Zelgadis tensed as the metal door at the end of the hall opened, sending a widening spear of light across the cages. He shifted, pushing back against the wall though that hardly required him to move far. His cage was too narrow to allow much movement. The demon on his left snarled and lunged at their captors. Black claws raked ineffectually at nothing. It should have waited until they came closer, not that that would have helped much. A sharp word cut the air, stinging with magic. The hair on Zelgadis's arms stood up. The demon collapsed to the floor with a whimper. Zelgadis pitied the poor creature, but only slightly. It'd tried to bite him yesterday. He pulled his legs tighter to his chest, trying to make himself as small as possible in hopes they overlooked him.
He should have listened when Xellos said not to come here. Xellos had warned him. He'd been adamant about it, more than Zelgadis had ever heard him before, but Zelgadis hadn't listened. He wanted to find a cure and there'd been a rumor. He'd thought Xellos had been trying to hide a cure from him.
In a way, he had. Zelgadis had gotten what he wanted. Now he wanted his demon form back.
Footsteps echoed on the stone floor. Zelgadis prayed they'd walk past, just like they always did. They didn't. He kept his head down. He didn't dare look up and chance making eye contact. The people here didn't like eye contact, not from creatures they deemed inferior. Zelgadis had managed to find out a bit about their caste system before coming here, but the books hadn't mentioned that demons were the lowest caste of all.
"He doesn't look like much. Are you sure he's not human?" The voice was new. There was a cultured air to it, similar to the other buyers that had been paraded through but with slightly less affectation.
Zelgadis gasped as his skin started to ripple and change. The pale, human skin that he'd spent years searching for shifted back to blue. He whimpered as rocks materialized inside his flesh and pushed their way out of his skin, forming the familiar craggy landscape that normally covered his body. It felt like being pulled out of water seconds before drowning. He sucked in a deep breath of air and closed his eyes, savoring the change for the short while it lasted. His limbs no longer felt weak, the constant pressure in his chest eased.
"Well, that's much better. What's his breed?"
"Chimera." Zelgadis winced as the second man spoke. That was Bherelit, the sorcerer that owned this horrible place. He was a large man with alabaster skin and magical tattoos all over his body. He was strong and mean and entirely in control of every creature in his shop. "Human mixed with brau and rock golem."
"Fascinating." The buyer shuffled forward. His shadow fell over Zelgadis.
Zelgadis gasped again as his skin shifted back to human. He clenched his teeth to keep from screaming. The buyer said something, the words muffled as Zelgadis's skin burned with foreign magic.
"I'll return in an hour with the necessary forms."
Zelgadis's eyes widened and he barely stopped himself from looking up. No. No, this wasn't happening. Bherelit and the buyer rattled off names and a price and a bunch of terms that held no meaning to Zelgadis, but he knew from previous conversations what they implied. He'd just been bought. Someone had bought him. He wasn't sure if being bought was better or worse than being imprisoned. At least here he was left mostly alone. He had no idea what this society was like in the modern day. The scant few texts he'd found on it had been outdated, almost antiquated. He hadn't even made it to the city before he'd been captured. All he knew was that they hated demons.
He was about to find out exactly how much they hated him.
The city was a loud, bustling metropolis. After spending days locked up with only mindless demons for company, the sound of hundreds of humans moving around and talking to one another was jarring. He couldn't see much of the city - the windows on the tiny cart they'd shoved him into were too high up and narrow for more than an occasional glimpse of clay tiled rooftops - but he could hear it. The sound reverberated through the wood, pressing into his skull and making his head ache.
At least it was dark inside the cart. The little light he'd been exposed to as he'd been led from Bherelit's shop and into the cart had been blinding. There was faint light coming in the windows, but it was thankfully dimmed by the cart's roof. It gave his eyes time to adjust to the real world after being shut away for so long.
His chains rattled every time they hit a bump, tugging him towards the floor. Large silver bands circled his neck, his wrists, and his ankles. He could feel the magic in them. It buzzed against his skin like the precursor to a lightning strike, full of raw and deadly potential.
