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.
Chapter Ninety: Tailor Woes / Feel the Wind
Amelia sighed regretfully. "Then... I guess we'd better not."
"What are you talking about?"
Her face grew hot, and her voice was barely a murmur. "M-making love."
The young man who was Zelgadis practically fell over in shock, dropping the bundle of clothes he carried. "Wh-what? Now?" he squawked, glancing around the little supply room, his eyes huge in his small face.
Despite her disappointment, Amelia couldn't help laughing at him, covering her mouth with her hand. "No, no... I meant tonight, silly."
As he assimilated this, his expression changed from alarmed to annoyed. She tried to hold in her laughter, but it came spilling out of her, relieving her guilt. Zelgadis was trying to look stern, but she could see a smile beginning to show. She tried to speak, couldn't yet, and waved her hands helplessly. Finally he crossed his arms, waiting with an indulgent expression, one dark blue eyebrow raised. Shiran looked from one to the other, her green eyes glowing eerily in the dark room.
"I'm sorry," the young woman giggled. "It's just-I don't think I've ever seen you look so-so-panicky. Your mouth was hanging open and everything... " She struggled to get a hold of herself.
"Well, I'm glad I was able to amuse you, but if you don't mind, would you please tell me what brought up that particular topic of conversation?" Amelia could hear equal amounts of amusement and irritated curiosity in his tone.
Suddenly her laughter faded, and she looked up at him with troubled eyes. "Well, it's... It's not fair for me to expect you to... well, that is... " She took a deep breath, hesitated, then blurted, "I don't want our first time making love to be painful for you!"
Shock covered his face. Recklessly, she rushed on, "And yet, I want to do it with you, I want to so badly, and it makes me feel so guilty-what kind of person would expect such a thing, it's not just, it's-"
Amelia found herself kissing Zelgadis, his mouth firmly covering hers, quieting her hysteria. There was nothing hesitant about his manner, nothing that said he was feeling much pain, only the same desire that she herself was struggling with. After a moment she noticed that he was holding her close to him, and she relaxed, resting her hands against his chest, feeling his firm muscles and the warmth of his skin through his tunic.
It was still a new experience for her, despite his having held her earlier that morning. She kept expecting to feel hard stone and prickly wire hair; when she pulled in a breath she realized that she was searching for the smell of sun-warmed stone with a metallic tang. Instead he smelled of warm skin, much like other men; in fact, it reminded her of being hugged by her father.
Suddenly she felt better. The same reassuring feelings of being loved and protected were there, and yet Zelgadis, so much smaller than her bear of a father, had special qualities all his own. She had never felt like this while hugging her father-or anyone else.
When Zelgadis lifted his head, he gave her his rare, sweet smile. "I love you."
She looked at him with wide eyes. It still takes me by surprise every time he says that.
"And I appreciate your trying to spare me pain, but it's not necessary. I'll be fine."
"Amelia." He looked so serious in the dim gray light-so much like the old Zelgadis that she had to swallow the lump in her throat. He was silent for a few moments, then said quietly, "What you said, about the pain of the first time-that's what men usually say to women."
For some reason, she blushed. She didn't know how to respond, but he continued, "And I know what most women say-that it's worth a little pain."
"Oh, but you-"
"What about you?"
"I-" She stopped, stymied. I hadn't even thought about myself, to be honest. Zelgadis' well-being has been the most important thing to me for so long... She shook her head dismissively. "Well, some girls don't have any problems, especially physically active ones like me. And if I should get... hurt, I can heal it in moments. So it's not a big deal. It's not like-hey, do you think a healing spell could help you?"
He frowned thoughtfully. "I don't think so-I'm not injured anywhere; my skin is just hypersensitive right now." He must have been able to read her disappointment in the dim light. "But if you want to try, go ahead."
Amelia nodded gladly, and held up a hand, calling forth her best healing spell. Slowly she bathed the slender young man all over in white light, resisting the urge to touch him, while he stood with his eyes closed. Finally she let the spell fade from her hand, and he opened his eyes and smiled.
"How do you feel?" she asked.
