One of the best things about being a traveler was that whatever you did, in one place, you could always run like hell and leave it behind, no matter how bad it was.
Sadly, one of the worst things about being a traveler was that this does not include the weather.
"Aurgh!" Lina shouted at the top of her lungs, soaked right down to the skin from the sudden onslaught of rain that poured from the skies above. She screamed it, as loud as she possibly could, so that every single person, place or thing would know of her displeasure.
"Lina," Gourry chided calmly, looking not much better than she did. He actually sounded bored. "Screaming won't make it any better."
Lina frowned. She hated being wet. She hated being cold. She especially hated it when the two feelings were combined. It was like some sort of cosmic double-team against her, and she not only hated it, she felt resentful and sullen about it. As if the weather was personally doing this to get to her, and to dampen her moods.
She and Gourry had been walking along that dingy dirt road for several days now, and the first two days weren't so bad. In fact, those two overcast days were damn near pleasant compared to how the third day started. It was as if the clouds noticed that she and Gourry had just woken up and decided to pour all of their contents all over them and no one else.
Not only was it unpleasant, but it slowed down their progress, which was urgent enough on it's own. They had to get enough distance between themselves and the last town. Not that what had happened was Lina's fault, exactly; although of course they had blamed her, just because she happened to be around when it had happened. Just because the vault holding an old relic suddenly exploded while she had been standing next to it didn't mean that she was responsible, did it?
Of course, she had been the only one near it when it happened. And of course, she had been holding the Fireball that had hit it. But it had been an accident! Besides, no one was supposed to be awake that early in the day, anyways!
In any rate, they still had to get clear of the town. The last either one of them had seen was the front of an angry, clichéd mob, complete with pitchforks and torches.
And now, of course, there had to be rain. A crappy adventure such as this would never be complete without RAIN. It soured Lina's elated mood from earlier, the one she had received when she had successfully pilfered the relic and gotten a good distance away from a pitchfork that seemed to have her name on it. Instead of looking forward to looking at the item, all she wanted to do now was get the hell out of the wet.
The two walked in silence. Gourry wasn't too bothered by the rain, if he was honest with himself. It was a little annoying, occasionally having a few random fat drops smack onto his head at times, but in the long run it wasn't too bad. It saved him from taking a bath, and besides, the past few days had been a little too hot for his liking.
He was a little worried about Lina, for he knew all too well that she hated most precipitation. Being caught in such precipitation made her more short-tempered than usual, so he was trying very careful not to step on her toes, although sometimes, he thought with a smile, it was amusing to get a rise out of her.
"Oh, thank all that is living," Lina's growling voice snapped him out of his reverie. He turned and saw her pointing ahead. "Shelter!"
He turned and squinted, and saw a small little single-storey house. It looked abandoned and in poor shape, but the look on Lina's face bled that she didn't care, as long as she stayed out of the rain. Gourry nodded. "Might as well check it out," he agreed.
As they walked, Lina complained. Complaining always made her feel better, although it had the tendency to annoy the people around her. Since it was just Gourry, she didn't care. She figured he was used to it by now, having been on the road alone with her for several years now combined. Secretly, however, she was actually quite grateful that he never really seemed bothered by what she whined about when she did the whining. It was an outlet for her, and keeping it all in tended to give her heartburn. Not to mention it made her feel much worse.
So she complained about the rain, about how wet she was, and about how they couldn't get out of it all soon enough. Gourry listened, occasionally nodding, but inside he was trying hard not to laugh. For all of the times that he and Lina had faced hell and high water together, she only complained about trivial, meaningless things. He often wondered if such a thing would give her a stroke one day, getting so worked up over nothing, but long ago he decided that if it made her feel better, then there wasn't much harm in it, was there?
Unless she started complaining about him. Then, of course, he would retaliate. Which was always amusing, because she always took him so seriously.
Finally, they reached the little house, and Lina burst in without caution, as usual, which was something that Gourry always thought was a mistake. However, once Lina lit the place with a Lighting spell, it appeared to be a stable and somewhat dry little place.
The first thing Lina did was fling off her mantle. It landed in a soggy pile on the floor, and soon her boots and gloves quickly followed. She stood there, still soaking wet, her hair dripping in her eyes, thinking of what to do next. With her hands on her hips, she ignored Gourry's confused and startled stare (brought on by her sudden flurry of movements, no doubt) and accessed her whereabouts.
