They were alive -
she was alive. Zelgadis could hardly believe it. Everything had been falling apart; everything had fallen apart. It only took the time between their arrival in Fibrizo's temple to the moment the first orb had been crushed. He could still picture it as vividly as if he was there, watching it again. A small, delicate looking hand shattering a little yellow orb; and then Amelia had collapsed to the ground, screaming in pain and clutching at her throat. She had tried to tell him that she was okay, even though it couldn't be more clear that she wasn't.
Even when all other memories eventually became hazy with time, Zelgadis know he would remember Amelia dying with perfect clarity; would remember holding her gently, but desperately, as she uttered a last few painful, shuddering breaths. He would remember the small sound -almost like a sigh- that she had made when she finally went limp, and her eyes dulled. He could scarcely remember the next few minutes; he had been so horrified and so desperate that he had only realized that they were still fighting when Lina had shrieked Sylphiel's name, and there was the dull thud of another body hitting the ground.
Still he did not look up right away. He had taken one last look at Amelia's face and then gently put her down, standing up and drawing his sword, ignoring the voice in his head that told him how useless it was. He couldn't remember what he had shouted, his mind was clouded by anger and desperation. They were being killed one by one, and Amelia...
He looked up. Concerned and exhausted wide blue eyes stared into his own. Amelia, breathing, and mercifully alive. She looked pale and drawn, and her eyes were shining oddly, though, unlike Sylphiel, who was huddled several feet away and sobbing heavily into her knees, she had not shed tears yet. There was a look of grim determination on her face that was trying to push back the sadness. "We should try to find a ruin that will give some shelter, it looks like it might rain."
"Right," Zelgadis grunted hoarsely. He got numbly to his feet, watching as Amelia knelt by Sylphiel. The younger priestess put a hand on Sylphiel's shoulder, offering muttered words of comfort and a handkerchief. Sylphiel took it gratefully, and stood slowly, her crying lessened slightly.
It was quiet around them. Zelgadis usually liked the quiet, but there was a bitter edge to this silence. The knowledge of why it was so quiet made the air stiff and uncomfortable. A city had died here, just like all of them had. The only difference between them and the city is that they had, somehow, managed to come back... some of them, anyway.
Lina had been his first friend since his transformation. He couldn't deny that they were his friends, now... After Hellmaster, the fear and sadness he felt, not for himself, but for others, was proof enough of that. And now both Lina and Gourry were gone without a trace, lost to the Sea of Chaos itself... oblivion, itself...
The ruins were even more decimated than they had been before. The second destruction had knocked the few buildings that remained to the ground, but they managed to find a section of roof and wall that still stood, and they huddled under it as lightning and thunder crackled overhead.
"I... I'm going to get some wood so we can start a fire," Sylphiel announced, sniffling. "It's a bit chilly..."
"Alright, Sylphiel-san," Amelia said kindly. When Sylphiel was out of range, she turned to Zelgadis. "Zelgadis-san, are you alright?"
"Fine," Zelgadis murmured. There was still a hoarse quality to his voice that gave more insight into his mood than he would have liked. Amelia knelt by him, studying his face intently.
"Are you sure you're okay?" She asked.
"I'm FINE, Amelia!" Zelgadis snapped before he could stop himself. Amelia jerked back as if struck, and she looked away. Guilt seeped, almost painfully, through him.
"I-I'm sorry," She apologized quietly. "I'll just... I'll go help Sylphiel-san," she moved to stand, but Zelgadis caught her hand.
"No, I'm sorry," Zelgadis said awkwardly. "I shouldn't have snapped. I... it's just really hard right now... I'm still trying to figure out what happened."
"Me too," Amelia admitted. "Everything happened so fast... We were only out of those crystals for a couple minutes before..." she shuddered.
"I'm not sure what to think," Zelgadis said. He had begun to notice that he was staring at her, and yet, he couldn't stop. "I know I keep trying to edge away from you all, but... I never expected Lina and Gourry to just... disappear... and to fight Hellmaster. And you..." He stopped.
"Zelgadis-san?" Amelia knelt down next to him again, watching him curiously.
"You were dead, Amelia... We all were... But..."
Slowly, Amelia leaned forward and slipped her arms around his torso, leaning on his chest in a warm hug. Zelgadis gaped, heat rising to his cheeks as she muttered, "Don't think about it right now. I don't know if Lina-san and Gourry-san are still alive, I don't know how they could be... but just don't think of it. Not until morning. Don't think of any of the details... We just have to get through the night, and then things will be better."
She was close enough for him to hear her heartbeat and breathing with amazing clarity. Faint sensations like pulses were lost to him in that stone body of his, but he could hear it. It reinforced the fact that somehow, they had survived... she had survived. He could hear her breathing change slowly, dissolving into faint, almost silent sobs, and he began to notice the front of his tunic getting wet.
He lifted his arms around her and pulled her closer, realizing for the first time that he'd never seen her cry in front of anyone.
How had she ended up being the one comforted? Zelgadis had looked so lost, so confused and hopeless, that she couldn't help but to hug him, in attempts to comfort the chimera. She hadn't meant to start crying, but once she started, she couldn't stop. All her frustration, sadness, and anger just seemed to leak out at that moment.
She hadn't cried – happy tears or watering eyes aside – in front of someone since her mother's funeral. Not that nobody had seen her cry: when her father had faked his death, Lina had been spying on her through the slightly ajar door. But she had always tried to keep up a face of confidence, of comfort, when tragedy struck – she didn't want anyone else to take her burdens.
It felt odd, to be hugged by a being made of stone, but comforting. He smelled of blood and dirt, but she didn't mind; she probably smelled the same. Finally, her tears subsided, and she half-heartedly tried to pull away, but found Zelgadis's arms still around her. She looked up, and he met her gaze with a smile – a small one, but real, "Feel better?"
Amelia nodded. She did feel better, as one often does after crying.
The sound of crunching rocks beneath booted feet alerted them to Sylphiel's return. Zelgadis let go, springing back, every inch of his face a bright red. In that moment, Amelia realized that nobody else would ever learn of the rather intimate moment they had just shared, and she found the thought oddly rewarding. Later, they would pretend it had never happened, but they would always remember that moment.
"I managed to find some firewood," Sylphiel said, stepping into the ruins they had claimed for the night. Her face was tearstained, but her eyes were clear and she looked more confident; evidently, she had spent a portion of the time gathering fire to have a good cry. She sat down and began to arrange it in a proper shape, and she cast a small flare arrow on it to ignite their campfire.
Zelgadis relaxed. He still was having difficulties coming to terms with what had happened, but he felt better. Looking at Amelia, he could tell she felt the same.
It would be hard, but they'd get through this. They just had to make it till dawn, first.