Note to Readers: Sorry for the long delays on my 'fics. Sept. wasn't a good month with me. Don't expect any updates for a couple more weeks, as I'll be out of state. But I'm taking a laptop to write in the car and while I'm there, so if I don't have something to show for it, you can beat me with leafy green veggies. ^_^
~ Zanne

L'amour Existe Encore
CHAPTER FOUR


"Mind if I ask you a question?"

"Ask away."

"Huh?" Zelgadis raised an eyebrow. "You want me to leave?"

"What?" Amelia blinked. "No! Of course not! Why did--" It hit her then what she had signed, and she slapped her hand over her eyes in dismay and laughed. It wasn't the first time the sign she chose matched her words exactly, but completely twisted the meaning of what was actually said.

Zelgadis tapped her shoulder, smirking in amusement. "Wrong concept?" he asked.

Amelia nodded. "I said 'ask away'," she replied, her fingers moving quickly as she spelled out the word. "That means the same thing as 'go ahead'. Sorry, I wasn't thinking when I signed 'away'."

"You say the strangest thing when you're distracted."

"Sorry!" Amelia replied, blushing a bit but laughing at the amusement plainly visible on his face. "It's not my fault the translations can get a bit odd!" She moved her hands back and forth quickly, striking her fingers together a few times in a lazy motion that was almost as if she were dusting her hands. "Anyway," she said with that sign, "go on. What was your question?"

The amusement evaporated from Zelgadis' face, and she was instantly regretful for reminding him of whatever it had been.

"Your friend, Filia, she's always come across as a fairly decent sort," Zelgadis said, "which is why it's completely beyond me, trying to figure out what she sees in him."

Amelia looked away quickly before any of her thoughts surfaced to her expression. Why was he asking about Filia? Amelia knew she was very pretty, and far more graceful and self-assured than herself. Under the pretense of watching where they were walking, Amelia didn't look at him as she raised her hand to her forehead, tapping it with her three middle fingers and drawing them back, curling them into a fist while her thumb and pinky remained straight. "Why?"

Of course, that now meant she had to look at him for his answer.

Zelgadis didn't reply immediately, and her cheeks grew a little warm as he continued to study her. "I guess I'm wondering if it's an act on her part."

"An act? Oh, no, not at all," Amelia said hastily. "Miss Filia's very nice. I guess it's...well, it's a social thing. The Ul Copts and Metalliums are two of the oldest, and most powerful families in New Orleans, in terms of monetary and political clout. I think they're together mostly because it's expected of them. But they do care for each other."

Zelgadis' expression was a bit derisive, but he nodded. "Fair enough." He climbed the library steps a little faster than she, and held the door open.

Amelia nodded her thanks and stepped inside, frowning a bit. Was that all that was to his apparent interest? He tapped her on the shoulder.

"I'm going over to the science section," he said, and she barely had time to acknowledge that before he walked off.

With a sigh, Amelia watched him, absorbing every detail and committing them to memory. Someday, she'd get him to notice her. At least, she hoped she would. For the time being though, she would completely avoid the nonfiction half of the library.



Lina studied her reflection, wondering if the scarf was a bit too much. "Hey, Filia, what do you think of this?" she asked.

There was no immediate answer, and Lina turned around, taking care not to step on her dress. Her friend was sitting on the edge of a chair, staring down at a tiny jeweled purse which matched her prom dress. "Filia?"

The blonde looked up, her blue eyes wide and startled. "Oh! I'm sorry. I...what were you saying?"

"I wanted to know if this scarf was overdoing it," Lina asked, holding up the end of the very long and narrow sheer silk material which was partially wound around her neck.

Filia studied her critically, then shook her head. "Not too much, but it's just not working with the dress. A lace shawl might be better. Get a brooch and clasp it in the middle, and keep it just barely off your shoulders."

"Lace?" Lina made a face. "That's just so proper."

"Then a stole, and not something quite so sheer, but that scarf's not quite right with that dress."

"Oh, all right." Lina pulled it off. "What's on your mind?"

"Hmm? Just..." Filia shrugged, looking down. "Just something that happened this morning."

"What?"

"I...we went to the gas station to get more gas, and...Val was there."

"That jerk?" Lina groaned. "Now what'd he want?"

"He's not a jerk!" Filia protested, walking over to Lina and turning around. "What's happened isn't his fault."

"Doesn't mean he's right to talk to you the way he does," Lina replied, starting to undo the closures on Filia's dress. She didn't answer. "Filia?"

"If my family's guilty of something, does that mean I am too?" she whispered.

Lina raised an eyebrow and grabbed her taller friend by her shoulders, forcing her to turn around. "Where is this coming from?"

"He said my family has blood on our hands, and so do I, by association."

