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 for mild language
Chapter Eighty-Six: Human At Last
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, turning around so fast that her pink dress swirled around her.
"I didn't have time to bring the guests here to witness the ceremony! They're all waiting in the ball room right now."
"Oh, is that all." Lina waved a hand at the big man, frowning in annoyance. "Don't be so melodramatic. We're had enough crises for one night."
"But it is a big deal," Prince Phil protested. "I'll have to tell the guests that they missed it all. They'll be so disappointed. Some of them have been here for an entire month, waiting to see Amelia's wedding... eating mountains of food... " he mumbled.
"How am I going to explain this to them?" He turned desperate eyes on Lina.
Lina shrugged. "Say he just got here."
"What? But I couldn't lie to them!"
"It's not a lie. Technically, the human Zelgadis has just 'arrived'. And thanks to his dithering, we nearly didn't make it as it was!" Lina scowled down at the young man, but had to smile at the gentle, loving look on her friend's face as Amelia gazed down at her new husband, one hand absently stroking through his hair.
Hesitantly Amelia's hand touched one of his ears, running the end of her finger over the warm, flexible pointed tip. It's a lot smaller than his chimera-ear, but I'm glad to see he didn't lose those cute little points that make him look like an elf. She giggled. I ought to feel guilty about putting poor Daddy on the spot like this, but there's nothing I can-or is there?
"Miss Lina... " She looked up at her friend. "I was going to ask you tomorrow, but... "
"What is it, Amelia?"
"I wanted to offer to host your wedding here, in Seyrune."
Lina looked stunned, but before she could answer, Prince Phil and Kerrin were congratulating them on their betrothal. "Who's the lucky man? Have you chosen a date yet?" Phil asked her, beaming.
"Actually... " It was not Lina who answered, but Amelia. "I was wondering if you wanted to do it tomorrow."
"What?" Lina, Gourry and her father all asked at once.
Amelia shifted uncomfortably. "I know it's a bit sudden, but I've noticed how well you've been getting along with Mister Gourry lately... "
Lina sputtered, "But that's no reason to- I just got engaged!"
Amelia gave her a stern look. "If there's one thing I've learned from you, Miss Lina, it's that anything can happen, and that you should seize your opportunities with both hands." The young woman looked down at the slumbering man in her lap, and added softly, "Because you never know if something's going to happen, and then it'll be too late ... "
Lina's protests stalled as her mind flashed back to the many occasions when she had come close to losing Gourry. She opened her mouth, closed it, and tried again. "But Amelia... "
"There's nothing to be afraid of," Amelia said innocently.
"Hey!" Suddenly the bold, vivacious Lina Inverse that everyone knew was back. "Who said anything about being afraid?"
"Of course not, Miss Lina," Amelia said. "I just thought-since the palace is all decorated... and the chefs are preparing so much food for the reception tomorrow anyway... "
"Food?" Gourry, who had sensibly stayed out of the discussion, now looked interested. "What kind of food, Amelia?"
"Oh, every kind, Mister Gourry." Amelia smiled persuasively. "Our chefs have been working on all kinds of things... rare delicacies from all over the continent."
Lina licked her lips, as her eyes lit up with stars, then shook her head as if snapping out of a trance, and gave Amelia a shrewd look. "Wait a minute. You wouldn't happen to be looking for a way out of this mess with your guests missing the wedding, would you?"
"Oh, I-" Amelia put a gloved hand behind her tiara, as if abashed. "I guess you found me out." Well, that's partly it, but it's also because if I don't help you out, it'll be years before you get around to marrying Mister Gourry. You helped me with my wedding; now I want to return the favor.
"You think if you give them a wedding to watch, they'll be happy, right?" Lina demanded.
"Uh... yes... " Amelia gave her friend a pleading glance. "But I'm also thinking of your and Mister Gourry's happiness. You've been together for three years already; isn't that long enough?"
"Now, now, Amelia, if Miss Lina says she isn't ready, then you mustn't rush her," Prince Phil said.
Amelia blinked as her father turned his face away from Lina and winked his near eye at her. "We'll just have to tell the guests to go home. I'll tell the chefs to throw out all that food." He turned and began walking toward the palace.
Lina got to her feet. "Uh... wait."
