Author's Note: This story was posted a LONG time ago, before FanFiction took down all the NC-17 fics and banned them for a while. Now that M fics are allowed back, and I'm actually working on finishing the monstrosity of a story that developed out of this seemingly harmless bit of citrus, I figured I would put this back into the mix. Technically, this is the first two chapters of my story Bonds of Friendship and Balance, but due to the fact that these are M rated and the rest of the story is T, and neither is NEEDED in order to understand the other, I've broken them into two. So, in short, I hope you enjoy.

As ever, I dun own Slayers. I am simply a hopeless hentai child.

Truth, Love, and Justice

Chapter 1

Zelgadis Greywers stared into the flickering orange flames of the campfire, lost in thought. Now that the battle with Darkstar was over, his mind had turned again to thoughts centered around a way to find a cure for his affliction. His mind ticked through the various possibilities and probabilities, calculating his best chance of finding something useful. While Lina Inverse and Gourry Gabriev had gone ahead to the next town, on a rumor of there being some kind of magical sword there that might make up for Gourry's loss of the Sword of Light, Zel had opted to stay behind with Amelia wil Tesla de Seyruun, since the princess had been feeling ill that morning. The four friends were slowly venturing back to Seyruun, to see Amelia home; but none were in any great rush to get there, and exhaustion gave them good reason to keep their pace slow.

Across from Zelgadis, Amelia sat with her arms wrapped around her legs and her chin resting on her knees. Her body was tired from the long day's walk they'd had, but her mind was still awake. She gazed absently at the chimera across from her, watching the shadows play across his face, twisting in a hypnotic dance as the fire jumped and crackled. The pebbles that half-covered his face and the thick mass of lavender wire that was his hair added an extra dimension to the chaotic dance of the shadows. 'He really is handsome,' she thought, tracing the line of his face with her eyes. She blushed, thankful that Zelgadis was so lost in thought to notice. She shook her head slightly, as if to clear away the thought, as she stretched and yawned. Her movement caught Zels' attention, and he watched her crawl to her bedroll and lie down, her face turned to the warmth of the fire.

His eyes flickered in the firelight as he watched the young princess. 'Not so young anymore,' he thought, allowing himself a half-smile as he gazed at her dark silky hair shining like blue-black gossamer, her pale skin and fair features almost glowing from the combined light of the fire and the silver moon. 'She's grown up so much since I first met her, grown so beautiful...' he quickly closed his eyes and turned his head away from her, casting his face into shadow. His fist clenched and he stared down at it, hating it; hating the ugly blue-gray stone that served as his skin, hating the lavender wire that had replaced his once soft locks of hair. He felt the hatred starting to boil inside his chest, and he knew that if he didn't do something, he'd lose control of his emotions, which were the one thing that he WANTED to keep stony. So, he turned his thoughts to the man who had cursed him with this hideous form. 'Damn you, Rezo!' he thought, screwing his eyes up tight and letting his rage flow out of him as he directed it at his now dead grandfather/great-grandfather. Slowly, the burning emotions in his chest subsided, and he turned back to the warmth of the fire; but as he did so, he caught sight of Amelia again, and the emotions came rushing back.

"Damn it!" he muttered under his breath. "Damn this body, this isn't fair," he whispered as he felt his chest tighten, his eyes resting upon Amelia's face. He had to get away, he had to get himself under control. He stood abruptly and turned away from the fire, staring into the dark woods. He cast a glance back at Amelia, and the emotions became too much and he felt his chest tighten almost to the breaking point. He snapped his head away from the light and ducked his head as he ran into the woods. 'Damn this!' he thought, 'Damn this hideous body! No one could love me like this! And... even if she... someone... could care for me... no one would want to touch me; I can't even stand to touch myself!' He ran on into the woods, his demon part letting him see well in the darkened forest. He ran on, till he came to the edge of a stream, and there he stopped and sat on a rock by the bank. He buried his face in his hands, hating his body; hating his weakness, as his usually well-repressed emotions washed over him and he felt his eyes sting dangerously. "I will not cry," he whispered, his voice cracking ever so slightly. "I'm a monster, a horrible freak, I'm not allowed the luxury of love... not yet..." Unbidden, the image of Amelia sleeping peacefully by the fire, her dark, silken hair pooling around her head like an obsidian halo came to him, and again he felt a pang in his chest. "What's gotten into me?" he murmured as a single tear slipped out of his eye. "Why, all of a sudden, can I not keep my emotions in check?"

'Because,' a small voice in the back of his mind answered him, 'You've been holding them back too long, and the wall you had built up is slowly crumbling. Not only from the pressure of built up emotions behind it, but because that little princess you left in the clearing has been slowly wearing away at it too; and you know it, and you've been letting it happen. So don't act so surprised.' Zelgadis heaved a deep breath, and an ironic laugh slipped out along with it.

"Yea, I do suppose I knew it. I'd just hoped that I could have found my cure... so that maybe somehow she could truly love me back..."

"Who are you talking to, Zelgadis-san?" a small voice said from behind him. Zel stood and spun around in a flash, before he saw Amelia standing there, one hand clutching her cloak tight around her neck, the other hand seeming to hold an invisible support for a small, glowing ball of light that hovered in the air.

"What are you doing here?" he growled, the back of his mind whirling in a half-panic, afraid that she might have heard him. She took a small step backwards, clutching her cloak even tighter.

"Well... ummm..." she said in a small, quiet voice, "I saw you leave the fireside; and when you didn't come back... ummm... I guess I just got a little nervous being alone, so I went off the way I saw you go, and I used the Light spell to help me see the trail and... well... here I am." It was a half truth, anyway. These woods were sort of eerie, just a small breeze would make all the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She wondered if perhaps there was once some great evil that had lived there; because, even with the light of the full moon in the clearing, the young princess had indeed gotten a little frightened. Of course, she knew she had the power of Justice on her side, and could therefore stand off (almost) any attack by the forces of evil; but there had been something else at the back of her mind which made her follow the chimera into the woods.

