Disclaimer: "Slayers" does not belong to me, but belongs to Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi. I'm just borrowing them for a little while. This fic is set between episodes 19 and 20 of Slayers NEXT. Thanks goes to Stefanie2 for pre-reading most of this and to Linachu for producing Lina's quote from the end of NEXT.
"It's easy to find something worth dying for. Do you have anything worth living for?" - Lorien, "Babylon 5"
"If I lose control of this energy, I could destroy the world. But right now, I choose Gourry over the world! Please, Gourry, give me the strength I need!" - Lina Inverse, "Slayers NEXT"
There wasn't much that Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Zelgadiss and Xelloss could do at the moment except to make their way to the Kataart Mountains to locate the true Claire Bible. It actually wouldn't take them that long to get there - they were still in Rikido in the Kingdom of Dils, where Auntie Aqua had dropped them once she teleported them out of the Claire Bible temple that Xelloss led them to a few days earlier.
They agreed that there was no point in traveling tired and on empty stomachs - it would make them a much easier target for Gaav and Seigram. After giving Xelloss a hard time about being a Mazoku - and Gourry for knowing about it and not telling anyone - everyone quickly retired to their own rooms to sleep.
Except that Lina couldn't sleep.
She was surprised that she didn't keel over from exhaustion. She hadn't slept much the night before either - especially after Gourry's little confession, Auntie Aqua showing her how her future might had turned out and the subsequent fight with Gaav.
She closed her eyes, willed herself to get some sleep. But too many thoughts were swirling in her head - older ones from when they were in Atlas City fighting Halcyform, her conversation with Gourry, Auntie Aqua's insinuation about their relationship and the feelings the vision of seeing herself cast the misfired Giga Slave caused. Not to mention there was the upcoming showdown with Gaav, finding the Claire Bible and figuring out just what Xelloss and Hellmaster Fibrizo's role was in all of this.
All of that whirled in a mass inside of her head, gelling together into the only possible outcome - insomnia.
Lina got out of bed, dressing as quietly as possible as to not disturb Amelia, who tossed away in her own bed. She secured the Dragon's Blood tailsmen at her wrists, waist and neck, but decided to forgo her cloak. It was too hot for it, and should a Mazoku attack, the tailsmen would provide plenty of protection.
She slipped outside, the chilly night air feeling good on her skin. She stretched and studied the small town square, quiet and settled for the evening. Should Gaav get his way, places like this would be centers of chaos.
Her boots clopped softly over the cobblestones, the steady beat helping Lina to focus her thoughts and figure out her priorities. The obvious first thing to do was get to the Kataart Mountains and locate the real Claire Bible. The second was to defeat Gaav and Seigram. Then they would use the knowledge from the Claire Bible to find Zelgadiss his cure.
And then what?
Then the only questions lingering in her mind would be the ones that had to deal with Gourry and what their relationship did or didn't consist of.
Her gaze immediately fell on the inn, automatically locating the window of the room that Gourry and Zelgadiss shared. She saw a light burning low and figured that Zelgadiss must still be awake reading. He would be a good one to mull battle plans over with, but her feet refused to carry her back there. No, she didn't want to talk to Zel. She wanted to be alone at the moment.
She headed over to the small fountain in the center of the town square and sank onto the stone lip, listened to the gurgle of water coming out of the spout. It was so peaceful that Lina never realized she was dozing off, didn't feel herself starting to fall backwards...
A pair of strong hands grasped her just as the tips of her hair brushed the water. The sudden jerk brought her immediately back to full consciousness and she noticed Gourry looming over her. Her mouth suddenly dry, she swallowed before finding her voice. "What are you doing?"
"Saving you from falling back into the fountain." With a cheerful hum, he sat next to her, wrapped his arm around her back to keep her from falling in. "There you go!"
Touched, embarrassed, Lina wasn't quite sure how to react to the close contact. It seemed that they were touching each other like this more and more recently. In Halcyform's mansion, it'd been Gourry she sought out when the slugs attacked them, clinging to him for dear life. Instinctively, she realized, she knew that he was her anchor.
Then there was the fight with Mazenda and Kanzeil over Saillune. They had worked as one, communicating without words when they fought Mazenda. Gourry had automatically passed her the Sword of Light without questioning Lina's plan at all, not even speaking aloud about it. They were connected, he told her, whether or not they wanted to be.