The cart came to a stop. Voices sounded outside and then the door was yanked open. Zelgadis flinched away from the bright light. He felt the chains loosen and then he was being tugged forward. He nearly tripped going down the gangplank.
Zelgadis risked a quick glance up. The estate they'd stopped in front of was massive. Greenery stretched out to both sides and seemed to continue behind the sprawling building. It was a single story building, sporting decorative white columns and detailed stonework around the entrance. He would have considered it beautiful in other circumstances. Three people stood in front of him. Zelgadis quickly dropped his head before they could take offense.
A hand gripped the chain attached to his collar and yanked him forward, towards one of the men.
"I am your master while the lord is away." A buzz of current ran through the collar, bordering just on the edge of pain. "You will not leave the grounds unless accompanied by myself or a designated representative. You will do whatever a superior orders. All humans are your superiors. You will not try to escape. You will not try to flee. You will not do damage to any person or possession in this household."
The words settled over him like an overly warm blanket. He could feel them pressing against his skin, pressing down into his core. He shivered. The chains were detached, falling to the ground with a loud clank. His restraints were removed one by one and replaced by thin silver bands that shrank to fit tight against his skin. They too burned of magic.
"Astir!" One of the men stepped forward. "Show him to his kennel. You will teach him his chores."
The man bowed and mumbled an affirmative before scuttling forward, closer to Zelgadis. "Come with me." His voice was soft and low, more a request than a command. That same buzz of energy crawled across his skin. Zelgadis felt himself moving the same time as Astir did. He jerked away, or at least tried to, but his body refused to listen. He couldn't stop. His body was moving entirely outside of his control. Horror filled him as he realized exactly what that buzz of current meant.
He couldn't escape. He couldn't leave. He was trapped here, forced into doing anything that one of the humans ordered him to. They could order him to do anything, anything at all, and he'd have to do it. That thought terrified him.
Maybe if he was very lucky Lina would come looking for him. Maybe she'd be able to rescue him. Then he remembered how powerful the sorcerers who'd taken him down had been. He wasn't going to be rescued.
He was trapped.
"Wait." Astir put a hand out to stop Zelgadis, though it was completely unnecessary. His body froze on its own, halting mid-stride. The magic loosened after a second, letting him shift into a better stance. The handles on the two buckets he carried dug into his hands but he knew better than to complain. Astir would be mildly sympathetic but that wouldn't actually change what Zelgadis had to do. No matter how kind Astir could be, Zelgadis was still inferior and thus deserved whatever hardship he might face.
Astir peered around the corner, his body tense. Zelgadis didn't have to ask to know what they were waiting for. Zorik, the bane of their existence. Zelgadis shifted back against the wall, moving slowly to avoid sloshing the buckets or making any sound that might give their presence away. At least that was one skill that carried over between his forms. His feet made no sound on the stone floor.
Several minutes passed while they stood in the narrow servant's passage. His hands burned from the weight of the buckets but he didn't dare put them down. After what felt like an eternity of waiting, Astir relaxed marginally and waved Zelgadis forward.
They moved quietly around the corner and through the thin gauzy curtain into the reception hall. Plush cushions and thick, velvet carpets were scattered around the room. There was an ornate gilt chair on a raised platform at one end of the hall. The wall opposite them opened out into a lush garden full of exotic flowers. Zelgadis wished his duties allowed him more time in the gardens but he seldom got a chance to go out there.
"Well, look what we have here."
Zelgadis and Astir jumped. Some of the water sloshed out onto the stone floor. Zelgadis quickly set the buckets down before he could spill any more. They turned to find Zorik leaning against the wall beside the curtain, thick arms crossed over his bare chest. Zelgadis lowered his gaze to the floor and watched out of the corner of his eye as Astir did the same, his face paling to pure white.
Zorik pushed off from the wall and stalked towards them. Zelgadis pressed his hands flat against his sides to keep them from balling into fists. Zorik tended to get more violent if they showed any sign of resistance. Zelgadis had quickly learned all the ways not to make Zorik mad. It'd been a rather painful series of lessons until he'd gotten it right.
A large, calloused hand covered his chin and lifted Zelgadis's head. He averted his gaze to the side.
