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

Note: This is a re-post of chapter 85 because ff net messed up parts of my last one.

Chapter Eighty-Five: Soul Music

"Well, it's about ti-"

Zelgadis froze, his mouth open.

Before him, outlined in the flickering golden candlelight, was a shining angel. An exquisite, eminently loveable angel whose softly glimmering sapphire eyes gazed at him with such adoration that he could indeed have been a statue, so incapable of movement was he.

No masses of gaudy, glitzy jewels or glass beads adorned the Seyrune princess. She wore a long, simple, sweeping gown that left her shoulders bare, trimmed with small bouquets of white roses at her waist and bosom. The gown was made of shining white chiffon with a subtle rose-colored tint that shimmered here and there, only to vanish and then appear somewhere else. The color contrasted beautifully with her dark hair and tanned skin. That color... he thought in awe. Just like in my dream... how did she know?

Elegant white gloves reached almost to her shoulders, and her lustrous mane of raven hair was held in place by a delicate golden tiara, set with rosy tourmalines and a beautiful big sapphire that just matched her eyes. She wore matching earrings and a golden necklace on which her Star Sphere hung, directly over her heart.

Most beautiful of all to him were her eyes, sparkling blue pools of such radiant joy that his sense of urgency vanished; he could have gazed at her forever.

Amelia stood in the entry space between the garden hedges, radiating soft, wondering beauty as she noticed the effect her appearance had on Zelgadis. She, too, was awed. Slender, graceful and perfect, in a suit of palest blue trimmed with deep purple, her chimera stood motionless, his teal-blue eyes wide and shimmering, openly letting everyone see just how much he loved her.

He's every bit as handsome as I knew he would be... The night sky glittered like diamonds, but even those vivid pinpoints of brilliance could not equal the lovelight shining in the eyes of the young girl. Oh, Zelgadis...

They might have gone on staring all night if not for Xellos, who cleared his throat meaningfully. They broke eye contact, both blushing deeply.

Amelia took a few steps forward. "Um... sorry I'm late... "

The feeling of urgency returned, but Zelgadis could not bring himself to be annoyed with her. He swallowed, and managed to get his mouth working again. "... It's all right. It was worth it."

She gave him a lovely smile, making him feel rather weak in the knees, then turned to her father. "Is everything ready?"

Prince Phil nodded, his eyes suspiciously wet at the corners. "Of course, my dear." He raised his voice. "Everyone, take your positions!"

Zelgadis found himself herded into the center of the gemstone mosaic to stand upon the magnificent tourmaline rose. Amelia, Lina and Xellos formed a triangle around him, with Gourry, Kerrin, Shiran, and the priest waiting on the grass nearby.

For the first time he noticed Lina, who had been behind Amelia when the two girls arrived. The firey sorceress was wearing the most feminine outfit he had ever seen her in, a beautiful pale pink gown made of some kind of light, filmy material. Her dainty short sleeves danced in the gentle breeze, and she wore small white gloves trimmed with lace. Her bright hair lay in a luxurious mass of curls over one shoulder, tied with a wide white satin ribbon.

She saw him looking and gave him a scowl. "What?"

He realized that she must be feeling even more self-conscious than he was, and gave her a reassuring smile. "Nothing. You look very nice."

His smile deepened at the sight of the fearsome Lina Inverse blushing like a cute young girl for once. She looked surprised, as if she had expected him to make some kind of crude comment about her chest size. Not that there's anything really wrong with her figure, unless you're comparing her to other women, which isn't fair. He suppressed the urge to smirk. I haven't heard Gourry make any complaints lately...

Zelgadis' expression went serious as Prince Philionel approached Amelia, reached into his formal purple robe and pulled out the Oracle's golden orb. Amelia took it with both hands, handling it as tenderly as a newborn child, her gaze suddenly uncertain. Her father placed a gentle hand on her cheek, nodded encouragingly, and backed up to step off of the mosaic onto the grass beside the others.

Amelia smiled bravely, and straightened her shoulders. "All right, everyone... let's do this."