Just minutes later, Kanzeil had blasted Lina off the side of the cliff, sending her to what her friends thought was her doom. She'd heard the shouts, the anger, from Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadiss as she hovered out of sight using her newly-restored Levitation spell and made her way over to a good spot to launch the Dragon Slave. But it wasn't until the brief lull in the battle that Lina fully realized what she had done.
She'd boasted to her friends about being able to fool them when suddenly, Gourry had tousled her hair, immediately grabbing her attention. She'd turned on him, ready to yell, when she noticed the expression on his face.
"Look, can't you consider my feelings a little next time?" he asked in a strained voice.
Amelia had started squealing, but everything for Lina faded into a buzz when she took a really good look at Gourry's face, noticed the red-rimmed eyes and the dried tracks from where tears had trickled down his cheeks. He cried for me?
She had blushed, mortified, whispered an apology that was for his ears alone. But before they could proceed any further, Kanzeil had decided to perfect his returning from the dead act for the 47th time.
Lina never realized she'd drifted off to sleep once more, though part of her did wonder what Gourry was doing out there in the first place.
She could see them before her, their fallen bodies once again given life as the Giga Slave spun out of control. She'd failed them. She lost control. Now they would all be gone.
Amelia reached out to her. "Lina-san!" she shrieked as the darkness consumed her.
From her other side, all she heard was an anguished scream and she managed to turn, focus on it. "Zel!"
"Lina! Run for it!"
Her head snapped up, saw that Gourry had risen to his feet and was coming for her, reaching for her. He strained against the darkness surrounding him, and she simply sat there, too stunned to move.
When he disappeared, it suddenly hit home - just what she had done and what she'd thrown away. Screaming, she grabbed her head.
"Gourry! Gourry! Gourry!" She screamed his name over and over again as the grief overwhelmed her. And then, she was trapped. She couldn't move and there was nowhere to go as the darkness swallowed her.
"Lina! Wake up!"
She jerked out of the dream almost as fast as she had slipped into it, the night air nearly as effective as a bucket of cold water. She felt a pair of arms around her, realized that Gourry was now hugging her instead of simply holding her up. She quickly wiggled her way out of the embrace, pacing a few feet away from him on unsteady legs.
She buried her face in her hands, rocked back and forth slightly on her heels and tried to regain her equilibrium. When she was reasonably sure she had herself under control, Lina marched back to the fountain and splashed water on her face, erasing the last dredges of the nightmare. The only thing that lingered was an odd ache in her heart - the same one that had been there after originally seeing the vision the night before. She rubbed her eyes and stretched. "How long was I asleep?"
"Not long. Maybe an hour or so."
She startled, wasn't quite sure whether or not to be mortified or not. "You held me like that for an hour?"
He gave her a small smile and she realized for the first time that he had left his armor and sword inside of the inn. His hands were bare and Lina could definitely count on one hand that Gourry ever appeared outside of his bedroom without even his gloves on. "It wasn't a hardship. I dozed some too. I was worried. You haven't gotten a lot of sleep lately. I noticed you walk out here and figured you could use some company."
"Oh." Flustered, Lina sat next to him once more, rested her hands on her thighs. "Thank you."
They sat like that, side by side, not looking at each other. After a few minutes, Lina stole a glance at Gourry and noticed him staring toward the mountains in the distance with a peaceful expression. Her own focus shifted there as well. "Do you think we'll find out answer there?"
He nodded confidently. "We'll find the Claire Bible there. I've got a good feeling about it."
"I do too. Though, it'll be pretty dangerous."
"That it will be." Automatically, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders again. "Will you promise me something?"
She stared at him, considered his request. In all of their time together, Gourry had asked very little of her - not much beyond the request to consider his feelings and to not hog all of the food. "I'll do my best."
"It's all I can ask. Will you not take any risks without telling me? Please?"
The way Gourry asked it, that same serious tone he'd used months earlier, made the odd ache in her heart increase. Lina nodded, flustered and absently pressed her index fingers together. "Yeah, I promise. I never meant to hurt you, you know." The apology had come quick and without warning and Lina suddenly realized she felt better for it.