"Better-I think. It's hard to tell. I can still feel everything very strongly, but it doesn't bother me quite so much." He looked down at himself. "I think these clothes were chafing me... "
Amelia felt a surge of gladness. "Well, that's something we can do something about!" She laughed. "We'll just ask the tailors to let you borrow something soft to wear until your real clothes are done." And I know just the type of clothes I want him to try on... I think I had a dream about it once.
"Hey! Quit sticking me there or I'm gonna-"
"Miss Lina!" Amelia reprimanded as she, Zelgadis, and Shiran entered the tailors' workshop.
"Oh, hi, guys. Listen, Amelia, you want to tell these people I'm not a pincushion?"
"They can't help it, Miss Lina... " Amelia said consolingly as Zelgadis looked around the large room. It looked like a typical tailor's shop, with bolts of cloth on one wall, sections of thread and lace and all the trimmings women wore on their clothes, plus chairs and platforms for people to stand on, and of course, tailors, at least six of them, mostly middle-aged women. Two were pinning Lina into a beautiful white wedding dress. Her red hair was bound up on top of her head, presumably to keep it out of the way. Amelia added, "All tailors stick people, Miss Lina; you know that."
A tall, thin man with a small black goatee approached the couple. He wore a bright purple suit with silver trim and a high collar that made him look even taller than he already was. Shiran blocked his way, and he stepped back a pace, swallowing nervously as her glowing green eyes stared up at him. "Princess Amelia, what brings you here? Didn't you get married last night?"
"Yes, Mister Edon. This is my new husband, Zelgadis, of the Greywyrs clan." She gestured toward him, and Zelgadis gave what had become his customary half-bow. All of the assistant tailors bowed back. "Zelgadis, this is Mister Edon, our head tailor."
Instead of greeting him, Edon made a little frown and began walking around the former chimera, looking his body up and down. The other tailors and Lina stopped what they were doing to watch. "This can't be him."
"What?" Amelia and Zelgadis spoke together.
"The man you described was much taller. I designed the suit-this suit-to be-" Suddenly he snatched the bundle of clothes from Zelgadis, who winced as one of the white shoes fell out and landed on his boot. "Do you know how much work went into that?" the tailor exclaimed, trying to smooth out some of the wrinkles.
"I, uh, I guess I estimated his size wrong after all," Amelia said quickly.
"Obviously," the man said sullenly. "He must have looked a sight! What will people think of my work now?"
"Oh, no, he was the handsomest man there!" Amelia protested. "Ask Miss Lina. She was there."
Everyone looked at the petite sorceress, whose hands came up reflexively to cover the low neckline over her small bosom, a pink blush appearing over her nose. "Yeah, he was great looking... now, can we please finish here? I'm freezing!" Indeed, her bare arms were covered in goosebumps.
Edon looked somewhat mollified. Amelia said, "Anyway, Mister Edon, could one of you please alter Zelgadis' suit so he can attend Miss Lina's wedding? It shouldn't take long."
Soon Zelgadis found himself standing on one of the platforms. "We might as well get all your measurements while you're here," Edon explained.
When he removed his boots, everyone exclaimed over his sore, reddened feet. His old gray boots were very rough inside after being gouged so much by the stones on his feet, and without socks his tender skin had had no protection whatever. Amelia was especially horrified. "Zelgadis, why didn't you say something?" She was on her knees, running a white-glowing hand over his feet.
He shrugged. "I wasn't planning on wearing these boots for much longer, anyway."
Edon turned out to be unusually sympathetic to Zelgadis' plight. "Sensitive skin? I was born with that condition myself. It's one of the reasons I became a tailor. You'll notice that all of my clothes are designed with both style and comfort in mind."
Amelia turned to him with huge, pleading blue eyes. "Do you have something Mister Zelgadis can borrow until he gets some new clothes made? Something soft?"
Edon smiled in a fatherly way at the young woman. "Of course, Princess."
As usual, when Amelia looks at you like that, you can't say no, Zelgadis thought, amused. I sympathize with the man.
Zelgadis continued removing his clothes, feeling incredibly awkward and exposed in front of everyone. Thank goodness Andon provided underwear with my suit-mine got ruined back at Momoko's inn. I had to throw it out.
He traded looks of shared misery with the red-haired sorceress as every inch of him was measured by two of the middle-aged women. Lina was right. It's damned cold in here! That's one feeling I didn't miss as a chimera. He shivered, watching goosebumps appear on his arms and legs. I feel like a fool, standing here in my underwear in front of the girls.
