Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Detour ❯ Chapter Two ( Chapter 2 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
by Rose Thorne
Disclaimer: Slayers is owned by a bunch of folks who aren't me. I'm borrowing them for my perverse pleasure, much as Xellos borrows emotions for his.
Zelgadis managed to calm his emotions shortly after Xellos left. He wasn't sure what the Mazoku wanted with him, but he wasn't dead yet and despite his distrust he was in no condition to travel alone. Especially if what Xellos had said was true, he'd be without magic for protection at least. He found himself drifting back to sleep as his body tried to heal.
He awoke hours later in the throes of a nightmare, claustrophobia, and a smell that hadn't faded with his dream. He still smelled of the liquid in the tank he'd been imprisoned in, a cloying, sick scent that made him nauseous. Zelgadis sat up slowly, hoping the room had a wash basin he could use.
There was one on a table near the window, and the chimera slowly swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood shakily. He couldn't recall ever feeling this weak, and that scared him. He stumbled to the table, only to find that the basin was empty. Of course Xellos wouldn't think to fill it; he wasn't corporeal. Zelgadis closed his eyes in frustration. A strong wind rattled the window and he glanced up, then nearly fell as he saw that it was snowing, stopping himself only by grabbing the table. It creaked under his weight.
Snow. It was winter.
He shivered, his knees threatening to give out, and he suddenly felt a hand on his arm.
“Zelgadis-san, you should lay down.”
“It's winter,” was all the chimera could say, horrified. “It was mid-summer when…”
Xellos' hand tightened painfully around his arm, and Zelgadis looked back at him, a bit frightened by his strength.
“No wonder I'm so weak,” he whispered, shaking slightly. “I was in there for months.” No one had missed him. Lina, Amelia, and Gourry had probably assumed he was searching for a cure, hadn't worried when they hadn't heard from him. And why would they, when he went off on his own so often? Even Xellos had found him only by chance, not even looking. The thought made him feel powerfully alone.
“It's the first storm of the season,” Xellos informed him, his grip relaxing slightly.
Zelgadis managed to quell his shaking, despite the fact that it was threatening to turn into more. “Would you fill the basin for me?” Xellos cocked his head slightly, and the chimera understood the unasked question. “The smell…”
The Mazoku's eyebrows raised in understanding. “Ah, the tanks.” Zelgadis looked away. “There are baths downstairs, Zelgadis-san. That would probably be better.”
He wanted privacy, away from the prying eyes of other patrons of the inn, but he knew that a bath would be better. Part of him was suspicious of the Mazoku's intentions, which were never good or without an ulterior motive, but another part was beyond caring. Zelgadis let go of the table shakily, and Xellos supported him as they slowly made their way from the room and down the stairs.
Xellos had never before felt concern for a mortal. The feeling was new, and he didn't particularly like it, he mused as Zelgadis slowly scrubbed at his stone skin behind him. He sat cross-legged in the doorway to the bathhouse, his staff across his lap.
He hadn't even been able to enjoy the anguished loneliness that had poured from the chimera. Rather, he had been alarmed by it, and rather relieved when Zelgadis hadn't crumbled as a lesser being might have, something that he normally enjoyed witnessing with humans. But he had been glad when it settled into a sort of apathy.
Xellos was becoming attached to his humans, he realized with some alarm. Attached enough to think of them as his. He had been consorting with this group for too long, and their humanity… Was it rubbing off on him? The thought made him angry, and he stood and turned toward Zelgadis, who had settled into the water and was staring at the rippling surface silently.
“So the stones go all the way down. I always wondered,” he commented lightly. Zelgadis didn't react, even emotionally. Xellos' irritation flared, and he tried a different track, approaching. “It's rather surprising that no one thought to use you as the basis of chimera experiments before. After all, you are one of the most successful specimens.”
There was a flicker of automatic annoyance that was smothered quickly by exhaustion. Zelgadis regarded him dully. “You should probably find a different meal tonight, Xellos. I don't feel like playing.”
That elicited a dangerous anger in Xellos, and he leaned in, smiling widely. “This is no game, Zelgadis-san.”
Instead of fear, he felt a bit of amusement bubble up in the chimera. “Only because I'm not playing. Does that bother you, Xellos?”
The anger rose and he grabbed the swordsman's shoulder, about to lift him from the bath. He was shocked when Zelgadis grabbed his wrist and instead yanked him into the water. The amusement was even stronger now, and it aggravated him.
“Perhaps I should have left you there.”
The amusement disappeared, but nothing replaced it. “Maybe you should have.”
The chimera's agreement unsettled him, and he retreated to the Astral Plane.
It took Zelgadis nearly an hour to get back to the room after his bath; halfway up the stairs he had wondered if he was going to make it and regretted having apparently angered Xellos. None of the other inn patrons had been around, which wasn't surprising given that it was before dawn. But he had made it, and sinking onto the bed, had fallen deeply asleep, not even bothering to re-bandage the holes in his skin.
