Disclaimer: I do not own Slayers or the characters abused herein.

Warnings: Angst, Death, Shounen-ai

UPDATED AN May 10, 2004:  FanFiction.net has deleted my previous account, after pulling only a single fic as warning.  As the result, I will no longer be posting stories on this website.  I am in the process of loading all my fics, including my NC-17 stories, at Skyehawke.com under the penname Xellas.  You can also visit my LiveJournal (see my bio) for updates.  Thanks so much for your support!

Xellos in particular may seem a bit out of character, but then scene is way too short to encompass all the facets of our beloved Mazoku and the fiction is a reflection of Zelgadis' thoughts, not Xellos'.

Forever

by Xellas M.

Zelgadis shivered, wishing he were affected by the cold wind that tormented his companions. He needed the distraction, something to numb his body enough to match his heart. At the very least, a chill would be something to blame for the tears that were gathering in his eyes. A sudden gust stirred the hanging branches of the nearby willow tree, forcing most of the few remaining dead leaves into the sky. They whirled around, dancing for a moment before settling gently, some landing on the dead grass and others…

It was too late to pull his eyes from the pit before him, too late to pretend he could not see the neat pile of frozen earth next to it. He swallowed against the tightness in his throat even though he knew Gourry deserved his tears. The blond mercenary had been one of the first he could ever call his friend. He had accepted the shaman when Zelgadis had not even been able to accept himself. Now Gourry had left his wife and his friends behind and gone to seek new adventures without them.

The dark wood of the casket seemed to swallow the dim sunlight as it stood in contemptuous silence against the cries of the wind. Zelgadis looked to Lina but there was no comfort he could offer the sorceress. A new, yet permanent, sadness was etched deeply into her eyes, the only visible sign of her suffering as the earth lay open to receive the man who had been her husband and heart's love for over fifty years. What could anyone do for her? Her body was still that of a 16 year old; it would be that way forever. Forever, for her mortality had been ripped from her by L-sama in payment for life returned. When they had buried first Sylphiel and later, Amelia, Lina had wept. For Gourry, her pain was too great for tears.

Lina had given her heart fully, knowing that this parting was inevitable.

It was time to say goodbye. Lina walked forward, letting a single daisy gently fall from her hands to land on the casket. Her hands suddenly clenched and her fire momentarily returned as she cried angrily "You will be reborn, baka. I will wait, and I will find you. I promise. You just hurry up!" Stiffly, she marched back to her place.

It was Zelgadis' turn to say goodbye but he could not find the words. Like Lina, he would never grow old, but unlike her he had never allowed himself to love. He had come to terms with his appearance, but never with his loneliness. Now one of the few remaining friends he had was gone, leaving yet another empty place inside. Finally, he allowed his tears to fall as he made his own wordless promise to remember, sealed with a sprig of rosemary.

There was only one other figure standing in the cold who could understand. For all the teasing and manipulating Xellos had inflicted upon the rest of the group, the trickster had always treated Gourry with a surprising respect. Once this had made Zelgadis jealous of the swordsman, but now he was finally able to understand. Xellos had known all along; this had just been another of his secrets.

As the priest walked forward carrying a delicate lily sculpted from the softest gold, Zelgadis remembered the final time the Slayers had crossed paths, shortly before Sylphiel's death had rendered their separation eternal. He had lashed out at Xellos, not in the usual off-hand physical way, but with words. He had accused the demon of being nothing more than a cold, vicious beast, an unwanted, miserable creature, and whatever other insults sprang to mind. All because Xellos had threatened the walls the shaman had built so carefully around himself by claiming to care.

He watched as the priest laid his offering gently on the casket. He wondered how many times Xellos had watched the young wither and die, how many deaths the trickster had caused himself. Finally, Zelgadis understood what it meant to be immortal and what it meant to be truly alone.

The others now lined up past Gourry's coffin, their number a testament to how loved the onetime mercenary had been. Eventually all the goodbyes were said, all the gifts given. Somehow the lowering of the casket into the ground was anticlimactic, a soft thud that seemed too undignified to be final.

Lina disappeared immediately, seeking solitude. Zelgadis would go to her soon but for now he knew she needed to be alone with her grief. The townspeople dispersed, animatedly sharing stories of Gourry's exploits. The last Swordsman of Light was now reduced to a memory and soon would only be a legend.

Zelgadis and Xellos alone remained, standing side by side and watching in silence as the gravediggers began the messy job of filling in the new grave. As they worked, the sun began to reach towards the horizon, finally sinking beneath the high, thin veil of clouds to cover the cemetery in a rich golden light. Then the task was finally finished, the workers went home, and the old rivals were left alone. Zelgadis turned to Xellos, gently taking the priest's hand and saying in a voice raspy from the long silence "I have always loved you. Please tell me I'm not too late."

The priest smiled, for the first time allowing his bitterness to bleed through his mask in front of another being. "You could never have been too late, Zelgadis. After all, we have forever."