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 for mild language

Chapter Eighty: I'll Knock Some Sense into Him!

The sky held the lustrous orange glow of sunset as Lina jogged behind Shiran with Gourry at her side, hearing Amelia's directives echo in her head. '... No death threats or dragging him back by force... ' "How else does she expect me to make him come back?" she fumed.

"What?" Gourry glanced at her, his long blonde hair rippling in front of one eye.

Lina clarified, "Zel's obviously never given up on that crazy idea of his that Amelia's life and sanity are in severe danger if she participates in casting his cure, so what am I gonna say to him that'll make him change his mind now? We've all talked until we're blue in the face."

"Zelgadis is already blue in the face... " Gourry pointed out.

Lina stared at him for a split second before giving a short burst of laughter, not knowing if Gourry was trying to be funny to cheer her up or if his simple mind had focused on the similarities between her statement and the chimera's appearance, but the amusement cleared her head.

"Right, Gourry, and unless we want it to stay that way, we need to think of some way to get it though that rock head of his that he's throwing away the greatest chance for happiness in his life!"

Gourry looked thoughtful as they followed the waving lavender tail, pausing when Shiran stopped to sniff the ground or the air, and breaking into a run to keep up when the huge dragonwolf bolted ahead. Lina had to call out several times to get Shiran to wait for them, but

from the gradually curving course that the dragonwolf was taking, it looked as if Zelgadis was still on the palace grounds somewhere. I would have thought he'd head out of here like a flash from a Lightning spell. He must know we're looking for him-why would he take the chance that we'd catch him?

"Gourry, when we catch up to Zelgadis, hang back, okay? I want to talk with him privately."

"Okay, Lina." The blonde swordsman was quiet for a few moments, then said, "Hey, Lina?"

"What?"

"I've been trying to figure out why Zelgadis is acting so different from the way he was on the Woodwind. As soon as we lost the ship, he started acting like his old, gloomy self."

"Well, he blames himself for losing-"

"No-I don't think that's it. Well, not all of it."

"Hm?" She cocked her head a bit, her pace slowing as she tried to figure out what Gourry was getting at, remembering that he seemed to have a better understanding of emotional undercurrents than most of his gender.

Gourry wore an uncharacteristically serious expression, so the contrast startled her a bit when he suddenly gave her a sweet smile, his eyes curving into cute little arcs as he said with a chuckle, "It's almost as if the Woodwind was a magic place, where everyone wasn't afraid to show their true feelings. I kinda miss it-not the flying part, but the feel of it... in the air... um... "

"You mean the atmosphere, the easy, relaxed feeling we developed after a while." Lina nodded. "I see what you're getting at. So part of the reason Zel got so upset over losing the Woodwind was because it hurt to lose the first place where he could really relax and let himself love Amelia without holding back."

"Yeah," the swordsman agreed. "When we got here it must have been a shock to be around other people again. And then Terrin shows up-"

"Kerrin," she corrected him absentmindedly.

"And suddenly Zel's got competition. Those bracelets of Amelia's were kinda the last straw, you know?" He held up his own green hand, splayed-fingered, and waved it in front of her face for a second.

Lina suppressed a giggle-his hand reminded her of a frog's front leg. "So he just gave up?"

"Maybe. Or maybe he's trying to bury his feelings again, to keep from getting hurt in case he loses Amelia."

Lina jogged for a few yards, then said softly, "I understand. I'd feel as bad as he does now if something happened so that you and I couldn't be together any more, now that we've finally admitted how we really feel about each other. After opening his heart at last... "

The beautiful lavender dragonwolf led them through patios and gardens, past fountains and pools and astonished onlookers, through pavilions and hedge-mazes and around the entire south wing of the palace before she finally stopped at the edge of the palace wall, sat down, and tilted her long, gracefully tapered head back, staring straight up.

Lina and Gourry followed her example, looking up. And up, and up, and up... all the way to the top of one of the palace roofs, near a row of what looked like stone columns. Lina squinted, barely able to make out a fluttering light blue piece of cloth. Zel's new cape, the one Amelia bought for him.

"Boy, he sure looks miserable," Gourry commented.

