Perchance to Dream
Chapter 17

        She was going to kill him.
        Lina paced, no, stalked back and forth in the foyer of the palace, just outside the doors of the Great Hall. Zelgadis is late, I’m sick of this dress, and I hate these shoes!!! Lina snarled to herself. Even worse, in order to stalk remotely close to properly, she had to hitch up the velvet skirt in her hands… which only resulted in her feeling all the more idiotic.
        Spin, stalk stalk stalk.
        Spin, stalk stalk stalk.
        Spin, pause.
        Music? What the… Where’s that coming from? She thought as she looked towards the doors of the Great Hall. She wasn’t aware of anything going on tonight… in fact, Amelia had sent most of the servants off so she’d had to get the princess to finish lacing the dress after the servant had been ushered out.
        She tiptoed up to the door of the Hall, unaware that two shining blue eyes were watching her. As the door opened and Lina slipped into the room, Naga laughed softly to herself, sipping at her wine. Hook, line, and sinker.

        The Great Hall was dark, and Lina frowned, hearing the music but not seeing its source. There was a familiar scent in the room, and as she lifted her hand to cast a light spell, a hand caught hers, pulling her off to the side.
        Another hand fell at her shoulder, and before she could do anything to illustrate her irritation at the intrusion into her personal space, the lights flared brilliantly on in the Hall, blinding her for a moment.
        When her sight steadied, she saw that Gourry was holding her.
        And everyone was there… dressed for a ball… and they were looking at her.
        A thousand emotions ran through the redheaded sorceress. Several thoughts occurred. She could blast them all to kingdom come and be done with it. That would be the easiest. But hardly the best option because then she’d have to take up the repair details with Amelia. She could continue to stand there like a frightened rabbit caught in a trap, but that didn’t appeal either.
        The touch at her shoulder intensified, and she involuntarily looked to Amelia, surprise still wild in her eyes.
        The princess of Saillune smiled faintly at her, eyes glinting. “Surprise, Lina.” Jedah, standing beside the princess, grinned at Lina, saying nothing.
        This… they set this up…? This is… This… for me…? Her mind stumbled over the thoughts, and she only looked at him in confusion. She so very badly wanted to smash someone over the head for this stunt. But as she considered her odds, the group of people in the room parted, and she saw who was across the room.
        Zelgadis stood quietly, hands folded behind his back, under the black cloak that she had seen him wear before. Dressed head to foot in black, with his pale skin and silvery-violet hair, she could only agree with Jedah’s softly whispered ‘wow.’ She stood, frozen by the emotions stirring within her, and barely noticed when Gourry and Amelia gave her a little shove that set her walking towards Zelgadis.
        By the time she got within his reach, she had seen the intense look on his face and begun to blush. It was so plainly written in his eyes… how could she have thought it was a spell? He really was… She faltered, closing her eyes for a moment and coming to a stop just in front of him. At the brief touch of his hand on her cheek, she opened her eyes, looking at him, unsure of what to say.
        He smiled. “Lina… you look lovely.” He extended his hand to her, “Could I… have this dance?”
        She took his hand in lieu of a reply, and across the room Amelia excitedly reached out and hugged the nearest person… who just so happened to be a very startled Jedah. It didn’t register who she was hugging until he excitedly hugged back and agreed with her.
        Amelia blinked, looking to Jedah and blushing. Lina had said there was someone in this world for her… could it possibly be… he was kind of looking at her like Zelgadis looked at Lina… or was that her imagination?
        Glancing over Amelia’s shoulder, he saw Zelgadis pull Lina into the dance, and then grinned back at the blushing girl in front of him. Without the polished refinement that Zelgadis showed Lina, Jedah grabbed Amelia by the hand and took off for the dance floor, leaving Gourry and Sylphiel to stand nearby and laugh at the princess’ startled squeak as she followed Jedah.
        “You know, Sylphiel, those two make a pretty cute couple, don’t you think?” Gourry commented around his drink. He was being wise tonight, drinking only water.
        Sylphiel nodded as she watched. “Yes. Jedah and Amelia are very cute together.”
        “Ugh,” Naga said, finishing her fourth goblet of wine. “I’ve had enough cute with those two.” She waved off at Lina and Zelgadis. “It’s going to make me sick.”
        “No, Naga, dear. All that wine is what will make you sick. Do remember what that does to your head in the morning…” Sylphiel warned, then looked back to Lina and Zelgadis. They looked so very much in love. Just like her and Gourry dear…