"He doesn't know what he's talking about," Lina snapped. "Even if what he said is true, you're not guilty over what somebody else did." She turned around. "Go on and get this thing off me. I've a mind to march right down to that service station and give him a piece of my mind and then some!"

"No, Lina, please!" Filia protested even as she started helping Lina out of her dress. "Life hasn't been good to him. You don't need to yell at him, he really doesn't deserve it."

"Well, you don't deserve getting branded as a killer," Lina retorted.

"People say things they don't always mean when they're hurting," Filia reminded her.

"I'll never understand how you can stand up for him."

"Because nobody else will."

Lina glanced up as she buttoned up her blouse. "Maybe because he doesn't want anybody's help."

Filia just shrugged. "He's not a bad man, not really." She started to turn around for Lina to finish undoing the row of buttons down her back, and paused. "You won't tell Xellos about this conversation?"

"Why? Doesn't he know?"

"Well, yes, but he really doesn't like it when I speak of Val."

Lina snorted in annoyance and resumed working the small buttons out of the holes. "Much as I like Xellos, he's got his own unique set of faults. Don't worry about it."

"You're hardly Little Miss Perfect yourself," Filia shot back, although her tone was amused.

"At least I know there's more to life than money."

"Oh, he's aware of that, it's just that it's quite a useful thing to have."

Lina chuckled. "A direct quote?"

"Oui," Filia replied, and Lina grinned slightly, glad to see her back in good humor.

Lina folded and boxed their gowns while Filia dressed. "Should I ring for one of the help to pick these up, or did you?"

"I already did. We can leave the dresses here."

"Good, because I don't trust Gourry not to try to sneak peeks into the box at the theater."



Zelgadis couldn't figure out what had brought about the subtle, but odd, change in mood he noticed in Amelia when he brought up Filia. The closest thing to an answer he could find was in her own reply. It's a social thing. They're together mostly because it's expected of them.

As if he didn't need another reason to remember that Amelia was out of his league. Hearing those words directly from her drove that point home. Maybe she might say she didn't believe in social status, but she was just a kid.

All this was, was puppy love. A schoolgirl crush. He would be a fool if he let his heart get mixed up in the deal.

But maybe someday, that would change. There was a dismal lack of any sort of informative books dealing with hearing, or the loss thereof in the library, but part of that was because very little was known. The best medical books were reference only, and couldn't be removed, so he was making the most of the opportunity to pore over them, reading, learning, memorizing. He knew would need every advantage available if he wanted to make it through medical school, and learning all he could in advance couldn't hurt.

There had to be a cure for deafness, somehow. Zelgadis surmised that no one ever found one because no one cared enough to research it. But there had to be a cure, and he would find it.

Then, perhaps, he could believe that Amelia might feel something more than just a girl's crush.

Motion out of the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he looked up to see Amelia emerge from between the stacks, holding a book behind crossed arms.

"Hi."

He nodded. "Is it time to leave?"

Amelia shrugged. "Almost, but not quite." She looked awkward, unsure of herself. "Am I bothering you?"

Zelgadis raised an eyebrow. "No, I was just reading."

She nodded, then looked around, chewing her bottom lip for a moment. "Mind if I join you?"

"What? Here?" Zelgadis looked around. He was sitting on the floor with his back to the wall. It was secluded and quiet, free from visual noise and distractions. "You don't want to sit on the floor." He started to rise. "We'll go to a table."

Amelia touched his shoulder as she lowered herself to the floor, sitting beside him. "I don't mind." He looked to her and her hand lingered for a few more moments as he settled back into place.

"If you're sure."

"I'm sure." She looked at the book. "What're you reading?"

He felt vaguely embarrassed to be caught red-handed. Would she laugh at him, as others were inclined to do? Preposterous, a deaf man getting through medical school. He didn't answer, but lifted it up so she could read the spine.

"Oh." Amelia smiled softly. "You're interested in medicine?"

Zelgadis hesitated. "I want to be a doctor," he admitted, and warily watched her out of the corner of his eye.

Her face lit up like the city at night. "Oh, really? That's wonderful! I'm sure you'll be a wonderful doctor. What do you want to specialize in?"

For a few moments, he wondered if she were mocking him, perhaps. But her enthusiasm was so free and unbridled, he admonished himself for being suspicious of her. "I want to find a cure."

"For what?"

"For deafness."

She grinned happily. "I hope you find it. There's so much wonderful music out there I'd love to be able to introduce you to. And movies! Although I can interpret those."

"You don't have to do that."

"I don't mind." She smiled brightly. "This is great. You want to be a doctor, and I'm going to be a lawyer. Maybe we'll go to college together!"

Zelgadis shook his head. "No, I'm going to attend Gallaudet."