Though Zelgadis-san would act so cold and distant most of the time, and though Amelia had initially been thrown off by his stony countenance, she had slowly come to care for him as a close friend and companion. In fact, she had long ago admitted to herself that there was a reason, far deeper than friendship, that she much preferred being off alone with Zelgadis-san than she did with Lina-san or Gourry-san. Though she also cared for the red-haired sorceress and the blonde swordsman as very dear (if sometimes annoying) friends, Amelia had been drawn to the quiet, handsome young man who was only one-third human. Amelia may have been younger than her traveling companions; but she was not so naive that she couldn't at least recognize her own feelings.

She didn't know if Zelgadis-san felt the same towards her as she did towards him... if he did, why had he not confessed his love for her? She had tried to let him know often enough that she loved him, but he'd always just brushed it off. And if he DID love her, the Truth in his heart would have made him tell her by now, wouldn't it? But still... she'd sometime notice him watching her out of the corner of his eye, and sometimes when she looked him in the eye, he would blush slightly... And he didn't seem to mind accompanying her back to Seyruun...

She was snapped out of her thoughts as she suddenly noticed Zelgadis-san staring at her. She blushed and ducked her head.

"So," she asked, "Who were you talking to?" Zel blinked and by the soft glow of the moon and the Light spell, she thought she saw him blush.

"No one, I was just thinking out loud," he replied.

"Oh. What were you thinking about?" Amelia asked. She wondered what could have upset her friend so much that he would run away from the campfire in the middle of the night.

"Nothing of importance," he muttered, staring at the ground. "Come on, let's go back to the fire." Amelia nodded and followed behind him as he led them back through the woods to the orange glow of their dying campfire. Amelia bent to gather some wood to throw on the pile, and Zelgadis had apparently had the same idea, since he turned and bent to gather wood at the same time. And, since Murphy's Law works, their heads of course collided as they stooped down.

"Ouch!" Amelia gasped, falling to her knees and gripping her head with both hands. Zelgadis had felt the impact, and it stung, but he was otherwise unfazed.

"Are you all right?" he asked Amelia, squatting to look at her face.

"Yea, I'm ok," she said, still rubbing her head. "Ow, and I thought Gourry-san had a hard head," she said with a giggle and a wince. Zelgadis looked away and silently gathered up the wood and threw it on the fire. 'Was it something I said?' Amelia wondered.

'Damn this body!' Zel thought to himself angrily. 'I probably almost gave her a concussion! I can't get close to her without hurting her...' As he turned back to look at the dark-haired princess, he felt the waves of emotion wash over him again, and he was forced to admit to himself that he DID wish he could be close to her. 'But she would never touch a creature like me. Maybe once I find my cure...' he thought as he sat back by the fire. Behind him, Amelia stood and walked over to him, drawing a deep breath.

'Something is really bothering Zelgadis-san,' she thought. 'He's been acting strangely for the past few days... he might not tell me anything, and he might get mad, but for the sake of Truth, Love, and of course Justice, I have to try and make him be honest with himself, even if he can't say it to me!' Her will set, she strode over to the brooding chimera and sat down next to him.

"What do you want?" he asked, preparing himself for some long winded Justice speech about not leaving defenseless young women alone in the woods in the middle of the night.

"I want you to tell me what's been bothering you lately. You've been grumpier than usual, and in the name of Truth, Love, and Justice, you must be honest and express your feelings, or they will only build up and continue to make you even more grumpy! And nobody likes a sourpuss!" Amelia proclaimed, standing up, propping her foot up on the log Zelgadis was sitting on, and holding up her index and middle fingers in a V.

'Well this isn't quite what I was expecting,' he thought as he gazed in shock half-blankly at her. Her face fell and she plopped down next to him again. 'She... does she really care about my feelings?' He sighed, shaking his head, trying to dismiss the thought. 'She'd probably do the same thing if Lina was brooding... well, if she was in the mood to get a fireball in her face, anyway.'

"I told you, it's nothing of any concern," he muttered. He turned to face her and he found himself staring into her large, deep blue eyes. He wanted to look away, but at the same time, he wanted to stare into them forever. Part of him wanted to tell her everything, how he felt about himself, how he felt about her; but the bigger part of him held that irrational part back, still fighting to keep the emotions he felt welling in his chest at bay. He'd been fighting them for a long time now, and he was getting tired. When Amelia finally broke the gaze, he wasn't sure if he was grateful or disappointed.

When Amelia looked away from Zelgadis-san' beautiful eyes, she glanced down at his hand, resting on his knee. She stared at it for a moment, and thought about how she longed to touch him. Perhaps the lateness of the hour affected her thinking, or perhaps the buildup of years of quiet longing prompted what she did next; but before either Zelgadis-san or her own better judgment could protest, she had gently grabbed his wrist and pulled off his glove to inspect his hand more closely. She didn't notice his barely repressed shiver as she gently traced her fingers along the palm of his hand.

While she had touched Zelgadis-san before, she'd never really been able to take the time to figure out quite what his unique skin really felt like. So now, she carefully took note of all the amazing little things about it. Instead of being cold like stone, it was warm, probably from the blood that she knew flowed beneath the blue-gray skin. And it wasn't rough, it was smooth to the touch, like highly polished marble, though it didn't shine. Instead, the smooth surface seemed like it was matted, and it was surprisingly soft to her touch. Even the little raised pebbles that dotted the back of his hand and his face were smooth and warm. Gently, she pressed her thumb into his palm and moved it in little circles. The stone skin stretched and moved as normal flesh would, without cracking or breaking. She wondered how it could be so flexible, yet so strong as to repel swords and bullets as if they were nothing. His hand felt heavy in hers, but not really like any rock she had ever encountered.

Zelgadis had closed his eyes, not knowing what to do as the young woman caressed his hand. His instinct was to pull away, but the warmth of her hands on his was sending shivers all up and down his spine. It felt so wonderful that for a moment, he let himself forget that the hand that the sweet princess -- whom he cared so deeply for -- now cradled was a freakish mix of human, demon, and golem. For a moment, he let himself think that he was a normal man in love, that he could afford the luxury of pleasure, and that sweet Amelia's attentions were more than just the curiosity of a human presented with an odd new toy.

