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 minor swearing and lime-i-ness
Note: renaissance: a rebirth (or rejuvenation, in Zel's case)
Chapter Seventy-Two: Renaissance of a Chimera; Dreams
The princess and the chimera sat together in front of the Woodwind's window, holding one another, drawing comfort from each other's nearness. Neither of them mentioned the one catastrophic hitch which could still bring them all to grief: if the cure didn't work, Zelgadis would still be a chimera, and Amelia might be dead-or insane...
Amelia tried not to think about it, opting instead to concentrate on Zelgadis, on his chest rising and falling under her cheek, on the way his breath ruffled her hair, on the exact places his arms held her, warm and supportive if not exactly soft. The mid-afternoon sun felt good on her back. She felt herself relaxing under its soothing heat, her mind drifting.
Several minutes later Amelia yawned, which Zelgadis sensed was a sign that she was finally relaxing from her emotional distress, and then she yawned again. "Excuse me," she murmured.
"That's all right." He paused reluctantly, and then made himself say, "Why don't you go get some rest?"
She made a small noise of protest. "I'd rather stay here with you," the young princess said in a drowsy voice.
He felt a thrill of gladness run through him, and said no more.
A vibrant beam of sunlight bathed them in its warm radiance, turning the pair into a glimmering golden sculpture, a portrait, an icon, the epitome of two people in love. Zelgadis closed his eyes and realized that he could feel the sun's heat through his thin stone eyelids, and a rare smile of serenity slowly appeared on his lips. I treasure times like these, when Amelia and I can spend quiet time together, just the two of us...
"You're so warm, Zelgadis... " Amelia murmured, relaxing even further, leaning most of her weight against his chest. Slightly startled, he reached back and set his free hand behind him on the wooden floor to better brace himself so that he could lean back a little, cradling her against him with his other arm wrapped around her waist.
"Y'r so wonderf'll ... know y'll... ne'er let me fall... " She was nearly asleep now. "When this s'ov'r... will you... t'ch me... sword...
The stone man held her close to him for a while, gazing affectionately down at her slumbering form, not wanting to move and perhaps wake her. Come on, Zelgadis, the cynical part of him teased, You just like holding her. You like feeling close to someone...
One corner of the chimera's mouth turned up in silent admission to the internal accusation, but he waited until he was sure she was deeply asleep before he began to move. Carefully he shifted her in his arms until he was holding her under the back and knees with her head still resting on his chest, while simultaneously slowing the Woodwind until it was stopped. It's almost time for Lina's shift, anyway.
He waited until he could hear Lina's familiar booted steps, then brought his legs under him and pushed crossways, rising gracefully to his feet.
The curtain parted. "Hey, is everything-Amelia?" Lina came forward, her face concerned.
"She's asleep," he said in a low tone. "Take over, okay? I'm going to put her to bed."
"Uh, yeah, sure... " Lina gave him an intense look, as if she was dying to ask him what the young princess might have been doing with him that would tire her out, and he scowled, his peaceful mood ruined.
"Get your mind out of the stable, Lina. Nothing happened." He turned away, and muttered in a somewhat bitter tone, "Nothing could."
As he walked through the curtain, his sensitive ears caught a sympathetic murmur from the red-haired sorceress. "Oh, Zel."
Part of the side curtains in the supply area had been tied back, so that daylight showed through the sides in long, thin triangles. Gourry was rummaging through one of the food bags. He glanced up as Zelgadis entered, and the chimera braced himself for a comment about the awkward situation which the man had witnessed earlier between himself and Amelia, but the swordman's only utterance was: "Hey, cute hairdo."
Surprised, Zelgadis glanced down at the girl in his arms, noticing anew the perky topknot which he himself had tied with a pretty white ribbon. Gourry took a double handful of dried fruit from the bag and stood up, nodding cheerfully at the chimera as he left the little area. Zelgadis listened as the swordsman offered Lina some of the fruit, and heard her enthusiastic acceptance.
The stone man tuned them out, and took a step toward Sunshine's stall, but then he noticed something. Our supplies are half gone now. I think Amelia might sleep better here, where she'll have room to stretch out. One side of his mouth twitched in amusement as he knelt to lay the young princess down lengthwise in front of the stall, pillowing her head on one of the packs. Not to mention the lack of horse droppings.