        They may have looked in love, but that wasn’t the topic of discussion as the two danced. Instead, the two had noticed the younger pair out on the dance floor.
        “Zel… Jedah’s dancing with Amelia…” Lina whispered. “I have a strange feeling…”
        “I know,” Zelgadis replied, casting a glance at the pair. Jedah was flushed with excitement, and it seemed to be spilling over into Amelia. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d seen either of the two so… exuberant. It was enough to make him worry.
        Lina smiled. “Oh, let them be, Zelgadis. They’ll be okay. I don’t know how I know… but I just do.” She paused, and then looked to her dance partner. “Zel…? I… I’m sorry…”
        He looked to her, the two of them dancing there in the Great Hall, yet suddenly off in their own little world. “Sorry for what, Lina?”
        “For running off like that three years ago. I… I was wrong. I should have stayed…” She blushed again, looking down. “When I said that I loved you… the night before we arrived in Saillune…” Lina’s voice failed her as the memories came back to her.

        They were walking along the road back into the town together, headed back for the hotel after the sword practicing which had become a routine with them now. It was quiet, only the leaves rustling in the trees as they walked side-by-side. She found herself leaning into him, smelling the intoxicatingly earthy scent that seemed to follow him. It would be so easy just to give in…
        She leaned in a little and it startled him at first. He wasn’t used to anyone wanting to be near him… not like this… and yet, here she was. He looked down only to have her hair brush at his chin, that tantalizing spiced greenwood scent all too alluring. Hesitantly, he brought his arm around her, resting his hand on her arm. Maybe that wouldn’t get him hurt too badly…
        She stopped right then, and turned into him, reaching up to his face with her hands. For a moment his heart stopped, and he knew that he was a dead man. His eyes widened as she touched his cheeks, traced the tiny little stones that marked his jawline. Her fingers were light and gentle as she pulled his face downwards towards hers. Her lips ever so soft against his ear as she breathed a set of words that he almost didn’t believe he heard.
        “I love you.”
        But he had heard them, and she turned and walked quietly off into the night, leaving him standing at the edge of the forest, looking for all the world like a lost little boy. He was entrapped in a spell that she’d cast without knowing, and he had no way of escaping. Not that he wanted to escape. Rather, it took everything that he was to keep from following her…
        She got to the hotel, breathless with fright. She’d said it… she’d said it! She’d said it and she’d meant it! No, no, no. She couldn’t fall in love! The dangers, the risks… she remembered the near blindness that enveloped her when she thought she was in love with Gourry. She’d been willing to take on Hellmaster on her own… No. She’d have to leave and soon before things got out of hand. It was all that damned spell of Rezo’s. The spell that had bound her to Zelgadis had let her see the side of him that he’d never show anyone. Not even her.
        She looked in the mirror at her reflection, whispering the words to herself. “You’re a fool, Lina Inverse. Tomorrow, you go to Saillune, just like nothing happened. And the first chance you get, you get the Hell out. There’s no use loving someone who doesn’t really love you back.”
        And she had.

        She looked at him and blushed again. “I hurt you that night… I saw you waiting… waiting for me. Xellos showed me… Your conversation with Gourry at the ball… I saw how badly I’d hurt you… and I’m sorry…”
        Forgetting that they were in a large room full of people, Zelgadis silenced Lina with a kiss.
        For a moment, the air was heavy with a feeling of anticipation, and then Jedah broke the silence with a delighted yelp as he dashed over and gleefully grabbed his brother in an exuberant hug. Zelgadis blinked, looked at Jedah, then Lina, and the two blushed brilliantly as he realized that the entire room had witnessed the kiss.
        Jedah, caught up in the excitement bounced around Zelgadis until the latter was forced to grab his younger sibling and force him still. “Jedah, enough! You’re going to annoy Amelia.” Never mind that you’re already annoying me, he thought.
        Amelia managed to catch up to Jedah and looked to Zelgadis. “It’s… okay… if he… wants to bounce. He…” She looked at her fingers, blushing faintly. “He isn’t bothering me…”
        Zelgadis looked at Jedah, then looked at Amelia. He didn’t get to say anything in the matter because right then he noticed that Lina had slipped off in the sudden cover of the chaos that Jedah had caused. Letting go of his brother with an exasperated sigh, Zelgadis turned away to find where Lina had gone.