"Oh." She seemed dejected for a heartbeat, then smiled. "That's okay. Do you know when you're going?"

Zelgadis shrugged. "One of these days." He didn't want to tell her that money was an issue. "What about you? What are you reading?" he asked, changing the topic.

"I found a Nancy Drew novel I haven't read yet." Amelia held it up, showing him The Clue Of The Broken Locket.

"You like mysteries?"

"They're fun." She gave him a slightly sheepish grin. "I have to admit to wishing stuff like this would happen around here. I'd love to do the things Nancy does. I guess that's one reason I want to be a lawyer, since part of law is also being a detective, in a manner of speaking. Well, for the good and just lawyers, anyway."

"Life's rarely, if ever, the way it's portrayed in fiction," Zelgadis reminded her. "There's a reason why it's called fiction."

"Oh, I know that." Amelia smiled. "But I can still dream."

"What would you do if you encountered a mystery?"

"Why, I'd solve it, of course."

"You realize that if there's a crime, the criminal might not want that crime solved?" he pointed out. "It could get dangerous."

"A true champion of justice does not shirk in the face of danger. In the end, good will always triumph over evil."

Zelgadis frowned. "Amelia, that's only in the books and movies. That's not how real life goes."

"Only because not enough people believe in it," Amelia argued.

"I just don't want to see you get hurt."

Her smile grew softer. "You care about me?"

Oh, shit. How did we get onto this path? Zelgadis shifted position slightly, growing uncomfortable. "Well, we're friends, aren't we? What kind of a friend would I be if I didn't care?"

"That's true. You know I care about you too, right?"

He drew in a deep breath. They were skirting near the danger zone. "Yeah. So, what kind of law do you want to specialize in?" he asked.

"Criminal justice, of course." She grinned. "I want to be a prosecuting attorney, just like my father. I want to see the criminals get exactly what they deserve, and to see justice carried out."

"Do you think everyone you prosecute will be guilty?"

Amelia didn't answer immediately. "If they're not guilty, I simply won't prosecute them."

"That's not how it works. If they're brought to trial, your job will be to prosecute them to the best of your ability, otherwise, it's a mistrial. You should know that."

"I do, but if they're innocent, then justice shall prevail."

Zelgadis snorted in disgust, and shook his head. "That's great in theory, but the reality's a bit different."

She glared at him. "And how would you know?"

"How do you think I met your father?"

Amelia blinked, not having a ready answer.

"I met him because he was prosecuting me for petty theft."

A wounded expression came over her face, and he wanted to cringe. "You stole?"

"No, I didn't. And you know what? Your father believed me. But he couldn't just back down from his duty."

"But justice was served, wasn't it?"

"Not really. I was still found guilty as sin. I owe your dad a lot. He plea bargained when he didn't have to, and got me community service which he was able to get the judge to agree to let me serve out by working for him. That's how I got the job."

"But...how did you get found guilty if you're innocent?"

"Because the world doesn't always work the way it ought to, Amelia. The ones who actually did the stealing and left me to take the fall are rich. Their families are powerful, and in this world, it's all about money and power. Not justice."

Amelia sighed, a mournful expression on her face as she rested her chin on her knees. Then she blinked, her eyes going wide, then narrowing. "Does this have anything to do with why you don't like Mr. Xellos?"

Zelgadis hesitated. "It was a long time ago, Amelia."

"Does it?"

"Amelia..."

"Tell me!"

He thunked his head back against the wall. "Yes, it does." Amelia's expression grew dangerous and she started to get to her feet. Quickly, he grabbed her wrist. "Whoa, where you going?"

"I'm going to find him and I'm going--"

"You're not going to do anything!" He gently but firmly pulled her back down. "Let it go. It was a long time ago, and there's nothing you can do about it."

"But it's not fair!"

"Life's not fair, Amelia. That's what I'm trying to tell you." She looked so forlorn at that realization he hugged her before he could stop himself.

"That won't stop me," she said after a moment. "Life's not fair only because not enough people try to make it fair."

"Please don't cause trouble on my behalf," Zelgadis said.

"I won't. But I'm still going to be the most just attorney in the country."

He couldn't help but quirk a faint smile at the determined set to her jaw. "All right, I'll grant you that."

Amelia smiled. "Hey, you know what's really nice?"

"What's that?"

"Being able to talk without the librarians telling us to shush." She grinned.

Zelgadis stared at her for a moment, then chuckled. "Always looking for the good things, huh?"

"Of course. If you don't look for the good sometimes, then all you see is the bad, and life really isn't as bad as it can seem."

He studied her for a moment. "Don't ever lose that optimism. Once it's gone, you'll never get it back."

Her expression took on a slightly sadder cast. "Did you lose yours, Mr. Zelgadis?"