He made sure her limbs and body were arranged in comfortable positions and then sat down close enough so that he could reach out and stop her if she began to roll toward one of the 'doors' in her sleep. He breathed in deeply, and then slowly exhaled, feeling himself relax, enjoying her company even while she slept, drawing a deep sense of comfort from the fact that she preferred to be near him.
The ship began to move, and the breeze began to come in through the gaps around the curtains, causing the heavy material to flap and rustle; a comforting sound to which they had all become accustomed. After a while the small girl curled up on her side, and he wondered if she was getting chilly, so he removed his light blue cape and tucked it around her.
He gazed down at her childlike sleeping form with the silly but adorable topknot of sleek dark hair, and realized that he recognized the white ribbon. It had been a decoration on the pink gown that he had been forced to wear during the humiliating 'rescue' of his friends from Ponmar's cavern.
That's where she told me she loved me. His eyes unfocused as he reminisced. It feels like it happened so long ago, but it's only been, what, a little over a week? So much has changed-the course of my entire life!-and a chance at happiness that I never believed would happen...
Some of Amelia's hair drifted over her face. Zelgadis admired the wanton effect for moment, then reached down to brush the hair away, allowing his stone fingertips to caress her smooth cheek. Amelia made a small, contented noise in her sleep and he smiled tenderly down at her, his silvery hair shining in the soft light.
Amelia woke less than an hour later. For an instant she lay still, realizing almost immediately from the sound and feel of the wind that she was still on the ship, but not remembering why she was lying on the floor. I think... I was in the middle of a dream. A very interesting dream... ... important... Zelgadis?
She opened her eyes and forgot about the dream as her gaze fell on a certain slender chimera, who was sitting nearby staring thoughtfully off into the distance, the side of his index finger pressed against his chin. It was still daylight out, but the little area was getting dim, and she realized that she was hungry. It must be nearly dinnertime, then.
She felt the urge to stretch, to ease the kinks caused by the unevenly constructed wooden floor, but for the moment she resisted, wanting to take advantage of the chance to contemplate her chimera without him seeing her. She let her eyes roam over his handsome, almost delicate features, his shining silver-blue hair, his narrow shoulders, lean body and strong slim limbs, clad in the clothing that she herself had chosen for him oh-so-carefully.
And under the clothes... She blushed a little at the direction her thoughts were taking. He's even more beautiful. I don't even mind the extra stones... they keep him from being a little too perfect, I guess.
Just then Zelgadis looked toward her, and their gazes met. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks, wondering if he had somehow sensed her thoughts, and then tried to sit up-only to discover that she was wrapped in something-something that turned out to be his cape! I hadn't even realized he wasn't wearing it... but maybe that's why I noticed his body right away, with no cape to cover it...
"Thank you," she said aloud as she disentangled herself from the sheet of light blue cloth and handed it back to him.
"You're welcome. Did you sleep well?" Zelgadis asked, accepting the cape and giving her a warm, relaxed smile.
"Mm," she agreed, nodding once.
"I wasn't sure if you were cold or not," the chimera explained matter-of-factly as he donned his cape.
She nodded in understanding, pleased that he had been so thoughtful. "Thank you," she repeated. "Is it dusk yet?"
"Not yet. I'd say we have at least an hour or so before it gets too dark to see."
"Oh." Her belly protested, so she reached into one of the food bags and pulled out a few pieces of dried fruit to appease it until dinner, popping them into her mouth. Sunshine whickered above her, and she looked up to see the friendly mare reaching over the stall wall, asking for attention.
The young princess obliged, standing up and reaching for the horse's velvety-soft nose, stroking the long white stripe that ran from her forehead to her nose. "Hello to you, too, Sunny." The mare rubbed the side of her head against Amelia's chest, and the girl laughed. "Itchy, are you?" She looked at Zelgadis. "Do you know if anyone's brushed her today?"
"I don't think so," he answered after a brief pause.
Soon the two of them were occupied with the pleasant task of grooming the gentle mare and the affectionate dragonwolf, who had appeared as soon as the pack with the brushes was opened, her pink tongue lolling happily. Zelgadis finished working on Shiran first and rose with his customary grace to help Amelia finish with Sunshine before the light faded.