"What a waste... "
"Wait a minute, Phil!" Lina picked up her skirts and began hurrying after the departing prince. "Hey!" she bellowed. "You talked me into it!"
"All right!" Gourry cheered.
Kerrin looked back and forth between everyone, a bewildered look in his eyes. Amelia noticed his expression and laughed. "Something's always happening around Miss Lina. You'll get used to it."
"Hey, Amelia!" Lina now stood about halfway across the hedge-enclosed garden.
"Yes, Miss Lina?"
"There's something I was planning to give you," she called.
Amelia looked a bit wary. "What is it?"
"This." Lina held up her arms and chanted a spell that Amelia had never heard of, but its purpose was clear as a huge ball of energy flew up from the red-haired sorceress and exploded with a soft pop into a mass of vivid colors, raining down through the night sky like fireworks. Lina repeated it again and again, grinning at her friend. "Congratulations, Amelia! And Zel, too, when he wakes up! Congratulations!"
Gourry, Kerrin and the priest joined in. "Congratulations!"
Prince Phil protested, "Miss Lina, you'll alarm my guards-please stop that!"
"Are you kidding? I worked on this spell for an hour!"
"They're already overprotective enough as it is-come on, stop it, please?" he pleaded.
Amelia sat peacefully with Zelgadis' head on her lap and gazed up at the sparkling symbols of joyous triumph, their brilliant colors reflecting in her eyes. Thank you, Miss Lina.
A bird chirped sweetly outside of her window, and the scent of roses drifted in on the gentle breeze. Home. Amelia smiled and snuggled down under her favorite soft blanket, letting her thoughts drift.
Suddenly her eyes snapped open and she bolted upright as her memory came flooding back. Zelgadis!
The princess leaped out of bed, almost landing on Shiran, who had taken up a spot on the large shaggy yellow rug by her bed. The dark-haired girl threw open her wardrobe, seizing the first dress that came to hand and dressing hurriedly. Shiran's lavender bulk moved as the dragonwolf stretched out full-length, yawning, then got up and followed as Amelia shoved her feet into slippers and dashed from her room, her heart pounding.
The hall echoed with the clap-clap of her slippers on the stone floor. They said they'd let me know as soon as he woke up-but by the sun, it's nearly eleven. What if something's really wrong with him?
The previous evening, it had been decided to bed the deeply-sleeping Zelgadis in a room close to the healer's quarters, just in case. Gourry had shared the room, with Lina in the room next door.
Amelia had had to suppress her longing to have everyone go away and leave her alone with her new husband, even though she herself had been practically asleep on her feet. Her father had carried her to her bedroom, as if she were still a little girl. Although embarrassed, she had felt so warm, so safe, that she had barely managed to change into a nightgown before falling into bed, asleep before her head hit the pillow.
She sighed wistfully. That was supposed to be our wedding night... Oh, well. I wanted to ask Zelgadis' opinion on which bedroom he'd like, anyway. And what kind of furniture he likes. I couldn't ask him before the journey, of course... and my old bed is a little small for two people... although I'm sure we'll manage until our new room is set up...
She blushed, wondering what tonight would be like, and then frowned slightly. As long as Zelgadis is all right...
Kerrin had volunteered to sit by his cousin's bedside for the rest of the night so that Gourry could get a good night's sleep. '"I know you're worried about him, Miss Amelia,"' he'd said, when she'd protested sleepily to be allowed to stay. '"I am, too. It's no trouble-I haven't spent the last two months traveling, so missing a night of sleep won't hurt me."
Amelia smiled as she ran. He's such a wonderful boy. I'm so glad he's my cousin now.
She burst into the room to see Gourry sitting in the bedside chair, back in his usual clothes, with Kerrin curled up asleep on the far bed, his red-brown hair drifting gently in the light breeze from the open window.
She barely noticed their presence, focusing instantly on the young man who lay asleep in the bed just in front of her. The room was filled with warm sunlight, surrounding him with a magical shower of sparkling dust motes that danced gently in the breeze.
She could not move, could not take her eyes from the beautiful sight of her Zelgadis, human at last (as he had wanted to be for as long as she had known him) sleeping peacefully right here in his new home, safe and sound.
Or is he? Her worry returned in a rush.