When he woke, he felt much stronger, and the punctures had healed. Apparently the residue of the liquid had interfered with the healing properties of his golem third, which made sense if the sorcerer had wanted to keep him subdued. He was also ravenous, but had no money or anything of value, so instead he exercised his legs to rebuild his strength.
He still wasn't sure how he had angered Xellos. The Mazoku had been almost kind to him, and Zel still didn't know why he'd been saved. If he took what Xellos said at face value, he hadn't been aware of Zelgadis' predicament and had come across him on accident. His mission had, more than likely, had to do with the sorcerer and his research, and Zelgadis had to wonder if he'd just been incredibly lucky that Xellos had noticed him and bothered to rescue him.
In fact, if the Mazoku had been there to destroy the research, it would have been prudent to destroy Zelgadis as well, since he had formed the basis of that research. So why?
Perhaps that was the real problem. Xellos had, after all, tried to take him straight to Seyruun, and now he was stuck with someone who couldn't even travel in the mortal realm. Except that Xellos wasn't responsible for him, and Zelgadis wasn't really sure why he was continuing to help. If it had been on a whim, why not just leave him somewhere when it became inconvenient?
But maybe that was what had happened. Xellos hadn't returned when Zelgadis finally decided just to go back to sleep and let his body continue to recover. He wasn't sure how he was going to get to Seyruun if the Mazoku had decided to leave for good, given that he had no money and definitely didn't have the strength to travel that far on his own. Worrying now wouldn't change anything; it was better to recover and deal with trouble later.
It was a few hours after the chimera had fallen asleep that Xellos finally returned from the Astral Plane. His black mood had attracted the Beastmaster, who had laughingly chided him for letting a mortal get to him. This is what happens when you spend too much time in the mortal realm, she had said. It had become clear that she was teaching him a lesson. Still, he had stayed in the Astral Plane, watching Zelgadis go about his exercises and finally fall back to sleep.
Xellos gazed at Zelgadis' sleeping form for several minutes before leaving the room for the restaurant downstairs, drinking in the anger of the other patrons who were trapped by the winter storm. As he was sipping his tea, he suddenly realized that Zelgadis had not eaten, and he doubted that was good for him. So after drinking his fill of both tea and the frustration of those around him, he ordered a large meal and returned to the room with it.
Zelgadis was still sound asleep, his features smoothed. His face had a strangely vulnerable look to it, and Xellos found himself reaching out and touching the chimera's wire hair.
The young man stirred, and Xellos drew back his hand. “Hm?”
“I brought you food, Zelgadis-san.”
Zelgadis' relief and gratitude were a bit embarrassing, so Xellos turned and set the tray on the table next to the basin.
“You'll recover much faster if you eat well.” Xellos pushed the chair to the table. The chimera did, indeed, seem stronger, and he needed no help as he walked across the room and sat down.
“Thanks.” Zelgadis ate in silence for a while. Finally, he said, “You weren't supposed to save me, were you?”
“No,” Xellos admitted.
Zelgadis didn't look at him. “And if you were there to destroy all the research, it probably would've been better to get rid of me, too.”
“Probably,” the Mazoku agreed.
The chimera sighed. “Then why didn't you?”
The frustration and confusion pouring from Zelgadis was satisfying, and Xellos decided to be honest. “I don't know.”
Zelgadis turned and stared at him. “You saved my life and probably defied Beastmaster's orders, and you don't know why?”
Xellos smiled. “Precisely.”
“Huh. No wonder you're in a crappy mood.” Xellos opened his eyes and fixed him with an impassive stare. “Only I can't figure out why you haven't just left me here if I'm so inconvenient.”
Zelas' orders were something he didn't want to admit to, but he had another easy excuse. “And give Lina-san an excuse to kill me?” Zelgadis looked away, and he felt a pang of hurt and loneliness from the chimera, and he didn't have to guess the reason. “She would, you know. And she'll be irritated enough that she didn't get to Dragon Slave that sorcerer. I'd rather she not take it out on me.”
In fact, had he known that Zelgadis was being held there, Xellos could have easily steered her to destroy everything. It only would have taken a few hints about experiments being done on chimera, and she would have rushed off to save Zelgadis and take revenge. Lina Inverse was wonderfully predictable like that. It would have been preferable to leave Mazoku hands out of it.
Zelgadis finally smiled slightly, but was silent for a little while longer, his emotions swirling and uncertain. “I'm still recovering, but we can start for Seyruun when the storm breaks. Moving will help me get stronger faster.”
Xellos nodded, closing his eyes. “We will, then.”
The chimera finally turned back to his food, and they spent the rest of the evening in an unfamiliar companionable silence.
Another chapter. Two in two days. I'm shocked, myself!
Not much more to add here. I kind of know where this is going, but I don't know when I'll write more. I know I said that last time, but I seriously leave for a vacation in Chicago in a few days. I might write while I'm there, but maybe not.
Thanks to Chrissy for putting up with me on this one.