        Lina caught her breath on the balcony. The stars were out and the wind was light, a perfect evening for standing out there and thinking. Only, she wasn’t alone.
        “What do you want, Xellos?”
        The Mazoku stepped out of the shadow, once again clad in the deep violet suit. “A great many things, Lina Inverse. One of which is your word.”
        She turned to look at him, crimson eyes catching the light and catching him off-guard. He really was in love with her. She burned him every time he came too close, and even though it hurt, it was delicious.
        “What word, Xellos?” Her voice was flat, her eyes dangerously bright, and he knew that he stood just within the limits of her patience and tolerance. If he pushed the wrong way, she’d end up blasting him, and he was still stinging from her Elmekia Lance. He really didn’t want another battle right now.
        “You must promise me…” He started, then opened his eyes and looked at her fiercely.
        Lina stepped backwards, bumping into the railing. “What, Xellos? You’d better tell me what it is, fruitcake, or I’ll-!”
        He put his finger to her lips, brilliant violet eyes locking with her crimson eyes. “Don’t ever change, Lina. No matter what happens in your life. Don’t ever change.”
        “W-what?” She managed to stammer as he stepped backwards.
        “Only one Mazoku can ever love, Lina. And that Mazoku is myself. If he had become a Mazoku…”
        Lina looked at Xellos incredulously. “Are you saying that you did this all… all for us? For me and Zelgadis?”
        Closing his eyes, the Mazoku looked past her shoulder towards the interior of the Hall. Zelgadis was making his way out here. Oops, time to go. Flashing a smile to the bewildered sorceress, he lifted into the air. “That… is a secret.”
        Zelgadis arrived just as Xellos vanished. Lina exploded as she glared at the space that had been Xellos. “That… fruitcake!!!”
        “What?” Zelgadis asked Lina, scanning the area but seeing nothing, as was typical when the Trickster Priest pulled one of his more usual stunts to get Lina riled up.
        “He… he…” As she thought it over, it suddenly made sense. Xellos had told her last night that he had to destroy Zelgadis, or Zelgadis would have replaced him. Which meant that as a Mazoku, Zelgadis would have become the one who could love. So in order to protect the one thing that Xellos held dear… he had to keep Zelgadis from becoming a Mazoku. Which meant… that Xellos loved her… enough to let Zelgadis have her, but only as a non-Mazoku…
        Lina shook her head, taking his arm and heading back inside. “Nothing, Zel. It just looks like Xellos is up to his old tricks again. What else is new?”
        Zelgadis wasn’t entirely positive, but he allowed Lina to take him back inside the Hall.

        Gourry and Naga were locked in a battle of snores. Gourry leaning backwards in his chair, Naga in her chair, propped up by the boning and starch in her gown. Sylphiel shook her head sadly. The elder princess would regret all that wine in the morning. Gourry dear… well, he’d had a long day. With a sigh, the cleric turned to see Lina and Zelgadis walk back into the room. She smiled and walked towards them.
        “Lina… I wanted to tell you earlier… you look so lovely. And it is good to see you smiling, Zelgadis.”
        Had he been smiling? He supposed he had. Looking at Sylphiel, he gave an embarrassed laugh. But before he could say anything, he saw Xellos pop in behind Jedah as he was dancing with Amelia. As he watched in horror, Xellos conveniently bumped into Jedah… causing the young man to stumble into an impromptu kiss with Amelia. Xellos bowed and waved cheerily at Zelgadis before vanishing.
        Lina stared at the two on the dance floor, then cringed as Jedah stepped away from Amelia, apologizing profusely. She had been too busy watching Xellos, and hadn’t figured out what he was up to.
        But what shocked Zelgadis, Lina, and Sylphiel was that Amelia was only blushing and stammering. It was as if she’d turned back into the young girl that they’d been traveling with three years ago.
        Lina looked at Zelgadis just as he looked at her. “Oh no…” they both groaned.
        Sylphiel clasped her hands. “It’s so sweet!”
        Both Lina and Zelgadis hit the floor.

Chapter Eighteen