A pair of gaudy purple earmuffs appeared in Xellos' hands. He quickly put them on. Zelgadis smirked, remembering the mazoku's greatest weakness. That makes me feel a little better-if I have to ask for Xellos' help, at least he's going to suffer, too.

Amelia turned to the stone man. "Zelgadis, you stay right there, okay?" She sounded as if she were talking to a child.

His increasing nervousness was triggering his sarcastic nature. No, I'm going to go traipsing off somewhere, he almost said,but then he looked at her worried face, and knew that it was he for whom she was most concerned.

Zelgadis gathered control of himself and gave his princess a deliberately gentle smile, nodding with a soft sound of affirmation. "You can do it, Amelia." His quiet voice held no trepidation, only utter confidence, and she rewarded him for his trust with a big, warm smile that melted his heart. I hope I get to see that smile every day from now on...

Xellos turned to him. "The purpose of this incantation is to try to remove as much of Lord Rezo's chimera-spell as possible. If things go as planned, Zelgadis, you should be fully human again, or, at worst, nearly indistinguishable from one."

Zelgadis nodded slightly, his expression inscrutable. I know that. I also know something you don't-that we're going to try the Oracle's 'mothball' suggestion. If everything goes as planned, you'll find me a more formidable opponent than you expect the next time we have to do battle.

"First, the music. It will help to provide us with an opening." Xellos was using his 'schoolteacher' tone. "The seal to Lord Rezo's curse is like a shell of ceramic, or glass. Any ordinary white magic purification spell will simply run off the surface like water, without leaving so much as a mark behind. The Oracle's music will provide us with the chance to get through that barrier, not unlike the way a glass can develop cracks, or even shatter, if it is exposed to the right frequency."

The mazoku looked thoughtful. "Not that we expect Zelgadis to shatter... I don't think so, anyway... "

Half of the group looked horrified, and the other half glared at Xellos. Zelgadis clenched his teeth. Quit baiting us.

"So when the curse begins to rend-a process that will, in all likelihood, involve excruciating pain on Zelgadis' part-" The mazoku had the apologetic expression that he often wore when he was secretly delighted at someone's misfortune.

Lina scowled at the apparent man. "Get on with it!"

"-That will be our cue to begin. My part in this spell is to provide the framework, the shape-changing aspect, and the black magic energy that is needed."

As attention-grabbing as usual, Lina put in, "And my part is to bring the shamanistic forces into play. Xellos and I will both be using our influence to call away as much of the black and shamanistic magic as possible from the human parts of you."

Yes, yes, get on with it already!

"And I will be the focus," Amelia said softly, but firmly.

Zelgadis felt a twinge of fear, but his solemn expression did not change, except for the merest flickering in his eyes.

"Yes," Xellos agreed. "Think of us as the raw energy, and Miss Amelia is the lens, focusing it to pinpoint the human qualities in Zelgadis, strengthening them, calling them to the fore while at the same time trying to separate out the other elements."

"And his soul. His human soul," Amelia interrupted.

"Yes. Miss Amelia will, in essence, have the most challenging task of all," Xellos' voice deepened dramatically, "delving deeply into his mind, searching for his very essence, for the human soul that is Zelgadis Greywyrs."

What? Zelgadis was startled.

Amelia seemed to sense his distress. "Don't worry, Zelgadis," she said softly, smiling at him. "The Star Spheres will help me. We're connected, right? I know I've felt the touch of your mind more than once... "

She watched as the tall stone man subsided, and gave her the small, sweet smile that he reserved for her alone. Oh, Zelgadis... I hope I can find you, the real you, the man you used to be before the curse took away your hope, your trust in people... your innocence, I guess. I want to try to help you, to give back some of the sweet, gentle nature that I sense deep within you... I wonder, were you like Kerrin, once? Able to smile so easily... to be happy... Can you ever be again?

