Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Detour ❯ Chapter Twenty Four ( Chapter 24 )
[ 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 Four
Xellos didn't move while Zelgadis slept, sitting beside him on the bed. He was barely aware of the chimera, beyond the fact that his sleep was untroubled by nightmares after the first. He was, however, paying attention to the distorted Astral signature that occasionally came closer and then quickly left. Xiuh—if it had in fact been him—was waiting for him to leave. Whatever was controlling him was being far more careful with him than Nyx, who had undoubtedly been sacrificed to distract him.
It had worked, keeping him away while Xiuh was sent after Zelgadis.
He had no doubt that he could easily take out Xiuh, but he was not willing to be distracted again. There were undoubtedly more Mazoku under the control of these sorcerers, and though he knew he could handle Xiuh, he could not be certain something would not come after Zelgadis while he was fighting.
In his condition, Zelgadis was defenseless. He wouldn't be able to fight out of being captured. And even beyond his boggling desire to protect the chimera, Xellos knew the sorcerers were likely to become more of a threat if they recaptured Zelgadis.
Killing Zelgadis would be the smart thing to do. Xellos ached to do it, knew it would be all too easy. He could move his hand from the youth's forehead to his exposed throat and squeeze the life away, or simply send his power through his hand where it was and leave no trace. But as easy as it would be, and even with the understanding that the Mazoku race was endangered by Zelgadis' continued existence, he could not bring himself to do it.
Instead Xellos stayed still, allowing himself to be tagged without repercussion and listening to the chimera's steady breathing, even as he despised the weakness that was revealed by his inaction.
When Zelgadis finally woke, Xellos removed his hand and the youth regarded him blearily. “What do you want?”
He could have named several dozen things, including the chimera's death, but Xellos just smiled at him blandly. “You were having nightmares again, Zelgadis-san.”
Zelgadis didn't seem to notice that this hadn't answered his question. “That doesn't mean I have a fever,” he muttered. “Nightmares are normal.”
Such an assumption was a useful excuse. “Well, you were nearly killed yesterday. It wasn't impossible.” He said this as cheerfully as possible. “But I'm assuming you actually want to know why I'm here.”
That caught Zelgadis off-guard, and he looked at Xellos suspiciously. “Yes. Are you actually going to answer that, or are you just pointing it out to be obnoxious?”
“Were you able to destroy your attacker?”
“That's not an answer.” His irritation flared. “But no. It disappeared. I'm probably lucky it left instead of grabbing me when I was hurt. Now why are you here?”
Xellos regarded him seriously. “I am afraid it isn't good news, Zelgadis-san,” he started.
“It never is.”
“That sorcerer was not working alone.”
Zelgadis tried to sit up, but instead hissed in pain and grabbed his right shoulder. “Shit. You're joking, right?”
Xellos glanced at the chimera's injury, noting that apparently White magic tried to heal a dislocated shoulder without popping it back into joint. He reduced the joint with a jerk, frowning as Zelgadis yelped, before answering. “Unfortunately not.”
The pain actually cleared some of the fuzz from Zelgadis' brain. “Should've figured,” he managed. “Your jokes are usually much more elaborate.”
Xellos regarded him with a frown, and Zelgadis knew he was likely wondering if he'd lost it. Right, because Xellos was the sane one. “Perhaps you should rest more,” he finally said.
“I somehow doubt that's going to stop them from coming after me,” Zelgadis said softly. “You're sure?”
“Quite.” Xellos reached into his satchel. “I was looking into that sorcerer's associates, and found this.” He held up a small stone, deep blue.
Zelgadis felt sick as he realized what it was, and he looked way. “So they did more than just…”
He couldn't finish; after all, he had no idea what they had done to him in the months he'd been held. Clearly chimera research was only one part of it. He didn't like feeling this vulnerable.
“Get that away from me,” he finally said after a long silence.
“You don't want to keep it?” Zelgadis ignored the question. “Hm. I suppose not.”
When he started to put it back in his satchel, Zelgadis glared. “Just throw it away.”
“Zelgadis-san, I doubt you want this to fall into the wrong hands. It could be used against you.”
“And you're the right hands? You could use it against me.”
Xellos looked amused. “I wouldn't need this. Even if I did want a stone from your skin, it wouldn't be difficult to get one myself. Even if you were in your best form, you would not be able to stop me if I truly wished you harm. I could, in fact, do anything I wanted to you and you would be helpless.”
His smile was like the blade of a knife, and there was a dangerous edge to his amusement. It occurred to Zelgadis that he had probably pissed Xellos off somehow, but all thought fled his mind when the Mazoku leaned forward and opened his eyes. Despite their relative humanity, the bloodlust they contained made Zelgadis go cold with fear.