It was small. And it smelt like wet, old wood. But the wood was sturdy and would hold the weight of the rain, especially since they had to stay overnight. It would take a few hours for them to get fully dried, and she would be damned before she set foot out there before the rain stopped.
She turned to Gourry. "Okay," she said, her voice authoritative. "We're going to camp here for a while, until the rain stops. Is that okay with you?"
Gourry nodded slowly, the bemused look slowly vanishing from his face. "Ah, alright," he agreed, nodding again.
Lina almost nodded with him, but caught herself before she could. Sometimes Gourry's slow thoughts and moves were contagious, especially to someone who worked as hard as she did. "Okay," she repeated, rubbing her forehead. Her hair was stuck to her face and it was getting on her nerves.
Gourry, however, was looking around again, and had spotted a small pile of dry wood. "Lina," he called, kneeling and taking hold of some of the largest logs, "we could set up a small fire."
Lina frowned. "And how would we keep the smoke at bay?" she demanded. "There aren't any windows!"
Gourry waved a hand, as if brushing away her irritated words. He knew better than anyone that she was just irritated in general, and not at him specifically, so he refused to take her words personally. "We could keep the door open," he suggested.
Lina shook her head, grabbing her hair with both hands and wringing it out. The water trapped within her tresses made quite a nice puddle on the floor. "The rain would get in," she answered. "The wind would blow it in."
Gourry frowned a little. "Okay..." he said slowly, trying to stay calm and not get annoyed at her, especially from the way she was making a mess on the floor. "What if we made a small, makeshift window, high enough to stay out of the way, but low enough to catch the smoke?"
Lina thought it over, then nodded slowly. "Yeah, okay," she replied, kneeling to her soggy mantle. She dug around for something to help with that, but before she could, heard the sounds of a sword cutting through wood, and when she looked up, Gourry was just sheathing his sword and gathering up the spare wood he had just dug out from the wall. A small spray of rain came through, but it wasn't enough to be a nuisance.
Lina had to admit, she was impressed. Not only did he manage to do it, but he had also managed to get more firewood, once it dried. She tugged off her headband and tied her wet hair away from her face with it. "Not bad, Gourry, not bad," she praised, smiling at him.
Gourry grinned. "Aw, it was nothing," he answered, trying to shake it off as nothing, but Lina wasn't fooled. She knew her praise had gone to his head.
She laughed a little and shook her head. Instead of even responding to it, she spread out her mantle and made sure no part of it was folded. That way, it would dry evenly. She did the same with her boots and gloves.
Gourry shrugged off his armour, as well as his own boots and gloves and did the same. However, he left his hair alone. The only thing he did with it was toss it over one shoulder and out of the way. It was one of those things that required more attention than he had the energy for.
Together, they set up the logs, and with Lina's Fireball (diminished, of course), they set up quite a nice crackling fire. The makeshift window did its job well, and soon both of them felt much warmer than they had a few minutes ago.
Lina decided that now would be a good time to take a look at the relic she had worked so hard to pilfer, but when she looked over at Gourry to see if he would notice, she was relieved to find that she needn't of bothered. He was quite happy on his own, not paying any attention her. In fact, he held his broadsword across his lap, and was cleaning it and polishing it, humming under his breath.
As she crawled over to her mantle to fish out the relic, she sometimes wondered why she bothered even wondering if he cared at all what she did.
Of course she knew he cared about her. Of course she knew that he would protect her with his life. Somewhere, deep down, if she admitted it to herself, she also knew that he loved her, almost as much as she loved him.
These thoughts and feelings were never spoken of, but they were treated as if it was a given between them, and life when on. They still treated each other the exact same way, only maybe with a little more respect than before, and maybe a little more courtesy.
Lina suddenly felt a black cloud hovering over her head. If Gourry knew all that she felt about him, why didn't he ever want to talk about it? Why didn't he ever act on it? Her cheeks burned a little at the thought of "acting" on those feelings, but she refused to let her anger go.
Gourry, however, became aware of Lina's sudden change of mood when he noticed that she was frozen over her mantle, her hands clenched into little fists. He blinked a little, then set the sword down beside him. "Hey, Lina? What's wrong?" He called to her.
Lina started, froze for quite possibly one more second, before she pounced on him. It was like she had teleporting ability, it was so fast. One minute she was across the room, and next she was right on him, her hands on his collar, tugging him close to her.
"Gourry!" she snapped, gritting her teeth. She wanted to say more, but nothing came out. She hesitated, her hold on his shirt collar loosening just a bit, but Gourry remained frozen, lest she decided to strangle him.