"Aren't you the good little demon." Zorik's hot breath washed over Zelgadis's face. He flinched and instantly regretted it as Zorik chuckled. His breath smelled awful but Zelgadis knew better than to pull away.
A second meaty hand slid beneath the edge of Zelgadis's tunic. He shuddered as the hand ran up his thigh.
There was a rustle of fabric as Astir shifted next to him. "T-the master..."
Zorik growled and squeezed Zelgadis's chin hard enough to make him gasp. His eyes flew open involuntarily and he looked straight into Zorik's eyes. It was the wrong thing to do. Rage turned Zorik's face red. He snarled and shoved Zelgadis hard, sending him tumbling back into the buckets. Water splashed across the floor. His head hit stone hard enough to fill his vision with spots of black and white. He lay limp and dazed on the floor, only faintly aware of the water seeping into his thin tunic.
"Clean this up then return to your kennel," Zorik barked, then stomped away before he could do more damage.
Zelgadis knew very little about the master of the house. He was a wealthy and powerful man. That much was evident by the finery that filled every corner of the estate and by the way people cowered at his name. He was important enough or popular enough to receive several messages every day. He was also absent. In the weeks Zelgadis had been in the estate, he'd yet to catch a glimpse of the man and yet responses came and went frequently, leading him to suspect that the man was in magical contact with his overseer.
From what little he'd managed to overhear, he'd pieced together that the master was also a sorcerer, and a very powerful one. His servants feared his wrath. The mere mention of the master was enough to halt Zorik and that was probably the only reason why Zelgadis hadn't been harmed in any major way. The master had some sort of interest in Zelgadis and until that interest was sated, Zelgadis was spared from Zorik's more primal urges. It didn't stop Zorik from hitting him, but it stopped him from going too far and it meant that the rest of the estate guards - or at least all of the ones that shared the same level of fear of their master that everyone but Zorik did - left him alone.
He wished he had his powers back. He wished he was a demon again. Being human had lost its appeal rapidly. He was weak, powerless. He wasn't used to being this fragile. He wasn't used to being without magic.
He wanted to go back to the way things were. He wanted to go back to being powerful and unafraid.
If he ever escaped from here, he was going to give up his quest to turn human. He was going to go back and find Lina and Gourry and Xellos and Amelia and never wander far from their comforting presence again.
If he ever escaped. If.
Zelgadis struggled under the weight of the basket. If they'd let him use his demon form, it wouldn't have been as bad. He could have lifted the basket of cobblestones without a problem. But he was stuck as a human which meant he could barely lift the basket off the ground. He moved down the hall in stops and starts, only managing to carry the basket a few feet at a time. At least he could work outside, once he got the cobblestones that far. It was almost worth the pain he'd feel for the next few days just to get a chance to work in the gardens.
Something hard and heavy struck Zelgadis across the back of the head. The basket hit the floor with a heavy thunk and he pitched forward, landing on top of it. His stomach hit the stones hard, knocking the air out of him.
"You should know better than to go off alone."
Dread pooled in Zelgadis's stomach. He cried out as Zorik pulled him up by the hair. That seemed to be Zorik's favorite hand-hold. He was lifted briefly and then flung down again next to the basket. His head smacked against the floor. He tried to move away but a word from Zorik stopped him.
Zelgadis's bracelets burned as they slapped against the ground. The thin metal dug into his skin as he was pinned to the floor. Zorik's grin widened. He knelt between Zelgadis's legs, eyes gleaming with a manic light as his hands traced up Zelgadis's bare legs.
"What the master doesn't know won't hurt him. You won't tell him, that's for sure."
Zelgadis whimpered as the implied command settled over him, burning along his tongue and down his throat. He pulled against his restraints but there was no give. The only thing he could do was turn his head to avoid seeing the lecherous look on Zorik's face.
He squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the pain to start.
Nothing happened. Zelgadis trembled against his bonds.
"W-what?" The confusion in Zorik's voice made Zelgadis open his eyes. There was a hand around Zorik's wrist, holding him tight enough to turn his skin red. Zelgadis followed the hand up a richly clad arm and then past to stare into purple eyes.