The smile abruptly changed into something far more benign, his eyes less threatening, and Xellos continued. “But, interestingly, I do not. I only intend to hold onto this for safekeeping.”
This time Zelgadis said nothing when he put the stone in his bag, and they sat in silence for a while. He had no idea whether to regard Xellos' words as a threat or just a statement of truth. Even though he had leaned back and was, for the most part, not invading his personal space, Zel felt like he was looming.
It was Xellos who finally spoke. “Incidentally, I believe the Mazoku that attacked you is either hovering around waiting for me to leave or trying to bait me into a fight.”
Zelgadis tried to sit up again, only to have Xellos still him, gently holding him down with a hand on his chest. “It's here?” He was a little embarrassed by the note of panic in his voice.
“No, but I can sense his Astral signature. I believe he wishes to lure me away so that you would be unprotected.” Xellos was frowning again. “There are probably others waiting for the opportunity to capture you.”
“Great.” He closed his eyes, feeling a headache coming on. Zelgadis preferred anonymity to this. “Do you know how many sorcerers are involved? Is it just the one?”
“I haven't looked into it. When I found your stone, I came to Seyruun immediately. Why?”
Zelgadis sighed. “Waiting around here for them to attack isn't going to solve the problem. I'm sick of being on the defensive side. Let them try it. When I've recovered, I'm going to go after them. I just wanted to know how many of them I need to take down.”
“Are you certain you can handle them?”
The chimera glared at Xellos. His expression was serious—not that reading Xellos ever worked on a consistent basis—and Zel sighed and looked away. “I don't know anything anymore, but at this point I'm willing to die trying. One way or another, I'm going to finish this.”
“My. You certainly are determined.”
His voice was somber, and when Zelgadis glanced at him there was no trace of amusement. In fact, he almost got the impression that Xellos was mildly impressed.
“Whatever. I'm going back to sleep.”
Xellos stood and pulled the blankets up around Zelgadis. “That is probably best. The sooner you recover, the sooner we can leave.”
Zelgadis eyed him suspiciously. “We?”
“Well, I can't let you have all the fun. Quests for vengeance are always quite entertaining.” His smile was dangerous again. “And I have my own reasons for going after them.”
He knew better than to ask what they were, or why Xellos didn't just take care of the sorcerers himself. He likely wouldn't give a straight answer, anyway. And sometimes with Xellos it was better not to know.
Amelia had wanted to go check on Zelgadis as soon as she woke, but she'd instead been dragged to the kitchen for breakfast. It was better to have some energy to burn, though. After Lina stole the last of his food, Gourry mentioned that Zelgadis probably needed to be healed more since he was in pain.
Lina reacted before she could, standing up and swatting him. “Why didn't you say something before, Gourry?!”
He cringed. “Well, she needed to eat first, and I got him some painkillers before I went to bed. So he's okay.”
“You checked on him, Gourry-san? Did he say where he's in pain?”
The blond thought for a moment. “Er. Actually, Xellos was the one who told me.”
Lina frowned. “Xellos told you? He's Mazoku! He likes pain. Why would he say anything?”
“It's the truth. I had to wake Zel up to give him the medicine,” Gourry protested. “All he cared about was if anyone died. He was kinda upset. Said the explosion was his fault.”
“It was the Mazoku's fault! Zel was just tryin' to defend himself!” Lina stood. “I'm gonna go knock some sense into him—”
“—and then I'll make Xellos tell me—”
“Lina-san!” Amelia startled herself by pounding on the table, and Lina turned and stared at her, falling silent. She took a couple of deep breaths before continuing. “Zelgadis-san needs to rest. We can talk to him about it later, but when Xellos-san brought him to be healed he was… he was almost gone. He was so badly hurt, Lina-san…”
“Amelia…” She shook her head, and Lina fell silent.
“So please don't yell at either of them. If it hadn't been for Xellos-san, Zelgadis-san would be…” She couldn't finish. She hadn't been sure if even Resurrection would work. It had almost been too late. And all the blood… Amelia had only seen Zelgadis injured like that once, fighting Gaav, and even then he had not been as grievously injured as he had been yesterday. “Please.”
Lina sighed. “Alright. Me and Gourry are gonna go help with the Armory. Go heal Zel and we'll talk to you later.” She patted Amelia's shoulder. “Zel's okay. That's what matters.”
Amelia nodded, taking deep breaths to keep herself from crying. It took several minutes and by the time she had calmed down Lina and Gourry were gone, and she had to go on her own.