Lina started to ask how he could see that far, then remembered that his distance vision was sharper than hers. "Can you see his face?"

"No, but he's sitting all scrunched up between two of those stone things, almost in a ball."

Lina felt her shoulders droop as some of her anger left her. "Poor guy. Okay, Gourry, wait here with Shiran."

She cast Levitation, then rose silently toward the despondent chimera, as close to the wall as she could so that he wouldn't see her coming and then flee before she could talk to him. As she neared the top, the winds grew stronger, causing her hair and cape-red against black-to lift away from her body, flapping and fluttering quite noticeably against the pastel pink and purple clouds that decorated the pale blue sky.

She saw the silver-blue head lift from where it had been pressed against his knees, his face only partly surprised at his visitor's identity, and said hastily, "Zel-wait a minute. I've got to talk to you, okay?" Her voice held no anger, only concern, and he nodded.

"I'm not going any where. I almost did, but I have a promise to keep."

Oh, right. His promise to attend Amelia's wedding ceremony. He must have fought with himself, trying to decide whether to go or stay; that's why Shiran led us on such a convoluted path.

She landed gently next to the chimera and braced her feet carefully on a flat section of roof near the thick white stone columns, then smiled down at him. "I'm glad you decided to stay."

The next thing Zelgadis knew, he was flying through the air and he let out a yelp as he crashed sideways into one of the columns, rebounding away, only to slam into the column opposite the first one. Again he was sent flying, to bounce and bang and crunch and thump over and over into the sides of the two large stone cylinders, which began showing scrape marks and losing rock chips as the attack continued.

By the time he realized that Lina had him by the legs and was swinging him back and forth, in a sense beating him over the head with something other than her soft human fists, she had slammed him back to the rooftop again with enough force that he actually rebounded once before his motion finally stopped. Slowly he sat up, his head spinning, wondering if she had managed to bruise the flesh under his stone skin.

"There." Lina dusted her hands off, looking satisfied. "Now I can forgive you."

"Gee, thanks," he muttered, rubbing his side with a stone hand, unsuccessfully attempting to soothe the aches under his hard skin.

Then she crouched down on the roof next to him, her arms around her knees, her long hair almost touching the roof tiles. He cringed back from her, but her face was serious, even gentle, as she said, "Listen, Zel... your time's run out. You've got to make your decision, now."

Zelgadis avoided her eyes. "I have."

"Have you?" For some reason her skeptical tone irritated him.

He scowled. "What are you implying?"

He expected her to start preaching to him about how he'd already practically promised Amelia that he would marry her, or maybe mention his obligation to the princess for undertaking the enormous effort to discover his cure, or even simply get angry, haul him off of the roof and drag him back into the palace like a disgraced child, but her next words astonished him.

With an unusually solemn expression, Lina began quietly, "When I first realized I had feelings for Gourry I denied them. I hid them, camouflaged them in camaraderie. They embarrassed me... made me feel really vulnerable, like a chink in my armor."

Despite himself, Zelgadis responded, "And now you feel differently?"

The petite sorceress nodded. "Loving Gourry makes me feel stronger, not weaker. It's like... always having a fine strong house to keep warm in... " her voice grew softer, with a hint of huskiness, "... no matter what. I know he'll always be there for me."

Zelgadis marveled at the softness in her ruby eyes, feeling a twinge of envy for the blonde swordsman, to have won the love of so formidable a woman. Then he shook his head, even though it made him dizzy for a moment, resisting the message her words brought. "Your point?" he asked, his tone somewhere between sarcasm and sullenness.

Again, Lina failed to get angry. "You're thinking of yourself, still. Not Amelia."

He opened his mouth to protest, but she kept going. "It's a hard habit to break-I know! You don't want to take the chance of losing her because of how you'll feel if it happens, right?"

He tried to organize his thoughts, but again she caught him mentally off balance. "You don't want the guilt of maybe-maybe, I said-seeing her get hurt because of the spell... and yet, instead you'd rather see her be miserable with another man, knowing that you never gave her the chance to prove her love? You'd rather have that sort of guilt?"

