I know most people skim the Author's Notes and/or Disclaimers, but due to the nature of this story, I feel that it is prudent that new readers at least read the Author's Notes before proceeding.
First off, this an Elseworlds story, otherwise known as AU. Now, The Slayers? Not mine. Sigh. The Slayers are copyrighted 1989-2002 Hajime Kanzaka, Rui Araizumi, Kadokawa Shoten, TV TOKYO, SOFTX, Marubeni. No money made. Fanfiction only, written because I'm nuts about the characters, or maybe just plain nuts. I'm not sure who currently holds the rights to the movie "The Enchanted Cottage" (http://us.imdb.com/Title?0037671), but it was actually released on Saturday, April 28th, 1945. The title song, "L'amour Existe Encore" (literally, 'The Love Still Exists'), is owned by Céline Dion, and some of the lines I had trouble with were translated with help from AltaVista's Babelfish (http://babelfish.altavista.com).
Author's Notes: Factual and historical details are as accurate as possible, but I'd appreciate any corrections. I'll try to remember to include definitions of each French word or phrase that appears in a chapter in the chapter footnotes. This is set in the era it is, and the place it is, simply because I love a great deal about the Post-War era, 1946 up until the late 1950s (the music, the movies, the fashions, and the cars completely rock), and New Orleans has always fascinated me. And for the record, during the war years, the Goodyear Rubber production facilities in Akron, Ohio and other war industries really did recruit a large numbers of deaf employees. Some more information on this can be found at Gallaudet University's site (http://depts.gallaudet.edu/deafeyes/war.html).
I have kept the names and, where practicable, appearances of the original characters. No one is a dragon or Mazoku or a Chimera or a mage of any sort. These are completely normal, ordinary people. The only things which remain the same are the personalities, the names, and I hope the group dynamics for the most part.
One final note. I have no intention nor desire to offend anyone of any race, sex, creed, or disability. I would like to bring up now that I'm female and profoundly deaf, myself. But I would also like to point out that I strive for accuracy, and while I will endeavor to avoid any situations which would lend to sexism or bigotry in the story, I know for a fact it won't be entirely possible, since bigotry with some characters will play a part of the group dynamics. Any terminology used which has long since passed political correctness of our era is due to the fact that this is set pre-Civil Rights, pre-Americans with Disabilities Act, and prior to the Women's Lib movement, which did not really gain a great deal of mobility until the 1960s.
Finally, a HUGE THANK YOU!!! to my Beta Readers ^_^ from Anime Beta Readers Guild (http://zchaos.fanficnetwork.com/animebeta/index.html).
(The Love Still Exists)
by Zanne Chaos
Saturday, April 28, 1945
"Bonjour, Père!" Amelia said as she walked into the kitchen, sitting down at the table to wait for the cook to place breakfast before her.
"Ah, bonjour, Amelia, my princess," her father replied, looking up from his paper. "Come, come, give your papa a kiss."
She stood and kissed his bearded cheek lightly, and grinned. "How fares the battle of justice today?"
"Things sound as though they're still going quite well abroad," her father replied. "The news on the radio this morning was heartening. The home front, on the other hand..." He trailed off and sighed.
"Hardly a proper topic for good digestion," the cook scolded as she set a plate in front of Amelia's chair. "Sit yourself down, child, and get eatin'!"
"Yes, Miss Lucy," Amelia replied, flashing a grin to the dark-skinned woman who all but raised her. "It would be terribly unjust if your wonderful cooking went to waste." She pecked a wee kiss on the older woman's cheek.
"Don't you be sassin' me now, missy," Lucy warned, swatting her with the dishtowel. But she grinned affectionately as she did, and ruffled Amelia's short, dark hair.
"What's happening at court, Père?" Amelia asked as she put some of Lucy's blackberry jam on her toast.
"Well, the prosecution rests as of yesterday," he replied, "and the head defense attorney's a sneaky one. Right now, I'm not so sure which way the jury's going to go."
"You worry too much, Mr. Phil," Lucy told him as she refilled his coffee. "The jury'll make the right choice now, just you wait."
"Ah, Lucy, if I but had your optimism--"
"If you had my optimism, Mr. Phil, nary a crook would stand a chance."
"Truer words were never spoken, but I've presented the best case I could, and there's no more evidence or witnesses I can call, so there's not much I can do about anything until Monday." He looked to Amelia. "So, tell your papa what your plans for today are, princess."