Amelia, for her part, was wondering when the dream would end and Zelgadis-san would tire of her childish behavior and snatch his hand away. She wished she could hold his hand all night long, just touching him sent small jolts of energy through her and sent happy butterflies reeling in her stomach. Suddenly, a question popped into her mind.

"Zelgadis-san," she asked quietly, "Can you... feel things normally with your skin? I mean, no swords or anything can get through it, and you don't seem to get hurt as easily, but..." Amelia trailed off as she looked up into his eyes again. Something like pain flickered across his face, and she wondered again what she had done wrong.

Zelgadis sighed as the moment of forgetting that he was a freak passed. He looked into her eyes, ready to push her away again... but he paused. 'Might as well answer her question,' he thought as he sighed inwardly. He pulled his hand away from her and inspected it himself, as if looking for the answer there.

"It's been a while since I felt things 'normally'," he began bitterly; but his voice softened as he looked back into Amelia's eyes. "But, yes, for the most part. Actually, my skin can be almost oversensitive at times, to certain things, like the feel of clothes or something." He clenched his fist and exhaled. "Probably the demon part of me," he muttered.

"Maybe," Amelia said, reaching out to grab his hand again, in hopes of comforting him, "Or maybe it's the human part." He looked down at her in mild surprise. She smiled at him, and for a moment, he smiled back.

'Oh gods,' he thought, 'I don't know if I want this to stop now or to never stop, ever. But she can't really love me. She can't, she can't, not like I am now, not in this body. But... she really doesn't seem disgusted by it...' his thoughts trailed off as he saw her again looking at his hand. Finally, he blurted out, "Why are you so fascinated by my skin?" Amelia looked back at him and thought for a moment before looking back down at this hand which she held, cradled in her lap.

"Well," she began in a quiet voice, "I guess it's because it's unique, like you." Zel was about to say something, but she continued on, unaware. "It's just that, it's so beautiful, and so strong at the same time, and so warm... I never realized how warm it was, or how smooth..." she trailed off, blushing furiously. Zelgadis sat in stunned silence.

'Beautiful?' he thought in amazement. 'She thinks that my skin is BEAUTIFUL? Not freakish, not monstrous... but smooth and warm and... beautiful?'

"It's NOT beautiful," he half-growled, snatching his hand back from her lap.

'What are you doing, you rock-brained fool!' the back of his mind screamed at him. 'Why did you pull away! You want to be close to her, you WERE close to her, and you're pulling away again! If you keep it up, she'll stop trying and you'll lose her!' Amelia just sat there for a moment.

"Why not?" she asked.

"What?" Zelgadis snapped, unsure what she was asking. He felt emotions bubbling up in his chest, and he worried that they would break loose.

"Why isn't it beautiful?" she whispered. "How can you not think it's wonderful?" Her common sense was telling her to drop it and go to bed, to leave Zelgadis-san be. But whatever had possessed her to grab his hand in the first place was now convincing her to continue, encouraging her to express the things that she had felt for so long now.

"Because, nothing about me is beautiful! Nothing!" he roared as the pent up anger and frustration tore loose. "I'm a freak, living in a cursed body! That's why! I hate myself and I hate this body! There, are you happy now?" Amelia felt tears start to well, and she locked eyes with him for a moment, watching him seethe. She was sure that she saw pain mingled with the anger in his eyes, but her own torrent of emotions didn't give her time to think about it. Somewhere in the back of her mind, it registered that she'd probably regret this, but the years of putting her thoughts and feelings to the side caught up to her in an instant, and she felt the dam break.

"No," she whispered, low and dangerous, "No, I'm not happy now, Zelgadis. I've known you for three years now. You have always been gloomy, unhappy, depressed, and withdrawn." Her voice was gradually getting louder and louder and less and less controlled as the tears began to fall. Somewhere, the back of her mind was screaming at her to shut up. "But I have still always been drawn to you. In the beginning, I could pass it off as a silly crush. But I'm not 14 anymore, Zelgadis, I'm almost 18 now, and I can't pass this off as a crush anymore. But even still, even if it meant denying my love for you, I would have kept it inside if I thought that you really felt nothing for me. I don't know, maybe it's just been my wishful thinking, but every now and then, I could have sworn I saw SOMETHING in your eyes, something that gave me a reason to keep quietly hoping that under all the brooding, you really did feel something for me! But even with that hope, I still kept it mostly inside," she sobbed, her voice nearly hysterical now. "But I can't stay quiet now, I can't, I just can't! I can't listen to you say that you hate yourself, I can't hear you call yourself a freak; and I know I pushed you to answer my question, but it's still not right, because you're NOT a freak, you're NOT some ugly, monstrous creature! You are a handsome man with a soft touch and gentle hands. I don't care WHAT color your skin is, or that Rezo cursed you with that body! I love you anyway!" Amelia stopped speaking and hiccuped as she dropped to her knees, sobbing.

'Oh gods,' she thought to herself, 'What have I done? What came over me? Why did I say all that? Zelgadis-san will never talk to me again!' She sat there on the ground, hugging herself and sobbing, her fists clenched in her cloak, pulling the white fabric tight around her shoulders as she slowly rocked back and forth.

Zel simply stood in stunned silence. He'd had no idea that Amelia's affection for him had run that deep. He'd thought it really was just their friendship, or a childish crush, or some weird fascination with his freakish form. He'd always assumed no one would be able to truly love him until he was human again. But... Amelia wouldn't lie... did she really love him? As he looked down at her small figure huddled and shaking on the ground next to the fire, his mind realized that she had, of course, told him the truth... but the whole implication of what she had said hadn't sunk in. He stood there for a minute trying to process it all as he stared at the form of the most beautiful young woman in the world to him, the back of his mind finally shook itself out of it's stupor.

'Go hold her, you idiot!' it screamed at him. Another, now more distant part of his mind replied, 'I... I can't...'