"But the Spheres said she'd be happy-"

"Don't give me that! You know perfectly well that Amelia loves you; she only cares about you! I don't care what the Spheres said-Amelia was already in love with you when you found out how to use them-so no matter how nice this Kerrin is, he'd only be second place in her heart. She'd always have the shadow of losing you staining their relationship-and so she'd never really be happy."

Zelgadis tried to ignore the small, guilty spark of delight that he felt at the idea that Amelia would never be as happy with anyone else as she might be with him. "She'd learn to love him... everyone did. Even the most hateful of my cousins treated him with courtesy."

She blinked, and then her eyes narrowed slightly. "Oh, really... Then is it... that you worry that she might choose Kerrin over you-that she'll find you undesirable as a human man?"

Silence.

Lina sensed that she'd struck a nerve. "Where she had no trouble loving the strong, mysterious chimera, she might find the man a little too... dull and weak?" She gave him a shrewd glance, tinged with both impishness and a certain amount of triumph at finally being able to get back at him for putting Amelia through such pain. "Isn't that why you let Rezo transform you-because you never felt you measured up as a human?"

How dare she! Zelgadis rose to his feet, clenching his fists, snarling, "I didn't know he was going to turn me into a chimera!"

Lina stood up as well, dropping all pretense of playfulness as she looked him right in the eye. "But still, you felt inadequate before, right?"

The stone man opened his mouth to agree, and then realized what was throwing him so off-kilter. Lina's not acting like herself. He stared down at the young woman standing calmly in front of him, her ruby eyes showing far more wisdom than one would expect for an eighteen-year-old, and felt his respect for her rise several notches.

Gradually the anger drained out of him, and he felt himself relax as he said evenly, "You've done a lot of thinking, haven't you?"

The small redhead smiled a little. "Loving Gourry has made me think in ways I never did before... " A sassy note crept into her voice. "Not that I wasn't always brilliant... but never so introspective. It's new territory... and a little scary, right, Zel?" She winked at him.

Not for me... sometimes I wonder if I think too much. Or worry too much, anyway.

He watched a few strands of her hair drift in front of her face as she seemed to answer his unspoken comment. "Anyway, Zel, you're blowing the Oracle's warning way out of proportion. Amelia's a terrific cleric-it's an insult to her face and her skill if you don't even let her try, after everything we've been through. Don't you trust her to come through for you?"

He opened his mouth to answer but she was already adding, "Besides, she needs a man like you-logical, practical, feet on the ground. If nothing else, to protect her from the assassination attempts Seyrune's leaders seem so prone to. Who could protect her better?"

"Well, as a chimera bodyguard... "

Lina shook her head, dismissing that notion as her red-gold hair swirled around her face in the rising wind. She was quiet for a few moments, staring out at the fading sunset colors: deep rose, dusty lilac, pale green and blue. "Listen, if Amelia dies or goes insane, you'll have to live with that guilt for your life... but if you don't let her take the chance, you'll have a different sort of guilt: knowing that in one stroke you've singlehandedly embittered her for life."

She reached up to brush some of her hair behind her ear, her ruby eyes dark with emotion as she said quietly, "Could you really do that to her? Take away her joy-her hope? That bright, shining girl... Do you have the right to do that?"

Zelgadis was silent.

Lina cocked an eyebrow. "Who knows? She might even suicide. Her family's not the most stable sort, emotionally... "

He felt a jolt of alarm. She's right... and Amelia's already mentally scarred because of the incident with her mother, the one only I and her father know about... the one she confessed to me in my arms...

Lina faced him with her arms crossed, and for a moment he was struck by the incongruity of being lectured by someone whose head only came up to his Adam's apple. "If you choose to try, you might win, or you might lose-even though the Oracle says 'win'," she said soberly, "but if you choose not to try, you know exactly how it'll end!"

For a moment he was back in the small room where, three years ago, Lina had agreed to join him and Gourry in what had appeared to be a hopeless battle against the reborn shard of Shabranigdo. He recalled her words about going into the battle expecting to win, because if they believed that it truly was hopeless, they had already lost.

