A/N: Done as a request.  L/Z fic coming your way!  Please Read, Savor, and Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own anything that isn't mine to own = Don't own Slayers

All from Lina's point of view, I think.  You'll see.

A Gift To Remember

Part 1 - Memories

            Lina Inverse, renowned demon slayer, dragon spooker, and bandit killer, stood in the doorway, alone.  She looked out into the large hall, with its polished wooden floor, ceiling-to-floor windows, and numerous dancers on the floor, and sighed.  Soft, romantic music was playing in the background; the dancing couples were desirably close to their partners.  It was the Crown Princess' First Annual Ball as ruler of Seyruun – a grand celebration indeed.  The buffet table was layered with so much food, that not one inch of the white cloth could be seen on its surface.  But Lina didn't care for it at all.

            As Lina slowly walked towards the crown princess Amelia, to give her warmest regards that she could muster at the moment, she turned a few heads of those who had no dates.  It was no surprise, since the beautifully petite redheaded woman was wearing a spaghetti strap, open back, red satin dress, in combination with a double-decked pearl necklace and matching earrings.  Her red leather pumps made a resounding tap on the floor as she glided across it without the slightest effort.

            When Amelia, her old friend from long ago, saw her, she gasped and began to giggle with excitement.  Lina stopped before her, and gave her a wary smile.  Amelia gushed before she noticed it.  "Lina-san!  You look so pretty in that dress!  It fits you well!"  Amelia hugged Lina as she added, "It's good to see you again."

            Looking behind her friend's shoulder, Amelia asked, "So where is Gourry-san?  At the buffet?"

            A quiet "No…" was all the response that Lina gave.  Amelia cocked her head to one side and looked at Lina questioningly.  Somewhere in that time, she must have caught the look in Lina's eyes, because she said, "Well, I'm sure he's fine, wherever he is.  He can take care of himself.  Have you eaten yet, Lina-san?"

            The near-legendary sorceress shook her head, still sullen.  Amelia tried to smile as she suggested that they start eating, since she hadn't eaten anything that night yet either.  Lina slowly nodded, and followed Amelia to the royal table, a buffet all its own.  There, Lina picked at her food, while her mind wandered, wandered to the reason why she was so uncharacteristically quiet now.

            It was a nice, pleasantly serene night, just barely an hour after sunset.  Lina had been traveling through the forest, on her way to see Amelia again, when she was ambushed by a band of bandits.  They said their usual macho threats, then Lina fireballed them to a crisp.  At least, she would have, if her period had not chosen to start that day.  When her fireball failed, the bandits became increasingly more courageous, and began closing in on her.  She knew she could beat them up any time of day, so she did.  Again, she would have, but she suddenly found herself in ropes, pulled at all directions by nameless men in rags.  She struggled against her sudden bonds, but knew that she was caught, without the aid of her magic.

            The apparent leader slinked up to her and tilted her head up with his forefinger and thumb.  Lina tried to pull away from the horrendous stench that accompanied him, but his grip was as fierce as Lina's mental defiance.  His breath was horrible as well, which Lina learned upon his sly questioning.  "Well, well, well.  Now what do we's got here?  Could it be?  Yesh, I think it is.  Lina Inverse, am I right?"

            She rebelliously spat back, "So what if I am?"

            He laughed harshly in her face, bringing the uncomfortable odor of rotten cheese and raw meat through her nostrils.  On instinct, they flared up with distaste, but there was nothing Lina could do, but continue to seem defiant.

            "What luck!  Who would have thought that we'd catch the all-mighty Bandit Killer Lina Inverse!  Without a scratch to boot!  You do know that there's a bandit's bounty award for capturing you, dead or alive, right?  Ain't that the truth boys?"

            The other bandits roared in affirmation.  Nodding, the leader turned back to Lina and sneered, "And it's mighty fine too.  The treasure of all treasures, it is.  The biggest bandit find in the history of bandits!"

            This perked Lina's interest, and her defiance quickly melted into greedy compliance.  The leader recognized this look though, so he added with an abrupt laugh, "Don't you go thinking that you'll get the treasure yourself, now missy.  No sirree, we're leavin' you on a ship bound for the new world before we go out and follow our promised map to the mother-lode.  That's the only way, it is."

            By this time, the leader had released Lina's chin, and she willingly bent it down now.  A deep chuckle rippled through her body then, a sound that made her predators' own stomachs quiver.  A red aura began to collect around her, and her laughing grew to a maniacal state.  Finally, she uttered, "You honestly think you can stop me?"

            With one mighty heave, she brought her arms together in front of her, crashing two of the rope-holders into each other.  Lina then took great force in pulling them apart, so that they knocked the other two holders off balance.  As quick as a feline extends her claws, Lina pulled out her sword and slashed off the limp ropes.  She then proceeded to attack the rest of the gang with vigor.  Upon finishing, Lina looked around and survey her work; she nodded to herself in approval.

            Suddenly, the leader popped up behind her like a zombie and put a knife to her neck.  "Now see here, girly.  We're gettin' that treasure whether I have to kill you or not.  Now be good and I'll use this knife."

            The next part happened so fast, it seemed like a blur.  Lina threw the man over her head, but with a severe consequence.  His knife was in a bad position for it, and Lina unintentionally allowed him to slit her throat.  The next thing the bandit leader knew, he had been slain, but with a more dignified blade.  Lina saw a somewhat familiar shadow bend over her, before she blanked out.

