Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Detour ❯ Chapter Twenty Two ( Chapter 22 )

[ 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 Twenty Two
Gourry hadn't been in the Armory. They ran into each other in the corridor outside the kitchen as she ran toward the Armory. Lina pounced on him and started crying in relief before she regained decorum and walloped him. How dare he make her worry like that?
“That sounded like it came from the Armory,” Gourry said, rubbing his head where Lina had socked him. “Good thing I was eating breakfast, huh?”
Lina restrained herself from hitting him again, this time for having breakfast without her. “I think the gunpowder in there must've gone off.”
Amelia came running around the corner, her top on backwards. She'd clearly been woken up by the blast. “Lina-san! Gourry-san! You're all right!” She frowned. “Where's Zelgadis-san?”
“Zel's probably in the library.” People had started streaming through the hall, mostly guards, and Lina figured they should get out of the way. “We can meet up with him there.”
Amelia nodded. “He can help us with the rescue!”
Lina wanted to protest. She really did. But they were staying at the palace for free, and the puppy-dog eyes Amelia was giving her were just too much. Well, damn.
“Yeah, yeah. Let's go get him.”
But when they reached the library, Zel wasn't there. Instead they found a smashed window near a dropped book of legend. It had one of Zel's notes in the front cover. Lina stared at the window in silence for a moment, frowning. There wasn't much glass on the floor, so whatever had smashed it had been going out.
Philionel swept toward them, surrounded by guards. “Amelia, Lina-dono, Gourry-dono…” He looked grave, and Lina immediately realized.
“Zel's in the Armory, isn't he?”
Amelia gasped as her father nodded. “The guards saw him smash through the Armory wall.”
Lina grabbed Gourry and cast Levitation, then flew out the window toward the remains of the Armory.
They had to find Zel.
Xellos knew he was too late when he saw the smoke and the ruins of the Armory. The sorcerer had already made his move. At least with this much damage, a large portion of the structure essentially gutted, it was likely that Lina had staved off the attack. Even though Zelgadis was quite powerful, Xellos doubted he would be able to defend himself from Xiuh on his own. He found her levitating a section of ceiling off a hapless soldier.
“Ah, there you are, Lina-san.”
That broke her concentration and the section began to fall. Xellos waved his staff and it stopped in midair.
“Xellos!” She ran toward him. “Zel's somewhere in this mess, but we haven't found him.” Lina grabbed his collar. “I know the Beastmaster's pissed at him. Was this her?”
That was something he wasn't prepared to reveal. Nyx had clearly been under the control of someone other than Zelas, and he had no doubt that Xiuh was as well. The Mazoku shrugged. “Apparently that sorcerer was working with others. They may want him back.”
“Shit.” Lina released him, and he realized that she looked as though she'd been crying. “Please help find him, Xellos. I can't…” She shook her head. “If he was in that explosion, he's probably in a part of the building that we can't reach yet.”
“Unless he has been captured,” Xellos said somberly. If he was missing, that was likely. At least the chimera would be easy to track.
“If so, they're dead. They have no right.” The sorceress closed her eyes briefly. “But if he's here, we haven't heard from him. He could be hurt.”
Or dead, Xellos knew she wasn't willing to say. He only nodded and stretched his senses to check for the chimera's Astral signature. He was surprised to find it immediately. His face must have changed because Lina suddenly looked worried.
“Is he…?”
“He's here.”
That Xellos could sense him at least meant that Zelgadis was alive, but if he was so close and hadn't used spells to free himself or at least draw rescuers to his location… He glanced toward that part of the structure and Lina followed his gaze.
“We can't get into that part yet,” she said softly.
“I can.” Xellos left her there, traveling through the Astral plane.
He would have missed Zelgadis simply looking, the chimera covered with dust and grime from the explosion and partly buried in the rubble. At first all Xellos saw of him was his hand outstretched with the fingers curled in a light fist, the rest of him obscured behind a large bit of ceiling that had barely missed crushing him completely.
Zelgadis was face down, his right leg pinned under another section of ceiling; blood streaked the pant leg. His right arm was twisted behind him against a wall. Blood stained the ground around his head, and the gaping hole in the back of his shirt revealed that he had been far too close to the explosion for his even his stone skin to withstand the heat. It was only the mist from his breath that made it clear the youth was still alive.
And it was clear that if Zelgadis were to stay that way, he would need someone to cast Resurrection on him, and soon.