Zorik started to gibber. He was saying something, apologizing, but Zelgadis's mind could only focus on one word. Master. Zelgadis gaped.
"Such a pity you had to see me like this." Xellos was speaking to Zorik but his eyes were fixed on Zelgadis. To anyone else, Xellos's expression would have seemed casual, almost distant. The fact that Xellos's eyes were wide open was enough to set off alarms in Zelgadis's brain. Xellos was pissed. "I'm afraid I can't afford any witnesses."
Zorik's eyes widened. He opened his mouth the scream but no sound emerged. He froze in place, still as a statue. Then his skin started to turn black, first the hand that Xellos gripped and then the blackness spread out to cover his entire body. A second later, he crumbled, falling to the floor as a pile of ash.
"Xellos." There was more he should say but his brain couldn't piece together the words. He should be asking what Xellos was doing here, why he was the master of an estate in a land that hated demons, but all he could think about was how happy he was to see Xellos.
Xellos stared down at him, his eyes still open wide. He wasn't smiling. Some of Zelgadis's happiness faded. "I told you not to come."
At some point his brain had equated Xellos with safety, but that had never been the case. Xellos was a demon. A pure demon, not some partial construct like Zelgadis. There was no safety there.
Zelgadis swallowed. There was something unsettling in the way Xellos was looking at him. It made him wonder if he was another witness that Xellos was going to need to get rid of. He shivered. "I know." Maybe if he spoke first, explained himself, Xellos would help him. "I should have listened." Panic rose up to join the lingering fear. Before coming here he might have responded with bravado but he couldn't, not now. All the bravado had been beaten out of him. He'd do anything to be able to go home. "Please. Help me."
Xellos knelt slowly. His eyes relaxed, still open but the dangerous set to his gaze disappeared. He reached forward. Zelgadis flinched instinctively but the touch that landed on his check was surprisingly gentle.
"What have you gotten yourself into this time?" The words were low, almost too low for Zelgadis to catch. He wasn't sure he was meant to hear them. It changed things between them. He relaxed against his bonds and stared up, pleading.
"Xellos-" A finger pressed against his lips, silencing him.
Xellos leaned forward, his purple hair forming a curtain around Zelgadis's face, blocking out the rest of the world. It was strangely comforting. Their lips touched, barely more than a tentative brush. Zelgadis stared up in surprise but he didn't pull away. He was surprised to find he didn't want to. Xellos moved closer, covering Zelgadis's open mouth with his own.
It'd been a very long time since anyone had kissed Zelgadis. Amelia had tried a few times and Zelgadis had let her succeed once. It felt nothing like this. His body relaxed as warmth spread out from Xellos's lips. There was a force to his kiss that Amelia had been lacking. Xellos's weight pressed down on top of him, comforting in a way that he didn't usually associate with Xellos's presence. He wanted more.
Cool fingers slid down Zelgadis's side, teasing his skin through the slit in his tunic. Zelgadis shivered and pressed against the touch as best he could with his minimal range of motion. The hand reached his hip and trailed down over his bare thigh, sliding down and slipping between Zelgadis's skin and the floor to squeeze his ass. He groaned against Xellos's mouth. It was amazing how different a simple touch felt when it was Xellos touching him and not Zorik. When Xellos touched him, it made him feel alive, tense and focused in a way he'd never been before.
Another hand trailed from his knee up his thigh. That hand slipped between his legs.
Zelgadis jerked back hard, smacking his head against the stone. "Stop," he gasped. He pulled wildly at his restraints as panic filled him.
"Shh." Xellos brushed his nose over Zelgadis's face. His eyes glowed with purple light. "It's okay."
The hand between his legs moved, brushing over his anus but not pushing in.
"Shh," Xellos repeated. He pulled back, shifting to sit up on his knees. His gaze never left Zelgadis's face. "You're a virgin." There wasn't even a hint of a question in Xellos's voice.
Zelgadis blushed further and turned his head to the side. "Please let me go."
Soft fingertips brushed over his hips, sending shivers down Zelgadis's spine. "That's not what you want. I can feel you." His hands ran up over Zelgadis's chest, rucking up his tunic. "So many delicious emotions, all swirling together like you don't know what to feel."