And so I tried to believe... and when the unexpected happened and my grandfather Rezo-the last remnants of his original human personality, anyway-suddenly revived after we'd thought him completely gone, Lina was ready for it, and able to instantly think of a way to use that to our advantage, getting him to hold back the Dark Lord for the few moments that it took for Lina to cast her own final, terrible spell-the Giga Slave. And so her hope that things would work out all right really did help save the world.

She could have told herself that the spell was too dangerous-even before she learned of the Giga Slave's real purpose, she'd known it was the most powerful black magic spell that a human could cast. She could have run away right then and there, leaving the rest of the world to perish, saving the spell for the last moment, when Shabranigdo eventually sought her out. She could have given up, before she even started...

Now the master sorceress' gaze fixed on him, and suddenly he found it impossible to look away from her intense gaze. "Do you remember Amelia's face when Martina got married?" she asked quietly.

Abruptly he did-Amelia's eyes had shone with such joy that he'd actually been a little embarrassed, and covered it up by teasing her, asking her whether she would rather be a justice fighter or a bride. It had amused him when she'd haughtily replied that she wanted to be both.

He nodded.

"Don't you want her to look like that on her wedding day?" Lina demanded.

He found himself unable to say a word, caught up in the memory of the princess' sapphire eyes, shining like stars...

Lina put her hands on her hips, her face hard. "Listen, Zelgadis," she challenged him, "It all comes down to this: Do you love Amelia? Enough to risk losing her?" After one last glare, she turned on her heel, her boots making scraping sounds in the rock grit that covered the rooftop after her seeming attempt to use him as a bell clapper, and said "Levitation."

As she rose into the air she said, "We'll be waiting for you. You have until midni-no. You need to make up your mind before then, or we won't have enough time." She began her descent, the orange sunlight edging her body with a fiery golden outline, and then paused, looking back over her shoulder. Her face was shadowed, but he could just make out her eyes, shimmering faintly with a hint of her usual sassiness. "Oh, and by the way, Zel... it was pretty easy to find you. Either you're losing your edge... or maybe, deep down, you really wanted to be caught."

Within a few moments the sound of Lina's cape flapping in the breeze faded, and as if on cue, the wind died down, leaving him in perfect silence. Zelgadis stood there for a while, absently touching a hand to one of the battered gray stone columns as he gazed out at the gentle pastel colors that filled the twilight sky, his eyes unfocused. Maybe I did...

His pointed ears caught a short, high-pitched howl, and he looked over the edge to see Shiran, who was standing at the base of the wall on her hind legs, with her front paws against the wall, agitatedly waving her fluffy lavender tail as she gazed up at him.

Lina and Gourry were nowhere to be seen. They must have decided to wait with Amelia inside. I suppose Shiran decided not to return with them. "Shiran, remain," he called, mostly to let her know that he was all right. He knew that she would hear him; her ears were even better than his.

The worried flicker in Shiran's glowing emerald eyes calmed and she sat down in the grass, obviously prepared to wait patiently for her bonded one. Zelgadis smiled, recognizing from her body language that she must have sensed that he was upset and been distressed that she was not able to comfort him, since she couldn't fly. I'd never be alone again, with Shiran, assuming that Amelia would be willing to let her travel with me. He debated whether to go down and bring the dragonwolf up onto the roof, but then a mental image of the princess' distraught face as he asked her for the dragonwolf flashed before his eyes.

Oh, Amelia. Abruptly he backed away from the edge to sit in his former position between two of the stone columns, with his knees drawn up against his chest, his arms around his knees, his light blue cape fluttering in the breeze. He barely noticed the occasional strong gusts that shifted his hair, sending out silvery whispers as the wires brushed past each other, or the glorious, delicate rainbow of pastel cloud-colors in front of his unseeing eyes.

Take Shiran, indeed. Lina was right. His mental tone was as self-reproachful as ever, but for a new reason. I have been thinking about myself, about what I would do if something happened to take that happy, loving girl away from me... And that isn't right. Being in love isn't just about my own wants and desires; it's about hers, too.

