Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Detour ❯ Chapter Five ( Chapter 5 )

[ 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.
Chapter Five
When Zelgadis woke shortly before dawn, Xellos was still gone and the fire had died to cold ashes. However, the Mazoku had evidently been back while he slept, because there was a small stock of firewood nearby. He was tempted to use a weak variant of Fireball to start it, but he still had no idea whether elemental magic would also be problematic; he didn't want to find out the hard way.
So instead he built the fire without magic. He was heating the remaining stew when Xellos returned. The smiling priest was carrying two mugs, and the scent of coffee filled the air. Zelgadis inhaled deeply and nodded in appreciation when the Mazoku handed him one of the cups, then settled across from him by the fire.
Despite his exhaustion the previous day and the danger he was in, Zelgadis felt almost content sipping at his morning coffee as his breakfast heated over the fire and the light of dawn creeping in through the cave entrance. As always, he felt far more at ease in the wilderness and traveling than he did in any city or town. He much preferred the relative solitude of a campfire to the roaring fireplace of an inn restaurant, though most of his friends would disagree with that.
That thought allowed loneliness to break through his contentment, and though he breathed in the aroma of his coffee in an attempt to bring it back, it slipped away.
He was aware of Xellos' gaze, but instead concentrated on eating his breakfast so they could get moving again. When the Mazoku continued to watch him silently, he glanced at him irritably. “Is there something you want?”
The priest raised an eyebrow and smiled, then tilted his head down and allowed his bangs to obscure his inhuman eyes. “Why, to get moving, of course, Zelgadis-san. I'm sure you would feel more comfortable in an inn.”
“Actually,” the chimera started, taking a sip of his coffee before continuing, “I prefer avoiding towns as much as possible.”
Xellos sipped his coffee. “In this weather, that's hardly practical,” he said cheerfully.
His tone irritated Zelgadis, and he glared. “Are you that desperate for breakfast, Xellos?”
The Mazoku suddenly grinned. “I had plenty when I picked up this coffee, actually.” With that smile, Zelgadis knew better than to ask. The expression faded. “Which I actually expected to cheer you up, but instead it seems to have had the opposite effect.”
The chimera looked away. “It's not the coffee.”
“Oh?” There was a slight note of curiosity in the syllable.
“What does the reason matter?” he asked angrily. “It's negative emotion. Lap it up like you usually do.”
Xellos raised his head, regarding him mildly with open eyes. “Yare, yare. I'm merely surprised that you're lonely despite my company.”
Zelgadis sighed. “It's not you, either.”
The Mazoku smiled again. “Oh? Does that mean you're becoming used to my presence?”
He brooded on that question for a moment, finishing his coffee. That wasn't a question with an easy answer, in part because he was conflicted on it. Even the real reason behind his feelings was complex. Zelgadis had separated from the group to search on his own because Lina's antics tended to distract him from his goal and at times he truly preferred to be alone. But at the same time…
“You realize,” the chimera finally said, “that you only found me on accident. No one came looking.”
“Well, you were quite a way from Seyruun. And I doubt any of them would have expected this to happen.”
Zelgadis set his cup aside, and reached for his gloves. “I didn't expect it. Even after all this time with people thinking I'm a demon and trying to kill me or drive me away because of it, I didn't expect to be treated… to be treated like an animal.” He yanked the gloves on angrily, and scowled at the hood and scarf he used to disguise his appearance. “By the stars, am I naïve!”
“No.” Xellos stood, putting out the fire with a wave of his staff. “You're merely more human than even you give yourself credit for.”
As they hiked, Xellos noted that Zelgadis' emotions had settled from the initial shock and disbelief into simple confusion. The chimera hadn't responded to his statement, and hadn't spoken at all since they began traveling again. His silence was neither surprising nor unusual, but it was uncomfortable.
When they finally took a break around mid-day, the sorcerer continued to brood, staring at nothing as he munched on a bit of dried meat. Xellos checked their progress, noting that if they pressed on as they had, they could probably make it to the town ahead by sunset.
He said as much to Zelgadis, whose response was, “As long as we don't get attacked by bandits again.”
Xellos frowned, not able to tell from his emotions whether he was joking. “I doubt there are two bands between such small towns, Zelgadis-san.”
“I've learned not to doubt the stupidity of bandits.” The chimera snorted. “And now we're sure to be attacked, since you've gone said that.”
“Oh? I didn't realize you were superstitious.”
“Traveling with Lina Inverse tends to have that effect,” Zelgadis said ruefully.
He couldn't argue with that. “Lina-san does tend to attract interesting trouble.”
“With her, anything you doubt is bound to happen, especially if you doubt it out loud. It's like some god's sick running gag. Well, that and falling over waterfalls.” He seemed to be both irritated and amused with this.
“Immortality does get dull. Perhaps it is,” Xellos commented, laughing lightly, and the chimera rolled his eyes. “On the other hand, you are not Lina-san.”
Zelgadis didn't respond, but at least his emotions didn't darken as they had before. Instead he tore a last chunk from the dried meat with his sharp teeth and pushing the rest back into his pack. “We might as well get moving again.”
As they started out, Xellos realized that he was far more comfortable with the chimera's relative cheer now than he had been with the brooding negativity earlier. The silence now was comfortable, even companionable, where it had previously been irritating. It was a very human way to think, he realized, and that was something he'd rather not think about.
Neither of them were surprised when they were accosted by bandits several miles from town, and Xellos could feel Zelgadis' resigned amusement before it turned to anger when he was once again mistaken for a monster.
This band did not contain any magic users, and Xellos stepped back and allowed Zelgadis to handle them. After all, the chimera had not had a chance to fight, and he was sure letting out some aggression would do him some good. Well, that and a good fight made for a hearty meal.
As the remaining bandits ran off, abandoning the wounded, Zelgadis merely sat down heavily at the edge of the road and plunged his sword into the snow to remove the fresh blood before sheathing it. He regretted having killed, Xellos realized, and that took more out of the chimera than the fight itself. Even if Zelgadis considered himself a heartless sorcerer swordsman, he couldn't shed the humanity he felt he had lost. He did, indeed, have a heart.
He picked up Zelgadis' walking staff as he approached and held it out to him. He didn't take it, and the regret and self-loathing that was pouring from him irritated Xellos.
“Do you need me to carry you again, Zelgadis-san?” he asked, putting enough amusement into his voice to irritate the chimera. He opened his eyes slightly and smiled. “I'm beginning to think you enjoy it.”
Zelgadis flushed and glared at him, then grabbed the walking staff from Xellos. He found himself enjoying a meal of rage and embarrassment as the chimera stood and stalked away toward the town, so flustered that he forgot to pull up his scarf and hood for several minutes.
While I've claimed I don't know when chapters will be written as I write roughly one a day, this time I'm serious. Flying to Chicago tomorrow and while I might write more on the plane and have time to type it and post it, my schedule is pretty booked when I get there.
So it might be a couple weeks, but I hope not. I really am enjoying this.
Chrissy helped me quite a bit with this chapter (Zelgadis was being frustratingly uncooperative, the jerk), and Chrislea was awesome and beta-read for me.