Disclaimer: Nope, don't own anything here. Not Slayers, not the song or lyrics, not even the idea. I'm pretty much broke, so suing me would be more or less a joke. Any and all flames will be sent to my friend to use in her campfires.

25 Minutes

by terminal_insanity

After some time
I've finally made up my mind
She is the girl
And I really want to make her mine

            Zelgadiss trudged through the thick layer of snow, his hands in his pockets. Maybe being a chimera wasn't all bad. At least he didn't get cold so easily and- What on earth was he thinking?! He had found his cure, he was finally human again and, he was happy. Or at least should have been happy. Something was missing in his life, leaving a huge hole in his heart. Something…or was it somebody?

            He gave a low, miserable chuckle. When was the last time he'd seen her, spoken to her…to any of them even? Had he really been gone so long? Absence made the heart grow fonder, didn't it? He cursed a blue streak. He was freezing and his lame attempts at personal comfort weren't working, not that he expected them to anyway.

            Three years, had it been? Four perhaps? That he'd been wandering the world for his damn cure. He'd found it, yes, and for once, it had actually worked. So now, he was human; skin, hair and all. All he lacked was happiness. He'd do something about that. Steeling his resolve, he walked faster, clutching a warm band of metal even more tightly between his fingers.

I'm searching everywhere
To find her again
To tell her I love her
And I'm sorry 'bout the things I've done

He stepped through the city gates of Sailuune and paused. Even during wintertime, when nothing grew, the white magic capital still managed to look so beautiful.

Of course it'd look wonderful… She's here, isn't she? He thought, as he searched every inn and tavern for her. There was no sign of her. Not even a lingering wisp. Perhaps she was on another journey with her friends. Maybe they were looking for him!

In your dreams, Zelgadiss…The sky would sooner fall on your head… Still, he refused to give up hope. He hadn't traveled across the world just to give up like some coward. Maybe she was eating out at one of the restaurants today. He gave a small smile at the thought of his former companions and their eventful meals.

He looked at his hands. They were shaking. Trembling whether from the cold, or from the anxiety of seeing her again and fear of her reaction to him, he didn't know. He decided on cold. A visit to a church might help. There, he'd have some shelter, warmth, and maybe he could try and sort out his heart as well.

He knew this place by heart already, countless times, had he run here, seeking the gentle, soothing words of the elderly man. Now would be the perfect time to- Eh?… The wishing pond? Why was he at the pond?

Already forming over the surface was a thin layer of ice. Unable to bring himself to break the pristine, crystalline coat, he simply prayed for the best. Maybe it was best that he didn't find her. After all, he'd ruined enough of her life already hadn't he? With that, he rounded the bend, the church only a minute or two away.

I find her standing in front of the church
the only place in town where I didn't search
She looks so happy in her wedding dress
but she's crying while she's saying this

            He stopped outside the doors of the building. There was a lot of noise coming from inside; organ music, laughing, cheering, crying… Must be a wedding. He deduced. Quietly, he turned around and walked away. But he had taken no more than three steps down the stairs when the double doors swung open.

            Slowly, he turned to face the happy couple whose wedding he had intruded upon. The princess of Sailuune took one look and froze in shock, her hands fiddling with the pale pink of her dress. Beside her, stood a stranger. Could it be? That Amelia had finally consented to an arranged marriage? No, she wasn't like that. She wanted to marry someone she loved. She wasn't even holding the man's hand. No, this wasn't her wedding. So who…

The crowd parted for the bride and groom. His eyes met a pair of ruby gems and he gasped, all colour fading from his face. Immediately, the music stopped and the noises from the guests ceased.

Zelgadiss could not believe his eyes. Playing before him was a scene that could only have come from his worst nightmares.

"Lina?…" He croaked, his voice low and raspy.

At first her face registered confusion at the stranger before her. How did he know her name? She stood still, taking in his messy lavender hair, now covered with a layer of snow, and the deep cobalt eyes filled with something unreadable. She knew. The bouquet of flowers fell from her hand, hitting the marble stones with a soft crush.

Both parties stood stock-still, unable to speak, nor move. The air crackled with tension. Gourry just observed his bride, waiting for her reaction. It wasn't going to be pretty.

Zelgadiss opened his mouth slightly, as if to say something, but shut it again, and smiled. What else could he do? Slowly, he bent down and picked up the blood-red roses, before straightening up and holding them out to her.

She looked at him, then at the roses, and back at him again. Her face grew pale at first, then rosy. Gourry gulped. A dragon slave at his wedding was the last thing he had wanted. He waited for the inevitable spellcasting, but none came. And Lina did just about the last thing on his mind. She cried.