'Why not?' the back demanded, 'She LOVES you, she just TOLD you so! You KNOW you love her, and you've know that for a while! So stop being a selfish, stubborn ass and go and hold her! You know you want to, and you know she needs it! So put your pride on the shelf for a minute and think of her!' Still in shock from being screamed at, both from the outside and from within, Zel slowly made his way over to the still-sobbing Amelia. As feeling slowly began to return to his numbed mind and the information was processed fully, he knelt down on the ground next to the princess and slowly wrapped his arms around her shaking shoulders. Amelia was too lost in her own world of panic and confusion about what she had done to notice Zelgadis' presence until he had pulled her almost into his lap and her head was resting against his chest, his chin gently resting on her head.

For a moment, they both froze, terrified about what the other was thinking, each worried that they had done something unforgivably wrong, that they had lost the person they most wanted to be with in the world. Amelia spoke first, whispering into Zelgadis' now tearstained tunic.

"I'm sorry, Zelgadis-san, I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me, I didn't mean to upset you, but it was like something inside me just burst and --" she said in a rush before Zel hushed her. She still wouldn't look up from his tunic, still half sobbing and afraid to meet his eyes.

"Like you said, you're almost 18 now. I don't think you need to call me 'Zelgadis-san' any more. Just 'Zelgadis' will be fine." Abruptly, the sobbing stopped and she looked up into his face. Her gaze met his warm eyes and her face burst into a dazzling smile, and Zel felt himself smiling back at her. She sniffed again, a remnant of her earlier tears, and she laughed and turned away to dry her face with the corner of her cloak, pulling out of Zelgadis' arms in the process. Her face dry, she turned back to the young man, sat back on her haunches, and looked him in the eye.

"So... ummm... just to clear up any confusion," Amelia said, "What DO you feel for me?" she asked, blushing furiously. Zel looked down at his knees and thought for a moment.

"I..." he took a deep breath, "I..."

'SAY it, you thickheaded oaf!' the back of his mind screamed. 'You've felt it for so long, it's not a dirty word, just say it! Say "I love you, Amelia!"'

"I love you, Amelia," he said, his face burning with a blush. Amelia heaved a deep breath as she felt what seemed like a ton of lead lifted off of her chest and her face burst into another smile. "I didn't want to say anything until after I had found my cure. I didn't think that you, or anyone, could love a fre-- um, could love me as I am now," he murmured, correcting himself from saying 'freak' when he glanced into Amelia's eyes and saw the sadness flash across them.

"Oh, Zelgadis-san!" Amelia cried in elation, stars beginning to gather in her eyes. "But now you know the truth, and you can be honest about your own feelings as well! And now that we have Truth and Love in our hearts, we can make it through anything together!" Amelia's hands were clasped tightly under her chin, stars in her eyes as she gazed off half towards Zelgadis and half off into the heavens. Zel heaved a sigh.

"Amelia, could you take it easy on the speeches, it's been a rough night," he said, and Amelia blushed.

"Oh, well, ok Zelgadis-san," she said, covering her mouth as she yawned. "Though the force of Justice never sleeps--" Amelia began before Zelgadis shot her a look. "Err, we should probably try to," she finished with a half smile. Zelgadis smiled at her.

"Yes, we should," he whispered with a half smile. He couldn't remember feeling this happy since before Rezo had cursed him. Actually, he wasn't sure he'd EVER felt this happy. Amelia smiled back and nodded her head quickly, and turned and went to her own bedroll, snuggled down, and sighed happily as her eyes slid shut. Within a few minutes, her breathing was soft and even, and Zelgadis knew she was asleep.

He sat for a long time by the fire, his mind turning over and over the events of the night. He was very, VERY confused; but he was happy, he was sure of that. And the emotions that boiled around inside his chest didn't bother him as much as they had earlier that night. He still had no idea what to do or what to say; but somehow, just knowing that the sweet princess loved him, even as he was, gave him no small amount of comfort. He gazed at her sleeping form, and suddenly, Mr. Doom and Gloom himself got a feeling that somehow things would work out fine.

Chapter 2

Two weeks later, and getting close to Seyruun, Amelia and Zelgadis again found themselves alone in the woods. This time, they had left Lina and Gourry behind at a village in order to go and investigate (what else) a possible cure for Zelgadis. Unfortunately, the lead had been as unfruitful as the one Lina and Gourry had followed in hopes of finding an enchanted sword. They would be meeting up with the sorceress and the swordsman tomorrow in the next town; but tonight would be spent in the forest.

The night air was chilly, and Amelia scooted close to the fire and drew her cloak tightly around her shoulders to keep warm. Zel also inched closer to the fire; not so much for the warmth, but more to get closer to Amelia. Though the two had finally fully admitted their feelings towards each other, neither of them was quite sure what to DO about it. Now, as Zelgadis sat next to the beautiful young woman, watching her out of the corner of his eye, all he knew at the moment was that he wanted to hold her.

Slowly and uncertainly, he reached out his right arm and wrapped it around her shoulders, drawing her in closer to him. Amelia seemed startled for a second as she looked up at him in surprise; but then she blushed, smiled, and snuggled in close to him, only half for the sake of keeping warm. Her mind reeled as she felt his strong hand gently grip her shoulder, and she curled up, resting her head on his chest, listening to his heart beating. Butterflies fluttered madly in her stomach as she cautiously draped her right hand on his stomach, tracing gently, lazy lines on it through the material of his tunic. Zelgadis shivered as her fingers traced over him. The warmth of her curled next to him and the tingly sensation he got from her fingers combined to make him shudder slightly.

"Zelgadis, are you ok?" Amelia asked when she felt the slight tremor go through him. She had stopped calling him "Zelgadis-san," but only when the two were in private. His voice caught in his throat for a moment, but he was able to reply that he was fine. Amelia sighed happily and went back to trailing her fingers along his abdomen, tracing the lines of his muscles and some of the pebbles that dotted his body.