Xellos reached forward, pulling remnants of the chimera's shirt away from the burn. Zelgadis gasped and shuddered. His left eye, the only one Xellos could see, opened, and regarded him dully for a moment.
“Xellos?” His voice was weak and hoarse, and just the one word sent Zelgadis into a short coughing fit that stained his lips with blood.
“Don't speak, Zelgadis-san.” The chimera shivered and Xellos removed his mantle and draped it over him. “I'm going to take you to Amelia-san.”
Zelgadis didn't listen. “I keep getting into trouble lately,” he murmured with difficulty.
Xellos decided that perhaps keeping him talking might be a better idea with his injuries. “What happened?”
“Mazoku. It just grabbed me. Think it wanted to capture me; don't know why.” Between his shaking and labored breathing, it was hard to understand him. “I fought.”
“It doesn't look like it went very well,” Xellos commented.
Zelgadis' short laugh dribbled off into pained coughing that brought up more blood. “Understatement of the century,” he managed.
Xellos didn't know how to respond. Instead he reached forward and lifted Zelgadis gently, wrapping the mantle around him and cradling him in his arms. Zel's right shoulder was dislocated. The whole right side of his face was one large bruise, the eye swollen shut. But worse than that, the rocks above his right eye were partially torn away from the skin, leaving a gaping wound that oozed blood. The damage should have been beautiful, but on Zelgadis it only made Xellos feel ill.
As Xellos moved Zelgadis' arm, the chimera retched weakly. The Mazoku stroked his pale face in a comforting way, and he just lay against him shivering for several seconds before speaking.
“I need help.” There was a note of panic in his voice, and he seemed more lucid than he had been, as though the pain had woken him from his stupor. “I'm going into shock.”
“I'm going to get you out of here, Zelgadis-san.” But Xellos couldn't bring himself to let Zelgadis go. Part of him wanted to complete the damage, make it perfect, and he was afraid that it would take over. He kept stroking the chimera's cheek, holding him close, willing the urge to leave him.
Zelgadis seemed to notice his hand and flinched away slightly. “What do you want from me, Xellos?”
“Only to help you.”
The chimera shuddered. “Why do you… Why did you kiss me?”
He was practically sobbing in pain at this point, and Xellos knew that if he didn't act soon Zelgadis would be beyond saving. That realization finally moved him. He gently eased Zelgadis to the ground.
“Because I wanted to.”
The youth caught his sleeve. “Why?
Xellos didn't respond, examining Zelgadis' pinned leg. It was broken. He could tell even through the pants that it was severely swollen, and he could hear the chimera's stone skin cracking slightly under the internal pressure. The stone skin simply wasn't flexible enough to accommodate the swelling. The downed chunk of ceiling was keeping a large amount of rock from falling. It was only the fact that his leg had kept it from moving further that had prevented Zelgadis from being buried underneath tons of stone.
It would be difficult to unpin Zelgadis without bringing everything down on top of them, but a glace at the chimera made it clear that he was out of time. His gaze had become a blank stare, and his breathing was even more labored and shallow than it had been. Xellos had seen this before in the dying; Zelgadis' body, his fantastic mind, were shutting down.
He manifested his Astral form and let the cone of swirling power bowl into the tons of stone, pushing it to balance in another direction and fall. Then he levitated the section of ceiling from Zegladis' leg.
The chimera cried out and went still, his breathing catching, nearly stopping, and then continuing even weaker than before. Xellos gathered Zelgadis into his arms and pulled him into the Astral plane with him, protecting him from its chaos with his Astral body. He could feel, in this plane, the life leaving Zelgadis, fading away. Xellos' spirit itched to drain it completely, and he resisted that pull. He held the life, keeping it where it belonged, and traveled quickly toward a beacon of White magic within the palace that he would normally avoid.
A golden-white glow had enveloped Zelgadis and drawn him from the strange darkness that had been seeping into him, absorbing him. The flame had permeated him with warmth and life, and a part of him understood that it had brought him back from the brink even as the tremulous memory faded from his mind as consciousness returned in spurts.
Someone was touching him, warm, tracing the lines of his face in tender, short motions. He swam in and out of awareness, the contact against his earlobe, along his jaw, stroking his brow. When he was finally able to open his eyes—one eye; the other seemed to be crusted shut—he found Xellos gently wiping blood from his face with a soft cloth.