She let her gaze rest upon him for just a few more moments, admiring his beautiful, slightly-exotic elfin form. This may be the last time I get to see the chimera-you... the man I fell in love with. I'll miss you... I just hope I get the chance to love your new self.

It was time. The air had gone still and silent, without even a whisper of wind. Amelia closed her eyes and concentrated, holding the small, softly glowing golden orb in both hands. The light grew stronger, and then suddenly spread out, filling the area inside the hedges with near-daylight brilliance.

A soft tone was heard, then another, gradually building into a melody. The music was lovely, delicate yet strong, sounding like a exquisite merging of bell and harp, but with a warmer, fuller resonance that touched the soul deeply. Everyone there, even Xellos, was caught up in the shimmering, stirring sensation, the feeling that all wishes were possible; that anything could happen next.

Amelia took a deep breath and began to sing.

The Words Amelia sang were in an ancient tongue unknown to any of them except Xellos. They were words of calling, words of change, of transformation, of seeking the true self which had become lost amidst the chaos. The Words had not been meant for human use, but High Priest Xellos had taken that into account when he and Amelia were modifying the basic spell, suggesting that Zelgadis' soul would be most likely to respond to a plea made from that inexplicable human emotion: love.

Hide no more, be Zelgadis, my one true love, my soul mate. Use my love for strength, for guidance... Seek me... I am waiting with open arms.

Like a flower opening in the morning sun's first kiss, slowly Zelgadis began to respond, his face turned upward, his eyes closed, letting the music flow over him, into him, through him, feeling the energy gathering, waiting for whatever he asked of it.

For the briefest instant his mind flashed back to the day Rezo cursed him. His greatest desire had always been to be strong-or had it? What had been running through his mind at the exact moment the spell struck him? 'To be strong is to be safe. No one will ever be able to touch me again. No one will ever be able to hurt me again!'

His eyes flew open in shock, staring at nothing. Did Rezo curse me-or did I curse myself? Was my desire to keep people at arm's length so strong that it manifested itself in this skin of stone? Suddenly it was as if the world had receded, with all the color and sound muted, as numb as his own mind. He could see Amelia singing, but heard barely a murmur. Did Rezo choose this form-or did I?

Where are you? Still singing, Amelia tried to sense him, to reach into the man in front of her and touch those parts of him that she had felt before during times of danger. Your soul... the part of you who makes you the man I love. Zelgadis, my beloved, come be with me...

As he stood there, frozen in a morass of horror, the tenor of the music altered, growing stronger. Amelia's high, sweet tones threaded through it, pulling at him, and his awareness was suddenly shifted to her, to this wonderful, earnest girl-woman who had not let his appearance or his gruff manner scare her off. She had stayed faithfully by his side, had seen him at his worst, and still she had chosen him, admired him, loved him. There she is, singing her heart out, offering herself to me...

I hope this is working. Amelia thought in between carefully-pronounced phrases, feeling the beginnings of a sore throat already. I want him to be whole again... where it counts. His soul... has so many scars... There must have been a time when he was happy... young and confident and sure that he could do anything... Please, Zelgadis, remember!

Again the music changed-no, more than that, it transmuted, expanding into an incredible cornucopia of sensory wonder. Tantalizing scents, rich with memories, seemed to waft past wondering noses. Glorious ripples of opalescent light came from the golden orb, ripples that matched the musical notes exactly, seeming to pulse with gentle life as they expanded in a marvelously intricate pattern that reminded Zelgadis of how it had felt to be underwater but unafraid. When the Star Sphere Amelia had given me saved my life, during that battle with the sea-dragon... I could sense her loving presence even then, although I didn't let myself realize it for a long time. When she was with me, I forgot to be afraid.

Then the ripples passed through him, and he stood enthralled as sensations he had not experienced in years suddenly came alive. Oh... this feeling... The light-ripples passed through his stone skin as if it didn't exist, and the chimera was lost in the ecstasy of being able to feel, to feel with his body, in the way most people took for granted. It awoke memories of his babyhood, of the way his mother had felt soft and warm as she held him close, singing gentle lullabies and smelling of lavender.