"Good morning, Amelia," Gourry said cheerfully. "Lina'll be here any minute. They needed to measure her for her wedding dress."
"How is he?" she blurted out.
"Still asleep," Gourry said.
Amelia gave him a slightly annoyed glance. I can see that.
He went on, "Boy, you guys were really tired. Lina and I have been up for hours... When I woke up, Kerrin was still watching over Zelgadis, so I told him I'd take over so he could take a nap."
Amelia relaxed a little. Of course; he's just worn out. I mean, I just woke up myself, and we both did the mothball spell, so it's only natural that he'd sleep as long as I did. I guess it's just that I'm used to his chimeric endurance... but he is human now. And he looks all right to me-at least, he doesn't seem to be in pain or anything.
Just then the swordsman's stomach growled. He chuckled, placing a hand-the green one-behind his head. "Sorry."
"Do you want to go have something to eat, Mister Gourry?" Amelia asked, smiling a little.
Gourry beamed at her. "Sure." As he got up from the wooden chair, he asked her, "Did you eat anything yet?"
Amelia shook her head, murmuring a negative as she sat in the chair, which was still warm from its former occupant.
"I'll bring you something, then." Humming a cheery tune, the tall swordsman left, closing the door behind him.
Shiran approached the bed and sniffed its occupant. Seeming satisfied, she lay down on the floor nearby, apparently ready to finish her nap.
For a long minute, Amelia simply sat there, listening to her heartbeat gradually slow down, watching the blanket rise and fall over Zelgadis' chest. Gradually, she realized that she was avoiding looking directly at him, and lifted her gaze to his face. Instantly, she felt her face flush.
What's wrong with me? she berated herself, putting her hands to her warm cheeks. It's just Zelgadis, right? The man you married last night? He's your husband, for goodness sakes!
Yet she could not quite shake off the feeling that the beautiful young man would turn out to be a stranger. He reminds me of Kerrin... It's like I'm looking at one of Zelgadis' relatives, instead of at the familiar face I knew and loved... Her hands clenched under her chin as she felt a sharp pang go through her. For a long moment, she couldn't move, biting her lip at the unexpected sense of loss, feeling her eyes sting.
Then Shiran nudged her elbow. Surprised, Amelia looked at the lavender dragonwolf, who stood almost eye-to-eye with her, and Shiran reached out to lick her cheek. Automatically Amelia held up her hands to defend herself, an involuntary smile coming to her lips. "I'm all right, Shirry. I just didn't realize that I was going to miss his old form this much. Even if it was the form I fell in love with... "
She put her arms around Shiran's neck, absently stroking the thick, soft fur. But he's here. And he's real-not a dream. So if that's the only sacrifice to come out of all of this, it's one I'll gladly pay.
A slight movement caught her eye, and she looked up at the far bed where Kerrin lay. He was sleeping on his side, facing the half-open window, and his fluffy auburn hair was fluttering in the warm breeze. It almost looks like it's dancing, she thought, and giggled, suddenly feeling better.
Now Zelgadis' hair was moving too. She watched as a small piece lifted up, wavered back and forth as if indecisive, then dropped gracefully down to cover his closed eyes. Amelia hesitated only a moment before standing up and moving closer to the bed, reaching to smooth the silky hairs back into place. Even though she was expecting it, the softness of his hair still surprised her. Maybe he'd enjoy having me brush his hair. I really liked it when he did mine...
With that simple touch, the last of her tension eased, and she allowed herself to do something that she had always avoided out of consideration for Zelgadis' feelings: she stared at him. Her yearning eyes traced his face in minute detail, memorizing every inch and mentally comparing it to his old one.
The most dramatic difference was in his coloring. His skin was normal flesh-colored now, a little pale, but some time out in the sun would take care of that. His hair had darkened from shining silver-blue to a beautiful rich deep blue, with light blue highlights, and no longer looked spiky despite still being a gravity-defying fluff, just like his cousin's.
I like it, she admitted to herself. His silver hair was pretty, too, but this is just as nice. Now he won't have to worry about hurting me or getting his hair stuck into a piece of wood again. She suppressed an unladylike snort, not wanting to hurt his feeling in case he heard her and thought she was laughing at his new appearance. Instead she gave in to the temptation to run her fingers though his silky locks. Such a lovely color, like the sea, or the sky at twilight, with the first stars twinkling...