"Well, I was thinking about starting my day with a morning ride, and go over to the Inverse plantation and visit Miss Lina for a while," Amelia said.
Phil frowned. "That's a five-mile ride, princess. Take someone with you." He smiled, tapping his finger under her chin. "I'd hate to have something happen to such a pretty face."
She nodded. "I always take Zel with me, Père," she assured him. She couldn't even remember a time when he hadn't been overly protective of her. First her mother had died in childbirth bearing her, and then when she was two, her six-year-old sister, Gracia, disappeared from the front yard.
"Good, good. He's a sharp one, that boy. So maybe his ears don't work like ours, he's shown a good head on those shoulders and sharp eyes," Phil said. "Go on."
"I want to see if Miss Lina wants to catch a matinee. There's a new movie out today, called The Enchanted Cottage, and it sounds so wonderful!"
"Eh?" Phil turned a page of the newspaper. "What's it about?"
"It's about the power of true love, and how it conquers all," Amelia replied dreamily.
"Sounds like a fairy tale to me," Lucy commented.
"It's the very best kind! A maid and a scarred soldier find beauty in their love, and in each other, and their love transforms them!" She paused, thinking. "At least that's what I think the trailers said."
"Let me know how it goes," Phil said.
"I will!" Amelia hurriedly finished her breakfast as her enthusiasm increased, thinking about her day. More specifically, perhaps, about whom she'd see that day. "Père, I was also thinking, I might keep the horses at the Inverse stables and ride back later tonight. I thought maybe Zel would like to come to the movies with us."
"That's my princess!" Phil said, and reached over to ruffle her hair. "You've turned into quite a young lady."
The sixteen-year-old girl grinned, but her reasons for inviting Zel weren't just about her father's lessons in treating people equally, even those below her. Maybe, just maybe, he'd get the hint she hoped the movie would have.
"Wake up, Miss Lina! It's almost nine!" Lina groaned and pulled the blankets farther over her head. "No school, lemme sleep."
"The early bird catches the worm."
"Good for him. I hate worms."
"Then how would you like catching some of my blueberry pancakes, hmm?"
That did it. Lina sat up as if she'd been tapped with a cattle prod, squinting against the glare of the light as the housekeeper opened her curtains. She collapsed back on the bed, covering herself.
"Ah! Sunlight! Sun bad!"
"I'd swear you were part owl, child, now get yourself outta bed. I gots laundry to do today, and you're sleepin' in it."
"But, Dalia, it's so early!" Lina whined as she reluctantly got to her feet, stretching mightily as she did. A few seconds later, the combined effects of standing and stretching had her sitting down heavily as her knees gave way, and she blinked rapidly to ward off the encroaching darkness in her eyes. Woo. Head rush. She gave herself a quick shake and stood again, more cautiously this time.
"Every morning it's the same thing, girl. You'd think by now you'd learn not to do that," the older woman chided.
"Yeah, but it feels good." Lina shot her a sleepy grin.
"You're a strange one, Miss Lina," Dalia said, chuckling. "Now get you down to the kitchen. There's a stack of pancakes with your name on it."
She didn't have to be told again. Lina bolted from her room and trotted down the wide, sloping staircase, holding up the hem of her nightgown just enough to keep from tripping over it. Her mother stood in the main foyer, looking in the mirror as she pulled on gloves, and glanced to Lina before sighing in exasperation.
"How many times have I told you," her mother began in on the familiar lecture as Lina reached the bottom of the stairs, "that it's simply improper and unbecoming of a young woman your age to go cavorting about in her sleepwear? Get dressed first, and then eat breakfast.
"Yes, Mommy," Lina recited in mock-contriteness.
Her mother shook her head. "You're impossible."
Lina grinned. "Yes, Mommy."
Her mother's lips twitched in amusement. "Well, see to it you get dressed sometime today. You need to go by the seamstress' shop. She called. Your prom gown is finished being altered."
Lina nodded. "Where you going?"
"Lina, it's 'where are you going'. Hmph. Really." Her mother looked back into the mirror, presumably smoothing some hair back under the hat she wore which matched her periwinkle blue dress, although as far as Lina could see, nary a hair was out of place. "Mrs. Gabriev is coming over, and we're going to the Rotary meeting."
Lina stretched again, standing on the tips of her toes as she reached above her head. "Have fun." She padded into the kitchen and plopped down on a chair, digging into the promised pancakes.