Zel gave a silent inward gasp of pleasure. He had never known this kind of feeling. He had never had much opportunity for human closeness and contact when he was younger, and after Rezo had cursed him, Zelgadis had never allowed anyone close enough to touch him like this. 'Amelia has no idea what this is like for me,' he thought as the young princess slipped her arm around his side and hugged him slightly. 'I don't think she realizes that even just touching me like this can make me...' Zelgadis blushed furiously and thanked the gods that his cloak happened to rest over his lap and that Amelia didn't seem to be noticing anything. When the young woman sat up and looked at him, her movement startled him so that he nearly jumped.

"Why are you blushing?" she asked. "I'm not making you uncomfortable, am I?" she asked, worry creeping into her voice.

"No, no, not at all," he said, "I'm... I'm just not used to being touched. It's not a bad feeling," he added hurriedly, "Just a new one."

"Oh, ok." Amelia said, smiling and running the back of her fingers down his cheek. Her smile broadened when she saw him shiver in response and his eyes close slightly. When he opened them again, his gaze locked with hers.

'Oh gods, I want to kiss her...' he thought, staring into her indigo blue eyes. He loved her so much... and the pressure he felt building in his groin area seemed to be filling his brain too, making his thinking fuzzy.

'Is he going to kiss me?' Amelia wondered hopefully. She wanted it so badly... she figured she'd give him a hint. She reached up with her left hand and ever so carefully slid her fingers into his lavender strands, by the roots. She'd quickly learned that while some of his hairs would prick, many of them were of such thin wire that they felt almost soft, and they would bend before they pricked. Gingerly, she cradled his head with her hand, not pulling him towards her, but not removing her hand either.

Through the flood of sensations, Zel could hear a voice calling to him from the back of his mind. 'Kiss her!' it cried, over and over. Offering a silent prayer that he wasn't about to make a huge mistake, he slowly bent his face down to meet Amelia's. Her hand on the back of his head now pulled him closer; not roughly, but firmly, and she tipped her face up to meet his. Finally, his lips touched hers; and as they met, Zelgadis felt the most wonderful rush, that nothing had truly prepared him for, and he gasped slightly into the kiss. The pit of his stomach seemed to drop, and fill with tiny bolts of electricity, which spread outwards to all his extremities and up and down his spine. 'How can just one little kiss make me feel all this?' he wondered, now pulling Amelia closer, both of them deepening the kiss. A smaller voice, in the corner of his mind commented, 'I hope she doesn't look at my lap NOW...,' but Zelgadis was too busy getting lost in the kiss and the sensations it elicited to pay much attention to the voice.

Amelia was euphoric. Zelgadis' lips were softer and warmer than she had ever expected, and it was like he had breathed warmth into her. The warm sensation started in her belly and spread all over. It felt like her whole body was blushing, but in the cool night air, it felt wonderful. Her lips opened slightly in some kind of reflexive attempt to make the kiss deeper, to pull him in closer to her; and she felt him follow her lead, parting his lips slightly. Amelia felt her pulse quickening; and the quiet desire she'd felt for Zelgadis all these years was getting louder.

Zelgadis was also becoming steadily more aware of his passions (and other things) rising. A tight knot of nervousness had wrapped itself around his chest, and he worried that if his desire continued to increase, he might lose control. Reluctantly, he broke the kiss, and the both of them paused for a minute, breathing heavily and blushing furiously.

"Was that good?" Amelia asked when she caught her breath. "Did I do that right?" Zel smiled and hugged her shoulders.

"I was just thinking the same thing," he said. "And, well, I wouldn't really know if it was "right," since I don't have anything to compare against; but it was wonderful, so I guess it had to be right," he admitted, blushing again. Amelia beamed.

"You did great too," she said, hugging him and burying her cheek into his chest, sighing happily. Zelgadis stared down at her for a moment before drawing a deep breath and gazing into the fire. Amelia's breathing started to grow slow and steady, and Zel knew she was almost asleep.

"We should do that again sometime," he whispered, and she sighed quietly in response. "Sometime soon," he added, almost silently, closing his eyes and smiling as he held Amelia gently.


Almost a month had passed since they had reached Seyruun. Lina and Gourry had left about two weeks ago, after having stayed long enough to see that Amelia got settled in and to eat virtually all the food in the nearby (and not-so-nearby) restaurants. Their stomachs full, the sorceress and the swordsman had said their goodbyes to Amelia and Zel, and had gone off in search of more trouble together. Amelia was settling into her routine duties as princess, and Zelgadis was wandering around the city, halfheartedly searching for a lead to a cure. Most of the time, he would spend his nights in a room in the palace after a long day of fruitless searching. Amelia would often come to visit him in the evenings, and they would talk and hold each other, and Zelgadis would let himself feel almost normal for a time.

But as much as Amelia assured him that he wasn't repulsive or freakish (at least not to her), Zelgadis could still not ignore the fact that he WAS a chimera. And he could not stop hating it. He tried, for Amelia's sake, for his own sake, he had tried to stop hating the stone flesh that covered him. He tried to accept it, but something inside of himself simply would not allow it. Much as he tried, he couldn't quell his desire to be fully human again, and the need to go out and search for his cure began to overpower his desire to simply stay in Seyruun with Amelia. The night he told her that he was going back out to search for a cure, she had cried softly.

"What is it you always say to me?" he had asked her, holding her against him as she sniffled, "That Self-Love is one of the most important things, and must come before one can truly Love another? I can't love myself like this, Amelia. I've spent too much time hating this body; and even though while I'm with you, I can forget about it for a time, I can't forget about it completely. I have to go."

That had been four nights ago, and tomorrow morning, Zel would set out. And now he sat in his room, what little belongings he had all packed to provide him with as little clutter as possible. Rations from the palace kitchen were stuffed into a small satchel in the corner, and a canteen full of water sat next to it. Draped over a chair in the same corner was his cloak, it's many folds concealing an almost impossible number of tools, maps, and items he might need along his journey.

