The Legal Stuff: I do not own Slayers or its characters, or anything else in this story. The free will I take in changing the story, characters, and events is completely fictitious. Any similarities between real Slayers characters, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

P.S.: Don't sue me!

            Peace of dreaming darkly, he slumbers unencumbered, drifting on the lonely sea of visionless dreams. However, he finds this the most comforting way to sleep, so that he need not confront that which has haunted him for so long.

            The lights, the blood, the cold, wet night, and stillness, pain and stillness…

            "Zelgadis, time to get up," called a voice, beckoning him from his slumber. He groaned in protestation, and then buried his face in the pillow. Maybe if he kept his eyes shut long enough he would be able to sleep again, far out of his uncle's reach. He took in a deep breath, the smell of the pillow mixed with the stink of his morning breath and his shampoo. It was certainly more welcome than the morning sun, whose rays he could feel creeping along his shoulders and neck, making small warm spots where they stopped.

            He felt a hand on his shoulder, which gently shook him, and he swatted at it to make it leave him alone, his groans of protest growing louder as he felt his covers being pulled off. He gritted his teeth and turned himself around, looking squint-eyed at the tall, purple-haired figure standing over him, already dressed in his suit and his attaché case in hand. A pair of eyes stared at him impatiently through thick lenses, and he sat up, knowing that he wouldn't be able to ignore him this time.

            "What do you want?" Zelgadis grunted, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and then pulling his hair out of his face.
            "You know very well what I expect Zelgadis. I want you dressed and ready to go in," his uncle said, checking his watch, "fifteen minutes. That means I want you showered, dressed, fed, and with your homework ready to go. Now hurry, you have about 14 and-a-half minutes left." With that his uncle walked from the room muttering something about a quiz, switching the attaché case from one hand to the other.

            Once his uncle was out of sight, Zelgadis allowed himself to slide out of bed, slowly looking about his room for a clean set of clothes, knowing he had left a clean pair of jeans lying somewhere on the floor. He shifted his blood-red beanbag chair, placing it next to the desk at the foot of his bed and looked where it had sat. He spotted a pair of socks, still clean and folded, and one of his favorite shirts, a black, long-sleeve turtleneck. Taking each of them up, he proceeded to hunt down a pair of jeans, which he found sitting under his backpack, and left his room for the bathroom down the hall.

            After he got into the bathroom and closed the door, he quickly stripped and threw the clothes into a disorderly heap on top of the toilet, then advanced to the shower, turning the water on as hot as he could stand it. The water invigorated him as it ran over his shoulders and head, making his hair droop heavily about his shoulders. As he pushed the hair out of his face again, his hand ran over a raised line of tissue in the soft flesh, and he bit down on his lower lip. Though it had healed and no longer hurt, that scar, along with the others that crisscrossed his body, were a painful daily reminder of what had been before and what had come after them.

            Now wanting to be finished quickly, he shampooed his hair, rinsed it out, ran the bar of soap over his skin a couple of times, rinsed himself off, and then turned off the shower. Grabbing the nearest towel he rubbed the water roughly from his body, hardly bothering to dry his hair, and pulled on his clothes. Dropping the towel on the floor, he reached for his toothbrush and toothpaste. Quickly dispensing with that chore, he snatched a comb and pulled it through his hair, small streams of water squeezing out between the teeth as he pulled it through its blue length.

            "Six minutes!" his uncle called, and he grunted again. Why did he have to be such a dick about everything, particularly time? Throwing the comb into the sink basin, Zelgadis walked out of the bathroom and headed back to his room for his backpack.

            "Did you hear me Zelgadis?"

            "I heard what you said, Uncle Rezo," he called back, then mumbled to himself, "Stubborn stickler-for-time jackass." Grabbing his backpack, he wheeled around and stalked out to the kitchen, where his uncle stood near the stove, arms crossed in front of him, his attaché case sitting on the counter.

            Without speaking, Zelgadis crossed to the refrigerator and opened it, quickly acquiring the carton of orange juice and a hard, cold slice of pizza he had saved from the night before. Closing the door and taking a huge bite from the pizza slice, he crossed to the cupboard where they kept the glasses. He poured himself as glass, swallowed the bite of pizza, and took a long, hard gulp of juice.