After a few minutes, he noticed that Amelia was acting oddly. She was on the opposite side of the mare, and every time he looked at her she ducked down or turned her face away. His stone eyebrow quirked. What's with her?
He began to try to make eye contact, growing concerned that she was upset with him about something, but when she repeatedly began to peek out at him from behind Sunshine's chest or tail, grinning and not looking the least bit upset, it suddenly hit him. It's a game.
"I see you," he said in a solemn tone, letting a corner of his lips twitch.
She let out a tiny 'eep' noise and ducked away, only to reappear at Sunshine's other end. He waited until he saw a blue eye emerge, and then fixed her with a sharp glare, trying to keep from smiling. "There!"
She ducked out of sight, and he waited. The mare shifted her hooves, and as he looked down he saw a head of dark hair moving under the mare's belly. This time he reached down and flicked the girl's topknot. "Gotcha!"
"Eek!" She was gone again, but he heard her giggling. "Can't catch me!"
"Oh, no?" He knew a challenge when he heard it. "Just watch me!"
Before he knew it, he was chasing her around the tolerant golden horse, dodging Shiran, who wanted to be in on the fun, almost slipping on loose hay, laughing at the way Amelia squealed in delight every time he 'missed' her. I can't remember the last time I did something so foolish, so infantile... and it's fun!
He watched his princess, seeing her as if she were moving in slow motion: her laughing eyes, her bouncing topknot-as well as other things that bounced in the most fascinating ways-as she bounded here and there, taking high, prancing steps that showed off her shapely legs.
"Hey, what are you guys doing back there-having a war?" came the outraged bellow of a certain red-haired sorceress. "Some of us are trying to concentrate!"
The two rompers skidded to a halt on the loose hay, giving each other guilty grins. "Sorry, Miss Lina," Amelia called, looking not the least bit contrite. She looked up at Zelgadis and added, "I guess we have to finish the game... " She hesitated, then added softly, "This is how it would have ended."
She closed the distance between them, making the chimera stiffen in surprise as she reached out and slid her arms around his waist, slowly pulling him toward her until their bodies touched. Her brilliant sapphire eyes looked lovingly up into his as she murmured, "You caught me."
Zelgadis should have been getting used to these sudden displays of affection by now, but for a long moment he could only stand frozen, his mouth open, staring straight ahead above her head, his eyes shimmering.
Yet the feeling of the young woman hugging him was not as alien as it had once been, so it wasn't long before his paralysis wore off and he was able to respond, tenderly wrapping his arms around her, holding her close, his head bowed over hers.
Shiran gave the embracing couple a glance, then sat down in front of Sunshine, panting happily from the game. She knew that her bonded ones were not likely to be doing any more romping any time soon.
Zelgadis mused, I haven't acted so childish since... since my cousin Rin and I played with wooden swords when we were boys. I was different then... no one would have used the words 'cold' or 'heartless' to describe me. 'Hot-headed' and 'passionate' would have been better.
After the drastic change in his human status, Zelgadis had learned both the consequences of making rash decisions, and that he needed to learn control over himself. Spontaneity had gradually given way to planned words and deeds; his youth had been traded irrevocably for maturity.
Or so I thought. But somehow when I'm alone together with Amelia, much of my control, my dignity, just... goes away. It's like she brought a part of me back to life, a part I'd thought long dead. Maybe because I sense that no matter what I say or do, she won't condemn me for it, or laugh at me... except to share my happiness.
Happiness... such a rare emotion, so fleeting... And yet, for someone like Amelia, happiness is a part of her everyday life, touching all of those around her. But now that I've accepted the gift of her love, what happens if something goes wrong and I lose it all? The constant undercurrent of anxiety was always there; he always had to be on guard. Too many things had happened in his life to ever lose that fear completely... but when he was with Amelia, he came close.
Amelia was a little surprised at her own boldness, but then, she had never been shy about showing affection to those she loved. She had been raised that way. Besides, seeing Zelgadis all happy and having fun had lowered the barriers between them even further, so that she had embraced him with barely a thought of rejection. She laid her head against the chimera's shoulder and said softly, "I really love it when you laugh. You never used to."
