A/N: This is a requested L/Z fic, something I haven't had practice in writing.  So please excuse it if it isn't as good as you might think it will be.  I'm going to try to make this fic a lot shorter than my other ones; only like, 3-5 chaps if I can help it.  Oh, yeah, like the title?  I wanted to name it "Emotion He**", but that didn't seem erm…appropriate.  I don't know if this story will live up to its rating, but we'll see.  Okay, let's see how we do!

Disclaimer: I don't own Slayers or anything else that isn't mine to own.

EmOtIoNaL ToRtuRe

Ch. 1 – Reunion

            I hate this stupid body.  Why did Rezo ever curse me?  Did he want me to live in agony all my life?  *Sigh* If it weren't for him, I'd…I don't know what I'd do with my time.  I get the feeling that it will always be hopeless for me to cure my body.  But every time I think of giving up, something tells me to keep looking, that I'll find it eventually.  The 'eventually' part is what worries me though.  I'm on another lead; probably a dead end like the rest.  I- wait.  Is that who I think it is?

            "MEGA BRAND!  Hmph!  There!  That's what you get for ruining my lunch!"

            Yes.  It's exactly who I think it is: Lina Inverse, sorceress extraordinaire.

            Zelgadis Greywards had been traveling the world, sometimes more than twice over, in search of his cure.  To him, the blue tint to his skin, stones scattered over his body, and his lavender wire hair, were monstrous.  Those who agreed with him were idiots - himself included.  At least, this was the opinion of those who cared about him, and knew him for who he was and accepted him with near open arms.  Lina was one of those people, though she would never admit that she cared, even to herself.

            Lina was a hot-headed, stubborn girl, who enjoyed large meals and money.  Taking this into account, she pays for her meals with what she steals from bandits – and that's how she makes a living.  People who don't know her, fear her; those who know her, still fear her, but not in a life-threatening way.  She travels the world as well, but in search of more power and money and food.

            These two are more similar than people realize, and surprisingly more stubborn when it comes to feelings.  Each created a hard-as-rock outer self to protect their sensitive feelings on the inside.  Both are feared by those who are unaware of the extreme control they have over their powers; thus protecting themselves from the two.  Both now travel the world alone, in seek of something.  Why they themselves have never taken advantage of their connection is a mystery unto itself.

            When Zel saw Lina standing triumphantly over a pile of toasted men, he couldn't help but break into a soft smile.  Here he was, brooding over his cure that he could do nothing about by himself, while Lina was happily overcoming any obstacles that came between her and her goal.

            Across the crowd, the ruby eyes of the red-headed girl, and the sapphire eyes of a rock-hard traveler locked on each other.  After registering the fact that she knew him, Lina's eyes lit up with what seemed like extremely unyielding glee.  Kicking off from the stack, she used her Levitation spell to fly over the crowd to him.  Zel only continued to smile, as his eyes followed Lina's movements.

            Her eyes were bright and her cheeks were rosy, as if she were a little girl running home for a big surprise.  For a moment, nothing was said between the two.

            Quietly, almost in a whisper, she greeted him.  "Hey Zel, long time no see.  Want to go grab some lunch?  These guys," she gestured to the pile, "messed up the restaurant I was in before I really got to eat."

            Zel replied, "I spent all of my money traveling, so I can't pay for it."

            "Oh."  Lina looked down, a bit disappointed.  When she looked up at Zel again, her eyes were brighter and happier than ever.  "Never mind that.  It's been so long since we've last seen each other…I'll pay for it.  Most of it will probably be mine anyways.  Unless…your eating habits have changed."

            Lina gave Zel a scrutinizing look, to which Zel put his hands up in defense.  "I haven't changed if you haven't."

            She nodded with satisfaction, "Then it's settled," and started pushing Zel towards the center of town, away from the havoc she and the brawl had created.  "Come on, I know this great place with a lot of cheap but really good food.  You must be starving."

            Zel remarked as he started walking on his own, "Actually I had a rather good cup of coffee this morning, so I'm alright."

            Lina looked distraught in a mocking sort of way.  "That's it?!  You need to get some meat in your bones.  It's right over there; let's go."

            All-You-Can-Eat-For-One-Silver-Piece?  Lina wasn't kidding.  Wait a minute- I remember we came to this town before.  We were distracted so we never did go there…Ah well, I could use a good meal, I guess.  If Lina stops while eating, I might actually be able to find out what she's been up to the last few years.  Ah, who am I kidding?  Lina wouldn't stop eating to talk.