He stretched out on his bed, hands clasped behind his head, deep in thought about where he should go first, what he might face on his journeys, and how much he would miss Amelia. He wasn't sure if he drifted off to sleep or not, but the next thing he was aware of were his eyes fluttering open to see Amelia sitting on the edge of his bed, watching him intently. Candlelight filled the room with a soft glow, though he was fairly sure that none of the candles had been lit when he'd laid down.

"I came to give you something," she said softly as he sat up. He glanced down at her hands and saw her nervously fidgeting with one of her wristbands, which was clutched in her grip. As she held out the pink band to him, candlelight gleaming off the blue ball attached to it, Zel drew a deep breath.

"Amelia, I couldn't," he whispered.

"Take it," she said with a smile as tears began to well in her eyes. "But I want it back someday. Understand?" Zel smiled back at her, and as he reached out to take the wristband, his whole chest began to ache.

"I understand," he said, taking it gingerly from her and setting it on a small table by the side of his bed. As he turned back to Amelia, the princess hiccuped and threw her arms around him. He returned the hug and buried his face into her sweet, dark hair. He breathed in deeply and could smell a faint perfume of vanilla and roses mingled in with Amelia's own, distinctive, sweet smell. The scent made him a bit heady, and he ran his fingers through her silky strands. Amelia cried quietly into his neck and wrapped her arms around his back, running her hands over him through the fabric of his tunic. She felt him shiver as her fingers traced a line down his spine, and that, combined with the soothing feel of his fingers running through her hair, was enough to distract her from her sobs and her tears subsided. Instead, she nuzzled into Zels' neck, planting a few small kisses there.

Zelgadis shuddered as the brush of her lips against the skin of his neck sent waves of tingles rushing through his body. His fingers twitched in her hair as she gently kissed her way up his neck, along his jaw, and to his mouth. He kissed her deeply, and when she finally broke away from the kiss, she smiled angelically at him. 'If she keeps that up, I really might lose control!' he thought, blushing as furiously as he could, considering a large portion of his body's blood had been redirected to his loins. He pulled her back in gently for another kiss, wrapping his arms around her small frame, amazed at how well she seemed to fit in his arms. Without thinking, he had parted his lips and was gently brushing her lips with his tongue. He felt Amelia jump a bit at the touch, and so he closed his lips... until he felt her tongue ever so gently brush against his own lips. Cautiously, they brushed the tips of their tongues together, tasting each other. When they finally broke apart, Amelia was flushed a deep crimson as she sat back a little bit from Zel.

As she had over a month and a half ago, she grabbed his wrist and took off his glove and put it on the bedside table, then repeated the process with his other hand. She didn't quite know why she'd done it, she just knew that she wanted to touch his skin rather than the cloth of his gloves. He reached up with his now bare hand and gently stroked her cheek. He was gazing at her in what seemed like amazement.

"You are so beautiful," he whispered as if he was seeing her for the first time. Amelia ducked her head slightly and blushed, embarrassed by the emotion she heard in his voice. She'd never heard Zelgadis talk like that. In fact, he himself was rather surprised at the way he was acting.

"I probably won't get to see you for a long time after tonight," Amelia whispered, gently caressing one of his hands.

"Than I guess we should make it a night to remember, shouldn't we?" Zelgadis replied. Amelia's eyes grew starry and Zel thought for a moment about what he had said...

"What do you mean?" she asked, the tone of her voice indicating that she had an idea of what SHE wanted him to mean.

"Well, uhh, I, ummm..." Zelgadis stammered, unsure not only of what he HAD meant, but also of what Amelia seemed to be hoping for. He knew that he'd long dreamed of making love to the beautiful princess, but that couldn't be what she had in mind, could it? Was that even what he had meant when he'd said that? Why was that the first thought that popped into his mind now? Why oh WHY had he said that... He thought quickly and decided that the safest route was to defer to her. He didn't want to suggest too much and frighten her away, or suggest too little and have her be insulted or disappointed. "I mean that whatever you want to do tonight, we should do. After all," he added, "You've given me your wristband, so I have to give you something. So I'm giving you tonight, since I don't have much else to give."

"But what about what you might want? What if you don't want what I do?" she asked, seeming nervous.

"I'm sure that whatever it is will be fine by me," he said, gently caressing her hair and her face. Amelia bit her lip.

"You're sure?" she asked, hesitantly.

"I'm sure," he said with a smile.

"So... if I ask for something, you won't get mad?" Her face was the color of a ripe tomato.

"I promise that I won't get mad," he assured her.

"In that case," she said, inhaling deeply, "Will you please make love to me tonight?" The words came out in a rush, almost on top of each other in their hurry to escape her lips. Zelgadis could barely believe his ears, and thought for a moment that he had misunderstood the jumble of words. But the shade of scarlet that Amelia's face was turning left no doubt in his mind that he had heard correctly.

'She... just asked me... to make love to her...' he thought, staring at her in disbelief. "Are... are you sure you want to, Amelia?" he stammered. It seemed as though the two of them were having a contest to see who could blush deeper.

"Yes, I'm sure. I've really wanted to for a long time, actually. And now with you going away...," she trailed off for a moment. "So, um, yes, I am sure. Unless of course you don't want to..."

"No! I mean, yes! I mean, I want to! Wait, that sounds wrong... I mean --" Zel sputtered, trying to figure out exactly what he DID mean. His brain was still trying to grasp that Amelia WANTED him. Unable to make his brain form coherent language, he settled for gently grabbing her shoulders and pulling her in for a deep kiss. When he pulled back, she met his eyes. "I... I do want to make love to you," he murmured as he bent in towards her ear and nuzzled her neck slightly. He felt the small woman shiver as she wrapped her arms around him for a moment.

Pulling back from him, she gently tugged the bottom of his tunic until it came untucked from his belt and she slid her hands up under it to feel the warm skin beneath. Zel gasped at her touch as she ran her hands along his stomach and up his chest. Clumsily, she pulled the tunic up, and Zelgadis helped her to remove it. She also took off his belt, the metal clasp possibly threatening to scratch her. Amelia gently pushed him back onto the bed and laid to the side of him, propping herself up on her elbow to kiss him. Zelgadis wrapped his arms around her and held her tight as he turned on his side to return the kiss. Amelia pressed herself up against him, wrapping her arms around his neck. Both of them keeping their grip on the other, Zelgadis rolled back so that Amelia was resting on top of him.