            "You don't need to rush yourself like that Zelgadis; I'm not leaving for another 5 minutes," his uncle told him, then added, "And besides, eating that fast is bad for your system. Slow down, it isn't a race."

            Stopping in mid-bite, Zelgadis cast his uncle a look of annoyed animosity, and then shook his head as he finished biting through the slice. Chewing slower than before, he thought of school, only an hour from starting, and regarded what that meant: Another day of solitude, of being left alone by the other students, and being the high school's number one freak. He knew how everyone thought, why they stared at him, whispering behind his back. One would think, after seeing him like this for five years, they would've stopped being curious.

            "Ready to leave?" his uncle asked, bringing him out of his thoughts. He swallowed the last bite of his pizza, stuffing what remained in his mouth, downed the last of the orange juice in his glass, and nodded after slamming the glass on the counter.

            "Good, then let's get moving," his uncle said quietly as he grabbed his attaché case and headed for the front door. Zelgadis, knowing full well of the nearly ceremonial routine that he and his uncle had developed for the morning, waited until his uncle had closed the front door behind him before following.

He crossed the walkway to the driveway, just in time for his uncle to start up the car, a sporty red convertible with black leather interior. Uncle Rezo, Zelgadis knew, couldn't afford the car on his normal chemistry teacher's paycheck, but with his smart investments in stock and his second occupation as an e-business owner that bought and sold antiques; he made quite the killer profit. Besides chemistry, antiques were his biggest obsession, a passion he claimed to have had since he could remember.

Climbing into the car silently, Zelgadis thought he'd break the silence by starting a conversation, or at least an argument with his uncle, before they left the driveway.

"Rezo, why do we leave an hour early every morning," Zelgadis asked, his own face stern and motionless, "I just don't see the point. I can walk to school."

Rezo's answer came back quickly, slightly annoyed, "If I didn't take you with me when I left, you probably wouldn't show up for classes half the time. I am doing this for your own good."

Zelgadis huffed at his uncle, and then stared at the stoplight they were approaching, "My own good?  What would you know about what is good for me?"

 "I'm not going to argue with you about this Zelgadis," his uncle countered, "I admit that, before you I had no children. But, as your father's brother and a concerned family member, it is my duty to make sure you are taken care of, and that includes getting a proper education. Besides, where would you go if I didn't take care of you? Foster homes. I think you'd find living with me is preferable to living in foster care."

"Wouldn't know, haven't had the chance," Zelgadis replied coolly, keeping his attention forward as his uncle tried to bring up another argument. Seeing that his attempt would be in vain, his uncle sighed heavily and focused his full attention on driving.

The conversation fell silent, lasting until they came up to the school, Ceipheid Memorial High School. Zelgadis saw his chance to escape, and he decided to seize upon it.

"See you after school, Rezo," he said as he leapt from the car, pushing off the door with his left hand. He hit the ground running and tore across the lawn, stopping when he reached the flagpole, which he leaned against with relief. Finally, he was away from his uncle, the "walking lecture", and somewhere where no one would bother him.

"Zel, good morning," sounded a cheery voice. Zelgadis knew whom it was that voice belonged to, and he bit down on his lower lip, wishing he hadn't heard it.

Well, almost no one.

Zelgadis, in an attempt to get moving before he spoke again, lowered his head and started to make a beeline to the front doors, aware that he was attracting more attention than he ever cared to have. Right now, he didn't care; it was better to be inside and away from that voice than to be exposed to the owner's sickeningly cheerful demeanor.

His escape was stopped though by a figure dressed in a red, buttoned-down designer t-shirt opened to reveal a black t-shirt underneath with a smiley face flanked by a rainbow. Designer black pinstripe pants and matching leather belt were offset by a pair of denim sneakers, completing the bizarre outfit that appeared even stranger due to the owner's deep purple, shoulder-length hair.

"And how are doing this fine morning Zelgadis, my childhood companion and fellow student?" Zelgadis grunted harshly; he didn't want to deal with this, not this early in the morning.

"Xellos, we weren't childhood companions, you just lived close to me and followed me around everywhere. Leave me alone." With that, he pushed his way through the large front doors and into the hallway, seeking out his locker, which was on first floor, second wing.

The school had three floors stacked on one another, each floor divided into three wings, numbered one through three clockwise starting farthest on the left. English, History, and the Social Sciences were taught on second floor. Science, Mathematics, and Foreign Language courses were taught on third floor. And finally, Mechanical Science, Technological Science, and Physical Education were taught on the first floor.