All of them were thus affected as the light-ripples passed through them, stroking, caressing, enlivening, bringing memories of love and life. Amelia felt again Zelgadis' gentle hands as he brushed her hair. Lina and Gourry were reminded of their own growing intimacy, and the watchers' eyes had all glazed over with pleasure.

Even Xellos felt it, although the images he received were alien to him-those of feeling safe and cared for-and for the first time he began to understand why a feeling such as 'love' could make one feel safe, despite the myriads of dangers humans faced to whom 'love' meant nothing. It does have a strange sort of appeal... He shrugged. Not that I'd find much use for it in my line of work, but I suppose it does have value... if only to make humans more amusing.

Xellos and Lina had no Words to sing. They were, in effect, filters, drawing away the non-human elements from the stone man the way a magnet gathered tiny particles of iron. Each of them could feel the alien elements coalescing into a growing mass, and began preparing themselves to cast it out of the human-shaped form who stood before them, a black silhouette surrounded by brilliant golden light.

Soon. Amelia thought. It's almost time to do that last, special detail, the one we didn't tell Mister Xellos about...

I want to be human again. Zelgadis opened his eyes and gazed at the princess-angel in front of him. She was surrounded by delicate light-strands weaving through the air like ribbons, in shining pastel colors, holding the golden orb cupped in her hands, singing to him with a look of adoration in her beautiful sapphire eyes. For all its frailties, for all its vulnerabilities, I was born human... and it's who I really am.

Intense desire was etched into every line of his stone face as he filled his lungs and threw his arms out wide, trusting himself to the power surrounding him, and to Amelia. "I want to be human!"

An enormous swirling ball of opalescent energy appeared around him, engulfing him. Blinded, Zelgadis could feel his stone skin breaking up, peeling, cracking, coming apart, and pushed back a twinge of fear. Even if I die, I choose to embrace life, not run from it!

It felt as if he were wrapped in live electricity, crackling and sizzling, every nerve ablaze. His very bones buzzed and itched as if he were possessed by a thousand insects. He was shrinking, his hair softening; the layer of stone that had protected him for so long was melting, dissolving into his skin. As every human does at birth, Zelgadis Greywyrs opened his mouthin a primal roar of pain and triumph.

"What the hell?" Lina suddenly yelled, as she and Xellos both felt the shimmering mass of demon-golem particles being sucked from their grasp. "No!" she howled. Like water through a sieve, their mental fingers could not grasp the alien particles which coalesced inside the man who stood before them, rapidly contracting, solidifying, and separating into two pinpoints of white light that moved upward through his body. When they reached the sides of his head, they stopped, and as the light surrounding Zelgadis faded, everyone stared at the human man who stood before them-human, but for two slightly pointed ears.

For a long moment, no one moved. Most of the candles had gone out, leaving them in the silver-gray hues of moonlight. Zelgadis was breathing heavily, trying to cope with a sudden sensory overload as his long-unused skin reacted wildly, sending urgent, tingling messages to his brain. Is this pain?

He held up his hands, turning them over to gaze almost numbly at the tender pinkish-peach skin. The tight jacket pressed into the insides of his elbows, causing an unpleasant sensation, so he dropped his hands and shifted his weight from one foot to another, trying to ignore the strange way his shoes made his feet feel as if they were still encased in stone. Why do I... feel so weak?

"Zelgadis?" Amelia took a hesitant step toward him, her face pale. "Is... is that you?"

"Li! You're back!" came Kerrin's joyful shout.

Zelgadis and Amelia stared at one another, slowly embracing the realization that their ordeal was over. Zelgadis was human.

"Zelgadis... " Amelia took a hesitant step forward, then another, and Zelgadis opened his arms to her, ready and willing to endure any kind of pain if it meant finally being able to hold her in his arms-his real arms-but then she stumbled, and his human reflexes weren't fast enough to catch her. She fell heavily to her knees on the gemstone mosaic, letting out a muffled cry of pain.