He caught sight of Amelia, standing off in a corner with Shiran out of the tailors' way as they bustled here and there, and instantly forgot the chill. His princess was gazing raptly at his bare torso, and he blushed, wondering if she could see his gooseflesh. He stood straighter, fighting his old wish to be physically impressive, and reminded himself that she found him attractive not necessarily because he was, but because she loved him. Face it, I could be as ugly as an ogre and she'd still think I was handsome. The thought made him smile.
"That's the spirit," one of the older women said cheerfully. "Keep smiling. It won't be much longer."
"Such an elegant frame," Edon said, appearing suddenly out of nowhere. "I'm going to enjoy designing your clothes. Such long legs for someone of your height."
"Nothing too flashy, Mister Edon," Amelia called from the corner.
Edon raised an eyebrow at her. "Are you sure? You want him to be noticed, don't you? He is Seyrune's new prince."
"I'm sure," she said firmly. "He's a serious, reliable person by nature. I was thinking of clothes that show-well, elegance, as you said."
"Very well, Princess," the man sighed.
When they were done measuring him, they made him don the wedding suit-shoes included-so they could alter it. Zelgadis clenched his fists-and his teeth-to keep from shoving everyone away from him, as they seemed bound and determined to test his pain tolerance with what seemed like a hundred sharp needles.
Then Edon appeared, carrying an assortment of clothing. "Let's see... "
The next hour was spent with Zelgadis trying on various outfits, some wild and strange, some ordinary, and some that managed to achieve the 'elegance' that everyone agreed would look best on him. The others were quite enthusiastic on the subject, but Zelgadis soon tired of being the object of everyone's attention.
Eventually Zelgadis was outfitted in a stylish white suit with dark blue trim, one of Edon's, in fact, with the pant cuffs and sleeves swiftly hemmed to the perfect length. The cloth was indeed soft, the inner seams concealed behind flaps of cloth so that they did not rub his skin, and the collar and lapels were made of a lighter material that did not drag on his neck or irritate his skin. He could not hold back a sigh of relief. I hadn't realized how uncomfortable I was.
"If you decide you like it, you can keep it," Edon said. "It's a little too dull for my tastes. Just bring it back tomorrow and let me know. We can do alterations to fit your exact proportions."
"Thank you." Zelgadis was a little surprised at the man's generosity, even if he was a tailor and probably had a hundred more outfits besides this one. Then he shrugged. He's giving the gift to the new Prince, not really to me, Zelgadis. I just hope he doesn't think I'm accepting a bribe or something.
Still, when he looked at himself in the mirror, he was pleased at the image that smiled back.
Edon also provided him with a pair of special socks with practically invisible seams. "I can give you the name of the woman who makes these for me, and the one for the man who makes my shoes. I haven't had a blister in years."
Again, Zelgadis thanked the man, although he hoped he wouldn't have need such information. "I'd like to keep my old clothes. There's a lot of important memories tied to them," he added, smiling as he watched Amelia's face light up. "Have them cleaned and sent to-" Zelgadis hesitated. I don't actually have a room here yet, do I? He turned to Amelia with a questioning expression.
She caught on immediately. "Send them to my room. We haven't chosen new quarters yet."
"Yes, Princess Amelia."
Zelgadis was a bit startled to hear her speak of them sharing a room so casually. That's right... Tonight we'll be sharing a bedroom... a bed... He felt himself start to drift off, and shook his head to derail that train of thought. Not yet.
Then Zelgadis, Amelia, Shiran and Lina (who was back in her usual red outfit) took their leave. "How are your feet, Zelgadis?" Amelia asked anxiously as soon as the door closed behind them.
"The socks help," he said shortly, suppressing a surge of annoyance. I've only gone five steps. I'm not that fragile.
"You look like you need a break, Zel," Lina commented. "Me, too. Why don't we get something to eat?"
Zelgadis gave her a grateful look. I'm not hungry, but I am feeling a little overwhelmed.
"Why don't we go out and have a snack in the south rose garden?" Amelia suggested.