            A warm glow filled her heart soon after she blanked out.  Lina basked it in, loving the comforting feeling.  But eventually, she saw the light, and went towards it.  The first sound she heard was a concerned voice.  "Lina, are you okay?"

            Unfortunately, the normal-toned sound was too much for her at that moment, and she could only groan in response.  After collecting herself, Lina mumbled something incoherently.  After coming to notice that her overseer would not be able to understand that, she cleared her throat and muttered, "I'll be okay.  My vision's blurry – who are you?"

            There was a long period of silence, in which Lina's senses started to recover, before the person quietly responded, "…it's Zel..gadis."

            At that, Lina snapped her eyes open and forced them to focus on the figure in front of her.  As two figures became one, she furrowed her brows.  The person before, indeed, seemed like Zelgadis, but there was something different about him…

            "Ah!  You found your cure?!"

            He jumped at the sound of her exclamation, but slowly nodded.  Lina struggled to sit up, and rubbed her eyes briefly before refocusing.  Zelgadis now had soft, dark brown hair, and a nice, healthy human hue to his skin.  He wore less conservative clothes, but not by much; he wore a long-sleeved auburn tunic with gold trimmings, along with a pair of loose black pants held up by a dark blue drawstring.  Finally, he wore a black-exterior, red-interior cape which could sufficiently hide his sword that hung at his side.

            Remembering the stories Luna used to tell her when she was little, Lina remarked with a soft laugh, "You resemble a vampire, Zel."  Zel grinned slightly, and revealed one visibly larger fang.  At the distraught look on her face, Zel quickly assured, "Don't worry.  I'm no vampire."  In an undertone, he added, "I've been reduced to something far worse."

            Lina heard it, but pretended not to.  "So, where'd you get that get-up anyway?"  There was a sufficient pause before Zel quietly answered, "…Home…"

            Lina took a deep breath and exhaled before she asked her question, with closed eyes.  "So how'd I get here?"

            She heard a scuffling of a chair as Zel drew one up from the desk and sat upon it.  "Quite simply, I was passing by, when I sensed that you were nearby and in trouble.  As I arrived at the scene, you were being occupied with a knife to your throat.  Before I could do anything, you launched him over your head, and slashed yourself in the process.  I quickly demolished him before I cast a healing spell on you.  Once that was done, I brought you to the nearest town.  Only one night has passed since then; it is morning.  That's about all there is to tell."

            The bed-stricken girl laughed again softly as she remarked, "You talk just as fast as I normally do."

            This notion stopped Zel, and he was again silent and monosyllabic.  However, he did ask one question first.  "Where were you headed?"

            Lina sighed.  "Amelia's ball.  She gave me an invitation a few weeks back.  Did you get one?"

            "…No, I couldn't have."

            "Why not?"  Lina yawned tiredly.

            "I was overseas until a few days ago.  I think you should get some more sleep."

            Opening her eyes again, Lina whined, "But I'm hungry…"

            A tray of food was immediately present under her nose.  "Enjoy.  I'll be downstairs."

            She mumbled a 'thanks' as she heard the door close.  As Lina started on her meal, the first thought that came into her head was, 'Zel sure took me by surprise.  I had no idea he had found his cure yet.  He looks really nice like that.  Well, maybe not nice…more like, handsome.  Yes, like a prince from a far-off country…the prince of my dreams…'  Lina stopped her thoughts abruptly.  'What am I thinking?!  Zel's just a friend! . . . I wish he was more . . . I've been feeling so lonely lately. . . especially since Gourry was retrieved to return home in order to explain about the Sword of Light "disappearing".  That was three years ago.  Three lonely years of solitude.  After what happened yesterday, maybe I do need a protector.  Somebody to protect me during that one week every month…Ha, but who would agree to protect the Dragon Spooker Lina Inverse?

'To people good and bad, she was deemed as evil.  Evil to the Mazoku because she slew so many of their leaders and minorities, evil to Ryuzoku because she contracted with the Lord of Nightmares and was responsible for destroying their world almost four times.  Rezo + Shabrinigdo, Copy Rezo + Zannafar, Phibrizzo + L-sama, and then Darkstar + Valgaav.  One of each team-up had not wished the destruction of the world, but they still got very close.  Come to think of it, Ryuzoku should have no reason to dislike her, as she had saved their race in more ways than one.  Ah well, how did I get to think about this anyway?  Ah yes, Zelgadis!  Be my protector!'

As Lina fell into a deep sleep, a darker shadow leered at her from the corner of the room.  A pearly smirk graced its features.  "You're mine, Lina."

"Lina?  Lina are you okay?"

Lina broke out of her trance and returned to the present.  Amelia was right next to her, staring at her with worried eyes.  The older girl smiled at her, and nodded.  "Sorry, I spaced out for a moment.  Let's eat!"

At that same instant, the same shadow that haunted her memory, stepped into the light of the ballroom, and headed towards the adventurous girls.

A/N:  Oh dear, I planned to make this one short song fic, but I suppose I haven't reached that level yet.  Heh, kind of ironic in a way.  Most people I know have trouble lengthening their stories, but I have trouble shortening it.  Oh well, I hope when I'm finished, you'll still be able to read it all in one sitting.  Review, though, or I might forget to finish it! (Huge testing schedule for the next two weeks may make me to mind-stricken to write for fun, so encourage me!)  Thx for reading!  Ciao!