The Mazoku's eyes were open, and they again startled Zelgadis. If he hadn't known better, he would almost say that Xellos looked human, with his eyes exuding a compassion that belied what he was. Then Xellos noticed he was awake, and the eyes closed, a familiar grin slipping over the concern that had been on his face. The expression annoyed him more than it usually did, but the chimera wasn't sure why.
“Ah, you're awake. Amelia-san will be relieved. You weren't out for very long.” He dipped the cloth in a basin. “How are you feeling?”
Zelgadis considered for a moment before answering. While he was no longer in danger of dying, even Resurrection hadn't been able to get rid of the ache in his muscles and bones. If it'd been cast by a dragon it'd have been stronger, but White magic cast by humans had limitations, and he'd apparently surpassed them. He'd been thrown through a few too many walls, and while it didn't feel like he was being dragged toward oblivion, everything hurt.
“Like death warmed over,” he finally said.
The irritating grin faded slightly. Xellos reached forward and ran the cloth against Zelgadis' right eyelid, and he cringed back at the contact, trying to reach for the cloth to do it himself. His arms felt like lead. It hurt to even try to move them. He settled, allowing the Mazoku to gently wipe away the caked blood.
“My, I didn't realize that your eyelashes were also wire, Zelgadis-san.” He could feel Xellos carefully manipulating the stiff hairs, working out the blood that had adhered them together. “They must be troubling sometimes.”
“No more irritating than the rest of my body,” Zelgadis replied shortly.
He was too tired and in too much pain to have this kind of conversation. All he really wanted to do was sleep, but the combination of pain and being touched kept him awake. There was briefly a bit more pressure against his eyelid, and he flinched away before realizing that Xellos had gotten the rest of it and he could finally open his right eye.
Previously he had only been able to focus on Xellos' face, but now he realized that the Mazoku's clothing—faux clothing, he knew, since it was all technically a part of him—was covered with blood. Zelgadis' blood.
Xellos glanced down. “Oh, my.” The blood abruptly faded away. “That's better.”
Zel frowned. “Why didn't you do that before?”
“I was rather preoccupied, Zelgadis-san.”
The Mazoku dipped the cloth into the basin again, wringing it out, and Zelgadis noticed that his usual blue gloves were missing. It was the first time he'd seen Xellos' hands, and he found himself fixated on them as they set down the cloth and reached for him. Xellos moved him, turning him onto his left side with his back facing him. Zelgadis hissed as the aches briefly blossomed into points of pain.
“Zelgadis-san?” There was a note of concern in his voice.
“Sore,” he murmured. “Everything's sore.”
“But Amelia-san cast Resurrection…”
“She's still learning. White magic always works best when cast by dragons.”
He was mildly surprised that Xellos didn't know this, but then Mazoku didn't, and couldn't, work with White magic. It made sense that they wouldn't know much about it.
Xellos said nothing, and Zelgadis felt the damp cloth dragged against his back. He knew it must have been badly burned in the explosion—badly enough that he could feel that most of the back of his shirt was simply gone. Then Xellos removed the remnants of his shirt and pulled the blankets up over his shoulders.
Zelgadis found that he was far more comfortable on his left side than he had been lying on his back. The aches were mostly down the right side of his body, which was no real surprise given that was the side that had taken the brunt of the impact slamming through the thick outer wall of the Armory. It also felt better not to have pressure on his back, which was tender as well after being burned.
He still felt as though someone had taken a tenderizer to him, but the pain was muted, and he found himself drifting off even as he felt Xellos removing his boots—which he hadn't realized he was still wearing. Zelgadis was far too tired to care about the prospect of the Mazoku removing his pants; he hadn't exactly done anything threatening, and the chimera found himself reluctantly trusting him. But Xellos didn't, instead simply pulling the covers back over him after the boots were gone.
He felt warm and protected. A pleasant sort of numbness settled over him, and he gave into it, letting his awareness fade into sleep.
Fawx mentioned that last chapter lacked detail, so I'm trying to rectify that. It's in part because Zel was pretty fucked up. Suddenly being snatched from a library and then slamming through a wall tends to do that. But it was also in part because I wasn't utilizing the writing style to its fullest potential.
I should warn you that I have finals coming up, and they're going to suck. Following that I'm flying to Chicago for Christmas, and I may not have as much time to write there. We'll see.
Chrislea and Chrissy are, as usual, the beta readers. They rock.