Something about that name sounded familiar to Zelgadis. "Isn't that where-"
"Where we got married," Amelia said, giving him a loving look. "I want you to see the flowerstone mosaic in the daylight. It's really beautiful."
Zelgadis recalled the marvelous mosaic he had seen last night, made of hundreds of semiprecious gemstones. "I'm sure it is," he agreed warmly, meeting her eyes.
Lina cleared her throat. "I'm going to go look for Gourry. Why don't you two get some food and meet us there?"
Both of them blinked, having forgotten Lina was there. "Okay, Miss Lina," Amelia agreed, taking Zelgadis' hand and leading him down the corridor toward the kitchens. He followed willingly.
By the time they were finished dealing with the kitchen staff and what seemed like a dozen other curious palace workers who all wanted to meet Zelgadis, the former chimera was ready to Rei Wing himself off to the outer world to get away from everyone. He had never been very sociable, even as a youngster, and having to deal with so many strangers all at once was making him incredibly irritable.
Shiran seemed to feel the same way, although she might have simply been picking up his own emotions. The huge dragonwolf was acting restless, moving in quick, tense bursts, keeping herself between her bonded ones and anyone who approached them. The dark purple fur on the back of her long, elegant neck was raised halfway, and her eyes were glowing more than usual.
"She's not used to being around so many people," Amelia guessed. "Well, she'll calm down once we get outside."
Each of them carried a tray piled high with goodies, plates, cups, cutlery, and a small pitcher of tea. Zelgadis followed Amelia to a wooden door he recognized-the one he had used the previous night to get to the garden. Amelia set her tray down on a small hallway table, then opened the door to the outside. Shiran dashed through it immediately and began sniffing through the grass at the side of the path.
The moment Zelgadis stepped outside was one he would remember for the rest of his life. A shaft of brilliant sunlight blinded him, and he blinked, trying not to drop the tray as he realized that he could actually feel the sun's heat on his face. He turned his face from side to side, marveling that he could tell where the sun was even with his eyes closed. It reminds me of that dream I have, of Amelia enfolding me in her warmth, her bright, loving light...
He didn't want to move, even though the tray was beginning to get heavy. Then he heard Amelia coming up behind him, and stepped forward. Slowly he walked a few paces into the courtyard, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the light. The air smelled of autumn, cool and crisp and clean, and his sharp hearing picked out the sounds of footsteps on gravel, and farther off someone else whistling as they raked leaves. Songbirds sang sweetly, their chirping as pretty and delicate as a music box.
Off to his right a gust of wind shhhh'ed, and then he froze, his eyes wide, as the same wind he'd heard approaching passed over him, ruffling his clothes and hair. Amelia passed him and stopped. "What's wrong?"
The former chimera closed his eyes to savor the feeling. "Nothing," he said, his tone one of quiet wonder. "I feel... I feel the wind." He tilted his head back, taking deep breaths of the fresh air, as if it would all be gone in a moment. I'm really part of the world again... finally... not an outsider anymore. Zelgadis' soft hair caressed his forehead and tickled his ears. His skin tingled and sang, revitalizing him.
His hands tightened on the hard metal handles of the tray. I want to drop this and run, to throw myself into the wind and fly up to those bright, shining white clouds, to be one with that brilliant blue sky...
"I know," Amelia said, and he could hear the smile in her tone.
His eyes popped open. Did she hear my thoughts? We're both still wearing the Star Spheres...
His blue-eyed princess gave him a dazzling smile. "I love autumn. It's my favorite season. The trees are like rainbows, the air feels so light and free, and I have so much energy!" She laughed out loud, sharing her joy with him. Shiran looked up from her busy exploration to wag her tail, looking much happier as well.
"More energy than usual?" he teased, suddenly in a good mood again.
Amelia only laughed again, her happiness spreading out from her like the sunlight, bathing everyone nearby. Zelgadis found himself smiling at her, and marveled at how easily she could influence his moods. Thank the gods for the joy she's brought into my life. He knew very well how fleeting, how precious happiness could be, and vowed to never take her for granted.
Amelia gazed at her beloved Zelgadis. He's so handsome, with his dark blue hair shining in the sun. It goes so beautifully with his white suit... And he looks so happy! At peace. How I've longed to see that look on his face... The wind flowed past them again, and she joined Zelgadis in taking a deep breath, feeling both soothed and enlivened by the brisk wind and the warm sunshine. "What a beautiful day," she said, and Zelgadis nodded.