Zelgadis smiled warmly down at her and teased, "It's your bad influence. It's corrupting me."
She lifted her head to look up at him, and he chuckled softly at the astonished look on her face, a look that quickly transformed into a pleased smile. "Zelgadis Greywyrs, was that a joke?"
Somehow her delight at his display of humor made him blush as he nodded, curiously proud of himself.He marveled at the playfulness that seemed to rise up from wherever it had been buried inside of him when he and Amelia were alone together. I never feel like this with anyone else. It reminds me of the kind of joy a young child feels-to be wholly, completely happy...
How lucky he was that this wonderful girl had come into his life!
The silvery light of the half-moon vied with the dull red glow of the banked campfire, overshadowing it for the most part, filling the small clearing with an extraordinary surreal ambiance of which the very air itself seemed to hold special promise. Four sleepers stirred, their souls roaming the realm of dreams...
Gourry Gabriev wore a peaceful smile as he dreamed of digging into a cake as big as a castle. He discovered an even better treasure inside: an impish young red-haired lass wearing an outfit made of delicious fruits who teased him about which fruit he ought to nibble at first!
Lina Inverse lay next to the swordsman, her head filled with images of a certain blonde-haired man. He was wearing magnificent clothes-clothes suitable for a prince-and riding a superb white stallion. The man rode into her village, gazing out over the hordes of young girls who had come out to greet him, and reined in his horse, pointing straight at Peasant Lina. She put her hands modestly to her rosy cheeks, gazing back at the prince's lovestruck expression.
The petite sorceress beamed happily in her sleep as the dream version of Prince Gourry rode through the crowd of girls and leaned down toward her, holding out his hand with a hopeful smile...
Zelgadis Greywyrs was also dreaming, a dream that had become as familiar as his old Rezo nightmare-but was infinitely more welcome. He always began this dream underwater, with the cold dark pressure of the sea crushing the life out of him. The terrible darkness was as much from within as without, comprised of despair, self-dislike and loneliness, but it only lasted a moment.
Almost instantly the darkness was replaced by a warm, beloved rose-colored light that led him up out of the dark abyss, cocooning him in a softly glowing cloud of hope, warmth and love. Other lights appeared, bright spheres of red, yellow-gold, royal blue, lavender and more-colors that he somehow knew represented his friends and everyone else who saw him as a worthy person.
There were many more than he would have believed, many whom he could not quite identify, but he did recognize several from Shiran's old town-Rilloban, Sanre and Kembri among them.
It always occurred to him then that one of the main reasons that he kept company with the short-fused, high-handed sorceress and the friendly-but-totally-inadequate-for-deep-thought-conversations swordsman was that when he was with them, he felt good about himself. Even when they weren't on a mission to save the world, he felt wanted, accepted, part of the group. His existence was justified.
And now, with Amelia, his sense of self-worth had soared. The Seyrune princess, who could have had any man she wanted, had gone to tremendous lengths to win his love. She had organized a concentrated effort to research his cure, had facilitated his search in every way she could, and always, always she had given him her full support, shoring up his emotional insecurities with a smile or a hug.
Zelgadis drifted in her lovelight, content.
Amelia wil Tesla Seyrune was doing something rather unusual for her-she was frowning in her sleep. A puzzled frown, to be exact.
Her dream was far more elaborate than any of the others'. She seemed to be holding the ward bracelets-both of them-in front of her, but the bands were yellow and blue instead of the familiar pink-and-purple combination. The room that she appeared to be in was somewhat dark, but still, the wards' shapes were unmistakable...
Wait a minute-where are the stars? There should be stars engraved on them.
She tried to turn them over to look on the backs, but to her surprise, her hands would not move. What's going on? She tried to gasp in alarm, but again her body refused to respond, continuing to breathe at an even pace.
Where am I? Where is everyone? Zelgadis? she tried to ask, but heard only her own thoughts.
Then her hands did move, seemingly of their own volition, slowly turning the dark-blue metal spheres. Amelia distractedly noticed that the familiar stars were absent.
Who said that? Was that... me?
tbiris asks: so he's going to let her do the spell then?
* Oh, he still doesn't want her to, but with all the peer pressure he's getting he's beginning to wonder. Everybody keeps saying he's making a huge fuss over nothing.