            The hostess seated them in a large table near the kitchen (self-buffets won't be in this restaurant), under Lina's request.  Lina made her usual order of "Everything on the left side of the menu", and continued her habit of surprising the owners.  Nevertheless, a stream of waiters and waitresses began coming out of the kitchen, each putting down a separate dish onto the table until it was full.  Eyes glittering, Lina immediately dug in.

            Upon seeing that Zel wasn't eating, only watching her with what she interpreted as amazement, Lina pointed to his food with her fork while trying to say something with her mouth full.  The end result: sputters and spit, but Zel got the message and started to eat, with his eyes still on Lina.

            Before long, this got under Lina's skin, which was usually hard to do.  Flushing down her latest mouthful of food with a chug of milk, Lina stared back at Zel, challenging him.  "What is it?  Why do you keep staring at me like that?"

            Zel shook his head as if coming out of a trance.  Sitting up, he apologized softly and explained, "Sorry, it's just that I can't help but be amazed how little you seemed to have changed, even though it's been ten years."

            At this, Lina's ears became alert.  "Not changed?  Zel, you can't just see me for a few minutes and say I haven't changed.  Sure, I still like to beat up the bad guys, and I still like to eat, but I have changed.  As for you…well, you don't look much different, but there's something different about you, but I can't exactly put my finger on it."

            Zel raised an eyebrow.  "You have good eyes."

            Lina smirked.  "It's more like good intuition."

            A peaceful silence passed between the two; the clamor of the restaurant could be heard in the background.  Finally, Lina spoke again.  "Are you going to eat that or not?  If you won't…ah, I'll make you.  Spellcasters like you and I need to eat a lot, Zel.  We've got to keep up our strength."

            "Maybe, but your magic drains you a lot more than mine drains me," Zel pointed out.

            Lina laughed uneasily.  "Hehe, I guess you're right.  Still, you can't travel on an empty stomach, magic user or not."

            "Well, my stamina's pretty high, so I can probably last longer without food."

            Lina's expression grew dark.  "Stop arguing and EAT.  I'm paying, remember?"

            Zel grinned, and dug into the steak before him.  As he got into eating mode, he was surprised to find that he was a lot hungrier than he expected.  As if a dam had been broken, Zel began shoveling food into his mouth as if it had been months since his last good meal, which was actually pretty accurate.  Lina smiled as she noticed this, and went back to eating as well.

            Between the two, once they were as stuffed as could be, they managed to lick clean about thirty full-course plates.  Feeling very satisfied, Lina paid twenty gold pieces, mostly as high tip, before they left.  Zel was bewildered as he watched Lina pay much more than necessary.  Upon seeing his gaping expression, Lina grinned, and called him over so that they could leave.

            Once they were out on the streets, Lina let him in on 'a little secret', as she looked for a good inn.  Apparently, one of her oldest friends owned that restaurant, and since they were a little low on money, Lina thought that it was the least she could do.  Zel chuckled to himself at that.  When Lina asked why he was laughing, he replied that it was nothing; he had just realized that Lina was right in that she had changed.

            From the way her expression changed back and forth, Zel could tell she was wondering whether she should feel happy that Zel admitted she was right, or miffed that he thought that this was too generous of an act for her.  In the end, Lina decided to just drop it altogether, for she had found the inn she was looking for: Royale Rooms, Spas, & Diner.  Lina registered for two rooms, and turned to ask Zel if he wanted to take a bath.  When Zel gave her a bewildered look, she quickly added, "Not together; no, I just thought that since we've both been traveling so much, a relaxing bath could really be good for us."

            Zel commented on it as soon as he realized it.  "You seem a lot more concerned with health now too."

            Lina bit her lip as she looked at her toes.  Shaking her head, Lina's wavering voice tried to bring back her confidence.  "What's wrong with that?  Health is important."

            Zel noticed the sudden change in Lina, and immediately bent to her will.  "I suppose you're right, again.  My back actually feels like it might have some deep kinks that need working out, too."

            Lina gave a toothy grin.  "Let's go then.  The spas are this way."

            As Zel was once more nudged by Lina, Zel couldn't help but ask, "How do you know this town so well?"