The former chimera followed his love across the wide, green lawns toward the high hedge wall, with Shiran loping gracefully alongside. Occasionally the great lavender beast would disappear for a few seconds to investigate something, but she soon reappeared with a happy look in her eyes.
In the sunlight the gemstone mosaic was even more breathtaking, a rainbow of rich, vibrant colors. The great, glorious flower garden sparkled and shone and glittered and gleamed, drawing the eye with lovely shades of red and green, purple and gold, pink and blue, surrounded by lustrous white marble. Zelgadis smiled as he spotted those flowers that he had come to imagine symbolized his friends, his gaze lingering fondly on Amelia's tourmaline rose in the center of the large mosaic.
The two of them set their trays down on a large white marble table at the other end of the hedge-enclosed area. Half of the table was in the shade from the hedge, and there were six fancy white-painted metal chairs to choose from. Zelgadis felt himself relaxing even more, enjoying the peace and quiet in this beautiful sunny garden, alone with his loved ones.
"Don't stay out in the sun too long at first, Zel, or you'll get a bad sunburn," Lina said as she entered through the break in the hedge. Gourry followed her.
Zelgadis frowned, his good mood broken, resenting even the presence of his friends right now.
"Oh, I didn't think of that," Amelia said. "She's right; you should stay in the shade while we're out here, okay, Zelgadis?"
He nodded, fighting the urge to snap at her. Somehow our situations have become reversed. When did Lina become my mother? Amelia, too.
They sat down to eat some of the leftover pastries from yesterday's wedding, and Amelia poured tea into dainty little ceramic cups from a matching pitcher, which was white with green leafy vines twining gracefully around it.
"Be careful now, Zelgadis. This is hot," Amelia said in a tone one usually takes when talking to a toddler.
Anger seized him. "Stop that!" He slammed his hand down onto his empty plate, spilling his tea and startling everyone with the clatter. Ow, damn it! For a moment he was even more furious, but then it hit him how easily he was losing his control-the control he'd been so proud of-and the shock of that realization was as sharp as the pain in his hand.
Humans and dragonwolf stared at him in astonishment. After a moment Gourry asked, "What's wrong, Zelgadis?"
He was silent, fuming.
Amelia took a step toward him, distress in her sapphire eyes. "Zelgadis?"
"Stop treating me like a child." As soon as the words were out of his mouth he realized how he sounded-like a sulky teenager-and also, that he had had a conversation very similar to this with Amelia during their stay at Momoko's inn. Now I know how she felt, he admitted reluctantly to himself.
He tried again, this time attempting to sound reasonable. "You're both doing it. It's getting annoying. I've been a human before, you know."
"Zelgadis, I'm sor-" Amelia began, but Lina interrupted her.
"We're only trying to help." The petite sorceress sounded irritated. "You've had four years away from being a human. It stands to reason that you'd forget a lot."
The sharp words came out before he could stop them. "If I want your advice, I'll ask for it!"
He was aware of a flash of red, then suddenly he was choking. For a moment his arms thrashed uselessly in the air and then he realized that Lina had grabbed him in one of her nasty headlocks. Damn it, she caught me off guard. He had never taken much notice before, since the one time she had tried it on him, he had simply ignored her, standing up and walking around with her hanging down his back like a baby koala.
A fierce, throbbing growl from behind them made both Zelgadis and his attacker freeze, moving only their eyes to see Shiran standing in full attack posture, her lavender mane fanning out, white teeth bared, eyes glowing fiercely. Zelgadis heard Lina chuckle weakly. "I forgot about her."
Her arms loosened, and he sucked in a deep breath of air. "Lina, get off."
"S-sure." She let him go, backing slowly away from his chair. He pointed at the chair she'd vacated, and said, as if to a dog, "Sit."
Slowly, eyeing Shiran, she did. Zelgadis rubbed his soft human throat, coughed a bit, and ordered Shiran to 'remain'. The huge beast gave the red-haired sorceress one last growl and went to sit between her bonded ones and Lina, whom she obviously considered the 'unpredictable' member of her flock.
