"It's a Secret to Everybody"
Zelgadiss had agreed to remain with Amelia for a few weeks to search Saillune's libraries for a cure. Sylphiel had been the most reluctant to leave, but being the dedicated woman she was, she remained behind in Saillune to care for her uncle who'd fallen ill.
This suited Xelloss just fine. He was at somewhat loose ends with Phibrizzo being destroyed and Zelas-Metallium not having a new mission for him right away. Xelloss had heard some rumors of a need to go clean up after Gaav a bit, but it wasn't something that was pressing.
So, he decided it was worth checking out a theory of his.
It didn't take him long to find Lina and Gourry. Just imagine the closest place to Saillune that served great quantities of food and they were most likely there. Xelloss wasn't disappointed to see the twosome fighting over a chicken leg. He merely cocked an eyebrow and grinned at them, highly amused at their antics.
About halfway through the meal, Gourry stopped eating long enough to breathe. He chewed more thoughtfully as he watched Lina plow through her plate of food.
She glanced up from her food and noticed he'd stopped eating. "Not hungry anymore? Well, don't mind if I do!" She reached for his plate.
He held it out of reach, narrowed his eyes at her. "I don't think so."
She sat back in her seat and considered her next action. Then she gave him the brightest smile she could muster. "Come on, Gourry, have a heart! A growing girl's got to eat, you know!"
"Since when have you done any growing?" Gourry's gaze dropped to Lina's chest. "You're still as flat-chested as ever."
Xelloss neatly swished to one side as a punch from Lina sent Gourry through the roof. He winked himself away from the scene and onto the roof itself and watched as the swordsman sailed through the air. "Nice punch, Lina-san," he muttered. The hairs on the back of his neck rose as he felt another presence approach.
He didn't turn to face the Dramata immediately, using the few extra seconds to gauge her mood. Slightly annoyed, but that was most likely because of the breast crack Gourry had given her. She was also very surprised. As she should be, he reasoned. Lina had no reason to expect Xelloss to show up in her life again, even though he had warned her that he would be seeing her sometime soon.
His cloak swished around him as he turned and inclined his head to her. "Lina-san, what an unexpected surprise! I never imagined running into you in this sort of place."
"Funny, I was just thinking the same thing." Lina folded her arms over her chest. "What's going on? And don't tell me that you want the Sword of Light back, because we're not giving it up."
Xellos lifted an eyebrow once more. "Don't worry, Lina-san. That sword belongs to Gourry-san and is intended to be in his care." For now, he silently added.
He offered her a small smile. "No, I just wanted to confirm something that I suspected from our last meeting. You seemed rather reluctant for me to give Gourry-san his sword back."
"No, I wasn't," she immediately shot back at him. "It was merely unexpected."
"I see. Well, I won't keep you then. But, by the way, Lina-san...your secret isn't such a secret." Xelloss winked at her, then immediately dissipated to leave her standing on the roof, staring blankly at the space he'd formerly occupied.
Lina turned her head to the sky, scanned it anxiously. "What do you mean by that? Xelloss!"
"You, Gourry-san and what really happened in the Sea of Chaos," Xelloss replied from the safety of the Astral plane, enjoying how Lina's expression shifted from mild irritation to shock, then horror. "I was merely testing a theory and you have proved it right. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some business to conduct..."
She found Gourry about half a mile outside of the town, asleep beneath a tree. It was both amusing and touching to see him lying there waiting for her. Lina folded her legs beneath her as she knelt next to him and lightly probed the bump on his head that her attack caused. She cast Recovery and watched as the bump smoothed itself out and the discoloration faded away.
"It's not like there's anything in that head of yours that's easily damaged, jellyfish," she said softly, almost fondly.
Lina busied herself with setting up a camp for the night. She rolled out the bedrolls that she'd carried from town and set up the fire. She unpacked the food she'd bought and set to work on a pre-dinner snack, something to keep her occupied as she read a new spellbook she'd picked up in Saillune. She settled herself against the same tree Gourry was propped on, but a different side - far enough away to have her own space, but close enough to keep an eye on him.
He woke as the sun was going down, his hand automatically going to his forehead. He felt for the wound he knew had been there earlier, but was now gone. He stretched slightly stiff muscles and noticed the prepared camp in front of him.
"You're awake now?" Lina's voice came from an area to his left and he turned to see her chewing on an apple slice, absorbed in her book. "Feel any pain?"
"No, it's all better now. Thanks." He got to his feet and stretched, then headed for a clump of bushes not far away. Normally, she'd been pushing him for some sort of apology, but he knew she had to have casted one of her white magic spells on him while he was asleep waiting for her. Maybe, he thought, it was her way of apologizing for losing her temper.
He returned to camp and started to pull out his own share of dinner from the pack. Every so often, Gourry looked up at Lina and noticed her frowning at her book. He thought to ask her about it, but knew it would lead into a lengthy description of spells and magic that would have his head spinning.
But, it was also much too quiet. It seemed strange not to have someone talking - either Lina, Amelia or Zelgadiss. At the moment, he was even missing Sylphiel's relentless "Gourry-samas," just because it meant at least someone was making some noise. Granted, he thought, the silence wasn't that unpleasant. It was pretty companionable. Since he was bored and had nothing better to do, Gourry reached for his pack and pulled out the implements to sharpen his sword and clean it along with his armor.
The sweet scent of the oil that Gourry used to clean his sword drew Lina out of her thoughts. She glanced over her shoulder to see him setting out the implements he used to clean the Sword of Light. She shifted so she could watch him. With slow, careful movements, he wiped the sword with rice paper from base to tip. Then, picking up an implement that looked like a silk and wood piece of balled candy with a stick coming out of it, he tapped the round end to the sword's blade, powder sifting onto the metal surface. Then, with another piece of rice paper, he removed the powder.