"Amelia! What's wrong?" he cried, suddenly terrified that she was about to die right in front of him. He staggered forward, only then realizing that he was having a hard time staying on his feet.

"Zelgadis?"

Lina had him by the elbow, sending zinging sensations all the way up his arm, but he ignored them and said, "Don't worry about me-help Amelia!"

"I'm all right," Amelia whispered, wincing from the pain of bruised knees, but unable to bear hearing the note of panic in Zelgadis' voice. "I'm just-tired."

Her father helped her to stand. "It's no wonder-you were singing for such a long time. I was afraid it wasn't working."

"A long time?" The young girl realized that her throat was sore and aching. Her eyes widened and she twisted to look at the clock tower. "Oh no! It's five minutes to midnight!" she squeaked hoarsely.

"What?" Zelgadis gave the clock a horrified glance, then met Lina's gaze.

"I didn't notice it either," she said grimly. "Hey, you! Head priest or whoever you are, hurry up and do your job!"

"Yes, miss!" The short, meek-looking man in white robes jumped, then scurried toward the mosaic. Lina and Prince Philionel backed away, and Zelgadis and Amelia were left standing together in front of Head Priest Jarron, who pulled out a book from the sleeve of his robe and began reading the marriage rites in a high-pitched, rapid voice.

Zelgadis was feeling incredibly weak, holding himself together by sheer willpower. Amelia was swaying slightly, her face almost as pale as the time she had nearly died at the inn. He reached out and took her hand, wondering if he would ever get used to feeling things so strongly again, or if all of his physical sensations were going to be as raucous as pain from now on.

The priest asked some questions, but Zelgadis wasn't sure what he said in response. He dimly heard Lina snapping at the man to hurry up, and Jarron's voice sped up even more, sounding like pure gibberish to his ears.

Amelia clung to the warm, flesh-and-blood hand of the man who stood beside her, listening to Priest Jarron recite the familiar words of the wedding ritual, almost overcome with happiness. It's finally happening. I'm really here. I've dreamed of this moment for so long...

Her eyes kept wanting to close. No-I can't sleep. Not yet... She turned her head to look up at Zelgadis, this new Zelgadis who looked so different, and yet so familiar. He does remind me of Kerrin-but that solemn expression-that's definitely my Zelgadis. She could not get enough of looking at him, her eyes tracing every line of his face, mentally comparing it to his chimera features. He looks younger than he used to... and his hair is darker, but I can't quite tell what color it is. He looks so handsome in the moonlight, though...

"... Symbol-of-your-eternal-faithfulness?"

"What?" Zelgadis took a deep breath, feeling the cool night air wake him up slightly.

"Have you a symbol of your eternal faithfulness to her?" the priest repeated, a bit more slowly. "Most people use some kind of jewelry, but it can be anything that has a special meaning for both of you."

Zelgadis glanced down at Amelia, who was looking up at him with wide, shimmering eyes. He stood immobile for moment, captivated by her moonlit beauty, but then Lina loudly cleared her throat and he started. His eyes caught on Amelia's Star Sphere, which she had hung around her neck on a golden chain.

"A symbol-yes." His left hand slid into his jacket pocket, fumbling for a moment before withdrawing the comfortingly smooth, slightly warm Star Sphere. It still had her old pink cloth band attached to it.

"Excellent," the priest said, taking it from him and slipping the pink band over the former chimera's left wrist. He continued rapidly, "And Miss Amelia, I see you have yours already, so without further ado I proclaim you, Zelgadis Greywyrs elt Seyrune, and you, Amelia wil Tesla Seyrune, husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."

"Finally!" Lina's tone was an odd combination of exasperation and triumph.

Zelgadis released Amelia's hand and turned so that he was facing her. She gazed up at him, her eyes shining in the silver moonlight, warm, inviting eyes that spoke far more eloquently than words. He smiled slowly, and reached out to put his hands on her bare shoulders, feeling electricity tingle where their skin touched. He leaned down to her, noting in the back of his mind that the distance between their faces had lessened somewhat, and tilted his head slightly, slowly pressing his lips to hers.