Halfway into her breakfast, a second fork appeared over her shoulder and cut into her pancakes. Lina shrieked in indignation and jabbed her own fork into the hand that held the new arrival.
She glared over her shoulder at Gourry Gabriev, who was rubbing his injured hand. "That's what you get for trying to steal my pancakes, jellyfish."
"Are you always this pleasant first thing in the morning?"
"No, I'm usually worse."
He smirked, and leaned in to kiss her on the forehead, and when he drew back, Lina realized in dismay that he had managed to be successful in grabbing his coveted bite of pancakes. For that little diversion, she hit him solidly on his arm, scowling.
"You hit like a boy," he teased, sitting down beside her at the table. "But then, you're built like--"
He never had a chance to finish that sentence. She punched him solidly in the shoulder, causing him to nearly topple out of his chair. "You finish that sentence, jellyfish, and I'll finish you!" Lina threatened, and huffed, turning back to her breakfast. "What're you doing here anyway? I thought you weren't coming over till later."
"Yeah, I offered to drive Mom over here. I have some errands I need to run, and when your mom said you were awake, I thought I'd come in and bother you."
"You always bother me."
"Gee, Lina, love you too." His tone was dry, but he grinned when he said it.
She smirked at him. "Well, you can't follow me around on my errands today," she announced.
"My dress is done, and you're not seeing it until next Friday."
"Are you at least gonna tell me what color it is?"
"Why?" She eyed him suspiciously.
"My mom told me to find out so I get a corsage that looks good."
"You know what color a violet is?"
Lina stared at him and let her head thunk onto the table. "You jellyfish. A violet is violet."
"Oh." He frowned. "Wait, if violets are violets, then why does that poem say they're blue?"
"I don't know, Gourry," Lina said tiredly. "But stick between that color and cornflower blue, and you'll be fine."
"Cornflower blue? But isn't corn yellow?"
Lina stared at him. "Are you doing this on purpose?"
Gourry took advantage of her brief lapse into astonishment to snag yet another bite of her pancakes.
"Hey!" She kicked him under the table. "Those're mine! Don't you have food at your house?"
"Yeah, but I like these!"
"Quit eating my food! I'm going to waste away into nothing."
"Lina, you're a bottomless pit."
"I am not a bottomless pit!" Lina huffed. "I'm just very energetic. Besides, Dalia says it's not surprising I use up more energy than others." She said that last sentence in a near-whisper.
"How's that going anyway?" Gourry asked in equally low tones, crossing his arms over the table and leaning closer.
"I'm learning a lot," Lina replied. "Dalia's impressed at how fast I'm picking up things, and how much skill I've got at tapping into and focusing my kundalini."
"The river that flows inside," Lina started to explain, and at Gourry's blank look, she shook her head. "Never mind."
"You're still not gonna tell me a lot about it, are you?"
Lina shook her head. "I don't think you'd understand. It took me a little while to understand everything Dalia was telling me about voodoo."
Gourry smiled. "That's okay, Lina. As long as you understand, that's what counts. I'm not the one studying it."
"You really don't mind, do you." It wasn't so much a question as it was a statement.
Gourry shook his head. "I trust you, Lina. Besides, how long have we known each other? I know you're not like your mom, or your sister. Being a social debutante or signing up in the WAC isn't for you. If you're good at something, you oughta learn how to do it. I'm not going to college. My marks aren't good enough. You know it's still not even certain I'm gonna graduate. But I'm good with a sword, and I know what to look for in one. I wanna learn how to forge them. My parents think I'm crazy, but I say, stick to what you like, and stick to what you know."
Lina smiled. "Not many people would understand that."
"That's why we've been best friends ever since third grade, when I mistook you for a boy and you beat my head against the jungle gym," he replied, grinning broadly.
"I still say you deserved it," she replied, huffing indignantly.
Gourry smirked, getting back to his feet. "I'll see you later today?" he asked. "I've gotta take the car in for a tune-up."
"Okay. I'll call you, or run into you, or whatever," Lina replied.
It was only midmorning, but the humidity coming in off the Gulf was making the spring heat oppressive. Some of the stableboys were being lazy, and from their expressions, complaining about the heat. Zelgadis ignored it; he'd spent his entire life in the Deep South, starting out in Atlanta, then working his way west after his parents' death. While the other grooms tended to the horses' morning care before turning them out into the pasture, he was usually assigned to cleaning out the stalls, even though that was a job for a stableboy. To make it worse, he usually wound up doing most of the stalls himself. It didn't matter, though. They would never get out of this town, most of them. He, on the other hand, someday, he'd get all the way to Washington D.C.. The others, they wasted their money on frivolous things, but Zelgadis squirreled it away. He'd get into Gallaudet College.
