Disclaimer: The Slayers characters belong to Hajime Kinzoku, Software Sculpters, TVTokyo, SoftX, Colombia Pictures, and suchlike organizations, while the situation and all the good dialogue belongs to Philip Barry (playwright), Sidney Bushman and David Ogdan Stewart (Scriptwriters). The only things that belong to me are the bungee cords strapping them together.

OOC warning: Zel turned out both extremely chipper and surprisingly morbid in this fic. Not by turns, at once, although you don't see so much of the morbid in this chapter. This is what comes of running with demon-wolves. Or possibly it's because he's only single in it for a period of approximately five minutes.

Yaoi warning: it exists. So does yuri, you may infer, although it's ignorable.

Pairing warning? O--HOHOHOHOHOHOHO! (wipes eyes, chuckling weakly) But don't worry, gents. The horror won't last.

And I'm spelling the Chaos Dragon's name with two A's, because 'Garv' is just ugly-sounding, says I.

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by Nightfall Rising

part one

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"Five minutes," the blue man called over his shoulder as he hopped down from his dragon and rushed into one of the faculty apartments of the Royal University in Sailoon. It had a nice coat of pale but warm yellow paint and singe-marks on the flagstones, and shining new windows behind blackened and battered iron shutters. As he started to batter on the door, there was a large flash of light behind him, which he ignored, and then the sounds of tea pouring into clattering ceramic cups.

Inside the house, two women were sitting with their feet up in front of a cheerful fire, sharing a newspaper. "Someone's knocking at the door," noted the mauve-haired one, her green eyes fixed on her favorite comic strip, *Little Gabriel and the Light Sword.*

"Yes," the red-haired one answered, casually putting down an article on the latest brass racquet's tournament and picking up the 'Magic and Nature' section just as casually.

"I'm not expecting anyone," the first woman said as the blue man pounded harder, and turned to the literature section.

"Neither am I," the second one agreed, reading with interest about water's magical evaporation point and the relationship between explosive spells and humidity.

"Hey, open up, you two," the blue man yelled through the door, "or I'll break the door down! I have sharp elvish ears, you know; I know you're in there! I can hear pages turning from out here!"

"Hey!" the red-haired woman exclaimed, her ruddy eyes lighting as she tossed the paper down. They both dashed for the door and opened it.

"Well, if it isn't Zel Greyweir!" the taller woman said.

He laughed, and returned their energetic hugs, careful not to spear them with the silvery-lavender wires that served him for hair. "Well, if it isn't Lina and Sylphiel," he teased back.

"So," Lina chuckled, planting a loose fist on her maroon bathrobe, "what happened to Mister Gloom and Doom? I guess you must have really enjoyed that hot spring."

"Girls, it was great," he said, leaning blissfully against the doorway. "Wonderful. Blissful, even."

"I guess he liked it," Sylphiel noted, smiling.

"I steam-soaked, I sparred, I met the one I'm going to marry..." They scoffed good-naturedly, and he said, "No, I mean it. I met The One."

The women exchanged a look. Without another word, Lina had untied his hood and stolen it, and Sylphiel was dragging him to the couch. "Okay, Zel," Lina said firmly, "who is she? What's he like?"

"Tell us all about it," Sylphiel finished, neatly avoiding Lina's pronoun confusion.

"Oh, he's just great," Zel smiled, lounging back. "He's cunning, he's scrawny, he's got demonic yellow eyes and the most intriguing scars..."

"An excellent qualification in a husband if I've ever heard one," Lina said dryly.

"No, I mean it, girls," Zel said seriously, sitting up. "Valgaav's the one. He wants the life I want, the angst I want, the vengeance I want. I didn't know they made them like that anymore."

They looked at each other again, and Sylphiel ventured, "The same vengeance, Zel? What did your grandfather do to him?"

"Grafted a horn on his head. He says it's hell on the headboards."


"He says? Don't you know yet?" Lina teased. Sylphiel swatted her, and Zel grinned.

"Now, girls, I've got to go," he said, standing up and looking for his hood. "We've got a date, and I haven't seen him since Friday."

"But really," interrupted Lina, who was sitting on it, "what do you know about this boy? What kind of family does he have?"

"Oh, I don't know," Zel answered casually. "Does it matter? I think he said a father and two sisters. Or maybe one of them was a brother. Where's my hood?"

"What do you think?" Sylphiel asked Lina.

"I can see it now," she answered, rolling her eyes. "Father too old to work, brother gambles away his pay from the feed store, sister can't keep a job because she's too pretty, you know, and they all have to live in three square feet of some higher mazoku's dungeon..."

"Hey, wouldn't that be great?" Zel asked brightly. "Zel Greyweir comes and takes him away from all that misery."

"Oh, here's your hood," Lina said, disgusted, and they followed him to the door.

"Listen, Zel," Sylphiel said with uncomfortable auntliness, "Our professorships, even at the Royal Academy, don't pay much, but if you ever find that you need anything..."

Zel chuckled. "You worry too much, Sylphiel," he said. "You know me. If anything comes up that I can't handle, I just run as fast as I can until I find myself upside-down on the ceiling. That way I can take it by surprise. Besides, I've got an expedition out, and if it comes back with what I think it will... Anyway, I really have to run now. My dragon's probably getting impatient."

'His' dragon, when he came out, was on her third cup of strong black tea, which made her less impatient than cranky. She bitched about the chill, his excessive stony weight, the way the buildings interrupted the air currents, and landed three times to make pit stops before finally dropping him off on an island choked with oak trees, in front of a massive structure like the unholy love child of a cathedral and a summer resort.

"Hey," he said. "The address was 1 W.P.I. Place."

"This is it," she shrugged, uninterested. "Number 1, Wolf Pack Island."

"But..." he trailed off, realizing that anything he could add here would make him sound daunted. "He must work here," he decided.

"Whatever. I assume you'll want to be picked up later?"

"Please," he said, trying not to sound fervent. The building was varnished the pale beige of dried pus, fringed with a darker, ruddier brown in places.

She flipped him a piece of polished goldstone. "Here's the beeper. Just charge it when you're ready to leave, and the company will send someone out to come get you."

"Thanks," he said, and watched her fly away. A mangy, daring seagull snatched the smart bow off the end of her tail and headed back to shore triumphantly, the pink ribbon hanging limply from its beak, like dinner. She swung her head around to scorch it with laser breath for its presumption, and the ribbon's ashes floated gently down to the water, shimmering around a few toasted feathers.

Someone else might have swallowed, or made a joke. Zel himself, a few years earlier, might have sighed, or raised an eyebrow. Bereft of eyebrows, he simply turned around and started circling the building, looking for the servant's entrance.

It wasn't much more comforting than the rest of the building, or even much smaller. The knocker was shaped like the heads of two monsters, split in half and sewn together badly. Zel used his fist, instead, in the not- exactly-happy confidence that his knuckles would make themselves heard without benefit of brass or steel.

[end part one]

Important Notes: This story is not only based but riveted into the cement of an absolutely marvelous movie called 'Holiday,' starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, played respectively in this fic by Xel and Zel. If you haven't seen it (and most of you probably haven't; it's not even as well known as 'Philadelphia Story, gloom), please, please, make an effort to! This is a black and white movie! It's from the time when movies were about the acting and the scripts, and not about disguising the lack of either with splashy special effects! Go see it, go! You'll also better appreciate my artistry if you do (wink).