I've never cared much for other people. Most of my childhood was spent learning ways to fight for what I wanted, to impose my will upon others, not to be receptive to their wishes. I was taught how to head a family, to provide food and shelter and education for my people, but always on my terms, not theirs.

He pulled in a deep breath of fresh clean air, and let it out in a slow sigh, his face showing his strain. I'm not good at this sort of thing. I hate the idea of letting anyone have any kind of control over me, no matter how small. It... frightens me. Yes, that's it. The thought of voluntarily letting someone have control over me makes me want to fight, to dig in my heels, to back out of this whole thing. It's unnerving to realize that someone-even someone like Amelia-can have such power over me.

The day was nearly done, gradually darkening from a pastel wash of colors to a deep midnight blue, sprinkled with the faint twinkling lights of the first stars. Far below, the singing of thousands of night insects had already begun, unnoticed by the stone man.

... Maybe that's what Lina was trying to tell me. If anything, she's even worse than I am about letting someone else have influence over her, and yet... she managed to come to terms with her fears when she decided to stop denying her love for Gourry. She says she feels even stronger than before. Of course, Gourry isn't exactly the domineering type, whereas Amelia-sometimes-can be a bit of a ...

And as for me... how many times did I act against my better judgment on this journey? How many times did I let Amelia's needs take precedence over what I thought should be done?

No... that's wrong. His blue-green eyes widened as he realized, She didn't make me do anything. Things like comforting her when she was sad, or going to that concert, the one that ended up such a fiasco... I wanted to do those things. I could have ignored her when she smiled or when she cried, but every time, I chose to make her happy. My choice, not hers. And... to be honest, I haven't regretted any of it.

When we started this journey Amelia did conspire to marry me, but when it finally came out into the open, she acknowledged that I had the right to choose. She said she had planned to wait until I'd gotten used to being human again before she proposed to me, which is not exactly the same as giving me no choice at all... and when I pointed out that I would have felt morally obligated to marry her out of duty and gratitude for her aid, she relented right away, insisting that marrying her was my choice.

Since then she's never imposed her will on me, never made me feel forced, helpless, as Rezo once did... She's always given me respect. And trust.

His expression firmed, his shoulders straightening from their hunched position as the confusion cleared from his eyes. Maybe it's time I did the same. Maybe the important thing isn't whether or not I think she can cast the spell, it's that I give her the same trust, the same freedom she's given me. The freedom to choose. And to accept the consequences, whatever they may be.

Author's Notes: The first part of my Author's Notes are actually from chapter 7.5-I decided to delete that chapter so as not to mess up the number of chapters that has listed for this fic, so I added those notes to chapter 80. Look below for the new Notes to chapter 80.

Chapter 7.5-Yay! My computer is finally working better-still not 100%, but good enough so that I feel I can start work on my fic again. It's really hard to get back into the right mindset, though.

I want all of you to know that it was your reviews that finally made me start thinking about what should come next-see, I was reading a story on and I decided to check my reviews, and as I was reading them I began to mentally reply to the ones that needed answering, and then at work the next day I found myself writing down ideas for the next scenes, and now I've got chapter 80 almost ready to go!

Thanks especially to those of you who posted a review for the first time-I was afraid that the length of Only Stone on the Outside had scared everyone off, so that only those people who have stuck loyally by me for so long are still reading my fic.

And now, the answers:

Knid comments about chapter 72: In this chapter even after Zel is no longer wearing the jewel he still responds to Amelia and lets his feelings show. Because regardless of how it happened he's accepted it, or does the jewel continue to exert an influence for a time?

One has to be touching the gem to influence/be influenced by it. Zel is secretly glad he can finally show Amelia how he feels, now that his secret's out. Sylver-Ajah asks: did his [Xellos'] statement of warning to Amelia have anything to do with the fact that the gem was attached to HIM?

Yup. I'll mention more about this subject in a later chapter.

Ichiban Victory says: 'Tis an interesting development with the bracelet 'accepting' Kerrin, although I'd be interested to see what it would do if Zelgadis wore it.

Zelgadis has worn it-when Amelia first gave it to him... I think it was chapter 7. Anyway, after that it was oriented on him, even though it wasn't actually touching his (stone) skin, when it hung from his canteen.