After about half a minute, Gourry braved it. "What is it, Lina?" he asked, looking right up at her. He noticed her face was red, and her eyes had that angry glint to them. However, he noticed that this anger was hand-in-hand with something else, something along the lines of being indignant. Now he just wondered what he had possibly done to earn this.
Lina opened her mouth, closed it, then suddenly just let it all go. "Gourry!" she said again, loudly. "You care about me, right?"
She said it so plainly, Gourry blinked in surprise. He wasn't used to Lina being so frank about emotion, especially when it came to her. "Yes, of course," he admitted, nodding.
Lina blinked, looking confused all of a sudden. Obviously this was not the answer she was expecting from him. "You do, right?" she repeated.
He nodded again, wondering what she was going to do or what she was going to beat him with.
"And you know I care about you?" Lina growled this question.
He repeated the gesture. "Of course, Lina. I mean, wasn't it all obvious?"
Of course it was. Over the years, of course it had come to be obvious, especially when Hellmaster came into the picture. Unspoken between them, in the place of "care" was of course the word "love", but Lina felt it was a little clichéd for her taste and besides, it was a little too close to her heart for comfort.
"Okay!" she went on, trying to ignore the fact that her cheeks felt as if they were on fire. "So you care about me and I care about you," she reiterated, and Gourry nodded once again. Lina frowned a little, chewing on her lip, and for the first time Gourry noticed that she looked a little hurt. "So why don't you ever act on it?" she wondered, looking right into his eyes.
He blinked slowly. "I dunno, you never really asked."
Lina dropped right to the floor beside him, letting go of his collar in one abrupt move. She groaned, the absurdity of the truth painful for her. "You've got to be KIDDING me," she groaned.
Suddenly, she felt herself being tugged off the floor and into Gourry's lap. She squirmed, trying to get away from the sudden invasion of closeness, despite having been closer to him than that just seconds ago, but Gourry held onto her calmly, and soon she relaxed.
"No, Lina, I am not kidding you," he answered, one arm around her shoulder, the other on her left knee. All of his gestures were so casual and so comforting; she didn't even feel the urge to deck him because of it. Instead, she didn't relax, but she didn't sit as still and stiff as a statue, either.
Gourry went on, sensing a crack in her shield. "I never, in a million years, would assume you wanted me to act on anything unless you gave me the okay first. You never have, so I never did."
Lina wanted to yank at her hair, but it was pulled back. She yanked at her bangs instead. "So it was that simple?" she muttered. "If I had asked you to kiss me, you would have?"
Gourry nodded, smiling a little. It was a mysterious smile, one she suddenly wanted to crack and see what was inside. "Sure. But discreetly. I would hate to embarrass you."
Lina snorted. "Oh, listen to Mr Big Shot here," she growled. She gave him a light nudge on his forehead, one to which he pretended was equal to a heavy-handed smack. That made her giggle a little, but just for a moment. She wanted to get to the bottom line. "So all I had to do was give you the okay?" she asked.
Gourry nodded. "Yeah. I mean, I know you, Lina. If you wanted to do something, you would have told me. I just figured since you gave no indication, it was moot that you didn't want me to do anything."
"Oh," she said meekly. She suddenly felt a little stupid. Who knew her "back off, NOW" vibes were that effective? She figured the real trick now would be turning them off, rather than make sure they were working.
Gourry smiled a little. Not only was he thoroughly enjoying holding Lina in his arms, he was enjoying the fact that they were finally talking about something he had wanted to talk about for months now. He watched Lina think about the whole thing, and he could see that she was a little embarrassed, but no real harm was done.
"So, Gourry, if I asked you to hug me real tight, what would you do?" she suddenly asked, her eyes on his.
He smiled and pulled her closer to him, so that her head rested on his chest and both arms were around her. "I would do this," he murmured into her hair, closing his eyes.
Lina resisted the innate urge to throttle him again. Once she had that managed, she slowly relaxed into his embrace. His warmth enveloped her and made her feel calm and sleepy. she shut her eyes and sighed deeply.
She heard Gourry laugh a little from the sound of her sigh. She looked up and saw that he was looking right down at her. Blinking slowly, she mumbled, "what?"
"Nothing," he answered. "It's just, of all the things I have ever seen you do, the last thing I thought I would ever live to see you do was relax and sigh like there wasn't a care in the world."
Lina leaned in close again, play-sulking. "There isn't," she answered, smiling through her fake sulk. "Not anything that's important, anyways. All that is important is here."