Gourry stopped looking tense and frowned at his fiance. "Lina, what did we talk about this morning?" he scolded.
This was so unlike his normal behavior that both Amelia and Zelgadis blinked in astonishment. They were even more surprised when Lina said meekly, "Sorry."
"I don't think this situation calls for violence, Lina, do you?" he went on.
"... No," she said in a small voice, staring down at the table. She looked like a little girl being lectured by her father.
"Good!" said the tall swordsman, regaining his normal cheer. Lina apparently heard the forgiveness in his voice and looked up to meet his gaze. Her face broke into a grateful smile.
What happened between them? both Zelgadis and Amelia thought in wonder. Since when does Gourry have such influence over her?
Lina surprised them even more when she turned to them and bowed a little. "Sorry, guys. I've been trying to clean up my act a little. There's no need for me to treat my friends the same way I do bandits, right? Besides... " She looked away sheepishly. "Gourry doesn't like it. He says I'm not being responsible."
"But you've never cared about-" Amelia began.
Zelgadis hastily interrupted her. "Well, we're glad to hear it, aren't we, Amelia? And we accept your apology." I'm going to give Gourry all the support I can. Now that Lina's discovered she doesn't like having him disappointed in her, she'll probably be a little easier to deal with.
Everyone was quiet for a while, focusing on their food. Zelgadis discovered that his lips were too sensitive to sip his tea until it had cooled off a little.
Eventually the silence was broken by the delicate chirp of a songbird somewhere nearby. Zelgadis glanced around, noticed again what a beautiful day it was, and realized his anger was gone, lost somewhere in serenity. Shiran rested on the soft grass at his feet. Amelia brushed several windblown strands of soft dark hair behind one ear, a cute smudge of white frosting on her cheek. Lina and Gourry were relaxing lazily in their chairs, wearing matching satisfied expressions, having finished off the last of the pastries.
They didn't deserve what I said. And if Lina Inverse has changed enough to start acknowledging people's feelings, then I can do no less. "Listen, Lina, Amelia... " He put his sore hand behind his head, grimacing a little to show his shame, "I'm sorry I snapped at you. I'm just feeling really-overwhelmed-by everything."
"Who wouldn't be?" Lina tossed her red-gold hair, surprising him once again with the ease of her forgiveness. And I thought only Amelia was growing up.
"And I'm sorry for treating you like a kid," Amelia said. "I should know better. I know I always hate it when people do that to me."
He gave her a wry smile, sharing the memory of their stay at Momoko's inn. She winked at him.
"And I'm sorry too," Gourry said unexpectedly, and they all stared at him.
"What do you have to be sorry about?" Lina asked.
"Um... ah... Nothing, I guess. I just didn't want to be left out," Gourry explained, and they all laughed.
DS-As you probably guessed, I modeled Zelgadis' skin sensitivity after my own. Of course, it doesn't hurt when I touch things, but I hate clothes shopping because there's a lot of things I just can't wear. And as for shoes-geh! I haven't been able to find shoes that fit and don't hurt for three years. Frankly, I'm getting desperate.
Mistress DragonFlame comments: I'm amazed at the fact that your skill of writing didn't seem to change from when you first started, just under 3 years ago.
-And whatever happened with Xellos when he looked at Amelia and Zelgadis way back when, right before Lina's excape? I mean, you kinda hinted towards that he noticed something.
I didn't start putting up chapters until I had about 40 written, and the whole time I was continually revising, so yes, my fic has changed from what it was originally. For the better, I hope-but actually, I need to study writing. Every now and then I read an article that lists common mistakes amateur writers make-and I realize I've made some. It's a little embarrassing. You might say I'm a very talented amateur whose work needs a final polish.
-I'm not sure what you mean about Xellos. If I wrote something you're confused about I'd be happy to clarify-exactly which scene? Which chapter?
ATTENTION FILIA FANS: Remember when Amelia mentioned she sent the golden dragon an invitation... .? Hint, hint.
DS-I thought some of you might like to know which manga I collect, if you're looking for recommendations. There's only about ten series I really enjoy-I prefer anime to manga. Manga doesn't have music, or color, so sometimes it's hard to tell the characters apart.