The war had done a few things in his favor; the hearing public had to acknowledge the contribution the deaf community gave the war effort, especially with the Goodyear company. Zelgadis smirked slightly as he lifted the pitchfork, dumping used straw and manure into the wheelbarrow. That had to stick in his grandfather's craw.
His parents had been the ones who first told Zelgadis about Gallaudet, and he never gave up the idea of going there someday and eventually becoming a doctor. It was from them that he first learned how to read and write, and his mother learned sign language and regularly interpreted radio broadcasts for him.
His mother's father hadn't been quite as enthusiastic about Zelgadis' education, and even less so regarding Zelgadis' ambitions to be a doctor. He viciously jabbed the pitchfork into the straw, clenching his teeth as he recalled what Rezo had said. No one would want to be the patient of a deaf-mute, and being a doctor would take more intelligence than someone like Zelgadis had. He suspected the real reason behind it, but couldn't prove it. The old man was a rather prominent doctor in Atlanta, and he was likely embarrassed by the possibility of having his handicapped grandson as a partner, or more likely, competition.
But Zelgadis wasn't interested in taking on patients. He wanted to become a doctor to find a cure for deafness, or at least a reasonable treatment. There had to be something, some way.
Everything came to a halt ten years ago, when his parents had been killed in an automotive accident. Rezo had tried to institutionalize the nine-year-old boy, and in rebellion, Zelgadis ran away, and never looked back. For three, almost four years, he went west, working at various odd jobs, moving from one town to another by hitchhiking, walking, and riding boxcars.
Then, when he arrived in New Orleans six years ago, one event led to another, and ultimately resulted in one of the city's attorneys offering him a job. Phil Seyruun was a big bear of a man, but Zelgadis soon learned he was also fair.
That was why he stayed. He was paid and promoted just like everyone else. That was the only reason. Nothing else kept him there.
Except for the source of the tug he felt at his sleeve. It was only years of practice that kept his face impassive as he turned to meet two eager and vivid blue eyes.
"Good morning!" Amelia said, grinning cheerfully. Her lips moved as she spoke, but so did her fingers. When he first met her, at age ten, she was determined to learn how to talk to him, and hounded him relentlessly until he finally gave in. What surprised him was how quickly she learned.
Zelgadis nodded a greeting, not stopping as he continued cleaning the stall. He wouldn't treat her any differently. He wouldn't let on, not until he had his degree. Not until he was somebody, and not just some deaf-mute, barely-educated kid.
"I want to go riding today, so would you come with me?" she asked, and again he nodded, taking in the jodhpurs and boots she wore. Damn, but she looked good.
He stood straighter and beckoned one of the slacking stableboys over to take up the task. "When do you want to leave?" he asked, not with any sound, but with fast-moving, nimble fingers.
"Soon," she replied, then hesitated.
"I can wait though, if you want to get cleaned up. I was going to Lina's and I want to catch a matinee, and I was wondering if you'd go with me."
He blinked, staring at her a bit dumbfounded as he uncrossed his arms. "You're asking me to go to a movie with you?"
Amelia bit her bottom lip as her cheeks turned pink, and nodded vigorously. "Please, Mr. Zelgadis?"
He twitched slightly. She had called him that from day one, and no matter how many times he tried to explain that she was above his station, that she shouldn't even call him that, she refused to relent. Hmph. Women. "I'll think about it."
Amelia grinned brightly. "I'll even interpret it for you," she told him. "It'll be fun!"
Somehow, Zelgadis doubted that. As a Graywords, he wasn't below her station, but as a groom in her father's stable, he was. Spending that much time with her, going to the movies -- isn't that what people on dates did? -- was going to be murder. It was too much to hope that she wouldn't be married and settled down by the time he saved up enough to go to Gallaudet, and get his doctorate. "I'll get ready," he replied. "Please tell Collins that I want the bay gelding."
"I will!" For a moment, he thought she might hug him, and backed up in surprise, but she merely gave him a dazzling grin before darting out of the stall.
Zelgadis restrained himself from thunking his head on the wall in exasperation. What the hell. Chances like this are once in a lifetime. Might as well go for it and keep the memory.
Bonjour - Good Morning
Père - Father