Note: This fic was originally written for the LiveJournal community, "30 romances," a themed community similar to "30 kisses." All 30 parts will be combined to form one complete story that is the prequel to "Law of the Land." This chapter contains theme #1 - cold hands ; cold feet and theme #2 - The subconscious ; bury

Disclaimer: "Slayers" does not belong to me, but belongs to Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi. I'm just borrowing them for a little while.

oOoOo

Chapter One: "Cold Hands, Feet and Hearts"

They stared at their soggy camp and equally soggy bedrolls, each wishing that the nearest town was closer than a two-day walk away. As much as they both admitted they loved being on the road, this was...this simply was...

"Hell!" Lina threw her arms in the air and stomped through the mud. "This is a living nightmare! This is the pits! I can't believe this!"

"It isn't that bad, Lina," Gourry replied, pushing his sopping wet hair out of his face. He shielded his eyes so he could attempt to see through the downpour. The only distinguishable thing he could make out was Lina's eyes - everything else was too dark to see.

"We can't even start a fire," she grumbled. "No rocks to hide under, no caves to hide in. How the hell did we get stuck out in the middle of freakin' nowhere?"

Gourry tuned out her complaining, knowing that she would wind down after awhile. First things first. He had to get them some sort of protection. It wouldn't be much, but it would keep the rain off them. He gauged the branches above them, then pulled out the Blast Sword. With a few, quick slices of the blade, he had enough branches cut down to where he figured they could have a decent shelter.

Lina whirled around and noticed him at work. "What are you doing?"

"I need your help," he told her as he anchored some larger limbs into the ground. "I also need your cloak."

"My cloak?"

"Yeah, to stretch over these."

"You are out of your mind! I'm not giving you my cloak!"

"Stop acting like a 2-year-old," he snapped at her. "Do you want out of the rain or not?"

Lina frowned. Usually, no matter how bad of a mood she got in, Gourry was the one to remain cheerful. The rain had to seriously be getting to him, she thought. With a sigh, she removed her cloak and handed it to him. He tied it to the branches so it formed a diagonal cover. Then he placed the remaining branches over the cloak - just enough to where most of the rain would keep out, but not too many for it to cave in.

He straightened and gave her a weak smile. "Miss Inverse, your new palace," he said with an exaggerated sweep of his hand.

She let out a snort of laughter. Gourry looked so silly standing in the downpour, gesturing to a simple shelter made of branches. It was the furthest thing from one. I might as well help, she figured and dragged their bedrolls under the shelter. She backed out and cast a Fireball spell. She held it out, but didn't let it go. The heat from the spell quickly dried their bedding and the ground. She then held it closer to her cloak so it dried as well before she dissipated the spell.

"The cloak's waterproof, so now that it's dry, we should be as well." She crawled inside and flopped down on her bed in relief. "Ah, this is nice. Thank you, Gourry."

He gave her a smile and crawled in after her. After a moment of relaxing, Lina sat up and cast the Fireball spell again. It was a slower job, but the heat allowed them to dry off. With a yawn, Lina laid back down on her bedroll.

"I wish we could build a fire in here," she mummered.

"It'll go up quicker than one of your fireballs thrown into a bandit camp." Gourry turned onto his side and propped his head on his hand so he could look at her.

The rain poured and some drops seeped in through the cracks where the cloak was tied, but they would at least be dried. Lina shivered, closed her eyes and curled into a fetal position. Dry, yes. Warm, no. She was so tired and so cold. She hated being cold. When they had gone to the Ancient Dragon shrine in Filia's lands, she'd been so miserable. She rubbed her arms. Most of the time, she was grateful to be wearing short sleeves, but what she wouldn't give for a sweater or a blanket right now.

She felt something warm move close to her, then it was just mainly her back that was cold. She opened her eyes and saw Gourry's nose just a few scant inches from hers. She squeaked and jumped up, hitting the roof of their little shelter. She rubbed her head and stared at it anxiously as it wobbled for a second before holding steady.

She then turned her attention to Gourry. "What was that for?"

He looked slightly hurt. "You're cold. Lie back down, Lina. We can at least share our body heat."

Lina couldn't stop herself from blushing and she quickly averted his gaze. "Bo...body heat?"

"Yeah, like lying next to each other?"

She whipped her head around and jabbed a finger in his direction. "This is like those blanket scenarios, right?"

Gourry blinked at her, confused. "We don't have a blanket, Lina."

"Oh." She laid back down, making sure to face him. Okay, so he wasn't thinking anything weird like..."sharing" body heat. He just wanted to make sure she was warm. He probably thought it was his job as her protector. That had to be it.

