to me. I suppose the people who prefer watching anime subtitled would also hear the word as romantic-it would have a special meaning to them, as opposed to the people who like dubs better.

* Also, it was because Zel does not seem the type to use mushy words, so I thought 'you' would be more in character for him.

* And last, I liked the idea of using a Japanese love-word because I wanted to include a bit of Japanese culture. For the most part, you can't tell by watching Slayers (in English) that it's a Japanese-based show. I miss the little things-the chopsticks, the take-your-shoes-off-before-entering, and the polite bowing. Even the food they eat usually looks Western a lot of the time. So I would guess that some of us who use Japanese words in our fanfics are doing it out of a fondness for the culture. When I read fanfics with Japanese words, I tend to find their usage cute, endearing.

Lina Gabriev comments: 'Amelia is thinking of betraying Zel's trust and doing the spell, and neither is entirely sure that Filia will be able to do the job. The whole point of asking Filia is to get Amelia out of danger, but what happens if it puts Filia in danger?'

* Actually, it's Lina who was thinking Amelia was going to betray Zel's trust. Amelia is thinking more along the lines of being ready to do the spell 'just in case', but she still wants his approval. And after seeing Filia's powers, none of them really doubt that she could handle this spell, so they're not that worried about it. The problem with Filia is trying to convince her to do it...

Beedoo says: 'fanpiccies. Working on one for ya. ;) What's the count up to?'

* Yes! *gleeful* A new fanpic! I think I have about eight or so now-but I could definitely use more! I need to do a calendar page for April...

Noseless Wonder comments: 'Oddly enough, however, my favorite part of this story involved a small element that you made entirely your own - music. Describing the emotional effect of music can be as difficult as trying to describe an oddly familiar, unplaceable scent... or writing a fight scene. I've studied music for over 17 years now, but I don't think I've read someone so clearly describe what music can FEEL like inside.'

* Thank you very much! One of my passions is singing, and recently I've discovered that I like certain instrumental music, such as relaxation tapes that have flute, harp, and/or piano music. (That's what kind of music Zelgadis was listening to during the shopping trip in Tollik. ^_^ ) I like a lot of Celtic music. One of my most-often-reread book series is the Dragonsong books by Anne McCaffery. She does such a good job of explaining how important music is.

Sylver-Ajah asks: What do you watch, by the way?

* I have been steadily renting anime for the past three years now, and have seen probably close to 70 different series, so if you'd like some recommendations... Let's see... shows that come the closest to meeting my high standards: Besides Slayers, my top favorite anime include Fruits Basket (even my male friends like this-the comedy wins 'em over), Saint Tail (I like shows with an emotionally satisfying ending!), Chobits (starts out slow, but gets better), Sugar-A Little Snow Fairy (DVDs 3-6 were much better than the beginning, with a very moving storyline), His and Her Circumstances (the manga is called Kare Kano; just don't bother getting the last DVD, because the director quit, I heard, and so they just threw something together. I was VERY disappointed with the ending, but the first 2 DVDs and the 4th were top-notch, well worth your money), Rurouni Kenshin (the TV series, NOT the movies), Love Hina (not much real romance, but the humor makes up for it), Magic User's Club (same thing), Ai Yori Aoshi (so refreshing to have a show where the guy whom all the girls like does NOT get beat up on, and even more refreshing that he actually manages to choose one of them quite early on in the series), Ushio and Tora (rough around the edges, but the characters really grow on you-look online for info on the manga), Kiki's Delivery Service, and Pretear.

In the second tier are anime that fall a bit short of 'five stars' for one reason or another. Sometimes there's not enough romance, sometimes they add too much filler and draw it out a little too long, sometimes the plot is a bit confusing unless you've read the manga, sometimes it's just one of those series that you can't watch too often or the magic goes out of it, but if you wait until you've forgotten most of it... Inu Yasha, Super Gals, Kurogane Communications, Fancy Lala, Please Save my Earth, Ranma , I My Me Strawberry Eggs, Birdy the Mighty, Full Metal Panic, My Neighbor Totoro, Twelve Kingdoms (volumes 2 and 3, at any rate), Vandread, Onegai Sensei (Please Teacher), Nadia-the Secret of Blue Water, Fushigi Yuugi, Ayashi no Ceres (Ceres, Celestial Legend), Alien Nine, Gokudo, Knight Hunters (Weiss Kreuz), and Descendants of Darkness (Yami no Matsui, manga).

*Non-anime movies that I find myself watching over and over: The Flight of Dragons, Magic in the Water, Once Upon a Forest, Howard the Duck, the Muppet movies, especially the 'Christmas Toy' special, The Land Before Time (just the first one, where there was heart-rending tragedy and genuine animal sounds for the main characters), The Boy Who Could Fly, Mother Goose Rock 'N' Rhyme, The Lion King, A Goofy Movie, and The Pebble and the Penguin (you HAVE to see this if you like music!).

*Non-anime that has stood up to the re-watchability test include: Hey Arnold, Darkwing Duck, The Raccoons, Rainbow Brite, Mork and Mindy, The Greatest American Hero, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Stargate SG1 (don't judge the series by the bad movie), Reboot-especially the third season, which you can find on DVD, Lois and Clark, Starman, Probe, Misfits of Science, Star Trek (I like DS9 and Voyager best), Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Beauty and the Beast, Family Matters (Steve Urkel-weird, but somehow he has such admirable character), Alien Nation (the TV series, not the movies), Sliders, Quantum Leap, Seaquest, Count Duckula, and Red Dwarf.

*Some of these I bet you've never heard of, but they're all special, with characters you really end up caring about-catch them on reruns if you can! Some can rented, so check your local video stores for old VHS tapes. Maybe if enough of us rent them, they'll put them on DVD! Certain shows/movies I have occasionally seen on VHS on ebay, too.

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