When she knocked on Zelgadis' door, Xellos let her in. “Good morning, Amelia-san. I'm surprised Lina-san didn't accompany you.”
“She's not… Well, she's a little angry.”
Xellos grinned. “Lina-san hardly does anything `little,'” he pointed out.
He was right; Lina was far more likely to use a big spell even if she didn't really need one, which was part of the reason she'd gotten all her nicknames. Amelia checked Zelgadis and found him asleep, the blood that had covered his face when she had healed him blessedly gone. The only person who could have wiped it away was Xellos.
“Well, she's mad at Zelgadis-san. Gourry-san says he blames himself for that explosion, and I think she's mad at you because she thinks you know more than you're saying.”
“That's hardly unusual,” Xellos commented cheerfully.
Amelia frowned at him as she settled in the chair next to the bed. “Xellos-san, you should tell us what's going on. If not all of us, at least Zelgadis-san. It obviously involves him somehow, and he can't be in the dark if he's going to defend himself. If he knew what was going on, he might not have been so badly hurt.”
Xellos didn't reply, so she turned her attention to Zelgadis, checking the extent of the injuries that remained. His face had healed nicely, and only a little bruising remained. Amelia pulled down the blanket a bit to find that he wasn't wearing a shirt, and hesitated. She needed to check, but if he was naked… She felt her face grow hot. Even if she was just healing him it wasn't proper.
“He's wearing pants.” Xellos' voice was filled with mirth.
Amelia sighed in relief, then pulled the covers away completely. His pant leg was stained with blood, but when she checked she found that the broken leg had healed nicely.
“Xellos-san, did he say where it hurt?”
“Only that everything was sore. Unsurprising, really, given the extent of his injuries. And, well, since you're not fully trained in the use of White magic.” Amelia glanced at him, but couldn't read his expression. “I did, however, get the impression that his shoulder and back were bothering him the most.”
She checked Zelgadis' shoulder and found that there was muscle, ligament, and tendon damage from a dislocation that she hadn't even noticed when she had healed him the first time. The shoulder was back in place, and, again, the only person who could have done that was Xellos. Unless it was maybe Gourry. But she had failed as a priestess, not catching that.
Xellos was right, she realized as she cast Recovery on Zelgadis's shoulder; she wasn't fully trained. And worse than that, she had been neglecting her training to go off on adventures with Lina. If she hadn't goofed off, maybe she would have been able to heal Zelgadis' soul herself, without putting Xellos in danger. And she definitely wouldn't have missed such a bad injury.
Amelia shook her head, scolding herself for being so self-absorbed. She'd just work harder so this wouldn't happen again. She'd learn from her mistakes.
She cast Recovery again on Zelgadis' back, finding that even though his skin had healed, there was still burn damage in his tissue and muscles. Then she checked to make sure that his internal damage had been healed before pulling the covers back up.
“I'll tell the kitchen to send food up for him,” she said after a moment, turning toward Xellos. “Since I used Recovery he'll sleep for a while, but he's going to need to replenish his energy when he wakes up.”
“Oh, dear. Zelgadis-san isn't nearly as entertaining when he's asleep.”
Amelia glared at him. “Xellos-san, his injuries aren't funny!”
“They certainly aren't. He's rather boring like this, you know.” The Mazoku regarded her mildly. “His emotions are usually so much more interesting than just depression.”
She stared at him for a moment before sighing. “You're worried about him, too.” He frowned. “You know, Lina-san thinks that you're more evil now.”
“Oh?” Xellos smiled slightly, opening one eye, and Amelia was startled by how… different it looked. Normally she would have felt threatened by a glimpse at his lack of humanity. But now the only hint that he wasn't human was in the unnatural color of the iris. Instead she felt more confident. She walked past him, toward the door.
“I think she's wrong. You've been doing good deeds, Xellos-san. If it hadn't been for you, Zelgadis-san would have died, twice. You saved him, and you've been taking care of him.” Amelia glanced back at him. He was frowning again. “So maybe, given a choice, you're more likely to do good than evil.”
With that, she closed the door behind her.
This may be the longest chapter in this fic thus far. Wow.
Sorry for the delay. I caught mono. Again. And not even the fun way. If it's the “kissing disease” the least I could get out of it is some kisses. But both times, no kissing. I call foul. This basically means that I have no energy, am exhausted, and have been incapable of writing anything, even for class. I'm starting to feel better, as long as I don't overextend myself. Easing myself back into writing. Despite being sick, this was a fun chapter to write. Sarcastic!Zel was fun.
Fawx, Chrissy, and Chrislea beta-read for me.