His eyes were closed by the time she settled herself. She rested her head on her pillow and simply looked at him. In the dark, she could only see his hair and the rough outline of his face. A week earlier, they had celebrated her 20th birthday in Saillune City with Amelia and Sylphiel. They'd been traveling together for nearly five years now. Lina smiled and felt herself start to get a little warmer with Gourry's body blocking out a good bit of the wind. He was so comforting to have close by. She couldn't imagine camping outside now and not seeing him nearby.

She was nearly asleep when she shivered once more. Even my gloves aren't keeping my hands warm. She peeled off her gloves and exhaled into her hands to warm them up.

Suddenly, her hands were being pulled away and enfolded into Gourry's larger ones. Her eyes widened and she felt her heart trip a little bit as he gazed back at her. He wasn't sleeping?

"Your hands are cold," he observed and she bit back a laugh. Duh!

But, it was a nice feeling. And her hands were warm. She moved a bit closer to him and closed her eyes once more. Now, if only he could do something about my feet...wait...don't even go there, Lina!

oOoOo

A few weeks shy of Lina's 17th birthday, Hellmaster Fibrizo figured out that her biggest weakness came in the form of a tall, blond-haired swordsman who had yogurt for brains, but was the most skilled fighter in hand to hand combat that she'd ever met other than her older sister. That same swordsman had told her he would spent the rest of his life protecting her. And when Fibrizo kidnapped him, she told herself that if she got him back alive that she would remain by his side as long as he was by hers.

He, simply put, was her best friend. Her confidant. Her protector. She'd never had someone in her life like Gourry before. There were childhood playmates who never quite understood Lina's drive to absorb magic. When she mastered the Dragon Slave, she had been excited - but her so-called friends shunned her. Then there was Naga, the White Serpent. Naga's favorite activity was driving Lina up the wall, and Lina's was to try to pretend she didn't exist. They worked well together, but...

Then there was Amelia and Zelgadiss. Zel was Lina's match on an intellectual level and they got along extremely well most of the time. He was good for those post-dinner conversations about philosophy and magic that she sometimes missed having with Gourry around. Talking to him about either of those things was just as effective as talking to herself. Not that she didn't mind that, but there was some times she longed for the debate she could engage in with Zel with those matters.

Amelia was the closest thing to a little sister that Lina had, and they made a point of visiting her in Saillune often. Prior to meeting the princess, Lina usually avoided Saillune at all cost. Amelia had made it a welcoming place and it had turned into a second home.

But there was just something about her jellyfish...from the way he ruffled her hair like a child to their constant battles over food. He was the only person who could actually make her feel ashamed at doing something, but when he was proud of her, she was on top of the world.

And since the moment Fibrizo stole him away and she had run after him screaming his name, she knew that she loved him with everything that she had. Her life wasn't worth much without him in it.

You feed a dog for three days...

Lina blinked open sleepy eyes and saw that she was alone. It was a lot warmer than it'd been the night before and she saw sunlight streaming through the trees. The storm was over. She crawled out from the shelter and got to her feet, stretching as she enjoyed the feel of the sun's rays on her body. The smell of bacon wafed through the air and she sniffed at it eagerly.

She looked over and saw that Gourry had set up a fire and had began their breakfast. She knew the routine from there. He would cook and she would fish. Neither of them were gourmet chefs, but at least together they could cobble together something edible. "I didn't realize any of our food survived that storm," she commented.

"My pack was under yours, so it stayed mostly dry."

She rolled her eyes. Great... "I'm going to go get some fish."

"Okay. This should be ready when you get back," he replied without looking up at her.

She headed for the stream, then tossed one last glance at him over her shoulder. She allowed her heartbeat to stutter at the sight of him in the morning light, his hair glowing in the sunlight, his voice cheerful as he hummed some nameless tune under his breath.

I love him so much...

Lina swallowed and headed out on her mission. She loved him, but...if he knew and they acted on it, she could lose her best friend. She didn't want that. If being silent was what it took to keep things as they were - the easygoing, comfortable relationship that she'd come to rely on - then he would never know her feelings.

It was as simple as that.

oOoOo

Additional notes: Shortly after beginning "Law of the Land," I joined a LiveJournal writing community called "30 romances." The themes were perfectly suited to writing a Lina/Gourry story, so I started in on it. As the story has developed (I've currently posted six parts, or three complete chapters of fic on LJ), it's worked its way into a prequel for "Law of the Land. " The two stories will be posted concurrently, though this one is going a bit faster at the moment. Because of the nature of the plots, both stories function on their own as well. I have also started my own writing journal, known as "bunnyofferings," a link to which is in my profile. I highly recommend joining "30 romances" if you enjoy the 30-themed type communities. There's still lots and lots of couples to choose from - including Amelia/Zelgadiss!