            Lina was quiet for a moment.  Out of nowhere, she finally answered, "When I was younger, I attended the magic academy in Atlas City.  Every year, I would return home to show my sister how much I had improved.  This was a common pit stop for me, and I always made sure to stop by here whenever I was going in either direction.  See you in about an hour, Zel."

            This was where the two travelers split to go into the separate divisions of the non-co-ed bath spas.  On either side of the bamboo fence, they both entered a deserted pool of water; apparently, business wasn't good that day.  After a good scrubbing, they simultaneously leaned their backs against the fence, and just relaxed their muscles.  An involuntary sigh of relief escaped them both.  When they heard each other, they laughed at the coincidence.  The rest of the bath time was spent in appreciated silence, as neither preferred to talk over a fence.

            Later that night, they met up in Lina's room for a good informative talk.  There, they swapped stories and learned of the others' doings and status.

            Zel had been searching for his cure since even before they went their separate ways.  Being so obsessed with finding a cure, he didn't spare the time to befriend anyone, much less gain company along the way.  He used the little money that he made from occasionally guarding rich people, to pay for his food and supplies.  That, according to him, was the gist of it.

            Lina had split up with Gourry several months after they defeated Darkstar.  When they learned that there was nothing between them but sibling adoration, Lina convinced Gourry to go back and find Sylphiel.  After that, she continued to roam the land as she had before she had met any of them.  Lina added that every time she happened to be in the area, she visited them, so they were still on good terms.  Bringing that to attention, Lina asked what had happened between Zel and Amelia.

            When Zel responded that he didn't know what she was talking about, Lina nudged him in the ribs jokingly, saying that he should've known that Amelia had had a crush on him.  Zel shrugged.  He quietly answered that in all his traveling, he had yet to visit Amelia again.  Lina frowned at that.  Lina decided to fill him in on Amelia as well.  When Lina visited Amelia a few years ago, Prince Phil had recently died (actually died this time), meaning Amelia was left to control the kingdom herself.  Her advisors persisted and finally convinced her to choose a suitable King.  At this point, Zel interrupted to say that he remembered getting a message from her while he was near the Kataart Mountains, but since he thought he had a really good lead, he couldn't spare the time to even reply.

            Zel could tell that Lina wasn't pleased that he just blew off their princess friend, in her time of dire need.  Before Zel could even try to defend himself, Lina stopped him, and told him to forget it for the time being.  They could visit Amelia and her husband after the contest.

            His eyes bulged when he heard the words 'husband', 'Amelia', and 'visit' all in the same sentence.  He was in the middle of preparing an excuse not to go, when he remembered the rest of Lina's sentence.  Zel asked what she meant by 'contest'.  Snapping her fingers as if remembering something, Lina rushed to her cape that had been hung on the chair, and pulled out a slightly ripped flyer.  She gave it to Zel to read as she explained that on her recent trip home, her sister had challenged her to face it, but not alone.  It was a year-round contest, and anyone could enter at any time.  Lina thought it was a perfect opportunity since it was somewhat nearby, and they were both alone on their travels now.  Zel was about to ask what he would find interesting about this contest, when he saw it for himself.  The flyer read:

To Any who Enter, Beware.

For Besides a Entry Fare,

Lives You Stake in Twos,

Since a Partner You must Choose.

Be Careful Who you Pick -

This Person may make you Sick,

Before the Contest is Done.

Though the Pair that Finishes First,

Wins a Prize that Heals All who are Cursed,

The Pathway there has Long Since been Met,

With Couples who Start to Fret,

Before the first Day is Done.

So if You think you can Survive,

We Patiently Wait, For you to Arrive.

A 10,000 Gold Fee you shall Pay,

Demons You See, you should Slay,

And if You Live through the Tests,

You can Bask in that High-Price Pleasure,

Of having Obtained, a Priceless Treasure.

Can you find, "The Curing Chisel"?

~Sponsers ANONYMOUS~

            After rereading the flyer, Zel looked up at Lina, speechless.  An owl hooted in the silence that followed.  At last, after repeatedly looking from Lina to the flyer, back and forth, he asked, "Is this for real?"

A/N:  Well?  What do you think?  Tell me now if you've seen anything like it before, because I'd like to keep my story as original as possible.  Of course, this is just the beginning.  The "Emotional Torture" that the title spoke of, has yet to begin.  Please review!