This time the tingling went all the way down to his toes, making him feel weak in the knees, but he didn't want to stop. This glorious, wondrous feeling... Her arms came up around his waist, and she was soft and warm and he could feel her breathing...

Amelia responded to the feel of his lips on hers, momentarily surprised that they were soft and warm instead of the smooth, cool stone lips she had kissed-was it just a few hours ago? Instinctively, she reached up and slid her arms around him, holding him close to her. She forgot her pain and exhaustion, the stress from months of anxiety dissolving as she focused on the feel of his warm, strong, flesh-and-blood body breathing against hers, on his lips, pressing gently against hers.

A surge of love welled up inside her and she squeezed Zelgadis tightly to her, kissing him enthusiastically, just as the tower clock began to bong.

"Just in time!" Gourry laughed, and everyone but Xellos broke into applause.

Zelgadis and Amelia pulled back slightly, staring first into each others' eyes, reading identical expressions of wonder, and then they both blushed as a roguish whistle was heard, courtesy of Lina.

As they looked shyly at their friends, Amelia felt the urge to put her hands to her cheeks to hide her embarrassment, but she didn't want to let go of Zelgadis for even a moment. She turned to look up at him instead. I'm so happy... so relieved... She took a deep breath, feeling herself relax bit by bit, and noticed something. Zelgadis smells different... not a stone-smell anymore, a manly-smell... I think I like it...

Zelgadis smiled down at the girl in his arms. She smiled back, her eyes bright with love-and then she faltered. The light in her eyes dimmed, and she sagged against him. "Amelia!" he cried out, horrified.

He tried to brace himself, but his human legs lacked the strength of his chimera ones, and they dropped together onto the stone mosaic. He managed to twist to land on his back, cradling her to his chest, and dimly heard his friends calling out his name, but the shock of the sudden burst of pain was enough to send him over the edge. Help Amelia, he tried to say as he faded out, help her!

Alarmed, Lina dropped to her knees next to her fallen friends, her long skirt swishing across the gemstone mosaic. "Amelia? Zel?"

"Amelia!" Prince Phil shouted. Shiran leaped beside her bonded ones, nosing first Amelia, then Zelgadis, whining in distress.

Gourry knelt next to Lina, reaching out to lift Amelia off of Zelgadis. He cradled her head in the crook of his arm, looking down worriedly into her face. "Amelia? Can you hear me?" When she did not answer, he looked at his fiance. "Lina, what's wrong with them?"

"Are they all right?" Kerrin stood at the edge of the mosaic with Prince Phil and Priest Jarron, all of them wearing matching concerned expressions.

"I believe the strain finally caught up to them," Xellos said, frowning slightly. "That last-minute modification really took a lot out of them."

"The what?" Lina glared up at the apparent man from where she was leaning over the newly-human Zelgadis, her hands glowing whitely over his chest as she prepared to cast a healing spell. "You mean when the black and shamanistic parts that we were trying to get rid of suddenly got away from us?"

Xellos explained, "They're not hurt. For some reason, both of them seemed to have worked together to take the demon and golem components from Zelgadis' chimera form and... compacted them somehow." Xellos sounded slightly sulky, for some reason, but more surprised, and also-rare for him-genuinely impressed. "You notice how his ears still resemble his chimera ones, only smaller, and normal flesh-colored? That's where the other components went."

"What the hell would he want to do that for?" Lina snarled, caught between astonishment and fury. She let the healing spell fade, and Gourry took his cue from her and gently lay Amelia down on the mosaic next to Zelgadis. Shiran immediately stood over them, sniffing the newly-human Zelgadis carefully, paying special attention to his ears.

That's gotta tickle, Lina thought.

"We'll have to wait until they wake up to find out for certain, but I conjecture that Zelgadis must have realized just how much power he was giving up, and decided to perform an act that would ensure that he had access to that power, if he should ever need it. Quite clever, actually," Xellos looked grudgingly admiring. "It's something I might have done."