Next, he poured the oil, made of cloves, onto a clean cloth. Lina absently smiled as she got a good whiff of the scent. It reminded her of the first time he'd stalked into the middle of her fight with the bandits. It was a common enough smell, usually one associated with any swordsman that thought of his weapon highly enough to invest in such a costly oil. But it reminded her specifically of him and she figured that it always would.
He glanced up, noticed her smile. He smiled back, a genuine one that spread nearly from ear to ear. Her breath caught at the sight of it - the warm smile and the faint halo that the firelight caused when it bounced off his blond hair. She averted her gaze and hoped that it was dark enough to where he couldn't see her cheeks. She lightly touched her hand to one, feeling the heat radiating against her glove.
He hummed cheerfully as he wiped the oil onto the blade, just enough to where it shone. Then he sheathed the sword and moved to working on his armor.
Lina absently pulled one of her hands though her hair as she watched Gourry perform his normal routine. But her thoughts wandered back to Xelloss' cryptic little visit and conversation.
But, by the way, Lina-san...your secret isn't such a secret.
She gritted her teeth as she considered his words. She had a clue what he'd been talking about. Of course, if she had asked him directly, he would had simply laid a finger on his lips, winked and replied, "It's a secret."
She thought back to the day a few weeks earlier, when the group had been assembled at an inn outside of the ruins of Sairaag and Amelia quizzed her on what happened after she cast the Giga Slave. She'd been truthful...to a degree. Technically, she didn't lie. Just...omitted stuff.
Her gaze shifted back to Gourry.
"I feel that something important happened," she'd said about her time in the Sea of Chaos. And that part was the truth.
What stunned her was the serious look Gourry had given her in response and the small smile. "I do as well," he'd replied.
She'd wanted to question him further on it, but never got a chance. As sweet as she was, it seemed to be Sylphiel's main quest was to keep the two of them apart. It was simply by luck that they got separated from her during Martina and Zangulus's wedding and stood off together away from the dangers of the false set. But asking Gourry about his comment at a wedding would had been way too weird.
Now they were alone. And damn Xelloss for reminding her that she needed to talk to Gourry about this!
Lina closed her book and drew her knees up to her chin. "Say, Gourry? Remember when we were talking about the Sea of Chaos?"
"She of Cay-Off?" His bangs fell in front of his eyes as he lifted his gaze from his sword. "She who of Cay-Off? Where's that at? I don't recall ever traveling there before."
She sighed and fought the urge to fireball him. "No, Sea of Chaos. You know, Hellmaster Phibrizzo?"
That name he remembered. His hand, which had been still wiping his armor, stilled. He drug in a deep breath as the set of images that he was doing his best to forget pushed their way into the front of his mind. The urge to slam a fist into the ground rose to the point where he curled one hand into a fist. Out of everything he'd ever forgotten, why couldn't he forget the pain of knowing it'd been because of him that Lina had thrown her life away?
But, with the painful memory came a good one as well - the one of her fading back into his arms.
"Do you remember...really...what happened?" Lina asked quietly.
He closed his eyes and forced his breathing to even out. "Not much after I entered the black thing."
"I see." She stared at her knees, one finger absently drawing circles in the dirt. "When did you start remembering stuff again?"
She heard the soft clink of metal as Gourry set his armor aside. The scent of cloves grew closer until she could also smell the man as well. His finger slid beneath her chin and before she could respond, he brushed his lips over hers. She reflexively gasped and tried to jerk away, but he pressed firmer until she stopped trying to pull back and leaned into him instead.
She hadn't been mistaken then. Her memories and his began again at the same time - when they were in each other's arms in the Sea of Chaos. She thought it'd been only her, that it had been a figment of her imagination, but was relieved at the fact she was wrong.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and he pulled her closer, letting his lips linger a bit longer before pressing a second kiss to her forehead and pulling away.
They broke apart, shifting until they sat back to back, supporting each other. She wasn't quite sure how to respond to him, or to the kiss. Things were so much easier when he made wisecracks. At least she could punch or cast a spell at him. Instead, this made her chest feel tight and her clothes somewhat too hot.
But he remembered. So did she. They had kissed. And it changed everything..."Are you mad that we kissed?" The tone of Gourry's voice was hesitant, the words spoken so softly that she barely heard him.
What time? Now? In the Sea of Chaos? Lina tilted her head to the sky and watched the stars shine in the distance. She reached back with a hand until she found his and rested it on his glove. "No," she replied. "I'm not mad at all."
In the morning, they were back to their normal selves. They fought over food, she made fun of his brains, he teased her about her breasts. It was like the conversation had never happened and they were the same Lina and Gourry they always were. Not long after their fireside chat, they got caught up in a new adventure that involved traveling to undiscovered lands.
But every so often, his eye would catch hers. And they smiled, secret smiles that no one knew the meaning of. They knew what was there. They would act on it when they were ready for it - and not a minute before.
Until then, it was their secret.
And Xelloss's too.
Originally published: June 11, 2005
Revised: February 1, 2007
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Another short story that explores the concept of what Lina and Gourry remembered in the Sea of Chaos. While doing research for another fic, I came across a Web site that had translated a series of interviews on the characters. I also came across some popular rumors circulated by fans - one of those being that one of the anime directors said that Lina and Gourry acted like a couple between NEXT and TRY, but then hid those feelings again. I'm not sure how accurate those rumors are, but it does make for some interesting theories. This was to mainly get the plot bunny out of my system and gives a chance to work with Xelloss. He's so much fun! The title comes from the old "Legend of Zelda" games.