At which, she promptly jumped half out of her skin and quickly rolled off of him, sitting up.

"What!" Zelgadis cried frantically, sitting bolt upright "What? Did I do something wrong, did I hurt you, are you ok?"

"I'm fine, I'm sorry, I guess I was just a little... ummm... startled, is all," she said, sheepishly rubbing the back of her head.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Well, ummm... see, I know all about the birds and the bees... but, um, I've never been physically close to a man who was... excited," she said. "It just surprised me, that's all." As Zel turned thirty shades of crimson, Amelia smiled sweetly at him. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you think you'd done something wrong. Here, I'll make it up to you," she said, pushing him back down on the bed. She kissed his forehead, then his nose, then his lips; then she moved down and kissed his neck and the hollow of his throat, all still red from his blush. As Amelia began to kiss her way down his chest, Zelgadis felt the world start to spin again as still more new sensations were added to his ever-growing understanding. Amelia planted a small kiss on one of his dark blue-grey nipples, and he gasped out loud. Apparently, Amelia was amused by his reaction, because she giggled slightly, then did it a few more times, kissing his living-stone skin, rubbing her lips across it and grazing it with her tongue, before she moved to the other nipple, repeating the process. Zelgadis had his fists half clenched in the bed sheets and was panting slightly as Amelia moved downwards again, kissing along his finely shaped stomach, stopping only at the line of his pants. Zelgadis was now fully gripping the bed sheets as Amelia laid her cheek down on his stomach, facing his pants and the now very obvious bulge in them. It was more out of curiosity than desire that her fingers came up and began to lightly trail over the straining fabric. As Amelia continued to gently stroke him through the fabric of his pants, Zel whimpered and arched his back reflexively.

Amelia's curiosity then prompted her to tug at the laces that held his trousers up. As she did so and the fabric loosened, Zel managed to regain enough muscular control to sit up and put his hands on Amelia's shoulders, drawing her attention away from his crotch.

"Did I do something wrong?" she asked, looking concerned.

"No!" he gasped, still trying to catch his breath. Amelia noticed that his hands shook slightly as he held her shoulders. "But this has been very one sided," he said with a small, shaky smile. "I want you to enjoy this as well."

"Oh, but I am enjoying this!" she said brightly, running her hands over Zelgadis' hard, smooth stomach and chest. Shaking his head, Zel moved over and gently laid Amelia down on the bed next to him. He leaned over her and gently kissed her mouth, running the tip of his tongue along her upper lip before he sat back and started to remove her shirt. Amelia blushed as she helped Zel get her top off, and soon the soft glow of the candles illuminated her bare breasts for Zelgadis to see. As he took in the sight of her large, pale breasts, he had trouble keeping his eyes in their sockets. He caught himself resisting the urge to reach out and touch them, and he mentally berated himself, reminding himself that it was all right to touch her now. He'd grown so used to fighting all his sexual and emotional urges that it had become reflex to try and beat them down.

Hesitantly, he reached out and gently caressed her soft breasts, causing the dark haired princess to sigh and shiver in pleasure. He was amazed at how soft her skin was. It had been a long time since he had allowed himself to touch people, and he had never touched anyone so intimately before, even when he had been fully human. And though his own skin was softer to the touch than people expected, it was still nowhere nearly as soft as the delicate skin his fingers were gliding over now. Cautiously, he ran his thumbs over her nipples, and the sensitive flesh hardened immediately under his touch, and Amelia moaned softly.

While Zelgadis continued to attend to her breasts, Amelia reached up and cautiously slid her fingers into his wire strands and gripped his head. Her own head was tipped back, her eyes slitted and her mouth slightly open. Her muscles tensed slightly as Zel caressed her, and she gripped his head tighter, reflexively tugging on him.

As she pulled his head closer to herself, Zel drew a deep breath. Steeling his nerves, he bent his head and gently kissed her nipple, brushing it lightly with his tongue as he did. He was rewarded when she shivered and gripped his head tighter. He grew bolder and moved his tongue in small circles around her nipple and suckled slightly at it, eliciting a whimper of pleasure from Amelia. He turned his attention to her other nipple, repeating the process.

When he finally detached himself from her breasts, both he and Amelia were breathing heavily. 'Gods, I've never been this aroused before!' he thought as an almost painful pang of desire spread out from the pit of his stomach and his crotch. Amelia also appeared to be in a state of lust beyond what she was accustomed to, and as she forced her eyes open to meet Zelgadis', it was if a bolt of energy passed between the two of them. Disentangling her fingers from Zels' hair, she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him on top of her and into a deep kiss. He was careful not to rest his full weight on her small frame, though as she ran her hands down his back to his butt, he found it increasingly difficult to retain control of his muscles.

Almost of their own volition, Amelia's hands had slid around, after having grabbed Zel's rear, between him and her, fumbling again with the laces of his trousers. Loosening them as best she could, she reached behind Zel again and slid her hand down to his butt again, under his pants this time, running her fingers over his warm flesh.

Zelgadis stiffened as Amelia caressed him and blushed furiously. After a moment, he sat up. Amelia pouted for a moment as Zel swung his legs over the edge of the bed and stood up. She thought for a second that he'd changed his mind; but as he turned his back to her and hesitantly brought his hands to the waist of his pants, hooked his thumbs around the edge of the fabric, and pulled them down, a nervous smile spread across her face. With shaking hands, before Zel turned back to face her, Amelia quickly loosened her own pants and slid them off her trim hips, along with her panties. When she looked back over at Zel, he was still facing away from her, but his pants had been tossed to the side and she found herself staring at his butt. She glanced up at his strong back and took a moment to take in the sight of his beautiful body. His shoulders heaved slightly as he took deep breaths, and Amelia thought for a moment that she saw his hands and arms shaking slightly.