Nearly all of my manga is shoujo (for girls/women), like D.N. Angel, Fruits Basket-volumes 8 and up, which tell what happened after the anime ended, Card Captor Sakura volumes 3-6 of the second season books, WISH, by CLAMP, (it's such a special 4-book series that I really wonder why they haven't made it into an anime), and Please Save My Earth volumes 8 and up, (again, after the anime).
I'm also getting into From Far Away, which has a main character who reminds me so much of Zelgadis, both in looks and in personality. And the fact that he's cursed, and has a cute young girl who loves him, which brings out his protective side. It takes about five books before you start getting to the love confessions, though. I have 6,7 and 8 so far.
I'd also like to recommend a fairly new series that has beautiful art and a sweet, tender, sometimes funny storyline, MeruPuri by Matsuri Hino. So far it's cute and innocent, despite the fact the main characters are a teenage girl and a 7-year old boy prince from a magic kingdom who loves her-a boy who transforms into a gorgeous teenage version of himself due to a curse put on him by his evil older brother. The main girl character has to kiss him to change him back to his child-form, and although she loves the young boy like a little brother, she can't help being drawn to the incredibly alluring older version, who proves time and again that he loves her wholeheartedly by choosing her over the various things that happen to separate them.
The whole innocent-yet-sexy aspect is what really makes this series so intriguing. When the older version of the boy prince lays together with her on a bed, for example, he's just cuddling. He has no idea that there's anything more to loving somebody-but the girl sure does, and it's fun watching her blush! -
The other series that I'd like to recommend are all shonen-ai (two boys in love) or yaoi (two men making love), so people who don't like that sort of thing-don't go out and buy them and then get upset with me. My absolute favorite is, of course, FAKE by Sanami Matoh, volumes 1-7, about two New York cops. One likes the other from the first day they meet, and he's not embarrassed about showing it, but not really in an offensive way, which I like. There's a lot of great humor and gripping drama, with actual storylines, and a gradual building of real caring between the two men, with only two sex scenes in the last book. The rest of the series is about stealing kisses, and the second cop trying to decide just how much he cares about his partner. There's a lot of character development, which means you actually care about these people. The one thing I don't like is some of the character designs-some of the women look too much like men. And there are a few gory scenes, if that bothers anyone. Oh, and they made an OAV anime which basically covers the plot from volume 2, so before you buy or rent it, read number 1 or you won't like the DVD as much.
A close second is Eerie Queerie, volumes 1-4, which, despite its offensive title, (It's called Ghost in the original Japanese manga, which I like a heck of a lot better), throws all my favorite bits into the soup. You have your quiet, gentle, delicate-looking boy lead character, your handsome, smart, sexy guy who decides pretty early in the series that there's something special about his new friend (besides the fact that he keeps getting possessed by ghosts and ends up having to help them accomplish what they need to in order to 'move on'), your wise-yet-lecherous monk, your other gorgeous boy character who also falls in love with the oblivious lead character, and several humorous minor characters who liven things up. It's really more of a comedy than anything else, with nothing more graphic than hugs and kisses, and I would really love to see this made into an anime. I like the end, where they don't leave you hanging-there are some love confessions and a decent conclusion, even though it seems like the author rushed it a bit.
My last choice for shonen ai is Hands Off! by Kasane Kasumoto. It's darker and grimmer than I usually like, sort of a teen drama, but the whole 'teenage boy gives or enhances mental powers when he touches people' thing is intriguing, a good mystery. The lead is a small, cute, fairly innocent young boy who has no idea what's going on, and the one who loves him is his cold, sullen cousin. They were very close as little boys-that's how the cousin got his special power. A type of clairvoyance-he sees things that happened in the past, and since they're usually horrible things like murders and suicides, he tries to hate his cousin for cursing him with such a power, but there's a strong bond underneath that comes out when the boy is in danger. Of course, the innocent boy manages to get himself in life-threatening danger on a regular basis. There's also a girl-chasing best friend who can see auras. The love between these cousins is not sexual, though, and so far only volumes 1, 3, and 5 have good storylines, so you might want to read them in the bookstore before you buy.
There's a small amount of boy-love in D. N. Angel as well, nothing sexual, but makes for great humor when one of the boys teases the other in class about just how close they are, especially after he rescues his friend from drowning. 'Kiss of life'...
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