Then she noticed his ear, just barely peeking out from his hair, and gently ran her fingers over it, admiring the way it curved into a gentle point at the tip. They're not as long as an elf's ears, but I like them this way. They're more balanced, more graceful. But still so cute!
His features were still unusually delicate for a man. He had a wide, intelligent forehead, a small nose, and high, elegant cheekbones that tapered down to a rather small, pointed chin. Such big eyes... I wonder if they're still the same color? Look how long his eyelashes are...
She stepped back to take in the overall view. He's still very good-looking, although now he's more 'cute' than 'handsome'. She smiled benignly down at him. I think it's because he looks younger. In fact, he hardly looks older than me. Maybe he has some elf-blood in him...
Indeed, his fine features, his large eyes, and especially his small, pointed ears gave him the same exotic, elfin appeal that he had always had for her. But I'm glad to see that I can still recognize him. He's still my Zelgadis.
She leaned over to study his face more carefully Slowly, her expression grew pensive. Without his protective stones, he looks so... fragile. Vulnerable-like Kerrin. She frowned. He looks... worried. Poor Zelgadis. Even asleep, you can practically feel the strain he's been under. I guess it was easier for him to hide it before...
"So, what do you think of Zel's new look?" came a familiar loud voice.
Amelia started and sprang guiltily away from where she'd been hovering over her beloved, missing the way his eyelids twitched. "Ah, Miss Lina, good morning!" She gave an embarrassed laugh, putting a hand behind her head. "So, um, did you get your dress done?"
"Yeah-the tailors promised the alterations would be ready by four." The red-haired sorceress, back in her usual red and yellow outfit, crossed her arms. "You didn't answer my question. What do you think? It's an improvement, right?"
Amelia turned to look at the young man lying still and silent under the blanket. Even though she liked his new face, Lina's attitude made her feel the need to defend his former appearance. "He's very nice-looking... " she agreed faintly.
Her friend cocked a fine orange eyebrow. "'Nice-looking'? Amelia, are you blind? He's gorgeous! He has the best-looking face I've ever seen on a guy-well, except for Gourry, of course."
"Of course." Amelia smiled to see her friend's blush.
"In fact, he reminds me of his grandfather Rezo," Lina mused. "And you gotta admit, even though he was an arrogant, insane mage possessed by a shard of the dark lord, Shabranigdo, the man was beautiful."
Amelia merely nodded.
"What's wrong, Amelia?"
"Nothing. I just... I... I'm just being silly."
"I miss the cute little rocks in his chin."
Lina facefaulted hard enough to make the beds vibrate. Shiran jumped, then gave the melodramatic sorceress a clearly annoyed look.
"Well, you asked." Amelia smiled down at her friend's silliness, suddenly in a better mood. "But you're right-he is beautiful." She beamed at her friend, who was slowly climbing to her feet. "He looks like a prince. And the best part is, he'll be able to kiss me now without worrying that he's going to hurt me."
Lina gave her a wry, affectionate grin. "Among other things... "
Zelgadis lay there, listening to the mischievous sorceress teasing the younger girl, slowly becoming aware that his body was awake-and it hurt. Not as badly as it did last night, from what I can remember... It's not like having a wound, it's just sort of an allover feeling of... tenderness. I'm uncomfortable, but it's not unbearable.
He pushed aside those thoughts. Anyway, it worked. I can feel again. He felt himself relaxing as a warm, languorous feeling spread through couldn't remember feeling this serene since... since before Rezo cursed him. After four long years, it's over. Finally.
As he hovered on the edge of sleep, he heard Amelia say, "What about your families? I wasn't thinking last night-we can hold off on your wedding until you can invite them-"
He jumped when Lina shouted, "No! I mean, that's okay, I don't want to put you to any more trouble or expense on our account... "
Her nervous laugh puzzled him, as he imagined her with a hand behind her head. What's this about a wedding?
After a few moments, he heard Amelia ask suspiciously, "Miss Lina, are you trying to get out of seeing your older sister?"
From the guilty silence that followed, he suddenly understood. Apparently Lina and Gourry are planning to marry soon, and Amelia's helping them out. You'd think they would've had enough of weddings by now.