"I thought Zelgadis couldn't help cast this spell." Gourry wore his familiar bewildered expression.

"Not normally, no," Xellos agreed. "A chimera cannot use magic to go back to the way he was originally, but you see, Zelgadis still is a chimera."

"He is?" at least three people asked at once, as everyone stared down at the normal-looking young man lying on the flower mosaic. Shiran was alternately licking his and Amelia's faces and letting out a quiet sort of whine every few moments.

Xellos nodded. "The other components are still a part of him. However... " His expression became thoughtful. "I can barely sense them. They seem to have been put into a dormant state, a sort of hibernation, if you will."

"What if they wake up?" Gourry asked.

"If that happens, Zelgadis will transform back into his chimeric form," Xellos said, as if it was obvious.

"He took a damn foolish risk, though. What if their spell hadn't worked?" Lina grumbled. I thought he was so worried about Amelia, too, and now look at her. She glared down at the young-seeming man who lay before her and then realized that, even unconscious, his expression was troubled. Her shoulders relaxed. But... I guess I can see his point. He said he wanted to be able to protect Amelia-as a chimera bodyguard, even, if he couldn't marry her. She sighed. I just hope they know what they're doing.

"Are they going to be all right?" Kerrin said in a hushed tone, coming forward to lean over his cousin.

Lina looked up at him and realized that in their current positions, the young man could see right down the front of her new dress-the one that Amelia had secretly ordered made for her. She restrained her impulse to punch him, and scrambled to her feet. "They're just worn out, Kerrin. They'll be fine after a good night's rest."

As if on cue, Amelia murmured, "Stop it, Shirry... " and made a brushing motion at her cheek. Shiran backed off slightly, and woofed once, in a commanding tone that clearly said, Wake up.

Slowly the princess' eyes opened.

"Amelia, you're all right!" Prince Phil snatched her up and held her to his chest.

She sat there for a moment, a bemused expression on her face, and then she started. "Zelgadis!"

"He's right here; he's all right," her father reassured her.

The young princess looked down over her father's muscular arm at the man lying quietly beside her. Again she seemed to become mesmerized by his face, gazing down at him motionlessly, her eyes shimmering.

"How do you feel?" Lina asked.

Amelia blinked, tearing her eyes away from her husband. My husband. It worked... it's all over. For a moment tears threatened, tears of joy and relief, but she blinked them back and turned to look up at her friend. "I'm all right," she breathed, only then realizing that her voice was practically gone. "Um... my knees are a little sore, maybe."

Lina gave her a surprised look, then chuckled and knelt down next to her, tucking the skirt of her pink dress underneath her. "Well, I can fix that, anyway."

Prince Phil released his daughter as Lina held glowing white hands over Amelia's knees. The vague throbbing went away, and then her throat started to feel better as Lina moved her hands up to cover her neck. She began to feel a little more alert, although she was definitely looking forward to going to bed as soon as possible.

"What about Zelgadis?" she asked as soon as Lina finished. "Is he all right?"

"Yeah." Lina took a deep breath and suddenly yelled, "What were you two thinking of? Do you know how dangerous that stunt you pulled was? You scared the crap out of us!"

Amelia cringed away from the pink-frocked sorceress, expecting to be put in a headlock at any moment. "I'm sorry... I didn't know it would drain us like this. The Oracle suggested-"

"The Oracle, eh?" Xellos nodded. "That would explain it. I didn't think Zelgadis had the initiative to come up with such an idea."

"Hey!" Amelia scowled at this insult. Shiran growled fiercely, her lavender mane bristling.

Xellos waved a conciliatory hand. "Sorry... I just meant that he tends to err on the side of caution."

"Oh." Amelia was quiet for a moment, but then she turned to look up at Lina, her hands clenched into fists under her chin. "But Miss Lina, I just had to try it! It was really important to Zelgadis. He wants to be able to protect me-and all of us-from Dark Lords and mazoku-no offense, Mister Xellos-and-and court intrigue... everything. That's why he was actually willing to stay partially cursed! I couldn't-" she stopped, feeling her throat spasming as she fought to keep from bawling like a baby. She glanced around at the ring of faces. "Don't you see... ?"