Zelgadis couldn't argue with that. "It's going to hurt." The admission came out softly, barely heard.
"It doesn't have to." There was a promise in Xellos's words, a promise that Zelgadis could almost bring himself to believe. But Xellos had lied to him before.
"You feed on pain."
Xellos's eyes lidded, almost like the way Zelgadis was used to seeing him. His smile was wide and mysterious. "Not always."
He didn't know what to say to that.
Xellos took his silence for the permission it was. His hands trailed down towards Zelgadis's crotch. Zelgadis gasped as a hand brushed over his cock. He felt the flesh jump in response, eager even if his brain had doubts. Xellos's hand was cool as it circled him. He gripped Zelgadis loosely and rubbed up and down Zelgadis's length with long slow strokes. It was too much like the way Zelgadis touched himself when he was alone to be coincidence. He whimpered and let his head fall back, mortification mixing with pleasure. Xellos smiled down at him and Zelgadis knew he was eating up all of Zelgadis's emotions.
Xellos gestured in the air with his free hand. A pot appeared in his palm. Zelgadis craned his neck, straining against the collar pinning him to the ground to get a look at its contents. Xellos set the lid aside and dipped his fingers in. They came away slick and shining with some kind of oil. His slick hand moved between Zelgadis's legs.
He tensed as a finger pressed against his entrance. Xellos chuckled and leaned down. Warm, wet lips closed over the tip of his cock. Zelgadis gasped in surprise. He went limp and moaned, then gasped again as a slick finger pressed inside of him. His body hovered on the edge of tension, waiting for the searing pain to come back. The way Xellos's mouth and hand moved over his cock was distracting enough to keep him from focusing entirely on the finger pressing inside of him. It burned, but not in the way Zorik's fingers had.
Xellos's finger worked slowly inside of him. It felt strange, weird but not in an entirely bad way. There was still some pain but it was bearable, almost negligible in comparison to the abuse he'd suffered at Zorik's hands. A second finger joined the first. They spread inside of him, pushing all the way in and then spreading wide as they dragged out.
Noise filled the hallway. Zelgadis alternated between gasping and moaning, his voice a symphony orchestrated by the press of Xellos's lips and hands. He shivered, trembling against the stone floor but his fear was almost entirely gone. Xellos's lips made a lewd wet sound as they moved over him. It was maddeningly good. The vague idea of entertaining Amelia's affections was banished from his mind permanently. She didn't stand a chance, not after this. He didn't think anyone would do besides Xellos and that was a mildly horrifying thought that he'd have to examine at a later date.
A third finger joined the others inside of him. It pushed all the way in, and Zelgadis faintly noticed that the burning pain was all but gone at this point. Then Xellos's fingers crooked inside of him, pressing down as they dragged out of him. Sparks lit inside of him and he shouted as he came undone with Xellos's mouth still closed around him.
There was come on Xellos's lips when he pulled away. He sat back, his eyes burning with intensity, and licked the liquid from his lips. Zelgadis shivered. Xellos's fingers pulled out, leaving him feeling achingly empty.
"You may move now."
The magic holding him down disappeared. He found it a little disconcerting that the magic used to control demons answered to a demon. He sat up slowly, gripping the basket of stones with one hand to steady himself. His head spun.
Xellos caught Zelgadis's chin in one hand and raised it so that Zelgadis met his gaze. "You will tell no one about our previous association. You will tell no one what I am or what I can do. As far as anyone else is concerned, I am a normal human."
Zelgadis swallowed around the burning magic in his throat. "Aren't you going to let me go?"
Xellos's fingers brushed over his cheek again. "I'm sorry." The way he said it almost made Zelgadis believe he meant it. "There's too much in motion to jeopardize my position now. I need you to stay, just a little longer."
He pulled away then and stood, holding his hand out to help Zelgadis up. Zelgadis hesitated. He wanted desperately to be able to go home but something in Xellos's tone made him think twice about pressing the issue. There was something big going on here. Why else would Xellos have an estate in this remote country, so far from his usual habitat? He took Xellos's hand.