The words slipped out of her mouth and she wanted to call them back. However, instead of having adverse affect, the words only caused Gourry to hold her closer. She felt a warm bubble of happiness fill up slowly from her tummy up to her chest, and she snuggled closer again and slid her arms around his waist.
It's times like this where the author usually slips in what the two protagonists are feeling, whether it be true love or intense joy, but honestly, I refuse to insult your intelligence. You know how both of them felt. After what seemed like endless years of emotion-strangling, they could finally still show emotion for each other and yet still keep hold on who they each were as individuals.
Both Lina and Gourry sat together, listening to the rain and the fire have a duet in the place of their silence. However, after a while, Gourry's legs started to cramp up, and Lina's feet had fallen asleep, so they decided that now was the best time as any to set up their sleeping bags for bed, in case they didn't have time to do it later. Once finished, they attended to their own maladies.
As Lina got the feeling back in her toes and Gourry stretched out the cramp, Lina said, "So what about kissing? Are you opposed to kissing?"
Gourry paused in mid-stretch and stared at her, as if she were growing snakes out of her head. "What," she blinked slowly, hopping on one foot. "I think that's an honest question!" she snapped, putting her hands on her hips again.
"Lina, honestly!" Gourry laughed. "Why would I be against kissing?"
"Gee, I dunno," Lina answered, putting a finger to her cheek in mock contemplation. "Because I'm flat-chested and unwomanly?"
Instead of denying it, Gourry shrugged. "If you love someone, you don't really care about the flaws. They become part of the person, and those parts are still what you love, because you love the person."
Lina reddened again, not only because he said the word "love", but he said it so causally that it made her shy. He also said it in such an eloquent way that it made her wonder if he had had that answer ready for a long time.
Nothing was said after that, not until both of them had sat back down again, side-by-side again, in front of the fire. Lina, at first, sat away from him, but then gathered up enough courage and decided to lean against him. This seemed to relax Gourry, for he slid his arms around her again, and once more she felt warmer and safe.
Lina was close to being asleep when Gourry's voice woke her up. "So, Lina," he said softly. "Do you want to kiss me?"
She slowly looked up, and saw that he was looking down at her again. She also noticed that there was a very faint blush on his cheeks. She smiled up at him. "Yeah, of course I do, you dummy."
"You won't hit me?" he wondered, looking very pale at the thought of it.
Lina rolled her eyes. "No, I won't hit you," she reassured him.
He smiled. "Ah, okay, good."
Gourry leaned close and with one hand, reached down and tilted her chin up towards him. She swallowed, but didn't fight it, and soon she was pressed against his chest and his lips were on hers, and it felt...so nice. She snaked her arms around his neck and shut her eyes, the feel of Gourry's lips on hers a welcome feeling.
Of course, at first, because neither had experience kissing the other, it was a little awkward. Before it started getting really good, they had to get used to the fact that they were kissing each other, first. But once they did, it was like all of the things that Lina had heard of in all of those lame and clichéd songs that previously made her want to barf. Well, sort of. Maybe not quite as extreme, but it certainly came close.
Gourry himself was feeling like it was the perfect day. Not only were the shields down, but he was kissing her, and was doing a pretty good job at it, too.
They kissed for a while, until Lina slowly pulled back, feeling warm and shaky all over. "I think," she said softly, her cheeks red but not from embarrassment, "that's all I can take right now."
Gourry nodded slowly, putting a hand to her cheek. She smiled up at him, then pulled away from his touch and rested her head on his shoulder again. He didn't feel rejected, as one might think he would. Instead, he felt as if a huge step had been taken, for the both of them. He knew it would be slow going, especially since Lina had never been close to anyone before (that alone was obvious by the way she kept shrieking about her "innocence" whenever she thought he had done something perverted), but he didn't mind. He was content.
And so was Lina. She was content, and happy.
And finally, she was dry and warm, and out of the rain.
That night, they decided that they would sleep in each other's arms. Of course, in theory this was a romantic and sweet idea, but by morning, they realized what a terrible idea it had been, since they awoke tangled up like string on the floor. However, they awoke to see the rain had vanished, and that set them in good spirits once more. They set off to find a more stable lodging, so that finally Lina could examine her new find.
Things wouldn't change between them. They would still be the same people they were when they had entered the little small house. But something new and exciting had opened up for the both of them, and, like a new adventure, both were eager to explore.
And in the end, after all was said and done, Lina liked the rain a little bit better from then on.