Earth Star says: I was born in the year of the rat! ^_^ I wonder which animal would fit Amelia's personality?
* Hmm. Good question. Amelia is most likely either a Dragon or a Boar, Lina is either a Tiger or a Dragon, and Gourry is almost certainly a Dog.
Zaber-To upload a story with italics, you have to save it as an HTML file. If you use Microsoft Word or Works, when you save the chapter click on 'File', then 'Save As', then go to the 'Save As Type' and choose HTML. I always save two versions, the regular and the HTML version (which I add the word 'online' to ) because if I try to read the HTML version it looks weird, all the colors and the fonts are wrong, but for some reason it comes out fine on the site.
To help me plan everything, I had to make up a list of places our intrepid travelers have been, and where they still need to go, and it occurred to me that some of you might like a little mini-walk down memory lane... .
BEFORE THIS STORY OFFICIALLY BEGINS: Zelgadis travels for ten months, alone, after he parts ways from the group after the events in Try. Lina, Gourry and Amelia begin searching for a cure sometime during this period.
THE BEGINNING: Zelgadis gets a letter from Amelia, returns to the palace of Seyrune and is unknowingly smitten by her. Amelia gives him the Journal, and takes him on an ill-fated date, but she still manages to gain some ground in the romance department with him. Zel has a dream about Amelia being married to a man whose face he can't make out. Lina and Gourry arrive, and Amelia presents Zel with the guiolin, her ward bracelet and her heart (though he isn't ready to accept that last one just yet... ) Zel & Co. depart, Amelia remains behind in Seyrune. Except for a visit from Xellos, the three friends have a fairly uneventful sea voyage, until...
HALFWAY THROUGH WEEK 2: They encounter the sea dragon.. Zelgadis nearly drowns. Amelia meets Kerrin, and learns what her ward bracelets are for. The group lands on shore. Amelia proposes to Kerrin, and departs to meet up with her friends. She also gets her period somewhere around this time.
HALFWAY THROUGH WEEK 3: Lina gets her period; the three travelers encounter the Oracle, through whom each of them learns that someone loves them. Xellos gets to be a pancake; Gourry gets a free show, (yes, that means he saw Lina naked without getting pounded for it) plus a chance to demonstrate an unexpected singing talent. Zel is sort of a walking zombie when he comes out, his mind in turmoil.
WEEK 4: Amelia arrives in Tollik, is attacked by leapers, and Gallant the Horse dies. She meets Ril and Shiran. Zel breaks out of his stupor when his ward bracelet signals Amelia's imminent death, and decides to be noble and stay a chimera for her own good.
WEEK 5: Both groups are reunited! Lina and Gourry are kidnapped. Zel and Amelia (and Shiran) bond while they search for their friends, while Lina and Gourry have some time to themselves in Ponmar's cave. Lina proposes and Gourry accepts. Yay!
HALFWAY THROUGH WEEK 5: Rescue is successful! And we got to see Zel crossdress again... ^_^ Amelia confesses her love to Zelgadis in front of witnesses, and eventually gets him to agree to wait to give her his answer until he's 'had time to think about it'.
WEEK 6: Return to Tollik. Amelia buys Sunshine and a cute souvenir stone swordsman (try saying that three times fast!) and befriends Kembri, but seeds of dissention and mistrust have been sown between her and Zelgadis when he learns she has a fiance already. Lina gets to kiss Gourry some more, and snubs Zelgadis.
DURING WEEK 6: The infamous Inn Scene, as I've been calling it since I woke up from a dream and wrote it down around a year and a half ago, when I was still writing somewhere around chapter 30. Originally Amelia was simply going to get hurt while breaking up a bar fight, but several plot elements that developed since the time I first thought of this drastically expanded this entire story segment to include the 'Amelia trying to prove she's not a child', 'sleeping together', and 'saw you naked' scenes between Zel and Amelia, as well as the introduction of Xellos' gem, both as a means of transportation and as a catalyst for some serious changes in the status quo between our two main protagonists. Amelia gets her period, although it is shortened in duration due to losing blood from a mortal wound, and the Woodwind launches on its maiden flight. Lina uses the gem to force Zel to confess, and both couples become more intimate...
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