Finally Lina stammered, "Of-of course not! But there's no way she-I mean, our relatives could possibly get here before all the food spoils, so we'll just have to make the best of it, right?"
Zelgadis felt his face twitch, unable to completely control his surprise. They're having it now?
Lina happened to be facing Zelgadis when she saw a look a surprise flash over his face, before it resumed its usual impassive expression. Her eyes narrowed. I saw that. He's awake. She stiffened. Oh, no! Did he hear what we were talking about? She scowled, embarrassed and angry. I bet he thinks it's funny to see the great Lina Inverse reduced to a panic-stricken idiot at the mere mention of her older sister.
Amelia was giving her a puzzled look, reminding the older girl of her friend's plight. What is he doing? Lina growled mentally. Amelia's worried about him-I saw the look on her face when I walked in. Is he planning to sleep all day?
"Miss Lina, is something wrong?"
"No, I-" The petite sorceress stopped, and a slow smirk appeared on her face. "Hey, Amelia... Zel's been sleeping an awfully long time, don't you think? Do you suppose it's something magical? Like those old fairy tales where the princess needs a kiss from her true love to wake up?"
Zelgadis stopped breathing, astonished.
Amelia looked shocked. "Oh, no, Miss Lina, do you really think so?"
"You know, maybe you ought to give him a kiss, just to be sure." Lina was grinning now, noting the slight flush that had appeared over Zelgadis' cheeks. Ha, he's all flustered. Serves him right.
Amelia too was blushing, remembering the kiss from last night with longing, but embarrassed at the idea of doing it in front of her friend. Well, I did it last night, but that was expected-it was a wedding, after all. She looked at her sleeping prince, and bit her lip. But what if Miss Lina's right? I can't take any chances. "A-all right... " she said shyly, and stepped to the side of the bed.
She looked down at the strange-yet-familiar young man and noted his faint expression of discomfort. Most people would not have noticed it, but she had become adept at reading his face over the years. Oh, poor Zelgadis-something's really bothering you. Maybe a bad dream? She felt her heart go out to him, and smiled tenderly, her dark hair swinging forward as she bent over him and took his face in her hands. "It's time to wake up now, darling. All the bad dreams are over," she whispered, and pressed her lips to his.
Zelgadis was too stunned to move as he felt Amelia's warm hands lightly touch the sides of his face, and then his entire body seemed to be full of electricity again as her soft lips covered his. He forgot about Lina, forgot about his still-sore body, forgot about everything as he reached up to wrap his arms around her and pull her down to him, welcoming every blessed sensation like the gift it was.
Amelia felt Zelgadis twitch, and then his arms came up around her, holding her close. She felt him respond to her kiss warmly, tenderly, and the rest of the world went away.
Lina smiled in satisfaction. Mission accomplished. I think I'll go see what Gourry's up to...
Author's Notes: Ichiban Victory and Songwind were right on the money about Zel's 'zings'.
Ichiban Victory's reply-If you mean why he's feeling everything so intensly, it's got to be because he's had such a tough exterior for so long. Like when you've worn shoes for so long that when you step out barefoot into the grass it's a completely different experience.
Songwind's reply-All I can really say is he is SO not used to being human anymore. I figure he's going to be highly sensitive to every touch he makes for a while.
I figure having stone skin is like having fingernails. Ever break a nail? Above the flesh, I mean, without it cutting into your skin? Even with no visible injuries, do you remember how tender the skin that used to be protected under the nail is for a day or two? (I especially notice when I try to type right after I've broken a nail. Owie.) Only Zel is going to be that tender all over his body-double owie! Talk about having to 'toughen up'!
Kusanivy asks: I may not be remembering properly but wasn't part of the reason they had to cure Zel the fact that as a chimera (especially one who is part Mazoku) he wouldn't be allowed to marry Amelia or become prince? Soo... if Zel still IS a chimera (albeit a very human looking one) does that make the marriage null and void?
I'll address that in the next chapter, along with Lina and Gourry's wedding, and also tie up a bunch of loose ends that I've left hanging. Remember Gallant? And Ponmar? Lina realizes a secret about Xellos... And just how exactly does Zel's new spell work, anyhow?
My thanks to Kaeru Soyokaze for pointing out the problems with the last chapter. I re-loaded it, so hopefully this time it'll make more sense.
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