Zelgadis' first class was Japanese, and he needed to get his textbooks for the day. He maneuvered deftly past clumps of annoying chattering students and shooting through the gaps to get to his locker.

Reaching his locker, Zelgadis turned the combination dial, counting the numbers in sequence, hoping that it would cooperate today; over the past two years it occasionally refused to open for him, no matter how accurate he was in matching the notches.

14…15…16 left.

With a nod he confirmed the first number.

21…22…23…24 right.

Second number confirmed.

8…9…10…11…

"ZEL!"

With the weight of Xellos on top of him suddenly, Zelgadis crashed into the locker and fell to the floor. A minor roar of laughter erupted, though through his growing anger Zelgadis was oblivious to it.

"Idiot," Zelgadis snapped as he stood up, prying the chuckling Xellos off of him, "You know I hate it when you do that!" Turning back to his locker, he noticed the combination had skipped over the "10" notch, and he pulled on the lock, which refused to open.

"Oh my, looks like your locker is stuck again," Xellos smirked in amusement, "Do you want any help with that?"

"Leave me alone Xellos. You may have just ruined the rest of my day." Punching the locker in frustration, Zelgadis grabbed his lock harshly and spun it hard to clear it. Damn that Xellos! Why he always hung around was beyond him, and his persistent humor was grating at best, downright infuriating the rest of the time.

A hand shot under his arm and began to turn the dial, a small clicking of the tongue behind him.

"Cheerful as always, I see," Xellos murmured as the lock spun, "16 left, 24 right, 12 left," then, with a light tug, the lock opened, "Honestly Zel, you need to control your temper, or else you'll suffer from high blood pressure." With a wide, dramatic swoop of his arm, Xellos vanished into the crowd and down the hall.

Looking at the open lock for several moments, Zelgadis finally pulled the lock off and swung the locker door open, quietly cursing to himself as he removed his books for the day. He slid them under his left arm, slammed the locker shut, secured the lock, and turned into a moving cluster of students to head toward class. He hoped that he would not have another embarrassment like that again today, or else he felt like he could seriously hurt that Xellos.

"At least it can't get worse," Zelgadis told himself. After his morning dosage of Xellos and his irksome pranks, things could only get better.

"Again Mr. Graywords," the old woman asked, gently squinting at him from her desk, "I think you would've figured it out by now: mouthing off to a teacher is asking for trouble, particularly if that teacher is your uncle."

Zelgadis paused for a moment, and then answered her with a degree of respect he gave to only her, "Thank you Ms. Aqua."

The old woman laughed, her tiny body shaking, "Please, call me Auntie. Take your seat, Mr. Graywords."

Zelgadis looked about the room. Five nearly empty rows of desks lay before him. Glavos, a ruffian known for his aggressive bullying, sat in the back along with Seigram, looking dark, threatening, and unpleasant, as per usual.

His hands were lined with tattoos than ran under his sleeves and up his arms, too numerous and interlaced to discern where one began and another ended. The sunglasses he wore 24 hours a day concealed his permanent glare. The hood of his black sweatshirt-vest covered his head, and Zelgadis knew he didn't want to see underneath it. Seigram had always been on the wrong side of the tracks, but it was this that made him conceal his face. When he was in middle school, Seigram accompanied the bullies everywhere, including a particularly nasty fight with rivals of the bullies he supported. The rivals caught him and beat him to a bloody pulp. After that, he had the tattoos done and wore the sweatshirt wherever he went, no matter the weather.

Choosing his normal seat, a desk out of reach of Glavos and Seigram, Zelgadis resumed his scan of the room as he lowered himself into the chair. He spotted a lone young man, probably a freshman, occupying the third seat from the front in the fifth row. Knowing what that could entail if he stayed there, he moved up so that he was right next to the young man.

"Hey," he said, trying not to raise his voice and attract Ms. Aqua's attention. The kid turned his head and looked at him, a look of minor annoyance reflected in his eyes. Zelgadis took a deep breath, and then spoke sternly, "You need to move from there before its owner gets here."

"What the hell you talking about?" the kid inquired as Zelgadis rose, taking the next seat back as he set down his textbooks.

"You've been warned," was all that Zelgadis could say. If she showed up again, and she would, this kid was in for a world of hurt.