"I know." With a small smile, he tightened his hold on her. "I've already seen you nearly die once, Lina. And then the second time for Saillune that turned out not to be real. I don't ever want to witness that again."
It took Lina a moment to realize that Gourry was referring to their battle with Copy Rezo, when she had taken the hit that was meant for Sylphiel. She'd passed out almost immediately and had no idea what the effect of the attack had been on the others. Amelia had always been vague, saying simply that out of all of them, Gourry had been the most upset.
But if his reaction when Kanzeil blasted her off the cliff had been anywhere near how he'd reacted to the attack from Copy Rezo...
She absently drew circles on her thigh with her index finger, the ache inside of her growing worse. He'd nearly lost her twice. She'd been lucky - she'd never had to face the possibility of losing him. Wondering what it would be like was one of those dangerous emotional questions that she did her best to avoid.
Lina pulled away from him. "Say, I have an ethical question?"
Gourry blinked at her. "A what question?"
"Ethical. One about what's right versus wrong."
"Oh! An Amelia-type question."
"That's one way of putting it." She kept her gaze steady on him. "Remember when we were in Atlas City and saw that Halcyform had kept Rubia in the glass coffin and was using people's life energy to revive her?"
He nodded. It was a sight he'd never forget. "The lady with red hair, right?"
"Yeah. Halcyform was willing to sacrifice the entire world in order for Rubia to be alive and happy once again. He sacrificed his body to the Mazoku as well. If...if it'd been someone you cared about, would you do the same?"
His response was immediate. "Without question."
Lina's eyes widened. "Really?"
Gourry smiled. "When you love someone, you want them to be happy - even at the expense of your own happiness. More important than anything, you want them to live. If it was me and I could sacrifice myself so that yo...the person I cared for lived, then I would gladly do so."
"Even if it meant risking the entire world to do so?"
"What good would the entire world be if the person I cared for wasn't in it? If there was even a one percent chance that the person would come out of it alive and happy, I'd do it."
Something shifted and fell into place for Lina and suddenly, she recognized the ache in her heart for what it was. She gave Gourry a dazzling smile. "Thanks."
He scratched his head nervously. "Was that the right answer?"
"Yeah, it was," She cocked her head and winked at him. Then she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
Before she could pull away, his hand was on her arm, bringing her closer. Instinctively, she angled her head as he brushed his lips with hers. She wrapped her arms around his neck, bringing them closer as they kissed.
After a minute, he pulled away, locked eyes with hers. "Lina, I..."
"Oh, there the two of you are!"
With a shriek, Lina automatically shoved Gourry off the fountain edge. He considered himself extremely lucky to land on the cobblestones rather than in the water. Rubbing his bottom, he half rose and noticed Xelloss floating a few feet away from them.
"Xelloss," Lina growled. "I don't care if you're a Mazoku! Get out, out, out!"
The priest held up his hands in a placating gesture. "But, Lina-san, Martina-san has taken over my room and..."
"I don't care! Go sleep somewhere on the Astral plane!" Lina stomped her foot and advanced on Xelloss, power glowing between her hands. "Darkness beyond twilight..."
"I'm going, I'm going! We are touchy this morning, aren't we, Lina-san?" Considering it a job well done, Xelloss decided it was time to run before his victory turned into a resounding defeat. He floated safely in the Astral plane and watched over the flustered couple. Teasing them was entirely too much fun.
Lina sighed after Xelloss had disappeared and turned back to Gourry, who was now dusting himself off. She laughed nervously, ran a hand through her hair. "Sorry about that."
"Not a problem," he replied with an easy-going smile.
She shifted, stared at the cobblestones for a moment. "Say, Gourry? Were you trying to tell me something? Right before Xelloss appeared?"
Gourry blinked in confusion, then it dawned on him. His smile widened. "It's...it's nothing that won't keep, Lina. Come on, it'll be dawn soon. Let's get some sleep."
"All right!" Humming cheerfully, Lina marched back into the inn.
Gourry lingered and cast a thoughtful glance toward the Kataart Mountains. After a moment, he followed Lina inside, humming as well. Once they located the Claire Bible and defeated Gaav, he would have plenty of time to tell her just how much he loved her.