Zelgadis glanced back over his shoulder nervously, and his breath caught in his throat. There was Amelia, sitting up on the bed staring at him, as naked as he was. 'By the gods, she's beautiful,' he thought in wonder as he stared at her. He gazed in wonder at her pale skin and soft curves, almost unable to believe that he wasn't just dreaming. Suddenly, Amelia covered her mouth, blushed furiously, and giggled slightly. Zelgadis wondered for a moment why she'd done that, when he noticed that he'd turned without realizing it and was now fully facing her. He blushed crimson and covered himself before Amelia shook her head.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you more self conscious," she said quickly. "I've just never seen a naked man... like this... before..." she muttered, blushing.

"Well, I've never seen a naked woman quite like this before," he replied, moving over to the bed and climbing onto it. 'Though you've thought about her often enough,' the back of his mind reminded him. He noticed Amelia staring at his erection and he blushed. Before either of them knew quite what was going on, Amelia had reached out and lightly wrapped her fingers around his member. At her touch, Zel gasped and arched his back.

Amelia was investigating Zelgadis' body. She had to admit that she was frightened, though she wasn't going to tell Zel. To ease her fears, she wanted to know exactly what she was dealing with. As the beautiful chimera sat back slightly, Amelia saw that his organ was large (or what she assumed was large, since she hadn't seen many), but not as scary as she'd thought it would be. It had none of the pebbles that dotted most of the rest of his body, and she gave silent thanks for that. She gently stroked it, running her fingers over him and watched him shiver in pleasure. She was very aware of her own desire and a warm wetness that had flooded her privates. She felt such a need to be close to Zelgadis, to be filled with him; she couldn't understand how she could want him so much, how she could desire a sensation she'd never had; but she knew she wanted it. She looked into his face, his eyes barely open, lost in a world of pleasure as her own hand continued to caress him. He was the most beautiful man she'd ever known.

Zel released a breath he hadn't realized that he'd been holding as Amelia drew her hand away from his member. He opened his eyes and looked at Amelia and knew he needed her. He needed her by his side, and he needed her love, tonight and for a long time to come; maybe even forever.

Amelia laid back on the pillows and Zel followed her, leaning over her and kissing her deeply. Neither of them were blushing now, their embarrassment forgotten as they got lost in the taste of the kiss, in the sweet scent of each other, the feel of the others' skin. Zel positioned himself over Amelia and looked into her deep blue eyes.

"Are you sure?" he asked. He wanted her to say yes, of course; but he wanted to be sure that she wouldn't regret this in the morning. She smiled up at him and nodded, running her hands over his back down to his ass, pulling him gently towards her. Drawing a deep breath, Zel slowly pressed the tip of his member against Amelia's waiting flesh. For a moment, he was shocked by the warmth and the wetness there; but as he eased the tip of himself into her, he grew worried as she tensed under him and winced. "Are you ok?" he asked, his voice strained. His body ached to be inside her, but he didn't want to hurt her.

"Yea, I'm ok," she said with a smile and a wince. "Just go slowly. I think it's supposed to hurt a bit for the first few minutes." Zelgadis nodded, worry still apparent in his eyes; but he slowly pressed in a bit further, stopping often to let Amelia adjust. Then, as he pressed forward, Amelia felt something tear inside her, and she gripped Zel tightly. The chimera froze as the trembling young woman held him. After a moment, though, her pain seemed to pass and she urged him to continue. Though he was worried about hurting her, the warm tightness around him enticed him to continue. So slowly, he eased deeper until he was in her completely.

For a moment, they lay still, adjusting to the sensation, getting lost in the moment. But their desire soon prompted them to become more active, and so Zel pulled out part way and pressed in again, still being careful not to be too rough or put too much weight on Amelia. The dark-haired woman was gently rocking her own hips in time with her lover's as she wrapped her arms around his back and buried her face in his neck. This felt so right, it was the most amazing feeling, and as it built she felt as if she would burst from all the sensations and emotions rushing through her.

Zel was also getting lost in the waves of sensation that were washing over him. As many times as he'd dreamed about this, it was still nothing like what he had expected. He'd never imagined how incredibly warm she could be, how each stroke would send tremors through his body and fill him with euphoria like he'd never known. He felt himself increasing the speed, growing more frantic as he felt years of suppressed need building up and screaming for release.

Now Amelia was getting close to that moment of release she'd been needing for a long time, and she held onto Zel tighter, moving to meet his thrusts, trying desperately to get to the brink, to fall off the razor's edge she felt she was balanced on. Then, in a moment, the wave of release crashed over her, and she tensed her body while her muscles contracted and sent jolts of nameless pleasure through her body. She bent her head back and closed her eyes, fighting back the urge to cry out.

As Amelia's orgasm hit, her muscle contractions gripped Zelgadis as he thrust into her, and the waves of pressure were too much for him. He arched his back and bit his lip, pressing himself as deep into Amelia as he could while he let loose the built up desire from too many years of frustration. His muscles tensed and he felt almost paralyzed for a moment in the grip of pleasure. Too soon, though, the moment was over, and Zel felt his muscles threaten to give out on him. He clumsily withdrew from Amelia and moved over to lay by her side. Both of them were breathing heavily and trembling. Amelia rolled over and faced Zel, draping her arm across his chest.

Neither of them spoke for a long while, simply laying in the half-darkness (since many of the candles had burnt out) holding each other. But even through the silence, an unspoken promise was made. Zelgadis knew that Amelia would wait for him, and Amelia knew that Zelgadis would come back to her. They belonged to each other, they belonged together, and they knew it. Amelia laid her head on Zels' chest and the two of them drifted in and out of sleep until finally all of the candles had burnt themselves out and the darkness of night took them both.

End Notes: The PLOT ridden story that developed out of this little fic is called "Bonds of Friendship and Balance," and it is actually complete (after 4+ freakin years). So, if yer interested, go on over and give it a read... but leave a few hours free, it's a long one.

And please, reviews only take a minute, and they make my day! Make me happy!