The basket of stones disappeared with a wave from Xellos. Zelgadis swayed a little as he stood. Xellos's arm came around his waist to support him. The press of Xellos's hand on the small of Zelgadis's back was both comforting and arousing. "Come. Let's see what else has been misinterpreted in my absence."
Living with Xellos was strange. If the staff thought anything odd of Zelgadis's sudden shift in position, they kept such thoughts to themselves, well out of the range of Xellos's - and by extension, Zelgadis's - hearing. There was no verbal warning of the shift. Zelgadis woke up in his kennel one morning, was nearly assaulted and then thoroughly molested, and woke up the next day in his new 'master's' luxurious, spacious bed.
He wasn't going to complain. After spending gods knew how long sleeping on stone floors, Xellos's mattress felt like heaven. He got to sleep in, tucked in bed beside Xellos's warm form. He'd never in a million years have imagined cuddling with Xellos but now it felt natural, like something he could – and if he had his preference, would – do for the rest of his life.
There were no more chores. He wasn't a slave anymore but rather a guest, given the run of the house and the respect of the guards. No one questioned Zorik's disappearance, but Astir gave him a knowing look when he came in to change the sheets after Zelgadis's first night with Xellos.
He split his time between exploring the gardens and exploring Xellos. His life had turned from a nightmare to a dream, and it was one from which he never wanted to wake.
Zelgadis was shaken roughly awake. He blinked and then sat up hastily as his eyes focused on Xellos's face. "What...?"
"You have to go."
"Here." Xellos dropped a pile of clothes and gear on the bed. It looked a lot like what he'd had previously, only in a lot better condition. "You need to get out of the country. It's time."
Xellos shook his head. "Please don't question me on this."
Zelgadis hesitated a fraction of a second before getting out of bed and changing clothes. Once he was done, Xellos held out his hands for Zelgadis's and the silver bands fell away into Xellos's palms. The change was instantaneous. Zelgadis gasped and grasped the bed for support as his skin rippled back into his demon form. It felt so good to be back in his own skin.
Xellos tucked the bands away into his robes with a brief, lecherous smile that implied they'd make an appearance again. Zelgadis wasn't going to complain. There was something intensely satisfying at being at Xellos's mercy.
"Get out of the city as fast as you can. Go through the back of the compound and head due West. You'll find a ship waiting in Helmir to take you home."
"What about you?"
Xellos smiled. It was a wicked smile. "These humans need punished. I'll find you when I'm done." He leaned forward and pressed a chaste kiss against Zelgadis's lips. "That's a promise."
Part of Zelgadis wanted to stop Xellos, to keep him from destroying an entire society. A much larger part of him thought they deserved it. Well, not all of them. "Can I take Astir with me?"
"I'll have him meet you in the garden." Xellos pulled Zelgadis in for one last deep kiss before pulling away. "Now, go and be safe. I'll find you."
They paused on a hilltop a few miles from the city. Black flashes of light obscured the city and dark pillars of smoke rose up to the sky. The city was burning and Zelgadis didn't even think about trying to stop it.
"What's going on?" Astir asked for the second time since they met in the gardens. Now that they were safely away, Zelgadis answered.
"The demons are taking revenge."
He left Astir with Lina's sister. Astir would fit in well there and Lina's sister would keep him safe. He caught up with Lina, Goury, and Amelia a week later, surprising them as he hugged each one in turn. When they asked what had come over him, he simply said he'd missed them.
Xellos caught up with them two days later as they were fighting a group of bandits. Once the last of the bandits had fallen or fled, Xellos pounced. Zelgadis let him, laughing as Xellos pulled him into a deep, deep kiss. Lina catcalled. Amelia screamed.
"What!? Xellos? Zelgadis?" Amelia's voice sounded shaky. Zelgadis didn't care. He was too busy catching his breath from Xellos's kiss.
"Didn't you know," Xellos said with a wide smile, "we're in love."
"When did that happen?" Lina barely seemed surprised.
"That," Xellos said with a growing grin, "is a secret."
Zelgadis smiled. For once, he was happy for Xellos's secrets.