"It's all right, Amelia." Lina's expression had altered to one of understanding. "I'm sorry. I guess we all do things for the sake of the one we love... " she said softly.

Amelia was not the only one to notice the look that passed between the diminutive sorceress and her handsome fiance. Tomorrow, she decided. I'll ask them tomorrow.

She took a deep breath and got to her knees, moving over so that she was kneeling next to Zelgadis' shoulders, then lifted his head into her lap. "You're sure he's all right?" she asked Lina as she stroked his dark hair back from his forehead, marveling at its softness.

Lina nodded. "He's just exhausted, like you."

Amelia sighed with relief and bent over her beloved, her fingers caressing his smooth, warm cheeks and his silky-soft hair, wondering what color it would turn out to be. My Zelgadis.

"Well," Xellos took a step back from the rest of them. "It looks like the fun is over, for now. I must be getting back before my mistress misses me."

"Thank you for everything, Mister Xellos." Amelia bowed slightly from her sitting position.

The apparent man gave her a sly glance. "I'll pop by again sometime... I'd like to see how that little-modification-you neglected to mention is working out." He vanished, still wearing his outlandish purple earmuffs.

Amelia blushed at the subtle reminder of how she had deceived him. Somehow I have the feeling that he's not really all that angry, though... He seems to be impressed by cleverness and audacity. Look how much he favors Miss Lina.

Kerrin looked startled. "He-he really was a mazoku, wasn't he?"

"Yes," Amelia nodded. "He has a strange way of seeing us humans, but not all bad-"

"Oh, no!"

Everyone jumped and turned to gape at Prince Phil, who had leaped to his feet with his hands buried in this thick black hair.

"What's the matter?" Lina yelled.

Author's Notes: Can anybody guess why Zel is feeling all those 'zings'?

No, I didn't copy the underwater scene in Slayers Premium when I was describing how the Oracle's musical light-ripples matched the notes people heard-but if you have that movie you can watch that scene to see what it looks like. (Or any show that has underwater CGI ripples in it. I think they're very beautiful.) Just imagine the ripples with glowing pearly pastel colors instead of being all white. And add music. (Boy, I sound like I'm describing a cooking recipe or something... )

Thanks to Sagara Sanosuke and Ichiban Victory for their info on the proper use of names in the Slayers world. Since 'el' seems to mean 'the eldest-born male' (or the one first in line to inherit the throne), I decided to add a 't' to show that Zelgadis married into the family, as the husband of the princess who will become Queen. In this case it's Amelia, who is the second-born, but she's still going to inherit the throne, just as if she was first-born.

Beedoo says: I'm doing a revamp on my site if you'd like another place to archive your story/art collection.

Sure, I'd like that. I don't seem to have your email address, though, so if you want to contact me, we can see about getting some fanpics up. I think you can get the chapters from ff. net itself.

Tenniyo comments: -you're not alone about the TRY season-the original creator didn't write that part of the series, so the production company had their way with just about everyone-Amelia wasn't nearly as adorable, Syphiel was nowhere to be found, but she appeared in the commercial break portraits for no apparent reason, and Xelloss was a complete and total bastard compared to how sneaky and yet likable as he was in NEXT. Just about everyone in TRY was somewhat out of character. To this day, I believe the only real good things to come out of TRY was Filia and Val+ the scene at the end where Zel has one of Amelia's charms-which gives a good opening to your fic which has led to this. XD

Hey, I hadn't thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, no wonder season three felt so off. And you're right-most everybody was out of character. I do like the scenes that showcase Zelgadis' coolness, like the gunfight scene, but, as I don't particularly like Filia, those scenes-and the scene where Amelia asked Zel to return to Seyrune with her-are the only bits I really enjoyed from TRY.

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