Sunlight Rocket comments: I took note a few chapters back that you seem to be interested in Chinese Astrology. I'm a Tiger, but my interest lean more toward the Greek Zodiac. I've visited your homepage, and found that you are a Virgo (highly analytical and organized). It certainly shows in your work. I can tell that you've spent a bit of time really observing the Slayers. Plus, that note in which you spoke of printing your stories out into separte notebooks for each- VERY Virgo!

Actually, I'm a Leo in the Greek zodiac. I do have Virgo as an ascendant, so I seem to have about as many Virgo characteristics as Leo ones. I like the Chinese Ox sign because it seems to combine Leo and Virgo characteristics-or so it seems to me, anyway. The web site homepage that you visited was probably my friend Shell Presto's-she's hosting part of my fic and some fanpics, because I don't have a site of my own. And yes, she's a Virgo.

I got into personality typing because of a site where the webmistress (Astra, I think,) had analyzed the main Slayers characters, and after checking out a few books from the library-my favorites are Type Talk (I forget the author's name but it should be easy to look up), Gifts Differing, and Why We Love the Dogs We Do. They all focus on the Meyers-Briggs personality profile, where I am an INTP.

I= Introvert-someone who recharges their energy after a long day at work by seeking privacy

E=Extravert-someone who recharges by hanging out with friends

N=Intuitive-would rather live in the world of ideas

S=Sensing-would rather live in the 'real' world

T=Thinking-prefers to make choices logically

F=Feeling-prefers to make choices in harmony with the feelings of themselves and others

P=Perceiving-always considering new possibilities before making decisions (can lead to procrastination)

J=Judging-wants closure as soon as possible when making a decision (often impatient)

Check it out; it's fascinating stuff!

One last request -bows deeply toward the audience- I have another challenge for the artists among you. After a lot of thought, I have decided what kind of background I would love for the cover of my binder -the one in which my printed version of my fic is stored. With the title Only Stone on the Outside, the image I have is of a stone wall, made of many stones of various-not ugly-colors, with a single red rose growing out of a crack between the stones. The stone wall represents Zelgadis, and the wall he built around his heart during the long years of working under Rezo, and the rose, of course, represents Amelia and the love that she managed to make bloom in his heart in spite of everything. The flower ought to be near the bottom or to one side, so that I have room in the middle for the cover art and title, etc. The picture itself should be around 12 by 12 inches, so it'll be large enough to be a good background piece.

I've been considering going out and taking a picture of a stone wall-I live in New Hampshire so they're everywhere-but I haven't seen any that match with my mental image. Most walls are too small or dirty or have too much greenery growing on them-and none have a single rose. I've looked online for pictures too, and nothing seemed right. I figure my only choices are draw this myself-I'm a writer, not an artist-or beseech you all most earnestly to help me out once again with fanart. Or a photograph of a real stone wall with a rose, if you know of a really nice-looking wall.

Arigatou!

-Dreamsinger

Chapter 80 Author's Notes:

More and more, I see Zel's views of relationships mirroring mine. I, too, find the idea of someone having any kind of influence over me distasteful and burdensome, if not downright scary. Since I'm female, I also have to worry about the fact that pretty nearly all guys are physically stronger than me. I really don't know how people manage to have relationships at all... it must be trust, ne? With trust, you don't worry about things like that.

For those of you who have taken a personality test (or have a good guess, based on the info above), I'm curious to know which personality types my fic appeals to. Ideally, I would prefer Only Stone on the Outside to be universally liked, but they say you can't please everybody, so if it's not too much trouble, may I ask each of you, my highly esteemed readers, to let me know which type you are (or think you are)?

The hard part, they say, is being honest with yourself, and acknowledging who you really are, not whom you would like to be.

Oh, and if you happen to read that book Why We Love the Dogs We Do, the Papillon, a breed I've liked for a long time, turned out to be in one of the categories listed for my personality type. Lovely dogs... (I collect dog statues and pics off the Net.) I also like Whippets, Belgain Shepherds, Welsh Springer Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Australian Shepherds.

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