"I'm not sure," he replied after a moment, then shifted position, getting to his feet and holding his hand to help her up. "It's about time for the picture to start, isn't it?"

"Yeah, it is." She took his hand, standing. "But it's okay. I'll be optimistic enough for the both of us."

Zelgadis smirked slightly. "All right. Do you need to check the book out?"

"I already did." They walked toward the door, and he held it open for her. As she reached the steps, she turned around to face him. "May I ask a question?"

"Of course."

"Next year, will you go to the prom with me?"

Zelgadis froze, blinking at her. "Uh..." Shit. What am I going to say? "Amelia, a year's a long way off. A lot can happen. It wouldn't be fair for me to give an answer to that now."

She looked disappointed for a heartbeat, then smiled. "But it's not a no," she replied, and started down the steps.

Zelgadis looked skyward, drawing in a deep breath. If there's anybody up there, you owe me a favor. Get her interested in somebody else. I'm not what she needs. He trotted down the steps after her.



"Filia, there you are."

She turned around, smiling at Xellos. "Well, of course. We'd agreed to meet here."

He looked up at the movie house entrance, then back to her. "I know. I was hoping you hadn't gone inside yet."

"Why?"

"I don't really care to see this movie. Let's go do something else."

"Is everything all right?"

"Yes, I just don't feel like wasting an hour or two watching a movie about two ugly people falling in love." He made a face.

"Where did you hear that?"

"I asked some people who saw the last show when you were at the dress shop."

"Well, you know the saying, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'."

"And the eye of this particular beholder would much rather be looking at you instead of an ugly couple." He grinned, slipping an arm around her waist.

"Xellos!" Filia looked around, wondering if anyone was watching them and the public display of affection.

"I just have my arm around you, it's not like I'm ravishing you," Xellos said his tone slightly exasperated, then his eyes traveled down. "But it's not sounding like a half-bad idea."

"Xellos!" she shouted, smacking his arm and stepping back quickly. "Behave!"

"Is he getting fresh again?" Lina asked, walking up to them with Gourry at her heels.

"I'm trying to, mon amie," Xellos retorted, looking over to the redhead with a grin.

Lina chuckled. "Are you two ready to go in?" She looked around. "Where's Amelia and Zelgadis?"

"I would venture that Amelia is too wrapped up in her amourette to watch the time," Xellos said, "and as for the picture, I would not really care to spend my time here."

"What's up, Xellos?" Gourry asked.

"The plot, from what I have heard, harbors no interest with me. I would rather spend my time doing other things."

Filia heard Amelia's voice, and looked away, seeing her quickly approaching with Zelgadis following a few feet behind.

"I'm sorry if we're late! We were talking in the library and I lost track of the time," she said, coming to a stop by them.

"I don't think it's started yet," Lina replied. "So c'mon, let's go in."

Filia glanced to Xellos and frowned at his increasingly annoyed expression. "I'll talk to you later, Lina," Filia said, taking his arm.

"Aren't you coming too?" Amelia asked.

"For the last time, no. I don't feel like watching this particular picture," Xellos said, giving her a polite smile. "Filia and I have other plans."

"Your loss." Amelia turned away, and walked to the ticket counter.

Filia raised an eyebrow, blinking in surprise, and she was not the only one. She had fully expected Amelia to show disappointment, not indifference. Filia looked up at Xellos, only to find his gaze locked with Zelgadis. Growing wary, she looked over to Lina.

It wasn't escaping her friend, either. Lina quickly stepped between them and grabbed Zelgadis' arm, ushering him to the ticket booth. "Gotta hurry or we'll miss the movie." She waved to Filia and Xellos. "Have fun, you two!"

Filia tugged Xellos' arm lightly. "Let's go, please?" she whispered.

He finally looked away and smiled down at her, brushing a lock of hair away from her eyes. "But of course, mon amour."

"What was that all about?" Filia asked as they walked to his car. Xellos shrugged.

"Who can say what goes on in the minds of others, non?" He opened the door for her. "Shall we return to my house?"

As much as Filia did not like his mother, she knew it was the best alternative. "That would probably be better. Grandfather is visiting Baton Rouge, and although he's staying in the cottage, he is up at the main house a great deal," she replied as she scooted past the wheel across the vinyl

Xellos smirked as he slid onto the seat beside her and shut the door. "How about that. Why is he staying at the cottage? Did your father kick him out?"

"Hardly! The servants drive him mad." Filia frowned. "He's my grandfather, Xellos. Be nice."

"But I am, Filia dear." He kissed her, then started up the car.





mon amie - my friend, feminine
amourette - literally, 'little love'. Often used with the connotation of 'puppy love'.
mon amour - my love