"Good afternoon, Miss Inverse. I believe that makes this your seventh trip here since last week. Are you working on a record?"

"Whatever, Ms. Aqua. I'll take my seat and try to keep quiet."

Zelgadis looked up, and already he could see the anger in her eyes, the magenta flaring hot to match the fiery red of her hair as she crossed to the desk where the freshman sat, music blasting in her earphones. She pulled them from her ears and set her hands on the side of the desk, her glare lethal enough to be registered as a deadly weapon.

"You're in my seat," she said, her voice tinged with annoyance. The freshman looked up and made eye contact, eyes lazily staring at her. Zelgadis flinched: he knew what was to follow, and he knew it was not going to be pretty.

"What's your problem?"

"You're in my seat," she answered, voice starting to become a growl and her fangs starting to show. This was getting serious, and there was no sign of it diminishing. He suddenly regretted being this close, though he didn't want to miss what would happen next. Lina was infamous for this, and he had seen it several times before.

"Find another seat, there are plenty of others," the freshman retorted, his voice quavering a little as her glare seemed to burn into him. Zelgadis smiled, knowing that this freshman was in for some in-depth education.

Lina only smiled and leaned forward further, her glare turning into a cocky grin with her eyebrows raised, her one right eyebrow hoop glinting in the afternoon sun from the far window. Her left hand shot up, taking firm hold of the freshman's shirt, and pulled him to the side. Panic filled the freshman's eyes, and Lina spoke quietly yet harshly with him as her smile faded into a glare.

"Listen up, freshman detention snot; this desk happens to be mine. I have had this desk for the past two years. I have spent more hours in that desk than you probably have jerking off.

"Now, I am a reasonable person, so I'll let you go this one time to find another desk. But, if I catch you sitting here again, you'll find out why they call me the 'Boy Spooker'."

With that said, she released the grip on his shirt, giving him enough time to gather his stuff and move, and then plopped herself inelegantly in the chair.

Zelgadis could only watch and smile as the freshman scrambled to find another seat, seeming to prefer one that was a goodly distance from Lina. A small chuckle erupted in his throat, but Zelgadis choked it down; it was wise not to incur Lina's wrath.

Placing the earphones back in their respective ears, Lina picked up on what song was playing and began whispering the lyrics:

There I was, lying down, smoking grass
Feeling sexy in the sun, just tanning my buns in the sun
Until it begun - playing with myself
Out in the sun. *

            Zelgadis watched her deft grasp of the lyrics, her fire-red hair gleaming as it caught the suns rays. Lina Inverse, a pretty girl with a pretty big attitude, was the driving force of sarcasm and punk mentality the school had, a nice change in comparison to the snooty preps that he shared classes with, but nonetheless dangerous. Rumors about her were too numerous to count. The local religious devotees seemed to believe her a force of true evil and sadness, sent to make life miserable for the God-fearing folk. The jocks believed her a lesbian, the feminists an independent woman warrior, and the punks and goths admired her as a powerful representative.

            Still, despite her tremendous attitude and completely lack or moral restraint, she was intelligent and, though no one would ever tell her, rather attractive. Now she sat in the room next to him, a tattoo poking out from under her punk rock bleached-black t-shirt, just under the neckline, the tail of what looked to be a dragon curled elegantly and mischievously along her skin. The shirt itself was a cut-off, displaying a smooth and toned midriff with a navel piercing. Finishing off her look were a pair of black cargo pants tightened at the waist with a ring and chain bondage belt, that hugged her body that, though not filled out like other girls her age, was still a subject of many lurid thoughts among the male student body, and a pair of black "bulldog" boots completing the ensemble.

            "What are you staring at, creep?" her voice shot into his ears, snapping him back to reality. He met her gaze, and almost regretted looking up, those deadly eyes locked on him. Despite his surprise, he kept his face stoic, and answered back.

            "None of your business." He knew he was tempting her wrath, but he didn't want to look like a coward, not like that idiot freshman.

            "That's what I thought," she spat, and then resumed listening to her music. Zelgadis' temper flared: there was no need for that! Suddenly, he had a clever idea. Smiling broadly, he looked to her.

            "By the way, nice belt."

            Her glare shot to him again. "Go screw yourself."

*Song is "Deep Sexy Space" by Lords of Acid