A lump formed in her throat. Tears spilled from the corners of her eyes, trailing down her cheeks. Zelgadiss took a step towards Lina and brushed them away with his free hand, all the time holding the flowers out to her.

She took the bouquet from him, thinking of what she could say, when she heard a soft 'clink', muffled by the thin layer of snow. All eyes looked down, at the thin band of white gold sparkling on the snow.

Zelgadiss immediately bent down and put it back into his pocket. He had forgotten that it had been in his hand. Then a strong hand captured his and pried his fingers open, before taking the ring.

Lina held the ring in her slim fingers, and trembled. Then she covered her face in her hands and cried.

"Lina- I…" He began, not knowing what to say next.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?! You disappear for years without so much as a single word of goodbye, and then suddenly turn up at my wedding with a goddamn ring! Who is it for? Me? Are you trying to propose to me? On my wedding?! You make me wait three freaking years, three wasted years for you, and when I finally get over it, you show up and expect me to-"

"Could I have it back?" He asked softly.

She looked up at him and saw the silent desperation, tinged with anguish. His eyes were dark and lonely.

"Please?" He repeated, his voice a mere shadow of a whisper.

Boy I've missed your kisses
All the time but this is
Twenty-five minutes
Too late

            The frown on her face faded, and she embraced him, still crying. Zelgadiss just stood there, like the statue he had always been accused of behaving like.

            "Do you have any idea what it was like, all those years after you left? Do you know how lonely I was when you weren't there?" She wept brokenly into his chest.

Though you traveled so far
Boy I'm sorry your are
Twenty-five minutes
Too late

            "Well, now I've got Gourry, Zel. You're just too late, you hear? Too late!"

            "I'm sorry." He murmured. She looked up at him, her eyes watery with tears. Gently, he touched his lips to hers. She froze for a second, and then melted into his kiss. He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close.

            Gourry took a step forward, frowning, but a small hand blocked his way.

"He's just saying goodbye to her one last time, Gourry." Amelia said.

"I've been wondering when I'd get to see you again…so I can tell you how much I've missed you, your touch, your kisses… I waited for so long, Zel. You just never came, and now… Now you're just too late…"

"I know…" He broke the kiss and handed Lina the bouquet of roses once more. She exchanged it with the ring. Shaking Gourry's hand, he said coolly "Congratulations…" Then he turned back to Lina.

"But the ring wasn't for you anyway." He told her with a soft smile. "It's meant for my girlfriend.

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to drive you away.

"I got to know her when I was searching for my cure. And I've found it too."

Didn't mean to come this late.

"But then she stormed out on me too a few days ago."

I've so much to tell you. But I know I can't say them now.

"I want to propose to her, and I've been searching this town for a few days already."

I've missed you so much. I've been lonely too.

"And I… I just… want to catch her… before it's too… late."

I want to be with you. I want you to be with me.

"I wondered why these few day without her… have felt so… long." He closed his eyes, to stop himself from choking on the words. Not that it worked.

Can't you see? I love you. So much.

He held the ring tightly in his hand and walked away, down the steps, onto the snow. He heard the snow crunch beneath his shoes.

Keep walking straight. Don't you dare stop. You can't stop. Just walk. Walk away from this. He chanted mentally. Don't screw this up like you did over there…

Against the wind
I'm going home again
Wishing me back to the time
When we were more than friends

            The wind was getting stronger with each bone-chilling gust and the snow, which had floated down in light, flaky crystals earlier, fell in thick sheets, growing into a thicker and thicker layer on the ground. The noise grew again outside the doors of the church, but faded as he every step took him further and further away from Lina. His heart begged him to stay, but his mind refused to listen. Still, at least he'd managed to sneak in one last kiss in his goodbye, and his mind still reeled from the intensity of it. He could remember how she felt like in his arms, the taste of her lips, the silky feel of her hair, the warmth of her body against his. And just for a moment, he smiled a genuine smile, unlike the fake, plastic ones he had plastered onto his face earlier. And with that smile, he allowed himself one final immersion into his memories…

            Lina ate the last of her ice cream and laughed at his exasperated face. How she managed to consume so much food was utterly beyond him. As they strolled down the busy streets, one particular window display caught Lina's attention. She ran towards the shop, tugging eagerly at Zelgadiss' sleeve, and pressed her face at the smooth glass.

            "Hey, Zel, look! It's so beautiful…" She breathed, staring at the snow-white gown on display.

            He looked at the gown in mention and agreed. The fabric was so smooth, he would've bet that it was made out of pure silk. The bodice was lined with tiny seed pearls, and the hem with cream lace. The whole ensemble was perfect, down to the small, beaded shoes.

            "You'll buy that for me one day, won't you, Zel?" She asked.

            He grinned and replied playfully, "And what makes you think we'll get married?"

            "Why not? You'll be married to the beautiful, intelligent, genius and sorceress extraordinaire, Lina Inverse! Why Zel, you ought to be honoured!"

            "Fine, fine. When that day comes, and you still want that dress, I'll buy it for you. How's that?"

            "Perfect. But what makes you think that I'll consent to be yours?" She teased, swatting him playfully on the arm. "After all, you won't be the only one after me you know!"

            He stopped abruptly and shuddered. Lina's body heat had left him already, leaving him cold, and all alone.

But still I see her in front of the church
The only place in town where I didn't search
She looked so happy in her wedding dress
But she cried while she was saying this

            In the end, all that playful bantering had been worth nothing. He didn't get her the wedding dress, and he didn't get to marry her either. Gourry had beaten him to it. Still, Zelgadiss had to assume that the fates had been fair. For three long years, hadn't the jellyfish been the one to take care of Lina, comfort her and love her? While he wandered the earth with nothing more important to him than find his stupid cure. Besides…it hadn't been Gourry who kept making her cry.

Boy I've missed your kisses all the time but this is
Twenty-five minutes too late
Though you traveled so far boy I'm sorry you are
Twenty-five minutes too late

            He'd screwed up royally. Maybe he really didn't deserve anyone, let alone Lina. Maybe he was meant to be alone. Forever.

Out in the streets
Places where hungry hearts have nothing to eat
Inside my head
Still I can hear the words she said

            "Do you have any idea what it was like, all those years after you left? Do you know how lonely I was when you weren't there? Well, now I've got Gourry, Zel. You're just too late, you hear? Too late!"

            Too late.

            Why was he back at the pond again?

            He stared at the blurry images of coins; bronze, silver, and gold, partially hidden beneath the ice. Idly, he wondered how many wishes had been made here, how many hearts had been broken over wishes that didn't come true. Had any of them come true at all? He laughed bitterly. Probably not.

            He glanced at the ring in his hand. A speck of red caught his eye. He examined the ring closely. Near the edge, was a smudge of crimson lipstick. Lina's… Must have been when…when he made her cry again…

            Unable to resist the temptation, he brought the ring to his lips and kissed it. He could taste the faint sweetness that was Lina. But it was soon overwhelmed by the saltiness of her tears.

            Her tears… Tears that he had caused her to shed over and over again.

            An image of Lina's tear-stained face came to his mind and he wrenched his lips away from the ring. Filled with shame, he flung it as far away into the pond as humanly possible. Hah! With his chimeric strength, he'd probably be able to throw it further.

Boy I've missed your kisses all the time but this is
Twenty-five minutes too late
Though you traveled so far boy I'm sorry you are
Twenty-five minutes too late

He saw the miniscule splash as the ring made impact with and broke through the cold, hard ice. In his mind, he could picture it sinking through the frigid water, and hitting the bottom, where all the other memories of wishes lay, buried forever.

Boy I've missed your kisses all the time but this is
Twenty-five minutes too late
Though you traveled so far boy I'm sorry you are
Twenty-five minutes too late

            Please don't cry anymore, Lina, even if it means forgetting me. I just don't want to cause you to shed any more tears. So forget me and just let me be another happy memory. I love you.

I can still hear her say…

            But we both know…that it's too late…

            A small tear fell, splashing as it hit the frozen pond.

            Goodbye…

            And he left, fading into the dying twilight…

Author's Notes:

Right now, you must be saying, "Now where have I read something like this before?…" Well, basically, I got the idea and inspiration to write this songfic from saturn de wicked's fic of the same name. So therefore, all credit rightfully, should go to her… I tried to reduce the amount of plagiarizing in this fic, though I can't quite tell if I was even marginally successful. Oh yeah… back to my rantings on the fic… Hah!!! I bet I got you people thinking it was a Zel/Ame fic at first. It was never meant to be that actually. To tell the truth, I'm more for the traditional A/Z and L/G couplings, but I couldn't resist this one… Besides, I've got something against Amelia marrying a stranger, even if she's an annoying little girl sometimes. Okay, sorry, Amelia fans, for that bit of Amelia bashing there. I'm just trying to work of my frustration as my brother's driving me absolutely nuts with his off-tune whistling and irritating comments… And I'm getting HELL trying to upload this… Sorry if it went a little haywire… If anyone objects to this fic, I don't care.  Unless that person is dear Saturn herself, in which case, I apologise. There. I'm done. For now, that is…